Thursday, August 26, 2010

Changing Dynamics

Now that Isaac is in school, Joshua and Caleb have been hamming it up at home. Of course, without big brother there to tell everyone what to do, they also fight quite a bit. It reminds me of when Isaac and Caleb had to learn to play together a few years back! But I know that they'll get the hang of things eventually. I've also been amazed at how much their lack of a leader (big brother) really affects the dynamics of our home in the mornings. Caleb's having to learn how to step up and be a good example, and Joshua is learning how to be a playmate rather than a third wheel. These are all very good things but the transition can still be a bit interesting! Needless to say, they haven't had any shortage of things to do. As you can see.

Last week Steve asked me if it was easier having one less kid in the house for the morning time. I just balked at him. Easier?! Are you kidding? I just got rid of the easiest one!! And he directs traffic for me a lot more than I even realized! What would be easier would be to get rid of this precious little rascal for a little bit. Ha! But not too long...I'd miss him way too much.

I guess it's good for me though. I'm getting a lot of great time with the younger two boys and I'm better able to deal with some attitudes and behaviors that rear their ugly head from time to time. And that is due to a sheer numbers deal--the parent-to-child ratio has shrunk.

And how is Elliana taking it all? Well, I don't think she's noticed her big brother being gone too much. She's been wasting all of her time sleeping, eating and lookin' pretty. It's definitely hard work being a two month old but even so, she's making it look like a piece of cake.

We're not necessarily doing everything correctly and we're not totally organized and in our routine yet (shhhh...don't tell my oldest-Mr. Details; he'd have a fit and be trying to put us all back in line) but we're still having a pretty good time. If we have to be without him now, then we might as well live it up.

It'll help the time go faster and make it so we don't miss him.

Well, at least not TOO much.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nothing Finer...

Than a 49er! Isaac got to attend his first professional football game yesterday and of course he LOVED it!

We share season tickets with a few people in our extended families and so for the last few seasons we've had access to attending a couple of home games. Isaac has just gotten into sports a little bit more this summer with the World Cup and baseball season. He can often tell you the score of the last Giants' game and is very concerned when they're not winning. starts young. Anyhow, going to the game was our birthday gift to him. I worried a bit that he wouldn't think we got him anything this year since he couldn't "open" our present. But he understood what was going on and counted down the days until the game. As you can see, he definitely enjoyed himself quite a bit.

Steve's parents had the other two tickets for this game so Isaac got to go with his Daddy and grandparents. What a fun night out!!

Sometime in January Steve will take Caleb. But in honor of Dad and big brother going, Caleb had to get dressed up too. He didn't feel too left out though because he got Mommy all to himself while the littles slept and we ate popcorn. Not bad.

And I'm happy to say that the 49ers won! Take that Bret Favre!! Ha ha ha! But needless to say, we were relieved that Isaac's first experience at a game was a good one. I'm sure he'll remember it for years to come.

And just as a sidenote: yes, I like football. Yes, I watch football. And yes, I watched the game online, on the laptop, in the kitchen, during dinner!! Not normally the way I roll but...there can be exceptions every once in awhile, especially since I've got to know what happened in the game to be able to "analyze" it with the husband when he gets home! It's for my marriage people!

Here's to a great season!! Go 49ers!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Beginnings

Well, we've been busy. There have been two anniversaries, two birthday parties and one little boy's first day of school, all within one week. Both sets of grandparents had their anniversaries last week. Congrats to my parents on 36 years! And congrats to Steve's parents as well, who just celebrated 38!! Thank you both for hanging in there all these years and staying married!! We love you!

Isaac and Steve share a birthday (which is also Steve's parents' anniversary...could we have ruined it even more for them? It's bad enough their son was born on their anniversary but then his first son too...poor people!! Ha ha ha!) Steve and Isaac are 26 years apart which puts Steve at 31 and Isaac at five years old. My how time flies.

I still remember driving up to Monte Vista when Isaac was three days old. I was a totally, scared out of my mind, new mom, in a new place and I had this human being, who was mine, solely in my care. I had no idea what to do with him!! Now that precious little soul is five!! It's hard to believe you know.

