Sunday, November 18, 2012

When you know your day is in peril...

Sometimes I feel like my day has spun out of control before my feet have even hit the floor.  You know the days?  You can hear little animated voices already planning their adventures for the day even though you were planning to sleep for at least another twenty minutes.

I know it's Saturday.  It's the easy day, right?  But Teacher Man had to be at church for six hours of the day so "easy" might be taking it a little far.  I knew my day was in trouble when Teacher Man was getting ready to walk out the door.  The kitchen was a mess, the boys were both simultaneously asking/whining for different things, the laundry needed to be started, supper had to go in the slow cooker, over a hundred pounds of beef was on its way to my house, and I had not had any coffee.  I needed help fast.  So I began to count as I played catch-up.

164. Food to eat this morning.  I am so rich.
165. My sons. Precious gifts.  Best investment of five years. ever.
166. New books from the library... for all of us.
167. A meal shared last night, and the mess to prove it.
168. Warm clothing on a cold day.
169. A soft bed to rest on after a long pregnant day.
170. Beef.  It's what's for dinner, and it's filling up my freezer.  I know it will fill our bodies this winter.  How can we be so blessed?
171. Friends.  Who offer help.  God, give me the grace to accept help.
172. Clothes warm from the dryer.
173. Water.  Clean water.  So many today won't drink it, let alone shower in it.
174. Baby kicks.  This girl is itching to enter the world.  Never have I experienced a pregnancy like this one.  Never have I known the thrill of mothering a daughter.
175. Peace and quiet. Both boys rest. Ben has relief from his teething pain, at least for a nap.
176. Clearly spoken words. Ben requests water WITH ice in a tractor cup.  Well, okay then.
177. Sons who serve. Caleb picks up and carries so many small tasks.  His service in the little things makes a big difference in this momma's life.
178. Abundance of food.  I look at the freezer, my canned goods in the cupboard, and our refrigerator's stuffed shelves and can do nothing but breathe thanks.
179. A clean, safe home. The average family in 1950 had 1000 square feet of space.  I. have. enough.

And suddenly I have grace to share because I have taken time to recognize the grace I have received.  From graceless and empty to graceful and rich.  The counting was the quiet breath I needed to take before loving and serving the hearts in my home, not just appeasing the loudest voices. Even the one in my head that was demanding (not requesting) coffee.

The day took a different turn.  We read. a lot.  We played new games.  Both boys showed new maturity by sharing and loving each other well.  We biked together.  We raked together.  We took a little adventure trip.  And all the unimportant things (like eating and cleaning and not letting 100 lb. of beef thaw) got done too.  Amazing how that all works out.

Keep calm and count on, friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pregnant lady in need of grace.

*Please note that this post was written two weeks ago, but I laughed when I re-read it so I thought some of you might get a chuckle from my ridiculousness too.

Can I just put that title on a piece of cardboard and hang it around my neck?  Truly.  First of all, I need to say that any day that starts with my three year old waking up 30 minutes before me is bound to get interesting. There's way too much time for his brain to get fired up and ready for the day, while my brain is still wading through quagmires of exhaustion.  Today deserves a play-by-play; so, by golly, that's what you're getting.

7:00 a.m. I wake up to find that Caleb is awake, has been awake, and is happily playing with dinosaurs on the floor of the family room.  Once more, I give thanks that he likes to play more than he likes to eat.  I check email and FB messages to make sure there's nothing coming up/canceled for today, and I go ahead and eat a bowl of cereal.

7:30 a.m. I start serving breakfast to Caleb because his younger brother is still asleep.  We've been taking a break from the brothers sharing a room at night because Ben became so sleep-deprived that he was spending all of his waking hours half-sleeping on our floors, other people's floors, and the floors of local businesses. This break has allowed Ben to sleep in, which he does with an ability he inherited from Teacher Man.

7:45 a.m. Caleb and I sit down at the dining room table to eat breakfast, talk about the day, and do "school."  First, let me begin by saying that I don't think my three year old needs to do school.  I have a type-A, book-loving son who asked to do school.  I'm a teacher.  His words reached into my soul.  He was crying out for learning.  Okay, maybe he just wanted extra attention, but do you know how good it feels to have your child BEGGING to do more phonics?  I love that kid with all my type-A, book-loving heart.

8:30 a.m. Caleb and are finishing school, and we finally hear sounds coming from the nursery.  Ben is awake and joins us at the table for some peanut butter toast and Big Backyard reading (LOVE this magazine for preschoolers, by the way!).

9:00 a.m. I start cleaning up breakfast.  This is going to be a leisurely day.  I have a dinner to prepare for a friend who just had her third sweet baby, and I have Laundry Day to tackle.  Both things on my written calendar could be easily done without leaving the house until late afternoon.  Oh, and we wanted to go spend some time at our friends' home while Teacher Man works late.  Perfect.  Ah... no hurry.  No rush.  I start a Sid the Science Kid episode on the computer for the boys while I get the day in motion, unloading the dishwasher, starting the laundry, putting ingredients in the slow cooker for dinner, giving the kitchen a spruce.

10:00 a.m. The boys get dressed, and I put on yet another Sid the Science Kid.  They love it, and the house is a wreck after a very relaxing Sunday.  I spend the twenty-five minutes of their science-induced coma getting dressed, making a grocery list, and figuring out what I want to do with the rest of the day.

10:45 a.m. I finally wrestle both boys into the car for a quick run to Aldi.  When did "put your shoes on" become a fifteen minute task?  If you ever wanted to see me wandering around town, having a bad hairday, and looking frazzled; your dreams would have come true today.  I was halfway to Aldi when I realized that we had missed a 9:30 appointment on the north side of town, which had never been written down on the calendar.  I veered the car off the main road, hoping I could reschedule at the office in person and beg forgiveness.

11:00 a.m. I arrive at the destination where I should have been at 9:30.  Yep, they were more than gracious.  No, they didn't beat me or berate me, but I was mortified.  Why did I not write this one down?  Why was my brain so foggy?  Why do they keep making those cheese stick wrappers so hard to open?  Deep questions for which I have no answers.

11:30 a.m. We finally make it to Aldi, and I start my shopping.

11:32 a.m. A friend calls, asking if she can pick anything up for me at the store on her way to my house to drop her daughter off for a couple of hours.  WHAT?!!?!  Yep, I forgot that commitment too.  Totally knew about it, then promptly forgot.  I run through Aldi, getting the ever-necessary yogurt and a few other things before running out of the store and getting home at 11:44.

11:45-1:15 p.m.  After apologizing profusely, my friend just laughs at me, hands me a decaf pumpkin spice latte, and bravely leaves her daughter with the crazy woman who can't even keep track of the days of the week.  After she leaves, her daughter entertains us with stories about their family (be careful what you say in front of your five year old!) and reads a ton of books with us.

1:30 p.m. Our sweet house guest leaves when her mom returns, and I put Caleb down for his nap (Ben is already asleep.).  Normally this is the time I breathe for about thirty minutes, but there is no time for that today.  Laundry needs to be switched, lunch needs to be cleaned up, clothes need folding, cornbread needs to go in the oven.  No breathing allowed.

3:00 p.m. After switching laundry, folding laundry, making our bed, and putting away most of the clothes; I'm feeling good about the laundry.  Dinner is almost done and the house no longer looks like it's been taken over by plastic dinosaurs.  I'm feeling like things are semi-under control, but I also know that we have a playdate scheduled for after naps and I need to deliver the meal.  I pay bills online, play with Ben who always wakes up first, and continue meal prep.

