Friday, December 31, 2010

Ten Questions for New Year's Eve

The years seem to fly faster now. I wish they would slow down. I'll be thirty in three precious months and I'll officially kiss my twenties good-bye. I have four kids now. I never knew I'd have four children by the time I was thirty. But as crazy as it sounds to me, it's true.

Now that we have a bunch of small kids, it makes it much more difficult to get out and "party" on New Year's Eve. Not that we were major partiers before but we'd at least hang out with friends and bang pots or something. And when we do try and plan something with our friends who have little kids, the plans usually are canceled due to sick children (which are extremely common this time of year).

Therefore, I'm proposing a new tradition this year. Since it's just the hubby and I anyway, we're going to go out with a ourselves. But at least they'll be good conversation, some whiskey for the husband and a bit of light Moose Tracks ice cream for me (if you know me well, yes it's still in a half cup).

Here are 10 Questions to ask on New Year's Eve:

1. What is the thing you're most grateful for from this last year?

2. What is something you would change from this last year?

3. What is the most unexpected thing that happened this last year?

4. Name each child and at least one thing they accomplished that you're proud of from this last year.

5. What area of our marriage improved over the last year? What still needs improvement?

6. If you could name one place to vacation this next year, what would it be and why?

7. How could you improve in your work over this next year?

8. How could you improve in our marriage over this next year?

9. How could you improve as a parent over this next year?

10. What are you most looking forward to over this next year?

Or make up your own. I just wrote these up real quick as something to do tonight. But be creative!!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Aftermath

Well, it's been busy around these parts which is the main reason for my silence. We've partied hard, celebrated like crazy, and are now enjoying a much quieter week at home. We were supposed to head up to the Lake Tahoe area for a fun trip to the snow with some friends but, alas the stomach flu caught our friends thus putting a halt to our trip before it even began. It was sad. But truth be told, I wasn't ready to go (I was trying to be ready but simply wasn't due to Christmas) and so, I guess it all worked out in the end.

Christmas was a whopper this year. We had planned to make things a bit mellow since our kids already have a lot of toys. However, a couple of things fell together and after some stewing, we determined it would be prudent (yes, I said prudent) to go out and get the kids some other gifts. They ended up being great additions.

This was the first year that Steve and I both felt we could walk through a toy store and really think about what might bless each child. It was really fun. We took the night off from the boys by leaving them with Steve's parents and just had Elliana in tow. And then we went shopping with the night before us. We had a great time picking out stuff.

It really is true that gift giving is as much fun, if not more, for the gift giver than for the receiver. Christmas was a push this year but it was a blessing for us to give abundantly. Our hearts were full as we thought about each child. Super fun and unexpected. I don't think Steve and I have ever had such a fun Christmas with our little family.

One of my friends told me that every year her in-laws put aside a little bit of money each month into a Christmas fund and then every December they empty it. That's right...the whole, entire thing and fill their family up with good things. How fun is that? Maybe next year.

Now it's the clean-up. Which at first glance, the clean-up can seem like such a chore. But really, God has been good to us. We've been blessed abundantly. So the clean-up is a blessing as well. Not that it isn't a bit stressful. But it's still a blessing...wrapping paper and all.

These are signs of life. Signs of laughter, family, joy, celebration and cheer.

Christ came. He came as a baby.

He came for us.

We've waited with great expectation through Advent and now we've celebrated like crazy with feasts, presents and extended family.

Now we rest, clean-up and bask in God's blessings as He brings in a New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We're on Vacation!!

Steve turned in his grades this morning so we're home free. Today has been such a relaxed and wonderful day!

We've needed this time badly and it has arrived!

We're making fun messes (this was done while I was on the phone this evening). I had to laugh when I realized they had unraveled an entire thing of ribbon. Good thing it's just the cheap stuff and that I have a ton of it. Not really a big deal. They tied all the kitchen chairs together as well as some poor, innocent, stuffed animals! Ha!

We've watched some football. Since we don't have TV, whatever football Steve can catch, has to be done via the computer. Isaac is hooked. Look at him. He's hooked people...hooked. 49ers game online. They're not doing well, but he's still a fan. He's successfully indoctrinated and we're proud of it!


Lil Miss Elle here has discovered, about two weeks ago now, how to sit up all on her own. So she's been playing up a storm with her brothers and their toys. Even she likes Lightning McQueen. She'll be six months on Christmas Day!

And about two weeks ago as well, Caleb got his turn to go with Steve to a 49er game. Luckily, they won that one. And these two had a blast.


Gotta start 'em young. Even though they haven't done so well this season, we still love them. Go Niners!!

Enjoy your family time!

Friday, December 17, 2010


But King David said to Onan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing." 1 Chronicles 21:24

So, I've been thinking a lot about Christmas for obvious reasons. I still have a bit of shopping to do but a lot of it has been taken care of already. I'm still trying to get into the groove of how much to buy my kids and what to buy my kids. We want to bless them abundantly because they're ours. But we also don't want to spoil them and we already have a lot of toys. So, I've definitely been pondering that. I've also been stewing about some other aspects of gift giving that might be a bit unconventional.

