Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Problem Child

Quite some time ago, someone whom I love and respect very much said to me, "That David! He's going to be your difficult child. All his life, he'll test you and push the boundaries."

I'm not sure exactly what I said - probably nothing, lest I say the wrong thing. I probably did the "smile and nod" routine, but inside I was thinking, "No way. I WILL NOT label any of my children in this way. Just because David is going through a phase of testing the boundaries does NOT mean that he'll be doing that the rest of his life. I WILL NOT set such a low expectation for him."

And then I thought of another someone who, several years prior, had observed Josiah and told me that "he's such a strong-willed child; and if you don't nip that in the bud and exert your authority, you're going to have trouble with him." That someone didn't tell me that Josiah was my "difficult child" because, at the time, Josiah was my only child. But the someone did seem to feel that trouble lay ahead and I clearly wasn't doing a good enough job of showing Josiah who was boss.

These conversations have stuck with me because both individuals are people who mean far more to me than does a stranger in the street. I've had my fair share of offhand comments from passersby about various aspects of childrearing (especially when we lived in Israel where people are most definitely not hesitant to air their opinion about anything, particularly if it involves children). But these two people have an ongoing relationship with us, and I value their input. However, I strongly disagree with them (maybe that goes to show how strong-willed I am). :)

The way I see it, I don't have a difficult child, but each child I've had does have difficult phases. Therein lies a key difference. It's true that when Josiah was a toddler, he liked to exert his will, leading to some conflicts between us. What toddler doesn't do that?! It's true that, at the point in time in which someone #1 was observing David, he was going through the stage of "I want to do what I want to do, and I'm going to see how much Mommy will bend the rules for me, especially when someone else is around." But neither of those facts means that Josiah is my difficult child, or that David is.

And neither is Tobin, although if you were a fly on the wall in our household on most days, you might think that he is.

Josiah, although not perfect by any means, has moved into the wonderful stage of basically obeying without making a fuss; and I'm realizing that the battleground for him now is his heart. While he's obeying, how is his attitude? But at least, we're past the basic "you need to learn to obey" period of childhood.

David, for all his distractedness and Tobin-button-pushing and other faults, has also largely learned the foundational obedience lesson. When I ask him to do something, I can count on him to do it. Of course, sometimes he gets distracted and lolly-gags along the way; or, as with Josiah, sometimes his heart is not humble and peaceful while he's doing it; or other issues crop it. But by and large, he is not a child who tests me at every turn.

But Tobin. My dearly-loved sweetheart Tobin. He happens to be two years old; and although I am a firm believer in not expecting the twos to be terrible, I do realize that it is a very normal stage of life for a child to be exerting his independence and figuring out what ways are appropriate for that and what ways are not. Some days recently, I have felt, at the end of the day, like I've been on the battleground all day long; and I can only let my guard down when he's in bed. At times like that, I remind myself of some key principles: pick your battles, don't sweat the small stuff, but do realize that you're fighting for his soul...and that these lessons of submission to authority and developing the fruits of the Spirit will stand him in good stead all the rest of his life. He'll find friendships easier because of this battle I'm fighting. He'll be a better student and employee because of it. His marriage and children will be blessed because of the lessons he's learning as a two-year-old. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am not fighting against him, but against the forces of evil who war against all that is good and righteous and holy. And I am not about to give in to their schemes.

The last time I went to the library, I had all four boys with me; and I made the (somewhat rash) decision to never again take all four boys to the library with me for the next 10 years or so--at least until all of them can be counted on to obediently come when I say "come," and cross the street when I say "cross the street," and NOT pull random books off the shelves, and NOT run off to get a drink at the water fountain when I'm trying to check out, and NOT push Shav's stroller and run into other people, and NOT linger behind to push the automatic door button again and again, and NOT stop in the middle of the street because they suddenly think they're so tired and would rather not budge an inch. Later, I realized that 10 years is a rather long time to go without a library trip, so I relented and decided we could go, IF we used the double stroller and Tobin was securely strapped in and unable to cause much chaos, even if he didn't like it one bit. Gracious of me, wasn't it? But mercy! It is no fun to deal with all of those issues, especially the dangerous one of "get your toddler out of the middle of the road while simultaneously pushing your baby in his stroller and having an overloaded and terribly heavy bag of books on your shoulder and keeping an eye on your other two children to make sure they don't go too far ahead" and all of this on one of the hottest days of the year...and oh yeah, don't get angry and upset! "A soft answer turns away wrath...a soft answer turns away wrath...a soft answer turns away wrath...asoftanswerturnsawaywrath...asoftanswerturnsawaywrath...asoftanswertu..."

When we went to our local lawn party a few days ago, we had a wonderful time. We ate greasy food, drank fresh lemonade, the boys rode on the rides, it was great. Fun, fun, fun. Until it was time to go. Why did Tobin have to ruin it by stubbornly refusing to "come" and "get in the van" and "sit in your seat" and "let me buckle you"? Couldn't we have had an entire evening of fun instead of it being marred by a conflict of wills at the end? Why is there always a conflict of wills?

