Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Geography Lesson

This conversation occurred in the back of the car on the way home from church this past Sunday.

Isaac: (While studying our little globe that he managed to sneak into the car): Caleb, if you go up through Oregon, then Washington and all the way through Canada, you'll get to Alaska! And Alaska is kinda close to the old USSR.

Caleb (Very triumphantly and feeling very proud of himself): Oooooooooooohhhh. And if you get to Alaska, you'll find England, which is very faaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr away (where their cousins live)!

Isaac (Very instructively and to set the matter straight): No, no Caleb. England is in the British Isles.

At this point, Steve and I, who were straining as hard as we could to listen to their little conversation, just busted up laughing.

Watching our children learn things has got to be one of God's greatest gifts to parents. Amidst all the correction, the tireless toil and the thankless day ins and day outs...seeing our children learn new things just brings an encouragement like no other.

Thanking God for His amazing gift of education and for Him giving little glimpses into the little minds/personalities in our home!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Persevere and then Give Up!

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you."
Isaiah 43:1-2

Ever since my precious little girl has come into the picture, I have realized that in order to survive, I must learn to embrace the chaos. Often I want to fight it and in turn find myself attempting to wade upstream amidst rapids. It's much easier to just sit down and let the swirling waves take you downstream!! You know, go with the flow.

This new flow though, is something that is really difficult for me sometimes. I wish I had things in order. I wish I had things clean. Oh I try. Really I do. I clean, regularly, and then someone traipses through the kitchen with muddy feet. I file and then another stack of mail comes in. I do laundry and then someone pees their pants, or plays in the mud, or spills food all over themselves and needs new clothes for the third time that day! And then, to add insult to injury, the clean laundry piles up, stares at me laughing, and begs to be folded. These aspects of my day create an amazing little dichotomy of sheer chaos and monotony that surprisingly coexist during the waking hours and it can get stifling sometimes. It's easy to get discouraged and even easier to just get plain mad about it all. Will I ever get to eat my lunch?

But that's just it. Getting mad won't solve anything. Even my four-year-old who is a firecracker like me, knows that. He doesn't always act like he knows it but, he does. More and more, I'm finding that I simply must persevere yet, give up.

Yup...persevere yet, give up.

What?! How does this work? I guess what I'm trying to say is that one of the best ways that I can get through the crazy times that happen often is to simply keep working. Yet in the midst of that work, I must know going in that somehow, something is going to go awry and when it does, I have to just accept it, let it go and just keep going.

Persevere and then give up.

Nice. That makes a lot of sense right?!

But it's true. If I just give up in the beginning and embrace the absolute insanity that surrounds me then we'll all get swallowed up by it. No one will be in charge. Instead of me running the home, it will be running me and all of us know that this is NOT the place to be. And at that point, it's very, very difficult to keep a good perspective and a good attitude. Because regardless of what I think or feel, that's what I'm responsible to do, no matter what the children are doing around me.

But if I can't accept the craziness and know that ten things are going to go wrong and maybe only two right, while I'm trying to get a task done, then I've lost it all together. There has to be room for error. There has to be room for mistakes. There has to be room for sin, including mine (especially in the attitude area).

There has to be room for LIFE.

Because really, that's all that it is. It's just life. And it's mine. And I better get cheerful quick, even when I'm feeling tired or discouraged. If I'm being honest, good ole caffeine or a really hard run usually help a bit at this point too.

Yet seriously, even though I think having a beautiful, perfect home and life would simply be wonderful sometimes, you know what's even worse?

Silence. Perfection. Suffocation.

Nobody lives in perfect homes. It's all just pretend anyway.

I want life. I want love. I want grace. I want laughter.

And if that means that I have to work my tail off and yet learn to simply give it all up. So be it. It doesn't make sense, yet it makes all the sense in the world.

Persevere and then give up.

Easier said than done.

Maybe by the time they're all grown up, I'll finally get it.

