Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Pageant group picture.  Dark church.  Cheap camera.

Salt dough ornaments.  Still have to put on glitter and some sequins and some paint accents.  

I had a very successful Goodwill visit.  New-looking books to give as Christmas gifts, costing only $.50 cents each.  They got a few in their stocking tonight (they never questioned where I got them), and more in a box under the tree for tomorrow.  Many are classic novels the boys will need in the next few years.

I worked out a tradition to adhere to in regards to presents:  something for their spiritual growth, something for homeschooling, and something they can do together as siblings and/or that we can do together as a family.  So all in all, three to four presents, although only the spiritual gift will be individual--the rest will be shared, like the brand-new looking dinosaur monopoly game I found at Goodwill for $1.50!

New giant-print Bibles for the boys, and the Jesus Storybook Bible for the girls.  The Bible covers didn't fit, unfortunately. :(  The Christian bookstore, believe it or not, had only one Bible cover and it was for a woman.  They also had no giant-print Bibles.  I had to get the boys' Bibles at Walmart, of all places!  And the covers.

The bookstore did have an Interactive Nativity Set put out by Family Life Today.  It teaches the meaning of Christmas, much like Resurrection Eggs teach the meaning of Easter.  I can tell you more tomorrow, after the kids open it.

Paint is dry (used poster paint), some have glitter glue coats, but need paint accents and sequins, etc.

Today, Daddy had time to replace our wonderful Harry the Hamster, who met with an untimely death last week.  Meet Peter's gerbils, Freddy and Teddy!  They like people and are not nocturnal.  They are friendly pets, especially when they have a friend in their cage.  They sleep on top of each other, all cuddled up.  Cute.

But a little rat-looking compared to Harry the Hamster, if you ask me.  These little guys stand on their back legs like kangaroos.

Husband doesn't have much time off (not even all of Christmas day).  I'm trying to put together a nice celebration, nevertheless.  We used the Bibles to do our own Christmas Eve service, as husband's schedule didn't allow us to go to the 6:00 PM Christmas Eve service at church.  The candy canes, put in the stockings, helped keep the girls quiet and still for a short time during our home service.  Emphasis on short.  We also had prayer and sang some Christmas carols together.

I thought of another tradition this week.  I want to ask each child, each year, what they think the meaning of Christmas is, and record the answers in a Christmas Memory Book, along with what we did that year to celebrate. It would be so neat to see how the answers change over the years.

We didn't have any family to see on Thanksgiving, and the same this year for Christmas.  I have aunts here, but they have big families of their own, and our family of six takes up a lot of room.  My closest aunt goes to Florida at the beginning of December now, so that doesn't help.  They used to have us over for Christmas dessert.  Things are a little lonely this year, but I reminded the kids how full and wonderful their holidays will be when they grow up and have four siblings and the siblings' families to share them with.  Boy, that filled their eyes with joy!

Merry Christmas, Dear Friends!  Love you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

salt-dough ornaments

I found this post detailing an easy salt-dough ornament project, but the author didn't mention what kind of paint she uses.  Have any of you made these ornaments lately?  I have some puffy paints and some tempura in the house, but nothing else.  Would one of those work?  Hoping to do this tomorrow with the kids.

Thank you!

P.S. Did one of you pray for my Beth?  She took her medicine nicely this morning.  I was so relieved!!  I immediately thought that maybe someone (besides us) had prayed.  Thank you, if you did!  It worked!

P.S.S. I checked the Internet briefly and found another link.  This mom has some neat ideas for decorating the salt-dough ornaments.  Here is a comprehensive link on salt-dough crafting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

but it is good, no?

This Mommy is at the end of herself.  Nothing I've planned  is coming to fruition, in terms of baking to bless others, and getting the house spiffy and comfy for Christmas.

Each child has consuming issues right now.


When I get to the end of myself, He carries me.  

Slows me down.

I give it all to Him readily because is there any other choice?  Keeping the joy means giving Him the angst.

Beth is on a second round of antibiotics for a UTI--my first child to have one.  I always wipe her properly as I've done all the others.  I just don't understand why this is happening.  No family history of diabetes and if it were a congenital problem, she would've had trouble before now.

Unfortunately, the antibiotics upset her tummy and cause looser stool, which in turn makes it harder for bacteria to stay out of the urethra.  Sorry for the detailed unpleasantness, but I'm discouraged!  This second antibiotic tastes badly--just getting her to take it depletes much energy.  She had a coughing fit this morning and spit it all up.  And the pharmacy said, of course, you'll have just enough.

Today, day one of a cold for Beth.  More reason to sleep poorly and keep Momma red-eyed.