We started out the day with our usual birthday fanfare-streamers upon waking and ooey gooey cinnamon rolls. He and Steve got to open some presents as well. Grandpa stopped by after having coffee with Steve and wished Isaac a happy birthday too.

Here are some highlights from his party. The little boy wanted a Lightning McQueen Cake. I'm not amazing at decorating cakes but I've been getting more practice as the years go on. I also have this handy dandy Pampered Chef cake decorating tool given to me by my mentor and pal in SLO many years ago! Thanks Debbi. It's definitely getting used. After nearly having a heart attack getting the frosting ready with all three boys in tow (dying frosting with three little eager boys standing by is about enough to send anyone to the nut house), I finally got that cake decorated. Luckily, my mom showed up and took the boys out to Target so I got to finish the cake in peace. No more, "Mom, what color is that part going to be?" "Can I have some of that?" "Can I put the red in that one?"

She also brought me a Diet Coke. An ice cold, LARGE Diet Coke! Thanks Mom!

For the party, we just had our neighbors over for cake and homemade oreo cookie ice cream. There was also a pinata. Having a pinata was tons of fun. Every kid got to get one shot at it without it breaking. Steve took it out with one final blow at the end (it was his birthday too) and the kids cleaned up every last bit of candy. So fun. The pinata had Lightning McQueen on it as well. Once the pinata was done and cake was served, everyone just played in the backyard. Simple yet fun.

Over the weekend, we had the family over to celebrate the boys' birthdays as well. We threw my Dad in the mix too since his birthday is today. Happy Birthday Daddy!! It was a lot of fun. Instead of doing our traditional Sabbath Dinner, we have everyone go around the table and talk about the one with the birthday...that meant three of them this time. We had yummy Corralitos Sausages, corn, salad, Challah and a cheesecake. So between Lightning McQueen and our Sabbath Dinner, I was definitely busy last week!!

Monday both Steve and Isaac had their first day of school. Steve is teaching two new classes this year. He normally teaches Physics and AP Physics with some sort of math class like Geometry or Algebra 2. This year though, he took on a regular Calculus class as well as an AP Calculus class in addition to his Physics classes. He's really excited about the new classes as he's wanted to teach the higher math courses for awhile. So his first day back was definitely new and challenging.

And Isaac, well he started Kindergarten on Monday. My baby turned five and started school full-time all in one week. It was almost too much for this mamma to bear. But so far he's had a great week and is loving going to Kindergarten. And I didn't bawl when I dropped him off like I thought I would. It was bittersweet. Putting my first child in school full-time marked the end of an era for know when all of my children were home with me all of the time. But there is also a sense of peace in knowing that he's just getting older and will slowly be growing more independent. I can't keep him anyway. Someday he'll be gone. It's good for him to take steps like this and do some things on his own. I'm just glad that the whole process is a slow makes it all so much easier to swallow.

And I mean...check out the little guy in his uniform. Does it get any cuter than that?!

I'm excited to see all that God has for us this year...we've closed some chapters, celebrated like crazy and are now anticipating a new normal.

I'm ready...bring on the fall.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Celebrating the End

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

This last week has been full of celebrations, ends and new beginnings. With a reflective spirit, I've been pondering all of these events and storing them away in my heart. I sound a lot like Mary. I'm sure the mother of Jesus felt some sadness as she watched her firstborn grow up. But with my sadness has come such joy and peace because I understand that endings produce new beginnings.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

This precious little baby turned five last week. My firstborn. The one that has been the experiment...the one that has had it the roughest because we simply had no idea what we were doing. Yet he loves us anyway. Isaac- sweet laughter.

When I sit to think about it, it does seem like these last five years have gone so quickly. Yet, there have been many times I didn't know how we'd ever make it to this point. Sometimes, in the midst of trying to figure out how to be parents and how we wanted to bring this little man up, it seemed like all that we were pouring in wasn't sticking. It's hard to see fruit in the midst of sowing. For parenting is constant, day in and day out sowing, without much immediate result.

But here we are and the foundation has been laid for good and for bad. I'm sure we've done some things right and others poorly. But ultimately we've tried to put a solid foundation under Isaac's feet so that when he's old and on his own, whether he turns to the right or the left he will hear a voice behind him saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21. We won't be by his side then. But our hope is that the foundation laid in his first few years, will be strong enough for him to lean on when he does not know where to turn.