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:39

Monday, March 28, 2011

Playin' Around

So I have cracked open the manual. This is monumental!! But I'm still playing with the camera quite a bit as there are so many amazing things it can do. I tried to get some practice this weekend. Steve took some of the pictures as well. In fact, I think some of his turned out better than mine. Maybe there really is something to the whole "reading the directions" thing.

Here are some fun pictures from the weekend. I took a bunch of the kids to get some practice. A couple also came from a birthday, girls night out, night on Saturday night. My very sweet girlfriends surprised me and took me out for dessert Saturday night (belated due to me having the flu!). It was a really fun time! The rest are just from our lives over the weekend. Who doesn't love to get into helping wash the neighbors car? Especially if there are umbrellas involved to protect yourself from getting too wet?

Or maybe you just don't really care about getting wet!

Two are definitely better than one!

I think I could really get into this photography thing. It's just too much fun.

Speaking of fun, I just can't get enough of this girl right now.

This was our pre-church photo shoot.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A New Toy

So...this just arrived in the mail today.

(It's the Canon, DSLR Rebel T1i. The editor in me almost couldn't post the above picture because it's actually of a T2i, but I had to concede...they're nearly identical.)

It kinda intimidates me and thrills me all at the same time.

It started as a present to myself a few months ago. My mom has a savings account for us that she occasionally adds money to. Over the years it has grown to be quite extensive and I decided to tap into it right before Christmas because I wanted a good camera that would last and take excellent pictures of our family.

But as of a few weeks ago, I still hadn't bought the camera. Because if you remember, I'm quite quirky and I HATE making big purchases. I'd rather sit and look at them and think about spending the money. That's much safer. I have a much more difficult time actually shelling out the cash.

So in steps the husband to save the day. Steve ordered it himself and upgraded it to an even better one than I was going to get in the first place and got me some accessories to go with it for my birthday.

And I just got it. Today.

I NEVER read directions. Ever.

How am I ever going to figure out how to use it?

Can't wait to try it.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Worth a Try

Usually when the children are all tucked tightly into bed, Steve and I steal away to have the night to ourselves. Who says you need date night all the time when you get every evening alone (also a nice way of saying we don't get date nights all that often because we have so many kids! Ha!)? This is seriously precious down time to us. Often Steve will do some studying and then if I'm super lucky we'll talk about nothing at all. I love those talks.

Or sometimes we'll just literally pass out from simple fatigue. The act of feeding, wrestling (Steve's job, not mine), directing and bathing all four children can put us right to sleep soon after them I must say. But some nights we watch something and over time we've come to really enjoy this sort of entertainment as well. We don't have TV but we do have Netflix and have been able to find some really fun documentaries, historical pieces and great movies to watch on instant view as well as on DVD.

Last night, we discovered another gem. We watched The Young Victoria and let me tell you, it was surprisingly wonderful. We love historical movies, especially biographical ones, so this movie was right up our alley. In short, it details the story of England's Queen Victoria and it is quite fascinating. Nevertheless, not only is it fun to hear more about her rise to power but, the best part about it is the love story between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Prince Albert, we came to find out, was really an honorable sort of man. A real prince you might say. And their love story is so unlike many that make up marriages in general especially among the monarchies of Europe at the time, where nobles were married off for political purposes. Theirs is a true love story. We were pleasantly surprised. And truth be told, it made me fondly remember mine because Albert reminded me of my husband, minus the sideburns and German accent of course!

It was a bit cheesy in some parts but I love cheese. Plus, if it's the real story, who cares? And we were shocked there weren't any sketchy scenes in it that would've ruined the story. It was tastefully done. A real thumbs up from both of us.

So there you have it. If you need something to unwind to look it up.

You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Birthday Fun

The little girl and I are home from church because I've had a bad cold/flu. I'm definitely feeling much better today but am just resting as much as I can before the troops come back and Steve heads off to finish up an assignment due tomorrow. It's pouring outside and it's quiet inside.

I like it.

