Monday, February 28, 2011

Gratitude - 4

22 - The freshly fallen blanket of white snow.  Sure, the warm weather was nice last week, but the white is simply beautiful.

23 - Getting out of the house as a family and NOT going to the doctor's or the ER.  And the fellowship is wonderful over chicken, warm stew, the most delicious salad ever and brownies.  :)

24 - Learning about the Word with other women at CBS.

25 - Smoothies, which instantly help my abused-by-rich-food-and-stress-eating belly.

26 - Kids sleeping in the family room together because we want to and not because their daddy's sick upstairs.

27 - Finding that favorite lost recipe.

28 - Getting back to church, again. . . remembering it's "fellowship lunch day". . . and having someone tell you it really doesn't matter that you forgot to bring what you signed up for and not to run out and get anything. . .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our Most Favorite Pancake Recipe

1 1/2 c. Flour
2 TBL Sugar
3 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Egg, beaten
1 1/4 c. Buttermilk*
3 TBL Oil

Combine dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients, whisk till relatively well combined.  Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.  Fry by 1/4 c. fulls on skillet greased with veggie shortening.

*I never buy buttermilk.  I use the 1 TBL lemon juice to 1 c. method of making my own equivalent.  I actually use a mix of 2% and half-and-half if I have it available.  Turns out delicious just the same. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Humble I Am Not

Humble I am not. 

Though I've always fooled myself into thinking I am.

I self-depricate.  That's humility, right?  I constantly second-guess myself - my decisions, abilities, work.  I must be pretty humble.

Then I read this book.  And I find that, in spite of all this, I'm not, in fact, humble at all.  I'm proud.

True humility serves, willingly, in the day-to-day.  And each interruption brings me closer to shouting out in irritation that my plans, my desires, my wishes, my ideas are being trampled on.  My focus is on me.  Otherwise, they'd almost not even have to interrupt and ask.  I'd be aware.  Okay, I'm aware now.  I'd jump in there to offer my help, my service, my thoughts, my ear, my shoulder, my arms and hands, my eyes, my laughs. . . without being asked and without getting irritated.  But I am proud, so I only offer these things grudgingly and only after being asked.

I don't serve; I slave.

True humility gives genuine consideration to the ideas and thoughts and words and actions of another.  And I fight and buck and muse about how "it's not fair".  My focus is on me.  Otherwise I'd listen, reflect, consider, flex and bend, change my mind, do rather than expect.  I'd make the step forward.  Okay, I step forward now.  I'd lunge forward, without outside force, to engage in conversation and offer unconditional love and give what someone else needs. . . without having to be pushed there by guilt or exasperation.  But I'm proud, so I only give after fighting with all my might.

I don't give; I give in.

Lord, humble me.  I need Your help, Your humility.  I don't have it in myself; cultivate it in me.  Help me to serve my children and my husband in every small moment of the day.  Help me to listen and consider the words and actions and thoughts of my husband and children.

Help me to be truly humble.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Very Easy, Four Day President's Day Unit Study Focusing on the First Five Presidents (Elementary)

  • Read up on the first five U. S. Presidents in books from the library or on the internet.  Suggestion:  Don't Know Much About the Presidents by Kenneth Davis
  • Find the birthplaces of the first five U. S. Presidents on a map of the United States.  You may want to buy or print a special map to bring out for this purpose each year.
  • Begin a U. S. Presidents notebook.  Have the kids make up a separate page for each President, sketching or copying a picture of each President and writing down some facts and interesting information about each one.  These can begin very simply for younger children and become more in-depth for older children.
  • Read picture book biographies about one or two of the first five U. S. Presidents.  Suggestions:
  • Discuss the problems George Washington had with his teeth.  Suggestion:  George Washington's Teeth by Deborah Chandra.
  • Discuss proper oral hygiene and consider coming up with a 30-day chart to help the kids make a habit of good oral hygiene (including brushing a certain number of times a day or for a set time each time they brush or flossing or eating less sugar).
  • Plan and prepare a Presidential-themed meal based on the favorite foods of one or all of the first five U. S. Presidents.

Gratitude 3

When the kids get stomach sick, I cringe.  I soothe; yet I cringe, and my heart stops beating for a moment, and my lips and fingertips get cold and tingly.  Having to help my husband through over 24 hours of nausea and vomitting. . . well, I won't lie. . . it is horrible. 

He lies there in bed. . . in too much pain to move. . . so I move for him.  From the sofa in the living room I spend a night waiting for his cry then running to his side to help him.

15.  I'm grateful I am the helper, not the helped.  As bad as it seems. . . I'm grateful it isn't me.  But I'm also grateful God is helping me to be the helper He created me to be.  I don't have that strength in me outside of Him.
And just when things seem complicated enough.  Just when I think I can't handle another burden. . . the kids, and I get sick.  One by one come the coughs, the headaches and sore throats, the fevers.  But I won't stop to cry.  I have not the time nor energy nor desire to wallow. 

