Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back To School Night Revealed

Monday night was our very first Back to School Night as parents; it is very strange now to be the parent in this situation as I feel like the veil of mystery that shrouded what happens at parent/teacher functions has now been drawn back.

Brian and I sat in the tiny little chairs around tiny little tables while we listened to general classroom information.  I remember my kindergarten classroom seeming cavernous and all the furniture sized for giants but can attest now that kindergarten rooms of today are not meant for 6'2 men nor 5'7 women.  I'm just glad I didn't wear heels.

I discovered that kindergarten homework is optional although the kids are never supposed to know this.

The teachers think it is just as funny as I do that the kids can't wait to come back to school after the long weekend. 

I finally found out who this Mr. P is that my son has been talking about since his first day of school and now feel silly asking Ethan to introduce him to me since he is actually a huge screen that runs interactive activities from a computer called something along the lines of a Prometheus learning center.  Mr. P is for short and no wonder Ethan looked at me funny and told me that it was "too complicated" for me.

The teachers have a jar filled with post-it notes of quotes from the kids.  One of the earliest contributions: "When are we going to see our real mommies?"  I already know my son will be a big contributor.

In order to ensure notes actually make it to the teacher, pinning them to our children's shirts is preferred.  I'm glad to see that these women really understand my son... except that I might need to use duct tape since pins may not be strong enough to withstand impromptu Jedi battles. 

Thus begins my adventure on the other side!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Statistically Significant

My attempts to make this blog a more interactive place failed miserably this past week.  I posted a poll relating to my post on being technology dependent and either no one noticed or felt compelled to vote.  Understandable in some ways since it could easily have been a case of no one wanting to be the first one so consequently, I have no statistics about which piece of technology is most important to my readers.  That's okay though since 72.3% of statistics are made up on the spot, you know.

My love for statistics started in high school during an AP class and developed in college since my cohorts and I used statistical information inside out and backwards in our discipline of psychology.  The fact that the numbers meant something in regards to human behavior made it really fun and hence my random enjoyment of polls. 

Statistics are really more than just numbers though.  In some research we did in my university, we realized people are significantly more likely to help others who are dressed more like them than like someone of a lower socioeconomic status. 

I was the unlucky loser of the coin toss and the one who had to dress like a homeless person to find this out.  That experience of looking at the numbers changed me and made me realize first hand that people really have a hard time breaking the boundaries of their comfort zones and making a difference in people different than themselves. 

I keep going back to the scripture in which Jesus says basically that Christians should be known by our love in John 13 and feeling convicted that I, in my desire to be Christ-like, need to help others more to show the love of Christ and in doing it, show my kids that serving others needs to be a part of their faith.  Love needs to transcend our typical boundaries.  And while love is hard to measure statistically, it is something that will make a significant difference in those around us.

So I decided that after last week's statistical flop, I am going to try an experiment and see how it goes.  I am going to start a new poll on Monday mornings set to run through Fridays for the near future.  Hopefully, people will think this is fun and enjoy reveling in the random (and not at all random sample!) statistics!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sometimes, You Just Need a Shop-Vac

Ethan's very first day of kindergarten is Friday and so we baked his favorite sugar cookies to take to school as a snack.  And that is where my perfect mommy fa├žade breaks down.  Ethan was trying to be helpful since he loves to bake and he decided to carry both the flour and sugar tubs at the same time.  They are both really large and heavy and just as I told him he should really carry only one at a time, I heard:  CRASH!

It was one of those messes where you just stare at it for a while wondering where you start.  There was no way my dust buster was up to the challenge and sweeping with two young children underfoot is never a good idea.  I called my husband since he always has good ideas for my quandaries.  "Get the shop-vac from the garage," was Brian's answer.  If ever a clean up job warranted a shop-vac, this was it.  I ran to the garage to get it.

When I came back less than a minute later, I was taken aback, though not really surprised by how fast the mess had grown.  Notice the little foot prints.  Our gremlin in residence thought that it was amazing that he could make those as he screamed, "Snow! Snow! Snow!"  And, by the time I snapped the photo, and plugged in the vacuum, the mess had spread to about ten feet.

I've never really understood the old classic TV shows when the mother is shown vacuuming in high heels and pearls.  While it is a nice idealist thought, I don't think I have ever nor will ever come to a place in my life where that is actually a reality. My vacuuming experiences are more often than not covered in some foreign substance, on hands and knees, and looking decidedly disheveled.  I don't get to wear pearls since my kids would think they were candy and try to eat them.

I've decided though, that this is really okay since it is real.  I am blessed by an amazing family and have wonderful friends and even though I live in pain everyday with my fibromyalgia, oftentimes disheveled and covered in flour, I wouldn't trade any of it in because in my mess, I get to see God.  One of my favorite verses is one I learned in Junior High; Proverbs 30:5 says, "Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."  It reminds me that I'm not alone and I have a Heavenly Father who cares for me.  That is pretty special and something that gets ignored if I pretend that everything is idealistic when it isn't.

