Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Can Not Make This Stuff Up...

Today we went to the doctor.  The hospital where the doctor is located has a bit of an unusual entrance, one with two white convex shapes.  Unusual enough for my son to remark, "Oh we're going to the doctor with the boobs."  Unusual enough for him to conclude the visit with the words, "Bye boobs!" 

One can only laugh and be thankful that he was in our car as he said such things.  Although perhaps being outside of the car would have been a source of joy and encouragement for those within earshot.

Here's the make the call...boobs or not...what say you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goat Smells

Those of you who personally know my husband might know his unique sense of humor.  It usually involves a fair amount of teasing.  You might also smile when you hear how that sense of humor is biting him on the butt with our daughter.  I don't know why but for some reason he decided to tease her about smelling like a goat.

Anyway, here's the conversation from today. 

I often play a sing songy game with her that revolves around the words "Conleigh's Mama's baby.  Conleigh's Papa's baby."  Today I sang those words to her and then asked her if she was Papa's baby.  She quickly replied, "No, Papa tinky like a doat."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Random quotes (or at least mental notes) from the weekend

"You've got to be kidding me!'  -my thoughts after watching my daughter get her coat and tell a near stranger she was going home with her...the near stranger was the social worker who was out to write our post placement visit on Conleigh's adjustment from orphanage life to family life.

"If you're selling a chest of drawers for a buck, you're essentially selling firewood."'after seeing a decrepit piece of furniture during the Junk Jaunt, a lengthly garage sale event in the middle of Nebraska where all sorts of people pull stuff out of barns, garages, and basements to sell as antiques.  It's usually a pretty good mix of aweome stuff (like amazing antique chairs that I'd love to paint different colors and put on my front porch) and crap (like the aforementioned dresser).

"I'm so stealing that one!"-my thoughts after my husband rolled his eyes at my cousin and she asked him exactly what he saw back there.  We visited my family this weekend and we played and laughed a lot.

"I can't believe I'm laughing this hard."-as tears rolled down my cheeks upon seeing the gift my grandma gave my foam earpiece cover for a set of headphones.  Just one of the covers, not a matching set.  God bless my grandma but she is quite the gift giver!  Lest you think I'm mean...yes it was a real gift, given with a serious heart but this type of gift giving is a normal event and one that endears my grandma to me in a very unique way.

"Go, go, go!"-my standard football cheer, stolen from my mother, uttered multiple times as we watched the Husker game at a theater while my folks watched the kids.  I think Derek really enjoyed watching the game without the kids wanting to play football, playing cheerleaders, screaming about random things, throwing temper tantrums, whining about who knows what, and just in general making it hard to watch the game on tv.  (In their defense, they are 3 and 4 and watching a televised football game is so not developmentally appropriate.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't rush...

From A Bushel and a Peck...a great reminder not to rush, that grief operates on its own timeline:

"My heart is broken

My mommy and daddy died

I have a hard life

I have to get used to a new family

I just don’t know it

But God has given me a good family now

I thank God that He has given me a good family

I love my Mom and Dad"

My heart aches a bit each time I read this and I have to pause for a moment.

Honeybee sang this to me last night at bedtime and I asked her if I could share it with you as a window into the heart of a child adopted at an older age. Honeybee has been home two years, but some days her grief is still fresh. I’ve shared this before, but Honeybee did not know that her parents had died until we told her. All of the years that she lived in the orphanage, she maintained hope that her mommy would come back for her. It makes me angry that it fell to us to break her heart, but maybe she needed the hope of her mother’s return to just keep living.

In the rush of my life, it is easy – horribly easy – to forget her sorrow. I rush through the bedtime routine: showers, pajamas, teeth, meds, stories, prayers. Then I hear a quiet sniff from the bottom bunk. I lean down to see tears shining on her cheeks. I hold her for a moment, pray for her, kiss her several times, then give her a firm hug. She nestles under her blankets and closes her eyes.

Later I check on the children and find Sunshine curled next to her – the comfort of a sister, a companion in the loneliness, and their heads touch in the darkness.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Fellowship of Motherhood...To Stay at Home or Not

I've said it before but, in a lot of way, I am a stay at home mom by default.  Meaning?  Meaning that I was not the person who grew up just waiting for the moment until she had  kids.  I was not the person who knew that I would for certain stay home with my children.  I was the person who from the time she was little had a pretty good idea of what she would do with my life.  I was the person who planned her life to look a certain way including college and career choices.  I was the person who knew what I wanted in life and worked hard to get there. 