Christmas every year is always a stretch financially. Isn't it for most of us? If we had all the money in the world, it might be easy (financially anyway) but then Christmas wouldn't be about giving. It'd be about distributing. It's not that we don't have money, it's that we have to decide how much we can afford to spend. And that is good and wise. But sometimes I feel like I get to the point of being too frugal. I'm thinking much more about the cost than about the gift itself. And I justify it by reminding myself I'm being practical and all. But when it comes down to it, I'm really being a hoarder. I'm being greedy. I have money. I just want to spend the least amount possible to be able to save the rest for myself. In essence, I want to give gifts that didn't cost me anything.

Now hang with me. I'm not saying it's bad to get gifts on sale. Nor am I talking about people who are truly financially strapped and can't afford much more than some oranges in their kids' stockings. But most of us, if we're being honest, don't fall into that category. And I'm not talking about putting it on the credit card either because I think that's unwise too. Hear me. We live on a single teacher's income in California and we still don't fall into that category. Most of us can afford to give to our families and those around us something at Christmas time. And that giving should cost us. It should push us. Really, we should give to the point of it hurting. That may look like a lot for some and a little for others. But that's because I'm not talking about the price of the gift, but rather the cost-the cost to us personally that it took to give. Because really, that's what giving is.

There have been many times this Christmas season that I've wanted to hold back and just go with the bare minimum because that's what is natural for me. I'm not naturally giving. And every time that daunting phrase, "I'm not going to give something that didn't cost me anything" pops into my head and whips me into shape. I can't escape it for some reason and it's really been teaching me that my giving should hurt. It should be a stretch. It should cost me.

The reason I think is because of what Christmas stands for in the first place. God gave us Jesus, his ONLY Son, and He didn't do it half-way. He didn't look down at the earth and say, "Hmmmm...maybe I'll only send Him for a little while or, how can I still save them without giving up my most beloved possession-my Son?" No, God gave to the point of it hurting-literally even, for us by giving us Christ. And Christ, when He went to the cross, gave in that same manner. He gave his life, for us. It cost God everything. Everything. He didn't hold back. He did that so that we could become children of God.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." 1 John 3:1

I think, when it comes down to it, that I don't want to give in this way because I'm fearful. I'm afraid that if I give too much, I'll be wanting in the future. But God says it doesn't work that way anyway. "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." Proverbs 3:9-10 I definitely shouldn't give to get but I also shouldn't worry that my giving unto the Lord is going to make me destitute. It's mysterious how it works out but I have to learn to give my utmost and let God take care of the rest. It's good to save and good to be wise. But in the end, I can't take anything with me anyway.

So Christmas is about giving. We hear that all the time. But it's not just about giving anything. It's about really sacrificing to give. I don't think we should feel bad about that. If it's hurting, we're probably heading in the right direction. Not that we should borrow money to give or give big expensive gifts just to show how well off we are. Our gifts should simply reflect how much it really cost us to bless the other person, whatever they are.

I think, when we can get ourselves there, then we're headed in the right direction.

I have a long way to go on that journey. A long way. But here's to trying to put one foot in front of the other. Lord willing, I'll have many more Christmases to practice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three for Three

It's been a long semester. When Elliana was six weeks old, Steve began a very daunting and difficult Master's class titled Numerical Analysis. To put it in very basic layman's terms, he started learning how to prove and program the math behind how computers and calculators compute their math. As a result, he has spent every single weekend of the last four months studying. Usually he would study all day on Saturday and part of the day on Sunday sometimes leaving early on Sunday mornings to clock in a few hours at Starbucks before church. Most weeks he spent a few weeknights studying as well. So he's been quite busy. Which means that I've been busy too. It's been a bit of a ride. We did get meals together on weekends though and we always had our Saturday night Sabbath dinner so, that really helped me have something to look forward to.

Yet, I'm happy to announce that his hard work has paid off.

My stud of a husband just received his final grade in the class and folks, he earned himself an A! And as he told me last night, I get an A too-an A for having such a good attitude while he was off in his Mathy land. Yeah!! I passed too!

So, that makes him 3 for 3...straight A's in his quest of a Master's in Mathematics. I know you all think, "Oh that's great! Good for him!" And yes, good for him. But think about it this way.

He has four children, ages five and under, and they didn't go neglected over these last four months. And neither did his wife...we managed to pull through without too many breakdowns (although we do need a rest).

He is teaching four different preps (2 are new to him this year)-AP Calculus, Calculus, AP Physics and Physics.

His class was 4 units this time, not three.

And he still managed to pull out with an A. That makes his accomplishment even more impressive, if you ask me.

And as if he hasn't already had enough punishment, he signed up for the next class in the series next semester.

Aaaaaaahhh! We're going to make it, by God's grace.

Now Steve is giving finals to his students and once he's done grading them, which probably won't be until early next week if we're lucky, he'll be on vacation for two weeks. And he won't have to start up at Texas A & M until the end of January. We're all really looking forward to the break.

I have a new appreciation for wives whose husbands have to be gone a lot, whether for deployment or for their jobs/school. Working straight through the week, only to keep going on weekends, is really hard. And at least my hubby got to be home at the end of the day. My hat's off to you ladies. You're really tough!