4:00 p.m. We leave for friends' house to play for the afternoon, and I have forty-five minutes of just watching my sweet boys play with toys and talking to a friend.  They are in boy heaven.  There are Thomas trains involved.  They may never want to leave, but I grab Ben anyways to help me deliver the dinner on the other side of town.

4:45 p.m. I pack up the dinner and realize how foggy my brain really feels.  It's so bad that I question my ability to drive.  Not sure if pregnancy brain counts as a prohibitive driving condition, but I'm strongly thinking that it should.  Teacher Man gets home, rescues Ben from his tired momma, and lets me deliver the meal all by myself.  Bless him.

5:15 p.m. I deliver the supper fifteen minutes late to the dad who graciously accepts my culinary offering and allows me to make a quick exit so I can get Caleb from our friends' home.  I'm pretty sure Caleb has already considered getting his last name changed and joining their family by the time I arrive.  He is chasing after frisbees, wrestling on the ground, and generally being a boy when I get there and he runs away from my car. I'd like to think he didn't recognize me and was practicing stranger danger... but I know better.

5:45 p.m. I finally kidnap my child away.  He asks if he can go back tomorrow.  I say I'll think about it, but really I'm on autopilot.  My sciatic nerve has been acting up whenever baby girl decides to move to just the right spot, and I can no longer walk, stand, sit, or crawl without serious back pain.  The day is about to go downhill in a hurry.

6:00 p.m. We sit down to eat.  Teacher Man knows I'm tired because I say nothing at dinner.  This is very unusual.  I talk. a lot.  Clearly.  I just have no energy left.  Teacher Man cleans up the table, the boys, and the kitchen.  Bless him again.

6:30 p.m. I sit down on the couch and announce that I'm reading.  Caleb runs to the couch and allows Gertrude Chandler Warner to escort him to Surprise Island along with the Boxcar Children.  He is enthralled.  I am grumpy.  I hurt.  I just want my kids to go to bed so I no longer have to move or hurt.

7:00 p.m. I almost cry trying to brush the boys' teeth.  They are full of giggles.  I am all-business.  This is not going to be easy.  Somehow I've directly associated their going to bed with the pain in my back stopping.  Totally unfair to them and totally untrue for me.

7:30 p.m. I nearly lose it when Caleb tells me he needs to go to the bathroom AGAIN.  I call Teacher Man. I have had .... enough.  I declare myself done with Monday and start the bath water running.

8:00 p.m. Baths are great when you're getting in but awful if you can't get up.  I literally am lying in my tub, and I can't figure out how to stand up without serious pain.  It's pathetic.  I'm pathetic.  I just want to fall over.  So I do.  Then I crawl out of the tub somehow and sit down to write this post.

There are definitely better days.  The boys get along, Caleb begs to do more math problems, Ben learns a few new words, and supper is served promptly after Teacher Man gets home by a woman who is pain-free and smiling.  This was not one of those days.  I'm starting, ever so slowly, to realize my limitations, to accept them, and to live within them so I can truly LIVE my life rather than drag my pear-shaped body through the daylight hours.  When did accomplishing a list become my standard for success?  Why do I consider my body the only one that doesn't need special care?  Must. slow. down.  Must give self grace to rest.  To heal. To nurture the life growing within.  To love those around me these last two months.  To smile.  I'm a pregnant lady in need of grace, God's grace.  Grace that comes from upturned hands receiving rather than hands kept busy doing.

And, by the way, I know I'm not alone.  Join me.  Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Notice what's really important.  Discard the rest.  Lift your hands up to receive the gifts.  Revel in God's sustaining grace that is just enough for this day.  Return thanks to the Grace Giver.  He is enough.  You are not.  He will supply all your needs.  You cannot.

2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Living Right Now

I can already hear the buzz of the next ten weeks.  Preparations for baby girl.  Thanksgiving feasts. Christmas traditions.  Extra appointments.  End of the year meetings.  Meanwhile, I feel my body slowly shutting down.  Legs won't move.  Back won't bend.  Baby has a clear need to do her jujitsu practice in my womb at 4:30 a.m. when I so desperately need to sleep. Time ticks away, and I get slower each day.

The future terrifies me.  I live under the shadow of fear all the time.  Fear of never sleeping again.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of failure.  Fear of disaster.  Fear of the unknowns that I don't have the awareness to fear.  Fear of being too much and not enough all at the same. time.  My coping mechanism for these fears is normally to do something.  Make a phone call.  Freeze an extra meal.  Clean a bathroom.  Do another load of laundry.  Write down a to-do list. Just do something to prepare.

But right now, my knees are physically, forcibly bent to touch the earth. These have been some of the most humbling days of my life.  The deep-seated need to prepare has been overpowered by the complete inability to move.  In other words, my body won't allow me to try to be Spunky the Super Mom right now.  Ha!  Right now as I hobble around the house, struggling to make a bowl of cereal for my preschooler and to cook that egg for my toddler, I have to laugh.  Spunky is LONG gone.  She has been replaced by her 80-year-old great aunt Wimpy, who spends her afternoons crocheting and her days trying not to move more than is absolutely necessary all while sporting the latest fad... drumroll, please... compression hose.

I can't do it all.  I can't prepare for all contingencies.  I can't predict the weather either.  Grrr... I'm just so powerless it's pathetic.  And it's in these moments that I hear a still, small Voice calling to me... Trust, my daughter.  Rest. Attack one REAL problem at a time.  Let me worry about the unseen because, unlike you, I can actually see what is coming.  Open your hands wide to receive my grace.  Trust that I know all that you need and am looking out for your good.  It may not feel good; but, my child, it will do you so much good.  The enemy might intend it for evil, but it will be oh, so good.  So let go, and give thanks.

So I return to my list, the list of gifts that somehow miraculously returns me to the present moment, focuses my heart on the now.

145. Cookies showing up at my door
146. A friend who lives her life at my house so I don't have to lift or even move.
147. A husband who does dishes... endless loads of dishes.
148. The Body who prays.  I can feel the strength of your prayers.
149. The kicks of a wee little girl, itching to see the world.
150. Technology. It's at times like this that PBS Kids finds its way into our home.
151. Our new speech therapist. Love how well she loves my boys.
152. Caleb's love for information, for books, for a good story.
153. Ben's new ankle braces.  So amazingly provided for.
154. Food IN my house when I can't leave my house.
155. Teacher Man's phone call.  I love talking to him in the middle of my day.
156. The light in my house reflected off the snow outside.  Just. Beautiful.
157. The good news of a friend's healthy pregnancy. For this child, we have prayed!
158. Teacher Man's "secret project" during naps yesterday. Woke up to bookshelves just for Caleb so he can read in his bunk bed.
159. Making jelly for the first time and just talking to a friend.
160. Ben's new words.
161. Resting on a Sunday afternoon with my big boy.
162. Laughter. (Ben brushing his hair with Teacher Man's toothbrush.) Still laughing about this.
163. God's Word about forgiveness.  Needed to hear this again. and again.

Food gets eaten and clean carpet will get dirty, but the souls around me will live forever.  Praising God for another day, even if I do have to live it sitting down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Baby Bug

It gets to many of us.  I've talked to multiple women so I know it's not just me.  For years, you've thought about how wonderful it would be to share your life with someone, to be married to the man that God has for you.  You spend months planning details for a wedding, whether or not you care about the symmetry of every table decoration.  Then, not long after you get home from your honeymoon, the baby bug bites.