As we enter this new phase of life with kindergarten, it helps me to remember that sometimes, mess do take the shop-vac and that's okay.  God's hand prints are everywhere, especially in the messes, pointing me to Himself.  Kind of like Luke's hand prints...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Bargains

This week, my mom sent me a package containing some amazing, old, timeworn books some of which date back to the 1800's (Thanks, Mom!).  I love books far too well as is evidenced by my three bookcases filled up in my bonus room with piles of books in my bedroom, living room with more stashed away in boxes in our attic.  But these new additions (or editions, if you will!) are so special they are on display on our mantel in our living room.  In honor of my love for antiques and books coming together in such a fun way, I thought I would share my favorite website for buying books: christianbook.com is responsible for a fair share of our library and carries many of the old classics like the lesser known but amazing writer Stephen Charnoc and some really cool reference books like Calvin's commentaries that are hard to find.  While shipping isn't all that fast, it is a great place for deals on books that aren't time sensitive.  I always feel much more like an adult when I've been reading and being mentally active after taking car of kids all day.  I cuts down on my usage of baby talk thus my need for a steady supply of inexpensive, deep books.  As a plus, my favorite set of C.S. Lewis books came from there too!  Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Powering Off

I am embarrassed to admit that my family is horribly and utterly addicted to technology.  This realization comes after several devices we own have gone on strike in the past week and my stress level rose far beyond what it should have been.

On Friday, our wireless router went down.  My first thought was, "I'm so glad I got my last post up before the weekend!"  Brian worked for about eight hours to get it back up and running since Internet is a necessity, right? 

Tuesday, I had to fill out some volunteer information so I can help out in Brian's kindergarten class while we were visiting his school for Open House.  Luke insisted on being able to use his own computer in the school lab.  At two years of age, he has decided computer time is something to fight for and worth pitching a very public fit over in order to retain sole rights to the mouse. 

Ethan has been frantically searching for all the rechargeable batteries because he hates waiting for a set to recharge and would like them all done at once.  This did not happen last week when the Xbox controller ran out of power and I think he stared at the charger for a good part of the day obsessively waiting for the little "charging now" light to go off.

Brian also left his cell phone and charger in his dad's car a week ago and hence had to do without his phone for a couple days.  When he got it back, I felt life was as it should be until his battery ran out and we realized that we failed to retrieve the charger too.  Several more days without an operating cell phone passed. 

My phone started screaming for more power on Monday which had me frantically looking for my charger.  The panic was akin to the crazed look I'm sure I had at two in the morning just weeks after having Ethan when he was screaming bloody murder and nothing I could do in my delirious state would make the infant submit to normal, decent human hours i.e sleeping at night.  Yes, the charger meant that much to me at that moment.

We don't have a home phone so we are entirely dependent on our cell phones so while that may be some excuse for our addiction, I have to consistently point out to myself that people lived without them for many years and survived and if I happen to forget it when we leave the house, it is not, in fact, the end of the world.  But, I am still as attached to that thing as Luke is to his pacifier.  Apparently, technological items are the new security blanket.  And that takes me right back to my own psychological issues and that will give me something to think about as I try to not hit all the power buttons around me quite as often and try to enjoy the silence.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One of Those Days

Today has just been one of those days so I don't really have any deeper truth to offer; just a story of good intentions and ensuing chaos, which is probably typical of most households.  Except that it happened here all at once.

On Friday at two in the afternoon, Luke came down with a fever of 103.3 degrees and so like any rational mother, I begged and pleaded to get a doctor's appointment before the weekend since The Gremlin, as he is known, was lying completely listless and glassy eyed on the couch even after I administered Tylenol.  One ear infection diagnosis and prescription later from the best doctors' office ever, we were home again and my weekend plans were out the window since Fever Boy became our priority.

We went to be exhausted after a weekend of filled with medicating, cold compressing, and of course, a Fantasy Football draft for Brian (very important, but I still wonder how guys can stare at the draft board and discuss it for longer than the actual draft took).  But, sleep proved to be elusive because Brian and I made a very important discovery shortly after going to bed:  Luke sleep walks.

