30 September 2010

Of Trust

Recently our small group Bible study, as previously mentioned, is reading through David Platt's Radical.  The book, in general, seems to be a complete reiteration of thoughts and feelings I have had for quite awhile regarding our current church culture (not to say the culture in my particular church, but in North American churches as a whole) (side note: I wish there were a more precise translation for the Spanish term estadounidense [meaning "of/from the United States], because that's really the word I'm wanting to use, but I digress . . .).  Platt's work emphasizes rescuing our Christian faith from the grips of the American Dream - a trap most all of us fall into.

Our assignment for the week was to read chapter 3, which really brought up some feelings I had actually written a blog about more than two years ago (note, if you follow the link you will find my first routinely written-in blog, so enjoy).  This chapter discusses the extraordinary power of God and the church's general failure to rely on such to grow their congregation, tending to rely, instead, on our own power and that of our preacher, band, facilities and programs.  Not that God can't be in those, but we need to make sure He is and we're not running ahead with our own "good ideas."

He mentions in this chapter the life of George Muller (if you haven't heard of him before, do some investigating, it's amazing!) who ran a large orphanage operation based solely on support provided by God - with no fundraising done on his part.  Platt quotes Muller's journal:

"The first and primary object of the work was (and still is:) that God might be magnified by the fact, that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers whereby it may be seen, that God is faithful still, and hears prayer still."

(further side note: I've gotta love this man for his perpetual over-use of commas - a plight from which I also often suffer)

In the margin of the our copy of the book I wrote: "Flies in the face of 'God helps those who help themselves.'" (Again, for further reading on my thoughts on this phrase, visit the aforementioned blog.)  This man seems to get it - the "it" here being what I think so many self-sufficient Christians are missing - a full reliance on God.  A reliance that doesn't say, "I've got to get to work on my own if I want a blessing from God." But a reliance that knows God helps those who have made a purposeful decision to not help themselves but, instead, to trust fully in His provision and His almighty power (which, yes, often calls us to action, but only to action guided fully by His calling).

"Lord I come to You
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I've found in You
And Lord I've come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love

Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side
And as I wait
I'll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your spirit leads me on
By the Power of Your love"  - Geoff Bullock

29 September 2010

Of Free Will

Well, you knew it would happen didn't you?  I post about how great my kids sleep and then Micaiah goes and digs her heels in today and absolutely refuses to nap.  I was at my wit's end.  She's never done this before (ok, I guess she kind of did when she was ready to cut out her morning nap, but we are NOT giving up nap time altogether, yet; we're just not) and I had no idea how to handle it.

And I'll just confess it right here, I probably did not choose the best way.

But that's not why we're here. 

There was a point during the three-hour struggle when I did nothing but sit in her room as physical motivation for her to do nothing more than simply lay there.  And I thought bitterly that if there were any possible way in this world for me to physically force sleep on her, I would have done it. 

There are many things I can "force" (or highly motivate) her to do.  I can shove food in her mouth when she refuses to eat (definitely a last resort but I'd be lying if I said it hasn't happened).  I can pick her up and carry her to her room if she digs in her heels.  I can swat her bottom until she picks up her toys. 

I cannot tape her eyes shut (ok, I could, but there's a line and DHS scares me) and even if I did, I still can't do anything to make her body shut down and sleep.  I just can't.

And that frustrates me.

It made me think, though, of how God must feel when I deliberately ignore His calling - or at least procrastinate (for years).  Now, it's different with God.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  Yet, He, in His infinite wisdom, granted us free will.  And, for some reason, He never seems to revoke the privilege.  But, oh how it must vex Him when he does everything short of making my arms move of their own power and I simply refuse to follow His command.  And how much more so for Him because He's not just dealing with one stubborn two-year-old but a world filled with disobedient, obstinate, selfish beings who constantly kick at his purposes - even those who claim to follow Him.

"Lord, please forgive my disobedience.  May You always find me faithful and willing."

28 September 2010

Of Living in the Moment

I have been wasting so much time.

My little Emmett man is growing up so fast and I've been missing it in keeping up with his big sister.  So today, in recognition of the fact that he will only be this small for so long and it will be a very short time before he won't be at all interested in snuggling - and as of now he has no choice - I determined to be more deliberate in my "Mommy and Emmett" time.  I also decided this would be a great time to take "Just Because You're Cute" pictures - which we're just not doing often enough for him.

These are the results (please note: I love the fact that his hair typically resembles a cockatoo):

Man I love this guy!

In other news: Micaiah had her two-year check-up today.  She's doing great.  27lbs.  36 inches tall (3 feet!!!)

27 September 2010

Of Developing Personality

I think it is very interesting to note how early personality traits develop.  Micaiah was a little firecracker even in the womb (as designated by one frustrated nurse who couldn't keep up with her every move while trying to track her heart rate).  Her middle name, in fact, means "Little Fire." She has just always been a feisty one - sweet, but feisty.  Also, very organized and particular.  Right down to being born on her due date, she knows that everything has its place and wants to be sure to maintain that balance.  When she gets in trouble for holding something she shouldn't have, rather than just dropping it, she must put it back where she found it, and in the same position - sweet, but frustrating at times.

Now, Emmett hasn't had much opportunity to show his personality, but I can already tell he is much more mellow than his sister - more a follower than a leader.  The poor kid, if Micaiah's being born on time is an indication of her personality, Emmett's being induced to fit everyone's schedule already says so much about his future.  And then there's today. 

My little man rolled over today! 

