Saturday, April 30, 2011

let the fruit began

You'd be surprised what happens when you spend more time with your children.  Really!

Let me clarify.

By spend more time with, I'm not referring to planning fun activities, like baking or painting together--though such things do bless them.  What I really mean is simply going to whatever room your children are in, sitting down, and announcing that you're taking a break from your chores.  Just watch the surprise in their eyes!

What you'll notice is that they'll be blessed by your stillness--especially if you are a task-oriented versus people-oriented person.  They might just sit in your lap, maybe bring you a book to read, or just chat with you, enjoying your undivided attention.  Your undivided attention is key!

It's so easy to think of them as loud and in the way--especially when you're sorrowfully behind or you're focused on adult worries.  But even if you have to set a bell to remember, try to spend chunks of time with them--maybe twenty minutes here and there.  Really focus on it.

I've enjoyed these fruits, quite unexpectedly:

- You hear "I love you, Mommy" more than ever before.

- You learn more about their dreams.

- You delight in what they can do.

- You lighten up--smiling more, laughing more--because they're just so wonderful.

- You hug, kiss and cuddle more than ever.

- While they're in your arms for a cuddle, they whisper, "You make the day better, Mommy."

- You see their love for each other, up close.  (When you're off doing chores all day, you only hear the squabbles.)

- They lighten up--whining less, smiling more.

- You like yourself more.

- You like them more.

- You learn that they're capable people.  They can fold and put away their clothes.  Sweep floors.  Organize toys--thereby freeing up more of your time.  (If yours are still babies, just know what you can look forward to :) They may balk at first, but they want to be a part of the team called family. They just don't know it yet. You've perhaps never given them a taste of what it means for family to be a team.  When everyone cleans or picks up at the same time, it feels wonderful--bonds are strengthened, morale gets a boost.  The we're in this together feeling blesses the socks off everyone!

Remember, you don't have to entertain.  Just walk in and sit down.  They'll be delighted to see you, without a basket of clothes to fold, without a stack of bills to pay, without a bottle of Windex in your hand.

Let the fruit began!

Friday, April 29, 2011

a blackout

Before retiring last night I knew there was a flood warning for our area, going into the early morning.  When the power went out around 5:30 AM, I awoke with a start--noticing immediately the silent, jet black room.  The Hepa-filter fans running in two rooms make low levels roars and without them, the sudden silence was striking.

My nursing toddler barely flinched, continuing her sleepy, half-hearted sucking.  Compared to the howling gusts outside--the strength of which I'd never before experienced--I found her nursing sounds quite soothing.

My first thought?

I wished I'd checked the online weather forecast before retiring, because these winds could easily progress to tornado-like strength?  I'd woken to more earthquakes than I can count in my lifetime--being a Southern California native--but howling winds up to 60 - 70 miles per hour were entirely new, even for a fourteen-year high-desert dweller.

My second thought?

Oh yeah, we don't have a basement! (Something I'm usually happy about--I find that damp smell nauseating.)  Should I wake everyone--including husband who'd just come home from work at 4:00 AM--or assume we're all goners anyway, and try to go back to sleep?

My third thought?

If Peter wakes and notices the blackout and high winds, he'll freak out (tornadoes are one of his worst fears).

My fourth thought?

Oh boy, he's awake!  Here we go.

Peter immediately got a flashlight from the closet in his bedroom, and proceeded to tell both parents, "There's a blackout and we're going to die!"

Momma whispers, trying not to wake the nursing toddler:  "No, Peter. We're not going to die.  It's just a windy storm and the power will come on shortly. They have people working on it.  Quiet down or you'll wake everyone!"

I had folded and sorted clean clothes for Goodwill, relatives, and our drawers until 2:00 AM, eager to get the spring clothing switch done.  I then had insomnia until roughly 2:30 AM, so I'd clocked little sleep.

Peter's paranoia, I knew, wasn't going to calm--we were up for the day, like it or not.

The good news is that the baby went back to sleep for awhile, with Daddy. The bad news is that Peter woke his brother Paul, who is a night person (like the rest of the family minus Peter).  Paul usually rises at 8:00 AM, Mary around 7:35 AM,  Momma and Beth around 7: 45 AM (this late just since daylight savings) and Peter, the lone man out, around 6: 45 AM, most mornings.  Daddy often sleeps until 9:00 AM, depending on his schedule the night before.  This morning he hoped to sleep until 10:30 AM, as Wednesday night is his heaviest work night.

Peter calmed after natural light entered the house, but he and his brother made so much noise, as they roamed the house, watching and reacting to the high winds, that poor Mary was awake far earlier than her body wanted. She then came in for an earlier-than-normal cuddle, waking her little sister.

Momma made do with no electricity, by making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, and reading as many picture books as her fatigued body could handle, with the little natural light available during stormy skies.  This calmed the troops for a while, and the power finally came back on around 9: 30 AM--with everything in the fridge and freezer surviving the blackout.

We were a tired bunch today!

Through the Lord's grace we made it through the day, with nary a ripple. And strangely enough, we never got a drop of rain during the night or day, despite the darkened skies.  They changed the flood warning to a high-wind warning.

We got though this unscathed, but so many others did not!

Please pray for this blogger's large family, who lost their home to a tornado on Wednesday? Her story, including that she just had a baby, warrants much prayer.  Her church has set up a tornado fund to help her, as well as her family and church friend, Mrs. Lee--a mother of thirteen, who lost both her husband and her home to the tornado.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

no to my flesh, yes to my children

God is patient with me.  He shows me something new about mothering, and then keeps whispering it.  Sometimes I continue on for weeks, business as usual, as though deaf.  But He doesn't give up on me, and for that, I'm so grateful.

He showed me some time ago that what kind of mother I am--whether selfless or selfish--is dependent on little decisions I make all day long.

I am task-oriented, not people-oriented, as I've stated before.  It's my greatest weakness as a mother.  But by God's grace, I am changing.

My children need me.  My body for nursing and cuddling and kissing.  My ear for listening.  My smile for encouraging.  My patience for teaching.  My heart for extending grace.

