February 27, 2012

on being the "grownup"

Sometimes I forget that I'm a grownup now.  I forget that if life gets too crazy, I don't have to wait for someone to give me permission:  I can slow it down, even stop it.

I don't need to wait for people to exclaim "I don't know how you DO it all!!" in exasperated admiration.  I don't need to wait till I've gained five pounds from eating chocolate trying to stay awake in order to "do it all."  I don't need to wait for my husband to say, "honey, don't you think that's enough?"

I'm a grownup.  (I may not look or act like one, but that's another post).  I can do this pace thing.  I can cut out unnecessary extras.  I can do hard things!

So today, Monday, official "get it all done" day - here that usually means hit the books / housework / laundry at top speed - I didn't.

I took a nap in the morning while Lil' Snip rested and the girls played with the marble machine they made from a PVC pipe, a box, a funnel, and some shoestring.

We played around with "sun-printing" paper instead of doing Real School (well, actually, it was after we finished Real School, but somehow it felt deliciously illicit all the same).

I napped again in the afternoon during Quiet Time.  And then made tea, and a ridiculous number of entries in my gratitude journal while I sat on a step in the sunshine with my mug.

After Quiet Time, since the first attempts at "sun-printing" were noticeably less than stellar, we tried again, patiently watching the sun fade the special paper ... all except where our objets d'art cast their shadows ... we're still waiting for that one to dry.

And now I am cooking hot dogs and baked beans for supper (if that can fairly be called cooking).

And do you know what?  It has happened again.  In trying to "waste" a day, I have accomplished just as much (or as little) as usual, only minus the urgency, the sense of losing control, the frustrated impatience with children, the nagging feeling that I've dropped the most important of the all balls that I'm trying to juggle.

I don't miss any of that.  And I think I found the lost ball.

February 23, 2012

a way out

If you've read many of my posts, you know by now that I do not consider motherhood to be for the faint of heart.  If you're a mother who finds her job a breeze, you will probably want to just move along, go check out Pinterest or read the Post or something, because this one will just make no sense to you.  For the rest of us . . .

 : : :

I know no one really enjoys having sick children (and if you do - I really, really don't want to hear about it), but the last couple of years I'm embarrassed to say I have become downright fearful about it.

Having grown up on granola and garden veggies (thank you, Mom & Dad!), I've always been interested in God-made, health-promoting nutrition and remedies for sickness.  My "medicine cabinet" has included ginger, elderberry, aloe, prunes, honey, lemon, vinegar, garlic, chicken broth, and Vitamin D (and, yes, Band-Aids & Tylenol).

I guess I kind of got to thinking I had the sickness thing covered.  My insurance was starting to look pretty tight. . . . until the fear started.

I would hear a friend mention her sick child, or read on facebook about a bug going around, and begin to scrutinize my children for symptoms.  Were their cheeks overly rosy?  Did they seem lethargic?  Was anyone's appetite suspect?

I'd go to bed fighting images of my children, sick in the night - literally battling the anxious thoughts parachuting into my mind like trained stealth invaders.  I'd pray.  Sing.  Recite scripture.  I'd visualize each child healthily sleeping, dreaming of rainbows and kittycats.

Eventually, I'd go to sleep.

It was exhausting, to say the least.  And it didn't always work, for long.  And even when it was working, the fears just seemed to come along all the more frequently, as if to make up for lost ground.

I knew it was no way to live for a Christian professing faith in God.  But I didn't know of any way to deal with it other than battle.

And then - a book.  I am always humbled that God, who knows my love for reading, is willing to speak to me through other people's books.  Hinds' Feet on High Places was on my reading stack, and was teaching me about living a life of faith.  At one point in the allegory, Much-Afraid, the protagonist with whom I could  identify all too well, was in the desert of suffering and slavery.  In all the barren landscape, she spotted a single flower, called Acceptance-with-Joy.  She realized that since she could trust the Shepherd, she could trust whatever he offered her:  even suffering.

Not long after reading that, I had another night of fear.  I was waging my usual mental battle when I remembered Much-Afraid and her little flower.

What if ... ?

Like a shaft of sunlight entering a dark room I saw the way out.  Acceptance-with-Joy!  If God wants to give me sick children to take care of, then I will accept that with (eventually, I hope) joy.

Immediately Fear vanished like a bogeyman falling through a hidden trapdoor.  Gone!  I was free!  I could hardly believe it could be so simple.

 : : :

As long as I insisted on having healthy children, Fear always had an entrance:  "what if your children get sick?!?!"  And as long as I panicked in response ("oh, no!!  what if they get sick?!"), Fear had a place to stay.

