Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sickness at Christmas Time, Continued...

Christmas Day was not at all what I had imagined or hoped for or anticipated. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I came down with the stomach bug that had hit the rest of my little family earlier, and spent Christmas Day feeling weak and miserable. I missed out on my favorite day of the year, and it was a sad, sad day.

The good news is that My Hero and Christopher Robin and Peanut Butter were all well, and full of energy and happiness, and able to enjoy the days' festivities. And My Hero came home from Christmas with my parents and siblings and the whole big riotous party that opening presents with all of them is, and filled me in on all the highlights in such a way that I felt like I'd been there.

Our two little boys had a wonderful day, and came home full of sugar and needing bedtime desperately. Then Peanut Butter woke up a couple of hours later to throw up the contents of his little tummy. A stomach still sensitive from recent illness was no match for all the sweet treats his grandpa and great-grandpa let him ingest.

The saddest part of this Christmas season for me was missing out on visiting with my out-of-town siblings. My sister and brother-in-law from Chicago arrived on Friday, the day Peanut Butter introduced the illness to our family. The party that we scheduled on Saturday evening specifically so my sister and her husband could attend was cancelled. The plan to hold it at my best friend's place instead of ours ground to a halt when her little baby girl began vomiting.

Saturday evening Christopher Robin was hit hard with the same illness. Just as Peanut Butter was recovering, really. Sunday morning My Hero stayed home with the boys while I went to participate in the Christmas Sunday morning service at church. My Hero was responsible for the video and words on the screen during the service, and I was part of the worship team, including a special piece two other ladies and I had been practicing for months. We decided he was more easily replaced than I was, and I ended up running MediaShout during part of the service while the visual team's understudy ran it during the music. The service was amazing, and I was so glad I didn't have to miss it. I came home to a husband laying on the floor and two boys wreaking havoc around him. He came down with the stomach bug, and spent Sunday and Monday recovering. Monday evening Peanut Butter and I attended the family Christmas Eve party, hopeful that in the morning we would all be well enough to participate in all of the festivities of Christmas Day. I thought surely if I was going to come down with it, I already would have.

Alas. Life is full of disappointments. Thankfully I slept much of the day, which felt nice, and spent some time being cheered by this:

A book I saw in a bookstore a month or so ago and decided to spend the last of my birthday money on. It's by the author of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a book gifted me by a dear friend with impeccable taste for literature, which proved to be an absolute delicacy from start to finish.

It didn't let me down. This author has such a fun, imaginative style, and I love the way her characters have many sides to them, not just "good" or "bad".

It was a perfect read for a Christmas Day stuck in bed.

My sister and her husband leave tomorrow, so I essentially missed their whole visit, other than seeing them at church and the family Christmas Eve party. Not entirely though. My parents in law flew in yesterday to stay for 6 days, and they encouraged me to take the evening and spend some time with my sister while they took care of the boys and put them to bed. So after supper I went to my parents' house, and we played Bang!, a new game my sister got for Christmas based on a genre of Italian western shows, played much in the style of Mafia. It was a very fun evening spent shooting each other off.

My older brother and his new wife drove in from Connecticut Sunday morning in time for church, so I saw them then and at the Christmas Eve party, but missed all other interaction with them, which was crushing. I was so so looking forward to getting to spend time with them with just our family, playing games, etc. Apparently Christmas evening they had a rip-roaring good time playing Bang! as a family. But they were gone, back to Connecticut, before I was feeling well.

All in all, I'm already looking forward to next Christmas. Surely we can't be sick two Christmases in a row... And telling myself to treasure all the times with family I don't miss out on, and I really am so thankful that I have a family I love so dearly that it kills me to miss Christmas with them.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sickness at Christmastime

Today is the day of the Christmas party. The one I've spent the last week planning, shopping for, cleaning for, and thinking about. It's a gathering of high school friends, mostly, ones that get together usually just once a year or so, from all corners of Maine (and in my sister and brother-in-law's case, from Chicago).

The wrench: Peanut Butter is sick. I can't invite people into a germ-infested home, nor can I pass my still-contagious little boy on to any other family just before Christmas.

So the party will take place at my best friend's house instead. She is amazingly gracious to agree to host the party last minute, but she's one who puts more priority on friendship and time spent together and thoughtfulness than on perfection. I love that about her.

My Hero will stay home with Peanut Butter, and I will go alone to help host the party.

Yesterday Peanut Butter threw up again and again throughout the day. Today his appetite is back somewhat, but he spent the morning laying around, napping on the floor, and snuggling in my lap.

Christopher Robin was fascinated by Peanut Butter's new stunt of napping on the floor.

He decided Peanut Butter needed more than just the one blanket I'd put over him, so he added all he could find from both of their beds, and then began loading toys around him, too.

He felt very useful.

They're both sleeping now, and most of the food is prepared, and, well, there's no pressure now to make sure the house is spotless, so...for the first time in a week, I'm blogging.

EDIT: My best friend called, and her baby girl is sick, so...the party is canceled, and we'll pick a date in January to hold it instead. =sigh=

On another topic, the Fall Into Reading book club is officially over, and I did NOT finish. When I realized it was December and I had three books to go, I gave a tremendous effort, but December, this December, has held very little time for reading except just before bed, and my eyes just don't stay open like they used to. I wrote reviews of the books as I finished, though, so I plan to post them in a day or two, for the three of the five books I did finish. I hated to fail, and miss my goal, but it just wasn't as much of a priority to me as making a tree skirt for my tree and planning refreshments for the party, and pushing all the projects and busyness aside at least once a day for some relaxed fun time with the boys, usually including the reading of books, which I really think is Green Bean's absolute favorite pass time. Oh, and trying to think through a meal plan for the week after Christmas...my in-laws are coming to visit, which will be a wonderful treat, especially for the boys! They've been sending a Christmas package to them each week of December, because the giant wrapped box they sent home with us in October simply wasn't a big enough expression of their love and adoration for their grandsons. They're so generous.

And I've been talking with Christopher Robin about Christmas Day, and all that will take place on that day, and his eyes get shiny and his smile grows involuntarily as he anticipates the day's delights. I love that we have small children of our own at Christmastime. Even when they get sick the day before our Christmas party.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Ordeal

When I heard the thud I didn't know it was any different from a hundred other bumps and falls he has throughout the day. When I heard the intensity of his cry and saw him writhing, I knew he was hurt badly. I picked him up quickly and blood streamed in his eyes from the gash in his forehead. As the bleeding slowed, we saw clearly that we would be making a trip to the emergency room that evening for some stitches.

Christopher Robin and Peanut Butter had been playing happily together. Christopher Robin had a plastic sword and a plastic golf club, and he was using the two to chase and "capture" Peanut Butter, knocking him to the floor and landing on top of him. Rough play, but accompanied by laughter and giggles from both of them. Such play is refreshing to watch after endless hours of competing and fighting over toys and complaining about each other. I should have known it would end badly. Such fun, rough play rarely finds reason to stop until someone gets hurt. The final chase and capture knocked Peanut Butter into a jutting corner wall, forehead and wall colliding, tender skin giving way.

We packed the boys in the car, and decided to drop Christopher Robin off at my parents' house on the way, if they'd have him. They willingly took him in and sympathetically wished us well. They experienced the ordeal of taking a toddler for stitches numerous times when I was young...my forehead bears the scars. I'm not terribly coordinated, and apparently when I was young I did foolish things like run with my hands in my pockets. Christopher Robin has inherited my lack of grace, though, while Peanut Butter has been sturdy on his legs since he first pulled himself up. Yet Peanut Butter has had two significant injuries, while Christopher Robin, in spite of hundreds of bumps and bruises, has never been seriously hurt. I wonder if it's coincidence, or if it's because of Peanut Butter's strength and intensity about things. Christopher Robin sort of flops about, while Peanut Butter is all drive.

Peanut Butter is so strong in his opinions and so determined to have things his way that the nurses struggled mightily to swaddle him in the sheet that traps his arms and legs and holds him still. He was so angry about the treatment he was getting, that I had handed him over to strangers, STRANGERS, people he has always been absolutely opposed to, and they were insisting that he not move, that his furious wails began long before he felt any pain. His anger turned to fear and confusion when they shone a bright light in his eyes, and the shots of anesthesia, that actually were terribly painful, turned his crying to tears of the betrayed. That was certainly the hardest part for me to bear. After the pain was gone and the stitching began he sunk into resigned, exhausted whimpering. The whole ordeal lasted no longer than ten minutes, but I longed with my whole being to have him back in my arms, snuggling him close, knowing it was all over.

