Friday, September 9, 2011

New beginnings.

So...this will be the last post from A Work in Progress.

That's because I'm starting over. I've started a new blog. And I'm so excited about it! - even though it completely symbolizes a new book in my life (it's bigger than a chapter)...the next third, actually. I've definitely taken out a fresh sheet of paper, sharpened a new pencil, started a new day, with new plans, and new thoughts.

It started while hubby was away for 9 days. It was monumental...to me, at least. And I think to both of us. To me, because I was okay. I didn't bawl daily. I didn't think I was going to die. I survived. And more than that (although I missed hubby like crazy), I thrived.

I feel like I grew up in a lot of ways. I've always had a problem calling myself a "grown-up" or a "woman"...I just didn't feel like I was.

But now... I'm tired of simply being a product of my environment. I'm tired of being a permanent attendee at the pity party. I'm tired of being afraid to do things. I'm tired of being lazy.

And I'm tired of having so much STUFF in my life that I can't think straight, and my kids suffer from it.

Stuff in my house. (I'm tempted to say that's the bulk of the problem, but I know it's not.)
Stuff in my head.
Stuff in my body.
Stuff in my mind.

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord,
than great treasure and turmoil with it.
Proverbs 15:17

This has become a mantra for me. Like it's carved on a stone in the (very cluttered) landscape of my head. THIS MUST HAPPEN. My life is too full, too cluttered, of lots of things that DON'T MATTER. There is so much in my life that doesn't matter, that it's crowding out things that matter so much.

I hope you join me in my new space.

I hope you can join me in my journey - my quest, even - to...
...reclaim the space that God has given me - keeping our surroundings clear of useless filler.
...reclaim the time that God has given me - using it wisely and not wastefully.
...reclaim the job that God has given me - being a good wife and mommy, my ultimate forms of worship.
...reclaim the temple that God has given me - turning to God instead of food.

My grace is sufficient for you,
for My power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9

If you follow me here, please consider following me there. There will be lots of grace, which is good, because I've got lots of weakness that is still very much a work in progress.

I hope you come with me to
There's more than enough grace to go around.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Computers and ice cream.

My stepdaughter is being big-time deceptive again.

I do not say that to be derogatory or to cut her down. I say that because I'm struggling with it. We dealt with it before, during the school year, and it has reared its ugly head again. (It involves her computer usage.) The only benefit to it happening now is that I cannot pummel her fuss at her about it when she's not right here. I have the opportunity to think much more carefully about how I respond. I have dealt with it as much as I can on my end (and, I admit, it included an eensy bit of vindictive anticipation [teehee] of when she finds out I have "dealt" with it), and the rest of the dealing will be done when her father gets to it.

I was wrestling with whether to go out at 10:00 at night to buy milk and gas (hubby called me about a really good gas price), but after this, I decided the cool night air was a good idea. I saddled up the minivan, and headed out, window down.

And I prayed.

I prayed that He would help me see the good in her before instead of hunting for the bad in her. I did that too much last year, and - Parenting Tip: it does not bring about the desired effect. I set about correcting it, but this uncovering tonight was like whiplash. It felt very yucky.

I do not want to have to deal with these same issues - these issues in me - this coming school year. Last year: practice run. This year: be ready. I want to know how I'm going to handle things. I want to be mentally, emotionally, spiritually prepared. I want to have peace and grace ready in my holsters.

So I also prayed for wisdom in how to handle this attempt at being ready. I even included a very submissive "but You said!!!"
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.          (James 1:5)
So I asked.

And He gave.

"Discipline," He said. Not in a punishment way. In a loving way.

When someone doesn't have the discipline on their own to stick to a routine or rule, loved ones can step in and assist. ACCOUNTABILITY, they call it. Dictionary.com says it's "training to act in accordance with rules." So this is training. If my stepdaughter can't yet handle the great responsibility that comes with the great power of having unsupervised computer time, then we her parents must step in and assist her in learning this discipline. We simply remove the temptation of having computer time alone, in order to remove the potential sins of disobedience and deceit. (At least in this instance.)

It's not malicious. It's not a witch hunt. It's not neener-neener. It's full of love and grace (even if she'll hate it). Check your my motivations every so often, though: the intent is to protect her heart, her soul. We are supposed to train her in the way she should go, so that when she is grown she will not depart from it.

And oh, the freedom that comes from such loving discipline, when the God we serve removes temptations from our path - things we think we can handle, but really, not so much - in order to preserve us and protect us from bigger pitfalls just up ahead!

Now...who wants to come take the Doritos and chocolate ice cream out of my kitchen to protect me from that pitfall?

(I'm kidding...please don't.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

5-Minute Friday: New



I'm linking up with Gypsy Mama for today's 5-Minute Friday. I haven't done one in forever. I usually either can't always think of something to write that fast, or I'm so involved with whomever's "5-Minute" before me, that I can't come up with something original.

The idea is that Gypsy Mama gives us a word (or two or so), and we start writing, and keep writing for 5 minutes. No pressure, no editing, no backtracking, just a 5-minute stream of consciousness. Here goes...

"New."
GO.

I'm trying to think of something "new." Honestly, I am. Gypsy Mama wrote about the new things her firstborn teaches her every year. She's good at coming up with things like that. But it was her word, so I guess she had more time to think about it than the rest of us.

I just (well, in February) got a new (to me) minivan. I have a new room in my house, empty and ripe for the decorating. I just got new sneakers yesterday (ohsocomfy). I have some new pillows on my couch, and I love them.

But that's all just STUFF. I'm trying to pare down my stuff. It's just stuff! It's starting to drive me crazy, this stuff called Stuff. I have too much stuff. It's worthless in the long run, really.

And so, I'm entering into a new phase in my life of LESS STUFF. And not just stuff-stuff, but body-stuff, house-stuff, life-stuff, brain-stuff. I want to think clearer, live more purposely, exist in sparser surroundings, and pay more attention to my kids. Can't do that surrounded by cluttery Stuff. (I shouldn't even capitalize it like that, that's how insignificant it is.)

So along with my new phase in life of living with less stuff, I'm also experimenting with a new blog. It will reflect this new venture of mine. Wait and see.

STOP.

Seeing in a mirror powdery...

This morning I made a very organized to-do list for the next three weeks. Very. Three columns in Word, sorted by due date, to be completed over the next three weeks. "Clean up baby powder in living room" was not on it.

I feel the need to announce to other mothers when I have reached an event in my children's lives that is a pretty uniform, momentous, across-the-board kind of event. Well, just now I have cleaned up probably half a bottle of baby powder. [cough, cough]

I was able to vacuum most of it, wet-washcloth the rest of it out of the cracks in the floorboards, and there's a bin of cars and car tracks next to the sink waiting to be rinsed. (My airways will be another story, simply requiring water and time, I fear.) I was washing dishes in the kitchen when I started smelling it. I thought I might've picked something up that had some on it; my 2yo son likes to squeeze the bottle, even though it's closed, to see the little poof of air. I keep taking it away. But when I started smelling it, I never thought...

Then my 4yo starts calling me from the living room. I gave my standard "I'm right here" response (because I am not a beck-and-call kind of mom; if you need me, come find me). He yelled louder. "Lij!" I said. "Come find me!" He yelled louder. "Elijah!!!" I turned around from the sink to march down the hallway, but I was already seeing the cloud being blown around by the air current from the backyard door. "Oh, NOOOO, Matthew! No, no, no, no, no!!!!" as I entered the living room to see my white rugs, white cars, white tracks, white wood floor, and white-legged, white-haired son. He dutifully put his head down and, agreeing with me, shook his head no.

I got a wet washcloth and wiped down his legs, then air-lifted him out of the mess onto a clean spot of floor in the hallway. Then I collected the cars and tracks and put the bin by the sink. I retrieved my parents' vacuum (I have a new one for myself on my wish list) and vacuumed what I could (there's still some there, because - let's face it - it'll wear away eventually). I finished by wiping down everything else - desk chair, desktop (keyboard before I started typing), plastic bag of Stuff, bookshelf legs, and finally....a tropical fish magazine.

My mother-in-law left it for my kids to look at when they were cleaning out their room to move back to Nevada. And as I wiped off the cover, beautiful colors seemed to be drawn fresh as though new, gorgeous yellow and pink fish went from dull and powder-covered to bright and something only God (and a good camera) could create. (Clearly not my phone's camera.)