Because that's the phase we're in. Because Tobin is learning the basic lesson of obedience. Because he still doesn't realize the benefit and flat-out safety that comes from bending his strong little will and bowing his sweet head and submitting to authority. Because he doesn't know that if he doesn't learn this lesson now, he will "kick against the pricks" until he does. Because he has no clue that the lesson is best learned here at home with us and not later, out in the world, where it is a much more painful lesson and has much more lasting, damaging consequences.

Meanwhile, it is not fun to be engaged in this battle. It is exhausting. But it is so very important. And so, I'll keep on fighting for Tobin's soul, trying to be consistent, striving to help him learn this fundamental lesson of life. That's what I've done--and will continue to do--for each of my "problem children." :) That's what someone did for me when I was a problem child. :)

God, give me strength!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TTT - Christians in the Bible?

Both Josiah and David attended Vacation Bible School last week, and the theme was Paul in Rome. One day as Josiah was reporting to me what he had done and learned, he said in a tone of genuine wonder, "I didn't know Christians were in the Bible!" I nearly had a coughing fit as I tried to hide my laughter, and I was so surprised by what he said that I asked him to repeat himself three or four times to make sure I heard it correctly. By way of explanation since I kept wanting to hear his comment over and over, he added, "I didn't know Christianity stretched back that far!" Oh, dear boy, what would the entire New Testament be about, if not Christianity??? :)


"Ooooo, that's DISGUSTING!" Josiah exclaimed from the backseat of our van as we drove through town yesterday after I had picked him up from soccer camp.

"What is?" I asked, since I had no idea whatsoever what he might be talking about.

His answer made me laugh. "That guy's pants were falling down, and his underwear was sticking out!!!"

"Did he have a shirt on?" I wondered.

"No. And his pants were down to HERE!" Josiah replied. I couldn't see, from the driver's seat, where his "here" was, but I could imagine.

For Josiah, the thought of anyone seeing his underwear is horrifying at this stage of life, so it's no surprise that he was shocked by such a blatant display. :)


As we were driving in the car this morning, having dropped off Josiah at soccer camp, I took the opportunity to have a little motherly chat with David about appropriate behavior and boundaries between boys and girls. That led to a discussion about what is OK and what isn't, and I realized that it's an entirely different thing to be asked "Is it OK to kiss a girl?" by a five year-old than by a 15 year-old! At one point in the conversation, David was reminding me that he is going to marry Joelle; and he said the sweetest thing: "I've really kind of fallen in love with her." What do you know of falling in love, my sweet Romeo?? :)


Also in the car today, David said loudly, "Millie [one of Jeff's co-workers] is part cow!!"

"What in the world is he talking about?" I thought; and I was getting ready to reprimand him for being so unkind, when it occurred to me that I'd better dig deeper to see what prompted that comment.

"What did you mean, David, when you said Millie is part cow?" I asked, in what I hoped was a casual, sweet voice.

His explanation made perfect sense. "Remember when she had that surgery, and they put a piece of a cow in her?"

Ah, yes! I do remember! She had heart surgery, and they put in a new valve. I hadn't remembered that it came from a cow, but perhaps it did. He must have heard someone mention that for it to stick in his head that way. Regardless, he'll have to learn that it's not the most tactful thing to talk about someone being "part cow!" :)


Monday, June 28, 2010

While I Was Nursing

I let Shav stay up late tonight. We sat outside, enjoying the coolness of the evening, pleasant conversation with neighbors, and the excitement of watching our neighbor Douglas and one of his Old Order Mennonite buddies move my parents' carport. Finally, I convinced myself that we really should come in, so I brought Shav in, got him changed for the night, then sat down to nurse him.

A few minutes later, Josiah burst into the house, excitedly called for me, and told me that there was a beautiful sunset and I needed to get the camera and come outside right then to take pictures. Well! Shav wouldn't have been happy about that so I decided not to get up, but I knew the sunset would probably be gone by the time he was in bed, so what to do? I called down to Josiah to get a chair, take it over to the shelf where the camera was, and see if he could reach it, then take it outside to Daddy so he could take pictures. He (Josiah) did, and he (Jeff) did.

The result:

Stunning, isn't it? There's actually a bird in mid-air flight in the last picture.

I'm sorry I missed seeing all of this beauty in real life, but I'm thankful for a son who appreciates it and a husband who can take fantastic pictures! :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Path of Life

~I took this photo at Riven Rock Park - June 20, 2010

What stands out to me as I contemplate this verse is that God is the one who makes the path known. There's a mysterious intersection between God's will and ours, between the work that He does and the work He calls us to do, between His sovereignty and His willingness to let us make choices. I don't have that intersection figured out or clearly defined. But I appreciate how this verse reminds me that I've found the path of life because God has made it known to me; so tonight, my prayer focus is that He would make the path of life known to my children so that each of them would walk in it--all the way to heaven.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Second Law of Thermodynamics... true. My house proves it. If I do not regularly go around and straighten up, putting things away, and bringing order to it, it quickly degenerates into chaos. Twenty-four hours without "redding up" can bring disorder to every single room of the house, it seems. It's amazing, in a very disheartening sort of way. Sigh.