It's never fun to be sick at birthday time. However, I was blessed NOT to be sick on the actual day but rather the day after. The day of my birthday my mom came over and the boys gave me their presents (my mom had taken them shopping earlier in the week). It was fun for me to wear what they got me out that night. Then later, an army of troops helped care for our children from my brother and sister-in-law to my mom and Steve's parents. It's just not so simple to leave them all now especially with the baby in the picture!! But we got away to dinner for FIVE hours and by the end of the time, we were laughing like we were newlyweds again. It's amazing what an extended time out can do! Thanks guys!

There were other birthday events lined up for the weekend. However, due to sickness, those plans had to be amended. We canceled my family birthday gathering at the Cheesecake Factory this afternoon because the thought of being out all morning and then driving to San Jose for the rest of the day just made me pooped. But that's okay.

I did get to make it to last night's events though. After pumping myself full of Tylenol, I felt well enough to go to our friends' annual St. Patrick's Day party for a bit. If they didn't live down the street, that would've been out of the question too. But Steve had gotten me my favorite cake from the Buttery to be eaten there so...I rallied as best as I could. The cake was amazing by the way. And the party tons of fun.

I've got a great hubby who made me feel very special despite my unexpected sickness. What a guy.

In case you're wondering...thirty doesn't feel that different. In fact, I'm excited to see what God brings this decade. The last ten years saw me get married and have a bunch of kids. Those things are past now. This next decade well, I think we'll just be doing life, growing children and making memories. I'm excited for it and pray that God will continue to teach me through it all.

Okay thirties...I'm ready.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Say What?

A couple of weeks ago, Steve and I got a first-hand reminder that what we think we're communicating to our children may not be what they hear.

We were at the church potluck having a grand old time. It was raining outside and so all of the children (and there are many) were packed inside like tadpoles darting about. Currently we meet in a middle school gym so there is a lot of room to run around and play. Both Steve and I kept an eye on the kids, periodically mentally counting them just to make sure everyone was accounted for. Lunch was served and then dessert was up next.

Dessert! Everyone loves dessert! All of the boys clamored after their Dad as he went off to heap
a plate full of delicious goodies. As Steve was gathering the bounty, he told the boys to go back to their seats and he would bring them dessert. When he got back to our table, he noticed Caleb had gone missing. But at first he didn't think much of it. He thought he probably just got distracted on his way back. Surely he'd be there any moment to claim his cookie! But as the minutes ticked by with still no sign of him, Steve threw me a look and I knew something was amiss. Caleb LOVES dessert so we knew something was off. Plus, he's not our likely candidate to wander off..number 3 takes that place most readily.

After Steve filled me in, we went to look for him. There were a few places he could be hiding out in but not many so, our search went rather quickly. When we met up again and surveyed all of the places inside we had searched, we realized we needed to enlist more help because he was nowhere to be found. A few other parents helped us look and we combed through the place...still no sign. Then a nagging fear started welling up inside and I began looking around for people that might not belong at our gathering. Had someone come in and snagged him? As soon as I started to go there, I remembered that Steve had told him to go to his seat. Could he have understood something else from that statement? Steve meant his seat at the table but was there another seat Caleb could have thought he meant?

The only answer to that was the car. I thought it unlikely as it was pouring outside and our car was a fair distance away from building. Yet being that he was nowhere to be found, I figured it was worth a try. I rain out into the rain and burst into our car. And to my utter surprise, there sat Caleb all strapped into his seat reading a book. Normally our car is locked but before church I had nursed the baby in there and evidently forgotten to lock it! Good thing or he probably would've been standing outside in the rain that whole time!

I was so happy to see him and baffled that he had ventured all the way outside by himself because he thought he was supposed to. I tried to get him to come to me as I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and thank God he was found. But he said very emphatically to me, "Mom, Dad told me to go to my seat. I'm waiting here until Daddy brings me my dessert." Poor child. He was really trying to do the right thing! I then explained to him that we meant his seat at the table inside and that he had a big cookie waiting for him. At that news, he came bounding out, grabbed my hand and followed me in as if nothing was wrong.