Married?  Check.  Children?  Not yet.  Wait a minute!  Children?  We weren't even thinking about having children until a few years into our marriage!  Yep, I remember thinking, after being married for only one month, that it must be time for Teacher Man and I to start having children.  In my mind, I knew that was crazy.  He had two more years of his undergrad.  We were living in a two-room apartment off of my salary as a private school teacher.  We're talking less than $20,000 per year.  We're talking a budget too tight to buy ice cream.  Why on earth did I feel like the next step was children?  Let's try a more realistic goal...  How about graduation for Teacher Man?  That seems a bit more logical.  Right?

We honestly thought that expanding our family was years away.  Years!  However, seven months later, when my waistline began to expand, we realized that sometimes God answers the desires of our heart in completely illogical ways.  Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I love that verse, but I often think that we receive the desires of our heart because He has given us those desires.  It is actually HIS will that those desires come to fruition.
Teacher Man and I were delighting in the Lord, in serving Him together, in the life He had given us; and so He saw fit to give us another life.  And after the initial shock, panic, tears, and chaos of figuring out how we would provide for and love this little gift; Caleb truly became our delight.  And after Caleb, Ben filled the desire that God had given us to raise Caleb alongside a brother.

I say all of this because several months ago, I got bit by the baby bug.  The boys were getting bigger, and both Teacher Man and I truly desired another sweet baby in the house.  By His grace, God saw fit to give us another child, to gift us with the desire of our heart.  Some days, I'm overwhelmed by my life.  There's too much to do.  There are too many needs.  There is only one of me, and most of the time I feel like I'm falling apart at the seams.  However, God has been so faithful.

There are times when I will see a friend with her new baby and think, "I wish we had another little one..." only to delight in remembering that we are only three months away from meeting our precious daughter.  What an amazing reality.

There are times that I worry about not having enough time to go around, not enough resources to meet every want, not enough patience to handle every mishap.  But I know that there is more than enough love to go around in this house.  I know that each of our children, planned or unplanned, is wanted, is a blessing, has an incredible calling on his/her life.  Each of them was sent not only to fulfill the desires of our hearts but to accomplish the will of the Father and to delight in Him.  So we will keep on keeping on, delighting in the One who created us and in the gifts He has given us and depending on His faithfulness, which is so much greater than we could ever imagine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's Important?

I have vivid memories of being in college, feeling like I was busy.  Papers to write, meetings to attend, giant textbooks to read, midterms to take.  Everything seemed so important.  So here I stand, looking back five years and realizing that I didn't have a clue.  Yes.  Education is important.  Investing in knowledge to prepare for a better future is a noble thing, but I wish I would have realized what important actually meant.  I wish I would have seen the eternal.  Clearly, God knew I needed children to open my eyes.

I am carrying a daughter right now, twenty-six weeks down and the Lord only knows how many weeks to go until I can kiss her sweet face; and I am struck by the importance of my days right now.

When you are awakened in the morning by a human life who needs your help and love to survive the day rather than a buzzing alarm clock, suddenly important takes on a whole new meaning.  When what you eat in the morning affects another life that you carry within your body as well as the lifetime health habits of the lives in your care, eating goes beyond just refueling for the next four hours.  When what you read and learn either motivates you to godliness or selfishness, there become even fewer gray areas.  When the friends that you choose also determine the company that your children will keep, you realize that your companions are influencing relationships that have the potential to last longer than you will.  I think this is what the poets would call legacy.

Each day is completely full of the truly important.  Reading the Word with my sons.  Therapy for my baby boy.  Care for a new mom.  Holding a precious baby for an hour.  Reading more to my sons.  Having dinner alone with Teacher Man, hearing and being heard.  Running (okay, walking really fast) with a friend and laughing about a week gone by too fast.  I fall into bed exhausted, having accomplished nothing on my list of assignments but also having the firm knowledge that I wouldn't have changed a moment of the day.  Not. one.  I know that what I'm doing is truly important.

When I had one child, I could still pretend that so many things were important.  I could still maintain my house the way I wanted it to be.  Dinner could include multiple side dishes.  No one ever saw me unless I'd had a shower.  I still knew where all the puzzle pieces were to that silly farm puzzle.  You know?  Now I find myself falling before the throne of God and begging for Him to show me what's important and for His peace and wisdom to not care about the rest.

Pray for me, friends.  I know that baby girl will be a joyful, beautiful, exhausting, and eye-opening addition for us.  I already feel myself digging in my heels and trying to figure out what I can do ahead of time to maintain what I think is important, but I know in my heart that it is not so much about what I do but how I do life that will make an eternal impact.

If I read the Bible to my children but speak to them hurtfully in my anger, the Scriptures will mean little to my children.
If I prepare balanced meals but don't have time to give their hearts focused attention, they will starve.
If I plan a great birthday party but fail to teach them of the greatest Gift God has given them, they have nothing.
If I iron every shirt my husband owns and have a shining home for him each evening but I don't have time to truly communicate with him, it doesn't matter.
If I keep every appointment on the calendar but don't obey when Holy Spirit prompts me to move, then I've missed my most important meeting.

So that's where I am.  And why I'm not blogging as much.  Being fully present in my life and more responsive to what I think the Holy Spirit is asking me to do is taking my time and, rightfully, the vast majority of my attention.  I'm hoping the season will return when I can write more, process more, share more; but that's just not where we are right now.

Praying you are having a blessed week, friends.  Let the colors of fall soak into your soul and drink a fully-caffeinated pumpkin spice latte for me, okay?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I need a new language.

When Caleb was first born, Teacher Man and I could talk about anything in front of him.  As Caleb got older, we quickly began realizing that he was soaking it all up.  I mean everything we said would be filed in his little brain and would then come out at interesting moments.  Like any good parents, we chose a code language.  Being not-so-creative and not-already-fluent in pig latin, we started spelling things out.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in trouble.  If we spell at a normal pace, Caleb can now translate and blab the information to his brother.  Key words translated tonight include tractor, party, and cookie.  If we spell faster, Teacher Man and I can't even understand each other.  My mother suggested we start using sign language.  One key problem: when Ben was struggling to communicate, we taught him sign language.  So now Caleb can spell and Ben understands sign language.  All our secret schemes will forever be foiled.  Guess it's time to learn pig latin.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Most Amazing Feeling

My house was full today.  Full of children.  Two beautiful mom friends.  Noise.  While the older children ran around playing chase, dinosaurs, or some combination of the two; I held my friend's 6-week-old baby girl.  And as I held that little girl, my little daughter on the inside of my tummy started kicking my friend's baby on the outside.  At 23 weeks of life, my baby already recognizes a playmate.  And my heart was full.  Full of the promise that will be ours to hold in our arms in four months.  Full of the beauty that is a newborn baby girl.  Full of the happiness that only comes when your house is so trashed with toys and noise that you give up caring and just love on the souls that are inside the four walls.

The months ahead may be hard.  In fact, I know they will be.  Newborns are just hard.  Precious blessings.  Tons of work.  Family adjustments at every turn, but so worth it.  So thanks, friends, for bringing over your children and for reminding me of what's really important today!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where Happiness Goes.

Teacher Man and I took a rare opportunity Friday night.  Both boys went to bed on time.  The toys were picked up.  The kitchen was clean.  We sat and watched a movie, and both of us laughed like crazy (and, of course, I cried).  Is it possible for a pregnant woman to watch a movie and not cry?  Overall, we loved the message of the movie, but there was one line from a dad in the movie that's been eating at me.  As he was carrying his child in a baby carrier and pushing another child in a stroller, he told another man who was married without children that "This [meaning life with kids] is where happiness goes to die."

At first, I laughed.  Why?  Probably because some of the hardest moments in my life have come with raising my children.  Add to that the responsibility I feel to protect them, teach them, and love them well; and it just seems downright overwhelming.  I laughed at the actor's line because I'm sure in my own melodramatic way, I've thought something similar; but today it hit me.  It's not happiness that dies when your first child comes into the world.  It's selfishness.