My observation of this Second Law of Thermodynamics at work in my house came into clear focus this evening when we got a phone call about 6:00 PM from some friends asking if they could come over around 9:00 PM. Of course, they could; we'd be delighted to have them! At that point, as I looked around at our stuff scattered every which way, I had two choices: stick with Plan A and go to our local lawn party with the family as planned and then do a quick (extremely quick) clean-up of the living areas when we got home or switch to Plan B and stay home from the lawn party to clean up the house. I went with Plan A. To paraphrase something Jeff said tonight, "No one ever gets to the end of their life and says, 'I wish I would have cleaned more'."

Anyway, I'm not going to post pictures tonight of the messes that suddenly spring up every time I turn my back. Instead, here's a video I took yesterday afternoon while Tobin was having his nap.

The noise in the video is coming from the train, a battery-operated one that rolls along by itself. In this case, Tobin had turned it on and was holding it in his hand when he fell asleep. The noise and vibration obviously didn't bother him...and neither did the fact that he had a hard plastic dinosaur resting on his face. I'm not at all sure I could sleep like that; but what can I say, he's a boy of many talents.

The next time I think to myself that I'd like to sleep like a baby, I'll change the phrase to...

..."sleep like a Tobin!" :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Is for...

...devouring books during lazy quiet times in the afternoon, sometimes while tucked away in a secret hide-out

...staying up late and sleeping in the next morning (well, some of us get to sleep in)

...being outside in the cool of the evening, watching fireflies light up and little boys run around catching them

...climbing the woodpile made of the cut-up pieces of Grandpa and Grandma's huge oak tree and playing King of the Mountain

...rolling down grassy hills

...romping with a kitten

...eating popsicles in the shade of the English walnut tree in the middle of the morning

...getting sticky from head to toe, then coming inside for a bath before lunch

...waiting (im)patiently for the first tomatoes and corn-on-the-cob to ripen in the garden--and for the people who own the orchard on the next hill over to call and say "the peaches are ripe and could you come and get a few bushels?"

...remembering last summer and how big and heavy and nervous and excited I was as I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Shav wondering about the answers to a few questions: boy or girl? when would labor start? how would the adjustment to four children go for me? when would life ever feel normal again?

...waking around 5:00 AM, glancing out the window to see the eastern sky just starting to lighten, listening to the symphony of the birds outside my open window, then snuggling down to go back to sleep again

...rediscovering how much I love apologetics, as I have time to read something other than schoolbooks

...organizing and cleaning my whole kitchen (I'm about halfway done!)

...putting charts from the library summer reading program on our refrigerator and seeing the spaces get colored in as both Josiah and David read books

...reminding Shav how to sleep through the night (Jeff has started helping out with this one, which is GREAT because Shav doesn't associate him with milk)

...loving the sight of little boy legs in shorts and the ease of dressing (no sweaters! no coats! no hats! no gloves!)

...noticing how much Tobin is acting like (or trying to) the big boys

...slicing lemons for fresh lemonade

...swatting flies (there always seems to be at least one buzzing around inside the house)

...potty training (in a nutshell, we're making slow but steady progress with this; I've backed off and stopped stressing about it, and let Tobin take the lead; he's not consistent, but he does ask to wear underwear and go potty, and I'm quite content with that for now)

...going to Vacation Bible School (for Josiah and David, although Tobin dearly wishes that he could go, too)

...listening to Christmas music (not a typical component of an I-love-summer list, but I listen to Christmas music all year, and I think it's particularly fun in the hot summertime to listen to it and be reminded of all the delights of the opposite season)

...drinking smoothies (my current favorites are breakfast-in-a-glass--an egg, a couple spoonfuls of orange juice concentrate, some milk, a splash of vanilla, a little sugar or stevia or honey to sweeten it, and 7 ice cubes, give or take a few--and Jeff's specialty--homemade grape juice, frozen blueberries, and frozen peaches, plus whatever else he decides to throw in)

...turning on the ceiling fan in whichever room of the house I find myself and enjoying the breeze...and only occasionally turning on the air conditioning, usually when I want to knock down the humidity (I keep the thermostat fairly high, because 80 degrees without humidity is more comfortable than 77 with!)

All of these wonderful things, and summer has only been here a few days!

What else is summer good for? I can hardly wait to find out as the next few months unfold. :)


Speaking of summer...and all the seasons...

I write this blog almost entirely for myself and my family, and am occasionally surprised and amused by the fact that others find it interesting and read it, too. Although I enjoy and appreciate comments very much (what blogger doesn't?), I don't write for them...I don't fish for them...and I try not to employ gimmicks to get them. A once-a-year contest on my blogiversary is about as far as I go in that direction. I want this tiny corner of the blogosphere to be a quiet place, not a loud one. It's my home, after all.

That said, however, I'm wondering if anyone out there would like to leave a comment in response to this question: What one adjective would you use to describe each season? What word would you choose for winter? What word for spring? And so forth. In my head, I've chosen words for all of them except summer which is still a toss-up in my mind between two adjectives. I know curiosity killed the cat, but I'll admit that I'm just curious to see what words you would choose and whether you think of the same ones that I do. :)

But by all means, feel no pressure at all to do this! I'll keep writing, whether you leave a comment or not. I'll be happy, whether you leave a comment or not.

