Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Unpleasantness

You know a post entitled "The Pleasantness" has got to be followed by one called "The Unpleasantness," right??? Isn't that how life is--such a mixture of good and bad, happy and sad, easy and difficult? (And isn't it great how I can make up words like "unpleasantness"?) :)

Not too long ago, I wrote about trying to learn to like, among other things, the bedtime routine we have in place for our boys. Much to my chagrin, writing that post didn't simply "cure" me and make me always have patience and affection as I put my boys to bed! In fact, that battle within me is still on-going.

To be perfectly honest, in recent days, the time spent getting the boys ready for bed has been the hardest time of the day for me, without exception. I used to be such a night owl, but something has changed in me and now I can get up at 6:30 a.m. for some quiet time with God but can't seem to exert the energy to joyfully get my boys ready for bed at 8:00 p.m. I feel so tired by then and am often in some kind of discomfort from this pregnancy by the end of the day. And even more seriously, my spirit feels so worn down by then. Not a good situation to start out in when I know I will be challenged by something--or many things--during the going-to-bed process. I try to remind myself that Josiah and David have NO CLUE how I'm feeling--how could they? They don't know the difficulties of being pregnant and having a body that's been invaded and emotions that have been sent on the biggest roller-coaster ride of their life. My boys are not trying to exasperate me; they just happen to be doing it unawares! :)

When I was talking to Jeff about this a few nights ago, he brought up the fact that the whole bedtime routine is so laden with rituals that it becomes extremely cumbersome. He's right, of course; but I can't figure out what to cut out. Everything seems important.

~ giving David time on the potty so he can pee and poop (and so that one day, he will actually be completely potty-trained!)
~ helping the boys brush their teeth
~ reading a devotional book with them
~ singing lullabies
~ praying (each one of us taking a turn)
~ reciting memory verses
~ tucking them in, giving hugs and kisses, saying goodnight

What could I eliminate from that list? What could I put into the routine of another part of the day, rather than the end of the day? I feel like my thoughts just go around and around on this and don't progress to any creative solutions, so if anyone else has some fresh insights, I'd be happy to hear them!

I think one of the challenges that makes it harder is that by the end of the day, I'm not the only one who's tired and prone to be grumpy. I know sometimes the boys are more emotional, simply because they're tired! But it seems like at each step of the above routine, little arguments and disagreements can break out; and that is what REALLY frustrates me.

~ whose turn is it to put the stool away?
~ who found the picture of Nightlight (a bug) in our devotional book first?
~ did David push Josiah's hand out of the way?
~ did Josiah let his hand linger to provoke David?
~ did I forget to let David open the lid on his toothpaste and--horrors--do it for him, thus completely sending him over the edge?

Sigh...this is reality in our house, folks.

In some ways, I feel totally silly even bringing this up or acting as if it's such a big deal. What's that expression about "crying over spilled champagne" or something like that? Acting immature and spoiled about a luxury? I am so aware of the fact that I'm blessed beyond measure. To have children--to have a home--to have special toothpaste for my sons--to have health--to have the opportunity to be the one to nurture and care for my boys--to be free from war...I could go on and on...but it's obvious that I need to be more grateful for the good things in my life; and if I can do that, the patient, gentle, joyful love will flow so much more freely out of that after I get my boys tucked in for the night, the tears that flow from my face won't be tears of "poor me" or "I'm so frustrated" or even "I'm so tired I just want to collapse." They'll be tears of gratitude and profound realization of my unworthiness to be blessed in such a way.

The Pleasantness

Last evening, for once, our "piranha hour" was amazingly peaceful. While I cooked dinner, the boys cheerfully sat at the kitchen table and contentedly did their "work." It was great! Nobody fell off his tricycle and needed kissing and consoling...nobody argued about who was playing with what toy bouncy balls or little cars went under the couch and needed rescuing by me...just happy creative activity.

~ Josiah filling in a math chart -- he told me he wants to be "the best at math and know everything!"
~ Josiah's finished math chart, and an airplane he drew on his drawing board
~ David drew this, then announced: "I made a boy." -- this is the first time he's drawn anything resembling a person (or told us that he was trying to do so) -- I can definitely tell it's a boy, can't you??? :)
~ David drawing a second boy -- an upside down boy, this time

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When I Felt Loved

Love is a funny thing. Not merely a feeling, it is primarily an action, a decision, a mindset and "heartset" that chooses to love regardless of emotions. We all know that, right?

So sometimes we make the choice to show love even when we don't feel like it. But almost as important, I think, is making the choice to know and believe we are loved, even when we don't feel it. Make sense? But you know, it sure is sweet to feel loved!

Today for example, I felt loved when Jeff and Josiah pulled up in the minivan to pick David and I up from his music class; and the van was clean on the outside and--even better--smelled refreshingly of carpet cleaner on the inside. To fully appreciate this, you'd have to know that some time ago (I'm too embarrassed to admit how long ago...actually, I don't even remember...but I wouldn't admit it even if I did know the exact date!), a gallon of apple cider spilled in the back of our minivan. To be precise, it was a fermented gallon of apple cider (which I had just bought, by the wasn't as if it had been sitting around our house for a while); and the alcohol content was apparently enough to put pressure on the plastic jug which forced a leak in the plastic and the cider oozed out. A significant amount--about a half a gallon, I'd say--escaped the bottle before I knew what was going on and soaked into the carpet in the back of the minivan. When I discovered it, I used some rags to clean up what I could, then sprayed Febreze on it, hoping that would take care of the problem. Suffice it to say that it didn't.

Our minivan has gone through all the stages of fermented apple cider. We've smelled a cider smell (not too bad), an apple cider vinegar smell (not too appealing), and even worse stages of progression which I don't even have names for. Cleaning it up was one of those jobs that I kept procrastinating about...and kicking myself for. To be truthful, I literally forgot about it most of the time...that is, until I actually had to get in the minivan and go somewhere. Then I would resolve to clean it up as soon as I got home. Well, that never happened...

And so, today, while David and I were saying rhythm patterns and dancing with shaker eggs to Christmas music, my knight in shining armor took the bull by the horns and tackled the smelly job of cleaning up the apple cider mess. And I had no idea he was going to do it. What an incredible surprise to discover his labor of love when he picked us up after class!

So, I felt loved.

Another funny thing about love comes to my mind. If you're at all familiar with the five love languages, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that one of my primary love languages is acts of service (I really like them ALL, but acts of service and gifts usually come out on top!). Interestingly enough, acts of service is NOT Jeff's love language, and is honestly not the easiest one for him to give. That is probably one of the reasons that I appreciated his service to me so much today, and why it made me feel so loved.

In all our years of marriage and talking with other married couples, we have never discovered a couple who shared the same love language. (Jeff, correct me if I'm wrong about that.) It must be part of that "opposites attract" thing; but for some reason, husbands and wives seem to always have different love languages. I know that's true for Jeff and I, and it certainly is a challenge sometimes to both put myself in his shoes and realize what I need to do to make him feel loved and then make the sacrifice to do whatever it is I've figured out that he needs!

This incident today reminded me of how important it is for me to learn more effectively how to communicate my love and respect for Jeff. I know that he knows that I love him, but I want him to feel that love and respect deep in his soul so that his love tank will be filled to overflowing. Besides loving God, learning how to love Jeff is my next highest priority (although, in reality, I don't always act like it)...and I long to do a better job of it.

Oh, How I Love Thrift Stores

As I was sorting through Josiah's clothes this fall, in preparation for colder weather, I realized that he simply did not have many long-sleeved shirts that fit him. I get so spoiled by being able to open a storage box and pull out whatever clothes David or the baby might need, but that doesn't work with Josiah since he's not getting hand-me-downs from anybody! So off to the thrift store we went today, on a mission to find shirts for Josiah.

I love thrift stores.