How often does that happen in my life! I get used to blurry, dull things. I get used to my feet hurting because I need new sneakers. (This is huge to me because I finally have new ones!) I get used to my lower back hurting because I use it more than my stomach muscles, and I have bad discipline. I get used to the smell in my car because it's hot out and I don't feel like cleaning out the trash in the heat and humidity. (Who knew that salt and vinegar chips would actually turn into a something's-rotting-in-here smell?) I get used to being overweight because my husband loves me regardless. (He really does.)

This last year has been a long one. A tough one. A growing one. One where, more than I can count, I've said "whyyyyyy?" I have not understood what the plan is, I have not understood the reasons, I have not known what the outcome will be. I have learned to trust (mostly), and have faith.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.                (1 Corinth. 13:12, NASB)
I don't know about you, but I cannot WAIT 'til I see face to face. I can't wait to know fully. I can't wait 'til I see everything with all the baby powder wiped off. How bright and beautiful it will be, as something only God can create.

(Incidentally, it's fortunate that my coffee was in the kitchen with me, and not in the powder keg.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest post!

I'm a Guest Poster! Ooh la la!!! How exciting.

My dear friend Heatherly is on a social media hiatus, and has invited several of us to guest post on her blog. Today is my day!

"In this one particular area in my current life, I have been in and out of the hopeful pool so often that recently I told my husband that I was done being positive. I had no more in me, no more oompf to try again. I was taking up permanent residence on a chaise lounge."

Hop over here and read the rest of my post! I'm so grateful and privileged to write for her!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pretty. Beautiful.

For mothers of daughters... Please go read my friend Heatherly's latest post. She said it perfectly. I'm sure we either have or will wrestle with this very same situation at some point in our daughter's life. I've dealt with it, although a whole lot more lame than Ms. Het did. Her encounter was Heaven-written.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Self inventory.

It seems every so often you have to take stock of yourself, doesn't it?

I've been thinking about my blog. Just recently, so it hasn't been a real long contemplation. My blog says that I'm writing about the learning I'm doing in life, the way God is molding me into who He wants me to be, and how faithful He is along the way. Good platform. Nothing wrong with that.

But I feel like something's changing.

I don't know what it is. I know one phase of my life is soon to end, and another is soon to begin. Both are exciting. But other parts of my life are just as static as ever, with only God's timing to wait for. I read other people's blogs that are so critically integral to where they are in life, and mine almost doesn't feel that way anymore. I don't feel attached to it. I don't feel like it's about me. Hard to figure out what to write about, though, when you don't know your purpose, your calling.

So I find myself saying, "Okay then. So who am I?" I think I'll be exploring that over the next few days. Not necessarily in the blog, but in my head. These are some of my initial thoughts:

: I know I'm a wife and mom. Those are my callings. My highest callings. Not even writing can supercede either of those. Those are what I must concentrate on. God has given me beautiful gifts, and my focus must - joyfully!!! - be on them.

: I know this last week I have gone crazy trying to accomplish things in the house before hubby gets home. Today was a HUGE leap forward in that area, and I don't feel out of motivation yet. And I haven't felt much mommy-guilt about not hanging out with the kids, so I must've been doing okay! (AND, soon I'll have another room to work with, so it'll give us a little more breathing room.)

: So based on the last one, I know decluttering is huge for me right now. (It's always been a huge desire of mine, but I've been big-time active in it this week.) Paring down, living with less, living simply, passing this lack-of-a-need-of-shtuff on to my kids.

: I know I've actually managed to exercise twice this week, and I feel like continuing it.

: I know that God continues to provide for my family, right in the nick of time, every time. And I know that it usually happens even without me asking for it (I mean that in a shame-on-me way, not a wow-cool way). I know my prayer life downright s.u.c.k.s (sorry if anyone doesn't like that word). And I know that needs to change.

These are some of my thoughts. Things may not change at all in my blog, who knows. But I think I'm starting to grow tired of being a work in progress. I want to start being the progress. I think I'm hiding behind the process. I want to start seeing some results.

Pray with me, muse with me, suggest with me, while I try to figure it out? I'd be so grateful.

Two days to go.

My dear hubby told me this morning on the phone that his phone battery is just about dead and he may not be able to charge it before heading for home. That's the downside, but the upside is that while on the phone, he started getting weepy when talking about missing me. Victory!!!! :)

That is my big grateful for the day. But with 17 things left on my To Do list this morning, and three total days left to accomplish them, I simply started at the top and cranked them out, despite how unappetizing. (You know, those things on your list that you skip over for the more fun or quicker items?) However, I also added a few items, so now I have a total of about 7 things left to do tomorrow and Saturday morning.

My second greatest grateful for the day is the 4 bags of trash and 7 bags of stuff-to-take-to-Good-Will that are leaving my house! I'm actually getting it done! Feels so good. It's from the kids' rooms, too, and they're getting really good at getting rid of something they don't need, love, or will use. (beam) So proud.

I think I got more of a workout from decluttering the boys' room tonight than from Bellyrobics last night. And I celebrated with half a piece of chocolate cake (from Walmart, so, you know, eh) and a small glass of chilled white zin, and the last fifteen minutes of So You Think You Can Dance (incidentally, chuckling at my friend and bloggy-friends all a-twitter about it).

Tomorrow I get to say "tomorrow..."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More gratefuls...

= I have been UBER productive this week. Unfortunately, at the moment, you can't see all the things I've gotten done (ain't that always the way?). But I have. I have done grocery shopping (at least in part, since I had a kid who didn't feel very good). I am getting forms ready for homeschooling. I have laid ten pavers at the bottom of my backyard steps. I bought a printer (by myself, thank you). I picked out a paint color for my coffee table (okay, that's just fun for me). I have have sewn a pillow for my 2yo. I have mended two other couch pillows. I have cleaned off hubby's desk (no small feat). I have taken the trash to the dump. And - not to be overlooked - I have kept up with laundry and dishes. (Okay, looking back over my list, those are relatively few things out of what I wanted to get done...but I guess that means I'll have plenty left to keep me busy!)

= All my children (plus a niece) spontaneously put themselves outside, making it so much easier for me to collect all the things in the living room and pile them on the couch and coffee table for children to put away, which now they are sorting into their bins in the hallway. Tada!

= A week or so ago I bought a new Febreze scent - Thai Dragon Fruit - which I'm now using with the vacuum, and I love it. Light and lovely.

= Brown sugar cinnamon Pop-tarts. That's all.

= Oh, and coffee. Heart.

= Did I mention my bestie?

= I took my first ever exercise class tonight, for goodness' sake! (Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone.) It was nuts. My body doesn't do that. But I did it! And now I know I could do it again.

Wednesday.

It's Wednesday. Finally.

There's no monumental thing happening on Wednesday, except that it finally means that I'm more than halfway through my hubby's absence. Four more full days until his return. Four. Sigh. That sounds like a lot. Isn't that a lot?

Do I sound like a big whiny crybaby about my hubby being gone? I don't mean to. I'm doing okay. It's just getting harder. It's past the halfway point, but it still feels like I have as long to go as I've already gone. And one of these times when I say to him, "I miss you," and try to explain a little about how long it seems (and I'm getting a little weepy), I'd love it if he could come up with something inspiring to say. (I don't know what. I usually have an idea of what I'd like him to say - which leads to arguments heated discussions about feeling like his life is scripted for him. But this time I don't know what I want him to say. Just something. "I'm so sorry, baby." "I miss you like crazy, too." "I'm barely hanging on here..." You know. Something.)

Although here's my yearly disclaimer -- I am no military wife. I could never be a military wife. You ladies are crazy strong. Although I do think that dealing with your hubby being gone has a great deal to do with knowing roughly how long they'll be gone. If my hubby's supposed to be gone for a weekend, my heart is set up for 2...3 days max. Right now hubby is gone for 9 days. It's too long in my book, but I'll give him the full nine days. (But if he's not back Saturday night, as promised...Sunday morning at best, depending on his traveling party, I might shrivel up.) And, military wives usually live around (not always, but usually at least are involved with) a bunch of other military wives, to whom you can go and fall apart. And they'll come back to you later and return the favor.

Fortunately, my best friend (although in Arkansas...and not really the "fall apart" type) is a former military wife and completely indulges my ramblings and poutings. I'm so thankful for her.

But I am not mocking or belittling military wives in ANY manner. The fact that your husbands are gone for months on end, you get no reprieve as the sole parent in the house, your husbands signed up for the job but would not have chosen to leave their families for so long, and the fact that they're often heading off to harm's way...you all trump me big time. I've got nothing on you and your conditioned nerves. Not that it ever gets easier, I understand.

