Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No Matter What

I originally wrote this post about 8 months ago, but it seems like now would be a good time for a reminder.  Don't just tell your loved ones you love them, because that might not be enough, let them know you love them unconditionally: no matter what...

* * * * * * * * * *

I tell my kids that I love them a lot, several times a day, in fact. And I hug and kiss them a lot, too, almost as often as I tell them I love them. I'm not sure how much longer the older two are going to be willing to be kissed by their mommy, so I'm trying to get as many in now as I can.

You may know that Logo, my middle child, is the one with whom I have the most, shall we say...issues. He is loud, impulsive, and stubborn, and has a hair-trigger temper. Logo is also passionate, generous, kind, the best hugger ever (side-note: recently, Logo has taken up a practice we call kamikaze hugging, where he runs as fast as he can and launches himself into the air for a hug--he almost knocked me down the stairs the other day), smart, and has a keen sense of justice--he really is a great kid. But most of my frustration and anxiety as a parent can be attributed to Logo, either directly or indirectly. The most frustrating aspect of being Logo's mommy is that he is so much like me. And I remember what I was like as a kid...let's just say that I wasn't too fun for my parents to parent, either. Sorry, mom and dad.

A few weeks ago, Logo was acting in such a way that I felt compelled to ask, "do you know that I love you no matter what?" I can't remember exactly what was going on that made me ask that question, although I think the antecedent must have had something to do with Logo behaving in a manner of which I did not approve, and me taking disciplinary action of which Logo did not approve. It certainly had never occurred to me to ask it before. I thought that with as many times a day as I tell my children I love them, surely they would know that I love them regardless of circumstances or behavior. But I was wrong.

I asked him, "do you know that I love you no matter what?" And he looked at me like I was nuts (he's really good at that). "No," he said, and after a pause he asked, "really?"

Yes, Logo, really. I love you so much, much more than you can understand, and there is nothing that you could do or say to change that. Nothing. I may not like what you do or what you say sometimes; I may be annoyed with you, or disappointed in the choices you make. And sometimes, I even might not like you very much, but I will always, always love you. Because, Logo, I love you. Not what you do. Not what you say. You are not defined by those things; you are so much more than that. You are valued and precious and loved, no matter what.

So I'm still telling my kids I love them often, and sneaking in as many hugs and kisses as I can, too (and watching out for those kamikaze hugs), but now, instead of 3 little words, it's 6: I love you...no matter what.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not helpful: an update

Last week, I asked for your advice in dealing with a situation.  Most of your responses (OK, all of your responses) advised me to go around or above Ms. Counselor in seeking resolution.  I just keep thinking about this:

If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.

Matthew 18:15-17 (The Message)

It's in the Bible for a reason.  Jesus knew that humans have conflict over stuff all the time.  And He gave us a model to follow to resolve those conflicts.  It's divinely inspired, and it works.  So that's why I say I know what I should do, I just don't know if I am able to do it effectively.  I know, I know, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me," (Phillipians 4:13) even this.

While none of you came right out and asked, I know that you're wondering just what the situation is. Well, we believe that MC may have sensory processing disorder or/and a mild form of autism. I hate to label, but unfortunately, in most cases, labels are what is needed to get help. He is highly functioning, and probably would be OK with no treatment, but his life could be much less anxiety-provoking with treatment, and I can't not try.  I'd hate to limit him his potential because we didn't do everything we could to help with his issues.

Some of you wondered what Hubby's take on this whole situation is.  I mean, after all, we're a team in parenting these three children.  Hubby is supportive, but I don't think he understands what all the fuss is about (for instance, he thinks MC can control his behaviors and frequently tells him to do just that), and he certainly doesn't realize how worried and upset I am.  And besides, for some reason, the powers that be (a.k.a. Mrs. Teacher and Ms. Counselor) have decided that I'm the best one to communicate with about this situation.  Always the mama gets to deal with the hard stuff.

It turns out I inadvertently took your advice to go around Ms. Counselor.  I was chatting with Mrs. Teacher and she asked me if the information Ms. Counselor had provided had been helpful.  I hesitated, because I wanted to follow the Biblical model and go to Ms. Counselor first, but honestly told Mrs. Teacher that she hadn't really given us any information and our meeting hadn't been helpful {oh, yeah, and I started crying, too. Note to self--toughen up.  Or carry Kleenex on person at all times}.