I can't figure out what's not to love about them, but I know some people are less than enthusiastic. Here are the things I like about them:

~ obviously, the clothes are cheaper--much cheaper--than they would be brand-new; and saving money is always a good thing in my book!
~ the money spent at thrift stores is usually going for some kind of good cause
~ and last but not least, Jeff and I both are huge fans of thrift store shopping...I can't imagine being married to a man who turned up his nose at second-hand merchandise...thankfully, Jeff and I are completely on the same page when it comes to this!

Today I got the 8 shirts pictured above for Josiah at the whopping price of $2.00 per shirt. When I realize that in all likelihood, both David and our baby will someday inherit these shirts, it becomes an even better deal--something like $.67 per child per shirt! :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Live in Peace

I read an article recently that was very inspiring to me...but before I discuss that further, let me explain the above pictures. Much earlier in the fall, Josiah received this little pumpkin in his Sunday school class. On one side was written "Remember..." and on the other was "Thank God..." When I asked him what he wanted to remember and thank God for, he asked me how long ago the last war was that had been fought here in this place; and when I told him that the Civil War ended 142 years ago, he replied that what he was thankful for and what he wanted to write on his pumpkin was, "No war for 142 years." I was surprised at his answer, since I figured he would probably say something like "My daddy and mommy" or "My tricycle." :) I'm learning that if I stop and pay attention, I can learn a lot from my children!

And now about the article... In the Fall/Winter 2007 issue of OurFaith Digest, there is an article entitled "Stories of Nonresistance." I found the stories in it very compelling; and no matter how a person approaches the whole political arena as far as the military and pacifism, there is a huge impact made when people show true Biblical nonresistance, forgiveness, and peace-making. In recent times, how many people from diverse backgrounds have been challenged and inspired by the example of the Amish community in Pennsylvania who reached out to the family of the man who killed their daughters??? Pacifism and war will be debated forever, but to see an, it definitely speaks louder than words.

Here are some of the stories from the article that stood out to me:

~ Matthew 5:9 - "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God."

In the 1700's before persecution was completely quiet in Switzerland, a number of unprincipled young fellows went at nighttime to an old Mennonite minister's home in the Emmenthal, Canton Bern. To test his sincerity as a defender of the principle of nonresistance, they began to tear off the thatch from the roof of his house. The minister, awakened from his slumber by the commotion on the roof, arose and beheld the work of destruction underway. Silently praying, he returned to the house and addressed his wife, "Mother, you had better arise and prepare a meal."

After a little while, the aged minister went out to them. "You have worked long, and no doubt are hungry," he said, "now come in and eat." Very slowly and with hesitation, they came down from the roof and went into the house. Finally, upon another invitation, they sat down at the table. Then the old patriarch bared his head and folded his hands. He prayed so fervently, so lovingly, and so earnestly, both for them and for himself that their hearts were softened and their consciences awakened.

They arose and went again to the roof, not to finish their work of destruction, but to reconstruct the roof as best as they could.


~ Matthew 5:38-41 - "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away they coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

When, in 1759, the French army under Count deStainville had defeated the Prussians led by von Buelow, they encamped near the cloister Schaken, in Waldeck. Their commander sent his aide-de-camp, named Stadler, with a detachment of soldiers in search of forage for the horses. They met a Mennonite farmer whom they ordered to show them a field of barley, which they could use as pasture for their horses. "For what reason," he asked, "must I go foraging with you?"

"There is a good reason," was the reply, "namely, that we shall compel you!" The officer brandished his sword before the man's face, saying: "Does this make it any clearer?"

"I am not afraid of your weapon," said the farmer quietly, "but come with me, for God has said: 'If any man will...take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also'."

He walked ahead of them through a grove and along various roundabout ways for a considerable distance. When he stopped, Stadler said to him: "It seems to me we have passed a number of fields of barley; why have you not led us to them?"

"Because they were the property of others," he replied, "but here is a field that belongs to me--let your horses go into it and eat their fill."


~ I Peter 3:9 - "Not rendering evil for evil..."

In the early 1800's, there was a man living in the Grantsville, Maryland, area named Benedict Miller. There was a period of time when the corn started to disappear out of his corn crib. His corn crib was situated in the springhouse loft with a ladder leading up to it. Benedict was a very innovative and inventive man, so he fixed up a "trap" in the corn crib.

One morning as the family sat down for breakfast, they heard a shout from the corn crib. They looked out and saw a figure of a man stuck up there in the loft. Benedict went out and asked, "Are you caught?" The man said, "Yes, and I can't get out! Please get me out at once!" Benedict said, "I can only let you out on one condition and that is if you will come down and join us for breakfast." The man said, "I'm not hungry! I can't stay! Please let me out!" Benedict said, "Well, that's the only condition on which I can let you out!"

The man finally agreed and slowly followed Benedict back in for breakfast. They discussed many things, but there was not one word about the lost corn. After breakfast, the man went on his way and the corn was not bothered again.


~ Romans 12:17-19 - "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

On July 18, 1957, Paul Coblentz, a young Amish farmer was shot to death in Holmes County, Ohio. At 10:00 P.M. the dog barked like someone was approaching, and Paul went to the door to see. There on the outside, he saw two men standing--one with a rifle pointed right at him. They pushed the screen door open and came in to the room. After taking what money they could find, they started to physically abuse the young family. After the child was struck several times, Paul jumped up from the floor where they were forced to lie, and ran out the door to get help from his father, who was living near-by in the big farmhouse. The man with the rifle took aim and a news report said: "The bullet tore through the screen door and into Paul Coblentz's back. He fell on the walk, a few feet from his home. The man with the gun then stood over the prostrate form and shot the farmer in the head. The intruders fled into the darkness."

After an extensive search, the men were caught 400 miles away in Illinois. They were brought back to Ohio and the killer was sentenced to die in the electric chair.

In the meantime the dead man's family and other members of the church were deeply stirred by this tragedy. Their response was not hatred, but love. During the trial many Amish families invited the murderer's parents into their homes. When the teenager was finally sentenced to death, the Amish people signed petitions and wrote so many letters to the governor that the execution was stopped just seven hours before it was time for the young man to die. Some of the ministers from the community later visited the young man in prison. And through it all, he became a Christian.


This last story is undoubtedly the one that impacts me the most, especially because of our involvement with the Old Order Mennonite community here during the robbery last year which, but for the grace of God, could have gone differently and ended with someone's death.

When all the politics and arguing and "words, words, words" about these issues are gone, stories of Christ-like mercy and forgiveness and love are what stand--and they are what convict me to hold to a high, earthly-logic-defying standard when it comes to peace.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Week 32

Thanksgiving Day--and I felt so grateful. Even though I felt like an overstuffed bear BEFORE I ate any dinner, I still was so thankful as I considered what was going on last year on Thanksgiving.

A year ago, I was actually pregnant on Thanksgiving, although the pregnancy test I did that morning was negative. I had wanted to be able to share the news with my family over Thanksgiving dinner, if I was indeed pregnant; but my body didn't cooperate and give me a positive pregnancy test until I dared to test again a few days later. I should have known then that something might be wrong, since normally my hormones bounce up immediately and the pregnancy tests always show up positive. But I didn't suspect anything, and blissfully enjoyed the next few weeks of that pregnancy...until I realized the truth--that I was having a miscarriage.

This period of time last year was so intense: pregnancy, miscarriage, robbery, my dad's health, church stuff. When I stop to think about it, a load of emotions surface. But how sweet it is to be on this side of that tumultuous time and be able to relax and rejoice in the way things have changed--for the better--during the past year.