So...if I stop and think about how long it's been and how long I have yet to go (and how easy it is for bitterness to creep in about what a good time he's having while I'm sitting here waiting, trying to stay busy), utter despair and depression is waiting and ready to jump in and be useful.

SO. I am clinging to the Beautiful Things that are acting as buoys for a few moment's rest as I tread one day to the next. And I'm feeling it necessary to start chronicling these things so I remember all the glorious gifts God's sending my way to care for me, to allure me, to speak tenderly to me. I do notice them as they happen. I need to remember them in the betweens. Here, my first three (so as not to make this post more cumbersome)...

= Yesterday while making dinner, my 7yo skipped into the kitchen, hugged me, and then skipped out. She, completely foreign to having The Love of Your Life away from you for so long. (Although he does act as her first love until she finds her own.) Later that same evening, she came in and sang me a song she learned at church about the countdown getting lower to the day of Jesus' return. How much more straight-from-the-mouth-of-God does it get?

= I had the courage to ask my mother-in-law to feed and watch my children tonight while I venture out to my first-ever exercise class! I've been trying to shred myself this week, and I've had much less discipline than I had about it last year while hubby was gone (it was the first time hubby had been gone that long and I dutifully got up every morning to do my video). I've done the shred a total of once. Since then my boys have not been sleeping well, and I have made the decision not to listen to my alarm clock. But tonight I am leaving the house to do some "Bellyrobics" so I will get at least a second workout in this week.

= What started as an annoyance is actually a blessing - MIL thought they'd just feed the kids chicken nuggets tonight. Tonight, when I actually had coincidentally put a kid-friendly meal on the menu called "bubble-up pizzas." But, feeding them chicken nuggets saves me a meal, a meal that I can then put on next week's menu and save myself the money. :) (Still would've been neat. Wonder what I'll have for dinner...)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

end of day

Oh, God... I'm getting to bed much too late and I miss my hubby and a dear friend hurt me tonight and I'm sad and I'm still coughing and I can smell hubby on the sheets and I'm lonely and I want to cry and I'm sore and I have to do it all again tomorrow and it's only the end of day 2 and I need his hug.

Please wrap me tightly in cool sheets and uninterrupted sleep and sweet dreams of grace. Amen.

Button, button, who's got the button?

I know it's trivial, but I'm excited. I just made a button! And in due form, here's where I learned how. She rocked it. Holla.

This morning's prayer.

God, help me just for today find the balance of getting work done and spending precious time with my kids. Help me not to worry about finding a long-term balance, help me not even worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries of its own. Help me not only be a good wife, but a good MOTHER, too. Be constantly in my face, dear Lord.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting my vineyards back.

This day BEGS to be blogged about (I actually did already but it came out all wrong so I'm so glad Jesus stopped me from publishing it). But just what I was going to say I didn't know till everyone went to bed, the house quieted down, I was on my own again...and hubby is off somewhere again. Could it be that I'm starting to think better on my own? Not on-my-own like without him, because he and I are one. To separate now is impossible. To function correctly without the other is a non-issue. But on-my-own...like...as me. I'm ahead of myself...

I spent much of today being sad...and hurt...and angry...and downright pitiful. To the outside? Oh sure, I'm fine, to the in-laws and kids and parents, no sweat. But I know, with hubby, I was trying to find that passive-aggressive delicate balance between "fine" and "underlying struggle," hoping he'd see it and really beg me to tell him what was wrong. Silly girl. Does he ever do that??

I've been feeling like he's been completely gone for the last two weeks, except that every once in a while I get to look at a picture of him, and talk to it, and it even talks back to me. But I don't feel like I've been with my husband in far-too-long.

And I should take every moment and enjoy it, right? Sure, that's what a Wise Woman would do. Clearly, I require more work in that area. Because I, silly girl, spent hubby's first vacation day off lamenting what we weren't getting done, what we weren't going to do, the moments he didn't ask me what was wrong, or how I've been feeling, or tell me how much he's missed me, too, over the last two weeks. (I even missed the last day of Staples' $1 sales. Pout.)

I know why God has been bringing me into this wilderness...these wildernesses (wildernii?) of hubby's event weekends and meeting/rehearsal/Bible study nights away. He wants me to depend on Him. He wants me to go to Him first. Not hubby. Hubby has enough pressure of his own, and the Lord knows that I heap burning coals on his head when I start to complain about him not being around enough for me.

Am I lonely? Yes. Do I feel forgotten? Yes. Unappreciated, left out, un-considered? Yah, sure, you betcha. Are my feelings still valid? OH HECK YES. Will any of my whining and underhanded methods help the situation? Nope. Has God been poking me all day? Uh, yeah.

First, 3 downright lovely - and, not to be left out, 100% RIGHT!!! - communication tools by a downright lovely woman who is in a wilderness of her own, being married to a man with chronic pain that often takes the wind right out of her sails, their marriage, and her soul. This woman has studied how to talk to her husband. And I love her for her journey, and how my story parallels hers (although in a very seemingly pathetic way).

Second, another friend's blog that I JUST found today (coincidence? I think not), where I actually took this "wilderness" terminology from. Her wilderness is a daughter with cystic fibrosis. They find joy because their daughter is alive, and suffer through moments when she's coughing so hard she pukes. How lame am I??? But her latest post included a quote from Hosea (a story I love; you should read it).

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor ['trouble'] a door of hope." Hosea 2:14-15 ESV

Wildnerness. Yep, that's a good name for what it's felt like when he's been gone. And...oddly...God has been calling me to these places of ugliness on purpose?? Yes. Called me there, and then spoken tenderly to me. (Really? Maybe I haven't been listening...) Called me there, spoken tenderly to me, trying to give me vineyards (ooh la la!) of sustenance and luxury, and turning my gate of trial and sadness into a gate of hope and joy!

I want a gate of joy. (pout) I want to send hubby off on weekends (or August's terrible week-and-a-half) or to meetings, etc. with joy and contentment. Do I want him to maybe suggest on his own, during some free evening, that he put the kids to bed for me? Or that I go peruse a store or get some coffee on my own, alone with no children? Without me guilting him into it?? OH, yes. But is it possible, just possible, that he's been a little busy, with not a lot of time to think of that? I dig my toe in the dirt and concede. Yeah.....I guess so.

Silly girl needs to start listening to Jesus, and try harder - and pray more - to trust and believe in His love for me. And his love for me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mumma needs a minute.

**This entire blog is copyrighted; don't you dare steal my idea.**

This morning, in the bathroom (I admit it), this idea struck me. It's an idea that I have had before and promptly dismissed: I don't write devotions. I can't force a moment of intense meaning and insight. I can pull a lesson out of just about anything, thank you Christian school. But forced spirituality, with no feeling behind the writing, is not my idea of a devotional book. But THIS - this I could write. The idea was one of a little devotional book for tired moms. That's all. I wake up so often and think, "Oh, Jesus. Help me. Today's probably going to get rough. Strength now." I would love to have something, something very small, to read in the morning, to set up the day right, in those moments before the "slings and arrows" start flying (or as close to "before" as I can get), when cohesive thoughts on what to pray for aren't easily found. I have not decided to write a devotional. But the introduction started flowing, so I've written it. Now I will continue to pray about it and see if it sticks.

So now I give you the introduction (a working copy) to...

Mumma Needs A Minute
little morning devotions for tired moms

None of my kids (that I birthed) ever slept through the night solidly 'til they were well over a year old, and currently my youngest is now 2 and we're still working on it. That's a lot of years, sometimes concurrently, of chronic sleep-deprivation, frustration, despair, anger, and depression. At least in the middle of the night. And often first thing in the morning.

I have so often woken up and thought, "Oh dear Jesus...help. I need...something. Strength. Courage. Patience. Adrenaline. Help..." Groups of words don't happen easily in those first few moments. How often I've wished I had something very, very small to read, something to remind me, to center me, to say the words for me that I can't find, but something that will help me pray for what I need that day. I hope this can be that for you. Please know that I am still in the midst of these tired mornings with you.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark,
Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; 
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
Psalm 5:3

That's what this little devotion book is for. I believe it's absolutely crucial to start the day at least attempting to ground ourselves in Jesus, before the "slings and arrows" of the day start flying. And boy, do I know they start flying early. Pretty much as soon as your feet hit the floor. And often before that. BUT, I want you to know, I don't believe morning is the ONLY time for devotions to be done. I spent a lot of my life feeling guilty, because I was taught by various examples that this is when devotions should be done. Get up early, cup of coffee, quiet table by the window, reading and being truly uplifted and edified by God's Holy Word. Pretty picture. I've longed for that picture. But my mornings are bleary-eyed and often accompanied by tears, I am so tired. God knows us, He knows the plight of the mother [still trying to find the verse on mothers I'm thinking of], and I can't imagine He's going to fault us for not doing it at 5am sharp (especially when your kids also get up at 5am sharp). You must do devotions when they work for you.

