Wednesday, February 27, 2013


So, as you all know, I have four boys.  Four.  As a result, even though I am a girl myself, I am very much used to all things boy.  However, I do have one lone girl.  And even though I am a female, I forget how to deal with all things feminine when it comes to raising her.

One thing I noticed right off the bat with her is that she is quite good at a dirty look.  If she doesn't like someone or something, she can turn on that scowl quite quickly.  In fact, if she is crossed, her little fiestiness comes out like a lion.  It's like this side of her is just prowling around in her heart waiting for a chance to swipe and lunge at something.  Scary!

I also noticed that she has a penchant for over dramatization.  When she cries, she really cries.  Being as though I am a mom to four boys, I am not used to this crying.  I usually tell my boys to button it up quick or else.  No one wants a cry baby period- especially a boy cry baby!  But it isn't quite the same with her.  I do try and have her dry up her tears without much fuss, but the tender side of her needs to have some sort of resolution to her troubles.  She needs to feel heard.  This is also something I am getting used to as God continually reminds me of her frame.

But lastly, one of the main differences has come in how easily her emotions can take over her whole demeanor.  I understand this because I have spent my whole life trying to reign in and steer my own emotions in a good direction.  I may feel one way but that doesn't mean my feelings are reality.  Story of every woman's life eh?  I can't believe how important it is to start training a girl when she is young to differentiate between these things.

Enter sweet and sour.

This little phrase has become quite prevalent in our household lately.  I can't believe how much Elliana has taken to it.  When Elle is listening and being kind, I remind her how sweet she is being.  And we constantly talk about being sweet.  She usually pronounces it "suhweet".  "Mommy, I be suhweet NOT sour.  I want to be suhsweet."  And just the same, when she is having a horrible attitude, overdramatic or just plain nasty (which is very easy for girls to be I'm afraid), she is reminded not to be sour.

Recently I watched an exchange between her and another girl.  This girl is a great girl but the meanness so often seen in little girls had peeked out and Ellie came running to me in tears.  I was quickly brought back to grade school when there was a friend "mad" at me every other week.  Mom, how in the world did you get through that with me!  Anyhow, I was transported back to the mean girl world and was reminded how much I need to train this out of Elle.  She is fully capable of this, and I see it on a daily basis too, as it is part of her.  This is part of the curse.  Women are bent this way through and through whether we like it or not.  Of course Elle needs Christ to redeem her soul but she also needs practice rooting the sour out!

Sweet not sour.

Sweet not sour.

Sweet not sour.

If she can repeat that enough times throughout the day, maybe when she's old, she will remember it.

God knows, she needs to.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Baseball, Maxwell's Poetry and Hope

It had been a long day.  One of those types of days where you push through but your heart is weary.  Not just your physical body is tired but your spirit is waning too.  Yeah, like that.  We had spent the whole morning out at the baseball field for some last minute tryouts.  I had planned to be at a women's Valentine's Tea for church.  I knew Steve would be busy so I had arranged two different babysitters for the four older kids (thanks grandparents!) and was excited I could attend.  Saturday events have been hard for me to navigate for the last three years because Saturday is Steve's main study day.  So when I can make something, it's an extra special treat.
Big brother wanted to dance with his pretty baby sister!
On Friday I had unexpectedly gotten wind of baseball tryouts the next morning.  I hadn't gotten an email or anything about them.  So when I saw they were the next morning, I was down.  But they started at 9 am and the tea wasn't until 10:30 am.  I had hope that maybe I'd still be able to attend but would just be late.  I reworked things with both sets of grandparents and hoped for the best.
Woken up too early for a Valentine's Date with Daddy!
We showed up at 8:55 am ready to hit some balls and practice fielding.  Evidently the league wants the teams to be fair so that is why there has to be a tryout.  Around 9:15 people started showing up.  And people kept pouring in until about 10 am.  There were kids ages 7-12 in attendance.  Meanwhile, the kids and I went to the playground to get some energy out while we waited.

Inside I wanted to complain to someone.  I wanted to whine that I already had plans and waiting at the baseball field wasn't on my list of things to do that morning.  But my little seven-year-old has been waiting to play little league baseball for the last two years.  He loves baseball.  During baseball season, he listens to as many games as he can on the radio often falling asleep to the announcers calling the game.  I knew I had to put myself aside and just do this for him.  He couldn't be placed on a team unless we showed up.

So we waited.
We'll have to work on those moves :)
Around 10:15 they started tryouts.  And someone thought it would be a great idea to start with the biggest kids there.  There were about 20 kids in each age group except for Isaac's.  In Isaac's there were five.  FIVE!  But instead of getting the littlest ones out of there quickly, they started with the twelve year olds and worked their way down to the 7 year olds for the next hour and a half.