The more children under your roof, and the closer their ages, the more you say goodbye to your own agenda.  I'm still getting used to it--this lack of control, this utter reliance on grace.

But it is good, no?  Children bless in unexpected ways.

What better way to grow in depth and fortitude, than to need to love more deeply--selflessly--everyday?

heart murmurings

Time to count some blessings and give thanks before bed.  Feeling frustrated tonight over a myriad of problems I can't solve.  Husband is still gone so many hours, he can't run interference with the children for me, allowing me to finish the bedroom shuffle job I started about twelve days ago.  House is in flux and my nerves are frazzled, which doesn't surprise me considering they've actually studied this and found that visual clutter upsets a person.

My gratitude list:

- Miss Beth amused herself with the tea set she got for her birthday (pouring water back and forth and making a sopping mess of the table.  Oh well :), so that Momma could peel at the sink--apples for applesauce and potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes, to go with the chicken already in the oven.  Mashed sweet potatoes and homemade applesauce are two of my favorite foods.  I savored dinner tonight.

- My Paul got a new math book and totally delights in it.  He says during Christmas break, he still wants to do math!

- The underemployment crisis we face takes its toll, definitely.  My husband and I have both aged a lot in the last two years.  But daily, compassion grows in my heart for the less privileged.  I could never, never have known their daily reality without the turmoil, and sometimes hopelessness, of the last 21 months.  The Bible says that the poor have no friends.  What that really means is that the poor are judged for their lack of upward mobility.  I will love, love, love on the less privileged for the rest of my life.  That desire is priceless, and maybe, just maybe, the ongoing nightmare is worth it.

- The three older children have fallen in love, once again, with their Geo Trax train toys.  They have spent hour upon hour over the last three days with their trains, conjuring up scenarios they've been exposed to through the Thomas and His Friends storybooks (we have the whole set of these stories).

- The three older children were in a Christmas Pageant at our church last Sunday.  They did very well, with Paul especially delighting the audience.  Many people came up to us and to the Children's Director telling how Paul had delighted them.  One woman told me he made her cry and that he has a future as a performer.  We were pleasantly surprised by his stage presence, definitely.  Husband and I were in tears throughout the performance.  It was just precious.

My only regret is that often Paul is praised by people in front of his big brother, Peter, which makes existing brother jealously all that much worse.  Peter also put in a very solid performance (both had short singing solos and speaking solos, and were part of the side singing group).  Peter did get complimented also, but not with the same animated praise Paul received.  Pray for Peter, please?  He recognizes that Paul isn't plagued with the OCD fears and other problems.  Although Peter knows he is fearfully and wonderfully made by his Heavenly Father, it's still hard for him to see brother ease through life (in his view)

Trying to finish this up during Beth's nap, which can be pretty short.  She's on day one of a cold.  More another day.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Harry the Hamster Brings Grace

I was nursing my Beth at naptime when it happened.

"Harry bit Mary and it's real bad!"

Racing out of Beth's room, I brace myself for blood and tears.  Instead, I find a timid Mary.  Too quiet, considering the bite drew slight blood.

"Why did Harry bite you, Mary?"

"I don't know", she answered quiet, not looking at me.

I washed the wound and consulted Google about hamster bites before deciding on ointment or dressing.

"Peter, you didn't leave Mary alone with Harry, did you?"

"Well....yes. I got distracted", Peter admitted.  "But I told her not to touch him!"

Minutes later, applying hydrogen peroxide, I hear Peter say, "Harry isn't moving much."

I finished up and went to check on the hamster, who seemed to be cuddling down for a nap.  Satisfied, I left to interrogate Mary.

A little later, "Something's wrong with Harry!"

Alarmed, I rush to check him again.

My heart beats wild as I watch an obviously wounded rodent.  He depends on us for everything, I lament inside, and we let him down.

Internal despair makes me more insistent with Mary, who is still slow to respond to my inquires.  "What did you do to Harry, Mary?  I think he's dying."

Feeling this was Peter's fault for leaving such a young child alone with his fragile pet (he'd been warned many times), I assured Mary she wasn't in trouble.

"What were you doing when Harry bit you?"

Fifteen minutes later, the truth.  She held him and tried to feed him a sunflower seed--something she'd seen brother do many times.

Harry loves sunflower seeds.  Writing that pains me now.

Harry bit her and she dropped him.  She was standing up at the time, on our laminate wood dining-room floor.

My heart in knots, I check on Harry again.  "No pain for our little friend, Father, please."

Google tells me that, yes, it's common for hamsters to die after falls.  Their bones are so small, a two-foot fall is like a two-story fall for humans.  Oh, Father, he must be in pain.  Take it away!