I always wonder how such an ordeal can fade so quickly in his memory. Why doesn't he hold it against me? Why doesn't it erode his trust, that I willingly took him through this ordeal, let strangers hold him down and hurt him. Probably, truthfully, it has eroded his trust somewhat. I won't be able to take him back into the hospital to have the stitches removed with the same ease we took him the first time. He knows what I'm capable of, that I won't protect him from the things those people in blue decided to do to him. When he's older, I can explain it all to him. For now, he accepts that I'm his mama, and his attachment to me is far stronger than any ten minute betrayal could wear through.

They gave me the option to leave during the stitching, looked at me like they expected that I should, but I knew I could handle it. My Hero was sitting in the chair behind me, and I was standing with my hand on Peanut Butter's small round shoulder. As the doctor pulled tight the second stitch, though, the familiar black edges began to frame my vision, and my stomach felt tight and uncomfortable. I fought it for a minute; it frustrates me that my head can take it all in with calmness, but my body reacts in a way I can't control. Then I switched places with My Hero before I fainted. By the time they finished the third stitch and completed the job, I was fine, and so glad to hold my sweaty, tear drenched baby boy.

The gash looks much better pulled together in a neat, straight line. It's healing nicely. Christopher Robin is fascinated by the idea of stitches. He had a wonderful time at Grammie and Grampa's, but he often brings up the subject of Peanut Butter going to the hospital to get stitches, and asks question after question about it. I'm so glad he wasn't there to be scarred by the wails. If it's ever his turn to go, he has nothing to associate it with yet, unless he can tell just by looking at it that it would hurt. And I really don't think he can.

The other detail that was important to the story from my perspective is that I had just bought a new sweater and little brown corderoy pants for Peanut Butter that day, and had put them on him to make sure they fit. I envisioned him wearing them to Christmas parties, and was pleased how well they fit when I tried them on him. I left them on him for a few minutes while he played, and one of my first thoughts when his forehead was gushing blood was (how terrible am I??) to protect his new sweater. I even considered changing his clothes before going to the hospital, but I had never done this before, and the bleeding stopped so quickly I was afraid the wound would start to scab if we didn't get him there right away, and then they'd have to break it open to pull the skin together. That didn't happen, but it probably would have been messier to try to change his clothes than to keep him in them. When we returned home from the hospital I was relieved to find that the drop of blood on his sweater washed out nicely, as did the drops of blood on our light gray carpet. I really don't think such things should even register on my mind when a tragedy happens, but alas...some things are clearly just too important to me.

Here's the little boy 24 hours after the incident:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gifts

52. Placing silver spoons beside glossy white bowls, an act of worship, not a mundane chore.

53. Homemade chicken noodle soup. Chunky noodles, savory spices, tender vegetables. Enough for two suppers made in one afternoon.

54. Feeling the confusing mix of laughter and frustration as kitten Tuttles knocks ornaments off the tree, across the carpet, down the stairs to shatter at the bottom.

55. The look of satisfaction on Green Bean's face when his aunt, my little sister, reads him books, and books upon books, willing to correct herself when Green Bean tells her "you read wrong words" because she said it differently than Mommy and Daddy do. He is content when structure is followed, books read consistently and predictably.

56. The way Peanut Butter crumples into a heap of tears of sorrow and shattered dreams when he's told "no", again, to playing with the cluster of permanent markers he's learned to reach from our desk drawer by turning a tub upside down and using it as a stool. Every time "no", every time the tragic tears.

57. My mom's willingness to drive up the road and wake My Hero from his deep slumber because I have a flat tire. I could change it myself, except once I get the stubborn lug nuts off, I can't wrench the wheel from the car. My car has a way of melding itself to the tires, and I have to knock it loose in order to pull the flat tire off. I whacked it repeatedly to no avail while I waited for My Hero to show up. Then he whacked it for a while, and it finally gave just after he sent me into the store to ask to borrow a hammer.

58. That my flat tire happened when I had our cell phone on me, on My Hero's day off (Mom only woke him up a few minutes before he planned on getting up), when I did not have our little boys in the car.

59. Our mom's group. A group of six stay at home moms with two common needs, social interaction and time to ourselves. Every other week we meet at one of our homes and visit together and let our kids play, and every other week we take turns watching each other's kids so we can have a few hours to ourselves every so often. I longed for something like this all last year, so this year I partnered with another young mom in my small group, and we made it happen. I'm so thrilled that it's a success!

60. Shopping with the ladies of my small group for Christmas gifts for a 14 year old girl who lives with her grandparents, who are trying to provide for her and her brother in a tiny house on a small, fixed income (while our husbands shopped for gifts for her brother). Stretching our dollars to buy two outfits, a movie, and a cute rolled pillow in the shape of a puppy with an adorable face. It really felt like loaves and fishes, the way we were able to stretch the money.

61. The quiet first hour of the morning all to myself, darkness turned to soft glow with Christmas tree lights and window candles. I've grown to love this time so much I no longer care to claim my sleep-in day.

62. Green Bean's cheery, scratchy fist words of the morning voice, "Tuttles! There's Tuttles!" Our kitten being showered with our three year old's full attention for several minutes every morning.

63. Soft cheek against mine, long limbs draping over my lap, "I really love you" spoken with fervency. Oh, little boy. I really love you, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pockets

My boy has found his pockets. I now have to remember to check not just my husband's pants pockets before I throw them in the washer. Green Beans pants could hold any kind of precious object, or just something that will affect the state of the whole load of laundry, like a tissue or (horrors) a pen.

Early one morning after Green Bean woke up, he dragged a stool over to the Christmas tree so he could watch the automated Bambi ornament spin, and then he asked to get dressed. That was odd. He had never paid any attention to when he changes from pajamas to day clothes before. And we almost always wait until after breakfast. Mystified, I told him he would have to wait until after Peanut Butter woke up, because to go in the bedroom while Peanut Butter was sleeping would certainly wake him. Then Green Bean's reasoning became clear; "I want pants with pockets," he said.

Green Bean's favorite item to pocket is his daddy's cell phone. That way he has it on him at all times, and he loves to go around the house taking pictures with it. He has figured out that by pushing "Okay" twice he can take a picture of anything, and his photography skills have dramatically improved with practice. The phone's photo gallery first was filled with lots of black, blank pictures, because he paid no attention to lighting and got too close to the object he was trying to capture. But now the gallery is filled with colors and random snapshots of family members doing ordinary daily things. My Hero is glad he spends so much time taking pictures instead of pushing all sorts of buttons that change the entries in his "phone book" from, say, "Dad's cell" to "Dad's cellffffffhhh". It's risky to let him play with our cell phone, you say? Yes, it is. But Green Bean knows never to push the green button, and he obeys. He has pushed it once or twice, whether accidentally or on purpose, and the cell phone is taken away for a while, but he loves playing with it too much to make that mistake often.

Other things he has put in his pocket:
-a small purple stone given to him by the kind lady who does "Story Time" at the library
-all of our pens ("They won't all fit," I predicted. Why do I say things like that? He continued sticking them in one by one until they were all in there.)
-all of our chopsticks, which stick out of his pocket in the same manner as the pens
-my hair elastic
-a penny

He reminds me of Tom Sawyer and all the boys in that book by Mark Twain. It's a boy thing to do, fill one's pockets with treasures. And he's my boy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How My Hero Makes Me Proud

My Hero applied for a promotion.
After a month and a half, he recieved a call for an interview.
He interviews well, and received a call for a second.
Then he recieved a call to drive to a distant store to walk through it with all the upper management from the district, critiquing the store, explaining what was good and what needed to be changed. That, he said, was harrowing.
Now we wait.

Cons:
The new management position is in a store 1 1/2 hours away. That's an hour more each way than he travels now. That means two hours less family time each work day. Or less sleep.

Pros:
It's in a store that is running smoothly and well run. Not a problem store like several closer ones to us. He's been spending the last 8 months in a "challenging" situation, and while he has appreciated the challenge and grown tremendously from it, I think a less stressful situation is now in order.

The store manager is said to be a wonderful person. She's the one he'd be working with directly, so that's really important. Some people, we've learned, no matter how carefully you handle them, make you feel like bashing your head against a wall.

The salary would be 1 1/2 times what he's making now. That's a beautiful thought. Financial goals like saving for college and putting 15% into retirement and paying off our house early and having more to give...all suddenly more easily attained.

The position would put him in place to more easily transfer to a closer store when a position opens up. He'd be a step ahead of his current position, and more likely to be chosen.

