Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gratitude: Two Sweet Girlies and The Pioneer Woman, too.

With Layla Grace and Faith's stories on my mind yesterday, the whole of the day was different. Sometimes, we need an awakening of sorts and finding myself so deeply blessed was just that for me. Throughout the afternoon and evening, I noticed things I may have otherwise missed.

I saw:

A glimpse of Elizabeth's baby face when she threw her head back and laughed.

A bit of a growing "grown-up-tooth" sliding into place in Josiah's gap-filled mouth.

The way Benjamin's hair curls around his fingers as he runs his hand through it while reading.

The twinkle in Noah's eye when he laughs out loud.

And I made a point of taking joy in them. I listened to their stories and thought about their days. It was nice, really. The things I found myself pulling close yesterday are the parts of parenting that I looked forward to the most. How does it happen that we lose sight of that?

I took my time with dinner yesterday, too. I recently started reading The Pioneer Woman's blog. It was in that list we made last week, remember? Somewhere I read that she loves to cook not because it's fun or necessary but because for the little while that our families are eating, it strengthens them for the work ahead and feeds their souls. I like that. I really do.

So, I made country ribs from my supper swap group and a big pot of mac and cheese. I roasted broccoli (oh my goodness, have you tried it??) and then went back to the Pioneer Woman's blog for dessert. Intrigued by her apple dumplings, I dove right in and OH MY, they are amazing.


It felt good, my friends, to go through a day in a way that remembers how blessed I am. It made a difference to me to gripe a bit less and focus more on the reality that lies before me. My kids are well. I have a roof overhead. There is food on the table and it is good. All of it is good.

A long while back, there was a book that asked readers to record 5 things, each day, that they were grateful for right then. I liked that book and liked the practice and somehow along the way, let it all go. But, what would happen if we really still did just that? Every day. Five things. What happens to our perspective, our attitude, when we belly-gaze less and look around more? Becoming overwhelmed by the minutiae of our lives can happen so easily... it happens to me all the time. But, what if loving our lives has more to do with choice and less to do with circumstance? I have let myself off the hook here, one too many times. I have looked at our checkbook, our impossible housing situation, my fatigue, my kids behavior and all the while I have missed it all. I CHOSE this life. I didn't accidentally have four kids. I didn't even accidentally have two houses. It was a choice. And the truth is, it might be hard... it often is... but it is mine and it is good.

So, here are five things I am grateful for today:

1. I still have two houses and I LOVE the one in which I live.

2. My kids are healthy and funny and loud. : )

3. The snow is GORGEOUS, especially against the bright blue sky.

4. I love my husband. Even when I am frustrated. He is the man for me.

5. This morning, I heard a bird sing. So did Noah. And it was beautiful.

What about you? What five simple things are you grateful for today? I would love for you to post it here. Your thoughts might help someone else find the wonder in their life.

Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Perfectly Ordinary

It's an ordinary day. I woke up to 'Siah's smile at 6:10 AM. I came downstairs and poured myself a cup of the coffee Mark made for me before he left for work. I woke Elizabeth up at 7:00 and she started talking before her feet hit the floor. I checked to be sure that Noah and Benjamin were awake and watched the dog try to climb the ladders to their loft beds. I made waffles, laughed at my kids and watched them scurry around to get ready for school. They took vitamins to stay healthy and ate the breakfast I made for them and had time to lay in a pile around our golden doodle, petting her head, scratching her belly and letting her lick their little faces. A perfectly ordinary day.

After dropping them off at school, I headed to the health club to work out. On my phone, I checked Facebook before going in and clicked a link left by my friend Marla. A couple of days ago, she asked for prayer for a two year old, Layla Grace. Today, she asked for prayer for a little girl named Faith. Both have been diagnosed with aggressive forms of cancer.

Today, Layla's momma watched her breathe. She and her husband took 6 hour shifts, not to sleep near their two year old daughter, but to sit and watch her breathe. They are trying to wrap their heads around what might happen next. Layla has sisters who love her and a dog and a momma and daddy who don't know what will happen today... what will come of this... how overwhelming this day might be.

Today, Faith's momma met with hospice. Her daughter was diagnosed just 5 days ago and she is talking with nurses about how to keep her sweet girl comfortable. She is watching her daughter tilt her head to see clearly, going to radiation consults and learning things she wishes she never had to know. On this day, she is praying that her sweet Faith is not in too much pain.

I sat in the van outside the health club and cried. Maybe you think I should let it go or maybe because I don't know these people, I should be able to set it aside. But, I can't. I can't because they are real and because these little ones are hurting and because in the midst of all my busy, busy days, I forget how blessed I am.

Because today, my kids don't hurt. They climb into bed with me and smile. They laugh and fight and make mess after mess and they have energy to burn. And the truth is, I take it for granted. While Faith and Layla's mommas face horror and sadness, I get frustrated by the noise. I think these two women would give anything for either of these girls to get up out of bed and make some noise. They ache to have their daughters laughing out loud, waking up too early or petting the dog. And I have all that in spades.

