Friday, April 30, 2010

color my world happy

The older three needed something to keep them busy while I nursed Beth down for her morning nap.  This guaranteed a mess, but I knew they would stay safe.  

Much to my delight, they painted a picture of happiness. Something to color my world.  

When your baby or toddler leaves you a substantial mess after every meal--after every activity for that matter--you begin to say to yourself, "What's one more mess?"  You squash the ever-ready "no", replacing it with "why not?".  

I will hang their mural in the playroom, to be looked at each time frustration threatens to trump patience.  Lately, that's hourly around here.

They actually gathered up all the paint brushes and put them in the sink in a cup of water.  All the paints were back in the box.  My sinful tongue began to make something of the carelessly screwed on caps (surely to result in spilled paint).  All those days of Proverbs--with an emphasis on the sinful tongue--stopped me short.  Instead, I said, "You boys are maturing nicely!  You took care of the paint brushes and paints without being asked!"

My boy flashed me a heart-melting, ear-to-ear smile, causing my Momma eyes to tear up.

There are a lot of reasons to become a mother--all very compelling.   But among the most important?  

Motherhood melts your heart, over and over again.  

A melted heart is a beautiful heart--a God-pleasing heart.

Earlier paintings, celebrating spring:

reflections on Matthew

Having finished Proverbs yesterday, we are continuing in Psalms during meals and have added the Book of Matthew.

Something new struck me as I began reading:

Matthew 2:13-14 angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.

and again:

Matthew 2:19-21
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."  So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

How amazing that both times, Joseph just immediately obeys!  He could have wondered if the dream was just an everyday dream.  He could have rolled over and gone back to sleep.  He could have stewed about it for several days, wondering what to do.  But no, he just gets up and goes.  Complete, immediate obedience.  

We don't have the luxury of receiving direct instructions through an angel of the Lord, but we do have the Holy Spirit to nudge us.  

Let us be like Joseph.  Get up and just do it!  

What instructions is the Holy Spirit giving you right now?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

on envy and perfection

I read this quick post today about the envy related to blog hopping.  Thought it was worth sharing.

No matter who you are, you'll be more comfortable in your own skin after age forty.  You probably noticed a confidence perk after thirty?  Another layer of that arrives by your forties.  You'll make far fewer comparisons between yourself and others, and you'll put envious feelings to rest quickly.  Not to mention, you'll leave the perfect mom syndrome behind you.

The reason?  Life experience--simple as that.  As gravity punches you in the face, rendering you shriveled, your mind is busy gathering information about how God gifts each person uniquely.  A greater level of humility comes with the wrinkles, too, as you learn how weak, dumb and inadequate you really are.

The very young and the very old quickly see their need for God.  But those of us in the prime of life?  (20's, 30's, 40's)?  We feel invincible and capable, falsely.  After getting to the end of ourselves enough times, we finally get it!  And then the fifties hit.  Sweet.

Just think, by age seventy you'll have the wisdom of Solomon....all is not lost!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

on my snobbery

I'm a writing snob.  Yes, siree.  And proud of it!

But apologetically so.

A few times a year the first grade teachers I taught with collaborated on big events, such as Thanksgiving feasts and field trips.  At the planning meeting, one of us would volunteer to write a parent letter detailing the event.  Sounds wonderful, this delegating, no?  It saved us all time periodically, so we could pretend to have a life outside of teaching (first grade is a challenge).

But a problem arose for me, coming out of these meetings.  Being a writing snob, I felt teachers had an obligation to send home only well-written letters, sans errors.  After all, we were paid (pretty well) to have a clue about such things!  I never said anything, so as not to offend, but friends, only one of my five colleagues could write a decent memo!

When the group letter wasn't up to par, I rewrote one to send home with my students, making sure to photocopy it on an evening or weekend, so my colleagues wouldn't learn of my snobby ways.  I carefully destroyed any evidence in the teacher workroom.

I should have just addressed the issue with my colleagues, you're thinking.  Right?  Well, it would have been difficult to do so without being annoying.

Since those years, I've seen a few memos sent out by other teachers, including my son's preschool teacher.  Her letters lacked even basic punctuation.

We are not a nation of writers, I'm sorry to say.  I'm not just picking on teachers!  This is a widespread problem.  Some people have a natural gift, true, but the majority of us need direct and systematic teaching over a number of years.  And that isn't happening in our schools.  I had to write essays in middle and high school, but many writing traits weren't taught--just punctuation, grammar, and the basic five-paragraph essay.

I can't fix this, but I do mourn over it.

What I can do is write a post to help homeschooling families tackle the systematic teaching of writing.

Only tonight, I need to catch up on some sleep.

Look for a short post on Six Trait writing later this week.

My older son had a much better day, by the way!  We got down on our knees together twice, begging God to release us from old patterns--during writing time, actually.

I'll address the fits young ones have during writing, also.

a warning

I found this on the Large Family Mothering Blog.  Jon Voight warns us about Barack Obama's agenda.

This is not a fringe groups' beliefs.  This is really happening!

the least of my brethren

I found an amazing blog tonight after a very troubling, draining day with my son (thanks for the link, Sandi).

When someone of faith suffers deeply, and for a long season, I find it miraculous that afterwards their words and teaching have an impact similar to that of Jesus.  Suddenly, they are gifted with authority, truth, vision.  When Jesus spoke to a crowd, the crowd instinctively knew that such teachings were not of man.  Man is too shortsighted, without hands-on suffering, to produce anything in the jaw-dropping category.

Raising a disabled child, or being the sibling of one, produces depth.  The bottomless-pit kind of depth.  Reading this post, in particular, will illustrate that for you.  Makes me certain that God allows disabilities to add depth to our me-focused world--to the lives of those who suffer directly, and less so, to those who experience the suffering second-hand, through writings or other expressive art.