After all, it's summer! How could I not be happy?! :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blessing upon Blessing upon Blessing

I feel blessed.

Even when I don't feel blessed, I know that I am. But recently, I've felt it.

In the spirit of that old song ("Count your blessings, name them one by one...count your many blessings, see what God has done."), I want to record some recent blessings for which I am thankful.


The day after this renovation project, when dust was EVERYWHERE in the house, coating every surface and proving surprisingly difficult to remove, one of our Old Order Mennonite friends who cleans houses called and asked if she could come and clean. Could she? Absolutely!!! I was feeling more stress than I wanted to at the thought of trying to get that dust up while keeping four little boys out of it. Her willingness and availability came at just the right time; when I was feeling discouraged, there she was.

She did it for pay, of course; but it was worth every cent...and here's where the second part of this blessing comes in. Jeff didn't complain a bit about having her come and needing to pay her. He didn't say or imply that I should be able to clean my own house, and why did we need to spend money to have someone else come to do it? He was SO supportive and so generous and such a blessing to me during that time!


The next HUGE area in which I felt incredibly blessed came as we prepared for the homeschool convention we attended a few weeks ago. As we were trying to figure out (months ago) whether to take the boys and if not, who could keep them, some friends of ours volunteered to take care of them and, I think it's accurate to say, really urged us to take them up on their offer.

Even more...
~ We offered to pay; they wouldn't take a penny.
~ We wondered how the boys (not including Shav since he went with us) would do spending the night in someone else's house, especially Tobin as he hasn't had much experience with that; Becky said she'd be glad to bring them back here at bedtime and stay with them so they could be in their familiar surroundings.
~ We discussed when we would drop them off at their house on that Friday morning; Becky said, "Let me come to your house and get them," saving us time and allowing the late risers to keep sleeping even after we left.
~ We talked about what time we would come by their house on Saturday evening to pick them up; Becky said, "Let me bring them to your house so you don't have to make the trip out here to get them."
~ I wondered how much gear I would need to round up for the boys; Becky said, "We have carseats for all of them, and I've borrowed a highchair that Tobin can use."
~ We KNEW they would have a blast (despite Josiah having some emotional insecurity the night before our trip--see #5 in this post for more details); Becky was thoughtful enough to show us, through pictures and video, exactly how much fun they had. :) It really made me feel like I was there, so to speak, and made my heart happy as I watched my boys having a ball--without me! :)

I wasn't reluctant to leave the boys, but it is a big deal to go off and leave your precious little ones with someone else for a few days. We were confident though that they were in good hands.
Becky's four children and two nieces and one nephew were all involved with making the weekend so much fun for my boys.
And the swimming pool--well, that was certainly a highlight for the boys!
I love this picture of Tobin just kicking back by the pool. He is one cool dude. :)
It's kind of hard to recognize him, but David is the one on the back left.
Tobin had three young ladies to "mother" him--Kathryn, who has taken care of him since he was an infant in the church nursery, and two of her cousins.
Josiah was SO excited about this game of Risk that he got to play with the older boys.
Anything involving world conquest is right up his alley. :)
Sandbox time.
Look how serious he is about what he's doing with that sand. :)
More time in the swimming pool.
Tobin would throw these nerf darts into the pool, and...
...someone would always retrieve them for him.
What fun!

The time away with Jeff (and Shav) was heavenly, and it wouldn't have been possible without amazing friends like these.


Yet another blessing fell in our lap two days after we returned from the convention. On Monday of that week, when I was dealing with a yucky case of tonsillitis, the phone rang and it was Emily's mom Julie saying, "Can I bring you some dinner tonight so you don't even have to think about it today?" I wasn't about to refuse that offer. I sort of felt like, even though I was sick, I should be able to at least make dinner for my family; but my, oh my, was I ever glad to lay down that burden and receive that blessing from her!


Another blessing that has fallen in our lap is Becky's daughter Kathryn coming every week or so during the summer to be a mother's helper and play with the boys for a few hours so I can turn my attention to various projects that are difficult to do when I'm focused on the boys. This was another situation in which Becky and Kathryn volunteered to do this and wouldn't accept any money in return. The boys and I are delighted by Kathryn's presence; I'm not sure who loves it the most! Regardless, we are overwhelmed--in the best way possible--by the kindness and generosity shown to us.


A family who loves and supports me...a husband who puts up with my weaknesses and shortcomings...friends who go above and beyond the call of duty...and most of all, a God who lavishes goodness upon me.

I am indeed blessed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Nicest Compliment...

...I received today was given me by a somewhat surly Walmart employee. He eyed me suspiciously while I stood at the photo counter waiting for him to hand me some enlargements I'd ordered, held up this photo of Shav, and asked, "Did you take this picture?"
"Yes, I did!" I answered and smiled.

"Can I see your memory card?" he quizzed me.

"Uh, I don't have it with me, but here's the disk."

He took it, looked at it (there wasn't much to see since it was a disk Jeff had put the photos on just to transfer them to Walmart, and we hadn't even labeled it), then handed it back to me. "I have to be really careful about what photos I develop," he said.