However, this little devotion book CANNOT be a replacement for daily time spent with Jesus. I do understand that you don't get many minutes together to yourself. I do understand that often it's either prayer or reading, but not always both at the same time. And oh-do-I understand the frustration of your schedule just not working out for you to spend focused, uninterrupted time alone. (There's always after the kids go to bed, but unfortunately - and shame on me - I very rarely want to sit and start in on a Bible reading and prayer. I want to finish dishes...okay, "want" is the wrong word...I want to get my stuff done, and most of all, I want to go to bed myself. If I try to start praying, I'll most likely fall asleep. BUT, it is still crucial. Any number of devotional or "how to study the Bible" books can help you with that, but your walk is your own. Don't listen to how anyone else tells you you should do it; do it the way that works for you. If getting up early is your bag, go for it. (I'd like for it to be my bag. Someday...) If a nice quiet meeting with Jesus in the cool of the evening works for you, fantastic. If you have to set your kids up on the computer and the Wii and lock yourself in the bathroom (I'm not kidding), DO IT! Time with God is that important. It is most important. This little devotional will give you the Scripture and a very real, very heartfelt prayer for those early moments when cohesive thoughts can't be formed yet, but true munching on God's Word must be done yourself.

With that said, this book MUST NOT STRESS YOU OUT! There are enough for every day of the year. But there are no numbers. There are no dates. Sometimes I like to have dates on my devotions, so that even if I miss a day I can just jump to today and be okay. I'm not doing that for several reasons. 1) I don't always know what the date is first thing in the morning. 2) If you do miss a day of reading, I do not want any pressure on you about "agh, I missed one, should I read two? what if it's a series of devotions, I won't understand! do I skip it? I don't want to miss anything!!" 3) I don't want to worry about the 30/31 days in a month thing. So - Relax. No pressure here. You can read them in order. You can use a bookmark. You can dog-ear the pages. You can completely disregard any order at all and just open to a page and start reading. And don't be afraid to put your hand up and ask (tell) your kids to wait...Mumma needs a minute. (It'll teach them the importance of spending time with Jesus. Look at that - a teachable moment without even trying. And so early, too! Look at you.)

And they will all apply to being tired. Trust me.

Feel free to leave feedback, but remember I have not made a concrete committment to this project. It's just an idea. Enjoy. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Day 2's.

First Day 2: No more milk for Matthew.
I started this Saturday night (Day 1), but then last night (Sunday) we got home from my sister's house around 10pm, so falling asleep with one bottle was not an issue.

Tonight he had a small (4oz as opposed to 8) bottle and was done with it before I even went downstairs. Normally this spells disaster. Tonight he didn't cry. I even sat on the steps for a while, and he didn't make a sound. Then it started...and it hasn't stopped. "Be quiet, Matthew..." "Go to sleep, Matthew..." "You're okay, Matthew..." The mantras continue. Now I hear him stomping in his crib...teehee. He's quite mad.

I finally went downstairs and got my netbook; it has a better wireless connection to the house than my phone does to any tower sitting here on the landing to the third floor. I get back upstairs, settle in with my computer and a nice, large jar of my new Lipton Half and Half (half iced tea, half lemonade), and what do I do? Yup, I breathed in a bug. A tiny, TINY noseeum fly thing. Yes, that works well: hack HHHAACK "go to --" couuugh "-- sleep, Matthew --" coooooough "-- you're --" hack "-- okay, Matthew." Does wonders for getting them to forget you're there. It's amazing how. much. havoc. one tiny being that isn't supposed to be in your airways can wreak.

My throat-spazzing seems to be winding down. And so does he. Somewhat. Amid wails and "maamaaaa"s and the guilt-ridden sobbing-breaths.

I. WILL. BE. STRONG. The first night was lucky. It was new, a novelty. He didn't know what to expect. Now he's ready for the fight. So am I. (No matter how many comments I hear from the second floor that I assume are about his noise. I should've turned off the monitor in my bedroom. Oh, well. Deal.)

Second Day 2: The 30-day challenge.

Today's challenge was to post a picture of something you've eaten today. (Which, if you think about it, is gross. If you take a picture of what you've already eaten...oh, dear. I will be posting a picture of what was left in the pan.)

Tonight I made chow mein, Grammy-style. I've never actually eaten real Chinese-food chow mein. My grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch, where everything is made and put together in one pot, so I don't know if she ever had real chow mein either. But this is how I grew up eating it.


I had to tilt the pan up to get the light to shine on it (lighting in my kitchen is an ongoing issue) so it's not the easiest to see. But chow mein - in the house of my youth, anyway - is hamburger, rice, celery, and onion. Then you sprinkle soy sauce over it when it's on your plate.

And, because I have always had to, my rice always gets butter and cinnamon sugar. Even when mixed with other things, like hamburger/tomato sauce or creamed tuna. In the famed words of Joanne and Maureen, "Take me, baby, or leave me."

And, because hubby is out tonight, and his "out" includes dinner, I actually had enough to take out lunch for him tomorrow, LOTS for me, and plenty left for the in-laws. Matthew liked it, and Morgan tolerated a few bites of it before trading it for a hot dog, and Elijah had fallen asleep on the couch so I just made him chicken nuggets, knowing the argument that would ensue. (He doesn't always wake up well.) Unfortunately, when Morgan shrieked from the kitchen (I thought she'd sliced an appendage off or something), and we all ran in (we'd been eating in the living room, where it's much cooler) to find that a rather substantial family of fruit flies had found her juice...we learned that Bailey liked the chow mein, too. (Grrr. But our fault for leaving it there. I just went ahead and decided dinner was over - time for dessert!)

So hubby has now called and said he's on his way home. Thankfully, I had the forethought to put the phone on vibrate, so I just answered it and then tried to get down the creaky stairs as quickly as possible before starting to talk. Little Boy has stopped fussing and has been quiet except for the random post-good-cry breathing. The Girl can now fall asleep peacefully, after several trips out into the hallway to complain about Matthew (note to self: go over with Morgan again the reason for letting Matthew cry it out, and apologize profusely; reconsider idea to let her fall asleep in my bed). I can go downstairs and feed the very, very patient puppy dog. He's so good. I will spend a few minutes in the living room with him, and I will probably get caught up in reading some wonderful blog or other, and will not actually be in bed by the time Hubby gets home. Maybe. There's a first time for everything.

Thoughts during gymnastics class.

I'm sitting here at Lij's gymnastics class. Some (completely disjointed) thoughts:

There are a lot of skinny people here. Some of them are moms.

That one brought water and strawberries. I like to bring something to eat while I'm waiting, too...but I brought cheese crackers and a granola bar. And she - and that one, too - brought big bottles of cold water. I have my iced caramel swirl latte a la Dunkie's (with whole milk, sugar, whipped cream, and extra caramel, for goodness' sake), and am wearing my grey knit frumpzilla dress that I have worn in every pregnancy and out, and have to work hard (really hard) at contracting my stomach muscles so I don't look pregnant again. (The dress is fast, cool, and comfy. And if I had less of a tummy, it probably wouldn't look half bad.) Hmmmmm...

That mom has her whole laptop open on the table. I'm taking notes on my phone, but that feels less uninvolved than a laptop.

I'm glad E is wearing underwear to gymnastics now, instead of a pull-up. He seems to be doing okay.

What kind of healthy legacy am I leaving for my kids, my daughter specifically, by letting myself eat whatever I want, "because my hubby loves me the way I am"? (That's not an excuse; he really does. Okay, it's an excuse, but he really does.)

And what lesson am I teaching them when we pull up to the drive-thru and I say, "nope, no donuts today, we're just getting Mumma's coffee"? That junk food isn't for always but the indulgence [pause for watching E's turn in the routine] of coffee is a given, that "no" is never needed for coffee, that there's never a time when we shouldn't buy coffee? (Heaven forbid!) Sigh.


E doing side steps on the balance beam

My kids are such active, healthy movers with (so far) quite healthy eating patterns. I'd BETTER not ruin that. What a big failure that would be.

That instructor has absolutely no jiggle to her butt when she jumps. None. I don't think I want to be that skinny. My hubby could break me.

I don't want to be a health freak. God created chocolate, that's for sure, and I have no intention on missing out on that part of His creation. But Sally Fields is right: I have this one body, and this one life. And I'm being a very, very poor steward of it.