I was not expecting it at all.  In fact, I'd been worried (not nail-biting worried but, "hey-maybe-we-should-do-something-about-that" worried) that he wouldn't do so anytime soon as the poor kid usually has to sit on the sofa so as to stay out of the way of a rambunctious big sister.  He doesn't get a whole lot of tummy time and when he does, it's usually filled with much crying or much sleeping - not so much action.  But I've been more persistent lately that my boy get his floor time in anyway - I would like if he could somewhat keep up with standard milestones.  So, today, I placed him on his belly and went about my business.  It wasn't until I discovered my daughter pressing on his tummy with her foot (yes, she got a spanking for trying to stand on her brother) that it occurred to me he couldn't be laying on his belly while his sister tried to crush his belly - he had rolled over! 

There was no big commotion, no leading up to it, no indication at any point before that he was even interested in trying to roll over.  I remember Micaiah trying so hard for weeks (or maybe days, I can't recall) to get it right.  In fact, she rolled over a couple of times at Christmas and then didn't perform an encore for another three weeks!  But it seemed like Emmett just thought, "You know, I think I'll roll over today." And he did.  Three times, actually.

He may be patient, he may be mellow, but my little man can do what he sets his mind to ;)

26 September 2010

Of Falling in Love

Earlier this week I recalled a song I had not thought of since I was in middle school.  The words became my prayer:

"Give me an undying love for you. Lord, won't You take me to the cross - I count it all as loss; please burn away the dross, so that nothing else remains . . . but an undying love for you."

And God is definitely answering that prayer.

I am currently in the midst of four life-changing studies.  At around 3:30am (or a little later) every morning, while feeding Emmett, I work on completing a workbook for a Bible Study on the life of David which I attend on Sunday evenings.  Nap time for the kids is Bible Study time for me as I dig into 1 Samuel for my Wednesday morning Bible Study.  Before going to bed, as Philip reads the latest installment of the Ender chronicles, I sit on my side of the bed eagerly continuing an advanced copy I received of Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still on depending on God with an audacious faith to fulfill an impossible purpose through my life (a book I wasn't so sure on in the beginning but now am reeling with the applications it has for my life).  And at some point during the week I read the next chapter of David Platt's Radical - daring me to abandon the American Dream in order to live life the way Jesus truly meant for it to be - in order to be prepared for Small Group on Thursday nights.

And I am LOVING it.  By the end of this week I have discovered that the more time I spend in God's Word, the more I can't get enough.  I thoroughly enjoy the fact that my time is currently so saturated with seeking after God.  In the meantime I have finally begun to take seriously a task with which He has been burdening me for years now - literally, years.  I have had no valid reason for not pursuing His calling for me other than that I did not believe it important - and I didn't know where God would take me with it.  So I ignored it.

It is amazing how the one decision to finally follow His will seems to have opened the floodgates for that undying love which I begged for only days ago.

I woke up this morning and, after a brief battle with bitterness which I handed over to God, I found I was thoroughly excited about going to church this morning.  And not for seeing friends or singing choruses, but for hearing more of the Word of God.  In fact, as we finished singing a few (amazing!) worship songs this morning, I felt a giddy feeling rising up inside - I was so looking forward to just hearing a sermon.  What would God teach me this time?!

Not to say that I haven't learned some amazing things in church over the years, but I can honestly say today was the first time I ever felt this thrill for the spoken message before it was even delivered.

God is doing a work in me.  And with each moment I feel more in love than I have ever been before.

"Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign" - Hillsong

25 September 2010

Of Field Trips

In honor of Free Museum Day, we invited Philip's sister, Dayla, to join us at Science Museum Oklahoma - the same place we celebrated last year's Smithsonian-sponsored Museum Day.  It was remarkable to me to think that when we were enjoying these exact same exhibits last year Micaiah was being carried by Daddy in the front-pack baby carrier and we had no idea that when we returned at the same time the next year Mommy would be carrying a three-month-old baby in her sling.  Oh the changes a single year brings.

This year we traveled the museum with a very independent two-year-old who liked any exhibit she chose herself and was not so impressed with the ones any adult tried to force on her.  That's my stubborn girl.

After an hour or so of carrying Emmett around, though, I was ready to sit, so we piled into the Science Today show where Micaiah clapped, screamed, hollered, jumped and danced along with all the big kids while we watched the "Scientist" blow things up - and she didn't mind the explosions one bit!

And then there was precious Emmett.  Each time the Scientist instructed the crowd to do something altogether, whether yell or clap at once, the poor little guy gave a little leap in his sling, eyes wide, looking around, while Momma kept one hand planted on the ear that wasn't already pressed against my chest.  Eventually, though, he fell asleep, so much so that by the loudest explosion that ended the show (which had me using one hand to cover his ear, the other to cover one of my own and Dayla's elbow covering my second) he barely flinched and his eyelids didn't even flicker.

That's my little man.

24 September 2010

Of Looking Back

You may or may not know that I am currently spear-heading the effort in our rather large church of implementing a church library to cater to the masses.  It is quite the undertaking and would be completely overwhelming if I weren't sure this was a task given to me by God alone.

Although I'm not gonna lie, the thrill of scanning barcodes for a couple of hours kinda makes me giddy.

Also not gonna lie, spending a few hours a week working on getting the hundreds of books that have been donated entered into our meager system would be a lot easier without one two-year-old running around and one three-month-old who would be a lot happier nestled in his Boppy on the couch at home rather than in a bouncy seat borrowed from the church nursery.

At times, when I'm about ready to pull my hair out after my daughter has brought me about the 20th book from the number invading the shelves which she has determined should be read to her that instant and my son is screaming his hungry head off, I smile at the fact that someday, years from now, we will have a thriving library and my children will be borrowing their own favorite books for the umpteenth time and I will look back on these days like today, forgetting the insanity and only recalling fondly the fact that she was a mere toddler running around with her sippie asking for barcode stickers for herself at the foundation of it all - and I will be astounded at how far we have come.

