Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Clear Space

This is the blog post that I wanted to write earlier today, at 12:15 PM or so...

FlyLady says: Notice the clear space.

It's good advice, and I appreciate it and follow it. True, my nature is more prone to noticing the chaotic space, the black spot of imperfection on the otherwise crisp white cloth of my life, the things I didn't get done instead of what I did accomplish. But I know how endless that cycle of perfectionism is, and I *try* to avoid it.

But here is where my thoughts were today:

WHAT IF THERE IS NO CLEAR SPACE???

Oh, pardon me. I didn't mean to yell at you. But better I yell at you, my dear ol' blog, than at my precious ones, my little sweethearts who go behind me and make messes of areas which I've just cleaned up, my dear sons who somehow manage to make me feel like there is no clear space from the top of our house to the bottom.

As I ponder further, I realize that there are some clear spaces. Three, to be exact. One is our minivan which I excitedly cleaned out the night we got home from our vacation ("excitedly" because the clutter and crud in that vehicle was the worst it's ever been and was driving me absolutely nuts). One is Shav's room which I completely organized earlier this week as I switched out the clothes that are too small for him for the ones which fit him (and will fit him as he grows). And one is my stove top which I cleaned and scrubbed and scoured and labored over for quite a long time on Wednesday (after having procrastinated about that job for months). So yes, there are three clear spaces in my house.

If someone should walk into my house and find me standing glassy-eyed in front of my stove, keeping my gaze squarely on it and not glancing at the pile of clutter to the left...or find me laying on the tiger rug in Shav's room, looking all around his room...or find me sitting in the minivan (the parked, turned-off, in-the-garage minivan)...that person will know why: I'm noticing the clear space.

If I dare to let my gaze fall on any other square inch of surface in my house, I'll topple right over the edge of frustration and be pulled under by the wave of feelings of being overwhelmed.

********

This is the blog post that I'm ready to write now...

Wow! Whaddya know?! There really is clear space in my house! And it's not just those three spaces I mentioned earlier!

As I sit to write this, I can visualize my neatly picked-up living room and my kitchen with all the dishes done. I gain encouragement from the items I deleted from the computer (our computer is so overloaded, and I constantly need to be working at the task of deleting stuff from it...mostly pictures). I feel satisfied with the paperwork I dealt with in my everlasting pile, and the "treasures" I put in the right spots in my boys' scrapbook/notebooks (not real scrapbooks, but they work well for us...but that's a whole other topic). I remember joyfully that my boys had a happy evening and that before I put them in bed, we all sat on the kitchen floor when our neighbor Rosalie came over to show us a butterfly that just hatched a few minutes previously...and Shav laughed and laughed as he watched Tobin's valiant attempts to jump (which resulted in a minuscule amount of space between Tobin's feet and the floor, but it was enough to entertain Shav). I have hope that, since the new FlyLady habit of the month is laundry, I'll do a better job with my Mount Washmore in the coming month than I have in July. I am pleased that I was able to do a small bit of homeschool planning today, enough to get us dipping our toes in the waters of 3rd grade and kindergarten when Monday morning rolls around. I am content.

I am also grateful--so, SO grateful--to this lovely lady...
...without whom I would not have gotten nearly as much accomplished and would not feel nearly as hopeful as I now do.

My dear mother kept Shav at her house for several hours this afternoon so I could focus my energies on housework while Tobin was in bed. (Because Tobin and Shav do not usually have simultaneous naps, I don't often have completely uninterrupted time in which to do my household duties; and although I'm trying to get better at doing those chores with my littlest men around, it's still a whole lot faster to do them alone!) And tonight after supper, she read to them--well, officially, she was reading to David and Tobin, but as you can see in the picture above, she drew a larger crowd than just those two--while I cleaned up the kitchen.

Thank you, Mother. I couldn't have done it without you. And that's the honest-to-goodness, literal truth. No exaggeration, no hyperbole. Just a fact. My heart is much lighter tonight and my house much more organized because of your kindness. THANKS for being available.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

There's No Way I Could...

...possibly finish planning for this coming year of homeschool with our homeschool closet looking like this:
Nope. No way at all. It's impossible. I simply can't think straight with all my supplies so disorganized. For me, creativity doesn't come from chaos, but from order.

I'd better get busy... ;-)

********

I just put up a post on The Foodie Spot--a recipe that my dad's mom used to make. She passed it down to my mom, and I learned it from her. I love the happy memories connected with these family food traditions!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Drowning: Did You Know...?

I'm currently working on a post about our vacation, and goodness, it's taking a long time! All these pictures to upload!

But, in the interim, here's a link to an incredibly sobering article about drowning. I happened across this today and am so grateful that I did. Of course, it brought back haunting memories of our scare with Josiah in the pool at Highland Retreat a few years ago. I never quite get over that.

More recently, we had a tiny scare with Tobin during vacation. One afternoon, we were playing in the little kids' area of the waterpark at the hotel; and Tobin was busily going down a very small water slide, then climbing up the steps to do it again. Over and over, he repeated this, and was very happy. And then, he slid down a slide; but instead of sitting up the whole ride down and arriving at the bottom in a seated position, he leaned back and was laying down when he reached the bottom. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not that he got into that position; but in any case, in that position, his face was completely submerged. Thank God (and I do thank Him, fervently and continually, for His protection), I happened to have my eyes on Tobin and saw what happened; and without a second's delay, I rushed to him and pulled him up out of the water. The terror in his eyes is unforgettable. He coughed and cried, and I held him and calmed him down; but, although he wasn't seriously hurt, he did not regain his carefree, playful spirit of climbing the steps and sliding down over and over. It sobered him.

It sobered me, too. Even more, it reminded me that I must be constantly vigilant when my boys are anywhere close to water. I can hardly overstate that.

