Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Family devotions for the young and restless...

I came across this great article today, and I thought I'd share it with you. I see parting the red Jello sea and marching G. I. Joe's across it in our future...

Sunlit fall day in the woods...

(a trail at our local nature park)
The baby is awake. Nurse, put on shoes, grab hastily packed lunch bag out of fridge. Strap baby in infant carrier. Remind whining boy that we are going to the park as soon as Mommy has gotten everything. Rush, rush, rush... Put kids in car, buckling straps, arranging bags. Start driving 5 minutes to the local nature park and playground.

And then arrive in the cool, breezy, sunlit park. Feel God's beauty seeping into my soul, and slow down. Let the little boy climb down from his seat on his own, and watch his proud beaming face at his achievement. Rub the soft downy head of the baby riding in his front carrier on my chest. And take a leisurely stroll between the avenue of trees to the playground at the end.

The swing glides back and forth, back and forth, a soothing rhythm. All he wants to do is swing, and I let him, my hand continually finding his little back again and again. My mind drifts, and the baby takes it all in with wide, happy eyes.

We eat our lunch at tables filled with other mommies having their own conversations, complaining about parents and husbands and in-laws. I smile. I don't feel a part of that world today. We are here to enjoy the beauty God created, not mar it with angry, tired, sad words.

Walking back up the hill. Tempted to be in a hurry. It's a struggle... baby's naptime competing with small boy's enjoyment of the day. His enjoyment wins. He picks up rocks, examines, then throws them down again. He walks steadily behind me, looking around at everything.

And as I turn to make sure he's not too far behind, I catch it. He has stopped, his face uplifted in the sunlight. He is looking at the trees and smiling a beautiful smile, a smile of pleasure at what his young eyes are taking in. And I am glad I slowed down...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My little bear...

Hmmm... I'm thinking about taking back the $15 sweet pea costume I bought at Target the other day. Maybe a little bitty bear would be cuter instead? And since this is a nice, warm coverall, I don't have to worry that he'll get cold. My only question is about the brown hypoallergenic eye liner on his bitty nose... I sure wouldn't want him to get a rash from having it on too long.

I was standing in the line, waiting to pay for the costumes, and I was overcome with gratitude, imagining my boys all dressed up on a crisp fall day, waiting for a pony ride in the church parking lot at the harvest festival. My little bear and my tawny lion make my heart sing this fall...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Big sinners raising little sinners...

My son just deliberately deceived me for the first time today.

My heart is heavy with it. It involved the hiding of cheese so he could have pizza. He knew what he was doing, unfortunately. And after I told him that it made me sad that he'd tricked Mommy, and after I told him he wouldn't be getting mac n' cheese for dinner after all as punishment, and after I've put him down for a nap... I'm still sad.

I'm a big sinner raising little sinners. I know this. It's not like I haven't seen it before in everyone who lives in this house. But its still hard to see more clearly the beginnings of a lifetime of struggle against our fallen human nature.

Yesterday in church, we had a guest speaker. It was Gary Thomas, author of "Sacred Marriage" and "Sacred Parenting." One of the main verses he highlighted was this one:

"We all stumble in many ways."- James 3:2

It's so true. He also said that long ago, when he was giving his brother advice, he said to him, "If you want to serve Jesus, don't get married. It takes a lot of time and energy to be married, and you can do more if you're not. But, if you want to become like Jesus, get married. It is the best way to get acquainted with your sin and learn to be selfless that I know of." (I'm paraphrasing a bit.) The point was that marriage was a labratory to make us more holy by showing us our faults more clearly. And we grow as we struggle to love selflessly as Christ loves us.

We've got a houseful of people, all sinners, who are learning through the upholding hand of Christ, to sin a little less and love like him a little more. But it takes time and the daily friction of living together. Some days it's discouraging, and some days we all feel like overcomers.

So when I'm discouraged like this, I just need to remember how far I've come, how far I've got to go, and that I learned all of it through many struggles and prayers over many years. Seth needs me to discipline him, cry with him when he falls, and cheer him on... because we all need a hand up when we stumble.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Randomness on a fall day...