16.  I'm grateful for the beautiful weather we.  Even sick kids can go out in beautiful weather.  I can open the windows and let in fresh air - breathe it in and feel that much closer to health.
I wake up to the horrible realization that I have a doctor's appointment for myself.  Oh, no.  Sick husband upstairs in bed, sick kids huddled down in the family room - but I've not seen a doctor in two or three years. . . and this appointment is already a reschedule. . .  So I go.  With two fevered, coughing kids I go to the family practice office for the second time this week - this time without the 6'4" mass of walking pain beside me. . . no, I leave him home this time.  Yet, my four year old slumps over on my side to rest while my two year old scales the waiting room walls, and I'm so tired and discouraged and feel like I just shouldn't have come.

17.  I'm grateful for such a joyful doctor and such patient nurses.  Not only do they laugh and play with my kids; they are kind-hearted enough to tell me that my little ones are well-behaved.  As the two of them stick their heads around the hidey curtain and drop crayons all over the floor and hang from medical equipment, the doctor and nurse choose gratitude.  They reminded me to do the same.
The week fills my mind with questions.  I don't really know what's going on; I just pretend to for his sake and the sake of all those who come by with food and call with inquiries.  But I don't know - I just guess - stabs in the dark - hopeful responses to my own questions.

18.  I'm grateful for community.  The ladies at church (and husband's work) bring food, and our friend -the doctor - our family doctor. . . he's so committed.  He calls at least once a day to check on us, he prays with me on the phone, he assures me that his cell phone is at his side all day and night if I have a concern or question. . . his wife, my friend and accountability partner, gets the women organized to bring meals and calls to check on me and promise her prayers.  Tired from taking so much care, I rest in the knowledge that I'm taken care of, myself.
We are all frazzled - working on that last remnant of patience we all have left.  We are fighting, snipping, shouting. . .  How much longer?  When will this end?  I'm asked these questions by everyone - even myself. 
19.  I'm grateful for a good friend - the best kind of friend - the kind that just decides to come pick up all your kids, even the sick and contagious ones, and takes them for nine (yes, nine) hours.  They get time at a new park, spaghetti and ice cream sundaes (the biggest ever), a trip to the movies, and time with their favorite family.  I get a long phone chat with my mom, some cleaning time, a load of laundry, quiet time with a good book, and a two hour nap.  I'm ready for another week of this.
The headache has ceased.  The fever is gone.  Now we seek recovery.
20.  I'm grateful for healing.
And I get a call from my friend - the doctor's wife.  Their landlord is putting their house - their home - up for sale.  I can hear the emotion in her slow, deliberate words.  With kids swarming around me as I listen, I realize:  Now it's my turn.
21.  I'm grateful I can take my friend to God in prayer.  She was there for me, now I will be there for her.  And the prayers begin.  And they won't stop till the answer is made clear. . .  then they will be replaced with thanksgiving.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Very Easy, Four-Day, Valentine's Day / Gustav Klimt Unit Study (Elementary)

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

  • Read a non-fiction book about Gustav Klimt, paying particular attention to his choice of colors and use of shapes and patterns.  Suggestion:  Silver, Gold, and Precious Stones: Adventures in Art
  • Read a book about the use of color in art.
  • Have students decide what they want to make a picture of on Friday.  Have them choose some basic colors to make their picture with.  Have them look through old magazines, scrap paper. . . and take out sheets of the colors they've chosen.
  • Read a fun, picture book about Gustav Klimt.  Suggestion:  Klimt and His Cat by Berenice Capatti.
  • Read a book about the use of shapes in art.  Suggestion:  Shapes by Philip Yenawine.
  • Have students cut various shapes of various sizes from the papers they selected on Tuesday.
  • Discuss Gustav Klimt's homeland of Austria.  Find it on a map together - if you have printouts, have the students color in nation of Austria.
  • Have children draw a basic sketch for their picture.  Then, have them use their cut-out shapes, acrylic paints, and various small objects for pattern-making to color in their picture.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Different Spin on Consistency

My goal for this week was to figure out some easy ways to be more consistent in our home education.

So, of course, this is the week my husband comes down with viral meningitis. 

"Consistency-in-home-education week" has started out looking like my kids locked in the family room with the TV on almost all day. . . and all night as they are all sleeping down there - all this in an effort to keep the master bedroom as noise-free as possible.

My house-keeping isn't going much better, but that's another post. . .

I've been tempted several times in the last few days to get discouraged. . .  Okay, not discouraged; more like a mix of angry and depressed. . .  But, I'm choosing to take a different approach than I have been most of this horrible flu season we've gone through.