One of my friends is an amazing mother to seven children.  I watch her and smile.  She just does life well.  One day I remember asking her how she's changed with the birth of each child, and she said with almost no hesitation, "With each child, I've become less selfish."  Can anyone out there relate?

Before my beautiful babies, happiness might be coffee for me, a date night for me, a cookie for me, extra sleep for me, a vacation for me.  Umm... are you noticing a pattern?  Now as I reflect on last week, my heart is full as I remember where happiness found its way into my life.  It was in a bowl of ice cream I shared with my boys that they didn't even ask for.  It was in an extra story read just because.  It was in saying "yes" to a tricycle ride and "no" to my agenda.  It was in staying up WAY past bedtime so that we could eat pizza, silly dance to oldies, and go swimming at the hotel pool.  It was watching my sons treat each other with respect and play nicely for the longest period ever.
Yep, selfishness may come here to die, but a new happiness has been born with each of my children.  It has little or nothing to do with me, and everything to do with having the privilege of loving them well and watching them learn to love others.  That's not to say that I'm not selfish... because I am.  I really am.  When I think about the birth of our daughter, I am already groaning that some of the things I claim as my own will be gone.  And I'm not even talking about her stealing my shoes one day.  I'm talking about quiet evenings where I choose my bedtime.  The ability to eat what I want and take medication when I get sick.  The ability to sleep uninterrupted.  The ability to have a shower every day and to be punctual.  Yep, selfishness is going to be dying a very painful death, but she is worth it.  Each of my children is completely worth it.  And I know God has used each of them in a different way to shave off more of me so that in me others will see more of Him.

That's what it's really all about, isn't it?  I haven't arrived.  And the day I start to feel smug will probably be the same day that the pregnancy test has two lines, reminding me that I'm not in control, that He is, and that there's a little more selfishness that needs to die because more happiness wants to live in my home.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Brothers will be brothers

Lately, I feel like I'm breaking up more than a few friendly wrestling matches around my house.  The boys have hit the magical age where they have to do EVERYTHING together.  Caleb wakes up first in the morning and begs to run in and wake up his brother.  Sometimes I can distract the big brother with breakfast, but I have to be quick.  Ben always wakes up first from naps and asks, "Bruh-ver?  Tractors?"  Then I have to distract him for an hour while his sleepaholic brother finishes his snooze.
This is a daily scene at our house.  Both of them reading together but totally separately.

Every experiment (this one about making a boat float) must be done together

Even when Caleb and I are just reading a book, Ben has to be in on the action.

But I'm glad.  I'm glad they like each other, laugh with one another, encourage one another.  Just in case this is getting too rosy for anyone, they also pummel one another, grab toys from each other, and call for a referee multiple times a day too.

But there are moments like this one, where we come back from the library and they are just content to be with one another and a big pile of new books, when I realize how blessed they are to have one another for companions.  There are also evenings like tonight where they run around the house laughing and chasing each other, and I just know that I wouldn't trade the craziness for anything.

And moments like this one, where Caleb read to Ben for the very first time.  Having both of them just makes it sweeter.  

A baby girl will definitely rock their worlds, but they're ready for it.  They figured out how to be brothers to each other; now they're ready to be big brothers to a precious little sister.  Heaven help the first boy who tries to catch her eye.  I mentioned that my boys already know how to pummel, right?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Our Big Announcement about Our Little Person

To those who have been begging, pleading, and calling...

Here's our big news:

And, yes, this morning my arms were full of soft ruffles, lavender florals, and sweet pinks as we garage sale shopped.  Thank you for all your sweet notes, congratulations, and excitement with us!  Each of our children is such a gift from God, and it's an incredible blessing to have the Body rejoice as we are rejoicing in this new, very feminine little life!  

So bring on the pink and fasten your seatbelts!  It's going to be a bumpy but beautiful journey!  

p.s. For those of you who are already thinking that my blog title won't work anymore, you're right.  I think we have a solution for it, but we'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Smell of Cheerios

Perhaps I should have titled this post "You Know You're Pregnant When..."   I was walking through my family room as my children munched on their morning cereal.  My kiddos eat in cycles.  Sometimes we're wild about frosted shredded wheat, the we go for a month with nothing but peanut butter oatmeal, then no one's happy unless there are multi-grain O's in the house.  There have been so many delicious choices for the last few months that we hadn't cycled back to "Regular Cheerios," as my son calls them, in probably a year.

Of course, because I'm pregnant, I could smell the Cheerios that my sons were eating; and a flood of memories came back.  Simpler days of only having one son eating solid food.  Even simpler days of only having one son.  I admit it.  I almost cried for the nostalgia of it all.  Cried because my boys are changing so much.  Cried because it seems like only yesterday that Caleb was running around in his Elmo slippers and playing with a shape sorter.  Cried because I wouldn't change a thing about my sons or my life.  It's just all going so quickly.  And because I'm pregnant, I let myself have a good cry.

Change is good, but so are the memories of the last four years of my mothering life.  So raise your cereal bowls high with me as we toast the amazing journey that motherhood is... with all the precious high moments and incredibly low moments and the millions of bowls of Cheerios.

The Third One

I am pregnant with the third child that we have been given the privilege of cherishing on this earth.  Have I mentioned that lately?  Probably not.  I'm just now realizing how second nature this pregnancy has become for me... and how little I talk about the baby.

Our first son was an all-consuming obsession as we prepared to enter parenthood.  Our second son was the blessing we'd prayed for and the playmate that Caleb so desperately needed.  This sweet little babe is a conundrum for me.  The world has told me that I don't need any more children than I have, yet we are still so overjoyed to have been given this one more baby.  I guess to avoid the conflict and judgment that go with having more than two children, I've just stopped talking publicly about this pregnancy.  I hate that.  'Cause I'm really excited.  Nervous. Overwhelmed.  Overjoyed.

You know what the other weird thing is?  I really don't care if it's a boy or a girl.  Not even a little.  In fact, when people ask what gender we want, I can honestly say, "I'm so glad we don't have to choose!"  How would I decide between the blessing of a daughter (a new adventure) or a boy (the adventure we're already knee-deep in)?  In fact, I am wildly at peace about our ultrasound tomorrow, no matter the gender.  This baby kicks like crazy already so I know he or she will be able to hold their own in this crazy house.  After two fairly laid-back children, wouldn't it just be like God to give us a firecracker?

So instead of praying about gender or how our family will cope with change or negative judgments (something I'm not very good at), I find myself praying that this child will bring glory to God in an unimaginable way, that we will see the Holy Spirit working in our sons to love and nurture this new life alongside us.  I know that I won't be enough...that I'm not even enough right now.  There will be one of me and three of them for the majority of our days; and, as I see my power decrease, I pray that the strength and peace of God will reign more mightily in my heart and life.  And this thought keeps lifting my spirit today: "It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts." Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983)  Amen.  And in His strength, I will love and lead the lives He has given me.  Fully.  Intentionally.  Completely dependent on grace.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Holiday

As a mom, I know I have wasted more hours being graceless with myself and feeling guilty about every decision than I would really like to recount.  Today as both boys woke up with fevers, I gave myself (and them) a holiday from standards.  A holiday from eating the perfect diet.  A holiday from pursuing activities that would be considered enriching and educational.  It. was. lovely.

As they felt miserable, I gave myself the gift of saying, "Yes."  A lot.

Yes, you can have a snack.

Yes, you can eat pretzels.

Yes, you can watch PBS all morning.