The next day, I got a call from Ms. Counselor, suggesting a new course of action.  Or excuse me, suggesting a course of action, since she never suggested one in the first place.  In the next couple of weeks, an OT who works in the district will be coming in to observe MC and to help us figure out what to do next.  I'm pleased with this development, and hopeful, but I feel bitter that this wasn't suggested a month ago.

Guess I need to take another piece of advice from the Word: "bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13). 



Monday, November 28, 2011

Trench of Doom

Ty-Guy, AKD, Con-Man, Roger, and MC
We had half of our nephews (and half our siblings and half our parents) visiting us this weekend. 

We did some fun things together, like volunteering at Feed My Starving Children, where our group of 74 volunteers packed 20,520 meals in about 75 minutes - enough to feed 56 children for a year,
Chicken, veggies, soy, rice!
AKD, GrandMary, MC, Aunt Buckwheat, Con-Man & Ty-Guy
Roger added the "best if used by"
stickers to the bags

visiting the science museum,
Con-Man, Roger, and Sawblock "on the air"

and harvesting our Christmas tree.
Got one!  With GrandMary, AKD, Con-Man, MC, Roger & ShepGDad

Oh, and there was an itty bitty tiny little spot of food involved, as well.

During the course of their visit, there developed, in our home, a Trench of Doom.  I'm a little shaky on the details, because I spent a good portion of my time in the kitchen, plus I was a little scared to go into the basement with 5-7 wild boys bouncing off the walls down there at any given time, but I'm sure it was very trenchy and quite doomish.

On Sunday afternoon, I got out our Little People Nativity for the kids to play with--it's getting to be about that time :)

Later on, I overheard Uncle Sheppy saying to Con-Man, in an incredulous tone, "you have baby Jesus in the Trench of Doom?"

Let me assure you, the Trench of Doom is no place for a baby.

Ah, but baby Jesus isn't just any ordinary baby, is He?  As a matter of fact, the Trench of Doom is just the kind of place Jesus would go.  The Trench of Doom is exactly the kind of place where Jesus needs and wants to go.

Jesus meets us in our own personal trenches of doom: those dark and dreary places, with monsters lurking in every shadow and peril at every turn.  Jesus protects and guides us, delivering us from the trench, delivering us from certain doom.  Jesus brings light in the darkness, rest for the weary, and hope to the hopeless.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not helpful

I'm not quite sure what to do about this--maybe you can help me?

So MC's school has a guidance counselor.  I mentioned this to someone once and they kind of looked at me strangely.  "Why would an elementary school need a guidance counselor?" they asked me.  Hmmm.  I'm not really sure, especially since ours is really not all that helpful.  This year, she's teaching the kids "life skills," whatever that is.  Conflict resolution, anti-bullying, not sure what else?  And I have no clue what she does when she's not in the classroom.

Anyway, a few years ago, we had a situation.  And because of the situation, we had to have a meeting.  One of the people included in the meeting was the guidance counselor.  At one point, she turned to me and queried, "well, what do you think we should do?"

I thought, but didn't say, "well, lady, if I had any idea of what we should do, don't you think I would have already done it?  I'm at the end of my rope here--isn't that why you're here, to help us?"

Later on during the meeting, she said, "well, you're the expert on your child."  True enough, but have you ever noticed that kids behave differently when they're away from their parents?  Like, for instance, at school?  This time I thought, but did not say, "well, yes, I'm the expert on my kid, but you're the expert on kids, right?"  Right?

Am I wrong here?  I really thought that she was in on the meeting to help us with the situation.

So now we have another situation that I actually think might have been the cause of the first situation even though they seem to have nothing to do with each other.  It hasn't gotten to the meeting stage yet (thank God), but it has led to a couple of conversations, and a teacher told us that Ms. Counselor would help us.

I was skeptical.  I mean, she hasn't been helpful in the past.  But Hubby and I dutifully reported to the counselor's office to have a little chat.  And again she said, "well, what do you think we should do?"  And I thought, oh boy, here we go again. 

Ms. Counselor informed us that she didn't know anything about the option the teacher had given us, or about any other options, but that she would find out and call or email the information to us.  What a waste of time.  I left that night feeling frustrated and alone and convinced that when the counselor called or emailed, it would once again be not helpful.