Now, I say yes to the toddler who wants to go outside and ride her tricycle.  I take her out to the driveway and follow her around on her bike, keeping her out of the street.

If the dryer buzzes for the second time, and my seven-year-old Paul comes to me, miserable, with swollen eyes from his spring allergies, I stop everything and hold him close on the couch, praying that God will take away the itch--providing my suffering Paul some grace through my love and attention.

If my Peter is hounding me with bird talk, following me around, I say yes to him.  I sit on the couch, telling him I have time now, to listen.  Tell me about your bird dreams, Son.

If Mary comes to my bed to cuddle, right at the time my stomach rumbles for food, I say yes.  Ten minutes in Momma's loving arms blesses her so. She loves to start her day this way, and is crushed when it can't be.

A selfless mother says yes, more often than no. She makes little decisions all day long that bless her children--at the expense of feeding her own flesh.

What ways do we feed our own flesh, as mothers?  What keeps us from saying yes to our kids--to their legitimate needs for attention and stimulation?  What seems more important than nurturing their hearts?

Well, for one thing, the state of our home. We want it tidy enough to avoid being shamed, lest someone come unannounced.  And we want the personal peace that absence of clutter brings.

People have come here unannounced--seeing untidiness in my home. And yes, they did judge--I saw it in their eyes.  And for a long time after that, I put my children off regularly, while I sought the approval of others.

I worked on deeds that were seen, versus unseen.

Rocking a fussy toddler is unseen.  A clean kitchen after breakfast is seen.

Reading the Bible to children is unseen.  Dishes done immediately after lunch is seen.

Listening to an enthusiastic bird watcher is unseen.  A tidy bathroom is seen.

Corporate prayer with one's children is unseen.  A vacuumed carpet is seen.

Cuddling with a miserable allergy sufferer is unseen.  Folded laundry is seen.

Reading stories to the preschooler is unseen.  A swept floor is seen.

Yes, we need to avoid filth, but untidiness and clutter go with the young-children-at-home territory.  By embracing this fact, we free ourselves to bless our children--who are in our midst just a short time.

Another way we feed our flesh, as mothers, is to indulge our interests and hobbies, without restraint.  Being a stay-at-home mother is hard, thankless work. Consequently, almost all of us develop an escape mechanism, of some type--scrapbooking, checking e-mail, talking on the phone, social networking, etc.  Having such an outlet is valuable, but doing it in moderation is imperative.

It was months ago that God pointed it out to me--a selfless mother says yes, more often than no.

Nowadays, the Holy Spirit speaks to me daily on this.  And I listen.  There's still plenty of growth needed, but I'm learning to say no to my flesh, and yes to my children.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Even in Tragedy, God is Good

I don't foresee having any writing time today.  The spring clothing switch is beating me up!  With someone to entertain the precious two-year-old in my midst, I'm sure I'd make quick work of it.  But alas, Miss Beth wants her Momma the most when Momma is at her busiest.

Yesterday I did make time to catch a blog post.  Dana, from Roscommon Acres--who lost her toddler son when a heavy dresser crushed him--wrote a short post entitled, "Is God Good?".  I think her words will bless you today!  I pasted them below, in red. Please visit her at her blog:  Roscommon Acres

A recent comment, words of encouragement.
“You will again call God good.”

Pause for reflection.

I’ve cried out in anguish with a sorrow so deep there were not words to attach to the prayer. I’ve cried out in anger over sliced hot dogs, snipped drawstrings and safety fences that in the end were not enough to spare my little boy from a terrible accident.  I’ve wrestled with why. Why? Why isn’t my little boy here, asleep in his little bed with his bottom in the air and a car tucked under his arm?

But did I ever stop calling God good?

I think of recent conversations, Facebook statuses and Twitter updates with others extolling the virtues of God.

“Car needs over a thousand dollars worth of work. Didn’t know how we were going to afford it. Then we did our taxes and the money we’re getting back covers it almost exactly.Isn’t God amazing?

“Had lots of errands. Forgot to fill the tank. Low fuel light came on as we came into a part of town where I did not want to stop. Ran out of gas, coasted down a hill, into a gas station and right to the pump.Isn’t God faithful?”

“Hubby got the job! After over a year, our savings held out and he got the job!Isn’t God good?”

Pause for reflection.

What about when things don’t turn out so well?

As I knelt on the floor, the weight of a dresser on my back, trying to keep my son’s head and neck straight as I rolled him to his side so he wouldn’t aspirate on his own vomit . . .
{Was God amazing?}

As I stood shaking in the ER, wanting to be with him (needing to be with him), terrified of being in the way as I heard them trying over and over and over to get him intubated . . .
{Was God faithful?}

And, only minutes after a nurse had told us he would be in room 201, went over the use of the respite rooms, admonished us to be strong for him, as the surgeon came in and told us he couldn’t save our son . . .
{Was God good?}

It isn’t really something we post to Facebook quite like that, but even in tragedy, God is amazing. He is faithful. He is good. Because His character is not dependent on my circumstances. He has done many wonderful things in my life, but His character is not revealed through my wealth nor through my safety nor through my comfort.

His character is revealed through the cross.

And as I think of my son crushed, his skull broken, his form lifeless, I can think of only one thing.

Our Father did it willingly. For me. For you. For the world He loved so much He gave His only begotten son.

Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stay-at-Home Moms; Enduring Without Accolades

What a world we live in!

You've heard plenty of people brag on the niece, daughter or granddaughter who got a degree and made it big in the work world, as though it were the highest form of accomplishment.  But when was the last time you heard someone brag on the stay-at-home mother, for nurturing and grounding the next generation in the ways of the Lord?

Sally Clarkson didn't grow up in a grounded Christian home.  She struggled in her early years as she raised her four children--three of whom suffered from OCD, and another who suffered with ADHD and OCD and other issues. There are times she felt so isolated and alone!  As Christians, it's easy to feel this way.  We encounter so few people who can grasp or accept our worldview.

