Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Refuse to Bloom"

I mentioned earlier this week that my sister and her friend started up a cool new blog. It is called "Choose to Bloom" and it is all about encouraging others to bloom where they are planted: to take the circumstances you find yourself in and not just make the best of them, but find joy in them. Glorify God where He has placed you, and be thankful for the placement.

I was joking with her the other day that I had a "REFUSE to Bloom" day. And oh boy, did I ever. I won't go into detail, but it is sufficient to say that I was angry at my husband and it had been building for a solid three weeks. But, you know, I am pregnant so I was having a VERY difficult time discerning what the underlying cause of my anger really was, and if that anger was even defensible.

So in a fit of rage, I stormed out of the house (again) determined to discern. I really wanted things to get back to normal between the two of us so I wanted resolution and I did not want to argue about superfluous things. Its too easy to tangent into arguments that have nothing to do with the real issue - incidents from which you have built up ammunition. We end up fighting about things that don't REALLY matter and never really getting to the bottom line. Result: everyone is super mad, and nothing gets fixed.

And so I tried to make sure I knew what the main point of contention was. And one other thing I have learned in marriage: if I don't know what MY problem is, what MY unmet needs are, how can I expect Ryan to have a fighting chance to meet them?! Yes, knowing why I am mad is only half the puzzle. The other half is my ability to articulate to him WHAT HE CAN DO SPECIFICALLY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. My husband is a problem-solver, so if he does not have this critical puzzle piece, he gets pretty frustrated with me.

One thing that Megan said to me a long time ago about marriage is that it would be really nice if our husbands could read our minds, but they can't so don't act like they can. TELL HIM what you need. Don't hint around and then get mad when he doesn't get it. That's just not fair. She was not necessarily giving me marriage advice at the time, but it is something that really stuck with me and I have often times looked at marriage conflict through that lens: have I told him what I really need from him? And often times the honest answer I give back to myself is, "I don't even know what I need!" And so out the door I go, searching for discernment so that I know what to ask for that would really make a difference BEFORE I engage in a conflict.

So, it started out with my refusal to bloom - I was angry and was kind of enjoying the pity party I was throwing. I was really enjoying feeling sorry for myself. And even more so, I was revelling in the list of strikes I was building against my Ryan. Of course if you were to ask me, I would have said I was miserable. But really, I liked the misery. But I was not blooming.

Am I blooming now, after the conflict was dealt with and resolved? I think I am well on my way.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Binki Boy

As much as I would like him to speak, I am really enjoying this wonderful age (20 months, now!). He is sweet, cuddly, generally quick to obey, and a real delight. He finds more ways to get filthy dirty than any 10 boys combined. He never tires of pointing out Curious George in his favorite board book. He will stack and crash down blocks, laughing hysterically each time, as though it were the first time. He delights to dump anything out of it's container (tupperware in the kitchen, 10,000 army men from the blue bin, socks from the sock bin, toothbrushes from the container they reside in, cranberries from a winco bulk foods sack, the list goes endlessly on) and he also loves to put things away. He spent an afternoon frustrated at a cupboard that would not stay closed (he would shut it, it would pop open an inch. He would shut it again, it would pop open again... again and again, until he started to cry...I could just hear his orderly little head saying, "I can't get this to be how it's supposed to be!!!!!"). And one last thing that endears me to this stage of his life: he loves his binkis. We try to contain them to the crib, but he sneaks them out frequently.
So, while I am at it, I will give you my little tip for binki-dependent children: At night time one of the most frustrating things is when the child wakes up in the middle of the night and can't find the binki. We solved this problem early on by attaching binki clips to all "crib binkis" and then attaching the clip to a stuffed animal. Weston has since found it delightful to pull the clip off the stuffed animal and now all he needs in the crib to find those precious binkis is the ribbon and clip: he can find those binkis just fine in the middle of the night. So, you can understand why he and I share a love for those wonderful binki clips (though my reason has much more to do with sleep than anything else!).

