Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Cinderella Story

It's natural over time to forget things. One can only retain so much before it gets lost in the multitude of memories made each day. One memory that I pray time will kindly leave with me is the moment with Tony and Kaylen sitting together at the kitchen table. Him smiling down at her, she looking up at him both mutually admiring. "I'm taking mommy on a date," he told his tiny daughter. Wistfully she looked up into his face, "Are you going to the ball daddy?"

I love that her image of Tony and I together is her mommy in a magical dress swirling across the dance floor in the arms of her daddy, Prince Charming. 

It's so sad to consider that in this world, happy marriages aren't the norm any longer, but the exception. 

Each young bride comes tripping down the stairs in their wedding finery, hours of planning and preparation by loving hands brought to fruition. And at the bottom, a jealous world takes on the form of the ugly stepsisters from the Disney version of Cinderella and tear apart the lovely dress, leaving a mess to clean up and a broken heart. 

I'm here to tell you that Happily Every After does happen. But it's not magic nor a fairy tale. The Prince Charming that I married isn't perfect. He makes messes he doesn't clean up, sometimes he is selfish and on occasion he can he downright grumpy. And, if I'm being honest, more times that not I'm more of an ugly stepsister than a Cinderella. I make impossible demands, have lofty expectations and think more of my own self than any other. 

But every day we choose to love. 

And if this world would stop thinking only of me and starting thinking of we. If it would let loose of I and embrace ours. If wives would act like princesses and treat their husbands like Prince Charmings, even when they're not...(and vice versa!) then many more would find themselves in the middle of their Happily Ever After. 

It's not magic. It's a moment when each chooses the other and puts them first. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Are you Busy? Yes.

You would think with the experience I have under my belt with three kids already successfully raised past infancy that I would know that if my baby hasn't pooped in two days and I put her in a white outfit she will surely poop all over herself. Even as I dressed her this morning I was aware of this possibility, but all I could think of was how creamy white her pretty skin was and I did it anyway.

And now lying on the laundry room floor is that once white outfit awaiting a shower of Oxyclean. 

To answer the question I get almost daily, Yes. Yes, four is way harder than three. Your brain is so full of the little details of who ate what and when and did everyone potty that when it comes time to shop for Christmas, there is a strong likelihood that you will walk away from your baby sitting so quietly in her car seat while you agonize over whether a thirteen year old would like silver sparkly boots or plain old boring black ones. --->Not my thirteen year old, by the way, since I don't have one. And yes, she would love silver sparkly ones in case you were wondering. 

Thankfully small town shopping is accompanied by nice sales clerks who bring you your baby. 

I hang my head in shame to tell you that the very next day I walked away again. But this time I remembered on my own and no one had to bring her to me. 

It's that easy to forget about a baby, especially when they aren't crying. So, I gently remind you that while the shopping and giving is so much fun, it's not the best part. Don't forget the Baby who changed the world. Let the giving and receiving be a smaller part of the big picture of Christmas. 

Cooking and baking, parties and programs. Candy canes, eggnog and cookies. Wrapping and taping, surprising and delighting,  all good things in their proper place. But in the swirl of busy and the bliss of the season, don't forget the Baby. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Filter This

I'm not sure when kids begin to develop a filter for the things they say, but I'd say we are not there yet. Neither "this chicken tastes like leftover gross" nor "Mom, does that guy only have one tooth?!?" (spoken oh so loudly in front of the poor toothless one) went through any sort of filter. They came out in their purest and rather painful form.

And so I should not have been surprised when Jacob told me candidly that he didn't play with a little boy in his class at school very much because his head was shaped like a rectangle. Thank goodness I was driving and had to keep my eyes on the road so he couldn't see my eyes bulge when I choked back hysterical laughter. The real truth came out a few minutes later, he is a slow and messy eater which shortens their time on the playground. 

There are times when I wish I could strap filters on their mouths so that things like, "mom your bottom is really big" in the dressing room or "your belly is squishy" during snuggle time {that ended with a child dumped on the floor} didn't happen quite so frequently. Actually, I figured out how to stop the dressing room comments: I don't shop anymore. Or at least not with my entourage. 

I wish that I could invent a filter for myself too. Even though I may not say it out loud, very often I find myself thinking thoughts that rival Jacob's rectangular head prejudice for their base meanness and judgmental attitude. 

Not long ago I found myself watching another mother of a child on Jacob's baseball team. She came to games looking like she had dragged herself to the park directly from her bed. During the games, she barely took her eyes from her phone. Well, what my nasty little self found out later was that she probably had dragged herself to the park from the bedside, but it was the bedside of her 11 year old son who had been diagnosed with cancer in July and was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy. What I mistook as a disinterested mother scrolling through facebook, was actually probably a worried mother checking for updates on her son, whom she rarely left. Her trip to the ballpark was a treat, a break from the heartbreak in the hospital. 