I have little time to write lately, but I wanted to share something encouraging today from Sally's blog. She won't mind if I paste it here in its entirety, for I've seen her do this with her friends' blog posts.  I know few people have time to click on links.  You'll definitely want to read this!  Visit her blog for wisdom and huge doses of encouragement:  I Take Joy.  Here are her words below, from her post Lost in the Storms of Life;

Lately, I have been reading a popular book that challenges believers to really invest their lives in great causes and in foreign missions and to make a difference in the world.
But, it has stimulated a different line of thinking in me, totally opposite of what I have been reading.

Western Christianity seems to point us to doing a great deed, making a great sacrifice or performing something great in the public eye. Perhaps it is one way of serving. But I believe in my heart that it is the quiet deeds of faith, the steadfast heart, the humble service over the years of a lifetime that is really pleasing to our Jesus, who Himself said He was humble and meek and to learn from Him. Most will serve Him, in the unobserved moment by moment willingness to bear the burdens of life in a fallen world, perhaps never receiving accolades from the public arena. Yet, God, who sees in secret, will indeed see their deeds of loving faithfulness when no one else is looking.

He sees us. He loves us and measures each tiny faithful decision in his hands as an act glorifying Him in our short time on this earth. These little acts of love and faith make up the whole sacrifice of our life that becomes an offering to Him.

Yet, I think that my life has been made up of thousands of little moments, seemingly insignificant to the public eye. Changing one more diaper. Listening to the heart’s cry of one more teenager. Encouraging Clay through one more year of financial crisis. Living through one more season of faith when my life has felt overwhelming.

Have you ever felt like the woman in this print? (She is referring here to a photo she posted with her words). Seems I have often felt so very overwhelmed in this journey of my life. Feelings of isolation and loneliness have been aching companions at different times–feeling that I don’t fit with many people. Feeling lost in the storms of life.

Other times, the burdens of all of my children and trying to keep them afloat while feeling that the weight of their lives was drowning me–illnesses, personalities and disorders, meeting their needs, answering their spiritual demands, bearing with them through very difficult seasons (sleepless nights of babyhood; mysterious years of toddlerhood–when to discipline, when not, all the trials and joys of elementary, teenage storms, and young adult decisions and pressures). Sometimes, it just feels like it never ends.

Family issues, church issues and people, work load, and just plain exhaustion. Prayers unanswered, and so much more.
Sometimes the years of my life and my high ideals have demanded so much of me, I felt that I should not write about my ideals, because I did not want anyone else to experience all of the hard realities and difficulties I have had to live through. (Can I really suggest to women this course of life when I know it is so very difficult to sustain? It is long and arduous? The demands can seem sometimes never ending?)

Perhaps I am just more of a wimp than most moms, and was less prepared and had a weaker character than most moms and that is why I have struggled so at times.

Yet, somewhere, deep inside, God gave me a tenaciousness to keep going–through the storms, to keep trusting Him, to keep believing Him, that He is good, even when I don’t feel His presence.

I am so very thankful He kept me going. My marriage is still intact and growing. My children, at this moment, still love the Lord and us and are all growing, (but always with issues), and I have a legacy of looking back and seeing that He was working which gives me the hope to believe that He is still working.

Lately, I have been feeling the new burden of storms in my life and the weight of so much responsibility. It is always a temptation to give up or to despair when we are in darkness of some kind. Yet, believing in the midst of the darkness and choosing to worship and to love Him and praise Him, by our wills and not our feelings may be the biggest treasure in heaven that we will give to Him–faithfulness when no one is watching; faith in Him when it seems He has disappeared. Faithfulness to serve one more child, who is too immature to appreciate your sacrifice. Making one more meal and washing one more set of dishes to a family who seems always to be hungry and always depending on you for everything.

Integrity in these seemingly insignificant moments will become the measure of integrity over a life-time, and will build a picture of faithfulness for all to see when they go through their own hard times. “Oh, I remember mom kept going. She kept loving. She kept believing. I guess I can, too. Her story is my foundation for encouragement.”

And so today, as I recognize the many seemingly too heavy a burden that loved ones and friends are sharing, I pray that they, and I, will remember that this day, is one day closer to His coming again. This spirit of overcoming and enduring which bubbles up in our hearts from the Holy Spirit living there, becomes a song of praise in heaven where angels are cheering us on.
Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.” But He admonished his loved ones, “But take courage. I have overcome the world.”

And so, may we cherish anew, the  message of our resurrection Lord, that we celebrated yesterday and remember His power to overcome any force.   Moment by moment, day by day, let us take hold of our hearts’ attitudes that will give us  hope, strength, courage and faith to proclaim His reality this day. May we  know that as a good Father who cherishes and encourages His beloved children, He will one day say, “Well done. Well done, my beloved child.”

So, it is not  just accomplishing grand feats of sacrifice one time or accomplishing something great in the world’s eyes, that will bring ultimate glory to this world of ours.
But it is the faithful, serving and pouring out ourselves into  those in our daily lives, where hearts will be changed and characters will be formed, to bring His righteousness to bear in our world. No deed of faith or love is too small. It adds up to a life well-lived and pleasing in his site.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Thoughts and Blessings

Monday Thoughts and Gratitude:

- He is risen!  Hallelujah!

- Size 7 toddler feet to kiss.  Miss Beth will be tall, like my Peter.  Her feet are nearly as big as her sister's--who has twenty-four months on her.

- Easter chocolate crosses on sale for half off today.

- The rain continues.  Finally, some news source mentioned that Ohio is getting record rain. Yes, indeed.  I'm glad we have legitimate reason for our rainy-day blues around here--we've all succumbed.  The blessing is that more green pops up in the landscape every day!

- I decided that holidays shouldn't be all work for the parents (Mom specifically), and all play for the kiddos. I put mine to work for the first hour after church, while I cooked.  They cleaned the playroom, made their beds, folded their pajamas (no, not well, but who cares?), and their socks/underwear, and swept the floor--all for free because it was Resurrection Sunday.  Busy kids behave!

