Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Houseplants and a head cold

I am terrible with houseplants.  Rewind to when I was responsible for watering my folks' houseplants.  My only goal: getting done as quickly as possible so I could get back to the book/movie/friend that I actually cared about.  They had this gallon container that I was supposed to fill and add plant food to.  Some days I would literally water each plant with a teaspoon of liquid, just so I wouldn't have to refill the jug.  I'm not proud of this.  Just bein' real.  And giving you some insight into my innate priorities.  Keeping plants alive= not one of them.

Fast-forward to today... Are you in 2015?  Good.  I currently have two houseplants.  One I received several years ago at my grandfather's funeral.  The other I rescued from a friend who was going to pitch it in her backyard when she moved.  It's named Fonzie.  That alone made me save it from sudden death by dumping, even though I am TERRIBLE with houseplants.  I know I'm supposed to water these plants, but I feed and water a lot of things throughout the day.  There's a lot going on here, and there are days (okay, weeks) when I don't even remember that I have houseplants.  I mean it.  I don't even seen the 4 1/2 foot tree in my entryway.  Sorry, Fonz.

Today is a rare day.  We are home all day because I have a cold.  And Baby Emily has a cold.  And we are not. going. anywhere.  It is incredibly weird.  No playdates.  No errands. No appointments.  Praise the Lord.  I miss my people, but my nerdy heart cannot wait to read the next Inspector Gamache book while my kids nap today.  It's a self-care day of rest.

Back to the point... since I had all morning at home today, I actually saw the plants (small trees to be exact) that desperately needed water and a little pruning.  Here's the miracle: I really did water them.  AND.... I did the monumental task of going out to the garage to get my pruners so I could trim the wilting branches caused by my lack of watering.

Yep.  You heard it, Katie.  I'm killing your tree.  But I expect no judgment since you were going to pitch him in your backyard. Okay?  And the other tree?  Well, here's what I've realized.  It is exactly the same height it was when I got it three years ago.  Oops.  I've had to trim off dead branches frequently because they just didn't get enough water.  It's not the tree's fault.  They are just not flourishing for lack of basic necessities.  I'm guilty of tree neglect.  Please don't call the authorities.  I swear I feed and water my kids.

After I had pruned Fonzie and was throwing out the dead branches, I realized something.  I took off what was dead and draining the life out of the plant, but I had also removed some perfectly healthy branches. Why?  Because I knew that the tree would not grow well in the space that it is in my house if those branches continued to grow.  They would push into the wall and cause the tree to be lopsided.  They would eventually die, but since the tree didn't realize what was coming down the road like I did, it would continue to pour energy into these branches.  Stop.  Right there.  Did you see it?

God totally hit me over the head this morning with those pruned branches.  As a mom with four young children, I often feel like I should be doing all the things I've always done as well as adding on a few new pursuits.  Sometimes I literally feel like God stands over me and says, "Well, I'd like to use her right now, but she's got little kids so I guess she's pretty useless to Me."  I KNOW that sounds stupid.  Totally unbiblical.  And a perfect recipe for despair and bitterness against my children.

Sometimes God has to give me a head cold so I slow down enough to listen and hear the truth, which sounds a little more like "Bloom where you're planted.  Love well the people in your reach.  Serve your children with gladness.  Know that I have given them to you and your home is important to Me.  Allow Me to trim off things in your life that may be perfectly healthy but aren't for where you are right now and are draining the energy I'd like you to put somewhere else.  Remember I'm the Master Gardener?  Trust Me.  I can see the future.  For real."

Oh, and in case you are wondering about all those dead branches, I'm about as good at self-care as I am at plant care.  Truth: the last two and a half years of my life have knocked me out of most of the good practices I had in my life.  It's that third kid, people.  It's brutal.  Anyone who tells you otherwise just wants more grandkids.  My quiet times with the Lord, my regular evenings for exercise, and my carved out spaces for rest had completely fallen by the wayside.  And it's only been recently that I have found a way to have my quiet time with the Lord in the midst of the chaos of my life.  I've always known I needed it, but I'd remember and then just keep on with the busyness of my life. Please tell me I'm not the only one...