Today is an ordinary day. My house is a mess and I have cooking to do. I have not seen the laundry room floor in weeks. I have bills unpaid and work to accomplish and my kids will be home soon. And I am GRATEFUL. Truly. For the whole of it. So, I am going to go in the kitchen and bake some amazing dessert and then plan a dinner for all of us to share. I am going to pick up dirty socks and clean messy rooms and I am going to see it for what it is. A sign. A sign that my kids are strong and healthy today... healthy enough to make a mess and leave it for me to clean. And while I move from room to room, I am going to pray. I am going to pray for Layla Grace, for comfort and peace and a pain-free day. And I am going to pray for Faith, as well. For her doctors and for her family and for her own peace of mind. I am going to pray for miracles today. The kind of miracle that can heal these girls... and the kind of miracle that is all around me. A perfectly, thoroughly, ordinary day.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tasty Tuesday--Chocolate Muffins


I love making something homemade for my kids in the morning. The passion for this is fully mine since my children could take or leave it. Seems you always want what you don't have. They have a mom who bakes and yet they crave anything that comes pre-packaged. It can be frustrating to me though I am sure that someday when they are sitting in a college residence hall, it will be cookies made at home that they call to request. Well, I hope so anyway...

So, I was talking with a friend last week about quick morning recipes and she shared one that seemed too good to be true. I asked her twice what the ingredients were and I am sure she thought there was something wrong with my memory given that there are only two items on that list. Generally, I have both in stock so it seemed like this was a good fit for our mornings. Curious?

Here is the recipe she shared:

Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients:

1 chocolate cake mix (add no ingredients)
1 can of packed pumpkin

Directions:

Mix both ingredients together until they are well mixed. Scoop the batter (it will be thick) into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (mine took a little less time) til a toothpick comes out clean.

Yep, that's it. The whole recipe. Pretty sweet, huh? Turns out it's healthy, too. (98.5 calories, 1.5 g. fat, 1.2 g. fiber) You can add chocolate chips, if you would like, but there is no oil and lots of beta carotene. Pumpkin is a great food to sneak into your children's diets! After my kids ate them, I asked them to guess what was in it and not one of them came up with pumpkin. : ) They were moist and warm and chocolaty. We added juice and a dairy product to round out breakfast. A very easy treat!

Give it a try! I would not have thought it they would come out so well but it is a great and easy recipe for a busy winter morning!

Blessings on your day!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The "Have-To" or "Want-To" of Lent

We have been talking about it for weeks. Lent was coming and it was time to think it through. We encouraged our kids to process it with us and start to get ready for this season of preparation.

So, what is it all about? Many people are talking about Lent right now, but what does it really mean? Lent began last week on Ash Wednesday. This liturgical season will continue until the Saturday before Easter (the day between Good Friday and Easter). It is 40 days long, an important span of time in many Biblical stories. During this time, many people choose to give up something that is a part of their daily life in order to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter. But, how does this help us prepare?

When you think through the Easter story, there is a strong element of sacrifice. Out of great LOVE for us, God sacrificed His son so that we could be in relationship with Him. It can be hard for us to wrap our minds around such overwhelming adoration... and such selfless giving. And yet, finding ways to connect to that will help us to better understand and internalize the miracle of Easter. For us, choosing something to "give up for Lent", it is not about eliminating a vice or opting for a healthier lifestyle. It is about finding a way to connect, in some small way, to the reality of sacrifice. As we go through this season, we have a choice. We can bitterly travel from day to day, missing what we have given up or we can use the absence of this thing to remind us about what God has done.

Last year, I gave up pop. It was the first time I had ever taken Lent so seriously but the struggle was so great. I don't drink pop every day but do enjoy it and missed it something awful. I will admit, my attitude got in the way and I was distracted from the point of the whole season. This year, we have thought it through in a way that is clear to us. Decide what to give up. When you miss it, remember to pray. When it gets hard, be reminded that God has given up something so much bigger, so much dearer, to make a way for us. Connect to that truth. Let attitude fall away. Think through that story of love.

In our family, each of us has chosen something to set aside. Even our youngest children have come up with something age appropriate to give up for Lent. Doing this together gives us the opportunity to process it as we share the experience corporately. So far, I think it has been good and I am grateful to have the time to talk with my kids about how loved they really are. I love the idea of them having a daily reminder to send up a quick prayer thanking God for His gift to us. And I know it will all matter...

Our busy days are full of important things to do. We have children to watch over and work to keep them safe. We feed them healthy food and teach them healthy skills and we try to help them grow up in a way that makes sense. Lent offers us a time to step back and focus on helping our children in another way entirely. For these 40 days, we can make their spiritual growth, and our own, a high priority. We can help our children, in small and appropriate ways, connect to The One who loves them best and to the story that shows us how deep that love can go. We can spend the days focused on what we have given away... or on The Gift that was given for us. When we keep our eyes on the latter, this season of sacrifice can be filled with joy that helps us to understand something we might otherwise have missed.

For us, it's not a "have-to" but a "want-to". It is a choice that gives us vision. It's a season with a purpose. It's a way to understand.