- We kept Curious George Goes Green for three weeks.  I renewed it twice, successfully, and returned it on time!  No library fees.  Yeah!  That cute little George though, whom I adore, convinced my children that we have to make some compost in our backyard.  They tell me we mustn't put meat or dairy in the compost, because George did that and it makes your compost stinky.  Wish me luck on this compost thing.  We haven't had cable for about seventeen months and I don't even know if Curious George is still on. George used to entice my boys into crazy schemes, like making a miniature golf course in the playroom, utilizing all sorts of stuff from our closets, which ultimately, I had to put away.  But I still love that little monkey!

-  Today Mary picked out a Dora video called World Adventure.  I folded laundry while she watched it and I noticed right away that, lo and behold, Dora got a new outfit!  Whose idea was it to put that child in a two-sizes- too-small, pink and orange ensemble?  Mary commented gleefully, when the next episode came on: "Dora is wearing very pretty things now!"  I know it's easier to make cartoons when the characters wear only one outfit (less drawing and frame switching involved).  But, I'm sure I'm not the only mom in America who wished a new outfit for Caillou's mother.  I loved that show, even though the patience displayed by the mother and father went beyond saint-like.  Every child watching probably wished their own parents could be like Caillou's.

- Easter day was a blessed day!  Having the bunny, chocolate, and egg thing the weekend before worked like a charm.  It was all a distant memory by Easter, and my children behaved well, focusing on the blessing of Resurrection Sunday.  We enjoyed a nice church service at 9:00 AM, then prepared and enjoyed a nice dinner at 2:00 PM.  Daddy went to work from 4:00 PM to 9:30 PM, which wasn't too bad.  I read the entire Easter story from the Bible with the boys later, starting from Palm Sunday and going through to the appearances after Jesus' resurrection.  They were blessed by hearing it all again in one sitting.  Paul munched his popcorn the whole time, while Peter interrupted a gazillion times with unnecessary questions.  Sometimes I wish that boy loved popcorn as much as his brother (smile).

- My children and I are enthralled with this eagle's nest (use a full screen once you click on the video).  Watching the mother and father attend to the three babies is fascinating.  Their love and devotion and patience is amazing!  I see God in the whole thing!

- We found a feeder the squirrels can't invade!  (The score now is squirrels = 3, humans = 1)  An hour after we put it up and filled it, we saw a squirrel feeding on the ground underneath it.  He got up on his hind legs and stood tall, checking out the feeder.  I half expected him to jump onto it right then and there.  I could have sworn I heard him say, "Hee, Hee.  The humans put up another feeder!  Yippee!"  He then proceeded to scurry up the tree and make his way out onto the branch, only to find the feeder had a small dome top--way too small to accommodate a squirrel's body (it's a tube feeder).  He settled for hanging by his hind feet and eating from a peanut-butter pinecone instead.  I foresee him hanging by his hind feet on the branch next to the one the new feeder is on, then swinging himself back and forth to get at the seed.  We shall see.  The rest of the family think we've won.

However, the goldfinch don't seem to like the tube feeder as well as the plexiglass, so have we really won?  Daddy thinks if we somehow fasten a liter soda bottle over the top of the plexiglass feeder, the squirrels won't be able to get on. We saw this contraption in this neighbourhood somewhere, wondering what it was at the time.

I think we need Curious George's help over here!

Love to you, friends!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Profound Easter Thoughts

Sally Clarkson's two daughters, Sarah and Joy, were in an Easter play which ran for nine consecutive days.  Sarah Clarkson, a phenomenal writer, details on her blog, Thoroughly Alive, what witnessing the Jesus story nine times in a row did to her soul.  Please visit her blog and read the whole wonderful post.

Below you'll find a beautiful excerpt from Sarah's post.  Enjoy, and Happy Resurrection Day!

There is a moment in the play that moved me strangely each time I saw it, a moment during the brutal whipping of Christ in which his hands slip from the whipping-post chains, he falls to the ground, the action abruptly suspends and the voice of Satan is heard as it might have whispered to Jesus in that agonizing moment. Give it up Jesus. You can still escape. You can avoid crucifixion. Just go now, it’s your choice. But Jesus rises even in the torture of his pain, face twisted in grief, back already scarred, and of his own will, puts his hands back in the straps. He grips the whipping post and gives his life, free-willed, to the people who are lost in darkness all around him.

Watching that scene the last night, there came into my head a thought that explained the fascination of this tale: this is our story. Of all the lives ever lived, the stories ever written, this is the one true tale. Every one of us hunched in the back-stage shadows or crunched in the auditorium seats must confront the love and life of this one man because it will determine the end, the fullness of our own story. In Jesus, the story of every person on earth finds its conclusion. The Gospel tale is never neutral, Jesus is never simply another hero. To each living soul, in every portrayal of the Gospel, the one epic story of the world is revealed. This is the draw of Jesus, the reason we cannot turn away.

But then came another thought. This is my story.
The tale of this Jesus, this Lover, is the story of the one whose personal love for me tore open the heavens, brought God to my side determined on rescuing my broken heart, my marred spirit hungering for life. He yielded to death, he bore unspeakable pain so that I would not be left in the darkness. This is not some vague epic, or world myth or yet one more hour of overblown entertainment. The story of the death and life of Jesus defines every moment of my existence because he loves me as no one else ever can.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

live webcam of eagle's nest

I received an e-mail from a homeschooling friend today with fabulous educational links.  My children are enthralled with these nests--eagle and hummingbird!  She explains the links below:
Oh, I have two links your bird-lovers might be interested in, if you want to preview.  They are live web cams.  One is of a hummingbird nest (eggs to hatch in about 10 days, I think), and one is of an eagle next with chicks.  We check in on these from time to time and it's neat to see eggs hatch and the mommas feeding their young.  This is the hummingbird one.  I usually adjust the window size so the chatting on the side doesn't show - you never know what people will type in those!  This is the eagle one.  They both have a commercial before the video appears.

two-inch furry things--not for the skittish

The other night as I sat down to dinner with the children, Peter was at the window, again, watching his bird friends.  Only rarely is Peter not at the window.  He doesn't want to miss a single bird!