Not a single one of us would choose such a hard life!  We don't have the capacity to choose suffering.  It's hard enough to avoid eating a third cookie...or an eighth.  That sums up our strength sometimes, eh?

I cannot compare any disability in my home to that experienced by the blog author, Greg, above.  My son has a multi-faceted relationship with all of us.  That capability is a gift not enjoyed by many of the disabled, making their disability excruciating for their parents and siblings.

I deal with the following behaviors on a regular basis:

- extreme difficulty waiting
- easily angered
- difficulty calming oneself
- low frustration threshold
- invades space
- talks excessively without attention to social cues
- extreme self focus
- insatiable desire for attention
- driven as if by motor

All of these behaviors make a person far less likable.  When an obviously disabled person behaves erratically, we instinctively know why.  But what about when a seemingly normal person does the same?  We get angry.  Disgusted.  We want to teach that person a thing or two, by golly.  Who do they think they are, anyway?

There are times, like today, when I look at my son and think, how could he be so hateful--so hellbent on making everyone miserable?  Doesn't he see what he's doing to us?  Does he have no remorse?

The truth is, I don't know the answers to the above questions.  I can't get inside his brain and understand.  And he doesn't know either.  His "differences" baffle him--often making him feel like a bad seed.

I know that many prisoners have ADHD.  Usually if they end up in prison they also have oppositional defiant disorder--or even worse, conduct disorder--as a comorbid condition.  In 65% of cases ADHD doesn't travel alone.  In my son's case, it exists with general anxiety (elevators, explosions, being left alone, fires, strange smells, toxic chemicals, possibly-contaminated food, car accident, perceived harm/danger when none exists).

My pediatrician tells me that as my son gets older, aggressive behaviors will increase.  That terrifies me.  We already notice an increase in name-calling and other beginning-bully tendencies, directed toward his brother.  Thankfully, they are good friends at this point.  If these behaviors increase, though, Paul--who is rather passive--will begin to prefer his sisters as companions, which will only make Peter jealous and more dangerous.

Strength.  I need it.  The landscape will change, unless God intervenes.

Somehow, I need to grow from looking at my son and wondering, how could you, to looking at Jesus and saying, how could you?  

I know the answer to that.  We live in a fallen world.  Pain and suffering and death exist.   Some people are chosen to carry more pain, to bring glory to God.  Sounds cut and dry, doesn't it?

The point of my looking at Jesus with this question, instead of at my son, is to remind me that this isn't my son's fault.  He didn't choose it.

I have to let go of my angry responses, stay calm inside, and focus on teaching my son coping strategies, lest he be viewed as an angry, self-absorbed jerk.  He is so much more than that!  I clearly see that "so much more".  But the world won't be looking so hard.

I'm 80% certain my husband has this (different form, more forgetful), so two people here need my strength and understanding.  Medication is of little use in altering daily reality.

But there is something that alters daily reality.

on-my-knees humility, coupled with grace

I must clothe myself in these, so God doesn't look at me, and say, how could you?  

Matthew 25:40
... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

inspiration for homeschool moms

Here is a shorty post by Sarah, daughter of Sally Clarkson.  Sally homeschooled all four of her children, emphasizing good literature and lots of writing.  Her daughter's prose, at age 25, makes wanna-be writers like me swoon.  If you're a homeschool mom, you'll be encouraged by the caliber of Sarah's education.

Wisdom From Oswald Chamber

The following italicized text is from the Oswald Chambers devotional, My Utmost For His Highest.  It is the July 4th entry.

Entry based on Psalm 37.8--"Do not fret--it only causes harm."
Fretting means getting ourselves "out of joint" mentally or spiritually.  It is one thing to say, "Do not fret", but something very different to have such a nature that you find yourself unable to fret.  It's easy to say, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (37.7) until our own little world is turned upside down and we are forced to live in confusion and agony like so many other people.  Is it possible to "rest in the Lord" then?  If this "Do not" doesn't work there, then it will not work anywhere.  This "Do not" must work during our days of difficulty and uncertainty, as well as our peaceful days, or it will never work.  And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work for anyone else.  Resting in the Lord is not dependent on your external circumstances at all, but on your relationship with God Himself.

Worrying always results in sin.  We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are.  Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way.  Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish His own plans but to fulfill God's plans.  Fretting is wickedness for a child of God.

Have you been propping up that foolish soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God to handle?  Set all your opinions and speculations aside and "abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1).  Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about whatever concerns you.  All our fretting and worrying is caused by planning without God.  

I first read this back in 1997--the year I became a Christian.  It transformed my heart and life.  Previously, I was a worrier.  Actually, worrying represented my biggest flaw!  And do you know, I don't even resemble that person anymore?  Praise God!  The Lord truly changes us!  Because we are focused on our many imperfections, we fail to see how many of them God has obliterated.  

No, we'll never be perfect.  That isn't what he's after.  But Praise God for the growth!

I reread this entry as a reminder when I start to feel emotionally exhausted.  Emotional exhaustion can come from the same root cause as worry--wanting our own way!  When we rest in Him--in what he has planned for us--we have peace. Never weariness.  

I hope this entry blesses you as it has me!  

Monday, April 26, 2010

some adventures

Last Thursday, this little guy abruptly switched from a three-week stint with hayfever, to the first day of a bad cold, complete with wheezing and a temperature of 103.6 F.  His doctor, talking to me after hours, asked that I take Paul to urgent care.

On the way to urgent care, Paul vomited in the car, thankfully grabbing the bowl I brought along (just in time).  No-mess vomiting!  My favorite kind!