Recipe: California Chicken Salad

I have never posted any recipes on my blog, but in honor of my sister's totally cool, to completely inspirational website, I have done this post. She is having a giveaway (Starbucks Coffee beans) to the person who submits the yummiest or prettiest or something-iest recipe and picture. I, of course, am not eligible for the award, but I thought it would be fun to participate anyway. Just zip on over to her site and check it out for yourself!
1/2 - 1 cup cooked, thinly sliced and chilled chicken breasts
1/2 small cantelope, pared, seeded and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded lettuce
1/2 medium avacado, pared and thinly sliced

dash of pepper
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp minced cilantro
2 Tbsp mild chunky salsa*
2 Tbsp plain lowfat yogurt

Onto each of two individual plates, arrange half of the lettuce. Decoratively arrange half of the chicken, cantelope and avacado over lettuce. In small bowl combine remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Spoon over salad.

*I used a mango peach salsa this time instead of traditional salsa. It was super yummy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Science Lesson

Davis caught a moth and was letting it sit quietly on his hand while he carefully watched it. "I bet," he said ever-so-thoughtfully, "That this moth is sticking out his (pause, think) proboscis looking for nectar on my hand but he is getting blood instead."

Proboscis? What's a proboscis?

"A butterfly's tongue. Don't you know that?" And earnestly he continues, "Boy! You should go back to school!"

I guess I should.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Melted Mommy Heart


"MMMMMM-OOOOOOOOO-MMMMMM," he parrotted back to me.

Literally, the first time Weston has ever-ever-EVER parrotted anything back to us except in play with "ah-choo." He chose "Mom." Ok, I know I said that I would consider "Ah-choo" his first word but I officially change it now, on this 24th day of July, 2008, at Weston's age of nearly 20 months, to:


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Bewitching Hours

A friend, Andrea, just posted a enjoyable Mom moment and made mention of the contrasting stinky part of the day, between 4 and 6 PM: that section of the day which all too often results in tears, sibling arguments, and grouchy mommies. (And then Daddy gets to enter into THAT atmosphere...poor guy!!)

There really is nothing worse than experiencing the stress that comes from trying to prepare dinner while your kids' behavior sinks lower and lower into a mess of tears, anger and frustration. The whole day could have gone swimmingly, but when that clock dongs it's 4th dong, WATCH OUT! I thought I would give a few anti-bewitching ideas that have worked for me and then invite you to share yours:
  • Give a medium hearty, healthy snack around 3pm (you too, Mom!)
  • Hunger can be a huge factor in the bewitching hours, especially if bedtime is close to 7PM. If Daddy gets home closer to 6PM or later (i.e. nearing bedtime), consider feeding the kids a simple dinner around 4-4:30PM and then have the kids eat fruit or cheese or a little treat while you and your husband dine together.
  • While you are busy getting dinner ready, have a quiet activity already figured out for the kids to work on: puzzles, coloring, books
  • Separate the kids on different couches or corners to partake in their activities to minimize (eliminate!) arguments
  • Do all (or most) of your food prep (veggies/meat cutting) before 3PM so you are less stressed to get food all prepared
  • Along the same lines as #4, set the table before 3PM
  • Invite the kids to help with the dinner prep: even a small child can pull lettuce apart for a salad, or use a butter knife to cut bananas for the kids plates
  • Put the baby in the crib for some independent play time!! Turn on some enjoyable music and toss a few toys in the crib. Start with just 15 minutes at a time - eventually they will last much, much longer so you can cook and attend to the older kids
  • Think ahead: like, at breakfast (or better yet during yesterday's dinner prep) pull out your meat to defrost.
  • Know what you are having for dinner by lunchtime (or better yet, have a meal plan decided for the whole week).
So, how have you fought the bewitching hours in YOUR home?

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's A...


(...and a healthy one, at that.)