Yes, you can bring your mattress into the family room.

Yes, you can eat and drink whatever you want for lunch.

Yes, I'll tuck you in again.

Yes, I'll give you extra ice in your cup so I can barely close it.

Yes, you can watch more Dinosaur Train after naps.

Yes, you can get down from the table as soon as you're done eating.

Yes, we can read that incredibly long dinosaur book you like.

Yes, I'll start your night-night music again.

"Yes" was my way today of saying, "I'm sorry you have to struggle in this fallen, yucky world.  Let's just enjoy the grace of the little blessings we receive today.  After all, God gives me the extra grace I need on the days I struggle the most."  And all those little blessings meant that we all enjoyed the day a little more and relaxed a lot more.  Sigh... praying for sweet rest for those little heads tonight and victory over illness tomorrow, and now it's my turn to count the graces I received from my Father.

The Ministry of Interruptions

I had a full week planned.  Teacher Man is back to school this week so I double checked the calendar to make sure that everything on it was doable as I juggled both kids, the house, my ever-growing pregnant belly, and all the activities of the week.  I carefully balanced each day so we could be home for naps, have plenty of homemade food, and a few special outings with friends.

Sigh.  You know where this is going, right?

Monday was my easy day... before I was given five gallons of fresh, organic Concord grapes.  No way I was passing those up so I decided to juice them while the little men napped.  Note to self: five gallons is too much to juice in two or even three hours, especially when your machine malfunctions.  It will take seven hours... and most of your sanity.  Add six errands to the morning, and you have a recipe for an exhausted, cranky pregnant lady.  Yep.  That was me.  What's more is that I had the day planned so I would ask no one for help, and the day ended with my parents taking Caleb out for some two-on-one time while I juggled Ben and the remaining grapes.  Humbling.  Good.  Not the smooth schedule I had in mind though.

Tuesday, I got up early to shower and say goodbye to Teacher Man on his first official day of school.  I had some picking up to do before our speech therapist arrived. One little problem though: through no fault of her own, she never arrived.  Not a big deal, just not the day we'd planned for.  We packed up the van and headed to the library instead and then had a spur-of-the moment picnic at Caleb's request, followed by a lot of tricycle riding around our nearby college campus.  A beautiful way to spend a lovely day.  A better plan that I'd had by far!

So Wednesday arrived.  I should have been prepared, but I wasn't.  With two gallons of grape juice on my hands, I was gearing up for an afternoon of grape jelly canning with a friend when a phone call came with a ministry opportunity I had to take.  You know those calls.  When the needs of another touch your heart in a way that tells you that you and no one else but you are to step up and fill that need.  I called my canning friend, and she readily and graciously took my children for the afternoon. Together this wonderful friend and I schemed to serve another in every way we knew possible.  And it was bliss.  Pure bliss to feel your gifts meeting another's need at just the right time.  No grape jelly was made, but I could care less.

Three days gone.  Nothing normal about any of them.  Surely I would get to keep my Thursday plans.  Surely I would be able to help with MOPS registration and have my family over for a big dinner.  Uh... yeah, that's clearly not the theme this week.  Caleb spiked a fever right after he went to bed, and Benjamin woke up at 2 a.m. with the same fever.  My night was full of children's Tylenol, bathroom trips, and waking up little boys from fevered nightmares.  That said, my day has been full of snuggling on the couch (Ben fell asleep next to me while I was typing this.), watching countless hours of PBS Kids, and offering food to little boys who could care less about fluids and calories.  These little fevers have also successfully canceled the plans we had for Friday too.

Pretty impressive, huh?  The funny thing is, minus the seven-hour grape fiasco on Monday, the interruptions and re-schedulings have not been a burden but a blessing.  Each time my plans get foiled, something better has replaced them.  No, I wouldn't choose for my children to be sick, for my friend to have to watch my children, or for a family get-together to be cancelled; but, in each of these situations, I rest in the fact that these interruptions are nothing less than the hand of God directing my steps and allowing for His will (and not my human plans) to be accomplished.  "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Prov. 16:9)  Can I get an AMEN??

So my afternoon continues, I have a few things I could do, several things I should do, but the one thing I will do is to be on the lookout.  I'll be counting the graces, looking for the hand of God that is clearly doing a better job of directing my life than I am.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to pass that grace on to those around me.  Because my Father knows best, and His interruptions are far higher and better than my feeble plans.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Father's Grace

When I left home last night, the boys were bathed, watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, and almost ready to tuck into bed.  I needed to be in a town 20 minutes away to meet with a bride so we could talk through the details of preparing her wedding.  I had to go. I kissed each of my men and wished the little ones sweet dreams, and then I didn't check in with my family at. all.  No wait!  I did receive a phone call from my husband, asking about van keys.  I should have suspected something was up.

At 8 p.m. (half an hour past my boys' bedtime), Teacher Man decided he was going to take the boys to a bonfire at our friends' house.  Ummm... what?  Yep, in their PJ tops with a pair of pants thrown over the bottoms, my boys headed over to a neighbor's house to roast marshmallows, play with their dog, and hunt up treasures in their backyard.  In other words, they had the greatest adventure ever.

When I got home from my meeting late in the night, my husband had a sheepish grin on his face as he explained to me how he put the boys down at 10 p.m., how they had a blast with our friends, and how Caleb had said as they were driving home, "Thank you, Daddy.  This was such a special night!"  Then I had the joy of listening as we ate our breakfast to Caleb's stories about his night under the stars, gathering sticks and wearing a headband flashlight (which apparently is way cooler than it sounds).

It's not that I don't enjoy a good adventure or even that the boys are on a strict schedule.  They're really not, especially since we've been in vacation mode for the last three weeks.  I just don't know if I would have been able to think outside of my boxed expectations to take them out past their bedtime so they could stay up even later past their bedtime, but you know what?  I'm glad their daddy would and did.  He's the one who remembers that giving grace starts with receiving grace (and learning to recognize the grace that has been there all along).

So here's to a brand new school year.  Teacher Man heads back to his second grade classroom next week for planning, preparing, and many meetings; and I start a new year of adventures as I'm home with my two little boys for the last fall with just the two of them.  Oh my... that is humbling.  May this be a year that I give much grace, much love, and much time to my little men.  Why?  Because if we give grace to others out of the Father's rich grace to us; then, as a parent, I want to give lavish grace to my sons so they can in turn reach out their hands to bless a broken world.  Not spoiling them, just reminding them that we love others because He first loved us.  And sometimes, that may just mean some late night marshmallow roasting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Yummy Japanese Crunch Salad

After three weeks of eating on the road and camping, I decided we needed to do some healthier eating this week.  I pulled out the cookbooks at the back of my shelf that I use...never.  You know.  The ones that you buy with the best of intentions but never actually open.  I bought this cookbook back in high school. (Yep. I was/am that big of a nerd.)  I had heard excellent things about the healthy lifestyle diet that the writers recommended (less/no meat, lots of raw veggies and fruits, and whole grains) and bought the cookbook.

So I dusted it off when I did my meal plans and loaded my cart with fresh fruits and vegetables on Town Day.  Today we tried the first recipe out and made Japanese Crunch Salad.  So easy it's ridiculous.  So yummy I wanted multiple helpings.  So filling that I'm still full four hours later.  I made a few changes so I'm sharing my version of the recipe.  Hope you enjoy it!

1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
3 green onions, sliced thin

Mix these ingredients in your salad bowl.

1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 T sesame seeds

Toast these for 5 min. at 400 degrees F and add to the salad.

1 package Ramen noodles

Break these up and add to the salad.