These are the visions, reminiscing from the future, which keep me motivated.

23 September 2010

Of Schedules

About a week before we had our first child, I, of the mommy-blog stalking type, read on a fellow Bison alumna's page about a book she had found which promised great things in convincing one's child to sleep through the night.  Because I like sleep I immediately found On Becoming Baby Wise at my local library and began ravaging through the pages. 

I did not make it all the way through by the time Micaiah was born, but out of desperation, spent every waking minute finishing the book before she was a week old - flipping the pages furiously as she cried in the background while I attempted to figure out what should be done to stop this crazy thing.

The book promised that if our children followed a scheduled-yet-flexible routine they would not only be sleeping through the night before we knew it, but they would also be content and feel secure in knowing they were well taken care of.  Happy babies, the author insisted, were no coincidence.

Now, you may be laughing and waiting for me to reveal just how wrong that little book was, or at least a little too bold in its statements, but you won't find that here.  No, we followed the guidelines in the book and within two months Micaiah was sleeping 8 hours a night and a month later she was sleeping 12 hours.  She never reverted to being a frequent waker, she naps wonderfully and, to this day, rarely argues about going to bed (and on super-cranky nights, she may cry, but she's out within five minutes).  We were always told what a happy baby we had and every time I remembered the statement in the book and secretly winked at the author.

Not wanting to take too much credit ourselves or too highly exalt the methods of the book, we reasoned that until we had another child it would be difficult to tell if it was the schedule that gave us a wonderful daughter (as far as sleep goes, anyway - our child is definitely not perfect!) or if we were merely blessed with a sweet temperament. 

And then came Emmett.

Before he came along I did a refresher perusal through my freshly checked-out library copy, just to make sure we remembered how things go (it's amazing that as a child reaches each new stage you completely forget the one before or how you got to where you are today).  And we were ready to go at it once again.

What we weren't ready for was how difficult it would be to establish any sort of routine when facing a solid month of in-and-out houseguests.  While we were so happy to be able to share our new little one with all who wanted to shower him with love, we found a routine to be absolutely impossible.

And while he was never horrible, our little man was a cranky little man.  He would be thrown into fits of rage, nearly inconsolable.  He would not nap (read the blog, you've seen it!).  He wore an already-tired momma out. 

And I began to wonder if this was just how life with Emmett was going to be. 

But as soon as we had our time to ourselves once again we began to implement the plan.  And I will have you know that I took a nap yesterday.  And I was able to do so because my children nap at the same time.  They do so every day.  Our little Emmett naps on a regular schedule, he eats on a regular schedule (but sleeps for 6-7 hours at a time at night) and he rarely ever throws a fit anymore - in fact, the only time he does is if it's time to lay down for a nap or time to eat.

Thus, I would officially like to endorse here and now the concept of scheduling your children, specifically as laid out in the aforementioned book.  I'm not sure I could survive without knowing when Emmett will eat next or knowing I will have at least an hour to myself during the day while my children sleep.  I will say, there are days, in the beginning of the process when it will be difficult and you'll question whether or not this is really worth it or if it will even work.  Keep trying!  Your sanity will thank you.

Now stepping off the soapbox.  Thank you and good night.

22 September 2010

Of Arrogance

Every Wednesday the Shawnee Rescue Mission hosts a lunch for the local struggling/homeless in a park across the street from the public library.  There have been many from our church who have gotten involved and, while providing aid in other ways, I have found multiple excuses to not be physically present.  Until today.  Today the excuses stopped (even though I kept trying).

After parking, I put Emmett in his sling, grasped Micaiah's hand and together we walked bravely toward the loud Christian music.  I'll have to admit - this was a big step outside of my comfort zone.  Don't get me wrong, I love to serve - service is one of my primary love languages - but I am not so good at ministering - striking up conversation, asking for prayer needs and altogether being a friend to those I don't know.  I am not typically an extrovert (shocking to some, I know).  But the main need on these Wednesdays for these people who have so little is a listening ear - a friend.

When I arrived I thought maybe I could find someone I knew and then weasel my way into a discussion they might already be having.  No such luck.  When I considered who I might be able to talk with, I found I was stuck.  I couldn't tell who was there to help and who to be helped.

And then I realized my problem. 

I was separating the group before I even got to know one person.  Us and them.  The haves and have nots.  I was there to befriend them - they need me.  That's what I had thought.  And I didn't want to offend the wrong person by assuming they were homeless when they were a mere volunteer like myself. 

And what would I say that would offend anyone?  Could it be an attitude of being talked down to?  Pity? 

Is that the attitude I need to have in any conversation with any person?


Even by the time I left I was having trouble remembering that we are all people - with no need for distinct groupings - one side of the serving line or the other - and my presence in that park was not life-changing to anyone - and that shouldn't be my goal - at least not by my own strength.  I was looking to my own leading rather than to God's.

Praying for improvement in my vision next week.

21 September 2010

Of Unrealistic Standards

As the youngest of three children, I know how it feels to be the semi-forgotten baby.  The one who doesn't have a hand-cross-stitched Christmas stocking made by Mom, who doesn't have the special quilt made by an aunt, who looked through four baby albums of her sister and yet was lucky to find three or four pictures of herself in a box, the one whose toys were never really hers and whose favorite books all had another sibling's name etched in the front.  I get it. 

It's not to say I was not loved or did not get things the others didn't as we got older, but I understand that when there are three children in the house ages four and under, someone is going to get the shaft, and it's probably going to be the one not running and screaming at the moment (or not running at the very least).

Thus, it has been my goal, since before motherhood even, that all of my children will be treated fairly.  I would not undertake a project for the oldest that I would not be able to keep up with for subsequent children.

Already I have failed miserably.