{oh, and because of that conversation, and the situation, I suffered a migraine the next day.  Thanks so much for that}

I was so right!  A few days later I got an email from the counselor and it said, here's the phone number of the place we (didn't) talk about.  That's it!  Um, I could have looked that up myself, ma'am.  Not. Helpful.

So here's where I need some advice.  Should I tell Ms. Counselor that she's not helpful and that I would really just like for her to be helpful (I really think she thinks she is...helpful, that is)?  Should I just cut Ms. Counselor out and deal with the teacher (who is helpful, but is out of her area of expertise and seems determined to keep Ms. Counselor involved)?  Should I go to the principal or the school psychologist?  Or should I stay quiet and try to do this on my own?

I don't know what to do.  I don't think I have the words to make her understand what I need from her, and trying and failing would lead to even more frustration than I'm already feeling (it's an act of will to not grind my teeth), and that makes me feel like not even trying.

{oh, and I can't even think about it, much less talk about it, without crying--it's a little difficult to be articulate when you're crying}

Help, please.
My lunch: an omelet with sausage, mushrooms, onions, cheddar, and spinach on whole wheat toast.  So yummy!  And do you like my plate? :)
 Pal wanted to know why I was taking a picture of it.  What?!  Doesn't everybody take pictures of their lunch to post on their blog? 

You may have noticed there's a holiday coming up, and it's not Christmas.  Or maybe you haven't noticed, it seems like a lot of people have forgotten about Thanksgiving this year.  I'm not lying: I've heard more hype about shopping AFTER Thanksgiving than about Thanksgiving itself.  I guess giving thanks just doesn't rate compared to giving and getting tons of presents.

Anyway, the kids and I have been reading some cute books about Thanksgiving, and today we read The Littlest Pilgrim by Brandi Dougherty. 


Mini just wants to help, but everyone keeps telling her she's too little. Finally, Mini meets a native American girl who is as little as Mini, and discovers that she's not too little to make a friend. As you can tell, it's not really about Thanksgiving, but it's close enough, right? Pilgrims, Indians, making friends...and it does appear, from the illustrations and the types of jobs that everyone tells Mini she's too little for, that the pilgrims are preparing for a feast.

Then we decided to make an Indian friend and a couple of pilgrim friends, combining instructions and templates from Family Fun and Kaboose.


That's Mini on the right and her new friend in the middle.  The boy must be Mini's brother who told her she was too little to help stack wood, although oddly enough, in our version, they're the same size...  FYI, if you do this yourself, use lots of strong glue and be prepared to supplement with tape.

By the way, one of the things we've learned while reading these Thanksgiving books is that pilgrims would have worn black only on special occasions, since black cloth was so expensive.  For every day, they wore colorful clothing dyed with natural dyes.
**********

I got a few good pictures of the kids while we were out playing in the snow this morning--just had to post this one.  They had just started down the hill.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankful, continued

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced our "Thankful Tree."  Here's what it looked like then:

 After a couple of weeks of not-every-day-because-life-with-three-boys-is-busy thankfulness, here's what it looks like today:

It's filling out nicely, don't you think?  I love how some of us draw pictures of what we're thankful for on our leaves.  Oh, and do you like the owl?

I have to be honest, though, the family seems to be running out of enthusiasm, and ideas, for this project.  Who would have thought it would be this difficult to come up with one different thing to be thankful for each day?  Well, it's actually 5 different things to be thankful for each day, since everyone tries to come up with a unique idea...so I guess it's a little more difficult than I thought.

So the other night after supper, before I got out the paper leaves and crayons, I read my favorite Thanksgiving book, Thanks for Thanksgiving, by Julie Markes, to the boys to hopefully give us some inspiration.


It worked!  Thanks for Thanksgiving reminded us that there are so many things to be thankful for every day, both big and small.

What are you thankful for today, friends?

Our (2nd) Little Dutch Boy

MC's concert was last night--here he is, our little Dutch boy :)
 Thank you to Tracy for lending us the costume, complete with wooden shoes!