But anyhow, the victory was sweet last night. He worked for it. He did it. And we're all pretty darn proud of our special man.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Learning to Flex

I think one of the hardest things about parenting is coming to grips with the fact that your children are different. The old cliche, what worked for one won't work for another, is really apparent once you start having more children. Some parents, like us, get their easy baby first and then are shocked when the second one comes. Others have it the complete opposite. Whatever it is, you have to learn to flex and draw on more strategies. As difficult as it is sometimes, it's how God encourages us to grow.

This is never more clear to me than when I go to a baby shower for a first time mom. It never fails that all of the moms of one child that attend, tell the soon to be mom what she MUST have in order to survive. And they also have really strong opinions about what works. I know. I've been there. Babywise worked with my first child like a charm and we were sold on that style of baby rearing until...UNTIL Caleb came and chucked that entire system out the window. So I'm not trying to knock first time moms here. I was one of them. But over time, through lots of beating my head against the wall, I've come to understand that my methods with one just may not work with another and I've had to let go of the guilt and just flex.

So now when I'm in that same situation at a shower, I just smile, sit back and listen to the opinions fly, laugh to myself and tell the new mom I'll pray for her. Because really, that's all I'll be able to offer. I don't know her child nor do I personally know what style of parenting will work for her as a mom. Only she'll be able to figure that out. So prayer will be much needed...that a meal maybe, a few baby clothes and a bag of diapers.

But babyhood isn't all there is. There is, as you know, 18 years ahead and every child comes with a different set of assumptions, needs and personalities. Babyhood is one small drop in the bucket. Each stage requires new wisdom, patience and straight up laughter. There will be similarities with each child but, every time a child goes through the same stage a sibling has already been through, it could look entirely different.

I'm currently living this lesson right now. It's my third time through the two year old stage and little Joshua is entirely different than any of his brothers. Some days I just pray that I can get him to three years old (a much better age in my opinion) other days, I feel like we're doing all right. He is probably our least strong-willed child but his spirit, oh his spirit is a double dose and it is so incredibly exhausting. He's like a little ping pong ball darting everywhere, yet you're never quite sure where he's going to land. Trying to predict what he's going to do next is impossible so, you hang on for dear life and try your best to teach him to obey the first time he's asked. Without that, you're really up a creek.

But I've been really convicted lately because I've been finding myself slipping into the attitude of, "Why can't you just sit down and do a puzzle like your brothers would at your age?" Or "Why do you always need to be tearing something out?" Basically, Joshua always needs to be busy and I don't feel I have the time to deal with it. His big brothers were never that least not to the extent that he is. I feel totally ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with it. You'd think I would have ideas on how to manage him better but really, I simply don't.

Last week I asked a friend from church, who recently had her fifth, tips on how she managed a little boy (her third as well) who reminds me of mine but just a bit older. She just laughed and didn't have much to say. She tried to be helpful but, remember what I said earlier about the advice thing? Yeah she knows as well that prayer will help, others' advice probably won't. I'm sure when she thinks of it, she prays for me. That's how these things work.

So I've come to the conclusion that I have to get myself out of my box once again and flex. Joshua is my child. He's mine. He's my responsibility. Even though I don't want to deal with him or his craziness at times, I must. And I must figure out how to reach him too. He deserves such attention. When I don't want to flex my expectations, I'm being horribly selfish. Sometimes I feel like I'm flexing so much that I'm going to turn into silly puddy. But maybe that's okay. Didn't God say, "I am the potter, you are the clay?"

Maybe He's got me right where He wants me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Calendar

Although we are already in the throes of Advent, I still wanted to let you all in on a great idea for an advent calendar. We've been using this idea for four years now and we love it. It's not my idea so I can't take credit for it. It comes from Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in our Traditions; which is a great read by the way. I can't recommend it enough. She came up with this idea and used it while raising her four boys. At times, the Desiring God website will carry these already made but, when I wanted to start using one, they were out of stock. So...even though I'm horrible at crafty things, I made ours. So with that confession, you can conclude that it's not that difficult to make if I was able to do it. It is just really time consuming so don't start it on November 30th! Give yourself a couple of days.

Here's the basic idea. The goal of the advent calendar is to get your kids to memorize the story of Jesus' birth. The easiest and most compact version is found in Luke 2. The bottom of the calendar holds all sorts of different players in the nativity like sheep, shepherds, wise men, angels, a star and of course, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Each of these players are numbered starting with 1 for December 1st and go all the way until 25. We save the stars of the story, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, for the very end. This is what it looks like.

The nativity scene is laid out up above. Each day a child takes a character from the story (that corresponds to the date) and places it on its number above in the nativity scene. We then read Luke 2 adding on one verse each day. For example, Day 1 we read Luke 2:1. Day 2, we read Luke 2:1-2 and so on. The repetition helps them to memorize the whole thing really fast. I'm not kidding. Every year since Isaac was two, my kids (those 2 and over) have learned the passage and that's not because they're unusual. It's just because that's how kids at this stage learn...they can memorize anything through repetition. This is what the top looks like.

And this is the whole thing.