Some random thoughts from my head today...

- I finally caved in and joined Facebook. I'd been avoiding it for awhile, but I started to realize that some of my peeps that I'd been keeping up with through blogs had started talking more about everyday life over there. And some of my friends I couldn't get to email me regularly, so I figured this would be the only way I could get a good window into their worlds. It's an interesting program but not really a replacement for a blog. I feel a lot more free to ramble about nothing over here. A blog just feels more personal, I guess. It's not a substitute for real conversation, but this is an easier way to keep up with aunts and cousins and others that I just wouldn't email regularly. It's a friendly little space. I even got a babysitting offer based on a facebook post. Sweet!

- Gotta slow down again. I've realized that I fight having a baby and having to slow down because of it by doing too much and then regretting it. I try to do workshops at church, the women's potluck dinner, cooking from scratch too much, etc., and its a reaction to wanting to be able to do it all instead of being stuck in the tired mundane. I can't do it all, so I do what I want to do first, and then get frustrated because the more important things like laundry and going through toddler clothes aren't getting done. Grrr. At least David tells me that I'm not really behind on anything essential to him.

- Seth and I played with Playdoh for the first time today. He LOVED it. We made a ton of little ducks with the playdoh cutters I got at the consignment sale a year ago. Don't know what I was waiting for... I think its good for us to be spending Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at home. It forces me to slow down and just play with him. I see him using his imagination more. Today he told me about his horse and how it was sleeping and swimming and swishing it's tail. Then he wanted to go upstairs to his room and see his horse (rocking horse). We spent a good while up there talking and playing and with him helping me clean out his drawers. It was really nice.

- We just had a guy seed our yard. It was pretty much nothing but crabgrass. He didn't charge a ton, and I'm excited to see what it will look like once we get the weedy grass under control. It's the watering every day for the next few weeks that could get me... =)

- David is leaving on Monday for about a week for another "event with criminals." This will make a total of NINE this year. This is an absurdly high number for his office, and I spent a good bit of last evening being angry about it. He may break a record; that's how bad it is. Each and every one of these have really taken it out of him. I worry about his stress level and his health, and I frankly hate the time that he's prepping and in trial. Sometimes it doesn't turn out to be as bad as I think it will be, but it's the stress of not knowing how it will be that's almost the worst thing. I almost cried when I realized that he'd be working a lot of the weekends in October now. And he has one in December, too... I just want this to end. He tells me that others have unusually bad years, too, but I've stopped believing that this will ever be over. I just don't see an end in sight, and this started in January. I want promises, but there aren't any to be had. Guess you can tell that I'm still angry and frustrated and sad...

- We're having a Southern fall dinner tonight... fried pork chops, baked apples, succotash, and rolls, with no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies for dessert. Mmmm... comfort food.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Favorite cheesy country from back in the day...

Seth was sitting at the table, eating lunch today, and I was mentioning that he used to like peanut butter sandwiches, and now he won't touch them. All of a sudden, David launched into "Baby, things change." So we started talking about the cheesy country songs we used to like when we first started listening to country music, waaaay back in the day (early 1990's).

So, here's at least a couple of links to our favorites....

I loved an old Pam Tillis- Cleopatra, the Queen of Denial, whenever I was ticked at a teenage boyfriend, and you've gotta see the music video. It's a classic.

I was also fond of Mindy McCreedy- Guys Do It All the Time. Don't ask me why. I wasn't a partyer. But the second verse always made me crack up.

David really liked "That Girl's Been Spying on Me." Very cute.

And a classic breakup song for screaming at the top of your lungs after that guy you liked started hanging around another girl. Good old Travis Tritt. We've traveled a lot of miles together, brother. I was a bit of a drama queen in high school. Ahem. This was another of my cryin' songs.