I will never know how the two year old managed to walk from his room to ours in partial darkness with his eyes closed without bumping into anything.  We picked him up and held him for few minutes trying to decide if that was really sleep walking when he woke up and was completely confused as he was trying to figure out where he was.  It was not a good night for night terrors either and so we woke up exhausted this morning and I'm now contemplating locking his door at night to prevent any more nighttime wanderings since the stairs are far too close to his room for comfort.  It seems like doing that might make me a bad mom but I'm also concerned that knowingly allowing my two year old to wander the house while asleep with stairs close by would also make me a bad mom.  Such have been my musings all this exhausted day as I cleaned up suspicious puddles, removed climbing children from furniture and tried to find all the checkers from the game Connect Four that somehow were mistaken as projectiles.  Thus, deeper thought eludes me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Being a Good Neighbor

Periodically, we sell things we are no longer using on Craigslist.  It's been nice to send things along on their way to a place where they will most likely be used as opposed to sitting in our garage collecting dust and occupying space that should otherwise belong to my car.  Unused exercise equipment, old storm door, baking dish, ironing board and a chandelier we purchased and were unable to return when it didn't fit all found new homes.  It was during this process that Craigslist reminded me of something Jesus preached:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Are Those Shoes Following Me?

When I logged onto the blog to post today, I noticed that the headline for the ads was "Catch a Cheating Spouse!".  Absolutely a perfect fit for the (hopefully!) uplifting and encouraging things I try to write about and especially so if you consider it in light of my desire to be authentic (insert ironic and sarcastic tone here).  This plunged Brian and I into a discussion about targeted advertising.

Just this evening, Brian was listening to a radio program on it during his commute home.  The lady on NPR said that she looked at a pair of shoes online and this same pair of shoes followed her for the next two months in her online wanderings.  And while many people are concerned about our lack of privacy and that amount of information sharing that goes on online, Seth said it best when he declared, "If I'm going to look at ads, it might as well be of stuff I like.  It'd be depressing looking at ads for feminine products for two months for me."

However, I think it might become depressing trying to fight the impulse to buy the shoes for two long months.  I am currently still resisting the ones I saw that I wrote about earlier this week but we'll just say it hasn't been easy.  As a random update, the day after I wrote it, a coupon from that shoe store came in the mail and I had to run an errand to the store next door so I had to go see them in person since I was so close.  Luckily, they didn't have my size and so my battle with contentment was not lost...yet.  But, I'm sure it soon will be if they keep popping up in ads... 

Amazon is an interesting place for target advertising since they allow  you to check if a purchase is a gift so they don't put related items in your "quick picks".  However, I'm still seeing all sorts of pirate paraphernalia since I purchased a book on Blackbeard more than a year and a half ago as a Christmas gift for Brian.  It does not appear that this option is working too well at the moment because Blackbeard is still following me.  This has created an interesting situation shopping for gifts on Amazon since so many similar things come up in the suggestions and so sadly, Brian usually gets hints as to the categories I have been perusing.  And while I would consider this a downside to targeted ads, I think Brian thought it was the upside as it was all stuff he liked!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Sticky Situation

Life gets sticky sometimes, quite literally if you live in a house with the preschool crowd.
Months and months ago for Easter, the boys received Easter eggs with a gel like play dough type substance that I strongly suspect is a knockoff of Gak from my childhood.  We just opened it a few days ago and it has been a hit, again quite literally.

This photo is of Brian and Luke trying to remove it from the pillow that adhered to Brian's shirt when he stood up from the couch.  Luke thought it would be fun to shape it into a ball and throw it at daddy.

Shortly afterwards, Brian decided to follow suit and throw it at my face.  Unfortunately, he missed.  I say unfortunately since I spent the next twenty minutes trying to extricate my hair from the gel blob.  I now have a lot more sympathy for the fruit flies we caught with the sticky paper (from the post Catching Fruit Flies... And Ethan in May).

I've given up thinking that if I am a good enough parent, that I can control these things.  As if somehow being more organized is going to help me avoid flying balls of goo.  My new credo is expect the unexpected so when the unexpected comes, it isn't a surprise and hopefully, I can deal with it more in stride since control is really just an illusion as my children have firmly established.  But, on a practical note, does anyone have any ideas how to remove the blob-y stuff from my upolstery?  I really do like that pillow!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Things I've Learned About God from Being a Parent

I can definitely say that I knew God before I had kids but the depth of my relationship with Him has changed in the past five years. I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was only two years old and I clearly remember making the decision to follow Him and over time, my understanding has grown, but these years of parenthood has given me deeper understanding about faith and God's character. Some of the lessons I have learned:
  • Control is just an illusion. I have to trust God in everything because as much as I try to protect and plan for my kids, it is ultimately in God's hands. Luke was only 5 weeks old in a hospital bed because he was so sick that his breathing kept stopping when I realized I must submit to this. I can't fix everything, but He is in control.  They are His kids too.

  • God loves me more than I can possibly imagine. I used to treat this in a somewhat cavalier attitude until I understood the love a parent has for their kids. And He has so much more love as God than I do.

  • It is humbling to know that while I would give my life for my kids, Jesus already did.  I would die for my kids in a heartbeat to protect them. Ethan was running in a parking lot in front of an oncoming car and without a thought, I ran to get between him and the car.  Fortunately everything was fine but now I see how Jesus saw dying for me.

  • God wants the best for us just as I want the best for my boys. Even if it means dealing out painful consequences, I do it so they will learn and grow into the men God created them to be. The boys don't see the ultimate goal when they are dealing with the pain, but I do and I know God has the same purpose for the pain in my life. It refines us and makes us who He wants us to be in order to glorify Himself as He deserves.

  • God is with me; really truly with me.  I've sat up with both of my sons, holding them through their night terrors. I don't think they even realize I am there but there is no other place I would rather be even though I lose sleep over it. In the same way, I know God is always there too, even if I don't immediately feel it.

  • God's plans are always better.  When I lost some very special friends this past year, I had to explain death to my innocent Ethan who was wondering why I was so sad.  I missed my friends so much, but it also hurt to have to explain something so miserable to my son and see him wrestle with it.  It made me realize how much the Fall must have grieved God.

  • I think I'm still just beginning to learn about God.  I've been reading C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia to Ethan and we just recently finished Prince Caspian. In it, Lucy remarks to Aslan (who is symbolic of Jesus) that he is bigger and he replies that as she grows, she will always find him bigger.  The more I've come to know and trust God, the more I've realized I just know a little bit and He is greater than I ever could have imagined when I first met Him.  I expect to find Him even bigger later...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Contentment in the Shoe Aisle

You know that you have a problem when you decide to open up an email from a shoe store when you need NOTHING and then click on it to see what they have on the store website even when there is no sale.  You know you really have a problem when you find the cutest shoes in the world on the site and even though they cost more than you almost ever spend on shoes, you try to think of an outfit you have that doesn't have matching shoes that would look perfect with brown wedges and thereby creating a reason you NEED the shoes.

Such was my depravity today.  Since my mom is on the other side of the country and I "needed" to show somebody, I emailed her a link.  But, it was way to early for her to be up yet given the three hour time difference so I decided that I would email the link to Brian as I really wanted to show them to someone else in my excitement.  For the record, I did apologize for treating him like a girlfriend.  

Brain wrote back, "[In my best girlfriend voice] I so love them! They are adorable! You should like totally get them! :-)"  He's such a good sport!

Shoes are fun and as one lady from my MOPS group said last year, "Shoes and purses are such faithful friends!" as opposed to the jeans I had from before I had kids who chose to abandon me for several years and have only recently decided to reconcile and submit to being worn.  Hence my love of shoes.  And while I definitely don't have the inventory of a small shoe store in my closet, contentment with them has been an issue over the years.  Because really, how many shoes can I actually wear?  My callouses on my feet will testify that I do not wear shoes all the time either. And I don't think when Jesus said that we shouldn't worry because God always provides for us that means I get to have a pair for everyday of the month; not even close.  But somehow, I can always find a new, adorable pair.  Today, I acknowledge that I love shoes too much and that I need to quit clicking on links.  But, they are cute, aren't they?!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Keeping Perspective

This weekend, I had an object lesson in keeping perspective on things. 

My five year old son had the last of his pre-kindergarten immunizations on Friday and woke up Saturday running a temperature.  Fortunately, it wasn't very high, only 100.2 degrees, but enough to make him feel uncomfortable.  That afternoon, when the children's ibuprofen had worn off and his fever was creeping back up, he went to lie down on the couch and started moaning in the most pathetic, albeit dramatic way.  Ethan is one of those children who never ever sits down unless a movie is involved so for him to voluntarily lie down and stare at the ceiling was saying something.  As we waited for the new dose of medicine to kick in, Ethan moaned in a somewhat panicked voice, "I think I'm gonna die!"

I assured him that though he felt really sick, he was not at death's doorstep.  And, a few minutes later, the medicine took affect and he was fine and finally fell asleep.

Funny how desperate the situation feels when we are struggling in it, but later, it doesn't seem quite as bad and the answer to how we should have handled it is quite clear.  In light of this, I'm trying to remember that taking care of sick kids is an exhausting phase of life that will pass and that I just need to have some patience and avoid the drama.  Now I need to go administer the next dose so we don't have any more "object lessons"!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do Not Iron

Luke has been working on potty training for a while now (check out the post "Concept Grasped, Execution Elusive" for the background info) and so we thought that it would be helpful to encourage him with some big boy underwear.  After presenting him with some Mickey Mouse, his current favorite character, I read the back of the packaging.

"Machine wash warm with like colors.  Use only non-chlorine bleach when needed.  Tumble dry low.  Do not iron."

Uh-huh... Already do that... Uh-huh... What?!!!  Seriously, they say "do not iron"?!

I absolutely never in a million years would have considered this something that needed to be done.  I am now wondering who thought it was necessary to put this admonition on the back of the package since I doubt anyone with a toddler/preschooler has much time for laundry let alone ironing. 

Additionally, is there anyone out there who actually irons underwear and needs to hear that these particular pairs should not be subject to the same treatment?  I thought the name said it all when it states "under"wear which clearly means no one is going to see the shamefully disasterous mess of wrinkles.  But then, if we were to get in a car accident like Mom always said...

Maybe I am the only one who doesn't iron their underwear.  This package has now made me feel like I am slacking in my motherly and domestic duties.  Ironically, the package also says, "Now that's the Disney difference!"  Thanks, Disney for giving me unrealistic expectations for hair (my hair refused to look like Ariel's when wet) and now with ironing...

I really want to find out what would happen if I did iron it, though!  Melting Mickey? Firey mess? Excuse to purchase new iron?  Apparently, I'm vulnerable to the power of suggestion.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

With a Grain of Salt

Ethan is not a liar and has absolutely no power of deception.  He once told me that he finished his food to get dessert and came back penitent and sobbing telling me that he "lied" since he realized he had left a dime size crumb from the crust of his sandwich on his plate that he thought he ate.

Luke is another story.  I was in the kitchen cleaning up when he decided that he wanted to move straight on to dessert without finishing his sandwich.  While this is a common two year old sentiment, his subterfuge was not.  He transferred his food to another plate in the dining room and then presented me with his empty one for dessert.  Truth is not his strong point.

With this incident in mind, I've been trying to emphasize honesty to Luke lately.  The problem with this though is explaining why we need to be honest to a two year old is pretty tricky since being moral for it's own sake isn't inherently motivating whereas dessert is.

I realized I have made no progress this week when I told him that if he finished his water he could have a tiny bit of soda.  He told me he drank it all but as he was bringing the cup to me, he looked down into it and disappeared back into the kitchen and I heard the splash of water in the sink.  Mr. Brazen reappeared holding out his cup proclaiming, "Empty!"

During our resulting discussion, I took a different approach.  I tried to explain that God tells us that lying is bad and that Jesus never lied and always told the truth.  Luke's eyes widened.  We talked about how we want to be like Jesus and how that means we should never lie since that is what Jesus did.  Luke was, for one of the first times, actually remorseful.

While we did have another lying incident after this one, he connected with the idea of why we should be truthful and so I am hoping that we are on the road to growth in the truth-telling department.  One of my major parenting goals is to teach our kids how to control themselves and I think that means understanding why they are supposed to do the things we've asked them to do.  Long after "The Rules" have lost their power over them, they will still need to behave in responsible, moral and God-honoring ways.  I realized that if I fail to explain that God's character is the root of morality and it is our love for Him that should motivate us to do what is right, all I have given them is a set of rules and set them up for the pressures of legalism. 

I always feel like I am re-learning lessons as I need to teach them to my kids.  Be truthful because God is truth.  Love others since God is love.  Give freely since God has given abundantly.  Live in and extend grace since God is graceful and offered us grace through the death of His Son Christ Jesus.  I'm constantly reminded of these since it seems like these phrases, in preschooler speak, of course, come out of my mouth.  Truthfully, though, these lessons are some that I believe we can never learn deeply enough and can use the constant repetition.  They are easy to forget, even for me, and time is the crucible in which we refine our character.

And, until Luke's character refines a little more, I recommend taking what he says with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The "Why"

This past year has been an interesting one for my family.  Like so many other people, the economy hit us really hard and in the spring of last year, business at Brian's architectural office started to drop off.  The owners closed the office one day a week and we took a 20% pay cut which was hugely significant since we live only on one income.  But, we were incredibly thankful that Brian still had a job.  In the fall, things were almost at a standstill and in our area, there was approximately a 40% unemployment rate among architects.  Brian was finally laid off completely.

I say this not because I feel like I am a victim of the economy; no, that is just a part of life that we all have to deal with and layoffs, while hard, don't inherently make one venerable for sainthood.  I talk about this because this was one of the rare times in life that I was blessed enough to find out the "Why" and I share it because it shows how great God is.

God's faithfulness is something that I think we forget about until we are in a situation where we are struggling to take care of ourselves.  It is easy to buy into the idea that we can actually handle life and ignore our own weaknesses when things are going well.  It's not the God isn't faithful during hard times, we just see it, or what we perceive to be a lack of it more.  The truth is, He always provides although it isn't always how we would choose and what He knows we need isn't what we think we need.  And sometimes, it isn't even about us either, as I learned in the past year.

When Brian called me to tell me the news, we already had a plan in place since we feared that it would be coming.  He looked for work like crazy and in a time where it seemed like no one was hiring, he decided that doing contract work was the way to network.  I tried to do some substitute teaching and babysat and figured out how to stretch our food budget like mad without it hurting too much.  God totally provided and gave us what we needed although it was rice and beans quite a few nights.  But, I can now say that I make really good bean burritos that have turned into a favorite family meal!

I don't mean to say it wasn't stressful because it was incredibly so.  To not know how everything was going to work out weighed on me incredibly heavily since I am definitely the long term planner in our family (I am already thinking about some major house expenses that are probably at least five years down the road).  It was a time where even though we didn't know, God did and we had to trust Him.

Our church has been doing work in Haiti for a long time now and it has been even more crucial in light of the major earthquake in January.  One of the projects up the pipeline was building a hospital in one of the rural areas in Southern Haiti.  If you weren't already aware, Haiti has one of the highest infant and maternal death rates in world and the greatest in the Western Hemisphere.  There is next to no way to have a c-section if a woman in labor needs it.  As a result, far too many precious people have been lost.  It absolutely breaks my heart especially as a mother and particularly because our older son was a c-section after 20 hours of labor when his vitals started dropping.  We found out later that he was in the wrong position and giving birth naturally would have been impossible.  This happens all the time in Haiti but mothers there don't get my happy ending.

Brian was asked to go to Haiti and help work on the building design for the new hospital since, as an architect, his skills were definitely needed.  Because he was unemployed, he had the time to do this and Brian really wanted to help and feel productive.  Right before he flew out, he received a phone call from a firm that had just told him they weren't hiring.  They had a position open and they wanted him to interview, which he did the day before he left.  This firm specializes in hospitals and was one that Brian had really wanted to work for when we moved here but again, they had no open positions at the time even though he was a good fit.

After almost a week in Haiti, Brian came back to an email telling him the job was his.  I can't make it clear enough that absolutely no one was hiring at the time but God had different plans.  His plans included a desperately needed hospital in Haiti (it is still an ongoing project that Brian devotes a great deal of time too) and a job that would train him how to help design it.  I feel so humbled to be able to see this amazing plan and find out why this hard time was necessary for us to go through.  Most of the time we don't get the see the end result of why hard times happen but in this case, we did and I can judge the rest of the times through this one.  All I can really say is that God is great.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Final Score: Three For Three

Saturday, Brian spent hours working in the yard attempting to return it to a weed free condition and came in exhausted.  It looks much better now, thanks to his hard work, but he wasn't able to finish everything that he wanted too.  While he was at work on Monday, I decided to finish the hedges for him as a surprise.

While we have an electric hedger, I decided that I should use the regular garden hand sheers instead since the last time I used the electric hedger, I cut the power cord.  And the time before that.  These were the only two previous times I have used the tool.

After a few minutes of working in the humid summer heat, the idea of having it all over in a few minutes sounded great and my resolve to avoid any possible cord cutting weakened.  I got out the electric hedger.

I really enjoy projects on our house, even the routine maintenance stuff because, for the most part, I can step back and feel like I have done something productive and it feels good.  Some days, all it seems like I do is feed kids and clean up after them so on the days that I am able to check off a project in addition, I am pretty proud of myself.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I moved on from the first boxwood to the hedge and it was shaping up nicely and I even managed to miss the gardenia that is growing right up against the hedge.  All the sudden, Spark!  And the hedger shuts off. 

All I could think of at that moment was the phrase, "Pride goeth before a fall."  It was in so many ways such a major, ironic fail that all I could do was laugh as I commenced with what is now my "just cut the power cord" routine.  I unplugged it from the socket, then unplugged the cord from the hedger, and then reset the tripped circuit.  Sadly, I can, in fact, attest to the fact that all the outdoor circuitry in this house runs through the powder room fuse.  The first time, it took me almost twenty minutes to figure this out.  Now, I just go straight there.

I called Brian at work.  I said that I was trying to do something nice for him and he immediately responded, "Thanks, I appreciate it!" but became silent when I said I used the hedger.  I'm sure all his coworkers wanted to know what he thought was so funny when I confirmed that I had, indeed, cut the cord for the third time.  Teasingly, he said that I am now officially banned from the hedger.

I finished up with the hand sheers but never made it to the hedge on the other side of the door but at least one now looks pretty!  And, I was able to laugh and check half a project off my list.  But, in my adventure today, I learned that the third time is most definitely not the charm as my final hedging the power cord score rests at three for three.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thoughts From the Couch

The events of this weekend have driven me to confront some questions about myself.  Ethan is starting kindergarten in just a few weeks and so I went back to school shopping for him.  After being out for a few hours (like a normal person!), I came home and crashed (like the fibro girl I am) and spent a good part of the day back on the couch much like the past several weekends.

Herein are my questions:  why does it seem like my weekends always culminate in me being absolutely exhausted, in pain, and completely unproductive?  And, more importantly, why do I still expect things to be different?

The first question seems to be one of me trying to evaluate what I need to do differently with my health routine so I can avoid these crashes.  However, my typical over-analytical self starts evaluating my perception of the whole thing.  Am I really that much worse on the weekends or is it just that since Brian is home, I can actually give myself permission to curl up in a little ball?  I know the kids aren't going to go hungry or at least live only on rice crispies treats or fruit snacks...well, they probably do that anyway on the weekends given the snack box in the pantry seems to be surprisingly empty Monday mornings...  But, I digress...

The more important of these questions is the second one:  why do I still expect to have normal weekends and plan to get a bunch of stuff accomplished for the start of the next week?  I have done this continually for the past several weeks, deliberately putting things off for the weekend with the ludicrous assumption that somehow, it will be easier to accomplish it during the weekend.  Clearly, this has not gone well. 

As we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  I think I am now meeting that definition. As the old adage in my psychology classes went, "Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them, and psychologists collect the rent".  Like many of my friends, we were studying to "collect the rent" and help people, but now I've realized paying rent to yourself is a bit difficult, unless of course, you have multiple personalities to make this work efficiently.  And if it is not now entirely obvious, I have spent way too much time sitting on the couch thinking about all of this.  I probably need to get to planning everything I am going to get done next weekend.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Riddles in the Dark- Our Personal Edition

We've had a situation for about the past week that has required much prayer and supplication:  my boys want to share a room.  Let me explain.  The prayer and supplication part is not in regards to whether or not I should allow this but rather, "God, please let us all survive this experiment!"

Ethan has a set of bunk beds in his room that Luke has always found particularly appealing. However, upon his request to sleep in his big brother's room, Luke has professed great preference for sleeping on a blanket on the floor. No matter of enticing will get him to sleep in the bottom bunk even though the week before, we were unable to get him out of it.  Notice that Elmo and other stuffed friends have the twin bed all to themselves while Stephen has the floor.

Also, Luke appears to have a hard time staying on his blanket and pillow.  One evening on my way to bed, I realized that he had managed to roll all the way out of the bedroom and part of the way down the hallway.  Thankfully, he missed the stairs.

Ethan is going to school for the first time in just a few weeks and so we've been attempting to get him on a good sleep schedule since he'll need to wake up a little more than an hour before he does currently.  With Luke in the room, conversation and playtime are much more likely to happen than sleep.  And then, when sleep does happen, it is because they are utterly exhausted and we have discovered that Luke snores.  Or more accurately, Ethan discovered this.

Ethan came to our room one night in absolute hysterics claiming Luke was making sounds and it was scaring him since it sounded "like that guy from the book- the one whose birthday present was the ring".  After forcing my sleepy self to concentrate, I realized that he was referring to Golem in The Hobbit. 

Just that evening, Brian had read Ethan the chapter entitled Riddles in the Dark and done all the voices and enjoyed making it especially dramatic (i.e. scary) when Golem threatened to eat Bilbo.  And now Ethan was convinced that Golem was hiding out in his room in the form of Luke's snoring. 

The remedy to the bedroom turned Golem's cave problem was to end the snoring.  Poor baby was so tired that we couldn't wake him up so our only option was to transport the little snorer back to his toddler bed.  We are now toning down the dramatic readings.

As much as I would dearly love an extra room for an office, craft room, exercise room or whatever other endless possibilities my mind has been considering, I am now feeling like a more ordered and calm, snore-less bedtime is going to be worth more to my mental health than some space all my own.  I have not yet informed my boys though that the bedtime social hour will be drawing to an end.  We'll probably have some more crying tonight.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Truth and Growth

I majored in psychology in college and I planned to go on to become a psychotherapist but after kids, my plans changed (but hey, who says you have to be in a counseling group to do therapy; I do plenty here with my kids!).  Even though I love what I am doing now and getting this amazing time with the two most adorable little people on the face of the planet, I miss the discipline.  Some of my favorite practical authors in this area are Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend so I started reading their book How People Grow.  It's been very interesting and even encouraging to me and I'd like to share one of the more profound points and what I've been thinking about it.

Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend make the point that truth is our friend.  In spite of any uncomfortable realizations or even pain it brings when we acknowledge it, it can only help us.  Oftentimes, we try to convince ourselves that reality is only a miss-perception and that we aren't at fault or something really wasn't the way that it looked or that it wasn't that bad but, this altering of reality in our minds, or denial, keeps us from being able to deal with it.  Denial won't let us grow in our mistakes.  It hurts at the time and no one likes admitting their faults or acknowledging a bad situation but, ironically, it is this acceptance of ourselves and our position that lets us see how much we need God and finally get us on our path to growth.  It hurts a lot less than being stuck in our brokenness.

Sounds simple like most truths are but, hard to put into practice.  I think that is why community is so important because if we don't have good and honest friends who really love us enough to talk about the not so fun stuff, it is hard to see it ourselves and easier to ignore it.  Being honest about who we are isn't a bad thing; it is a mark of maturity that we all too often miss in our airbrushed world.  It is refreshing and authentic.  It is in our flaws that we see how God is strong.  Quite literally, the truth will set us free.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Better At Half Price

If clearance racks could count as an addiction, I would definitely qualify as having it!  I absolutely love saving money which is a good thing given that Seth and I have chosen to live only on one income so I can stay home with our boys.  I definitely enjoy all the time I spend with Matthew and Stephen and think it is well worth the sacrifice financially so I happily stretch our dollars as far as they will go; it has turned into quite an adventure!

