Family

Birds Of a Feather

A momma bird has nested in a hanging flower basket on my front porch.  She's been there over a week, quietly sitting guard over her little soon-to-be brood. 

She picked a busy week for this.  The weather has been beautiful, so we've spent most of our evenings this week doing yard work all around her.  Hubs has been cleaning gutters directly abover her, and I've been tilling in the flower bed right below.  My kids, re-introducing themselves to the joy of warm-weather play, have been sending soccer balls flying all over our yard. 

And at first, Momma Bird viewed us skeptically.  We were intruders, a source of danger, and there was no mistaking the look in her beady little eyes as she watched us work.  I've tried to reassure her--"your babies are safe," I've explained at least a dozen times.  But still, she has watched us constantly, with great alarm. 

A few days ago, my mail-order plants arrived for their yearly planting, including the batch I planned to put in the container where she sits.  They're not cheap plants.  I need to get them planted, as soon as possible.  But I've watched that little momma for days now--calm and motionless, vigilant and wary--and I've known in my heart that I won't be doing anything in that container until she's gone.

Because I know what it's like to guard little ones.

To fear for their safety.

To watch the world with suspicion.

In fact, helping her protect her little nest has become somewhat of an obsession with me.  I've banished the kids and their flying soccer balls to the neighbor's yard, and I've scolded Hubs more than once for accidentally bumping her planter while working.  I've watched the events in the news the last week and felt that momma bird's fear.  She worries about high winds and an unusually agile cat; I worry about school shooters and terrorists.

Both of us just want our little ones safe.

This morning, my daughter and I sat out in the porch swing, enjoying the beautiful morning.  Corrie sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" with enough gusto and drama to wake the dead.  I looked up at our little momma bird, in her nest only a few feet away, and I noticed something remarkable.

She wasn't watching me anymore. 

I think she trusts me, finally.  I guess (at least, I want to believe) that the momma in her recognized the momma in me.  I want to think she felt the undercurrent of motherhood camaraderie that even transcends species, as we both work to keep our little chicks safe.

We mommas have to stick together.

The Spirit Of The Law

What I say:  "If you're not going to wear that shirt, please go hang it back up."

What my son evidently hears:  "As long as it's suspended, in some form or fashion, over the floor of your closet, it's all good."

Closet

Safe?

ShootingI just turned the TV off.  I had to.  I've been listening to news coverage of the shooting in Virginia for the last couple of hours, and my heart can't take it anymore.  I think, with horror, of the families who can't turn it off by simply flipping a TV switch.  They're living it now. 

I use the word "safe" a lot with my kids.  It's a powerful word, loaded with meaning, and it communicates deeply how I want my kids to feel.  "You're safe," I whisper into Joseph's forehead when I kiss him after a bad dream.  "You're safe," I remind Adam after a nasty tumble on his bike.  And I know, in my heart of hearts, that it's probably not true. 

They're not safe, really.  They live in a fallen world, a world where horrible things happen.  And despite my most vigilant efforts, I can't keep them from all harm.  It's a powerless feeling.

As soon as I finish typing this, I'll head out to my front porch and wait for my kids to get off the bus.  They'll hop off in an explosion of backpacks and jackets, noisy and hungry.  I'll watch from my porch and breathe the sigh of relief I every day, when I see them safely home again.  But my sigh will be sadder today, and a little longer. 

Once again, the news of the day finds me coping by retreating to the only place I can--back to the will of a Father whose ways I don't pretend to understand.  A Father whose name is, no doubt, being cried in anguish by some parents today.  And all I know to do is to pray that He pours out His comfort to them.

I know you join me in praying for them too.

photo by Alan Kim / The Roanoke Times via AP

Well, THAT Was Sweet

Last night I drove Adam to karate.  He sat quietly in the front seat next, gazing thoughtfully out the window.  It was a rare moment of car quiet, and I figured it must make him as a reflective as it made me.  I reached over to pat his leg.

"You're a neat kid, Adam," I said quietly.  "You're funny and smart and creative and just a really great kid.  I'm so thankful to be your mom."

Out of my side vision I saw him turn to look at me and slowly lift his hand to my shoulder.  And then, he punched me in the arm with full force.  "SLUG BUG!" he shouted as a VW Beetle drove past us.

A-a-a-and, evidently the moment is past.

Perhaps I Should Clean Out My Freezer More Often

This weekend I was giving The Museum of Frost-Bitten Mystery Chunks my freezer a much-needed purging, and I was amused to discover some of its contents.  I'm expecting, any day now, to receive a call from the Centers for Disease Control, requesting access to my trusty Kenmore to determine just how long you can keep a popsicle before it becomes toxic.

Mmmmm...don't you want to come eat dinner at my house?

GoldfishAnyhoo, back to my freezer contents.  My first discovery was this plastic cup (at left) full of frozen water, a lone Goldfish cracker frozen for all eternity at its edge.  What a lonely, horrible, cold death for a Goldfish cracker--meaning that if the Centers for Disease Control don't call me, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals surely will.

Ice Next up was this (at right): a very large chunk of snow being stored (I learned) by my eight year old.  Evidently it's a souvenir from the Great Oklahoma Ice Storm of '07, because (he said) "it was fun.  I don't want to forget about it."

Oh. 

But the greatest contribution to my freezer collection was actually put there by me.  It's a little plastic bottle of my breastmilk, dated the day my daughter came home from the NICU.  That was a wildly chaotic time, and the milk simply kept getting pushed back in the freezer until it was too hidden to be discovered.  I didn't find it until a year later, and I was no longer nursing.  That little bottle was a very tangible (albeit cold) reminder of a precious season in my life.  I haven't been able to throw it out.  The lid has now cracked, the writing is smudged, the label is about to come off, but I can't get rid of it.  (I thought about showing you a picture of it.  I'm all for bloggy transparency, y'all, but really, I think I have to draw the line at bodily fluids.)

So, what about you?  What's the most interesting thing in your freezer? 

I Can't Seem To Escape the Potty Humor

Yesterday a little five-year-old voice piped up from the backseat:  "Mom, is this your diarrhea?"

I beg your pardon?

"Is this your diarrhea?" the little voice repeated.  I looked in the rearview mirror to see Joseph holding up a little notebook that had fallen out of my purse.

"You mean my diary?" I asked, at which point there were gales of snorty laughter from the eight and nine year old in the back.

For the rest of the day they burst into spontaneous chuckles, and at my questioning glance they hooted, "WE' RE LAUGHING AT MOM'S DIARRHEA!"

There's not an ounce of dignity left. 

Not an ounce.

Backseat Theology

Getting in the Easter spirit, I thought I'd share my numero-uno favorite contribution to the Dryer Family Archive Of Funny Kid stories.  I posted it last Easter too, but it's worth pulling out once a year:

A couple of years ago, Adam (then 5) had drawn a poster for a poster contest in Sunday school.  On it, he drew a picture of the earth, and at the top was a picture of Jesus on the cross.  There were tears rolling down Jesus' face, and big scary nails poking out of His hands.  We listened as he showed it to his brother Stephen in the backseat. 

Stephen asked, "Why is Jesus crying?" 

"Because," Adam answered, "He was hoping the bad guys would use tape."

* * * * * * * * * *

While we're on the subject, anyone interested should check out the Easter Blog Carnival over at Homemaking Through the Church Year.  Great blog, and great idea for a carnival!

* * * * * * * * * *

Y'all have a blessed Easter weekend.  He is risen!

In the Grocery Store Today

(So this story will make sense, you need to know that my kids call my dad "Pop").

Corrie:  [As we passed by a rack of mops] Wha' dat?

Me:  That's a mop.

Corrie: A pop?  Where Pop go?  [Looking around frantically.]

Me:  No, not "Pop", it's a mop.  M-m-m-MOP.

Corrie:  Where Pop?

Me:  No, Corrie, a mop.

Corrie: [calling out] Pop!  Pop!

Me: [Thinking this is starting to resemble a bad Abbott and Costello spoofCorrie, Pop is not here.  That is a mop.

Corrie:  [Now wailing at the top of her lungs].  Pop!  I want Pop!

A side note to Hubs:  You know that glazed look I sometimes have when you get home from the office?  THIS is why.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...

So, Florida played Ohio State in the college basketball championship game, after playing in the football championship only a few months ago.

I type that sentence in a matter-of-fact way, though I can assure you that my husband's delivery of that sentence earlier in the evening was spoken with the breathless reverence of a man who has seen the very face of God.  Or at least the very face of Billy Donovan.  Evidently this is a sports anomaly the likes of which has never been seen in the history of all humanity and we shall never be the same, amen.

The last night of March Madness is always a reverent one in our home.  There is a special meal and special snacks.  My normally rational, steady, balanced man weeps like a baby at the "One Shining Moment" montage at the end of the game.  He has asked me--in all seriousness--to make sure it is played at his funeral someday, along with the Razorback fight song and the theme song to CBS sports.  I have assured him that with a demand like that hanging over me, I will surely pre-decease him.  Which, come to think of it, probably means he'll play the Razorback fight song at my funeral.  Oh, heavens.

When I heard Hubs heading up to bed, I asked him who won.  "Florida," he mumbled sadly, "in a rout."  He doesn't like routs in the championship game.  It appears the unspoken Man Code is that such an important game should be a second-by-second, down-to-the-wire finish.  Bless that man's heart--at least he has next year.  And, of course, leftover rotel dip. 

Dryer Family Math

ONE igloo made of sugar cubes by a very meticulous nine-year-old boy in a school unit on Alaska

plus

ONE two-year-old little sister with a sweet tooth and the ability to climb on top of the dresser

equals

a very angry boy and a very sticky (and hyper) little girl

Remembering

This post was originally published on April 5, 2006.

I remember the early days of my very first pregnancy, blissfully cloud-walking at the thought of becoming a mother.

I remember the sound of my parents' voices when they heard the news that I was expecting their first grandchild.

I remember looking at nursery furniture and baby clothes, with a grin that simply would not wipe off my face.

I remember the crushing weight that collapsed onto my chest in that ultrasound room at 10 weeks--not only had the baby died, but the baby had died 5 weeks earlier and my body simply didn't "get it".

I remember waking from the anesthesia crying and calling out my husband's name, and the nurses' gentle assurance that I would see him soon.

I remember lying in my bed, blinds drawn and phone off, wondering how I would ever face the world without that little person inside me. 

I remember that I couldn't place my hand on my belly for weeks.

I remember the painful things that well-meaning people would say, and how I would physically cringe:  "At least you weren't attached to the baby yet,"  "You can always have another one,"  "This is actually a blessing"...

I remember marvelling at how I could feel so much pain and so much peace at the same time.

I remember learning that the hole left in my heart wouldn't be filled by another baby, or anything else--that it might just stay there.

I remember rocking Adam, my next-born, and realizing with wonder that if the first baby had been carried to term, we wouldn't have conceived Adam.  And I remember being flooded with assurance that our God is sovereign, and very good.

It was eleven years ago this week, but I still remember.  That little hole in my heart is still there, but it no longer hurts--it's more of a "souvenir" of experience I don't want to forget.  My home and heart are full of happy, noisy, funny memories enough to mull over for a lifetime.  But with my treasured box of few tangible reminders (sympathy cards, hospital records, and even a faded pregnancy test) I remember--I will always remember--my few short weeks as that little baby's mother. 

And I smile.

Hooray For the Non-Freaked-Out Moms!

"I realized there's one big, legitimate fear that I haven't heard anybody mention: what's the effect of our collective paranoia on the kids? Yes, these very kids we want to be so self-sufficient, responsible, confident, happy and creative (not to mention not food-obsessed). They're growing up thinking these weirdly weenie views are healthy and normal."

Read more...

If You Only Buy One Book This Year, Make It This One

Honestly, I've never found a children's Bible-story book that I really loved.  The stories all seemed a little dry, and they're typically presented in a preschool-ish way that doesn't interest older kids.  Spiritual applications are often watered down, if they're present at all. 

Bible So, with a hefty dose of skepticism, I followed my friend Megan's recommendation recently, and I ordered my kids the Jesus Storybook Bible.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I'm pretty frugal, and it's rare that I will tell you something is a must-have.  You also know that I generally don't do book reviews.  But this time I'm making an exception, because this book is a must-have.  I've never seen a children's Bible story book like it.  I've never seen any children's book like it.  Case in point, there's this from the opening paragraph:

God wrote, "I love you" -- he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror -- to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.

-- p. 12 

The Bible stories are presented with one goal in mind, and it's explained in the book's subheader:  Every Story Whispers His Name.  Beautifully and seamlessly, the story of Jesus is woven through every Old Testament story, explaining why we needed a Savior in the first place.  The stories are the same ones parents have been reading their children for ages, but there is some hefty theology mixed in--seriously, there is some meaty stuff there.  And while that might make it sound difficult for a child to follow, I can assure you that the opposite is true.  These stories challenge the kids, but the gorgeous, lyrical language pull the kids right along.  Here's an example from the story of Noah, in which the meaning of the rainbow (compared earlier to a warrior's "war bow") is explained:

God's strong anger against hate and sadness and eath would come down once more -- but not on his people, or his world.  No, God's war bow was not pointing down at his people.

It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven.

-- p. 47

We've been reading two or three stories a week, and my three boys are absolutely riveted.  They don't move a muscle.  The rich content of these stories has generated some of the deepest spiritual conversations we've ever had with our kids, and I'm convinced it's because they're seeing Scripture presented in such a fresh and authentic way.  (Amazon advertises a target age of 4-8, but I disagree.  My oldest son, who is almost ten, has been eating it up.  I've actually learned from it.)

One more example, because this is so good I have to include it.  This is from the story of Christ's crucifixion:

"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.  "Papa?  Where are you?  Don't leave me!"

And for the first time -- and the last -- when he spoke, nothing happened.  Just a horrible, endless silence.  God didn't answer.  He turned away from his Boy.

Tears rolled down Jesus' face.  The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.

-- p. 304

Even the illustrations and fresh and powerful.  The drawing of what it might have looked like when Adam and Eve left the garden brought tears to my eyes.

If I sound ridiculously excited about this book, it's because I am.  I can't think of a book I'd recommend more highly to any family, in fact.  It's available at Amazon for about $10.  It will be worth every single penny.   

Works For Me: A Little Manipulation Never Hurt Anyone

Wfmwheader We mommas use whatever tools we have at our disposal, right?  And if the testosterone coursing through the veins of our little boys can be harnessed for our convenience, we should go for it, right?

I sure do.

Recently I stumbled across a really easy (and oh-so-funny) tip to get my boys to help me with things like carrying laundry baskets, moving furniture, bringing in groceries, etc....without a moment of arguing.  Here's an example of how it works:

Me:  Stephen, I need some help moving these boxes to the garage. [Long pause here while I appear to be re-assessing.]  You know, never mind, I think these might be a little too heavy for you.

Stephen: [Popping up eagerly from the couch.]  Too heavy?  Those aren't too heavy!  Let me try!

Me:  [Insert overly dramatic skepticism here.]  Are you sure?  There are a lot of them.

Stephen:  Aw, that's easy, Mom, I can do them all...

Presto.  I get eager help from the boys, and they get an ego boost.  Works for me--every time!

Have an idea you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your link below.  WFMW guidelines can be found here.  If you don't have a blog, you're welcome to leave your WFMW tip in my comments section.

Remember that next Wednesday is WFMW: The Car Edition. Give us your best tips for handling life on the go. How to entertain the kids in the car, or keep up with your little league gear, or how to stock an auto first aid kid...let us know what works for you.

Where We Went and What We Did

I'm home and rested and chock full of blog fodder from my wonderful weekend in Austin, TX with Hubs.

We headed south Thursday morning and spent the afternoon and night in Dallas.  Our hotel was perfectly nice, except it was hosting (I couldn't make this up if I tried) a convention for Scottie dog owners.  It turns out that if someone is a devoted enough dog owner to attend a national convention, he's devoted enough to bring his dog with him.  So there we were, on our first getaway in ages, in a hotel full of DOGS.  Always one to turn lemons into lemonade, Hubs kept me entertained by barking every time we walked down the hall, setting off a chorus of barks in the neighboring rooms.

I love that man.

We left Dallas Friday morning, heading further south to Austin.  We were there for the wedding festivities of a close family friend.  We stayed at a gorgeous hotel, just steps away from the University of Texas ("in the belly of the beast" my UT-loathing Hubs kept muttering under his breath).  Here's a picture of where we stayed (it was straight out of Southern Living):

Front_2   

It was the kind of place with his-and-her robes hanging in the bathroom, bazillion-thread-count sheets and a view like this from the balcony of our room:

View_from_balcony

Here are some more pictures (and I swear I'm not rubbing it in, it's just that we so seldom stay in hotels that aren't, you know, next to a Shoney's, I thought I should commemorate the occasion for posterity):

Stairs

Veranda

Courtyard

As I said, we were there for a wedding.  We spent plenty of time R&R-ing just the two of us, but we did some celebrating with friends as well.  Friday night was the rehearsal dinner, held at a place which (we were told) is a hang-out of Matthew McConaughey's.  We two-stepped and boot-scooted and Cotton-Eyed-Joed until our feet hurt.  Here's a photo of Hubs and me all dressed up for the occasion (and no, we're not so dorky that we walk around Texas dressed like cowboys; it's how the invitation told us to dress):

Westernblur

Those fabulous boots I'm wearing were on loan from the ever-stylish Chilihead.

Saturday morning we had Tex Mex for BREAKFAST (they do that in Texas, evidently) and then did a little sight-seeing.  Undoubtedly, the funniest part was a walk through the flagship Whole Foods store--I have never seen such organic-ness in all my born days.  They had organic jelly beans, tampons and dogfood.  ("Why do dogs need organic food?  Don't they eat their own poop?" Hubs asked.)  Actually, the observations of my conservative, no-nonsense, Republican husband were hilariously priceless.  We walked through the courtyard (yes! a grocery store with a courtyard, which should tell you something) among all the folks eating their hummus, wearing "Give Peace a Chance" shirts.  Hubs told me he was resisting the urge to plop down next to them wearing a Haliburton t-shirt and chugging a Budweiser.

Have I mentioned how hard this man makes me laugh?

Saturday night's wedding was breathtaking and romantic and gorgeous under the open Texas sky.  I had many mushy wedding thoughts, but they're all worthy of a blog post of their own, so I'll save that for a later date. 

There's a lot more I could tell you (like my leisurely to visit to the mothership The Container Store; or the four--yes, FOUR--adorable skirts I found at my new favorite clothing store; or the gorgeous hotel tile-work I'm trying to figure out how to replicate in my kitchen; etc. etc. etc.) but this is much too long already.  Here's the nutshell version for those of you who skimmed to the last paragraph (and I don't blame you):  fun time, awesome Hubs, long naps, good shoes.  The End.

Odd Blessings

This post was originally published on Feburary 28, 2006.

Each night at bedtime, before we say prayers with our kids, we sing the Doxology together.  If you aren't familiar with it, the words begin, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."  But last night, I listened to my children sing it and realized that all this time my seven-year-old son has been singing it, "Praise God from whom ODD blessings flow..."

I suppressed a giggle and came downstairs to tell Hubs about it.  Though the more I thought about it, the more I realized there's some good theology in his little slip-up.  Praise God for the odd blessings--the ones that sneak up on us, the ones that don't even look like blessings until they're long past us.   Praise Him for the mixed bag, the curvy road, the speed bumps of life.  Sometimes the odd blessings are the best ones.

Grammatically Speaking

This post was originally published on August 29, 2006.

My mom is an English teacher.  "Ahhhhh," you're saying, "NOW I get it."

I grew up in a rural Arkansas town where poor grammar is as much a part of life as Friday night football.  Combine the two, and you had the weekly chant from the stands, as the refs carefully measured a play, "MOVE THEM CHAINS!  MOVE THEM CHAINS!"  Not my mother.  She instructed my brother and me that oh-yes-ma'am our family chants, "MOVE THOSE CHAINS!  MOVE THOSE CHAINS!"  We stood out a little, but around our house, it was appropriate to fall on your sword for good grammar. 

And it rubbed off on me, definitely.  The most romantic thing that happened to me in adolescence was a secret admirer who, for a period of a couple of weeks, covered my '78 powder blue Pontiac Grand Prix with flowers overnight, every night, as it sat in our driveway.  The first morning, when my mother and I dashed out to investigate, we snagged the note that was tucked under the windshield.  It read,

Shannon,

These are for you; I hope you enjoy them. 

E.B.T.

My mother and I, equally giddy, looked at each other and squealed, "HE USED A SEMI-COLON!"

So it should come as no surprise that my sweet Joseph crawled into my lap sniffling last week.  "Mom," he whimpered, "I hurt my toe badly." 

"Oh, sweet boy," I said, rubbing his foot.  "I'm so proud of you for using an adverb."

Bliss

Later this morning, my Hubs and I will climb into a car, just the two of us, and take an eight-hour road trip.  Just the two of us.  For four whole days.  Did I mention it would be just the two of us?

We don't get away like this very often, so when we do, it's a treasure.  I'll have a report of where we went when I get back--we're going somewhere lovely and fancy and grown-up.  In the meantime, I'll be away from the computer for a few days as I spend some time with this man 'o mine. 

"Do you want to do anything special on our trip?" my thoughtful man asked me.  He meant concerts or plays or side trips to new sights.

What do I want to do?

I want to talk and talk and laugh and talk with my husband until we're hoarse.

I want to stop at a convenience store and not have to take little bodies to the potty or argue about what movie we're watching next. 

I want to order room service.

I want to go dancing.

I want to wear the fantastic dress and strappy heels I bought, just for the occasion.

I want to eat at a restaurant without a playplace and not have to cut up anyone's food but my own.

I want to read from the stack of books I'm taking, uninterruped.

I want to do some, ahem, other things, uninterruped. 

And OH-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-good-and-quiet, I want to NAP.

I'll do all those things in the next few days, and I can hardly wait.  Y'all be good while I'm gone.

It's Nice To Be Understood

DietcokeWe were running late for church Sunday morning, so late that I didn't have time for my morning injection of caffeine can of Diet Coke.  That is a dangerous way for me to start my day, and I grumbled about it as we climbed into the car.

Fast forward to after church, when I scolded nine-year-old Adam for something I thought he had done, only to learn it was his brother who was the criminal in question.  I quickly apologized for jumping to conclusions.  Adam flashed me a mischievous grin.

"It's okay, Mom," he said with exaggerated sympathy.  "I know you have anger-management issues when you don't get your Diet Coke in the morning."

That little stinker.

That little absolutely right stinker.

My World Turned Upside Down, In a Really, Really Good Way

Something very big is happening to our family--something hugely, remarkably wonderful.  I haven't talked about it much, and I haven't written about it at all, because I hardly have the words to express my excitement. 

In two days, my parents are closing on a house and will begin the process of moving in.  The house is one mile from mine.   

My parents have lived in the same little town where I grew up for ages--my dad has spent his entire life there, except for a few short years during and right after college.  This is a huge change for them.  They're going into semi-retirement and moving to Our City, starting over with a new house and new friends and new drivers' licenses and new dry cleaners and all the other "beginnings" that come with an inter-state move.

And I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself.  Except for a brief time, years ago, when our younger siblings lived in our city, Hubs and I have never had family in town--certainly not grandparents.  I have looked with envy at my friends whose parents are nearby.  For my parents to see the kids' plays or soccer matches or church programs has been a huge undertaking, requiring planning and overnight visits.   Not anymore. 

More than a couple of my friends have raised their eyebrows when I've told them parents will be living so close to us.  "Is that going to be, um, okay?" they ask skeptically.  It will.  I'm blessed with parents who are really good at being parents to their adult kids.  They have become our friends, our cheerleaders, our sounding boards.  They give generously of their time while still maintaining healthy boundaries.  Hubs and I are very blessed. 

And we're very proud.  It's no small thing to start over the way they are.  They've reasoned (wisely) that it makes sense for them to live near their adult kids, and it makes even more sense to do it when they're young and healthy enough to build a life for themselves. 

And so, with much excitement, we're all embarking on a new adventure, learning to navigate life with grandparents (*squeal*) just a few streets away.  Once they're settled, they will move my grandmother here as well.  We'll have a town full of family, and we couldn't be happier about it. 

And Yet He Still Loves Me

Me: [Laughing out loud at something.]

Hubs: You have a really great laugh.

Me: Really?

Hubs: Yes--I mean, your laugh has changed over the years.  You laugh harder than you used to.

Me:  [Looking at him all sappy sweet.]  Well, Honey, the longer I know you, the more I have to laugh about. 

Hubs:  [Blank look.]

Me:  Um, that didn't exactly come out right...

We Are the Ones Who Make a Brighter Day, So Let's Start Livin'....

Y'all go see this great post over at This Ain't New York--it's all about being a "child of the 80's".  Quite a little trip down memory lane--thanks to Melanie, I'll be singing the Square Pegs theme song all weekend. 

I must have 80's on the brain.  This afternoon I dropped off Joseph at the bowling alley for a birthday party, and they were playing "We Are the World" on the loudspeaker.  Without realizing it, I started singing along--out loud--until I noticed the people behind the shoe rental counter staring at me.  Must have been my Cyndi Lauper impression, because y'all, it's good.

So Happy

A new phrase has entered our family lingo, courtesy of my two-year-old daughter Corrie.  When faced with a moment of extreme joy (such as an unexpected cookie or--I'm not kidding--a stroll through the Target shoe section), she'll look up at me and sigh, "So happy, Momma."

And my heart melts into the gooiest of puddles.

Her ability to find the happiness in the simplest of things convicts me to my core.  The frantic pace of daily life keeps my eyes focused on the Next Thing I Have To Do.  The patches of clover in my front yard remind me it's time to put down weed killer.  But they make my daughter giggle with joy, "Ooooo...fwowers!"

She's teaching me things, that girl of mine.  This morning she climbed onto the couch for her daily dose of Dora.  I turned on her show and started to leave the room to tackle the kitchen.  But she looked at me and patted the seat next to her.  "Sit," she commanded gently.  I looked at that little face, still puffy from sleep, and my to-do list suddenly seemed very trivial.  I crawled onto the couch with her and covered us with a soft fleece blanket.  She climbed into my lap and, with complete abandon, threw her chubby arms around my neck.  As I kissed her hair, (it smelled of sweet apple shampoo), I heard her sigh contentedly. 

I knew what she was about to say.  But this time I beat her to the punch.

"So happy, Corrie," I sighed.

So happy.

Sugar and Spice and Occasionally Nice

Someday, when I am old and gray, may I remember that today was the day my little daughter woke up in her bed singing "Wa-a-ake up...wa-a-ake up...", her sweet little voice flowing over the baby monitor and into the very deepest part of my heart.

And may I not remember that today is also the day she, at lunchtime, threw a cheeseburger at my face.

A Few Disjointed Thoughts About Daylight Savings Time

I know that someone invented that "Spring Forward, Fall Back" ditty to help us remember what direction our clocks go, but it has never worked for me.  I always have to look it up.  Because, I assure you, I am fully capable of springing back (as in, when I see a mouse on my patio), and falling forward (as in, when I try to put shoes like this on my ever-klutzy feet).  A more fail-safe slogan would be very helpful to me.  Any ideas?

But, slogan or not, this is surely one of my favorite times of the year.  Sunlight!  Beautiful sunlight!  It's worth the arguing with the kids over how evil I am to send them to bed when it's still daylight.  It's worth the embarrassment this non-morning-person suffers, snoring in Sunday school that first morning of the time change.  It's worth it all, for the extra sunniness that sends us all back outdoors, reacquainting ourselves the neighbors we missed during our four-month hibernation. 

So y'all get out there and enjoy the sun today.  I'll be in the backyard with my kids, fighting off a nap and--oh, great day!--wearing capri pants.

A Curse Upon Thee

J0399540I have a degree in English.  I love the intricacies of our language--the nuances, the subtleties. 

At least, I used to, until I became the parent of a second grader for whom spelling does not come naturally.  Because now?  Let me publicly issue a curse upon the entire English language RIGHT HERE AND NOW for that whole i-before-e-except-after-c business.  It is causing many tears to be shed upon my kitchen table. 

I'm thinking of chucking the whole language for something less complicated, like, you know, Mandarin Chinese, or something.  We do like egg rolls around here...

Brotherly Love

Five-year-old Joseph was feeling a bit picked on during the bus ride home today.  Big brother Stephen and I listened closely as he told us the details.  When Joseph finished, Stephen leaned in, put his hand on Joseph's shoulder and said (in all kindness and sincerity), "Don't worry.  If it happens again, I'll bully him just as bad as I bully you."

I'd say this proves the age-old notion of brotherhood that I-can-pick-on-him-but-no-one-else-can.

Dear Me in 1987,

Dearme

Dear Me in 1987,

First of all, Honey, we need to talk about the eye make-up.  If God intended you to have electric blue eyelashes, He would've made you a Smurf. 

Second of all, you're not fat.  Look in the mirror and memorize what (have mercy!) 105 pounds looks like, because you will never, NEVER see it again.  The little babies you will someday house in that flat belly of yours will stretch it out to inhuman porportions.  And you know what?  You will think it's beautiful.

You seem to be awfully preoccupied with the wrong kind of boy.  Right now, the ability to throw a 40-yard touchdown pass seems like a very important trait in the opposite gender.  It's not.  But I also know that, deep in your heart, you're wondering if there's more out there than jocks in letter jackets.  You're wondering if you'll ever find someone to understand that deep part of your soul you haven't shown to anyone in your little hometown.  You'll find him.  He'll knock your socks off.  He'll challenge you until your head spins, all while loving you just the way you are--and you will never be the same. 

(By the way, despite your best efforts, including that picture taped inside your locker, this magical "he" that you will find isn't going to be John F. Kennedy, Jr.  Trust me when I tell you you're getting a much better deal.)   

You don't understand yet what a treasure your family is.  You love them, and you depend on them, but you haven't yet learned how much of the world lives without the kind of support and love that surrounds you.  Thank them for the sacrifices they make for you, and spend a little more time listening to them.  And you know that little brother who exasperates you endlessly?  Someday he'll be one of your greatest sources of encouragement and wisdom.  Go easy on him.   

You're spending a lot of time wondering if this faith of your parents is worth claiming as your own.  That's okay.  Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.  If God is who He says He is, He can withstand the doubts of a teenage girl.  Know that the day will come when He'll be more real to you than anything you've ever known.  Until that day comes, stop agonizing over your inability to truly believe.  He's working in your heart, and He'll accomplish His work--in His timing.

One last thing.  Your life isn't going to work out quite the way you think it will, as you sit there scribbling away in your 10th-grade journalism notebook, dreaming of the New York Times.  You have very grand hopes of Changing The World, and the good news is that you will accomplish this--though not in the way you're dreaming right now.  You'll change the sheets of a little boy who has gotten sick in the night, and you'll make him feel safe and warm in a way no one else can.  You'll stroke the face of your baby daughter in a NICU ward and cover her with prayer.  You'll share your faith with a second-grade boy and watch the light of understanding flip on in his eyes.  You'll sit at the kitchen table with a boy whose confidence has been shattered, and you'll build him back up.  You'll love a man more completely than you can imagine, and with him you'll build a home where it's easy to laugh and safe to speak your mind.  Yes, a tiny corner of the world will be forever changed by what you do more surely than anything you could do in a big city newsroom. 

And it will take your breath away.

Signed,

You in 2007

If you'd like to participate in the Dear Me Project, go here.  Hat tip to Mary for the link.

Trashy Parenting

We've been cleaning out the kids' rooms today.  CLEANING OUT.  The kind of cleaning that involves boxes, trash bags, the vacuum, and a few tears.  Because my children, bless 'em, have inherited their mother's tendency to hold on to E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  I'm mature enough (usually) to fight this tendency in myself.  They're not.

In an effort to respect their stuff, I tried not to do a total toss-it-all-to-the-curb cleaning.  There was a large box full of junk waste garbage treasures that I thought they might actually want to keep.  So last night, we went through the box, item by item, while they tried to convince me that their little lives would surely end if I threw any of this stuff away.

The items included many, many Happy Meals toys that had never been played with since the moment they entered our house, a hacky sack devoid of its stuffing, Hot Wheels cars without tires, and a purple plastic ninja whose head had been chewed off by our dog.

"Mom!" the little darlings begged in chorus, "we LOVE this stuff!  It's our fa-a-a-a-avorite!"

And then, in a rare moment of inspired parenting, I made a deal with them.  "You can keep each of these things, but you have to spend 30 minutes playing with that item, and that item alone, tomorrow." 

There were looks of bewilderment all around, while they tried to imagine what they could do with a headless action figure for half an hour.  "If it's fun enough to keep, it's fun enough to play with for 30 minutes," I explained.

And wonder of wonders, the WHOLE BOX went into the trash, without argument.  Can it be that I've finally found a way to inspire them to throw things away?  I'm filing this one away to use again.

For more inspired parenting suggestions, visit Owlhaven's Opinion Saturday today.  And stay tuned, because I'm so pleased about my kids' organized rooms I may just post some pictures this week.  If I can find my camera buried under all the stuff I don't want to throw away.... 

Easter Traditions

After my post about the way our family welcomes spring, a reader named Kim wrote me the following e-mail:

I loved the idea you gave of using the secular side of Easter (bunnies, candy, etc.) to use to celebrate the first day of spring.  Could you also share with me how you then celebrate Easter with children?  Obviously, we will enjoy going to church and reading from the Bible.....  but, I wondered if there were special Easter day traditions you have put into place in your family to keep the focus on the true meaning of the day.

It's a great question.  Honestly, though our family has plenty of Christ-centered traditions at Christmas, we don't really have any at Easter, other than church and Bible reading (as Kim said).  And maybe that's enough.  But I'd be interested to hear if you all have any ideas.

One thing we plan to try this year (though we've never done it before) is to bake "resurrection cookies".  You can see the details here

Please, leave your ideas in the comments section.  If you have links with more information, please include those too!   

1-800-BAD-PARENT

This weekend I was reminded of the immutable truth of parenting that it is impossible to call Poison Control and still feel like a good mother by the time you get off the phone. 

Hubs and I were moving some furniture upstairs while two-year-old Corrie watched The Little Mermaid with Joseph.  Clearly, the melodic siren song of Ariel wasn't enough to keep our daughter entranced.  We came downstairs to find her sitting in front of the TV with an open bottle of Tums, both fists and both cheeks FULL of the chalky tablets.

While Hubs fished the stuff out of her mouth, I ran to the phone to call Poison Control, all while trying frantically to remember who could have possibly left a full bottle of Tums within the reach of a toddler (the answer?  Me.)

Poison Control:  This is Poison Control, may I help you?

Me: [My voice shaking.] My two-year-old daughter just ate a lot of Tums. [In the background, Hubs is barking at the kids to turn off the TV, while loudly trying to round up Joseph, who had witnessed the event in question.  Truly, we were the picture of parental control.]

Poison Control:  How many is "a lot"?

Me:  Um...I'm not sure.  A LOT-lot.  [I'm so eloquent in an emergency].  Maybe a couple of handfuls.  Ten, maybe?  Even more?  Hang on... [to Joseph now] ...Sweetie, how many Tums did your sister eat?

Joseph:  I think it was 16.

Me:  16?  If you were able to count that accurately, why didn't you STOP HER?

Joseph:  [Blank five-year-old stare].

Me:  [To Poison Control]  My son said she ate 16, but he's only five and not very strong in counting yet...

Poison Control:  How long did the two year old have access to the medicine?

[Insert sound of screeching record here.  Ah yes, the million-dollar question, which might as well have been, "How long were you ignoring your child?"]

Me:  Um, five minutes, maybe?  I don't know how she got the medicine, really....

There were a few more questions about Corrie's weight, and the very kind Poison Control man assured me that, in fact, as a one-time occurrence, an overdose of Tums is not harmful.  Not to Corrie, anyway--but my confidence and peace of mind took a sound beating.

I laughed nervously at our sloppy drama and, in the dark part of my mind, tiptoed around that frightening, never-too-distant truth of motherhood that life is more fragile than I give it credit for.  And I hugged my girl, because really, what else was there to do (besides put away the Tums)?  It was just another reminder to me of how carefully God holds my children's future, even when I'm not looking. 

Moms For Modesty Update

For those of you with Moms for Modesty buttons on your sidebar, there has been a slight change in the URL for the "host" petition. Please take a moment to update it with the revised URL:

http://www.everydaymommy.net/everyday-mommy/2006/9/5/moms-for-modesty/

You can find the complete button code here.