When I could respond to Fear's "what if - ?!" with a trusting, "Then I accept that with joy", it took the wind right out of Fear's sails - and left me submitted and secure.  This yoke I've put on is easy; His burden is light.

I kind of like submitted and secure; it sure beats anxious and fearful.

I still have my "medicine cabinet" for preventing and treating real illnesses as they may arise, but that particular Fear is dead and buried, and I am beautifully free at last - to trust my Shepherd, and to enjoy my children without worrying unduly about tomorrow.

February 22, 2012

a puzzle

So.  Why is it that most days find me dragging along . . . facebooking every free minute down the drain . . . to avoid the fact that I am unable to string together more than two coherent thoughts . . . let alone accomplish any job requiring more than mere physical memory . . . just hanging on . . . to survive till naptime . . . and then bedtime . . . ?

And then suddenly one day I find myself out in the cold sunshine! lying on the hammock! watching Lil' Snip trot industriously from one mysterious mission to the next! organizing (and helping with!) work parties to pick up all the dropped balls from the sweet gum tree! and clean all the shelves in the refrigerator! and in my spare time, painting a door! door-frame! trim! and two trellises! . . . ? ?

I'm not bragging (about what - my usual ineptitude?!), honest.  I'm just frankly puzzled.  Does that seem a little off-balance to you, too, or is that normal?

. . . I didn't even start taking a new vitamin . . .

You know what?  Never mind.  What's that they say about gift horses?

February 21, 2012

my son

Oh, Lil' Snip, my heart-walking-outside-of-me . . . .

People ask me what it's like, having a boy now, after three girls.  You defy description.  In answer, I can only offer today, a "now" glimpse of the vast everything that you are:


  This morning, you woke up singing "Jesus" in your charming, tuneless way.  When I came to get you up, you greeted me with your mock-serious voice, saying "pee-pee" and patting your jammies in the appropriate spot, then demanding to stand on the windowsill so you could hide behind the window blind before I pulled it up.  

Once dressed and downstairs, you were, as usual, frantic for your breakfast until you had gotten a few bites of granola in your mouth.  You sure wake up hungry!!

At the doctor's office for your well-baby visit, you gave the receptionist a shy smile, cheek to my shoulder, and then proceeded to scream bloody murder when your kindly nurse tried to measure your head, weigh you, and conduct other benign experiments on your person.  But by the time we left, though, you had the whole office staff laughing at your cheeky "see ya!"

You're starting to play more independently - that's a lovely skill, my boy, as long as I can hear what you're getting into.  I should probably move the tractors back down where you can reach them before you become too enamored with your sisters' dollhouse.  And that big stack of puzzles you love to dump, one by one, confident that someone else will put them back together - we're going to give most of them away.

Nobody would have guessed by your behavior that supper tonight was one of your favorite meals.  I was grateful for unbreakable plastic cups, but wishing I'd put earplugs in for your performance.  I think you're starting to catch on to the whole consequence thing, though:  when I told you "no fussing", you answered "bed" and "more", and managed to get yourself under control for a few minutes.

We were all relieved, frankly, when you opted out of dessert in favor of serving tea to the dollies Sugar, Spice, and Nice had set up in the livingroom.  Watching as you poured "hunny" and "moke" into their cups and offered them a "taste!" was well worth letting my own dessert wait.

You did pretty well with my refusal to hold you while I exercised - a few ritual squawks of protest and then you ran off to play with Nice.  I wish my left arm were stronger, but you are getting big!  It was nice to have you snuggle down next to me afterward with a book ... even though you soon climbed down ... and back up ... and back down ....

Thanks for the reminder to "bess" you when I tucked you in, and to sing "Jesus".  That's usually Daddy's job, isn't it?  We got to wave "bye-bye" to him from the window when he headed off to his board meeting.  You'll see him in the morning.  Maybe he'll give you a "dip" of his coffee to taste.

I hope you sleep well, Lil' Snip - and not just because I want to sleep well, too.  Life is so rich for you.  You work so hard; you need your rest.  Tomorrow is coming, and who knows what you might do!