Heart sick, I tell Peter we were wrong.  "You're not mature enough to have a hamster.  You left Mary alone with him, after many warnings. " 

Harry passes away about an hour later.  Our day goes dark.

In my head I wrestle for hours.

Was I too harsh?  I wonder if we should get another hamster the next day. Peter will miss him dearly.  He's a troubled kid, what with his various neurological challenges.  He needs a pet to help him relax.

Peter and Mary both, at times, held Harry while standing up.  I warned them to sit down, but toddler Beth is a full-time job, taking me from room to room often.  I couldn't stand guard consistently.

And we didn't know the seriousness of falls for these little pets.

My mind searches.  By replacing Harry, am I risking another pet's life?  Isn't that selfish, to want to appease my children, at the expense of a defenseless rodent?  Peter disobeyed.  He needs to learn a lesson and go without a pet for several months.

Toward evening, something happens in my heart.  Jesus.

I always give you another chance, you know.  Why are you without mercy?  Extend it, and grace too. (no punishment, and another pet)

My heart stills, finally.  I know this is the right thing.

Husband calls.

I called him earlier in distress, telling him the dark news.  At that time we both agreed that Peter is too immature to care for a mammal.

But Jesus had spoken to husband, too.

"Honey", he told me, "I think we should give him another chance.  And another and another and another.

I just cry.  "Yes, Jesus told me the same thing."

Peter waits anxious as I hang up.  "What did Daddy say?"

"You're Daddy is a good man, Peter.  He loves you with grace, as your Heavenly Father loves you.  He said it before me.  I think he deserves another chance."

My boy smiles relief.

We all miss Harry.  Sometimes we think we can hear his wheel running.  We enter his room, see his empty cage, and the grief comes.  He was just a pet, I know.  We'd known him since November 4th.

He brought more life here.

And in the end, he brought grace.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about judgement this month.  It's second nature to humans, isn't it?  How many judgments of another person do you think we make in a day?

- "When will those boys aim better and stop peeing on the floor?"

- "Why can't the grown-up man in this house use the hamper that's sitting in the bathroom?"

- "That mailman is lazy!"  He saw me coming from my house after he knocked at my door a few minutes earlier.  Instead of reaching back into his vehicle to give me my packages, he just finished loading up the mailboxes and drove away.  Now I have to take a trip to the post office to get my packages, per two orange notices placed in my mailbox.

- "Why would the checker put the Drano in the same bag as my food?"

- "Why would someone let their curious kid catch and keep thirty salamanders,  just for fun?  What about the ecosystem?"

- Why can't my kids be more grateful?  Why do they complain every time they have to clean the playroom?  Don't they know some kids live in tin homes with no address, far smaller than their cushy playroom?"

When we perceive another's judgement of us, how does it make us feel? Small, unsettled, physically sick, even guilty.

I used to follow a homeschool blog until one day, the author made a comment about the failing economy--passing judgement on the long-term unemployed.  "Why don't people just get out there and do something else--something in a different field?  Hard times call for innovation."

I wasn't angry, but I did stop reading the blog.  There was no gratitude for what God had given her family.  There was no acknowledgement that God gives talents as He sees fit--even the propensity for innovation.  Some have many talents, some have a few, some have almost none.  She failed to recognize that some circumstances lead to hopelessness, which is crippling in itself.  Finally, there was the presumption that the long-term unemployed are just lazy.

But I wasn't angry, because I judge plenty also.  Life experience is the ultimate heart softener, and this person was barely thirty. She was ignorant of her sin.

I often feel irritated at two particular people in my house for what I perceive to be ungratefulness. Glass-half empty describes the way these two look at life.  They rarely count blessings; it grieves me, angers me, stretches my ability to look upon them with grace.  They count hardships like King Midas counts money.

God is working with me regarding my irritation--trying to soften my heart toward these two house-mates.  While counting blessings and looking on the bright side are good and right, they're also part of a natural bent--a personality characteristic.  We should all do it--we will all benefit, but for some, it's an arduous, unnatural chore.

Here is the humbler:  We don't get to choose our personalities.  Some are more attractive than others, but not because the owner is more holy.  Yes, we can, over time, polish our rough spots or hide them, but our gene-decided personality will keep fighting our efforts.

We are nothing without Christ.

Pride tells us we deserve some recognition--for making the right decisions, for being opportunistic, for being flexible when necessary, unyielding when necessary, prudent, long-suffering.....our list of accomplishments is long.  Right?

We are nothing.  He gives, blesses, takes away.  Some are rich, some poor, some just get by.  Some heat their attractive homes to seventy degrees in the winter, while others live in tin houses, fear for their children's lives daily, know ten-day hunger, drink pain and hopelessness away.