That tree from my grandpa's funeral has not grown at. all. because I haven't consistently given it the water it needed.  I've pretty much just given it what it needed to survive and not die completely.  And the same could be said for myself.  Just enough rest.  Just enough prayer.  Just. barely. enough.  It's just not working.  So I'm carving out time in my mornings that is for me and the Lord.  I'm making time to run with my family and stay strong.  And I'm scheduling blocks of time to pursue rest and relationships because otherwise, life is just going to keep on and I'll be at the same place in three more years that I am now.  Please. No.

I don't say any of this to sound spiritual or to seem like I have it all together.  I'm sitting in a mountain of Kleenex right now, listening to my children destroy the house in the background.  Even with new life-giving habits begun, the stuff of this world (please hear perfectionism, selfishness, bitterness, etc.) still gets in my road and slows me down.  But I've taken the time to remember what I need to grow, to be healthy, and to flourish where I'm planted; and even if my new plans only work out half the time, I will be so much better off than if I'd done nothing and continued to only take care of myself when I felt like I was falling apart.

Yep.  All this good stuff from taking care of my houseplants.  Can you believe it?  Lucky you.  But, for real... I hope you take time today to remember that you are called to flourish exactly where you are planted.  To love the people within your reach and to give yourself daily doses of God's life-giving Word.  I hope you can give yourself the grace to cut the things out of your life that He leads you to so you can pour your energies into where He has you planted.  I hope you feel valuable and loved.  Because you are.  God is up to something good in and through your life.  And, for bonus points, I hope you water your houseplants.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Need a word?

Sometimes a little goes a long way.  A few chocolate chips finally convinced my son that potty training was worth his time.  The baby girl often just needs a little snuggle time to be happy playing on the carpet again.  Or, on a really hard day, a friend saying a few kind words carries me through the end of the day.

We all need those people who speak fit words at the right time (as well as those people who know when NO words need to be spoken).  Right now I feel like a friend has promised to get together with me a share the good stuff.  The reality of what life is really like behind closed doors.  The lifehacks that help that mom with a buhjillion children keep her sanity without losing, poisoning, or maiming someone.  The best practices that someone has learned the hard way so that I don't have to.

Interested?  Check out this FREE three day mom conference.  Need some words on discipline?  fitness? making money from home?  sibling rivalry?  Sign up and have access to a different set of workshops ALL DAY on October 13, 14, and 15 in the comfort of your home.  I am not signed up as an affiliate.  Just an eager learner who is going to take advantage of this amazing, convenient opportunity.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Change (and why it's good)

I have a love/hate relationship with my "On This Day" feed on Facebook.  I love seeing the pictures and reading the statuses about my kids.  I am so blessed to read the encouraging posts that were written on my wall.  But it's hard.

I read some of those posts and think, "Man... that girl that they were writing to had a ton of freedom.  Free time.  Unlimited sleep.  Choices.  Amazing."  But sometimes I also read things I posted and think, "WHY?????  Oh, WHY would I post that for everyone to read?  No one needed to know about that.  Period."

So sometimes change is good.  As we grow and change, we mature (hopefully).  We make better choices, more informed choices.  We do things we swore we wouldn't do because it was what our mom did, but at this point it seems pretty smart.  Way to go, Mom.  You were right all along.  It only took 31 years for me to get it.  I'm a little dense.

And in the case of this blog, change was necessary.  Entirely, ridiculously necessary.  For starters, there are no longer just boys in our family.  We have two.... yes, TWO little girls in our home.  Yep.  If that seems crazy impossible to you, join the club.  We could not be more thrilled to yell, "Okay, boys and girls.." into the back seat of our van. This is the family I always wanted but never dreamed would actually come together like this.  I mean... I'm a control freak, but the gender of our kiddos is still definitely beyond me.

Secondly, when I started the blog, I was...well... different.  Younger.  Ignorantly confidant.  Growing gracious young men seemed so very possible since my boys were still under the age of 3.  The world of possibility was wide open.  And even though we still desperately want our children to reflect the grace of God to a broken world, we are discovering that God has so much more to teach us as parents than we have to teach our children.  So the blog's name and domain have changed.

