Monday, November 28, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday ~ Thankfulness

Last Friday at about 7:45 pm, poor Norah reached her threshold.  And not because she was Black Friday-ed out.

We had been playing hard all day at Auntie Allie's house.  We were settling into night #3 out in my mom's art studio.  She took one look at the air mattress and burst into tears!

"I just want to sleep in a real bed!"

After twenty minutes of full-body sobbing, Daddy managed to convince her that she was really tired and that she would feel tons better in the morning.  She sniffed.  She blew her nose.  She mumbled something about not being comfy.  And she pulled her blankets up around her chin and buried her face in her pillow.

I felt her pain.

As we watched poor Norah melt down, my mom, brother and sister stifled a snicker.

"She's her mother's daughter for sure."

Let's time-warp back to a similar misery, eh, I mean, vacation ...

My family was wrapping up week two of a trip to California.  We had spent time with my aunt and uncle in Camarillo and then headed to Yosemite for several nights before heading home.  

This is night two:

Oh, the pain of it all!

The story goes (and let me tell you, they love to tell the story...) that I spent much of this night moaning and groaning.

"I just want to go home."

"I just want a real bed."

"I just want my clothes to be in my dresser."

We all have our limits and this was mine!  Because of this powerful memory, I could empathize with sad, sweet Norah.  It's wonderful to run away for a vacation, but it's also wonderful knowing that eventually you will find yourself back home.

Today I'm thankful for my home ~ where everything is where it should be.  

And my clothes are in my dresser!

Thankfulness {day seven}

Last week the kids were off school.  And, consequently, off balance!

It is glorious to have a break from the daily routine, to toss the schedule out the window and shake things up a bit!  I really do love when my kids are home for a break.  Our mornings are slower - no need to bustle and tussle out the door at eight thirty.   We set the course of the day - no one else's schedule dictating our mornings, afternoons and evenings.  We play a bit more - less "should-do's" and more "want-to's".

But all that freedom can make our household run a little off-kilter.  That's when it's doubly sweet to jump back into the predictable, plot able, programable plan each day.  Discovering again that a little routine goes a long way towards having a happy home!

Yesterday I sent the three big kids back to school.  They almost skipped out the door and I happily hummed as I watched them drive away.  Then I closed the door and smiled.  I still had two little people to care for, but as they quietly played and slept, I was able to put our home back on track.

It went a little something like this ...

Selecting "Christmas Medley" on my iPod,
Washing the breakfast dishes and wiping down kitchen counters,
Rummaging through the kitchen for all the parts for dinner,
Cleaning Petey's cage and refreshing all his dishes and water,
Sweeping the kitchen floor,
Taking down Lydia's birthday decorations (finally),
Stacking all the clean laundry for kids to put away,
Answering e-mails and leaving messages,
Making phone calls and wrapping up loose ends,
Helping Lydia with her new puzzle,
Freeing our Christmas tree from it's netting,
Filling the tree stand with water,
Vacuuming up the first of those pesky pine needles,
Feeding and cuddling Baby S.,
Snuggling with Lydia on the couch,
Preparing lunch for us girls ...

The beautiful humdrum of life!

It may have seemed like just an ordinary morning, but in reality it was sacred.  The holiness of haven-making ... creating a shelter for my family!

Today I am thankful for the natural rhythm of our lives and the opportunity to be home with my kids ... allowing me to make this a place of refuge and refreshment.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thankfulness {day six}

Hmmm ... Looks like my Thankfulness posts are overflowing into this week!  And that's not a bad thing at all.  There's no better way to turn a Monday around than to start off with a little gratefulness.
________________________________

A year ago today ... quite possibly to the date, I'd have to check my calendar to be sure ... but a year ago today I was sitting with my mom in the ER.

I sat in the plastic, pushed to the corner, "family or friend" chair while my mom tried unsuccessfully to find a comfortable position on the exam table.  She had been experiencing a new, more severe back pain and we were there on the Friday after Thanksgiving with the hopes of finding the cause.

She went for several different tests.  I sat and thought about calling my sister with an update.  But I really didn't have any update to give.  Eventually they sent her home with a generic prescription:  rest, pain meds as needed, follow-up with primary physician.

That weekend we had plans to visit the tree farm and cut down our Christmas tree.  My mom rested up a bit, but she was adamant about coming along.  She is a bit stubborn when it comes to family time and she really hates to miss out on seeing the kids excited about anything.  She joined us in feeding the Clydesdales, Sam and Gus.  She helped the kids roast marshmallows and she took a few pictures of the kids climbing the hay bale pyramid.  But when it came to climbing up on the flat bed trailer and bouncing along behind the tractor out to the cut the tree, she had to say, "no".  She headed back to the car to wait and probably had a good cry.

That weekend was the beginning of a long and difficult season for her filled with chronic pain and empty of any feasible relief.  For the next six months we watched rather helplessly as my mom's back problems went from bad to worse.

She saw a variety of doctors, each with their own thoughts and plans, but any alleviation of pain was temporary.  She grieved the loss of her ability to walk, sit, move without pain and we grieved the loss of family-time with Nana.

Then came June ... and the promise of relief.

The doctor called a it a "lumbar fusion".  I called it hope.

Hope for freedom from pain,
Hope for my mom's quality of life to be renewed,
Hope for time for Nana to enjoy your grand-babies,
Hope for the mom I know to be restored,
Hope for God to heal her.

Next came six more months and they weren't any easier.  The first two were doozies filled with an arduous recovery, full-time care provided by my amazing sister, shuffling steps and groggy-headedness.  We watched as my mom wrestled with fluctuating blood pressure problems, loss of appetite (unless you count creamed spinach as actual food) and a bit of the blues.  She didn't have the original back pain, but her nerves were shouting from all the poking and prying from the surgery.