We both think that country music has changed a lot in the past few years. The songs used to be a lot cleaner and somewhat goofier. Now, I'm afraid to listen to a local country station with Seth in the car. Who knows whether the next song will be some explicit bodice ripper or a patriotic anthem to God and country? It really could be either one... Grrrr.... I'm not saying these songs are completely clean, either, but they're a good bit better than what's on the radio now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Easy Pie Crust...

Ok, I have a shameful secret to confess...

I make a lot of things from scratch, but not pie crust. I've tried so many times, but the crust has always come out like a chewy, nasty cracker. Eventually, I gave up, and the grocery store got my money for overpriced premade pie crust. I was bitter, but resigned.

I had a play date here on Tuesday, and I did not want to go to the store beforehand to buy a crust for the quiche I was making. Desperate, I went to allrecipes. And I found this: The Perfect Pie Crust For The Inept.

You don't even have to roll it out, people. It turned out beautifully. I read the reviews, which led me to only put in a pinch of salt and only prebake for about 5-7 minutes. If the vegetable oil taste is too heavy for your palate, I also read that you could do half oil and half melted butter.

I will never buy another premade pie crust again. I am triumphant. The end.

Enjoying my boys...

It's a gray day on Suburban Saga court... We had a friend and her two boys over to play this morning. I'm trying to keep us home so Evan can nap on MWF, so people are graciously coming to us for this season.

Her boys are 3 1/2 and 1 1/2, just about the ages apart that Seth and Evan are. It was kind of a rough morning. Seth is learning to share, and some days, it just doesn't go so well. He spent a lot of time in time out and had some other disciplinary action for throwing, screaming, and taking things away. It was tiring.

Some of our conversation revolved around how difficult it is for her to have two boys who fight a lot of the day, every day. She said, "Just wait until Evan can start taking things away from Seth. It starts then, and it doesn't let up."

After she left and things calmed down, and I put Seth into his high chair to eat, I started thinking... "Does it really have to be this way? Is it really hopeless?" See, I really want to enjoy my boys. And I don't want to believe that what I've got to look forward to for years and years to come is a bunch of fighting and arguments and people showing their sin natures all over the place.

Didn't Jesus come to save us from all that? I hope that by the time Evan is old enough to want to share the toys that Seth has come to think of as "his," Christ will have mercifully taught me how to teach him to share mostly graciously. I'm praying that our home will mostly be a place of harmony where we all, (and I do mean ALL of us), learn to live less selfishly and more gently with each other.

But tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. Today I will remind my toddler to say "thank you" after I give him a cheese stick, kiss his sweet head, praise him for asking to go down for a nap when he gets frustrated instead of crying inconsolably... I will kiss the chubby cheeks of the gummy smiling baby that I cradle in my arms, and I'll read him my Bible study verses as he sits next to me on the boppy and coos. Yes, I want to really enjoy it. These days are precious...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mountain vacation?

David came home last night talking vacations... a week in the mountains of NC, to be more specific. He asked if I'd be interested in that. Hello? My name is Ellen, nice to meet you, I think we've been married 8 years now. =) So now I'm frantically searching websites for a cabin rental for a week during peak leaf season in October. Not having so much luck with that... I guess it would help if we were the kind of people that plan our vacations a year in advance.

We didn't do much for fun this summer. It kinda slipped by in a newborn haze, really. But now Evan is getting bigger and happier and sleeping longer, and we're starting to think about being able to do more. David is so tired after his trial, and he just wants to go somewhere peaceful. I think this might be the first week long vacation we've taken by ourselves in at least 4 years, maybe more.

But I'm a little nervous. I want to go someplace pretty, but not so remote that we can't get out easily. I want to hit some apple orchards and petting zoos and pumpkin farms and local festivals, short hikes, etc. I thinking maybe something in Boone or Blowing Rock?

So now I'm asking for suggestions. Anybody have a great area in the moutains that they've loved with small children?

Monday, September 14, 2009

1st day of toddler school...

Today was our very first day of toddler school! I've decided to do it on Mondays this year so I'll have a little time to plan something short on Sunday nights. I'll be doing homeschool prep on Sundays anyway in the future, so I'm training myself with this. I just got out some books and craft materials and put them where they'd be easy to reach.