Why shouldn't we judge?  Because we are nothing without Christ.  And because judgement is puffed up pride. 

It's painful to think about.....hard to understand.....but God allows inequality in his Upside-Down Kingdom.  His graces and unfailing love are with the poor in spirit, but upward mobility and happy endings--which we're obsessed with--do not top his to-do list.

Unless, of course, Paradise is the happy ending you're talking about.

Adding to his Kingdom--reaping a harvest of souls for eternity?  That tops his list.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Compelling reasons to make Christmas less commercial.

- We can give more to those in need--more Operation Christmas Child boxes, more money to the third world, more money to our local church (pastoral gift, other ministry gifts), more money to a single mom and her kids, more money/food to food pantries/shelters.

- With less shopping, we have more time to visit depressed people--in nursing homes, in hospitals, those suffering the loss of loved ones, those with no family around.

- We have more time to offer hospitality.

- We have more time to minister to our own family, without the rushing around, feeling stressed, and getting behind on daily tasks.

- Without the distraction of things, we have more of each other.  We can dwell together intimately.

- Without the distraction of the buying, wrapping, etc., we can be still more, dwelling on the miracle of Christ's coming.

But if for your whole life, Christmas morning has meant the unwrapping of delightful surprises, all of these ideas sound too far off.  Too hard, austere. Too kill-joy.

Instead of doing away with gifts entirely, how about a standard, reasonable number, so that preparing for Christmas morning doesn't overwhelm the schedule or the pocketbook?

Christ got three presents.  How about starting there with your kids?  Then, if you feel led, give less the next year, or stay with three.  If you experience an economic slump, your kids won't feel as though one Christmas was better than another.

I know a pastor who gave his three children three gifts only every year--something for their music pursuits, something literary, and something for their sports pursuits.

With fewer or no gifts under the tree, you can perhaps plan a memory-making outing, such as a visit to a fancy theater to see the Nutcracker, followed by a leisurely dinner.

Or, you can target your buying to benefit the whole family, and create new traditions in the process.  Why do gifts have to be individual?  Would the family delight in a new board game to play every Christmas?  Or a family gym membership for the snow months?  Or a zoo or museum pass?  Or a New Year's weekend away?

There is the personal, heart meaning of Christmas--Christ's coming and the hope that entails for a believer--and the collective, practical meaning of Christmas--expressing love toward others and experiencing togetherness.

For your individual family, the love and togetherness part requires simply having extra, leisurely time together--whether it be baking together, making a lovely holiday meal together, playing board games or charades together, or looking at family photo albums or slides together.

If we arrive at Christmas day exhausted and spent, the togetherness part--the memory-making part--doesn't go smoothly.

Instead of expending all your energy on searching for the right gifts for everyone on your list, how about planning for memory-making instead?  Create traditions with your family that bind and bless and infuse laughter into your holiday.

Toys get broken, forgotten, or added to a huge toy box.  And some, like electronic devices, even take our family members away from us.

Togetherness and tradition strengthen families by binding hearts.  They're an investment in the future.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

point the way

Five plates sat on the counter, two pieces of bread each.  Peanut butter and jelly ready to go.

And then, a diaper change.

A sibling fight.

Someone forgot to close the bathroom door and baby got all wet playing at the sink.  I changed her.

Mary fell and needed some lovin' hugs.

Math problems needed explaining.

The dryer bell sounded and laundry needed shuffling.

Forty-five minutes later, on slightly hardened bread, I spread the peanut butter and jelly.

In the middle of it all, due to my own extreme hunger and frustration, I belted out a primal scream, shocking my offspring.  I just wanted to get lunch on the table!  How hard can it be!

A couple hours later, huddled in prayer with all my babes, I opened by asking God's forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is careful to impress this upon me, in the post-sin hours.

Confess.  Let them see you confess.

I have an ugly secret.  I can't stop sinning.  I lose my focus.  Taking my eyes off of Him, I promptly fall into the water, as Peter did.

They learn the ways of the Lord not through my good behavior, usually, but through my repentance.  When I acknowledge that I need the Lord--that I am nothing without Him--they know what to do with their own sin.

Humble yourself before the Lord.  Acknowledge, confess.  Be filled with Him again.  And again.  And again.

We don't have to be great parents, or even good parents--whatever that may entail.

We simply have to point the way to Him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

humility with gratitude on the side

I should be sweeping or folding or both, at this ungodly, 1:40 a.m. hour.

But instead, because I've already had an hour and a half of sleep with the baby--may I still call her baby, please?--I think I'll focus on what is right, good, and lovely.  My house is none of those things, and that can make a person sour, sad, and sullen.