Reading the article on drowning reinforced all of these thoughts; but as I read it, I found myself particularly remembering the quietness, the "calmness," the absence of yelling or splashing or anything like that, in the situation involving Josiah and the one involving Tobin. It makes perfect sense now. And as much as we continue to warn our boys about the danger of water and as much as we seek to equip them with strategies they can use if they ever find themselves in trouble in the water, I now see that it's nearly impossible for a child (or an adult, for that matter) to use those strategies in the panic of the moment. Fear is a terribly powerful thing (I know that all too well from my recent encounter with a snake), erasing all logical thoughts and replacing them with absolute terror. Last week, I saw that terror in Tobin's eyes as he lay under the water. Almost two years ago, I heard that terror in Josiah's voice as he cried, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die." I have felt that terror within my own being.

I still feel it, especially when I consider that, without intervention, Josiah would have died. He would have been unable to get himself back into the shallow part of the pool; and he would have died. Without intervention, Tobin would have died. He would have been unable (because of his panic) to do the seemingly easy act of sitting himself up, and he would have died.

As I feel tears well up, I can hardly think of the words to write to express my gratitude to God for His protecting arms around my sons. God knows how thankful I am.

This post, which was supposed to be short and quick, got long. That always happens to me. I'm not very good at writing short posts. But if you're reading this and have another minute to spare, go read this article.

It may save someone's life.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All I Wanted

I was going to write a post about our vacation, highlighting some of The Best of the Best things that happened on the trip, as far as I was concerned. But I want to include pictures in that post, and My Dearly Beloved got to our main computer (where I had downloaded the pictures) before I did, and I don't have the heart to ask him to get off the computer so I can use it. So...here's a silly tidbit, having nothing to do with our vacation, and that's all I'll write tonight.

When it comes to pets, all I ever wanted was a collie. That's it. Just one dog. One gorgeous, friendly, loyal dog. Kind of like this:
Collie Dog
Thanks to free-extras.com for the image.

Instead, here is what we have:
~ one kitten
~ two goats
~ three dogs (none of which are collies)
~ four rabbits (three of which belong to a friend who is out of town so we're "rabbit-sitting" for him...the fourth one was returned to us today by another friend; when the rabbits we had several years ago produced offspring, we gave her one; she used it in her classroom for a while, to the delight of her students, but since she's moving away, she asked if we could readopt it...we couldn't turn her down, now could we?)
~ one rooster
~ some hens (half a dozen maybe? I haven't counted for a while)
~ fish (I have no idea how many since I rarely even look at their tank)
~ and we used to have one sheep, until Jeff butchered it

How did we get such a menagerie? I'm not really sure. I think it has something to do with the fact that we can't say no when anyone asks us if we want an animal they're getting rid of. A few weeks ago, a bunch of kittens were left on the steps of my parents' church so that the Sunday morning churchgoers would see them, fall in love with them, and provide homes for all of them. My parents were very glad we weren't with them on that day because if we had been, our current cat population would probably be at least half a dozen.

I think there's another factor at work here, too. In a classic reversal of Genesis 3, I'll just say that "the man you put here with me"...the one YOU gave me...well, Lord...it's his fault. I didn't know when I married my mountain man from California that under his beard and plaid flannel shirt, he was actually a farmer!! :)

For now though, I'll keep being thankful for a few things:
~ that Jeff loves living in the country,
~ that Josiah is old enough and responsible enough to take care of the animals so I don't have to do it,
and
~ that someday, when I'm an old lady and my children have all left home and I have time to devote to another "baby," I might actually get to have my collie!!!

A woman can dream, after all. ;-)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now You Tell Me!

I'm tired tonight. Happy, but tired.

I'm not sure which is harder and more draining: getting ready for vacation, vacationing itself, or recovering from vacation. Maybe they're equally exhausting.

We were blessed to travel with two other families who were the best possible traveling companions I could ever imagine. We LOVED being with them, and we literally wouldn't have gone without them (because they had already planned to go before we even knew about it--they were the ones who told us about it and strongly "encouraged" us to go). :)

But I did have to smile when, in separate conversations this past week, they made comments like this:
Becky: "When my children were young, I didn't go anywhere!"
Julie: "When my girls were little, three days of vacation were the most I could handle!"

I can see why they would say that; in fact, by the fifth day of our vacation, I was convinced that three days was about all I could handle, too! :) But why, if their own experiences of vacationing with young children were so challenging, did they urge us so convincingly to go with them? And why didn't they make those revealing comments back in March when we were still deciding whether to attempt it or not? I think they tricked us into going. :)

I'm SO GLAD they did! ;-)
~ Jeff and Tobin in the gardens of the Creation Museum...This was on the 5th day--not the 5th day of creation (sea creatures and flying creatures, check :)--but the 5th day of vacation, our most difficult day. Despite the beautiful, peaceful surroundings in this picture, there was some tension crackling in the 100 degree air. It was nothing that a long nap for cranky people in a cool hotel room couldn't dissipate though. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Evening=Sweet Snuggles

My head and heart are full tonight. We're home from vacation, and there is SO MUCH I could write; but I won't take the time to do it tonight. I don't even want to, in fact. I just want to go to bed and lie there and think and ponder and feel and not express any of it.

So I'll just say this:

Even though it's Sunday, I don't have a Truth, Light, Hammer, Fire post ready for today. Oops.

My toe still hurts.

On Sunday evenings, I've started a new tradition of lying down in Josiah's bed when I tuck him and David in for the night. Sometimes I think, "If I was a great mom, I'd do this every night." But I don't because usually, once they get in bed, I'm doing the dishes or doing a load of laundry or trying to get things organized and ready for the next day. On Sundays, however, I take the time to let other things slide so that I can spend that time with my two oldest sons. I lie down in the middle, with Josiah on my right and David on my left, and I sing their lullabies to them, we pray together, and we talk about life. It's a precious time.

Tonight I learned that the best part of the day for Josiah was when he was swimming at a friends' house this afternoon and got to use the best pair of goggles he's ever had on. The worst part for him was when Joelle almost fell off Emily's back in the water. David told me that Popeye can pull up a tree with just his hand. Josiah sang the Johnny Appleseed song to begin his prayer. David told me that he hopes that in his class tomorrow (a kids' class at our local community college), he'll be able to do all the activities (because in one of the kids' classes at the conference we just attended, he couldn't do some of the activities/tricks that the group was doing).

