Friday, September 30, 2011

Learning to Fail

I have an oldest child who hates failure. Hates it. He's not excellent in every area but he tries to be. For instance, one of his buddies is a really fast runner. He beats Isaac nearly every time they race. It's hard for Isaac, but he keeps trying. He is persistent and will still race even though he knows he's not the fastest. This is good and I'm glad that he deals with these situations. But in school, that is where he does excel. School challenges him and fascinates him. And it keeps him on toes as he tries to learn more and more and get better and better at all the different subjects. He aims high and often isn't disappointed.

Although I am glad that he works really hard, it's also important for him to learn that we all make mistakes. We just can't be perfect all the time. Life isn't that way and people aren't build that way. We have to extend grace to ourselves and others.

This is where he struggles. Mostly with himself.

Yesterday he had a very difficult time with a spelling test. The last few weeks he had been getting 100%s on the pre-test which meant he didn't have to take the real test on Friday. He was really happy about that and worked hard at practicing. And these aren't easy words people. They're really hard. Where and were...on the same test! Psalm...island, they, does, brush, and so on. They don't all "follow the rules" as he will inform me, so there is a lot to remember. They're tough!! (We're glad it's tough though because it pushes him and he needs to be challenged!! All kids do!)

He's also still learning the whole process of taking a spelling test. The words aren't repeated at the end and he has to number, as well as write. To a little six-year-old who is still remembering how to write his letters perfectly, it's a lot to get done. So sometimes, it's easy to fall behind and miss a word. It happens at times at home when we practice, and occasionally it happens at school.

Yesterday's test was the review test. So even though he had seen all of the words before, there were 40 of them. That's a lot of remembering and numbering. When he got half way through the test, he had fallen a bit behind and missed a word. Once he did, tears began streaming down his face and he began to panic. Panic. He couldn't miss a word...that meant he wouldn't get 100%! The tears turned into sobs and his very sweet teacher tried to console him that it was just a practice and he'd get another chance the next day. But he couldn't pull it together. He had wanted to get them all right. Since it was the middle of the spelling test and after numerous attempts to get him to dry up his tears, she had to ask him to sit outside in the hall until he could calm down. He did calm down and came back to finish up. At that point though, he had missed quite a few.

When this story was relayed to Steve and me, I was so thankful for it. I know that sounds funny, but I was. First of all, the school Isaac goes to is so excellent so I knew that he was in good hands. I was thankful his teacher was there encouraging Isaac to ask God to help him gain control and praying for him. I was also thankful that he had experienced a failure in an area that he normally excels in. Since he already has that bent toward trying to be "perfect" it's so good for him to see that he's not and that it's okay. We all need grace. That's why Christ came in the first place.

Steve had a good talk with him last night and he re-took the test today. I could tell he was doing better when he climbed in the car and said, "Mom, my spelling test went great. I only missed two."

I want him to aim high because many times, he will succeed. His determination and drive are wonderful character traits to possess. But I also want him to know he will fail. And I want him to learn to walk himself through that whole process even when we're not there. Because like yesterday, we weren't around to coach him. He had to do it himself and so often in his life, he will have to learn to deal with his failures gracefully all on his own.

Often, when I'm thinking about an area that needs work with one of my kids, I'll add on ten to fifteen years and think to myself, "What would this (insert anything) look like at that point in their lives?" And I'm always compelled to be thankful for the lessons they are facing now so that when they are older, they will have at least have experience with those particular hardships, whatever they are.

For Isaac, it's good to learn to fail to see that failure in itself doesn't have to be the end. It's what he does with it that really matters. This situation turned out all right. I'm glad he was able to recover and do much better today.

However, it's not easy for me to see him fail either. As his mama, it's hard to watch!! But, I guess I can say that I'll be thankful when another situation shakes out like this again.

It'll be good for both of us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Joshy is 3!

Our Joshua David is three years old today. It's funny how I thought Isaac was old when he turned three. But to me, Joshua is still so small. Yet even though he is our littlest boy, he has got the biggest personality. His presence in our family is unmistakable and irreplaceable. And this is something we don't take for granted.

We almost lost him at birth. His last two birthdays have been bittersweet for me as I was still trying to process through what happened that crazy Saturday night. Yet God works in our hearts and moves us to where they need to be in His time. And my heart needed to be thankful. Three years later, I can smile, laugh and recognize what a rescue that night was, even though it was traumatic for me.

This morning I got to kneel on the very bathroom floor, that three years ago today, was covered in blood, to thank God that He had mercy and gave us our son. I don't know why He did. He doesn't always and this is something I am very aware of. Yet, for some reason God chose to intervene and save him and save me.