Some gratitude, including a humility story:

- My boys belting out this solo part in the car this morning, followed by four-year-old Mary doing the same:

I know, I know
What I stand for.
I know, I know
What I believe.
God's Holy Word
Will always lead my life
'Cause I don't want
My heart to be deceived

- Gift money from my mother and step-father, which I plan to use to get the boys their own large-print Bibles with covers, and Mary the Jesus Storybook Bible.  They will get nothing else this Dec. 25th except for new mittens and peppermint candy in their stockings.  We are moving on from Christmas toys and it feels so right! (It may not be right for you--not saying everyone should worship the same.)  Now, they can follow along during devotions!

- I'm thankful that we still have Internet, because the other night I had all the ingredients in a bowl for a pumpkin pie, and then realized I was out of evaporated milk.  Google came through for me, teaching me that you can substitute 2/3 cup nonfat dry milk mixed with 3/4 cup water.

- Heavy snow on evergreen trees.  So beautiful!

- Heavy snow reminds that home is heavenly; our families are blessings.

- Sisters giggling in the tub

- Miss Beth so happy to see sister Mary's sweet face every morning.

- Poverty and having to receive gifts from family.  So painful and humbling, and yet so stretching (in good ways).  I know something about the hopelessness of poverty and I can use that knowledge to bless others someday, with no strings attached, no judgement involved.

Now for another lesson in humility:  Four-year-old Mary, along with the other Christmas pageant children, sang one of the pageant songs in front of the congregation last Sunday.  The actual pageant is this Sunday but they've been previewing a few songs.  Mary loves to sway when she's up there along to the beat of the music.  I mean a lot of swaying.  She's eye-catching to say the least (ahem).  Making herself a further spectacle to delight the audience and give the pastor a chance to make a funny, she laid right down on the stage as the song finished.  Pastor joked that she was slain in the spirit over the experience.  Ha!  He's quick witted, eh?

Truth is she's probably too immature for such a long production. I'm now purposely clothing myself with a sense of humor, instead of my initial response--embarrassment and dismay.  The blessing here is a lesson on parental pride. As much as it would be convenient for us, kids don't fit into neat little molds and it isn't their job to make us shine as parents.

My son Paul, for example, sings with all his heart, but not always on cue with the music.  He and Peter have small solo singing parts that lead one of the songs (above).  Sunday, he didn't start on cue with the music and they had to begin it again.  At first I was dismayed.  I worry about Paul.  He's very much a head-in-the-clouds child (mild form of inattentive ADHD, but it doesn't need a label).  He'll forget his underwear and put on his pants without it.  You'll address him, even when close, and he'll be so absorbed he doesn't hear you.  You'll ask him to put on his pajamas, set them down in front of him, and thirty minutes later, he's got no clue why you're irritated to see him still naked.

Anyhow, it took someone in the produce section of Walmart last Sunday to tell me what a good job my kids had done, to see the pageant experience for what it was:  A chance for the Lord to use HIS precious children to send a message of hope and grace to all--especially to us self-absorbed, life-absorbed adults..  Shame on me for thinking it was about anything else.  Very humbling.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

deep in snow

This is what a level 2 snow emergency looks like.  Unfortunately, when the cities partially close down, it means no work, no money, for a lot of people.  Snow plow companies are happy, though, working around the clock!

Nevertheless, it's incredibly beautiful!  

How much more lovely in the woods!  Wish we could be there now.

This free animated history site came through my homeschool group.  Really neat and educational!  Great thing to do on a snow day.

From our little family cake ceremony the other night.  Somehow, my two girls manage to stick fingers into every cake I make, before I can get the candles on.

We had to do a joint cake ceremony this year, due to Daddy's schedule.  The girls birthdays are five days apart.  That cake may look lame, but boy, it was good!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

giving tomorrow to God

I am alone, save for faint clock ticking, steady computer hum, rhythmic turn of the hamster wheel, sleep-inducing heater roar.

Children now asleep, husband at work.

What is God saying in the quiet of the night, after a never-sit-down day of pageant rehearsal and church singing, grocery shopping, laundry, birthday cake making, birthday present wrapping, picture taking, candle blowing, memory making?

My body was busy performing tasks, while my mind was busy fretting about tomorrow.

So I hear God saying this:  Do the immediate needful thing, leaving the rest (the tomorrows) to me.  Praise me as you pray and work, giving thanks for the moment.

A relative wrote recently, sympathizing that it must be hard to have husband working so many hours.  Letter went on to say that after the computer classes, things will get easier when he gets a better job.