First, I'm seizing just a few of the opportunities available for small lessons throughout the day.  For instance, I've used some of the fights springing up amongst my tired, stir-crazy, irritable kids this Valentine's Day as opportunities to teach the Biblical principle of loving others.  I've also told the kids that, each day, when they go out to play or just take the dog out or run to the store for more meds for their daddy, to look for signs of spring - green leaves, flowers, robins. . .

Second, however, I'm refusing to seize every single opportunity to teach my kids something.  I've been tempted, don't get me wrong.  It would sound so good to say I've "seized every opportunity"; but the reality is that I'm slap exhausted from running up and down stairs and answering the cries of five instead of just four all day long.  If I seized every free moment I found, I'd collapse.  So, much of the time, I'm sitting down in five minute incriments to take a breather, close my eyes, pray, cry a bit. . . 

And, third, I'm constantly reminding myself not to feel guilty.  I'm making myself focus on the hour or two I locked my kids out back in the unusually nice weather this afternoon; the quick trip to the library with my two youngest that, granted, was filled with tired-4yo-tantrums, but was, nonetheless, "educational" to a degree; the flower seeds I gave the kids for Valentine's Day and all the garden planning we can do throughout the week. . .  I'm shifting my focus from what I'm not getting done, from the schedule I'm not keeping and the lists I'm not checking my way through; and I'm setting it on what I am getting done, however little that may be.

So, while I had plans to become more consistent in our schooling this week, maybe God just had other plans.  Or, maybe I am becoming more consistent - in His eyes:  consistently finding ways to teach small lessons, consistently taking a little extra care with myself, and consistently looking at the small successes instead of the small failures.

Gratitude - 2

8.  Grace - in even the seemingly most mundane areas of life.  For some reason, it seems easier to accept God's forgiveness and grace when I mess up big - it's the small mistakes that get me clinging to His love most.

9.  Warm beef stew and friends to share it with.

10.  Did I mention grace?

11.  The unconditional love of children - my children.

12.  When my darling forces me to watch a movie with him, falls asleep, and leaves me loving it even more than him.

13.  Family doctor / friend - one stop medical advice and childcare.  Now that's living in community.

14.  That it is only viral meningitis and not the something worse that was scaring the crazies out of me this morning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Waiting's When I Change

Three days of a moaning, groaning mess of a man.  Three days of unrelenting headaches.  Three days of wrong thoughts and attitudes - grasping at survival rather than a Savior.

He's lying in a hospital bed now - undergoing tests and being given meds that don't seem to want to work fast enough. 

I sit here in a messy home - neglected for the running up of soup and pain relievers and the running down of dirty dishes and angry words.

Four little ones sit down and a popcorn-laden family room watching TV as their momma watches the phone. . . waiting.

It's only now in the still of waiting - hands tied, unable to help now - that I realize how horrible I've been.  How ashamed I am that I grumbled, shouted back at his shouts, cried in my own exhaustion when he couldn't sleep.

And I pray so hard that it's just a really bad headache - nothing more.  And I think how I can be a better wife - a better person.  And I turn to God, begging Him to make me into all I'm not - that He make me into love.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Less Doing; More Loving

Sandy Coughlin is giving away some goodies and prompting thoughts about love of the 1 Corinthians 13 kind over at The Reluctant Entertainer.  Be sure to go check it out!

In answer to her question, "What part of 1 Corinthians 13 captures your heart?"  I answered,

"The first three verses - I find myself busy, busy, busy trying to be a great wife, mom, homemaker. . .  But my attitude can really stink sometimes.  It doesn't take long for me to see the real state of my marriage, kids, and home.  I can be "doing it all," but if I'm doing it all without love - without a loving spirit - it is all for naught.  My family (and God) would rather have less of the doing and more of the loving."
Be sure to go on over and join in the conversation and grab a chance or two to win a great prize!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


How do things get so off-track so quickly?  And why does it seem, after being completely de-railed, so impossible to get back on-track?

Over the past few days I've fought with my husband, saying some of the worst things. . .  I've lost countless hours of restorative sleep. . .  Pockets-full of opportunites to teach my children lost to cleaning, cooking, sleeping. . .  Every goal all but forgotten. . .

"I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten."  ~Joel 2:25

How 'bout the mere days?  Can I repent and have them restored?  Can I get that time - those opportunites back?  Will God pick me up and put me back on track - push me along - get me going again?  I need a jump start.

I want a Dr. Pepper, a good book, some time alone. . .

All I need is Him - His grace, forgiveness, voice, arms. . .

"Lord, forgive me - forgive me my careless, heartless words; my innaction and wrong priorities; my failure to let You lead; my obstinacy. . .