There were a few times after visiting on the phone when I wondered if I would ever talk to my mom again.  She looked like my mom, sort of, and her voice sounded like my mom, kind of, but it wasn't my mom.  She didn't have much to say ... and my mom is a talker.  She didn't want company ... and my mom loves to be around people.  She resisted seeing the kids ... and my mom will jump in the car in a moment's notice to see her babies.  We were still waiting and still hoping.

Then came the day when she realized that she didn't hurt.  Not her back, not her incision.  Nothing.  She cautiously celebrated.  We watched as she took baby steps back to her new normal.

This past Saturday, we headed out once again to the tree farm with my brother and sister-in-law and their kids.

The fourteen of us fed Gus and Sam.


The fourteen of us roasted marshmallows around the fire pit.



The fourteen of us took pictures as kids climbed the hay bales ...


... and carriages.


And the fourteen of us climbed up on the flat bed trailer and bounced along behind the tractor in search of our Christmas tree.


We have seen our hopes for Nana come to life!  Freedom from pain, enjoying life, loving on her grand-babies, restored as the woman we know and healed by God!

That's what I'm thankful for today.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankfulness {day five}

Today is the day when a good number of our country's population flood the stores and fill their carts with loads of toys, clothes, electronics and other gift items all at rock bottom prices.  (Actually I guess they started last night, which ranks right up there with crazy and absurd.)

Today is the day when I ponder not actually getting dressed.  I mean, I'll probably change out of my pajamas, but I'll most likely end up in something else equally comfy.  (Getting dressed with the sole purpose of lounging around ranks right up there with silly and foolish.)

I am actually quite intentional about having a wardrobe that doesn't just consist of knit pants and sloppy shirts.  I feel better about me when I wear flattering clothing ... jeans that fit and slim me down in all the right places with a top that not only compliments my figure, but enhances the good parts.

But on days like today, I'm intending to forgo fashion and enjoy a little something comfy.  My anticipated outfit of today consists of my GoodWill-found, coffee-colored fleece pants.  The tag says, "Old Navy".  I say, "Favorite pants ever."  They are warm, cushy and their elastic waist band will make my midsection oh-so-happy today ... just in case Thanksgiving dinner takes an encore!

I also packed my newish knit poncho.  This is my slightly more fashionable and significantly more functional Snuggie.  I'm not entirely certain what Stacy & Clinton would say about this addition to my wardrobe.  I think it's cute and I love how I feel five degrees warmer within a few moments of putting it on!  And when I go to the kitchen for another cup of tea, I don't have to unwrap first or drag it along behind me.

It's not so much that I'm thankful for my couch potato clothes, but I am grateful that today is a day to be a couch potato.  An extra family day this week without a schedule to keep!  I would love to find a verse hidden away somewhere in Isaiah that encourages us to take one day to stay in our comfyiest of clothes ... but alas, my concordance doesn't turn up any such wisdom.

Neither could I find any Scripture references to setting aside a day to play Wii, work on a puzzle, nosh on Thanksgiving leftovers and spend most of the day curled up on the couch.  But I still think God will bless it!

Here's to taking time to recharge ... in our comfy-est clothes in the closet!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankfulness {day four}

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you are in the midst of family, friends, food and fun!

We are currently packed to the gills in my sister's home ... fourteen people, four dogs and one bathroom.  It's how we enjoy our holidays!  Packed cheek to cheek to cheek to cheek to cheek around the table and on the couch and in our blow-up beds.  I wouldn't have it any other way!

Thinking back on past Thanksgivings, I was surprised at the many different ways we have spent this holiday.  We have celebrated under many different roofs, eating many variations of the traditional good eats and among a variety of family and friends.  Sometimes we share food responsibilities, sometimes we just show up with a can of whipped cream and some rolls.  Sometimes we spend our time cuddled on the couch watching football while other times we hover over the dining room table, tackling a 1,000 piece puzzle.  We've watched the wonder and delight of each of our kiddos eating their first turkey, first cranberry, first pumpkin pie.  We have laughed and reminisced with older family members who have since passed away.

So many memories packed into one single day.

But one of my absolute, hands-down favorite memories would have to be my mom's annual turkey dance.  Each year before stuffing the bird, my mom would slide her hand into the cavity and entertain us with a little turkey cha-cha!  At least until her arm gave out ... those 20 pound turkeys are not light on their feet!

Several years ago, we decided to for go the traditional turkey and instead served individual cornish game hens. This allowed us to each have our own delicious bird ... and a feathered friend chorus line:


Today I am thankful for laughter that cheers our faces, memories that warm our hearts and food that fills our bellies!

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful! 
(Proverbs 15:13)

Hope you enjoy a little silliness today!  And maybe a little dancing. :)
_____________________________

Prompt #2 ~ What traditions do you carry on with your family each year?


Mama’s Losin’ It

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankfulness {day three}

We have been living in this house for 1,987 days.  (For those of you who really like numbers, that is 2,861,280 minutes; 47,688 hours or 283 weeks.)

I like that number.  Not because of any real signicance to the number itself, but because that is 1,987 days that we haven't moved.  That we haven't packed or unpacked the house.  That we have been settled.

We have new neighbors across the street.  I met the mom and her two little kids a few days ago and she is one tired Momma.  There is nothing quite like moving across the country, towing your car and riding in a moving van with your six year old and your two year old.  I feel her exhaustion deep in my bones.  Several days later, their garage is still full of boxes and furniture is haphazardly placed here and there.  There are a few bits and pieces that give evidence of their settling ... a wind sock hanging from the front of the house, the little girl's pink jeep parked by the garage and the trash can sitting at the curb, bursting with packing material.  But it will be a while before this young family will feel at home.