One thing I'm grateful for is the way Jeff helps me to put things about this pregnancy into perspective. I must have a very short memory when it comes to some of this stuff, because I'll ask him, "Did I feel this huge in my other pregnancies?" fully expecting the answer to be "no." He'll pause, then say, "Umm, yes." I'll ask him, "Was I this emotional in those pregnancies?" Again, the pause, then the honest answer: "yes." Anything I ask--"was I this tired? this uncomfortable? this ready to have the baby? this whatever?"--the answer is always "yes!" I guess as a new mother, not only did I forget the pain of labor like the Bible promises, but I also forgot some of the pain of pregnancy. That must be a good thing since it keeps us mamas having babies! But it does amuse me how much clearer Jeff's memory is than mine. :)

During this week, I've developed a weird "twitching" spot in the vision of my right eye. As I look out through that eye, slightly to the right of where I'm focusing, there is an area that constantly quivers and shakes. I ignored it for a few days, thinking that it would probably go away; but by last night, I was beginning to be concerned about the possibility of preeclampsia, since I know that vision disturbances are one of the symptoms of that condition. This morning I had decided that I finally needed to call my midwives and see what their advice was; but before I did that, I called my favorite doctor to ask what he thought, and he told me I could come down to his office and he would check it out for me. So up the hill traipsed my mom to stay with the boys while I headed to my dad's office. One check-up later, I was given the all-clear and told that I had nothing to worry about! Whew! For the millionth time, I thanked God that Dad is a doctor. :)

Even though I have become very eager the past few weeks for our new baby to make his appearance, I did realize tonight, as I was wrestling (figuratively, of course) my other two sons into bed, that life won't exactly be easier after the baby is born. No matter how uncomfortable I feel, it still is much simpler to have this baby inside me than I'll continue to appreciate each day of this pregnancy and not wish it away, knowing that time slips away quickly enough, and it doesn't need me to hurry it along!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

It's been a while since I've written much about books that I've read; but needless to say, just because I haven't been giving book reports here on this blog, doesn't mean I've stopped reading. :)

One book that I recently finished is Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. This was the first book by her that I ever read, which is not surprising, considering that her previous books seem to have something like "vampire" or "blood" in the title--not exactly words that draw me in. Actually, I would never have chosen to read Christ the Lord except for the fact that I read a very positive review of it in some Christian publication (I can't remember which one right now).

This book is historical fiction, about the life of Jesus, of course--specifically, his seventh year of life. As with most historical fiction that I read, I enjoyed this very much, but took it with a grain of salt. However, I believe that the book does an excellent job of highlighting a few things:

1. the familiarity that Jesus must have had with the political and spiritual turmoil of his day--specifically, the various uprisings and "messiahs" that were so common during that tumultuous time--when the time came for his public ministry to begin, he certainly wasn't the only figure attracting crowds of people and lots of attention in those days

2. the dread that Jesus must have had about the cross--I've often thought that it's impossible for us to grasp the severity of the cross, since we are so removed from the reality of that mode of execution and so calloused by the "softer" images of the cross that we see all the time--but Jesus grew up in a culture where mass public executions were real, and he must have shivered in horror as he heard the victims screaming as they were nailed to the cross and as he saw them die that horrible death--did he know that he would eventually suffer the same fate? (which leads me to the next, outstanding point that is brought up in the book...)

3. the gradual unfolding of knowledge and understanding that Jesus must have had about who he was and what his purpose on earth was--how early in life did he "get" it?--as he emptied himself of so many aspects of divinity to live as a man among us, did he retain a special knowledge of his identity and mission?--if so, how much knowledge?--and at what age did he really understand it?--how could a four year-old know he was the savior of the world, the key to the whole salvation plan?--how would a six year-old deal with the power to command nature, enact supernatural healings, change the course of history?--at such a young age, did he know he had that power?

One of the most emotional parts of the book comes when Jesus finds out about the murder of children in Bethlehem following his birth there. How could Jesus (who I firmly believe was all God and all man at the same time) who was the perfect incarnation of love deal with the pain of knowing that his birth had caused so much suffering for those little children--and for their mothers and fathers, etc. It is a poignant scene in the book.

I'm definitely glad that I read this; it gave me much to think about. And by no means least was the personal testimony that Anne Rice included in the back of the book, telling of her journey away from faith and back to faith. Very, very reminded me a lot of C.S. Lewis and his decision to believe.

It appears that Anne has another book in this series coming out in the spring of next year, and I look forward to reading that one as well!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two Wishes

1. I wish I didn't get sick every time my boys do. On Monday night before he went to bed, Josiah said the words that seem to precede every cold he gets: "My throat feels dry." The next day, not surprisingly, both he and David were suffering from the familiar symptoms: runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, etc.--nothing too major, but not any fun either. Tuesday night was a rough night; we seem to have one of those with each go-around of the cold bug. And now the colds seem to be simply running their course.

Unfortunately, despite my consumption of huge quantities of vitamin C to try to escape the inevitable sharing of germs that seems to happen every time, by the middle of yesterday afternoon, my throat was scratchy...and I knew what was coming.

On the bright side:
~ this is as good a time as any to be sick, I suppose, since yesterday's Thanksgiving meal was the last major event on my schedule for a planner page for the next few days is fairly empty
~ I suppose my immunity is built up each time I have a cold...and maybe that immunity gets passed along to the baby??? I'm not at all sure about that, but the thought that my suffering could benefit this unborn child does bring me comfort :)
~ it definitely helps me to be more compassionate with Josiah and David...when I wake up in the middle of the night with a painful throat, I can more easily understand why Josiah would wake up literally screaming in the night from his pain--and why David would need some extra cuddle & cry time, even though he can't tell me exactly what he's feeling

2. I wish I could continue to sail through this pregnancy with as much grace and positive outlook as I have so far. In other words, I wish I weren't normal. I know so well that the 3rd trimester can be a difficult time of life for a woman. "Everybody" says that the 1st and 3rd trimesters are tough, so enjoy the good times of the 2nd trimester while you've got them. But really, I would like to continue to fly through these last 2 months with nary a grimace or a groan. The reality is that I'm hitting the stage of lots of grimaces and groans, and I wish it wasn't that way.

I try to remind myself of my sons' memory verse: Do everything without complaining or arguing. (Phil. 2:14). And I also try to imitate the example of strong women in my family line who didn't complain about anything, even if they were feeling poorly or going through other rough times. I'm trying...I'm really trying...

On the bright side:
~ I can more readily relate to other women who are suffering through the agony (and joy) of pregnancy...and as their grumpiness increases as their due date approaches, I can remember how I too felt during these weeks
~ I know this suffering has a purpose--and an end!
~ I'm reminded (once again!) that I'm not perfect...and I can fall into the grace of God and rest in that

Through Jeff's Eyes, Part Four

Last, but certainly not least, in this series of pictures from yesterday morning...

These pics are perhaps my favorite of all Jeff took, since they so beautifully capture the changing leaves of this season--but even more importantly, the ideal tree-lined lane that I always pictured myself having someday. Even when we moved here, I was intending fully to create such a row of trees on both sides of our driveway...that is, until my dad started telling me about such things as septic systems and tree roots damaging them, etc.--you know, practical stuff that I'd rather not think about! It's a good thing somebody around here has their head on straight and isn't only concerned with how our driveway looks!

Anyway, until we figure out how to live without a septic system, I'm reduced to enjoying other people's gorgeous, long, tree-lined lanes...and this is a perfect example of such a one.

Through Jeff's Eyes, Part Three

One of the places Jeff particularly wanted to drive by on his Thanksgiving morning outing was the Old Order Mennonite church. Since their Thanksgiving church service was already in progress, it was a perfect time to enjoy the picturesque beauty of their meeting house and the rows and rows of patient horses and black buggies without anyone knowing he was parked outside in his minivan, snapping a bunch of pictures. :)
~ these horses, for the most part, are so well-trained...although we've seen some act up from time to time...the drivers are skillful, that's for sure...I think it's much harder to drive a horse & buggy than to drive a car :)
~ Jeff estimated that there were probably 200-300 buggies lined up outside this church building
~ the Old Order church building from a few hills away...from our experience there last Christmas participating in their service, we have a pretty good idea of what the service yesterday was like, since according to their own testimony, the order NEVER varies!...if you've never seen Jeff's impression of "synchronized Mennonite kneeling," you're really missing out! :)...although it's hard to see well without enlarging the photo, this picture shows the beautiful, simple white church building on the left, with the graveyard next to it, and again, the rows and rows of buggies...what a sight...what a cultural treasure for this area!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Through Jeff's Eyes, Part Two

More pictures from Jeff's drive in the countryside this morning. Here are some of the four-footed creatures the boys saw...
~ fortunate horse with grassy pasture and pond and willow tree
~ I think cows are beautiful - I love their faces and big dark eyes - I've always thought my sister had eyes like a cow, and that has always been a very high compliment coming from my lips!!!
~ Josiah was the first one to spot this deer

Through Jeff's Eyes, Part One

~ view from our front yard
~ in the rolling countryside behind our home
~ wouldn't you love to live here and just see cows and trees all day? :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love this picture of David throwing leaves up into the air...and when I see it, I picture myself throwing thanks up into the air to God--with joyful abandon, just like my son.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I find myself grateful for the "usual stuff": family, friends, church, God's love & provision, etc. All of this is extremely important, and I never want to take it for granted. But I do want to express my thankfulness to God in more creative in the spirit of that, here is another grateful list which captures specific things from this week and this phase of my life for which I thank God.