The old address will still direct you here, but I wanted the name and the domain to reflect what this blog actually is.  It's just the writing of a mom.  One mom.  One voice.  One Christ-follower who is still screwing up, remembering forgiveness, and rising again.  So welcome to The Writes of a Mom because I laid down way too many of those other rights when motherhood found me.

photo credit Jaime Virginia Photography

Yep, that's the new crew!  My house is always loud.  Incessantly cluttered.  Unbelievably blessed.   And unavoidably changing.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Timer Isn't for the Kids

Few realizations have been more eye-opening than finally figuring out that I can't just juggle my family and my home in my head now that we're almost six people.  I really did feel like I could do it before.  Remembering who had what toy first and for how long.  Remembering who had had screen time and when they had started using  Remembering that poor kid I put in time out.

Those days are gone.  A few weeks ago I realized that when my kids were on the computer, I started racing around and doing all the chores around the house that did not require "help."  You know what kind of help I'm talking about.  It's the kind that involves a 1 year old playing with a toilet brush and waving it through the air.  A couple days ago, I figured out that my kids were super fidgety in time out because heaven only knows when Mommy will remember that she put them in time out and needs to have a conversation with them.  And, oh the frustration, I have no idea how long anyone has had any toy in my house.  I try not to favor the squeaky wheel who whines about his property all the time or the little girl who steals toys and then shrieks when her brothers try to take them back, but OH MY WORD... the whining, the tattling, the screaming!!  It grates on my last nerve, making my want to send everyone to Australia so I can pretend like adults don't whine and complain just as much (been to Walmart lately, anyone?).

My solution: the timer.  I haven't used it consistently before.  It was always too bothersome to get up and actually set it, but I find that it's no longer optional.  It's not like I'll just magically remember when 30 minutes is up.  Time just flies around here!  So here are some strategies that are working to save me stress.

When a child starts asking for screen time, I give them a time (normally 2 hours or so in the future) when they can have some computer or Amazon Prime time.  This forces them to find something else to do to entertain themselves, but keeps me from having to hear, "Can I play PBS Kids now?" 100 times in a 60 second period.  I'm telling you... It would try the patience of a saint.  I set a timer so I don't forget my agreement and point the child to the timer if the question does arise.  If the question is asked too often, I set the timer for longer.  So far, so good.  When the timer does ring, I set it again for the amount of screen time that that particular child can handle before becoming an emotional zombie.  You know what I'm talking about.  You know you do.  This keeps me from starting a project upstairs and coming down to find that my child has been on the computer so long that his hand is permanently fused to the mouse.  And our children are justice-minded enough to think that if one has had that much time, then all should.  Tell me this is not just our house.

Toys and timers have revolutionized the sharing process.  I remember watching one of my friends do this with her daughter and thinking she was a genius.  She is, but, shockingly, her method even worked for me and my kiddos.  When one child doesn't want to share a toy, I ask them how many minutes they need with that toy (a million is not a reasonable answer).  We set a timer for that amount of time, and the other child has to wait for the toy until the timer rings and then gets said toy for the same amount as the first child had it.  It works like a dream!  Normally it takes no more than 2 rounds with a timer for them to just start passing the toy back and forth nicely.  Phew.  No more tattling or brawling.  So nice.  So worth getting off my tail to set the timer and helping them work it out together.

Lastly, time out.  Some times we have multiple children in time out.  I know.  It's unimaginable that my children would need significant time away to cool off and be ready to talk about better choices, especially with such an even-keeled mother. HA. At this point, I just set a timer for the youngest offender.  After talking to that child and resolving their offenses, I move on to the next oldest until everyone has been freed.  If a child is not ready to talk, I skip them.  They know this only prolongs their own time in purgatory so normally they are ready to talk turkey as soon as I am.  But occasionally someone gets stubborn.  Clearly they get that from Teacher Man.  (Insert giant laugh here.)