Click here to see AKD in Dutch costume 3 years ago.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Trouble with Migraines

I had to laugh at myself last night as I lined up some supplies on my headboard to take to bed with me: a glass of water, a small snack, and some pain reliever.  See, people who don't have migraines just don't understand.  Most people, when they get a headache, just drink some water, maybe take a pill, and then continue on with their day.  Migraines are debilitating.  The whole world, everything but the pain, screeches to a halt, disappearing in the haze of agony.  The pain is piercing, throbbing, sensitive to light, sound, and motion, and then there's the nausea.

When I wake up with a migraine, I'm faced with a dilemma: if I want the pain to go away, I need to take some medication, but if I take the medication on an empty stomach, I become scary shaky and dizzy (just ask Chip if you don't believe me).  If I get up to get a glass of water, my medicine, and a snack, the motion causes a surge of nausea.

Yesterday, in the dark of the early morning, I sat motionless in my bed for several minutes after my foray to bathroom and kitchen to gather my supplies, willing the nausea to go away, debating whether to take my meds now or wait until the inevitable nausea forced a return trip to the bathroom to bow to the porcelain throne.

Two pills, separated by 20 minutes, each followed by desperate trips to reach the bowl in time, and finally the nausea abated, leaving me exhausted, lying in my bed with a cold pack at my neck and another on my forehead, praying that the pain would go away before the first kid needed to be escorted to his bus stop.  Praying that the dizziness would be gone before I needed to drive the third kid to preschool.

I definitely did not want to repeat that experience this morning, so that's why I carefully gathered my supplies last night, giving a chuckle because I knew that my headache probably would not return this morning, but also knowing that I wouldn't be laughing in the morning if it did.

In case you were wondering, today started much better than yesterday.  I did not need my supplies this time.  But perhaps I will begin storing my medication at my bedside--the bathroom is too humid a place anyway.  And perhaps I will stash a little snack and a bottle of water there as well, for next time.  Because I do know this: there will be a next time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Light

It's getting to be the time of year when I think a lot about light.  I don't recall ever thinking this way before moving back to the upper midwest 6 years ago.  I think it's because we're more than halfway to the north pole, and as the earth tips away from the sun, we have less daylight here in November and December than in any of the other places I've lived.  We also don't have street lights where we live, so when it's dark, it's very dark.

As I get older, I'm beginning to hate driving at night more and more.  I don't like not being able to see beyond my headlights--it's such a narrow view.  I was thinking about that last week as I was driving home from somewhere. As I drove through a section of road lighted by streetlights, I thought, hmmm, this is nice--I can actually see what I'm driving through, but it wasn't enough, though.  Those artificial lights, our feeble human attempts at dispelling the darkness, are nothing compared to the sun.  And the light of the sun is nothing compared to the light of the Son.

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2
Curiously, it usually seems much lighter to me in January, when in reality, near the beginning of January we have even less daylight than we do now, in November.  I think it's because every year, at the end of December, I'm reminded, in a powerful way, that Christ, the Light of the world, has come into the world to shine His light into the deepest, darkest places.

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done
has been done in the sight of God.
John 3:21

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friendly Friday: rubber band edition

So before I start, I just gotta say, people around here, well, they call things by strange names.  For instance, around here, they're not rubber bands, they're rubber binders.  Huh?  And it's not sledding, it's sliding.  Well, OK, but then how do you differentiate between hurtling down a slick snowy hill on a sled and throwing your body down an inclined plane on the playground?  And seriously, folks, what is with the gray ducks?!  Everyone knows it's supposed to be geese!

Ah, but I love my upper midwest neighbors so I'll forgive their little naming sillinesses.  And in any case, that's not what you want to hear about.

So, yes, time for Friendly Friday!  {insert musical fanfare here}

I found myself with an hour of "dead" time on Wednesday evening, so I asked the Director of Children and Family Ministries at our church if there was anything I could do for her.  Now before you get all jealous of me having an hour of free time, don't.  There were certainly plenty of other things that I could have been doing during that hour, and many I probably should have been doing, but I made the choice help someone else instead of doing any of those other things.

Jan asked me to help with the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  Maybe you've heard of this?  An organization called Samaritan's Purse distributes shoeboxes filled with small toys, toiletries, and treats to children around the world who are living in poverty.  Along with the shoeboxes, volunteers deliver the Good News of salvation in the children's own language.