Later I related the story to my mother-in-law as we had gone over to their house after church. And she said something that really clicked with me. She said, "Sometimes we think we're saying one thing to our child and they're hearing something entirely different." Of course that was obvious from the situation. But really, I started thinking about it. How often does this happen? I think I'm being really clear all of the time because I know what I'm trying to say in my own head. But am I really communicating clearly? And am I allowing for grace when I'm unsure if they really truly understood?

These questions then led me to the whole idea of giving commands in general. How often do I give too many at a time? Am I asking things that are doable for the child? Am I making it easy for them to obey? How often am I a part of them not following directions? Ephesians 6:4 tells parents, namely fathers, not to exasperate their children. How often do I do this when I am giving directions and how can I be more clear?

I've been trying to keep this in mind lately and be more aware. I know I'll need to be reminded. I know they're small and still learning. I know that they'll need grace at times. And really, after what happened a few weeks ago with Caleb, both Steve and I are definitely more aware of the fact that they might not be getting what we think they are.

And for that, we could do a better job...and maybe use some grace ourselves as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pondering 30

This week I turn 30. That's right. You heard correctly. Thirty. It's kinda hard to believe. It has snuck up on me quite unexpectedly. Maybe that's because I've been busy having children for the last six years and when I started that venture, I had just begun my mid twenties. As they say, "Time flies when you're having fun!" Ha!

But in all seriousness, I've been thinking a lot about it and what it means or really if it means anything at all. On the one hand, in today's society, 30 is considered quite young. A lot of women aren't married yet and if they are, it's pretty normal not to have children at this point. You remember the quote from the box office classic, 13 Going on 30, "30, Flirty and Thriving". It's the I've Still Got It attitude and no one's going to tell me I'm getting old. Kinda like a forty year old mom trying to fit into her teen daughter's's disgusting, embarrassing and in reality, plain doesn't fit! Yet Jennifer Garner's character Jenna, wants to be 30 because to her, 30 typifies womanhood. At thirty you have an established career, lots of money and a killer figure.


But on the other hand, generations ago, thirty was more middle-age, more normal. Probably more where I find myself now just days before the "big event". I've got gray hair, stretch marks from pregnancy, not as youthful of a figure after four children (no matter what, the body will never be the same!) and some wrinkles! Gasp! Every birthday before this seemed like an excitement to get older. Now for some reason, I'm told that this one tips the scales and I'm supposed to be a bit more cautious about time. So currently, here I am, married for almost a decade, the youthful figure has faded with four children under my roof and that career, well it was put on the shelf years ago. Definitely NOT thirty and flirty. There are a lot of women who might look at my life and feel pity.

Thirty and flirty...where has your life gone?

Pity? Because my "prime years" have been wasted, have been swallowed up by others and their needs. My fleeting, beautiful, youthful twenties have passed in a triumphant swoop of otherness. Otherness. And I've been asking myself, in a very truthful sort of way, if this sort of thing has any merit. If I had the opportunity to choose again, would I travel this road, or would I take another one? Not because my Thirtieth Birthday has brought on some fourth decade blues or anything like that but more in a curious way. This path has had its ups and downs, and it sure hasn't been easy. Would I travel this way again?

Have the sacrifices been worth it? Because there's no way to deny it...I've been totally and completely taken over by my marriage and my children. They are my priority. If you could break me up into little pieces to get a glimpse of what's really inside you would find that in every inch of my body and soul, lie the images of my family. They encompass who I am inside and out. There is no part of me that exists outside of them. I can get away from them at times to get rest. I can do other activities that I enjoy as hobbies. I have great friendships that mean a lot to me. But no matter what, my husband and I first, and then all of my children are a unit. We're all intricately woven together and those bonds cannot ever be broken (nor would I want them to be). We're a family. And my role is critical.