Otherwise, I have bad news.  I forget putting people in time out and never get to deal with the heart of the matter.  I get frustrated with people not sharing and raise my voice, never giving any strategies for coping, so the problems just keep coming back.  And I just let the screen time take over our day to the point where I don't even remember what we did with all our time.

The timers aren't for the kids.  They're for me.  Because I've come to the end of myself and realized that I'm just not enough.  I'm gonna need some extra help.  And if that help just happens to be free and to teach my children some concept of time, then so much the better.  But continue to pray for me. At this rate of mental disintegration, I will soon have timers ringing and have no clue why I set them.  Don't judge.  We all have issues.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life as a Multi-mom

I've had brief glimpses of my former life this month, remembering back to when I was responsible for only one little boy.  Recalling our peaceful trips to the library.  Reminiscing about the little activities and projects we used to do together and the hours that we spent cuddled up on the couch reading.  Fast-forward to today, only five years later...

As I sit here typing, I can look down and see my ever-growing belly, a good sign that the little life within continues to thrive.  I can hear a four year old playing in his bunk bed when he should be napping.  I hear the heavy breathing of my one year old daughter as she refuels her energy tank for a romping afternoon.  And I know that that little boy I used to spend hours/days/weeks snuggling with on the couch is reading to himself while I spend a few minutes recharging my own batteries.  Life is full.  And while some moments fly by, others are so decadently rich with precious moments that my mind and soul can't take it all in.

I'm a multi-mom.  I have more children than I have hands.  I can compare and contrast each of their birth stories in mind-numbing detail.  At times, I glory in seeing the unique personalities each of them has been given, and at other times I wish they would cooperate better as a team.  We've reached a new season.  It's no longer about him or him or her or me.  It's about us, living life, loving God, and enjoying the ride... because it is a ride.  If you try to get off, you will be run over.  I know.  I've tried.  Ouch.  But I've also had to intentionally hit the brakes to at least slow things down because I realized that I was missing all the gourmet moments while being so frantically busy trying to make the daily happen.

More of them.  Less of me.  Something had to give.  So here's what a did: I prayed.  And I talked to Teacher Man, who LAUGHED out loud.  He had the gall to laugh to my face when I asked him if he thought I was involved in too many things.  Apparently, I'm just super slow at recognizing what the people around me can see after 30 seconds in my presence.  And God did a work in my heart and my mind, cutting things away and even adding a few in.  

God was faithful.  A week after I begged the Lord to show me how I was supposed to get to the grocery store in our schedule, a college student asked if she could serve our family with childcare.  A few days after I told Teacher Man I was going to scream if I had to keep cooking allergy-friendly meals every night, a woman from church offered to make me an egg-free, dairy-free meal on occasion.  And at one point when I thought I was going crazy, God ordained a coffee date with a woman I've only met a few times, and I discovered a kindred spirit.

It wasn't easy.  I miss a lot of the things I cut out.  So. much.  But I think I would feel worse about scurrying my way through Laura's second year of life and Ben's first year of preschool at home.  About the feelings of anger as I watched more problems arise than I had the free time to work on.  About missing all of Caleb's crazy stories from kindergarten because I am still processing my frantic schedule.  About not slowing enough to talk to the little life growing inside me.

I was struck this morning as I watched all three of my children jumping and laughing in the family room that, while I will not miss diapers and shoe-tying, I will indeed miss having preschoolers in the house.  Their unrestrained hugs.  The thump of little feet running through the house.  Their inability to hold words back... every honest, sweet, stinking, hilarious thing they feel like saying comes out.  Even at their most excited, I highly doubt all three of my oldest children will jump and laugh and tumble around the family room like clumsy gymnasts once they've reached the teen years.  Bummer.  Although that's probably best for the safety of the furniture.