We have some friends who are literally right in the middle of their 13th move.  They are our traveling friends as their roots having been put down in a variety of states, including, but not limited to Washington, Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, California and now, Tennessee.  Following on Facebook their last few weeks of packing and re-packing and pitching and packing, I was tired and excited for them.  But mainly tired. :)

I am a creature of habit and I am grateful for our settled and established home.  To say that I am not fond of change would probably be an understatement.  And the bummer is that change is inevitable.  Like my Mom would say, "The only thing that doesn't change is the fact that everything changes."  So true.

Even in our established and rooted home we experience change on a regular basis.  Birthdays, milestones, growing pains, tussles for independence, too-short pants and endlessly shaggy hair.  As soon as I feel settled in a season of life, the kids move on and I am traveling to the next stage of life.  And just as I get my Mommy-toolbox unpacked, they're on the move again to another big-kid phenomena.

Change is the only thing we can be 100% sure of.

My thankfulness today is grounded in the glorious truth that God is unchangeable.  The only Constant in a world of change.

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, emphasis mine)

Only God knows what twists and turns are ahead for our family and gratefully we can face those changes while trusting God to be the same today, tomorrow and every day thereafter.

It still doesn't mean I want to move anytime soon!

Thankfulness {day two}

The chime of the clock tells me it's two o'clock.  The baby girls went down for naps (or in Ashley's case, a mandatory stay-in-your-room-and-keep-the-volume-level-down-time) an hour ago. The past sixty minutes have not been idle.  I have travelled upstairs several times to shush Ashley, fold laundry and check on the sleepers.  I washed up lunch dishes and traded out a load of laundry.  I spent a few moments scooping up the toys that have been pollinated on the steps and under the dining room table.  I made a quick phone call and made an oops-I-forgot grocery list.  My to-do list sits on the kitchen counter and demands some attention.  But.

But.

But.

The corner of the couch is quietly calling my name.  For just forty-five minutes a day, the sunshine creeps in through the glass slider doors, crawls across the carpet and rests on the end of the couch.  Just forty-five minutes and only during these chilly months when the sun dips below the edge of the house.

I look at chicken lying frozen on the counter
 ... I should work on dinner.

I look at the pillows, plump and warm in the sunshine 
... I should rest a minute.

I look at the computer
 ... I haven't written anything all day.

I look at the quilt on the couch
 ... I haven't sat all day.

I look at the laundry
 ... It won't fold itself.

I look at the sunshine
 ... It won't last all afternoon.

The beckoning comfort of the slumpy, lumpy, sun-kissed couch wins out.

As I lean back into the cushions, I can feel the heat from the sun.  I pull the quilt across my lap, prop my feet on the ottoman and nestle back in the corner of the cushions.  The sun is so bright, I have to close my eyes against the glare.  The warmth, the comfort and the stillness are the ultimate trifecta for rest.

I guard myself against actually falling asleep, however.  If I nap, I know I'll spend the remainder of the afternoon trying to wake up!  But a few minutes of quiet are a enough to renew and refresh me.  I'm not ready, however, to move on.  I resist the urge to get back to the busy-ness of the day ... the never-ending chores that I'll never actually be done with.

I reach for my Bible on the end table next to the couch with the intention of reading a chapter or two from 2 Peter.  I am in the midst of a reading schedule that takes me through the Bible in chronological order ... all in one year.  I am currently in year two.  Another aspect of life I haven't been able to keep up with.

The brightness of the sun forces me to close my eyes again and as I sit there, I am reminded again of my tendency to be a do-er.  For right now, for the next thirteen minutes, I want to be a be-er.  I want to cast off the belief that my clean house, folded laundry and hot-n-ready dinner define me as a good wife and mother.  I want to cast off the belief that my not-on-schedule reading plan defines me as spiritually lacking.  I want to cast off the belief that my value and importance are defined by my productivity and performance.

Here on my sun-drenched corner of the couch, for a few brief minutes, I am free to just be.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine)

Not by super organization.
Not by incredible talents in the kitchen.
Not by faithfully caring for the laundry.
Not by stellar reading schedules.
Not by thoughtful and heartfelt essays.
Not by going and going and going.

But by grace.

That slouching, cozy, welcoming couch reminds me of God's grace.  And that's what I'm thankful for today.

Where do you find God's grace?  
It might be where you least expect it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankfulness {day one}

The kids are off this week for fall break.  I love having my kids home, but I'm quite certain that between bee-bopping around with them and heading to my Sissy & Mom's house on Wednesday, my blogging may go by the wayside.  But I still want to share with you little snapshots of thankfulness this week.

Before I begin, however, I want you to take for granted that I am grateful for all the traditional stuff:  great kids, wonderful hubby, God's word, our loving church, terrific family, our cozy house, running water, indoor plumbing, my household appliances, my flannel sheets and an abundance of food to eat.  I am grateful for all those things and plenty more that I didn't get on the list.  But, I'm also grateful for ...

Pandora Radio.

I love that I can choose the station of my choice, be it Ella Fitzgerald, Mamuse, Broadway Show Tunes, Jack Johnson, French Cafe, Gypsy Kings or Adelle; and enjoy whatever music I am in the mood for.  Sometimes I want something a bit perky to get me moving in the morning ... then when I've had enough of Aaron's obsession with Erasure ... I can flip over to Hymns and get my spirit energized, too!  And I don't have to have an enormous library of music.  This in-exhaustive supply of music all fits into that capital "P" on my iPod.  And now with Christmas on the horizon ... I'm itching to listen to my Christmas stations:  Christmas Medley Radio and Messiah:  Hallelujah Radio.  But not until after Thanksgiving!  It's all in the anticipation! :)

This is coming from the kid who for a five week trip in a motor home with my grandparents brought two ... two cassette tapes.  Two.  Five weeks, fifteen songs tops ... listen, flip over and repeat.  For five weeks as we drove up and down the eastern seaboard I listened to The Bangles and Wilson Phillips.  (I confess that with the hopes that you won't un-friend me.)  I am quite certain that I never listened to either of those tapes again upon arriving home.  Ever, ever, ever again.