*********************************
He was told, after the walk through the store with upper management, that he would hear in a day or two whether or not he got the promotion. So after three days of not hearing a thing, we had to assume the position was given to the other guy. I hadn't realized just how much I'd adjusted my thinking already to accommodate the new position...I had to re-adjust my thinking to accepting that nothing was changing in the near future, and we needed to keep on going for the long haul. And then he found out that (and this happens so often with his company I should learn not to believe anything he comes home telling me, but then what do you believe?) the person who told him he'd hear in a day or two didn't know what they were talking about, and that the decision was passed on to the district vice president first, and he decides or gives his input or whatever, and in 2 or 3 weeks we'll hear the final decision.
Since I've already started counting on it once, and then had to retrain my thinking, this time around I'm holding the final decision much more loosely. From our perspective the pros far outway the cons, but our perspective is pretty limited, and the one con is a big one. I'm content to leave the final decision in God's hands, and that's how I've been praying about it.
Either way, I'm so proud of my husband. He always ROCKS interviews. He's good at thinking on his feet (he balances me out that way. He: strong ability. Me: completely inept.) He has a strong work ethic, natural people skills, and acquired management skills. Three years ago he was a night receiver stocking shelves. And whether or not he gets the promotion (ahead of his own ambitious time-table), the final interview step of walking the store with all the big dogs was a tremendously good learning experience, and next time he's faced with it, he'll have the confidence of having done it before and knowing what's expected of him.
He makes me proud, and I am so blessed.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Photograph

I decided to attempt a Christmas card photograph yesterday. I hung a blanket on the wall that was lighted by indirect outdoor light (sunlight, only it was cloudy). Then I explained to Green Bean what I was going to do. He was already in a touchy mood as he always is when he wakes up from his nap, and he has grown to dislike being photographed (my own fault, for sure.) I insisted on his cooperation, and he melted into tears, when to my relief I saw My Hero's car pulling into the driveway. I'm not sure why I thought I'd be able to do it without him, actually. He talked to the boys and helped me get them in position, and then was the clown who made them smile and laugh over and over while I snapped pictures. Twice or three times I hit the on/off button instead of the snapshot button, and after almost each of My Hero's crazy antics Peanut Butter would stand up and try to go to him, but through teamwork and a little magic dust we got one or two good ones.











The one we settled on:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Explaining God

I feel weak and foolish in my attempts to teach my children about God. I hesitate, not wanting to oversimplify, to cheapen the truth, yet wondering how much a three year old can grasp of the interaction between us and God. How do I describe someone he can't see, but Who is always here? "Where's Jesus?" he asks. "He's here with us. He's everywhere." Does that melt into meaninglessness in his mind? "God made us, He made everything." Is that also a comment he shrugs off, because he can't see God, or sense Him with any of his senses? Does he understand that we're talking to the King of the Universe when we pray with him before bed? Or does it strike him as a mere recounting of our day, and other words he doesn't understand.

I know in time his understanding will broaden, and I think it's important to begin to teach him now, but I really am concerned that these phrases that are over his head...he'll just form a habit of tuning them out...not trying to understand.

Like I did. I'd read the stories printed on the Sunday School bulletins, but skip over the verses at the end. I'd read the stories printed by Christian children's publishers, but skip the morals at the end. I even felt a little guilty, knowing that was supposed to be the most important part, but the truth was, I'd heard it all before and it bored me.

I suppose there's no way to totally avoid that behavior. And I think the truest and best antidote is to keep our love for God as much an action as possible. Not just holding off the opening of gifts until we've read the Christmas story, but finding ways to give gifts of ourselves to needy people. Putting our faith into action as much as possible, to stir up the questions and make them want to know why we do what we do, and how God has called us to live so differently.

I want Green Bean and Peanut Butter to know that the reason they must treat each other with kindness, gentleness, and respect is because that's what makes God happy. But I don't want them to equate God with a supernatural judge who watches over their actions and smiles at the good and frowns at the bad.

We began a Jesse Tree this Christmas, and once again, it feels a little over Green Bean's head (Peanut Butter doesn't even slow his spinning steps long enough to notice what we're doing, and it's certainly well beyond anything he's interested in). I attempt to simplify the stories, explain them in his words after I read them from scripture. I still feel like it's so far from anything he sees or knows that he can't be getting it very well. But he points to one of the ornaments and asks me to read about it again. So I flip to the passage and read it. He likes me to read to him from the Bible, and asks me to quite often. That's something. And now he picks up my Bible and "reads" it himself. It must sound like a bunch of gibberish when I read to him, because when he reads it his stories are just words from the world he knows. "And I ride my firetruck, and play with numbers and letters, and go over there, and my coloring books, and Peanut Butter cries, and..." On and on. Only last time he read, he added "The Lord" to his sentences. "The Lord is happy we color in our coloring books..."

I pray. And hope they both see, as they grow, a genuine love for our Creator in my own heart, and in my actions. Little by little, he'll grasp it. And the ultimate choice belongs to his own heart. Who will he serve. I will pray, and live, and do all I can, but all-knowing, all-loving God will direct his life, order the circumstances that shape his perspective, and draw him to Himself.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Glimpses of Christmas

Christmas. The cozy evenings warmed by a thousand tiny lights, hot cocoa stirred with striped peppermint, gift lists exchanged, candles flickering their illumination on the hobbies and interests dearest to loved ones hearts. Anticipation building...only 18 days until my sister and her husband come to stay for a week. And a surprise gift, my older brother and his wife, newly wed, spending their first Christmas together with us. Joy and excitement building with each Christmas, as our children grow old enough to understand and anticipate the Day. Traditions becoming dearer as they set a mold in our children's hearts. The process of decorating becoming more...interesting and hazardous with two hands-on young boys enthusiastically helping. "I've never seen so many ornaments broken in a single day," in the words of My Hero.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Amazing Grace

Last week My Hero and I watched Amazing Grace, the film about William Wilberforce's battle to end slavery in England. I highly recommend it. It's rare these days to watch a film that captures me heart and soul...where I can identify with the main character, and admire and respect him, and wholeheartedly agree with his goals. The main characters in most movies I've seen lately have little or no moral fiber. Or are just unrealistic heros, like Jack Bauer in 24, which is actually my favorite TV series ever, I think. And the romantic comedies, which used to be my favorite genre, I almost always have to set aside my actual views of life and how it should be lived in order to attempt to enjoy the story of two divorced people, or sometimes one who is married, or always they're in a relationship of some kind, "finding" each other...and generally the only form of attraction they have for each other is beauty, and shared circumstances, and some sort of emotional connection. I find it mildly entertaining from time to time, but the ones that grab me and suck me in are stories about struggle, and giving oneself to something truly valuable, and the love stories I like to watch are ones where there's an attraction based on beauty of character (Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice).

Well. This post was going to be about how I saw such a correlation between the slavery issue of a few generations ago, and the abortion issue today. It gave me a renewed sense of hope that change for the good is possible. It showed me that a nation's moral code is not necessarily always disintegrating...it can be built back up.

I was struck by how inane the arguments for slavery sounded. How could they have allowed it? I wondered. How could they not see how barbaric it was? They justified slavery with arguments of "We're actually giving them a better life," and "If we weren't doing it, France would do it and prosper instead of us" and "We have no evidence to show that the Negroes themselves have any objection to the slave trade." And the primary issue that made most of England's leadership want to keep slavery legal was the money involved. It was so lucrative.

I think while many people uphold the abortion option as a convenience (as I'm sure having slaves to do the housework was a convenience to many a British housewife), I'm also convinced that government funding of abortion related causes such as Planned Parenthood is the primary motivation for the big powerful abortion supporters fighting so passionately to keep abortion legal.

Our eyes have been opened since Roe vs. Wade, though. Now we can see inside the uterus, now we can keep tiny humans alive in the earliest stages of development. Now the line between life and unborn is blurring, fading...not even there? Our eyes are open. The facts are there. The truth is out. Now we just need a William Wilberforce and an army of people behind him to fight for good to prevail, to fight against the unjust, cruel destruction of these tiny innocent persons.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Didn't Know

"I was blindsided," he said. "I didn't know about any of this."

He stood before the people, telling his story.

"Unlike [the man before me], I wasn't raised in a Christian home. I didn't know. My wife and I joined a financial class because we wanted to learn how to get out of debt. We had no idea the rest of the group would be Christians. My wife and I talked about wanting our kids to learn about God..." He explained how they came to church the first time, unknowing. And were blown away. They'd never been so welcomed. They'd never known the Truth. They've been coming to our church for several months now, and he joined a small group. Last Sunday as part of our service we had a memorial for an elderly, godly woman, mother of two older ladies in our church. And our pastor talked about how God is all powerful, so we are secure, and can rest. Sunday evening in his small group, this man gave his life to Christ.

This Sunday he told us about it. He and another man who chose to surrender himself to Christ last week.