I know you're wondering where the treats are like most calendars. Well, there aren't any hidden away in the numbers. However, we just always happen to have Christmas cookies on hand and so after dinner, as we're learning the story, they get one anyway. So there you go. Treats are in there too. But we LOVE this calendar. Sure it takes up a whole wall but, our kids enjoy it and really get into learning the story. Heck, all of us do. If you don't already have a tradition in this area, think about this for next year.

Seriously, it hardly costs anything to make it. You need a big piece of burlap ($2-3), a big bag of pipe cleaners (various colors, including gold), clothespins (to make the characters out of), cotton balls, velcro, a permanent marker (or fabric pen), popsicle sticks and a glue gun. Various scraps of material help too when making baby Jesus, his manger and the shepherds' outfits. I already had most of this stuff when I went to make it the first time. And here's the particulars, in case anybody wants to try and make one of these sometime. We have four shepherds, four sheep, six angels, three wise men, three gifts, one star, a manger, Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Pretty simple. And once it's made, you just get to enjoy it every year.

So this is our tradition for Advent...what's yours?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Been Awhile

My internet has been down so I haven't been able to write anything for a few days now. They're hoping to have it up and running tomorrow. I've been wanting to put up some stuff on Advent. We'll see if they can figure out the problem. They think a little creature might have chewed up some of the wires. That's living in the country for ya. But tonight, I hijacked my husband's laptop and tapped into my neighbor's wireless network. Don't worry, he's our friend (and also the IT guy here) and he gave me permission. I just couldn't stand not checking my email for one more instant! Two days without email. I thought I was going to die.

You never realize just how dependent you are on the internet until you don't have ready access to it, which of course causes some reflection. I don't need the internet. I just like it. And if I'm being really honest, I don't just like it, I hate to part from it. I should probably take vacations from the computer more often. Of course, there's nothing more to say about that. As soon as my internet is back I won't have learned anything from this little stint away from instant information. I will still be addicted to it. No need to hide from the truth.

And since I'm being oh so honest and forthright, I thought it would be a great opportunity to leave you all with a little bit of Elisabeth tonight because she is just so right on, so to the point and no nonsense! These are from my favorite of her books, Let Me Be a Woman, which I've already quote from, and are totally unrelated (although many are on marriage), but so great in and of themselves.

"How shall we learn to believe and obey God if we have not been taught from earliest childhood to believe and obey the ones He put over us?" pg. 35

"If morality is merely a matter of taste of community tolerance its foundation constantly shifts. If it has the Word as its foundation is unshakable." pg. 61

"There is a whole world of difference between those who look only for their own happiness in this world and those who know that their true happiness lies in the will of God." pg. 67

"Finally, and I think most importantly, marriage is a vocation. It is a task to which you are called. If it is a task, it means you work at it. It is not something which happens...You concentrate on it, giving yourself to it day after day in a lifelong Yes. Having said Yes to the man who asked you to marry him, you go on saying Yes to marriage." pg. 102

"You take up life as husband and wife and you start laying down your lives--not as martyrs, not as doormats or ascetics making a special bid for sainthood, but as two lovers who have needed and received grace, and who know very well that they are going to keep on needing and receiving it every day that they live together." pg. 121

Gotta go nurse that baby! Goodnight!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Certain Little Fairy...

Is making her debut appearance in our house tonight. All the hearts of the children were aflutter in anticipation.

My oldest, my BABY for crying out loud, lost his first tooth. I still can't believe it. He announced it triumphantly on the way home from church with blood streaming down his chin! Boys! And then when we asked him to produce the evidence by showing us where it was, he said, "I don't know." After getting home, we made a thorough search of the car and it was nowhere to be found. We think he must have swallowed it in his excitement!!

Once he realized he didn't have the tooth in hand, he pleadingly looked at me and implored, "But Mommy, what am I going to tell the Tooth Fairy?" Whaaaaaaaattt? How does he know about the Tooth Fairy? Apparently quite a bit, because in lieu of his tooth, he wrote her a note (one of his very best buddies did the same thing so he must've heard about it from him) and this is what it said.

Let me spell it out for you. "I will like mune (money) plees, can u plees git me supting. Its Isaac (in case she was confused)." Isn't he a genius? Ha ha ha! He wrote that all on his own. He sounded out the words and everything. I about died when I read it-it was so darn to-the-point and hilarious. He would like money but if worse comes to worse, just get him something! I could scarcely hide my laughter. That little letter is currently tucked safely under his pillow. I'm not sure what the going rate is these days. Whatever, days like today remind me simply of this: being a parent is the greatest.

Now I must go don my wings, flit about and "git that boy supting".


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent and the Church Calendar

We have only recently discovered the Church Calendar. And when I say recently, I mean within the last few years. There is so much to be celebrated and understood in the way the Apostolic Church set-up the annual church calendar. It really is quite fascinating and chock full of history.

Which leads us to Advent. Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is an extremely important time in our household. We have various traditions, most of which I've pulled from Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in our Traditions, and I'll write more about those in the coming days. To us, Advent and Christmas is a time to seriously pour on the celebration. Why not? We're Christians. Christmas is all about CHRIST- the center point of our faith. Our children should be seeing this time as a big deal. But more about that later.