But when my mother in law was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I quickly recognized how I could not teach full time and be a caretaker.  Because of the way I teach, I invest a great deal of time into my classroom and my classroom kids.  And something had to give because there are only so many hours in a day and only so much that one person can humanely do and be.  I couldn't be all things to all people without my classroom suffering or my relationships with my family suffering.  I knew that when Kenson finally came home, I would need to be there full time. 

Did I want to quit my teaching job?  Not really.  I loved teaching.  I love the challenge of it.  I love bringing order out of chaos.  I loved making each kid think I showed up every day just to see them.  I loved infusing my public school classroom with big, God sized words like mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  I loved the mix of backgrounds, to see white banker's daughters sitting next to Guatemalan immigrants' sons.  I loved watching kids feel successful, sometimes for the first time in their lives, as they learned to read and count and get along with others. 

I just knew that I wanted to give my best to my family and that working full time would mean too much sacrifice for them.  That I couldn't be the mom that I wanted to be if I were working full time.  So I took the easy way out; I quit. 

In actuality, it is one of those thing that has not been easy.  I don't idle well.  I've had to shift from one purpose that made me feel fulfilled to another.  And to be honest, staying home has meant slowing down.   There are certainly times when I wish I were working full time because I miss the buzz of a classroom and using what I believe is a God given gift of teaching.

What I've learned by having my feet in both worlds is that the choice to stay at home or work comes easier for some than for others.  Some people have known since the day they first held their ragdoll that they were meant to be a stay at home mommy.  On the flip side, there are working moms who have such a strong sense of purpose and direction that comes from the day jobs that they can't imagine staying home.   

I don't know that most moms fall into those catagories though.  I think that probably most find themselves feeling guilty or regretful or wistful regardless of their choices.  Moms who want to stay at home and can't because their family needs the income feel guilty.  Moms who stay at home and have unfinished college degrees wonder what might happen if they went back to school.  Moms who work because they want to find themselves feeling badly because they don't see their kids as often as they'd like.   Moms who stay at home find themselves frustrated by the day in and day out monotony and wish they had an office to go to.

The real issue is that the choice to work or stay home is actually an issue of identity.  This is why it's easy for some people to stay home.  Their sense of self is deeply tied to their identity as a mom, nurturer, and homemaker.  And it's why it's hard for some people to stay at home.  Their sense of self is deeply tied to their job; they believe they've been created with a specific set of gifts that are useful in their place of work. 

Imagine trying to get someone to give up a piece of themselves.  Imagine trying to get someone to return a gift given by the Creator.  That is exactly what we as women do when we become critical of the choices another mom has made in regards to work.    It's very easy for stay at home moms to encourage working moms to stay at home.  Even subtle comments made about how beneficial it is for kids to not have to go to daycare, how good it is for kids to have a mom around all day, they all lend themselves to making a judgement about working moms.   Similarly, comments made about a stay at home mom giving up her career or not finishing college are statements of judgement as well.  We do not know what plans God has for the women around us.  We also do not have a the ability to see into their hearts and to know who God has created them to be or how their identities and gifts which were given by God are to be used by God in the realm of work. 

Instead of viewing it with a "this way is best" mentality, let's accept that there are different ways of being a mom.  Just because I choose one path that I believe is best for me and my family, this doesn't mean that an opposite way chosen by someone else is less than best or bad.  Instead of a feeling like we must compete against a mom spend her daytime hours doing something different than we do, let's put the guilt aside and not use such comparisons to undermine what God has called us to.  Let's be uplifted and encouraged by the belief that God has gifted all of us differently, that He has plans for each family and that being in step with His plans is what is most important...not whether we stay home or pursue work outside of the home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frog Dissection ala Kenson

Lest you think that Conleigh has a monopoly on "I'm a preschooler and can make a big mess!"-

Guess who was fighting sleep last night and decided to disect his frog instead?

As you can see, it was a delicate procedure involving a very small incision.

I suppoe I should be thankful that he has not yet thought of doing exploratory thing to a real frog.  Give him about 5 years and then we'll see what kind of real treasures he manages to scare up.  (My brother and cousin once found a dead possum, cut off the tail, and kept it in someone's room because it still had the muscle attached that made the tail curl up and was just way too cool to throw away.  I know how boys roll; it isn't always pretty.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Watermelon, Watermelon...