I recently read an article about a woman who felt like motherhood had swallowed her up and it petrified her. In fact, it scared her so much that she literally moved out of her home, divorced her husband and stopped being a mom to her two boys because she felt she needed to "find herself" again. If you don't believe me, read about it here. Numerous times she claims that her children are fine and that they even have a better relationship now than ever because she's able to spend strategic uninterrupted time with them rather than the day to day busyness a typical mom faces.

Looney bin, people. Pure lunacy. What drives a woman to really believe that her family is better off without her? What happens in a woman's soul to get her to the point of literal abandonment?

Of course her story is the extreme. But even so, would I go more that route if I had to choose again? Would I try to preserve more of myself so that I could still have an identity? And would I see it that way...that I don't have an identity by just being a wife and mom?

I've been thinking this through because really, I feel like the culture that surrounds me tries to say that I shouldn't be satisfied, that I shouldn't be happy with this path, that I've been squelched and my education left to gather dust on the shelf, and that I'm a doormat to the man I married because I consider him the head of our home.

But the crazy thing is that I don't feel that way, in any part of my being. Truthfully, I don't. Sure I feel stretched. Sure I feel overwhelmed sometimes. Sure I feel like I just.can' some days. Yet when that weakness wells up within me, a Courage stronger than my fears calms the storm and I know that God has me right where He wants me...serving, giving, laughing, loving--living.

And in that role, I flourish. In that role, I find freedom.

"So the woman who accepts the limitations of womanhood finds in those very limitations her gifts, her special calling--wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom..." Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman, pg. 23

Courage. Hope. Faith. Grace. Wings.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

This is the path my feet have been set upon. Not all get this path. But I do. And I'll keep may not be 30 and Flirty but...I'd say, by God's grace, it's thriving.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Entering In

One thing I've noticed about myself is that I have a tendency to downplay/pass over some of my childrens' concerns simply because I feel I don't have time for them. And really, the urgency of the moment tries very hard to convince me of this fact! No sooner do I kiss a scraped knee than do I hear crying from the other room from someone over something else! As a survival tactic, I've learned to tune out the seemingly "unimportant" and focus on the BIG deals, like broken bones, blood and tantrums, and pass off the little bumps and bruises as "no big thing." Of course. No one would fault me for this right?! I mean, I've got to direct traffic as best as I can and sometimes, this is what needs to happen.

As much as I agree that some things do need to be downplayed a bit, (no one loves to be around a child who has been coddled way too much by their mom) I'm still trying to learn major balance in this area. It's hard. And I'm also coming to understand that's it's probably better to error more on the side of compassion rather than ignorance because our children are in a relationship with us-they're not robots who are expected to give a certain outcome.

This last week was another opportunity for me to learn such things. Over the course of the week, each child, one by one got pink eye. Aahhhh...the cursed goopy eye. And by Wednesday, I had caught it. Luckily I had eye drops on hand and was able to administer them early to the boys so their eyes never got so bad. Nevertheless, because I was so busy monitoring them, pink eye took me by surprise and I got it pretty bad.

And let me tell you, after a few days of it, I felt miserable. Downright, I want my mom, miserable.

One of the days my left eye was almost swollen shut and goopiness was pouring out of it at regular intervals. Disgusting, I know. And in that moment of pushing through and keeping everyone going, it was as if God gave me a little glimpse into what my children go through when they get these sort of things.

It's uncomfortable. It's gross. And it hurts. Plain and simple. And they want their mommy.

I even have the advantage of experience which tells me logically that it will go away soon. They don't have that. And I still expect them to keep going for the most part because I don't really think that these things are THAT big of a deal.

These situations are the perfect opportunity for God to get a hold of my heart, set my feet back on the right path and remind me of grace and compassion. This is me "entering in" and seeing for myself what they must be experiencing.