To kick-off the Advent season, I thought it would be appropriate to post a friend's words regarding the Church Calendar, why it is central to our lives as Christians and how, as we walk through the Church Year, we are walking through the life of Christ. I know you'll enjoy these words given this last Sunday at our church, Trinity Covenant, by Troy Martin, as the Exhortation right before the time of Confession. This truly is beautifully written.

Exhortation 1st Sunday of Advent 2010

By Troy Martin


We are beginning the season of Advent today, and that seems to encourage some notice. For a calendar is, after all, the way a people apprehend and comprehend time. Solomon encourages us to remember that there is a season for all things. That is, that timing is an important feature of wisdom. God tells us that the whole sky that we walk under was created so that man would understand the season and timing of things. Then God descended upon Sinai and gave Israel a calendar of holidays as part of its heritage… which the gospel writer John shows pointed to Jesus. Even Jesus himself tells us that he comes during an acceptable season. Seasons, timing, memory. memorial, history, heritage, and holy days are all a central concern to our God and concern for God’s people. For he divides times, and we are made in that image.

Pagan Calendars

Which is, in a way, the central meaning of the Christian Calendar. For all calendars of antiquity have placed people under the principles and principalities of nature. The ancient Egyptians measured time and their gods by the flooding of the Nile and the parching of the land; and by thus ordering their times they showed they were subservient to them. The Early Arabs and Later Swahili placed themselves under the timing of monsoons and trade, two of their chief deities. The Ancient Aztec conquered, enslaved, and sacrificed as people under the rising and falling of an oppressive and burning sun. All pagan peoples were placed under the elements of nature. And Paul tells us twice that we are no longer in bondage to these things, but we are under Christ.

Christian Calendar

Which is why the Christian calendar is not marked by the elements of nature, the waxing of moons, or the solstices and equinox…but by the life of Christ. Not mother earth, but our Lord marks time. It is not the high sun that makes our summer, but the high throne of our Lord Jesus makes Pentecost. It is not the copulation of pagan Easter bunnies that marks our reborn spring but it is the resurrection of our Lord, born from the tomb. Nor is it the mud and wet weather of late winter that makes our time change, but the Passion Week, and the forty days of Lent. High winter is not, like for so many pagans, a time to morn the death of Tammuz, the descent of Persephone, or the murder of Baldr for our seasons are not marked by these elements of nature, but in those dark days we see the world that lay in darkness before our savior was born in Advent and his glorious incarnation in Christmas.

The Summary of Things

His birth, our Christmas; His childhood, our Epiphany; His ministry, our Lent; His death, our Passion Week; His resurrection, our Spring; and His conquest of the world, our Pentecost: His life, our calendar. We mark our time by him whose hands are marked for us. For all things in heaven above and on earth beneath are written with that name which stretches farther than zenith to nadir, in letters larger than the light-years between the Big Dipper to Ursa Minor, Christ marks our time, Christ marks our calendar. It is wisdom to know the season of things, and Christ is our wisdom, so let him mark our calendar, our timing, let his life be our memorials and holidays, and that is why today we begin Advent.

Apostasy and Remembering

So why the sociology lesson? We live in a time that is neither pagan nor Christian, but something worse. We neither feel bound by the elements, nor do we make ourselves bound to Christ. We live in a time that is apostate. Our schedules are dominated by us. Our thoughts about time are filled with thoughts about our own time, our own work, our own busy schedule. And should we ever have a holiday, we understand it only as a personal vacation. So today’s exhortation is an invitation, to remember who marks your steps and determines your times. You were bought with a price, you do not belong to yourself. Neither does your time. So live your life in the light of the life that made yours worth living…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Debbi Weeks!!

A BIG "Thank you!" to all who participated. This was really fun.

The person with the most entries was Robbin with 9.

There were 9 people with one entry.

There were 6 people with 6 entries.

There was 1 person with 5 entries.

But the overall winner of the LARGE BAR PAN was none other than Debbi Weeks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

In Honor of Black Friday

I've never been a Black Friday shopper but, I know some people swear by the sales. Anyhoo, I'm about ready to close down the Pampered Chef giveway. So in honor of Black Friday, I thought I'd give anyone who didn't already get to enter their name into the drawing, a chance to do so. There's actually a decent number of people/entries entered already so if you want a good chance to win the amazing, large bar pan, simply order something online or leave a comment. Here's a link detailing all the rules. I'll choose a winner next Wednesday.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Pie For the Little Ones

I love to bake. I love to cook. I love to do just about anything in the kitchen. It makes me happy. Therefore, one of the ways I feel I can love and serve others is through creating in the kitchen. Often I find myself signing up for meals or dropping by with an unexpected baked gift for a friend. It's just my way.

However, this sort of thing takes time, effort and money. And when it comes to my own family, sometimes, I don't want to indulge. I come up with all kinds of excuses. Part of me reminds myself that I simply don't want the dessert around because then I'll eat it. This can be true. I have a horrible sweet tooth and if I don't keep my happy feet pounding the pavement, this sweet tooth can catch up to me. So sometimes I'll skimp on them because I don't want to be tempted and need to have self control. Other times I tell myself that they're little and don't eat a lot so, I don't want to waste. This can be true as well. But really, when it truly comes down to it, if I am being honest, I simply just don't want to take the time.