A few mourning doves were ground feeding, and out of the corner of his eye, Peter spied something small, fast, furry, and jet black.  A closer look revealed an extremely tiny mole!  He was smaller than the palm of my two-year-old's hand!  The cute little guy was dragging a long piece of meat fat--put out for the birds--back to his home.  Oh, the giggles!  He kept dropping it and having to go back for it.  My children found this the funniest, cutest, most endearing thing ever!  Suddenly the dinner they were so hungry for, didn't matter.  They only had eyes for that mole--who was, after all, wildly entertaining, I have to admit.

After fifteen minutes of observation, broken up with my pleas to take some bites of food, Mary announces:

"When I grow up I'm going to have my very own pet mole."

She said it in a voice conveying deep longing.  Oh, it made me smile wide!

She must have known we'd say no to a mole friend right now.  We're kill-joys that way.  A pet praying mantis?  A pet beetle?  A pet frog?  Be my guest.  But a mole?  Notta chance.

The next day I told my husband about our sweet little Mary's love and longing for two-inch long furry things.  He chuckled in spite of himself.  It's so like Mary to say such a thing.

Today, husband looked far and wide for his long lost drill bits.  Following a thirty-minute house search, he went out to the shed, hoping to find them there.

He ran into an old, hardly-used tool box.  He'd left it open about an inch, last time he used it, apparently.  Right away he noticed some soft, insulation-type material on the left side.

A nest!

Now, my husband is all boy!  Truly.  He loves all things creepy crawly, furry, feathered.  Except starlings and cowbirds, mind you.  I'm afraid there are no kind words for them.  And no kind deeds, either.

He moved the nesting material around a little, searching for whatever might have been there.  With his bare hands!  Oh, my.  That's something we gals just wouldn't do!   Not most of us, anyway.

My dear husband loves his children and wants to give them good gifts, as all fathers do.  He remembered what Mary had said about that cute little mole.

Mother Mouse scurried out of the toolbox so fast at this point, that husband wasn't even sure what he'd seen.

Next, he saw two tiny little babies, scared senseless in the corner.

He closed the toolbox and brought it into the house.

We heard the door open, then husband say:  "Oh, Mary!  I have a little surprise for you!"

Mary needs a new bike but we can't spend the money right now.  I bought her one at a thrift store last summer and it's quickly wearing out--the chain keeps falling off, or locking.  I expected to see a brand new bike, as we all went running to see what husband was up to.  The sheer joy, the glee, in his voice, made me sure of it.

But, no.  Not this time.  It was the little boy in my husband--that's where the glee came from--the joy!  He was aching to show his sweet little girl some precious baby mice.  He knew it would make her happy, as well as Peter.

And, oh yes!  They were both smitten.  Paul thought they were cute enough, but he's not a nature buff.  He's the odd man out around here--loves all things numbers and letters.  My mathematician can take or leave all things creepy crawly, furry, or feathered--though he laughs with the rest of us at the mole and squirrel antics.

When husband told us about the mother scurrying away, all I could think of was the horror she must feel at having her babies taken from her!  They weren't pinkies by any means, but they might still be nurslings.

In this photo you can see the nest on the left, and a tiny baby in the top right corner, grayish in color.

Instead of clearing out the nest and reclaiming his toolbox, husband carefully carried it back to the appointed spot in the shed, leaving it open about an inch, so Momma Mouse could make her way back to her babies.

I love that man!  He's a wonderful Daddy, a wonderful soul!  

Am I the only wife who feels the greatest love for my husband when he's at his fathering best?  Is that universal, Ladies?

I won't be retrieving anything from the shed any more, needless to say.  I didn't know there were mice in there!  Peter tells me he'd be glad to go in there, any time.  He plans on checking up on Mrs. Mouse and family, as often as possible.

Now we have a new research project to work on!  All things mice.  If there's some disease or danger involved in playing around wild mice, we'd better learn about it now.  My Mary might decide to catch one of these babies, soon enough.  I don't worry about Peter.  His germ-phobic OCD side would prevent him from picking up a mouse.  But my Mary?  She's oblivious of such things!  Germs? What are those?  That sweet girl is a free soul--one part Tom Boy, one part dress-and-frill-loving princess.

Friday, April 22, 2011

the cup of wonderfulness

Good Friday to you!

Husband had a half day off so we went to a noon Good Friday service at our church.  We sat together as a family, which was such a blessing--notwithstanding the inevitable preschooler wiggles.

During one part of the grave, emotional sermon, the preaching pastor asked a rhetorical question:

"Do you know Jesus?"

Mary answered, not in a loud voice, but in a voice that carried:

"Yes, I know Jesus!"

It was a packed mega-church, so only several pews around us heard.  I'm sorry children were ever taken out of church services.  Truly, I am.  They bless!  Sometimes more than any preacher ever could.

It was a beautiful experience.

I picked up Miss Mary and held her during the last song, enabling her to see better. And also, because I just love holding my sweet babes while singing to Jesus!  Mary held me close, her cheek against mine, and softly rubbed my back.  It was so precious!

After the piano player finished the last of Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus, which the congregation sung together, Miss Beth clapped her appreciation and cheered, "Yeah!"

And finally, as we walked back to the van in the cold, driving rain, Peter said to me:

"Mommy, I'm not sure I understood all of it, but I did understand this part:  He took the cup of sorrow so that we could take the cup of wonderfulness."

"Yes, Peter!  That is Easter!  You understood perfectly!"

Happy Easter, Friends!  Wishing you Resurrection joy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

gratitude and good ear news

Wednesday and Thursday Gratitude

*  I took Paul to the ENT this morning to have the fluid checked in his right ear.  The last check was March 22nd in the pediatrician's office, and the fluid was clear, thin like, and not infected.  The ENT doctor, the most friendly doctor we've ever encountered, couldn't even see the eardrums.  He told Paul his ear wax was so thick it was like having peanut butter covering both his ear drums.  "No wonder he failed two hearing tests!  No one can hear with that much peanut butter in there!"

He took us to another room where he proceeded to look through a microscope and suck all the wax out of both Paul's ears.  As we walked down the hall for a hearing test after that, Paul commented, "Wow!  Every body sounds so loud!  Even my own voice."

He passed his hearing test easily and his eardrums looked great.  He's cured!  We're so thankful!