I think one of the main reasons I can pass things off is because I simply have to prioritize. "Okay, him wanting me to see that tower isn't as important right now as the baby screaming to be fed. I can see it in a minute." I must make choices. There are a lot of them and one of me. How do I manage? How do I dole out grace, love and joy to all of them all at the same time? But here's the deal-they're individuals. I see them all coming at me as one big group of needs, but they don't see themselves that way. They just see their one need. Rachel Jankovic beautifully states this in her book, Loving the Little Years, when she says, "I have to adapt. It is not their problem...Most of the time the children do not know that what they are doing is overwhelming. This is because they do not forget that they are individuals." (emphasis mine) pg. 52-53

I have four little kids. But that's my problem, not theirs. I have to learn to deal with it gracefully. They don't. This is what God's given to me as their mom and He'll help me. It's not their problem. That means that even though I can be overwhelmed by all of their "needs" I still need to figure out how to reach them all, love them all individually and sympathize with their concerns because that's my job.

Sometimes, it takes a bout with a childhood illness like pink eye to put me in their shoes long enough to be reminded of this fact.

It's not fun but, it's effective.

Entering in...goopy eyes and all.

Thankful those eye drops finally started working.

And thankful for the reminder.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Let Love Cover It

Recently I was out with my children on a Saturday morning. We went to visit Daddy studying at Starbucks. When we pulled in, I noticed a Mom and her son sitting in the cheery sunshine right in the car next to us. On our way out, as I was loading everyone back in, I realized they were still sitting crime in that, just a bit unusual. They seemed cloaked in an awkward silence. But then, as I swung around to climb in on the other side, I heard a loud, hopeful voice booming across the parking lot-"Hi Clint! Hi! Hi! Are you hungry?"

And then I knew. I just knew.

It was his father. And this was a drop-off.

You know what I'm talking about-the drop-off. Mommy and Daddy don't want to see each other so they meet in some generic parking lot to exchange the very image of their shattered love, their son.

The realization hit me like a dead-weight. And my heart broke, right there in front of Starbucks because this sort of thing has become so normal for most people.

First I thought about the father and the pain he must feel over not seeing his own son on a daily basis. I could hear it in his voice...he missed his son so much. Then my mind flashed over to the son who probably feels caught in the middle and how much he must miss his Dad. Then I thought about my own sons and daughter and how they long to see their Dad come through the door every evening. What if that just ceased to be? What if he just stopped coming home at all? What kind of devastation would that cause in their little souls? And then I thought about the mother and if it was difficult for her to make ends meet. I don't know the statistic but, I've heard it said many times that divorce is the hardest, especially financially, on women and children. For all of the "rights" the women's movement fought for regarding no-fault divorce laws, you'd think they would have realized how negatively such a practice would affect women themselves!!

In a matter of moments, these thoughts ran through my head as I started my car. And I grieved for these people I didn't know and for those I have known who have been affected by divorce. Not one person is ever to blame in these tangled situations. Everyone hurts.

I'm not sure why it struck me so deeply at that moment but it did. After I pulled myself together, I glanced back in the rear-view mirror to the rosy, smiling faces of my four precious children and I knew.

Marriage is worth it. Sure it can be hard. Yes, I have to let go of myself.

But in that moment, I was reminded that I'm an adult and there are a lot of people who are invested in how I love their Dad in the good times and in the bad.

I better make it count. I better not let things slip.

But most of all, I must remember that when the hard times come, for they surely will, there is forgiveness and that true forgiveness manifests itself in having the courage to "let love cover it."

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8.

We all need this because we ALL fail. And even when I think I'm doing well I must ask myself, what kind of spouse am I being? Am I supportive? Am I loving? Am I respectful?

We can't buy into the lie that we have to fight for our rights or not "lose ourselves" in marriage. We've already lost ourselves in Christ. We don't have any rights anyway.

Even under the best of circumstances, marriage takes all of our dedication, courage, strength and perseverance. But it's worth it.

So, so worth it.

Keep short accounts. Give without looking back.

Let love cover it.