I can hear all of you gasping! How horrible!! I know, I know. It is horrible. How is it that I can take all sorts of time to lavish culinary gifts on others but I'm not as much inclined to do it for my own family. Now don't get me totally wrong. I do make them special treats often. But it's more about my heart.

Sometimes, I simply want to bow out just because I don't feel like it. I've already been up to my elbows in flour for something else, I don't want to bake another thing. This attitude comes out more around the holidays when it seems like all I am doing is cooking and baking. But when I really think about it, the fact that I can cook and bake in the first place is evidence that God has been generous to me. First I should be thankful and then second I should put this bounty to use. It should overflow to my own and then to others and should NOT be impeded by my laziness. This truth is something I've been convicted about lately.

It started with this scenario. On Sunday we had a Thanksgiving feast at church. It was wonderful, yummy and full of amazing food. I brought an apple pie and mashed potatoes. So, so good. My kids watched me make that apple pie and they saw it go on the table bursting with food on Sunday. And they were so patient. But we had to leave early. Both Joshua and Elliana were at their end and needed naps. So we left without getting dessert. The older boys were devastated. But because they are good kids, they lifted up their countenance and submitted to us leaving without much fuss. Later Caleb said, "Mommy, we didn't get any apple pie." Normally my go-to response would have involved reminding him that they get desserts quite often and that he needed to be thankful. But then I started thinking about it a bit more.

How often do they see me pouring myself out for other families (which is great to do!) with yummy desserts and everything, without them getting a little bit of the prize? Sometimes I can be too practical. So what if they won't eat the whole pie. Aren't my little ones worth it? Shouldn't I splurge on them first, lavishing them with all the goodness I have to offer and then lavish others.

So, instead of thinking about the work or how much it would cost, I decided this time to do something different. I decided, it was going to be about them this time because it's Thanksgiving and they're my children and before anyone else, they need to be blessed by their mom unexpectedly every once in awhile. Doesn't God do this for us? Doesn't He lavish us with goodness just because we're His?

Of course it's good for them to see me giving to others. But I want them to know they're important. And I know that can get lost in there sometimes. So this time, just because, I made them a pie. A whole pie. And even though they're going to be getting more desserts this week, I'm going to let them eat it (within reason of course) so that they know they're loved, they're important and they're worth it.

So when you think about Thanksgiving and all of the work you're going to put into it, think about lavishing your family, not about the messes and money. Of course it's work. Of course it's tiring. But it's worth it. It's good work. Get into that flour. Make a mess and laugh about it (as much as you can). Fill your children up with good things. For when we fill up our little ones' bellies, we fill up their souls as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lil Darling

Okay...I can't help myself. She just kills me.

I am SO enjoying this baby girlness--I can't even describe the joy.

One of the best parts for me is dressing her in as many dresses as possible. And of course, she's got to have all the accessories like tights and bows.

Before having Elliana, I was convinced I didn't want anymore children. I've been pregnant four times in the last six years and during that time I've either been pregnant or nursing. That's a lot of time people. Thirty-six months preggo out of seventy-two. You do the math.

But now, I don't know. I mean, is this really my last time? I just can't say it is. And wouldn't it be so great if I could give her a sister.

Because of course, I'd get a girl next time right?


Ha ha. Chances are slim...

But maybe still worth going for...

In the future...

Because as the husband says, "We're in downshift mode now-we're getting old. And we're tired."

Yeah, yeah...but if I could just put in my order, I'd have one more girl so that Ellie could have a sister and then everyone would have a friend.

And I'd selfishly get to go through all of this baby girlness just one more time.

Just one more time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A "Largish" Family

A lot of times people wonder how largish (I don't consider our family large...five and up is large; four is just large-ish) families make it and they'll ask us if we feel we're going crazy. I actually think it's harder to have two really small ones but anyway, that's just my opinion. Of course we feel like we're going crazy sometimes. But when you've acquired a couple of kids, you're used to it and it no longer seems like such a big deal. "Mom, Joshy has Daddy's drill again." Hmmm...I'm guessing I've got about thirty seconds to get in there before he figures out how to turn it on. Plenty of time to start the washer first. "Mom, Caleb drew on the wall." Eeh, it's washable. This too shall pass. Two quick examples of my reactions these days.

One of the reasons why, I think, people who happen to have a bunch of kids keep going is because they find it really can be easier with more. I'm not kidding. The main reason for that is that the other kids get older and can help out more. Both of my older two can help make a very simple breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. When they make a mess on the floor, I tell them to get the vacuum out and they can do a decent job cleaning it up. Even Joshy, who spilled my drink on the floor today, was able to get a rag to tackle the spill. They help with daily chores like most kids. It's true-many hands makes light work! Yet, when you have all little ones, you're doing everything! And for years, that was me!

But here's a quick example of older kids helping out. This never would've happened before, at least not nearly so smoothly.

About a week ago, I was getting the boys out of bed in the morning. I thought something seemed a bit odd but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Nothing seemed awry. Everyone was in bed smiling at me. All I noted was that Josh was no longer wearing his pajama pants. I knew he had them on when I had checked him the night before. Yet, I just passed that off as him chucking them in the middle of the night or something because he was hot. Unusual but very possible. But then my oldest, the studious one, started filling me in on the whole story.