I cannot believe I am so blessed to be able to raise four sons. I have not stopped smiling since the ultrasound. (Incidently, the needle and thread test said girl.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Funny Kid

Jackson, at the dinner table tonight, got me giggling pretty good. He sits across from Ryan and so as he was talking, he was looking right at him: "Daddy? Am I ever going to have hair that falls to the sides," (Jackson does a little move with his hands showing the hair on the top of his head moving toward his ears) "and then gets tiny little hairs on top?"

Ever the good sport and without skipping a beat, Ryan answered, "If you're lucky!"

(This pic is not of tonight, but rather of Ryan teaching the kids how to play "War." The kids LOVE playing games with Daddy. He's such a great Dad.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Compassion or Starvation...

I have a quote on my sidebar about hope:
"Hope is the most powerful force a parent can nurture in their child."

This quote speaks on so many levels and in so many realms: spiritual, emotional, physical. Just a couple of examples: You can nurture the hope that when mommy says something will happen, it will happen. You can nurture the hope that there is someone to rely completely upon for all your needs (mom and dad 100% now, and later, Christ in increasing abundance as they grow older). You can nurture their hope that they can do it (make a goal in soccer if they keep at it, etc.). You can nurture their hope that (even when they don't act it) they do have the capacity for a kind heart. On the other hand, you can also starve out "bad hope." That is, for example, the hope that if I pester long enough, Mom will change her mind. But we can also unknowingly starve that good hope too, leaving our children feeling, well, hopeless. And when a child (or adult, for that matter) feels hopeless, they become powerless as well. That's not a good place to be.

And recently I have been very convicted that I have been sucking the hope out of one of my children in particular. He comes at me with so much whine, so much fuss, and so much drama. I have been waiting for "the terrible twos" to vanish, but they have really just continued (with less vigor, I remind myself). The "twos" have left us a long time ago, replaced by the terrible threes and the terrible fours. I quake at the thought that I will deal with the terrible tens and twelves and twenty-threes and...

But I have been made aware of just how little compassion I show to this child, regardless of his plight. I know that I do this because so often, it just does not seem to matter if I coddle or ignore, the boo boo is horrendous in his mind and loud screaming MUST continue for at least 15 more minutes. And the thirst in his throat demands a whiney fuss that, if asked to re-say the demand in the form of a polite request, will explode into a tantrum-flop on the floor. (Talk about feeling hopeless! I do feel it!!)

So I am short on compassion with this child most days. I often do not make much effort to get down to his level and really see what he sees, looking at the world from his little eyes. I don't spend much mental energy thinking about what my response could be that might diffuse the situation for him. (My thought: why try? It won't matter. He's being a pill. ugh. How dreadful to see my honest thoughts in front of me.)

And so in my recent sleepless nights - a couple of which were caused by this child's uncontrollable midnight screaming - there was one word that penetrated my thick skull in regards to him: compassion. Show him compassion. Regardless of how he responds.

Feed the hope that Mom can and wants to help, Jenne. Nurture in him a hope that life will not always be so miserable as it seems at this moment. Teach him that Mom is one to depend on (Dad, too) because someday that hope and dependence will be transferred to the Lord.

Being rebuked is so painful. I do not enjoy it at all. But on the other hand, I have benefitted from the rebuke. Hope has grown in ME, too. No life-changing stories here in our mother-son relationship, but I do see subtle differences in how he responds to my words, voice, tone, smile. And that gives me great hope.

(Thanks, Diane, for using this phrase in your talk this year at M2M.)

And it does not take much of a mental leap to realize that I act toward the Lord the very same way my child does to me. And how thankful I am that the Lord continually shows me compassion, regardless of how I respond to that compassion. I am ten times less deserving of compassion than my child is, yet it is given and given and given. What a great God we serve.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Food Group Confusion and Bathroom Etiquette

Davis said last night at dinner: My favorite kind of meat is rice!