What about you? What does Lent mean to you and how do you set it apart? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Blessings on your day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wondering and Questioning

Do you ever wonder if you are doing it right? Do you find yourself doubting the decisions you make as you parent your children or love your spouse? I do... a lot.

Last week,

Elizabeth struggled with listening and had to learn the word consequence again.

Josiah got sloppy with finishing his chores and we remembered the importance of accountability.

Benjamin insisted on getting together with friends, regardless of schedule, and faced a season of 'tween disappointment.

Noah opted for attitude when asked for help and found himself confronted with truth.

And I was tired. Really tired. Does that ever happen to you? Finding myself on the short end is certainly no treat. I was looked at sideways, mumbled about under one's breath, maligned in sibling secrets and swiped at angrily. I raised my voice, gave too many reminders and was not forceful enough in my follow-through.

Sometimes, I really wonder if I am doing this right....

Maya Angelou has often said, "When you know better, you do better." My poor children have heard this more times than I can count. I love Maya Angelou but when it comes to children, this is just not always true. I try to teach them right from wrong, have them learn responsibility by helping at home and generally live in a way that is respectful to others. But, truth be told, even though they know better, their actions do not always show that.

By the end of the week, I was discouraged and weary. The battle is long and the stakes are high. I have been told that I take it all too seriously. That raising kids is really not this hard. Know what I think? I think it IS this hard... and some days HARDER. I think it has to do with goals... and long-term goals are hardest to measure.

But, maybe I need to back off. Maybe I need to cut them slack. Maybe some sass here and there is not nearly as serious as I think it is. Maybe they need to have more choices, less responsibility and less time being supervised. Maybe.... or maybe not.

At the end of the week, I collapsed on the couch and reached for the remote to relax a bit. A few minutes later, Noah came down and sat all 12.5 years of himself squarely on my lap. A little bit later, Benjamin joined us. He squished himself between me and the arm of the couch and grabbed my arm to wrap it around his shoulders. Josiah and EB wandered in next and both of them climbed onto the pile. Four little heads rested on me and all of them sat perfectly still. Maybe they just wanted to watch some TV. Maybe... or maybe not.

Some days I just don't know if I am doing this whole thing right. When the days are long and the fights drag on, when the glares are dark and the frustration high... on those days, I really don't know.

But somethings I do know for sure. Like:
-I am not in this to be their friend.
-I am not raising children. I am raising children to become adults.
-I am the one who has to hold the big picture. They are too young to see it.
-What I do and expect, comes from love.
-I believe they have an important job to do in God's big world. This is the time to get ready.
-Play and work, laughter and tears, joy and frustration all are a normal part of life.
-And, I am doing my best. Most days. : )

There is no way to know for sure, if what we are doing is right. But, maybe the issue is in the question itself. Maybe, it's not about finding a way that is right so much as finding a way that works.

Either way, I will have moments when I question the path we are on. I will have moments of doubt. But, at the end of the week, if I find myself on the bottom of an enormous pile of loving children who have sought me out, I think I will set my questions aside. Because honestly, this is answer enough.

Blessings on your day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blogs YOU Like...

Last week, I asked you to send some blogs my way. I had a fantastic time looking them over and honestly just loved every minute of that time. Below are some, not all, of the ones you sent. I do not know any of these people but really enjoy their sites.

http://orangette.blogspot.com/ --Amazing recipes!


http://dancingwithcats.blogspot.com/ --A friend and honest Momma...


http://thepioneerwoman.com/ --Lots of down-home advice, ideas and recipes... LOVE IT.


http://www.saussie.com/ --Pet lover and photographer, cool site!


http://romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com/ --Dog lover and interesting stuff.


http://michellearlotta.blogspot.com/ --Photographer... gorgeous work.


http://www.theotherendoftheleash.com/ --Intriguing blog about training dogs and their connections to us.


http://thesmallbeginnings.blogspot.com/ --thoughtful and thought-provoking... honest.

Read away, my friends! Feel free to send more my way. I love to see well-loved blogs. Some of the others that I read are listed in the right hand margin on my site... really love Bring the Rain... so honest. And as always, feel free to forward this blog to anyone who may enjoy what's here. New readers always make me smile. : )

Blessings on your day!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Siah's Dream and What We Have to Hold

We were completely asleep. It was the kind of sleep that keeps you there... doesn't allow a quick awakening or an ability to think. The house was quiet and were gone.

Until the scream.

Mark and I both sat upright in bed. Neither of us knew what was happening but we both spotted it at the same time. A child running by. A scream filling the room. In his sleepy stupor, Mark shot out a hand and captured Josiah's arm. He fought and fussed and Mark pulled him up into the bed.

The noises he was making weren't language exactly. They were portions of words that shot from his mouth like daggers flying at what we fear.

"Dangero...." he cried.

"Need some..." he screamed.

"Terrif!" he yelled.

I wrapped my arms around my boy and laid him down between us. He was cold and clammy and agitated and, I figured, still sleeping. I asked him if he had a dream and he clearly answered yes. My little one was awake. This was no night terror to be forgotten in morning light. No, this was a dream... a real dream that had frightened Josiah beyond words and reason.