It was a perfect gift. Joshua is a perfect gift.

That's why he is Joshua..."Saved By The Lord."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Case in Point

In order to juxtapose my last post with the heavily weighted male side of our house, this is what occurred last evening.

A little glimpse...

Right before bed, Caleb came up to me and gently but firmly dug his little chin into my arm. Before I could remind him he was being too rough with me, he looked at me fervently and said, "Mom, I'm ready to fight. I'm ready."

Instead of laughing in his face about the cuteness he was exuding (especially because he was, I bit my lip and then said, "Well then, go find Dad. I'm sure he'd love to fight you."

And so he did.

All three of them did in fact.

Every weapon in the house was out. They were running, screaming, punching, kicking and wrestling around like crazy men. One of their favorite games is to throw stuffed animals at their Dad, which he promptly pelts them back with. It was absolute chaos. But it always is. It never fails that someone is crying for a minute because they got knocked around just a bit too much. That's usually when I give Steve "The Look" that basically says, "Did you have to tickle him that much?!!" Steve always "looks" back and says, "He's totally fine." And within a few seconds, they're back and ready for more.

At one point, Elliana was catching the energy for a bit so I sent her in to investigate just to see how she would handle it. She made it into the playroom where they were, saw the madness, threw me a little look and then side-stepped them every so carefully to go play with her kitchen. But not without giving her Da Da a little pat on the head first. That was her best shot people.

I about died laughing. And I couldn't believe this beautiful material was unfolding right in front of me, especially since I had just written about femininity.

The differences are just stark. And I love it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Distinctly Feminine

So as you all know, I have a lot of boys. Three of them to be exact. And they all came in order. So for five years or so, all we did was boy. Boy, boy, boy. And more boy.

When Elliana joined our family, I knew she would be different. But I wasn't quite sure how. The first year I noticed a few things, besides the obvious, that she did differently than the boys. One of those things is that she babbled. A lot. My boys babbled, but nothing like her. She babbled all.the.time. It was like she was trying to have a heart to heart while getting her diaper changed. The other thing I noticed is that she enjoyed eye contact much more as well. She wanted us to look at her and smile. She studied our faces and relished in our reactions. She needed it. She needed that security. Both of these differences made sense. She's a girl. She's talkative and relational. Duh!

They especially made sense to me because well, I am a female myself.

But now that she's been getting a bit older and moving into toddlerland, I have started to see even more, that who she is, really is how she is wired and not simply the result of "conditioning".

Do you remember Psych 101 where we were taught that our gender is merely a result of our conditioning? I remember sitting in the PAC lecture hall at Cal Poly listening to a professor drone on how our gender is conditioned into us by our parents and not by our biology. While there might be some conditioning going on, I believe (and did then as well) that essentially we were created male and female and that our differences were a result of original, creative wiring, not our environment. I remember thinking then it was all a bunch of bunk. Now I'm totally convinced.

If anything, this little girl has been "conditioned" to be boyish because we mostly have boy toys, she has three big brothers and her parents have been in boy mode for so long that half of the time we refer to her as "buddy." (Slowly we're getting more used to calling her "Miss" and using the pronoun "she").

Yet despite her "nurture", she is still explicitly girly. Let me give you a few examples. We have about five hundred books. We have maybe five that are girly. I can't tell you how she finds them. They're like a needle in a haystack. But she does. And she brings those ones out for me to read to her, time and time and time again.It amazes me. She's attracted to them. I didn't even remember we had them. She found them and she just knew...those are girl books and I want to read them!!

We have one little tiara. That's the extent of our girl dress ups for right now (it's only a matter of time). But when we put that simple tiara on her head, she lights up and smiles from ear to ear. She just KNOWS it's bling. She knows it makes her look beautiful. She innately knows it. And she wants it. I didn't show her that. I definitely don't go around wearing a tiara.

She got a kitchen for her for her birthday from both grandparents and us. That is the one toy she goes back to over and over and over again. Did I mention we have every kind of train, lego, car race track and building toy you could think of? Yet, she wants her kitchen, every time.

I've also noticed that her whole make-up emotionally is just really different. She's softer, gentler, more emotional and more timid. When she gets hurt, she cries for longer and wants to be held closer. She gets scared more easily and she gets her "feelings hurt" when she is told, "No." My boys never got their feelings hurt. They might have been mad when they were given a boundary, but they were never hurt about it.

The more she grows, the more distinctly feminine she becomes. Since I have so many wild reeds, it's really easy to spot a rose. Yet, her femininity complements her brothers tremendously. She brings out a gentleness in them they had never known before just by being herself.