True

Sleepingbw_2There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Item #497 In the Category Of Sentences I Never Expected To Hear

Me: [Calling up the stairs.]  Is Corrie up there with you boys?

Adam:  [Answering back.]  Yes, she's just in here licking the CDs.

What Can I Say About Branson?

Good work, you guessers--you were right.  We went to Branson, Missouri on our little weekend trip.  And I will confess, as we drove the streets of Branson, I thought of you all, and I wondered just how I could describe this city accurately, especially to those of you on the east or west coasts who will likely never see this slice of Americana.  It's a curious place, to say the least.

If you've never heard of it, here's a little background:  Branson was a tiny town even just 25 years ago, barely a stop in the road carved into the rocky hills of southwest Missouri.  A little amusement park grew up around a cave there, and then a country music show or two was started "in town" to entertain the amusement-park go-ers. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast-forward 25 years later, and Branson is no longer a sleepy little town.  Now it's become (as my Hubs affectionately calls it) "Las Vegas for rednecks" (and I say that with all the love in my heart, seeing as how I'm from the hills of Arkansas and there still just a leetle bit of redneck deep in this girl).  It's the kind of place where the shows are flashy, the hair is big, and the chicken fried steak is all-you-can-eat. 

For example, we drove past the "God and Country Gardens", where you can visit a six-foot high metal sculpture of the Ten Commandments right out front.  And then there was the little clothing store we saw named--I'm not making this up--"Dressin' Gaudy".  Even the local Baptist church has a neon sign. 

And you know what?  It's a really fun place to visit.  It's the sort of place where you check your big-city sophistication at the city limits and revel in the fact that we all need some sequins in our lives, every now and then.  (I know that several of you have been to Branson, so help me out in the comment section and try to describe this place to those who haven't seen it.)

Our family stayed at the hotel adjoining this indoor water park, and it was great fun.  My kids ran and yelled and splashed the way they haven't been able to do in the last few, cold months.  It was great therapy for us all.

NO Dryer family getaway would be complete without someone getting sick, of course.  Every trip we take--and I do mean EVERY SINGLE TRIP--will produce someone(s) chufing or coughing or bleeding.  It's a little family tradition by now, really.  I've learned to go with it and just pack our entire medicine cabinet when we travel.  The irony is that at home, we're all remarkably healthy--something about leaving our city limits seems to cause dormant germs to leap into action.  This particular trip found Joseph having a bad asthma flare-up, but he's doing better now.  AND Corrie swallowed so much pool water that she threw up, but only once, so that doesn't count as a real illness.  In fact, our spectacular luck rubbed off on the friends we traveled with, and two of their kids came down with something icky.  Lesson of the day:  Do not travel with the Dryer family.

We're home now, and everyone is well.  The laundry is put away and the chlorine smell is almost gone from our skin.  Best of all, we're rested and refreshed--and just a little flashier.

A Prayer

Oh, Lord, yesterday in kindergarten he learned that birds sometimes go hungry in the winter.  He got off the bus with a little packet of bird seed and marched straight out to the backyard, sprinkling the seed on the patio. 

And Lord, then he stood there and chirped.  With all his might, at the top of his lungs, he stood there and yelled "tweet" at those birds, hoping to lure them to their dinner. 

I know You must have seen him.  Were You laughing up in Heaven as hard as I was laughing in my kitchen? 

There was a sigh or two in my laughter as I watched him.  His little heart is so tender, and he so desperately wanted to convince the birds to come and feast.  And the louder he "tweeted" the further they flew, of course, and OH, how he wanted them to understand.  My heart melts into a puddle at his sweetness, Lord, but it aches at knowing that he'll face many times of pouring his heart into something that may fail.  It's more than a mother's heart can bear, really. 

Please watch him for me, Lord.  When he's all grown up and too far away for me to see him from my kitchen window, please watch him, help him and encourage him. 

Please keep his heart tender, and keep it safe. 

Parenting Eeyore

Hubs and I have generally cheerful dispositions.  We get cases of the blues every now and then, of course, but by and large, we're glass-half-full, clouds-have-silver-linings people.  Our two older children inherited this trait, and they both tend to look for the best in a situation.

And then there's Joseph.

Joseph inherited my Dad's disposition.  Both of them are precious and warm and funny and affectionate, but they are also trailed by one of those little cartoon rain clouds that reminds them that the worst-case scenario is never far behind. 

Parenting a personality like this is a challenge for us, especially since neither Hubs nor I possess this kind of thinking, as a rule.  We've always made an effort to parent our kids based on who they actually are, not who we'd like them to be.  I get it that Joseph sometimes needs the space to work out his little melancholy moments on his own, and I don't expect him to "snap out of it" just because it would be more convenient for me.

BUT.

This has to be balanced with the fact that there's a family to run here.  When you have a personality that is often moody and gloomy, it does impact the rest of us.  This has all been magnified of late by the fact that Joseph (who is my bike-riding, tree-swinging, active boy) is feeling as cooped up as I am by this February weather.  AND, of course, he's five.  I've always thought that (even for the most cheerful little people) five seems to be a hard year.  It's the year you really learn that life isn't fair.  Sometimes the teacher wants you to practice your letters when you'd rather play blocks.  Sometimes your older brothers get to stay up later.  Sometimes the cafeteria serves spinach. 

All these things taken together mean that my little guy is a funk that puts my own to shame.  I really think I could serve him chocolate cake for breakfast, while dressed as Anakin Skywalker, and he would find a reason to balk at the cruelty of this cold, cold world.

The point of all this (yes, there is one) is that I'd love to hear some feedback from those of you who have parented little gloom-and-doomers.  Or maybe you're a gloom-and-doomer yourself, with some special insights to this personality.  I really want to find a way to give my little guy space to be himself WITHOUT allowing him to take it too far.  Any thoughts out there?

To My Valentine

Valentine

Why I Don't Post Picture Of My Kids *UPDATED*

Please note:  This post is not intended to be read by children.

I get asked rather often why I've chosen not to post pictures of my kids on my blog, so it seemed easier to answer it out front, in a post.  I have not made this decision out of some vague sense of alarm; my reasons are specific (and, I'll warn you, disturbing).  In several places, I've disguised some words using asterisks, to prevent creepy Google searches--I'm sorry if this makes it hard to read.  And, to be accurate, I should say that I don't post pictures of my kids' faces.  Any picture I use of them is from the back or has their faces blocked out using Photoshop.

Thankfully, something happened very early in my blogging experience that tipped me off to an important reality in the blogosphere.  Someone came to my site via the Google search "lit*tle bo*ys in dres*ses."  I could tell, from my site meter, that this visitor spent a good bit of time going through my archives, though I'd prefer not to imagine what he or she was specifically searching for, and with what intentions. 

Here's the harsh truth:  unless your site is password-protected, you have no control over who visits your blog.  And while our little mommy-blog corner of the blogosphere appears to be (and largely is) a very safe and happy place, the fact is that we moms use harmless words in our posts that could draw in the Google searches of ped*phi*les--words like baby, toddler, diaper, bathtub.

That's disturbing enough, but it gets worse.

I've learned from personal experience that someone can "lift" a picture off your site and Photoshop it in whatever way they want.  A bloggy friend-of-a-friend posted a picture of her child in its diaper, only to find months later it had been lifted and posted to a page for people with fet*ish*es in this area.  A few months ago, I had my own taste of this kind of creepiness.  A blogger wrote a profane "review" of my blog, and he edited a picture of me in a way that was intended to be hurtful.  In his earlier posts about other bloggers, he had lifted pictures of their kids and edited them in equally insulting ways.  It was a brutal lesson in what someone with Photoshop skills and questionable intentions is capable of. 

If I had pictures of my kids on my site, what would prevent someone from lifting it and editing it in whatever way they pleased?  Nothing, as it stands now.  Software does exist which allows you to protect your photos from lifting off your page, but (as I understand--correct me if I'm wrong) it's very expensive and complicated.  The best defense is never to post the pictures in the first place. 

Is it possible that I'm over-reacting?  I don't believe I am, but I'll allow for the possibility that I'm being a bit too jumpy.  When it comes to security issues, though, I will ALWAYS err on the side of caution.  And it's a shame--I'd love to show you photos of my kids.  Goodness knows I have some photos that are great blog fodder.  But it's simply not worth it to me, even if the risk is small.  I do post pictures of my kids on a password-protected, family website that everyone in my extended family has access to (and they all post pictures of their kids as well).  It's safe, and it serves the purpose of letting family get frequent and current pictures. 

This issue, like every parenting decision, is intensely personal.  I've simply addressed the issue with the best thinking I have as it relates to my kids and my blog.  I don't "judge" parents who decide differently.  The only hard-and-fast advice I would give to any parent is to consider this very carefully, with your eyes wide open as to the reality of the blogosphere (in particular) and the Internet (in general).

* * * * * * * * * *

UPDATED TO ADD:

For an explanation of how to find out who is spending time on your site, read this post.  As for finding a safe option to share your photos with family, I'd recommend MyFamily.com.  My extended family has used it for years; we can all post news, photos, birthdays, etc.  I believe it costs about $30/year--money very well spent.  You could also do a password-protected blog, which is an easy option in Typepad (anyone know if it's an option in Blogger?) 

Ugh.

Last night, my second-grade son told me (with all the sincerity in his little heart) that the Pokemon I remind him most of is JigglyPuff.

JigglyPuff.

Nothing about that is flattering.

Is there even the remotest chance I will survive motherhood with my self-confidence in tact?

Eight Is Hard

Last week I overheard eight-year-old Stephen calling five-year-old Joseph a scaredy cat.  I jumped to the little guy's defense.  I reminded Stephen that he, not Joseph, is the one who comes to our room at night frequently with bad dreams.  Stephen sighed a world-weary sigh, and his shoulders sagged dramatically. 

"Mom," he explained sadly, "I've lived a lot longer than Joseph, and I have a lot more experience with this world."

Parents, be warned.  Evidently the years between kindergarten and 2nd grade are a wasteland of joy-sapping despair. 

Imagining

My boys built an indoor clubhouse today, staying occupied for hours.  At one point they emerged from their play room with a status report.

"Mom," asked Adam, "want to know the name of our club?"

"Of course," I said.

"It's the Mythical World of Frankenstein and Randy Johnson," he said proudly.  "And we all work at Kinko's."

I chuckled to myself as I was reminded, once again, that mothering these little characters is the best job in the world.

Surviving

Thanks for all your good wishes.  I still feel crummy, but I feel less crummy than yesterday...so maybe, maybe this means it's not the flu?  Surely if it were the flu I'd feel worse today, right?  RIGHT?

Hubs made it home safely from Dallas--God in all His goodness plopped Hubs' car right behind a sanding truck during the only rough patch.  He offered to stay home with me, sweet man, but the kids (remarkably!) had school today, even with all the snow.  Corrie and I have watched Wicka-Wehwa (Cinderella, in two-year-old-ese) ALL day, and she loaded my sock drawer fulll of grapes (don't ask).  Is it awful that there is a part of me which, even with all the feeling bad, is enjoying having an excuse to just REST?  I guess you know you're a mom when the flu feels like a vacation.

I'm rambling, sorry--a little drunk on the fever.  I spent the morning catching up on some blog-reading in bed, and I wanted to point you toward some gems (which you've probably already read, but just in case, here you go...)

The ever-eloquent Mopsy has once again taken the cake with this post.  (Mopsy always takes the cake--she's truly one of the finest writers I've read in the blogosphere.  If she's not on your regular reading list, you are missing out!)

And while you're already laughing out loud, head over to Antique Mommy's for this post.  Funny, funny stuff.

Your comments the other day on my "It Gets Easier" post warmed my heart more than you could imagine--thank you.  For more momma encouragement go read this lovely post written by sweet Sarah at In the Midst of It.

My friend Shalee is hosting a carnival inviting all of us to share our ideas for cheap dates.  Cheapness!  Grown-up time with the man I love!  Two of my favorite things!  Go check it out here.

That's it from here.  Y'all have a good weekend... 

Parenting Books

A reader wrote to me with a really good question, and because it's not the first time I've been asked this, I thought I'd answer it publicly here.  I hope you'll feel free to chime in with your two cents at the end.  She writes

My husband and I are going to start our family in the next 12-18 months. I grew up babysitting and caring for other people's children so I have the basics of caring for children down--what I'm wanting now is to prepare for the most important part-- raising a good Christian child! Do you have any suggestions on some books that I could read to help me prepare in anyway?

I applaud you for readying yourself now for parenting.  I personally jumped into the whole adventure very blindly, fully expecting my first child to emerge from the womb with an instruction booklet tucked into its freshly-changed diaper.  I think there are several things you can do to be preparing yourself ahead of time.   

You asked about parenting books specifically, and I'll get to that in a minute.  But in my opinion (and experience), the very best parenting tool is a strong marriage.  Use those pre-kid years to build a very firm foundation of clear communication, friendship and common ground.  Even the finest marriage can be strained by the exhaustion that comes with parenthood; if you can start the parenting journey with a deep, weathered, eyes-wide-open committment to your mate, you've won half the battle.

Secondly, surround yourself with a strong support network of people you trust and respect.  You'll need it!  A loving, committed church family has always been an extremely important tool in our parenting bag o' tricks.  I can't stress this strongly enough.  The best parenting advice I've received over the years has not been from books, or pediatrician, or any other "expert"--it's been from other parents laboring away in the trenches.    

While it is admirable and wise to prepare yourself for parenting ahead of time, just be prepared to adapt, adapt, adapt.  Be careful about making statements about what you (or your child-to-be) WILL or WON'T do.  Trust me, that one will jump up to bite you in the bahookus so fast your head will spin.  And while you're working on your adaptability skills, polish up your sense of humor while you're at it.  It will serve you well. 

As for parenting books, there are a few that have stood out to me over the years.  Though, in my own experience, you must have enough common sense as a parent to be able to adapt and adjust what you read to what your child needs.  Parenting is MOST DEFINITELY not a one-size-fits-all proposition.  Frankly, I'm not sure I've ever read a parenting book in which I agreed with every word written in it.  But we've pulled out the best and ignored what didn't work for us from some of the following:

Shepherding a Child's Heart

The concept behind this book is beautifully simple:  a child's behavior follows his heart.  Concern yourself less with what you see on the outside of a child and much more by what's going on in his head and heart.

Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours

This book is one of the more practical parenting books I've ever seen--it's chock full of specifics.  It's not entirely applicable to parents of young preschoolers, but for school-age kids and up, it's a must-read.

James Dobson

Dobson peppers his parenting advice with a good bit of grace, an essential ingredient.  I've always appreciated that about him, even if I haven't agreed with everything he's ever written.  The Strong-Willed Child is a classic.  Bringing Up Boys has some very valuable advice, though (as the mom of three boys) I thought it over-generalized the boy-raising experience (they're not all sports-loving little risk-takers, as the book often seemed to imply).

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems

This book has absolutely nothing to do with general, spiritual parenting advice, but I have to include it in any list of parenting resources.  WE HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO LIVE WITHOUT THIS BOOK--it has saved my sanity more times than I can count.  It deals with baby/children sleep issues from ages 4-5 months all the way through older childhood.  All four of my kids are healthy sleepers, and I'm convinced it's due entirely to the tools we've implemented from this book. 

My advice to a new parent investigating Christian parenting books would be to hold up what you read against the truth of Scripture.  You will likely encounter parenting "systems" that tell you there is only one way to parent a child.  While Scripture provides certain non-negotiables regarding parenting (teaching our kids God's word, instilling respect, etc.), God thankfully seems to leave much of it up to our own creativity and good common sense.  If a parenting system tells you otherwise, that's a serious red flag, in my book.

*stepping down off my soap box*

Those are my thoughts on the matter; I'd be interested to hear if any of you have found parenting books you cannot live without.  And here's where I have to put my little disclaimer saying that I cannot "screen" every book that might appear in my comments section, so please don't assume that because it appears there, I'm endorsing it.  Always, always use discernment, y'all. 

   

The Epic Tale of the Flesh-Eating Ladybugs and Their Untimely Demise

It's fruit-basket-turnover in our house this week as we turn Corrie's nursery into a "big girl room", and the boys (not wanting to miss out on the action) have decided this is the week to rearrange their rooms as well.  And I, being in a winter rut and therefore eager for any excuse to rearrange furniture, have agreed.  So our upstairs is a disaster:  mattresses in the halls, toys pushed up against the walls, hang-up clothes stacked on beds...lovely.  If I can find my way back to the computer on Monday, I'll resume normal posting then.  Until then...another day, another post from the archives. 

The following was originally posted on February 27, 2006.

My four-year-old son Joseph received a lady bug farm for Christmas this year.  The day after Christmas we mailed in his certificate for the ladybugs that would fill it up, and he eagerly checked the mailbox every day.  A couple of weeks later, a bulky package arrived bearing a huge stamp on the front:  "Live Larvae Enclosed:  OPEN IMMEDIATELY."  (It's not everyday you find larvae in your mailbox--good times, I'm tellin' you.)

We carefully followed the enclosed instructions to the letter.  The ladybugs were teeny little larvae; the booklet told us we could expect them to become pupa in a couple of weeks, then full-fledged lady bugs a few days after that.  My son, whose heart is extra-tender toward any living thing, checked his larvae many times a day for progress, sleeping with the farm under his bed for protection.  And I breathed many little prayers:  Please let them live, please let them live...

And they lived.  Just as the instruction booklet promised, they shortly turned into pupa, then dramatically, in a few hours, little lady bugs.  Joseph was beyond overjoyed.  But here is something you probably didn't know about adorable little ladybugs:  they're cannibals.  Only about half the larvae made it to full-grown ladybugs, so the grown ones crawled around and ate the dead bodies of their peers who weren't so lucky.  And thankfully, my sensitive boy just said, "Look, they're playing!" as the carcass feast ensued.

And here's another, um, interesting little factoid about ladybugs:  they poop in enormous quanitity.  I mean, they're tiny little poops, but they are everywhere.  You don't notice this when they're outside crawling around your flower pots, but when they're in an enclosed little farm on your kitchen table where you feed your family--trust me, you notice.

So, the other day, Joseph was carrying his ladybug farm across our entryway.  But he had opened the top, for some reason. He slipped on a rug and fell, and the lady bug farm flew across the room, landing upside down on the floor.  Thousands of little ladybug poops, and dozens of half-eaten carcasses, scattered all over the floor.  The wood floor.  The brown, hard-to-make-out-where-the-bugs-and-poops-and-corpses-are floor.  The floor my baby daughter crawls around on all day.  You see where this is going.

Big brother Stephen came to the rescue and searched out as many live ladybugs as we could find, which wasn't many.  But Wicked Mommy had to get out the vacuum cleaner and suck up the poops and the carcasses (remember, he had no idea they were dead because I didn't have the heart to tell him), and yes, a few live ladybugs, while my sensitive boy wailed in the background, "Mommy, NOOOOOOOO!"  Now there is a moment for the therapy couch someday. 

The moral of this story?  Perhaps there is a profound one, but I'm at a loss.  I'm coping with the fact that there is likely still much ladybug poop in my entry way, tucked into nooks and crannies.  And a traumatized four-year-old boy living under my roof.  This motherhood business isn't always pretty, is it? 

A Big Day

A picture is worth a thousand words.  This one is worth a few dozen tears, as well, to this Momma:

A_big_day

I'm Sure We'll Laugh At This. Someday. Maybe. *UPDATED*

The thaw has come, praise-God-from-Whom-all-blessings flow.  While I play catch-up from my week of snowboundedness (Like that word?  I just made it up!), I'm posting a re-run.  This story of one of my least glorious parenting moments originally "aired" on February 14, 2006. 

Over the holidays, my dad accidentally backed into our mini-van. We took it to the shop to be fixed last week. We have a big family, so the insurance company provided us a rental mini-van (I told them if they gave me a sedan I'd have to strap a child to the luggage rack), and the entire process was going remarkably smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that I called my husband Thursday afternoon to brag about what a painless, easy process this had been. Spoke too soon.

Early Thursday evening, as I was preparing dinner, my seven- and four-year-old sons were together in the garage, when the seven year old ran inside. "Mom," he panted, "Joseph has done something really bad to the car." When I asked him what he just shook his head: "I don't even know how to tell you. You'll just have to see it."

I ran to the garage to find Joseph with a rock in his hand (drat, rocks again...) next to the car (remember, it's a rental). ON the car was an almost continuous 6-inch-high, zig-zag carving that ran the entire length of one side of the car, all around the back, and all the way back up the other side. The only portion of the car NOT zig-zagged by my delightful son was the HOOD.

Here is a close-up shot of the carving, though of course a photo can't do it justice:

Dscn1396

The color drained out of my face. My jaw dropped to the ground. The earth stopped spinning for just a moment. Joseph, being four, didn't understand the permanence of this. "Let's go get a washcloth and wipe it off," he said. "WE CAN'T," I gulped in a trembling whisper.

Now, I'm sure you're breathless with anticipation to find out exactly how we handled this with him, but even mischievous four year olds deserve a little privacy. Just accept my assurances that no little boys were harmed (seriously) in the administering of said discipline.

The next day, I took the car into a couple of shops for estimates. My no-nonsense hubby urged me--only halfway in jest--to flirt shamelessly with the shop guys (while I appreciate his vote of confidence, I told him that the flirtations of a middle-aged, chubby-ish housewife probably weren't going to get us very far). And clearly I was right, because both shops gave us an estimate of $3500. Yes, that's three-five-zero-zero. Our insurance agent told us he's pretty sure this will be covered by our insurance. Pretty sure? That wasn't exactly the assurance I was looking for. I was hoping more for, oh, "Sure, we'll cover it and we'll even waive your deductible because clearly you need a little pick-me-up since you have no control over your children."

THE UPDATE YOU ASKED FOR: Yes, the insurance covered it, after a (*shudder*) $1000 deductible.  A couple of months later, someone backed into us in a parking lot and we once again got a rental car from the insurance company.  Of course, they sent us to the same rental company.  And yes, they remembered us.  I'm sure we're still fodder for break-room jokes a year later.

And yes, now we're laughing about it.

You Know It's Bad When I Resort To Cleaning Out Drawers

Nary a creative thought this weekend.  Nope, not a one. 

Thinking I might as well use this snowbound time for something productive, I was inspired by the Organizing Junkie herself to completely clean out my desk drawers. 

Y'all, it was bad.  I found coupons that had expired in 2004, and a free pizza award my son won in kindergarten.  He's in the third grade now.

So I ruthlessly tossed whatever I could, emptied the drawers, VACUUMED THEM OUT (yes, it was that dirty, and I'm that bored), and then I neatly re-loaded them.  Because Laura coaches us that before/after pictures are an important inspiration, I shall share them below.  Because I know you must be riveted to find out what my, um, desk drawers look like, right?  Trust me, after seven days snowbound, it's interesting. 

I give you drawer #1, which was in the worst shape of them all, at first.  It is now the drawer that is 100% off limits to anyone but ME.  Okay, maybe Hubs, but only if he's very good.

Drawer1_1

Drawer #2 was formerly used to hold three-year-old Christmas cards and other vitally important trash.  Now, it's the drawer that contains things the kids and I both might need:

Drawer2

Yes, I know that's a lot of Scotch tape.  I tend to buy it in bulk.  We may run out of milk, diapers and toilet paper, but oh my stars we will always have clear adhesive.

Drawer #3 is now for mailing supplies ONLY:  stamps, envelopes and address labels.  Anyone who breaks this rule will himself be packaged up and shipped away:

Drawer3

And there you go.  I know your life is much richer with this knowledge. 

Thanks to Laura for the inspiration! 

Well, THAT Was Fun....

Y'all sure know how to make a big world seem little.  We had a ball all day yesterday watching all your comments pour in--it surely broke up the monotony of an otherwise bleary day.  We stopped our tally at bedtime last night, at which point there were a staggering 889 comments.  Thank you so much for playing along!  I was starting to feel a little like the announcer at the Miss America pageant, shouting "Alabama!  Wisconsin!  Maryland!" while the boys furiously wrote it all down. 

Several of you asked to see our finished map; I'm afraid it would be a little anti-climactic.  Since we were homebound, we couldn't get out to find a big world wall map that would've been perfect for something like this.  Instead, we were stuck with our teeny tiny atlas that certainly didn't leave room for all your locations.  So we just took a Sharpie marker and outlined each state as it first rolled in; remarkably, we heard from every single state except South Dakota, and we heard from 20 countries outside the U.S. 

Texas, of course, had far and away the most commentors--but did anyone ever really doubt they'd win?  I mean, they're Texas--they even blog big down there.  The top ten locations, in order of number of visitors, were

Texas

103

Georgia

45

California

42

Ohio

33

Missouri

31

Alabama

31

Canada

30

Oklahoma

28

Pennsylvania

27

Florida

27

We charted them all out on Excel, just for fun (yes, when you've been snowbound for six days, spreadsheets are fun.)  If you want to see the rest of the file (you'll need to have Excel on your computer), you should be able to see it here:  Download rimd_visitors.xls

100_0317Adam won the bowl-licking bet, and here's a picture of him reveling in his victory.  Unseen in this picture are his brothers off to the side, whining "THAT'S NOT FAIR!"  Five-year-old Joseph, who is prone to holding deep grudges anyway, is now hoppin' mad at every single resident of the Great State of Arkansas for allowing him to get thumped.

We learned a lot yesterday.  You were so generous to give us fun details about where you live.  Let's see, the high points...There are ten states with a city named "Cleveland"; the Frog Capital of the World is in Louisiana; owls in Idaho fly into your headlights on the highway;, Sammy Davis, Jr. lost his left eye in San Bernadino, CA; and Kevin Federline once bought underwear at a Wal Mart in Hagerstown, Maryland.  Important stuff.

(By the way, yay for you Arkansans for shoutin' out at the Hogs despite all the Drama.  Go Hawgs.  If you're not an Arkansas fan, this will make no sense to you, so just move right along...)

Thank you so much for a day full of warm-fuzzies, as this world of ours seemed a little smaller.  In fact, your responses have my wheels turning over an idea to keep that small-world feeling; details to come later, when I work it all out in my head.  It certainly won't be this week; the kids are out of school again today, and with 6-8 inches of snow forecast for the weekend, they may be home much of next week too (I know, you Northerners are laughing at how we Oklahomans crumble at snow.  And yet when a tornado is barreling down the street, we stand on the front porch with our camcorders....)

Stay warm, wherever you are, and have a happy weekend.

*UPDATED* I Need Your Help!

*UPDATED TO ADD*  Good night, Nancy, y'all know how to show up!  We've been keeping a running tally all day and have been kept mercifully busy with your kind comments.  Thank you!  We'll be posting an update some time tomorrow (Friday) since school has been called off again (*twitch, twitch*).  Keep those comments coming, if you're reading this for the first time.

We've been iced in since Friday afternoon.  Let me repeat that for emphasis:  Friday afternoon.  We've ventured out a couple of times, but with little success--the roads are horrible. 

And I don't mean to sound like a complainer--we've had plenty of fun times.  The boys have had a ball sledding across our ice-covered backyard, and we've done lots of movie-watching and game-playing.  We are enormously grateful to have kept our electricity, especially since so many people near us have not.  But after six days of utter "togetherness", well, nerves are wearing a little thin around here.  And our brains are atrophying.  My friend Jules called to give me a pep talk and reminded me of that Erma Bomback essay in which she discusses how, after three snowed-in days with her kids, she was ready to organize a dog-sled team to get them back to school.  Jules and I had a good laugh.  Then I stopped laughing and eyed my dog carefully, wondering just how much weight she could pull.

So, we must learn something today.  Or we'll go crazy.  This is where you come in.  J0400670

We've spread out a map on our kitchen table, with hopes that each of you might leave a comment telling us what state (or country) you're in.  If you don't blog publicly about where you live, just leave your comment anonymously.  As the comments come in, we're going to chart it on our map and learn a little something about geography.  Also, we're placing bets as to which state will have the most visitors (Adam guesses Texas, Stephen guesses California, and Joseph guesses Arkansas).  The winner gets to lick the bowl when we make brownies tonight.  They've also set a strangely specific goal of (*gulp*) 675 comments.  Some of you are seriously going to have to come out of the woodwork.

Y'all, help a girl out. Please leave us a comment with your location!  The kids are standing by my computer jumping up and down AS I WRITE THIS, they're so excited.  So...where in the world are you? 

 

Reason #729 Why I Love Having Boys

Today five-year-old Joseph greedily swigged several gulps of root beer, sat back in his chair, and sighed happily as he announced, "Now I can't wait for the burp!"

Ice, Ice Baby

Here's the shrub just outside my front door:

Ice1

In an effort to wear them out, I had my boys work on shoveling the glacier sidewalk.  After fifteen minutes of hacking away at it, their efforts looked like this (don't ask me what they thought they'd accomplish with the brooms):

Ice2

All that stuff on the ground is not snow, it's solid ice.  When you step on it, your foot doesn't crunch down to the ground, like you'd expect.  Instead, there's no give--kind of like stepping onto an ice rink.  Though it's hard to tell from this picture, my beloved Razorback flag is frozen solid in this position:

Ice3   

We  are SOCKED in, with no meltage in sight.  School is already canceled for tomorrow.  Many, many people in my state are without power, though thankfully my family is toasty warm and wearing out the DVD player. 

And today, my five year old tried to convince me that the best cure for his headache would be a bowl of Cheetos.  That has absolutely nothing to do with the ice, I just thought it was funny.

Be warm!

Old Man Winter Has An Axe To Grind

If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

--Percy Bysshe Shelley

I hope not, because we could use a little Spring right about now.  It has iced (not "snowed", it has actually "iced") nearly non-stop since yesterday afternoon, and the roads are like an ice rink.  Hubs and the boys are about to get out and see what essentials remain at the grocery store.  Our power has flickered a couple of times, and my boys have spent the morning in the back yard sliding on their sleds and smashing into lawn furniture.  It's a good day.

This weather shows no sign of letting up soon, so I've pre-posted a few things in case we lose power. 

Stay warm, wherever you are!

Get Rich Quick. Or At Least Comfortably Middle Class.

A reader wrote to me yesterday with an interesting question--so interesting, in fact, that I thought I'd throw it out to all of you and see what you have to say.  Here's an excerpt of her question:

My question for you is, are you aware of any REAL jobs that you can do at home? I don't feel comfortable getting into the industry of selling products like Tupperware or Pampered Chef, etc. (especially since we just moved to a new state and that would take me out of the home). I am awesome at data entry, etc. But all the sites out there look like scams. I have looked at adding ads to my blog, but frankly, I don't really get that many hits a day.

Ah, the age-old question:  how can a momma make money at home?  It's fairly easy to save money at home (if said momma can manage to stay the heck out of Target, *uncomfortable squirm*).  But making money?  That's a toughie.  There's not an easy answer; otherwise, we'd all be rollin' in the dough. 

This reader is right about ads on your blog.  It is possible to generate income this way, but the rates you can charge are tied directly to how much traffic you get.  If you feel like your traffic is pretty low, it might not be worth the trouble.  Any thoughts on this? 

And what about home-based businesses, like this reader mentioned?  I've never tried one (though I love me a Pampered Chef party!  I don't like to cook, I just like the parties.  Go figure.)  Are there any out there that have impressed you?

What about other creative ideas?  I'd love to see comments from moms who have come up with clever money-making solutions.

Leave your ideas and resources in my comments section below; I imagine there are plenty of other moms out there asking the same questions.  I'll open this up for discussion and just hope the weirdo Viagra or Refinance Now(!) salesmen don't show up with their weirdo links.  Surf carefully, my friend.   

Ew. Just...Ew.

In the category of Sentences I Actually Heard Today and Hope Never To Hear Again, here's this one from eight-year-old Stephen:

"Cool, Mom, LOOK!  It's half a bat!"

Yes, that's bat as in "winged mammal", not "wooden sports equipment". 

And yes, half of one.

Don't ask

Evidently This Stuff Is More Dangerous Than I Thought

Five-year-old Joseph overheard his big brothers discussing the fact that grown-ups sometimes kiss on New Year's Eve.  His heart was quite heavy at this disturbing news, and he came to find me.  Here was our discussion:

Joseph:  Are you going to kiss Dad?

Me:  Yes.

Joseph: Will you be wearing lipstick?

Me: Probably.

Joseph: Will you wipe it off first?

Me:  I don't know--why?

Joseph: Well, you wouldn't want to kill him.

Her Love For Sparkly Things Is Genetic

ShoesMy grandmother gave my daughter these ruby red slippers for Christmas, and WOE BE UNTO THE PERSON who tries to remove said slippers from my daughter's feet.  "Shooooooooooe!" she will wail and greedily stuff them back on her chubby little appendages (even at bedtime). 

But OH, it's cute.

A Little Blue

December 26th always finds me battling melancholy.

After about five days of magic, the Real World comes roaring back in.  I come down off my sugar high to find that my pants are a little tighter and my counters are sticky.  There are piles of toys pushed against walls, and I have no idea where they will live.  The children have that glazed look of overconsumption.  Somewhere, under all these stray bits of wrapping paper, I think I might have carpet.

My family is back at their respective homes.  Hubs is back at work.  I turned on the news just now for the first time in five days, and they're still fighting in the Middle East and hollering in Washington D.C.  My city's parking lots, which yesterday had a breather from the crushing weight of holiday traffic, are once again bursting at the seams with shoppers waving gift cards.

And I'm a little blue.

I want to shout at the world to Go Back!  Life stopped momentarily, all because of a tiny little baby in a dirty barn.  I want to stop and think about that a little longer.  Do we really, really have to return to Life As Usual? 

We do. Of course we do.  Life marches on.  The Gift of Christmas requires it.  I could curl up in my new Christmas jammies and mourn the passing of the magic, or I could roll up my sleeves and jump back into a world that is still hurting, still confused, even after tasting the Holy.

Come on.  Let's jump back in.

To You and Yours....

Around the Dryer house we're busy decking the halls and dashing through the snow and, in all of it, hoping (unsuccessfully so far) for JUST ONE silent night (could I possibly have squeezed one more Christmas cliche into that sentence?).

J0402712_1Anyway, I'm stepping away from this bloggy business for a while to enjoy the festivities with my family.  I'll see you back here on Monday, January 1st (no Works-For-Me Wednesday next week).

Whatever you're doing, wherever you are, may you step a little closer to that Baby in the manger to breathe in the hope that only He can bring. 

Merry Christmas, friends.  See you next year. 

Wonder

Earlier this month I was putting out Christmas decorations with a lot of interference help from the kids.  Five-year-old Joseph unpacked a box containing rolled-up fabric; he gently un-rolled it to find the ceramic figurines of our nativity set.  He gave a long and dramatic inhale and whispered reverently, "Look...they're God's people."

Snort*UPDATED TO ADD* This post earned a "Snort" Award from Everyday Mommy.  Thanks, Jules!   

TGIF

I'm up to my eyeballs packing up for a trip to my parents' this weekend--it's my mom's 60th birthday today (happy birthday, Mom!).  I had this really meaningful post planned, telling you what a remarkable woman she is, but the brainpower, it is not there (mine, not my mom's.  Her brainpower is doing just fine.)   

Thanks to those of you who voted for me this week in the Weblog Awards, and for the sweet e-mails of encouragement that many of you have sent to me privately.  And to Rockstar Mommy (2nd place) and Breed 'Em Weep (1st place), who have both soundly CLEANED MY PLATE in the polls, congratulations!  Hearty good wishes to all the other finalists as well--I am honored to be on a list with you.

Have a good weekend... 

Moms For Modesty Update

The Moms For Modesty Movement over at Everyday Mommy now has over 900 signatures.  I wonder if we could make it to 1,000 by year-end?  If you've not checked this out, you really should.  You don't have to be a mother of a daughter to sign your name in agreement.  You don't even have to be a mother--you just have to care about what is being communicated to the little girls in our culture.  Just GO

Couldn't Resist...

Considering I spend a decent chunk of my time steering my boys away from potty jokes, it's probably just a bit hypocritcal that I bought these for their stockings:

Bear

Moose_1

Penguin

The little guys poop brown candies out of their little plastic backsides!  Go ahead, laugh...you know you want to.  "POO-lar bear?"  That is just good.

I found them at JoAnn's.  You're welcome.

Need A Reminder?

I have spent the last three days nursing a sick child, packing for our first Christmas celebration this weekend, planning meals for our second one, wrapping gifts, planning a school party for Friday, etc. etc. And I have grumbled and complained and snapped and been about as pleasant as old Ebeneezer himself.