So you're supposed to pack a shoebox with gifts, put a label on it, saying whether it's for a boy or a girl, and what age it's for, put a check inside the box to help with distribution costs, and put a rubber band around it.  Pretty easy.  But, for some reason, not everyone is able to follow directions, so my job was to go through the boxes and make sure there were no forbidden items, take out the checks (some of which were made out to Samaritan's Purse, and some to our church), make sure the boxes were labeled, and make sure each box had a rubber band (or binder, if you prefer) around it.

There weren't that many boxes.  Maybe 50?  And it was a pretty easy assignment, but it did take Bubby and me most of the hour to get through it.  And that's an hour that Jan was able to spend doing something else.

There's still time if you'd like to pack a shoebox.  Just head over to Samaritan's Purse for all the details.  One option that I think is pretty exciting is that now you can follow your shoebox, so you know where it ends up.  What a great way to teach your children (or, ahem, yourself) about generosity, with a bonus geography lesson thrown in!

How about you?  Did you step out in kindness this week?  Leave a comment to let me know about it.  If you blogged about it, you can link up to Friendly Friday over at O My Family, like I did :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Space, time and...entropy

After my two youngest sweeties were in bed last night, I managed to sit down for half an hour and watch the last half of Nova with AKD.  They were talking about space and time--pretty interesting stuff.

So one of the questions posed was why time only moves in one direction.  According to the laws of physics, it is possible for time to go backwards, so why doesn't it?  I shouted out the answer before the announcer had a chance to reveal it: it's because of my old enemy, entropy.

Very simply stated, entropy is the measure of disorder within a system, and entropy always increases.  In other words, everything always tends toward increasing chaos.  Well, I've certainly found that to be true in my life, haven't you?

Anyway, this Nova host dude said something amazing.  He said that entropy is not only increasing, but it is increasing at a faster and faster rate all the time.  That's right, my friends: entropy is accelerating.  If Leslie P. Leifer ever told us this, I must have been distracted at the time (no doubt by his losing his place while writing on the board--this, for sure, would have been something that would have made him turn around to peer blindly at his captive audience of p-chem students). 

Oh yes, it's so, so true!  I used to be able to bring order to my household on a fairly regular basis.  Now?  Not so much.  But now I know it's not just me (whew! what a relief!)--accelerating entropy is to blame.

So, the next question was why entropy only moves in one direction.  Well, my friends, according to physicists (my goodness, that's a lot of esses in that word), entropy, and time, only move in one direction, because they were set in motion by THE BIG BANG billions of years ago.  Billions of years ago, the universe was ordered and compact, but after that one moment in time, the universe started becoming disordered and expanding.

AKD took that moment to ask, "so why was the universe ordered in the first place?"  Wow talk about a {insert baseball analogy about an easy to hit pitch}.  I said to him, "in the beginning, God created..."  Oh, what a moment!  AKD replied, "oh...right," but I know it made an impact on him.  How else would an ordered universe have come to be?

So anyway, back to Nova.  Apparently, time had a beginning, and was set in motion a long, long ...time... ago.  And, according to physicists, time will end at some point, when entropy has run its course and everything is utterly disordered.  I found that to be kind of a disturbing thought, until I remembered (seconds later) that I've placed my hope in eternity.  Of course, time, as we know it, will cease to exist.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. ... 
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children."
Revelation 21: 1, 4-7

Well, there you have it, friends.  God in the beginning.  God in the end.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pinned

I've been pinned!

No, I haven't just lost my wrestling match, and I haven't been captured for display as a biological specimen. 

I have been pinned on Pinterest, a sort of virtual cork board.  Apparently (I say apparently, because I have yet to try Pinterest, being of the opinion that such a thing would be very detrimental to my housework completion ratio), as you're humming along in the interwebs, and you find an idea or image that you'd like to remember, you pin it to your Pinterest board.  It's better than just bookmarking sites you'd like to revisit because Pinterest displays a picture of whatever you've pinned, plus you can add commentary to remind yourself why you pinned it in the first place (look at me--I'm gonna talk myself into it, aren't I?).

Anyway, I've been pinned.  I know this because I saw one of my projects on Pinterest.  When I looked, it had been re-pinned (meaning someone else saw it and decided they wanted to remember it, too) 5 times.  I feel honored.

So the project that's been pinned is the duck from this post. I, personally, would have chosen the cow to pin, but I have the advantage of having the originals to look at :)

And I have to admit, those are some pretty cute ducks...I love the "Quack" up at the top.  And the pond?  Well, that's just inspired.