Camping last week, I took Weston (19 months) into the showers that the campground provided (nice facilities, by the way). As I was gathering up our supplies after scrubbing the dirt off of us, Weston was walking around the aisleway of shower stalls. He stopped next to the one and only occupied stall, crouched down, put his hands on his knees, cocked his head so he had a better look at the stranger's feet and said over and over again, "hi-eeee... hi-eeeeeeee!" I was so proud that he had discovered word number three (!!) that i did not have the heart to do anything about it besides just hurry ourselves out of there.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What, Exactly, Do You Mean by "Vacation?"

We "vacationed" over the holiday weekend. If you have young kids like we do, then we all know that the proper way to use the word vacation is with quotes. As in, we "vacationed" over the holiday weekend but it was more work than home and we all got significantly less sleep and now I am so glad to be home so I can relax.

Our "vacation" was a quasi-camping trip. We tent camped, but had the convenience of a rustic cabin on the property so we could escape the elements when necessary. The days were fun. Really fun. The kids played in the water, biked, fished, and invented new ways to get dirty. My Mother- and Father-in-Law were there and they helped entertain and feed the kids, and my Sister- and Brother-in-Law were their with their two kids, who provided additional hours of play for my boys. So the days were generally relaxing and nothing to complain about. But the nights were a different story.

The nights were like something out of a torture camp, where the victims are allowed to not quite fall asleep before being awoken again. The first night's sleep was one child after another having one issue or another. Itchy mosquito bites so filled one child's body that they woke him up in tears (thank you, Benedryl, for saving my son from certain torture), another of my children had a night terror (where do you take a screaming child that won't stop and won't stop and won't stop? Thank you, Dodge Grand Caravan, for being semi-sound-proof), another of my children cried out every 30 minutes or so for one reason or another - none of which I will ever know (thank you, Lord, for prompting me to bring 832 binkis for just such an occassion).

Our second night gave some relief, but the third night topped it all, with the baby waking at 2AM and crying and crying and crying until 4AM when he decided that it was just time to be awake. "Hi-eeee, hi-eeeeee" he kept saying over and over again until I finally grabbed my coat and the baby and got in the van for "a little drive around the lake."

I popped in a little bit of City on a Hill music and began my journey - not sure what I was hoping for. I knew that he would not sleep and I felt a hopeless in that regard, but I took solace in the fact that we were warm and he was happy to be along for the ride. And 30 minutes later, we were beginning the second lap around the lake and I was wondering how many times we would pass our tent before I could nestle myeslf back into my sleeping bag. And being pregnant with #4, I was also contemplating how many more camping trips I would have to endure where sleep was so incredibly elusive. I was wanting to let myself cry, yet tears would not come.
With no other alternatives, I just kept on driving.

And then pre-dawn hit. Have you ever seen pre-dawn? It's like hope written into the sky. It's that time of day when everything is still dark, but slowly you can start seeing the outline of the trees against the lake. The outline of the mountain in the distance can be made out, and you can see the clouds - just barely - against the night sky. It is breathtaking.

And then the Lord reminded me that in all things, even suffering, we are to rejoice. And He gave that to me. The Lord filled my mind with one prevading thought: You are tired, but you are tired because the God of the Universe gave you the most amazing gift when he gave you your children. If not for the sleep-deprivation, you would not have these wonderful blessings. And with that thought, my heart lightened and I was rejoicing in my suffering. And I know that the Apostle Paul was enduring much worse when he wrote those words, but I gained this new-found understanding of what he was referring to. It is not that Paul enjoyed the suffering, it is that he knew that if it weren't for the blessing of knowing Christ, the suffering would not be there. And Christ in his life was such an incredibly precious thing to him that he said that he would gladly suffer, as I would gladly suffer. I would much rather endure sleep deprivation and have the blessing of my children, if the alternative is to get good sleep but be without my children.

And so, at 4:30 in the morning, as I watched the sky slowly lighten , I was filled with Christ's joy. I do not wish a terrible night's sleep on anyone, but I do pray that every mom would have the opportunity to see the pre-dawn of hope that Christ offers, and the deep privilege it is to raise children to the Lord.