Mark and I took turns for a while trying to talk him down. But whatever he had seen was real to him and it would not go away. His eyes were wide and his breathing quick and even in our tired way, we could see this was going to go on a while.

Mark took 'Siah to the bathroom, more to look at him than anything else. His color was good and he said he wasn't sick so back in our bed he came. He snuggled in tight and when asked what he dreamed, he replied, "I cannot speak of it.".

Holding my son, I drifted in and out of sleep for a while but woke up again a couple of hours later to find him still awake. Still scared.

"Momma, please. I need the light."

Knowing that morning would bring four children with needs and a load of chores as well, the light could not go on. I need sleep to get through our busy days so I held him closer and told him no.

"Momma, please. PLEASE. I need the light."

I looked around and saw a phone with a little blinking "You have voicemail" light on the end. I reached over, grabbed the phone and handed it to him.

"Light, bubby. You have light. Will this help?"

He smiled, clutched the phone and closed his eyes. As he dozed back off to sleep, his little, chubby hand raised up and felt around in search of something I could not see. When it landed on my hand, he curled his fingers around mine and sighed a contented sigh. We both slept well then, he and I, hand in hand in a bed over-flowing with family. But, as I fell asleep, I found myself lost in thought.

What do I do when I am afraid?

Where do I run when I am in need?

When I am lost in darkness and deep in distress, where do I find the light?

When I feel alone, whose hand do I embrace for comfort?

We spend a lot of time and words explaining who God is. We compare him to a Father and extol his power and all of that is Truth. But there is more... He is the one who pulls us close. He is the one who catches us when we are running from our fear. He is the one who wraps his loving arms around our tiny selves and waits for our hand to reach out for His. And He takes it. And never, ever lets go.

Last night, I held my boy for a long, long while... and I was grateful, deeply so, that there is Someone who will hold him forever. When I am gone and 'Siah is here, the arms that hold us both will still be hanging on. It was a good reminder to me... and true comfort to offer my son. Because dreams will come and troubles will increase but The Light will always endure.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And Now for Something Entirely Different...

I am a sucker for community. Love to create it, to observe it, to nurture it. It has, in my life, been a very shaping and important thing. I have been a part of educational communities, faith communities, work communities, social communities... the list is truly endless. I have trained on it and grown in it and found again and again how crucial it is to me.

Over the past year, I have thought often about the online community and it's place in the world today. There are many who believe there is a falseness to it... a disconnectedness found in the distance within. But, it seems to me that the idea of an online community of people who are, in some way, intertwined with one another is changing and growing and becoming something that is much more real than it had been before.

The world of blogging is an integral part of all that. It brings us together based on experience or knowledge or a random series of events that can bind us somehow. Even here, as we talk about our lives as women, as moms, as people who love and think and seek out something intentional, there is community being created that occurs mainly, not because but in spite of me. And when I hear from you through email or posts, it makes it all so real to me... that we are in it together and that what we live is real and good.

So, let's try something new! This week, as you read this blog and any others, forward them to someone who may not find it any other way. Let's be purposeful about building this community and welcoming new friends to join us as we go. Know a mom who could use some encouragement? A friend who seeks to be intentional in her parenting? A co-worker who likes to think it through? Forward this blog to their in-box or send them a link to this site. And as you do that, I would love to know what other blogs you read. Share some ideas about someone else's site that we all may enjoy as well.

Because the truth is, we are in this together. You may be sitting in Michigan or California or Massachusetts but there is something about sharing in this way that helps us to feel a little less like strangers all over the world and a little more like neighbors sharing a cup of well-brewed coffee. I love that picture... and love what we can discover together.

So, let's do it! Let's expand this community and build new connections and encourage one another this way. It will only take a minute to share a link with a friend... and how grateful they will be that you have thought of them, remembered them, saw them today.

Blessings on your day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Developing

It was a long, good weekend here. Sometimes, it is hard to believe that so much can be packed into two short days.

First, thank you for praying for my Noah. He went on the retreat and he had an amazing time. Here at home, it was strange having him gone. The rest of the kids missed him terribly and everyone commented on that several times. I spent a lot of time thinking about parenting... seeing, in a whole new way, what a short season it really is. By Saturday night, I had to work hard to not get in the van and drive up to Wisconsin just to see my boy... but Mark spoke reason to my weary soul and I stayed put. : ) That said, we did text the coordinators of the retreat who told us, compassionately, that Noah was fine and enjoying the nacho bar. That is really all I needed to hear.

He laughed and played and learned and sang... yes, sang. My shy boy participated in karaoke! I could not have been more surprised. Seems there is another benefit to our children spending some time away. With wings spread wide, they may learn to fly in a way we would never think to teach them. Overall, I am thrilled he went and so proud of him for deciding to go.

In addition to this big event in Noah's life, Benjamin started something bold and new, as well. He has been begging us to learn to play the violin for years. With our houses and financial situation, this just was not an option at all. We recently heard about a new opportunity for students to get violin instruction essentially for free! Benjamin had to write an essay as an entry that explained why he wanted to play. There were many, many entries but his was chosen and he was thrilled to start instruction yesterday. He soaked up every word the instructor spoke and worked so hard to get all the techniques just right. Benjamin is a complicated kid who can often mistake teaching for criticism. So, seeing him openly try to do exactly as he was told was really amazing to watch.

Last night, during the Super Bowl, I sat and watched my kids. Noah, our sweet home-body, had returned from his retreat. Though he is most often involved in athletics, he was sitting on the floor exploring an art kit he recently bought. He was sketching and thinking and watching the game. Next to him sat Benjamin, a soccer kid through and through. And in his hand was a pencil with little sticky circles on the end that will help him to perfect a bow-hold for violin. I watched him set it down and pick it up and check his fingers, then do it again. And I suddenly realized how important it is for us to be careful not to pigeon-hole our children. We live and breathe athletics here, with all the children playing a sport. We love that they are active and healthy and strong but it is good for us to see, again, that there is so much more for them to learn. Being an athlete does not eliminate a heart for the arts. And the reverse is true as well. As parents, we have a huge job to do... and a part of that is consistently finding ways for our children to be exposed to new activities and events so that the whole of their little beings can find ways to be developed.

It keeps us on our toes, doesn't it? Just when we think we know who they are, we catch a glimpse of some new upcoming thing. A new perspective, an undiscovered passion, a new way of seeing who they are and what they can do. How amazing to be able to watch...

Blessings on your day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Long, Slow Season... and a Request

It was nine years ago but it feels like yesterday. At 9:00 AM, I dropped Noah off for his first day of preschool. Granted 2 hours of kid-free time, I panicked. Instead of heading home, I stopped at my friend Suzanne's house and asked if I could sit there a while so I didn't have to go home. There was something about being in our place without him that seemed a bit too much. It wasn't that I thought preschool would go badly. It wasn't that I wanted to keep him home. The fact of the matter was that he was my boy and felt like such a part of me that it was hard to imagine a day without him near. I am so grateful to Suzanne for that morning... for giving me a place to be until I could go pick my baby up and head on home.

Sometimes it seems like parenting is a long, slow season of good-byes. Some of them are said with great rejoicing ("Good-bye diapers!"), others are said with choked back tears ("Have fun at school, honey!"). And while it can be difficult to process through, the good-byes we offer help our children to bravely step into the next, new phase of life.

Two weeks ago, Noah came home and told us there was a youth group retreat upcoming that he wanted to attend. It is important to note that never, NEVER, has this child asked to go away to anything at all. He likes being home. He takes comfort in the familiar. He is quiet and calm and serious and shy. Being home, for him, makes sense. We have encouraged him to spread his wings but each offer was met with a begging plea... "Don't make me go, mom. Please don't make me go."

So, imagine our surprise when this retreat idea was broached! A couple of phone calls later, with a complete understanding of the planned activities, Mark and I agreed that this would be a great first step for our first-born. We told our boy he could go.

With the retreat coming up this weekend, his enthusiasm has waned. We are watching Noah waffle between wanting to go off and be with friends having fun out-of state and wanting to be home with his family and his routine. There are no cell phones allowed so even if he took our extra phone along, its use would be prohibited.

I know as his momma, it is my job to encourage. So I am saying all the right things...

"You are going to have so much fun!"

"College shouldn't be the first time you go away..."

"We love you and will be here when you come home."

"It is just a weekend. By the time you start to miss us, you will be on your way back home."

"You can do this. It is going to be amazing!"

But, truth be told, I want to grab my boy and head on home and tell him he doesn't have to go. I want to keep him where I can see him and let him stay where he is comfortable and where I can love on him and talk to him any time at all.

The thing is... there is no good in that. It breaks my heart but it's the truth. There is no good in keeping him home because I am raising him to... well... leave. I am raising him to stand up tall and walk the path that God has planned for his life in the future and his life today.

And, the thing is... there is so much good in what he can find out on that retreat and out in the world. The growth he can experience personally, spiritually and socially when he stretches his comfort zone like this just cannot be found in his same old spot.

And, well... the thing is that the very truths that I share with my boy every single day will mean so much more to his young life when he hears them again in a voice that is totally not mine. When a youth pastor or college-aged helper or teacher or friend remind my Noah that he is deeply loved by the God who created all that there ever was, he will get it in a way that I cannot give him alone.

So, at 3:45 Noah will get on a bus with all of his friends from school. He will eat Subway on the drive (which he doesn't really like) and watch a movie on the way. And when he goes to sleep tonight, he will be listening to middle-school-boy jokes and will be covered by a sleeping bag on a bunk in a cabin very far away. And tomorrow, while we act like life is normal here, he will play outside and listen to speakers and learn more about himself and his God than he can even guess. He will stay up late, skip his shower, forget to brush his teeth and laugh an awful lot. And Sunday, when he realizes that he is not off to church with us, they will pack him on a bus to head home.