Last night, Jeff and I watched the movie Fried Green Tomatoes; neither one of us had ever seen it before. The first few things on my list were inspired by watching that; and if you're familiar with the movie, you'll know where I'm coming from...

1. the opportunity to live here and be part of my parents' life as they age and not have to put them in a nursing home and make them rely on outsiders for their care and companionship -- lest I be misunderstood, I definitely believe that there is an appropriate time and place for the care that can only be provided in a nursing home; and only God knows whether that time will come in the lives of my parents (or in my own life, for that matter) -- but I also realize that nursing homes can be very sad, lonely places -- more than anything, I never want my loved ones to feel abandoned to such a place, so I'm grateful for how closely knit together our three-generation family is now and will be in the future

2. my marriage -- I'm so grateful for a husband who doesn't simply walk in the door from work, grab a beer and his dinner, and plop himself in front of the TV to lose himself in the world of sports -- to have a husband who loves me wholeheartedly, who loves his sons, who gives of himself for us in so many ways is such a blessing; and I don't want to ever take that for granted

3. my health -- in the movie, one of the main characters has cancer and has to say goodbye to her young son when she knows she's close to death -- how do you do that? -- I am so completely NOT ready to bid farewell to my sons, even though the promise of heaven is comforting -- but, I can get emotional just thinking about this one -- I'm so very thankful for each day that I have with my children and my husband -- tonight as I write this, they are enjoying a father/son outing to a movie; and even though I should be used to this by now, I still felt my heart squeeze in pain as they drove away, and I thought to myself, "There goes my heart" -- it's hard enough to let my heart go driving away without me, much less to say goodbye at death's door -- I can't even imagine...

4. the way our society has advanced, especially in the area of racism -- I know full well that racism still exists, and that is a shame -- worse than simply a shame, it is wrong: it is evil -- but, my goodness, it is unfailingly shocking to me to see such a vivid depiction of how blacks were treated in the South -- I think, "How could normal, rational, even God-fearing people have ever treated other people in such a way?" -- I can't even fathom it, yet I know that in many places of the world (including our own country), racism is still alive and well, and we need to continue to fight against it to eradicate it

And now a few things from today that I am particularly grateful for...

5. Jeff's fantastic idea to take the boys and go for a drive in the countryside this morning, taking the camera so he could capture some of our local scenery -- not only did it give me a break on a morning when I was particularly tired and just not feeling well, but it was also an excellent opportunity to capture images from our life -- he came back with about 100 pictures on the camera, and I still need to sort through them, but I plan to post some of them because I just love them! :)

6. a low-key Thanksgiving -- besides my parents, we were planning to have another family over for dinner, as well as an older widow who is close to our family -- unfortunately, our boys caught colds two days ago, and so the family decided not to come so as to avoid transferring germs to the grandmother of the family who is battling cancer (a wise decision) -- anyway, today was such a relaxing day! -- we didn't even have turkey, but opted instead for steaks, which we already had in our freezer -- it was nice to catch up with our friend, Doris, but not have to rush around worrying about whether we had enough food, and then spend hours cleaning up afterwards -- it was exactly the kind of Thanksgiving I needed! :) (all of my extended family was in other states, with other plans this year, so that's why we didn't gather with them)

7. large maternity pants -- OK, this probably won't make it onto my grateful list next Thanksgiving! -- but this year, I am indeed grateful for large maternity pants, since for some strange reason, I seem to be growing out of the pants that were my "old faithful" pants in previous pregnancies! -- a long time ago, way before I was even pregnant, my mother saw some maternity pants for sale in the clearance catalog of Lands' End, and she offered to get some for me if I so desired -- I happily accepted -- well, earlier in this pregnancy, when I tried to wear them, they literally were so big that they fell off -- but now, they sure are coming in handy! -- I started today in one of my old pairs of pants that I wore throughout my previous pregnancies with no problems at all, but after a short while I was so incredibly uncomfortable in them that I was forced to go change into one of these larger pairs, and did I ever feel better afterwards! :)

8. time -- alone time -- thinking time -- no interruptions time -- I was able to spend a significant block of time working on my pregnancy journal this afternoon and evening -- I had gotten really behind in it, and it was a joy to catch up some today -- I still have some work to do to truly be caught up, but I'm much closer now -- it was truly a treat to have that time during the boys' naps and during their movie outing with Daddy to do my own thing :)

9. last, but not at all least, for tonight's list -- I am so appreciative of the friendships in my life, old and new friends, and especially for those of you who read this blog -- thanks for taking the time to know me in this way -- I love the community that I'm a part of through this outlet!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fun with Food

Back during the summer, Anna gave a tip about arranging food for her youngest daughter in fun ways to add a little zest to mealtime (and make the food go down better!). Although now I think "Duh, what an obvious parenting trick," at the time it never occurred to me to liven up our lunches this way. I quickly tried it though...and was more than pleased with the results. Not that I do this every day...I'm not that creative! But every once in a while, I'll go to the effort of making some sort of design...and fortunately, the boys are not harsh art critics...although sometimes they ask, "Uh...what is this, Mommy?" :)
~ food art in August: happy faces with hotdogs (for those health-conscious people out there, we don't eat hotdogs very often; in fact, the boys actually don't like them so much--unlike their mother; but on this particular day, we had spent the whole morning running errands and needed a quick and easy meal for lunch), a ketchup nose, Wheat Thins for eyes, and dried blueberries for hair
~ food art in November: a banana for a boat, homemade (but not by me...I don't want you to get the wrong impression and think I somehow manage to consistently bake our own bread!) wheat bread with strawberry jelly for the sails, and shells and cheese with tuna for the ocean (get it? shells...tuna...that makes for a good ocean, right?)
~ not to be outdone, Josiah wanted to make some food for Dandee, his teddy bear, so he drew this picture of 4 honey pots on the bottom of the page and one fruit tree which somehow miraculously produced an assortment of fruit--apples, limes, oranges, and lemons--all on the same tree! I hope this bear likes citrus! :)

Week 31

Ah, week 31...and it feels like we're getting so close to the end! But then I remind myself that there are potentially 9 weeks left of this pregnancy, and I find it really hard to believe. I guess I'm completely setting myself up for disappointment if I do go late, but I just feel like this little guy is coming early. I forgot to ask the midwife at my last appointment whether past history is a strong indicator of whether labor will begin early or not...I'll try to remember that next time.
One of the exciting aspects of week 31 was taking a tour of the maternity ward of the hospital here in town. Although part of me still wishes I was doing a homebirth (you didn't see that, Aunt Elaine!) :), I was impressed by the family birthplace at the hospital and by the friendliness of the nurse who gave the tour. The facilities are very nice...the rooms are large...and the policies seem flexible enough to allow the birth to go the way I want it. However, when we took the hospital tour in Israel, we were also given the impression that we could dictate quite a bit about the birth; but when I actually went to the hospital in labor, it was quite a different story. So I'm a little skeptical about whether there really is as much freedom as I desire, or whether "hospital policy" will take over and try to tell us what to do when we get there. We shall see...