I'm pretty sure that my 6-sided snowflake tutorial and my file folder games have been pinned, as well, and there are a few other posts that I suspect must be pinned or featured somewhere, considering the frequency with which people view them.

Anyway, just thought I'd share--I'm not famous, but a couple of my projects are :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

whoo, whoo!

Whooo, whooo, whooo's ready for some owl crafting fun? Well, I sure am. It's all about owls at our house this week.
Last week, we made these adorable pine cone owls.  Because when you are blessed to have as many pine cones as we do, you can't help but to want to craft with them.  The wings are pheasant feathers (from the craft store, not from the pheasants that we sometimes see around our property), the beaks are craft foam, and the eyes are...well, googly eyes.  These are so much fun to play with--a real "hoot" (haha!)--the owls have already spent hours swooping around our house attempting to eat spiders, both real and imagined.  If you don't have any pine cones, you can make an owl play set out of toilet paper tubes, like we did last year (instructions from Frugal Family Fun Blog).

This morning we read this sweet book by Tim Hopgood: Wow! Said the Owl



Little Owl knows that he is supposed to sleep during the day and be awake at night, but he's curious, so one day he takes a long nap and wakes up just before dawn.  The little owl is amazed at all the wonderful colors he discovers during the day.  I love the emphasis the author places on the beauty of the world, pointing out all the different colors in nature.  In the end, the owl realizes that "the nighttime stars are the most beautiful of all."

Inspired by the book, we made Shape Owls as featured on www.dltk-kids.com (instructions and template can be found here).
I had the kids assemble their owls on the darkest blue paper I could find (not very dark, is it? oh well), and I showed them how to make 6-pointed stars by drawing an X and then drawing one more line horizontally through the center.  As you can see from the above picture, Bubby chose to add a "moon" behind his owl :)  We also added twigs for our owls to sit on.
On Thursday, we'll be making paper bag owl puppets, also from www.dltk-kids.com (instructions and template can be found here).
The way the pieces are stacked, this pile of paper looks like a bird already :)

How about you?  Ready to get your owl on?

I linked up with A Story + Art = A Great stART at A Mommy's Adventures

Monday, November 7, 2011

Straight Paths

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

This has long been a favorite Bible passage of mine--maybe you're familiar with it, too?  I found myself thinking about this promise on my walk the other day.  You see, I've been on the lookout for straight paths in my life (begging God for straight paths is more like it), so I was repeating these verses in my head over and over, praying them, claiming the promise, {watching my feet}, when I looked up.  The road I was walking along is straight, but I couldn't see very far ahead because there was a tree hanging over the road obstructing my view and I was coming up to a hill.  You know how when you're driving (or biking or walking) along, and you're coming up to a hill, you can see to the top of the hill, but not what's beyond it?

It struck me then, that God doesn't promise to make our path easy.  God doesn't promise to make our path smooth.  God doesn't promise clarity.  God doesn't promise to show us all of the places our path will take us.  God promises to make our path straight.

When I am walking along on my path in life, I don't know where it will lead--I can't see the future--but I do know that if I trust God, and submit to God in everything, my path will be straight.  Sometimes my path will lead straight up a mountain--a challenge or hardship.  Sometimes my path will be smooth and easy.  And at some point I'll probably fall into a pothole along my path.  But no matter where my path leads, or what my path leads me through, I know that God directs me, and my path will be amazing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lists

I have all of these thoughts zipping around in my head like so many gnats.  I can't really see them until they're right in front of me, and then they're gone again before I know it, to be replaced by other thoughts buzzing into view.  I know that I should try to capture them, write them down on paper before they zip off into the atmosphere again, but my spirit is disinclined.  I already have far too much paper in my life for paper lists to actually do me any good, and for various reasons, electronic lists and I just don't get along.

It's disconcerting to think about all the wonderful thoughts I've had and then lost: all of the great ideas, all of the meaningful insights, all of the good intentions...

This morning I tried.  I realized that orgaizing my thoughts by writing them down in list form wasn't going to help if I couldn't remember where my lists were (or even that I had lists).  So I co-opted a composition book, still half empty from last year's social studies, cut out the used pages, and started making lists.  I even began, on the first page, with a list of lists: sort of a table of contents for my unruly thoughts. 