I bought a 15 pound watermelon today.  For the four of us, that's basically asking us to eat watermelon every day for the next week.  You get to the point where you've eaten it so often that you are beginning to wonder if it's somehow regenerating itself in the fridge because the bowl just doesn't seem to be getting any emptier.  I'm sure some of you with smaller families can relate to that. 

Watermelon is kind of one of those tricky fruits too.  The normal methods of food preservation like dehydration or canning don't apply.  But freezing can actually work.  Cube up the watermelon and then place the cubes on a cookie sheet so that they don't touch.  Make sure you don't make the cubest too large because if they are too large, your blender/food processor might have trouble with them once you are ready to use them.  Freezing the cubes keeps the watermelon from sticking together into one giant watermelon blob.  Once they've frozen, pop them off of the cookie sheet and place them in a freezer bag.  These are perfect for making frozen or liquid watermelon delights like a watermelon lime slushie.  I usually don't follow a recipe; I just kind of dump.  Watermelon and lemon are also a graet combination; consider adding dry lemonade mix (either presweetened or unsweetened, sugar free or regualr) with some watermelon and ice.  Or mix with other fruits like strawberries, rasberries, or other melons.  It's easy to just slowly add  your chosen ingredients, flavoring with sugar or juice as you go.  You can also use frozen watermelon chunks to make granita or sorbet.  I haven't tried the sorbet so that may be what I try this time around.  Regardless of what I try this time around, I am going to deliberately save some of my frozen watermelon for the winter.  It's such a fun wintertime treat to have a summery watermelon treat in December.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Woman Wrecking Ball

In the last 24 hours, one impish little girl has accomplished the following:

-smearing body lotion on her floor and dresser drawer fronts

-flushing at least half a roll of toliet paper down the toilet (luckily, I cut her in the act so the actual cardboard roll didn't go down)

-using markers to color her arms, legs, face, and the dining room wall (I swear I stepped out of the room for five minutes...five minutes.)

-spraying her highly textured hair with some texture creating hairspray off of my dressing table

At least she industrious...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lazy Recipes Make Me Smile

I've been wanting to find a good homemade granola; it seems like a good way to get some healthy extras in your diet.  Christine inspired me to think outside of the box in that she doesn't just use oatmeal as a base; she uses whatever cereal she has at home and sticks it into a method that is perfect for me:  the lazy granola method.  Basically, you let it cook in the oven overnight (or approximately 8 hours) as the oven cools down.  No stirring, no fussing.  Perfect.  I had bought a bunch of Cheerios because they were on sale and was looking for a good way to use them so that we weren't eating Cheerios for breakfast every day for 2 months.  Christine's idea seemed to fit.  So using this recipe, I did a double batch with Cheerios, old fashioned oats, unsweeteneed coconut, a handful of sunflower seeds that were just hanging around, cinnamon, vanilla, honey, maple syrup, and some milled flax seeds.  The comments under the recipe listed a bunch of variations that I am now anxious to try.  Applesauce in place of the oil.  Peanut butter.  Of course there are unlimited fruit options like raisins, dried cherries, dried apples...

The kids ate it for breakfast this morning with milk.  It wasn't as big of a hit this morning as it was last night when I let them eat it straight off of the cooled pan.  D's opinion has yet to be made known.  He made kind of a stinky skunk face last night but if you know him, you know that's part of his personality-making goofy comments that have little to do his real opinion.  He was mostly just trying to give me a had time because he knew I was excited about the whole deal.  I had it this morning with some peaches that I had dehydrated. (I cannot stand to drink milk so as I always do, I had mine dry. Long story on the milk thing...somehow got it in my head around age 3 that I didn't like milk. Now I can't even make myself drink it without gagging. It's a complete psychological issue.) I thought it was pretty tasty.  Easy eat as cereal, to top your yogurt, or to mix with nuts and M and M's for a trail mix.  Definitely worth making again.

Monday, September 6, 2010

God and Me-Who I pray to

This week (actually last week but I'm a bit behind), I read a post on prayer that sparked some reflection on my own prayer life and prompted me to try something different.  My friend, Jake, has been writing about prewritten prayers and how as someone raised in an evangelical church, prewritten prayers are something that are not often used.  (Compared to a Catholic or Lutheran or other background where the liturgy is a standard part of the church experience.)  He has been sharing how he has used prewritten prayers in his own life and has been posting prewritten prayers once a week or so.