You see, I was in the back room on the treadmill. The ONLY time I have to myself (Elliana doesn't count) is in the morning before the boys wake up. Hubby loves me and got me a treadmill last year. Me and said treadmill are quite good friends. Anyhow, evidently Joshua woke up and was calling for me to take him to the bathroom. However, I was in la la land listening to my tunes, so I couldn't hear a thing. Mostly that was unintentional if you get my meaning. But at the same time, I don't really want to hear a thing until 7 am-seriously.

So, if this situation would have occurred two or three years ago, the child would have just peed his bed and I'd be cleaning up the mess (which I would deserve I guess for not paying attention). We always tell our kids that they can get out of bed to go to the bathroom but, since it's so ingrained in their heads that they must stay in bed under all other circumstances, they usually forget and just call for us. By the way, this is because we're really mean parents and we require that our kids stay in bed until they're told to get out. Ha ha. That's just our house rule. It generally works out well for us but I have cleaned up messy beds on various occasions due to this rule.

But back to the story. Isaac very nonchalantly tells me, "Mom, Joshy had to go pee pee so I took him." Caleb chimes in with, "Yeah Mom, we all went." Obviously, they had gotten the job done and the only casualty had been the pants. Not bad. I surveyed the bathroom and the floor was sparkling clean. I was shocked. Then as I was taking in this bit of news, I realized the gravity of the situation-they had both gotten down, taken Joshy (barely two and just newly potty trained, so he's still getting used to things) to the bathroom calmly, helped him go potty and then all climbed back into their beds to wait there patiently until I came in to get them up. When did they grow up so much?

A few mornings later, it happened again. This time though, Caleb told them he was too sleepy. But, never fear, first born Isaac was on duty and he wasn't about to let down his post.

Before when I was potty training a child I'd always be trigger happy in the morning trying to get them on the potty so that they wouldn't wet the bed. Well, I guess I don't have to worry about it this time. The big brothers are on it.

To be honest, I think part of it is that they know if Joshy makes it to the potty, they'll be getting a treat too. Whatever works.

The encouraging thing is that I see signs that there is some light at the end of this extremely long tunnel. They're getting older. Part of it makes me sad. I have such fond memories of these past five, chaotic years. God has stretched us and taught us quite a bit. It's all just flying too fast.

And then the other part of me feels relief and excitement. How amazing to be able to have more intelligent conversations about God, life and people, and then watch them grow in knowledge through their education. I want to see my kids devour books, discover the beauty of math, get lost in music and learn to express themselves in written language. How incredible to watch!

I don't even think my kids are that old yet. But things like this just give me glimpses of what it'll be like in another five years and to be honest, it does get me really excited.

So that's how it's done. That's how larger families make it. Everybody just pitches in. Things don't always get done perfectly or even all that well sometimes. But everyone tries and gives a little. And Mom and Dad just learn to take whatever help they can get and no matter what, to laugh...a lot.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Little E.E.

Today has been painfully long so tonight, I leave you with some of my favorite prose by my dear, sweet, encouraging Elisabeth Elliot. My brain is just too fried to come up with anything intelligent on my own. Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from her book Let Me Be a Woman.

"The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on all speak loudly about what you believe. 'The Beauty of Thy peace' shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul." pg.37

Of course, it's important to note that she's NOT talking about perfection but rather an attitude toward orderliness. I have four kids. I'm not going to be as organized as some moms with less kids or with simply more determination than me. Nevertheless, it's more about what I'm striving after. This quote always gets me thinking. I should be striving after this. I should care about making things lovely.

"...Motherhood requires self-giving, sacrifice, suffering. It is a going down into death in order to give life, a great human analogy of a great spiritual principle (Paul wrote, 'Death worketh in us but life in you') Womanhood is a call." pg 53

"It [marriage] is a vow you are making before God and before witnesses, a vow you will by God's grace keep, which does not depend on your moods or feelings or "how things turn out." As others have said, love does not preserve the marriage, the marriage preserves love." pg 63

"You can create a climate for him according to your attitude, and this is part of your job as a wife. The home you make and the atmosphere of that home is the world he comes back to from the world of his work. Let it be a place of beauty and peace." pg 101

I love what she writes about loyalty in marriage. It ALWAYS resonates so strongly with me.
For the last quote, here's a snippet.
"We have seen women who are manifestly not loyal to their husbands. I do not mean that they are unfaithful, but that they are not proud to be their wives...Nothing thrilled me more than to be identified with a particular man. I didn't mind if people thought of me as his wife. I loved it. I never felt that my own personality was 'submerged.' I was proud of his, and knew that a new personality, the personality of the marriage itself, is created when two people wed...This loyalty will bring you suffering...If you are proud of your man and loyal to him you will suffer when he is criticized...You will know sometimes that the criticism is a just one and because you are loyal you will suffer the more....When he fails you cannot be proud of his failure, but you can be loyal. You can maintain that faith in the idea that God had when He made him, and you can comfort and support him, giving him the strength of your love and the incentive which your pride in him will always instill." pg 163.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just Couldn't Help It