Currently Philip and I are finishing the renovation of a toy kitchen purchased at a garage sale back in May for Micaiah.  It's her birthday present.  Please don't feel the need to remind me that her birthday was a week and a half ago and I, therefore, fail as a parent for still not having given it to her.  I get it.  But there were some delays - some foreseeable (such as the birth of a new child and the follow-up care that requires), some unforeseen (weather, laziness, etc. - although I suppose I should, at this point in my life, always mark laziness under the foreseeable category) and I came to the point of deciding I'd rather it be done right than on-time - it's not like she knows the difference anyway.  Heck, she's still running around giving everyone birthday presents and singing the song to herself daily - she'll never know.

However, after the painstaking attention to detail required for the completion of this project and the time, energy, and unexpected finances expended - I'm not so sure how we'll be able to keep up the standard in the future. 

I can already see our poor fourth child on his/her birthday, "Happy Birthday, Honey!  Here's a cheaptastic toy we bought at K-Mart.  Hope you like it!  Now go play with your sister's kitchen - we worked hard on that."

20 September 2010

Daily Awards

And the award goes to . . .

Best Feature of Baby Snuggling:  When I pick him up and his legs curl under him, forming the tiny booty into the ideal position for cupping with one hand while snuggling the adorable one to my chest.  Perfection.

Best Workout:  While I've been enjoying the effects of both the WiiFit and my TaeBo VHS Collection lately, the award goes to dancing with my two-year-old daughter to the musical stylings of GRITS.  Gotta love a good hip hop beat to get those hips moving (and her little hips are too cute when they get going!).

Best Guilt-Inducing Telemarketing Script:  Winner - Children's Miracle Network - "I understand that it has been a rough year financially, but these children don't have very much time left.  Couldn't you just give something to bring a smile to their faces in their last days?"  Who doesn't love to feel like a heartless crusher of dying-children's dreams?

Most Disturbing Nursery Rhyme:  Winner - "Sing a Song of Sixpence" - Blackbirds baked into a pie?  And then they pop out of the pie to sing before pecking off the nose of the queen?  Suddenly Alfred Hitchcock's childhood is beginning to become clear to me.

Most Lucky Game of Scrabble:  I win the award by drawing all letters whose values were greater than 4 points - and using them deftly to ratchet up the score and beat my husband by 110 points.  (And don't listen to his claims he never wins - his pity parties sometimes cloud his memory.)

Sweetest Photo of the Day: The contenders . . .

Philip is cracking up because rather than repeating "Oink Oink," Micaiah is actually performing her own piglet grunt.
Micaiah's bath-time hair styles - done by Dad.

 But the Winner is . . .

Micaiah actually posed for this all by herself while I was trying to photograph her sharing her stickers with Emmett.

What an award-winning day!  For all those moments that weren't selected this time, let's not forget, it's just an honor to be nominated! 

19 September 2010

Of Foreigners

While searching through my Bible today, I noticed it opened easily to one spot in particular - a place where the binding was cracked a little and the pages were nearing separation.  Knowing this sign of wear must have indicated a particular location of interest to myself, I noted it was falling open to Hebrews chapter 11.

And I smiled to myself.

While many passages have struck my fancy more than others in one particular season or another, this chapter, I recall, was one I once read as regularly as once a week or more - inspiration, motivation in the form of reminders of those who were defined by their faith - saints that had gone before - the great cloud of witnesses.  I particularly like one of the closing verses, verse 38, which defines these "characters" as "men of whom the world was not worthy."

Oh to have that said of me.

Another favorite was in verse 13, where these men and women are declared, as the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates, "foreigners and temporary residents on the earth."

These definitions were how I wanted to live.

I thought further, today, about this concept of Christians, Christians living by faith alone, as foreigners on this earth.  How do we recognize a foreigner?  Sometimes they look the same as you or I, or the guy next door who, although his parents or ancestors may have emigrated from a distant land is as thoroughly ingrained in our culture as you or I.  But when we interact with a true "foreigner" we notice.  There tends to be an accent, even if just a tiny bit, a confusing of the idioms, an awkwardness in performing the daily customs of which we think nothing.  There's just something - often many things - that sets them apart, lets us know that they have not quite fully assimilated to our culture, our ways of living.

And that is how I should be, as a faith-motivated follower of Christ.  It should be evident to those around me that I don't belong.  This world is not my home.  I am a temporary resident who speaks differently, acts differently and is all-around awkward when it comes to the ways of the culture in which I reside.

Most times, though, that is not me.  I find I may be blending a little too closely, working on hiding my accent or performing the rituals that will make me a little more comfortable in this temporary abode.

Lord, let my faith define me and my love for You be ever-present in my speech, actions and daily living.  With all my heart, Angela.

18 September 2010

Of Bath-Time Buddies

We are so blessed.  Among many motivations behind this belief is the fact that our children love bath-time.  Or, in Emmett's case, it's not so much a love, yet, as an apathy.

Both he and his sister (after the first bath or two of their lives, anyway), have always been pretty content to be hygienic.  At his small age, we place the infant tub on our bathroom sink when it's time to suds up.  Now, this location has always been out of pure convenience for us, but we've noticed there comes a coincidental advantage as well, as both our bathrooms are equipped with a full mirror over the sink - so either locale allows our bathing babes (when infants only, not so much at the toddler stage) the privilege of sharing the event with what we like to call their "Bath-time Buddy."

After all, if that other baby isn't crying, why should they?  I'm sure they're just fascinated that there's another baby at all - and where does this other baby go when not being shampooed?  Or are they in a continual state of bathing?  All questions I'm sure they ponder for those hours outside of the tub when they're doing nothing but staring at the ceiling (or, if they're lucky, the rotating ceiling fan).