By being distinctly feminine.

I'm starting to think all of those crazy psychologists need to spend one afternoon with my crew. If they did, they would have to throw all of their theories about gender out the window.

There's so much confusion in our day about male and female. But God really made it simple. We shouldn't try and be something we're not. It goes against our very nature. I am a female. My husband is a male. We were designed for different purposes and are wired totally differently. Together, we're an amazing picture of God's ultimate creativity and grace.

God made us different. And it's okay. In fact, it is truly beautiful.

We're so thankful that Elliana's presence reminds us about the softer side of life.

We love our Elliana.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Good Reminder

Saturday night we got to go celebrate one of our dear friends who just completed his Master's Degree. It was a beautiful night of friends, remembering the hardships, glorying in the triumphs and being thankful for God's provision along the way.

For us it was a good reminder.

This friend and other good friends before him as well, finished his Master's with a family in tow. And he did it well.

God extended grace. God provided for the many details. God gave the success earned.

It was truly a time of celebration and we were glad to be there.

As we drove away, I looked at Steve and said, "What a great reminder as we're almost halfway done with your Master's. We'll make it. It's going to continue to be difficult but we'll get there."

We're so thankful for our friends who have gone before us. Their finishing, their faithfulness is such an encouragement to us. At times it is such a steep climb, but God's grace will cover us.

We're thankful for accomplishments that deserve honor and celebration.

And we're thankful for what these accomplishments remind us of...God is faithful. God will provide. God will walk with us.

All in all, in light of yet another semester in full swing, it was timely.

It was a good reminder.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Boys Day Out

We have shared season tickets to the 49ers for a few years now and this last Sunday, it was our turn to go to the game. In a crazy moment, we decided to take all of the boys since Joshy could still get in without a ticket. He gets left out of so many things still due to his age so, since we could bring him, we wanted to do it.

It was tons of fun.

We left Elliana with Grandma for the day and off we went.

Our version of tailgating was leftover pizza, chips and juice boxes. If you bring juice boxes to pretty much anything, you're an instant hero. So if you add chips to the equation, you can basically be transformed into a super hero in two seconds flat.

Just call us Mr. and Mrs. Incredible okay?!

Spittin' image, I know.

The only bummer about the game, besides the fact that they lost their ten point lead in the fourth quarter and then lost in overtime, was that it was extremely hot.

And I mean HOT!

It's never that hot at Candlestick (San Francisco for you out-of-towners)...ever.

But yesterday it was.

The boys (all of us rather) endured the heat for nearly three hours with the help of lemonade, ice cream and frequent head dousings with the water bottle and then we had to call it quits. It was just too hot.

We left right at the beginning of the Fourth Quarter.

But we missed the crazy traffic and didn't have to watch the heartbreaking loss at the end. In n Out always helps too at these moments.

I was just thankful to have my hands free of the baby to be able to hold hands and cuddle my boys.

Regardless of the heat and the loss, it truly was an excellent day.

PS: Andy Dollahite, I know that you were gloating as you thought of us poor 49er fans yesterday but just remember, you had to wear the 49er jersey all those years ago...we'll get you guys next time!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A New Name

Toward the end of summer, one of Steve's colleagues who is the cross country coach, asked me if I would help out with Monte Vista's cross country team. After getting over the initial shock of- is she really talking to ME?, I quickly concluded that there would be no possible way I could pull that off. The last thing I want to do to Steve on a regular basis, is dump all four children on him as soon as he walks in the door. Plus that would involve him coming home really early, which just isn't possible. Occasionally him taking the kids right after work needs to happen for various reasons but, it's not the best case scenario. I politely told her, "No." and thanked her for even thinking of me.

But here's a confession. I always wished I had run cross country in high school. However, I didn't. I was too timid to try and I was almost always involved in the fall play (plus various choirs as well) which gave me an easy out. Nevertheless, I really could've pulled it off if I tried, but I didn't and I've always kinda regretted that.

Not a huge regret. Just a little one.

So when she asked me to help, it piqued my interest for sure and I was intrigued.

When we went away a few weekends ago, Steve asked me if I had ever gotten back to her about helping. I told him, "Yeah. I told her 'No.' pretty quickly." He looked aghast and asked me right away why I had done that. After I explained, he said, "Well, I couldn't help everyday but, I'd be willing to do it once a week."

I was shocked....stunned. And then I grew excited.

We decided I would help on the same day that my mom comes (she comes once a week to help me) that way if Steve couldn't get home right away, she would be there. She's actually done most of the work so far, as Steve has had some things going on, but they're going to tag team it for the next few months. (I love you Mom!)