And it is good and it is right and even if just typing that makes me cry, its true. Because parenting is a long, slow season of good-byes... but the blessing in this one is that after two long days, I get to say hello. I get to open my arms and welcome him home and let him share what he is learning and what he has done. I won't always get to do that... but this time, I do.

So, he is going. And we will be okay because it is all a part of what we do. There is a time to hold them close and a time to let them go. This weekend, we embrace the latter because it is good and right for him. Even if it is hard for us.

In a couple of hours, we will smile and wave and tell him to have a great time. The hard part of being a mom is not something he needs to bear. He will know that we believe this is good and he will have an amazing time.

But, do me a favor, will you? Pray for my boy this weekend. Pray with us for safety and fun and growth... It helps to know we're in it together.

Blessings on your day.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weary Feet and a Minute for Me

I spent the morning tweaking a writing project I have been putz-ing at for a month. Now, with my house completely quiet, I am claiming time for me. I have been invited by a friend to join her downtown tonight for dinner and a play. The whole of that sentence makes me smile because it is filled with so many things that I honestly just LOVE. It is time for me to pull my self together and sit with a dear friend, enjoy wonderful conversation, surround myself with the arts and then relish an in-depth chat on the journey home. I just cannot wait.

We don't do enough of this, do we? When I am thrilled about a leisurely shower and dressing in clothes that I could NOT wear to a gym, what does that say about my daily priorities? Every morning, my children leave for school dressed, clean, combed and brushed. They feel good and look good and have had plenty of sleep... well, mostly. Somehow, I have pushed myself far enough back that the base things that I require for them, I often do not require for myself.

Tonight, I am going out. But what will I do tomorrow? What will it take for me to feel like I have prioritized myself a bit then? What will it take for you to do the same? What minute can you reserve for yourself to relax, to read a bit, to enjoy a treat or just to find some space to remember what you love, even in this season of sacrifice?

When my older boys were little, I remember giving them daily baths. It took time but they loved it all. One day, I pulled off my socks and soaked my weary feet in the warm, soapy water as they played. It was just a little thing but it made a world of difference to this tired momma. It couldn't compare to a pedicure or massage but for those few minutes, it was close enough. I found myself looking forward to the boys' baths both for them and for me.

So, what's it going to be? You are too important to those you love best to set yourself aside again. Just find a minute. Think of one small thing that you love. Work it in and you will find that the lift it gives you makes you a better mom to those children at your feet. You are worth it, you know. You really, really are.

Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cacophony

After several peaceful hours at home today, I got in my van and drove to pick my children up from school. The difference between my life with my kids and my life while they are in class is so vastly different that switching from one to the other is sometimes awfully difficult. Let me share a bit with you...

In the van:

Benjamin gets in with a song in his head. Well, not so much a song as four notes of the song that he blurts out intermittently during our drive.

"La, la, lahhh, la!" he shouts

Josiah chimes in, "I need 100 things for tomorrow. Its 100 day. Can I bring 100 apples?"

"Um, no bud. Not apples."

"Aww... please? I love apples."

"La, la, lahhhh, la!" Benjamin grunts.

It's 100 day for me, too!" EB announces proudly.

"I can't wait til next weekend when we have two days off... LONG weekend. Can I have friends over then? Noah asks.

"But mom, please can I bring 100 apples to school?"

"Mom? Can they come?"

"La, la, lahhh, la!" Benjamin chimes in again.

I am left wondering if he sings all day in school. I take a deep breath and try to ask about their days. I get very little information but I do find out that Alex and Shannon poked Benjamin today. His best buds. It makes me smile.

Once we get home, the dog finds the kids and much screaming ensues. She jumps up on their faces and kisses them relentlessly. Elizabeth asks to go outside. Noah scrounges for a snack.

"Mom, can I have my apple now? Is it almost 3:00?" Yep, Josiah again.

Benjamin runs screaming through the family room and the dog starts following Josiah around in hopes of eating his core.

The tv is on and Benjamin lands at the piano where he starts playing the first three lines of the theme to the Harry Potter movies... again and again and again. When the dog is at the door with a huge stick, he calls her in and she brings the stick, bonking me firmly on the head. The dog and the stick go back outside.

Time for homework and chores begins and Noah asks, "Know what we have to do with our puppy?" He lets her back in the house.

"Put peanut butter on her nose for entertainment?" Benjamin answers.

"No, we need to tie a string to the house and then tie her toy to the string so if she wants to play tug, she could play with the house."

Elizabeth comes downstairs totally soaked. In January.

"Why are you so wet??" I ask. These are the questions I never thought I would have to ask.

"I was cleaning the sink."

Clear as mud.

Noah announces that he is going to go put peanut butter on the dog's nose and everyone runs up to the kitchen to watch her try to lick it off. The boys take turns narrating what Lexie (the dog) must be thinking... what she would say if she could talk.

Benjamin comes downstairs and announces he is miraculously done with his homework. The homework I have yet to see him do.

Josiah walks through with 4 pieces of paper and a roll of tape.

"I am going to make a machine." he says.