They were so happy, as bedtime approached, when I reminded them that it was Sunday evening and I would snuggle with them. I was so happy, too.

I can hardly wait for next Sunday evening.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Power of Kindness

While we're on vacation, here are a few things from the archives.

First, some pictures from months ago that show a blessed time of kindness between brothers: Josiah squished between David and Tobin, reading to them.
Although I don't remember the details of this particular morning, I do remember feeling stressed. The peace that came from Josiah's kindness was precious to me.

And second, here's something I wrote some years ago about an event that comes back to mind whenever I think about the power of kindness. Sometimes even small things that we do make such a big difference to those around us. Maybe we know those people, maybe we don't--but reading back through this reminds me to be more careful of my interactions with those around me--and that's good advice when I'm away from home on vacation.

On June 27, 2004, Jeff, Josiah, and I were on our way back to Israel after a Middle East conference in Istanbul, Turkey. We happened to be flying out of Turkey on the same day President Bush was flying into Turkey for a NATO conference. We had been warned to get to the airport very early to allow for extra time for security, so after we checked out of our hotel at 2:30 pm, we headed for the airport and decided to wait there for our 9:45 pm flight. Our taxi driver knew how to avoid the roads that were blocked off for the president’s arrival, and we made it to the airport in good time. When we arrived at the airport, we went through the preliminary security rather quickly and ended up having HOURS to wait with nothing to do. We were told that we couldn't actually check into our flight until 2 hours before its departure, so we got some food and relaxed as best as we could while entertaining Josiah!

A little after 7:00 pm, we decided to go to the ticket area and try to check in; but on the way, we stopped at the information desk and were told that our flight (on El Al Airlines) had been cancelled…that there were no more El Al flights to Israel that night…and that there would not be anyone in the El Al office in that airport until 9:00 am the next morning! What to do? We didn’t relish the idea of spending the night in the airport, nor did we want to catch a taxi and spend a lot of money to get a hotel room for the night. Jeff ended up calling our travel agent in Israel and asking advice from her about the situation.

Meanwhile, Josiah was having fun walking…and walking…and walking all over the airport. We wanted him to get his energy out, and he certainly didn’t want to be confined in the stroller! So he would walk back and forth, and I would follow him around. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that several of the ticket agents who were sitting behind the counter were watching us, but that wasn’t unusual—people thought Josiah was pretty cute, and he definitely stood out with his light hair and skin. All was well, until… Josiah tripped and fell flat on his face. I rushed to pick him up, and he cried and buried his head in my shoulder. I wanted him to show me his face so I could see if he was hurt; and when he lifted his head off my shoulder, I saw blood streaming down his face. I hurried over to where Jeff was, and his face registered his alarm as soon as he saw the blood. As it turned out, Josiah had simply bitten his lip so there was no permanent damage—just a lot of blood!

The heartwarming part of the story is what happened next. One of the ticket agents (who, I’m sure, realized what was going on when they heard Josiah’s cry and saw the blood) immediately hurried over to us, carrying a cup of water and some paper towels to clean up the blood. We gratefully said our thanks, and he left. We got Josiah cleaned up and calmed down; and a few minutes later, the man returned—this time, with a small candy for Josiah (which, by the way, was the first piece of hard candy that Josiah has ever eaten…I bit off little pieces for him and let him suck on them, and he really enjoyed it!). It meant so much to us that a stranger, who had no obligation to us, would respond so quickly and so caringly in our moment of distress.

To end the story, we were finally told that we could fly on the Turkish Airways flight to Tel Aviv that night. It was scheduled to leave a few minutes before midnight, but in the end, it was delayed so we didn’t leave Istanbul until after 1:00 am. When we finally reached Israel, we were so grateful to be home again—and Josiah was happy to sleep in his own bed!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dear Dad

Doctors' families sometimes have a sick sense of humor (pun intended). It must come from years of dinnertime conversations that include the number of stitches put into a laceration and the amount of blood that shot out before the stitches were completed and the angle at which a broken bone was sticking through the skin and the extent of a rash which blistered and oozed pus. Maybe modern doctors' kids don't get to hear about this stuff, but I grew up the daughter of an old-time country doctor. He did a little bit of everything in his practice, and we heard about it--not necessarily to whom it happened (after all, ever since the demise of party lines and the establishment of "secure connections," people have been concerned about privacy), but that it did happen. And that it was messy and gross. But no problem! I can eat meatloaf and mashed potatoes while I listen to such talk and never bat an eye.

A few evenings before we left for vacation, Jeff, with the help of a very loyal friend Daniel, butchered our sheep. Another friend, Kevin the Painter, was there--not to help with the butchering, but just to eat supper and give "advice," I suppose. :) I had not had time to finish eating before the butchering began, so after a while, I took my plate full of food and went outside to our patio to sit at the picnic table and watch the excitement. Kevin looked at me funny and said, "You're going to eat while you watch THIS???" Sure, I can handle seeing the sheep with a bullet wound in its head and blood pouring out its slit throat while I eat my caprese salad. What's wrong with that? :)

All of that to say this: if I were going to write a letter home from our vacation to my dad, this is what it would say...

Dear Dad,

I hurt my foot last night. As I was walking beside Josiah, somehow his foot and mine collided and instantly the pain in my foot was fierce. I thought it would ease up over time, but it didn't. I took two Tylenol last night and will take two more in a moment. This morning my right little toe looks sort of grayish; I think it might be broken.

What kind of treatment do you suggest? Amputation, right?

I'll tell Jeff to sharpen his pocketknife and get plenty of ice from the ice machine across the hall. Maybe housekeeping will let us have some extra towels to help stop the bleeding.

Wish you were here!

Love,
Davene

I told you doctors' families have a sick sense of humor. ;-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You Wasted a Perfectly Good Cake...