I've decided that our "school" schedule will look like this for now:
- Devotion
- Playing the shapes game where I throw them around the house and he brings them to me and identifies the shape and color
- Reading a book or two on the theme for the day
- Craft time
- Music and movement- I have a few good kids cds with music and movement on them, notably "Kids in Action" by Greg and Steve and one by good ol' Hap Palmer. =)

Now, we do some of these things on other days, but the combo at one time is what I'm looking for, and we usually don't do a craft, so that's different and special.

Today's craft was a tearing paper craft. I would not recommend this until your child is old enough to understand the difference between tearing construction paper and tearing book pages. =) I took out a few pieces of paper, got them "started" for Seth, and watched him happily rip away. We did a few different colors (colors practice), and then he glued the pieces, collage style, to another piece of paper. Good motor skills practice. We'll probably do this again periodically until he can rip without me needing to help him start off.

Seth always asks to listen to music now while he's eating, and I love what he's listening to. I can't recommend the Seeds Family Worship cds enough. He has started singing them with the cd now, and it almost brings tears to my eyes to hear my toddler singing God's word to himself. Today he was singing "Do not be anxious about anything..." If you buy directly from their website, they give you two cds, one to keep, and one to share with a friend, so I did that. I think I'll be getting the whole collection over time...

And I would also like to highly recommend our little daily devotional. David and Seth read children's bible stories at night, but its harder to get him to sit still and read with me for long during the day. That makes the Blessings Every Day devotional perfect for us. I found out about it from another blogger on Works for Me Wednesday, and its great. You find the date in the book, and there is one short page with a Bible verse, a short devotional, and a short prayer. It talks about things that are right on their level, asking them questions about sharing and forgiveness and getting angry. If you have a 2-year-old, you should try it...

And for those of you who are wondering about napping boot camp, I started him off easy since he got completely off schedule this weekend. He's recently become willing to nap in the swing, so I put him in there at the designated times today. We'll do this a few more days before we transition to the crib only. I think its helping him learn to find his fingers to self soothe. I want to get that down and stop swaddling him for naps when we start real boot camp. =) So far, so good today. =)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I know, I know....

This poor blog has been so neglected lately. That's partly because I can't count on many minutes with my arms free of baby. Hopefully, that will be remedied soon. I start Napping Boot Camp this week, so pray for us.

This last week was great, thanks to the help of my mother. David had two "putting criminals in jail" events this week, back to back. It was really, really hard on him, and he didn't get much sleep. He said it was very educational, and he learned so much about how to do things when he has these one after another. For one thing, he learned that he should get a second chair when it happens. =) For two, he learned that if you have an event with a bunch of offenders involved, things can keep changing if they decide to admit guilt and bow out at the last minute. And that can be a good or a bad thing, but complicated. Anyhoo...

We were both thrilled and relieved that it was all over on Friday. And I hadn't had a rough time of it without him because Mom was here to help. This weekend has been nice and relaxing for all of us.

Things have been going so well that we even picked up an extra son today. =) We signed up for the adopt a college student program at church. That means that Josh will be coming to our house and eating our food and doing his laundry and playing with his new "brothers" at least once a month for the next year. We're excited about it! And since he's a poli sci major, we'll have lots to talk about around the dinner table.

Community Bible Study and MOPs started up again for the year the last couple of weeks. I'm excited about the study for sure. We'll be studying Luke in depth. It's been nice to get back into a regular Bible study again. God's word seems more fresh to me than it has as I've struggled to get in there this summer.

And now Evan has stopped being happy on his blanket, and I have to go... =) Hugs to blogland.

Monday, September 07, 2009

First fish...

His very first fish. Papa was so proud. He has another fishing buddy now.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Decorating a kid's room on the super cheap...

I really wanted to get Seth's room decorated before Evan was born. And I had a particular idea in mind for it. See, I wanted it to look like a pretty little forest, but since I'm not artistically inclined, and I'm afraid of painting on my walls right now, I thought I'd go online and buy a pretty wall stick on tree. I went online. I saw the tree. It was tiny, and it was $30. For one of them. Sad, I gave up.