There's also more scary to come.  With new little person's arrival in April, I'm realizing that even the things that God is allowing me to keep right now, He could very well ask me to give up in the spring.  Ouch.  Pain, but in a good way.  I'd rather have a few deep commitments than a bunch of momentary appearances.  Though it's nice to keep up with everyone, my soul revels in a small circle who can be honest, extend forgiveness, and love richly.  And even though I may refer to my kids as our "crew," my deepest desire is to know their hearts individually and to mother each of them uniquely.  Because even though I'm a multi-mom, my deepest desire to to be Caleb's mom, Ben's mom, Laura's mom, and ???'s mom.  To teach them to live and love together as a family but to pursue the individual callings that the Lord has placed on each of their lives.

To those of you who are enjoying life with one child, bless you.  It's hard.  And scary.  And so very overwhelming.  And to those of you with your hands full of little hands, bless you.  It's hard.  And scary.  And so very overwhelming.  My hats off to each of you for embracing the life God has called you to live today.  May you do it well by the strength and grace that God has given you for this moment!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Spoon Rolls

Okay, I've talked about them enough.  I have to share.  When Teacher Man and I were on our honeymoon, we stopped at the Harrow Road Cafe in middle of historic Rugby, Tennessee.  It seemed like it would be good lunch until they brought out the bread basket, and then... it was an amazing lunch.  We gorged ourselves on these rolls that tasted like a delightful cross between a yeast roll and a buttery muffin with just a hint of cornmeal.  When we were leaving the restaurant, I spotted a cookbook with the recipe for those incredible spoon rolls.  Thus began a beautiful obsession for our family as we've adapted the recipe over the years.

I serve these with soup or just because.  They also have been a great snack for Bible study.  I pull out all my spreads: jams, pear butter, apple butter, dulce de leche, and peanut butter.  Then everyone can eat them plain (my favorite way) or doctored up.  If you eat these cold, they are yummy.  If you eat them warm, they are divine!

Here's my recipe that I've adapted for our family of dairy-free, egg-free eaters:

4 cups of whole wheat flour (I like Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold, which is a similar texture to white flour.  Feel free to use white flour.  I won't judge.)
2 T baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt (or 2 tsp. salt)
2 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup coconut oil or butter if you're able (melted)
2 T cornmeal
1 egg, beaten (or I use 1 T ground flaxmeal mixed with 3 T hot water and leave the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.)
1 T dried yeast

1. Add yeast to warm water in small bowl and stir.
2. Mix egg (or egg substitute), sugar, and melted coconut oil (or butter) in another small bowl.
3. Whisk together baking powder, flour, salt, and cornmeal in large bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients to large bowl and stir with wire whisk.  Do NOT use a mixer.  Trust me.  Resist the urge.
5. Spoon into greased muffin tins (3/4 full) and bake at 400 degrees for 10-14 minutes.

Makes 24 rolls (if you're lucky).

But here's the hint, if you make this dough in the morning and cover it with foil in the refrigerator, it gets SO much yummier.  Then just pull it out, put it in the muffin tins and bake right before supper to have hot rolls.

Go. Make these for supper.  And if you aren't dairy-free, feel free to substitute butter for the coconut oil.  I know I would if I could!  Lovely, lovely salted butter.  Then try to wait to eat one until it cools down... on second thought, don't try.  Some battles just aren't worth the effort.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It would have been enough...

Seder is big in my family.  No, we're not Jewish.  Evangelical Christians, in fact.  But about twenty years ago, my dad was doing research on the feasts of the Old Testament and ended up creating a Seder service that combined Old Testament and New Testament readings.  At first, it was supposed to be just a small Sunday School gathering, but it quickly evolved into an all-church feast.  And even though a job transfer moved my family away from that church, we continued the tradition in our own family until my parent's new church heard about it.  So Thursday my parents helped to serve the Passover feast to a group from their church in addition to sharing the feast with my Bible study group here on Tuesday.

It's a beautiful time of remembering the grace and power of God to His people and now to us as believers through the Lamb of God, His Son Jesus Christ.  One of the most beautiful parts of the ceremony is a litany in which the leader reads a list of miracles that God did to free the Israelites and provide for them in the desert for forty years.  After each miracle, those sitting around the table repeat the phrase, "It would have been enough for us."  What a powerful reminder of the magnitude of miracles God did for the Israelites!  How amazing to think that they needed each and every one of these miracles to survive their journey through the desert!  And what a practical, humbling experience it is to think that any one of those miracles would have been... should have been... could have been enough for them.  Because God was enough.