...for THIS?!?!
Why, yes; yes, we did. Errr...she did--last week while we were still in Virginia, a few days before Shav officially turned one.It was all Emily's idea. She baked and decorated the cake. She watched Shav destroy it. She documented it all with her new camera. I had nothing to do with it.Except give my consent (which I happily did). After all, if someone wants to make a cake for my son to play in, who am I to say no?I wouldn't want to stand in the way of Emily developing her skills as a photographer, would I?I wouldn't want to limit her as she builds her portfolio.
Because, of course, doesn't every budding 14 year-old photographer NEED pictures of a cake smash in their portfolio?
Besides, how could I say no when she promised to return him all cleaned up?
She mentioned possibly hosing him down in the backyard...
...and I could see why that might have been necessary...
...but in the end, the bathtub was utilized to remove all this icing and crumbs.
When I picked him up after the photo shoot though, he looked clean, but...
...he still smelled like icing. ;-)

********

Before the cake smash...
...Emily took other pictures of Shav.
The cake pictures make me burst out laughing...
...but these pictures make my heart melt into a puddle on the floor.
I love this little angel so much.

********

Thank you, Emily, for sharing your creativity and talent with us; we LOVE watching your skills develop, especially when you practice on our sons! Even though we weren't at home when Shav officially turned one and we didn't get to have our normal birthday celebration for him, I think, as he looks back in years to come, he'll agree that the cake smash more than made up for that! If he wants to do another one when he's, say, ten, would you like to photograph it?? ;-)

I Like Everything About This Trip Except...

...trying to get Shav and Tobin to go to sleep. Especially if they're both in the hotel room when it's time to go to sleep. Shav cries...Tobin wants to talk and move...they're certainly not helping each other. If you were in our hotel late last night and saw a handsome bearded daddy pushing a little baby in a stroller through the halls and you thought, "That baby should be in bed by now!" you'd be right. He should have been. It's just that it's SO HARD to go to sleep in a new place, with new lights, and new noises, and PEOPLE in the same room.

Oh, well, I guess all of this just helps me to be even more grateful that at home, we have separate rooms for Tobin and Shav. Only four more nights until we get there... ;-)

Everything else is WONDERFUL, by the way, and I'm really not in a hurry for this vacation to end!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Baby Is ONE!

So hard to believe that...
...it's been a year since this sweet boy began life on the outside.

So easy to love...
...and adore him.

Happy 1st birthday, darling Shavi. You are a precious gift from God!

Old pictures of him on this chair with this tiger are here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vacation by the Numbers

3 families

6 adults

12 children (although two of those "children" have graduated from high school)

3 minivans

5 carseats/boosters

5 states

MANY miles


2 days at a museum

5 hours of sleep last night (I stayed up too late packing)

equals

LOTS and LOTS of fun and memory-making moments!

And,

last but not least,

during our trip,

1 boy is turning ONE!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Shoot from the Stump


~ I took this picture in our backyard - July 16, 2010

When Jeff read this verse during a family devotional before supper recently, I knew I needed to use it with a picture of our real-life shoot from a stump behind our house. Jeff cut this maple tree down some time ago, but life springs forth anyway.

I'm so grateful for THE shoot from a stump, THE branch from the roots, the One whose name is Jesus!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Packing for Vacation Is...

...not really that difficult IF one's laundry is all washed and dried and folded and put away.

I knew that, of course; but now I know it in that experiential way that I'd rather not know!

My laundry is obviously not all washed and dried and folded and put away; and consequently, my packing is not going as quickly and smoothly as I would like.

Sigh.

Oh, well, I'm not complaining. After all, at least we have clothes (too many of them), and at least we have a washer and dryer. At least we have suitcases, and (last but not least) at least we're leaving in two days for vacation!! I guess I'd better keep counting my blessings as I get back to work...

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Next Pavarotti...

...lives in my house, sits on my lap, eats at my table, and sings on my couch.

Want proof?
video
We're just waiting for all the best music schools to start calling. ;-)

Actually, when I hear him, I can't help but think of the Muslim prayers that blare from the tops of minarets multiple times a day, which we heard often when we lived in Israel. ;-)

********

Hannah, this one's for you. I read that you told your mommy Sally that you're going to marry Tobin. I thought you'd be happy to know that he's already practicing how to say, "I do."
video
And just so you know, I had made this video of him before I read your sweet statement, Hannah. It just so happened that one day, in response to some question, I had answered, "I do." Tobin, being the parrot that he is these days, immediately repeated that. I, being the sentimental woman who remembers just how Tobin's daddy said "I do" on that most glorious day, grabbed the camera to make a video of Tobin's first "I do's." I thought at the time that someday, Tobin's wife would have fun watching how her husband first pronounced those words. I had no idea his future wife would see it so soon. ;-)

Disclaimer: Sally included one on her blog when she wrote about Hannah calling Tobin her husband, and I feel the need for one, too. We do not go around asking the boys, "Oh, who's your little girlfriend?" or any of that nonsense. I feel fine writing here on my blog the cute comments that they make about marriage because they'll never read it until they're old men. :) But let me be clear: we do not push them, even teasingly, to have a girlfriend or think about who they're going to marry. Anything that comes up along these lines (like David's repeated announcements that he's going to marry Joelle) is straight from their own minds!

********

Tobin is truly at the parroting stage. I'll say, "We're going to the swimming pool," and he'll cock his little head and say, "Imming ool?" Or I'll tell him, "Grandma's getting corn on the cob for us," and he'll say, "Orn ob?" Of course, after all of his questions, I have to say again, "Yes, swimming pool," or "Yes, corn on the cob." It's no wonder toddlers learn new words at such an explosive rate; they figure out how to get them repeated fifty thousand times a day. I'd be able to learn Spanish or Swahili or Chinese with no problem if I heard it that often. :)

********

Another linguistic thing Tobin does is to holler, nearly at the top of his voice, "Mom?" It's exactly what Josiah and David do when they need something and I'm not nearby, or when they don't know where I am and they're trying to find me. When they call me, I just answer back, "What?" and then they know where I am and how loud they really need to make their voice. (Sometimes they think I'm far away, but I'm really just around the corner, so they don't have to talk so loudly!) When Tobin does it, I answer, "What?" but then there's silence. He doesn't really know what to say next. If it's Josiah, he can answer, "I was just wondering where you were," which he often does; or if it's David, he can say, "I can't get the dishwasher open," which he often does. But with Tobin, I'll call, "What?" forgetting that he can't express everything he's thinking. When Tobin addresses me, he normally calls me Mommy; but when he calls out like this, he's learned from his big brothers to just say MOM!