Now at Micaiah's age, her Bath-Time Buddy is nearly forgotten - well, maybe not.  She does get to see her old friend whenever she washes her hands.  At these times Micaiah is always sure to blow a kiss and wave good-bye when it's time to go - actions which always earn a respectful reciprocated response.  Such a sweet friendship.

Now, it's true - these buddies can be a bit of a bad influence.  Such as the times when they encourage splashing water all over Mommy during a bath or clapping sudsy hands during washing.  But they are just kids, after all.

And kids will be kids, reflections or no.

17 September 2010

Of Real Life

I had a thought the other day, underlined only by the fact that I just finished watching "Letters to Juliet" which ends (spoiler alert) with a man confessing: "I am madly, passionately (yada yada yada) in love with you."  The thought was - movies are not at all like real life. 

Now I know this may not seem like a ground-breaking revelation to anyone here, and, yet, it's something we (and I mean I) so often forget. 

Instead, we watch a movie - romances are most likely to bring these feelings about - particularly in women - and feel like we're missing something.  If we just had that tiny spark.  If our man would just be as open, passionate, creative, etc. as that man on the screen, well then, then we would have that life of which we dream.  Then ours would be a love worth writing about.  Instead I'm stuck with a man who forgets to take out the trash, often puts his foot in his mouth and hasn't bought me flowers since . . . well, who knows, really? 

But surely somewhere there must be someone who knows this kind of life - they're the ones who wrote the script, right?

This is where I feel a light came on for me.  No.  This isn't real life - someone, somewhere, wishes it were and so, instead of writing what they know, they wrote what they wished they knew.  And, again, we, as the audience are duped into thinking our life is lacking - surely we're missing the boat.

When, in reality, we're on the boat - we simply need to stop watching the ones passing by and enjoy the ride we're on.

And that guy who doesn't bring me flowers, likes eating his words and leaves the trash in the can?  Well, he also does the dishes when he knows I'm stressed, makes a tuna casserole better than my own (from the same recipe!), gets the biggest kick out of playing hide-and-seek with our daughter and watches chick flicks like the one above and snuggles with me while he does so.

And he's mine.

And I really like him.

And that's real life.

16 September 2010

Of Those Days

Today was one of those days.

One of those days when your toddler is just too helpful (read: getting into everything you want to do - and when what you want to do is take out the trash - not pretty), when she requires your undivided attention, without which she melts down, when she won't finish her lunch without you standing right next to her staring at her, when you remember you still haven't done your grocery shopping for the week or even put a list together, when you know, while you'll actually have time away from your kids for a couple of hours, you haven't prepared for any of the things you were hoping to get done in that time and your son is literally eating up one of those hours with nursing and you just feel like your time is fleeting and nothing will actually get accomplished.  One of those days when all of the above causes you to melt into tears - tears of knowing all that needs to be done and yet feeling entirely powerless.

And then it was one of those days.

One of those days when the same toddler who brought you tears of frustration only moments before starts playing on her guitar and singing a song that comes only from her heart and her imagination; one of those days when she puts her toys away without even being asked before she moves on to playing with her blocks, when she puts on her aunt's shoes just for fun and toddles around adorably, one of those days when your son gives you the biggest grin when you change his diaper and you can't help but bubble back at him.

One of those days.

15 September 2010

Of Making Snapshots

Today, amidst the horrible rantings and rebellion a two-year-old can bring, I had one of those beautiful moments.

I took a nap.

But what was better than my half hour nap on the loveseat, was watching my son - my precious, ginormous-yet-tiny, nearly-three-month-old son - laying on his tummy on a quilt in the middle of the living room, under the light of the mid-day sun streaming through the back window, his hair haphazardly parted and his lips forming that adorable pout babies get when they rest their cheek on the floor.  Before I closed my own eyes I took a mental snapshot (although, unlike Cam Jansen, I did not feel the need to audibly "Click" - that's just unnecessary, Cam) - this was an image I wanted to hold on to forever.  Because they just grow up too fast.

14 September 2010

Of Reality

Our church this evening hosted an event for ladies entitled "For Real," wherein we focused on removing the masks and living life, real life, with one another.

This is my "For Real" moment.

I showed up at church this evening, on time, feeling pretty great about myself.  In the hour and a half prior to arriving (did I mention, on time?), I had finished my daily Bible Study (something I've been having trouble keeping up with lately), I had prepared two bottles of milk for my son who decided to sleep in rather than wake for dinner, I had made dinner for the solid-food-eating portion of my family and left it warming in the oven (and even had time to indulge in some of the Chicken Nugget Casserole myself).  I was on top of the world, my world.

The evening went great.  I felt useful, needed.  The worship and message were wonderful - although I felt more focused on the tasks I would fulfill afterward than I was on the words themselves (hello, Busy Woman).  I completed those tasks, headed home, windows down, music playing.  Life was good.

I walked in the door, greeted my husband warmly and then saw my couch.  On it were a smattering of tape corners I had recently purchased for scrapbooking - a purchase I had been putting off for months and had finally taken care of.  They were now lovingly dispersed all over the center cushion of my couch (presumably by none other than my gorgeous two-year-old).  Not all of them, mind you, only about 20 or so (out of 250) and somehow something inside of me snapped.

Apparently those tiny, sticky squares represented all of the imperfection I had so beautifully attempted to paint over with all my efforts on this day.  And my husband felt the wrath of my world crashing down around me.  Over 20 sticky squares.  20 out of 250. 

It did not take long into my meltdown for the focus of my ire to change tracks from everyone else who had apparently let this life-ending chaos to occur to myself who had no reason to react in the way that I did.  I was ridiculous and I knew it.  But I couldn't stop.

And then I deflated.  And within minutes I was sitting, shoulders drooping, head cast down, tears falling.  I saw the real me.