Although I read that note several days ago, the words still echo.  She doesn't know that husband's confidence is low, that it's perpetually low, that he's too busy to find a help-desk internship, that all the help desk jobs require at least one to five years experience, or a computer degree.  When the classes finish in February, husband will finally have at least ten hours a week to study for more certifications; he currently has two certifications in hand.

But certifications aren't the same as a computer degree, and I daresay, most employers in the workforce won't be impressed by husband's BA in theology, or his many years of work caring for the brain-injured in PA, preceded and followed by custodial work.

As far as the certifications go, well, anyone can buy a computer book at a bookstore, study it diligently, and then take a computer certification exam. Computer nerd types can pass these readily, without help or classes.

Husband worries--but is not without hope--that no one will hire him, that his lack of experience, his age, and the fact that he's no computer nerd, will turn off interviewers.

Fathers give sons confidence.  Mothers or wives can boost it, but fathers bestow it.  That never happened for husband--it was never bestowed by his father, who didn't appreciate what his son could do, but berated him for what he couldn't.

Confidence also comes from accomplishment, but accomplishment comes easier for those starting with confidence.

I'm begging God to give husband a chance.  To give him a big break, such as an interview where God speaks the bold, insightful, confident answers, through husband.  Erase the impact of the sins of the father, Dear Lord. Bestow what the earthly father didn't....what he couldn't.

To not look beyond today is hard.  Yet we know God is faithful, bestowing sufficient grace for our circumstances.  He can choose to better our circumstances, or not.  It's impossible to predict.

What to write back to the relative?  Nothing.  I wrote nothing in response.  Her comments were only a small part of the note, anyway.

It's best to say nothing about our husbands except for the glowing things--especially to relatives.  They remember the negatives always, long after the spouting-off wife has forgotten her unwise comments.

This is where the anonymity of the Internet, when writing under fictitious names, comes in handy for me as I process what I feel, process what God is force-teaching me.

I believe in my husband.  He is bright and capable, personable, earning good grades.  Yet the low confidence is so pervasive, so ingrained, that it frightens me.  How will he hide it in a professional interview?  And why hasn't God healed, erased, restored, bestowed?

And what will this do to our boys, this pervasive low confidence of their father's?  How do we stop it from poisoning the next generation?

The world is competitive.  The strongest win, move to the next level, conquer.  We are to be in the world, but not of it.

Confidence is needed, either way.

God, I'm begging you.  Erase, heal, bestow.

And yes, I hear your message to me today:  Do the next needful thing, do it with gladness and thanksgiving, leaving the tomorrows to me.

Matthew 6:34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Psalm 107:1
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (The translation of the word "prosper" here does not necessarily refer to earthly riches.  I don't remember the exact translation (and husband isn't here to enlighten me), but I feel certain it refers to spiritual prosperity.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How I Spent My Saturday

To stop the insanity.   That's what I've wanted more than anything lately, save for cuddling and reading to my babes.

The more I have to chase the ever-curious Miss Beth, the less organized and efficient life becomes.  Survival mode applies to more than just the newborn period!  The into-everything faze, spanning twelve months old to perhaps 30 months old, is ripe with challenges.  And once they can climb out of playpens and over safety gates, things really get interesting.  My babe is on the cusp of turning door handles by herself.  Lord help us!

Just today, she found an old juice box under a bed--you'll know why later in the post--and promptly climbed up onto the kitchen counter to open the cupboard the children's scissors are stored in.  She wanted to cut open the juice box and drink it.

Two weeks ago, the scissors were on the counter itself in a cute little holder.  Convenient and all, you know, for the rest of us.  That is, until she climbed up there without even so much as a box to stand on, and scored herself a pair of scissors to practice with.

No child of mine has ever cut their own hair.  Let's hope I can still say that next month.

Last night I lay awake, contemplating the universe my messy life, wondering how to stop the insanity.  The laundry insanity, the messy paperwork insanity, the messy bedroom insanity--the this-house-is-so-messy-I'm-going-insane insanity.

Do you know the kind?

I waited for possible solutions to come to me, as the heater hummed, the night-light glowed, and my baby sighed content.

Finally, something happened in the recesses of my disorganized mind. Something hopeful.

Yes, I told myself.  There is no other way--a catch-all room for messy paperwork, unfolded baskets of laundry, bulky dressers, and miscellaneous, no-where-else-to-store items.  Most of all, a room that can be closed off from curious little hands.

See, we don't have a garage or basement.  We have three small bedrooms with smallish closets.  There is a greenhouse shed and a garden tool shed, but they've reached their capacity with lawn things.

Not only do I want to feel sane, but I also really, really want to be hospitable.  The Bible calls me to extend hospitality, despite a toddler with her hands into everything.  The problem is that I'm too busy chasing her out of the next thing to thoroughly put to right what she's already ransacked.  The result?  Ever-increasing messy chaos!