Being healthy shouldn't be hard...it should just be something you learn how to do, like everything else in life. Somewhere along the way, we've forgotten that most things in life must be worked for and earned.

Gymnastics is done. I have some work to do.
Dearest God, please (oh, please) help me to keep any shred of resolve I currently possess.

Matthew and a little girl having a stare-down

Today.

Today, I begin a new week.

Today, I will get a bunch of kids packed into a van to take one child to gymnastics for 45 minutes. I'll probably bring my Bible with me (again), hoping to read it during his class, but with a 2yo making the rounds between playing in the water fountain and pushing buttons on the vending machines, I probably won't actually read it (again).

Today, I'll try to remember to get the hamburger out of the freezer for tonight's dinner. It needs to be cut up and separated, so the earlier the better.

Today, I will clean up a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes, which is one of those mysteries since we weren't home much of the weekend. (If I can get to them before Someone Else does, because there really aren't that many, but I wouldn't want them to be "overwhelmed" by them all again.)

Today, I will clean up the packaging mess (read: giant cardboard box) from the bench we picked up on Saturday (it's so pretty!) before it starts getting used as a fort/playhouse/car garage/Polly Pocket house/thing that I get frustrated by having to wheel the computer chair around. (It's called a "farmhouse bench." Isn't that just woonnnnderful?)

Today, I will try to remember that I need to do laundry. (That seems to keep skipping my mind this last week.) And I will fold all the laundry that is in the living room. And I will try to get it to the appropriate rooms. And I will try to remember to get my kids to do their own, because that's okay and right.

Today, I need to get caught up on bills, so that we can, as my FB-friend said, "start the week off right...and start the week off with no money." :)

Today, I will remember that trials are meant to bring us closer to God, so that when I start getting frustrated by hubby being out e.v.e.r.y night this week, I'll remember to Whom I should be turning for sustaining. (And I will be grateful that one of those nights out includes the rest of us, and a visit with wonderful friends, and a much-needed playdate for the Big Man...the 4yo, not Hubby. And maybe...probably...it will include some much-needed homeschooling discussion for us 'rental units, since it's with some hs'ing veterans.)

Today, I will keep reciting what the Bible said this morning (via an app...via Facebook...via my phone...gosh, I make it hard for God to get in touch with me, eh?)...
"Let the wonderful kindness and the understanding that come from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ help you to keep on growing. Praise Jesus now and forever! Amen."
(2 Peter 3:18 CEV)
I will keep on growing. I am a work in progress, and that means on-going, still in process. God has promised to complete me.

Today, I will try to move slower, but with more purpose, both in body and mind, so that the right response to situations has time to get to my brain before the wrong action shows up first. I will try to correct my children calmly and biblically, instead of harshly and annoyedly. (Yep, that's a word.)

Today, I will try not to get bogged down at the computer, waiting for any of my favorite blogs to have a new post, and hovering over my blog's statistics as though staring at them will make them go up. :)

Today, I will keep reminding myself that next week is VBS at church which means lots of fun, lots of fellowship, and hubby's vacation week. :) (It's free; you should come! Trust me, this is a crazy week with hundreds of kids and dozens of grownups who LOVE them!)

(And hopefully, with so many nights out for hubby this week, it can mean a whole lot of early bed nights for me!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tonight I've met Ann.

Oh...my...goodness...

I love it when God brings me to a person who speaks my heart, but does it so much more beautifully than my words manage to.

"If I lose track of the stories, I’ll lose track of part of me. Lose track of His voice in this life. Telling our stories, keepings traces of His graces, even in a venue such as this, may indeed be important, sacred work, because in these stories, God meets us. We listen to our life and hear God.

And maybe other who listen, hear Him too? Perhaps in sharing our stories, spiritual disciplines of reflecting and telling the truth, even in this public space, others too just groping along might find more of their way?"
~ Ann Voskamp, "A Holy Experience: Of blogging, secrets, porn and truth."

It's worth reading to the end. For those of us who wonder why we do this, wonder if this is really what God wants us to do, wonder if we'll ever make a difference, wonder if anyone cares, if it's going to matter, if it's going to only sound silly... This is why we do this. This is why we write. To remember our holy experiences, to remember our truths from Eden. To remind us that God has spoken to us before, and will again.

Deepest thanks, Ann. (I only wish I could find a comment section on her blog to tell her so. Tell her that it mattered to me.)

Challenge: Day 1.

Challenge? What challenge?? Well...I have no idea, truthfully! :) I just came upon a new site, The Adventure of a Self-Proclaimed SuperMom, and she's starting a challenge. She didn't explain what the rest of the challenges were, or what they were for, but - one day at a time - I'm game to jump in.

Day 1: post a picture of yourself and share how your day was.

Cool, I can do that. First, picture. Please know this is not easy for me. Posting? No sweat. I mean getting a good picture of me. And I don't just mean photogenically. If you see a smiling picture of me, it's probably a fairly worthwhile picture (I've learned to take other people's word on that). But I am (practically) world-renowned for getting HORRIBLE candid pictures taken of me. Announcement: I have very expressive eyebrows. Therefore, I usually look mad, annoyed, half-asleep, bewildered, astonished, or perplexed. I'm not kidding. You should see some of the slideshows from family birthday parties. BUT! I managed to get a decent picture where, at the most, I look tired. That's not unusual, and it's almost 10:30.

Second, my day. It was a pretty good Saturday. No shower, but I'm getting more okay with that (the presence or absence of a shower used to literally decide the fate of my day...poor hubby). Plus, a little later, I did manage to stick my head in the shower and wash my hair quick. (Sooooo glad I decided to buy a 2-in-1 for just such moments as these.)

I had a good cup of coffee, hubby drove MIL to work and FIL to pick up a part for their car. There was a small tiff misunderstanding about the length of time he was gone, and then it was resolved, and he took Lij to the dump with FIL. Just as they were getting back, I was getting the other two ready to go grocery shopping (this is also when the hair-washing happened) and off we went. Home from that, and we packed up again and traveled down to Bernie & Phyl's to pick up a bench. So excited! A looooong time ago, at another job, Hubby was cleaning the office when he came across several gift cards. He figured they'd been intended as "good job"s for the employees, but they were old so he was checking to see if they were still good, and he said they could have the Bernie & Phyl's one - $50! I was jazzed. And then it sat around for a while. We didn't need any furniture. Finally I dug it out again and went to poke around the website...............let's just say I was very lucky to find this bench, with it being only $55 so we had to spend very little. AND it's something I've been wanting for our kitchen table anyway. In our small kitchen, fitting everyone around the table has been challenging, so this way we can fit the three small kids along one side. (Eventually, I'd like to get this kind of set-up, but on a slightly larger scale.)

Ahhhhh....another farmhouse piece drops into place.

Or...it will. Maybe tomorrow. When we put it together.

But oh, it was fun, just piling the kids in the car and driving the hour-and-a-half to the furniture store. (It was the closest one to us that wouldn't charge us tax. Tax-free New Hampshire, woot woot!) It is - no joke - the closest thing to a family vacation that we've...well, ever had. Hubby fussed at me since I was taking too long for his liking by trying to clean a little more trash out of the car, get a little better set up for a road trip, knowing where the toys were, getting bottles in the right place, etc. I told him he has his hobby trips, this is mine. Patience, my love.

And OHHHH, speaking of bottles. I'm done with those. My 2yo might not agree, but I'm dialing down his right to an opinion in the matter. It's my fault, totally. I made my bed, and now I'm lying (but definitely not sleeping) in it. I take total blame. But I stand by my decision, because it was the decision I needed to make at the time. When children are babies, their moms have two choices: a) feed them a bottle at night, then lay them down without it, and continuously reassure their child, when he/she cries, that they are okay, and let them cry/comfort themselves back to sleep, orrrrrr...2) give the kid the bottle and let him fall asleep that way.

I've always done option 2. I'm horrible, wretched, lazy, and should not be trusted with other human lives, I know. I mean, my children could have died!! And not to mention the damage I have inflicted on their teeth... (shudder)

But I was TIRED, man!! It's so much easier - chronically sleep-deprived moms can attest - to give the kid what they want! And I remember making that conscious decision, "I will do this now, I will deal with [read: pay for] it later."

Trumpet fanfare: It's LATER!!!! I am in full-swing of Dealing With/Paying For It. Have been for a while. And it's not that I'm not ready to deal with the fall-out of Dealing With It, but Big Brother is in the same room (who, thank the Lord, has trained himself to sleep like a dead person...gee, wonder why, when your brother wakes up at least once or twice a night for two years demanding the continuance of a very bad habit), and Big Sister is...well, it's across the hall, but there's only a headboard and a sheet and a chimney between them. And I can't stand the thought of making them suffer while Little Brother has to cry it out.