The above picture doesn't really do a great job of showing how big I'm getting, but honestly I'm well aware of that fact and don't need to be reminded of it! I like this picture though because of the old-fashioned sign I'm standing next to....and especially because of the way it captures the boys running and playing near me.

This picture shows the boys standing next to a fountain in the lobby of the hospital. Every time we go there, we MUST stop and look at this fountain...and if Daddy has two pennies in his pocket, the boys must each have one to throw into the fountain. :) The sound of the water from this fountain is very melodic and soothing, and the hospital does a good job of maintaining this area. Oddly enough, there is a beautiful grand piano in this lobby. What in the world do you need a grand piano in a hospital lobby for? While I'm in labor, shall I ask to come down and play "Moonlight Sonata" to help me relax? :)

At the beginning of week 31, I had an appointment with my midwife which is always fun. It's always nice to receive reassurance that all is well and there's nothing to be concerned about. Even though I feel the baby kicking and cavorting all the time, it's still nice to have someone else check and see that everything is fine. I actually keep expecting them to chastise me for something: "oh, Davene, your weight is going up too much; you need to watch what you eat now," or "I'm concerned about your blood pressure; we need to make some changes to bring it down," or some such thing. But no, there's been nothing of the sort. The midwives seem relaxed about me and my pregnancy, and that helps me relax, too! :)

My nesting instinct has gotten me to do some exciting things beginning to pack my bag for the hospital (I know--9 weeks early is not really necessary, but it's still fun!), bidding on a breastpump on ebay (and getting a fantastic deal on it--$4.99 right now!), unpacking our baby bottles and running them through the dishwasher before putting them away on a special turntable in our cupboard, and...last but not least...doing an inventory of sorts in our cellar to see what food we might need to stock up on before the baby's born. I mean, really, could I feel great about myself if we had any less than a half dozen cans of corn in the cellar before labor starts? And if we didn't have an extra bottle of caesar salad dressing, we would surely suffer. And then there's condensed sweetened milk--one never knows when that might come in handy! Always be prepared, as my mother would say--and there's never a better time for that than during the last weeks of a pregnancy! ;)

Monkey Faces

As this past summer drew to a close, I was so eager to fill our front flowerbed with fall pansies -- or monkey faces, as my maternal grandmother used to call them. However, as the time came when they were available at local greenhouses, I found myself seriously lacking in time, energy, ability (bending over to plant stuff doesn't exactly sound like fun now), and initiative. Fortunately, my dear mother bought some for her home and my dad's office, and she got some for me at the same time...which is a good thing, because if not for that, the flowerbed would still be completely bare. My dream of having it filled with these pansies went up in smoke when I realized how much that would now as I drive around town, I appreciate other's full beds of pansies. Incidentally, purple and gold are the school colors of our local university, and they have gorgeous plantings of these flowers. I wonder how much they spend per year on landscaping???
~ it does add a bit of cheer to see these small but extremely hardy flowers marching up the hill to our front door
~ such cheerful little faces!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Proverbs 14:4, According to Me

What it really says:
Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

How I interpret it:
Without children and husband, my laundry chute would never be filled to overflowing, my bookshelves would stay perfectly organized, my floor wouldn't look like a pigpen, my counter wouldn't be cluttered with dirty dishes...but you need strong men and boys for a large harvest (of righteousness and peace--Hebrews 12:11).

Like my translation? Oh, I guess you could call it a paraphrase if you want to get technical about it! :)

And speaking of Proverbs...this is the one I shared with Josiah this morning as we snuggled on the couch under the oh-so-cozy quilt that Grandma Fisher gave us during her last visit (well, actually, she gave it to Jeff for his birthday, but he's a generous guy and shares it so we can all enjoy it!). Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city. (16:32) For my power-loving, authority-seeking firstborn, this seemed highly appropriate!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No. 6

I'm not feeling at all inspired tonight, so I'll keep this short by simply adding something else to my list of the pregnancy ailments I could be experiencing but have (so far) been spared.

6. leg cramps -- I remember vividly the first time I had a leg cramp during my pregnancy with Josiah...I literally cried out in pain so forcefully that Jeff came running, convinced that I must be in labor...but no, it was simply a leg cramp...if you've had them, you know how intensely painful they can be...and you can imagine why I'm so grateful that I haven't had a single one during this pregnancy! (now watch, I'll probably get one tonight...) :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pregnancy Problems I DON'T Have

"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!"
-Henry Ward Beecher

My college alumni newsletter included this quote at the very top of the newsletter that I received today, so in my effort to be a "magnet," I am writing down a different (for me) kind of list of blessings--not about things I do have, but things I don't have. :)

I was realizing the past few nights that in spite of my minor aches and pains and inconveniences from this pregnancy, I could easily be afflicted with much more severe problems. You know how it is when you don't appreciate something until it's gone? I find that to be very true in my life in regards to my health. I don't talk to God very often about my throat until it starts hurting and I want Him to take the pain away-NOW. In the same way, there are a multitude of things that could have gone wrong in this pregnancy, but haven't...and I want to acknowledge that.

1. nausea - even the minor nausea that I had early in pregnancy was enough to remind me how miserable it can be to just feel so sick and not really be able to do anything about it...I'm so grateful to be past that stage!

2. sore hips - during the last part of my pregnancy with David, my hips would get so incredibly sore at night...I would turn from one side to the other, trying desperately to find a side that didn't ache when I laid on it...being as I only have two sides, that was a difficult task! far in this pregnancy, I have not had that kind of pain--maybe because the bed I sleep in now is far better than the bed we had in Israel!

3. pain from the baby's kicks - during the last part of my pregnancy with Josiah, my right ribs were constantly bruised, it seemed, by Josiah's vigorous kicks...I remember pushing on my belly, trying in vain to move him away from his position of having his legs and feet up under my ribs...I don't think it ever worked! and that pain was no fun after a far with this baby, his movements inside me are still such a pleasure to feel; and even though it seems that my stomach is doing convulsions because of his activity, it doesn't cause pain

4. gestational diabetes - I've never had to deal with this, so I don't have any first-hand experience...but I can only imagine how hard it would be to go through pregnancy with this condition...I know that during this pregnancy, I have felt a fairly high degree of freedom about what I eat! :)...and the thought of curtailing that enjoyment of food is not appealing in the least!...but I know women with gestational diabetes go through so much to make sure they and their babies survive pregnancy in a healthy way, and I feel blessed that I've never had this particular burden to bear

5. pre-term labor and bedrest - again, I've never dealt with this firsthand, but even though the thought of someone ordering me to go to bed (and read a book!) sounds GREAT, I realize it's no picnic...a few hours of bedrest might be fun, but I know it gets old after that...and besides the physical discomfort of being confined to bed, I realize there is also the emotional stress of wondering whether the baby will be OK and how long you can keep him/her inside you, as well as the care of any older children in the family...I realize how blessed I am that I can basically function in my normal capacity, even though I'm pregnant

So for all these things that I could have, but don't, I say a big thank you, God!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Children's Choir--and Missing Home

These are some pictures from Josiah's children's choir class yesterday--the last class session of this semester--which Josiah was very sad about until I consoled him by reminding him that his classes begin again in January so this wasn't really the end! Since I've already written about his choir experiences, I'll shift my attention to something that happened at the end of class yesterday that got me thinking...

Mrs. Anderson, the teacher, had a beautifully illustrated book with the words of the song "Over the River and through the Woods" in it, which she sang to the children while she turned the pages of the book. This is a song that my family is very familiar with, and the boys and I had fun singing it some in the car on our way home. In case you're not acquainted with it, it's an old song that talks about going to grandmother's house for the holidays.