So today, my enthusiastic husband (okay, not so much) took time out of his busy schedule to help me move the older three children into the master bedroom (3 twin beds), and the master king bed into the baby's room, and the crib out to the curb--the crib she hasn't slept in since she was about seven months old.  It was used as a "guard rail" for one side of the queen bed she shared with me.  She took her first steps at eight and a half months, so she managed her way out of the queen bed after naps pretty well.

We didn't put the bed frame on the king bed as we set it up, so that if she tumbles out, the fall will be insignificant.  Daddy is going to try sleeping with us again, since Miss Beth is now waking less.  Good plan, though he's very particular about his sleep, so we'll see how it goes.  Having said that though, he would never go for having a young child "cry it out", and neither would I.  I'm sure there's nothing wrong with it, but we can't stomach it.

I waited a long time to have babies!  I'm in no hurry to shoo them out of my life--or even out of my nights.

But I digress.

The third room is the coldest, yuckiest room, featuring paneling we painted white instead of removed when we moved in because at the time we had two active boys, 21 months and 3.5 years old, who had just moved cross-country and were displaying a bit of stress.  That was another survival-mode period of my life.

This yucky room, which previously housed our three older children, now houses two dressers to make it easier for me to put clothes away at night, the laundry baskets needing folding attention, some homeschooling supplies that were cluttering up the rest of the house, and some messy, not-yet-filed mail paperwork, and lastly, the queen bed.

Of course, the queen bed doesn't yet fit, because all of the junk that was put under beds for five and a half years, is now in that room, waiting to be sorted through and thrown away or restored somewhere else.

Included in the disastrous mountain of clutter, are hundreds of long lost game pieces, long lost socks, mittens, balls, play tools, magnetic alphabet letters, stray foam bathtime alphabet letters, and other such miscellany guaranteed to drive a conscientious, but not-naturally-organized mother crazy.

Welcome to my insanity.  Just keeping it real.

Hopefully, in about four days, I will have made it to the bottom of the junk pile--or rather, the junk mountain.

Meanwhile, the other two bedrooms love me.  They are clutter free, sort of becoming (low budget, you know), and clean!

And the three older children, whom we previously cruelly housed in the yucky room, think their new master bedroom is way cool!  They had only minimal difficulty at bedtime tonight, adjusting to new digs.

And that, my friends, was my Saturday in a nutshell.

Needless to say, no laundry got done, but there's always tomorrow.

I think.

on shepherding and the TV

Mary will turn four years old in several days.  While she as recently as a month ago would involve herself diligently in building train tracks, Tinkertoy creations, and rudimentary Lincoln Log structures, more recently, she'd just as soon watch a library Dora DVD.  I'm still not sure what precipitated this change.

Was it a symptom of internal stress?  Peter's rather sudden OCD symptoms turned the whole household into a bundle of nerves; only recently have things returned to a semblance of normalcy.

Yet even with milder moods becoming the rule, Mary is still wanting to waste her life away with Dora.  At first I allowed two full videos (not at one sitting), more because I was under stress due to Peter's symptoms.  I wanted to rock the boat, so to speak, as little as possible.

As far as media use goes around here, I don't need to worry about computers.  The kids use the computer as entertainment infrequently, due to lack of software.  It's more a source of information only and isn't overused.

And during the warmer months they played outside so much I didn't need to worry about their library-media viewing.  Now, it's cold outside--time-consuming bundling required.  While they're still playing out there daily, it isn't for extended or multiple periods--maybe sixty minutes total.

The boys are now asking for more library videos/DVD's, and in the last four days, I've acquiesced.

And tonight, I feel horrible.  Just like the laziest, most selfish parent around. Yes, when they watch something, it's rather convenient, notwithstanding the fact that the baby behaves far worse when the TV is on, because there's less interaction for her.

I know better.  I know the result of too much TV.  It breeds idiocy, lack of creativity, lack of responsiveness to life and to the environment, and to poor thinking and problem-solving skills.  It also leads to addiction to entertainment, which is a horrible folly.  Entertainment can rob our children, and ourselves, of godliness.

It's amazing how we try to rationalize things in the heat of the moment, isn't it?

Good, solid parenting involves self-sacrifice.  Resolve.  Letting go of our own agendas--even if they seem like good ones (like when you're behind on chores).

We have to fight for their hearts and minds; never wearying.  We need to expect first-time obedience, even though getting it means we stay near our children most of the day.  They obey far better and display more respect when the parental voice and face is right there.  Think about it for a moment.  How many times have you had to repeat yourself, sometimes to the point of yelling, when giving orders from another room?  Often?