But after a particularly irritable outing the other day, I sent Joseph into the living room to play while I unloaded the fruits of my latest plundering shopping. Unbeknownst to me, he was playing with the little ceramic figures of our nativity scene, and when I joined him in the living room, this is what I saw:

Dscn1238_2

All the figures quietly circled around the baby Jesus, at my little son's suggestion.

I needed that.

This post was originally published on December 15, 2005.

Sweet Burden

He stepped off the bus with his hand in his pocket and a grin on his face.  He sauntered toward me as I waited on the front porch, and I could tell he was trying to disguise his excitement so he could save the drama for The Big Announcement, whatever it might be. 

He stepped on the porch, and wordlessly, face flushed, he pulled a card out of his jeans pocket. 

A library card.  His very own library card.

In our city, children are eligible to receive a card when they reach second grade.  To encourage them, a special, decorative card is issued to second graders only.  With grand ceremony, second-grade teachers across our city give each interested student the highly coveted piece of plastic. 

So when Stephen handed me his, I nodded at him knowingly.  "It's a big deal," I said. 

"I know," he said solemnly. 

We came inside and he practiced writing his name so that, when he signed it on the card, it would be perfect.  For 30 minutes, he had a conversation with himself trying to determine the most practical place to keep it.  Mom's purse was certainly safer, but how he desperately wanted it in his own (and often lost) wallet.  What's a boy to do?  Mom's wallet won out, but only after careful instruction from him as to how I should take care of it. 

I smiled at his pleasure in owning something real, something we didn't give to him.  Is it my imagination, or did that boy of mine grow an inch taller in my kitchen today?  I smile at him, with him, and for him to see him taking another tiny but firm step toward manhood. 

This motherhood business gets sweeter every day.

In The Category Of "Questions I'm Not Sure How To Answer"

Today my kindergartener asked me, "Mom, how do you spell the letter R?"

All About Our Jesse Tree

Several of you have asked me to post pictures of my Jesse Tree (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read an explanation here and here).  This post will contain several pictures--I've made them thumbnails so the page will load faster, so you can click on each photo for a better view.

PlacementI have kept this project simple and affordable.  I bought a two-foot tree at Wal Mart for $10.  Most of my ornaments cost a dollar or less, and they came from Wal Mart or Hobby Lobby (the latter frequently puts the ornaments on half-off during the holiday season; you can find that info here). 

Here are a few of the ornaments I bought out-right, with no craftiness involved whatsoever (I'm not going to try to link to the particular Bible story, just to save time, but you can find the devotions we use here):

Here is a globe, for the creation story:

Earth

Here's a heart, to represent Mary's pure and loving heart:

Maryheart

This was meant to be a decorative icicle, but we use it for Queen Esther's sceptre:

Sceptre

Here's my favorite--the very last ornament, the one we hang on Christmas Eve:

Nativity

This next one we use when we talk about King David:

Davidcrown

To demonstrate how God used the prophets to unlock the mysteries of the future, we use a key:

Prophetkey

This next ornament represents the story of Abraham, Isaac and the ram (and yes, I know this is actually a reindeer, but we're using our imaginations, remember?):
Ram

Another of my favorites, here is a lion for the story of Daniel in the lions' den.  I'm guessing Daniel's lions weren't this cute:

Daniel

A few of my ornaments come from the small, wooden cut-out shapes you can find at most craft stores (for 50 cents or less each).  They're very easy to paint--you don't have to be an artist (I'm certainly not).  Below are some ornaments I made with that method.

One of the earliest devotions is about the fall of man.  I painted this wooden apple and glued on a rubber snake (with three boys in the house, rubber snakes are in VAST supply):
Applesnake

This next one was fun.  To represent Mary and Joseph's long journey to Bethlehem, I painted this wooden footprint and put brown felt around it like a sandal:
Sandal

For our very first ornament, in which we explain the meaning behind the phrase "Jesse Tree", I painted this wooden piece:
Tree

Of course, what else would I pick for the story of Jonah:

Whale

When we learn about John the Baptist coming to prepare the way for Jesus, we use this water splatter design.  Get it?  Water?  Baptism?  This one is kind of a stretch, but it gets the point across:

Johnbaptistwater

Noah, of course, got a rainbow (this wooden cut-out was actually pre-painted.) 

Noah

For some of my ornaments I had to get a little more creative.  For Jacob and his dream about the ladder to Heaven, I got a wooden cutout intended to be a picket fence for a dollhouse.  I cut off the top points and, VOILA!  A ladder:

Jacobladder

The Ten Commandments were easy--this is just parchment-style paper glued to cardstock, and I free-handed it:

10

When we talk about how God chose Joseph, a carpenter, to be Jesus' earthly father, I use a hammer made out of aluminum foil and brown felt glued on card stock:

Hammerjoseph

For Joseph's coat of many colors, I found some striped fabric and cut it out in the shape of a coat (with a cardboard backing to give it form):

Coat

During the devotion about God choosing little Bethlehem as a birthplace for His Son, we hang this ornament, made out of craft foam and glitter:

Bethlehem

Here is Abram's tent, made simply out of felt (and again, cardboard backing):

Abramtent

Here is Rahab's rope--it's simply twine bundled up:

Rahabrope

For the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, I downloaded this picture on-line, printed it and colored it with markers:

Ze

For Sarah's much longed-for pregnancy, I put this scrapbook sticker on cardstock and simply cut it out:

Sarahfeet

During the lesson about how the Israelites watched and waited for the Messiah, we hang this ornament (a watchtower), which is actually from the dollhouse supply aisle at a craft store:

Tower_1

I cannot express strongly enough what a meaningful tradition this has been for our family.  We always try to emphasize with each Bible story/ornament how that particular episode in the Old Testament pointed toward Christ.  For example, over the weekend we talked about when Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden.  We explained that their sin (and our subsequent sin) was why Jesus had to come to Earth in the first place--to save us!  In every story, Christ is present, in one form or another (sometimes it's subtle).  Looking for that link, and sharing it with your children is, at moments, breathtaking.

For more Jesse Tree resources, see the sidebar at Advent For Evangelicals.

Since this has turned into an All-Jesse-Tree-All-The-Time post, I might as well include a Mr. Linky below and let you jump in.  If you're writing about your own Jesse Tree project at any point this Christmas season--(pictures are great, but not required)--post your link(s) below.  Please only link if you're posting about your Jesse Tree.  Non-related links will be removed. 

Enjoy!

At Least They're Learning About Forgiveness...

I just learned that I'm a nominee in two categories for the Christian Women Online Awards:  the Friendship Award, and the Best Mommy Award.  I am deeply honored, totally humbled, and I appreciate your nominations, really and truly.  For grins, I put the nominee banners on my sidebar, but they're ginormous, aren't they?  I'm feeling sheepish--I think I'll take those down in a day or two.

But GOOD NIGHT NANCY I feel like I have you all fooled, if anyone thinks I deserve the Best Mommy Award.  If the award is for wanting to be a good mommy, well, of course that is my greatest desire.  But actually managing it?  Truly, if you could've seen how horribly grouchy I was with my kids this week....*sigh*....well, I'm glad you couldn't.  I'm sure if I told my kids about the nomination I'd be met with blank stares.

It's the one thing about mommy-blogging that gets my goat every now and then.  I tend to record the sweet moments, those adrenaline-filled episodes when I know I delivered just the right bit of wisdom or gentle patience.  Sadly, I sometimes feel like they merit recording because those moments are so...well, rare.  So much of the time, this mothering gig feels like a constant laboratory in which I, not the kids, am the recipient of daily quizzes on patience, creativity, and fast-thinking.  I have to ask for forgiveness.  Often.

There.  I just had to get that off my chest, in the unlikely event that you somehow read my blog and think, for even a minute, that our life is one sweet, cuddly moment after another.  There are in fact, many tantrums, space-outs, and revolts.  And that's just from ME. 

Anyway, back to the awards...go check out the other nominees (many of whom are my dear blogging buddies) by clicking on the graphic below.  It's a great bunch of women, and I'm honored to be in their company.

He's All Mine and You Can't Have Him

J0175490I was bemoaning to Hubs the other day that Cover Girl lipstick has discontinued the color Rum Raisin.  My color.  For years.  Rum Raisin and I have a long and dramatic history together, and it was with a sad heart I learned we were being forced to part ways. 

My ever-logical Hubs wasn't impressed.  "Just find another color," he said flippantly.  Clearly, he has never searched for a new shade of lipstick.  A good trait in a husband, now that I think of it. 

The next day, he noticed me digging into the last of my Rum Raisin with a lipstick brush, and he asked what I was doing.  I explained that I thought could eke out a few more weeks of Rum Raisin this way.  He laughed and shook his head and mumbled something about being thankful that he's a man. 

When I was climbing into bed later that night, he nonchalantly came upstairs and reported, "I just ordered you seven tubes of Cover Girl Rum Raisin on E-bay."

"You did WHAT?" I shrieked.

"I found some Rum Raisin lipstick on E-bay.  It was only $2.99 a tube, and they had seven tubes, so I ordered them all."

You would think, after twelve and a half years of marriage, it would be hard for him to surprise me.  But he couldn't have shocked me anymore if he'd gone on E-bay and ordered a giraffe.   

Mine, all mine--both the lipstick and the man.  And I'm not sharing either one.

Car Talk

Last week the kids and I were doing the after-school dash when Stephen leaned forward and the following conversation ensued...

Stephen:  Mom, what's "puberty"?

Me:  [in my head] Really, Lord?  Do we have to do this now?  I thought this conversation would happen between Stephen, Hubs and me in front of a roaring campfire on a Special Occasion sometime in the distant future, NOT on our way to karate with a two year old singing in the backseat and...wait a minute, was that a peanut butter cracker that just flew past my shoulder?

Me:  [aloud]  Puberty is when you reach a certain age and your body starts changing.

Stephen:  Oh.  [Thoughtful pause]  I think I'm going through puberty.

Me:  Really?  We'll you're only seven, Stephen.  I kind of doubt it. 

Stephen:  But my shoes are getting tight.  That's a body change.

Ah, now if only the true woes of puberty could be solved with a trip to Payless...

Old Man Winter Arrives In Oklahoma

It was in the mid-sixties when I put my kids on the bus this morning; right now, it's 35 and pouring freezing rain, with yuckier weather in the forecast.  My kids exploded off the bus, cheeks rosy and voices breathless with the anticipation of a snow day tomorrow, and they informed me that if you sleep with your pajamas on inside out, there's a better chance of snow (and therefore no school).  Who knew?

So, I will be sleeping with my jammies on inside out tonight right along with them, in hopes that tomorrow I can put the live-in help kids to work putting up the tree.  And, of course, drink some hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies, cuddled up on the couch.  It's hard to think of a better day.

May your night be toasty, wherever you are.

Birthday Blogger!

In keeping with Dryer family birthday tradition, my guest blogger today is Stephen (about whom I have written here and here and here, and, oh sweet Heaven, here.)  So without further ado, here is my newly eight-year-old boy:

Yo!  Whassup?  My name is Stephen.  And I'm going to start my own blog in a couple of years.  Maybe even this year.    Ummmmmmm.......here's some of the things that I like:  Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and of course, more Star Wars.  And I love soccer and my position is mid-forward.  I hope that I will be a famous soccer player someday--you might watch me on the Fox Soccer channel.  Oh, yeah, and I like Star Wars!

Hey, do you want to hear about my family?  It's sometimes kind of raggedy in the house.  Trust me, you don't want to come.  My little sister Corrie, you'd never guess what she does every day.  She takes my Gameboy and Adam's DS.  And speaking of DS-es, I'm going to get mine later today.  Back to Corrie messing with my stuff, it drives me mad.  Trust me!  So, enough talking about my sister.  Let's start talking about my brothers.  Well, me and Adam like to play video games.  We are swe-e-e-eet at it.  Do you know what?  Right exactly now I'm playing my  brother in Super Smash Brothers.  In the finals.  Me and Joseph play football, like, everyday.  We share a room.  My dog Ginger sleeps with me every night.

And, of course, my parents.  They kiss and hug a lot and it makes me want to hurl.  They're still really, really nice. 

Well, see you later, alligator.  On my birthday next year!  May the force be with you. 

What a ham.  We'll be celebrating all day, starting with cinnamon rolls for breakfast and ending with macaroni and cheese for dinner.  And when we're done we'll sit around our raggedy house and I will kiss and hug on my husband.  Indeed.

It's Cute In a Two Year Old

It's been a few years since I was the mother of a toddler, but Corrie is graciously re-initiating me into the delightful quirks of having a two year old in the house. 

These days, it's critically important to her that we all stop whatever we're doing to verbally acknowledge whatever she's talking about.  If we do not, she will repeat herself over and over, the volume dramatically increasing until we do.  For example, when we're outside, she says (growing louder with each word), "Sky.  Sky.  SKY.  SKY.  SKY-Y-Y-Y-Y..." until I say, "Yes, darlin', I see the sky."

Or, whenever our dog walks into the room (EVERY time):  "Woof.  Woof.  WOOF.  WOOF.  WO-O-O-O-F...."  And we answer "Yes, Corrie, the dog says woof."  I truly think she would continue barking all afternoon until we acknowledged her.

The greatest infraction is if we do not stop the rotation of the very Earth itself and run to the TV with her EVERY time Joe finds a clue:  "A cwoo.  A cwoo.  A CWOO!  A CWOO!  A CW-O-O-O-O!...."  "Yes, darlin', praise the Lord in Heaven, Joe has found a clue."

As with all toddler behavior, I laugh to imagine what it would be like if we never outgrew these tendencies.  Can you imagine if every time I went into Wal Mart I said, "Bath towels on sale.  Bath towels on sale.  BATH TOWELS ON SALE.  BATH TOWELS ON SA-A-A-A-ALE!..." until everyone in the store ran to agree with me? 

Though as I write those very words, I have to wonder if that tendency isn't just a little bit responsible for my desire to write a blog.  I sit here typing in my kitchen, in my sweats, saying, "My kids are cute.  My kids are cute.  MY KIDS ARE CUTE.  MY KIDS ARE CU-U-U-UTE!"  Agree with me!  Leave a comment!  Affirm me! 

Alright, so maybe I haven't outgrown it after all...

Just HOW, Exactly...

...does one manage to eat a waffle like this:

Waffle

I'm telling y'all, my children have SKILLS.

In Which I Write About My Little Brother On His Birthday So He Will Stop Complaining That I Never Blog About Him

As I child, I dreaded Communion.  Not on any serious, theological grounds, but because my little brother Reed sat next to me and cracked me up.  EVERY TIME.  And the only thing worse than cracking up during church was cracking up during Communion during church.  I would feel my dad's hand on my shoulder get tighter and tighter and...ouch, Dad! 

And so I dreaded Communion.

But Reed's greatest Communion performance came when I was probably about 10, and he was 8.  The plate was passed, and I was already biting my lip so hard it nearly bled.  Don't look at Reed, don't look at Reed, I coached myself.  Suddenly, I felt a nudge in my left elbow.  Foolishly, I turned to look.  HE HAD SPILLED GRAPE JUICE DOWN THE FRONT OF HIS WHITE DRESS SHIRT.  I laughed out loud, very hard, and so did he.  And, as I recall, that little episode bought us not just a shoulder squeeze from Dad, but a Trip Out To The Foyer.

The delightful irony of this story is that my brother now serves Communion.  He is a dignified and thoughtful and profound pastor of a church in Missouri.  He is a gentle and attentive husband and father (who better not, by the way, ever give his daughters a hard time for laughing in church).  And he is a dear and genuine friend to me, one of the best I've ever had.  Not bad for someone who answered the phone for an entire year in ridiculous voices to humiliate his big sister in front of her friends (a little fact I share with all of Bloggityville only because I have been waiting twenty years to get him back). 

Happy birthday, little brother!  I love you!

Anyone Seen a Little Green Lizard?

After much fretting on my part, my two-year-old daughter Corrie's vocabulary is finally beginning to blossom.  But she still has plenty of gibberish to share with us, often using the same nonsensical words repeatedly.  A particular favorite of hers is "GEICO!"  Yes, that one.  But the funny part is that every time she says it, nine-year-old Adam shouts loudly and quickly, "FIFTEEN MINUTES ON THE PHONE COULD SAVE YOU FIFTEEN PERCENT OR MORE ON CAR INSURANCE!"  Corrie roars with laughter, shouts "GEICO!" again, and...well, you get where this is going. 

Shouldn't I be getting some commission for this?

The Gospel According To Joseph

Sharing my faith with my children is one of my favorite things about being a mother.  But sometimes, expressing the beauty of the Gospel to a five-year-old boy with the attention span of a fruit fly leaves me shaking my head.  The following conversation actually happened this week:

Joseph:  Do people have eyeballs in Heaven?

Me:  Probably not like we have them now, but we will certainly be able to see what is going on around us in Heaven. 

Joseph:  Do people sleep on clouds?

Me:  I don't know.  Maybe.  The Bible doesn't tell us a whole lot of specific things about Heaven, but we know it will be a million times better than earth.

Joseph:  Bad guys in jail don't go to Heaven.

Me:  Well, they do if they ask God to forgive them for their sins and ask Jesus into their heart.  We're all sinners, whether we're a bad guy in jail or not...

Joseph:  If they don't love Jesus, they'll go to hell and the devil will keep them in a cave.

Me:  Well, something like that.  Do you understand how we get to Heaven?

Joseph:  You die.

Me:  Well, yes, but how do you get to go there when you die?

Joseph:  You love Jesus.

Me:  [thinking we're finally getting somewhereYes, you love Jesus, and you ask him to forgive you for your sins, and you invite Him to live in your heart.

Joseph:  So are we happy that Jesus died on the cross?

Now, there's one for the theologians.  Any takers?

Me:  I'm not happy that Jesus had to suffer, but I'm sure thankful he was willing to go through that to pay for my sins.

Joseph:  [Thoughtful pause].  Oh.  So, are ninjas real?

And...evidently the moment has passed.

Taking Christmas Card Pictures With Four Children OR "Thank You, Lord, For Photoshop"

So, we attempted to take Christmas card pictures this past weekend.  Aren't I so together and ahead of schedule, I bragged to myself, as I spent all Sunday afternoon getting ready for the pictures.  Corrie's napped was perfectly timed so she'd be cheerful at 4 pm.  I ironed the kids' clothes.  Everyone was showered with blow-dried hair, thankyouverymuch.  Yes, we were all quite ready for an afternoon of collecting photographic evidence of what a happy and clean-cut family we are. 

We planned to take the pictures at a local office park that has beautiful landscaping, a big pond with a fountain, and geese.  But I forgot something:  where there are geese, there is goose poop

We had been out of the car exactly 7 seconds when Stephen reported that he had stepped in goose poop.  No problem, I told him, just watch where you're going and we'll clean your shoes when we're done.  Then Adam stepped in it.  I'm gritting my teeth at this point, but I'm keeping my patience.  Barely.

We got the kids set up for the first picture.  Hubs set Corrie down, and she took off across the grass chasing the geese.  The geese, of course, seeing a chubby two year old running toward them shouting, flew away quickly.  Corrie was devastated, and she began crying.

And crying. 

And then wailing

We tried every trick in our parenting repertoire to calm her.  All she could do was point at the geese watching from a safe distance and scream as if the geese were tearing off her limbs, not merely running from her. 

We moved to a different section of the grounds, toward the water, hoping the change in scenery would distract our hysterical girl.  All three boys stepped in more goose poop.  Joseph managed to get goose pop ON TOP OF his shoe, a feat I don't even want to understand.

We carefully moved to the edge of the pond.  Corrie wanted to throw sticks in the water, and I decided to work with this.  I barked at the boys to stand next to their  sister and throw sticks in the water, while I snapped candid shots of what I hoped would appear to be a lovely group of siblings having a nature moment together, NOT three boys with poop-covered shoes and their tear-stained little sister. 

I managed a couple of semi-acceptable shots before Corrie reached down to pick up another stick to throw, and brought her hand up FULL OF STEAMING FRESH GOOSE POOP.  Hubs and I, with visions of bird flu dancing in our heads, grabbed the screaming Corrie and sprinted back to the car (and the antibacterial hand gel), leaving the boys to chase geese to their hearts' content.  While we cleaned her up, they worked themselves into an absolutely frenzy--running and sweating and yelling and un-tucking shirts and stepping in enough goose poop to fertilize my front yard. 

Corrie, who realized she was now missing out on all the goosey fun, turned the decibel level of her meltdown up even further.  I wrestled her into the carseat, while Hubs corraled the now-dirty goose-chasers and scraped their shoes before letting them into the van. 

Weary, wind-blown and a bundle of nerves, Hubs and I collapsed into the front seat, while Corrie continued her hysteria and the boys shouted geese honks.  Hubs looked at me.  "What we should have done," he said, "is to have video-taped the last 45 minutes.  Instead of Christmas cards, we could upload it to YouTube, and send all our friends the link with the tag-line, Merry Friggin' Christmas."

And we laughed until we could hardly breathe. 

This is why I love that man.

And Then He Kissed Me

My nine-and-a-half-year-old son sat next to me in church last night.  I looked at him and noticed a piece of white fuzz in his hair.  I reached up, picked it out, and scratched him briefly on the head.  And then, without any prompting, without a look or a sound, he leaned over and kissed me quickly on the cheek. 

Just like that. 

I spend a lot of time wondering about this firstborn child of mine.  Am I pushing him too hard?  Not hard enough?  Does he resent how much time I spend with his siblings?  Is he making good choices?  Should we give him more priviliges?  The wheels in my momma-brain seldom stop spinning where this boy is concerned.

But then, in a moment so simple and sacred that I caught my breath, my boy kissed me on the cheek.  On his own. 

Just like that.

And I know we're doing fine.

Vic

I was drawn to Vic the first time I saw him, probably because he reminded me so much of my own grandfather.  His steps were slow and his shoulders were slightly hunched, but his brown eyes still danced with the vigor of a younger man.

I first heard his story a few years ago, when we were each volunteering at our church's Vacation Bible School.  We were taking our breaks at the same time, and we sat next to each other.  I can't remember how it came up.  Did I ask him if he was a veteran?  Did he bring it up himself?  I don't recall.  What I do recall is that I spent the next hour next to him in motionless attention as he shared his war stories (literally, his war stories). 

He enlisted in the Army Air Corp (now the Air Force) when he was only seventeen, and he was sent to the Pacific.  He was a tail gunner in a B-29 when his plane was shot down over the ocean.  He and his crew floated for days in enemy territory, sharks circling them.  They were finally picked up by a U.S. ship.  There were dozens of other stories as well, too many to recount here, and I could never do them justice.  For the real story, you'd have to see the look in Vic's eyes when he describes the boys that didn't come home. 

As the years have passed, I've had many opportunities to hear more of Vic's stories, and not just those about the war.  He's told me about growing up in rural Florida during the Great Depression, when his mother would send him to school with only a jug of sugar water for lunch.  And how they once went without food for six days when his mother managed to kill a turtle with her bare hands--they ate it all, and they were thankful.

He hasn't just shared his stories; he's shared his heart with our family.  When I was in the hospital awaiting Corrie's arrival, he and his wife were the first ones to visit me.  When our family misses church, he calls to make sure we're okay.  When he learns that one of his old war buddies has passed away, he calls to tell me.  And I listen.  It's the very least I can do. 

I am richer because of my friendship with this dear man.  He has taught me much about sacrfice and strength and humility.  And he has reminded me what rich stories his generation carries tucked deep inside, if my generation would slow down long enough to hear.  This Veteran's Day, find someone who has a story to tell--and listen

The Corrie Story, Part 3

This is part three in a three-part series that has probably gotten wa-a-a-y too long already.  But if you're still reading, you can see part one of our daughter's birth story here, and part two here.

Birth Two years ago today, my baby daughter cried the moment she entered the world, just as I prayed she would.  I was flooded with relief.  I hardly got to see her as the NICU team whisked her across the hall to evaluate her.  As we had planned ahead of time, Hubs left my room immediately and stayed right by her side, running back every couple of minutes with brief status reports: "She looks fine!" or "She's on oxygen, but she's breathing great!"  Before they took her to the NICU, they brought her to my bed and let me hold her for a few seconds.  She was tiny, but she was clearly very strong and very healthy.  She was taken to the NICU, and I didn't get to see her again for several hours, while they checked her status more fully and started her IV antibiotics (since my water had been broken so long).  She was a remarkable 5 lbs 13 oz at only 34 weeks gestation (and yes, my due date was correct).  We rejoiced!

I could write pages about our experience in the NICU.  If you've ever been in one, you understand. 

The first time I went in, hours after Corrie's birth, my husband was pushing me in a wheelchair.  He had been in there once already, right after her birth, and he walked me through the rigid security and hand-washing protocol.  He did his best to prepare me for that room, but there was no way he could.

NicuOur NICU was a large room, full of the tiniest little humans I'd ever seen.  What first struck me was the sound of it.  There was a constant, dull whoosh of ventilators and other machines, as well as an unending chorus of beeps from hundreds of monitors.  But for a room full of babies, there was remarkably little crying.  Most of them simply weren't strong enough. 

Our daughter had been placed in the area reserved for the sickest babies, as all "newcomers" were, until they could be fully evaluated.  It was profoundly sobering to see her in such an environment.  The nurse had coached us that a preemie's gentle system tolerated a firm touch better than a "tickly" one; so with my hand solidly on her tiny head I wept, suddenly overcome with guilt that my body pushed her out too soon.

Dscn0522 Our Corrie proved to a spunky little thing, blowing the lid off every expectation.  Within a day of her arrival in the NICU, she was moved to the level for the healthiest babies.  She nursed--ever so slowly, but surely--when she was only 18 hours old, and she never required a feeding tube.  Except for the first few minutes after birth, she breathed room air the entire time.  She was so feisty that she pulled out five IV tubes in four days, until they finally had to insert one into the top of her head.  It was heartbreaking and funny at the same time, as I whispered to her it was the first of many princess caps she would wear.  She squirmed and cried and kicked in her isolette, cheered on (I imagined) by the photograph of her big brothers taped to the inside of her little bed. 

The hardest part was leaving her at the hospital each night.  I knew how well she was cared for, but, irrationally every instinct in my body wanted to hide her under my coat and sneak her home with us.  Every night I sang a blessing over her:  "May the Lord bless you and keep you, May He be gracious unto you..."

She was doing SO well.  We overwhelmingly grateful for this, but this was mixed with a bittersweet guilt as we got to know the other families.  We met parents who had been heroically existing in the strange NICU no-man's-land for weeks, even months.  I saw mothers sitting day after day beside their babies' incubators, unable to touch them.  Twice during our stay, the other parents and I were quickly shuffled out of the room when a baby "coded".  And I will never, as long as I live, forget the look on the face of the mother who described to me how her baby's organs were gradually shutting down.  She spoke as matter-of-factly as if she were describing what she had for lunch that day--her eyes were dull with shock, exhaustion and grief.  How I prayed for her, for all of them.  Dscn0378

After five brief days (not the two or three weeks for which we had been prepared), Corrie was ready to go home.  I couldn't bring myself to make eye contact with the other mothers as I left, inwardly rejoicing and weeping in the same moment.  But how we celebrated on our way home!  Her brothers would finally be able to meet her.  One of my favorite family photographs (above right, taken by my mother) showed our boys sitting in the front yard, eagerly waiting for Hubs and me to bring her home.  What a day!

WithmommyAnd what days we've had since!.  It is hard for me to believe that the tiny and fragile little baby she was is the same feisty two year old that I see today.  She is a saucy little bundle of spunk, with her blonde pigtails and dimples.  She dances with abandon to my Abba CD, and she pulls the dog's hair at every opportunity.  She faithfully carries a Winnie the Pooh spoon around in her sparkly purple purse, and she sings "Ginkle Ginkle Ta-Ta-TinkerbellTa" (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) at the top of her lungs. She runs happily to the door when she sees her brothers get off the school bus, and she has been known to raid my make-up drawer on more than one occasion.  She is a girly and stubborn and delightful ray of sunshine in our house, an unexpected blessing none of us could have known how much we needed.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl--we're so glad you happened. 

In The Category Of "Sentences You Never Want To Hear Your Children Say":

Joseph to Stephen, as they're coming in the backdoor:  "Okay, so let's not throw eggs at each other anymore..."

The Corrie Story, Part 2

This is part two in a three-part series that will probably be interesting to my immediate family only.  But if you're still reading, you can see part one here.

My doctor told me that the odds were good I would go into labor in the next 24-48 hours, since my water had broken, but I was having no contractions at the moment.  My husband, remember, was camping with our boys in the remote woods of Arkansas, out of cell phone range.  We could have tracked down a forest ranger to find him, but it would've taken hours and would've frightened Hubs and (even worse) the boys.  We made the difficult choice to wait until early the next morning, when my Dad would drive to find them.

I was so worried that Hubs would be alarmed when he heard the news, and that his fear would rub off on the boys.  I prayed the most specific prayer I've ever prayed when I begged God that somehow, in the middle of the night, with no advance warning, Hubs would somehow know that I was in labor and would feel peace.  I called his cell phone and left a message, knowing he wouldn't get it until he was on the road the next day.

And strangely, at midnight, in a remote tent far away, my husband's phone beeped to tell him he had a message.  He had no service and no way to retrieve it, and there was no logical explanation for why the "beep" occurred.  But as he lay there in the tent, he would tell me later, he had a strange thought:  "I bet Shannon is in labor.  Either way, there is nothing I can do about it at this moment.  Her mom is there with her, so I know she'll be fine."  He felt peaceful and calm, just as I prayed he would, and he strangely felt no sense of surprise when my Dad showed up at 6 am that morning to deliver the news of my hospitalization.

It was a little detail that was big to us, one affirmation of many that God's sovereign hand was guiding this strange journey we were on.

As it turned out, I did not start having contractions.  I had thought, until then, that once your water broke you had to deliver within 24 hours, to prevent infection.  It turns out, this is only true when your water breaks at full term.  When your water breaks as early as mine did, they keep you in the hospital and do everything they can to put off labor.  This allows the baby time to grow, and allows them time to pump the momma full of antibiotics to stave off infection.

It was a delicate line we were walking:  take the baby out now and avoid infection, or let the baby grow but risk an infection (a dangerous thing in a preemie).  We felt confident in our doctor's advice that we wait.

For ten days I stayed in the hospital while my husband, family and friends managed life at home.  It was hard for the boys.  Hubs brought them to see me as much as possible, but it was a poor substitution for having a mother at home.  Stephen's kindergarten teacher would later tell me that he spent an entire day hiding under his desk, he was so distraught.  Hubs managed beautifully, though, nearly wearing himself out.  My doctor would let Hubs take me on wheelchair strolls around the hospital, and we invariably ended up going down the hall to the NICU.  The walls were lined with photos of babies who had once been very sick and tiny but were now thriving, healthy children.  We hoped, and we prayed.

We were visited by nurses and a neonatolgist who prepared us for a few likelihoods:  Corrie probably wouldn't cry at birth, she would likely be on oxygen right away and would almost certainly need a feeding tube, we could expect to have her in the NICU for at least 2 weeks.  We shouldn't fear these things, because the odds were overwhelmingly in our favor--things might get complicated, but at 34 weeks, she would be fine.

I fixated strangely on the notion of not hearing her cry at birth.  It was a sound I longed for.  I remembered the rush of joy during my sons' births, when I heard their little lungs fill with air and announce their arrival in the world.  I tried not to hope, yet still I prayed, "Lord, could she cry?  Just once?"

When I reached 34 weeks, on November 9th, we felt Corrie had grown enough that the risk of infection outweighed the risk of prematurity, and my doctor began the induction process.  Labor moved slowly for about eight hours, as induced preemie births often will.  But at about 3 pm, the overwhelming urge to push had me shouting for nurses.  They rushed in and realized Corrie's arrival was imminent.  It had sneaked up on us, and no one was ready.  The doctor hadn't made it, and the NICU team hadn't set up in the room.  In a flurry of activity, there was shouting in my room and in the hallway:  "Get the doctor!"  "Don't push!"  "Page the NICU!"  I couldn't hear myself think above the din of noise.  People were running, and Hubs looked terribly afraid.

And then somehow, miraculously, in all the noise, I heard a sound that reminded me of a tiny baby kitten.  It was soft and weak, but it was unmistakable:  Corrie was here. 

And she was crying.

To be continued Thursday...

The Corrie Story, Part 1

My daughter's birthday is approaching later this week, and it has dawned on me that I've never written her birth story.  For us, it was very dramatic, though I know it's mild compared to what other families have been through.  Still, I don't want to forget one minute of it.  So if you'll indulge me, here's Corrie's birth story, in three parts (it's a long story, y'all).  Here's part one:

Around March of 2003, I was telling Hubs about some friends of ours who had a surprise pregnancy.  He looked at me nervously.  "That wouldn't happen to us, would it?" he asked.  My response (and yes, this is actually what I said):  "No, Honey.  When you hear of people 'accidentally' getting pregnant, what that actually means is that they messed up on their birth control.  We're very careful--we're just not the sort of people that happens to."

And somewhere up in Heaven, God must've thrown His mighty head back and laughed.  Because one month later, while the room spun around me and my jaw hung open, I was looking in amazement at two little pink lines on a plastic stick.

I gave myself 24 hours to try to adjust to the idea before even telling Hubs.  He took the surprising news well, but we were both reeling.  This had not been apart of Our Plan For Our Family.  We were very content as the parents of three little boys.  It was kind of our schtik, you know?  Boys will be boys.  Three is a charm.  We were done.  We stumbled through the next few days, numb and confused and even, if I were to be brutally honest, disappointed. 

Until I began bleeding.

I had endured two miscarriages before.  I knew the signs.  And I had every single one of them.  Before I had even had a chance to grow accustomed to the idea of being pregnant, it appeared this little life inside me was slipping away.  My doctor agreed that this was likely what was happening, but we would wait a few days and see.  We waited.

And we waited

And in my heart, a deep seed of desire took root as I pleaded with God to save this little life that I didn't even know I wanted so desperately.

Remarkably, though the bleeding continued for a time, I did not miscarry.  On the contrary, the morning sickness hit me like a truck as this little baby evidently took hold.  Relief and joy and nervousness and nausea washed over me every single day.

Dscn0382 My pregnancy continued normally for a time.  My boys began to be excited about their new little sibling (whom they named "Godzilla", for some reason, a nickname which, mercifully, did not stick).  Here I am at about 20 weeks on vacation on the Alabama Gulf Coast.  Just after this trip, we had an ultrasound, and we took Adam and Stephen with us.  For the second time in five months, my jaw dropped to the floor when the tech announced that we were having a girl.

A girl?  What am I supposed to do with a girl?  I'm a mom of boys.  We do t-ball and Hot Wheels and patched-up jeans and buzz cuts.  A GIRL?

Despite the shock, I was thrilled beyond words.  I remember going back out to the car after the ultrasound and sitting there quietly, shaking my head in disbelief and laughter.  A girl?  God was blessing me with a daughter?  A surprise daughter?  I couldn't contain myself.

A few more normal weeks passed, except for my diagnosis of gestational diabetes.  Still, this wasn't a huge hurdle; I was able to manage it with my diet.  The fall of 2004 passed uneventfully as we eagerly planned for our new little daughter, due December 23rd--a Christmas baby!  I prepared a room so pink that it actually glowed out into the hallway.

In late October, Hubs took the boys camping.  I looked forward to a weekend alone in which I'd finish up the nursery before the holiday rush hit.  They would be out of cell phone range, but that was no concern--I was only 32.5 weeks and was having no complications.  At the last minute, my mother decided to come for a visit and help me.  I'm so glad she did.

Saturday, October 30th, Mom and I had been busy shopping and working in the nursery.  I was tired and took a nap in the afternoon.  I awakened around 3:30 pm to feel a strange leak of fluid.  Great, I thought, bladder problems.  Just what I need.  I cleaned up and we went to dinner.  Afterwards, we watched a movie, but the strange leak continued.  I told my mom about it, and she suggested we go the hospital to make sure it wasn't amniotic fluid.  I shrugged it off.

By 11 pm, when the leaking continued, my mom insisted we visit the hospital (thank you, Lord, that she was there--would I have gone in had I been alone?)  I drove us to the hospital, laughing the whole way at the thought that these nurses were going to tell me--a fourth-time mother--that I was wetting my pants.  How delightful.  We watched Saturday Night Live in the hospital room while we waited for the test results.  They came in around midnight.