Now, three hours later, Paul continues to comment on how loud everything sounds.  Hee! Hee!  We're all tickled at him.  He has a very loud voice, which gets on everyone's nerves.  Maybe now that he can hear, he'll naturally tone that down?

Doctor said Paul has a definite 'allergy shiner" look to his eyes, and he also noticed Paul doing mostly mouth breathing.  He said to get Zyrtec 24-hour allergy pills over the counter.  The Loratadine syrup (generic name for Claritin) I was using didn't work at all to relieve Paul's itchy eyes.  I researched children's allergies last week and learned that Paul is probably allergic to tree pollen, given the time of year.  Grass pollens haven't started in this area yet.  I also think he has indoor allergies.  I hope to obtain a referral for allergy testing sometime this year.  My husband is allergic to all the environmental allergens except mold.

My pediatrician never suggested giving Paul allergy medicine to try to clear his Eustachian (nose) tubes, so that the inner ear fluid could properly drain. Ear fluid build-up drains through the Eustachian tubes, if the tubes are functioning normally.  Having blocked tubes, from allergies or from a cold virus, causes fluid to build up, and makes it harder for it to drain once it's there.  I suggested to my pediatrician that maybe allergy medicine would help (based on my reading), and he said no, that allergies were a reason to build up fluid--not a reason that keeps fluid from draining.

I ran this by the ENT, and he agreed with me that yes, allergies need to be treated both to prevent fluid from building up, AND to help it drain once it builds up during a cold.

I need to change pediatricians!  Our guy has been practising medicine about six years.  Apparently that's not enough time to build valuable field experience.

I also asked the ENT if he thought all ear infections should be treated with antibiotics, since 80% are viral--meaning they should go away on their own. He said we can't practice "cookie cutter" medicine.  Each child needs to be treated differently--meaning we look at all the variables.  No surprise there. In a child with allergies complicating the matter, antibiotics might be appropriate. In a child with no special circumstances who doesn't appear very sick, or is symptomless, antibiotics are overkill.  A wait and see approach is better.

That's probably way more ENT information than you cared to read.  Sorry 'bout my long-windedness today!  I'm so giddy with excitement that Paul's only problem was wax!

*  In other good news, Momma and Poppa Robin began building a new nest yesterday in a corner of our neighbour's rain gutter.  They gathered all the materials from our yard and worked all day yesterday, continuing this morning.  We can't see the nest or take pictures without some difficulty, but at least we'll be able to watch the babes learn to fly, God willing.

Two robins got into a fight in our backyard, just as we sat down to dinner last night.  We remembered from our research that the females will fight other females over territory, and the males fight other males.  Of course, we have no way of knowing if these robins are the same ones who regularly nest here.  We just assume that, since they started their nest the day after losing their eggs.  Momma Robin's body must be very healthy to be able to produce eggs again so soon.  She did lay five eggs before, which is one more than normal.  Maybe she'll only lay a few this time?  Three to six eggs is the normal range, but most robins lay four at a time.

Okay then.  That's probably much more robin information than you needed or wanted?

* Another blessing for today is that the sun is out!  It's windy and 50 degrees, which isn't great, but at least we can take a walk!  Our spirits really needed a lift after so much dreariness.

* Miss Beth has a lingering nighttime cough from her April cold.  The post-nasal drip can be somewhat controlled when I hold her head higher, by cradling it in my arms on a pillow.  Late last night as I held her like this, I got teary-eyed. Overwhelmed with gratitude. She is so much sunshine!  So much sweetness! She won't be in our bed much longer.  I can tell her sleep cycles are lengthening and she'll be sleeping through the night soon, and will share a room with her sister--nursing just at naptime, bedtime or when she's overwhelmed.

How I'll miss her!  How I'll miss babies!  My life in some respects will be so much easier. She'll stop climbing cupboards, stealing from the fridge, and getting into things soon, and I'll be able to finish my thoughts, finish my tasks, and keep up a bit better around here.  Sanity will return, so to speak. But with that sanity will come some heartache.  Help me, Lord!  Help me accept change. Help me let go.

* We gave some girl clothes to my cousin's wife, whose young son just fathered a baby.  Peter asked why we were giving them away.  "What if we need them for another baby?", he asked.  I'd been carefully avoiding this question since the 2009 vasectomy, but this time I said, "Daddy decided we wouldn't be having any more babies."

Peter asked, "Is there some medicine people take to stop having babies?"   I said there was a surgery, and Daddy decided to have it.  He asked if it was painful and I said no.

I explained that letting God plan as many babies as He wants takes a lot of faith on the part of parents.  This is why most families have two or three kids, instead of six or eight or ten or twelve.  Faith is a gift, I told him.  People have different levels of faith in God's plan.  Some can let go entirely, while others need things to make sense right away.  And some people, I  told him, have medical problems that make it hard to have a lot of babies (post-partum depression, high blood pressure, history of pre-eclampsia, cervical problems, etc.).

I also told him my personal belief was that God's greatest blessings are reserved for those who put all their faith in God--for everything (notwithstanding following sound medical advice).

He contemplated this for several hours, and then told me he would let his wife have as many babies as God wants.  My husband and I both teared up at this.  What a gift Peter has!  Yes, he is young to even contemplate this, but somehow, I believe him!  He has repeated this twice since his initial decision. I pray his wife is equally gifted in faith!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Momma Robin's Sorrow And Our Lesson

On a dark, rainy, thunderbolting day, Momma Robin lost her eggs at the hands of a predator.  We're heartbroken over her loss!  The nest is located in a rain gutter corner, which we can't see from inside the house.  We don't know if it was a crow, a hawk, or a squirrel.  Regardless, Momma and her husband won't be back here next year, since it has proven unsafe.  Pairs will nest in the same place only if they previously had good luck there.

As an aside: Peter's photo of the blue robin eggs, shared earlier this week, made the eggs look larger then they really are.

Our only hope is that in prior years another robin pair--or we assume it's another pair--nested in the crook of one of our trees.  We hope to see them soon!  We're praying for nesting birds of any species.  Different species of birds nest at different times.  American Robins usually nest in April and in August, or more often if the Momma is especially healthy. 