This week, the prayer he posted featured the words "We do know, however, to whom to pray!"  They were from a prewritten prayer written by Walter Brueggeman .  It reminded me of my own prayer struggles last fall when Conleigh's adoption was at a standstill.  I was struggling with praying the same prayers over and over and over.  I knew I needed to keep praying even though I didn't feel like it and even though I was frustrated by the monotony of my prayer life.  And I knew that even though I was frustrated, God and I were still okay (as okay as you ever get with the Almighty).  I knew He was still God and that even though things were not progressing the way I desired, that God was still at work.  I knew Who I was praying to even though I was unsure of the words I should be praying.

That sparked in me a real desire to focus on Who I was praying to this week.  I had several chances to be in the car by myself so I decided to use that time to meditate on that.  I purposefully listened to Christian music as I drove, paying close attention to any references in the songs that spoke of Who God was.  With two kids coming home in the last 18 months, quiet and stillness have been rare commodities.  The time I spent in the car those two days was such a blessing to me.  A still soul, sitting before the Lord and thinking on His character that naturally pours out of Who He is.  Ah, real quiet time with God that felt meaningful and uplifting.  Somthing that seems to often elude me.  Thanking God for those moments that leave me feeling that way...

Menu Planning Monday

Corn and Cheese Enchilladas

Rotissere Style Chicken in the crockpot
Baked potatoes
Mixed vegetables

Chili in breadbowls
Celery and carrots with dip

Cincinatti style chili over spaghetti
Normandy blend vegetables with parmasen cheese

Party Roast Beef Sandwich
Sweet potato fries

Ham and Cheese Pasta

Friday, September 3, 2010

My week as an ode to the end of the summer wedding season...

Something old
This week marks my return to the classroom, at least on a part time basis.  I subbed in fourth grade, sixth grade, and kindergarten.  Next week I have a job in fourth grade and a day as the speech language pathologist.  After being out of the classroom for eight months, it has been nice to be back.  It's been a good reminder of how comfortable I am in teaching, how much I enjoy it.

Something new
The last few weeks have brought about some big conversations about D's grandma.  She has lived alone since D's grandpa passed away 18 months ago.  While her health has not been stellar, it appears to be steadily declining.  She has no living children, no living siblings, no living spouse.  D and I are the closest relatives at 2 and 1/2 hours away, then it's D's brother in Boise.  We are extremely thankful for the friends we have who have helped Marie in the last year or so.  But that still doesn't make the reality of her living alone in poor health any easier.  More than anything, we need wisdom and love.  May we act in wise ways that reflect the love of the Lord.

Something borrowed
The last few weeks I've been reading like crazy, all things borrowed from a couple of different libraries.  My list is quite varied:  A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by Bill O'Reilly, Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama, Put Down your Rocks by Nicole Johnson, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

Something blue
The weather has been turning here and it is amazing.  After some really hot dry summer weeks, it is finally starting to feel like fall might be around the corner.   A magnificent cornflower blue sky, sfull of cottony white clouds.  It's endless.  It stretches across Nebraska's face like a gigantic grin, ending in dimply hills and plains streaked with greens and browns and yellows.  It's as if that sky is marking a path for fall:  crisp, clean, a renewal.

Alright-add your own.  What's going on in your life that's old, new, borrowed or blue?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Fellowship of Motherhood-Your Blessings and their Behavior

What drives you nuts the most?  Whiney kids in the Walmart check out lane who cry and pout until their parents put candy on the conveyor belt?  A defiant child at the daycare center who isn't ready to leave so she stomps her feet, backtalks to her mother, and finally takes a swing in her mother's direction?  The kids who are eating in the restarant booth adjacent to yours who apparently have no idea what an indoor voice is and who must have springs in their pants because they keep sitting down, popping up, sitting down, popping up...all while Mom is loudly complaining, "I don't know why I even had kids."

I'm willing to bet that every single one of those situations drives you crazy and that at some point in time, upon witnessing said situations, that you've muttered something under your breath about the parents who were connected to those misbehaving children.  It's a small action, one that doesn't seem like a big deal.  But the longer I live, the more I recognize how those little, seeminly innocent behaviors, have a way of sneaking into our lives and corrupting our hearts.  In this instance, discussing or gossipping or making comments behind someone's back can seem like an act of concern.  We act concerned because most of us believe there are certain standards of behavior that children should adhere to and that these standards are necessary so that the children develop into good citizens.