Sigh. So on we've gone, perpetuating Mumma's mistake. I was thinking I'd have to farm out my older children to sleepovers so Little Brother can complain his little heart out and not ruin anyone's sleep but mine. (I probably would've had to send Hubby away that night, too.)

Till. Tonight! I have epiphed. I have had a brainstorm. It's not rocket science. But it's working rather well! Morgan likes to have me snuggle with her on her bed. This is when she completely debriefs me on all her thoughts from the day, plans for the future, and very deep theological questions. (The other night we discussed why Satan fell from Heaven.) Well, as I was lying on her bed tonight, discussing homeschooling (grin), Migs pipes up as usual. So, to help him along, I simply tell him to lie down and go to sleep. This works temporarily, then not so well. But I continue. And eventually he quiets down. When I left Morgan, he heard me on the stairs (silly old New England stairs, but they are my Kid Alarms, along with squeaky doors that I will never oil) so he ramped up again. So I sit down on the stairs and start in again on my matras..."lie down, Matthew...quiet, Matthew...go to sleep, Matthew..." very calmly, while reading Read-Aloud Puppy Stories to myself that I find sitting nearby. Eventually he calms back down and I manage to make it downstairs. (Incidentally, I have a very good dog. It was, at that point, around 9:30, and he was waiting relatively patiently for this ordeal to be over so he could have dinner.)

Success!!! Right? Of course! That part, anyway. We have not made it through the night. But I figure I can't lose much more sleep than I already do. And we have made it through one more cry session. I knew that would be the tricky part. The kids are all asleep, it's much later, do I still go up there and sit on the stairs, calling out to be quiet? Why, yes. Yes, I do. And it works. And no one wakes up.

I imagine I will be spending quite a bit of time sitting on his stairs over the next few nights. Maybe even just over this night. I will be remembering to take my phone with me so I'm not just sitting there counting the seconds. (I'm so grateful for my phone, and the Bible app that gives me reading plans. Perhaps this will be a blessing in more ways than one.) But I also figure that taking the time to retrain one's synapses, however much sleep I lose, is much better than indefinite sleepless nights, not to mention the toll it takes on our milk supply. Besides which, his newest trick is standing at the edge of his crib, turning his bottle upside down, and squirting it at the floor. The carpeted floor. Wow. GAME OVER, little buddy.

So there, I have done the challenge! Wonder what Day 2 is. :)

Strawberries.

This whole post is based on a picture on my bloggy-friend Alicia's site of her cherries. (Not the one above; those are just my pretty table flowers.) Homegrown, picked right from the tree, hand-pitted. I am, admittedly, slightly jealous. So I felt the need to post a picture of my own.

In the spirit of honesty (wink, wink, Alicia), I did not grow these strawberries. I probably wouldn't be any good growing strawberries. BUT! I did cut them up myself. :) And, to lend an air of authenticity, that knife is the very knife that my grandmother would've used to cut up any and all fruits and veggies.

And I continued on with my oh-so-domestic self, and made a Waldorf salad.

(Although growing up, I had no idea that's what it was called.) Growing up, my grandmother made it with apples, raisins, and.....some sort of white salad dressing thing? I thought it was Miracle Whip; my mom says it was mayo. I made it a few days ago with mayo (and apples from an actual grocery store); tonight I made it with Miracle Whip (and apples from Walmart). Whereas I have determined that it was indeed Miracle Whip that Grammy made it with, I have also determined that I like it better with mayo (and apples from the grocery store). In this picture, the apples oddly look like potatoes. Don't judge the edibility on the picture. Actually...you can. It wasn't that good.

I had decided that dinner tonight would be a clear-out-the-pantry dinner.
And for all this, my daughter chose tuna (not on the table), pineapple, and apple slices with peanut butter (also not on the table). My son chose chicken nuggets (one guess) and pineapple. Master Greyson and I split a can of ravioli, attempted the apple salad (r.e.a.l.l.y. not that good, but he made a full-hearted attempt), and had some strawberries.

Also in the pantry was this... (I do believe I need to invest in a 10x10 pan. And why yes, that IS a Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl! They're so handy. Want one??? Call me! :) )
...and this...
I need to figure out what to sprinkle on top - the fork for the criss-cross kept sticking to the dough.

For those wondering: raw cookie dough edibility of the chocolate chip cookies - about a 7 (definitely not real, but definitely edible); peanut butter cookies - not attempted.

Bonus!

And because I was a super fishie momma, I cleaned Snowflake's bowl, made it shine. I love when the sunlight hits the bubbles on the plant. It's the little things.
Snowflake says good night.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Inside the armor.

It's my blog, and I'll emotionally core dump if I want to. I'm tired, and I'm depleted, and I want a nap. (Yes, I realize it's only 6:10 in the morning.)

I'm tired of not sleeping through the night; and I'm tired in general of the last two nights, not knowing whether a certain precious little 4yo boy will be in his bed, my bed, or hovered over the toilet.

I'm tired of not knowing who's going to be living in my house in the next three weeks. And I'm tired of listening to one of those people putting herself first, dumping decisions on her husband, expecting him to think of her first, but her not really doing anything to make him want to. (Even if that's not how it happens.)

I'm tired of not getting to bed on time, leading to me not getting up as early as I should, leading to me not exercising, leading to me staying the same stupid weight and size and fluffiness that I am, leading me to eat more ice cream out of depression, shooting myself in my proverbial foot.

I'm tired of being lazy and not feeling like getting work done around the house, but then I'm tired of having uber-productive days and feeling like I've ignored my kids and said "not right now, honey" too much. I'm tired of being unbalanced.

I'm tired of short-changing my husband on the wife he deserves. I'm tired of feeling like "right on, I've got this make-breakfast-pack-lunch-out-the-door routine nailed" then realizing I've lost something super important like a paycheck.

I'm actually tired of my summer going too fast, and wanting to hang on to it for a while. (And I'm especially tired of that because that's never happened before.)

I'm tired of money issues and trying to make lots of bills get paid from money that seems to disappear on it's own. (I am, however, very thankful for my husband's job that does make enough to pay our bills. I know, only too recently, what it's like not to have that.)

I'm tired of worrying who my children are bothering, and worrying who's bothering my children.

I'm tired. And depleted. Inside my armor is a child, and I'm dropping my sword.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This house.

I've always wanted to write a letter to whomever lives in our house after us. We're not moving. I don't know when we will. But WHEN we do (and I do mean when, not if), I hope I get a chance to leave a letter like this. If I don't, at least it'll be written here...

This house has kept us for over 20 years.

Its rooms have been more than flexible, serving in just about every capacity possible: living rooms as bedrooms and offices, bedrooms as kitchens and living rooms, kitchens as offices, offices as bedrooms and nurseries. It even split itself in two several times to hold two entire families at once.

It's seen just about every life change you can think of. It raised sisters from teen-hood to marriage and beyond. It saw parents through unemployment. It welcomed husbands and brought home babies. It sheltered grandparents as they left this world for the heavenly. It's granted safe haven to best friends needing respite. It's hosted holiday meals and open houses, traveling music tour members, post-wedding wrap-ups, surprise baby showers, and graduation parties. It's loosened its belt to welcome in-laws for extended stays.

It's been the concert hall for birdsongs, puppy barking and old dogs' soft breathing, the squeak of hamster wheels, and the rhythmic bubbles of a fish tank (or two or three). It's listened to piano lessons, and never commented on off-notes. It's held its inhabitants safe as their men leave for night shifts. It's waited up for girls coming home late from work or friends.

It's stood strong during hurricanes. It's dried out after days and days (and days) of rain. It's held cool air on hot days, and warm air on frigid days. It's opened up to early morning breezes, let in the rustle of spring and fall leaves, blown in the smell of lilacs and pine needles and woodsmoke, directed moonlight through windows, and nestled down in multiple feet of snow (it even color-coordinated).

And it's stood, and waved, and saluted to hundreds upon hundreds of train conductors - early in the morning, at high noon in the sun, in the soft blue of evening, and in the motionless dark of night. It welcomed their whistles, nodded in understanding, and sent them on by, affirming it is still here...was here for the last...will be here for the next. And this house's people will come running to help, flashlights in hand, when the train needs them.