As the tears flowed around here, I reminded the kids that we can have many interests, friends, and passions in our lives, but all of it eventually slips through our fingers; we will be disappointed in some way.  

I didn't mention, due to their young ages, that the same goes for our nuclear families.  We must love our families with all we've got, regardless.  But eventually, they too will disappoint us.  They too will pass away.

God is the only constant in our lives!  We must cling to Him!  We must hold everything loosely, while at the same time trusting Him enough to pour ourselves out for others, without expectation.

To cheer up the troops around here, I suggested spring-themed sugar cookies.  I used 100% whole wheat flour, which has worked for every other baking project.  I used to use Albino white whole wheat for sugar cookies, but I quit buying that.  We make sugar cookies far less often.

Anyway, don't try this at home!  It was very difficult to work with.  The cookies taste fine--everyone likes them--but we gave up on rolling and shaping them after about twelve shapes were completed.  We rolled the rest of the dough into balls.  I'm not sure this project cheered anyone up--especially not Momma--but it did distract us from Mrs. Robin's sorrow, and our own.

Today we will make the frosting and frost them.

I have a baking question for all you experts out there.  I just started making homemade muffins of different types, and I'm not satisfied with the moistness.  Am I stirring them too much?  Is there some secret to moist muffins?  Please share!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

joy and gladness found therein

Isaiah 51:3 and gladness shall be found therein,
                                 thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Monday Gratitude:

- Two little girls who bless my socks off, helping in the kitchen and spreading sunshine

- Two strong boys who make me proud

- My Mary loving the outdoors

- A husband who loves the Lord

- Grace weaved throughout our days

- Though the laundry beats me up, I'm grateful we have more than enough to wear.

- The tulips will bloom any day now.

- Crockpot navy bean soup is very forgiving.  Praise God for the wholesome taste of beans with spices! (If you soak beans for 48 hours, you'll experience little to no gassiness)  At 9:00 AM I put navy beans in the crockpot on low with 6 cups of  homemade bone broth, thinking I would add the spices, bay leaf, ham, carrots and celery in just a little bit.  The day proceeded to get quite interesting and busy.  Finally, at 5:00 PM, I put in the spices and ham, but had to give up on the carrots and celery.  I let it cook for another four hours on low.  And you know what?  It's still quite tasty!  We'll have it for tomorrow's dinner. I just need to add in diced tomatoes and salt to taste.

- Momma's rocker for spreading love and good cheer

- hyacinth spread over the yard

- My Peter uses our broken video camera as his very own still camera.  I loved seeing him outside today, bearing the cold temps, to sit and wait for a good goldfinch picture.  He takes his nature photography seriously!

- Miss Beth falling in love with boiled eggs.  Yes, she did go to the fridge four separate times today, bringing me a dyed, boiled egg to peel for her. (And yes, I did have to duct tape the fridge shut after she'd eaten four.)

- blueberries on my oatmeal

- The color green popping up all over the landscape here

- The boys getting their own e-mail addresses and writing every day to their relatives and a friend.  My mom wrote to Peter, "Don't you think people would get tired of having perfect weather all the time?"  My wise Peter wrote back, "Yes, the weather can't always be nice.  If we didn't get rain we wouldn't get flowers."  Little does Peter know how profound his statement really is.  If we didn't have hardship in life, we wouldn't bear fruit for Christ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

spring memories

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Goldfinch,

My son, and the rest of us too, love you!  Please "get married" (as Peter refers to mating), build your nest here and have your babies.  Right here, in our yard.  It would make my boy's year.  If you could be so kind?


Peter's Momma

P.S. And Mr. Goldfinch, I'm sorry that you accidentally flew into our large window, stunning yourself.  I'm sorry my husband was so affected, that he tried to catch you and take you to a bird sanctuary for treatment.  Thank you for flying away and showing us that our prayers worked.  Glad you're okay!

The squirrels won't leave Peter's new plexiglass birdfeeder alone.  They jump onto it, pretty brave like.  I think we should all conduct ourselves with this same bold confidence--knowing who we are in Christ.  Can I get an Amen on that?

The weather was windy, cold and dreadfully wet.  We did the egg dyeing and the egg hunt wearing coats.  Asking excited children to wait for a nicer day, is just plain torture.  Better to get the thing done so normalcy can return.  Excited children can give me a headache, I'm sad to say.  Peeling them off the walls is no fun.

Don't get me wrong, I love their joy and I even do things to purposely bring it on.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Robin,

Thank you for choosing our yard for your twice yearly nests.  We love you and your bright blue eggs!  And we love watching your babes learn to fly. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Watching you let go helps me to do the same.  I just don't want to emulate the whole wormy-meal thing.  Can we still be friends?


The Other Momma Around Here

Saturday, April 16, 2011


10:30 AM.  We pile the children into the van for the five minute drive to my aunt's house.  We haven't seen my aunt and uncle (from my dad's side) since early December.  They've spent the last two winters in the Florida trailer they purchased.

They are happy to see the children and remark how they've grown.  We settle in, and my kids play with the decades-old Lincoln Logs and other classic toys my aunt keeps in her closet.

Peter tells about his new love for birds and details all the things he's been doing to attract them.  My aunt listens politely, admitting she knows nothing about birds.  Miss Mary, my four year old, then pipes up and says she knows a lot about birds.  That makes me smile.

Yes, Peter's constant bird rattle has made a bird lover out of my Mary, too.  She can identify every bird that comes to our yard, which is quite a list.

Paul, my game lover, makes words from a foam alphabet puzzle, then asks to play Uno with my aunt.  Mary asks to go outside, though no one wants to go with her.

My cousin's dog, Tyson, is dropped off and Peter, my pet lover, only has eyes for the dog.

Miss Beth sits in uncle's lap, listening to bluegrass music.  She is surprisingly content and quite still, as she studies her new surroundings. We don't go visiting much, so this is quite a treat.  

Mary, my independent one, goes outside by herself, exploring the vast, marshy yard.

An hour and a half passes. We take the offered Florida grapefruits on our way out the door--grapefruits my husband later pronounces the best he's ever tasted.