When we stay around and pay attention (herding principle--think of the crook in the shepherd's staff), we can speak softly but with authority, and stay calm. They will respond well as long as we consistently shepherd.  Nearby.

How does all this about shepherding relate to TV viewing and my four-year-old's recent Dora addiction?

Just this.  I became lazy.  Selfish.  I wanted to get things done instead of shepherd my children.  For shame, because that isn't why I stay home with these precious ones.  Not to have Dora babysit and steal away my child's heart and mind.  (I like Dora--don't get me wrong.  But thirty minutes a day is more than enough.)

I stay home to shepherd my flock.  And tomorrow, I'll get back to doing just that--perhaps starting by teaching them to do more chores.  I'm so busy because I'm doing too many chores and they're doing too few.

Simply making their beds, putting their dirty clothes in a hamper, and cleaning the playroom isn't enough for their ages (the boys), or for our busy family.  I need to take the time to train the boys to do dishes and some laundry.  Hard to do, yes, but I'm doing the whole family a disservice by not delegating more--and by not requiring them to develop higher levels of responsibility and maturity.

I credit this article with getting me back on track tonight.  Part of it deals with homeschooling, but further down it deals more with shepherding.  I found it to be an outstanding parenting resource.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I will give thanks to the Lord

Psalm 7:17
I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Dear Lord, 

I praise your Holy name!  Thank you for........

- children who suddenly like snow play.  A lot.  I love watching them out the window, as I enjoy a quiet house. 

- a morning spent sledding with Daddy.  They all fell into bed exhausted that night!  Long trek back up the hill, over and over again.

- the aroma of pumpkin pie baking, followed by heavenly gingerbread men (recipe coming soon).

- children who are soaking up spiritual lessons.  I heard two children playing in the shower rather than washing.  After two warnings, I went back in there and just shut off the shower, telling them they were done.  They sobered up quickly, apologizing for wasting water.  

Momma (after already yelling once today over lazy playroom clean up, and feeling guilty about it):  "Thank you for apologizing, Lovies.  It's okay--there's always grace."

Mary: "And mercy."

Momma:  "Yes, mercy too.  To have mercy means to not give a deserved punishment.  And grace is giving a gift, instead of a punishment." 

Peter:  "Jesus gave us both grace and mercy!"

- sharing the above conversation with husband later, and watching him shed tears, along with me.  These rascals are not easy to raise.  They do many childish things over and over again.  But they are learning about Jesus!  Praise God!

- a Cooper's Hawk on our chain link fence.  Awesome! 

sisters enjoying books together

- spontaneous dance parties

- grace to endure hard things, like watching our skin decay (husband and  me).  We are both aging very fast now.  Husband seems less bothered, until he sees a picture of himself.  Watching yourself decay is a scary, emotional thing--especially when people look you up and down, wondering if you are the parents or the grandparents.  As Christians we can usually put the decay in perspective quickly, going on with our day.  I am so thankful to have Scripture as a filter.  Life would be unimaginably hard without the promise of grace while on earth, followed by eternal life!

- folded clothes sitting behind me, rather than full baskets

- my oldest boy's decreased OCD symptoms.  He is reading again for pleasure without repeating lines! 

- a surprise package in the mail--homemade caramel popcorn from sweet friends!

- Miss Beth feeling better and sleeping well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What will I do? My babe is two!

My last baby was born on December 8, 2008.  Today she is two and my heart aches so!  She still loves to nurse, which was one of my prayers after husband told me of his vasectomy decision.  If you've been with me for awhile in the blogging world, you know (but probably forgot) that she took a whole month to learn to nurse, making her first month of life one of the most stressful months of mine.  But God provided.  She learned.  So grateful I was, I got down and worshiped my loving heavenly Father, right there on the floor.

Then, in winter 2009, my husband's vasectomy decision was announced.

Lord, may she not wean early.  May we have many, many more months of night and daytime nursing cuddles.  

Again, He provided.  At two, she hasn't the slightest interest in weaning.  As sad as I am today, I can thank God for that.   

When you've got another miracle growing in your tummy, two is a happy day.  At 44.5 years old, I'm an old woman for sure, but my body can produce another bundle of joy, so perhaps this is some natural yearning I'm having.

Anyhow, I love this little girl so much it hurts!  She is such a delight.....such a blessed surprise.  Someday, she may look at my wrinkled face and perhaps want a younger Momma.  I'll have to count on the Lord's grace to see me through that, just as I have to for every glimpse in the mirror these days.  

For now, Miss Beth and Momma are a happy pair.  

Her first two years, in pictures: