Monday, November 30, 2009

Big Sisters

Hazel is the epitome of an older sister. She is constantly attacking Amelia. And by attack I mean coming up behind her, knocking her to the ground, and then sitting on top of her and bouncing. And it's all in the name of kissing and squeezing Amelia. Or changing her poo poos. She just wants to help! Ummmm...No.

Another of her favorite older sister roles is being bossy. She loves to wag her chubby little finger at her sister and tell her, "Moowee, No! Momma say no! Say 'es Momma!" You know. All the things she's supposed to remember to do herself but seems to always forget. She even steps in to correct Amelia when I already am. I usually end up telling her, "Hazel, don't be bossy to Amelia. Mommy is the boss. I'll take care of it." But apparently she doesn't like that.

Last night she told me, "Mommy, I boss." I gently reminded her, while stifling my laughter, "No, Hazel. Mommy is the boss. You need to let Mommy be the boss." She replied, "No. My turn."

At least she's getting the concept of sharing!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lessons For Life From Death

I know I haven't blogged in about a week. And the last time I did I promised pictures. Well, I still don't have the pictures I was planning to post. But I do have a post. Will you settle for that?

The last few weeks have been exciting as we've gotten closer to the holidays and spent time with our families celebrating Thanksgiving. But with the joy there has also been much sorrow. In the past two weeks six people who were friends and family of ours or of those we love have died.

Although I only personally knew three of those six people each death brought with it a sorrow all it's own. And as I mourned, prayed, and shed tears for each of these lives I felt within me a nudge to glean from these sad situations. Maybe it was a reminder. I don't know. But I want to share with you what death has been teaching me about life.

I've shared with you before that I have a song that I sing to my kids at bedtime. Well, it started out that way when they were little babies and I rocked them to sleep all the time. But once they were about 4-6 months old we started teaching them to fall asleep on their own. Since I was trying to keep them from needing only me and our routine before they could fall asleep I stopped singing them to sleep.

But when we went camping this last summer I had to help the girls fall asleep since the environment was so strange to them (and there were other people who could hear the screaming!). So after almost two weeks of this Hazel was pretty upset when we got home and I tried to get her to fall asleep on her own again.

At first I struggled with not wanting to start a habit that she wouldn't want to break and the desire to snuggle her for just a few minutes (this girl doesn't sit still for more than a few minutes). I gave in to the snuggling. And I'm glad I did. I really enjoy hearing her ask every night for "my song, Momma!" And then when I am done singing to her she says, "Moowee turn, Momma!" (Millie is short for Amelia) And both girls are pretty good about falling asleep after we are done singing. And we only did this at night time. At nap the girls just go to sleep on their own.

Well a few weeks ago Hazel started asking for, "my song, Momma!" at nap time.And for the first few days I would remind her that we sing our song at night. I didn't want to be starting more habits! And then I got an email with a prayer request from a friend. A former student of his had been in a terrible car accident with her three kids in the car and she, the mommy, didn't survive.

I could hardly read the email. I felt heavy inside. My mind was instantly flooded with the memories and thoughts of my own car accident earlier this year. Although my kids weren't in the car and I wasn't hurt beyond what a good massage and chiropractor can take care of, right after the accident happened I was hysterical thinking about what could have happened to them if they had been with me and what my family would have to go through if something had happened to me. I had to force myself to stop thinking abut the what if's then and I had to do it again when I got that email. I found myself holding my kids a little longer and squeezing them a little tighter.

But it wasn't until Nathan told me about a co-worker who had just lost his 15 month old baby to a rare blood disease that I started to give in to Hazel's request for her song at nap time. How could I refuse? I have my babies. They are healthy and strong. And they have me. Our song takes maybe 5 minutes to sing to both girls. And this isn't a bad habit. And most likely there will come a day when they stop asking for it. Sad.

A few days after all of this one of my parents friends from Africa was shot, robbed and beaten and then had to walk two hours to the hospital where he died from a lack of medical supplies. I was struck by the reality of the quality we have in our American hospitals, lacking though it may sometimes seem. My dad writes of these realities here.

So, as we got closer to the holiday and began making plans for where we would be on what days I got frustrated trying to make all the schedules work. We try to spend time with both sides of our family but we try to spread it out between two days so we can actually visit and be with family instead of eating and running. Our plans were finally settled and we were blessed to find that Nathan didn't have to work the day after Thanksgiving. But I was still frustrated inside and was finding it hard to be excited about the holiday.

At the beginning of this week we found out that my brother-in-law's grandpa, who was like a grandpa to everyone, had a heart attack and wasn't expected to live long. Around the same time we found out that our great grandma, who was known as old, old grandma, had a stroke and also wasn't expect to live long. Then we found out that my step grandma had passed away last week. Both Grandpa Norman and Old, old Grandma Mary passed away Thanksgiving morning. Although I was sad for the families and friends of these dear grandparents I was comforted knowing they are with Jesus and they aren't in any pain.

But I also felt my frustration with the holidays melting. I began to realize that even though we may do more running around at the holidays than I like, we still have family to see and visit with. We have grandparents who don't get to see their grandchildren very much during the year except for these holidays. And while we may choose to change a few things to make the holidays smoother we will still try to make family a priority.

I would love to leave you with an elegant paragraph bringing all my thoughts together. But my sister said it best in her lovely post here on the mixing of life's sorrows and joys. Enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blog, Blog, Blog!

My dear older sister, Summer, just started a blog! You can find her at A Time Of Growth. Check her out! I know she'll have great stories and wonderful recipes to share. I've always looked up to her and I think she is amazing. I have a feeling you will, too.

Also, today I have a guest post at 5 Minutes for Parenting again. Check it out here.

I have some pictures to post later on today so I'll be back with more but right now I need to make some coffee and breakfast and do school with Abiah. Check back in for the fun!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crockpot Ragout

I was reading through a list of crockpot recipes over at Passionate Homemaking and found this wonderfully easy recipe for Ragout. I was hesitant to even read through these recipes at first because I know I don't cook as naturally as they are written out. But I was delighted to find this one and a few others that are healthy, simple and consist of ingredients I already purchase. I altered the recipe slightly so the original is here if you want to check it out too.

Crockpot Ragout

1 lb. burger (P.H. uses turkey burger. I used elk.)
1 onion
6 carrots
4 potatoes
green beans, peas, corn (These are optional or you can just add what you have. I only had frozen corn so that's what I used. Mixed veggies would work, too.)
seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning
1&1/2 C. water

Brown the burger. Add seasonings as desired. I over seasoned the meat as it is the only seasoning for the whole dish. Layer ingredients in crockpot: burger, potatoes, carrots, onion, optional veggies. Pour water over the top. In a crockpot cook: 6 hrs on low or 2&1/2 - 3 hrs on high. In a pan on the stove cook for 1/2 hr. Serve with ketchup.

See. Simple! It was really nummy, too. It's like meatloaf dinner in a pot. Let me know what you think if you try it.

I'm also looking for more crockpot recipes. Do you have any you'd like to share?

Sooooooo Not Expecting That One

So, the other day I told ya'll about my premonitions of Hazel's up-n-coming use of swear words. I was prepared and knew that it wouldn't be terrible. Funny, yes. Awful, no.

When her first swear words was, "Thoot!" I laughed and thought, "No biggie." And then there was today.

Nathan and I were sitting on the couch enjoying our fresh coffee and reading together. Abiah was at the table doing math, Amelia was down for a nap and Hazel is playing "Yegos" on the floor by me. Now, she is still learning to talk so about 50% of the words she says are baby gibberish or a mutated real word. We kept hearing her say what sounded like a nasty word and just shrugged it off as baby gibberish.

Well, it wasn't. She started throwing the Legos at us and instead of saying "throw" she would say, "F*$%#"! She has never heard that word in her life and so we know it is just her mutation of a real word but Whoa Nellie! I couldn't stop laughing which, of course, made her say it more. Bad Mommy!

When I finally stopped laughing we worked on saying "throw!" over and over and over. And hopefully she gets it down because the holidays are right around the corner and this is definitely a word we don't want grandma to hear.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

For His Benefit Only

I've never been one who likes to make a gift wish list. I don't like the idea of handing someone a list and knowing what they'll get me. I like surprises and I don't want people to feel obligated to by me a $50 present when they only have $20.

I don't ask for wish lists from others either. I really enjoy shopping for other people and finding a them a gift they will love but never would have expected. And I usually do a good job.

Except last year when I made a suggestion to my dad about a gift for my mom, those sweater/dress/blankets, and I don't think she loved it like I thought she would. I don't think she knows it was my suggestion either. Uh, sorry Mom! I was just trying to help.

Anyways, Nathan, on the other hand has always asked me for a list. And I fought it for a while. And then I learned that all the hints I dropped throughout the year were forgotten.

So I have started making a Gift Ideas for all Special Occasions list and I thought I'd share it with ya'll and see if you have any suggestions. I don't expect to receive all of these items this Christmas or even this year. But since he asked, these are a few of the things I have had my eye on.

Gift Ideas for 2009-2010 Special Occasions

Crockpot - My MIL was wonderful and picked up a crockpot for me at a garage sale this summer but it is a little too small for the meals I make. Costco has a coupon for a Crock-Pot 6 Quart Stainless Slow Cooker that is plenty big. And it's shiny and puurty. I was just in a conversation on Facebook the other day about how odd it is to want a crockpot for a present but I would use it and can't justify buying it for myself right now. And did I mention it's shiny and puurty?

Shelf for living room - I haven't pick a self out yet but I think something from IKEA would fit the bill. I want something for all of our DVDs, CDs and videos. Something with doors would be nice so I can end the war between me and my girls over the stack of CDs they want to destroy and chew on.

CDs - To add to my new shelf, of course! I've been wanting to get some new music lately and this may be my only opportunity to justify spending the money. Here's the artists I've been wanting to hear lately:
Matt Redman
Misty Edwards
Corey Ashbury
Justin Rizzo
Rita Springer
Philips, Craig and Dean (the one with the Holy, Holy, Holy song)
Susan Boyle (That lady is amazing and I could listen to her all day)
Keith Green's Greatest Hits

CD Player - to go on top of my new shelf and to play my new CDs. A multi disc player would be nice, but those Hello Kitty ones are pretty darn cute, too. Hmmmm...

Cute Photo Albums - I already showed Nathan one at Barnes and Nobe that I LOVE but I would like a couple so I can catch up on storing my photos and start my 2010 album. He picked four albums out for me two years ago and did a great job finding ones that are adorable.

Gift Cards - I always give Nathan a list of places I would like gift cards to. They work well for stocking stuffers and last minutes presents for holidays like Queen's Day and Ground Hog's Day. What? You don't get presents on those days? So far I don't either. But that can change. They are also perfect for I Love My Wife And Was Thinking Of Her While I Stopped At The Store For A Case Of Coke Day.
Barnes and Noble
The Body Shop
Old Navy

Simple Life Dual Trash/Recycle Can - Okay. I really don't want this as a gift because, well, who would. But it's a really cool double canned garbage can at Costco (they even have a coupon). It would make recycling much cleaner because it wouldn't be all over my counter. And it's shiny, too.

So this is my list so far. Do you have any suggestions of things I could add? How do you handle gift buying in your house?

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Knew This Day Would Come

Before you have children you are really unaware of, well, most things, but namely your own personal quirks or tendencies. Like the use of certain words you would never say in front of Grandma, or your inhibitions with your bodily functions/noises when others aren't around.

When Abiah moved in with us at age 3 he had already used a few choice words learned from others and he wasn't new to the idea of clearing a room with one small toot. We have had instances where we know he learned something from us and we've worked at correcting those areas in ourselves. But I think every kid helps to peel back one more layer from us as they pick up on words and tendencies the others haven't.

So, as Hazel has started talking more and more I've tried to remind myself to watch what I am saying because one day she's gonna repeat something I don't want repeated. And today I had another humorous reminder.

We were doing some puzzles together this morning and as she picked one up all the pieces fell out onto the coffee table and floor. She stopped, looked at the puzzle and said, "Thoot!"

I was instantly in stitches and could hardly talk. My husband thought she might have said something worse but thankfully she hasn't learned that one yet. I don't mind her saying this word but I need to make sure I'm not teaching her others!

(Innocent Little Princess)

Since my kids were little they have loved to play in diaper boxes and laundry baskets. Abiah usually pulls the girls around the room or on a rare occasion he gets one to himself and pulls himself around.

(Abiah pulling Hazel around. 2008)

We spend most of our time on the bottom story of our two story house and up until today I haven't had to worry about the chance of the kids going down the stairs in one of their "boats". However, since our bed rooms and changing table are upstairs and I usually have those big diaper boxes or a laundry basket sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for me I have tried to prepare myself for the day when a boat trip down the stairs might sneak into their creative minds. Today was that day.

I was standing at the changing table in the hallway changing Amelia and Abiah had just unloaded the diapers from the box onto the shelf. I glanced over at him to find him in the box, partway hanging over the top step, holding onto the hand rail. This was the conversation we had:

Me: Abiah! What are you doing?

Abiah: (while looking totally guilty) I was gonna ride down the stairs in the box.

Me: You'll crash and break your neck! Get out of there!

Abiah: That's what I was worried about.

Of course he had to prove his theory by sending his sister's dolly down on a few test runs. His conclusion. "You're right, Mom!" At least this time it only caused dolly trauma for him to come to that conclusion.

(My Little Pirate)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Before He Lays Down To Sleep

Every night before Abiah goes to bed we pray together. I have always encouraged him to pray about whatever is in his heart or on his mind. Most of his prayer topics are "normal" kid prayers but he always seems to have a specialty prayer for a few weeks or months. And every once in awhile he gets goofy and starts praying for his sisters dolls or his imaginary friends. I've had to stifle many a giggle on many a night.

For a long time his specialty was, "Help us have a good day yesterday. Help us have a good day today. Helps us have a good day tomorrow." Sometimes he still says it. It's so cute. But his recent specialty prayers have been more insightful and challenging to me in my own prayer life.

First of all, he has been very interested in Satan and his role in the present, past and future. He is continually asking questions way beyond his maturity level and mine, too! We've told him who Satan is and how he came to be and about his plan against us as children of God. We've talked about his lies and his tricks and how much he hates us but wants us to think he loves us. Abiah has struggled with fear at bedtime and there have been so many conversations about choosing to listen to God not Satan.

So he recently began praying, "Help me to shut up Satan and to not shut up you (speaking to God, of course). Help Jesus to punch Satan in the face and to cut his eyes out with a sword. Help you to come back soon. And help me not to listen to Satan's lies and to not be afraid. And help me to be obedient. "

He's six. And he blows me away. He has such a strong disgust for Satan. When he talks about him you can here the anger in his voice. And most of the time when he is being naughty I can just remind him that He has a choice to listen to Satan and be disobedient or to listen to God and obey. And he changes almost instantly. And his Bible school work is only helping! He loves learning about God, the stories in the Bible, and their application to his life. And I'm learning, too! Mostly from Abiah's questions!

The second specialty he has added is, to me and I'm sure most people, so precious. Out of his own accord he started praying, "And help Mommy and Daddy to teach me and Millie and Hazel to be a good husband and good wives. And help us to teach our children. And help them to teach their children. And help it go on and on and on and on. For a long time." He's praying for future generations many generations removed from him!

To be honest, most days I get busy and don't even take the time pray. At all! And here he is praying for his great-great-great grand children. What a little man and a wonderful example.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Are They Mine or My Sisters?

I have three sisters. All wonderfully unique and very dear to me. I loved growing up in our Little Women family. And my parents did a great job raising us.

I remember my mom saying to us when we were younger, "You'll understand someday!" when she'd recall our "naughty" stories. You know. The battles that are unique to every child. With me it was hyperactivity (or zest for life as I'd like to see it) and a short attention span (I was kicked out of a pre preschool class. At 3 years old. My poor mother.). My mom was always great about refraining from "cursing" us with children like us (although I think she may have in her dreams) but she understands that children turn out a lot (sometimes too much) like their parents. And so far I have tried not to "curse" my kids (except I'm pretty sure I do in my dreams). And it was no surprise to me when my kids had some of my "traits". That's a nicer word for it. What has surprised me though is that I'm starting to see my sisters' "traits" come out in my kids and I'm wondering what happened in the gene pool!

One of the stories my mom tells is of one of my younger sisters. She was about two years old and she was following my mom through the house messing up everything my mom had just cleaned. My mom kept telling her, "Help mommy. Don't mess it up." And finally after several rounds of this my mom, frustrated and exasperated, said, "I'm sick and tired of you messing things up!" To which my sister, with hands on her hips, replied, "Well, I'm sick and tired of you talking at me!" And then my mom dealt with that. And there were tears.

So, Hazel, my two year old, has just started talking. She surprises us everyday with the new words and phrases she is using. Especially the sassy ones. She definitely inherited my "zest for life" trait and I am constantly chasing after her. Correcting. Correcting. Correcting. And I remind myself many times throughout the day that my mom survived raising me. And I turned out okay. So I can do this, too. Right? RIGHT?!?

Well, one day after correcting Hazel for the same thing over and over I said, "I told you NO!" She looked at me with eyebrows raised and said, "I told NO!" She left out the "you" but I knew who she was talking to...I knew...

And then we dealt with that. And there were tears. And she was sweet to me again. And I wondered, "Ummmm, this isn't my "trait"! Why does my kids have it? What went WRONG!" I expected my sister to have to deal with this in her kids just like I have to deal with the "zest for life" trait. But why, oh why God, do I get them both! And just what am I supposed to do to fix this? And then it came to me. My kids need to spend more "quality time" with their Aunts. It's their trait. They can fix it!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do Over Update

This last week was my second three day fast. This time was very hard for me. I don't know if it's because I wasn't prepared for it or maybe it's just because it's fasting. And fasting is hard.

We had just gotten back from a week at the beach and I had turned around and left for a woman's retreat. I got back Sunday only to clean the kids up and head out of the house to go to a birthday party for my niece. It was a whirlwind kind of weekend but I was unusually relaxed and calm. And then Monday came.

I felt lost in my house after having been gone all week. I know that probably sounds funny but it's how I felt. I was overwhelmed by tasks that needed to be done and I didn't know where to start. The woman's retreat I was at was based on the books Power of a Praying Wife and For Woman Only. I was encouraged and challenged to be a better wife and mom and I want that so much that sometimes I feel like everything I do isn't good enough because it's not the best or consistent enough. You know, when you focus on laundry you turn around to find the kitchen a total disaster. When you try to meet all the kids needs you find that you are neglecting your husband. Or the schooling and meals get made but it's been days since you've sat and read or played with your kids. Am I alone in this? I don't think I am and I certainly hope not. But anyways, that's how I felt. Plus I was trying to fast. And I was failing most of my other goals, too.

After some tears and chocolate (yeah... the fast didn't last...) Nathan said, "You fasted during the day right?" And I was like, "Yeah, but I didn't complete it and the house is a mess...(just read the above paragraph for an overview of the rest of my failures. I don't want to revisit them right now). " And in his wonderfulness he made an attempt to cheer me up and let me know how much I do get done. But I was still struggling. My "pain" was masked by left over Halloween candy, but I was still frustrated and overwhelmed. And frustrated that I was overwhelmed.

I really feel like I'm supposed to be doing this Do Over. And when preparing for it and deciding what goals to make I tried not to put too much on myself. I want to be realistic. And I want to be successful in my goals. And I don't usually set goals because I'm not usually successful and that's depressing. But I did it anyways.

Then I had a wonderfully refreshing conversation with my dear friend, Elisa. She didn't say anything different from Nathan. She just used different words (It's funny how that works sometimes, huh?). She said, "At least you are doing something." And it clicked. I AM doing something. I'm doing more than I was before and I'm continuing to work at doing more every day.

After she left I got and email from 5 Minutes for Parenting and this prayer from the article spoke the words that were buried in my heart:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-Thomas Merton

I do believe that my desire to please the Lord does please Him. So, I keep on keeping on. I still don't get everything done every day. But I'm trying to see what I do accomplish and feel successful in that.