February 18, 2012

quiet waters

The Lord is my Shepherd:  I shall not want.
[Good morning, Lord.  I trust you with all my needs for this day ... ]

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
[ ... thank you for this rest on the floor for a few minutes while the children play outside, and my Farmer watches the needy one ... ]

he leads me beside quiet waters;
[ ... and for the quiet kitchen while I wash the dishes ... ]

he restores my soul;
[ ... it refreshes me to talk to you as I do my work today ... ]

he guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.
[ ... This course is changing my life, Lord.  Thank you for leading me to it, and changing me through it ... ]

Even though I walk through valleys of deepest darkness, I will fear no evil -
[ ... yesterday was tough, Lord.  Thank you for being faithful even when I was not ... ]

Your rod and Your staff are a comfort to me.
[ ... I didn't really like it when You showed me my sin yesterday, but it's a comfort to me that you love me enough to train me, and I will thank you for your discipline as a proof of your love; I hope I've been trained by it  ... "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:10-11 ... ]

You prepare a table before me, in the very midst of my enemies!
[ ... Thank you for teaching me to "feast" on You, Lord.  When I look for it, I am seeing that you do prepare a feast for me - even in the thick of my daily responsibilities - even when they crowd so thickly about me that they look like "enemies"! ... ]

You anoint my head with oil.
[ ... You care for me, meeting even my smallest needs lavishly.  Thank you for the lavender sugar scrub that my friend made for me; I feel so pampered when I use it, and the oil in it is helping with my dry hands! ... ]

My cup overflows; surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
[ ... I know I haven't done anything to deserve your love.  But I'm glad that you are Love, and that you faithfully stay with me, showering me with your goodness, showing me mercy every day ... ]

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
[ ... I can't wait for heaven, Lord, but I'm so glad that you dwell with me even now ...  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love."  -Jesus, in John 15:9 ... "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." -Jesus, in John 14:23  ...  "And surely I am with you always, even unto the end of the age."  -Jesus, in Matthew 28:20 ... ]

                                                      Psalm 23

February 16, 2012

a leap!

I just watched someone jump this afternoon, and I must say it was inspiring.  Best wishes, my friend, and I look forward to regularly delivered installments of your cup of tea.

Smile, my readers:  life is not over - oh, not by a long shot - when you near the end of your fourth decade.  In fact, it may just be beginning ... again!  There are always new corners to be rounded, new rocks to be turned over, new pages to be flipped.

Hope is contagious.  May you catch some today!

February 13, 2012

masquerading as opportunity

My Farmer and I decided last night to opt out of an "opportunity" for our children.

I know, I know, what indifferent parents that makes us!!  Children need opportunities; we shouldn't let them miss out on an opportunity to visit the elderly / sing with a choir / help out with a church project / make new friends / etc., etc., !!!

[insert guilt]

Actually, we see it as a positive move.

We've seen how opportunity-ridden our immediate cultural circle is, and how the opportunities, despite being perfectly good ones in and of themselves, quickly pile up like so many annoying battery-operated toys.  For our family, more opportunity has not been better than less.  In our experience, more opportunity often equals ill-rested, bickering, ungrateful, restless children who don't get enough "normal" to remember how "normal" feels.

We are opting instead for the opportunity to give our children the gift of free time.  That's right, time when they get to decide how to fill the luscious minutes:

They might play outside (yes, even in the cold!), working on their elaborate (and sometimes slightly disgusting) recipes for their "cat hotel", riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline, or just poking around, seeing what's coming up looking for spring.

They might play inside, creating a cozy space in a little-used closet.

They might rummage through their crafts supplies, bored, until something sparks their interest and they begin to create.

They might play with their little brother, building block towers for him knock down, reading stories to him (well, pieces of them, as he rapidly turns the pages), or setting up sofa cushion forts for him to hide in.

They might read.

They might write stories several pages long, complete with illustrations.

They might write letters to friends.

They might get out puzzles or play games with each other.

They might ask to cook something.  (And I, on a good day, might let them!)

They might offer to clean (it has happened, to my great astonishment and joy!!)

: : :

It's hard to be a radical:  I started this post feeling a tad defensive about our choice to say "no."  But writing this has reminded me that although our children might not have flashy resumes, they are discovering inner resources of creativity and I will always be happy that we gave them the chance to do it.

We can do hard things!

And so, believe it or not, can our children.

February 11, 2012

Peanut Butter Cheerio Squares

You know why I like these bars?  Because to me, they taste like all the goodness of childhood (that's the Cheerios, peanut butter & honey) sweetened by nostalgia (that's the chocolate topping, an adult addition).  I don't know why you'll like them, but I'm pretty sure you will, judging from the reaction they got this week at our moms' group.  Think of them as a rice krispie bar with a makeover .....

Peanut Butter Cheerio Squares

Bring to a boil and then remove from heat:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dark table syrup

Meanwhile, measure into a large bowl:
1 cup peanuts
6 cups Cheerios

After the honey mixture has boiled, add, stirring well:
1 1/2 cup peanut butter

Pour over the cereal and nuts, stirring until evenly moistened.  Press mixture into 9x13" pan.