I understood. I know their policy about not developing professional photographs without permission; in fact, I'd had a run-in with the photo department at our town's other Walmart before. While the employee today got the form ready for me to sign that basically says that I take my own pictures and am not doing anything illegal, I chatted with him and told him that I had previously signed one of those at the other Walmart...and that I have a Canon Rebel...and that I'm trying to learn about photography...and that I have so much to learn...and that I appreciated him thinking that the pictures I took were any good...and that I really want to improve, etc.

"Well, I think you're doing a lot better!" he said encouragingly. Not that he had ever seen my previous attempts at photography to have anything to compare it to, but still, it was nice to hear that. :)

Here are some of the other pictures I had developed today:

I took these a few days ago at one of my favorite local spots, Riven Rock Park; and honestly I wasn't entirely pleased with them because the light was fading as I snapped them and so they didn't turn out as crystal-clear as I would have liked. But I didn't want my self-criticism and perfectionism to keep me from getting something developed to put into some frames I have, so I decided it was worth the $4 each to get these developed at Walmart. Now that I think about it, I could have told the man at Walmart, "If these were really professional photographs, do you think I'd be getting them developed here?!" :)

I'm enjoying this summer SO MUCH, but I'm already looking forward to the fall and the photography classes I hope to take at our local community college. My boys are so precious to me that I want to do an even better job of capturing them in pictures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TTT - Texicans and Arber Bops

Josiah recently read a book about the Alamo; and as he was telling me about it, he kept referring to the "Texicans." which side exactly did the Texicans fight on? And who was their leader? Regardless, I'd say Texicans is potentially a very useful term. In the same spirit, I think I'll start telling Josiah, who was born in California but now lives in Virginia, that he's a Caliginian. Or maybe a Virfornian. :)


Tobin's language skills are blossoming, reminding me daily how much I appreciate this stage of childhood, when suddenly the child can communicate and, for the most part, make himself understood. It eliminates so much frustration!

I know this isn't highly significant to anyone else, but I want to remember how he says certain things. Here are some of his common mispronunciations:

moomie = movie
beb = bed
bap = lap
it bap = sit on your lap
my urn = my turn (and when he says this, sometimes he pats himself on the chest to add emphasis to his statement)
ah-er = water
beep = Jeep
gook, Mommy = look, Mommy
ake urt me? = snake hurt me? (prompted by our snake encounter a few days ago)
Daddy home = Daddy home (of course!)...this is what he says whenever he's sad or gets in this stage of life, Tobin's world revolves around his daddy; and if anything goes wrong, Tobin longs for his daddy to come to the rescue!

And my personal favorite:
arber bop = barber shop

With each of the boys, there is a word or two they said that becomes an ingrained part of our family consciousness. For example, Josiah said "ickabee" for ambulance, David said "gwink" for drink, and now Tobin says "arber bop." I've been having fun teasing Tobin about how he says it, and so far he doesn't mind a bit but gives his big charming grin when I talk about the "arber bop." If it starts to bother him, I'll certainly stop...but in my head, I think I'll still hear "arber bop." :)


A few days ago, David was looking in a church directory that has our family picture in it (although it's outdated, since it only includes three sons!). He told me quite calmly and cheerfully, "Whenever Daddy dies, or whenever you die, I can just look at this picture, and--there you are!" Ah, yes, if only grief was that simple.

Often when we read books from the library, I'll open the book, stick my nose in it, sniff deeply, and say, "Smells like a book!" That wonderful smell is a treasured part of my childhood. Whenever I do that, whichever boys are close by have to also smell the book; and they usually have the same remark. David, however, went through a stage when he was younger in which he would smell the book, then enthusiastically exclaim, "Smells like an apple!" What?? Anyway, today I was holding Shav on the couch and David was right beside us, snuggled close as is his habit. Out of the blue, he leaned over, sniffed Shav's head, and announced, "Smells like a Shav!!" Well, that's a good thing. But what exactly does a Shav smell like anyhow? :)


Monday, June 21, 2010

Eight Years, Eight Things

My dearest Josiah,

"This is the worst birthday ever," you mourned as you sat on the couch Sunday morning a week ago while I took your temperature and discovered you had a fever, thus curtailing our plans for your big day. My heart was so sad for you; and through the pain and fog of my own sickness, I tried to think of how to redeem the day for you. I hope the wonderful potluck fellowship we had last Friday, complete with our birthday tradition of pinata-smashing, helped to alleviate your disappointment so that when you look back at your eighth birthday, you'll be full of joy and not sadness.

Let me tell you eight of the things that stand out to me about you as you turn eight years old.