Urgent care said he was too sick for them to deal with, given that his fever was high even while taking fever reducing meds (Tylenol alternating with ibuprofen).

What?  Too sick?  What does that mean?  Isn't this urgent care, I thought to myself.  The worst-case scenario would be pneumonia, I surmised.

Now, Paul did look horrible and definitely seemed listless. Still, I knew things weren't as serious as they seemed to think.  Just the day before, my guy played football with brother!

But whatever.  I took him to a pediatric emergency room, at their suggestion.  On the way I kept looking at Paul in the rear view mirror, wondering if I had it all wrong.  Did he have meningitis, for Pete's sake?  My instinct told me no.  Weak from fever and vomiting?  Yes.  But nothing unusual, I convinced myself.   Probably a bad cold with wheezing, or the beginning of pneumonia.  He hadn't wheezed since his RSV infection at 4 months of age, so I was surprised at his condition.  The rapid onset was puzzling, to say the least.  No one here has ever had pneumonia.

The ER doctor asked me why the urgent care center hadn't treated Paul.

"Too high a fever while taking medication, is what they suggested."

"Isn't that what they do there?", he asked, chuckling sarcastically.  

"You would think", I answered, smiling.

He was very nice to us, even though he laughed at me when I said Paul nursed for 2.5 years, making him my healthiest child, notwithstanding his hayfever.

"Well, that isn't going to help him when he's six!  That wears off you know!", he said, laughing.

Feeling stupid, I laughed.  No, he wasn't being a jerk.  Just amused by my zeal, I guess.

But people, I really think nursing has lasting benefits.  No, the immediate antibodies don't last, but there are general health benefits, like disease prevention, which do last.

Long story short, Momma's instincts proved themselves correct.  Chest x-ray and blood work turned up normal.  No pneumonia or other bacterial infection, and Paul wasn't dehydrated.  They did gave him an anti-nausea drug and IV fluids, to see if he would perk up some.  They weren't comfortable sending him home while he still appeared listless.

My sweetheart was mad, but quietly so.  He wanted a drink so badly, as soon as the fever broke.  They wouldn't let him drink since he had vomited a couple hours before.

All through the IV ordeal, and each time they examined him, he was extremely quiet.  Such a contrast to his brother, who I'm sure would have screamed and cried about the new procedures--wondering if he was dying.

The hours I spent with Paul, alone, taught me more about his personality.  He holds things in.  As his mother, I have to draw him out and try not to let important issues go unspoken.  Those hours were a rare gift, given the size of my family.  Each child receives little one-on-one time.

Leaving my baby was so hard.  This was our longest separation, and my heart and body noticed the two missed nursing sessions.  Thankfully, she fell asleep in our swivel computer chair, while husband held and swayed her.

Finally, five hours after our ordeal began, Paul looked better and they sent him home with albuterol (for the wheezing).  I gave it to him twice only.

Eighteen hours later, my son seemed the picture of health.  I snapped the above football picture this afternoon.

Strange adventure.

We're all still coughing and some of us are weak, but no other wheezing incidents.  I wonder if Paul's condition deteriorated quickly due to the hayfever weakening his immune system before the cold hit?

This little lady runs me ragged.  Oh, the blessing she is!  But boy, she's a handful.  Now, at 16 months old, she climbs out of her booster seat, her playpen, the safety gate, and her crib.  She doesn't actually sleep in her crib, preferring the queen bed in her room instead, with Momma next to her.  We taught her early how to safely get out of the bed.  She looks so cute, coming down the hall after her naps, all by herself!

Anyhow, about the crib--I put her in it when I read to her at night.  I can get through more books that way, since she's so squirrelly.

My only concern about her Houdini ways is this:  How will I safely go to the bathroom and get a shower when husband is gone?  Yikes!  His Census training begins this week, and we'll barely see him as it mixes with his part-time jobs and schooling.

This little Sweetie uttered the dearest prayer at lunchtime.

"Dear Jesus,  I love you today.  I love going outside with Peter and Paul and Mommy and Beth.  I love the leaves.  I love quesadillas.  Amen."

My big guy spends his outside time looking for frogs and insects.  Here he is behind our air conditioning unit, which often hides a frog or two.  And sometimes a harmless snake!

We can't believe the size of this boy!  We're 5'3" and 5'8", and our pediatrician tells us this boy is working toward a height of 6'2"!

We finished our spring cookies today!  You can't tell, but pictured here are two tulips and an egg.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday funnies

I suspect my crew will open a bakery together someday.  The boys have talked about it, and the more we bake, the more convinced I am that their passion will endure.

They received spring cookie cutters in their Easter baskets, which we finally got around to using today.  Our recipe called for using powered sugar to help with the rolling, rather than flour.  Of course they all had to taste it.

Paul announced, "This is the best tasting sugar on the planet!  That's what they say!"

They do?

I caught her "reading" Scripture while enjoying a snack.  She's heard enough Psalms to come up with some Biblical-sounding language, courtesy of King David.  "Oh, my God!  Help me!   I love you Lord!"

That's my mantra often:  "Oh, my God!  Help me!"

You know your life might be getting a little easier when you send your 6- and 8-year-old boys to look up and print a recipe for buttercream frosting....and five minutes later, they hand it over.

"This one is uncomplicated, Mommy."

He's paranoid about raw egg germs, so he carefully chose an eggless recipe.

Kids!  What a blessing!  But the back-breaking cleaning involved in their endeavors?

So not fun.

Here, you'll find a funnier baking story.

The other day I sat down for five minutes to read a quick blog.  I noticed on my sidebar that a favorite blogger just posted five minutes before, but it was a post I had already read, posted on the previous day.  It was then I realized that every time I get back into a post to make corrections, it must show up on someone's sidebar as a new post.  Is that true?  I frequently find errors and make corrections after a post is in published form--I just find more errors and awkward sentences that way.