This house has kept us for over 20 years. It held others for 100 years before us. With God's help and grace, it will keep you, and people after you, for 100 years beyond us. Whatever the world does, we hope this house remains a place of keeping, a place of safety, a place where visitors and weary ones are safe from the craze of life, a place to rest and rejuvenate for wherever their road takes them next. And if they get tired, they're always welcome - have always been welcome - to come back. It'll be here, waiting and ready.

We give you this house, with hearts heavy with memories and full of gratitude that someone else wants to take their turn loving it as much as we have. We know it will keep you as well as it has kept us.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gifts.

I want to get this book I just heard about: One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. Having not read it, I don't know exactly what it will turn out to be about, but I'm pretty sure it's about noticing God's gifts to us in the everyday.

I know that God blesses us constantly, but I fully admit that I don't always see the gifts, blocked by blindness, apathy, self-centeredness, etc. The last couple days, however, since finding out about this book, I've been trying to recognize these gifts more consciously.

I don't know that I'll carry this on, but I wanted to make mention of two that gifts that I was graced with today. (I had three, but I can't remember the third.)

[1] This one requires background info:  I was going to make an actual dinner tonight, an easy one that took about 45-50 minutes to bake. Simple recipe, no big deal. But as life happens, stuff comes up, and it became later than I had wanted it to be when I got it started. My mother in law had called earlier, asking what I had planned for dinner, and offering to treat the three of us (hubby's away on a fencing trip, remember) to Chinese tomorrow night. Then, of course, my 4yo pops up with wanting hot dogs. (sigh) I asked 7yo what she wanted and she said, "French toasted tuna fish sandwiches?" [Note: this is a wacky family recipe from growing up that most people find vile; ask me in a comment if you want it and I'll explain.] This dish, although not hard, is time-consuming. BUT. She had half her tuna sandwich left over from lunch - it was like I saw the plate, and the heavens opened and sent a beam of light shining straight down on that sandwich. Perfect - French toast her sandwich, hot dogs for 4yo, move Chinese to tonight. Thank you, God!!!

[2] (No background info here.) I. just. love. when someone "likes" a comment I make on someone's status on Facebook. You know...someone updates their status, you make a comment, and someone (either the author of the status or someone else) clicks that happy little "like" button. I love when they do that. It's better when they like my status. It tells me that I was able to break through the normal, standard, everyone-saying-the-same-thing comments, and find something unique, something true, something special to the reader. It's best when the status' author does the liking, because it tells me that I got what they said, that I understood, that I connected. It's not a matter of "they liked my comment best"; it's a matter of "yes...I understand...I know what you mean, and you know that I know." (And I feel like a good writer.) Thank you, God!!!

Ooh, I thought of a [3]!! Not the same one, but still just as note-worthy. There's a woman, a friend of mine, I finally realized I'm jealous of. She would disagree, but it appears to me that she has it all together. It feels like she's peaceful, that she's organized, and that - even in her stress or fatigue or chaos! - her life makes sense. Like I said, she'd be the first to disagree. But it BUGS me. And at first I was feeling like she was being fake, like she was putting her persona on display, like she was just trying so hard to have the perfect life and show everyone. But then I thought of a story another friend of mine told during a conference, where she started praying for a woman she was really having trouble getting along with.. She started praying blessings on the head of this woman, here "enemy." Well...my friend is not my enemy, but I am experiencing conflict because of her...and suddenly today I stopped and said, "Lord, give her good things today." You know that peaceful feeling, that settling-in feeling when you know something's being quietly right? Thank you, God!!!

I'll let you know if I end up buying the book (and if I was right about what it's about).

Self-reflection meets Issues.

Why do my bouts of self-reflection always happen when my husband will not to be home that evening to hash it out with me (and eventually tell me what I want to hear)? Probably because God's saying, "hello...remember Me? I think I was here first...and I care more about you than Facebook does." It's not the first time He's told me this.

It hasn't been the best day. My boys sent me a proverbial memo this morning: "You will not get anything done today." And some plans I was trying to feel out and see if they might like to be made have fallen through, at least as far as I can tell. I'm depressed, disappointed, bitter that other people get to make plans and mine don't seem to work, and - as a result - bitter that hubby gets to go off to his weekend of wife-less, child-less, hobby fun (he's a medieval fencer), and I stay home and have things crash around me.

Whether I subsconciously seek out things to crash or they crash on their own is up for debate.

But not right now.

And so I hung up from hubby's usual lunch-hour call, and burst into tears. Because he's a guy, he didn't read through the telephone "lines" and see how hurt I was. He didn't hear what I didn't say about being disappointed. He tried to suggest a solution that I exploded about the impossibility of, and he bristled at my explosion because as far as he knew, it was irrational. AND he didn't try to save the phone call by reading from my script and saying sweet and sensitive things, and offering to make it up to me in the future, and promising to bring me chocolate when he comes home on Sunday.

Hmph. The nerve.

So there I sat at the kitchen table, listing all my horrible attributes to God. I'm a selfish wife for begrudging his (almost monthly, during the summer anyway) trips to bachelor-land. I'm jealous of people who can load up the car and take off for a family vacation. I am a lazy mom who wants to spend all day on the computer. I sigh and get annoyed when one of my children needs my help as. soon. as. I start something. (Read: sit down at the computer.) I'm frustrated with God that I can't have a "normal" life, with my own house, where I can yell if I want, stomp if I want, let it get as messy as I want, for as long as I want....blah, blah, blah.

I. Have. Issues.

I have issues because I am often always unsure about what issues are my fault, and what issues I'm welcome to feel disappointed and jilted about. I'm fairly certain that a good deal of selfishness, jealousy, and bitterness on my part are involved.

Only time...real time, one-on-one, prioritized time, alone with my Maker, who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me anyway...will tell me which things are my problems to ask forgiveness for, and which things are my problems to cry heaving sobs about on His chest over. (He doesn't even seem to mind my snot stains.)

So. That is my goal this weekend: to find time to have real conversations with the One who has been waiting, and has the answers that I DO DON'T. I have roughly 48 hours before my handsome, sweet (it's true), and very talented fencing hubby returns. Go.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Job description.

Gee, you'd think I did one dry-run of homeschooling and then went into hiding from the traumatic experience, for all the blogging I've done since then. :) Not the case.

But in this time, some pseudo-decisions have come to pass. They involved hormones and crying, but they were productive tears! I was frustrated with the status of my Pampered Chef business (which is pretty much no status at all), which led to another conversation where Hubby reminds me that I need to learn to be content with where I am in life, with the job I've been given, before I try to seek my contentment outside of the house with Pampered Chef, or Lindt (yes, Lindt now has chocolate parties, mwahaha), or anything else.

I agree with him, but the tears came in when I finally explained that I had a bunch of "I don't know's" in my "job": my PC business isn't working, should I continue? just how many people am I supposed to be cooking and cleaning for? and I don't even know what my kids will be doing for school in the fall?! (My 7yo continues to tell me that she doesn't like going to school. Sigh.)

This led to a homeschooling discussion where I think I have at least partial permission to homeschool my 7yo, but we're still discussing my 4yo. We need to process through how the kids will be socialized, what activities they'll be in, how you learn to deal with people you don't get along with, what about pep rallies and prom and typical school milestones... The praying continues.

But it also clarified my role as MomAndWife. Being a PC consultant (and my consideration of joining Lindt, too) is born out of wanting to do something big, something important, something I can really dig into and become successful at, and something that people will need me for. But the other half is that I want to help, help hubby with finances, help our family with extra money, help people (and us) get things they need/want. Hubby reconfirmed my role as one of supporting, not providing. (And, just to be sure, I reconfirmed that he meant I had permission to resign from Pampered Chef; we decided to let my website subscription run out and then stop.) My business is going nowhere (though not from any outside influence except that I'm not fully trying), and I really have no desire to make it go anywhere, and the random purchases that I do get aren't enough to keep me active. And it's pulling my attention away from my kids, which, if I admit it, is something big, is something important, is something I can really dig into and become successful at, and is something that people need me for. Some very special, very sweet, very important people. I'm just hoping to help Hubby understand that adding their schooling to my job description will actually feel more complete, not more stressful and burdened.

On a side note, I was so completely psyched over the weekend when I discovered that the writer of one of my favorite blogs, One Hundred Years Ago, has started following my blog!!!!!!! I've learned so much over the last year about telling people how you feel, saying it to them directly, because you often don't know how much it will mean to them for you to be intentional and sincere. And I have found the same is true of blogging: never underestimate the power of leaving a comment, becoming a follower, making a mention... I have five happy little followers now, and one is actually someone I don't know, but found my blog interesting enough to add her name to! I am so grateful, Alicia Grace. You have no idea.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Homeschool dry run.