One of my new favorite places to check for deals is Twongo, a website that sells vouchers for local businesses for a fraction of the price.  In fact, we were able to go out for dinner Tuesday for less than half price; so fun and I fully acknowledge that I am a bit of a nerd for getteing so excited but, in my defense, I didn't have to cook and I think that would make most tired people happy!  Twongo is a group buying website that works off the principle that buying in bulk can be cheaper and so the more people get together and buy as a group, the better deals there are to be had.  I signed up several months ago and have been enjoying the emails they send me about deals in my area.  I would totally recomend checking their website out by clicking here and hopefully you can get in on the fun!

Dinner was supplied via one of the vouchers we purchased over the past couple months.  Brian and I went out for sushi one night a few weeks ago and I was able to get a massage for half price.  The cleaning service one was incredibly tempting, but my personal rule is for it to be a good deal, it has to be either something I need or something I would purchase anyway.  Alas, I am capable of cleaning myself... (Maybe it sounds like justification, but the massage was for my fibro pain, really!) 

I don't know what it is about finding good deals that has me so hooked; I think it is partially because I feel like I am being responsible with the money I have and trying to live within my means.  Contentment is hard at times when it seems like whatever new temptation is calling my name, promising me that it will make my life easier.  Realistically though, living beyond my means is just trusting that material goods can deliver the peace they promise and that is just stuff that will decay; not the treasure that I want to place my heart in or the attitude that I want to modal to my kids.  It has been really freeing knowing that I don't have to have the newest and latest of anything.  Special brand names don't seem so important when clearance rack items are just as good at a fraction of the price.  I own them; they don't own me!

While Twongo is my favorite, Groupon and Living Social are other great sites too and worth checking into since not every group buying website is in every area.  Happy deal hunting!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

There's a Story Behind That

I'm a sign reader.  Any printed word that it out there for viewing, I notice and read.  While this particularly bothers Brian when we go to a museum since he's ready to go before I've finished the first room, it is fun since I get to learn new things.  Sometimes however, signs just leave me with more questions.

This one is by our local grocery store and I've oft wondered why they needed to label the large rock.  Yes, it is a large rock and I do notice it every time I drive by on the way to pick up some milk.  There are other rocks of similar size in the parking lot and my curiosity has plagued me with the desire to know why this one is only one receiving such recognition.  I really wish I knew the story behind that.

Lately, there have been many occurrences where I wish I could find out the story behind the spectacle.  For instance, last weekend, I was in a Best Buy and noticed there was a man looking at printers.  This customer was in every way ordinary except for the presence of a holster on his belt.  And in his holster was a pair of scissors.  Because you never know when you are going to need to snip something, I suppose.

My brother just texted me that he saw a man walking around in Santa Cruz wearing a rabbit on his head.  Because a rabbit will work just as well as a hat if your head is cold and is the ultimate way to wear fur and not offend PETA.

Several years ago, I noticed a guy driving down my parents' street with the hood of his car up nonchalantly hanging his head out the driver's window so he could see where he was going.  He had come around the corner this way and halfway down the street, he stopped, got out of his car, pushed the hood down, got back in and continued as if nothing had happened.  Because hoods on cars are made to be up while driving; it was the latest trend, I guess.

Most likely, I will never get to know the story behind any of these but then, I think not knowing is part of the fun.  But, I'm not sure the older lady who was parked next to the sign would agree with me as I took the photo and then drove away.  I think she thought I was taking a picture of her which would explain her scared look and she's probably wondering why she's being followed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Missing Link... I Mean, Cord

Saturday night, I thought I would get ahead of some of my writing for this week since I had a few great ideas and wanted to start working on them.  I grabbed my computer and went to plug in, sit down, and start work.  I never made it past the first step.  My cord was supposed to be in the bonus room where I had left it.  This was only half true.  Half of the cord was there unplugged from the brick portion which was missing.  It was perfectly obvious who the culprits were since what was left of my cord was tied up with the vacuum cleaner cord.  Boba Fett (action figure, of course, not the real one) was then tied to the vacuum cleaner cord in what looked to be a zip line attempt.  My boys are quite the adventure seekers, apparently, and loved listening to their uncle's stories about running a zip line. 

With no battery and half a power cord, I gave up the writing endeavor for that night.  But, I did feel quite satisfied that I now have photographic evidence of who is taking and hiding my things.  And, I am just going to be watching the boys very closely for any zip line attempts with their person, though.