I felt rebuked for my judgement and resolved to do better. 

Then, not long ago, I caught myself doing the same thing. Sizing up a fellow mom and making mean assessments of her appearance. A few days later I saw her again only this time I saw the tubes coming from under her shirt and connected to a black bag she was carrying. I do not know what her situation is, but most people don't need to walk around connected to what appears to be medical equipment. So, I can only gather that this lady is treating or controlling an illness. 

The outward appearance very rarely tells the whole story, yet we fill in the blanks with assumptions and conclusions based on nothing more than baggy jeans and an ill-fitting top. The outward appearance is just the frame holding the person, a soul inside that is so precious. 

"Jacob, who made your friend?" Quietly he answered, "God." I continued, "If God took the time to number the hairs on his head, to shape arms and legs, to build a personality and create his very life, do you think He thinks he is special?" Another quiet reply, "Yes." "Well, then don't you think if God thinks he is special, we should too?" My heart recalled the faces of the ladies I had devalued with my silent judgement. 

Every life is deliberately created limb by limb, hair by hair, eye color, shoe size, left or right handed by a loving God who not only takes the time to number each hair on our head, but to also plan our lives step by step. Who am I to let clothing stop me from seeing the creation?

Psalms 19:14 
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, 
O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer. 

* NOTE: I am very happy to tell you that the little boy with cancer has a very promising prognosis. He should make a full recovery and go on to live a normal and healthy life! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Saw a Sign

You know how you can sense that things are out of order without really looking at them? I had that feeling when I walked out on my back deck last Friday afternoon. I was on my way to give my chickens some food and from the corner of my eye I saw the kid's playset. Something was off, and it took me a minute to realize it had to do with the railing on the side of the set.

I walked closer and took a good long look. And when I saw it, I saw stars. Jacob had, in two clean cuts, sawed off the side railing of his play set. You may be asking why does a six year old have a functioning saw? None of yo bidness. 

And this isn't about me anyways. 

I'm not sure, but I think I might have screamed. And a few minutes later there stood a stormy looking father, a shocked mother and a squirming Jacob. While Tony and I stood looking from Jacob to the playset and back to Jacob, he stammered and stuttered out his explanation. It was a supremely awkward moment for him and I must confess, it made me laugh. His explanation, though, completely melted his mother. "Jacob, why did you saw the railing off your playset," (Did I really just ask that?!?) Those beautiful blue eyes, looked bravely back at us- he was truly shaking in his boots- and he said "Because I wanted to be like dad." I instantly became a puddle. 

Of course what followed was an explanation that Daddy doesn't destroy, he builds and he doesn't do it without the proper permission from the proper people. Then we had a serious talk about thinking before you do things. And if he had stopped to think, wouldn't he have realized he should not saw on his playset? And what can we do to help him to stop and think before he does things? 

"Oh," he said, "maybe you could draw me a stop sign on paper and hold it up for me when I need to stop and think." Well. It's an idea. But not very practical. 

Sitting in the mom's small group I am a part of, while two wise ladies shared their wisdom with us as we figuratively sat at their feet and asked them questions, here was mine: how do you deal with kids who wake up seemingly determined to pick and pester each other and steal my joy in the process? And here is where my little paper stop sign was stamped across my forehead. Leaning towards me and in a stage whisper, one lady answered, "You need to relax!" 


In a flash I saw all the extras that I include in our morning- clean up this, put away that- and realized that she is right. Relax. Have your breakfast with your kids. Look them in the eye and talk to them. Have this moment and savor it while you can. Disarm their behavior by being in the middle of their morning rather than directing from a distance. 

Maybe Jacob isn't the only one who needs to stop and think before he does things. And maybe the one who really needs the paper stop sign is me


Note: In case you are worried about the railing situation on our playset, don't be. Jacob has nailed a board across the poor railing and will somehow find a way to "retach" it back on the set. But he "needs to go to Home Depot first". For a box of nails. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

10 Ways to Say I Love You

When I got married ten years ago, the girlish bride who walked down the aisle had no idea how to really love. Nor did she realize the depth of the man she was marrying and his capacity for love and the ways he would show it. But here I sit compiling a list of the ways that my husband has made me the happiest girl in the world. 

1. Work hard. So hard that your wife can stay home and be a simple homemaker. Willingly give up fancy vacations, nice clothes, fast cars and a host of other luxuries for the sake of fulfilling your wife's dream of serving hot meals on the table at night, laundry neatly ironed and put away, pleasant and polite children and a house in impeccable order.

2. Gracefully overlook when things go wrong and recognize the effort put forth. Luke warm supper (that might be a tad overcooked), clothes that are washed, but still in the laundry basket (and maybe a little wrinkly), a house that is littered from one end to the other with small toys, bits of art projects, books and puzzle pieces (but the bed is made!!!) and kids who may fight a little (but at least they are fighting over who gets to hug you first!). Yeah, it isn't perfect, but thanks for not telling me. 