I've only been able to help out for a few weeks but I have been having the best time. The kids are so great and it's fun to get to know them a bit as we run. When the first one called me Coach Dauphin, I about keeled over and died it was just too funny!! But in all seriousness, it's really blessed me-a lot.

I think that for the last six years I've been so focused on what was before me-lots of kids, a house to run and a very handsome husband!! And that's the way it should've been. But lately, since I don't have a nursing baby, I've been able to venture out in very small ways here and there and it's been really fun. I'm not saying that I've been "oh so oppressed" and "now I finally get to do something for myself" (dripping sarcasm here). But I think I've just been able to really enjoy some extras here and there. And since it's been awhile, I've been able to be really thankful for the time.

So I guess I've got a new name to add to the list...Coach Dauphin. The sound of it just makes me howl.

It also makes me smile-quite a bit.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I don't know about you but, I have a hard time just keeping things simple. Kinda like the magazine Real Simple. Have you ever read that? It basically masquerades as a manual to keep your life simple but really, all it does is make you restless because you don't have time to keep up with all of their "simple" decorating ideas or meal plans!

Most of the time my lack of simplicity manifests itself in the kitchen. We can't just have grilled cheese. We have to have grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup. For others it's in their crafting/decorating abilities. For me, I come up with a picture in my head about what something is supposed to be like and then, when things get difficult, I'll mow down anyone in my path to get it done. Just ask my husband. When I'm running around trying to get my vision a reality he says I'm "In Mode".

Some would euphemistically call that determination.

Others would realistically call it selfishness.

And if I'm being fair, I'd call it a little bit of both.

There are seasons of time that my love for the elaborate can be coddled and even celebrated a bit with fancy dinners and long-awaited house projects. And then there are times that I realize very quickly that if I don't pull out the Kraft Mac n Cheese, there will be no dinner and everyone will be starving. Usually at these moments, there is a wake-up call.

It's like God very politely taps me on the shoulder and says emphatically, "What are you doing?" To which I reply, "Ummm...making dinner?" He then responds with, "Oh, I see. Did you happen to notice the 10 people you ran over while doing so?" My look in response-huh?, says it all as my Ratatouille boils over in the background. He then whispers, "Simple my child. Simple."

Whatever! I can do it! See I can wash dishes with one hand, stir soup with another, keep the toddler from falling into the open oven with baking bread with one foot, and stomp on one of the million flies let in by older boys with the other foot. Ha! Look what I can conquer!! It's like the mommy equivalent of patting my head and rubbing my belly at the same time. Pure and utter coordination.

Although it's true that God made me to multi-task, He did not make me to plow through life. My husband and children especially do not need a lesson from me in rototilling either. Yet, sometimes, during these little years when I feel like I want to get back to "normal life", that is when I just want to sprint. Who cares who is in the way! I just want to go.

I've been getting hit with this lesson yet again (you'd think I'd have learned by now) as Steve has started back at Texas A & M. Things that were easy for him to pull off over the summer, just aren't that important now. And the more complicated I make things, the less likely everything will come out well. Even if the appearance is that all went well, I probably had to step on someone close to me to accomplish my goals. It's just not worth it.

Women are incredible in their talents and gifts. God has created us to take on so much and has given us the unique feminine strength to do it. He's also called us to work hard and make the best of what He's given us. But we love first. We love as He first loved us. That has to trump everything else. It's hard to be loving when you're literally knocking down others in an attempt to reach your goal. So much of learning to be a mother is figuring out how to wade upstream in the rapids without giving up. Yet, a wise, seasoned mother knows how to do this without losing anyone in the process. This is still something I have yet to master.

It's also difficult to remember that the things seeming to hold us back won't be around forever because the day in day out routine can seem monotonous. But those crooked smiles and grubby hands definitely won't be there for long. Our lives are but a breath. I'm sure, when my husband is out of grad school, heck even when the kids are grown, I'll have the time to make gourmet meals, train for marathons and volunteer to save the world. But for now, I better keep it simple.

I can aim for the beautiful, the perfect, and know I'll probably miss it. It doesn't mean I'm a failure. It just means that over the years I've become a realist....and even closer to becoming an optimist. For someone who has spent most of her life a pessimist, I think that's moving in the right direction.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This May Be the End of Me

So, one of the activities that the two boys do play very well together, is what they call a "camp out". Oh, how nice. And as much as I do want to encourage them in that area, this activity drives me a bit bonkers. Nevertheless, most days, I do let them do it.