Then, about a month later, I was at the mall with a friend. Right near the play area there is a row of display windows. What should I see in them but large tree posters! So I asked my friend to watch Seth, and I went in the store nearby. Let's just call it "Kid's Location." =) I asked the manager what they were going to do with the trees when they got done with that particular display theme. She told me that they were going into the dumpsters out back. I then proceeded to shamelessly beg her to save them for me and give me a call.

God bless that sweet manager. She did keep my phone number, and the patrons of our local mall got to feast their eyes on the sight of a very pregnant woman pushing a stroller and carrying large cardboard trees. I got a few things in installments as they were taking it all down. I got multiple kinds of trees and a sun banner. And it cost me.... $0.

I went online and googled "bird templates," and came up with several I could use. I printed them out and traced them on construction paper, and then I put them by the trees with sticky tack. The trees were nailed to the wall, by they way. I used large pieces of blue posterboard to freehand some clouds. And here you can see the finished product....

Seth doesn't have a lot of decorating preferences right now. When he gets older, we'll spend a little more time and effort putting together a room based on his particular likes and dislikes. But for now, free kid's room decor certainly works for me!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

As high as an elephant's eye...

I guess I should do something about this now that it's up to the light switch.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

At 10:12 p.m.

Lazy evening. David is working at home tonight. I've been surfing Craigslist for bristle blocks with no success. I'm also currently ignoring the giant pile of laundry that I should be folding lurking over there in the corner. And hoping Seth won't be too disappointed that I haven't yet sorted the 131 pieces of train track, etc. for his train table. I just ate half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And you're still reading this drivel... =) And in the spirit of drivel, here are some unconnected thoughts for my poor, slightly neglected blog...

- The picture above is my current favorite one of Evan. That's how he looks most of the time, really. If I don't brush his hair after his bath, he gets an Alfalfa mohawk on the back of his head. Love his baby curls. I got this picture without a flash, using the A setting on my camera. I took Evan with me in the Bjorn this week to a photography workshop at church. He was snapped a dozen times by practice hungry ladies, and I learned a trick or two. I also learned I need another lense to get good pictures indoors without a flash. Whatever... =)

- I think Evan is ready to be transitioned to a 4 hour schedule. He's probably really been ready for weeks now, and I've been afraid to try it because I didn't think he was old enough. Maybe if I can keep him awake longer, he might be sleepy enough to go to sleep and stay asleep for naps. Here's hoping... Anybody else had a 3-month-old baby that sometimes only naps maybe an hour and a half total... all day? Crazy, right? At least he sleeps really well at night now...

- My parents are taking me and the boys to the cabin at the beach this weekend. David has to work, so he won't be going with us. September will see him having 3 "events with criminals", probably back to back. After he told me this, I turned to him, shook his hand, and said, "It's been nice knowing you. See you in October." I'm half kidding. It hasn't been that bad yet. I'm thrilled he's been able to work at home at night this week.

- This life feels sometimes like we have the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads all the time. You know that story? It was hanging on a thin horse hair over his head, and he knew it could snap at any moment. Well, David's job feels kinda like that. One day, things look free and clear. I'm looking forward to a fall of pumpkin festivals, camping, maybe a trip to see friends or family. The next day, David could come home and say, "Well, a guy I never thought would do this decided not to plead guilty. Since we have a confession from him, I don't see how he could possibly win, but 'we're having an event.' " And then usually a couple of weeks/weekends of ours are toast. The sheer unpredictability of it all is one of the hardest parts for me.

- I'm looking forward to soup weather. I love to make soup. I have a variety of good recipes, and I love to make nice bread or homemade rolls with it. I usually just use my breadmaker to knead dough, but I remember once setting it to be done with a loaf when we came home from church on a cold, windy fall day. We walked in the door, and the smell of fresh bread hit me, and I thought about the pot of minestrone I would be pulling out of the fridge and putting on the stove. Mmmmm....