3. Allow your wife not only to have dreams, but help her pursue them. It might be bringing home her very own palm sander as a gift because she loves painting furniture. Or it could be putting in long hours working on her business venture that she ultimately decides to stop pursuing since everything she really wanted, she already had with numbers one and two on our list. You dream with her. 

4. Make babies. Even though you thought three was good, you let her have a fourth baby when she realized that her heart and her arms were not yet quite full. If three was good, four is better. Each a miracle and joy. You get that, and that is beautiful. 

5. Always do what you believe is right. There is safety and security in following a leader who you can rely on to do the right thing. You don't make decisions lightly, but with great thought and care. You are trustworthy. 

6. Love your children. Play with them. Teach them. Hold them. There is nothing more wonderful than a man in love with his children. Except for a man in love with his wife. 

7. Laugh together. Laugh at your mistakes, laugh at the funny things your kids say and do. Laugh over a shared joke, laugh at each other. Find humor when it's sometimes hard. Share it. A hearty laugh together clears the air and fills it with brightness. 

8. Hold on to each other. Share a hug, hold hands. Help each other up, hold each other up. Never ever let go. But it must be said, do not put your feet on me. Never put your cold feet on me. I will karate chop you if you do. 

9. Go out. Treat your wife to a night out. Frequently. Especially if your home is like number 2 on our list. Everyone will be the better for some time apart and some time together. Remember what it was like to be just the two of you and how much you liked it. Talk to each other without interruptions. Share a meal and share conversation. A babysitter is a small price to pay for time to reconnect with your dearest friend and confidant. 

10. Do things together. Involve each other in your interests. Go places together, tag along just because you enjoy each other's company. Learn and grow together. Watch your significant other when they are in their element. Take interest, take part. Let your entire life be intertwined with the other. 

I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world that I get to live out this list. I'm blessed that my beloved created this list by the way he has loved me for these past years. And if the past is any indication of the future, it's going to be wonderful.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guilt for Grace

Sitting there in her chair, she told us how she was the one that parents warned their kids away from. Her life was one of struggle. She didn't follow rules, she didn't do right and she didn't care. 

Although she is different now, a new creature, the poor choices of her past still cause her to flinch in remembrance. While some days she can embrace the forgiveness that is hers, other days she is engulfed in bitter regret. She drags her past behind her in heavy bags smudged with dirt and marked from the grime each day brings. 

Though some bags are smaller than others, or filled with "worse" things than others, each of us has our own bag of burdens that we usually bring with us day to day. Burdens that we should have left at the foot of a rough sawn cross, but that we didn't. Or felt like we couldn't. And so we trudge day to day lugging this weight behind us, a constant reminder of our failures. 

Perhaps you have listened to the song, but have you ever really heard these words: 

"When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me."

So take heart if you struggle with a painful past, it's a chapter in your book, but not the whole story. And if God the Just can let it go, so should you. He will use it for His glory. 

Satan casts your guilt in your face to stop you from sharing the Grace that set you free. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Sick Again?

Yesterday I took Livie for her 2 month check up. An hour and a half later we left without seeing the doctor. I spent a very long hour plus on the phone with the insurance company who cannot seem to get Livie added to our policy. Did I mention that this also happened at her one month check up and I spent over two hours in the waiting room at the doctors office with FOUR kids trying to get it straightened out?

I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. 

Just one more reason why the less I need to visit the doctor, the happier I am. 

If we went back in time and visited Jacob this time last year, we'd find that he had already been sick with the croup that we treated with a round of antibiotics and five (awful, no good) days on steroids. If we could see what was coming in the next week or so, it would be another round of croup followed by the same vicious cycle of meds. A third bout would soon follow that and then a fourth. 

Flash forward to real time and guess who hasn't been sick yet since school started? Jacob. In fact, Kaylen had croup about two weeks before school started and for the first time in his life, after being exposed to it, he did not get sick. It could be that he wasn't going to get it anyways, or it could be the consistent application of essential oils- both applied topically and diffused in the air- that has supported his immune system's ability to defend itself from this sickness that has plagued him his entire life. 

I. Love. These. Oils. 

We have had the opportunity to treat everything from baby acne to burns, from stomach bugs to sunburn and have had amazing results every time. This isn't to say the use of essential oils will always keep us from needing to see a doctor, nor that they are a cure all for everything that ails you. But for our family, they have been a huge blessing in time NOT spent at the doctor and money not paid there too. 

As we approach sick season, I've stocked up on my essential oils. And here's hoping, we won't be seeing the doctor anytime soon. I'd hate to put a hole in their nice sheet rock.