So you can only imagine that with the vast musical talents quite literally at my finger tips, I am like a kid in a candy story!  So many musicians to choose from!  Who to listen to next?

I am still in amazement (read puzzlement) over how this program works ... I'm sure it involves algorithms and statistics ... but still I appreciate it on a daily basis.  In the same way, I am in great puzzlement about how God works sometimes.  (Ohhh ... see how God sneaks into every little aspect of life?  I think that's how He likes it!) I don't understand why He chooses to do some things.  I don't grasp His plan or His purposes on tough days or when life gets bumpy.  But, in reality, I don't have to comprehend Him to love and be grateful for Him.  In fact, in Paul's letter to the Philippians he addresses this need to rest in God's goodness without having first answered the "whys" of life.  And when we settle into Him, He promises to give us a peace that we can't comprehend ... and a rest that we can't unravel or exhaust.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, emphasis mine)

So there you have it ... I'm grateful for God and all of His mysteriousness.  And that goes for Pandora, too.

One more thing about Pandora -
While it's fantastic to have such a variety of music to accompany any and all activities in our house, we have run the risk of introducing our kids to music unintentionally.  Music that will forever change our children.  And not in a good way.  Have a listen ...



So yeah ... there's that. :)

ooo ee, ooo ah ah ting tang
walla walla, bing bang,
ooo ee, ooo ah ah ting tang
walla walla, bing bang,
ooo ee, ooo ah ah ting tang
walla walla, bing bang,
ooo ee, ooo ah ah ting tang
walla walla, bing bang,
ooo ee, ooo ah ah ting tang
walla walla, bing bang.....

Sorry about that.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Food For Thought ~ Favorite Soups

Tomorrow is sweet Weeda's 3rd birthday party which means that I am up to my ear-balls :) in party preparation!

That is ...
after I get the laundry done,
present the Art Heritage project in Aaron's class,
help with the reading rotation in Ashley's kindergarten class,
shepherd the kids home from school,
herd them around as they do their chores,
settle in for a long break with the kids
and put something together for dinner.

Yeah ... just a little busy around here!

We will be celebrating our little Missy tomorrow with a fun Giraffe party with family and friends ... and plenty of food.

Here are the soups we'll be sampling tomorrow night.  If you follow along, you can pretend to celebrate with us ... minus the hustle and bustle of a dozen kids sugared up and roaring up and down the stairs!








Enjoy ... I know we will! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seven Wonders

Someday I hope to travel and see the world; see those amazing wonders of the world that take your breath away!  For now, I will settle for the wonders of my own world ... the wonders that breathe life into my mothering.

Here are this week's Seven Wonders of My World ... they change on a regular basis:
  1. All the laundry washed, folded and put away.  Empty hampers and no stiff and stinky socks hiding in cushions or undies forgotten behind bedroom doors.  All the clothes are clean ... for about 5 more minutes.  No wait ... somebody already changed into a leotard.  I wonder when I'll get all the clothes clean again.
  2. Six of us sitting around the kitchen table and everyone enjoying our dinner.  All of us eating, smiling and asking for seconds.  No chorus of, "I don't like that."  No pouting about sneaky veggies or spicy sauce.  Happy full bellies and a Mommy who wants to say, "Of course you can have dessert!  You ate so well!"  Mommy getting to be the treat-giver instead of the food-meanie.  I wonder about tomorrow night's dinner ... not as promising.
  3. Hysterical laughter from my kids as we read Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein.  It's so run to fead this book together and hear their gazy criggles.  Fo sun to see the bight lulb come on when they pigure out the fuzzle!  Any time laughing with my wids is a konder.  I wonder what will make them chuckle next.
  4. Playing games as a family and giggling as Lydia entertains us with her antics.  Maybe it's Pictionary and she's nodding happily as she scribbles a line.  Is it a frog?  "Yes!"  Or maybe it's Charades and she blurts out her answer just after her pow-wow with Brett.  Or better yet, everything can be acted out and guessed accurately when you run around in a circle, flapping your arms and sticking out your tongue.  Is it a bowl of popcorn?  "Yes!"  I wonder what's going on in her little head.
  5. Freshly painted toes on my soft and lotioned feet at the end of my (finally) shaved legs after a hot and uninterrupted shower.  No helpers, no peekers, no rush, no need to save a drop of my hot water for anyone else and no where to go but into my jammies.  I wonder when the next time will be that I get a shower.
  6. Peeking in on my kids before heading to bed and gazing at their peaceful faces ... and crazily contorted bodies.  It is a mystery to me how they can sleep so soundly while twisted and pretzled in their covers.  They are quiet, but their joints and muscles are crying out to me, "Ouch!"  I wonder if I will have any night-time visitors informing me of their need for a drink of water.
  7. Climbing into bed at night.  Snuggled in flannel sheets with our down comforter wrapping me in warmth.  Being aware of that good fatigue that I feel in my muscles from a full-day done well.  Quiet talking with Brett, reading a bit from one of my many books stashed on my night stand and feeling myself drop off to sleep.  I wonder what tomorrow holds ...

_________________________


Prompt #1 ~ List your life's Seven Wonders.  For an added bonus ... here's Prompt #4 ~ My Prom Dress. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday ~ Lydia Turns 3

Well, little Weeda ... this is it.  It's your last week to be two.  Starting on Saturday, you will officially be three.  And just when you finally figured out how to get those other three fingers to stay down so your thumb and pointer finger could show us you were two!  Now you have to tuck those two digits down and let the other three free ... yep, that's three!  So tricky, but you are growing into a big girl who can do those big girl things.

Actually ... there are a lot of things your almost three-year old self can do that you didn't used to be able to do.  When you were this big ...

Week 1 with my little Weeda

... you couldn't really do anything, but eat, sleep and fill your diaper.  But now that you are all grown up, you can do lots of great and wonderful things!

You can use your fork and spoon so well.  I know you still prefer to use your fingers, but you're getting the hang of it!  One of these days, we will get through an entire meal without you picking at it with your fingers.

You use the potty like a big girl and you even wash your hands.  You are a really good bubble maker.  And yes, your Mommy is so happy that you don't do pee-pee or poopy in your pants anymore.

You can sing songs, just like Ashley.  I love to hear your sweet little voice singing "Jesus Loves Me" and "ABC".  Even if you get the words are jumble-bumbled up, it's still sweet music to my ears.

You love to look at books.  And I love to see you sitting by the library shelf, surrounded by piles of books, studying the pictures and turning the pages so carefully.  You treat our books so gently.

You are a super-duper helper with Baby S.  You are so good at fetching my burp rags and diapers.  
You are also a good friend to her ... she loves when you talk to her in your squeaky, teeny-tiny voice.

You make me so proud when you fetch your coat and shoes all by yourself.  I love that you can be big like that because it makes my day so much easier.  And when you dress yourself crazy in the morning ... that makes me super happy!  So independent!  Even if you have nothing that matches and both socks are on the same foot ... you did it all yourself.

You can toodle around the culdesac on your little pink bike.  Granted, it appears that you are biking in slow motion, your feet are moving so slow.  But ... give you a few months and you'll be racing around the bend and chasing Ashley up the driveway!

You brush your own teeth so well.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Your little teeth are so shiny when you're done, even though I think there might be more sucking and spitting that actual brushing.  Thanks for letting Mommy & Daddy help keep your smile sparkly.

You are a super-star at getting your shoes on all by yourself.  Of course you had trouble getting the right tootsies into the right shoes, but you have figured it out and now you have a 87% success rate.  Awesome!  Of course, right now your shoes are wonky, but next time you'll get it right!

You say your own little prayers at bedtime.  I love to hear your sweet Amen at the end of your tender prayer ... even if I'm unsure of what you actually said.  Gratefully, God knows what you say!

You laugh and smile and giggle and squeal and snicker and grin and chuckle and shriek and sparkle and shine ...

Week 156 with my not-so-little Weeda

Happy 3rd Birthday, Sweet Lydia!  
You make my heart so happy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do You Hear That?

As I snuggle back into my pillow, I say out-loud (Brett can attest, not for the first time...), "I love our bed."  The flannel sheets are so very cozy.  The heating pad at the foot of the bed is warming my tootsies.  There is gentle waft of lavender from my sheets as a result of the little misting I gave them a few minutes ago.  The weight of the down comforter wraps around me.  And, the best thing?

It's quiet.

For the first time today, I am not listening to ...

Yells and squeals as the kids wrestle,
Screams and shrieks as the kids' wrestling goes south,
Hollers for ice packs and mad attempts to make the injured laugh,
Aaron and his buddy transforming into Pee Wee Herman*,
Ashley screeching as she tries to out-silly the boys,
Lydia yelling, "No!" to everything anybody asks,
Norah blowing across the top of her straw, repeatedly,
Boys trash-talking their computer competition and cheering their computer teams - loud and futile,
Lydia screaming, "Orng Guy!" in her attempt to have a piece of candy,
Aaron's detailed (and stupefying) recounting of his most recent Wii battle,
Gimli barking at the (threatening) pile of leaves in the culdesac,
Someone coughing endlessly in the living room,
Norah hollering from her room that Lydia has her cornered on the top bunk,
Baby S zerberting happily in her swing,
Lydia shrieking as someone budges in and shows her how to play with Play-Doh,
The phone ringing, "This is the Public Library, a book you have reserved is now available.",
Aaron's 14th request to, "Take five to play TapZoo",
Constant counting as the kids play endless games of hide-n-seek ... 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 ...
Ashley's distress at being unable to find her Toy Story 3 play phone,
Gimli barking at the little fluffy thing on the other side of the fence,
Lydia repeating, "Dink Muh" ... ad finitum,
Feet thumping down the stairs, leaping over the last three steps to land with a thud,
Baby S protesting the hands-on help of her friends,
The bee-bop rhythm of the demo track on the synthesizer in the basement,
Yelps and giggles as the kids play Wii Party,
Cries and wails as three kids lose Wii Party,
Ashley crying that Lydia has her Toy Story 3 play phone,
The computer "barking" as the the timer being used for lazy hide-n-seekers is ignored,
Lydia asking again, "I pay Pee-Pod?",
Norah gymnasticking while Pandora plays the Hannah Montana station very loud,
Aaron yelling from the basement that, "Lydia's driving me CrAzY!",
Lydia screaming from the basement that, "I pay bahl!"
The phone ringing, "Hi.  Is Aaron there?",
Ashley tattling that, "So-and-So did Thus-And-Such",
Each child informing me that they are hungry,
Lydia and Ashley protesting their need to rest,
Weeping and whimpering from their beds, confirming their need to rest,
Maniacal laughter as the kids play "Leap or Stride" in the family room**,
The bee-bop rhythm of the demo track still bee-bopping from the basement,
Heated discussions about the rules and regulations of "Leap or stride",
Gimli barking at the branch on the back porch, and
The mind-numbing theme song from Animal Jam.

*They've never seen/heard/watch/encountered Pee Wee, but they have the uncanny (and unnerving) ability to sound just like him.  This is not a good thing.
** Involves a ginormous pile of pillows, the pink gymnastic mat, and an exercise ball.  There is a lot of bouncing, flying and flailing.  Use your imagination.

Finally, here in my nest, it's quiet.  But not quite silent.  Due to a pesky ear infection a few weeks ago, there is a slight ringing in my left ear.  A little, "eeeeeeeeeee", like you hear after you leave a concert or party.  It's like being able to hear the silence.  Kinda weird.  It's made me very aware of the absence of sound ... and how infrequent I experience it.

Throughout the day (as proven above), my day is full of sounds.  But it's not all the kids' fault.  I do my fair share of filling the silence, as well.  When alone in the kitchen, I turn on Jack Johnson or Sara Groves.  Sitting at the wheel of the van, I turn on the radio.  In a few quiet moments in the afternoon flip on the TV.  The kids go to bed and Brett and I settle on the couch for an episode of our favorite shows.  It's not until my head hits the pillow that I allow myself to settle into the quiet.

If this is my typical day (which I can assure you it is), how exactly am I supposed to tune into the quiet voices in my life?

My heart doesn't shout ... it quietly waits for me to pause and look inward.
My spirit doesn't holler ... it sits, awaiting nourishment.
God rarely yells ... He wants me to be still and listen.

It is essential that I carve out time for quietness.  And it's essential that I guard that quietness and not fill it up.  But that might be a challenge because silence can be uncomfortable ... what if I hear something from my heart or from God that requires change or a response.  It's easier to allow noise to become a buffer between me and my heart, me and my spirit, me and my God ... but it's not what is best.

What about you?  How often do you find yourself in the silence?  How often do you listen through the silence?

My goal is to hear more silence this week ... and take time to hear from from my heart, my spirit and my God.

8b Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
 10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
   Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:8b-10)



Follow the Crumbs ...

As Ashley walks out of her Kindergarten room, she pops her thumb in her mouth.  She shuffles across the blacktop of the playground to where the girls and I are waiting.  She drops her pink and black backpack into the basket of the stroller and leans into me.

"How was your morning?"

"Fine."

"Did you have fun?"

"Yeah."

"Are you hungry?"

Head nod.

"Ohhh-kay.  Let's go."

Lydia skips along the sidewalk to the van.  Ashley rests her hand on the stroller handle and labors along beside me.  Lydia hops into her seat, chattering away at Baby S.  Ashley slumps into her car seat and leans to the left, looking out the window.

"Hang in there, Honey.  We'll go home and have lunch right away."

Little Le-Le is so much like her Daddy in this way.  When she's hungry, she's worthless.

I'll skip over the next 15 minutes for you.  It's too painful to relate.  Let me sum up:

She's hungry.
She doesn't know what to eat.
She's grumpy.
She cries a little.
She sucks her thumb a lot.
She can't make a decision.
She lays on the kitchen bench.  A lot.
She's moany and groany.

(At this point, Brett would like me to insert the following:  He isn't quite this worthless.  He usually doesn't cry.  Thank you.)

Eventually I manage to convince her that sitting up, blowing her nose and having some toast will make her feel better.  Within a few moments of the cinnamon toast hitting her stomach, she perks up.  She turns to her snacky-plate, finishes her toast, dives into her yogurt and munches on some red grapes.  All the while, the events and excitement of her day pour from her little mouth.

"I played with Karsyn today.  We climbed on the jungle gym and played on the swings.  We practiced writing the letter "L" and we counted all the way to 51.  Did you know that we've been in school for 51 days?!  We learned a song today in music class, do you want to hear it?"

Whew!  Just like her Daddy. :)  Give them a little food, a little something to eat, and they are re-energized for the rest of the day!

....

I head upstairs with my second load of laundry.  On the top step, someone has put a baby doll to nap.  I manage to wriggle one foot between the "bed" and the diaper bag filled to the brim with random paraphernalia - including what looks like my yummy lotion from my bathroom.
Grumble, grumble ...

I walk into the bathroom to find the two hand towels have leapt from their bar.  Again.  They lay in a damp, crumpled pile on the floor.
Mumble, mumble ...

I hear the screeches and screams coming from the basement.  Added to that are wails and howls.  As I open the louvered door at the top of the stairs, I spy two little people wrestling over the purple exercise ball.  One little screamer has the other howler by the hair.
Grrrrr ...

I stomp into the family room.  The girls are resting in their rooms.  According to the clock, I have about 45 minutes until someone will need me again.  I plop onto the couch.
Sigh ...

What a day!  I'm frazzled, frustrated and fuming.

Lately my days have been feeling more exasperating, more exhausting, than usual.  What's the deal?
It's the same kids, same situations, same busy-ness ... but a significantly different attitude.  What's the root?
As I sit on the edge of the couch with the sun stretching across the carpet toward my toes, I sink back into the cushions.  What am I going to do, God?

"Follow the crumbs ..."

Hmmm ... what was that again?

"Follow the crumbs ..."

The story of Hansel and Gretel comes to mind.  In an effort to find their way home, they sprinkled bread crumbs on the path.  In an effort to find my way back to my preferred role as Mom (the one that doesn't grumble, mumble, grrr or sigh) I need to follow those same crumbs.  And find my way back down the path that has led me here.

As soon as I pause and stop moving, it becomes obvious.  I think back through my last week and I can't remember when the last time was that I read my Bible.  Sure, I had read the devotion with the kids in the morning and I'd been tossing up "popcorn" prayers throughout the day, but apparently it had been over a week since I took time to settle into God's word and hear from Him.  My busy-ness had gotten in the way of this important quiet time and my busy-ness was beginning to suffer.

In the same way that Ashley (and Brett) need food to function well, I (dare I say, we) need spiritual food to perform well.  I can see the same link between toast and Ashley's exuberant recounting of her Kindergarten adventures and my Daily Bread and the energy I need to be the Mom I want to be.

Food meets our needs, be it a snacky-plate for lunch or God's word.  If you're feeling grumpy, irritable, crabby or dumbfounded, the odds are you're hungry.

It's time to follow the crumbs and get fed!

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
   “‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
10 Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.’
(Matthew 6:9-13)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Food For Thought ~ Double Dinners

When dinnertime rolls around here at the Kellum house, I almost always have a meal in mind.  I like to make my dinner menu for the week on Sunday and then shop on Monday for the week.  So on those days (which fall few and far between, thank goodness!) when I don't have a plan, I feel completely at a loss!  

Recently I had a meal on the docket, but upon rounding up the ingredients for the dinner, I realized that I had used the can of diced tomatoes in a different dish that week.  That left me one ingredient shy of dinner.  Ugh.  I paced back and forth from the fridge to the pantry and back to the fridge trying to come up with Plan B ... something that didn't need canned tomatoes.  By that point, my creativity had evaporated and the kids were beginning the incessant, "What's for dinner?" chant.  Double ugh.

As I headed to the garage (not to hide from the kids, mind you) I was thrilled to find a freezer meal all ready to pop in the oven!  I actually have quite a few meals I have doubled up and slid in the freezer for this very reason.  When Mom doesn't feel like cooking!  

This is a post I did last year with a few double dinners ... and here's two more yummy ones for you to try!  (Be sure to check out this previous post for my tips on lining your freezer pan and storing your extra meal.)

Tamale Pie
(This recipe is from my dear friend, Anna Lee Walker.  I remember you making this for us ... just a few years ago.  Before we had kids.  So yeah ... it's been a little while.)

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef (or turkey or 1 lb of each)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup salsa
2 cups frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cup corn meal
2 T sugar
2 T butter

In a large pot, cook the meat until no longer pink.  Drain off fat after cooking.  Add black beans, ketchup, salsa, corn and 1 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Heat through until the cheese melted.  Divide equally between two 8x8 inch pans (one sprayed with cooking spray and the other lined with Press-n-Seal).


In the same large pot, melt the butter and add the remaining cheese, sugar and corn meal.  Heat until the cheese melts and the mixture looks crumbly.  Sprinkle the corn meal mixture over the meat in each dish.



Freeze one pan (or send along to a friend).  For the other pan, bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  

We like our Tamale Pie with a little dollop of sour cream and a green salad.

¡OlĂ©!

Penne & Sausage Casserole
(This recipe is from Taste of Home, June/July 2009.  Just a few typical adjustments.)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs penne pasta
1 lb Italian sausage
1 lb mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 T olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 T oregano
2 1/2 cups beef broth
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, drained
3 T tomato paste
4 cups mozzarella, shredded

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Set aside.

In a large pot, cook sausage.  Drain off most of the fat.  Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic and oregano and cook until veggies are soft.  Add 1 cup of beef broth.  Bring to a boil and let simmer until reduced by half.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining broth and sausage.  Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 15 minutes.


This is a good time to wash the dishes ... there seems to be quite a few of them!

I prepared one 9x13 oval pan with cooking spray and then lined two 8x8 square pans to put in the freezer.


Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the large pan and 1/4 cup in each small pan.  Divide half of the pasta into the three pans.  Top the noodles with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce in the large pan and 1 1/4 cup in the small pans.  Top with half the cheese.  Repeat the layers:  remaining pasta, remaining sauce and remaining cheese.

Freeze the two smaller pans.  Cover the larger pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is fully melted.  Delicious with a side of veggies and garlic bread!


Delizioso!

Friends

I really want to say "Thanks!"
You've given me such help.
Taking on the screen-time strain,
Stopping my nag and my yelp!

Now I just type in some numbers,
With a beep and a boop and a beep,
I'm off to do laundry or cleaning
And my Mommy-mouth makes not a peep.

Instead of me nagging and whining
When the screen time should come to an end,
I'll let you do all the reminding,
Oh, Kitchen Timer, you are my friend!

What's that?  Of course, you're great, too!
You're one of my handiest gadgets.
Not only do you keep my food fresh,
But you also connect with my magnets.

You are stuffed of good things to eat,
On you, all my veggies depend,
The milk, cheese and butter are cold
Refrigerator, you are my friend!

Oh, please, please, please, do not grumble!
Of course, you are important, too.
Without your scrubbers and sprayers,
I'd be scouring and feeling so blue!

I delight in loading your racks,
Plates, cups and bowls turned upend,
Forks, spoons, and knives to be cleaned
By you, Dishwasher, my friend.

I hear whining from behind the door
Your wails can be heard upstairs.
You know you are precious, too.
And I'm grateful you came as a pair.

You wash all our grubbies so well
And leave them fluffed and dry at the end.
No need to beat them on rocks,
Washer-n-Dryer, you are my friend.

Oh brother, are you whining, too?
You see action most every day!
Nuking our lunches and dinner,
Watching food rotate round on your tray.

You're essential when it's time to cook.
But I'm even more grateful to send,
My coffee and tea for a reheat,
Yes, Microwave, you are my friend.

Did I hear you let out a groan?
Now this is getting absurd!
From you Cuisinart food processor,
I don't want to hear another word!

I'm grateful for each of my helpers,
Whether you clean or toast or blend,
But this is feeling like high school ...
Why can't you each be my friend?!?
_________________________

Prompt #4 ~ Write a poem where the last two words are "my friend".  It's possible that I need to get out and be social with some actual people! :)  But in reality, without these sweet friends, I would never have a social life.  I'd be too busy hauling water from the creek and heating it in the fireplace!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday

Last Wednesday, I warped back to Aaron's Halloween as an alligator.  And a had a good giggle again remembering how he bumped and jumped out of his costume until he was just a kid in a onesie.  Classic.