So! First homeschool attempt completed. It was...okay. Actually pretty good, I guess. No bloodshed. Minor excitement, on both our parts. Even if, for the rest of the summer, the kids say "no" every time I ask if they want to do it again, it showed me what parts worked and what parts need tweaking, and what parts need more prerequisite work.  Here's what I tried, from my extremely amateur homeschooling mind...

I used the "Goodnight, Moon" book (as suggested by Totally Tots). I split up what would be all my lessons into Bible, Math, Science, History, Language, Art, Music, and Home. Obviously not all of these subjects will apply to every book (unless you're much more creative than I).

Bible: (I was nervous when starting this section, but that's my own nervousness about boldly bringing up spiritual subjects with my kids. That's my own lesson to learn, and God is working on me.) (Preparation: I wrote out the Bible verses, Psalm 4:8, Proverbs 3:24, Psalm 121:3-4.) We talked about how restless the little bunny was, and how long it took him to get to sleep. I asked who never sleeps? My 7yo read the Bible verses. We talked about we can sleep peacefully and not worry because God never sleeps and is always watching over us.

Math: (Preparation: I drew 8 clocks on a piece of paper, without the hands.) We talked about how long it took the bunny to fall asleep, and talked about difference between the first clock and the last. We took turns reading the clocks in the book and drawing the hands in the right places on the paper. This worked even for my 4yo - even though he can't tell time in full, he could tell me where the hands were on the clocks, and I helped him translate that into times. We also wrote the time in digital form next to each clock. (My 2yo even got in on this part by finding the clocks - a favorite item of his - on each page.) After all the clocks were drawn, we talked about how the clocks go up by 10s.

Science: (Preparation: I drew the 8 phases of the moon with their titles: new, crescent waxing, half moon waxing, gibbous waxing, full, gibbous waning, half moon waning, and crescent waning.) We did more "finding" in the book (the part my 4yo was really interested in) to find the moon in each picture, and talked about how it was "rising," moving up in each picture, and that the moon in the book is a full moon. We talked about other ways that the moon looks, and how they have different names for each one, and then I explained the difference between waxing and waning, and how the cycle goes through each one and then starts over.

Language - Vocabulary: (Preparation: I wrote the words "waning," "waxing," and "gibbous" on a page, with simple definitions.) My 7yo read these words and definitions, and we explained them a little further.

Language - Grammar: (Preparation: I wrote out the words room, light, balloon, clocks, kittens, moon, bears, house, chairs, socks, comb, nobody, mouse, brush, mittens, lady, stairs, noises, mush, and air. Below that I wrote the phonics oo, ch, ck, ou, sh, and oi.) We talked about how each letter has its own sound, but when you put two or more letters together, they make a new sound, and those are called phonics. We went through each one and talked about the sound of each letter, but then the new sound of the two letters together. Then they took turns finding words in the list with those phonics.

What Worked
I liked having it all based on one book. I liked having something to refer back to, and something to take all my inspiration from.
The kids really enjoyed drawing the clock hands. They wanted to do more finding of things in each picture.
My 7yo really enjoyed reading anything that needed to be read: the Bible verses and the vocab words.
They loved making the sound of each phonics. It worked out nicely that we had several funny sounding phonics here: oo like a monkey, ch like a train, sh like quiet, and oi like OI!!

What Didn't Work
An actual Bible story would've worked better...it would've given more fodder for discussion and more to work with. However, I understand that not every book will match with a story, and sometimes just Biblical principles are just as worthy of discussion - and worthy of the effort to find the discussion.
My 4yo would need more practice on simply reading clocks...counting by fives, what each space on the clock means. He kept tripping up on the 12 meaning "o'clock" (it worked out that he got both the 7 and 8:00 clocks). Some more ground work would help there.
By science time, they were all getting tired of this activity as a whole, but that is something that I expect, and if we were doing this for school, it's something we'd have to work through and I'd expect them to come to terms with it relatively quickly. We were also sitting on the couch all lazy-like, and if we were doing this for real, we'd at least be at a table, if not some kind of make-shift desks. This would definitely help with focus.
For science and language/vocab, I would come up with some activities for them to do actively (like charting the moon's phases, or drawing their own, and reciting the vocab, or quizzing them on it) rather than just reading. The language/grammar activity of finding the right words was good, but maybe not involved quite enough.

In general, I found that I need a lot more groundwork. We need to go over phonics in general, maybe not starting them as part of a story. When I was in first and second grade, we had giant charts of all the phonics listed that we'd read over and over, and I'd like to find (or make) something like that, as well as some charts of counting by 5s, 10s, 20s, etc. I'd also like to have some clocks posted somewhere that they could practice with, or one of those practice clocks where you can move the hands (wouldn't be hard to find, or make if I had to).

I also found what things worked well for my 4yo (finding things, copying clocks, demonstrating letter sounds) and what things worked well for my 7yo (reading, naming terms she already knew, processing Bible concepts, putting letter sounds together).

But I did see how much less time it would take than a full schoolday, and how I can integrate a bunch of different subjects from one item. And the crowning realization: I've already admitted that my conception of homeschooling being a giant lack of structure was wrong; but not only does homeschooling include structure, it's an absolutely essential part. Whew! Not bad for the first day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thanks.

It's amazing what a thankful post will do for a Wordle collage...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back to basics.

It's time for some thankfuls. The post-migraine "what a wonderful world" feeling lends itself.

1. I'm thankful, first and foremost, for my kids, who let me sleep another 45 minutes this morning on the couch, covered me with blankets, snuggled with me, watched tv, and got their own cereal so I could let the world stop while my migraine surrendered to my happy migraine medicine. Huzzah!

2. I'm thankful that I didn't feel depressed when I realized again this morning that I forgot to buy laundry detergent on Friday. I haven't totally run out, and school's out so I can go to the store any time I want. No rush. (Yet another thought that echoes my desire to homeschool.)

3. I'm thankful for the tiny prayer that came from my heart saying, "Lord, if it's important, help me remember what I wanted to say until I can get there." I so often think of what I want to say, and then things come up and I can't get there before they disappear. I also often have trouble praying because I can't figure out what I wanted to say. So I'm thankful for this simple, heartfelt prayer.

4. I'm thankful for that post-migraine "what a wonderful world" feeling. I'm thankful for Imitrex.

5. I'm thankful for my feeling, once again (and thankful that it's "once again"), that I have only certain chores that I need to do every day. There are more things that should get done, they are not pre-requisites for living. The other things will get done in their time, and will get done better because I'm not freaking out about them. My husband deserves a more relaxed wife.

6. I'm thankful for my blog, and what it has become (more relaxed, simple thoughts, a lack of urgency to actually reach someone), and for my gorgeous header that I made myself (with lots of help from Wordle), and am so pleased with. I think it looks so professional. And very me.

7. I'm thankful for this passage from the book I'm reading, Just Jane by Nancy Moser, a novel of Jane Austen's life. It goes:
If a bubbling stream forces itself to become a torrent, surely disaster will follow. I am what I am, and though I am still learning this measure and meter of words, I must be true to my nature, and yea, even, my gift. For it is a gift -- from God, if I may be so bold. I say this not to imply great talent, but to indicate my awareness that I have received something beyond my own choosing. Although in essence I realize I can refuse this offering, I also sense that the prudent act, the one that begs to be tinged with sincere gratitude, requires me to do what I can with this gift and offer it back into the void from whence it came. Whether it will prosper and move along, or disappear like morning fog, I do not know. I should not care. For the gift is not truly mine to hold, but mine to use and return. To someone's benefit. I hope.
This is my heart. I am not the best writer. And maybe no one will read it. But such things are not the point. I was given a gift, a desire in my heart to write, so I shall write, whether anyone but God sees it or not. (I tend to talk and write more like Jane Austen when I've been watching or reading her.)

8. I am thankful that, even though my house is in desperate need of attention and picking up, I am not freaking out. It will get done. My kids will help. We will all live to tomorrow.

9. I am thankful for HopefulLeigh's posts about "32 Things To Do Before I'm 32." I often feel boxed in by my kids and my kids' schedule that I never make goals for myself, oh-so-sure that any plans for myself will be thwarted, so why bother. But this summer, I feel more free, and I am blessed with the thought that I might actually be able to do something like that.

10. I am thankful that, every night, I get another chance to go to bed on time.

PS, in #5, those things are 1. time with God, 2. laundry, 3. dishes. The rest is frosting and just moves my house further along to where I want it to ultimately be.