And it wasn't pretty.

And I am determined to let God change that.

13 September 2010

Scenes From My Day

- The WiiFit is concerned for my health.  It would appear, after losing two more pounds this week, that I have reached my goal too quickly for their liking and need to be reminded to focus on my long-term health over short-term goals.  Thanks, WiiFit, for caring.

- The beautiful mid-70's temperatures with overcast skies this morning made for perfect weather for Micaiah to play in the backyard while I studied my Bible with Emmett resting near me in his bouncer.

- Micaiah and I met my brand-new niece (born yesterday morning!) via video chat.  She is so tiny and wonderful.  Micaiah is already learning, "Hi, Amie!"

- My teeth were declared "great" for the first time since first visiting this dentist two years ago - just after Micaiah was born.  Yay for flossing.

- I won my second consecutive game of "Clue" - it was Mrs. Peacock in the Library with the poison.

- Emmett sat for a good half hour after dinner in his bouncy sit, just giggling and cooing to himself - never was a better sound heard in all the earth.

- Now we're settling in to enjoy a night of the classic Jurassic Park (after just polishing a Pampered Chef prep bowl filled with Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream - all other brands of the same variety pale in comparison - in fact, they more than pale - they're practically albino)

Not a bad day, over all.

PS Although it doesn't count as a scene from my day, necessarily - Baby Ella came home today!!!!  Praise the Lord Almighty.

12 September 2010

Of Living Outside of Me

While singing a worship song in church this morning, I was praising God with the thought that He is the reason, not only that I was in church this morning, but that I even am at all.  He is the reason I live.  And He hit me back with the thought, "What in your life shows that?"

Uh oh.

Truth be told, as often as I have longed to reach out in more substantial ways, there is very little in my life that exists beyond me.  My every action influences little more than my tiny life and the lives of those in my home.  Not that I shouldn't be taking care of them, but shouldn't there be more - more that indicates that Jesus is Lord of my life?  And not the dishes.  Not the coupons.  Not the baths, the blogs, the babies.  Jesus.

As I contemplated this conviction, the man seated directly behind me, who was whole-heartedly in agreement with every word we sang and every point made by the preacher and said so vocally, was capturing my attention.  At first I was a little amused, but after awhile, I could tell it wasn't going to stop any time soon.  And before long I found myself feeling a little like Peppermint Fizz from yesterday morning's episode of Strawberry Shortcake who declared she did not like Rainbow Sherbet because Rainbow was different!

The man behind me surely was different.  He did not follow the understood rules of silent head-nodding (if any indication) to show approval of the message or quietly singing the words to yourself.  No, he was in love with Jesus and he wanted to make it known.  And I guarantee you someone who isn't quiet in church is definitely not quiet about their faith when they walk out those doors.  Whereas I tend to be silent in both areas - now who do you think is declaring Jesus with their lives?  I hate to say I don't think it's me.

At the end of the sermon the same man hobbled to the front of the stage with a noticeable limp.  I am not sure what caused is physical malady, but he definitely did not let it stop him from kneeling in honor to his Lord to lift up a word of prayer.  Rarely does anyone approach the altar for a simple prayer during the altar call in our church - most (myself included) are content to speak to God from the comfort of their cushy seat or, if they must, while standing with the crowd.  And here was this man, for whom it seemed difficult even to walk, lowering himself on his injured legs to speak to his Jesus.

I was instantly transported back five years to my first moment in a Russian Orthodox church service in which, in the absence of pews or anything (cozy or not) to rest one's rear during the service, those in attendance, primarily very aged and stooped over, stood the entire service - well, except for those moments when they slowly lowered to their knees to literally kiss the ground of this holy place.  Repeatedly in the 20 minutes during which I stayed, I watched these elderly worshipers kneel and then, with much difficulty, pull themselves to their feet once again, only to repeat the process a moment later.

What am I willing to do that will cause me discomfort for the name of my King?  Because I can tell you this much - it doesn't matter if these others were following the conventions of those around them or are even following the conventions of the precise denomination in which I was raised - they get it

They get that a Sunday morning church service is not about them or their comfort.  It is not about following the right rules - rules that are not found anywhere in church doctrine or (gasp!) even the Bible itself.  It is not about the frappuccinos after the service or the band on the stage (not that either of those things are wrong in themselves) - it is about God.

Always has been, always will be.

And I know I, for one, need to let this fact be reflected in every facet of my life.

11 September 2010

Of Patience

Our little man is quite the patient little man.

With that spitfire of a big sister he's got, that patience sure does come in handy.  For example, when she's bopping him on the head with her book because she's eager to share, he just takes it.  When she's smothering his head with the weight of her own in an attempt to show him some lovin', he barely responds, except for with a smile.  When we're too busy paying attention to the latest of her antics to really notice him as well as we should, he still rewards us with a giant grin just for one glance in his direction.

It's like he gets it.  And he's just waiting his turn until he can have fun playing, too. 

Because he sure does like to play.

When Daddy tied his paci to big sister's balloon from the County Fair, he just thought it was the silliest thing to see it float to the ceiling every time he let the paci slip out of his mouth.  When I forgot to grab one of his towels before his bath and had to resort to swallowing him in my own, he got the biggest kick out of it.  When his sister practically tackles him, he giggles away. 

He's just waiting to grow up.  But in the most patient way.

10 September 2010

Of Life Lessons

Today was a good day.

We celebrated two years of life with our first little bundle of joy.