My water had broken.  At 32.5 weeks

The room was spinning around me as the nurse said something about "remaining at the hospital" and "bedrest" and "infection" and "NICU", but I couldn't take it all in.  The nurse left and I reached out my hand to my mom, who came to my bed and sat with me.  We prayed aloud. Please, God, please place Your hands on this little baby and keep her safe...

To be continued tomorrow...

If You Give a Kid a Rodent...

J0314407 Mothers of Bloggityville, I implore you for some input on an important, four-legged subject: 

My boys want hamsters, or gerbils, or mice, or (*gulp*) rats for Christmas.  My pet experience is limited to dogs and hermit crabs, so I need some help making this decision from any of you with experience with these sorts of pets.

Which variety stinks the least?  Which variety is the least amount of work?  Which variety is least inclined to escape and give birth to a dozen rodent babies in my favorite pair of shoes? 

Or are they all so icky that we should avoid this altogether? 

Brrrr....

Tinkerbellback2I doubt the real Tinkerbell's momma made her wear Keds and a long sleeve shirt with her costume, but then again, it probably wasn't 38 flippin' degrees in Neverland.

Humility

3musketeers Today Joseph innocently piped up from the backseat, "Mom, what would you look like if you were skinny?"

Nice.  I guess this means I'm laying off the Three Musketeers tonight.

There Is No Way This Story Will Be As Funny In The Re-Telling, But I'll Try Anyway

Last night over dinner, our boys were complaining about having to share something with each other.  Hubs reminded them sternly, "Do you boys realize how much Mom and I share with you?  Our time, our house, our money, our bed, our food..."

Joseph suddenly interrupted.  "And your clocks."

"Um, yes, Joseph, I guess we share our clocks with you," Hubs said, just before choking with laughter on his soup.

I think the message somehow got a little convoluted.

Proving That Kids WILL Find Something About Which To Tattle

My five-year-old son actually shouted/whined this sentence at me from the backseat today:

"MOM-M-M!  Stephen is smiling at me!"

Let the Party Pooper-ing Begin

This last week, seven-year-old Stephen was invited to go with a friend to a rock concert.  A ROCK CONCERT.  He's seven.  Seven.  Did I mention he's seven?  Isn't your first rock concert supposed to be some sort of grand, coming-of-age experience?  And isn't it supposed to happen when you're, say, 14 or 15?  I declined the invitation, as politely as I could (though I was honest and told the other mom that "we feel like a rock concert is a bit much for a seven year old", which she probably took as a judgment on her own parenting decisions, but oh well...)

And THEN, not 24 hours later, nine-year-old Adam was invited to a sleepover.  At a girl's house.  My wonderfully naive boy could not understand why this was unacceptable to us, and I told him he'd just have to trust Dad and me on this one until he's old enough to understand.  Thankfully, that was good enough for him.  This time.

And so it begins.  These boys are slowly but surely entering the pre-adolescent years, in which every week--every day--may bring a judgment call on my part that will be hard for my kids to stomach.  My own memories are all too fresh of the eye-rolling I did at my how-can-they-be-so-strict parents.  And yet, I happily (and nervously) prepare to follow in their footsteps--asking questions, talking to parents, setting limits, holding my ground.  I'm trusting they'll love me for it the way I do my own parents. 

Am I ready for this?

What Goes In Must Come Out

I was especially busy doing some work in my bedroom yesterday morning and was thus paying less attention than normal to 23-month-old Corrie.   She played happily in the floor, so I didn't think too much about running down the hall for just a second.  Really, just a second

I came back to my room and she was gone.  I called for her (normally this elicits giggles that make it easy to find her).  Silence.  I called again.  Silence.  I ran through the entire house--there was no sign of Corrie anywhere.   

Beginning to get worried, I finally heard a quiet giggle coming from my closet.  I peeked in to see Corrie sitting on the floor.  Anyone who ever doubts that a toddler has a full grasp of human emotion should have seen the look of utter guilt on my daughter's face.  I leaned down to see that she had managed to reach my oh-so-cute and funky beaded Christmas bracelet and had pulled it apart.  Further investigation showed her mouth FULL of red, green and silver beads, as well as a snowman charm or two.  I swiped them out of her mouth quickly and picked up the remaining beads off the floor.  Several were missing.  Which leads me to three very distinct thoughts:

First, of course, thank goodness she didn't choke on any of those beads.

Second, DRAT, I loved that bracelet and now it's destroyed.

Third, the odds are good that my daughter will be pooping sparkly beads and a snowman in the next 48 hours.

Merry Christmas.

Because You Can't Take It Back

I know it's a bit existential of me to blog about blogging, but it's irresistible.  This blogging phenomenon fascinates me so that I can't seem to go too long without psycho-analyzing its mechanics, and its ramifications.

In many ways, this blog has helped me become more transparent in real life.  It's no small thing to publish a picture of the floor of your closet for all of Bloggityville to see.  Yet in other ways, I find I'm becoming more private.  I'm becoming more aware that once I have shared something--online or in person--it's out there.  It cannot be taken back.  Blogging has made me think about how my words and action impact the privacy of others, particularly my family.

Every now and then I cringe when I read the words that mothers share about their children.  IT CAN'T BE TAKEN BACK.  I think of this often when I choose what I will publish.  As my children's chief advocate, I think of myself as the guardian of their privacy until they are older enough to decide which of the finer details of their lives should be up for public discussion.  My two older boys spend time in a computer lab at school and have been known to log on to their Mom's blog there (Hi, boys!  I love you!  Now get back to work!)  Before I hit publish, I always stop and think if my words would embarrass them as they sit in their computer labs with their friends next to them.  If I ever do over-step my bounds (which I probably have and probably will again), I have a bit of "safety net" in place by never using their real names or faces on this blog. 

Having said all of this, I don't mean to indicate that it's wrong to blog about serious issues regarding our children.  It's a case-by-case situation.  Sometimes, sharing a hurdle might bring encouragement to other parents or a lesson about God's provision.  Sometimes, our kids' privacy should trump that greater good.  It's the responsibility of a thinking parent to use common sense in this regard and to consider with prayer and restraint what is and is not appropriate. 

And that, my friends, is my unsolicited advice for the day.  Blog on.

The Truth Hurts

This past weekend Hubs and Adam went on a father/son camping trip, so I took the other kids with me to my parents' house, three hours away.  We were making good time.  Corrie was napping, and the boys were happily watching a DVD.  It was possible I'd break my record for drive time to their house. 

Toward the end of the trip, Stephen leaned forward and noticed how fast efficiently we were haulin' driving.  "Mom, what's the speed limit here?" he asked curiously.  "Fifty-five," I told him.  He leaned forward to see the speedometer.  "It looks like you're going nearly seventy," he observed.  And then to himself, "I wonder if God minds?"

Busted.

(Yes, I aplogized to him.  And I slowed down.  And I didn't beat my record.  And I began to wonder if I was going to finish my journey as a parent someday with even an ounce of pride left.)

Raising Them the Microsoft Way

At school, Stephen's teacher showed him how to use the "favorites" function on Explorer to save the websites he likes to visit.  When he was playing around on the computer at home tonight, working on a project on Alaska, he tried to demonstrate this new skill to me. 

I smiled and explained to him that the "favorites" are individual to each computer; the "favorites" on the computer at school aren't the same as the "favorites" here at home.  He sighed and rolled his eyes.  "Guess I'll have to do this the old-fashioned way."

And I, thinking proudly for a moment that perhaps my child was going to ask for an encyclopedia, asked, "what do you mean?"

He said, "I guess I'll have to type the address in this little white bar myself."

Oh, yeah, the old-fashioned way.  Only if you were born in 1998, I suppose. 

Sheepish

A dear friend who has the nerve to speak the truth in love called me this afternoon to point out something really important.  Could it, perhaps, be hypocritical of me to promote modesty in one post, and then later post a poll in which one of the options is to vote for...well, adultery?

And while I'd love to get all defensive and say "It's just a TV show!" or "It's differentThey're adults!" the uncomfortable reality is....yeah, I think it's a bit hypocritical.  If I'd ever been in a marriage that was falling apart at the seams, I imagine I wouldn't find the Addison/Derrick/Meredith love triangle so entertaining. 

I've admitted I love TV, and I'll further admit that I can get so wrapped up in the fictional characters that it's easy to overlook principles that really matter to me in real life.  I'm not going to get all overly-analytical about it, or stop watching the show, or bust anyone (besides myself) over this, but my conscience wouldn't let me sit still until I cleared this up.  It is just a TV show, a fun and well-written one, and I intend to keep watching it--but a little perspective on my part is healthy.  Marriages DO matter, and I believe in training my daughter to make wise choices so (for the love of Pete!) she doesn't end up in a situation like Meredith Grey.

There.  I've said my piece.  I'm closing comments (which I never ever do!) because good grief I'm sick of talking about television! 

Y'all have a good weekend.

To Corrie

I gave you your last bottle tonight.

It was a milestone long overdue; after all, you're nearly two years old.  For almost a year now, you've been drinking a bottle of milk only at bedtime, using big-girl cups throughout the day.  I'll confess that we've hung on to that nightly ritual for this long more for me than for you.  I suppose I needed a good excuse to say the words, "I'll fix the baby a bottle."  We mommas don't let go of sentences like that very easily. 

Lately, your bedtime routine has been noisy and silly, not quiet and baby-ish.  You know the world outside my arms is much more interesting, and you'd rather investigate your brothers' room next door than quietly sit in the rocker with me.  Usually I can coax you back with a rendition of Happy Talk or yet another reading of Goodnight Moon, but mostly, you're on the move. 

Yet tonight, you seemed to know that Momma needed a few minutes to savor this sweet moment.  You snuggled in my arms, even allowing me to hold you like a baby, as you clutched that last bottle in your chubby hands.  I smiled to myself, thinking that perhaps there was a future-momma somewhere deep inside you that understood.  You filled up my arms, my lap, and my heart tonight, sweet girl. Thank you

Tangles

The other night, after Corrie's bath, I was gingerly combing through her wet hair, carefully trying to loosen the tangles.  Gentle combing got most of them, and spray-on conditioner was certainly helpful too.  But if you've ever combed the long, wet hair of an active toddler, you know that ultimately, there are some tangles that only come out one way:

Sometimes a momma just has to pull.  And it hurts.

I protected her scalp the best I could, of course.  I carefully gathered up the most stubborn tangles, leaving some "slack" in her hair as I worked out the knots.  But when all other methods failed, I had no choice but to give those tangles a good tug.  I do this because I know how beautiful her hair can be.  I know that the momentary tugging will produce a head full of bouncy, blonde, healthy waves. 

And a funny thing happens.  She fusses at me plenty when we work out the tangles, but when we're done, she happily climbs into my arms.  She trusts me.  She knows that the same momma who does the tugging and pulling is the same momma who feeds her, who sings to her, who holds her when she's sick.  I prove my love to her in a million little ways, so that when the occasional hair-pulls come, she doesn't doubt me. 

It's a silly little analogy that still demonstrates an important truth.  God tugs at me when He has to, when it's the only way for Him to achieve what is necessary for me.  I don't like it.  It hurts.  Sometimes it really hurts.  But do I trust Him?  Of course.  How could I not, when He proved to me once and for all, on the cross, how much He loves me?  May I always trust Him with the same child-like abandon with which my daughter trusts me.   

"How I Met My Husband" OR "Thank Goodness First Impressions Don't Always Stick"

Barb at A New Chelsea Morning is asking readers to share their stories of how they met their mate (head over there to read some sweet stories!).  I've been thinking of telling you this story for a while.  It's a good one, but it's excruciatingly lo-o-o-ong.  Grab your Diet Coke and prop up your feet (or, move on to the next blog, you won't hurt my feelings...)

It was February of 1993, my junior year of college.  A student ministry group I attended occasionally was having a lock-in one Friday night at a local church's family-life center.  I almost didn't go.  I was only three months off a painful break-up, and I was feeling rather unsocial, particularly where the male of our species was concerned.  My girlfriends talked me into going. 

At the time, I had a part-time job at an after-school daycare program, and I got off around 6:30 pm.  I drove straight to the lock-in--I was tired and hungry and in NO mood to meet the love of my life.  In the meantime, Hubs and his group of friends had gotten there early and had been playing basketball in the gym for a couple of hours.  He was sweaty and gross, as were his buddies, and they were all on some weird, macho, sports-induced testerone binge.  There was a big group there--probably around 150 people--and they opened with one of those silly get-to-know-you games.

This particular icebreaker game involved everyone present being handed a sheet of paper.  The whole page was divided into a chart of sorts, probably about eight columns by eight rows.  Each little square in the chart had a random fact such as, "I've been to Europe", or "I own red underwear", or "I have a motorcycle", etc.  The object of the game was to mingle among the group members, find someone to fill in as many squares as possible, and the first person to get eight in a row would win.  The winner had to stand up and introduce the people they'd met. 

So, the game began, and I browsed through the chart, when I saw a square that read: "I blow my nose in the shower". 

Um, excuse me?  [Please remember that these were the days before I was the mother of three little boys and I was still grossed out by bodily fluids].  Two thoughts ran through my brain:  first, what kind of weirdo would do this, and second, what kind of bigger weirdo would admit to it publicly

Surely you see where this is going.

The game ended, and the winner stood up to introduce his list of people.  He got to the nose-blowing square, the whole room groans, and the winner proudly read, "Hubs Dryer!"  Hubs gave a macho wave, and all his basketball buddies slapped him on the back the way 13-year-old boys would after one of their own had made a really great burp in science class.  I observed this strange boy across the room  and shook my head in disgust.  Though I did think to myself that it was a shame he was so tacky, because he was really cute.

That, my friends, is how I first laid eyes on the man I would marry.

Anyhoo, the next item on the agenda for the evening was a scavenger hunt.  I had offered to be a driver.  They had somehow taken all those people present and assigned them into groups of four or five.  As they read the assignments, you can imagine my, um, surprise to see that Hubs Dryer had been assigned to MY GROUP.  He walked across the room toward me and I thought to myself, "It's the nose-blower! I wonder if it's safe to shake his hand?"

We embarked on the scavenger hunt, the uber-competitve Hubs Dryer sitting in the back seat of my car, leaning up over my shoulder giving specific orders.  But I still hadn't had any dinner, remember?  I insisted I had to get some food before we started collecting our items.  He-Who-Must-Win-Every-Competition was so frustrated at me, and he made no effort to hide it, snarling from the backseat.  (Hubs tells me that I must tell you that I was NOT hungry for food from Mr. Burger, a location we were REQUIRED to go for the hunt, but only hungry for food from McDonalds, which was not on the travel itenerary).  His impression of me at this point is that I was a spoiled, bow-headed sorority girl who had to have things JUST. HER. WAY.  No-o-o-o, surely not?

[Geez-Louise this story is really getting long...are you still actually reading this?]

After I got my dinner, we found all our items, Hubs and I keeping a safe distant from each other.  To make up for lost time, Hubs suggested a back road in our hilly college town.  But it was February, and there was ICE on the roads.  As he navigated me through dark streets, down a steep hill, we began to slide.  (Again, these were the pre-motherhood days when dealing with trauma was not a carefully-cultivated skill of mine.)  I took my hands off the wheel and began to scream.  Hubs yelled at me from the backseat:  "DON'T LET GO OF THE WHEEL!"  I screamed back:  "I CAN'T DO THIS, WE'RE SLIDING!"  Yes, it was a real bluebirds-and-roses moment, as we sat there shouting at each other and almost careening to our deaths.  Good times.

We managed to make it back to the lock-in, where Hubs and I stomped away from each other, never to speak again that evening.  Thank goodness, first impressions don't stick.

Strangely, we began running into each other almost daily, in the most random places--the library, the student union, the hallway after class, etc.  We laughed at our less-than-stellar first meeting and began to talk.  I went to a Saturday-night party at his fraternity house a few weeks later, and we sat in a corner and talked for a couple of hours--we never seemed to run out of things to say.  I was fascinated by this strange man:  a macho nose blower?  Perhaps.  But he fascinated me.  He was a cut-up, yet he was serious and brilliant.  He was gentlemanly and kind, yet he was also logical and driven.  He could make me laugh until my sides hurt one minute, and then ask me something deeply profound the next.  I'd never met anyone like him.

We had our first date two months after our first meeting, and the rest, as they say, is history.  After our third date, I came home and told my roommate I had found the man I would marry.  When we had been dating a month we began to talk of marriage.  We fell for each other very, very fast.  Seven months after our first date we were engaged, and seven months after that, in June of '94, we were married (three weeks after we graduated from college).

I laugh at this story now when I look at the man I share my life with.  We have changed and grown so much from those two stubborn college kids--and yet, we still laugh and good-naturedly tussle just the way we did then.  And still we never run out of things to say.  Just this past Saturday evening, we sat side-by-side in a McDonald's playland, watching our four kids play.  Adam was shouting at the video game, Stephen and Joseph were making siren noises from inside the tunnels, and Corrie stood next to us, pouring Sprite down the front of her shirt.  I looked at him, and he looked at me.  "Our Saturday nights have changed a lot over the last 12 years, haven't they?" I laughed.  He reached over and took my hand and smiled at me, the same way he smiled at me in that fraternity house 13 years ago.  And he winked. 

That said it all.

Let's Talk About This

This Moms for Modesty movement is gathering steam quickly over at Everyday Mommy.  If you haven't checked it out yet, I'd urge you to visit and "sign" your name in agreement.  And read what some other mom-bloggers are saying here, here, here and here

Jules, our host at Everyday Mommy, has told me that she's received a few e-mails of dissent, primarily with this portion of the Moms for Modesty mission statement:

I believe that it is unwise and unfair to taunt boys and young men by permitting my daughter(s) to dress in an immodest manner.

Evidently, some moms are concerned that this contributes to the notion that victims of sexual assault are somehow responsible for what happened to them, or that our bodies are somehow "dirty" and should be covered out of shame. 

I'd like to open this up for (civil) discussion, but I want to make a few points of my own, first.

First, and please hear this clearly, victims of sexual assault are VICTIMS.  They are not to blame, in any way, for the crime committed against them.  Sex offenders are responsible 100% for their horrible crimes, and in my opinion, we cannot be tough enough on them.  Dressing modestly is in NO WAY a "guarantee" of safety against sex crimes.

So let me explain why I support that particular line of the mission statement, by using an allegory.

Imagine, for a moment, that I choose not to wear my seat belt.  I know that there are drunk and/or careless drivers on the road, but I trust my own ability to be a good driver.  Now imagine, horribly, that when I am not wearing my seatbelt, I am killed by a drunk driver.  Would a seat belt have saved my life?  We'll never know.  Is the drunk driver 100% responsible, for his criminal behavior?  Absolutely.  But was I wise to forego the seatbelt?  No.

Are you following me on this?  It is NOT appropriate for boys to ogle my daughters, and I if ever have to confront a boy on it, I happily will, oh-yes-ma'am-I-will.  He is 100% responsible for his behavior, he is responsible for where his eyes do and do not travel, and his parents are responsible for what they have taught him in this department. 

But parenting, I am learning, is often a game of odds.  If there is a behavior (like modesty, or dignity, or common sense, or whatever you want to call it) I can instill in my daughter that will lower her odds of being treated as a sex object, then I will do it.   I will not teach her that her body is dirty, or something to cover out of shame.  On the contrary--I will teach her that she is a treasure worth protecting and shielding because she is worth so very, very much.

So, going back to my allegory...

I condemn drunk driving, and we as a society should fight it tooth and nail.  But I will wear my seat belt as a common-sense measure of protection.  It's not a guarantee of safety, but it's something THAT IS IN MY POWER TO DO.  With the same reasoning, I condemn inappropriate behavior of men and boys, and I think they should be responsible for using self-control.  But I will dress my daughter and myself in a dignified way as a common-sense measure of protection.  It's not a guarantee of safety, but it's something THAT IS IN MY POWER TO DO. 

Now, your thoughts on the mission statement item in question? 

I believe that it is unwise and unfair to taunt boys and young men by permitting my daughter(s) to dress in an immodest manner.

Keep it civil, please.

Moms For Modesty

I wrote last week, as did my friend Jules, on how frustrating it is to see what some little girls are wearing these days.  Your comments at both places indicated that you agree. 

So let's do something about it.

Modestybutton Today Jules is unveiling a new idea:  "Moms For Modesty".  It's simply an on-line "petition", if you will, of moms who affirm these basic ideas on the subject of modesty:

  • As a Mom for Modesty I believe in common-sense modesty for girls and young women. 
  • I believe in refraining from sexualizing our girls and young women. 
  • I believe that it is unwise and unfair to taunt boys and young men by permitting my daughter(s) to dress in an immodest manner.
  • I believe that true beauty comes from within and I strive to teach my daughter(s) this truth.
  • I will loyally shop at retailers that provide girls' and young womens clothing that is modest, affordable and stylish.

Head over to Jules' place and express your agreement with this simple affirmation.  Write about it on your own blogs.  Grab this button off of Jules' site or mine and (this is important) display it on your blog linked back to Jules' post

I've been learning in the last few months that vendors, PR firms and the like pay attention to blogs, particularly mommy-blogs.  We buy stuff, and they know it.  If we can get the word out that we're tired of seeing size 5T shorts with "Juicy" emblazoned across the bahookus then maybe, just maybe, they'll listen.

And let me make something clear:  I LOVE for my daughter to have clothes that are stylish and fun and even a teensy bit trendy.  A girl doesn't have to dress like Laura Ingalls Wilder to be modest.  Heck no! There's lots of fun things out there like this and this and this and this (I know, I know, I'm not going to spend $40 on a knit dress either, but dang, it's cute)!

And while your comments of agreement are certainly welcome here, it is most important that you register your "I agree" over at Jules' post, since that's where the button will be linked back to.  We want those retailers to see how many moms feel this way.  Even if you don't have a blog, even if you're the mother of only boys, even if you're not a mom yet, even if you're a grandmother--we ALL have a stake in this.  Head over there and register your agreement.  Jules' goal is 100 "signatures", but I suspect we can blow that out of the water.

Be heard, moms.

Modesty, Please

My friend Jules has a lively discussion going on over at her blog on the topic of dressing little girls modestly. 

Until a couple of years ago, I never gave much thought to little girls' clothes.  I just put jeans and a t-shirt on my three boys, and we were done.  But then Corrie came along, and I learned that it is possible to buy a shirt in the size of a 21-month-old girl that reads "Big Flirt".  Yes, I actually saw that in a store this week.  *Shudder*.

The topic of modesty has been discussed thoroughly at Jules' place; I don't need to go into it any further.  But modesty issues aside, does anyone else just think it's a bit creepy for a little girl to dress like a teenager?  Even if her midriff is covered, even if there are no suggestive words on her shirt--isn't there just something not quite right for a little peanut of a girl to wear something that looks like a miniature version of what a 16 year old would wear?

So here's my question for you, moms of girls.  Where do you shop?  I know that it's easy to find classic, little-girl-looking clothes at places like Hanna Andersson and Kelly's Kids--but let's face it, not many people can afford to buy an entire wardrobe at those prices.  In the comments section, leave links to the places you've found to be the best at dressing little girls like...well, like little girls. 

Grammatically Speaking

Let me insert a big ol' giant disclaimer here--I love good grammar, but I don't get all squirrely about grammar mistakes, either. So I'd better not see ONE comment from y'all saying how you're so worried to leave a comment now because I'm going to go grammar-nazi on you, okay?  I just got some of you lurkers to come out of the closet, for Pete's sake!

I had such an interesting response to this post about proper grammar that I thought I should explain to you why good grammar runs so deeply in my blood. 

My mom is an English teacher.  "Ahhhhh," you're saying, "NOW I get it."

I grew up in a rural Arkansas town where poor grammar is as much a part of life as Friday night football.  Combine the two, and you had the weekly chant from the stands, as the refs carefully measured a play, "MOVE THEM CHAINS!  MOVE THEM CHAINS!"  Not my mother.  She instructed my brother and me that our family chants, "MOVE THOSE CHAINS!  MOVE THOSE CHAINS!"  We stood out a little, but around our house, it was appropriate to fall on your sword for good grammar. 

And it rubbed off on me, definitely.  The most romantic thing that happened to me in adolescence was a secret admirer who, for a period of a couple of weeks, covered my '78 powder blue Pontiac Grand Prix with flowers overnight, every night, as it sat in our driveway.  The first morning, when my mother and I dashed out to investigate, we snagged the note that was tucked under the windshield.  It read,

Shannon,

These are for you; I hope you enjoy them. 

E.B.T.

My mother and I, equally giddy, looked at each other and squealed, "HE USED A SEMI-COLON!"

So it should come as no surprise that my sweet Joseph crawled into my lap sniffling last week.  "Mom," he whimpered, "I hurt my toe badly." 

"Oh, sweet boy," I said, rubbing his foot.  "I'm so proud of you for using an adverb."

A Very Good Reason NOT To Take Your One-Year-Old Daughter To a PTA Meeting...

...Because when all eyes in the room are on you because you're giving your presentation, your little daughter (sitting next to you), might choose that time to unzip your purse and pull out a maxi pad and unwrap it and WAVE IT OVER HER HEAD, and just in case anyone missed it, your friend sitting next to you will laugh loudly enough to make sure they all saw it.  And you would be embarrassed.  If that happened to you.  Which I'm not saying it did to me.  Ahem, ahem.

A Hand To Hold

Mommy Dearest alerted me to a worthwhile cause called Operation Special Delivery.  To quote Mommy Dearest,

Operation Special Delivery...provides volunteer doulas for pregnant women whose husbands or partners are deployed in the U.S. armed forces at the time they are due to give birth.

Doulas are trained birth professionals who provide physical and emotional support for women during childbirth. This free service is being offered as a thank you for the service these fathers are providing for our country, which prevents them from attending the birth of their child.

To learn more about this organization, click here.

Overheard at Our House

"Broccoli gives me polka dots in my throat." (Joseph)

* * * * * * * *

"I can't sleep because one of my fingers is longer than the other one." (Stephen)

* * * * * * * *

[As the phone was ringing].  "Don't answer it, we'll just let the air conditioner get it." (Adam)

* * * * * * * *

"My blood is gloopy." (Joseph)

* * * * * * * *

[Rubbing forehead and frowning]. "I think I'm getting another science infection." (Stephen)

* * * * * * * *

"I'm so hungry it's like somebody died." (Joseph)

* * * * * * * *

"I love you so much I can't feel my legs." (Joseph)

* * * * * * * *

See you tomorrow for Works-For-Me Wednesday!

Brotherly Love

Dscn2383

(A translation, should you need it:  Keep out if you are a brother in my family you got to get out yo!! or I'll knock your tooth out.  So you better get out of my ROOM!!)

If he's going to threaten his brothers, at least he had the good sense to do it with neat handwriting.

To My Little Boy, On Your First Day Of Kindergarten

My Sweet Boy,Inclass_copy

Everything about you looked so big to me this morning.  Those hands that used to barely fit around my finger nearly filled my entire hand as we walked down the hall.  Those shoulders that used to hunch up against my chest seemed so broad as you proudly carried your new backpack.  And those sweet brown eyes that used to spend hours scrunched in colicky anguish were round and bright and full of anticipation at what awaits you. 

You had only a brief moment of hesitation before you ventured into your classroom.  I saw the momentary uncertainty flash in your eyes as you let go of my hand.  But I reached down and kissed your cheek, and I told you I'd stand out in the hall for a minute or two if you needed me.  "I'll be right here," I whispered.   That was all you needed--you bounded forward with confidence, never looking back. 

This is as it should be.  Your eyes should be ahead--watchful, ready to learn, eager to take in all life will bring you.  My eyes are looking ahead too, realizing that this big step of independence you took this morning will be followed by many.  Lost teeth, too-short jeans, a deeper voice and first dates...each bold step will take a you a step further toward manhood, and further away from me.

And with bittersweet joy in my heart, I tell you, my boy:  Go.  Step into each new life experience with the same eager expectation I saw on your face this morning.  I trust the One who made you to steer you just where He would have you go.   I can't wait to see the man He will shape you into.   

But when the adventure gets bumpy, whether it's a skinned knee in kindergarten, a bruised ego in 5th grade or a broken heart in college, just point yourself toward home.  I'll be right here.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Several of you were quick to remind me of something after today's post, and I'm so glad you did.  It is critically important to use discernment when labeling your child's belongings.  Embroidering a name in large print on backpacks or clothing is a risky idea.  Predators could use this as a tool to gain rapport with a child and make it look as if they know him. ("Hey Bobby, I'm a friend of your mom's..." The thought leaves me cold). 

I omitted an important detail about the bag tags I make for my children's backpacks.  The print is small enough that only someone standing right next to the child could read it--NOT someone observing from a distance .  And part of our regular "stranger danger" discussion is the notion that just because someone knows your name does NOT mean he knows you.  We discuss the fact that bad guys can be sneaky and learn your name in other ways.  (Do discussions like this scare my kids?  Maybe a little.  But I'd rather have them scared and safe than comfortable and in danger).  We take this issue so seriously that my husband, a kids' soccer coach for years, does not allow his team to have names printed on their jerseys. 

Please give this issue careful consideration when labeling your child's belongings.  Talk to them often about being safe. 

Blowing Off Some Steam

School starts in 22 hours and 32 minutes.  Not that I'm counting, or anything.  *twitch, twitch*

My Daughter's Hands

This post was originally published on February 16, 2006.

Tonight my one-year-old daughter Corrie has a cold.  She was having trouble sleeping, so I had the distinct pleasure of rocking her--for a long, long time--to sleep.  We sat there in the dark of her room, the rocking chair creaking slightly, her slow, even breaths a little raspy from her cold.  Her head was nuzzled into my neck, and her right hand softly gripped the fabric of my shirt on my chest. 

Corrie's hand.  It's a plump little thing--dimpled, smooth and creamy white.  I've always been fascinated by my children's hands, but tonight as I looked at Corrie's, I was overwhelmed with happiness--and a little sadness--to think of where those hands will travel.  Tonight they're flawless little hands, untested by life's challenges and inexperienced in its joys.  But where will those little hands go tomorrow, and the next day, and the next?...

Any day now those little hands will let go of mine as she takes her first step.

They'll grasp a pencil as she clumsily but surely learn to write. 

They'll grip handlebars with a mix of joy and horror as her Daddy runs behind her on her bike, almost ready to let go.

In the teenage years those hands will wipe away many adolescent tears and slam many doors, but maybe, if I play my cards right, they'll still reach out for mine every now and then.

They'll pack her belongings as she leaves for home.  And they'll open our front door again as she comes back to visit.  A lot, if she knows what's good for her.   

How I pray those precious hands spend more time spread open in joy, rather than clenched in anguish.  But wherever they travel, I hope they're often clasped in prayer.  I hope they're helpful hands, and merciful ones, and I hope they always have many, many other hands to grab onto.

They'll wear a diamond from a handsome young man, and they'll loosely hold her father's tuxedoed arm, eager to reach out for her future at the end of the aisle. 

Those hands will grasp the bedsheets in pain as she fights to deliver her child, and they'll tremble in joy when she holds him or her the first time. They'll feel many little foreheads, apply many band-aids and hold open many books.  And then, one night, she'll rock that baby to sleep, and she'll stare in bittersweet wonder...at its little hands.

A Good Reason NOT To Put Your One-Year-Old Daughter's Highchair Next To the Silverware Drawer

Silverware

The Truth

The boys awakened before this morning.  Five-year-old Joseph scampered into my room, crawled into my bed, and snuggled his little body under the covers and up next to me.  His hand gently reached up and patted my face.  In his sweetest, still-sleepy voice he said, "Mommy?" 

"What is it, sweetheart?" I asked him, pulling him even closer, nuzzling my face next to his. 

He whispered tenderly, "In the morning your hair kind of looks like Frankenstein."

Busted!

My husband is a hands-on dad.  He is involved in every area of our kids' lives and is attentive to the smallest detail--bedtime, stomach viruses, homework, you name it.  But he will move Heaven and Earth to keep from changing a diaper--he hates it.  HATES IT.  Even just the wet ones gross him out--the dirty ones have been to known to elicit a response like this.

I confess that I have used this to my advantage more than once. 

"Let's see, Honey...would you like to re-caulk the bathtub and scrub the grout and bleach the fixtures, or change Corrie's diaper?"  Yep.  He chooses the tub. 

Which is why it was so funny when Stephen asked me hypothetically yesterday, "Mom, if you could go back before you were born and choose whether you wanted to be a man or a woman, which one would you choose?"

"A woman," I said without hesitation.  "Which would you choose?"

"DEFINITELY a man, so I won't have to change any diapers."

Busted.

Bloggy Doggy

Ginger2 Last summer, my kids began asking for a dog.  I was skeptical, to say the least.  A good dog adds much to a family, but a bad dog?...a bad dog can turn a house upside down (literally and figuratively).  We agreed to begin looking around, and after much consideration, we decided that we would adopt a dog from a shelter instead of a breeder.  We didn't want a brand new puppy, and we liked the idea of "rescuing" a creature from a sad life.  We thought this would be a good way to demonstrate to our kids the value we place on life, even in a small way. 

I began to pray about this.  And pray.  And pray.  I don't remember the last time I had prayed more specifically about a decision!  You know how you hear about those "perfect dogs" sometimes, the kind that love kids, don't shed, don't chew, protect the family without being obnoxious, etc. etc.?  I explained to God that if He wouldn't mind too terribly, I simply couldn't settle for anything less than that.  I was up to my eyeballs in little kids and their messes/noises/smells and I couldn't handle a dog that complicated things too much. 

Dscn1493So when we read online about a local shelter dog named Ginger, a 1-2 year old female terrier mutt (who looked an awful lot like the Winn-Dixie dog), we slowly moved forward.  We visited her at the kennel.  Then we went back.  And back again.  On our third visit, when my then 10-month-old baby daughter grabbed (and twisted) a fistful of Ginger's hair and Ginger just looked at her, I knew we had a keeper.

We brought her home and she fell into line so perfectly with our family.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did.  She instinctively knew each member of our family.  She knew that our anxious first-born needed a bed buddy, and she eagerly curled up at the foot of his bed each night  (the insomnia that had plagued him for months vanished with Ginger in his bed).  She knew that my energetic second and third boys liked to play hard and run fast, and she could turn it on in a heartbeat.  But when they were through with the rough-housing, she just as quickly turned it off and snuggled quietly with them in the floor.  Sweetest of all, she knew that baby Corrie deserved an extra special tenderness, despite Corrie's tendency to pull hair and, well, sit on her.  Ginger gently tolerates all of Corrie's abuse with utter patience, and when it's too much, she simply walks away. 

It's amazing what this dog has brought to our family, and it makes me wonder what other gentle family pets might be languishing in a shelter right now.  That's no life for a dog.  When we Dscn1457 brought Ginger home, her paws were bloody and raw, because the kennels at the shelter were hosed down with bleach.  To this day, when we return home from an errand, Ginger barks and twirls with glee, amazed that we came back for her. 

Have you been thinking of getting a dog?  I'd urge you to consider adopting one.  Any quality rescue organization will help you select a dog that's perfect for your family, and most will willingly take the dog back should it not be a "fit".  You can see a huge national listing of available shelter dogs here.

Dukebookcvrhr With this wonderful cause in mind, the folks at Bush's Baked Beans (my mouth is watering already) have published a book with the dog Duke from their commercials (you know, "ROLL that beautiful bean footage...") entitled "Duke Finds a Home".  They are selling the books from their website for only $3.95 including shipping.  The proceeds will benefit the American Humane Association.  The book is a sweet story of the relationship between Duke and Jay, his owner.  I'd urge you to check it out.

And for Pete's sake (or Duke's sake, as the case may be)...go adopt a dog.

So How Many Legs Did YOUR Breakfast Have?

I fixed my family biscuits for breakfast yesterday morning--the yummy, fluffy, frozen Pillsbury kind you just pop right in the oven.  When they came out of the oven I slathered 'em up good with butter and honey, and we all dove right in.  After we had all eaten every last bite of the first round, and I was serving up the second serving, I happened to notice a black speck in the honey I just spread.  I took a closer look.

It was an ant. 

I looked in the honey container.  It was full of ants.  Dead ones.  Their little ant carcasses floating in the globby mess I had just served my children for breakfast. 

Oh, well, it's protein, right?

Shut Up and Know

My daily Elisabeth Elliott devotional was too rich not to share with you. Oh, how I needed this.