1. You are growing up. I say that every year, and it's true every year--in fact, it's true every day. :) But I had a fresh realization of this when I was trying to figure out what to buy you for your birthday. This was actually the first year that I had a hard time knowing what to get for you. You're growing out of the toy stage--at least, the toy stage in which I could go to Walmart and walk up and down the aisles and find lots of things that you would like. Now, you know what you want; and sure, you could walk up and down the aisles at Walmart and find some choices, but it's not so easy for others to buy for you. We got you some Narnia movies, and a real pocketknife, and a grown-up wallet, and a Star Wars activity book, and a radio-controlled car, and two books (one of which was a thick complete guide to the value of old coins--not at all a child's book). You were very happy with everything you received; but as I look at the list, I feel nostalgic. Where is the little boy who delighted in toy cars and didn't want to leave the house without one in each hand? Where is the little boy who only wanted Thomas the Tank Engine gifts? He's gone, and in his place is a young man who is thrilled by a pocketknife and a black leather wallet--like Dad's. The apron strings are being cut a little more; and although I couldn't be more proud of you, I have to stop and use that apron to wipe away a few tears sometimes. :)
2. You are so smart! I've already written about your tremendous reading ability, but beyond your interest in reading books that are much more advanced than your "normal" grade level, we've also noticed recently how fast you read. We went to the library last week to sign you up for the summer reading program; and in the next few days, you read about three books each day--and they weren't short little books either!

Another area in which we see your intelligence is in chess. Dad signed you up for online chess, and you find great joy in playing with (and beating!) other kids (and sometimes adults!). You love it when Grandpa plays real chess with you after supper...or when Kevin does...or, of course, when Dad does...or anyone who happens to be around. I rarely play you, although when you were in first grade and taking chess classes in co-op, we did play, and I could beat you. Now I think you would probably win every time. Maybe that's why I don't play you. ;)
3. In the past year, you have improved so much in your speaking ability. We were a little concerned about the way you talked, concerned enough to get you officially evaluated by a speech therapist. She only saw you for a few sessions, but she reassured us about your speaking and gave us some exercises to do with you...which we half-heartedly did...when we remembered! Whether they helped or whether you simply outgrew your speech difficulties, I'm not sure; but I do know that you can, in particular, say words with "r's" in them so much better than you used to be able to do. "Car," "girl," "carrot," "world," etc.--these are so much clearer now. I think the only speech difficulty you have left is with "s"; the way you say it still sounds a little fuzzy, almost like you're saying "sh." But I wouldn't be surprised if even that difficulty resolves itself without too much effort, given a little more time.
4. Your musical ability makes me so happy! Of course, being a musician myself, I had dreams for my children to participate in music; but rather than push you towards that, we simply exposed you to see if it would interest you. It did. During this past school year, I was able to see how beautifully your early music education had prepared you for a variety of musical endeavors. All of it seemed to come together, and the Musikgarten classes you took when you were little influenced your ability in the SVCC classes which prepared you for learning Suzuki violin which goes well with the piano lessons I teach you. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you use your ear so much better than I did when I was your age. Even though I took Suzuki violin lessons when I was a little older than you, I already knew how to read music (because of my mother teaching me how to play piano) so I didn't get the real play-by-ear Suzuki education that you are getting. I'm a little jealous. :) But mostly, I'm just so proud of you for your ability--and pleased that music is something that you enjoy and want to pursue!
5. You have such a tender heart. The night before Dad and I left for the homeschool convention, you were in tears for a long time as you thought about the possibility that something tragic might happen to Dad and I. When you started getting emotional, I talked with you about it while I nursed Shav, then Dad spent quite a bit of time with you in your room as you talked and cried, then I took another turn and laid down beside you to snuggle and reassure you of my forever love for you and God's strong provision for you, even if something happened. We talked about heaven...we talked about guardians...we talked about wills...we talked about a lot of deep stuff. And then, when I thought you were calming down and I could slip away to finish packing, you cried again as you hugged me and weepily exclaimed, "But what if this is the last night I ever see you?" Oh, my tender heart! How I love you!

Another example of your tender heart happened today when you were outside in the backyard and there was a pretty blue robin's egg on the ground. You wanted to show it to Grandma, but David accidentally smashed it. You were heartbroken and cried and cried. You felt so bad for that poor baby robin, and the thought that even if David had not broken it, the robin would not have survived, did little to comfort your grief or diminish your frustration that David had been so careless as to step on it!
6. You are so responsible with and motivated by money! Not only do you get an allowance ($0.10 for each year of your life, so you now get $0.80 each week), you also get an additional $1 each week because of feeding and watering the animals. Plus, Grandpa pays you $0.25 for each book you read; and when you go the barbershop and work there by sweeping up cut hair, you are usually given a few dollars by various barbers for your help. Even with all of those opportunities for earning money, you'd still like to be able to earn more. :) You sometimes come to me and say, "Do you have any jobs I can do for money?" And sometimes I hand you the fly swatter and say, "I'll pay you a penny for each fly you kill." :)

You conscientiously divide your money between what you want to put in the bank, what you want to take to church for the offering, what you want to spend, and a few other projects: like Wycliffe, airplane tickets for our next California trip (whenever that might be!), and even sometimes you set some aside, telling us that it's to help us pay our house payment. :) Even though you love to earn money, you also love to give it, and that's beautiful to see.
7. You have freckles, and I LOVE them--and not just because you probably got them from me! In a comment on this post, Katie mentioned them; and I was so glad she noticed. :) You are the only one of our boys to have freckles--so far, at least--I don't know whether Shav will develop any or not. Sometimes I'll lean close to you and whisper in your ear, "Do you know what I love about you? Your freckles!" I hope you never have to go through the stage of hating them. I hope you always know that they are a very special part of God's unique creation: YOU!