1/4 cup olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
3 T honey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Whisk these ingredients and pour over salad right before serving.  Toss all ingredients to mix.  The cookbook says that this amount of ingredients makes 3 servings... umm... Those have to be 3 of the hungriest people on earth.  This filled my biggest salad serving bowl to the brim!

There you have it. Teacher Man, who is not a fan of healthy-tasting food, loved the salad!  I'd really like to be sitting here munching on the leftovers, but I'm not hungry in the slightest.  Now THAT is the sign of a good dinner.  So if you're interested in a healthier salad/dinner option or you just like tasty food, give this one  a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How camping has changed

Teacher Man and I knew we could do it.  We had invitations from both of our families to go camping in Michigan at different camps.  One problem: both trips were the same week.  No problem!  We'll just divide our week between the two camps. After all, they're both in Michigan.  No big deal, right?

I think there's a reason that none of my friends have talked about camping with their preschoolers and toddlers.  They just don't do it.  And now I know why.  Within minutes of arriving at camp, Ben had tried to eat acorns; and both boys had fallen out of my Grandma's trailer, face-planting in the dirt.  They spent the rest of the week getting as dirty as possible and hurting themselves in every way imaginable.  Ben fell while pushing a dump truck toy and managed to cut both his inner lips, creating a lovely show of blood.  Caleb tripped and fell at least twice a day, and now has matching scabs on both of his knees.

That being said, you would think they hated camping.  Nope.  They were in their glory.  In fact, the first thing Caleb said when he got home was, "I love camps. Can we go camping again soon?"  And after about an hour inside our house, Ben tried to put on his own shoes so he could play outside, and there were major tears when I told him we needed to stay inside for a bit.

They fell in love with nature.  Caleb collected acorns like a squirrel preparing for winter.  He excavated the sand at our campsite looking for fossils and even found a dinosaur toy that someone had left behind buried in the sand.  Talk about an excited paleontologist!  Ben filled and emptied countless dump trucks of sand and dirt.  He walked everywhere and learned so many new words because he was experiencing everything in living color.

So why do I say that camping was a challenge?  Because it was more than a little stretching for me.  As an introvert, I want at least thirty minutes away from people.  In the quiet.  Living with just a tent wall away from my neighbor does not count.  By Thursday, I made Teacher Man drive me around for twenty minutes while the kids fell asleep in the back.  It's amazing how much better that made me feel.

Next, I feel like the kids and even Teacher Man got to escape when we went camping.  No emails, no work, no walls holding them in.  Camping used to be that way for me too.  Then I had children.  Suddenly, cooking takes twice as long and is an intensive planning adventure.  Dishes become a water-hauling challenge, and children must be watched constantly to keep them from ingesting too much of the forest floor.  One of my children went through three outfits... the very first night.  Oh my.  So suddenly keeping everyone in dry underwear, good food, and safe surroundings has just become a challenge of Olympic proportions.  Phew.  At least it felt that way to me some days.

All that said, Teacher Man and my extended family were a huge blessing.  From pushing the kids on the swings to making pancakes for breakfast, both my family and Teacher Man's loved our children well and, in doing so, loved us well.  Would we do this again?  Deep breath... Yes.

You can't replace those moments of watching your kids eat s'mores for the first time, of talking with family from Israel around a campfire, of building sand castles on the beach, of seeing your son be courageous in the waves.  You can't experience creation by staying home in your four walls.  You can't be challenged by the sovereignty of God in the same way until you are truly at the mercy of the wind and the rain.

So I still love camping and am already looking forward to our next adventure in the fall.  It's not that it's a relaxing vacation anymore (or at least for this season), but in so many ways I see how God uses this time away to grow my children and to grow me to be more like His Son.  And there is no denying that being away from emails, blogs, Facebook, and electronics for a week was good... so good for our family.  But we're home now, grateful for our little corner of the world, grateful for electricity and running water, and grateful for the creative, curious children the Lord has given us, even when they do eat acorns for dinner.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm a Big Girl Now

(This is from last week.  Someday I'll share today's failures with you; but, for now, would you celebrate last week's successes with me?)

Today was a day I had to put on my big girl flip-flops.  I was taking the kids by myself to a place I had never driven to in a city I’m not too familiar with so that we could explore a living history settlement that I haven’t been to in years…since college actually.  Huge unknowns, like how I would wield a double jogging stroller in and out of multiple restrooms, how I would keep two kids from falling apart in record-high heat, and how I would keep my pregnant body hydrated while also chasing after two very active boys, were swirling around in my mind. 

I felt like such an adult (cause maybe I am) going to Starbucks in the hotel with my double stroller and ordering the caramel macchiato that would sustain me through the first two hours of our adventure.  Then I almost outdid myself by going to the concierge desk to ask for directions to the settlement. 

There I was with my picnic, purse, and diaper backpack loaded into my stroller, coffee in one hand and directions in the other. I can do this.  I can do two kids by myself.  Right?  With almost no hassle, I pushed the kids to the parking garage, loaded them up, and started off. 

Then we hit the road-closing construction on the main road we were to take.  Umm… thanks, Concierge Lady, for mentioning that.  What amazed me was that I had acquired enough big-girl directional skills over the last five years of marriage to a directional genius that I managed to maneuver around the construction and make it to the settlement without too much of a headache or excessive turning around…even without detour signs!  Woohoo!

We arrived before the settlement even opened and had time to look at the maps to see all the changes that have taken place since 2003.  Yes, there have been a few, including a preschoolers’ history discovery center AND a big Civil War-themed playroom and water play area.  Thank goodness both the discovery center and the playroom were air-conditioned.  The kids had a blast; and when we weren’t playing trains or climbing around the Union soldiers’ bunks inside, we were meeting the animals on the farm, watering the garden, and learning what school was like 180 years ago.

I’m not gonna lie.  We got baked.  As much as we tried to stay in the shade, it was incredibly hot, and there was an EMT driving around giving out free water bottles to prove it.  About the time we were leaving, the rain clouds started rolling in, bringing life-giving shade and water to a scorched land. 

I’m also not going to pretend my children were perfect.  We walked in, and one of my children (I’ll let you guess which one.) explained to me that he wanted to do what he wanted to do and I needed to listen to him.  Excuse ME?  I don’t think so.  I was within about 30 seconds of leaving behind all our fun day plans when his little heart broke, and he decided obedience and fun would win over disobedience and a day sitting in a corner at the hotel. 

Now having handled public disobedience, a heat wave, and a giant sheep that decided it didn’t like Ben in the petting zoo; I wasn’t even worried about getting back to the hotel through the construction.  The boys were exhausted, but Caleb was even excited when I had to run an errand along the way.

One might ask why a mom would put herself through this or why she would expect her children to have respectable behavior in the midst of a heat wave.  I guess I just want my children to know that every obstacle does not need to be avoided, that we can still make right choices in less-than-perfect circumstances, that we can learn and grow together, and that the world is too exciting of a place to hide in your room and just watch television because it’s easy.  That pep talk there was as much for me as for anyone. 

So despite the ugly, I’m calling this vacation day a success because right now I’m eating leftover cheesecake from a certain factory and sipping decaf Starbucks I made in our room and remembering all the things we accomplished today, all the situations we navigated together as a team, and all of the smiles that my children wore as they discovered a little more about this world that God has made for us.  For us right now, that is enough.  Glad I suited up and took on the challenge of this day, armed with my Starbucks, of course.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Facing My Unprofessional Life

Teacher Man had a dinner with colleagues last night at the Factory of Cheesecake… YUM!  There was no way he was going alone so we suited up the boys for a dinner out and prayed for a children’s menu as we hauled our giant stroller into the restaurant.