But the reality is, most of the time, our concern is pretty fake.  We are instead irritated that another mom doesn't have it all together and that her short comings are creating an uncomfortable situation for us.  Or we gloat a bit and think things like "I'm glad my kids don't do that." and "I would never do that."

To bring ourselves back to the truth in those situations is to recognize that 1.  no one has it all together 2.  we are all sinners and can easily be pulled down into very base behavior and 3.  everyone's child will act the prodigal at some point in their lives.

Satan uses the illusion of perfection to decieve and discourage moms on a regular basis.  At least I often hear him whispering untruths to me in regards to perfection.  "Maintain a sense of calm when you're out in public; save the irrational behavior for in private."  "Good parents have children who are well behaved at almost every turn.  Children who behave badly are the result of bad parenting."  "If you really knew what you were doing, you wouldn't yell.  Or bribe.  Or feel angry."  Whether hearing these messages and looking only at your own parenting abilities or if you've heard these messages and compared your parenting abilities with someone else's, the end result is the same:  Satan pushes us as moms to be perfect and to look down on those who unlucky enough to hide their imperfections, especially in public.

Along the same lines, it's very easy to deceive oneself with the thoughts, "I would never act like that."  We like to elevate ourselves above others.  Take the mom who voiced her frustration outloud with the comment about wondering why she had children.  I HATE adults who patronize children, who act like kids are not smart enough to pick up on what is being said.  And I find it especially discouraging when adults communicate negative comments about their kids to their kids.  So one would think I would choose my words carefully and not fall into such a disheartening sin.  Hardly.  Instead, I found myself saying outloud, in front of my kids, some comment about life being easier before they were around.  Not a Mother of the Year Moment.  And a very good reminder that no sin is so deep that I can't fall down into it.  Parenting is no exception.  There but for the grace of God go I.

Along with feeling the pressure to be a perfect parent, Satan also encourages us to persue the myth of a perfect child.  Obviously, no child is perfect.  Every child represents a heart that contains a natural tendancy to rebel and resist authority.  And this means our kids are going to disobey and be disrespectful.  It means other people's children will do the same.  And it means believing that every child, no matter how well raised, will be a prodigal child at some point in time.  Sometimes the prodigal wanders far from home, into heartaches and struggles no parent would wish for her child.  Sometimes, the prodigal only ventures a short distance but nevertheless, the child is acting in ways that are hurtful, embarassing, and full of disobedience.  Believing that children are not exept from the ill effects of a rebellious spirit helps us to understand their behavior, be it our own child's or someone else's.  Along these same lines, I think it's important to remember that any good that comes out of our parenting is not a result of our own doing.  It is the result of a loving heavenly Father who is teaching us how to parent.  When I remember that my successes are a parent from not from my own strength but from the strength of God, it is much easier to keep my pride about my own parenting skills in check.

Certainly there are moms who to put it mildly aren't very good at this parenting thing.  It's like anything else.  Some people are naturally more gifted in some areas and motherhood, nurturing, and discipline are no exceptions.  But I'm not sure that it's our place as fellow moms to point this out.  If someone asks for our advice, that's one thing.  But inserting ourselves into someone else's life univited via comments made directly to them, comments made to another mom, or comments made inside the solititude of our own head is something that I find way too easy to do.  And a lot of times, if it's something that's way too easy to do, there's a pretty good chance it's not the best thing for me to be doing. 

Instead, let us not grow weary of doing good and choose our words and actions so they might build others up according to their needs.  Who knows why a child is misbehaving?  Maybe he or she has a disability like ADD or Aspberger's that creates a unique situation?  Maybe he or she stayed up way too late?  Maybe the family schedule has been disrupted by a parent working long hours?  And maybe, the kid is just a spoiled brat.  Regardless, often the best response is a smile.  One that says "I've been there and I'm not judging you because of it."   For moms we know and love who seem to have consistent problems with their children's behavior,  think how encouraged they might be if we sent a card with a few kind words acknowleding how hard parenting can be.  Or think how encouraged they might be if we offered to give them a break from their kids, free of charge.   I know there's a temptation to believe that by doing so we are "rewarding" a mom who is an ineffective parent.  Let's not mistake love for agreement.  I can love you and show you love but not be your yes man.  No one is asking you to be the yes man. Just to be the loving man (woman) who reaches out and sees past the struggles one mom is having.