Melt over low heat and spread over squares:
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

When the chocolate has solidified, cut into squares.  This, I have found, takes a lot of hand/finger strength.  Be patient, and sample as necessary.  Don't worry if your lines aren't straight - the bars will still taste good, and your friends will appreciate the proof that you are human.  Store at room temperature.

February 7, 2012

"...the moon sees me"

The moon outside the window rises round and white, so bright it throws shadows on the ground beneath the pecan tree.

An hour just passed. And in that hour, ordinary enough, a little boy bounced on a trampoline. Two little heads pored over a book and a magazine. A daddy paged through a tool catalog. A mommy smiled at her children over the top of her novel. A little girl catered to her brother's wishes, spreading blankets over sofa cushions for him to tiptoe over.

My Farmer read a tiny board book to Lil' Snip. Sugar showed us children's artwork from her magazine (while being tickled by Lil' Snip, who is always learning something new & useful), and read us horse poems, and the good jokes. (“Knock-knock. Who's there? Cash. Cash who? No thanks, I prefer peanuts.”).  Nice tried to distract Lil' Snip off of the trampoline (so she could use it) by teaching him how to open drawers in the filing cabinet.  Spice read aloud from her book of stories, dramatically, to anyone who would listen. Lil' Snip sat up straight beside her on the cushionless chair. 

On the elliptical, I laid aside my novel to listen to Spice's story, and gave Lil' Snip a ride till my arms begged for mercy. He's heaviest after supper.

Then we all kissed Lil' Snip good-night and my Farmer tucked him in. Coloring books and crayons came out till second bedtime was announced.  We sang and read and thanked God for the good, and now they're all tucked under their covers, tissues close by for the sniffly ones.

The moon is up in the pecan branches now, high over the house, full.

I'm full, too.

                    I see the moon and the moon sees me,
                    Hiding under the old apple tree.
                    God bless the moon, and God bless me . . .

February 2, 2012

10 ways to help (a borrowed post)

I'd like to introduce you to Elizabeth Ibrahim-Campbell, an accidental blogger from whom I have learned a lot.  Let's just say that God can use even our deepest griefs for his glory and our holiness.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your heart with us over the past year, and thank you for sharing this post with me here.

1) Be there.  Seriously, just be present.  Go and sit with the family at their home or at the viewing.  It does not matter if you are best friends or not, you can still be there.
2.)    Don’t be afraid to cry bawl your eyes out. I was in complete shock after Jason died.  It did not feel real, and so it was hard to cry.  Seeing others weep helped it to sink in for me and even provided relief for me.  I believe it is why Jesus tells us to weep with those who weep.  It is a real and tangible comfort.
3.)    Send a card.  I kept every single one of mine, and when I am grieving again I still go back through and read them.  I loved that I received cards from my best friends who were with me 24/7 at first, and from complete strangers all over the world. 
4.)    Send food in disposable containers.  And try not to send very highly perishable items like salads or breads that need to be eaten immediately.  I had a wall of bread as high as my refrigerator that took up all my counter space. Literally.
4 ½.) Don’t force-feed your grieving friend— especially foods that they never liked in the first  place.  (Well, okay, unless that person is a young mom nursing a newborn baby.  Maybe it was a good thing after all. But boy do I ever HATE yellow mustard now or what!!!)
5.)    Call a contact person regarding meals, etc.  Try not to call the family directly about trivial matters, find someone else who can answer your questions.  Offer to be that contact person if they need one.
6.)    Shovel snow, rake leaves, or mow the grass.  Just show up and quietly do what needs to be done.
7.)    Offer to help with practical details before the days of the viewing/funeral.  Does the family’s car need to be washed for the processional? Do their children own appropriate clothing for a funeral?  Could you go shopping for them? Could you offer out-of-town guests a restful place to stay?
8.)    Send flowers unexpectedly in the months to come.  Let the family know you haven’t forgotten.
9.)    Offer to watch children so a grieving parent can slip away for some time alone.
10.)  Pray consistently for God’s outpouring of peace and grace over the whole family.
10 1/2.) Don’t hold me responsible for these ideas.  Maybe other people are comforted by a Great Wall of Bread when they are mourning.  I couldn’t say…

February 1, 2012

shopping with a purpose

The auction I told you about is now open and will close February 7th!!  
All proceeds go to help families adopt terribly neglected
  children at an orphanage in Katie's country.  
Go here to place bids on awesome items like:

...and my own sweet Sweater Teddies are being auctioned as well:
(to find them, click on "older posts" at the bottom of each page of the auction - 
they're at the bottom of the third page.)



God bless all who are helping in so many ways to rescue and care for his little ones.

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