8. As I've thought about you in this stage of your life, the mental image that kept popping up was an arrow planted in the ground like a tree, shooting straight up to the sky. And then, during our potluck, we sang one of your favorites, Ken Medema's "Tree Song," and I realized that imagery is also present in that song! I know at eight years of age, your character is fairly firmly developed--not that you can't change, of course--but in many ways, the direction of your life and personality has already been set. How thankful I am for the ways in which you are a straight arrow, with roots going deep and with branches reaching towards the sky.

It's hard to believe that in only four more years--half the number of years you've already been alive--you'll be 12 and will be entering adolescence. And if I double your age, in only eight more years, you'll be 16. You'll be driving! You'll be going places! You'll be so independent! So tonight, before you get that big, I'm going to tiptoe into your room and lean down and give you another goodnight kiss--just because you're here, just because I can, and just because I can never figure out enough ways to show you how much I love you and how proud I am of you.

My beloved firstborn, I'm crazy about you!

With all my love,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This Is Crazy, Ridiculous, Horrible...

...and I don't like it ONE BIT.

After supper yesterday evening, Jeff and Kevin the Painter were going to shoot their new pistols--"to make sure they fired correctly"--and also because they just like shooting things, I suppose. :)

I had all the boys outside, and my mother was with us, too; but after giving Josiah and David instructions about covering their ears during the gunshots, I turned to go inside with Tobin, Shav, and Mother. And then--

I saw it.

A snake.

I shudder with horror as I write those words.

It was on our patio, still a little to the left of the door but heading that way.

I did the only thing I could do. I stopped, frozen to the spot, and called in the strange voice I only use when absolutely terrified, "Jeff!" And again--when he seemed to be so slow in responding--"JEFF!" Later he told me that he knew immediately that something was wrong but had no clue what it was; it could have been somebody breaking a leg or anything. He said it would be more helpful to holler, "SNAKE!" I'll try to remember that next time. ;)

Jeff and Kevin both came, and was I ever glad that they were there! The snake slithered into a flower bed and seemed to disappear under a crepe myrtle tree (bush?), but not before Kevin had shot it once, wounding it but not fatally. As I was scrambling to find tongs for Jeff who was calling for them so he could use them to extract the snake from the hole it was apparently going into, David was out in the yard by the swingset. He was running towards the front of the house when suddenly, piercingly, HE screamed. Sure enough, the snake was over there. (HOW did it get there? Sneaky little beast!) That was the worst moment: wondering how close the snake had come to David, wondering whether somehow David had been bitten, hearing the stark terror in his voice. I ran to him and picked him up, checking his legs for bite marks (and not seeing any--praise God!), cradling him against my shoulder and covering his ears as Jeff and Kevin shot the snake again (and again...and possibly again...although I couldn't say for sure how many bullets were sent in that snake's direction). And then Josiah brought the little hoe for Jeff who chopped its head off. We weren't taking any chances that the snake would survive the gunshots and have a miraculous recovery!

After it was soundly killed, we could release the breaths we had been holding during the whole ordeal; and then the conversation began:
Who saw it first?
Where did you see it?
Are you SURE it's the same one by the crepe myrtle bush, or could there possibly be another? How long is it? (about 3.5 feet...this picture was taken after Jeff had cut its head off...but even without the head, the snake is longer than the's the longest of the three we've killed on this property since we've moved back)
Are you SURE David didn't get bit?
Where was he running?
Where was the snake as David ran past?
What kind is it?
Is it poisonous? (I'm going to believe that it was a black snake, not any of the more dangerous varieties that could be present around here.)
Why, oh why, are we getting a snake every single year around here??? (2008's story is here...2009's is here.)

After the questions, came the "thank you, God's":
Thank You, God, that I didn't step on it.
Thank You, God, that David didn't step on it.
Thank You, God, that Tobin didn't see it first and, not knowing any better, get too close to it.
Thank You, God, that Jeff was home.
Thank You, God, that Kevin was here, too.
Thank You, God, that they both "happened" to have guns with them.
Thank You, God, that the snake didn't get away but reappeared so they could kill it.
Thank You, God, that yesterday when Mom was weeding that very flowerbed, she didn't see the snake--or worse, get bit by it.
Thank You, God, that on the nights I take food scraps out to the compost pile after dark, I've never had a run-in with the snake.

A little while later, our neighbor Douglas came over; and he reported that yesterday outside his shop (he has a welding and machine shop on the hill behind our house), there was a five-foot long black snake. Since his fear of snakes is probably only slightly less than mine, he was more than happy to let one of his customers do the honors of killing that one. His weapon of choice was a shovel.