Upstairs, I can hear Elizabeth's closet door opening and closing again and again and again. While I am staring futilely at the ceiling, Benjamin comes through to take a glance at what I am blogging about.

Laughing, he says, "It's not la, la, lahhh, la. It's dooo dooo dooodly doo."

Elizabeth walks through carrying her dirty laundry to the laundry room. Josiah is calling my name. From the living room, I can hear Noah laughing.

"Somebody come and see this! Somebody come and see!" he calls.

Benjamin and I head upstairs while Josiah explains that he has just made a machine out of paper and tape. Elizabeth is amazed and asks him bunches of questions as Benjamin and I find Noah sitting on a chair with the dog. We have pictures of him holding her when she was just a pup. Today, the tables have turned.



Overall, it is a cacophony of constant family chaos. It seems to me that there is no rhyme or reason to what is said or done and the never-ending drone of it can wear on my weary ears. And yet, there is a goodness to it all... a fullness that I know is only for today. I may yearn for a minute of rest but the truth is I have a lifetime of quiet moments before me. In just a few minutes, they will run out the door and off to college and Mark and I will be sitting here wondering where it all went. We will want for it then... the frantic family noise that fills our home right now.

So, maybe instead of going upstairs to stop the ball bouncing happening in the boy's room, I will sit here and soak it up. Maybe I will let the sound of it settle around me and try to see it for what it really is. Temporary. Necessary. Beautiful.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thoughts on 'Tweens: Embracing This Too


Yesterday, Josiah was at a friend's house after school and Elizabeth was playing outside in the snow. As I worked on dinner, I found myself spending time with my oldest boys, both who are entering a new phase of their lives.
It is the season we often fear. It is the part of parenting that pokes persistently at the insecurities we try to hide. The 'tween and teen years sneak up quietly and then jump up unexpectedly scaring us half to death.

With 13 years of parenting behind me and many years left to go, I have often wondered how to manage these upcoming years with purpose and love. As a momma with two busy 'tweens, I spend a lot of time thinking and praying about how to help my sweet boys grow through these years and come out the other side as ready adults. As many of you know, Mark and I had the amazing opportunity to spend the boy's early years living and working with college students. As we plan for the years ahead, we draw (again!) on our experiences with the students we so loved as well as our own lives and experiences.

So, where does that leave us? What goals do we have for parenting 'tweens and teens? Here are some thoughts to share:

1. I will not give up. Sometimes as parents, we get tired and discouraged. I will not give in to those feelings in a way that releases the responsibility I have as a momma to my children. I will continue to walk with them, talk with them and seek to understand them as we journey through this season together.

2. I will raise the standard, no matter what current culture commands. Ever look around and see adults turn a blind eye to the behavior and choices of 'tweens and teens? Why do we do that? I will not expect less from my children just because they are between 11 and 19. That is an 8 year span of their young lives that can be good and full of wonder. It is an 8 year span of life that I want them to reflect on as part of their whole in a way that is positive.

3. Discipline will remain. There is a difference, my friends, between discipline and punishment. I will set the latter aside and lean heavily upon the teaching aspect found in the act of "disciple-ing". When my children become "prickly" in their demeanor, when they stand apart from me in seeking their own independence, they do not need me less. Instead, they need me differently than they may ever have before. They need me to come alongside and gently guide them as they grow in wisdom and courage.

4. I will not be afraid to laugh. Every stage of parenting has held joy for us and I will not assume this will be any different. Instead, I will laugh with my children and let this stage be filled with the fun and funny that the past stages have held, as well. What causes us to smile may have changed, but I want to embrace to joy of this as I embraced it of the last.

5. I will stay close. A teen-age boy does not need less touch from his parents... instead, he may need it more. As he struggles to understand his place in and out of his family, as he wallows through emotions that will not always present as words, a loving touch by a connected parent may be the best and only way through. I will let my embrace, my hand on his back, my kiss on his forehead, say what words may not communicate loudly enough. I love you, son. More than you can know.

6. I will not diminish the feelings that abound. The first crush, falling head-long in love, a crushing disappointment... all of these are real. From my perspective, they may seem small but in the life of my child these experiences literally are their whole, entire life. I will not gloss over what affects them today with a lecture on the grand scheme of their experiences to come. Instead, I will come alongside and listen well and let myself remember what it feels like to be young and hurt or happy or lost.

7. I will foster the development of their faith with the same attentive fervor I tapped in assisting their childhood development. In seeking "teachable moments" with my children, I will work to refrain from preaching or pushing and lean instead on helping them to discover how very LOVED they are. I will encourage them to respond to their own divine calling and to cherish the plan that God has for them in Kingdom. And I will embrace the fact that my kids will grow into this truth as they hear it from a variety of voices. As teachers and pastors and friends encourage a growing faith in my children, I will celebrate the work of many that results in the growth of one.