The man before him told of his long, difficult, bitter journey. About how he was raised a Christian and felt pressure to claim a faith that he knows now wasn't genuine. How a few years ago in pain and frustration he swore never to darken the door of a church again. About the prayers of his wife and God's work in his heart, how he came to this baby church and how his eyes were opened last week to God's mercy, God's loving arms wrapping him in security, not measuring him to a standard he could never reach.

An awesome story of God's hand working in a man's life, through the complexities of bitterness and disillusionment and misconceptions. But the second man's story was so simple in contrast. "I hadn't heard. I didn't know." That's all that was keeping him from God. He hadn't heard. Invite him in. Show him love. He wanted to know. He wanted to follow. How many others in our community feel that way? How many will choose to believe if they could just hear, just taste a little bit of His love?

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matthew 9:36-38

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Why I Want to Homeschool

I found this article the other day, and it rang true in every corner of its arguments. It matters to me because, although my boys aren't school-age yet, I already see myself as their educator, and we've begun taking excursions into the exciting, scary world of academics.

A year ago I dreaded the thought of Green Bean reaching school age and us having to decide where to send him. Both My Hero and I were open to all the options, but I had no sense of which would be better or right for our son. Then I found this website and realised that if I did it myself, I could provide my sons with an education superior to my own (which I think was very good; I had a lot of excellent teachers throughout elementary and high school). I was filled, and still am, with a passion and excitement to take charge of their education and teach them in a systematized, logical, progressional way. An area of weakness in my own education was that as I switched from teacher to teacher much of my knowledge was fragmented. I didn't know how to put it all together as a whole, especially in areas such as history and science. I think with the big picture in mind, studying the history of the world chronologically three times, each time becoming more in-depth, my boys should have a much firmer grasp of what happened when and what fits where. I feel like education that is done badly is a supreme waste of time. I sat through some college courses in which I learned next to nothing. If I can make their learning time productive, active, and logical, I feel like they will come away with a much fuller, richer understanding of their world, how it works, and where they fit in. And of course I get to remain their main source of authority on moral and spiritual truths, which gives me peace and puts a fire under my pants at the same time.

But when people ask me where I plan to send my boys to school, I find myself reluctant to admit that I've decided to home school them. I feel like there's a strong bias against homeschooling, a lot of preconceived ideas about what it is...not among my immediate family, thankfully, but many of my acquaintances. And I know sometimes homeschooling is done badly, in which case the kids are not at an advantage. But I just felt this article expressed articulately, something I often feel incapable of doing, all my reasoning behind wanting to home school my boys. It's nice to have that choice affirmed so intelligently.

I give thanks to You, O God

34. Mentors, all around me, showing me how to live, teaching me ways to do my job better, deepening my thinking, spurring me on toward love and good deeds.

35. Stories of God's grace to past generations: the parting of the Red Sea in the nick of time for a people who had packed up everything and followed God in faith that He would lead them to a better place.

36. David, young and unacknowledged, slaying Goliath with just a slingshot - the mighty courage God gave him that day.

37. Daniel's rock hard faith when faced with a choice, stop praying to God publicly or be thrown alive to ravenous lions.

38. Christ's unmatchable sacrifice, borne from unfathomable love for us undeserving selfish people.

39. Augustine's transformation, and his mother's unwavering prayers for him when his repentence seemed an impossibility.

40. My older brother's life change - grace, where my own heart had almost ceased to hope.

41. Abraham Lincoln's humble leadership, and his Emancipation Proclamation.

42. William Wilberforce's exhausting fight to end slavery in England, and the victory God gave him before he died.

43. Hope, that the same social reform might be possible to stop the obviously cruel inhumanity of abortion.

44. Thomas Edison's lifetime of dedication and sacrifice to find ways to introduce new improvements into our lives, especially the light bulb.

45. Those who figured out how to pave roads.

46. Those who contributed to figuring out how to bring running water into individual homes, and how to make it warm.

47. Luis Pasteur, and all who contributed and contribute to finding cures for diseases.

48. Vaccines - that most illnesses my boys come down with give me little worry or concern for their lives.

49. A job that challenges, demands my best, and fills me with purpose, hopes, goals, passion.

50. A washing machine and laundry detergent that allow me to drop soiled undies, sheets, and blankets in, push some buttons, wait a half hour, and pull them out smelling clean.

51. The knowing that all the material things I'm thankful for, I don't need one. He is all I need, and if I lose the whole world I will never lose Him. And so many who have gone before me, who have lost everything, count that occurrance as some of the sweetest moments of their lives, the closest to God they have ever been. How much hope is there in that? What have I to fear?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Applesauce

It was the perfect morning.

It began the day before...the sunshine so strong and bright it was almost warm Monday afternoon, and a tree full of apples beckoning irresitably. Sunday afternoon Dad showed me bags of apples he and the boys had found in an untended apple tree in their field. Red apples, crispy and sweet. Most years they stay green and sour, inedible. Hundreds more, he said. He invited me to come make applesause with them Sunday evening, and as we we washed and my brother cut out the bad spots and Dad and I sliced and boiled, then began the straining, I knew I wanted to make a batch of my own.

Monday afternoon Green Bean and Peanut Butter bundled up in layers of soft heavy clothing, I headed to Mom and Dad's for a trek through the fields to gather my own apples. "You can have some of ours," Dad said, home for his lunch break. "How many do you want?" "Lots," I said. Green Bean helped me fill a bag from Dad's big box on the porch, but I wanted to gather some from the trees myself. I didn't want the half hour I spent bundling up my boys to be for nothing. "Do you have a ladder?" Dad asked. No, and if I did I wouldn't be able to carry it. "Do I need one?" I asked. "Yes, probably. We gathered all the good ones from the ground." Pause. "But there are other trees we didn't even look at. You might find more." I felt sure I would, so I borrowed their wheelbarrow, and with Peanut Butter in a backpack on my back and Green Bean resting comfortably in the wheelbarrow, we started off through the fields. Three fields away, the trees were. Oy. "Could you walk a little?" I asked Green Bean as I pushed achingly through the long grass. "We're almost there." I got him out and with a lightened load and renewed determination pushed the last 20 feet. Green Bean began to cry. Twenty feet was too far to walk. "You can do it," I assured him, and began looking around the ground under the different trees. Green Bean made it, but I was finding only deer tracks around each apple tree. Apparently they're enjoying the apples this year, too. Finally I set Peanut Butter down in the backpack and climbed in one of the trees to shake the branches. Apples dropped and tumbled willingly. I shook, then gathered a good bag. Another tree, taller, with stronger limbs that were harder to shake, but with a little more effort I had knocked a good number to the ground. I gathered them up to the cries of Green Bean and Peanut Butter. Funny how I was doing ALL of the work, but they were the ones complaining. I remember feeling the same way, though, outside in the cold on one of Dad's escapades when I was young. We (I) had gathered two big bags of apples, which is all the wheelbarrow would hold with Green Bean riding in it. So I shouldered Peanut Butter's backpack and loaded Green Bean into the wheelbarrow with the apples spilling around him, and began the backbreaking treck back through the fields.

I had promised Green Bean that these apples were for making applesause, but by the time we got home from gathering them it was time to make supper and my energy level was near empty. "Tomorrow," I said.

Yesterday morning I breezed through the daily chores, put Peanut Butter down for his first nap, and Green Bean and I began making applesauce.


Sinks full of apples...free! A gift from the Father, unearned, undeserved...makes this home economist's heart sing.

The line from Ann Voskamp's recent blog kept running through my head.

"Everything I dreamed of, right before my eyes."

My two boys, my own kitchen, making applesauce aided by an eager helper. The tangy sweet smell of apples cooking. The first snow of the season falling softly outside, painting the world in white. Words of life filling our home with truth and wisdom, instructing my heart, enlarging my soul. Also free. Another priceless gift.



Six quarts of pink, tangy homemade applesauce packed in the freezer for yearlong enjoyment.

Big bowl of applesauce in the fridge for this week's pleasure.

A heart full of gratitude, for all God has given.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Struck Dead

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a shocking one. They lied and said the money they donated to the church was the whole amount from the field they sold, and God struck them dead. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.

It seems inconsistent. Most of us have told a half-truth or a lie sometime in our lives, and we're still here.

I wonder if this was an important part of the beginning of His Church. A lesson to all the believers, then and now, that God in all His grace still does not tolerate sin. A sharp example to us all of how God could react when we take his calling lightly and sink into self-service. It makes it easier to fear God, knowing that sometimes He chooses to mete out justice as soon as it's deserved.

We serve a God who hates sin and loves justice. That should make us tremble.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Day in the Life of ...