So anyway, if this blog is on your sidebar, pardon the constant reposting.  I think?

This is grace

This is grace.  Beautiful short video--just over a minute.  I watched it from the John Piper Desiring God blog.  Click on the green sentence.

Friday, April 23, 2010

writing process samples

Peter completes two writing-process pieces a week, both of which start with a planning web and a topic sentence.  The following needs some revisions and some more details, but my husband and I were so proud of it!

Peter, I thought this one was so endearing!  Your siblings will enjoy it!

I have 3 siblings.  Ferst I will tell you about Beth.  She is curious and active.  Next I will tell you about Paul.  He really likes math.  He is really exuberant.  Finally I will tell you about Mary.  She is very sweet and loving.  

I love all my siblings.

Here is another writing sample:

I went on a hike at AWANA.  I saw plants.  I saw pinecones and flowers.  I saw grass and rocks.  The rocks were red and gray.  The flowers had bulbs.  The rocks were in dirt and the pinecones were under a tree.  I really like nature hikes.

New writers tend to use bare-bones language.  We scream at them, details, details, details!  Be descriptive!  What kind of car?  What kind of tree?  What words describe your sister?  What else can you add?

Adult writers, in contrast, must learn to cut extraneous words and details--essentially unlearning some lessons from elementary school.  Solid, professional writing emerges only after years of practice.  Even with 28 months of frequent practice under my belt, I still struggle with passive voice and other bad habits.

I want my children to leave high school capable of beautiful, precise prose.  Daily practice is the key, along with the reading of good literature to build vocabulary and enhance sentence structure and style.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

unschooling part 2

In reference to my last post:  I just saw the GMA segment--maybe the second segment, the longer one--on radical unschooling.  I am not interested in the no-rules, no-discipline approach, nor in allowing a donut for breakfast, or TV time during school.  But, I do think kids will learn quite well if they read about, write about, do research on, do experiments regarding, whatever topic they are interested in, whether it be photography or insects.  The parent has to be very involved though, to ensure that they're learning effective communication skills (reading, speaking, writing composition, listening), which will later allow them to do well in college and in the workforce.  As well, I think it would be beneficial to have the children choose from interests in a variety of areas, so that no discipline is entirely neglected.

This uproar reminds me of an educational debate that existed right about the time I became a public school teacher.  Back then, it was about the "whole language" approach to reading.  It was misunderstood.  Some thought it meant not teaching phonics at all, and just reading lots and lots of books to children, who would eventually pick up reading by osmosis.  That is true for some kids, by the way.

What it really entailed, when done correctly, was to introduce phonics in the context of a whole piece of text, rather than through an isolated worksheet.  When this was done, the child could clearly see how phonics related to reading and writing.  They learned that it was a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

It is really through writing that kids learn the most about phonics, which is why the "write to read" approach is so effective.  Lots of reading is important in the process, too; it allows them to practice and apply what they've learned through the composing process.

Anyhow, the family GMA chose seems to definitely fall into the most radical segment of the unschooling population.  If given more opportunity to show what their kids could do, I'm sure the family would have come out in a better light.  I think it would have been better to have chosen a less radical family, if the purpose was to highlight the unschooling trend.  Definitely, the mother in the segment saying that her kids "might watch TV, or play computer games", was not the best thing to say, IMHO.

unschooling on GMA

I learned from The Homeschool Adventure blog that Good Morning America did a very negative segment on unschooling.  There was such an outcry (positive and negative) that they brought the featured family back the next day.  Read about it here.

Without cable TV, I'm out of the loop.  If you see any more segments can ya'll let me know?  I am interested in unschooling, but not until the kids are all out of diapers and sleeping through the night.

Thank you!

counting my blessings

During Beth's first 13 months, I wasn't a regular at church services.  We used to take our babies to church faithfully, but because that rarely entailed listening to a sermon, by the time our fourth came along, we were so over the notion that church was for babies too.  We could care less what people thought of our spirituality in this regard.  (Walk a day in our shoes, if you want to judge.)  So, husband attended church with three children, while I stayed home to give the baby her nap (which happened to fall right at church time, no matter what I tried).

Now, at 16 months, her nap still falls right at church time, but she falls apart less when we have to get her down late. So I volunteered at the nursery and began taking her faithfully two weeks ago.  They don't have enough help to make her stay there fully safe, so I still haven't been to a sermon.  Since the girls are ultimately my (our) responsibility, I feel obliged to continue to be a regular in the nursery until God puts more volunteers in there.

What do I have to show for my regular church attendance?  Nothing but a bad cold, which so far has hit Beth and myself, with the other three beginning to show symptoms earlier tonight.  I'm sure it was church nursery germs, since Beth fell ill first.  She hasn't been anywhere else this last week.  (Don't get me wrong, I do love working in the nursery--children still delight me to no end.  It's a blessing to be there.)

Having a nursing baby with a cold is no small problem.  It entails sleeping in weird, upright positions, to facilitate nursing for a baby whose nose is full of copious mucous.  I hate colds......positively dread them.  I get depressed as soon as I see her nose begin running, for I know what is coming--little sleep, that blue sucky-bulb thing up a screaming baby's nose, a trashed house, snot everywhere, whining, and days that feel like marathons, because I'm sick as well.

Instead of falling further into self-pity, I'm going to count some blessings:

- rich green grass everywhere

- brilliantly colored tulips

- green leaves and blossoms on trees

- an eight year old with a heart for helping

- homeschooling

- a baby who still nurses

- God-loving children

- a six year old who loves cuddling

- a baby who enjoys learning new words

- a happy baby (except for her cold symptoms)

- a Christian husband (not perfect, but focused on heavenly matters)

- a three year old who still asks semi-regularly, "Can I be in your arms?" (Thank you, God!)