Good news!  They had a place to park the stroller, they had a children’s menu that included macaroni ‘n cheese, and several of Teacher Man’s fellow teachers had small children.  Yes!  They got it.  You know?  And the new assistant principal even laughed when Ben tried to steal his take-home box of cheesecake. 

What struck me most about the dinner was that in between keeping my children from stabbing themselves with dinner knives and having hunger meltdowns, I so desperately wanted to be one of the professionals.  It helped with the conversation that I used to be a teacher, but part of me just wanted to make Teacher Man feed the kids so I could talk curriculum, continuing education, and community involvement with the others at the table.  Just to bring me back to reality, Caleb was wiggling like there were insects in his britches, and Ben was eating everything within arms reach. 

Then the first warning shot went off as we were loading the boys to leave.  Teacher Man said that Ben needed to be changed.  We were only a few minutes walk from our hotel so I pleaded to just change him back at the room.  Way easier than on a restaurant’s restroom changing table, right? 

We tried to politely excuse ourselves from the group early, but it takes us so long to get anywhere that we ended up riding the elevator to the hotel with Teacher Man’s principal and assistant principal.  You know anything about confined space and poop?  Oh my word. 

I breathed a sigh of relief when we got in the door to our room, but as I unloaded Ben from the stroller in the room, I noticed a huge glob of brown sitting in his seat.  The diaper had leaked, and Ben clearly had diarrhea.  Teacher Man was supposed to rush off to a meeting, but he immediately sensed that his place was here, keeping me from having a nervous breakdown or vomiting.  I cleaned Ben (and then the bathroom floor) while Teacher Man went after the stroller.  Bless that man.  And thus ended the drama.

The whole episode got me to thinking though.  Professionalism, in my opinion, is based on a series of illusions that we create to show that we have control over ourselves and our immediate surroundings.  If I dressed in a sharp, clean suit; had my hair perfectly styled; and walked with confidence; you would assume that I was one in-control lady.  What’s more, I would make every effort to surround myself with people who also reflected my standards of control.  No sloppy shmucks around me.  Remember, I’m in control, and it’s all about my image.

Let’s fast-forward to my actual reality.  I have crumbs on my pants that my children left when they sat on my lap, my hair desperately needs a cut and some gray coverage, and I’m carrying a Thomas backpack filled with diapers.  Clearly, I am not in control.  I’m also surrounding myself with children.  Normal children.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t learn proper table manners.  We’re definitely working on that, but it’s a work in progress.  And as with most works in progress, it gets a little messy.  We make mistakes, very visible mistakes.  There’s no way for me to create any illusion.  You have to look at my reality.  Seriously.  Who can help at least glancing at those loud kids having a meltdown? 

I am officially unprofessional.  I’m a mom.  I’m not even a professional mom because that might mean that I needed to give you the impression that I have this mothering thing down, and I. just. don’t.  I’m a work in progress.  I’m messy.  But maybe, just maybe, seeing my reality will break down a few of those walls between me and the woman next to me. And perhaps when I look at my Savior, I can remember that He lived a transparent, messy life among harlots and lepers in this broken world, taking every opportunity to remind us that all power belongs to His Father.  Control belongs to God.  Everything else is just an illusion.  So in light of eternity, today I’m choosing to love transparently and wholly, trusting the Father in Whose sovereign Hands I rest.  Blessings to all of you who are facing a similarly unprofessional day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Picnicking at the Radisson

(A post written on Tuesday)

For the sake of perspective, I need to start this post by saying that I am the daughter of a chemist who served in the business world for many years. On occasion, he would have a business trip to an interesting location so my mom, sister, and I would tag along.  The hotel room was then a business expense, and his meals and airfare were covered.  We traveled from the East Coast to Disneyland for a fraction of the cost by touring while my dad was in meetings and then enjoying the best of the city’s fare with him and his colleagues at night.

One of the ways we would also cut costs was by taking breakfast foods with us.  A couple bags of bagels and a jar of peanut butter, and I’m a happy woman.  That may seem incredibly cheap to some of you; but when a glass of orange juice is $4, I don’t even want to know how much a bowl of corn flakes would be.  It’s not even that my dad didn’t make a good living (or that we don’t have plenty to meet our needs), it’s just that they (and we) have other places we’d rather invest our money.

Imagine my delight when Teacher Man told me that he had not one but two conferences at our state’s capital!  So here we are in the hotel, getting settled in for our first day of vacation.  At first, I felt crazy bringing my Coleman cooler into the Radisson; but then I remembered that I’m a mom with small children.  If I can meet their food needs and likes with a quick breakfast in the room and a yummy picnic lunch wherever we are, then we all can splurge a little bit for dinner.  Plus, we also won’t be waiting in lines trying to order lunches while have a low-sugar meltdown.

Because we arrived at the hotel at 11 a.m. the children’s stomachs were already starting to growl by the time we got settled in the room. No problem!  I pulled out a lunch picnic in two minutes, and thanks to PBS Kids, my children are convinced this is the coolest hotel ever. 

Tonight, we’ll check out the mega mall that is attached to this hotel and find one of the city’s finest, kid-friendly restaurants.  Tomorrow we’ll be going to a living history village and farm, and then next day it looks like we’re meeting a friend who lives here for a walk on the local trails.  I’m super excited about all of this, and I love seeing the world through my children’s eyes.  Everything is new and exciting.  Around every corner, a surprise is hiding.  Vacationing with a 3 year old and a 1 year old definitely limits where we go, but I feel like I’m seeing so much more because I get to enjoy seeing it through their eyes.  And to them, everything’s magical.

So just in case you hear about a crazy family who brought a cooler to the Radisson, it’s us.  I would spend more time worrying about what people are thinking of our nuttiness, but I have a book that is calling my name, and two children who are finally napping.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A World That Doesn't Like Children

Friends and family who know our little corner of the world have been incredibly encouraging as we look forward to the birth of our third child, but yesterday was an eye opener.  We got the children up early so they could watch the ultrasound of their little baby brother or sister.  When the technician came out to get us, she looked horrified.  If the boys had been pretending to be superheroes in the lobby by jumping off the furniture, I might have understood.  However, my boys were quietly sitting with me reading a magazine.  Teacher Man and I walked them to the back while she walked quickly ahead of us before realizing that little legs go at about half the speed.  This was my next clue that she wasn't a big fan of little people.  When we got to the room, everything unraveled.

This woman works ultrasound in the OB-GYN ward.  Her job all day is to take pictures of babies, precious little lives so clearly formed by a masterful Creator; but when Ben started to unravel because he didn't like watching Mommy lie down on a doctor's table, so did the technician.  While Caleb watched in wonder as she pointed out our sweet baby's hands, feet, head, and movements; she barely noticed.  What she did notice was Ben completely losing it in my husband's arms.

She told me, point blank, that for my next ultrasound it would be better if the boys did not come.  Sigh.  I understand her frustration.  Listening to a baby cry unnerves me, and I'm with him 24 hours a day; but she threw out the baby with the bathwater.  What she didn't notice was my big boy listening with awe to his little sibling's heartbeat.  She missed his smile as the baby was clearly moving all around, which in his mind is a sibling who will want to play!  And as she looked revolted, I just thought how sad it was that she takes pictures of these sweet babes for a living and can't take having one of them in her office for 6 minutes.

We won't be taking Ben back.  He clearly thought the technician was going to hurt me or hurt him.  It's just not his scene although we had no way of knowing he would respond in that way until we were there and I was lying on the table.  I feel terrible that we started off her day at 8 a.m. with a sad baby.  Goodness knows that's not how I want to wake up either, but I think her facial expressions and responses just reminded me that we live in a world that doesn't really like or know what to do with children.