When we had been there about two hours, Isaac came up to me choking back tears and said, "Mommy, this isn't very much fun."  He wasn't being bratty, he was just disappointed.  He thought he was going to play baseball and instead of getting to play, he was constantly told to stay out of the way while the big kids played.  He thought that little league was going to be like that all of the time.  I held him close to me, told him I understood what he meant but that this was just a silly day, it wasn't going to be like this once he was on a team and that mommy didn't like to wait either but we had to.
My oldest is getting so big and handsome ...almost too much for me to bear.
From that moment on I knew my attitude must be impeccable.  I prayed for strength because inside I was pretty disappointed too.  It was clear I wasn't going to make the tea.  I was still going to drop the kids off with grandparents and get some quiet time that afternoon so I tried to focus on that.

There was definitely a voice inside whispering that this wasn't my job, that Steve should be there with all of the kids and I should be at that tea!  Sports is his area anyway.  Because of the frustrating circumstances, I wanted to give in to it.  But I've been down that road's poison.  And that poison can take all of us out quick.  So I fought it.  No, this is OUR choice.  This is the way it has to be for just a little bit longer.  We're almost done.  Yes, it was messing with my plans, but God knew that.  This is what God had for me today.  As a parent, my needs/desires come last, that's just the way it is.  I'm a grown-up now.  This is my responsibility and not anyone else's.
Valentine's workshop...this kid kills me-enough said.
Isaac was the last batter of the whole try-out.  He hit a couple of balls and it took about 5 minutes.  Three hours, no tea for me, for five minutes.  Okay...I took a deep breath and was onto the next thing.

I dropped the kids off with grandparents, had some lunch in town with my parents (which revived me a bit) and then drove home.  My attitude was doing better but my spirit was tired.  I quietly prepared for our Sabbath meal coming that evening and soaked in the still house as the little ones slept.  Right before dinner we picked up Steve from studying and then all sat down.  When it came time in the liturgy for Steve to talk about me, he went to his backpack and got his notebook out.  Being an unusual move, I had no idea what he was doing.
Our architect at work
He rifled through the various math notes scribbled here and there full of symbols and numbers until he got the page he was looking for and then he read these words to me:

Trust me Spring is very near
All the buds are swelling
All the glory of the year
In those buds is dwelling

What the open buds reveal
Tell us life is flowing
What the buds still shut, conceal
We shall end in knowing

Long I lingered in the bud
Doubting of the season
Winter's cold had chilled my blood
I was ripe for treason

Now no more I doubt or wait
All my fears are vanished
Summer's coming dear though late,
Fogs and frosts are banished

-James Maxwell (A poem written to his wife)

Steve didn't write those words but James Maxwell did (the guy he is doing his thesis on).  Who ever said mathematicians can't be poets??  I hadn't even been able to tell Steve much about our disappointing day.  But I needed to hear those words.  God knew I needed them.
The One my Heart Loves
Trust me Spring is very near....

All the buds are swelling.

The tears slid down my cheeks.

Summer's coming dear though late  

Fogs and frosts are banished.

He then reminded me that we were so close and he was so proud of me.  I needed that encouragement.  I needed him to acknowledge the fact that my muscles were straining and even seeming to fail in these last miles of the marathon.  I needed him to understand that it wasn't always easy for me.  Not because I needed to complain but simply because I needed him to know me.

It had been a long, weary day and it was hard  for me to see past myself.  But these words, from my left brained, mathy husband (written by a math genius) spoke to this right brained mama's heart and I knew-it had been hard.  But I had been where I needed to be that day.  And soon, this race would be run.  There would be others but this one would be over.

Those words comforted me...God knows me.  God cares.  Steve knows me.  Steve loves me.  We're going to finish this well.  And in that moment, God in His kindness, had reminded me of what was coming.  And getting a glimpse of the impending spring was just the hope my weary soul needed to carry on. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

James Maxwell and Some Personal Redemption

This past week everyone has been sick, including myself.  It's not just been a regular cold either.  It's a pretty nasty one with lots of snot and lots of coughing!  Even the baby has it now which always makes me nervous.  I've had two babies get RSV in the past.  So I've been watching him like a hawk.  This morning I'm home from church with him and Caleb as they convalesce a bit.  Poor little baby needed to get a good nap in his own bed!