********

Tobin has started praying. Sometimes I'll have him repeat after me, something like, "Dear God, thank you for this food. I love you. Amen." But other times, one of us will be praying; and he will start mumbling, too. I can't make out all of his words, but his "Amen" is usually clear. And sometimes, if Jeff is praying and Tobin either thinks he's taking too long or Tobin senses that Jeff is getting close to the end of his prayer, Tobin will say "Amen!" even if Jeff isn't quite done. :)

********

I needed to change and wash Tobin's sheets today. First, I needed to find the sheet. Here's what I found on top of it:

~ lamb puppet
~ Baby Bible Devotions book
~ handle of a makeup brush (unused - the boys like to pretend to paint with it)
~ green tractor
~ green truck
~ I Can Go Potty book
~ stuffed puppy from Jenny Sacra
~ squishy ball
~ police car with Hebrew writing on it
~ "Daddy's Jeep" - not the real one, fortunately
~ Harold the Helicopter
~ doctor's kit
~ telephone from another doctor's kit
~ Cows in the House book
~ teddy bear that my kindergarten teacher gave him when he was born
~ Tootle book
~ My Little Bible book

After that, I looked behind and to the side of the bed. Between the bed and the walls, I found these items that had at some point been taken into the bed with Tobin and had then fallen or been pushed off:

~ pink pig that "oinks" when you push its stomach
~ Goodnight Moon book
~ Pinocchio puzzle book in Hebrew
~ My Pal Al stuffed animal
~ Colors book
~ I Love You As Much book
~ unidentified strange animal (toy from a kids' meal at a fast-food restaurant)
~ stuffed monkey
~ old glow bracelet that doesn't glow anymore
~ dust jacket to Papa, Do You Love Me?
~ board book in Hebrew
~ My Little Book of Love
~ Rescue Heroes board book
~ another board book in Hebrew
~ house from his train set
~ bridge support from his train set
~ milk can from his train set
~ Curious George Visits a Toy Store book
~ All I Am book
~ Mama, Do You Love Me? book
~ Hermie the caterpillar stuffed animal

I'm not kidding or exaggerating or making this up.

Clearly, I need to clean between his bed and the walls more often.

And clearly, the boy LOVES to take stuff into bed with him. Before I tuck him in for naps or at night, he goes around and grabs things to take with him. He'll go to the train table, choose an engine, hold it up, and say, "Beb?" "Yes," I'll reply, "you can have that in bed with you." I guess I started it all when I put books in his crib with him to help along his love of reading. I think it worked, but now it's extended to a love of books...and tractors...and numerous stuffed animals...and trains...and plastic dinosaurs...and one time, I went in to check on him in the night and found several pieces of train track attached to a BIG piece from the Thomas set. It was a bridge that made sound when trains would go under it or trucks would go over top. He's proven that he doesn't mind sleeping with/next to/underneath various hard, noisy objects so I shouldn't have been surprised, I guess.

One Sunday afternoon recently, Jeff laid down in Tobin's bed to snuggle with him and get some sleep. I asked him later, "Did you have a nice nap?" His honest reply was to shrug and say, "Well, he has about a hundred toys in his bed." In other words, not really.

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Oh, Tobin Bear. There is no one like you, and we are so glad God has put you into our family so we can watch you grow and see your personality unfold. You are a treasure, and I love you so much it hurts.

It even hurts worse than sleeping on a wooden block or a metal train. ;-)

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One more thing...my latest recipe for The Foodie Spot is here. Well, it's a recipe AND a bit of a rant; but the recipe is good, even if the rant isn't.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Title Goes Here...

...but I can't think of one.

When an 8 year-old boy perpetually loses his pocketknife and later finds it under the covers of his bed, we chalk it up to childish immaturity.
When a 39 year-old man is looking for his favorite pen and later finds it on the lawnmower, we think it's funny and tease him a little.
When an 82 year-old man can't find his keys and later finds them in the refrigerator, we say he's crazy and maybe shouldn't be allowed to live on his own anymore...and there goes his independence.

When a 2 year-old is driving a tricycle and falls over, we pick him up, kiss his knees, and set him back on the trike.
When a 27 year-old woman has an auto accident, we say "thank God you're OK!" and "too bad your insurance will go up."
When a 78 year-old woman has a fender bender, we tell her she shouldn't drive anymore and take away her license...and there goes her independence.

When the children in a two-parent family whine and complain about leaving a gathering of friends, the parents think, "They're just being kids. Of course, they'll whine because they don't want to leave their friends, but it's no big deal."
When the child of a newly-single dad whines about leaving, the dad thinks, "Oh, no. Everybody will think she doesn't like being with me. I'm not a good enough dad. I've got to make life better for her. Everybody is looking down on me."

When someone asks a spiritually mature person, "What has God been teaching you recently?" the person is delighted to answer the question and give glory to God for the ways He works and teaches and loves and guides.
When someone asks an immature or spiritually dead person that question, the person being asked feels threatened and defensive and assumes that the questioner is prideful and holier-than-thou.

I'm not sure what my point is. Maybe I don't have one. Maybe I don't need to have one. Just thoughts, I guess.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When Mommy's Family Night Rolls Around...

...it usually involves either dinner out (so I don't have to cook and do dishes) or some kind of home improvement project (so my haven becomes a little more beautiful). I don't think Jeff looks forward to my family nights with quite as much enthusiasm as I do! But he's a good sport about it and doesn't complain a bit. :)

Last Friday night happened to be my family night; and for this particular one, I asked Jeff if we could go into our local Sauder furniture store and get a desk that was on sale there. We had talked for some time about getting a small desk for our living room so that eventually, we can have a laptop there for the boys to do their computer stuff on. One of the most basic--and probably easiest--steps to keeping your children safeguarded on the Internet is to have your computer in a room of the house that is not secluded. For us, even though we hope and pray that various Internet temptations are years away from our sons, we still felt like it was wise to go ahead and get this desk now and begin to get an area ready for a computer for them.

