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.