We've come to an end. Yet instead of mourning our loss and reveling too much in the past, we must look forward with great hope to the future. And we must celebrate this end for it shows how far God has brought us and how faithful He has always been to us. In light of that celebration, we will continue to sow but the sowing is now building. We don't know what these years will look like. We know where we want to go but don't necessarily know exactly how we'll get there. Lucky for us, we've got Someone else guiding our steps. So much depends on our obedience and diligence yet so much more depends on Him. We can find comfort in that.

So we brick at a time...paying attention to detail and taking joy and ownership in our work. Not that our craftsmanship will produce a happy, smart, well-adjusted kid. No, those things are great but not essential. Our goal is that God will catch Isaac's heart and that he will learn to love wisdom and walk in His ways. We can pray for that fervently and then keep laying down mortar and piling on bricks, one by one by one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

For Anna

I wrote this in honor of a dear friend who just had her second baby. It's an encouragement and a call to endure and persevere. It was given as a "devo" at her shower. For all you mamas out there who labor and toil, whether you're a first time mom or have many, this is for you.

For Anna

On the Occasion of Celebrating the Birth of Evangeline Rose

An Exhortation

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:15

I'll never forget the feelings of sheer panic that welled up in my heart the day that Steve went back to work. Caleb was just days old, my hormones were crashing, I was totally sleep-deprived and I had this bubbling little toddler bounding around full of energy, cuteness and at times, mischief. My first thought was, "He's going to get hurt. I won't be able to watch him as well now, and something crazy is going to happen!!" Now of course I was being a bit dramatic but when you're not sleeping, your whole body is sore and you've got two little ones under two, drama is definitely a reality. A daily one in fact. Or should I say hourly? Anyhow, I tried to map out a plan in my mind as to how I was going to get through the day. I was quickly reminded that little people don't have plans and so I set my sights on just getting through until naptime. Then I regrouped again, after failure ensued, and just wanted to get to the next hour. Truly, this is how I spent our first couple of day together-just us three. As the days wore on, I simply learned to put one foot in front of the other and not look too far ahead. Life was simpler this way.

Learning to manage two little children was the most difficult task I've ever been given. It was harder than any degree I've pursued, harder than any race I've run and more mentally challenging than any situation I have come up against. It was just plain hard. And it wasn't just hard for a day or two, or even a few weeks--it was difficult for awhile. But it was a good hard. One that taxed me physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. In that period of time God taught me many things that helped to shape me into a better wife, mom and Christian.

God tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. I could hardly imagine calling a precious little baby of mine a trial, but as time wore on, I began to see that the journey God had set my feet on was definitely paved with suffering. Yet this suffering I was experiencing, as I learned to manage my children, was one that didn't bring me down but yet produced an amazing strain of long suffering in my heart that I could not deny that God was working to change me through it. This suffering was for my good, for my children's good, my marriage's good, and my family's good. It was teaching me to be less selfish, self-indulgent, and self-centered. In their place, I was learning more patience, joy and grace than I ever knew before. The grace definitely came in handy when both children were screaming at the top of their lungs-which happened often. The patience encouraged me when my little toddler continued to disobey regardless of how many times he had been disciplined. And the joy helped combat the discouragement that so easily seeped its way into my heart when I just couldn't figure the baby out and meet whatever his needs were at the time. Not surprisingly, the endurance being produced in my soul did indeed give me hope. Hope that I could make it to tomorrow and that God would be with me. This hope reminded me that God was pouring His love, not my own, into my heart continually and would be the source of all I needed to complete the tasks He had set before me. I was so thankful that God had promised to supply His love because often I felt like my own tanks emptied so quickly.

It is this hope that I long to pass on to you now as I share just a few little snippets of what God taught me in that first year of managing two littles. I hope it encourages you.

1. Celebrate the End: You are now a family of four. When Caleb came and things were hard, I remember thinking that life was much easier when I just had one baby and we were three. At times, I would pine for those days and envy my freedom. This pining robbed me of joy in the moment. I had to come to realize that our family had expanded, I would transition and I could celebrate the end of a sweet time in our lives--the ending of us three. It was now time for something new and the adventure of the four of us.