I decided, as today was her today, I wanted it to be her dream day.  So, yes, there was more junk food than I like to think of (and who knew what kinds of things Fruity Pebbles did to a toddler's diaper?!) and, yes, there was an amount of T.V. watching that would turn our children morbidly obese within an unimaginably short amount of time if it was a regular event - and, yes, before you can ask, it makes me sad that this was her activity of choice all day long - but there were also heart-happy moments playing in the park, prideful times of watching my new two-year-old work three puzzles on her own (we're talking wooden puzzles where the missing picture is on the board so she has a better idea of where to put it, but puzzles nonetheless), countless hugs and kisses and a number of renditions of "Happy Birthday" (for the record, if my daughter approaches you and says, "Go [fill in the blank]!" this means she would like you to sing a song with that word in it - for example, "Go Up Down" means "Sing 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,'" "Go Bible" means "Jesus Loves Me" and now we have in our collection "Go Birthday" which I'm sure will be her new favorite).

And by the end of the day I've realized, spending an entire day trying to make her day special was amazingly more fulfilling than the endless number of days I've wasted trying to make me happy.

Go figure.

09 September 2010

Of Small Group

Two years ago tonight Philip and I were sitting in small group with some dear friends counting contractions quietly to ourselves.  It may have been just about now that we asked our companions to keep us in prayer as I was most likely in labor.  Of course they were excited and the two of us headed home to take a stroll around the backyard to confirm if these contractions (as opposed to the many I'd had before) were, indeed real.  The rest is history - about 10 hours later we saw our beautiful baby girl for the first time. 

What a precious day.

This evening, two years later exactly, we were once again in small group when our beautiful baby girl decided to follow in her mother's footsteps by enrolling herself into Awkward 101 while she oddly stroked the bare back of her fellow (male) play-mate who needed an outfit change.  Apparently she likes her men shirtless. 

As he ran around his dad, Micaiah, arms out, chasing after, we shook our heads (and nearly fell over in laughter).  We definitely did not imagine this scene two years ago.

The innocence dies so fast . . .

08 September 2010

Of Sleeping Hard

My son must be growing today.  Whereas yesterday he wouldn't nap for the life of him, today he napped from 1:30pm, straight through is 2:00(ish) feeding on until 4:00 in the afternoon - at which point he still hadn't indicated he was hungry, but I noticed him squirming and trying, with closed eyes, to gnaw on his own fists.  Thus, I decided it was time to let him eat, rather than wait for my son to resort to cannibalism.

Currently, he is napping in his car seat, where he has been ever since his Daddy brought him home from church at 7:45pm (it's 9:03).  I'm not sure what's in the milk these days, but I promise I'm not doping him (at least not on purpose).

But I'm a little happy about the napping - let's call this a good day.

On a similar note, my children may be earning their sleeping skills from their father who tends to sleep like a rock.  There is very little which will stir him from his slumber - no thunderstorms nor babies crying can rock his sleeping core.  And if, by chance, I can nudge him awake in the midst of my dire need (say a baby who needs changing when Mommy is too tired to do so), it takes a lot of will power for him to pull his half-dozing self out from under the covers.

Yet this morning, while slipping back into the bedroom when Emmett finished eating around 5am, I walked right into the half-unpacked suitcase resting at the foot of our bed and did an all-out face plant into the luggage and the carpet.  Guess who was on his feet within seconds aiding me in gaining stability on my own sore toes?  That would be my wonderfully loving husband.

At least I know he's there in case of a true emergency :)

07 September 2010

Of Personalities

My daughter has a very distinctive personality, bordering on Type A behavior.  She was actually born on her due date - what baby does that?  I just know she was counting the days and while Mommy was impatient on the outside, our little firecracker sat on the inside saying, "I don't know what your deal is, Mommy; I have the day marked on my calendar."

She enjoys putting her toys away (in just the right spot) and cleaning up any "mess" she makes, even if it's one drop of water.

She is very precise, very organized.

Last year when celebrating her birthday she was given a tiny cupcake with a blue flower iced on.  Did she do the typical first-birthday tradition of digging into the cake and smearing herself in blue frosting?  Nope.  She daintily, carefully pinched off a tiny bit of icing and delicately placed it in her mouth.  And repeated.  People got bored watching her eat her cake.  Video cameras were shut off, others went about the business of getting their own desserts.

That's our daughter.

This year I thought, surely things will be different.  She's had a few cupcakes in the past couple weeks and positively devoured them.  I just knew she'd give us a better show for her second birthday.  So, on Saturday her little slice of cake was put before her and she dutifully blew out the two candles just like her uncle had just done with his own 28 burning sticks of wax (or, she gave one blow before a certain impatient grandma did the job for her).  Then she was given the green flag - go, ye, and eat cake.

My daughter's response?

"I want fork."

06 September 2010

Of Road Trippin' (Part 2)

We're home

After 18.5 hours in the car, five mocha frappuccinos (only a total of half of one of those was mine), 4 roadside diaper changes (including, but not limited to, gas station bathroom floors, a sidewalk outside of McDonald's and the backseat of the car), 5 hours of Sesame Street and one viewing of Chipmunk Adventure, six(ish) hours of Evil Under the Sun featuring one (Belgian!) Hercule Poirot, one rendition of the only country song Philip and I tolerate (well, that and Amazed - and, ok, seriously, I'd never seen that video before - worst music video ever - especially for a love song - lame), and countless run-throughs of "Pat-a-Cake", the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Deep and Wide," we are home.

And we had one amazing trip.

Honestly, today was the most perfect day of vehicular voyaging I could imagine with a near-two-year-old and a 2.5-month-old as travel companions.  We seriously have the best kids money can buy (which is good, because we're paying the hospital out the ear for the right to call them ours - what would they do if we didn't pay, re-possess?).

And the fact that Micaiah spent the three hours in which she did not "wash T.V." or nap actually entertaining herself in the car with books, snacks and her new McDonald's toy is just beyond amazing.  Emmett was a pretty happy kid, too, lighting my life with his infectious grins.