"Lord, help me - help me to shut my mouth and open my heart and ears, my schedule and agenda, my life. . .

"Lord, guide me - guide me through life, marriage and parenting, and the nitty-gritty details of keeping house and teaching children that so often trip me up. . .

"Lord, restore - restore not just time and opportunity, but love and kindness - virtue. . ."

All is not lost.  Every goal need not be swept away to begin again.  God can put me back on track right where I came off.  I can start fresh, with Him, right now.  I can keep on, allowing Him to change me, to use me in spite of my weaknesses.  He can and will restore - right now.

I Love. . .

It's been a dry couple months, marritally speaking.  On the surface, things look great; my husband has been thrilled with an increase in, er, "passion".  But inside - in me - its been dry and empty and lonely.  I've had a sense of loss of intimacy.  And, perhaps this is selfishness and spoiled-rottenness on my part; I'd venture to say it is.

When our attitudes stink, we turn to praising God - focusing on the blessing He gives in both good and bad. 

I decided to apply this same principle to my dry, empty, selfish heart.  I decided to remind myself of all the little things I love about the man I married.  Like. . .

I love that he pretended to be asleep while I crunched my way through the latter half of a crinkly bag Goldfish crackers.

I love watching TV with him. . . way too late at night.

I love his parents. . . really.

I love that he took me to dinner and a movie instead. . .

I love how he tries to figure me out. . .  Tries.

I love hugging him.

I love that he's learning to let me be me; and I'm trying to do the same for him.

And the list goes on - each day paying attention to why I love him, how I know he loves me, how God has blessed.  More gratitude.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gratitude 1

1.  Seeing my little 2 year old look up sideways with such admiration and love at her oldest brother.  "I wanna sit by you."  Such a special relationship they have always had, will always have with eachother.

2.  My skinny little 4yo who put all his strength into helping me shovel ice and snow from the driveway - so determined to be a masculine helper and savior to his momma.

3.  A good book and the encouragement of knowing I'm not the only "bad parent" out there.

4.  For things like in-laws and formal gatherings that remind me how much I need the grace of God.

5.  A husband who wanted to take me to a dressy work-related event; but chose, instead, to take my introverted, tired self to dinner and a movie instead - I think that made my week.

6.  Dark chocolate.  I know it's petty, but I love it and am thankful for it.

7.  Good friends who force me out of my shell, and make me comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members."  ~William Temple

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I Think Is Most Important - Part 3

We continue to pray and read short snippets of Scripture at meals.  We, even I (sometimes), keep getting out in that cold yard and enjoying a breath of fresh air and a chance to check out the wonders of God's creation every day.  This week our habit was reading, at the very least, one picture book or chapter per kid each day.

I know four picture books / chapters does not sound like a whole lot.  And some days, it isn't; and those days we do a lot more reading.  But there are many-a-day when it seems a stretch to even get this small minimum in.  Those days when kids or mom are sick or over-tired. . . those days when daddy has other plans for the family or we get an unexpected invitation. . . those days when dirty laundry starts to stage a coup or all our main living areas begin to look like they were hit by bombs. . . those are the days - and, in this season of motherhood, they are more often than not - that we do good to get our four-a-day in.

And we had a couple of those days this week - just one or two. 

And, honestly, it felt good to think through the day as I lay in bed at night and mentally check off prayer and Bible reading, 30 minutes outside, and 4 books.  I could then say to myself, "At the very least, you got these three most important things done." 

And then I could sleep.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Then and Now of Romance

It was so easy to be romantic back then - creatively romantic, that is - before marriage, kids, responsibilities.  Little gestures like cleaning and organizing his room, having dinner at Waffle House every Tuesday night, walking along the river or the beach, giving little gifts that cost so little yet meant so much. . .

. . . like the taco and accompanying poem. . .

I kept it up for a while, but like affection for pets, exercise, and out-of-town travel, these romantic gestures I used to show him slowly fell by the way-side as we had one, two, three, four kids.

So, how do I begin to reclaim a little of that romance now?

I think it begins by recognizing how we've both grown and changed - how circumstances are not the same - how some of the same gestures and gifts would not mean as much now as they did then - how some resources are more limited now and others are more readily available.  The romance changes a bit. . .

. . . but reclaiming the romance also requires recognizing that no matter how we've both grown and changed, we both still want to know. . . we want to feel. . .  love, affection, devotion, acceptance, preferance, passion, romance.

I'm dedicating the next couple weeks to loving my husband - focusing my attention on it more than I have in quite a long time.  I'm beginning my days chosing just one simple way to show him love.  I'm ending my days thinking about what I most appreciate about the man I've decided to spend the rest of my life with.

Beginning with decision, ending with gratitude, and filling in the middle with love-in-action.

Finding lots of encouragement and good ideas at A Holy Experience, too.