I didn't get very far.  Those gnatty thoughts proved elusive when I attempted to snatch them, which, of course, was enough to convince my spirit that it had been justified in its reluctance.  But I suppose this is progress.  At least now I know where to look when I remember the shadow of an idea, when I remember, oh yes, I had an idea once; I wonder what it was?  Perhaps the shadow I remember will be one of the gnats I was successful in documenting in my book of lists.

In the meantime, this is one more place in my life where I must learn to grant myself grace.  I will think wonderful thoughts, amazing thoughts, and some of them will be so fleeting I will never think them again.  Some of them I will never get the chance to act upon.  And some of them, I will.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friendly Friday: The Pies Have It

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy puns?  Love 'em.  I think they're...ahem...punny.

Anyway...the other day I mentioned that we made 6 apple pies on Sunday.  We have just two apple trees, so we don't get a ton of apples, but we do get enough that we couldn't possibly eat them all before they go bad, and our family (Hubby in particular) hates to let them go to waste (although one might argue that if we left them on the ground they would make a tasty meal for the deer).

In the past we've made applesauce.  Lots and lots of applesauce.  So much applesauce that we still have 5 quarts left from two years ago, and that's after sending the Bluefields home with 2 quarts last weekend.  It's delicious, but I gotta admit I'm a little tired of applesauce.  So this year, we turned to pies.

As I said, we made 6 pies on Sunday.  It was a great family fun activity.  The boys (all four of them) peeled apples, and I did everything else, which included mixing the filling, and making and rolling out the pastry. Two are in our freezer for future use.  We baked two to give to the new neighbors to our north and to our west--I was gratified to be able include the rest of the family in last week's Kinding Mission.  Oh, and by the way, those two pies looked and smelled sooo delicious (sorry I didn't get a picture for ya).

So, if you're paying attention, you realize that leaves 2 pies unaccounted for.  Hubby took those two to work to give to the office managers.  It was an unexpected treat for two essential, but generally unacknowledged, members of the team, and I think it made their day, not necessarily that they received an apple pie, but that someone made an effort to show appreciation for all of their hard work.

Way to go, Hubby!  :)  And, if there was any doubt in my mind that sharing my Friendly Friday experiences was making a difference for anyone, if I had any misgivings that I was actually spurring [anyone] on toward love and good deeds, now I have my confirmation.

Did you step out in kindness this week?   Feel free to share in the comments (remember, if you don't have a Blogger profile, you can post a comment as "anonymous" or choose the name/url option--you don't need an url).  I'll be linking up to O My Family's Friendly Friday post this week--hop on over to read about the experiences of others, and to be inspired to make a difference this week through acts of kindness.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taco Bean Soup

I love eating soup any time of the year, but it is especially satisfying in autumn, as the days are growing shorter and the temperature falls, to sit down and eat a hearty bowl of soup.  At this time of year, I make soup at least 3 times a month, freezing the extras in meal-sized portions for quick and easy lunches.  One of my favorites is this recipe for Taco Bean Soup from Vicki.

Taco Bean Soup
2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey or shredded, cooked chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large can chopped green chilies
2 15 oz cans pinto beans
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans yellow hominy (or white if you can't find yellow)
1 15 oz can corn
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 pkg ranch seasoning mix
1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
1/2 t celery seeds
1 t sugar

Brown meat and add onion.  Add remaining ingredients (do not drain vegetables--just open and dump).  Simmer for 2 hours.

I usually serve this soup with crushed tortilla chips (or you can make some baked tortilla strips) and shredded cheddar cheese.  So yummy!

What's your favorite soup recipe?

Some things to note: hominy can be found near canned vegetables or in the ethnic section of your grocery store.  Ranch seasoning mix can be found near the salad dressings.  Use a large pot (5 qt or larger)--this makes a lot of soup!  I usually don't add the salt, since the seasonings and most canned vegetables already have quite a bit of salt.  Since it doesn't contain any broth, you could easily make this soup vegetarian, just by leaving out the meat.  You could add tofu if you prefer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanks



Whew!  What a busy weekend!  But before I get to that, I wanted to introduce you to our "Thankful Tree," just in case you'd like to make one of your own.  The kids and I just cut up some brown paper grocery bags, crumpled the pieces (don't you think the crumples sorta kinda look like bark?), and taped them to the wall in a tree-shape. 