5:00 Wake up to alarm. Scoop up Tuttles the kitty and hold as I make coffee. Sit on couch and read the last chapter of Matthew with Tuttles purring desperately in my lap. He was shut out of my bedroom last night because Green Bean was in my bed in the middle of the night with an earache, and Tuttles kept trying to lick him, and it really bothered Green Bean. So now Tuttles is desperate for human companionship.

5:25 Go into my bedroom to give Green Bean his milk to help him stop coughing. He complains about his ear again (his very first ear infection??) and wants to go back to his own bed. I carry him quietly into his bedroom so as not to wake Peanut Butter, and come back out to sit at the computer.

5:35 Begin a post that ends up taking almost an hour to complete. Blow past my 6:00 deadline, but Green Bean is still sleeping after the long sleepless night, so I let myself.

6:25 Make my bed, change into workout clothes, plug in the blue nightlight that tells Green Bean when he wakes up that it's okay to get up now. Turn on Dave Ramsey commercial free podcast to listen to while I excercise. Turn on workout video.

6:30 Decide it would be fun to chronicle my day, so pause the exercising to begin this post.

6:43 Resume workout, 43 minutes behind schedule.

6:50 Both boys wake up. Green Bean sits on the couch with his library books, and I give Peanut Butter some breakfast in his high chair. Excercising resumes.

7:25 I head to the shower while Green Bean plays his "Elmo Game" and Peanut Butter empties the bathroom cupboard drawers.

7:40 Clean and dressed, I grab a bowl of cereal and decide to make pumpkin muffins for breakfast / snack. Take Green Bean potty, change Peanut Butter's diaper, and get them both dressed.

8:10 Put muffins in the oven, empty the dishwasher with Peanut Butter's help. Yes, he's only 15 months. He stands on the door and hands me dishes from the shelves. "Herey'go!"

8:20 Put Peanut Butter down for nap #1.

8:50 Finish cleaning the kitchen and feeding muffins to Green Bean.

9:00 Clean the bathtub.

9:05 Choose clothes for work tonight for My Hero while bathtub cleaner does its work.

9:15 Get Peanut Butter up from his nap. Rinse bathtub and finish cleaning bathroom.

9:35 My Hero's home!! Listen to work stories, talk about things together as he eats breakfast, feed Peanut Butter some muffins, make up a batch of baby wipes, clean up breakfast/snack mess.

10:25 My Hero goes to bed. Begin a list of family birthdays and anniversaries for my new sister in law.

10:45 Get a call from my mom, wondering if I have any extra pumpkins...hers are all too frozen from being outside, and she wants to make a pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin for Thanksgiving. Yes, yes I do! And I haven't done anything with them yet... She stops by a few minutes later and picks one that looks promising.

11:00 Read a few books to my boys.

11:15 Send some e-mails to gather information for my birthdays and anniversaries list I'm compiling.

11:30 Join the little boys in their bedroom and play and read books together.

12:00 Put both boys down for a nap. Try to decide if I should use this sunny day naptime for hauling dirt in a wheelbarrow to fill my retaining wall in front of our house or for cooking up pumpkin to freeze and use for pumpkin pie. I guess...it'll be hauling dirt. Who knows how many more tolerably warm sunny days I'll have before winter sets in and the ground is too frozen to dig dirt anymore. I'd love to get the walls filled in and some tulip bulbs planted before winter. Although it's already late for planting tulip bulbs.

12:07 Receive an e-mail from Charlie Lehardy informing me that he has linked to me on his blog. Sunshine bursts from the clouds and radiates my spirits. My humble ramblings honored with a link from his thoughtful, intelligent blog. Thank you.

12:10 I hear voices outside my window. I look out and see my dad and younger brother outside, nearing the front steps. It's one of my favorite things about living near family...unexpected visits. Dad is putting up the mailbox for my grandparents, who have a house newly built across the street from mine and plan on moving into it next Wednesday. He uses my phone to discuss with Mom just where he should put it. He talks about doing our gardens together next year, and about seed prices.

12:30 I head outside and haul dirt with my wheelbarrow to fill my retaining walls. I get more done than I expect to.

1:45 Boys wake up, and I hurry to put away the wheelbarrow and shovel, go inside and wash my hands, then give them lunch. Leftover casserole from last night's supper. It's one they both liked.

2:00 I get lunch for myself as the boys eat. Leftover chicken taco. Mmmm.

2:22 I decide to search the internet for how to cook pumpkin.

2:35 I think I'll try cooking pumpkin in the microwave and baking it in the oven, and see which method I like better.

3:30 I interrupt my pumpkin cooking to give a snack to the boys. I also get the playdough down from the cupboard for the boys to play with.

4:15 I interrupt my pumpkin cooking to put Peanut Butter down for nap #3.

4:25 I interrupt my pumpking cooking to make supper.

5:10 Green Bean and I go wake up My Hero.

5:30 Green Bean and My Hero go wake up Peanut Butter.

5:40 We all sit down to supper together.

6:10 I clean up the supper dishes while My Hero reads to us from Exodus. I bit off more than I should have with the pumpkin cooking. It's still in progress, and it has made a huge mess of my kitchen, and I don't have a lot of energy left. My Hero plays and has "rough time" with the boys while I clean the kitchen.

7:00 I finish cleaning up the kitchen and freezing the pumpkin. I take the garbage out and pick out clothes for the boys to wear to church tomorrow. Green Bean is outgrowing his 3T shirts, so I take down the 4T ones I've been buying and storing for such a time as this. It's easier to choose something to wear tomorrow from a new batch of shirts.

7:30 I empty the kitty litter box and give Tuttles fresh water.

7:45 My Hero says goodbye and leaves for work. I put Peanut Butter in his pajamas while Green Bean reads Green Eggs and Ham beside me. Green Bean begins One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and I read it with him. I put Green Bean in his pajamas, and get the toothbrushes.

8:00 After brushing teeth, I enlist the boys to speedily pick up their toys around the house. Green Bean cooperates; Peanut Butter climbs in a chair, rips several pages off of my magnetic notepad, and gets a measuring cup out of a drawer before I find him and stop the madness.

8:10 The house is (fairly) clean, the kids are in bed, and I'm exhausted. I update my birthdays and anniversaries list with the information my sister and my mom sent me in e-mails during the day. Just waiting for my brother to reply. It could be a while.

8:47 Time to relax. With some hot cider and a book. Goodnight.

Like Butter Over Too Much Bread

I found a new system for keeping the house clean. It comes directly from Rockin' Granola's description of how she keeps hers clean.

Becoming a member of the blogging world has exposed me to women I want to emulate as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker, as a child of God. I could never have predicted I would be so challenged to change my habits or humble my heart.

I made my own list, to fit my own home, and for the last seven days have been trying to keep up with it. I've done fairly well, and I LOVE how clean all over the house is. My goal for at least a year has been to keep my house in consistent orderliness and cleanliness so that when someone stops by unexpectedly, I'm not embarrassed to let them in. I've been slowly gaining ground in the area of clutter, which has been my major focus. The house almost always looks good by the end of the day after the kids are in bed, but stop by in the middle of most days and you won't believe that it was clean just a few hours ago. Whenever we have friends or family over, we clean thoroughly, and we generally have people over at least once a week. Over the years that we've been married and had our own place, having guests over is what keeps us on top of the clutters and messes. Go a few weeks without inviting anyone to come, and the place would be, well, like my bedroom when I was a child.

I guess I'm growing up. The thing I kept running into as life with two little boys keeps me busier than ever, is that I wouldn't have time in the hour or two before people arrived, to clean everything that had been neglected. Dusting, cleaning the front of the refrigerator, washing the kitchen floor, washing the windows, the sticky kitchen chairs, the grimy build-up in the kitchen sink, etc. There's not always time to do all those things before guests arrive, and My Hero, who generally helps me during that hour or two before people arrive, doesn't see most of the things listed above as critical anyway, and urges me to forget about them.

That's why the list of daily cleaning is such a great idea. Breaking the tasks up into a few each day keeps the house generally clean, each area being cleaned at least once a week keeps things from getting really grimy.