As we head for home, my aunt and uncle prepare to leave on a trip to Amish country with their son (my cousin Rick) and his wife. Travelling an hour to get there, once a month they buy Amish cheese and other foodstuff--walking through the different shops, visiting their Amish friends.

Arriving home, we unload the van and the children.  A rush ensues as we prepare for husband's work departure--putting his dinner together, his various keys for the jobs, his work shirts, cell phone, work boots, wallet, glasses.

He leaves.  

I look around the house.  Instead of doing routine chores that morning, I'd rushed into a batch of homemade apple muffins for my aunt, whose birthday we missed while she was away.

Remnants of baking clutter the counters, the sink.  Pajamas--tossed aside by children preparing for an outing--litter the hallway, the living room, the playroom.  Spring clothes from the shed, still to be washed, sit in storage boxes, further cluttering the living room.  Another storage box of clothes stored inside the house need a dryer fluffing and hanging.

Breakfast dishes, still on the dining room table, scream at me.  The left over cinnamon toast will surely draw the carpenter ants I've seen in the past week.  There aren't enough to worry me--just enough to warrant a sweeping after every meal.

I walk down the hall.  The bathroom is full of husband's night clothes, my night clothes, used towels and washclothes. Beds sit, dishevelled, with favourite stuffed animals littering the floors.

All I want to do is cry.  Truly.

I push away nagging feelings--feelings I usually escape because I'm so busy.  We never go anywhere.  There's just this house and its shocking messes.  The contrast of me coming home to this, and my aunt taking a leisurely day in Amish country, gets to me.  

If I had to list the hardest things about being low income, not having anything to look forward to would top the list.  The working poor--a term I use to refer to those working long hours for low pay--make up a good portion of the impoverished in this country.  They usually have enough food if they plan well, choose carefully, and know how to cook.  But everything else is questionable--the repairs, the utilities, the fuel, the miscellaneous.  Staying above water takes every ounce of energy, and they're always fearful of the next car repair, the next appliance repair, the next pair of shoes to wear out. There's little time for true leisure.  There's little money or time for things that take the edge off.

Life can seem unbearable at times.  We rush around for errands and appointments, due to sharing a vehicle.  Every time I get into that van, I'm on a strict deadline.  Every time I walk through the grocery store, I'm on the clock.  No time to waste.  Even a trip to the park is rushed because of husband's schedule, and I end up grocery shopping after dropping the family at the park.  There's just too little time to do both.

My mind wanders, as it often does now, to the low-income students I taught for nine years.  They represented single-parent families, most of them. They were worse off than we are, with most not having vehicles or phone service. I remember that we teachers judged these impoverished parents for spending money--even foodstamp money--on candy.  Why accept free breakfast and lunch for their children, at the school, if they had money for candy?

Do you know what the last two years have shown me?  Those children had nothing to look forward to.  Nothing but more stress.  Candy was the one thing Mom could do to make them smile.  

As I tackled some of the messes around here, God tackled my heart.  I want you to know what true hopelessness feels like.  I want you to be able to put your arms around the poor, to comfort them in their sorrow--not judge them in their circumstances. 

I have the Lord to lift me in my sorrow, to remind me of my blessings. Those families didn't.  Some drank, used drugs.  We teachers judged that, too, I remember.  Now I know why they abused substances.  They were in pain all the time.  All around them, life was good for others.  They saw families out for dinner, families out for a movie, families in nice vehicles, families buying whatever food they wanted, families buying whatever housewares they wanted, families going on vacations.

They, on the other hand, went home to yucky apartments they were about to be evicted from--again.

The Lord says we will always have the poor.  Social programs designed to give the poor a chance simply can't reach everybody.  We're out of money even, as a country.  Even those we can reach often don't have reliable transportation to take advantage of opportunities. Or they don't have neat and clean clothes, or an ounce of confidence, or an ounce of hope, or a stable place to live, or the electricity and water needed to look good for the interview.  On so many levels their situations are hopeless.

I remember all the lice my students got.  Now I know why the same families got lice over and over.  They couldn't afford the quarters needed to wash all the bedding, the clothes, the toys.  They couldn't afford the lice shampoo and lice spray.  They couldn't get ahead of it, in addition to all the other serious problems they encountered.

What I write here is really hard to fathom if you've never been down on your luck.  It's so easy to judge, but unless you've lived it, you're blind.

I don't know why God allows some to have so much, and others get nothing but misery.  Why doesn't He give salvation to every one of the poor, so they at least have the Lord's comfort?

I don't know the answer, of course.  I don't need to know.

I just have to trust in Him, for my own sake, and for all those families living worse off.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Enter His Gates With thanksgiving

Psalm 100:1-5
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name. 

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Thursday Gratitude

- Miss Beth sharing her goldfish with Barney

- a brisk walk in fully sunny, 65-degree weather (my two girls in the double stroller and my two boys on their bikes)

- Jack the hamster calming my Peter

- Miss Beth asking for the same book three times in a row (How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?)

- homemade apple muffins

- Miss Beth carrying Barney around in a backpack

- Miss Beth pushing Barney's tummy to hear the I Love You, You Love Me song, then coming up to hug and kiss Momma.

- Paul's soft cheeks, sweet for kisses

- Miss Beth and Miss Mary carrying around backpacks and telling me, "Bye, bye", before leaving for their "camping" trip.

- My girls thinking of their stuffed animals as family members.  Mousie was supposed to go on the camping trip so they walked all around the house, calling his name.  "Mousie, Mousie, where are you?"

- Miss Beth pushing around her shopping cart, looking for food to take on the camping trip.

- The Internet went down but it was a neighbourhood AT & T problem.  I can't tell you how good it felt to have someone else responsible for fixing and paying for a repair.  Our main toilet needs a repair and I sure wish we were renters right about now.

- Two baskets of unfolded clothes and Maple tree seeds on my carpet and driveway, reminding me of how much I'm needed around here.

- Online friends--you are such an encouragement to me.  Thank you!

- Knowing God refines us and we bear fruit just from our faith in Him; we don't have to earn His love or faithfulness!