Where the world demands order, children will be messy.  Where the world craves quiet, children will express their opinions unabashedly.  Where the world desires control, children will remind you that control is an illusion.  Where the world wants perfection, children will clearly demonstrate that we are all still "under construction."

My children are the ones who most often remind me that this world is not my home and that meeting all the world's standards is not important or even possible.  We strive to meet God's standards through God's strength while waiting on God's timing as He continues His plan with our imperfect selves.  And we pray the same for our children: that God will work in their hearts to drive them to depend on Him, that they will talk to Him first about all things, that they will act by faith to accomplish the impossible things that God will do through them.  This is what is truly important, truly eternal.

I know some places are inappropriate for children, and I have no intention of dragging my children with me to every OB appointment.  There is a level of maturity necessary to experience different situations.  I just wanted them to meet their sibling, to have a rare glimpse into how precious and real life is.  We didn't make a very good impression at the office yesterday, but those pictures made a huge impression on Caleb.  It's real now for him in a way that would not be possible had he not seen that baby swimming around in Mommy's tummy.  Though some of the world didn't really like my family yesterday; my eternal, oldest child was changed forever.  He glimpsed the impossible that is only possible through God.  That's where it's at.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What We've Been Up To

I feel like a terrible blogger.  It's almost hard to write this first post.  It feels foreign.  Blogging is one of many ways I want to live my life intentionally, reflectively; and while the last few weeks of my life have been incredibly intentional, there has been little/no time for reflection.  In fact, at this moment I'm ignoring a dirty kitchen and a messy table so I can write in the silence that can only be created by Teacher Man taking the boys to the park.  Thank you, God, for that man!

Truly, every day is better for this family when he is home.  Caleb's prayer every night goes something like this: "Thank you, God, that Daddy got to stay home today."  Then his next question is: "How many more days will Daddy stay home with me?"  I know how he feels.  Summer together with my whole family could not last long enough.  Today my kitchen sink even got fixed because Teacher Man was home.  Hurray!

Because we've just been intentionally living each day together, there just isn't a lot of time to sit down and write.  Plus, when I do sit down, I fall asleep. That happens a lot.  Pretty much once a day.  Ah, pregnancy.

Besides massive amounts of sleep and a couple small projects, we've had the opportunity to celebrate our 5th anniversary.  How did five years go by so fast?  I am so blessed.

We've found all sorts of crazy things to do around the house to avoid the heat and humidity outside, including several rodeos.  Yeehaw!

We hosted a 5 Day Club during the last week of CYIA training.  What a blessing to see teens clearly sharing the Gospel and children from our neighborhood responding with tender hearts!

And then every once and a while, we brave the heat and go outside to dig in the sand or water the garden.

We've also enjoyed a couple of visits from Grandma Pam (Teacher Man's mom).  Ben is showing her all the planes since we live close to the local airport.

Oh, and no week at our home would be complete without some construction stalking.  Thankfully the boys could watch the giant crane across the street from the comfort of Caleb's top bunk.  

What I do not have a picture of is Teacher Man making phone calls to local churches as we seek to partner with them in evangelizing and discipling the children of our community.  This is his "summer job" as our goal is to be in full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in the near future.

These weeks have been exactly what we have needed, and I feel better each day as I'm figuring out how to keep this pregnant body happy.  Speaking of pregnancy, Baby #3 had his/her first pictures taken today via ultrasound.  Everything looks healthy and normal, and we heard a good heartbeat.  What a blessing!

So there you have it, life in a nutshell for us.  Life will be ever busy balancing work, ministry, and family; but we are blessed beyond measure. And if you wonder why I'm not posting, it's probably because I'm sleeping.  For real.  I'm probably lying on my couch in a coma.  Perhaps second trimester will be kinder to blogging, but until then...  Have a blessed July!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lock the doors!

After looking at the training schedule and discovering that we are not needed on campus until this evening, the little boys and I have decided to have a lock-in.  We've watched Dinosaur Train, read a ton of library books, played toys, and just generally lounged.  I'm staging a stand-off at the washing machine until I can guarantee that everyone will have clean pajamas tonight, and I'm even considering thinking about a day beyond Friday.  I know... pretty amazing.

I have two pretty social boys. They love to be with friends and adore the youth that we're working with, but when your one year old just spontaneously breaks out in tears at random moments throughout the day, something's gotta give.  There's at least enough of my introversion in them to make them crave some down time, even if they won't admit that.

So here are our lock-in plans:

1. Read and snuggle.  And then read and snuggle some more.

2. Do something creative, even if it's building a fort using every blanket in the house.

3. Take time together at lunch for Bible time.  While my mind has been surrounded by the Word, I'm not sure their little hearts have heard His words in a while.  In this heat, I think we could all use a glass of water and a dose of Living Water.

4. Nap.  We are ALL going to nap, even if I only get to lie down for thirty minutes.

5. Nest. Put things where we can find them.  Eat things that make us feel at home.  Take time to talk and to truly listen to one another.

6. Talk about our favorite things.  Cause it really does make us feel better.   Thanks, Rogers and Hammerstein.

I even considered cooking tonight so we could stay home this evening, but let's not get too crazy about this.

Perhaps you're out braving the heat or are running errands around town.  We'll join you tomorrow, but today is Introvert Day in our house, giving our souls the rest that they need... at least until suppertime.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Starting at the End (of your rope)

It's Wednesday...I think.  The days have blurred together as Teacher Man and I have been tag-teaming through the last week and a half of ministry.  We have two and a half days to go before the training where we're serving is done.  On one hand, I feel like I'm doing so little.  On the other hand, I'm barely putting one foot in front of the other so more is not and option.  Each day, I start with the feeling that I only have enough energy to crawl back under the covers.  Yet there's a sustaining grace that is keeping me from running around my house screaming at the top of my lungs, and there have also been little bursts of blessing in each day that remind me that my cup really does overflow.

An encouraging talk with a friend.  Someone making lunch for me and my children.  A peaceful dinner.  A teen's passion for Christ shared in small groups.  My boys snuggling with their new honorary aunts and uncles.  An invitation to have my feet washed.  Some moments have filled my soul with such joy that I could barely breathe.

While I know that being pulled in all directions is not in the best long-term interests of my family, I'm grateful that we said "yes" to these crazy two weeks.  It's been an unforgettable season for each member of our little family, and we will miss these God-followers when they've gone home from the training camp we're staffing.  And maybe we're seeing the grace better this week, starting at the end of our own ropes and looking to God for a lifeline.

To the friends who have prayed, nurtured our children, and spoken words of encouragement; we are so grateful that God has placed you in our lives.  To the young people we have had the privilege of serving, you are incredibly dear to us and we wait with eager anticipation to see what our great God will do with your lives.  Thank you for letting us walk part of the journey with you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

This amazing man has given me two beautiful sons.  

And I am beyond grateful that he daily lays down his life to raise them into men.

I love you, Teacher Man.  Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Day Off

Yesterday, we declared a family vacation.  In the midst of all the bustle of school and ministry, we needed a time out.  So we went to meet Thomas the Train. That's what you would do to relax, right?

The day included riding on Thomas the Tank Engine,

(It was a pretty relaxing ride for all of us.)

a bouncy castle,

a petting zoo,

pony rides,

and tables full of toy trains.

My boys were in heaven.

A world where everything is about trains, even storytime.  What could be better?

Today it's back to work with a very full week ahead, but I feel like we've taken a deep breath so we can take on a new week's challenges with His strength.  Amen.