As I thought about the words of the song, I realized once again that I no longer have a house like that to come home to--because I live in it! None of my grandparents are alive, so I no longer have the anticipation of holidays at their houses. And now that we are living in my childhood home (a wonderful blessing which I'm not negating a bit!), I never have the experience of coming home for the holidays--or for anything. After I left home--first to college, then to married life with Jeff in California and Israel--it was always such a joy to come home. I still remember vividly how it felt to travel and finally enter my parents' wander around and look at everything see the changes that had been made since I was last sleep in my childhood eat my mother's cooking (well, I still get to do that, fortunately!) feel the rush of smell the familiar come home, plain and simple.

Now I am the home. And my siblings still get to come home to that, for which I'm very grateful. I don't know if the process of coming home is still the same to them or not; I would suppose that it's different, but hopefully still very special to have family living in this home and to preserve and build on those childhood memories. Now I am the hostess...which I love...but I miss my mom being in that role, and even more so, my grandmothers.

In any case, the advantages of living here, having this home, being so close to my parents, etc. FAR outweigh the disadvantages, so I'm not complaining in the least. I guess I'm just growing up--and realizing that things change, and can't possibly stay the same.

I was reminded of this quote by Wendy Wasserstein: Being a grownup means assuming responsibility for yourself, for your children, and--here's the big curve--for your parents.

Yep, I agree. And I think that third part is the hardest one of all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Running of the Moms

I have a notebook that I use to keep copies of articles that I want to save for one reason or another. I've discovered that this seems to be the best way for me to maintain some semblance of order with these assorted papers!

Recently as I was looking through this notebook, I "rediscovered" one of the articles that I found a while back. It struck me then, and it impacted me again when I read it a few days ago, so I thought I'd share it here--for a laugh, but also for a serious point, too.

It's from Focus on the Family magazine, and I don't know which month it appeared...but I do know that it's by Don Bosley.

Where I come from, the bloodthirsty village folk always look forward to a rite of parenting known as "The Running of the Moms," similar to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona - though bulls aren't nearly as dangerous.

That's because no bulls have ever been asked to sit by idly in the football bleachers watching their precious sons below be absolutely and repeatedly pummeled in the name of sport.

Moms, as a group, don't understand pummeling. The theory, advanced by behavioral sociologists who wanted to play football as youngsters but were made to learn the French horn by their mothers instead, say that moms don't appreciate the aggressive nature of sports.

It's not that moms aren't tough. Five minutes in the labor room with your wife will put a cork in that nonsense. A lot of moms are former athletes or scrappy tomboys at heart. Some moms are hearty football fans and even cheer a good pummeling of poor saps now and again.

But they're moms, and when their sons are in the game, moms can transform into a wild-eyed sisterhood. Their maternal emotions are ready to explode and stampede the place, and when they do - well, let's just say the The Running of the Moms has flattened many a flippant father and scores of enthusiastic teens.

"Don't throw it to him. Don't throw it to him," Melody kept chanting, while simultaneously chewing on all 10 fingernails.

I was young and foolish; I decided to correct her.

"Don't throw it to him?!" I scoffed. "Honey, he's wide open!"

"No, he's not!"

I didn't know how much danger I was in. Dads understand pummeling. They can watch their sons be clobbered by a mastodon-sized linebacker and be philosophical about it.

But football moms are absolutely not philosophical. They are tormented. Jittery. Women on the edge.

Do not mess with them.

"GO, BRETT!" I hollered. It looked like he might go the distance.

I couldn't see whether he made it or not. A blanket hit me with the force of a stampeding Spanish bull.

"Run, Brett! RUN!" screamed Melody, in a maternal seizure.

She didn't care about the end zone. She wanted Brett to run anywhere he could to avoid the extreme pounding to his skinny little self.

But the kid hadn't eaten enough broccoli. One defender slowed him down and another plowed him into the ground after a 20-yard gain.

The joyous fans went nuts. I went nuts. The other moms went nuts, thrilled that it wasn't their kids who'd gotten planted like a pathetic petunia at midfield.

Melody, on the other hand, was way beyond nuts. She was covering her eyes, cringing and trying to make herself do deep-breathing exercises.

"Let him get up. Please let him get up," she kept praying. "Somebody tell me when he gets up."

"Honey, they're already run three more plays."

The truth was, Brett was wearing so much protective equipment that you could have swung a wrecking ball at the kid, and he still would've bounced up unscathed.

He was supposed to get hit. He was dressed for it. I'm a dad. I totally get this.

But here's the problem: I get it when it comes to the football field, but I don't always grasp the concept elsewhere - which can be problematic when you're talking about your walk with Jesus.

I am stunned when some lousy circumstance or petty injustice touches my life. I can get snorty and wild-eyed.

Strife comes to one of my relationships, and I start retreating desperately or raving unintelligibly. A financial burden blindsides me, and I go into spiritual convulsions.

What did I expect? A game of pinochle played on a tablecloth?

It's a battle. We're supposed to get pummeled a little. The Enemy has flaming arrows, and they are coming our way.

But there's no reason to go fetal. No reason to stampede hysterically. It's not like God has thrown us out here without any protection.

He gave us His words of wisdom in Ephesians 6:11: "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."

So all I can shout is: "Go, Christian, go!"

And to that, I say, "Amen!"


Some pictures from last Thursday that I never got around to posting...

Homeschooling leaves lots of times for extra activities, like...
~ watching the chimney cleaner do his job and being exposed to another trade/another way of making a living - as well as learning about people skills and how to relate to people of all ages, backgrounds, etc.
~ seeing the world from a new perspective - everybody needs some upside-down time every now and then, right?
~ tackling Daddy - I love this picture because it shows how much these boys adore their daddy and how they just can't get enough of him!


Last year for Christmas, we gave Josiah an indoor tricycle...and he has gotten HOURS of enjoyment out of it. When August rolled around, we got one for David and thought, based on how he acted when he got on Josiah's tricycle, that he would quickly learn to ride his smaller tricycle well. We were wrong. He didn't get the hang of it until...yesterday! Last night he got on his tricycle and took off! He's not exactly zooming around as quickly as Josiah, but he's doing quite well...and it's fun to see both of them riding around our indoor "speedway." :)
~ in August--David liked to sit on his tricycle, but couldn't figure out how to make it move!
~ this morning--both boys managed to stop long enough for me to take their picture (and, yes, they're still Incas today!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week 30

Was it really me that wrote only a few weeks ago about how I selfishly love this stage of life so much when my baby and I are connected closer than we'll ever be again and how I don't want this to end? And was it me that wrote even more recently than that about how I want to grasp time and slow it down? I guess it must have been me, but all I can say now is that something has changed and I have turned a corner. Now, I am more than eager for this baby to be born--not because pregnancy is so uncomfortable (because, fortunately, it still is progressing fairly easily and smoothly...oh, a few aches and pains*...but nothing major)--but because I can hardly contain my excitement about actually meeting our new little son face to face and KNOWING him in a brand new way! This week is really the first time that this particular eager anticipation has gripped me, but it is a strong emotion now...which might be good or might not, since I still have two months to go until his expected arrival!

With a due date of January 16 and a history of my first son being born one day early and my second son being born 12 days early, I find myself strongly suspecting that this little guy will be born in the first part of January. Jeff is rooting hard for December 31, since he figures if Peter got a break on his taxes, so should we! But who knows? There are no guarantees that we won't go past our due date which, I've heard, is a peculiar form of torture--physical and mental--for heavily pregnant women; and I'm not at all eager to learn about that firsthand!

As far as names go... :) Once again, Jeff has changed his preference and is leaning towards a name that I actually prefer, too (though either of these latest two considerations is fine with me). David proudly announces that he likes the new name, too, probably because he can actually pronounce it. As for Josiah--when Jeff leans toward the other name, Josiah prefers the new name...but when Jeff says he likes the new name better, Josiah wants the old name. No wonder I sometimes call him Mr. Opposite! Anyway, once again, I think we are closer to a decision which is very exciting for me...but we'll see...time will tell.