- berries

- chocolate

- black bean soup and cornbread

- cinnamon/sugar toast

- surrogate grandparents who seem to love us (I praise you God for finally answering this small miracle!)

- a renewed love for Scripture

- Connie, Sandi, Paula, Margie, Liz, Steph, Arwen, Terri/Trevor, Terri Tiffany, Jess, Carolyn

- a dining room

- a play room

- a big yard

- a house payment that's still up to date

- hot running water

- a dishwasher, washer/dryer, heater

- fridge and cupboards full of food

- soft beds

- enough clean clothes

- a working vehicle ( even if the muffler is going bad)

- no cancer, no diabetes, no heart disease

- inner peace, even in the midst of trial

Good night, friends!  Forgive my sob story above.

Colossians 3:15-17 

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

sibling good times

A post I found on the benefits of fewer toys.

Thank you, Liz, for the stuffed animal recommendation for thunder fears!

While I made dinner, they were busy.  That's Playdoh in the picture, acting as mud.  Around here, Playdoh is often configured into roads for Hot Wheels cars, as well.   It has many uses, most of which drive me insane.  You with me on that?

My two oldest are 8 and 6, and they've finally decided to stop doing "abstracts".  Lately, they paint actual pictures.  This will be a tree.  I'm blessed by this turn of events.  Daddy gave a drawing lesson and they also painted birds with their watercolors.  

Another tree.

My present life entails a lot of bending over and picking up and putting away.  The baby flung all this, attempting to say, "I don't want another activity, thank you very much.  I want out of this booster seat!  Enough with brother's math-regrouping assignment!  Let me out!"  

Enjoying a beautiful, 58-degree spring day!

 My big boy!  He's become such a big help to me.  He loves contributing.

I'm blessed by the good time they have together.  Praise God!

Monday, April 19, 2010

my poopy story

How often do you feel guilty about how you've handled an exchange with your kids?  Or with your husband?

Okay, don't answer that.  Too depressing, right?

I have a story about this.  Read on if you can sit a spell.

Earlier this week I took to the backyard with my baby, my preschooler, and my eight year old.  Baby Beth, like all my babies, loves the outdoors.  They all made a habit of standing by our front door, peering up at me with pleading eyes, hoping I'd stop the chores and put on their shoes and mine.

And how can I resist?  Freedom.  Babies love it.  Houses contain far too many no nos.  

Once out there I had to keep pulling Beth away from our so-called porch, created by the previous owner using large, square, brick tiles.  Grass and weeds grow in between the tiles, making an unsightly mess I have little time to manage.  There is no porch overhang, so rain and snow pound any items we leave out there, including trash cans.

Now my husband loves the outdoors, but not outdoor work.  He routinely mows but never edges our yard, and neither of us make time to weed it on a regular basis.  In short, our yard doesn't impress our neighbors.  I suppose I've learned to accept it, with the hope that when my children are older, I'll have time to spruce it up, creating my own little piece of heaven.

Well.  A small trash can sits out there, used in the warm months for disposing of dirty diapers.  Husband unfortunately put things in there without a trash bag liner, on occasion.

Apparently, last fall--the last time we needed it--he put a filled diaper in there as well as other trash.  Despite no bag!  Then, he never took care of it before the winter temps and snow arrived.  All winter it remained filled, with no liner, and with the lid partially dislodged.

Beth wouldn't stay away from it, or from other dirty things on our so-called porch.  What should have been a fun backyard time ended up exasperating me.  I couldn't play ball with Mary or Peter, or do anything other than pull Beth away from no no's.

I decided that cleaning up simply couldn't wait.  I quickly gathered some gloves and a trash bag from the house, dumped the trash can--half-filled with water--onto the grass, and began bagging the trash.

Oh, people!  I almost gagged.  It was so smelly and disgusting--very upsetting to all my senses.

Anger welled up in me.

Making matters worse, Mary has a fear of bees, and began crying for me to take her inside.  The baby also began crying.  Peter was asked to keep the girls away from me, but couldn't manage the task.  I was totally incapable of comforting, since my hands, although gloved, were mixing with very dirty things.

I was never more angry with my husband than at that moment!  Trying not to gag, I bagged just as quickly as I could--even as I realized that the diaper he left in there had disintegrated in the water, leaving chunks of wet, awful-smelling poop for me to pick up.

The girls kept coming close to me, only to then cry louder as I sternly told them to stay away from the dirty mess.

Did I mention the neighbor behind us was a witness to this, as he mowed his lawn?  

Inside I raged, wondering how husband could be so irresponsible and careless.  I confess I started to cry from the stink, and from the stress of having crying kids in my midst.

My son stayed near me, sensing the unraveling of my sanity.  He asked why I was crying.  Instead of just saying how awful the smell was, I told him I was really, really, really mad at Daddy, because he doesn't keep the yard safe and clean for children to use.

As soon as the words left my sinful mouth, I grieved.  Then I cried over my shame.  How awful to drag my son into my anger at my husband!  How awful a wife and mother could I be?  How disrespectful to say such a thing about his Daddy!  (Their relationship already has its problems, due to Peter's ADHD symptoms and the stress they cause Daddy).

I could tell my words hurt Peter. At that moment though, I was still so angry.  I didn't retract my words or apologize to my son.  The girls were still distraught, and I needed to hurry.

After finishing the dreadful clean up, I scurried into the house to disinfect my hands and change my clothes.  Then I went back out and scooped up the whining girls, bringing them inside.  I nursed the baby down after giving Mary a snack.  