When I dreamed of having a family, the picture was filled with shining faces of young children playing happily in their own backyard. But, parenting is more than pictures and has less to do with my old dreams and more to do with a gritty love that hangs in tough when the day is long and hard. Parenting is a job that calls us to cuddle babies, change diapers, potty train and teach. But, parenting also requires us to see this work as a lifetime position that will approach the 'tween and teen years with the same breathless anticipation that we felt as our children learned to take their first steps. The comparison is there... physical first steps lead to this place where steps are taken toward maturity and responsibility and growth. That picture holds beauty, too. And I want to embrace it well.

Last night, I had time to sit with my boys and laugh at their jokes. I watched them read and play. I rubbed their backs and kissed their faces. I offered to them something their friends cannot. Parenting and love. A constant in their lives. An acceptance that holds a full understanding of who they are and adores them through it all. No matter what they say, no matter what our culture might want me to believe, that is important and life-changing and good. I am a momma still... and I love my growing boys. What a wonder-full thing to watch the babies they once were grow into the men God has planned for them to be.

Blessings on your day!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Broken Laptops and a Boy on my Lap

I didn't mean to do it. Thursday morning, as I sat down to begin my blog, my laptop slipped a bit and I reached out to catch it. I have done it a million times. Except this time, my thumb pressed just a bit too hard on the corner of my screen and I felt the tiniest little "pop". And that was it. I pulled my beloved computer back on to my lap and my screen died right before my eyes. First, the corner turned black and then what had been images turned into a bunch of random colored lines. I broke the LCD.

For two hours, I wandered around the house. My stuff is in there. I am in the process of writing two books... both in my laptop. My pictures. My music. My half written article. My settings. My videos. It is all inside. I seriously felt like I was going to be sick. We are in no position to replace things and because of that we are certainly in no position to BREAK them.

My modus operandi is to think everything through. Think. Plan. Decide. Do. What do you do when that does not work? What do you do when you can think all day and in the end, there is no decision to make, no plan to create? Nothing at all to do? I could WISH that I had been more careful. I could MOURN the loss of something I love so much. But, truly... there was no action to be taken because what was done was done and my laptop was dead.

I know the upside is that it is just a screen... that my hard drive is fine and my stuff is, though inaccessible, still there somewhere. But, resting in that optimistic view was hard for me. I use my laptop every day and I need it for speaking and writing. In a house where everything that once was mine is ours, I love to have something that fully belongs to me. I can keep it organized in the way that makes sense to me. I can take it with me and do what needs to be done in a way that only I understand. During a time in my life when even my bed is shared with four little people that I deeply love, it is comforting to have something that belongs to me.

We give up a lot as moms, don't we? We start this journey by offering our very selves to child-bearing... our whole hearts and minds are consumed with it all whether we deliver or adopt. We give up our freedom to go where we want, do what we want, eat what we want, watch what we want... the list is truly endless. The homes we work so hard for are over-run with toys and fingerprints and smears of peanut butter or banana. It changes our bodies, our minds, our very view of the world leaving us wondering, sometimes, what is left for me?

Maybe there is a titch of self-pity in that. I had plenty of time to wallow last week when I was cleaning carpets out of broken-computer frustration. But, there may be a time and a place for that because when we are really honest, it is a lot to give up. We can ignore the sacrifice we have made in order to to stay true to the "perfect mom" we sometimes hope to be... or we can tell the truth. It's hard. It is really hard. Naming that fact does not diminish the love I have for my children or how much I enjoy being their mom. It doesn't take away a single thing from the work I do or the goals I have for my family. It really doesn't change a thing because whether I name it or not, it is there nonetheless. The sacrifice, the busyness, the wondering where we are in the midst of all this chaos is a part of who we are right now. It is not permanent but it is true.

Last night, after Elizabeth went to bed, Mark took the older boys upstairs to work on building a shelf. Josiah and I were downstairs watching TV together. A few minutes into it, Josiah came and climbed into my lap. He snuggled his head against my chest and curled his feet up onto my legs. As I sat there with my boy, hundreds of memories of sitting with him just like that came flooding over my heart. Josiah as a newborn, as a toddler, as a preschooler, today. He didn't say much... a comment here and there... but I couldn't tell you what was happening on TV because while he watched it, I watched him. I watched how his dark eyelashes brush the tops of cheeks when he blinks. I watched how his cheeks rise up when he smiles. I watched how he reaches out to touch me when he talks. I just watched.

It is an awful lot to give up, my friends. Being a momma causes a tremendous amount of sacrifice in our stretched-thin lives. And sometimes, we may want to pull something in that is fully our own and defend it from the onslaught of gimmes we face all day long. But the truth is that as we go through this overwhelming work, we are learning something important about what matters in the world. And that lesson is handed to us again and again and again. My laptop may have value to me and to my routines... but as I sat last night with a boy on my lap, I understood it all again. There are things of value... and things that are priceless. Priceless. Like having the minutes to watch my son and store up for myself the littlest details about who he is today. About his lashes, his cheeks, the weight of his head on my chest.

The sacrifice is great and that is the truth. The work is hard and thankless. But the salary is paid in priceless parcels that are offered up freely each day. And in that I remember... the laptop is nice but I am grateful for that which matters far more to me.

Blessings on your day.
There was an error in this gadget