"Do thou thyself but hold thy tongue for one day, and on the morrow how much clearer are thy purpose and duties," wrote Thomas Carlyle. The psalmist wrote (in Psalm 46) of great cataclysms, noise, war, destruction. What is the man of God supposed to do in the middle of all that? One thing above all else: "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps 46:10 AV). Simply shut up for a change. It is amazing what the quiet holding of the soul before the Lord will do to the external and seemingly uncontrollable tumult around us. It is in that stillness that the Voice will be heard, the only voice in all the universe that speaks peace to the deepest part of us.

No other voice than Thine has ever spoken,
O Lord, to me--

No other words but Thine the stillness broken
Of life's lone sea.

There openeth the spirit's silent chamber
No other hand--

No other lips can speak the language tender,
Speech of the Fatherland.

(T.S.M., from Hymns of Ter Steegen and Others, Frances Bevan)

From A Lamp For My Feet, by Elisabeth Elliott

Out of the Mouth of Joseph

My newly five-year-old Joseph came into the kitchen the other day, shoulders sagging.  He sighed sadly and leaned against the counter.  Then he wearily said, "Mom, being four was hard."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We went to Wal Mart this morning.  As we got out of the car, we all noticed a fluorescent green puddle on the ground next to our car.  Because mysterious fluids in a Wal Mart parking lot aren't all that surprising to me, I didn't think much of it.  But the boys were dying with curiosity.

"It's Kool-Aid!" one shouted.

"No, it's something leaking from the car!" shouted another.

"Melted ice cream?" suggested the first one.

And then suddenly something wonderful occurred to Joseph and with all the glee in his little heart he shouted, "HEY!  Maybe we ran over a turtle!  Maybe it's turtle juice!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The other day Joseph explained to me that he was only a few inches tall. 

"Really?" I asked.  He nodded.  He went on to add that he had been doing battle with an imaginary superhero, and the guy had "shrunked me with his shrunk vision."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Joseph approached a dear elderly gentleman (over 80) at church a couple of weeks ago, and told him bluntly, "You have to be really old to die.  But don't worry, you're not old enough yet."

Thank goodness this dear old friend has a good sense of humor.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Excuse me, I have to go.  I just looked out the back window, and Joseph is peeking through the neighbors's fence into their backyard, barking at their dog. 

Oh, I love that boy.

Meme, Baby

GiBee's little baby Hunter tagged my 20-month-old daughter Corrie on a fun little meme.  So without further ado, here are Corrie's answers (with just a teensy bit of help from her Momma):

3 Things That Scare Me

    • Absolutely nothing
    • Absolutely nothing
    • Absolutely nothing

3 People That Make Me Laugh

    • My big brother Adam
    • My big brother Stephen
    • My big brother Joseph

Dscn2299_copy 3 Things I Love

    • Pulling my dog's hair.  She seems to really love that, too.
    • Going swimming.
    • Climbing up on the kitchen table and dumping out the sugar bowl.  Mommy really loves that too.

3 Things I Hate

    • When my brothers get to go outside and I don't.
    • Having my clothes changed.
    • Sitting still.

3 Things I Don't Understand

    • Why Mommy gets mad when I climb up on the kitchen table.
    • Why they keep the dogfood on the floor if they don't want me to play with it.
    • What Mommy sees in that computer.

3 Things On My Floor

    • My tricycle, turned upside down
    • My blocks
    • The remote control which Mommy doesn't know I have (shhhh....)

3 Things I'm Doing Right Now

    • Emptying the Tupperware cabinet
    • Singing
    • Making Mommy smile

3 Things I Want to Do Before I Die

3 Things I Can Do

    • Point to my nose when Mommy says "Where's your nose?"
    • Point to my nose when Mommy says "Where's your tummy?"
    • Point to my nose when Mommy says "Where's your mouth?"

3 Ways to Describe My Personality

3 Things I Cannot Do

    • Speak English (though I'm quite fluent in my own little language)
    • Figure out that darn remote control.
    • Leave my brothers' toys alone.

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To

    • Joseph's laugh
    • Mommy's singing
    • The wonderful sound the remote control makes when I bang it on the coffee table.

3 Things I Think You Should Never Listen To

    • The word "no"
    • The word "night-night"
    • The word "climb down"

3 Absolute Favorite Foods

    • Disney Princess fruit snacks
    • Green beans
    • Pudding

3 Things I'd Like to Learn

    • How to draw.
    • How to play video games like my brothers.
    • How to work that darn remote control.

3 Beverages I Drink Regularly

    • Milk
    • Apple juice
    • Sprite, when Mommy is in a good mood!

3 Shows I Watch

3 Babies I Tag

    • Michelle's Jane
    • SuperMom's Baby
    • Mary's 20-month-old...(Mary, I can't remember if you've told me her name!)

I Just Trust Him

This post was originally published on February 6, 2006.

My children love to ask me probing questions about God.

“Was God born?” they ask.

“No,” I explain. “God has always been there. He didn’t have a beginning.”

Or, “How did God make the world?”

“Well,” I explain, “He simply said He wanted it to be, and it was.”

“But how did He do that?” my questioner asks. And I’m reduced to the sentence that always concludes these precious times: “I don’t completely understand. But God tells us it is true in the Bible, and I just trust Him.”

And my little questioner, satisfied by this, rolls over and drifts easily off to sleep.

I just trust Him. How dependent I’ve become, I realize, on my bite-sized definitions of who He is. Words like "sovereign", or "glorious", or "omnipotent" appear in my prayers. Concepts like irresistible grace, sanctification, and election divide my theology into neat categories. I love to digest complicated issues of my faith and try to understand a little better the One I follow. My desire to share this with my children leads me to “boil it down” to their level of comprehension.  My four year old asks, “Why did God make sharks if they’re scary?” And my long, jumbled attempt at explaining a fallen world or all things working together for good finally lands me right back where it always does: “I just trust Him.”

This is the truth, I realize, of Mark 9:15: I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. When all is said and done, I stand before God just as my little children do, entirely dependent on the simplest of answers I share with them. They come to me with questions, and I tell them “Because He said so.” I go to Him with questions, and He answers, “I Am Who I Am.”

Motherhood has taught me not only how little I know, but also how little I need to know. I may wrestle with the doctrine of free will vs. predestination as much as they wrestle with how God made pine cones, but ultimately, we rest in the mystery of His truth, if we are to rest at all.

But the Rocks Aren't Only In My DRYER...

This post was originally published on February 10, 2006.

What is it with little boys and rocks?  I mean, they're just rocks.  Lumps of hardened earth.  Dirty, drab little hard things that can be weaponized at any moment (ah, I may have just answered my own question...).  As the mother of three boys, I find rocks everywhere.  Just today, here are the places I found rocks in my house, and I promise I didn't set any of these up...

In the floor of the minivan:

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In the decorative chest on my coffee table:

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In this Wal Mart sack hanging by the back door (and that's all it contains--rocks):

Dscn1389

In my four-year-old son's coat pocket:

Dscn1392

On a shelf in my seven-year-old son's room:

Dscn1394

And in my jewelry box.  Okay, actually this is an acorn, but it's still a hard, earthen object, and I didn't put it there:

Dscn1393

But you know what?  These rocks all over my house mean those rowdy, noisy, rock-bearing boys can't be far behind.  I'll take that any day.

Heroic Motherhood

This post was originally published on December 12, 2005.

Cassatt_bath_l I'm really not much of an art aficionado, but every now and then a picture really grabs my attention--particularly when it tells a story. I have always loved this painting by Mary Cassatt (1884-1926), called The Bath. Cassatt is well-known for her pictures of mothers and children, but something about this picture really speaks to me. The first time I saw it, I was deeply touched by the sight of a mother gently washing her child's feet--the ultimate picture of servanthood. Surely she must be the most tender of mothers, right? Maybe she patiently washes her child's feet every day, eager to give of herself to this cherubic little being.

Or maybe not. Let's look at this picture again...

This is probably a two-year-child, and clearly some event has required that this mother strip her daughter down to nothing and scrub her feet. Potty training? A stomach virus? (You know it's bad when it makes it all the way down to their socks--admit it, we've all been there). And the background doesn't look a nursery, but more like a parlor or living room. Why would you strip a child down to her skivvies in the living room unless circumstances required it? Circumstances such as, say, tracking mud across the carpet? Or maybe paint? And while the look on this mother's face could be translated as tender selflessness, it looks as though there could be a little jaw-clenching going on. Maybe even a little muttering ("I-brought-you-into-this-world-and-so-help-me....")?

But still she washes her daughter's feet. I'm sometimes tempted to think of the truly heroic mothers as the ones who always stay calm, patient and unselfish. But sometimes the most heroic moments of motherhood come when we're at our worst--when our child has pushed us to the very edge of our own limits of patience...or confidence...or sanity, and still we just deal with it. We suck it up, swallow our pride...or irritation...or comfort, and we deal with it. THAT is heroicism, plain and simple.

So if there is a naked two year old in your living room today, or a disrepectful 13 year old, or a heartbroken seven year old, my hat is off to you. You are dealing with it, and you are a hero.

What Matters

Tomorrow is my Hubs' birthday, and I could write a marathon-length post telling you all the hundreds of reasons I love him.  Instead, I'll tell you a story that illustrates the kind of man he is.

A couple of months ago, Hubs bought a new car.  You should know that we never buy new cars, because we're generally pretty stingy frugal.  But because the car Hubs had chosen is an especially reliable model, and he knew he'd likely drive it for a long time, he went ahead and bought a brand new model.  He explained carefully to the boys how important it is that we take very good care of this car (not every family member has the best track record with vehicles).

Fast forward a few weeks later.  After an especially draining week, Hubs was on his way home in his car and filled up at a gas station.  Distracted, he pulled away and rammed right into one of those yellow guard rails at the pump.  The front right quarter-panel of his car was literally peeled OFF.  (You know it's bad when you can see the wiper fluid from outside the car).  To make things worse, because of a recent large car insurance claim, he instantly knew that we'd have to pay for this out-of-pocket--making another claim so quickly would surely cause our insurance premiums to sky rocket.

He called me to break the news.  Though I marveled at his initial calmness, I shuddered to imagine how totally frustrated he must be.  When it sunk in, would he blow his top? 

When he arrived home and the boys saw the damage they were enthralled with such impressive destruction.  But they knew the car was important to Dad, and our seven year old told Hubs how sorry he was this had happened.  And my weary and frustrated Hubs knelt down to Stephen's level and said, "Son, it's just a car.  People are much more important than things."

The story doesn't end there.  A few days later, our next-door neighbor reported to me a conversation she'd had with Stephen the following day.  Stephen had dramatically recounted to her the extensive damage to his Dad's car.  Our neighbor responded, "Wow, your Dad must've been really upset about that!"  "No," Stephen responded.  "He told me that people are more important than things."

He remembered.  It's hard to think of many more powerful examples for a child to see.

My Hubs isn't perfect, as he would be the first to tell you.  But in countless instances such as these, he lives out for our family a model of integrity that is beyond priceless.  He daily demonstrates for his children (and for me) hard work, contentment, reason, self-discipline, kindness, honesty and--most of all--an unwavering commitment to Christ. 

Happy birthday, Hubs.  I'm so happy you were born, and that you belong to us.

Looking For a Web Site

My nine-year-old son is eager to listen to what Hubs and I teach him about our faith, but he also wants to learn on his own.  He is specifically asking for a "website where I can learn about God."  Does anyone have one they'd recommend for a child this age?

Could Have

Five-year-old Joseph burst in the backdoor, gasping with sobs that were angry or hurt--I couldn't quite tell.  He was sobbing so hard, in fact, that I couldn't make out what he was telling me; I could only catch the phrases "flew up in the air", "smashed on my face" and "bleeding everywhere".  At these words, of course, my Momma Radar locked into a fully upright position, yet I was puzzled to see that he was clearly unhurt. 

"Joseph," I said calmly, "What happened?  You flew up in the air?"

"No," he sniffled.  "But I could have."

"But you didn't," I said.

"No.  But I almost did," he said, impatient with my reasoning.

So now, it appears, we're crying about the injuries we could have sustained.  It may be a long summer.

Feeling a Little Behind?

20455864 I was caught up once, in the year 2000, and it lasted about a week.  I remember it quite distinctly, because it felt absolutely glorious.  I'm not sure how I managed it, exactly (I was the mother of two young preschoolers at the time), but nonetheless, for one brief week, I was completely, 100% caught up on housework, projects, crafts, everything.

It hasn't happened since.

The fact is, I simply have more to accomplish than can reasonably be done in the time allotted me.  Period.  Add to this that I am easily distracted and even more easily overwhelmed, and what do you get?  Many, many unfinished tasks.

I begin unloading the dishwasher and halfway through I realize I'm out of detergent so I add it to my grocery list, but on my way to the grocery list I see a pile of dirty socks on the floor so I take them to the laundry room, but when I get in there I see my husband's shirt that needs a button sewn on, so I get out my sewing supplies but when I look at my scissors I remember I have a gift to wrap for a birthday party, so....shall I go on?

After a few hours of this, I realize that I've been very busy, but little has been accomplished.  I've just been bouncing from thing to thing, finishing nothing.  And that little part of my personality that craves a sense of completion every now and then is frustrated and stressed out.  Does anyone else have this problem? 

This was becoming such a cause of frustration for me that a couple of weeks ago I instituted a very simple rule for myself.  One word:  FINISH.

If I'm unloading the dishwasher, I do not allow myself to veer away to anything else until I am FINISHED unloading the dishwasher.  Even if it seems important.  Even if I'm afraid I'll forget it if I don't do it RIGHT NOW.  The reality is that something else will probably remind me of it later.  And truly, if my children are fed and loved and taught about the Lord, is any of the rest of it THAT critical?

There are exceptions to my rule, of course--life with little children is full of important interruptions.  Sometimes I must stop what I'm doing to referee a wrestling match teach my children to love each other, and that's okay.  But when I'm done wiping the blood off of them leading them to reconciliation I'm making a concerted effort to come back to what I was doing, instead of finding another task to start.

This may sound terribly elementary to some of you who are more disciplined than I am.  Maybe you get up at the crack of dawn and are utterly on top of everything in your home (if this is the case, then why in the heck are you reading my blog?  Comic relief?).  But if, like me, you need a little help in the focus department, then please, leave a comment and share any pointers that help you FINISH. 

Why I'm Not a Scrapbooker

At least half of you are probably gasping in horror right now--I can hear you wailing from every corner in Blog Land.  Just bear with me.  I used to scrapbook--in fact, I loved it.  Scrappers can be a little, shall we say, militant in their passion.  I was a Scrapbook Evangelist--I thought everyone should be doing it, and I told them so.  But then a funny thing happened:

My third child.

The third child, for me, was the deal-breaker in which things such as personal hygiene and hobbies involving adhesives became a thing of the past.  I gradually fell farther and farther behind in my scrapbooking, even with my pages becoming simpler and simpler.

I had photos stuffed in every nook and cranny in my house.  I was forgetting which child was in which pictures (Dryer babies all look alike).  The months whizzed by, the pictures accumulated, and the scrapbooking supplies moved deeper into the recesses of the closet.  The turning point came a year ago, when I realized I was purposely taking fewer pictures so that I wouldn't add to my growing stash of pictures.

What?!

After some deep breathing, I realized that if I turned in my photo cropper, I would still be a good mom.  If my children's photos were not decorated with fourteen thousand dealy-whoopers and doo-dads, the very hounds of hell would NOT drag me away.   

And so I purged.  I gave it all away, and I bought these little jobbies instead:

Scrapbook_outside

They're photo-safe (of course...I'm not that reckless!) photo albums for 9.99 at Wal Mart, and the photos slip right in the side.  There is a place to write (In a regular pen!  Oh, the freedom!) a memo about the date, the event, which child it is, etc.  Regular photo albums.  I emerged from my scrapbook bunker amazed to see they even made these anymore. 

And I LOVE it.  The pressure is off.  I was able to catch up on every single photo in my house by devoting a couple of days to the task (working off and on, mostly off).  Best of all, I know that my photos are all in one place, and labeled.  My kids LOVE to sit down and flip through the photos, and you know what?  They don't miss the fancy stuff at all.

So, my dear scrapbookers, please know that I LOVE to look at your work.  I think it's a fantastic hobby, and I may even rejoin your ranks someday when the kids are older.  But for now, my photos are safe.  My memories are documented.  And my kitchen floor is free from zillions of little hole-punched stars and clovers.

Laundry Drama

When I posted yesterday about the rock in my dryer, your comments made me laugh out loud.  Let's see...Ellen reported finding chapstick and love letters, Susanne has found bugs, Heather has found red crayon, Michelle has found (shudder) an I-Pod and a digital camera, Teresa found Starburst, AggieJen found a camera memory stick that still worked (everybody find out what brand she has!), and Laurie (oh-my-word-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-good-and-holy) found a dead frog.  Thankfully, it was in her washer.  Let's not even imagine what it would've done in the dryer.  Kim suggested I should get an endorsement from Maytag, and in the Blogging Stunt of the Year even wrote to Maytag with my blog URL suggesting they send me a new one.  OhYesSheDid.  Really, y'all crack me up.

Just in case you have any remaining impression that I might be a good housekeeper, let me tell you my laundry low point.  I once found in my dryer...are you ready for this?...POOP.  My then three-year-old son pooped in his Pull-Up one night.  When he got up the next morning, he didn't want me to know, so he put the Pull-Up, poop and all, into the dirty clothes.  And when I did laundry later that day, just dumped all the clothes in there together.  AND when the washer load finished, I tossed it straight into the dryer. 

Because I love you, my dear readers, I will spare you the details of what happens to poop when it goes through a VERY HOT dryer.  Let's just say that my first clue something was amiss was the SMELL in my laundry room.  *Sigh*  Use your imagination. 

* * * * * * * * * *

And by the way, speaking of the crazy things children do to us and our appliances, I wholeheartedly recommend the book Thundering Sneakers by Prudence Mackintosh.  My aunt gave it to me years ago, when I was the mother of three boys (like the author), and I re-read it about once a year.  The title comes from the thump, thump, thump sound made by little boys' sneakers in the dryer!  Her writing and sense of humor have influenced my own writing more than just about anyone else I've ever read. 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you have any laundry horror stories to share, leave them in my comments below, or let us all know if you write about it on your blog. 

Because Sometimes You Just Have to Brag On Your Kids

Everydaythings_1 I'm playing along with Jules' weekly celebration of the wonderfully ordinary things in our lives.  Today I celebrate the sweet voice of my one-year-old daughter Corrie!  She talks all the time, though only occasionally in something resembling English.  It's really funny--here's an example:  (And I don't know if this will work; just try clicking on the link below.)

Download talking19mos

When talking isn't enough, she sings at the top of her lungs...again, in a language none of us has figured out:

Download Singing19mos

And if I haven't completely bored you with my bragging, I saved the best for last.  I got this audio the other night when Hubs was tickling her:

Download laughing19mos

How cute is that? 

A Visual Indication Of What My Day Has Been Like

...courtesy of Stephen, age 7:

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In Case You Thought I Was Lying

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Here is a rock.  In my dryer.  And in case you're thinking, "but it's just one rock, and it's so tiny," let me assure you that he had a whole host of rock friends with him, but when I removed the lint tray they disappeared into the bowels of my dryer, never to be seen again, or at least not until the dryer repair guy makes a very expensive trip to my house to retrieve them because said rocks have ka-klunked-ka-klunked in my dryer engine until it is fried. 

Believe me now?

Potty Mouth

Toiletabout The other day one of my boys (let's call him Boy Who Will Not Be Named) came into the kitchen with a proud look on his face. 

"Guess what I just did?" he beamed, giggling. 

"What?" I asked.  (Note to self:  if they're giggling, don't ask).

"I stuck my tongue in the toilet water!"

I had one of those parenting moments where no complete word or sentence can escape your lips.  "Wh...you did...toil...wha...YOU DID WHAT?"

Obviously not picking up on my horror, he continues to giggle.  "I licked the toilet water!"

Can we just pause for a moment so I can tell you that most of the time, in the moment of crisis, I can keep a fair bit of cool.  But this one, for some reason, was too much.  I walked to the edge of the Deep End and jumped right off.  With great profundidty, I shrieked, "THAT IS THE STUPIDEST THING YOU'VE EVER DONE!"  (Note: "Stupid" is a bad word in our house.)

Boy Who Will Not Be Named looked at me in surprise.  "Mom!  You said a bad word!"  Clearly, the child's Don't-Tick-Mom-Off-Anymore-Than-I-Already-Have filter was turned off. 

More verbal stumbling from mom. "Yes, well, it just...sometimes...I...well, it's the only word that fits!"  I marched him up to his room for a toothbrushing session that removed most of his taste buds and threw the toothbrush in the dishwasher. 

And then, why-oh-why, I asked him, "Son, why did you do this?"

"Because my brother told me to."

"If your brother told you to jump off a building, would you do it?"  I'm telling you, the profound parenting statements were just flying out of my mouth.

The Boy was picking up on my horror, though I could tell he couldn't quite register why this was such an offense.  Still sputtering, I launched into a tirade about how there are things in poop, and therefore in toilet water, that can make you extremely sick, SO sick you have to go to the hospital, SO sick...[pause for dramatic effect as I get ready to unload the Dryer Family Wost Thing That Can Happen To You]...SO SICK YOU HAVE TO GET A SHOT. 

And, he was undone.  Completely undone.  There was wailing and gnashing of teeth as he apologized profusely and suggested that we pray together that he doesn't get sick.  And I'm standing in that parenting rock-and-hard-place I often visit, stuck between wanting to teach him a lesson while not overreacting to the point of traumatizing him for life.

All's well that ends well.  After I calmed down, we had a more rational discussion about why it's not a good idea to drink toilet water (since, you know, it's NOT OBVIOUS), what will and won't send you to the hospital, and when it is and isn't a good idea to do what your brother tells you.  (Said Brother received an equal talking-to). 

I love that boy.  Oh, I love him.  But I'm not sure I'll ever be able to KISS him again.

Family Favorite

This little poem was a favorite in my family growing up; I thought I'd share it with you:

Isn't it strange that princes and kings

And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,

And common folks like you and me

Are all builders for eternity?

To each is given a book of rules,

A block of stone and bag of tools,

And each must shape, ere time has flown,

A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

--Author unknown

The Dryer Family Version of Gender Equity

In the car this morning, I was listening to talk radio, when a story referencing a mayor came on.  Here was the ensuing conversation from the peanut gallery in the backseat:

Adam:  Does [Our Town] have a mayor?

Me:  Yes, her name is [Insert name].

Stephen: We have a GIRL mayor?

Me: Yes.

Adam:  Really?  Girls can be mayor?

Me:  Yes, of course they can.

Stephen:  I guess we have to have a girl mayor because we always have boy presidents.

Thank You, Thank You!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of you who left Adam such wonderful birthday wishes at his post!  I wish every one of you could've seen the look on his face each time he passed the computer and watched the comments roll in.  He told me it was the best day of his life!  Y'all are the best.

By the way, this was really fun letting my child write a post on his birthday.  I'd highly recommend this little tradition to any blogger out there!

Let's Do Blogging Adam-Style

by Adam Dryer, age 9 (almost)

Hey everybody!  My name is Adam.  Well, not really, but my Mom won't let me tell you my real name.  Anyways, let's get to blogging.  First things first--tomorrow's my birthday, and I'll be nine.  That's why my mom is letting me blog.  I'm celebrating my birthday quite a few ways.  One of them is my mom, dad and I are going to see the Lion King musical tomorrow night.  It's going to be fun.  I'm also gonna have a sleepover with a few of my friends.  They're coming over so we can do fun stuff like watch movies and play video games and other stuff.  Another way I'm celebrating my birthday is that I got Mario money from family members and used it to buy a Nintendo DS.  I'll tell you what a DS is later.  But for now, one more thing.  My grandmother, I call her Mimi, is coming over for my birthday.  My grandmother, who I call Gego, was here last weekend.  Oh, I just remembered.  I was going to tell you what a DS is.  Well, it's a really cool video game system, that's for sure.  Here's a list of what cool features a DS has:

  1. It has two screens.  One screen is where you actually play the game, and the other holds valuable information. 
  2. It has a digital pen that you can use to write messages to other DS-es, to make the game cooler and other stuff. 
  3. It can play both DS games AND Gameboy Advance games. 
  4. It has a lot of buttons, which makes the game more complicated, which makes it fun. 
  5. When you first turn the system on, it has a digital clock, calendar, and something called picto-chat.  Picto-chat is when you use the digital pen to write messages to other DS-es. 

Now, I'm going to make a list of things so you'll know more about me. 

  1. I like video games.Chickenlittle
  2. I'm going to third grade next year.
  3. My favorite movies are The Lion King, Chicken Little and Cars.
  4. I enjoy publishing my own books. 
  5. I like to do art and crafts.
  6. I am a Bear Scout in Cub Scouts.
  7. I am going to start Tae Kwon Do this summer.
  8. My favorite sport is swimming.
  9. My favorite subject in school is writing.
  10. My favorite books are Stink The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Ricky Ricotta's Might Robot and Charlotte's Web. 
  11. I have two brothers, one sister, one mom, one dad, one dog and one hermit crab.
  12. My pets' names are Ginger the dog and Gilbert the hermit crab.
  13. My favorite television shows are Sponge Bob, The Fairly OddParents, Jimmy Neutron and Danny Phantom. Sponge20bob_1
  14. When I grow up I'm going to be a voice for an animated movie. 
  15. My favorite vacation spot is Disney World.
  16. In my free time I like to have a few snacks.
  17. My favorite food is fried shrimp with tartar sauce. 
  18. When I can't get to sleep I turn over my pillow, fluff it, and then lay my head down.  It helps me.
  19. My favorite company is Nintendo.
  20. A lot of times my brothers and sister drive me nuts. 

And so, that's a little bit about me.  That's my blog post!  I'll be blogging next year.  Bye!

Note from Shannon:  First of all, is he the cutest, or what?  And second, remember that tomorrow is Works-For-Me Wednesday.  See you then!

The Boy Of My Dreams

One of my very first blog posts was about my oldest son, Adam:

There are two grown men that live in my house. One is my husband. The other is the 40-year-old man that is trapped inside the body of my 8-year-old son. This is the boy who stays abreast of speed limits in our city and alerts me when I’m exceeding them. He’s the boy who can use words like “vortex” and “nocturnal” with the same ease that other little boys say “boogers”. He’s the boy that will cut short a dessert because he says he’s “had too much sugar”. And when he expressed some anxiety over a bad dream the other night, he gladly noted how safe our home is since we’re “secured by ADT.”

Oh, I love that boy.

Yes, my boy--that funny, eager, thoughtful, clever, creative boy who turned me into a mother nine years ago this week.  And I'm proud to announce that tomorrow you get a chance to hear how great he is.  For a birthday treat, he wants to write a post here on my blog.  He's been working on post ideas for weeks!  Tomorrow is the big day--can I count on you to come back tomorrow, read, and flood him with wonderful comments? 

Happy birthday, sweet boy. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On a different note, I somehow got on the catalog mailing list for Tender Heart Treasures, and I'm so glad I did.  It's full of vintage-style merchandise that really is heartwarming.  You can order your own free catalog here.  (And no, this isn't a paid advertisement--I just think you'd enjoy it!)

Dad

Lightening I grew up in a big house atop a big hill.  My room had two large south-facing windows, perfect for watching a storm roll in.  My dad, an avid weather-watcher, never missed an opportunity to watch one of nature's fantastic stormy displays. 

So on every single stormy night of my growing-up years, the routine was the same: a deafening crack of thunder would jolt me out of a sound sleep, in a terror--but only for a moment.  Because I knew, before I even opened my eyes, that my dad would be standing at the foot of my four-poster bed, silhouetted in the lightning flashes, peering out my windows at the raging storm.  This conditioned me from a young age not to fear storms. I never had to doubt, even in the scariest moments, the presence of my father.

They say a child gains much of her perspective of her Heavenly Father from her earthly one.  I believe this.  For most of my life it has not been a stretch for me to trust a Father who stands guard over me, who is present even when the storms rage.

Thank you, Dad, for modeling such tender care for me.  Thank you for teaching me how to trust.  And thank you, thank you, for watching the storms.  Happy Father's Day.

(And while I'm at it, happy Father's Day to all the other great dads in my life--my uncle Jim and uncle Mike, my brother R, and of course, my sweet Hubs, the sweet daddy to my very blessed children.  You are all so special!)

I Say

Borrowing an idea from Megan at Half Pint House, here are seven things I say very, very often:

  1. Be a problem solver!
  2. The only people who can be bored are boring people.
  3. Stop standing on your brother's head (or elbow, or toe, or face, or chest...)
  4. You are the best 9 (7, 5, 1) year old in the whole world!
  5. QUIET!
  6. Would someone please watch Corrie?
  7. I love you from the top of my heart, to the bottom of my heart, and all the way around the middle.

If you want to play along, leave a note in my comment section below!

Download

Gardening With Testosterone

Weed_tarassaco_photo Tonight five-year-old Joseph and I were weeding a flower bed.  I smacked away at the weeds with the hoe, then he'd scoop up the remains with his hands.  After a few rounds of this, he said in a deep voice thick with macho satisfaction, "Mom, we are the plant breakers."

"I Write the Songs That Make the Young Thugs Fly..."

BarryOne of my good friends was eager to point me toward this story.  Evidently, city officials in Sydney, Australia, have had success dispersing gangs of thugs by playing Barry Manilow over the loud speakers.  The kids hear Barry wafting over their blaring 50 Cent, and they scatter like flies.

I have made no secret of my affinity for Barry Manilow.  You have not lived until, at the end of a long day, you've rolled down the windows of the mini-van and crooned along with "Mandy" while you're en route to your suburban grocery store.  (I have also made no secret of my utter lack of coolness, so just hush).  My Hubs, who is for the most part a highly "evolved" male who is in touch with his softer side, nonetheless draws the line at Barry Manilow exposure for our boys. 

Anyhoo, back to the thug story.  I'm feeling a little encouraged at the potential this holds for my rowdy household.  If Manilow works on a bunch of riot-prone hooligans, then I'm not afraid to crank him up at my own little band of occasional trouble-makers.  Hello, peace and quiet!

Remember to come back tomorrow for Works-For-Me Wednesday!  Guidelines, if you need them, can be found here.

Four

I had four babies in seven and a half years.  "How is it?" friends will sometimes ask.  "Is four a lot harder than three?"  Or, "is it completely chaotic in your house?"  Here's my answer.

We all remember the foggy, joyful terror of adjusting to life with the first child.  It was hard, certainly, but every ounce of life in your body focused on meeting the needs of that one little person.  You watched him breathe, you watched him sleep, you knew every twitch of his mouth and twinkle of his eye.  Life was good.

Then came number two.  Your attention is divided for the first time, and you face the panic of wondering what you'll do if they both need you at the same time.  But you realize, with thankfulness, that this is do-able: you have two arms, two parents, two lobes of your brain.  You learn the age-old dance of breastfeeding one baby in a frighteningly grungy convenience store bathroom while successfully helping your older child potty without touching a thing.  You watch the two little people you love most learn to love each other.  Life is exhausting, but good.

Enter baby number three.  You haven't just upset the proverbial apple cart, you have taken a sledgehammer to it.  Someone, at all times, is un-manned.  You've gone from a man-to-man to a zone defense (and that's my one sports analogy, girls, so enjoy it).  You attract looks of pity, and occasionally disdain, from elderly women at the grocery store.  But you suddenly are the spectator at a little mini-convention right in your own house.  You've gone from witnessing only one sibling relationship (1 and 2) to witnessing THREE--1 and 2; 2 and 3; 3 and 1 (go ahead and do the math, I'll wait...).  I'll tell you, life is pretty tricky, but it is oh-so-good.

Then along comes number four.  And you realize that with the last child, you breached the Chaos Threshold, a little-known hypothesis in the Book of Parental Physics that states "the incremental kinetic energy required to maintain domestic stasis is inversely proportional to the quantity of juvenile beings in the household. "  Roughly translated:  "So what's another one?"  The parents are already outnumbered and your house is already equipped with bunk beds and a deep freeze.  You're already in the car more often than you're in your bed.  Oh, the noise.  Oh, the laundry.  And OH, the fun.  There's always an Uno partner handy, always someone to grab a new box of wet wipes for the baby.  And somehow--though I wouldn't have believed it after that first baby--there's still enough love to go around.  Not always enough time, and certainly not enough detergent, but somehow the constant cameraderie seems to make up for it. 

So, chaos?  Yes, more than I ever dreamed I could handle. But joy?  More than I dreamed I would have.

If You Give a Kid a Cookie...

Chocolate_chip_cookie The headline on MSNBC yesterday read, "Strict Parents Tend To Have Overweight Kids."  The article explains the results of a study conducted at Boston University:

Strict mothers were nearly five times more likely to raise tubby first-graders than mothers who treated their children with flexibility and respect while also setting clear rules.

But while the children of flexible rule-setting moms avoided obesity, the children of neglectful mothers and permissive mothers were twice as likely to get fat.

Meaning that, once again, we moms are on the hook to strike the perfect balance of laid-backness vs. up-tightness.  Exhausting, isn't it?

Although this article is speaking about parenting styles in general (not just related to food), it does raise an issue I think of often--am I overseeing my kids eating habits well?  I have never been overly strict about sugar (largely--no pun intended--because I like it so much myself.)  We have junk food in our house; to eliminate it altogether would, I've always felt, turn it into a "forbidden fruit".  So there are Little Debbies in the cupboard and Fudge Stripes in the cookie jar, and the kids know they don't have free reign in the kitchen.  I allow them to have "sugar snacks" (as we call them) once an afternoon, and sometimes after dinner, if they eat an especially good meal.  Other snacks have to be "healthy" (peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, bananas, etc.) 

Our mealtime rules require that the kids take one bite of everything on their plates.  If, after one bite, the child doesn't like it, he doesn't have to eat anymore of that particular food item.  If I can tell it's a legitimate issue of taste, I let it drop; if it's more of a issue of stubborness, I'll refrigerate the leftovers and, when they say they're hungry (which they inevitably will), I offer them the leftovers.  I am NOT a short order cook--I just don't have the time for it.  If they get hungry enough, they'll eat has always been my kitchen mantra. 

I'll be the first to acknowledge that I've not had to deal with overly picky eaters.  I'm guessing this is not a result of my "good parenting", but more likely because God knew I would pull my hair out!  I have friends who have faced real challenges in this area, and my heart goes out to them.

In light of this topic, I'd be interested to hear your parenting philosophies on the subject of feeding your kids.   Have you discovered any tips that make dinner time more peaceful?  You experienced parents of picky eaters, have discovered any miracle "cures"? 

Remember that tomorrow is Works-For-Me Wednesday.  If you'd like to participate, please join in!  Guidelines, if you need them, can be found here.

A Story Worth Reading

Do you know who Norma McCorvey is?  She's better known as Jane Roe, as in Roe V. Wade.  Her story is unbelievably powerful, and I'll just spoil it if I give you a summary.  Grab a cup of coffee and send the kids outside to play; if you'll spend a few minutes reading Norma's story, I think you'll be glad you did.

**Edited to add:  Respectful, dissenting viewpoints are always welcome, but please, let's keep it civil.

To Hubs

Wedding_bells_k Through late-night talks and long drives, through first homes and old homes, through big cities and little towns, through loss and heartache, through laughing hard and fighting fair, through Adam and Stephen and Joseph and Corrie, through colic and tantrums, through bicycles and stomach viruses, through changes and sameness, through doubt and faith, through all of it, I stand next to you as happily now as I did in that church 12 years ago today. 

Happy anniversary, my sweet Hubs. 

Story Nory

Storynory Need more ideas for filling up your summer?  This site is a gold mine!  Story Nory is a selection of downloadable, read-aloud stories for children, often from the classics.  Best of all, it's free!  Be sure you visit their archives to see what stories are available. 

Memory Tools

In keeping with my earlier post, today I ordered this, this and this to help with our summer memory goals.

Thanks for all the tips!

Memory

We're crankin' up the memory juice around the Dryer house this summer.  I figure my kids better make good use of their fresh, young brains before, like me, they forget what month it is.  We have a list of things I am determined the boys will memorize during these hot and hazy days.  Here it is:

  • The books of the Bible (in order, of course).
  • The names of Jesus' disciples.
  • The names of the US presidents, again, in order.  I've actually promised $5 to the person who accomplishes this first.  Encouraging sibling rivalry?  Yes, we pretty much use whatever tools we have around here.
  • Philippians 2:6-11.  The whole family is memorizing this together.
  • The words to REM's "It's The End of the World As We Know It".  Just because we like head-banging to that song in the mini-van and we're all tired of singing "la-dee-da-dee-la..." during the fast parts.