One of the reasons it drives me crazy is that Caleb spends all this time building the camp out and then Elliana spies it and wrecks it in five seconds flat. There's never a good space to do it and keep her out of it. So, we go through a cycle of Caleb building feverishly and Elliana leveling it. There are tears, frustration and then a determination to try again from Caleb. Joshua just laughs about the whole process in the carefree way that he does, and Elliana looks at me like, "What mom?" Hmmm......

But truth be told, it's their favorite game right now and has been since Isaac started school. And they work together while doing it. So even though they pull out nearly every blanket we own, are very inefficient at cleaning it up (requiring me to be like a drill sergeant), and there are multiple near meltdowns over the whole process, I still let them do it.

Am I insane?

Yup, I think this confirms it.

I've definitely got some screws loose.

Oh well, at least they're being friends.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


It was just one of those mornings you know. Everybody was fighting. Everyone was crying. There was hardly any listening going on and I was about to go hide in the bathroom. I'm not quite sure what triggered the madness. And really, it doesn't matter. Even if I was the perfect mom, these days would still come. I've seen mornings like that more times than I'd like to admit and I know they will continue as long as my children are under our roof. It's just life.

But amidst the unusual chaos (in my house there is usual chaos and unusual chaos), I did discover a little gem. I had been wanting to try this for awhile after hearing/reading about it somewhere. I don't even remember where. So if it's your idea...sorry for stealing it! But after many attempts to get the two boys to play nicely with one another, I decided to tie their hands together and make them travel as "one" for a period of time. All of my boys are different but, I want them to grow up to be best friends. So whatever it takes to encourage that, I'll do.

I can't tell you how well it worked! They were forced to work together. And really, they got along swimmingly (while being attached that is). I think one of the main pet peeves of all parents is sibling infighting. Isn't it just horrible?! Isaac and Caleb play pretty well together now. They don't butt heads a lot. But Joshua and Caleb are a whole different story. Somedays they will do great. But most days, there is a decent amount of fighting. There's just something about the dynamic of three boys that makes the second and third naturally at odds. I think it's a lack of a leader among other things. My prayer for them this year, while Isaac is at school, is that they'll become inseparable just like Isaac and Caleb are. That is really my prayer.

And I guess, today they were. Whether they liked it or not.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yes, Please!

So I've been searching for an excellent coffee cake recipe for what seems like ages now. And I had a few requirements. First and most importantly, it had to taste good. It had to have a moist cake and be better than Bisquick. Because really, Bisquick coffee cake is pretty decent so, if I was going to bother with a homemade one, it had to beat it. Secondly, the ingredients had to be ordinary stuff I'd have on hand. No fancy extras or tons of exotic nuts. The ingredient list had to be simple. And lastly, it had to be easy to whip together.

So I've tried many recipes over the years and they've just been okay. The cake was usually soggy, not moist, after being laden down with an overly crunchy topping. To be honest, most of them were just pretty lame. Good thing they went so well with coffee because something had to wash them down. I walked away from every recipe fairly disappointed.

Until this last weekend.

It was that time again...the monthly church potluck. Yet due to our church meeting a bit earlier now than before, the leadership decided to try something new and have everyone bring brunch food. I had planned scones but realized that they weren't going to make enough. So late Saturday night I went through my pantry and trusty old King Arthur Flour cookbook and finally settled on trying Crumb Coffeecake. I thought it'd be another bust but figured oh well, the teenage boys will eat it!

I started it at 9 pm and it was done baking a little before 10 pm. Not bad. And let me tell you, it was so good. I was surprised. I mean, seriously, I was surprised. I was really expecting it to be another disappointment. Coffee cake just isn't worth making unless it is excellent. But I think this recipe is worth it. It's a triple threat: it's easy to prepare, it has a simple ingredient list and tastes amazing.

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures.

But try it and you'll know what I mean.

Crumb Coffeecake

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the preferred pan(s). 2 8-inch round cake pans or a 9 x 13 pan.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract (I happen to have this but I know it's a more obscure ingredient-worth it though, I think)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream (can use lower fat version, cake just won't be as rich-you could even try vanilla yogurt)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
1 tsp baking powder

For the crumb:
Whisk together all dry ingredients. Melt butter and add the extracts to it. Mix well. Then add butter mixture to the dry ingredients until it's mixed thoroughly. Set aside.

For the cake:
Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat between additions. Scrape down bowl and then add vanilla and sour cream. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add to the butter/sour cream mixture, mixing until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan(s). Bake 20-25 minutes for the 8-inch rounds or 30-35 minutes for the 9 x 13. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from oven and let cool on pan.