This week while grocery shopping, I was surprised to find that the Halloween items were all 70% off and squished to one side in order to make room for ... 

No, not Veteran's Day ...

No, not Thanksgiving ...

Christmas!

Already!?!

How is it that we can go directly from October 31st to December 25th, while leaping right over the entire month of November?!?

Maybe Norah had something to do with this.  For her third Halloween, she ushered in Christmas in record time with her unexpected request to be ...

No, not an elf ...

No, not Mrs. Claus ...

The big guy himself, Santa!


She cracks me up!  

With faux-fur cuffs (made from white felt) stitched to Aaron's fireman jacket, matching cuffs stitched to a pair of red pants from Good Will and a triangle of silky, curly, furry fabric tacked inside her Santa cap for a beard she was ready to, "Ho, Ho, Ho!" her way through Halloween.

Just one more example of Norah thinking (and playing) outside the box! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Full of Surprises!

Brett had a terrific surprise for the kids this Saturday!  Our old theater downtown, the Avalon, was showing Kung Fu Panda 2 and Daddy, being the amazing Daddy that he is, took the brood for a matinee showing.  That was the first surprise.

The second surprise was sprung upon them at their arrival.  The movie was stuck in a snow storm in southern Colorado.  Bummer.

This was followed quickly by a third surprise ... free admission, free popcorn and front row balcony seats to watch the first Kung Fu Panda.  What do we say to that?  Boo-yeah!

It was okay that this was their fifth or sixth viewing of the movie ... it's one of our favorites!


... Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend. ... He was so deadly, in fact, that his enemies would go blind from over-exposure to pure awesomeness!  ... Hey, what you got? You got nothing because I got it right here. You picking on my friends? Get ready to feel the thunder. Come out with the crazy feet. What you goin' to do about the crazy feet. I'm a blur! I'm a blur! You never seen *Bear* style! ...

Yeah ... you gotta love Po!

Our fourth surprise came the next day over lunch.  As we slurped our shakes and munched on popcorn (our traditional meal after church), Brett sprung a question on the kids:

What parts of Kung Fu Panda remind you of something from the Bible?


Here's a little bit about what we talked about ...

Oogway is kinda like God.  He is wise and seems to be ageless.  At least until he flies away with the blossoms!  He is the one who chooses the Dragon Warrior to be the savior of the people.  Chosen to save them from horrifying Tai Lung.  Even in the face of his odd choice for the Dragon Warrior, he is confident that there are no accidents.

Tai Lung is kinda like satan.  He had been trained by Master Shifu and began his training with great promise, but because of his hunger for power, he fell away from the good he could have done and turned on his Master.  Sound familiar?

Po could be compared (rather loosely perhaps) with Jesus.  He is chosen as the Dragon Warrior but the reception by those in the village and those in the Jade Palace is less than luke-warm.  They are incredulous that this simple, noodle-slurping, dumpling-munching, poochy-bellied panda is The One they have been waiting for the past thousand years!

They expected someone more warrior-ish ... and a little less Po-ish.  Much like the comments that followed Jesus around - more king-ish and less carpenter-ish.

45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. (John 1:45-46)


“What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:2-3)


Not necessarily shining commendations for the Savior of the world!  I'm sure glad they were wrong!


Our final insight into the movie had to do with the Dragon Scroll - the scroll that was supposed to have great power for the owner, the Dragon Warrior.  To Po's great surprise, the scroll was blank!  The true secret to the scroll was not magical words, but the need for Po to believe in himself.  To believe that he was, indeed, the Dragon Warrior and that he had within himself the power to save his village from the evil Tai Lung.


Similarly, our salvation is not evoked with magical words and it is not based on anything we own or any special abilities have.  Our salvation is simply found in the need to believe and then declare what we believe:


8 ... “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:8-10, emphasis mine)


As Po acted out his faith, he became the Dragon Warrior ... much to everyone's surprise!  His final victory came as he surprised (and conquered) Tai Lung with the Wuxi finger hold.  Skadoosh!

Where else does God astound you with spiritual truths?  If we open our eyes, we will find them in the most astonishing of places!  

Surprise!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just a Reminder

Well ... it's Monday.  Again.

Another full week.  Another updated to-do list.  Another gauntlet of kids' activities.  Another attempt at staying ahead of the shoulds and coulds and oughts.  Another schedule of events to keep on top of.

Another opportunity to remember how much God loves you.

I thought I would share with you a little pick-me up serenade, just in case Monday has already got you down!



As I sat and listened to Lydia sing the chorus to that little song (over and over and over and over ...) I had to smile.  While she's a bit sketchy on the verses, she has the important part of the song down pat.

"Yes, Jesus loves me sooooooooo."

Sometimes I get caught up in the busy-ness of having a relationship with Jesus and I miss out on the simpleness of His love for me.

I have a list of things I should do because it's the Christian thing to do.  I fill up my time with activities that have spiritual potential.  I try to keep ahead of the shoulds and coulds and oughts of my faith.  I schedule in my quiet times, devotions and teachable-moments.

Hmmm .... it would seem I'm approaching Jesus in the same way I approach my Mondays!  That's no good!  That's not what God intends for me at all.  Or for you.

This week, my goal is to allow that chorus, that refrain, that truth to resonate in my heart and my soul ...

"Yes, Jesus loves me sooooooo."

... and allow my response to that love be what my faith looks like.

I hope this will also be a reminder that God, too, serenades us with words of love.

17 The LORD your God is with you, 
   the Mighty Warrior who saves. 
He will take great delight in you; 
   in His love He will no longer rebuke you, 
   but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephania 3:17, emphasis mine)

And when He sings His love songs, He knows all the words ... and His guitar isn't missing all of its strings! :)