So we went to the store and got a desk, but it just so happened that we were having a fierce downpour at just the time that Jeff needed to load the desk into the van. Our area has been so dry that we were actually thrilled to see the rain, but the timing was decidedly inconvenient. Jeff ran out to the van, got soaked along the way, then drove it up to the door of the store so that the small overhang over the door would give some protection from the rain as he loaded the desk--and as we loaded the boys after he was done. Then we headed back to the barbershop to get the Jeep, since the boys and I had met him at his shop as soon as he finished working. We did have to make one stop along the way though: Dairy Queen for an M&M Blizzard for me, a Snickers Blizzard for Jeff, and hot fudge sundaes for the boys (for three of them anyway). :)

The worst part of the rain episode happened next. Jeff did not have the top on the Jeep, so not only was the seat thoroughly soaked, he also got rained on all the way home. Doesn't sound like much fun to me, but not a word of complaint came from his lips. What a guy. :)

And then, at home, he patiently and "without complaining or arguing" (thank you, Paul), built the desk. He had three little helpers, which of course, made the job much harder. :) Oh, but one of these days, they'll be able to use these skills he is carefully teaching them now; and what a wonderful thing that will be!

While Jeff was being busy and productive, I don't think I was accomplishing much of anything; at least, I can't remember anything significant that I did. I did take pictures...
...of the empty box.
Seeing a box with "Sauder" on it in my living room makes me excited. :)

And I took pictures of the builder hard at work...
...and his helpers waiting their turn...
...to use the real tools he gave them for Christmas...
...to help him turn a screw.

Tobin thought the box was a great place to lay down...
...and stand up.
Such sweet feet!

And then, the result of Jeff's labors...
...a simple, neat, attractive desk in our living room, ready for little boys to spread their math books on and do their lessons, ready for me to have some morning time with God with a cup of tea and My Utmost for His Highest, ready for a laptop--someday--for my sons to use for learning and fun.

Thank you, Jeff. Because of you, I LOVE my family nights!!! :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Manly, Independent Boys

I know my boys are only 8 and 5 and 2 (and a half!) and (just a few days from) 1; but I often reflect on the fact that they are men. Little men, true. But men nonetheless. At least, they will be, in a few years that will speed by like greased lightning. What they do now has a direct and strong impact on who they will be then.

All of that to say this: it was high time to revise the boys' job charts. For several years, Josiah and David have had chores for which they are responsible; but I've talked with them a number of times about how, as they grow older, their responsibilities will change and increase (and so will their privileges!). As this past school year ended and the summer began, I knew I needed to help them make the leap to the next level and add a few more obligations to their daily activities; but I had put it off and put it off. Finally, I did it; and the funny, surprising thing is that they loved it! I had forgotten this, but apparently they get a lot of security from knowing what is expected of them and seeing it written down in black and white so they can see what they've accomplished and what they still need to do--a much better system than me always telling them what to do. I'm sure they got tired of hearing me speak up in that "I have a job for you to do" tone of voice. Much nicer to have their lists of routines, that hang on the side of the refrigerator, do the work for me. :)
Here is what David is responsible for at this stage of life...

Morning Routine:
1. Get dressed
2. Make bed
3. Open blinds in bedroom
4. Brush teeth
5. Eat breakfast
6. Swish toilet upstairs
7. Empty dishwasher (silverware and plastics)

Afternoon Routine:
1. Set table

Before Bed Routine:
1. Room Rescue in bedroom
2. Change into pajamas
3. Brush teeth

And for Josiah...

Morning Routine:
1. Get dressed
2. Make bed
3. Brush teeth
4. Read devotional
5. Eat breakfast
6. Swish toilet downstairs

Afternoon Routine:
1. Take out recycling
2. Practice piano (and this will also say "violin" when lessons start up in the fall)
3. Set table

Before Bed Routine:
1. Room Rescue in bedroom
2. Change into pajamas
3. Brush teeth

Josiah also has special jobs to do each day (it's part of that grow-up-and-have-to-do-more-work thing)... :)

Weekly Routine:
Monday - Sweep front walk
Tuesday - Sweep porch
Wednesday - Sweep patio
Thursday - Take trash out
Friday - Dust bedroom
Saturday - Clean mirror in hall

In addition, although I didn't write it on his chart, Josiah feeds our animals daily, a special job for which we pay him $1 a week. (And that, is a dollar well spent, let me tell ya! I appreciate what he does so much that I'd pay him twice or even three times that amount...but don't tell him that.) :)

If you're familiar with FlyLady, you'll see that much of this is inspired by her. "Room Rescue," "swishing a toilet," "Before Bed Routine," - yep, this is straight from her. I'm so glad that my boys get to learn some wonderful habits while they're still so young. When I gave them their new job charts, I had a little talk with them about all of this; and one thing I said was that their future wives, college roommates, or whoever are going to be so happy that they know how to do these things and have made them part of the routine of their lives. It's fun to talk with the boys about their future; they usually get funny little looks of happiness and excitement on their faces when we discuss such things. :)

Another thing that's funny is that "everybody" thinks, "Eeeew, yuck. I don't want to clean a toilet." But Josiah and David think that swishing the toilet is one of the most fun jobs they have! And when you do it every day, the FlyLady way, it really is, because there's never any build-up of yuckiness. :)

I'll start accepting applications from potential wives for my sons very soon. :)

I started this post thinking about going in one direction with it, but then ended up going in another. Back to my original thoughts...