It was a great time to talk with the kids about how trees look: bigger branches closer to the tree trunk lead to smaller branches at the edges, and branches tend to form acute angles outward, rather than being perpendicular to each other.


Then I traced each kid's hand (plus mom and dad's, too) and cut out several "leaves" in each size. The idea is to write something we're thankful for on our paper leaf-hands, and put them on the tree (yes, I realize we're going the wrong way with this...leaves are supposed to be falling off the trees at this time of year). I'm hoping to have everyone add a leaf to the tree each day until Thanksgiving, but I'm realistic enough to realize that may not happen, and flexible enough to be OK with that.  So far, Bubby is thankful for duckies, and Pal is thankful for snow.

Maybe we'll be able to think of some way to incorporate our Thankful Tree into our Thanksgiving Celebration later this month, but in any case, I think it's a good practice to encourage a culture of thankfulness in our daily lives.

So, our busy weekend.  The Bluefields came into town on Thursday to hang with us for the weekend.  Pretty much as soon as they arrived, we bid them and our three children adieu and escaped for a much-needed date...we went to the kids' school conferences.  Isn't that romantic?

The older kids didn't have school on Friday, so they and I had a relaxing morning at home, while the Bluefields and Hubby took Bubby (oh, right, Roger) to school.  That afternoon we took a short hike at a state park--what a gorgeous day for a walk in the woods.

Saturday brought the last games of the fall soccer season.  Just as we were pulling up, we noticed a hot air balloon flying low, coming toward us.  We thought they were going to land on the soccer field.  Actually, they thought they were going to land on the soccer field, too, but the wind was too fast for them to get down in time.  They landed on the next street over and Bubby (Roger!) and I took off to watch them deflate.
AKD and MC each scored a goal during their games, by being in the right place at the right time and seizing the moment, and their teams both won (not that we keep score, or anything).
Bubby (Roger!  I keep forgetting) wants to play next year so he can have a metal.

After soccer, it was off to a park for a picnic lunch, followed by a "Pumpkin Party," complete with a hay ride and s'mores.

Saturday was also Roger's (see, I remembered this time) birthday.  My baby is 4!
That's supposed to be a pumpkin cake. I think it would look more like a pumpkin if 1. I hadn't messed up and added a drop of green food coloring to the orange frosting in a misguided attempt to make it a deeper orange, and 2. I hadn't been stingy with the frosting and opened another can to turn the stem green. Oh well...once again, not my best effort, but it did the job.
One of the fun things about living here is we decorate for birthdays.  Usually just streamers and balloons, but it's enough to distinguish a birthday from just any other ordinary day.  This time, just for fun, Hubby hung Bubby's spider from the light fixture :)


I think it's still there, although it's crawled up a little bit.  (oh, and hey, you can see the ghost clings in the background)

Roger wanted to have a bonfire for his birthday, so after supper, out we went to burn some wood. 

The Bluefields left on Sunday, and we spent the day trying to recover from the excitement of the previous couple of days.  Oh yeah, and we made 6 apple pies.  But that's another post.

On Monday I was sitting in my bedroom talking on the phone when all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a ninja walk by.  Later on, a skeleton and a tiger started wandering around in our house, too.  It was pretty frightening.  I haven't seen them since then, so I'm thinking it was a one-time thing...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Shower Curtain

If you own a shower curtain, chances are you've ripped through at least one flimsy plastic "grommet" in your shower curtain liner.  And while these are fairly inexpensive to replace, and for a few extra dollars you can buy a "heavy duty" liner with metal grommets, for a quick fix, you can just follow this week's tip.

Cover the rip and grommet on both sides of the liner with tape--I used clear packaging tape, but Duck Tape* in a matching color would be more durable.  Use a hole punch to punch a hole in the tape, over the grommet hole.  That's it!  You're done.  My repair, with packaging tape, lasted for several months.

Sorry, no pictures today.  The lighting is, shall we say, less than ideal where our shower curtain is hanging, and I wasn't about to take that thing down just for this.  You're pretty smart--I'm sure you can figure it out.

* Yes, that is Duck Tape, not duct tape.  They've got all sorts of colors, including leopard print and tie dye.
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