But, and it's just the first week, so I'm sure I'll get faster, but when I spend the time to do the cleaning on my list every day, I don't have much time left for anything else. In my head I visualize myself flitting quickly around the kitchen with a wipe in my hand doing a once-over to the front of the microwave, dishwasher, fridge, oven in about three minutes. Reality sees me getting a wipe and starting on the fridge, only to be interupted by Green Bean who would like me to get his puzzle for him. I get the puzzle down and resume wiping when I notice Peanut Butter has found a permanent marker. I take the marker away and hear the dryer buzz, so I bring Peanut Butter with me to the dryer to help me take the laundry out and distract him from wailing about the marker. After I finish folding laundry the kids are hungry and it's snack time. I get them their snacks, then grab the wipe and resume wiping the fridge. Peanut Butter needs milk, so I open the fridge, grab his sippy cup, and bring it to him. Then pour a small cup of milk for Green Bean. By this time Peanut Butter is done his snack and standing in his high chair, so I wipe him down, let him run and play, clean his tray, then wipe Green Bean's hands and face, clean up Green Bean's snack mess, put everything away, and if I'm still thinking about it, go back to my three minute job.

I look at my list and wonder why it's so hard to get it done, then I think about what life with two small boys is really like.

And a clean house is only one of my goals, and not necessarily the most important one.

I make time to read to the boys every day, but I'd love to read more, and I want to make reading poetry to them part of our daily routine. It just hasn't fit in yet. Somehow.

I want to spend time daily doing learning things, weekly activities from Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready and more with learning numbers and letters with Green Bean, which this spring I was doing with him daily, but summer hit and schedules changed and it no longer happens. I want to homeschool these little guys, and I can't imagine how I'll ever stay on top of everything when I'm dedicating whole sections of my days to education!

I just wonder what I'm doing wrong. How I can be the homemaker I want to be and the mother I want to be without becoming burned out and completely discouraged. I don't want to spend these precious days with my little boys as a stressed out, busy with her own things mother. But I do want to be an example to them of self-discipline and doing my job well. And I do want to educate them as well as I possibly can. I guess all of life will probably a struggle for balance. A struggle to fill my days with the best of things, and trying to weed out time wasters that detract from our overall quality of life. A struggle to put Jesus first and in the midst of all my goals and aspirations, to be flexible enough to hear His voice and respond when He calls me to meet a need.

I guess if prioritizing was easy, everyone would do it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Smell the Roses

My Hero and I were finishing up a movie together during our little boys' naptime yesterday, and before it was over the little guys woke up. Green Bean stumbled out and headed to My Hero's lap while Peanut Butter began wailing from the bedroom, stuck in his crib, unable to follow his big brother. I went to get him, lowering the crib railing and lifting him out, touching his soft warm wake-up cheeks to mine as I brought him back to sit with My Hero and Green Bean and I in our oversized chair to watch the last few minutes of our movie. As the credits scrolled down the screen and Green Bean and Peanut Butter soaked up the notes of music playing, I looked at them and realized...in a few years they won't fit as easily in our laps or snuggle down as willingly in our arms.

There are lots of times I wish these days away...look forward to when they can help with the dishes and dress themselves and even stay home by themselves for a few hours while My Hero and I have some ALONE time... But I'll long for these days sometimes, when they're past, and I'll look back and treasure the memories of warm wake-up cheeks and bright soft eyes and little ones who want most just to be with me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

a shoe box of promise

"Lord, when did we ever see you hungry, and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?"... "I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" Matthew 25:37-40


When I read those words the other morning, God kindled a flame of passion in my spirit, gave me a burning desire to feed and clothe Jesus by doing it for someone in need. But who? Where? When? I've been praying, and keeping my eyes wide open.

Yesterday my best friend described taking her daughter shopping for gifts to fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child, a project that sends shoe boxes of gifts to children who may never have received a gift before. The gifts are given and the truth about Christ's priceless gift to all of us is explained to them.

I'd love to help someone face to face, but this was a start. I explained to Green Bean that we were going shopping today, and that I'd like his help picking out toys for a little boy who doesn't have any. Green Bean liked that idea. His imagination was captured by the thought of a little boy who didn't have any toys in his closet. Shopping for the toys was fun, although Green Bean's choices were not exactly thoughtful or reasonable. "Would he like a bike, Mommy?" "No, sweetheart, we can't get him a bike. Remember, the gifts have to fit inside a shoebox." But when I gave him a choice between a plush puppy and a plush moose, he helped decide on the puppy. Which Peanut Butter then hugged and snuggled for a while in the cart, making the same noises he makes when he's mauling, I mean, snuggling our new kitty, Tuttles.

I wanted to fill the box full of as many truly fun, age appropriate toys as I could without going to a million stores and spending a lot of money. In the end I was proud of the selection we managed to fit in the box, and I kind of feel like an expert on what types of toys a 2-4 year old boy would like to find waiting inside.
Green Bean asked several times this evening if the boy was coming over. We explained to him as well as we could that the boy lives far away and the box will have to travel for a long time to reach him. We showed him the video from Operation Christmas Child's website, and he watched it twice. I think it gave him an idea of what it was about.

It feels like a gift to God Himself. It's certainly not the first time I've ever done anything "for God" or given anything to someone in need. It's just that this time, it all began from a pulsing desire to do something to show God that He's everything to me. That I understand that the gift He gave us of Himself on the cross is worth my everything...any sacrifice. And I feel like my life is terribly self-absorbed and self-serving. And I want to change. He calls me to change. To fail to do so, to fail to reach out and offer food to the hungry and comfort to the sick and lonely, is to call into question whether I've even heard His call at all.

This is a small step of faith. Because our Christmas gift money is carefully budgeted. Because all of our money is fully accounted for. I feel like we have so much, but it all has places to go already. I resist unplanned for giving because it doesn't fit, it isn't planned. But this time, I'll sacrifice something I wanted, or we'll scrape it from somewhere, because my priorities aren't in line with God's just yet, and they need to change.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I need some bread

"I should make some bread," I told myself several times yesterday. This morning, again, I planned it into my day. At some point I should make some bread, since I didn't buy any when I was shopping, and I'd love to make french toast for breakfast. Hours passed, windows were washed and screens taken down, sick toddler cuddled and snuggled, preschool boy guided through "writing exercises" he begged to do, vacuum cleaner was repaired, supper thoughts began to percolate. Pizza. We hadn't made pizza in weeks. I opened the breadmaker to begin the pizza dough, and was greeted by a still, cold loaf of bread sulking in the breakmaker bowl. Shocked, I foggily recalled following through with my "I should make some bread" prompts several days ago, to go along with the homemade chicken noodle soup I made for supper. Only I was gone for the evening when it finished, and My Hero must've just left it, not knowing exactly what it was for.

It's french toast for breakfast tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

a wedding

Settling into routine after two long trips away, back to back, two older brothers married, two brand new sisters in law, I'm full of happiness and contentment about the two celebrations, and grateful to be home with two months of not travelling in a car with two small boys stretching calmly before me.

The first was My Hero's older brother, the second my own older brother marrying his high school sweetheart. They'd lived separate lives for about ten years, then reconnected this summer.

In a way, I feel like he's returned from a long trip abroad. Synonymous with the return to his high school sweetheart was a return to the faith, a humbleness, a spoken desire to live God's way. For ten years I thought he didn't care much about our family. About me, or any of us. Now he's back, and intentionally spends time with us, seeks my dad's advice, brings his sweetheart around to let us know her. It's good. I've missed him.

My younger brother, the one who was born when I was almost 15, was a groomsman, and standing in his tux he looked like a man. He's thirteen, and he's taller than I am now. It's amazing to me watching him grow up.

My younger brother by two years was also a groomsman. He's a police officer in Denver, Colorado. He's the soft, gentle, loving boy with a heart of gold who became a tough, strong, smart man capable of protecting his family, wrestling down criminals, dealing with the scum of the streets. I can't quite put into words how much I admire him.

My youngest brother, the one born when I was away, a freshman in college, is ten. He was also involved in the wedding, passing out the orders of ceremony, escorting my grandparents to their seats. He's so much like my older brother that I keep wondering how similar their paths will be. He utterly refused to participate in the wedding of my younger sister four years ago, because he knew people would tell him how cute he was, and he couldn't tolerate the thought. My mom couldn't even bribe him to do it. This wedding he was glad to have a part in.

My whole family was together this past weekend...my parents and all seven of their children plus spouses. My sister and her husband from Chicago, my little sister from college in New York, my brother and sister in law from Colorado, together with those of us living in New England to celebrate the wedding of my brother who lives in Connecticut. Who knows how long it'll be before we're all together again.

It's a mystery, isn't it, how you can grow up so intimately entwined in each others' daily lives, then grow up and move away, and only intentional effort keeps you together, keeps you close. Otherwise, you become distant memories, separate worlds.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

1,000 gifts

18. A day that goes well...full of love and joy and finished tasks.

19. A suitcase unpacked and clothes put away...a clean bedroom.

20. The end of several days of crankiness and endless hours of LOUD crying. Cheery tones, sparkling, laughing eyes of mischief, a wide grin.

21. Learning something new. "These my thumbs, Mommy?" as Green Bean walks around fists in the air, thumbs wriggling around on top.