I ran across an interesting passage from a book published in 1889. It's How to Study, A Guide for Pupils' Self Improvement in School and Home by W. A. Welch; and the quote is included in Lorraine Curry's book Easy Homeschooling Companion.
That which makes noble, independent men is of the same stuff that makes manly independent boys: To work and struggle through hardships and privations, knowing in one's secret heart that these are angels in disguise; to bravely, nobly, joyfully fight life's battles as they come; to inhale, like bracing air, the inspiration of a purpose enthroned in the soul; and finally, in the fullness of manhood, to gradually emerge from creek and shoal, free and independent, out upon the high seas of life, with your craft, small but seaworthy, your iron will for a rudder to which it readily responds; your mature judgement for a compass; your horizon of possibility broad as the curves of the earth; your freedom only limited by the shores of the ocean; what inspiration in the thought! what effort it is not worth! Truly, it is a great thing to be a man!
And I'll add, "Truly, it is a great thing to have sons!" :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Ball I Keep Dropping

Every so often, I visit Valerie's blog, not because there's a new post (there rarely is ;-), but because of her wonderful explanation at the bottom of her sidebar about Glass Balls. I need the reminder periodically to pay less attention to the rubber balls in my life and more attention to the glass ones.

I have felt productive this summer. As always, there are many, many more projects to do than I have time for, and each minute of the day could be spent in numerous ways. I constantly feel the pressure of not having enough time and having to make sometimes difficult choices about how to spend my limited time. But as I look back over the past month or two, I do feel a sense of accomplishment about certain things that I've been able to do; and I like that!

However, I think that what I haven't been doing a good job of keeping up with is friendships. With some friends, I've been doing fine; but I have a sense that there are some that have been neglected--and feel it. Often when I apologize to people for not keeping in touch better, they reply with a quick, "Don't worry about it! I know you're busy, and I am, too. I should have kept in touch better, too; but really, it's not a problem!" But regardless, I do wish I could more consistently connect with some people who are dear to my heart. I don't want my friends--especially ones that we had in different places and seasons of life--to feel hurt by my silence and take personally the lack of contact coming from my direction.

Maybe FaceBook is the answer. NO WAY!!! ;-) Not for me!

This week, in the midst of preparing for our vacation next week as well as dealing with normal tasks, I want to make an extra effort to reach out and connect with friends old and new, near and far. I want to make sure that the glass balls that have been entrusted to me don't get dropped and cracked and broken.

Before I sign off for the night, I'll just mention that today is the half-birthday of one of the precious glass balls in my life: Tobin Bear! :) And here is an old picture of him--from way back in March, I think--that I never posted.
He's always been good at plopping down in Josiah's lap and making himself comfortable. What are brothers for?! :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gravel in the Mouth


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

I know someone who is pursuing stolen bread right now--not bread in a literal sense, but pleasure which does not rightfully belong to this individual. My prayer--strange as it may be--is that it will quickly turn to gravel in this person's mouth. Is that a mean prayer? Not when it may lead to quick repentance and may save this person's soul.

I hope, for the sake of my eternal destiny, that in times when I get off-track and start pursuing stolen "bread" of any sort, my eyes will be opened immediately to the fact that I'm chewing on gravel, so that I will spit it out...and not be spit out (Revelation 3:16).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thirteen Tidbits

Breaking news: this evening, I reached 100,000 hits on my blog.
100,000?? That's unbelievable. I'm honored and humbled and flabbergasted that during the past 3+ years, family and friends and people I don't even know have spent so much time here on Sylvan Drive with me.

Thank you.

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One of the special activities of this summer for Josiah was a week of soccer camp through our local parks and rec department. He ended up with a great coach and had a really wonderful experience with it. Throughout the week, I was reminded of how much I enjoy watching him play and how proud I am of him. I was especially proud when I was talking with his coach on the last day, and he was telling me how Josiah did so well, not only with playing, but with his behavior: how he was respectful and listened well, etc. The coach said something to the effect of "some of the other boys have a lot of energy," with the implication that the boys didn't always use that energy in appropriate ways. But he was full of compliments for Josiah...which made me beam. :)






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Back in the spring, as we started receiving information about possible activities for Josiah and David for the summer, we had to carefully consider what would be the best ones to choose. Josiah, being the go-getter that he is, wanted to do ALL of the options; and David did, too. More activities=more social contact=more friends=happy David. But we knew we couldn't do all of them--not just because we financially couldn't afford it--but also because it would make the summer too busy and we wanted the boys to have plenty of time to just kick back and be kids.

So far, I've been VERY pleased by the pace of life this summer. May was super relaxing, a perfect change after our rush to finish school by the end of April (Josiah's choice, not mine, for those who are reading and think I'm too pushy of a mom). :) Then June came, and Josiah was able to take some summer violin lessons and finish those before soccer camp started. Soccer is over now, and we are looking forward to our upcoming vacation to this conference. When we return from that, Josiah and David will each take a class at our local community college. So, all these special things are spread out nicely, and it hasn't felt too overwhelming. True, by the end of the week of soccer camp, I was worn out and ready to have some time where we stayed home and I didn't have to make several trips a day to drop kids off and pick them up (this also happened to be the week in which David had three mornings of VBS which made for lots of running around town to make sure everyone was in the right place at the right time). But overall, the schedule has seemed to work really well for us.

August doesn't have much on the calendar yet, and I'm looking forward to having that month to finish gearing up for school and even ease our way into it, maybe by having the boys do a math lesson every day or something like that. They like math, by the way, so it wouldn't be much of a hardship to ask them to do this. :)

It's really nice when things turn out the way you think they will; and when it comes to this summer and the pace of life, it's turning out beautifully--just the way I wanted it to be!

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Jeff named him...
...Squeaks. (You can guess what his early "meows" sounded like.)
To me, he looks like a tiny gray tiger, stalking his prey in the jungle. Squeaks is growing and doing well. He won't stay little for long!

Update: just this evening, while we were relaxing outside, Jeff told me that both he and Josiah thought we should change the kitten's name to Tiger. I about fell out of my swing. I wondered if he had been reading the drafts in my blog and had seen what I had written (because I wrote this section of this post several days ago), but he said no. I guess if Jeff and Josiah and I all think of him as Tiger, that's what we should call him!! :)

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Like I just mentioned, I actually started this particular post days ago; and when I wrote this particular segment, I had no idea that before I ever got around to posting this, I would make it to 100,000 hits. That's why there are two tidbits related to blog hits and counters. Just in case you were wondering... :)

For this blog and my Manna one, I keep track of unique hits through Amazing Counters, a free site. I could say a lot about blog stats, and maybe someday I will. But the reason I mention it here is because of something that is sentimental to me. My highest ever week of hits (1609) occurred during July last year, when Shav was born. That's no surprise since bloggers love little more than the announcement of a new baby; we love to share in each other's joy! :) All year, I have watched that spike in the bottom graph move to the left, bit by bit, week by week, ever so gradually. I knew that when that disappeared, Shav would be one year old.
It's almost gone.