So I've been researching a bit for a writing project due next week and I've been going through some literature prominent in the women's lib movement like Betty Friedan's landmark book The Feminine Mystique. You're probably wondering why. Well, without giving too much away, I'm writing an article on mentoring and why it's REALLY important for older Christian women, who have raised their children, to build into the next generation of women because in a lot of ways, as a result of the radical changes in our society fifty years ago, we don't necessarily know what it means to be women. For example, we've got women working their hardest to be men and men falling into the roles of being women. Gloria Steinem, one of the major voices of the movement in the 70s, said it most accurately when she stated: Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry. Interesting. In my mind, there's fall-out all over the place with the family being the first and most significant casualty. Can't we just be women...strong, capable, respectful, feminine women?

I'm not saying the women's liberation movement didn't do any good. For sure it did. There were inequalities that needed to be dealt with like equal pay, legal rights like owning property and such. Fifty years earlier, the women's suffrage movement granted women the right to vote. These things were good to fight for. There were inequalities and things that needed to be settled. God didn't create women to be less, just different. In 1 Peter 3:7 it says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel (meaning physically), since they are heirs with you of the grace of life…” Husbands were implored to show honor and to live with their wives according to understanding because they were different from them and deserved their husband’s love. The New Testament spoke out very clearly against the harsh treatment of women in the early church. But we live in a fallen world and this advice was not always readily received. Richard Ganz, a theologian stated, "If men had sought ways to see the gifts and talents of their wives developed and utilized rather than taking a beautiful person and making her into little more than a personal slave, if men had not twisted this doctrine of headship, we would not have the current problems in our society." Pg. 27 Radical Womanhood, Carolyn McCulley. Not every man treated his wife that way, but I'm sure there were many who did. So there were problems.

But, instead of just trying to fix the problems, women turned on themselves. One of the things that I noticed explicitly is that instead of embracing women from all different backgrounds (you know, "tolerance" that is so pushed in our society) which would include women who work and those who don't, there was an absolute denigration of the stay-at-home mom. In fact, these women went after the stay-at-home mom because she, just being herself, totally undermined their entire cause. They wanted women in the workforce, not in the home. Because if they were in the home, they weren’t competing with men.
Vacuuming the living room floor -- with or without makeup -- is not work that takes enough thought or energy to challenge any woman's full capacity.” Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

Linda Hirschman, a contemporary feminist, echoes this idea as she feels that the housewife has let down the team. Albert Mohler details Hirschman’s views that were on national display via ABC’s Good Morning America show when he recounts this dialogue. “Hirshman says working is also a matter of feeling fulfilled. She doesn’t buy into the arguments of many homemakers who say taking care of the family is the most fulfilling thing they could imagine. Hirshman’s response is a demonstration of breathtaking arrogance. ‘I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that position,’ she said. ‘One of the things I’ve done working on my book is to read a lot of the diaries online, and their description of their lives does not sound particularly interesting or fulfilling for a complicated person, for a complicated, educated person.’ Albert Mohler, Are Stay at Home Moms Letting Down the Team?

It is important to be educated, whether one wants to be in the workforce or not. I went to college. I LOVED it. And I don’t see my life now as a waste of my education. Rather I see it as preparation for my life as a wife and mom, and possible work when my children are grown. And Elisabeth Elliot, one of my Christian heroes, agrees with me. “Surely it [education] is to draw out (the root meaning of educate) the gifts God has given whatever they may be. Surely I did not send you to college on the assumption that you would marry [she was writing to her daughter]. A Christian liberal education will make you a better wife and mother, I’m convinced…” pg. 58 Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman

Betty Friedan also made outlandish statements about children who grew up in homes where their mothers were around either by staying home or by only working part-time.

“Strange new problems are being reported in the growing generations of children whose mothers were always there, driving them around, helping them with their homework — an inability to endure pain or discipline or pursue any self- sustained goal of any sort, a devastating boredom with life” Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

All I can say to that is, WOW! Children are worse off having a parent around to love them because they don’t learn how to endure pain on their own?

So I know that I’m biased because being home with my kids is my job and I pretty much love it. It’s true. But I do have friends who work that stretch me and get me out of my box…and I’ve really tried over the years to have a better understanding of those around me who choose to work. I’ve also learned to be quiet about it and just do my own life.

But I guess I just couldn’t help it this time. All of this reading just got me too fired up. And even though I have tried vehemently on this blog NOT to be overly controversial, because really, when do I have time to care about or read hate mail? But I guess sometimes in life, you’ve got to just say what you think.

So with that being said, you can send all hate mail to Nikki Dauphin. But I can’t promise you I’ll read it because I’ll probably be busy working and learning more how to be a mom. As my alma mater’s motto for education was “Learn by Doing” (all you Cal Poly Mustangs will understand), I’ll be making cookies, building lego towers, folding laundry, wiping bottoms and putting dinner together (not necessarily in that order and yes, I do wash my hands…often). Because that’s what I do and it’s great. Some days it’s really hard. Some days I want to call in sick. But, when I look to the future, I know my work will reap a harvest if I don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. Proverbs 31:17