The strange thing is that, for the past few weeks or maybe even months, I've had snakes on my mind and have been on the lookout for them, almost having a sense that at some point this summer, we would have an encounter with one. I reviewed mentally what I would do if I did see a snake and Jeff wasn't around, and I had almost convinced myself that it would be fine, I would be able to handle it, I could get a hoe, I could whack the snake, etc. But yesterday when I saw it, the FEAR that gripped me was beyond belief. Rational thought completely exited my head, and my response took on the spiritual overtones of "this thing is evil, and I am paralyzed standing here, unable to destroy it." Any bit of confidence that I had built up in my head was gone instantly, struck down by the fear. Oh, the fear!

The other strange thing is that yesterday morning, I went to a ladies' brunch at church; and the speaker, Sylvia, spoke on--you guessed it--fear. She was sharing some of the things she had been fearful of through the years; and as she said, "elevator, escalator, dogs, storms, etc." I was thinking, "I'm not afraid of those. But I AM afraid of snakes." And then, this happened last evening. Was God trying to prepare me for what was coming? If so, I'm afraid I failed the test.

Today, on this Father's Day, I am more convinced than ever that Jeff is my hero and my Father in heaven is always looking out for me!

But I have two final questions:
1. If just seeing a snake can give a person a heart attack, or at the very least, make her pass out, is it right to call a snake "harmless??"
2. I know that the brush and shrubs I've let grow up in the back flowerbeds are great habitat for snakes. As a result, I've decided that I'm going to pull out all the trees, bushes, flowers, and grass in the whole yard, and put down concrete instead. That's not too extreme of a response, is it?


As a Father

~ I took this picture of Jeff and Tobin at our neighbor's pasture - May 2010

Father's Day. What a special day! I feel so extremely blessed to be able to honor and celebrate with my own dad and my children's dad. Unfortunately, it's uncommon in this day and age for a woman to have been surrounded by positive male role models all her life, but that's really what's happened to me. I don't take it for granted, but especially today I say an extra prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for my earthly father and my sons' father...and for the fathers my sons will someday, Lord willing, be.

Urging their children to live lives worthy of God.
That's what my dad did for me.
That's what Jeff does for our boys.
I pray that's what they will someday do for the little blessings God brings into their families.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Potluck and a Pinata

This is, I believe, my next-to-last post about Josiah's birthday. Somehow birthdays get stretched into birthweeks in our family, and one single post doesn't suffice to describe it. :)

First, some pictures of the newly-turned eight year-old, compliments of Emily who continued our tradition of doing a photo shoot with the birthday boy. In case you haven't heard the shouts of joy coming from the direction of her home, she just found out that her parents are getting her a new camera, a Canon 30D, which, if you don't know anything about cameras, is a Very Nice Camera. By the time Shav's photo shoot rolls around next month, she'll be a pro with her Canon. :) She already knows way more about my Canon (Rebel) than I do! With it, she captured Josiah being contemplative...


...and cheerfully fierce.
He loves that stick he's holding--pardon me, spear. Of course, it's not a stick; it's a finely-crafted weapon.

We decided just a few days ago to have a fellowship potluck last evening, and I'm so glad it worked out because Josiah really enjoyed it and felt like it made up for the disappointment of being sick on his actual birthday. Having a pinata has become part of our birthday tradition. Last evening, each of the children got at least one turn to whack at the thing; it actually took quite a while to get it open. It was a little too well-made. :)
Finally all the candy spilled out; and the children got busy, grabbing the cone parts of the pinata to use as buckets to pile their loot into. There was A LOT of candy in it.
Tobin, bless his heart, was so happy to get one box of Nerds; and while the rest of the kids were still busily grabbing at all the candy they could find, he ran to me to show me his treasure. I couldn't help but think of David on his birthday who similarly exclaimed about one goody, while others were gathering a whole bunch. :)

Josiah beamed while we sang "Happy Birthday" to him.
I beamed as I saw how proud and happy he was. :)

Meanwhile, Grandma held Shav so I had my arms free for other things.
I love the dimple in Shav's elbow...and the way he's clinging to his grandma like a koala bear. :)

During the past few potlucks, Jeff has asked me to take pictures; and I've either forgotten or have taken a few that didn't turn out. Finally, last evening, I thought about snapping a couple.
We LOVE hosting these potlucks. It is always a treat to see who shows up; it's never quite the same group; there are always some surprises ("They're coming? Wow, that's GREAT!"); but it's always an encouragement to us to see and hear and be part of the fellowship. We're so grateful that people take the time to come and be a part of it!

And then, finally, it was time for the official birthday cake: a German chocolate one that Josiah, David, AND Tobin helped me make yesterday morning. "OK, Tobin, it's your turn to use the mixer while Josiah cracks this egg. Now Josiah, you can mix while David puts the salt in. Here, David, you can hold the mixer; and Tobin, can you put this vanilla in for me?" It requires a lot of refereeing on my part; but someday, when they're 12 and 15 and 18 years old and can make cakes all by themselves, it will be worth it. Maybe they'll even make a birthday cake for me one of these years! :) Speaking of cakes, I'd like to try my hand at a different kind...seems like I almost always make chocolate or German chocolate...or once in a while, strawberry or coconut or angel food or pound...but I'd like to make a new kind...something different...hmm, I'll have to think of what kind to attempt.... :)
Josiah, you are so loved; and I've got one more birthday post to tell you all about that. :)