He's almost one.

As much as I rejoice in his growth and development, it is bittersweet to have his first year behind us already. That graph has been such a vivid, visual reminder to me all year long, so I wanted to capture it here for my own memory's sake.

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At our town's 4th of July parade, some of the participants were Tea Party Patriots, a group about which I had only heard a little bit. One of them handed us a brochure with some basic tenets of the Tea Party movement; and later, at home, I read through it. As I read each point, I thought, "Wow, I agree with this. And yes, I agree with this one, too. And absolutely, yes, this is right on!" I still don't know very much about them...or it...or whatever. But what I read, I liked very much.

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Several weeks ago, I wrote a post in which I asked for input about one adjective for each season. I really enjoyed reading the comments that were left, and I fully intended to write a follow-up post to that one very soon thereafter, in which I revealed the adjectives I had been thinking about. But oh dear, I never got around to it. Not very nice of me, was it? I apologize.

But better late than never, so here are my choices:

Spring = blossoming (everything comes to life after winter's chill, so this is a season of blossoming trees and flowers and all kinds of plants, but also people who begin to blossom and uncurl and open themselves to vibrant life again)
Summer = lazy (this is the one I couldn't decide on for the longest time...I debated between "lazy" and "fresh"...I guess fresh had to do with summertime eating: fresh tomatoes from the garden, fresh corn on the cob, fresh peaches and cherries, etc...but in the end, I think "lazy" is a better descriptor since in summer, our schedule is relaxed, dressing is so easy with just shorts and a t-shirt for the boys, preparing meals is easy with abundant fresh produce, evenings are spent outdoors as we lazily swing or watch the lightning bugs come out, etc.)
Fall = crisp (think about the delicious feel of the air in the fall, the crispness of juicy apples from the orchard on the next hill over, and also the crispness of new schoolbooks and notebooks as we excitedly start school again)
Winter = cozy (my dad, in his comment on the original post, was pretty negative about winter! :)...but I have to disagree with him...last winter was my favorite winter in recent memory because of all the wonderful snow...if it's going to be cold, we might as well have some white stuff to look at and to cover the brown ground...meanwhile, whether there's snow or not, winter is cozy...thick sweaters, steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows melting in it, the crackle of the fire in our woodstove, snuggle time on the couch with good books to read, Christmas and all the joy of that holiday, and of course, our cherished electric blanket!)

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I've completely forgotten to mention when I've posted recipes on The Foodie Spot; but for my own memory's sake in times to come, I want to keep track of that here. So, to catch up, here is my recipe for Meatloaf and here is one for Chicken Korma.

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At this season of the year, it's common for a chorus of birds to be heard outside our windows just before dawn. Somewhere in the 4:00-5:00 AM range, I often awake and hear their cheerful chirpings. But for the last little while, we have had a very strange bird around. He (she?) sings all night long. I go to bed at midnight, and the bird is singing. I wake up to the sound of Shav stirring at 2:37, and he's still singing. I can't figure it out. So I just enjoy it. :)

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Another thing that's common at this season of the year is allergies, but I declare! My allergies are worse this summer than they've been for a long time! I'm a little surprised by that because it's been so very hot and dry here that there's really not much blooming. But something has been irritating my system because on a daily basis, I have to deal with allergy symptoms. It's not bad though--more of a nuisance than a serious problem. When it's really bothering me, I take a little allergy medicine; but it doesn't usually get that bad.

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Speaking of hot and dry, it's been hot and dry here. So hot. So dry. The hottest and driest summer in recent memory. Did I mention it's been hot and dry?

The grass is brown, but the bright side is that we haven't had to worry much about mowing the lawn! The garden has needed to be watered consistently or we wouldn't have much of a harvest at all, but the bright side is that it's fun to see the sprinkler waving back and forth! The farmers' crops look pitiful, but the bright side is...well, even I can't find a bright side to that one. It's one thing to wish for rain so that the grass would green up again and be soft on our feet when we go outside barefoot; it's quite another to be a farmer and wish for rain so that we could actually make a little money to support the family rather than go into debt this year. More than once, I've been grateful that Jeff is a barber, not a farmer; at least people still need haircuts when it's dry! My heart really goes out to the farmers who are suffering because of this drought.

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For any locals that are reading this, there are two upcoming events that I want to draw your attention to.

First, on Saturday, July 31, Robin Mark will be coming to Grace Covenant Church for an all-day seminar and then an evening of worship. This is an incredible opportunity to hear a musician who has led untold numbers of hearts to the throne of God through the music that he has written. Details about the event are here.

Second, there will be a choir camp at JMU for early elementary students the week of July 19. It is organized by Joy Anderson of SVCC fame. :) She is HIGHLY respected, not only in my own household but by everyone else who knows her, it seems. I've written about her before; but since then, my admiration for her has only grown. We are going to be gone on vacation during the week of choral camp; but if any of you are interested in the details about this, let me know and I'll get you more information. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I believe wholeheartedly that being taught by Mrs. Anderson made the difference for Josiah between being a boy who "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" (that was him a few years ago) and being a proud member of the Prep Choir of SVCC (that's him NOW--can you tell I'm excited for him??). :)

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In another Tidbits post, I wrote that Tobin now says Shav's name as "Odd." That's...um...interesting. But wait! It gets better!

We often call Shav "Shavi." We also, for unknown reasons, call Shav "Shavi Pavi." So, of course, Tobin tries to do the same...except, when he says it, it comes out as "Oddy Poddy"...and in his sweet little voice, it's impossible to tell much of a difference between "Poddy" and "Potty"...so when he calls Shav that, it really sounds like he's saying "Oddy Potty." Such a tender way for him to address his little brother! :)