Then, I called my husband.  Relaying my ordeal, I angrily criticized him.  He said he would have taken care of it as soon as he'd gotten home, so why hadn't I just waited?

Well, the answer is that I hate giving him Honey Do chores.  It makes me feel like a drippy faucet wife. Why can't he just put value on having a safe and clean yard, and to that end, deal effectively with trash?  It seemed like something I was going to have to do myself, if I wasn't willing to nag.  I was the one bothered by the mess, not him.

Still very angry, as well as thirsty, hungry, and headachy, I hung up on him after saying my peace.

I ate something and took some Excedrin, all the while feeling like a witch for how I'd treated my husband.

I called back and apologized, saying I had no right to treat him so disrespectfully, regardless of my anger.

You won't find a more forgiving husband than mine.  He never holds grudges, and kisses me within several minutes of any little tiff.  My heart melts easily from this treatment.  Now.

Years ago, it took me longer.

My son--who will probably remember this fiasco longer than Mommy and Daddy--asked if I was talking to Daddy, just as I shut the cell phone off.

"Yes, I was."

"Did you tell him you were mad about the poopy diaper?"

"Yes, I called him and yelled at him.  Then, I called him back and apologized."

"Why did you apologize?"

"Because even when we have reason for anger, it's never okay to treat someone disrespectfully.  Mommy was wrong to get so angry at Daddy.  I'm sorry for my behavior, Peter.  We should always apologize when we do something wrong.  The Holy Spirit gives us a clear message when we need to apologize."

My son just looked at me.  No words.  But in his eyes, I saw relief.  Mercy, even, for his imperfect Momma.

I am responsible for how he views his dad.  He gets his cues from my respect, or lack thereof.

My tone isn't always respectful.  My heart not always forgiving of husband's tossed-aside dirty socks, and sloppy ways.

Each time my tongue and my heart sin against husband, I'm mindful of the effects on my children.  And yet my shame never seems to be enough to deter my heart.  I sin again, the very next time I'm over-burdened with chores and feeling overwhelmed with my life.

My behavior erodes the children's respect for their father, and ultimately, their respect for me.  It makes me a hypocrite, as I talk to them about the ways of Jesus.

My heart's audacity this last time--as I told my son I was angry at his father--frightened me.  Will I never learn the gentle-and-quiet spirit thing?

The answer is no.  I never will.  I'll never be the perfect wife.  The perfect mother.  The perfect neighbor.

I do, every day, let my kids hear me thank God for my husband...for his hard work, for his love, for his forgiveness, for his kindness.  I pray they'll remember my thanks-giving as they grow up and develop their own marriage relationships.

Lesson:  Thank God for your spouse, even on those days you can't stand him (her)--especially when you can't stand him.

What's the answer, I ask myself often, to continually disappointing myself, and my children, in my parenting?   I want so dearly to raise God-loving children, but how can I be believable?  How can I truly impact them for Christ, despite my sinfulness?

I think I know the answer, after all these parenting years.  Eight years, that is.  That smelly poop was a blessing!

We have to confess our on-going sinfulness to our kids--admit to them that we'll never be the perfect parents their hearts desire.  When they witness our repentance before God, they'll know how to deal with their own sin.  They'll let go of pride, readily.

"Don't look at me, Son.  I'm a sinner like you.  Without Jesus, I am nothing.  Keep your eyes heavenward.  There, you will find your inner peace...your joy....your perfect parent."

 If we were perfect parents--successfully meeting our child's every need--what need would they have of God then?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Good Reads

Good reads:

Mean People, by Kristin Welsh of We Are That Family.

What Not to Say, by the author of Pursuing Titus  2.

Validation and Charlotte Mason, by the author of Large Family Mothering.

Autodidacting is an Educational Strategy, by the author of Large Family Mothering.

What To Do When You Want to Give Up And Stay in Bed, by Ann from Holy Experience

Friday, April 16, 2010

bill o'reilly defending sarah palin

I was appalled at the Bill O'Reilly guest in this interview about Sarah Palin.  The woman makes the most ridiculous argument!  Bill handled himself very well.

Palin haters really get on my nerves.  Argh!

an answer

In reference to this morning's post about thunder, I wanted to share one of our breakfast Psalms, which spoke to Peter's heart.

Psalm 16 (excerpts)

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.  (verse 1)

I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord;  apart from you I have no good thing."  (verse 2)

I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  (verse 8)

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.  You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (verses 9-11)

We are reading the Psalms in order as we also go through the Proverbs in order.  What an awesome thing God did this morning--that on this day of expected thunder, we read this particular Psalm!

This beautiful form of divine reassurance calms my heart as a parent.  We may be memorizing some of these verses today!  So often there's nothing I can do to comfort Peter.  His brain refuses any earthly reassurance.  He fixates on a fear and only fun distractions work to break the cycle of constant questioning.

Anyhow, thanks for listening!  Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

advice for thunder/lightning fears

We've had a couple days of shorts weather.  Today we expect 79 degrees with rain and thunder, and tomorrow it's back down to a 47-degree high.  When a huge temperature drop is expected, the thunder prediction is usually accurate.

I'm writing for advice for dealing with children who are afraid of thunder/lightning.  My anxiety-disordered Peter will drive me insane all day, asking what if questions about lightning,.  I do not exaggerate!  

I know many children are afraid of lightning and thunder.  What has worked for you?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

sweet sisters, busy brothers

This was the first time she'd finished this whole puzzle. We're making progress with attention span.  I told her how proud I was of her, and she lifted her arms and said, "Victory!"  One of her pet words. :)

Here is Beth, celebrating Mary's "victory".
I no longer buy grated cheese because I found that it has an additive to keep the cheese from caking.  Good thing Peter likes kitchen work.  He's working on their cheese/bean burritos for lunch.