22. Butternut squash baked whole, skin browned and glossy, coming out of the oven.

23. Picky eater hungry enough for supper that he impatiently awaits the chicken and mashed potatoes, cleaning his plate without need for prodding.

24. My Hero's inability to fathom that if he just tried the squash, Green Bean would still not like My Hero's favorite vegetable of all time cooked just right. Pathetic protests that, "I don't like squash!" as he reluctantly accepts one spoonful into his mouth, grimaces and swallows it down, shakes his head in recoiling disgust. My Hero's disbelief.

25. New CD of children's songs from Grandma and Grampa. Song #1 played over and over by a three year old who can be taught how to work the CD player remote on his own. "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" repeated, repeated, repeated.

26. This example of listening that showed me clearly that I have selective hearing for God's commands.

27. A warm, fluffy bathrobe for cold mornings and evenings.

28. Green Bean bringing me my slippers unbidden, and the look of joy on his face from my gratitude.

29. "Time for a rough time with me, Daddy?" as My Hero is preparing for a long day's sleep after working all night. "Yes, it's time for a rough time," as he grabs Green Bean and throws him on the bed, growling and shaking him amidst Green Bean's squeals and laughter.

30. The hour of quiet in the morning before anyone else is awake, reading holy words, communing with the High King, reflecting on life, planning the day.

31. Warm coffee releasing fog's clenching fingers from my mind and thoughts.

32. Purring kitten rubbing my feet, jumping on my shoulders, sniffing my coffee.

33. A fresh new day. Although after yesterday's successes and delights, I'm quite sure there's no way this one could measure up.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

We're home again

I'm back! After a week or nearly two of vacation, I'm putting huge amounts of effort into getting back into our routine. Dragging myself out of bed a few minutes ago was one of the hardest things I've done in a while. Every limb and finger is stiff and heavy in protest.

Highlights of our trip:

1. The 20 1/2 hour drive to Illinois. It was our first time driving since we've had kids, and I knew it might get ugly. However, some friends of ours from our small group offered us the use of their minivan with a built in DVD player, and let me tell you, friends, that is the way to travel with toddlers. Green Bean and Peanut Butter rarely watch videos, but since they were going to be strapped down for 20+ hours at a time, I figured we might as well try it and see if it helped the time go by more quickly. We could tell the DVDs were working their magic by the fact that the two minutes it took to switch DVDs were punctuated with moans and whines and fussing.

2. Baby Newton. We ordered it from Netflix before we left. A couple of friends of ours lent us large amounts of kids' videos...Baby Einstein ones, and Veggie Tales, and some Disney. After several Veggie Tales videos we put Baby Newton in...and both boys were instantly riveted. They even laughed out loud at one part. Clearly the videos are designed for kids their age, because My Hero and I couldn't really see the appeal. (I know all the words to the crayon song by heart now, though.) We tried to keep a variety of videos going for the rest of the trip, but most of the time Green Bean just wanted "Nut Flix." Even the other Baby Einstein videos we had were far less preferred than the Netflix. Thank you, Baby Newton.

"Sometimes, when I wanna have some fun,
I draw a picture with crayons
To show everyone..."

3. Grandma and Grampa. Of course. They were so wonderful with the boys. We arrived on Wednesday, and my brother-in-law's wedding was Saturday. So the first few days of our visit were a flurry of preparations and activity. Then Sunday, after the wedding was over and the guests had gone (besides us), Grandma took the boys and spent the day with them while My Hero and I went into Chicago to visit my sister and her husband. Grandpa took Green Bean with him to his pumpkin stand to "help" him, and took him on his combine as he harvested corn, and fascinated both boys with all the farm equipment and produce.

4. Being on the farm in the fall. My Hero's parents live in Illinois; mine live in New England. We'll never be close to both of them at the same time, so we're always torn. We've been longing to visit Illinois during the summer or fall (we take a yearly trip to visit every January, as soon after Christmas as My Hero can be spared from his job), and just haven't been able to afford it. Which is why we chose to drive this time. We were actually really glad that My Hero's brother and fiancee decided to make their wedding date an October day. There's something about fall in Illinois that's warm and beautiful...it's as if harvest time in Illinois is more celebrated than in New England, in spite of our beautiful foliage. I felt it each year we lived there, and again this time during our visit.

5. Picking pumpkins. My in-laws have a pumpkin stand in town, and acres and acres of pumpkins that supply it. My Hero and I volunteered to help pick several times...it's fun work! On Friday, the day before the wedding, we manned the pumpkin stand while my father-in-law built an archway of cornstalks and got the stand ready for the wedding. It was an outdoor wedding held right at the pumpkin stand, with bales of straw as seats for the guests. It was a unique and beautiful setting. The stand was already beautifully decorated with corn stalks and pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. It was a casual wedding, with the bride and groom in jeans, and since both my brother-in-law and his new wife are artsy, they pulled it off with creativity and class.

6. Friends. Tuesday evening was spent with friends. Two couples our age that we hated to leave when we moved to New England. We spend an evening together each time we visit, and it's so much fun.

Also my dear friend and college roommate lives in Chicago, and we hadn't seen each other in probably four years. We recently were back in touch, and it turns out she lives about a mile away from my sister and brother-in-law. So I got to visit her in her apartment for a little while on Sunday. We could've spent hours catching up, I think. Her life seems so glamorous next to mine sometimes. Living in Chicago. Travelling to the ends of the earth every few years. Single and free. It was fun to enter her world for a few minutes.

7. Something I never anticipated, had no inkling would happen...we brought a kitten home with us. I should've known after my post of a few weeks ago about not owning pets and not wanting to that it would all change on me. The farm has a small colony of barn cats, and my sister-in-law's friend found a stray on his doorstep last week and brought it to live on the farm. The stray was a small kitten who spent the next few days rubbing against our legs whenever we were outside, tripping Green Bean up with his friendliness, mewing pitifully. Wednesday as we were packing to leave I joked to My Hero about bringing the kitten home with us. My Hero responded that if we ever did, this one would be the one. I was shocked that he showed any hint of inclination, and after that my heart tugged me towards making the arrangements. A cat is independent, I told myself. Doesn't cost a lot of money. Some, though...he'll need to be fixed. And he'll need cat food. And a litter box. And shots. And probably worm pills.

What made us decide was his personality. He purrs and cuddles anyone who picks him up. He lets Peanut Butter scoop him up in his non-gentle arms and carry him around. He's super tolerant of rough handling by two small boys, and he's a beautiful little kitty.

We named him Tuttles, and he's ours. He survived the 22 hour car ride home by sleeping in one lap after another, and uses the litter box without fail. To be perfectly honest, he did spend several hours of the night prowling all over the van and mewing loudly, making it hard to fall asleep and waking the boys. But I think over all he handled the trip extremely well for a kitten.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two Reasons I'm Thankful

He still has two teeth! His gums have cleared from dark purple and red and white to an almost uniform pink, and his tooth is right where it should be. Miraculous. Thank you for the reassuring words, you who commented. You're right...if he did lose the tooth he'd have an adorable one tooth smile and I'd have a story to tell. (=

His breath smelled awful for a few days. It smelled exactly like my own mouth smelled when I had my wisdom teeth pulled. The smell of blood, I guess. My Hero said he remembers the smell from when he had his own wisdom teeth out, AND when I had mine out, since that was an event we went through together the first year we were married. He helped me change the gauze they packed in my mouth, and he nearly passed out. He loves me truly.

Julie from Using My Words wrote a wonderful post about how she and her husband met and hooked up. It got me thinking about the early days with My Hero.

We met in college sophomore year. Apparently we'd been in several classes together before, but the moment I met him is clear in my memory one morning at the end of developmental psychology class. Out of the blue, the guy beside me looked up as we were leaving and said, "I like your sweater." And smiled. The comment caught me up short, because he talked to me, and I didn't know him. I spent the next few days noticing him around campus and wondering who he was. We started talking to each other before, during, after class. He offered me a ride to the airport for my flight home for spring break. Normally I took the El (Chicago's public transportation), and there's nothing quite like maneuvering through the streets and around the crowded El cars with a bulky suitcase. I gladly accepted, and then cringed as I anticipated it. I have an unfortunate disability when it comes to making small talk with people I don't know well, and I knew the drive from campus to Ohare could be long and awkward. It wasn't. Conversation flowed around topics of all kinds, comfortably. We arrived at the airport and he offered to wait for my flight with me. I accepted because this was something unexpectedly good going on.

He's still my favorite person to just "be" with. He's comfortable and fun and funny. He's so different from me, but we click.