Which brings me to Saturday.  It wasn't a very significant day... other than the fact that God woke me up at 7 a.m. and told me that I would really like to go to the grocery store. right. then.  If you know me very well, you know that's pretty supernatural, especially on a Saturday morning.  And He would NOT let me go back to sleep... so to the store I went with an inexplicable joy to be awake and buying food for my family.  I restocked all of our cupboards, and then we all went outside as a family to work in the garden and play in the sunshine.  It was pretty perfect.  Then we got the call at noon that my mom and dad were planning to come and help us out in the garden after lunch. Yay!

My parents are master gardeners, and you'd be hard pressed to find a garden in our city that doesn't have at least one of their perennials in it.  They love to give away their plants and help others enjoy gardening.  Plus, when they come to my house, they get to pass that love on to their three grandchildren.  What could be better?

We trimmed and hauled sticks and branches from trees, bushes, and plants all afternoon together.  It was a beautiful day of good conversation, sunshine, and really happy children. But when I went to take a basket of twigs out to the brush pile, I found my dad lying on the ground.  Thinking he was just examining my lawn for moles because he's the "lawn guy" in the family, I didn't think to much of it until I talked to him and he wouldn't respond to me.  Quickly my mom ran over and my husband came, not knowing why we were all gathered around the ground.

Within seconds, I was dialing 911, my husband was clearing my dad's airway, and my mother was talking to Dad trying to get him to wake up and respond.  But he wouldn't.  And he stopped breathing.  And as I talked to the emergency responder on the phone, I truly thought I was watching my mother say goodbye to my father for the last time.  Teacher Man checked for a pulse.  Praise God it was there!  Then he gave Dad a breath, and by some miracle Daddy started gasping for air.  Snoring actually.  Not regularly.  But every so often, he would snore or gasp for air.  There was life in his body, and his color started to come back.

The EMTs were amazing.  They got here in minutes, and by the time they had wheeled their gurney back to Dad, he uttered his first words after they asked him what happened: "I have no idea."  I can't tell you how good it was to hear those words.  The next few hours were a blur of spending time at our local ER where Dad was gasping for breath and confused, watching Daddy be airlifted to a larger hospital, driving to my parents' home to get things for my mother, and heading to the larger ER to find my dad awake and talking.

It's been a whirlwind.  Test after test has come back negative.  No problems. Dad's heart is fine.  His brain is fine.  Everything is fine.  We're frustrated to not know what happened, but so incredibly blessed to know all of the things it was not.  And through all these tests, we as a family have reflected on the immeasurable grace of God in every detail of this awful event.

This Easter we celebrated the resurrection in a whole new light.  We watched my dad breathe new life with no human explanation.  We watched him recover total ability after only a few hours.  We know this didn't have to be the way that God wrote our story.  But it is.  And as we reflect on this last week and prepare for the future, we can do nothing but give glory to God.  For His grace.  For His goodness.  For His presence in even the tiniest detail.  Because even if everything had not turned out this way, God would still be God.  He would have been enough for us. It would have been enough for us.  It would have.

If the test results had not come back so well... It would have been enough for us.

If Dad had not had one of the best medical teams in the state... It would have been enough for us.

If the Body of Christ hadn't surrounded us in a cloud of prayer... It would have been enough for us.

If he had not been airlifted to a wonderful hospital... It would have been enough for us.

If the paramedics hadn't come so very quickly to give him oxygen... It would have been enough for us.

If Teacher Man hadn't been trained in CPR and able to help Dad start breathing... It would have been enough for us.

If Dad had passed out at home and not here where Teacher Man and I could help Mom... It would have been enough for us.

And if Saturday had been our last day with Daddy...our last day of gardening in the sunshine and laughing together while the children played...his first day of standing in the presence of His Savior... It would have been enough for us. But, oh, how grateful I am though that Dad has been given the gift of another day.

God was and is and will always be enough for us.  Amen.  And amen.