* Aches and pains:
~ heartburn has reared its fiery head again, but fortunately it's nothing that a couple of Tums can't control
~ difficulty sleeping--not difficulty falling asleep because I do that fairly rapidly, but difficulty staying's hard to get a good night's sleep because I wake up not only to go to the bathroom numerous times during the night, but also because every time I turn over, I wake up...I consciously resist the urge to groan as I heave myself to my other side since I did a lot of that during my pregnancy with David and Jeff teased me mercilessly about that :)...but the process of turning over and getting resettled with my preggo pillow (which I adore and will be sad when I no longer have an excuse to use it!) definitely causes a significant sleep interruption
~ more-extreme-than-normal emotions--I dealt with this earlier in this pregnancy, but it seems to have returned...several times this week, I was so weepy--and knew I had no good reason to be...Jeff has been very loving and patient with me, and that is a huge help...I can't imagine what it would be like to be a husband to a pregnant woman; we're not the easiest things to love, I'm sure!
~ an example of an emotional moment: at our church this morning, several babies were dedicated; and it was a beautiful of the unique aspects of it was that the ladies' sewing group of the church makes a handmade baby blanket/quilt for each of the children being dedicated--so special!...anyway, as I watched the babies and the families in the front of the church, I was understandably a bit sentimental, thinking about how our turn was coming and how wonderful it will be to stand there with our little son...but then--we started singing the hymn "Children of the Heavenly Father"; and when we got to the phrase, "Though he giveth or he taketh," my tears flowed and I could hardly stop them...the reason? my heart grieved for that lost opportunity to have and hold a precious child...hey, I thought I was over that!...but this morning, I obviously wasn't...sigh...being this emotional is tiring! :)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Tonight our home was visited by two Inca tribesmen...aka Josiah and David...but hey, we have vivid imaginations around here, so it was no trouble at all to envision them as real tribesmen, hunting game in our living room with their bow and arrows. Granted, one of the tribesmen kept his sippy cup in tow, but we'll let that slide. :)
~ the tribesmen check each other out--will they be allies or enemies?
~ ah, peace is decided upon, even though these tribesmen hail from different villages (as anyone can clearly see from the different insignias on their headdresses)
Josiah was a little confused about where the Incas lived and who they might have fought against, since he kept insisting that he was fighting the Egyptians. "Um, no, sweetheart, I don't think the Incas and Egyptians ever fought. They lived pretty far away from each other." But nothing would dissuade him from his quest to find Egyptians!
Just another day in our homeschool...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lowering My Expectations...or the "Real" Proverbs 31 Woman

I am often afflicted with a common disease among women: the ability to make very long to-do lists, the inability to actually complete all (or even the majority) of the tasks on any of those lists, and the subsequent frustration that comes from feeling like I should be able to accomplish more so what in the world is wrong with me???

Recently I've realized that I need to set my expectations for myself even lower than I already have. It's tough, because really, I feel like I don't expect too much of myself...but when I still can't accomplish those lowered expectations, I realize I have to drastically re-evaluate what's important. What should my focus be on? What do I need to do so that at the end of the day, I'll be able to say it was a day well-spent? What are the bare minimums?

Here is what I've narrowed it down to so far:
~ food: have I provided food (of some sort, even if it's carry-out) for my family?
~ clothing: have I provided clean clothes for my family (or on rare occasions, clothes I've dug out of the dirty clothes pile because they're not too dirty)? :)
~ love: have I shown love to God? to Jeff? to my boys?

If I've accomplished those things, I think I should feel good about life, even if the laundry is piled higher than it's ever been before (which it literally is at this very moment--filling the entire laundry chute that we have from our top floor to bottom floor in our house), even if I don't have my picture file organized on the computer, even if my pile of papers by the telephone is threatening to tumble over and I know there are important things "lost" in it.

But oh, it's hard to feel good about such meager accomplishments.

I remember two times in my life that particularly stand out as times of intense focus when I knew that all I had to do was accomplish a very specific goal and if I did that, I could feel great. One was immediately after Josiah was born; for me, the whole world narrowed to the task of learning how to care for him and, especially, teaching him how to nurse effectively and helping him regain his birth weight and start gaining more weight. For a little while, that was all that was important to me.

Another time is after we moved from Israel to California, and all the possessions we had with us were in a few suitcases--a few very full suitcases which quickly got disorganized. It was my job to know what was in our luggage and to be able to produce it when needed. Finding clean clothes that fit us and (hopefully) matched each day was quite a job; but if I did that simple (but difficult) task, I could feel a sense of accomplishment. And when Jeff asked me for a certain important document or a cord for some piece of electronic equipment and I was able to find it, I felt exhilarated! Talk about focus: of all the things that normally keep me busy, at that point in life, all I had to do was be queen of the suitcases and that was enough!

But now that life is "settled," I automatically expect so much more of myself. So I was automatically intrigued when I was reading a chapter in a phenomenal book I read earlier this fall, called Things We Wish We'd Known, edited by Bill & Diana Waring. This book is a collection of advice from experienced homeschoolers, and I can't say enough good things about it. The emphasis on focusing on the heart of the child and relaxing about all the "rules" of homeschooling was exactly what I needed to read, and I should probably read it every year as I prepare to teach my boys.

The chapter that I'm thinking of now is called "You Can't Do It All...and Don't Have To!" by Sharon Grimes; and in these few pages, she talks about the Proverbs 31 woman, among other things. How many of us women have read Proverbs 31 and loved that woman, but then thrown our hands up in despair as we've realized how far short we fall when compared to that model? I mean, I certainly haven't purchased any fields or woven any scarlet cloth recently, and I don't always get up before dawn, so I must be a failure, right? Well, not really.

I'm going to quote extensively from Sharon's chapter because she says it better than I could...

It became so frustrating trying to emulate my biblical role model that, eventually, I was compelled to really study that thirty-first chapter of Proverbs. I reached some startling conclusions that really changed my "I have to be busy all the time or I won't be a success" attitude.

First, I learned that the woman in Proverbs 31 was not a young mother with young children. I believe that she was in the next season of her life, with grown children. See the verse that says "her children rise up and call her blessed." Now, when was the last time your children got up in the morning and told you how wonderful you are? (Mother's Day doesn't count!) Can you remember when you first realized how hard your mother had worked and all of the sacrifices she had made for you? If you are like me, it was not until you became a parent and saw how much work it took to run a household. It is grown children who "rise up and call her blessed."

Now, some of you may still insist on emulating all of the Proverbs 31 woman's activities. All right, here is point two to convince you that the Proverbs 31 woman did not "do it all." What is the first thing that she did every day after she rose? (I rarely can find anyone who knows the answer. All that we remember is her multitude of activities.) Give up? Verse fifteen explains that she fed her maids. How many of you have a houseful of maids to feed in the morning? NO, none of us has the multitude of household assistants taking care of our every whim that a woman of royalty would have had! I was starting to get a different picture.

I became convinced that these accomplishments were completed, not concurrently, but spread out over the course of this woman's lifetime. I had failed miserably in my efforts to "do it all." People always say, "prioritize your schedule," but my priorities were wrong! All of those urgent needs outside our home continued to pull me away from the most important jobs I had: wife and mother. And, for the first time in my life, I clearly understood that my attempts to please the Lord had been performance-based rather than a simple walk of obedience (I Sam. 15:22-23).

Sharon writes more, but I think this is enough to give the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter for me is my heart--my heart to accept my limitations, my heart to stop judging myself based on my to-do list, my heart to stop comparing my accomplishments with what other women are able to do, my heart to trust what God has shown me is most important.

So as I lay down at night, if I can say I fed and clothed my family and loved them and God, it will be enough. And when the days of more productivity come, I'll accept them as a blessing from God, but will strive to remember that it doesn't change my worth or status as a woman before God.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Little David, Play on Your Harp...or on Your Rhythm Sticks, Whichever Is Handy

I am too spent tonight to attempt to write any of the "profound" thoughts swirling around in my brain, so I'll post a few pics from David's music class this morning and leave it at that. Suffice it to say that David loves his music class, and I love watching him love his music class. I'm really grateful we've had this opportunity to do something like this together--just him and I. My time with David almost always includes Josiah as well, which is also a good thing, but it is nice to be able to focus on one boy at a time for a while.
~ David with the group
~ David with Miss Christy, a well-loved teacher in our household since she was also Josiah's teacher for 3 semesters of music classes

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Week 29

Another week of pregnancy has come and gone, and now (as of tomorrow) I'm out of the week 20s and into the 30s. Wow, where did the time go? It seems like it won't be long at all until our littlest fish(er) is hatched!