Any interesting summertime goals in your house?

See you back here tomorrow for Works-For-Me Wednesday!

The Tree

Monday_memories_banner_2_1

My good friend Chilihead is starting a clever new series, "Monday Memories".  Go check it out and consider dusting of your own memories to share today.  Here's my contribution...

I was blessed to grow up in the same hometown as my paternal grandparents.  They lived on a large, wooded patch of land, and a stream meandered right through the middle of their property and under a little bridge halfway down their driveway.  I remember, as a child, thinking there could surely be nothing as magical as having your very own stream.  My brother, cousins and I spent so much time there, jumping across it (and occasionally landing in it), racing leaves and sticks down it, and the most daring of us (not me) actually crawled under the dark tunnel created by the bridge.

Dscn1986 But my favorite memory of my grandparents' little stream is a remarkable tree that grew out of its banks.  The base of the tree actually grew sideways out of the bank for about two feet, then the trunk shot straight up, forming a perfect "L".  And forming a perfect ledge for a young girl to sit on while swinging her legs over the creek below.

On playful days, it was a perfect perch for watching "leaf races"--we sailed them right under the tree.  On quieter days, the tree grew at a perfect angle to allow an imaginative child to lean back, close her eyes, and think of things as equally magical as a sideways-growing tree.  I'm quite sure that some of my best thoughts were thought sitting right there.

My grandparents are no longer with us, and that tree is owned by someone else.  Owned by someone else, but I like to think it still belongs to me.  I still go there, in my mind, when I need a place to breathe and think quiet thoughts.  And in my mind, I dangle my seven-year-old legs over the side, or I rest my twelve-year-old head against the sturdy trunk--because in remembering that tree, I remember the girl I was there.

Sum-Sum-Summertime

20447982 And so it begins.

Tuesday [insert dramatic swell of organ music] was the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL.  I'm truly excited to have my kids home, and out of the rat race, for three whole months.  I have the best of intentions for some structured activities, and plenty of R & R, as well.  I'm praying for a peaceful summer, with miraculously little bickering, utter consistency on my part, and cheerful cooperation from my kids.  That's reasonable, isn't it?

In all seriousness, last summer was a struggle for me, physically, spiritually and mentally (and here is where I pause to acknowledge that you wonderful homeschool moms are probably shaking your head to think that one short summer overwhelms me.  My hat is off to you.).  Last summer I found myself impatient, irritable and generally un-focused as a mother.  This summer, I'm determined, will NOT be a repeat.  I'm going to trim back--just a bit--my time spent blogging.  My focus belongs on my kids, and on my own sometimes-crabby heart!  Don't worry--Works-For-Me Wednesday isn't going anywhere. 

So here's to summer fun, pillow fights, tents in the living room, skinned knees, hair full of chlorine, bags full of library books, and the grace for this mom's heart to handle it with patience and humor.  I'm ready

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On a totally different note, to those of you out there who watch the show Lost--feel like dishing about the show last night?  I PROMISE, non-Losties, I won't turn this into a Lost blog, but it was the season finale.  Big stuff.  *SPOILER AHEAD, IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT*  Here's what I'm left wondering (among a bazillion other things, of course):

    • Is Desmond dead?  And oh-my-gosh WHAT is the deal with his old fiance...remember earlier in the show when she said, "If you have enough money and determination you can find anyone?"  Has she been looking for him all this time?  And I'm wondering now if her wealthy father is somehow deeply involved with this whole thing.  Could he be a Hanso guy?
    • And LIBBY met Desmond in a flashback.  What the heck?  Maybe, just maybe, we're going to find out about the back-story of Libby in the mental institution, after all. 
    • What was that "knowing look" that passed between Jack and Kate right before the Others slipped the hoods on?  Was it "I love you"?  Or maybe "Let's go kick some Other hiney"? 
    • And was it just me, or was Charlie acting a little strange in his last scene with Claire?  Why was he being evasive about what happened in the hatch?
    • Let me just go on record here as saying that you KNOW Sayid is going to swoop in and save the day, freeing Jack, Kate and Sawyer and wiping that annoying smirk off Henry's face.  Sayid always saves the day.  I love him.  He may be the most under-rated character on that show.

It will be a looooong summer waiting for answers, my friends. 

"Look, Ma, No Speech Delay!"

Thank you for your words of encouragement yesterday reassuring me about my daughter's lack of talking.  We had her evaluated by the speech pathologist yesterday afternoon, and I thought I'd let you know how it went.  You are going to think I'm exaggerating this story for comic effect.  I'm really not.

First, I should explain that we were having Corrie evaluated through a state program called Sooner Start.  It is an impressive program that provides developmental assessments (and therapy, if needed) to any child in the state of Oklahoma between birth and age three.  It is completely free to any resident, regardless of income or insurance situation.  Even more remarkably, all tests and therapy are done in the child's home.  [Let us pause and have a moment of stunned silence over a goverment program that is actually a good idea.]

So the appointment time arrived, and at my front door appear a speech pathologist, two child develpmental specialists, and a social worker.  They were pulling out all the stops.  We all sat on the floor with Corrie, and these women spread out all their paperwork, toys, etc.  Corrie was giddy with joy when she realized--very quickly--that she was going to be the center of attention at this little shin-dig.

I thanked the women profusely for coming and apologized ahead of time if I was just an overly-worried mother.  I ever-so-subtly reminded them that Corrie is my fourth child (read: "I know what I'm doing"), and I wouldn't have consulted them unless I were truly concerned.  "It's not that she has few words," I explained, "it's that she has NONE.  Not a one.  Not even mama--just no words."   I'm so glad I really stressed that last part, so that I could be nice and set-up for what was coming next.

The evaluation began, with the therapists employing all sorts of little games and tests.  Corrie was delighted--fully engaged and in total "performance" mode.  And guess what my little performer decided?  That now would be a good time to start speaking.  To every question they asked her, she happily responded, "Yeah!"  Three times they handed her something and she said, "Thank you."  When she successfully completed a couple of games, she proclaimed, "Did it!" And at one point she handed a toy to the speech therapist and said, "Take it." 

And I sat there trying desperately to look like a mom who knows what she's doing, all the while praying that the floor would open up and swallow me. 

Needless to say, Corrie's test results were such that she isn't "delayed enough" to qualify for therapy.  Actually, her test results were such that she isn't delayed at all.  Is it possible that she has been subtly using these words for a while and I had just somehow missed it?  Yes.  Or could she have been just unusually stimulated by all the excitement, and made dramatic leaps forward in her speech?  It's possible.

Or, could that little stinker have been sitting up in her crib during her nap time, rubbing those chubby little hands together and thinking, "Now this is gonna be fun..."?

She Who Does Not Speak

My sweet little Corrie--that adorable little tubby, huggy, pigtailed, blue-eyed, oh-so-stubborn, 18-month-old doll of mine.  She jabbers all day long in the unintelligible language of a one year old, complete with hand gestures and voice inflections, but she does not say any "real" words.  Not ONE.  Not even "mama".  In fact, the more I try to get her to try a word--any word--the farther that little chin juts out in try-and-make-me defiance.  She will take off on a 2-minute diatribe of Corrie-Speak, finish, look at me for a response, and laugh hysterically when I say, "Oh, really?" or "Sure!"  There is no telling what I'm agreeing to.  She's probably saying, "Hey Mom, when I'm 16, may I ride to California on the back of a motorcycle driven by a guy with a nose ring?"

So this is your chance, Blog World, to jump in and tell me I have no reason to be concerned that my 18 month old isn't speaking--NOT A WORD--yet (pretty please?  Reassure me!).  I've had her hearing tested, and later this afternoon--at the recommendation of our pediatrician--we're having her evaluated by a speech pathologist.  I totally expect that after five minutes with Corrie, the speech pathologist will look at me and say, "Mrs. Dryer, your daughter is not developmentally delayed, she is simply as stubborn as a two-headed mule."

Ah yes, but she is MY two-headed mule, with blonde pigtails.  I love that girl.

My good buddy Chilihead is starting a new weekly series today, "Memory Monday".  Go by and check it out, and dust off some of those memories to share with everyone.

Um, Thanks For That.

Seven-year-old Stephen was closely examining my new graphic today when he exclaimed, "Wow, except for that cartoon's skinny tummy, it looks just like you."

Huh?

Stephen's newest musical fascination is with '80's classic rock, and he's been walking around singing "I love rock 'n roll / so put another dime in the jukebox, baby..."  (I ask you, what God-fearing woman wouldn't swell with pride to have her first-grade son singing Joan Jett and the Blackhearts?)

But five-year-old Joseph, desperate to emulate his adored big brother, doesn't quite get the words.  At the grocery store this week I heard him singing under his breath, "I love rotten trolls..."

Feed the Birds

In effort (I suppose) to accumlate as much bird poop as possible on our patio, we are doing what we can to attract birds to our backyard this spring.  Here's what we're doing:

First, Adam constructed this clever little bird feeder at a Cub Scout meeting.  It's made simply of the bottom portion of a 2-liter coke bottle and string, with birdseed inside:

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Next, following the advice of a book Stephen brought home from the library, we cut out pieces of yarn and put it out in our bushes.  According to the book, the birds will come take the yarn for their nests, so we expect to be finding pieces of it scattered around our yard for years to come!

And there, my friends, is my nature-friendly effort for the spring.  Enjoy.  Now, we resume our regularly-scheduled mass consumption of styrofoam cups, disposable diapers and batteries.   

Yes, There ARE Still Places Like This

Dscn2055 I needed some recharging this weekend, and I got it.  While Hubs was out of town, the kids and I spent a quiet weekend with my parents in my old hometown, in the hills of rural Arkansas (let's call it Mayberry, for good reason.)Dscn2008

My dad grew up there, and my grandfather, and my great-grandfather.  It's a very small town of about 4,000 people--the kind of place where old men hang out at the gas station to drink coffee and everyone in town goes to the Friday night football games.  When I was in college, my dad sent me a copy of the weekly town paper, and one week a "bandit squirrel" Dscn2054causing some property damage made the front page. It's that kind of place.

When I lived there, of course, I couldn't wait to leave.  I thought it was dull and small-minded.  And to be sure, though it's easy to romanticize living in a Dscn2037Mayberry-esque, small, southern town, life isn't as uncomplicated as one might think.  There is little privacy.  My mother tells the story of, when she first moved to Mayberry after marriage, her next-door neighbor came over to compliment her on her lovely new towels.  Towels? my mother wondered, until she realized the neighbor had been inspecting what she was hanging on the clothesline in the backyard.

Now that I no longer live there, it's easier to dwell on my hometown's charm.  As I strolled the streets this weekend, camera in hand (and laughing as passing cars slowed down--I Dscn2009_1knew I would probably be dinnertime conversation at more than one table as folks discussed who was the strange lady with the camera), I felt the refreshment that can only come from touching our own roots.  I'm not that young girl anymore--I don't want to be.  But something in me just rests when I visit the place where I was Dscn2010completely carefree, not forced to make any decisions or take care of anyone else. 

And so, today, I'm thankful for that little town that used to frustrate me so much.  I'm thankful to  know there's still a place where the beauty parlor is a scene straight out of Steel Magnolias, and a lady taking pictures on the sidewalk is a reason to slow down your car.  Thanks, Mayberry.

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Two For Togetherness

JD at Tripping Over Cobblestone has tagged me on a meme (which SHE wrote, clever girl).  I've not been very good at responding to these lately, but I'm playing along with this one.  Hubs has been away on business for five looooong days, so it's fun to think this much about him.

Two for Togetherness

2 things you compliment your husband on while in his presence.

1. His shoulders/arms.

2. His cleverness.

2 compliments you make about your spouse to your friends.

1. He takes such good care of our family, in every way.

2. He is the tenderest of Daddies.

2 traits you married him/her for.

1. The way he made me laugh.

2. His honesty and loyalty.

2 days you cherished the most with your husband being together.

Okay, the obvious answers would be our wedding day and the birth of our kids, so I'm going to say those are a given and require myself to list two OTHERS.

1. When we had been dating for just a few weeks and were sitting across from each other holding hands over the table and he looked at me and said, "You have the most beautiful eyes."  *Sigh*  Ah, the days before we had to spend our restaurant meals opening Happy Meal toys and arguing over whether or not a french fry is a vegetable.

2. Walking hand-in-hand down Main Street USA in Disney World, a child between us and another on each side, happily knowing that life couldn't possibly get any sweeter than this.

2 material things you could give your husband if you just inherited a fortune.

1. A backpacking trip across Europe, stopping to stay in fabulous, luxurious hotels.

2. A little red Fiat convertible.

2 things you would miss the most if she/he left for two weeks.

1. Laughing, laughing, laughing.  And more laughing.

2. None of your business.

2 thoughts that crossed your mind when you first met/saw your spouse.

Honestly?  When I FIRST saw him?  Only one thought:

1. Ew, what a gross and sweaty and testerone-filled jerko this guy is.  (I'll tell you the whole story sometime).

2 favorite dates

1. Our first real date--a fancy restaurant and then tickets to the symphony.  Yes, the symphony--he knows how to woo a woman.  And when the symphony ended and we walked through the crowded lobby toward the car, he gently took my hand to steer me through all the people, and when the crowd parted he let go of my hand and I was SO disappointed.  *sigh*  I still get all tingly just thinking about it.

2. Truly, and it's not a "date", but just every evening with him is my favorite, after the kids have gone to bed and we sit on the couch to talk about our day.  Or NOT talk, just be.

2 funny odd things you love.

1. The way his leg gets all twitchy when he's excited about something.

2. His unbelievable mastery of the most random trivia.

2 two places you have lived with your spouse.

1. Chicago, Illinois

2. Somewhere, Oklahoma

2 favorite vacations

1. Cancun (our honeymoon)

2. Colorado

2 people I tag

1.  Chilihead

2.  Mary

Oh, and one more thing...

Mothersday

Just Tired

I tend to be pretty upbeat on this blog most of the time.  Lest that lead you to think I never get discouraged with the ins and outs of motherhood--and life--please think again.

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Lately, I can totally relate to this picture.  Not that I walk around with billowing hair and gown all day--for more accuracy, you'd need to replace the silky gown with grubby sweats, the flowing hair with a short, not-washed-in-two-days 'do, scatter a few Legos and Hot Wheels on the floor and smear some grape jelly on the chair.  But it's a good representation of how I've been feeling on the inside recently.

I'm tired.  Just tired.  Tired of laundry, tired of dishes, tired of permission slips and grocery shopping and diaper changing and bed making and....just tired.  I'm in a rut.  A big, fat, funky RUT.

I love my life.  I really, really do.  There's nothing I would rather do than take care of this family that I adore.  But some moments, do you ever just feel the weight of the responsibilities facing you, and they seem to loom on and on and on into the future and you wonder, "will I still be driving carpool when I'm 80?"  And of course, you won't, but doesn't it sometimes just feel like it?  And then I say things like this, and I think of the mother sitting with her baby in a tent in Sudan and I wonder what on earth I ever think I could complain about.  I feel like an ungrateful wretch, and I feel guily about that, which discourages me more, and....you get the idea.

If there is one thing I've learned in the last few years, it's that God isn't just present at the high points and the low points, He's smack dab in the middle of the doldrums, too.  In the places, like this one, where life just kind of stretches out in a flat, when-will-this-ever change place that isn't exactly painful, but just tedious.

The verse I come back to time and time again--my "banner" verse for this motherhood journey--is Psalm 73:26--

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I share that verse reluctantly, because I don't want to sound like life is just read-a-psalm-and-everything-will-be-rosy-tomorrow easy.  Chances are I'll wake up tomorrow with the same case of the blahs that I've had these last few weeks.  But you know what?  I'll get up and make breakfast--again.  I'll take the kids to school--again.  I'll drop off the dry cleaning and run to the store and load the dishwasher and fold underwear--again.  And eventually, somehow, the cloud will lift and I'll be back to the place of finding wonder in the things that have me pulling my hair out now.  I know this, because I've seen this rut many times before.  And I'll see it again. 

That's what that Psalm means to me.  When my heart is discontent and disinterested, He gently takes the reins for a while and steers me through the doldrums.  He puts my one foot in front of the other when I just want to curl up for a six-week nap.  And why am I telling you all this?  I'm not sure, really.  Maybe someone out there feels the same way too?  Let's just plug along, friend.

Really, I'm Not Making This Stuff Up

Perhaps you're beginning to wonder if this little "Joseph" character I write about is entirely exaggerated for the sake of a good laugh.  Really, he's not.  He's that funny, and that incorrigible. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see here, here, here, here and here.)  The latest?  I offered him some lemonade at lunch, and he declined.  "Why?" I asked him.  "Because," he replied, "lemonade makes me nervous."

Alrighty, then.

Making Allowances

21375885 I'm almost nine years into this motherhood journey, and I have avoided the subject of paying allowances as long as possible.  A) Because it sounds like a lot of work, and B) because I'm tighter than the bark on a tree.  But the time has come, whether I'm ready or not.

Here is where I throw myself on your mercy.  You're a smart bunch, and I am sure that many of you have systems in place that we could all learn from.  Please, would you consider sharing how your family has navigated the subject of allowances?  You can leave your ideas in my comment section, or write about it on your own blog (if you do, let me know, so I can come read about it!).  Some specific things Hubs and I are wrestling with:

    • In your home, are chores tied to allowances, or are they two unrelated entities?
    • How do you keep up with the kids' chores?  Finely detailed charts seem a little overwhelming to me--how have you managed this? 
    • What's a good age to begin paying kids allowances?
    • What is a reasonable amount of money for the various age groups?
    • Do you pay weekly or daily?
    • Any other thoughts...please share them!

Please, throw in your two cents' worth (pun totally intended)!

As long as I'm shamelessly milking you for clever ideas, are you thinking about your post for Works-For-Me Wednesday?  Remember, if you participate, please come back here and let me know, so I can link to you!

My Carpet Isn't Crunchy!

Let us all join hands and have a moment of silence in honor of this...

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And what is THAT, you might ask?  Lean in, really closely...that's right, lean in to your monitors and take a nice big whiff...go ahead....what do you smell?  Nothing?  EXACTLY!  No graham crackers, no wet grass, no Little Debbies, no doggie tinkle--that is pure, clean, fresh-smelling, professionally-cleaned carpet.  In MY living room.  It doesn't happen often around this house, so I thought I should record it for posterity in cyberspace.   

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And Joseph was oh-so-helpful, too.  After the carpet man left, Joseph walked around the floor with a gift wrap roll, BLOWING on the carpet to try to dry it.  He nearly hyper-ventilated, but he was having so much fun I couldn't bring myself to stop him.

(And I have to know...did any of you really lean and sniff your monitors?  C'mon...'fess up!  I only ask that because it's exactly the sort of thing I would do).

A Saturday In Pictures

I'm drawing a big, fat bloggin' blank today,  so I'll let my pictures do the talking this afternoon.

Earlier this week, a group of girlfriends and I got together to paint ceramics at a local paint-your-own pottery shop.  This morning I picked up the finished products.  I was kind of pleased with how mine turned out!  I made one of those "special occasion" plates you can use to serve up dinner for a family member who had a big event...or just a bad day.  Here's a picture:

Plate

Afterwards, we headed out to the last soccer game of the season...in the POURING rain.  Here's my boy (#10) doing his best to hit every possible puddle on the field:

Soccer

And here's a shot of what his legs looked like at halftime:

Feet

After six months of utter drought in Oklahoma, we have caught up completely on our rainfall--IN THE LAST FIVE DAYS.  It is a swamp around here!.  Here is one section of my backyard:

Puddle

Joseph saw me taking the above picture, and suggested that I take a picture of the mozzarella cheese stick he was eating.  "Why?" I asked him.  "Because we've never taken a picture of cheese before," he replied.  Well, he's got me there

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Last but not least, the kids thawed out from the rainy soccer game by cuddling in front of Chicken Little.  Here's a picture of my youngest and my oldest (and my dog):

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Hope you and yours are having a restful weekend.  Now quick--go take a picture of cheese with someone you love.

Now Hiring: Automotive Engineer

Stephen has his sights set on designing cars someday.  In preparation for this, he sent the following packet of car designs (the rectangular stapled papers, each bearing a front and side car design) and letter to Honda:

Honda

If you click on the photo it will show you a larger, easier-to-read format.  But just in case, I'll offer the text of his letter:

Dear Honda,

I'm 7 years old.  I want to be a car designer.  Here are some ideas for you to turn into real cars.  Bye, Honda.

Your friend,

Stephen X

P.S.--These are cars that have never been discovered.

Remember, tomorrow is Works-For-Me Wednesday.  Y'all have been making it so much fun--I hope you'll consider participating with YOUR great ideas for what works in your household.

At Least I'm Trying...

Little boys and good manners.  You don't find those two phrases in the same sentence very often, and for good reason.  If they aren't passing gas, they're talking about it. 

Mannerbook

For those of you with the male variety of offspring, I thought I'd pass along a book recommendation.  We keep this book at the dinner table and read a chapter over dinner a couple of nights a week.  It presents real-life scenarios in which boys can see why manners matter, and they can practice making judgment calls.  I'm learning that little boys actually, truly believe that the 47th dirty diaper joke of the day is funny.  If you can explain why it's not, the reasoning might actually stick. 

Then after dinner, the book is the perfect size to use for spit-wad target practice.

On Coolness

Johntravolta01 Hubs and I are not cool.  I listen to Barry Manilow with regularity, and Hubs (I'm not kidding) once watched a two-hour PBS documentary on Shitake mushrooms.  I mean, we're fun to be around, we're blessed with lots of friends, but do not have that quintessential whatever-it-is that makes a person supremely cool (which, I might add, is perfectly fine with us). 

It would stand to reason that two un-cool parents would produce equally un-cool offspring, wouldn't it?  If this were biological fact, then someone switched our second son at the hospital.

Stephen, age 7, is naturally cool.  He can smoothly navigate any social situation, and he effortlessly finds himself at the center of the crowd wherever he goes.  He's a born leader, regularly forming (and heading) "clubs" of boys on the playground.  He certainly didn't learn this skill from us, so somewhere in this little boy's genetic code there must be a DNA molecule wearing an iPod.   

Case in point:  Stephen has a growing awareness of what music is popular right now--an awareness that was getting out of hand.  He was coming home from school singing Gwen Stefani (whose music I actually like, but not all her lyrics belong in the mouth of a 1st grader).  So one evening Stephen and I sat down at the computer together to create him a CD of "cool" music with a positive message.  We browsed through the Newsboys and Worship Jamz, but Stephen insisted on hearing a preview of any song we downloaded.  Because, in his words, "I want to make sure it sounds like hip-hop, not funk.  I don't like funk."  Hip-hop?  Funk?  Where is he getting this stuff--on the playground?  Doesn't anyone play Red Rover these days?

When we stumbled upon the Newsboys song WooHoo, my blond-haired, snaggle-toothed boy exclaimed (in his best gangsta voice), "Aww, yeah, Mom, that's TIGHT!"  "Tight?" I asked him.  He just grinned.  "Yeah, you know, tight.  Good.  Cool." 

(And may I pause to point out that I correctly used the term "gansta" in the previous paragraph, so perhaps there is hope for me still).

While Stephen's coolness is entertaining, we're not so naive to miss this red flags in this.  He may be a little too sophisticated for his own good, and I sometimes feel my hands tightening around the reins, gearing up for what may be a bumpy ride through adolescence.  Very often I ask God to hold that hip little heart in His hands, and use Stephen's social giftedness to draw others to Him.  Mercifully, even in Stephen's coolness, he is blessed with a soft heart and a natural compassion.  He told me last week that his current playground "club" meets under the slide at recess to "pray and talk about being nice to girls." If you ask me, I'd say that's pretty tight.

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Dscn1509 My youngest boy is turning five tomorrow.  My baby boy.  This is the boy who has carved lightning bolts into my mini-van, poured honey on my carpet, spread Hershey's syrup on my dog--and utterly, completely nestled himself into the deepest part of my heart.  His tendency toward mischief is overshadowed entirely by his tender heart for the people around him.  He loves his family with complete abandon, and his teacher brags on how kind he is to his fellow students, especially those that need extra encouragement.  He cannot walk past his little sister without kissing her on the forehead, and our dog, confident in receiving Joseph's generous affection, follows him around all day long.

Dscn1816 Each of my children has brought something unique to this family, filling a spot that no one else could fill.  Joseph is the child who has, in five short years, taught me so much about the nature of love--its unselfishness and its simplicity.  So happy birthday, sweet boy...we all love a little better all because of you.

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On an entirely different note, remember that tomorrow is the second edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday.  Be preparing your handy ideas to share with us all!  I'll link to anyone who participates, if you'll let me know.

To Schedule or NOT To Schedule?

19846709 Julie from Everyday Mommy is brave enough to take on the subject of "Putting Baby on a Schedule", and she's asking some other blog moms to weigh in.  Since I'm so honored that she asked me specifically, I'll venture into these choppy waters myself.

I am, by nature, a scheduler.  When my first baby was born almost nine years ago, I totally bought into one parenting "program" in particular that advocated rather rigid structures for babies.  I spent the first three months of my son's life in tears, utterly frustrated that he just wouldn't nurse exactly the way I wanted him to, when I wanted him to, etc.  To be perfectly frank, I missed out on some sweet times because I felt so "guilted" into making sure his little day ran like a clock. 

By the second baby, I was considerably more laid back about things, but I still held The Perfect Schedule as some sort of ideal that we might reach if we moved toward it gradually.  Meal times and naptimes were at precisely the same time each day, and this was do-able--with two little ones at home, we could be the master of our own timetables.

But later, as baby number three, and even moreso baby number four joined our family ranks, schedules flew quickly out the window.  We ARE at the mercy of others now--we have school plays and Cub Scouts and swim lessons and soccer practice and a generally busy life on the go.  Sometimes, naptime happens in the car.  Sometimes meal time is an hour late and in the McDonald's parking lot.  And guess what?  No one has died from it.  In fact, I find that my youngest two kids are a little more adaptable than the older two, and I can't help but wonder if this is a function of our more free-wheeling way of doing things. 

Of course, it is always nice to have a general idea of what's coming next.  When possible, we stick to a skeleton of a schedule for the littler ones around here.  Waking up and bedtime are at generally the same time each day, and I try to make sure that 4-5 days a week naptime is quiet and at home.  (For all things sleep-related, our family has sworn by the book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber).  But if the regular naps can't quite happen, I've learned that the world will, in fact, continue spinning.  And if the affected child is a little extra grumpy for a day or two...well, it will pass, and we'll all learn patience in the meantime.

*IF YOU ONLY READ ONE PORTION OF THIS POST, MAKE IT THIS NEXT PART*

You may see a variety of things on my blog, but you will never hear me say that ONE parenting method is the ONLY way.  (And honestly, I'd be extremely leery of anyone who claimed otherwise).  Always, always, consideration must be given to the individual personalities of both baby and parent.  For some families, tight schedules seem to be an important part of maintaining family peace.  For others, the complete absence of structure is their natural rhythm.  For most families, like mine, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is perfectly adequate.   As long as needs are being met, children are being loved and taught, and marriages are being respected, I salute any family that is doing its best. 

Surfin' USA

No, you're not imagining things--there's a new look up at my blog today.  It's part of my feeble effort at teaching myself PhotoShop.  A good blogging friend of mine is designing a fancy-shmancy new header for me; in the meantime, I thought I'd play around with my own limited skills.

Anyhoo....

Today I'm putting together a birthday party for 15 five-year-old little boys--don't YOU wish you could come?  So since all my mental energy is being spent stuffing soccer gift bags, I'll forward you on to some funny web sites I've found recently:

Have you ever heard of the book Lamentations of the Father, by Ian Frazier?  You can read the piece in its hilarious entirety here.  It's long, but trust me, you will want to stay with it.

Oh, and I have to show you this site.  There are not words to describe how happy I am to see all these great quotes in one place.

Lastly, here's a fun site to play around on with your kids.  It's also a fun site to play around on after the kids go to bed and you can pretend you're a lounge singer singing Barbara Streisand songs.  Not that I've done that, of course.

Have a good weekend, friends!

What I Learned At Disney World

Disney_2006_073 Last Disney post, I PROMISE.  But I've received several e-mails and comments from people that you'd like to do a Disney trip yourself.  While it's still relatively fresh on my mind, I thought I'd share what I learned.

  1. Absolutely, first and foremost, realize ahead of time that you SIMPLY CANNOT SEE EVERYTHING.  Unless, of course, you're planning to stay for six months.  Realize you'll have to pick and choose; otherwise, you'll be exhausted.  And realize your kids might enjoy things you didn't think they would--be flexible.
  2. Contrary to what the books and websites would indicate, you do NOT need to be a logistical engineer to have a successful Disney vacation.  You do NOT need to know everything about every ride and every restaurant and every character to enjoy yourself.  In fact, I really believe now that over-researching may only cause stress.  My advice?  Find a friend who is knowledgable about Disney (in my case, it was Chilihead).  Ask him or her for the "highlights"; what you MUST know.  The rest is just gravy.
  3. Stay on-site, and get the dining plan.  It seems like a lot of money up front, but it is actually a great value.
  4. Travel with another family!  We went with dear friends, and it was extra fun.  Having more adults on hand to help out makes a big difference. 
  5. As for individual rides and attractions, every family is different.  Go to www.allearsnet.com to get the run-down on individual rides.  Actually, that website is indispensible for all things Disney.  Surprisingly, the official Disney site is hard to navigate and essentially useless.
  6. Rent a stroller, even if your kids are typically too old for one.  You do SO much walking at Disney World that it's just too much for little legs.  We rented a double stroller for our 8, 7 and 4 year old, and it was the best money we spent all week.
  7. Buy the Park-Hopper variety of park tickets.  It allows you to go back and forth freely between your hotel and all the parks.  This is especially nice when you're pooped by 3 pm and need a rest before evening activities.
  8. One word:  FIREWORKS.  Find out when they are at each park, and don't miss 'em.  Ever.
  9. If time or budget requires that you miss a park, I'd recommend passing on Animal Kingdom.  It's certainly fun, but it's essentially a glorified zoo.  (Though read up on this for yourself--if you're a real animal lover you might have a different opinion).  Also, we skipped the water parks on our trip, and we were glad we did--for us, five days wasn't enough to have included that. 
  10. Take a deep breath, and have fun!

Momma Earp

CowboyOne of Hubs' favorite movies is Tombstone, and I don't get it.  Evidently you need a fair amount of testosterone coursing through your veins to understand the allure of this movie.  In Hubs' favorite scene, Wyatt Earp stares down the Bad Guys, his gaze steely and his jaw twitching, and he growls, "You tell 'em I'm comin', and I'm bringin' Hell with me."  And every time--every time--Hubs' fists punch the air and he whoops in manly approval.  We have to rewind to watch that scene again.  And again.  And I just don't get it. 

Until last weekend.

It was a long day.  We had a houseful of little boys for a sleepover the night before, and they stayed up late.  Then at the crack of dawn, we were awakened by the unmistakable sounds of Nintendo.  The savages had awakened at six-flippin'-thirty on a Saturday morning.  The day drug on, including an episode of car trouble and a soccer match in icy wind.  Exhausted, we decided we were due a nice dinner.   We hauled our rowdy crew to our favorite Mexican food place, where a live band was playing.  Over-tired and over-stimulated, the savages were predictably savage as we endured the dreaded "can't-they-control-their-kids" stares from fellow patrons.  Corrie dumped a plate of rice in the floor, and Stephen found a way to flip tortilla chips across the table using only a knife.  Good times. 

Summoning my last ounce of patience, we came home and headed the kids to bed, but they had other plans.  The armpit noises during prayer time was what finally sent me over the edge.

"That's IT!" I shouted, in the snarliest mom-voice I could muster.  "You're going to bed, and I'm going downstairs, and if I have to come back up here..."  And I'm not kidding, for some reason that movie line popped into my head, and it took every ounce of my will power NOT to say "...I'm bringin' Hell with me!" 

Now where in the heck did THAT come from?  I guess this ol' momma has a little more fire in her belly than I thought. 

I Never Said I Was "Mother Of the Year"

THIS is what happens when you let a one year old play with an brown marker (which you thought was old, dried-up and empty) in an effort to get some blogging done:

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The picture doesn't do it justice--the brown goo was all over her teeth and gums, too.  She drooled brown for half an hour.

As further evidence of my expert mothering skills, please note that before I cleaned her up I had to take a picture of her nasty mouth FOR MY BLOG.  Yes, I have fallen far, indeed.

To Walk

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My one-year-old daughter Corrie has only been walking for a few weeks, and she still prefers crawling.  Walking is hard, and her little legs tire easily--I have to push her ever-so-gently to practice this new skill.

Yesterday as we left a store, I put her down on the sidewalk, took her hand, and coaxed her toward the car.  Her steps were awkward and slow, and she wasn't particularly happy with me--but we still made progress. 

After several yards we approached some steep stairs, and we saw them at the same time.  Before I could reach down to lift her, she cried out in fear at this scary obstacle ahead, dropping to her bottom right on the sidewalk.  I swooped her up into my arms and laughed as I kissed her head.  "Silly girl," I whispered.  "You know I'll carry you through the really hard parts.  But sometimes you just have to walk."

Like a lightning bolt, the thought hit me:  how many times has God whispered that same thought to me?  I cry out in fear at the obstacle in front of me, and like a frightened toddler I want to stop walking and SIT right where I am.  Just as I have to coax my daughter into strengthening her little legs, my Father has to push me to strengthen mine.  When I'd rather sit, He sometimes pushes.  But He never lets my legs give way--when the road gets too steep for me, He carries me and sets me down gently on the other side. 

Certainly my steps aren't pretty.  To Him I must look like a bumbling toddler much of the time.  But just as I could never disdain my daughter's efforts, He will never disdain mine.  He'll push, pull, coax and carry, but always we'll move forward.  Together.

That's where the metaphor ends.  The day will come when Corrie will let go of my hand and run ahead on her own.  But not me.  As I walk this journey of faith, my steps will hopefully strengthen, but He will never, NEVER let go of my hand.

Miscarriage Resources

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I know this is a heart-rending subject, and this will be my last post about it for a while.  But so many of you shared wonderful responses to this post (I urge you to go back and read the comments, if you haven't already), prompting me to do some of my own research as well.  I'd like to put it all in one place here, and if you can think of any additional resources, please add them to the comments.

  • Here are the lyrics for a beautiful song I'd never heard before--I urge you to download "Glory Baby" by Watermark.
  • Another lovely song is "Visitor From Heaven" by Twila Paris--you can find the lyrics here.
  • Artistic Memories by Alice produces several beautiful remembrances for parents who have lost a child.  While you're there, browse around at all her stuff--quite moving!
  • I found this book after our miscarriage.  It's a tear-jerker, but it's so comforting too.
  • Here's a journal to help in the grieving process so unique to a mother who has miscarried.
  • There are several on-line support groups, such as PAM, Silent Grief, and one hosted by i-Village.
  • Here is some beautiful jewelry to be a tangible reminder of such an intangible loss.  Also, you can find some more here.

Bascially, you confirmed in your comments what I already felt--it is so important, when ministering to a friend who has miscarried, to do whatever you can to help validate her loss.  As Mopsy said,

We received flowers and plants, cards and even had dinner brought to us for a few nights. These gestures helped our healing process and somehow validated that what we were going through was more than a bad medical day---it was the death of a dream, deep and real sorrow.

One last thought....

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Word art is courtesy of Butternug Squash Designs.  Hope you all have a happy weekend!

Further Proof That Motherhood Is Eroding My Brain Cells

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For a split second today, I honest-to-gosh thought I smelled a dirty diaper OVER THE BABY MONITOR.

Please, oh please, share some of your stupider mothering moments so that I won't feel quite so bad.  Please?

What To Say

So many of you left kind comments about yesterday's post about my miscarriage--thank you.  I wasn't surprised to read that many of you have had similar experiences.  A few of you also shared my frustration at the hurtful (though well-meaning) things people say to a woman who has miscarried.  Emily commented--

I've wondered if there is anything that can be "safely" said in comfort. We're all different and I wonder if something that would be comforting to one person would be painful to another.

Good question, Emily.  Since miscarriage is an all-too-common occurrence, I thought this might make an interesting discussion.  Here are some of the comments I heard that stung:

  • You can always have another baby.
  • This is actually a blessing, because a miscarriage means that something was really wrong with the baby.
  • Thank goodness you weren't attached to him/her yet.
  • It's "just" a miscarriage--they're very common.
  • At least you know you can get pregnant.
  • How soon are you going to try again?