I had barely turned 23 and he was still 22 when we married, and looking back I realise how little I still knew about him then. We'd been dating for a couple of years, but he could've been a real loser. One of those people you hear about that are wonderful until the wedding day, then the chase is over and they slump back into being the self-centered boors they preferred to be. Not My Hero. He's still surprising me with ways he finds to put me first, with how hard he works to keep our marriage strong.

Committing for life to someone is a risk. I realise that more now than I ever did then. I breath words of thankfulness to God for his surprising grace, and I wonder how much my parents' prayers for me affected my choices.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't. Bump. The. Tooth.

I have a painful achy feeling just above my lungs. My nerves are raw, and I can't relax.


Peanut Butter, my sweet little 14 month old boy, tipped the kitchen chair he was standing on over backwards and knocked his upper front tooth almost out. As in, it was hanging so loose that it looked like it was twice as long as his other tooth. I pushed it back in, but it bled a lot and he sobbed for a long time in my arms as I walked around the livingroom / kitchen area holding a cold washcloth to his mouth.

This was Monday evening.

As soon as Peanut Butter had calmed down enough for me to hold him with one arm, I searched the internet for medical / dental advice for a toddler who has knocked a tooth loose. I decided it wasn't an emergency room emergency, and that I would just keep an eye on him, and that there's a chance the roots will take hold again and he won't loose it. I don't expect that to happen. But I'm still on pins and needles lest he bump it again and knock it all the way out.

Tuesday morning Peanut Butter had made it through the night just fine, but his mouth was clearly tender. I knew I should avoid hard foods like apples, but I wasn't sure about the coffee cake I had made for breakfast, so I called the medical advice line available as part of our health insurance package. The kind nurse on the other end of the line asked me questions about his condition and advised soft foods. "Like what?" I asked. "Like pudding, jello...oatmeal." Okay. Oatmeal. That's a breakfast food, one we eat a lot. I can't imagine putting my little guy on a diet of pudding and jello for days on end. He'd never want to switch back. So he had oatmeal for breakfast, mashed potato for lunch, cottage cheese and mandarine oranges for a snack (in which I was reminded that Peanut Butter, who eats almost anything, cannot abide cottage cheese), squash and broccoli cheese soup for supper, and yogurt for a bedtime snack. Those foods are the extent of the soft foods I've managed to scrounge from my cupboards and refrigerator, but they're not a bad variety.

I just can't relax about his loose tooth. The idea that he may get to keep his baby tooth and not have a gap in his mouth for the next 4 or 5 years if I can just keep him from damaging it further is a terrible responsibility on my shoulders, honestly. I know it's not the end of the world if his tooth does fall out, and I know it'll probably happen anyway, but just knowing I may be able to prevent it if I'm just vigilent enough to prevent further falls and bumps... well, it's exhausting.

And that's not my only worry. I worry that his mouth will get infected and I won't recognize it until it's serious. I'm not normally a worrier, and I know I need a change in perspective, but I can't seem to shake this constant feeling of stress that's blanketing my days.

I'm reluctant to take him in to be seen by a pediatrician because I'm afraid it'll be unnecessary trauma for him and unnecessary expense for us, just to be told to "keep an eye on it." I guess in a day or two, depending on if it's better or worse, I'll have a better idea of whether or not to have his mouth examined by a professional.

Sometimes being a mother is a terrible responsibility. I feel like I should know what to do, but I'm so afraid of making a mistake.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Family Dynamics

5. Describe the dynamics in your immediate family...how do you and your husband and kids all work together, what are the personalities, do your kids relate or remind you more of either you or your husband, and so forth?

My Hero and I are a team. That's our goal anyway. We forget and start pulling in opposite directions sometimes, or start competing against each other instead of together. But our goal, our mindset, is that we're in this life together, and we're going to win, together.

It's common knowledge that having kids brings new challenges to a marriage, but Green Bean's arrival was such an adventure... even though it was a difficult year as My Hero worked terribly long hours at two jobs for a while, the excitement and challenges of having a child and watching him grow and change was mutually enthralling.

We agreed on the timing of child #2 and soon Peanut Butter was growing inside me. His arrival was welcome, but the first nine months were far more difficult than we ever expected. He was such a tiny little peanut, smaller at birth than Green Bean was, but so LOUD. He was opinionated, terribly opinionated for someone so entirely dependent on others for his every whim. And one of his strongest opinions, beginning when he was just one month old, was that no one was worthy of holding him besides his mama. No one. Not Daddy. Not Grammie.

That made his first year of life exhausting for us. I'd leave the two boys with My Hero some evenings when I had other obligations, but I'd come home to a husband on the edge of breakdown and a howling baby who would instantly quiet and snuggle into my shoulder when I took him. I couldn't leave him in the church nursery, though I tried week after week. He wouldn't settle down after a while like most children will when their parents are no longer in sight; he'd keep the nursery a room of LOUDness and misery until I came to relieve the poor nursery workers. I felt guilty leaving him with anyone...not because I was worried about Peanut Butter, but because I knew how miserable and desperate his caregivers would be with a screaming child who couldn't be appeased. It was a long year.

Peanut Butter has gradually changed, allowing more and more people into his sphere of interaction. My Hero, my 13 year old brother, my mom, certain nursery workers...as he learned to crawl and then walk his world opened up and he was more independent and the boundaries grew. Now he's fine in the nursery every week, I leave him with my mom regularly without hitches, and he'll reach out to be held by certain other people he knows and loves. He still dislikes strangers holding or touching him, and I suspect it's a permanent part of his personality, but he's no longer tied to me, and My Hero and I can breath again.

We feel like we made it through a time of difficulty and testing, and it certainly plays into why we're hesitant about when to consider adding a third child. My eternal optimism says that number three will be a happy, laid back child who demands little and adds supreme amounts of joy, because birth order books say that the third tends to have a more relaxed personality. My realistic husband knows there are no guarantees.

Green Bean and Peanut Butter, ages 3 and 1, are starting to play together more and more. Green Bean seems to love his little brother, though Peanut Butter disorders his orderly play. Green Bean needs to be with people, at least in the same room, and Peanut Butter counts as people now. He'll holler for Peanut Butter to come into the bedroom with him to play so he won't be alone.

Peanut Butter marches to his own beat. I read an article about people being either emotional transmitters or emotional receivers, how some people set the mood, and others are affected by the moods of people around them. Green Bean is a receiver, Peanut Butter is a transmitter. Green Bean will be howling in anger on his bed, and Peanut Butter will walk in and smile happily at him, making cheerful yips and gurgles, oblivious to his brothers' pain. But when Peanut Butter is upset, the whole house cringes and begins to share his anguish.

My Hero is a transmitter, and I am a receiver. When I finally understood this, I realised why I could never seem to set the mood in our home. I've heard several times that the wife has the power to set the tone of life at home, and that it's important to keep a good attitude. But I could never figure out how. I know I really do set the tone for the day when it's just the kids and me...if I have a plan and keep us all going doing fun and productive things we're likely to have a good day. Likewise when My Hero is home and I do all I can to keep the day running smoothly, it definitely helps. But when My Hero is in a bad mood, there's not much I can do, aside from sliding into a worse mood, to bring him out of it. Trying used to frustrate me to no end. Now I just accept it. He's not a receiver. To be fair, I think My Hero struggles with pulling me out of a bad mood, too. When I know that's what he's trying to do I feel obstinate.

My Hero is the spender, I'm the saver. But he's so balanced. We have goals for our money, and he's willing to curb his lifestyle to get there. When I met him he was driving a Mustang. It wasn't his dream car...he LOVES cars, thinks about them, admires them, and always has a dream car in mind. In college it was the Audi TT, not a super expensive car, but beyond his reach at the time. I tell him that by the time we can afford another car, the 2001 Audi TT should be in our price range. But I don't think we could fit car seats in the back. After we married he sold his Mustang for something that wouldn't have such high insurance rates, and we currently own two Escorts over 5 years old. Talk about sacrifice.

My Hero has the big picture perspective, and I'm the details person.

My Hero is good at driving and knowing where he's going and trying out new ways to get there. I'm good at reading a map.

I think Green Bean has a lot of my traits...he inherited my (lack of) coordination, my appreciation for orderliness, my sensitive conscience. He's like My Hero in his need to have people around.

Peanut Butter is stronger, more independent, more like My Hero. He's unconcerned about following the rules, he has inherent common sense, he has a good sense of balance and is sturdy on his legs, and he is determined to try anything he sees Green Bean do.

The original question is one that's hard to exhaust, but it's a subject I love to think about and analyse.

Thank you, Julie, for the interview questions, and I hope I haven't bored you to tears with my post-length answers to each of them.