I know I promised a post on that chocolate cake.  It simply is divine.  And it will come.  But for now, I'm going to have to shift gears.  Too much has happened since then and I wasn't able to comment on it until now!  The biggest thing going on in our house right now is Steve's final project on mathematician and physicist James Maxwell.  Hang with me here.

Currently Steve is smack dab in the middle of writing his Final Oral Examination Project (a fancy and deceiving way of saying thesis).  Way back when he started at Texas A & M, we thought he wouldn't be doing a thesis but rather a final, cumulative exam.  And boy was he elated.  He doesn't care to write long papers and I don't care to be up late with him cheering him on while he does!  So when he emailed his graduate committee at the beginning of this semester about what he should be studying for his final exam in April, they wrote him back that he had to pick a topic that he didn't have any prior coursework experience in, research it, write it up, present it and then defend it.  That's their oral exam.  So much for not having do a thesis.  Sneaky little devils.

For a week he agonized over it.  He couldn't come up with a topic.  I didn't want to press him about it but I also knew that he needed to decide soon because he only had two months to do it.  And he is also in his last grad school class, he works full-time and has five kids.  I'm hyperventilating just thinking about it all.  After a few conversations, he finally had an idea and it was a good one.

There are two scientists who are personal science heroes of his.  They are Faraday and Maxwell.  Faraday proved the relationship between electricity and magnetism experimentally.  However, he did not have the Math genius to prove it mathematically.  But Maxwell, slightly younger than Faraday, did.  He had both the physics and math genius to tie it all together.  Both were geniuses.  Without them, we wouldn't have electricity, computers, modern day engineering, etc...Maxwell proved Faraday's findings with four partial differential equations.

Being a Physics teacher helps Steve have a good grasp of the physics/engineering behind the problem.  However, so far he has only known about it at a pretty elementary level (think basic bachelor's level physics).  This thesis has opened up the door for him to explore the math at a much more complicated level.  And he is absolutely, positively FASCINATED, riveted and entrenched.  To him, the whole thing is incredibly beautiful.  James Maxwell and his story has enchanted him and I couldn't be happier.  What a great way to go out you know?!  He is really enjoying the project.  Phew!  I am sure I'll still be up with him at the end, helping him shape and edit his paper but at least it will be in something he is totally in love with.

It's also a great topic for him on another level.  It's totally redeeming.  Sometime soon I'll have to explain the journey that my husband has been on over the last ten years regarding his math abilities and schooling.  When he was younger and an undergrad at Cal Poly he did not do well in school.  Not because he couldn't.  There are many reasons including laziness, lack of maturity, etc...But one of the main reasons he did not do well is because he lacked the confidence to really try.  He was too afraid of failing.  Before, school was easy for him so when he got to college and had to put some effort in, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to do it (don't even ask me why!!!) and so he simply thought it would be better to not even try.  That way, when he failed, he at least knew it was because he didn't put an ounce into it rather than him putting his whole self in and still failing.  Of course his logic was faulty because if he would've put in just a bit of work, he would've done amazing.  But don't tell the mathy about logic...ahem.

When I met him, he was pretty much at his lowest point; he was switching out of electrical engineering and into liberal studies (he later switched from that to just pure mathematics which was a much better major for him!).  Anyhow, more on that journey later.  But when I met him, he was in a partial differential equations class and he not only was doing poorly, he was not even on the map.  In fact, he has often told me the story about this low point in his academic career when he happened to see the professor of that class on the bus one day.  The professor said to him, "There are people in the class who are doing poorly and then there is you."  I think that comment still hurts him to this day.  That class came as he hit rock bottom academically speaking.  So it is etched in his mind that he cannot do PDEs (partial differential equations).  And truthfully, even most mathematicians think they are positively horrible to deal with!

But these failure were not at all indicative of his actual abilities.  Time has shown that.  Last summer he had a class that dealt with the mathematical modeling of PDEs and so he had to get over his fears and deal with them.  He worked really hard and succeeded!  And now that he is older, wiser, more mature and much more confident, he has been able to jump in with both feet to tackle a subject with gusto that was insurmountable to him in his youth.

To be honest, it makes me, as his wife, fall on my knees and thank God.  I have labored for years to build confidence in him.  To show him I believe in him and that I love him.  And over time, my belief has slowly morphed into his own.  I'm thankful because it isn't too late for him.  He can still pursue his dreams to be a mathematician.  He can still stretch his mind to the utmost.  And over time, God has worked with him on his character.  And that work, though painful, has enabled him to fly.

So we end on a high note.  James Maxwell.  Electromagnetism.  Michael Faraday.  Partial Differential Equations.

Steve's beauty from ashes.