"So," you might ask, "what CAN I say?"  Honestly, I was the most comforted by people who simply said, "I'm so sorry for your loss," or "I'm praying for you--is there anything else I can do?" and then left it at that.  The simpler, the better.  If you know someone who has recently suffered such a miscarriage, don't try to talk her out of grieving or minimize what she's experiencing.  Just acknowledge that her loss is very real, and be willing to listen.

Does anyone else have any ideas on how we can minister to a friend hurting from such a loss?

Totally unrelated note to my friends out there using Blogger:  I have been trying to comment on your blogs all morning...is something up with Blogger?  I'm tellin' you, you're going to have to switch to Typepad.  You'll love it!

Remembering

I remember the early days of my very first pregnancy, blissfully cloud-walking at the thought of becoming a mother.

I remember the sound of my parents' voices when they heard the news that I was expecting their first grandchild.

I remember looking at nursery furniture and baby clothes, with a grin that simply would not wipe off my face.

I remember the crushing weight that collapsed onto my chest in that ultrasound room at 10 weeks--not only had the baby died, but the baby had died 5 weeks earlier and my body simply didn't "get it".

I remember waking from the anesthesia crying and calling out my husband's namChrysanthemume, and the nurses' gentle assurance that I would see him soon.

I remember lying in my bed, blinds drawn and phone off, wondering how I would ever face the world without that little person inside me. 

I remember that I couldn't place my hand on my belly for weeks.

I remember the painful things that well-meaning people would say, and how I would physically cringe:  "At least you weren't attached to the baby yet,"  "You can always have another one,"  "This is actually a blessing"...

I remember marvelling at how I could feel so much pain and so much peace at the same time.

I remember learning that the hole left in my heart wouldn't be filled by another baby, or anything else--that it might just stay there.

I remember rocking Adam, my next-born, and realizing with wonder that if the first baby had been carried to term, we wouldn't have conceived Adam.  And I remember being flooded with assurance that our God is sovereign, and very good.

It was ten years ago this week, but I still remember.  That little hole in my heart is still there, but it no longer hurts--it's more of a "souvenir" of experience I don't want to forget.  My home and heart are full of happy, noisy, funny memories enough to mull over for a lifetime.  But with my treasured box of few tangible reminders (sympathy cards, hospital records, and even a faded pregnancy test) I remember--I will always remember--my few short weeks as that first little baby's mother.  And I smile.

Why My Kitchen Smells Like a Baby's Backside

Adcreamoriginallarge While I was unloading groceries today, Corrie somehow got her hands on a tube of A&D diaper rash ointment.  Would you like to guess what a one year old does with a tube of greasy mess?  Spreads it all over a section of the kitchen floor, of course.  And as I walked around the room putting away groceries, oblivious to what was going on (mysterious, sticky spots on my kitchen floor are absolutely NOTHING out of the ordinary around here), I tracked the stuff all over the kitchen.  Guess what?  A&D Ointment doesn't wipe up easily.  Actually, A&D Ointment doesn't wipe up at all.  For the rest of the time we own this house, I believe there is going to be a thin, sticky film of the stuff covering my floor.  We are finding globs of A&D on anything that has touched the floor today.  When Hubs picked up a 12-pack of diet Coke that had been sitting on the floor, he said, "What is this sticky stuff on the box... *sniff, sniff*...is that diaper rash medicine?"  (How much do I love this man that he recognizes the smell of diaper rash medicine?  What a keeper.)

But I'm looking on the bright side:  the next time she has a diaper rash, I can just put her naked little booty on the floor and tell her to scoot.

Words, Words, Words

Words Recently my oldest son Adam approached me with a look of disgust.  "Stephen just said the F-word," he said.  "He did WHAT?"  I gasped, my heart in my throat.  Adam looked over his shoulder and whispered, "You know....fart."

Bad words.  Mean words.  Disrepectful words.  Words that are mean to your brother.  Words that don't please God.  So much of parenting seems to be the managing of what comes out of these little creatures' mouths.  My sweet Adam, who has a conscience the size of a Mac truck, had another interesting conversation with me last week:

Adam:  Mom, I'm ashamed of something.

Me:  What is it?

Adam:  When I go over to Joey's house, he's allowed to use some bad words.  And sometimes I use them too, while I'm over there. 

Me:  What are the words?

Adam:  [swallowing hard]  "Shut up" and "stupid".

Me:  Do you know why this is bothering you?  [He looked up expectantly].  Because when you use words like that, you're disobeying your parents.  That's sin, and God is pretty clear that when sin sits in your heart for a while, it's going to hurt.

Adam:  [Pausing for reflection]  I know.  But sometimes they're so just so much fun to say! 

This led to a long discussion about what makes bad words bad, and good words good.  In the interest of picking battles, I even negotiated a little on adding a "borderline" word to our repertoire, with some boundaries (they can say "dumb", as long as they're not applying it to a person.)

Like most families, we've developed an unofficial list of "off-limits words" and "use carefully" words:

"OFF LIMITS" WORDS: (other than the obvious four-letter variety):  "stupid", "shut up", "hate", and a whole host of descriptors for bodily functions and parts that I omit here.

"USE CAREFULLY" WORDS:  "dumb", "whatever" (that one drives me nuts), "darn" and "dang" (which they, um, learned from their mother)

Then, of course, there's that all-important communication tool that matters (to me) even more than the words themselves:  tone of voice.  Not an easy thing to describe, is it?  Seven-year-old Stephen has a penchant for putting a little too much fire in his tone, leading to our concern that he might, in fact, develop a taste for soap in his mouth someday.

So tell me, experienced moms out there...how do you make these decisions in your household?  What's your family list of "off-limits" words?  How do you make those determinations?  What kind of punishment awaits the offender?  Any tips on keeping respectful tones coming out of their little mouths?

When All Else Fails, Post Funny Kid Stories

My 7-year-old son approached me in the kitchen with a look of great pride on his face.

Son: Did you see that I helped feed Corrie?  I was really helpful, wasn't I?

Me: Yes, thank you.

Son:  So what do I get?

Me:  Your mother's deep appreciation.

Son: [long, disappointed pause]  Anything else?

Here's another one:

After dinner tonight the kids were being especially LOUD.  "BOYS!" I shouted, exasperated, and speaking slowly for emphasis.  "MOM...WANTS...QUIET."  Joseph looked up at me innocently and said, "JOSEPH...WANTS...LOUD."

Last one, I promise.  This is from our Family Archives Of Funniest Kid Stories. 

A couple of years ago, Adam (then 5) had drawn a poster for a poster contest in Sunday school.  On it, he drew a picture of the earth, and at the top was a picture of Jesus on the cross.  There were tears rolling down Jesus' face, and big scary nails poking out of His hands.  We listened as he showed it to his brother Stephen in the backseat.  Stephen asked, "Why is He crying?"  "Because," Adam answered, "He was hoping the bad guys would use tape."

Signs of Spring

I once heard a mom say that she could tell it was spring when her good spoons started disappearing into the sandbox.  And how true it is--the trees start budding and my little boys begin their backyard antics for the season.  I'll share some pictures of what is already underway.

A helicopter becomes a propellor:

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A decorative ship's steering wheel, dangling from a shoelace, becomes a handy place to hang badminton rackets (that may be the oddest sentence I've ever written):

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The upper level of the fort becomes...well, I'm not sure what they had in mind, but evidently lawn chairs, orange cones and hocky pucks are part of the plan.

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I love this time of year!

to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves

--ee cummings

Treasure Tuesday

This morning I thought I'd play along with Faithful Mommy's Treasure Tuesday.  There are few things I treasure more than family photos, and the older the better.  This is one of my very favorites:

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Those are my paternal grandparents, when they were 22 years old.  This picture was taken a couple of months after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  My grandfather was stationed in Washington State, and the West Coast was (understandably) under a huge strain after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  Blackouts and bombing drills were a regular part of life as residents fully expected that they would be attacked next. My grandmother described it as a frightening time, but still a sweet one for her, as she was still a newlywed in her first home with my grandfather.  Only a couple more months after this was taken, my grandfather was deployed for two years.  My grandmother wrote to him every single day.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig...

And....we're home.  *happy sigh*  What an amazing week.

First, I need to update you from where I left off.  On Thursday we spent the day at Epcot (everyone's tummies had recovered miraculously overnight).  During my past Disney visits, Epcot had always been my favorite.  But with little kids in tow, it definitely didn't have the pull that the Magic Kingdom had.  We made a relatively quick sachet through the "World Showcase", stopping in Germany for a lunch for which we'd had reservations for months.  Note to self:  if your family is just recovering from a stomach bug, do NOT visit a restaurant that smells like sauerkraut and beets.  Thankfully everyone was able to stomach his schnitzel, and we moved along.  Here's a picture of my crew in front of our restaurant:

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The front half of Epcot, if you've never been there, is a wonderland for imaginative kids.  My boys wanted to see and touch EVERYthing, and we darn near managed it.  The highlights of the day was a virtual hang-gliding journey in Soarin', and Hubs and the two younger boys raved about the ride Test Track (Adam and I sat that one out).

On to Friday...our last day at the park.  We woke up early, packed, and headed out to Animal Kingdom for a character breakfast with Donald Duck.  Mickey, Goofy and Pluto were there as well.  We saw the Festival of the Lion King, a shortened version of the Broadway play...OH, MY GOSH!  It was breathtaking.  We met a few more characters and then took the Monorail back to the Magic Kingdom (we were able to sit up front with the driver--a real thrill!).  That last day at the Magic Kingdom was so full I don't even know how to summarize it.  We saw everything we wanted to, and a few things twice.  The weather was perfect.  I bought a much-cherished souvenir--silhouettes of my boys made at Liberty Square.  Hubs and Adam were even able to get reservations for the Pooh character lunch Adam missed on his sick day.  Things were going SO well.

Until....

We ate dinner at Pecos Bill's, with plans to watch the Spectro Magic parade and fireworks show again before climbing in the car to make the drive home.  After dinner, we sat leisurely in the restaurant, until our nasty little stomach bug made a VERY sudden appearance with ME.  With the room (literally) spinning, I ran to the bathroom, where I camped out for a very long time.  Remarkably, I never actually threw up (because I'm sure you were wanting to know), but I hovered on the edge of death in that bathroom--or so it felt.  I knew I would have to somehow make it out of the park, but I could barely pull myself off the floor.  Finally I stumbled out to our table, where my sweet Hubs had four Disney bags cleared out and ready for me to chufe into as we dashed out of the park. 

Just as we attempted our sailing exit out of the restaurant...THE PARADE STARTED.  You Disney veterans know that nothing short of nuclear war could interrupt a Disney parade.  So Hubs somehow managed some creative steering through stores and alleyways, dragging three boys and a very green momma behind him.  Who needs a "Prince Charming" when you have the real thing?  What a guy!

Long story short, we made it out of the park and to our car with no embarrassing, um, "episodes".  We only drove an hour out of Orlando before we all collapsed into a hotel bed from exhaustion over the drama.

True to the form of this virus, I was fine the next morning.  Our trip back was safe and uneventful.  My boys mercifully have overlooked our less-than-stellar parting from Disney World and have talked non-stop about their happy memories.  Their hearts and autograph books are full!  Really, stomach virus and all, we couldn't have had a better week.  We are so blessed!

Now we're home, and my house is piled high with dirty laundry, suitcases, and a wide assortment of souvenirs that seemed like a good idea at the time.  My daughter had a wonderful time with my parents (though it took her about 30 minutes to decided if she still liked us!), and my house seems enormous to me after 10 days in a hotel room.  It's a happy night indeed.

Thank you to those of you who read along and gave encouragement and prayers during our wild week!  It was fun to share it with you.  Bear with me; it may take me all week to catch up on comments, e-mail and other blogs!  I missed my blogging friends even more than I expected I would--y'all are the best!

Signing off, for some laundry and rest....

Sore Feet, Sunburned Faces, Queasy Tummies, and VERY Happy Hearts

No time for a long post right now.  I'm in a hotel in Tupelo, MS, typing while my family sleeps, and they keep shushing me!  Our trip was great, and when I can get my head to stop spinning I'll fill you in on the disney-riffic details.  We had an absolutely wonderful time, beyond my wildest expectations--even with the little stomach bug thrown in for good measure.  So until I can sit down for a longer post, I'll leave you with this picture of my sweetie and me....

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Day Six: Stomach Virus **UPDATED**

Yep, nothing like a little vomiting to spice up a Disney vacation, is there? 

Adam awakened in the middle of the night throwing up.  My trooper of a husband stayed home with him this morning while I took the younger boys back to Magic Kingdom.  We lasted a few hours and saw some wonderful sights.  We headed back to the hotel, with word from my husband that Adam was improving when...what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Joseph throwing up on the sidewalk!  We dashed back to the room, got Joseph in bed...and then Hubs started with the chufing.  Now Stephen and I are the only two who aren't sick....YET.

However...if you can't find a silver lining on your cloud when you're in Disney World, then where can you?  Here's what we have to be thankful for tonight:

  • Hubs and Adam actually a sweet time together this morning, alone at the hotel--many good talks and TLC.
  • The two "healthy" days we had at the park were, on their own, worth the trip down here.
  • While all the "patients" slept in the hotel room, Stephen and I had a ball of an afternoon swimming, walking the grounds, and eating dinner, just the two of us. 
  • Our dear friends here with us, the W family, are offering us all the help they can.  To make up for Adam's disappointing day today, they've assured us they'll take him to the park if we're unable to.  What good friends we have.
  • Stephen, Joseph and I had a ball in AdventureLand this morning, with the Jungle Cruise being a big hit.  We had lunch with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, and my boys were beside themselves to play with Tigger.  Later, we met Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, where Stephen had the gall to whisper to Hook: "tick-tock-tick-tock..."  Hook played along by trembling and hiding, and Stephen's chest puffed up with pride. 

So please join us in praying that we can all mend enough to enjoy our remaining two days in the park.  But I'll say it again....last night made this WHOLE trip worth it.  I'm a happy girl tonight.

**UPDATED**  We've awakened Thursday morning with every miraculously healed and jumping on hotel beds (as I write this).  Thank you, Lord!  We're off to Epcot....

Day Five: Magic

I don't think that I have the writing abilities to record what today was like.  And really, you don't have to read through all these details--it's mostly for the benefit for my family, who is checking this.  But if you'd like to come along on today's journey, hop on board...

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Today was our first day at Magic Kingdom.  If you've ever been there, you know there's so much to see and do that it's almost too much to take in.  We paced ourselves, getting the lay of the land and hitting a few of the rides we didn't want to miss (the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Goofy's Barnstormer were huge hits).  We met Mulan and Belle, despite my boys' insistence that they don't want the autographs of "all those princesses" (I told them they'd thank me someday).  But by mid-afternoon, we were all tired, and we came back to our hotel for an afternoon rest.  When we headed back to the park at 4:30, we were refreshed and ready for a full evening.  And it was a good thing, because the magic was really about to begin...

First we scared the bejeebers out of the oldest two on the Haunted Mansion ride--four-year-old Joseph was the bravest of the bunch.  Then we headed to our first character dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern.  We ate with Minnie, Pluto, Chip and Dale, and the star of the show--Goofy.  The characters were delightful--so interactive with the kids.  At one point Pluto chased seven-year-old Stephen around our table, and he sneaked up on Hubs and licked him on the ear (the kids loved that).  It was dark by the time we left (and PERFECT weather), and time to cue up for the SpectroMagic parade.  The friends we came with, the W family, had secured spots for us directly in front of Cinderella's castle.  So we happily sat and waited for the parade with our $42 worth of light-up toys and overly-full tummies. 

The parade was phenomenal.  Nearly every imaginable Disney character was represented, covered in lights (here's a lousy picture of Cinderella--sorry, I don't do nighttime pictures well):

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Then, the fireworks began.  OH, the fireworks!  In true Disney style, they were breathtaking.  The entire castle faded from one color to another as the sky lit up in perfect sync with the best Disney songs ever made.  The looks on my boys' faces were of sheer wonder!  And I'm not sure there was any less wonder on mine and Hub's faces, as well--as the songs and fireworks crescendoed to Jiminy Cricket's version of "When You Wish Upon A Star" you could practically feel the pixie dust.

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When the fireworks ended, the crowds spilled out of the park...but not us!  We were too excited to leave, and the park was open for another hour.  So we swam upstream to FantasyLand and rode to our hearts' content with hardly any crowds.  Disney's Philharmagic was excellent, and of course, we couldn't miss MY favorite...It's a Small World.  If you've ever ridden it, you know that the cheese factor is pretty high (eight-year-old Adam remarked, "Sheesh, don't these kids know it's okay to be sad?").  But Joseph and I were equally captivated by the adorable little characters singing in every possible language.  (Here's a terrible picture of Hubs and me on the ride--sunburned, tired, but very happy):
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The loudspeakers announced it was time to leave, and we grudgingly left amid promises we'd return tomorrow.  As we walked down Main Street USA, all five of us hand-in-hand, I have to say that my heart nearly popped right open. 

Day Four: MGM

DRAT!  I just wrote a nice long post about our day, and then Typepad ATE it.  Now I'm too tired to repeat it, so here's the quick version:

Day was great, food is ever-present, weather is excellent, crowds are low, children are cooperative and in a state of utter delight.  They've really gotten into this business of meeting all the characters and getting their autographs.  Star Wars was a hit with Stephen, and Adam (our future cartoonist) loved the Disney Animation show.  Joseph's eyed remained saucer-shaped all day; I don't think he could pick a favorite. 

So all is well, and about to get better, for tomorrow is The Day.  THE MAGIC KINGDOM.  It is not overstating it to say that I have waited for this moment since I became a mother.  The eight-year-old girl in me is sitting up late, too excited to sleep...

Day Three: Anticipation

Yes, this is live, not a pre-scheduled post.  We decided to spring for the *gulp* $10/day internet access in Disney World.  Money just seems jumping out of your wallet the minute you walk on the grounds...

This morning I awakened the kids in our hotel room by singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, something that would have normally been met with groans of "Aw, Mooooommmmm!"  But today...today was DISNEY DAY, and those little boys hopped out of bed and sang along with with me.

It was an easy four-hour drive into Orlando, and elbows were jabbing in the backseat to determine who would get that all-important, first glimpse of the Epcot "disco ball" (as my kids call it).  Stephen won, and the gloating began!

We arrived at our incredible resort, Port Orleans Riverside--after only a few hours here I can tell you that I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone visiting here. The grounds are luscious, the food excellent, the pools spectacular.  And the best part?  Everyone at Disney World is thrilled to be here--not only the guests, but the employees as well (though here they're all called "cast members").  You can't buy a Coke without a costumed college kid chirping adorably, "Have a magical day, Mrs. ---!"  Magical, indeed. 

The sweetest part of the day was at bedtime.  Hubs had run out to the car for something, and I was quietly putting away things in the bathroom--the kids didn't know I was listening.  They lay in their beds, discussing the fact that, being on Disney property, they should probably assign each other Disney character names for the trip.  They whispered and giggled and decided that Stephen is definitely Stitch, Adam is Timon and Joseph--sweet Joseph--is Mickey. 

And THAT is why we're here.  Off to the parks tomorrow...

Day Two

Good evening!  As of tomorrow, when we arrive in Orlando, we will have covered SEVEN states in 36 hours...Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama (or "Ama-bama", as Joseph says), Georgia and Florida.  It has been, for the most part, a smooth and fun couple of days.  Here are some things I have learned so far:

  1. I'm sure that Memphis is a lovely city full of lovely people, but there are hunker-down-in-your seat-scary portions in which you do NOT want to get lost.
  2. Hotel computers DO get glitches, and it is entirely possible to find yourself standing in a hotel lobby in rural Mississippi, printed-out confirmation slip in hand, and NO reservation (and no available rooms in town). 
  3. It is impossible for little boys to drive through the state of Mississippi without spelling Mississippi at least 1,647 times.
  4. If you're ever in Alabama, you must order the "swayt tay" (translation: sweet tea).
  5. There is a little town in Georgia named Ty Ty.  Just try to drive through that town without reading all the signs aloud:  Ty Ty Bait Shop, Ty Ty Baptist Church, etc. 
  6. I kid you not, there is a "gentleman's club" on highway 280 in Alabama named...get this...The Boobie Trap
  7. There is a dog groomer on the same stretch of highway called You Dirty Dog Pet Groomer.
  8. Evidently a mother's patience with hotel bed-jumping DOES run out, and it appears to run out in Valdosta, Georgia.  Just in case you were wondering.

Since I'm obviously unable to stay away from this blog even on vacation (!), maybe I'll get a chance to post from Disney World after all...

Numbers

Number of hours until departure for Disney World:  8.5

Number of hours we'll spend driving in the next two days:  22

Number of hours this week my friend Chilihead has kept various combinations of my children so I could tend to packing business:  8  (You're the best, Chili...)

Number of little boys in my household who are whipped into an absolute frenzy: 3

Number of times the poor teachers of aforementioned little boys will have to tell them to calm down and stay in their seats today:  approximately 723

Number of hours of Chronicles of Narnia read aloud on CD we'll be listening to: 17

Number of matching outfits for my boys so we don't lose them in the parks:  6

Number of pounds I will gain from eating lavish Disney meals:  I don't want to talk about it.

Number of days my one-year-old daughter will be with my parents while we're gallavanting in Florida:  10 *sniff*

Number of DVDs awaiting watching in the car:  23

Number of times I expect to hear the sentence "Are we there yet?" in the next 48 hours:  20 bazillion

Number of miles we will put on our mini-van in the next 10 days:  2,450

Number of times I expect to laugh out loud in the next 10 days:  Too many to count. 

Mickey_2So on that note, it seems like a fitting farewell:

M-I-C (see you later)...

K-E-Y (why? Because I like you!)...

M-O-U-S-E...

(And by the way, posts will be appearing while I'm gone, because Typepad lets me write them ahead of time and schedule them for publication...how cool!  But I will probably not be checking comments, e-mails or other blogs until I get back home.  I'll miss you bloggin' friends--have a good week!)

Oh, Mickey, You're So Fine...

We love to travel.  It's a priority to Hubs and me, in planning our family budget, to take our kids on as many trips as possible.  We're both pretty organized people, and we've streamlined the trip-planning process to work for our family.  We can pinch our travel pennies until they bleed, and we'veMickey_1  finely tuned our strategies for managing trips with young children. 

But we have met our match.

One week from tomorrow, we are leaving to take our children to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  And I have learned, as I've done my research, that you don't take a vacation to Disney World, you take a pilgrimage.

For example, we have had our dinner reservations for six months.  SIX MONTHS.  Almost as much time as it takes to grow a baby.  But we were warned that this was the only way to be assured we could have dinner with Goofy and breakfast with Donald, so we did it. 

And then there's planning what to tackle while we're there.  Friends who know what they're talking about (thank you, Chilihead) assure me that if you show up with just a smile and a camera that you'll miss all the good stuff.  You need a game plan.  And maps.  And water bottles.  Kind of like Survivor, but with embroidered mouse ears.

So the game plan is formed by visiting sites like this, or this, or reading books like this, and one quickly realizes that so much has been written on the subject of Disney World that it would take a lifetime to read it all, and seven or eight vacations pilgrimages to see it all.  And this is hard for control freaks like Hubs and me who are normally in utter control over every moment of our trips.  But I'm deep breathing.  Hakuna Matata, as they say in Disney-ese, right?

Because, really, it's Disney World.  The most magical place in all the world, and I'm determined not to let my tendency toward hyper-planning turn me into Clark Griswold.  When we stroll down Main Street USA on the first morning, as Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah plays over the loudspeakers, I imagine that the looks on my kids' faces will have turned me into a blubbering mess.  Plan?  What plan?

Morning Laughs

Every one of these conversations happened in my house this morning before 8:30 am:

First, 8-year-old Adam came downstairs wearing a black shirt and navy blue pants. 

Me:  Adam, you need to change your clothes--those don't match.

Adam:  Why not?

Me: Well, blue and black don't go together.

Adam:  But they both start with B!

Minutes later, as I drizzled syrup on 4-year-old Joseph's pancakes:

Joseph: Can I put the syrup on?

Me: No, not today.  How about if I give you some extra syrup instead?

Joseph:  [Flipping me a thumbs-up sign]  Thanks, babe!

Then I heard 7-year-old Stephen in the pantry, unable to open a new bottle of apple juice.  My hip-hop child was chanting, in his best rap style:

Yo, yo, Mom, help me out!

Yo, yo, Mom, help me out!

Who needs cable when you get to eat breakfast with characters like this?

On a different note, thank you for such wonderful comments to yesterday's post.  If you haven't been back to read them all, you really should--seems like many of us have stories of how the old hymns have touched us.  Thank you for sharing!

The Days of Laundry Glory

My number-one-supreme-favorite-of-all-mom-blogs, Mommy Life, has launched a funny contest called Love That Laundry Room!  She is inviting readers to send in pictures of themselves in their--what else--laundry rooms.  And guess which ridiculous picture she has chosen to kick off this contest (*nervous gulp*)?  Yep, me.  Go check it out.  And be a sport and send in one of yourselves so that I won't be the only laundry dork out there in cyber space, m'kay?  You can even win one of Barbara's books--she is an accomplished author and speaker.  And while I'm singing her praises, let me just say that if you don't read her blog, you are missing a treat.  I've never seen someone balance truth and grace as expertly as Barbara does.  Especially don't miss this post.   Oh, and this one.  Oh, heck, just read 'em all.

Overheard at the Dinner Table

Four-year-old Joseph sat gloomily at the table, staring sadly at his plate.

Husband:  Joseph, are you sad about something?

Joseph: [deep sigh]  No.  I'm fine.

Husband: Because you look very sad.  What is wrong?

Joseph:  Okay, I'm very sad about one thing.

Husband:  [Concerned by now].  What is it, Son?

Joseph: Bears.

Husband:  Bears?

Joseph:  Yes, bears.  I'm sad about bears.  [Suddenly perkier].  Can I have some more milk please?

One problem down, 437,291 to go.

Tickled Pink

What a thrill to find out I'd won the "Makes Me Want To Have Kids" category in the Share Love Blog Awards.  Thank you so much to those of you who voted, and to Heather, who put so much hard work into conducting these awards.  And in the spirit of great acceptance speeches, I feel compelled to "thank the little people"--in this case, the four little people who live under my roof, under my skin, and deep in my heart:  Adam, Stephen, Joseph and Corrie.  They are the reason I'm a mom.  The reason I laugh out loud numerous times a day.  The reason I haven't slept well in 8 1/2 years.  The reason I find myself growing as a person every day.  The reason my floor is dirtier, my car is bigger, and life is richer.  They are the reason I want to be a mom, so I suppose this award should really go to them!

Along those lines, here's a snapshot of one of those little people.  Who needs expensive baby toys when you can empty Mom's purse all over the kitchen floor?  Oh, this motherhood business is messy, but it is sweet.

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Odd Blessings

Each night at bedtime, before we say prayers with our kids, we sing the Doxology together.  In case you aren't familiar with it, the words begin, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."  But last night, I listened to my children sing it and realized that all this time my seven-year-old son has been singing it, "Praise God from whom ODD blessings flow..."

I suppressed a giggle and came downstairs to tell Hubs about it.  Though the more I thought about it, the more I realized there's some good theology in his little slip-up.  Praise God for the odd blessings--the ones that sneak up on us, the ones that don't even look like blessings until they're long past us.   Praise Him for the mixed bag, the curvy road, the speed bumps of life.  Sometimes the odd blessings are the best ones.

The Epic Tale Of the Flesh-Eating Ladybugs and Their Untimely Demise

My four-year-old son Joseph received a lady bug farm for Christmas this year.  The day after Christmas we mailed in his certificate for the ladybugs that would fill it up, and he eagerly checked the mailbox every day.  A couple of weeks later, a bulky package arrived bearing a huge stamp on the front:  "Live Larvae Enclosed:  OPEN IMMEDIATELY."  (It's not everyday you find larvae in your mailbox--good times, I'm tellin' you.)

We carefully followed the enclosed instructions to the letter.  The ladybugs were teeny little larvae; the booklet told us we could expect them to become pupa in a couple of weeks, then full-fledged lady bugs a few days after that.  My son, whose heart is extra-tender toward any living thing, checked his larvae many times a day for progress, sleeping with the farm under his bed for protection.  And I breathed many little prayers:  Please let them live, please let them live...

And they lived.  Just as the instruction booklet promised, they shortly turned into pupa, then dramatically, in a few hours, little lady bugs.  Joseph was beyond overjoyed.  But here is something you probably didn't know about adorable little ladybugs:  they're cannibals.  Only about half the larvae made it to full-grown ladybugs, so the grown ones crawled around and ate the dead bodies of their peers who weren't so lucky.  And thankfully, my sensitive boy just said, "Look, they're playing!" as the carcass feast ensued.

And here's another, um, interesting little factoid about ladybugs:  they poop in enormous quanitity.  I mean, they're tiny little poops, but they are everywhere.  You don't notice this when they're outside crawling around your flower pots, but when they're in an enclosed little farm on your kitchen table where you feed your family--trust me, you notice.

So, the other day, Joseph was carrying his ladybug farm across our entryway.  But he had opened the top, for some reason. He slipped on a rug and fell, and the lady bug farm flew across the room, landing upside down on the floor.  Thousands of little ladybug poops, and dozens of half-eaten carcasses, scattered all over the floor.  The wood floor.  The brown, hard-to-make-out-where-the-bugs-and-poops-and-corpses-are floor.  The floor my baby daughter crawls around on all day.  You see where this is going.

Big brother Stephen came to the rescue and searched out as many live ladybugs as we could find, which wasn't many.  But Wicked Mommy had to get out the vacuum cleaner and suck up the poops and the carcasses (remember, he had no idea they were dead because I didn't have the heart to tell him), and yes, a few live ladybugs, while my sensitive boy wailed in the background, "Mommy, NOOOOOOOO!"  Now there is a moment for the therapy couch someday. 

The moral of this story?  Perhaps there is a profound one, but I'm at a loss.  I'm coping with the fact that there is likely still much ladybug poop in my entry way, tucked into nooks and crannies.  And a traumatized four-year-old boy living under my roof.  This motherhood business isn't always pretty, is it? 

Thanks, Honey.

The other night, my oldest son was reading a book, when he asked, "What does gossip mean?"  My Hubs, without so much as a pause, said, "Son, it's another word for BLOG!"

Hmmm...do I detect a little resentment?

A Vocabulary Lesson

Parenthood changes your heart, your mind, your body, your bank account, your furniture, your backseat, your carpet, your TV-watching, your (ahem!) love life, your wardrobe and your sleep.  But it also forever alters your vocabulary.   My brother and I used to roll our eyes at our parents when they used our "baby words" in place of the right ones--"macky-noo" for vacuum, "pension stick" for thermometer, etc.  Yet here I am, a mother, and I find our family's vocabulary permanently transformed by my children's bumbling and adorable way of saying things.   Here is a small sampling of some family favorites ("real" word in green):

Mean poopy -- diarrhea

Daddy juice -- Dr. Pepper

Kee-nonnies -- chicken nuggets

Giant weck-tangle -- big-screen TV

Hock-a-doo -- helicopter

Baby Bobs -- cherry tomatoes (think Veggie Tales)

Smashed potatoes -- mashed potatoes

Homa-homa -- Oklahoma (where we live)

Chicken-chicken-pie-pie -- chicken pot pie

Licka-nodeon -- Nickelodeon

So, here's where it gets fun.  Admit it, you all do it too.  In my comments section, share the funny terms your kids created that you'll still be using when they're in college.

EDITED TO ADD: Be sure you scroll down and see the hilarious comment by RSD...that's my brother!  His funny story about how my niece says "fork"...well, I'm laughing out loud.

One For the Text Books

Today let's discuss a widely-known but rarely documented phenomenon that every mother has experienced.  I would like to propose to the American Academy of PediatrDoctor_1ics that we call this disorder, heretofore unnamed, Make-a-fool-of-mommyitis.  Let's discuss.

Say, for example, your four-year-old son spends the entire weekend fever-ridden with a sore throat.  By the time Monday morning arrives, he is miserably ill and couch-prone.  Neither of you has slept, so you fall asleep on the couch during Go, Diego, Go and fail to call the pediatrician the minute they open.  You finally call, only to find that you must beg and plead for them to squeeze you in, which they cannot do until 3 pm.  Meanwhile, your four-year-old patient has begun wailing "my froat! my froat!", and spends the rest of the day in agony.

Bear with me, this is where the disorder becomes serious.

Appointment time rolls around, and you manage to make arrangements for the older kids to play at a friend's house, because of course, they are home from school today (research shows that the likelihood of Make-a-fool-of-mommyitis is directly proportional to the amount of trouble you took to get to the doctor).  You, the patient, and the baby drive to the doctor on sheets of solid ice (see statement, before) and skate across the parking lot.  You reach the waiting room, by which time your little patient is whimpering in agony.  As you check in, he wails, "I fink my froat is bleeding!"  and all the other mothers gather their children so they will not catch your child's Ebola.  Finally, finally, they call you back to the exam room.  Oh, you are relieved--your precious child will finally be cared for!  But a funny thing has happened.

Your child is no longer sick.

Apparently, there is a miraculous healing agent floating in the air of exam rooms that causes children to become instantly well right before the doctor comes in.  The little boy who, one hour ago, was writhing in agony on the couch is now having sword fights using tongue depressors and pressing every button on the exam table.  He is laughing and making goofy faces while you explain to the nurse how miserable he is feeling.  She leaves, and you find yourself grabbing your child and saying through gritted teeth, "You'd better start acting sick, right now!" 

As I said, this is a frequently occurring phenomenon that is deserving of its place in the medical text books.  With a footnote, of course, that the only cure for Make-a-fool-of-mommyitis appears to be a Waste-a-co-pay-ectomy.

What I want to know is...

Chicken...is it possible for a preschooler to eat too many chicken nuggets?  Because if it is, I think we're reaching the limit.  I mean, I'm just wondering if at some point his skin will start smelling like McNuggets--or worse, what if he starts clucking?  Or crying tears of barbeque dipping sauce?  This could be serious.

Give me some hope.

My Daughter's Hands

Tonight my one-year-old daughter Corrie has a cold.  She was having trouble sleeping, so I had the distinct pleasure of rocking her--for a long, long time--to sleep.  We sat there in the dark of her room, the rocking chair creaking slightly, her slow, even breaths a little raspy from her cold.  Her head was nuzzled into my neck, and her right hand softly gripped the fabric of my shirt on my chest. 

Corrie's hand.  It's a plump little thing--dimpled, smooth and creamy white.  I've always been fascinated by my children's hands, but tonight as I looked at Corrie's, I was overwhelmed with happiness--and a little sadness--to think of where those hands will travel.  Tonight they're flawless little hands, untested by life's challenges and inexperienced in its joys.  But where will those little hands go tomorrow, and the next day, and the next?...

Any day now those little hands will let go of mine as she takes her first step.

They'll grasp a pencil as she clumsily but surely learns to write. 

They'll grip handlebars with a mix of joy and horror as her Daddy runs behind her on her bike, almost ready to let go.

In the teenage years those hands will wipe away many adolescent tears and slam many doors, but maybe, if I play my cards right, they'll still reach out for mine every now and then.

They'll pack her belongings as she leaves for home.  And they'll open our front door again as she comes back to visit.  A lot, if she knows what's good for her.   

How I pray those precious hands spend more time spread open in joy, rather than clenched in anguish.  But wherever they travel, I hope they're often clasped in prayer.  I hope they're helpful hands, and merciful ones, and I hope they always have many, many other hands to grab onto.

They'll wear a diamond from a handsome young man, and they'll loosely hold her father's tuxedoed arm, eager to reach out for her future at the end of the aisle. 

Those hands will grasp the bedsheets in pain as she fights to deliver her child, and they'll tremble in joy when she holds him or her the first time. They'll feel many little foreheads, apply many band-aids and hold open many books.  And then, one night, she'll rock that baby to sleep, and she'll stare in bittersweet wonder...at its little hands.

I'm Sure We'll Laugh At This. Someday. Maybe.

Over the holidays, my dad accidentally backed into our mini-van.  We took it to the shop to be fixed last week.  We have a big family, so the insurance company provided us a rental mini-van (I told them if they gave me a sedan I'd have to strap a child to the luggage rack), and the entire process was going remarkably smoothly.  So smoothly, in fact, that I called my husband Thursday afternoon to brag about what a painless, easy process this had been.  Spoke too soon.