Peter is taking an English test on the steps of the writing process, and Paul is reading a Bible story.  Paul finished his AWANA book and they didn't give him another one yet.  He usually starts table time with AWANA verses.  

After table time the girls let loose in the playroom.  This used to be a nice looking jean couch.  Now I refer to it as our "gym" couch.  They love it!  Who says girls are less active than boys?  More sensitive?  Yes.  Sweeter?  Frequently.  But not less active--in our gene pool anyway.

Sharing a snack.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

spring beauties

My sweet Beth started talking! We've heard five simple words so far, uttered during the last three days.  

Baby has Paul's sense of humor.  Praise the Lord for that.  The rest of us are funny-boned challenged.  Waaaay too serious.
Our tulips, inherited from previous owners.  

Oh, my little girls!  I want to sneak into their bedrooms and squeeze the stuffin' right out of 'em.  

We call this table time.  It's a feeble attempt at keeping all children busy at the same time, once a day.  Peter becomes the Table Time Teacher after he's finished at least one assignment.  It's a hoot to watch.  He loves teaching and facilitating.

I love to watch him go around and around the table, complementing their work and monitoring their activities.  Sometimes he gets a little annoyed when Beth continually drops her manipulatives or her Playdoh or her twistable crayons.  She smiles and watches Big Brother pick them up.

He likes to tape her drawing paper to the table, and she likes to peel off the tape for careful study, making it the main attraction instead of the picture she's supposed to be making.   He manages a professional reminder:  "Beth, we leave our tape on the table."

I love that boy!  He has challenges, but his heart is pure.  The anxiety is a huge issue, but I see him growing in the Lord through it.  He has to talk to God far more often than most kids his age.  He needs God.  Now.

On Decluttering

Interesting activity, decluttering.  A lot goes on under the surface.  I got rid of several bags a few weeks ago but it still seemed like the house was overfilled and always untidy.  We still had too much stuff!  So I bagged up more toys and clothes last night and took them to Goodwill today.

The toys and clothes I chose this time were given away on faith.  The first batch were no brainers--they needed to be chucked.

Ultimately, if we have faith that God supplies our every need, we don't need to keep stuff around just in case we might need it.  The decluttering rule is that if we haven't used it in the last year, we're not going to use it.

If we need it God will resupply it!  What we need more than stuff is to dwell in peace in our surroundings.  Baggage and peace don't go hand in hand.

Peace to you friends!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's an Xbox?

I lifted the yellow sentences below from an article on The Pioneer Woman's Homeschool blog.  One of the perks of being poor?  Our media is limited, compared to others.  We have two computers and two TV's and two basic cell phones (in place of land phone).  The second computer was recently acquired secondhand for my husband's computer class work.  Without cable, the TV's are of limited use (videos/DVDs).

Entertainment – Reading is a form of entertainment in our home. Our kids are limited in the amount of time they can allot to movies, the Xbox or Wii, computers and their DSi’s. We have television, but we don’t have cable, so the only shows we get are what we rent (Netflix) or download (AppleTV).

I don't even know what these are:  Xbox, Wii, Dsi's.  I know nothing about renting Netflix and I've never heard of Apple TV.  I have enough trouble limiting our collective computer use!  I don't need any extras, so I consider our ignorance a blessing.

Screens powerfully addict, like the worst kind of street drug.  We need to diligently preserve our dear relationships, while using screen time to our advantage.  Personally, I notice when I have enough outside fellowship, I could care less about being on the computer.  Makes me wonder if I'm more lonely than I realize?    Homemakers from decades past interacted more with neighborhood women, and moved away from extended family less often.

Life has changed so much, no?  Do you have a neighbor from whom you can borrow a cup of sugar?  I suppose we do, although she'd wonder what I was doing at her front door.

"Mom!  The weird homeschooling lady from next door is here!  With the four kids."

"She is?  What does she want?"

"A cup of sugar."

"A cup of sugar!"

Still, people of all eras struggled with something.  Balance is the key lesson for every generation.

Anyhow, back to our limited electronics.  Being able to take the kids to a restaurant would be nice, but I'm glad for comparative simplicity.

I had to put the decluttering of toys and clothes on hold to prepare for my sister-in-law's visit.  Time to get back to the task.

This concludes my procrastination-related media use for this evening.

Sleep tight, friends!

a new habit

You know that new-believer love of all things Bible?  That giddiness?  Those countless hours you easily spent pouring over Scripture?

They pass away, don't they?

Yes, what was once like chocolate, becomes like broccoli without cheesesauce (at times).

Discipline becomes a requirement once the giddiness subsides--especially for exhausted parents of littles.

If you're like me and you're not so disciplined, well......then you can plan on faltering.

I did.

I don't know where you are in terms of years saved, but I want to share with you how I've gotten over this hump.

Through some sort of revelation, maybe divine, I've learned to embed the devotions into daily tasks--tasks that must occur every day, regardless of how I feel. Think eating, showering, laundry, bathing kids.  The specific one that works for me?  Eating time.

In contrast, when I tried to put devotions in the early morning or at night, temptations abounded.  I would roll over and go back to sleep, telling myself I would surely make time later.  Or I would fold that load of clothes and clean up that floor, telling myself the next day would be less stressful if those things got done while the kids slept.  Or I would blog and do bills and dishes, only to fall asleep when I finally got to my Bible.

Sound familiar?

Forget those ways!  If they haven't worked by now, they aren't going to.  For you.

Try something new.

At first you need some sort of reminder, such as routinely leaving your Bible on your dining room table chair, or in your bathroom (if you read while kiddos bathe), or on your clothes dryer (if you read a chapter each time you shuffle laundry).