I'll start with the humorous part of this week because sometimes you just gotta laugh at yourself. Every night recently--in the middle of the night--sometimes several times in the night, I have been meditating on airplanes. Why airplanes? Well, because of a conversation I had with Josiah about how airplanes fly; and although I'm not at all technically versed in the mechanics of flight, I understand enough to try to explain how airplanes are affected by opposing forces: gravity v. lift, for example. One force is pulling in one direction, and the other force is pulling in the opposite direction...and whichever one is stronger will win.

You're probably wondering what in the world this has to do with pregnancy or night wakings or anything maternity-related at all. I'll try to explain it, although I think it's one of those things that only makes sense in the middle of the night and when the light of day comes, you think, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Anyway...

At night when I wake up, I too experience opposing forces. On the one hand, my bladder is stretched to maximum capacity and is urging me to quickly go to the bathroom. On the other hand, as soon as I stand up, shooting pain races down the right side of my back, forcing me to stand still until the kinks in my muscles ease themselves out...or until I can muster enough courage to take a quick step on my right foot, knowing that the pain will be intense for a second until I can get the weight shifted back to my left foot again. As I continue writing this, it sounds sillier and sillier to me...but I can assure you that it's a real predicament! Do I listen to my bladder--or my back? How long can I allow Baby to shove my over-full internal balloon around until it pops? How long will it take for my back to work itself out so I can take a step with only minimal pain? Which opposing force will prove itself stronger?

And so every night, the phrase "opposing forces" echoes hollowly around and around in my brain--and I think about airplanes.

Several times recently, I have been sitting on the edge of the bed, recovering from one of these strenuous night excursions to the bathroom...and Jeff will wake up and ask, "Are you OK?" Hmm...short answer: yes. Long answer: well, no time for a long answer because invariably Jeff is asleep again already. :)

Did I mention last week that I can't do all that I'd like to be doing? Well, it's still true. This is the time of the year when there are last-minute outdoor projects that "need" to be done before the winter, and it's just about driving my mother and I crazy that we can't do them all. We keep trying to put each other on virtual bedrest: I tell Mother she needs to slow down and put her feet up because of significant pain/damage in her knee which is actually forcing her to have it operated on the end of this month, so obviously she can't be spreading mulch, carrying in wood, moving tomato stakes, etc. On the other hand, she thinks that I shouldn't be doing those things either! I've actually been feeling a lot more Braxton Hicks contractions during this pregnancy than I ever remember having in a previous pregnancy, but I sure hate to mention them because I know what my mother will say the next time she sees me trying to lift something heavier than a Q-tip! ( I carried 3 gallons of cider at the same time; I wonder how many pounds that is?)

Speaking of good old Braxton Hicks...I had read about these mysterious contractions during my first pregnancy but was NEVER aware of having them. Whenever I asked someone what a contraction felt like, they gave me the stock answer: "Oh, honey, you'll just know it when you have a contraction." But I didn't. In fact, two days before my due date, I was in a Denny's restaurant in San Diego with several close friends, and we were talking about this same topic. I remember asking several of them who had children about how they knew when they were in labor, and of course they sort of laughed and rolled their eyes and assured me I would know it. Little did I (or they) know, I was actually in the early stages of labor at that moment! But it wasn't until I got home, tried to sleep, felt pain, and realized the PATTERN of it that it dawned on me that I might be having contractions and might actually be in labor.

So, I agree that at some point in labor, a woman realizes what is happening and becomes aware (quite aware) of contractions. But to tell her that she'll just know when she's having a contraction is about as helpful as saying "you'll just know when you're in love" or "these directions are so simple that you can't miss it." The only thing those kinds of comments do is make the person feel stupid when they can't figure it out!!!

OK, let me climb down off my soapbox now.

So, as I was saying, Braxton Hicks did not exist for me during my first pregnancy (at least, in my mind; maybe I had them and never realized it). And in my second pregnancy when I obviously had a little more experience, I occasionally felt a contraction during the later weeks of the pregnancy...but really, that happened fairly rarely (say that 10 times fast). In fact, the day that David was born, I woke up early in the morning with a contraction, totally convinced myself all day long that it was false labor, and didn't even admit it might be the real deal until we were at the airport outside of Tel Aviv picking my mom up who had just arrived in the country. That wasn't really a great place to make that discovery. Fortunately, in the end, it all worked out amazingly well...but that's another story.

Now, with baby #3, I do find that I'm more aware of what is going on with my body, and I occasionally realize I'm having--at last--this phenomenon that women talk about all the time: Braxton Hicks. Two pregnancies ago, when I first read about them, that they are essentially painless contractions, I thought the writer must have been off his/her rocker (probably "his," because what kind of woman would write about a painless contraction?) because I had never experienced a contraction that wasn't also accompanied by pain--or what writers of inspirational childbirth books like to euphemistically call "pressure." But you know, now I get it! Sometimes I too will feel a funny sensation and will think, "Oh, there goes my baby kicking again." But then I'll feel my stomach and it is TIGHT. "Aha," I'll think, "this must be a Braxton Hicks contraction. Finally I've arrived in the secret sisterhood of women who know what Braxton Hicks are!"

Now, if you are in the group of experienced mothers who is reading this and thinking that I'm way off base as far as this Braxton Hicks stuff goes, feel free to set me straight. I guess I'll be OK if you burst my bubble. But I really thought I'd figured it out...gulp...and knew what I was talking about...sniff, sniff...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pretzel Shapes, a Crafty Critter, and Photography Practice

What do the three things listed in the title have in common? They are all part of Josiah's recent educational experiences!

Tonight the boys and I had a light supper since Jeff was away (at his last pottery class); and at the end of our meal as the boys were munching on these pretzel sticks, they started making letters (and a few words) with them--and for Josiah, that progressed to shapes. He made all the shapes he could think of that only use straight lines: square, triangle, rectangle, trapezoid, diamond, pentagon, hexagon, octagon. It was fun to see him work on this project completely from his own initiative. What a yummy way to learn!
After he made all these shapes, he wanted to take pictures by himself of I happily turned over the digital camera to him and let him snap away. Most of the pics turned out blurry since he usually stood about an inch from the object of his photography! But he was so pleased with himself for taking them and he actually asked if I would put all of them on my blog. Well, I'll spare you that; but I did want to include the above picture that he took which I like because it shows me his point of view. Sometimes I forget that he isn't as tall as I am, and I expect his "world" to look like mine...when it clearly doesn't! :)
In this picture, Josiah is holding a crab that he made a few days ago out of a seashell, some modeling clay, some pipe cleaners, some googly eyes, and (of course) some paint. Josiah is always thrilled when he gets to paint something!

And now, for a report on my own educational experience, entitled "What I Learned Today."

I learned...that there are actually sweeter words that can come from Josiah's mouth than "I love you, Mommy." When he says looking across the dinner table to his little brother, "I love you, David. I love your beautiful eyes," I realize that to see Josiah's sibling love grow is truly more refreshing than me being the object of his affection. I guess this is because mommy love seems so natural to a child, but brother love (when said brother has been known to take your toys, invade your space, and divide your parents' attention) seems harder to cultivate. How many prayers have I prayed for my boys to get along and be great buddies? How many times have I anguished over their seemingly endless ridiculous conflicts? How earnestly do I long for them to be lifelong best friends? Countless prayers...unspeakably deep longing...and now to see a glimmer of light in their relationship is truly sweet. I'm not so naive as to assume that all will be joy and harmony from here on out! But I do feel encouraged by Josiah's expression of brotherly love today.