2. Choose Your Battles: You've got a little one under your roof that needs quite a bit of training. In fact, Evangeline's arrival has just so happened to coincide with the time when Beniam will probably be ramping up his will a bit more. You're just at the beginning of learning how to bend his will to yours without squashing his little spirit and it will years before you can see significant fruit from that. So, knowing this, choose what is most important to you and no matter what, even if you're nursing, or changing a diaper, know when to put the baby aside to be consistent in your training. And most importantly, don't feel bad about it. At times Evangeline can wait a moment. Nevertheless, also learn to let go more. Bend when you can (when it doesn't violate your principles) and learn to choose these situations wisely. Ask Chris for his direction and input, and then learn together. The more children you have the more crystal clear your parenting goals become and you'll be able to see what is important and what isn't.

3. Be Faithful in a Few Things--Husband, Children, Your Home then Others: When I just had Isaac, I was able to still maintain a lot of my independence. And in fact, sadly enough I was quite determined to keep things as much the same in my life as they were before. But when I added another, I came face to face with the fact that I really needed to downsize and keep things simple. I'm not superwoman and there are a few balls I cannot drop. Those were loving my husband, my children, keeping my home and then being hospitable to those around me (and in that order). I found myself really digging my heels in a lot more and focusing on just what was in front of me. When I simplified and remained faithful to my family first, I found that I was less stressed out and much more joyful. Don't feel guilty about it. Just be loyal to your family. The time will come around again when you can extend yourself out more to others. And when it does, you'll be able to do it with resolve and peace.

4. Remember Beniam is still little: This was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn. Once I had a baby, Isaac seemed so old. But really, he wasn't. He was just a baby himself. I found myself wanting him to be more responsible than he was actually capable of being at the time. It was hard for me to remember that he still needed so much from me including lots of cuddling, attention and patience. So remember your oldest isn't old but is small. He still needs his mommy just as much as he did before. So based on that knowledge, keep that in your mind and love him like never before.

5. Keep Chris Your First Priority: This is most important and you already know that. It's always so much easier to deal with the immediate needs in front of you and they often revolve around the children. Husbands can often carry so much on their shoulders in silence because they're able to. But they need rest. They need respite, respect and most importantly, they need love. So keep Chris as the apple of your eye. Fight yourself to get time with him when all you want to do is sleep. Resolve to put him first before yourself. God will fill in the gaps for you. Trust Him in this. When you're obedient to love your husband regardless of your circumstances, God will honor your obedience to Him. I've seen it over and over and I'm always amazed. So trust Him and keep Chris first.

God has given you such a gift in Evangeline. He will do so much in your life with the addition of her to your family. With her arrival, God is saving you and shaping you. Lean into the suffering and let God help you through it. We pray for your family. We love your family. And we ask that God will bless you immensely as you learn this new way of life...Teamreno is now four and it is beautiful in our eyes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Little Glimpse

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Yesterday I had an encounter with my oldest son that spoke so clearly to my heart about the essence of the gospel. He had been playing outside with some of his buddies next door and he was just having a hard afternoon. There was lots of coveting, lots of wanting his own way and lots of fighting over the beloved dump trucks. I finally told him, after a few talks, that he just needed to come home. Our rule is simply: If you can't play nice, you can't play.

I found him a little while later laying on the ground in the backyard with his face buried in the ground. I asked him what was wrong and he answered, "When you told me I couldn't play, you hurt my feelings." Ah--hurt his feelings huh? No, I don't think so. He wasn't angry but just sad. He was trying not to cry. I saw very quickly that what he was feeling was guilt. I grabbed his hand and led him inside to talk about what was going on.

As I headed inside, I quickly prayed for wisdom. I had no idea what to say to this oldest child of mine, who was struggling with his sins so much that it was eating away at him inside. I knew that this was a parenting moment that I must seize and use as a teaching time but I had no idea how to do it. How do I explain to my nearly five year old the more abstract elements sin, what it does to our hearts and how repenting brings us back into fellowship? Help!!