Early Thursday evening, as I was preparing dinner, my seven- and four-year-old sons were together in the garage, when the seven year old ran inside.  "Mom," he panted, "Joseph has done something really bad to the car."  When I asked him what he just shook his head:  "I don't even know how to tell you.  You'll just have to see it."  I ran to the garage to find Joseph with a rock in his hand (drat, rocks again...) next to the car (remember, it's a rental).  ON the car was an almost continuous 6-inch-high, zig-zag carving that ran the entire length of one side of the car, all around the back, and all the way back up the other side.  The only portion of the car NOT zig-zagged by my delightful son was the HOOD.  Here is a close-up shot of the carving, though of course a photo can't do it justice:

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The color drained out of my face.  My jaw dropped to the ground.  The earth stopped spinning for just a moment.  Joseph, being four, didn't understand the permanence of this.  "Let's go get a washcloth and wipe it off," he said.  "WE CAN'T," I gulped in a trembling whisper.  Now, I'm sure you're breathless with anticipation to find out exactly how we handled this with him, but even mischievous four year olds deserve a little privacy.  Just accept my assurances that no little boys were harmed (seriously) in the administering of said discipline.

The next day, I took the car into a couple of shops for estimates.  My no-nonsense hubby urged me--only halfway in jest--to flirt shamelessly with the shop guys (while I appreciate his vote of confidence, I told him that the flirtations of a middle-aged, chubby-ish housewife probably weren't going to get us very far).  And clearly I was right, because both shops gave us an estimate of $3500.  Yes, that's three-five-zero-zero

Our insurance agent told us he's pretty sure this will be covered by our insurance.  Pretty sure?  That wasn't exactly the assurance I was looking for.  I was hoping more for, oh, "Sure, we'll cover it and we'll even waive your deductible because clearly you need a little pick-me-up since you have no control over your children."

The irony in all this (and there is much) is that my blog was just nominated for some awards (*blush*) over at One Woman's World, including the "Makes Me Want to Have Kids" award.  Yet I somehow doubt this is the sort of story that will have women tossing their birth control pills in the trash can.  Oh, well.

My Funny Valentine

Today NPR ran a commentary by author Julie Zickenfoose on how blogging affects relationships.  (Click here to listen, and hat tip to my brother R for the link).  Julie's hilarious piece deals with the politics of a two-blog marriage, where partners compete for "blogworthy" material.  But for those of us in marriages where only one spouse blogs, the politics can get equally sticky.

It was actually Hubby's idea that I should blog.  Being the supportive man he is, for years he's been after me to spend some time writing.  When the blogosphere began to explode in popularity, he insisted I should have a place in it.  As is typical, I resisted this idea, until the urge hit me back in the fall.  And now, I'm sure, he rues the day he suggested it at all.  When a blog idea hits me, I have to write it right-then-that-very-instant or the moment is gone.  And the privacy issue?  I've nearly sent him over the edge.  Though I know you are all wonderful, he's convinced you're all ax-wielding serial killers searching for my first tiny slip-up about our "real" identity. 

But you know what?  He's a sport about it, just like he is about my ever-changing hare-brained schemes.  Sacrificing his own comfort or convenience for that of his family's is just what he does--all day, every day.  So to my heart-stopping, laugh-inducing, towel-folding, blog-tolerating, soccer-coaching, kid-wrestling, Hamburger-Helper-eating, homework-checking husband, I say Happy Valentine's Day.  You still make my knees weak.

But the rocks aren't only in my DRYER...

What is it with little boys and rocks?  I mean, they're just rocks.  Lumps of hardened earth.  Dirty, drab little hard things that can be weaponized at any moment (ah, I may have just answered my own question...).  As the mother of three boys, I find rocks everywhere.  Just today, here are the places I found rocks in my house, and I promise I didn't set any of these up...

In the floor of the minivan:

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In the decorative chest on my coffee table:

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In this Wal Mart sack hanging by the back door (and that's all it contains--rocks):

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In my four-year-old son's coat pocket:

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On a shelf in my seven-year-old son's room:

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And in my jewelry box.  Okay, actually this is an acorn, but it's still a hard, earthen object, and I didn't put it there:

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But you know what?  These rocks all over my house mean those rowdy, noisy, rock-bearing boys can't be far behind.  I'll take that any day.

Calendar Girl

About some things, I am not particularly organized.  If you were to look in my desk drawer, my closet or my silverware drawer, you would be met with great disarray.  But my calendar--that is sacred ground, folks.  I love, adore, need and am addicted to my meticulously-kept calendar.  I write down everything--not just events, but reminders to call so-and-so or a note to send snacks to school or a nudge to mail my brother's birthday card in time to make it there.  When I couldn't find one in a store that was precisely what I wanted, I used Microsoft Word to make one of my own, and I had it bound at Kinko's (I'm a calendar nerd, and I'm not ashamed).  Below is a picture of My Lovely on an average week:

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Every Sunday night, I happily sit down at my kitchen table to plan my week, my calendar spread open before me, and I breathe in its orderliness.  And I am happy. 

Well, I was happy.  My wonderfully generous and unselfish husband bought me a PDA for Christmas.  It's a nice one--colorful and lightweight and oh-so-much-smarter than I will ever be.  It's compatible with Microsoft Outlook, so I am able to use Outlook for my "at home" calendar, and I keep the PDA with me in my bag.  This should be an organized woman's dream, right? 

*semi-pretend sobbingI MISS MY PAPER CALENDAR!  I need it, I need it, I need it, and I feel like I can't go another day without it.  I have tried so hard to be excited about having my daily events computerized.  I gave it the benefit of the doubt, I tried to convince myself that I was excited about it, but it is NOT working for me.  And I'm fairly tech-savvy--I have a blog, for Pete's sake, and I communicate more by e-mail than by phone.  But it seems my brain cannot wrap itself around the notion of my precious, organized calendar on a computer.  I know--it should be the same.  But it's not.  Not for me.

And if it sounds like I'm over-reacting, that would be because, well, I am.  I have no idea why this has affected me so strongly.  I think being able to--literally--put my hands on my calendar was an important part of feeling "on my game" at this juggling act called life.  Which is why I'm baring my soul to you now.  Please, my blog-reading, tech-savvy friends--what is wrong with me?  Am I the only one left in 21st century America who cannot let go of her paper calendar?  Or is there someone out there that feels the same way? 

I Just Trust Him

My children love to ask me probing questions about God.

“Was God born?” they ask.

“No,” I explain. “God has always been there. He didn’t have a beginning.”

Or, “How did God make the world?”
“Well,” I explain, “He simply said He wanted it to be, and it was.”
“But how did He do that?” my questioner asks. And I’m reduced to the sentence that always concludes these precious times: “I don’t completely understand. But God tells us it is true in the Bible, and I just trust Him.”
And my little questioner, satisfied by this, rolls over and drifts easily off to sleep.

I just trust Him. How dependent I’ve become, I realize, on my bite-sized definitions of who He is. Words like "sovereign", or "glorious", or "omnipotent" appear in my prayers. Concepts like irresistible grace, sanctification, and election divide my theology into neat categories. I love to digest complicated issues of my faith and try to understand a little better the One I follow. My desire to share this with my children leads me to “boil it down” to their level of comprehension.  My four year old asks, “Why did God make sharks if they’re scary?” And my long, jumbled attempt at explaining a fallen world or all things working together for good finally lands me right back where it always does: “I just trust Him.”

This is the truth, I realize, of Mark 9:15: I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. When all is said and done, I stand before God just as my little children do, entirely dependent on the simplest of answers I share with them. They come to me with questions, and I tell them “Because He said so.” I go to Him with questions, and He answers, “I Am Who I Am.”

Motherhood has taught me not only how little I know, but also how little I need to know. I may wrestle with the doctrine of free will vs. predestination as much as they wrestle with how God made pine cones, but ultimately, we rest in the mystery of His truth, if we are to rest at all.
* * * * * * * * * *
WritingcontestHead over to Jules' site to participate in her summer writing contest, with the topic, "What My Children Taught Me About God".  First prize is a custom cartoon for your blog!  Deadline is August 31.

I suppose this post needs a title but I'm too tired to come up with one

I've made several attempts at blog posts in the last two days at my fancy new Typepad digs.  The software is easy, sophisticated, powerful...everything a budding blogger needs, right?  But evidently, there's something in the Typepad code that sucks all the creative thought right out of me.  Every time I sit in front of my computer, I swear I hear crickets chirping in my head.  NADA.  My brain is a wasteland of unbloggable nothingness. 

Thankfully, the four funniest little people in the world live under my roof, so I can always go with the old standby of here's-a-funny-story-about-my-kids.  But this one--this one--is our family best.  I've been keeping this story safely in my back pocket until my first serious case of writer's block.  Ready?

(And please note, I'll be "disguising" one of the words in the story to prevent weird Google searches).

We've always taught our kids the correct names for their "anatomy", a decision that has occasionally backfired.  Like the day I took our then four-year-old son to the pediatrician for a rash in his nether regions.  The doctor had him pull down his pants and carefully examined him.  The doctor assured me it was just a heat rash and told me how to treat it.  He helped my son pull his pants up, said goodbye, and left the room.  But my son trotted after him, leaned his head out the door and yelled, "Thanks, Doctor Sanders, for working so hard on my peni$ !"  That is the fastest I have ever left a doctor's office. 

Isn't it like this at your house?

Cassatt_1 I have posted before about how I love Mary Cassatt paintings, so I'll share another one. It's especially moving to me since, whenever I sew, my children quietly gather at my lap like this. Yeah, right.

What this picture doesn't show us is that this little wisp of a girl was probably asking her mom for a cup of milk for the 432nd time, and just outside the picture, she was kicking the dog.

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Meema

When I am busy, or stressed, or frustrated, or angry, or confused, I may be certain of one thing: my grandmother Meema is praying for me. Hers is a quiet ministry, and a humble one, but it is a powerful force in all our lives. In dark or confusing times, when my heart couldn't form its own prayers, I have taken such solace in feeling hers.

She turns 79 today, but her usefulness to this family remains as strong as ever. She once told me she prayed for us all so much to "get ahead" for all the years in the future when she wouldn't be with us anymore. What a remarkable thought.

Meema's faithful prayers may bless me, but they challenge me as well. May I follow her example and "pray without ceasing" for those that I love. And if my own grandchildren someday are as thankful for me as I am for her, then I will truly be rich.

She's reading this right now (how fantastic to have a grandmother who reads a blog!), so happy birthday, sweet Meema. I love you.

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What My 14-Month Old Daughter Was Thinking At 1:30 This Morning

Mmmmmmm.....[stretch]...now THAT was a good sleep. I feel all rested and ready for the day! Wait a minute, why are the lights out? Don't they know it's morning? HELLO-O-O-O out there! Nobody? I'll try out my new singing ability and maybe they'll come get me. [Five minutes of singing]. Still nobody? Maybe they can't hear me; let's try this a little louder. [Five minutes of louder singing]. Ah, THERE we go. Good morning, Mom! Why so glum?

Oh, great! We're going over to the twin bed! Maybe we're going to tickle or play peek-a-boo. Lying down and cuddling? Well, okay, I can do that...[3 seconds later]...alright, that's enough. Mom....MOM! Why are your eyes closed? Maybe she'd like to try my pacifier. Open your mouth, Mom. No? Maybe you'd like it better if I stuck it in your eye. Or nose, maybe? How about your ears? No?

I know, watch this--if I crawl to the head of the bed I can drop my pacifier right down this little crack between the bed and the wall...wait a minute, it's gone! GONE! MOM! I must wail. Mom! You've got to....oh, no wait a minute, THAT is funny. Mom, you are crawling under the bed without opening your eyes--how do you do that?! Oh, I have to laugh out loud at that. Mom, don't you get the humor?

Your eyes are closed again. Mom, c'mon! I wonder how it would feel if I head-butted you? Ow, that smarted a little. Okay, let's try this--I'll kick the wall. Now THAT's a good sound. Look--the pictures rattle. Mom, you have to open your eyes and see this. What? You'er rolling over? Mom, you're missing the fun. Mom....MOM! Okay, that's it--I'm a little irritated now. And I'm going to cry until you roll back over and play with me. [Two minutes of crying].

Wait...what's that? DAD is here? Woo-hoo! Time for a par-tay! Mom...mom, where are you going? Mom? You're LEAVING THE ROOM? I don't like this one bit, and I will cry hysterically to make sure you know how I feel about your walking out of my presence. [4.2 seconds of crying]. Okay, Dad, I'm back. She's got some nerve, doesn't she?

Rocking chair? Okay, I'm game. Hey, watch this--if I lean a l l the way back and turn my head upside down...woo hoo! HEAD RUSH! That's funny. Dad, why aren't you laughing? Okay, we'll rock. Want me to sing a little? Glad to.

[Yawning] Mmmmm....you have to stop this rocking, Dad; it makes me a little tired. Really, stop. [Yawning]. Maybe I'll just put my head down for a quick second on your shoulder. [Eye rubbing]. Mmmmmmm......

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What Marriage Is

I'm reading a book called Blue Like Jazz. It's written by a young single man, and it's a series of essays about his journey through life and faith. There is a section on relationships, and he excerpts a play he wrote about a husband and wife who were on the brink of divorce after the death of their son. In a heartwrenching scene, the husband stands over the form of his sleeping wife. He is at the crossroads: will he stay and love her, or will he leave? As he contemplates this, he delivers a long soliloquy about the journey they've been on. His words describe the reality of marriage better than I've ever seen it written. It ends thus:

I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God's own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death, and to death it may bring me.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.

God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller, pgs 149-150

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Love, Sweet Love

Scene: My kitchen
Characters: Me and my 7-year-old son
Time: Today, right after he got off the bus

Son: A girl on the bus said she loved me.
Me: Really? Who is she?
Son: I don't know. She's a kindergartener. [Mock wailing] Why, why does a kindergartener have to love me? [This is our dramatic child].
Me: Well, is she nice?
Son: No. She's crazy.
Me: Love makes us all a little crazy.
Son: Yeah, I already knew that.
Me: [Thinking to myself]. Um, how, precisely?

And so it begins. Today it's a kindergartener on the bus, and tomorrow I'm dancing at his wedding. Lord, I'm not ready for this.

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Did I really say this?

So, what's the craziest conversation you've had in the last 24 hours? Because I think I can probably top it. Yes, my friends, yesterday afternoon I explained to an eight-year-old boy why his pet hermit crab couldn't open up a savings account. (Extra points for doing it with a straight face).

Go ahead, try and top me!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

It's a treat, this year, to celebrate a private man in a very public way.

My dad has done more great things in his life than any person I know, and he's the least likely to tell you about it. When a kid in town hasn't seen much of the world, my dad is the one who will take him to a Major League baseball game. When a boy is embarrassed that he doesn't have a car in which to take his date to the prom, my dad will loan him his. When the elderly ladies in the church want to see the Christmas lights, my dad warms up the van. When a friend is hurt, or lost, or even dying, my dad will sit with him and, in his quiet way, share about the Truth that set him free. When a pastor needs a friend, a kid needs a father, or a friend needs an ear, they all come to the same place....my dad.

I could write many more blog posts (and probably will) about what all can be accomplished with a heart as humble and willing as my dad's. But for today I'll just savor the pride that comes from announcing to the Blogworld what I've known all along: my dad is a hero.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

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Great Things

This week I received the alumni magazine from the college I attended, in which I can see all the important things my former classmates have achieved. There are bank CEOs, college presidents, scores of lawyers, surgeons, jet-setting executives. And me. I smile when I imagine what my paragraph would look like:

Since launching her career, Shannon has changed 29,283 diapers, many of those without turning the light on. She can recite in their entirety over 2 dozen children's books, including (but not limited to), Goodnight Moon, Zoom City and Silly Sally (latest reports are that she make the accompanying animal voices for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) Her associates report that she can prepare a casserole, wipe a nose and double-check math homework simultaneously. She is unrivaled in the art of sewing on a Cub Scout patch.

Fifteen or twenty years ago I wouldn't have been impressed by such a list. I was going to do Great Things, you see. I would write a book, win a Pulitzer Prize, live in a huge city, marry late, make a lot of money, change the world. I wanted to be a mother, always, but I thought I would somehow tuck it in between the spaces of all those Great Things. My definition of "Great" came from...well, I'm not sure--the world? my college professors? Glamour Magazine?

I don't remember the day when my definition of "Great" began to change. It was a subtle shift, as my desire to be a mother grew and the desire for those other things began to pale in comparison. Falling in love with a wonderful man certainly sped things along. And before I knew it, I was the opposite of everything I once considered great--no salary, no career, no by-lines or title pages with my name on them. And somehow, that had become quite fine with me.

There were days, early in my motherhood journey, when I had flashes of wondering if I took the right path. I had many friends doing exciting, prestigious things, and I realized the likelihood that all the "dreams" I once held would not be realized. But those flashes came less often, and less often, until one day I was watching my oldest son read a book and I was nearly knocked over as the realization washed over me: he is my Great Thing. Loving him, training him, investing myself fully in him is the Greatest Thing I could've possibly done with my life.

Somewhere in our society, it's become a little "pathetic" to achieve your fulfillment by serving others. How has this happened? Shouldn't this be a character trait that is admirable? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "When you serve another's dream, you will find your own fulfilled." Scripture says it even better: "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" Matthew 20:16.

So despite what the world, or college professors, or Glamour Magazine may have to say, I'll plug along and be thankful that God nudged me down the path that He knew would fulfill me most. My 14-month-old daughter learned to give kisses this morning, and she gave her first one to me. I think that's pretty Great.

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Sign #267 I need to get out a little more

I was watching the movie Spirit with my four-year-old son, and I caught myself thinking, "Gosh, that's gorgeous scenery. I wonder where they filmed that?"

Think about that one just a second.

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Best gifts of the season!

These pictures won’t do it justice, but I still had to show off the amazing Christmas gifts my brother’s wife made for our children. About a month before Christmas, she asked me to have the kids design their own “creatures” on regular typing paper, without telling them why. Then I mailed the drawings to her. She turned their creations into stuffed pillows—exact replicas of what they drew! The kids were so thrilled with them—they were among their very favorite gifts. Now every time the kids make a drawing, they ask if they can send it to Aunt L for another pillow! She’s considering turning this into a little business, and I think she should, don’t you?

Each of these photos shows the finished product next to its original drawing.






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Worth buying

My mom bought this DVD for my kids, and I have to report how impressed I am with it. I'd seen it advertised and wondered if it is was all it was cracked up to be! I know we all discuss "stranger danger" with our kids, but this DVD seemed to define it in a more structured way than I'd ever seen before. It addresses the issue of "personal space", and it cleverly puts all people into three easily-defined category for kids (ah, if only life were really that simple for adults!....)It was just a little beyond my four-and-a-half year old, but it was suited perfectly for the older two (ages seven and eight). I would imagine it would be useful to kids even as old as 10 or 11. Best of all, it was actually funny and enjoyable--a must for any DVD my kids will sit down to watch! I expect we'll watch it many times to reinforce what we've learned.

I hate to sound like a commercial, but this is such an important issue I couldn't resist passing on the recommendation.

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Date night

I had a wonderful date tonight, with a charming, funny, smart and handsome man. We laughed over sandwiches, ate messy ice cream in the car and he even went purse-shopping with me. What a catch!

My date was with my delightful eight-and-a-half-year-old son, Adam. It's a favorite family tradition that on their "half birthday" the boys get to go on a date with Mom (our daughter will have a special date with Dad when she's old enough). The half-birthday boy gets to plan the entire evening, and for once, in our noisy family, it's all about him. (Okay, not the purse shopping. I talked him into it, I confess.). I have brief one-on-one moments with my kids throughout the day, but extended times like these are all too rare in our family of six. What a treasure these times are.

Tonight Adam took me to Subway (his favorite), and as always happens when I have a quiet moment with one of my children, I'm amazed at what mature little people they are becoming. He was so excited to be spending an evening with me (I know, he likely won't feel this way in five years, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts)--he was grinning so big he could barely chew. We talked about his friends, his favorite subjects and his new Christmas toys. He quoted his favorite movie lines. When he saw people step outside to smoke, he expressed concern that their "lungs were turning black".

When we adjourned to Sonic for ice cream, we sat in the car and listened to his favorite songs. Then he turned the music down. He turned to me very pensively and said, "Mom, I have a question for you. What is your favorite thing to do?" I opened my mouth to answer, and he interrupted, "And don't say 'be our mom' or 'talk to dad'. I mean fun stuff." I sat there, choked with emotion at the thought that my eight-year-old boy was wanting to know more about me--the "me" that is apart from my role as wife and mother. I told him my answer, and he told me his, and our wonderful conversation went on for quite some time.

In priceless moments like these, I think of Mary in the second chapter of Luke: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." You know that she, like all of us moms, had a stockpile of precious moments deep in her soul--moments so perfect that they were almost too moving to express aloud. These are the moments we mull over in the stressful or monotonous times. When we're discouraged, or frustrated, or lonely, we pull them out of the deepest part of heart to remind ourselves why we fight, why we work, why we love. It's so worth it.

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In which I attempt to come down off a five-day sugar high

In an effort to shake off the post-Christmas haze that has plagued me all day, I thought I'd sit down to do a little bloggin'. I have nothing earth-shattering to report, just a full and happy heart after a wonderful holiday with family. Some of the highlights included

  • A Christmas Eve celebration with the "five cousins" (I'm the oldest). We grew up doing this every year, but it was the first time the five of us had been together on Christmas Eve in 12 years. Through marriage and babies, our original five has grown to 16.
  • A wonderful time of fellowship with my brother and his family. They live Far, Far Away, and we see them much too seldom. In a future post I'll tell you about the brilliant gifts my sister-in-law made for the kids.
  • Way too many toys for my kids, but boy, it was fun. Gifts included (but are certainly not limited to) football uniforms, light sabres, stamp collections, video games, baby dolls, and a Magna Doodle (or, as Joseph calls it, his "Doo-Doo Pad").
  • A beautiful Christmas morning service at our church, concluding with a breathtaking rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. On a less spiritual note, during this service, Joseph turned to his 60-year-old grandfather and asked him why he had so many "cracks" in his face.
  • A pact made among all the adults to focus more next year on the less material aspects of Christmas. One idea was for all of us--even the non-crafty ones--to make our gifts for each other.

There were many more sweet moments, but this is all my sugar-warped brain can accomplish at the moment. I hope you all had a blessed holiday with your families!

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My little man

There are two grown men that live in my house. One is my husband. The other is the 40-year-old man that is trapped inside the body of my 8-year-old son. This is the boy who stays abreast of speed limits in our city and alerts me when I’m exceeding them. He’s the boy who can use words like “vortex” and “nocturnal” with the same ease that other little boys say “boogers”. He’s the boy that will cut short a dessert because he says he’s “had too much sugar”. And when he expressed some anxiety over a bad dream the other night, he gladly noted how safe our home is since we’re “secured by ADT.”

Oh, I love that boy.

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Oh, the things that come out of my mouth!

In keeping with yesterday's post about our nativity scene, here's a much less holy story about the same little figurines, from a few year's back.

At that time, I was trying to keep the nativity scene on the coffee table (I have since learned better). One evening, my husband was in the living room with the kids, and I walked in the room just in time to see my then one-year-old boy grab the little manger and pop it in his mouth. I yelled, "Marc, stop him! THE BABY JESUS IS A CHOKING HAZARD!"

The baby Jesus is a choking hazard. If I ever write a book about motherhood, that's what I'm going to call it. Isn't it strange, though, the sentences that come out of your mouth when you're a mom? Other sentences I never thought I'd say (but oh yes, I have) include:

"We don't eat earthworms."
"Don't stand on your brother's head."
"Don't salt the hippo." (Don't even ask about that one).

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Need a reminder?

I know I did.

I have spent the last three days nursing a sick child, packing for our first Christmas celebration this weekend, planning meals for our second one, wrapping gifts, planning a school party for Friday, etc. etc. And I have grumbled and complained and snapped and been about as pleasant as old Ebeneezer himself.

But after a particularly irritable outing the other day, I sent Joseph into the living room to play while I unloaded the fruits of my latest plundering...er, shopping. Unbeknownst to me, he was playing with the little ceramic figures of our nativity scene, and when I joined him in the living room, this is what I saw:



All the figures quietly circled around the baby Jesus, at my little son's suggestion.

I needed that.

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Heroic Motherhood


I'm really not much of an art aficionado, but every now and then a picture really grabs my attention--particularly when it tells a story. I have always loved this painting by Mary Cassatt (1884-1926), called The Bath. Cassatt is well-known for her pictures of mothers and children, but something about this picture really speaks to me. The first time I saw it, I was deeply touched by the sight of a mother gently washing her child's feet--the ultimate picture of servanthood. Surely she must be the most tender of mothers, right? Maybe she patiently washes her child's feet every day, eager to give of herself to this cherubic little being.

Or maybe not. Let's look at this picture again...

This is probably a two-year-child, and clearly some event has required that this mother strip her daughter down to nothing and scrub her feet. Potty training? A stomach virus? (You know it's bad when it makes it all the way down to their socks--admit it, we've all been there). And the background doesn't look a nursery, but more like a parlor or living room. Why would you strip a child down to her skivvies in the living room unless circumstances required it? Circumstances such as, say, tracking mud across the carpet? Or maybe paint? And while the look on this mother's face could be translated as tender selflessness, it looks as though there could be a little jaw-clenching going on. Maybe even a little muttering ("I-brought-you-into-this-world-and-so-help-me....")?

But still she washes her daughter's feet. I'm sometimes tempted to think of the truly heroic mothers as the ones who always stay calm, patient and unselfish. But sometimes the most heroic moments of motherhood come when we're at our worst--when our child has pushed us to the very edge of our own limits of patience...or confidence...or sanity, and still we just deal with it. We suck it up, swallow our pride...or irritation...or comfort, and we deal with it. THAT is heroicism, plain and simple.

So if there is a naked two year old in your living room today, or a disrepectful 13 year old, or a heartbroken seven year old, my hat is off to you. You are dealing with it, and you are a hero.

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Heartbreak in the news

You've probably read this story in the news by now, about the Southwest Airlines jet that skidded off the runway at Chicago's Midway, striking a car containing five people. Six-year-old Joshua Woods was in that car, and he was killed. The magnitude of that tragedy is hard to take in, isn't it? I haven't been able to stop thinking of Joshua's family all day. I find myself wondering what was going on in that car before the accident. Was Joshua telling his family what he wanted for Christmas? Was he arguing with a sibling over where to stop for dinner? What normal, mundane life events were happening in that car before those lives changed forever?

I know these are terribly morbid thoughts, but I've thought them before. My finest parenting moments rarely happen in the car, where we're usually hurrying off to another activity as I referee the loud backseat antics. More than once, as I lose my temper again with my young passengers, I ask myself the question: "What if we were in a wreck? What if I were killed? Or worse, they were? Is this what I really want their last memory of me to be?"

And so Joshua's tragic story reminds me what I should be reminding myself every day--we never know what's just around the corner. And while there's sadness in that thought, there's freedom, too--freedom to think about what really matters, freedom to laugh a little longer and fuss a little less. How often am I so preoccupied with the next errand to run, the next gift to wrap, the next permission slip to sign, that I lose sight of the reason I'm doing all these things? The "busy work " is important, and it has to be done, but I must learn not to let it rob me of the joy that comes from creating a safe place for my children, and reflecting Christ to them.

Let's all remember little Joshua's family in our prayers.

The ugly truth

I’ve spent a lot of time lately on some blogs of women who appear to have a much more orderly life than mine. There seems to be a lot of women who manage to sit and drink tea while stew bubbles on the stove and the children quietly play chess in the next room. Those women make it look so easy. (And if you happen to be one of those women, first of all, why in the heck would you want to read my blog, and secondly, I’m really not being sarcastic. I truly wish I were more like you.)

I crave order, and I do a good job of looking like I have it. “I don’t know how you do it,” is a phrase I hear a lot, or “How do you get so much done?” And the answer is…by the skin of my freakin’ teeth. Most days I feel like my head is just barely above water enough that I can catch a breath or two, and if I stopped paddling for even one second, I’d sink for good. The ugly reality, as my family could tell you, is that I have a hot temper, my house is usually only clean when company is coming, I’m terribly inconsistent in disciplining my children (how I wish God could fix that it me!), my “quiet times” are equally inconsistent…basically, on the inside, I look like a real mess.

So why am I announcing this on my blog? First, because God has been convicting me lately to be more transparent about my own struggles and not feel compelled to put on a “show” of perfection. And secondly, because maybe someone out there has been feeling a little unraveled around the edges. Just wanted you to know you’re not the only one barely holding it together. Get out the Haagen Dasz and sit next to me, my friend!

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Give us this day....or something like that...

I wish you could hear my four-year-old son Joseph pray. In an effort, I suppose, to sound a little older, he puts together all the phrases he hears in our prayers, or those at church. And it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Here’s an example (to get the full effect, picture his brow furrowed in concentration, his voice deep with seriousness):

“Dear Heavenly Father…for the whole world…in the mighty…and Jesus’ glory…in the heart…of the Bible…thank you…please forgive us…and the power…Amen.”

I don’t know if God actually, truly laughs or not, but if He does, surely that must elicit a big one.

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Homesick

Seven-year-old Stephen slept over at a friend's house for the first time last night. It was a slumber party--there were a total of four little boys there. We told his friend's parents not to hesitate to call us should he get a little homesick. We didn't expect a problem from our Super-Social Stephen, though. Nine times out of ten, he wants to be where the party is. But last night? You guessed it...the tenth time out of ten.

When Marc went to pick him this morning, his friend's mom reported that she almost had to call us near midnight. Stephen was scared, he told her, and he missed his mom (oh, my heart!). He wanted her to call us to come pick him up. She gently (and correctly) encouraged him to give it ten minutes and see if he might fall asleep--and he did. When he got home he was clearly torn between pride in making it through the night, and embarrassment that he almost didn't it. We assured him it was okay, and I heard him quietly ask Marc, "Were you scared at your first sleepover?"

Tonight at bedtime, Stephen and I spent some special time cuddling, talking again about last night. I reminded him that anytime he's afraid, no matter where he is, he never has to be embarrassed about asking Dad and Mom for help. As my assurances sunk in, his mood lightened, and he proudly reported to me that he was "the king of the joke-telling last night", and he replayed for me all the laughs he got. With that, his jovial, confident self was back.

If my kids keep melting my heart at this rate, I'll be a puddle by the time they leave home.

Just a bit of what I'm thankful for...

In random order….

--That feeling of going into the library and realizing I will never, in my lifetime, be able to read all the books I want to read.
--The smell of fabric softener.
--The sound of my kids laughing together in the next room, when they don’t know I’m listening.
--Stephen’s big, lost-tooth grin.
--The sight of my dog and my son, sleeping peacefully together.
--When my kids use adverbs correctly.
--The smile that Corrie reserves for me alone.
--The Psalms.
--Getting a real-life, honest-to-gosh, letter in the mailbox.
--Old friends.
--New friends.
--Disposable diapers.
--Hearing Adam suggest that we pray.
--My dishwasher. The front is about to fall off of it, but by gosh, it works.
--My parents’ health.
--The sound of the garage door going up and knowing that my Marc will be walking through the door any second.
--Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
--Joseph’s insistence that I’m the “best mommy in the whole live world”.
--The sewing projects I have stacked up next to my sewing machine.
--My snooze button.
--My kids' funny jokes…and the not-so-funny ones.
--My random assortment of CDs.
--“The breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ.

Say it ain't so, Dr. Ferber!

Dr. Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child's Problems, and I swear the man single-handedly responsible for my happy marriage (sleeping babies=alone time for parents=well, you get it...) was on NBC Nightly News last night. You've probably heard of him...he's the guys that helps parents teach their kids to sleep by crying it out at 5, 10 and 15-minute intervals. And it's a method that has worked like magic with all four of my babies. I mean, I love this man--I have been a Dr. Ferber evangelist for the last 8 years. I have written him fan mail--and no, I'm not kidding. Evidently his time-tested, world-renowned "sleep method" is being revised. "Wow," methought to myself when I heard the promo for this, "If Dr. Ferber, King of Rested Babies, is revising his book and being featured on national news, this must be some earth-shattering Baby Sleep Revelation!" I Tivoed the news in case my kids were being too noisy for me to watch it (usually a safe assumption). Later I eagerly fast-forwarded to his part of the program, leaned in when I saw his kind face appear, and listened raptly when he explained that his revision was based on the fact that....[drumroll here]...."all babies are different."

Um, yes...so, your revelation then would be...

That's it. "All babies are different," so you have to keep this in mind and adjust his program accordingly.

Oh, for Pete's sake, Dr. Ferber, please don't tell me you've fallen into the world of gurus who re-publish their work every 20 years with *Brand New [worthless] Information* designed to sell books.

And anyway, isn't that a little insulting to tell us that "all babies are different"? ANY mother could tell you that, without spending 12.99 at Amazon.com. We know they're all different, and we're perfectly capable, thank you very much, of making adjustments to your program with our little babies--we've been doing it all along. How did this make the national news?

What a letdown. But my babies sleep well, Dr. Ferber, so I forgive you. I'm not buying your new book, but I forgive you.

*NOTE:  This post was imported from my original Blogger.com blog.  Comments could not be imported and are no longer available.*

Calm in the storm

Psalms 55:8: "I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm."

In the middle of the night, a powerful clap of thunder awakened my husband and me--it shook our house. We sat in bed, groggily counting the seconds until we knew we'd hear the pat, pat, pat of little feet sprinting to our room. As expected, then three-year-old Joseph sailed down the hall while the storm grew louder and louder outside. In one big motion, and clearly moving in his sleep, Joseph leapt into our bed, crawled between us, burrowed under the covers and collapsed back into a sound sleep. More loud thunder shook our house, and lightning brightened our room, but Joseph was at perfect peace. Even in his subconscious, sleepy state, he intutively knew that the safest place to be was next to his parents. And once he arrived there, no storm could disturb him. His circumstances hadn't changed--the storm still raged wildly. But his heart had changed, because he knew where to go to find safety and rest.

Am I this trusting of my Father? Do I go to Him as my first impulse, and can I find true rest with Him while the storm still churns? Do I demand that He stop the thunder instead of waiting quietly for His peace? Lord, teach me to trust you as my child trusts me.

*NOTE:  This post was imported from my original Blogger.com blog.  Comments could not be imported and are no longer available.*

The best thing about being a mom?

My new friend Rachel asked me a thought-provoking question the other day: "What do you like best about being a mom?" I had to think about that one for a minute. Of course, there are many things I love about motherhood (and, let's face it, a few things I really don't like--most of them involve bodily fluids of some variety). But the best thing? After some thought, I found my answer.

Mothering four children requires that the majority of my time is spent "handling" my kids one way or another--changing a diaper, signing a permission slip, removing a splinter, breaking up a fight, wiping a nose, etc., etc. But every now and then, a moment appears where I can stop being a mom with them, and just be a person with them. No instructing, no shushing, no planning, no directing....just being. Maybe something funny happens and we laugh together. Or they ask me a question that stumps me, and we have to find the answer together. Whatever the situation, the moment will appear, and for just a second we stop being mother-and-child --we're person-and-person.

This probably makes me sound like a rigid, legalistic mother, that such moments would be in such stark contrast to our daily lives. Really, I'm not rigid or harsh. But I'm practical, and that requires that I spend most of my time "on my game" as their mom. It's just part of the job. But when we all step out of our roles for just a second, it's like I catch a little glimpse into their souls, and they into mine.

And THAT's my favorite part of being a mom. Thanks for reminding me, Rachel.

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4-year-old logic

Proving that we still have a ways to go in the stranger-danger department….this afternoon Joseph wanted to play in the front yard alone, and he was arguing with me when I wouldn’t let him. Finally I said, “Joseph, what if a bad guy comes to get you?” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Mom, there aren’t any bad guys when it’s sunny!”

*NOTE:  This post was imported from my original Blogger.com blog.  Comments could not be imported and are no longer available.*

A wonderful thing to do with your kids at Christmas

Ever heard of a Jesse Tree? This web site explains it much better than I could.

http://www.rca.org/worship/material/advent/jessetree.html

Our family will be doing it this Christmas season! I'm having such fun getting all the ornaments together. I'm buying as many as I can find, and then making the rest.