They just astound me more and more every day.

05 September 2010

Of Morbidity

I tend to have a morbid sense of humor.  One that can be a little off-putting to others at times.  I suppose I could label it my coping mechanism, but for whatever reason, I find humor in things that just should not be laughed at.  I recall one moment in 5th grade G.A.'s (that would be a Wednesday night church program for young girls, in case you were unaware) when one tender girl was sharing a broken-hearted prayer request for a family whose home had burned to the ground.  If I remember correctly, children had perished.  Now that is not funny.  Ever.  But she then mentioned that the entire house was ashes, except for the garage, which remained entirely intact. 

And at that moment, I burst out laughing.  No joke.

Because I suddenly remembered a comedy bit I'd heard once about how in plane crashes it always seems the only thing completely unharmed is the tail of the airplane, and the comedian said that's where he wants to sit because, "If I get my tail on the tail, I'd save my tail."  No, not hilarious material here, but funny enough to make a 5th grader burst out laughing upon hearing that the fire that devastated an entire family left only the garage - just like the tail of an airplane. 

And in that moment of laughter, ever young girl in the room stared at me in horror.  I was in near hysterics - over a family who had just lost everything, including their children.

I'd say I pretty much aced Awkward 101.

This weekend, however, I discovered it's not my fault.  It's genetic.

My 75-year-old Grandma fell backwards down a hill in her yard on Friday night and shattered her wrist, causing her to currently be doped up on pain medication and entirely missing this opportunity to play with her great-grand-daughter who she has only seen once before in her life - as well as the chance to hold her great-grandson who will be much to wily and rambunctious to snuggle the next time she meets him.

And my family has been laughing all day.

Accusing my mom of pushing her down the hill.  Hilarious.  Teasing her about going to fast on the merry-go-round, but blaming it on a hill.  Giggles.  Asking her to open stuck-on jar lids.  Haha.  Threatening to take embarrassing photos of her drug-induced loppiness.  So funny.  Calling her plain lazy when others have to help her into the bedroom.  Oh, we just crack ourselves up.

Meanwhile, her arm kills her every time she moves it, the Vicadin is wearing off too fast and she'll have to have surgery to repair the damage later this week (it was too severe for them to operate this weekend, before the swelling went down and the proper doctors were available). 

And we're hosting a joke contest.

Apparently it's just how we deal.

04 September 2010

Of Road Trippin'

This weekend we are in Nebraska visiting family and celebrating a certain little girl's upcoming second birthday.  Of course, since we don't have wings and are too cheap/broke to transport ourselves via aircraft of any sort, we are relegated to the time-honored tradition of road tripping it.

I love road trips with my husband.  The kids aren't too bad, either, but only when we travel late enough for them to sleep the majority of the trip.  Because a sleeping baby is a happy baby.  Always remember that.

For those of us required to stay awake, however, we bring along our own sources of happiness.  These typically include (but are not limited to) bottles of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino (actually, this was Philip's first road trip experience with this particular beverage - it has been my secret weapon for many a late night adventure but he has only recently discovered its awesomeness), bags of Chex Mix (which, for the purposes of this trip, have been replaced with Hot Buffalo Pretzels for my spice-lovin' husband and a little bit of pizza-flavored Gamer Grub), and some Agatha Christie on CD (we prefer the French stylings of one Hercule Poirot - and if you can't say it with the accent it just doesn't count).

Oh, and every once in awhile we like to belt out a little "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw - that's always the sprinkles on the top of a perfectly iced cupcake.

Because there's just nothing like singing about a bull named Fu Man Chu.

03 September 2010

Of Big Babies

I forgot to give a report of my baby boy's 2-month appointment with his pediatrician (which, in reality, was his 2.5 month appointment . . . I may have gotten on the phone a little late to schedule that one . . .).

So, the official news is that he was declared by his doctor to be a perfect baby.

A perfect baby who weighs 16lbs, is 25 inches long and is in the 97th percentile (yes, you read that right, my little Emmett is bigger than 97% of babies his age).

That's my big boy.

On the plus side, he didn't spray the office this time.  I consider that a win.

02 September 2010

Of Tender Moments

My daughter is such a sweet girl.  It's true she has a special talent for causing frustration, especially in her mama, but the amazing thing I've begun to notice lately is that she is at her worst as a disobedient toddler when I am at my worst as a busy mom who does not take the time to notice the gift I have before me - the gift of time with my precious little one.  Time that many others may envy.  And time that I tend to take for granted.

Yet, when I slow down just a little and sit on the floor (in the precise spot she has told me) with her while she shows me every book on her shelf (reading only the ones she allows), I see a girl who just wants to know she's important and who, upon knowing that fact, can actually be obedient and patient and tender. 

And so it is: when I give her my first and my best, she, in turn, is more than happy to give me the very best of herself.

Why didn't I ever think of this before?

On another note, a sweet scene from today:  While I nursed Emmett she crawled up on the couch next to us, lifted my nursing cover, rested her head on his for a moment, kissed his hair and replaced the cover.

Gosh I love those two.

01 September 2010

Of Hypotheticals

I have an issue with speaking hypothetically.  I only just realized that fact this evening.

My sister-in-law was browsing through a book of ours which is filled with "Would you rather . . .?" questions and with every one I found myself thinking, "Well, it depends . . ."

For example, how clean would the cat's rear be which I'd be required to "lick thoroughly"?  How angry is this Grizzly?  How did I get stranded at sea; will someone likely be looking for me?  And how far out at sea are we talking?  Could I reasonably paddle back to shore with the one paddle I would be choosing over the one flare?

All vital things to consider when making these pressing life decisions.

Apparently I have an issue with generalized thinking.