About twenty-one days later (or so), you won't need the visual reminder anymore.  You've given birth to a habit.

As I'm setting the table, I do a mental check to ensure I've included everything--salt, pepper, napkins, milk, glasses, serving spoons, etc., so that I'm not acting out a cranky-waitress role.  All moms have played that role at mealtimes, I'm sure.

Someone does prayer, then the whole family starts eating, except for me.  After covering my food with foil, I commence reading Scripture, stopping to discuss concepts when necessary.  Husband usually leads the discussion, since he's had five years of intense Bible College.  Boy, does that come in handy!  Don't rely on me to come up with obscure historical facts and cultural notes.

Since the family is busy eating, the event is mostly free of interruptions.  Unless of course you have an incessantly-talking ADHD child, in which case you can be assured of questions and comments.

"Why are you skipping those adultery chapters in Proverbs?"  (He overhead me discussing it briefly with husband.)

"Well, um.  We've decided to read them to you before you get married."

Several days later, while we're still in Proverbs:

"What if we get married and you forget to read the adulteress chapters to us?  What will happen to us?"  (Remember, he has an anxiety disorder too.)

"Well, Peter.  I'm sure you'll remind me.  No worries.  Can I continue?"

I can't say I'm as giddy as a new believer after developing this habit.  But my time in Scripture is now anything but a chore.  I thoroughly enjoy it!

The same thing works for prayer.  I pray while nursing my baby, and while I shower, and when I'm driving alone (which is usually just to the grocery store and back).  Remember that ADHD child?  He ensures there's no prayer time when he's in the car.  When the family is along, driving means answering questions.  I sound sarcastic, but really, I know I'm blessed to have a carload of littles along with me!

Happy reading.  And praying!  Enjoy that chocolate, or at least that cheesesauce!

Monday, April 12, 2010

sorry note

Can you decipher this sorry note?

I am sorry for my spoold bhafyor.


Sweet Mary.

Busted!  She loves containers of crayons and pencils--and especially sticking pencils in the pencil sharpener.

Oh, no.  Not the wall!

Did I ever tell you he talks incessantly?  I had to take a picture mid-sentence!

Busted! We bake a whole chicken once a week.  My kids snack on chicken as though it were scrumptious cookies.  Big sister got the container out of the fridge, and the next I know this one is diggin' in.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Mornings

Did you see this on the Pursuing Titus 2 blog?  Trust me, you must see it, about James 3.  It just might change your Sunday mornings forever.

swooning over pics

She's always happy!  And I'm always pinching myself.  Do I really have two daughters?  Two?  I never thought I'd have any!

I like berries!  Big brother and Mommy do too.  I guess we'll be fightin' over 'em for years to come.

I'm at a church function, having a good ole time!

A slide!  I need to get me one!  Fun!

Sister is hanging out too.

Everyone around here just loves me!  Know what I'm sayin'?

What am I supposed to do again? (We did this the Sat. before Easter, rather than on Easter.  Thus, no frilly Easter dress in the pic.)

Daily Blessings for Saturday:

- My baby.  If I say "Praise God!", she puts her arms and hands up to the heavens and laughs.  Life. doesn't. get. any. better!

- My house is clean.

-  I read the Bible three times today.

- My kids are fun.

- My kids are cute.

- My kids are vibrantly alive.

- My kids are not driving me crazy.  Today.  (Because I read the Bible 3x?  Hmm.)

- The surrogate grandparent relationship set up with our Pastor's help is a big answer to prayer!  They brought pizza and root beer to us for dinner tonight.  Long time since we've had a pizza treat.  We were all a bit giddy about it.

- I didn't have to do any dishes tonight.  Whoopee!

- Beth's last molar came through.  I think that qualifies as a blessing.  She wakes up less to nurse now.  Bittersweet.   I can get more done in the evenings uninterrupted--a life changing turn of events.  But now, I wish she wouldn't sleep so long.  There are still two to three nursings between bedtime and morning, but who knows for how long?  Humans. Weird, eh?  We think we want something badly (uninterrupted chore time), but when we get it we want something different (endless nursing).

- I went to Walmart last week and a man referred to me as Baby Beth's mother!  Hear that?  Someone--a man no less--thinks I look young enough to be her mother!  My spirit soared that trip. (In case you're new here--Beth is 16 months, and I'm 44.  And yes, I'm Momma.)

- We have an angel at church who has given us $350 all together, in three gifts.  I think it's the grandparent couple, but I'm not sure--always anonymously.  I'm glad I don't know.  It's hard receiving gifts like that.  Really hard.  All my life I've given something back when someone has given a gift.  Just sitting back and receiving kills me.  Still.

Case in point.  The grandmother (surrogate--Eleanor) drove the boys to AWANA last week. She helps in AWANA every week with verses, and with the bookkeeping.   I can't go anymore; husband's schedule changed and he now has the van during that time.  I made sure I had homemade cookies ready to give her for helping me.  My need to give back seems so contrived.  So phony.  But it isn't phony.  It's a real desire to thank someone, even though it comes from an uncomfortable place inside me.  Something in me says, "Quick, give something back!"  Almost this panicky feeling.  Precisely why it took me so long to become a Christian, perhaps?  I couldn't accept the Something For Nothing plan?

Oh sure, grace through faith sounds like we are doing something.  We're doing faith, right?   But the faith comes from God, too!   We don't participate in the deal, really, except to put out our hand, like a beggar.  I'm glad I put out my hand to Jesus!  Praise God!

- I received a Fed Ex envelope from the mortgage company.  They might modify the loan (temporarily lower payments?) since our income went down.  I hate official paperwork, but tomorrow night I'll tackle it. Their gift isn't something for nothing, I'm sure; they'll make out in the end.  But for now...a blessing.