You see, we're just getting to the point in our parenting with him that things aren't nearly so black and white anymore. He knows he is to obey and he knows what our rules are. That groundwork has been laid during the first five years of his life. Not that he complies all of the time but the boundaries have been set-up and he knows where they are. But now, things start to get more gray and as he gets older, we'll just continue to let out the rope bit by bit in the hopes that as we point him in the right direction, he'll choose to continue on in it. In essence, we have to start teaching him to apply all that we've tried to instill in him since he was a toddler.

I sat him down and bumbled through trying to tell him that he felt bad because he had sinned. And that God has given us a conscience (and the Holy Spirit when we're saved) that points us in the right direction. When we do something wrong, it tells us. I'm sure he's felt this guilt before but hadn't ever been able to really understand what it was let alone verbalize it.

I had no idea how to explain all of this to him and really fell all over myself. But then I remembered the foundation. Yes, the foundation and amidst my fears, I started to relax. See for five years now we've been working to harness his will, get him to trust us, teach him obedience and show him how to repent. Why? Are we just overbearing parents? No...we've wanted to instill the process of repentance in him so that it becomes like the air he breathes. Why? Because it's the essence of the gospel-it's the very basis of salvation. Has he really understood all of that? Some of it, yes. But probably not all of it. Yet we've done it anyway. It's been practice. It's been a lot of you crossed the line, here's the consequence and you ask us, your parents, and God for forgiveness. And then you're clean. We move on in fellowship. That's how we do it in life; this is how life works. And in that, we've definitely seen heart change. Nevertheless, yesterday was the first time I saw him walk through this process on his own.

After talking about how he had sinned and that's why he felt so bad, we then talked about how to repent to come back into fellowship with his friends. Because he's used to repenting (even if it didn't always mean something before), this wasn't strange to him. As he trudged next-door, he had a hard time getting the words out, but I could tell this time he really meant what he was saying.

This little event yesterday spoke volumes to me. My oldest son hasn't arrived...not even close. We haven't arrived as parents at all either. In fact, we often wonder what we're doing and how to deal with the daily issues that come up in our home in a godly way. Sometimes, with God's help, we get it right. Yet we often fail miserably. But yesterday afternoon, I saw God doing His work in my little son's heart and was amazed at the outcome.

Seeing all of this also spoke so clearly to me about the gospel. Being sorrowful over our sins is the first step and this leads to repentance. How we want to be in fellowship!! Practicing this process with our kids is so key to them understanding life, relationships and most importantly salvation. I guess I've known this in my head all along but actually seeing it and watching it work, really impressed it upon my heart. And having this idea reinforced at church, at school and amongst other friends is really a blessing that I shouldn't take for granted.

How do we parent? How do we point our children to Christ? We're still figuring this out day by day. And really, we've already made so many mistakes I can only ask God for the grace to cover us. But despite all of that, I thank God that He gave me that little glimpse yesterday. What a reminder to me in my own life, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." Amen and amen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Steadfast Love

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Proverbs 27:5

Children need to be loved. And they need to know they're loved, unconditionally. Furthermore love needs to be expressed. When our children are not getting enough it shows. They misbehave towards us, towards their siblings, towards anyone close enough to be touched by them. Children cannot be over-loved. Men are responsive beings. They love in response to being loved. Children are just men not yet fully formed. It's from us that our children come to understand the love of God. And our love should imitate His. In fact, our love should be His loved passed through us. If our children develop the idea that they need to earn love, it will be because that's the kind of love they've experienced from us. The quality of God's love is shown throughout the Scriptures where it's outpouring, both from God to men and between men, is explained, encouraged and illustrated. It's expressed in patience, kindness, mercy, humility and many other ways which are apparent to it's recipient. It can't be hidden.

I believe our love also needs to be poured out in affection, in ways that are tangible to a child: hugging, kissing, holding on our laps, holding hands, may say, "that's not my disposition," but all you're really saying is that this type of expression feels uncomfortable to you. We need to be clear on something: this isn't about you. You'll get used to it with practice. If you withhold expressive love from your children, you've simply chosen to prefer yourself to your children.

Excerpted from Lawrence R. Lucas, The Things You'll See, pg. 34-35

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When You Don't Have a Sister...

Get a cousin! Elliana and Allyson (Ellie and Ally) are just 11 weeks apart. Ally has two older brothers and Elliana has three. Hmmm...I am thinking they'll get along just fine.

Watch out they come!