Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My Gift is Wrapped

I admitted before that I am a sucker for goodbyes. As I was turning on the TV so that my daughter could watch Cyberchase before heading off to school, it was tuned to NBC. Today is Katie Couric's last day on the Today show. It was the top of the hour when I turned on the TV, and Katie was saying a few words of goodbye, so I had to pause and listen. She began by quoting that "feeling gratitude and not expressing it is the same as wrapping up a gift and not giving it." I've always felt very thankful for what God has given me, and I do try to express thanks to Him, but I wonder how much I've let others know about those things for which I truly am grateful.

I am thankful for

  • my Lord, who called me to Himself, saved me, and is doing a great work in me.
  • my husband, who supports me, pushes me to do better, and likes me. He has given me the security of his unfailing love, and his financial provision and good sense.
  • my daughter, for keeping alive the girl in me and doing things that I never dared to do. She also pushes me to do better, especially since I know she's watching.
  • my son, who himself is a gift I thought I might never have, and his sweet smile and hugs and kisses that he gives me throughout the day. He keeps me on my toes and reminds me that as a Mom, I am never on vacation from my responsibilities.
  • all my friends--the ones who I experienced high school with, those who helped me decide who I wanted to be in college, those with whom I laughed through my young twenties, those who showed me by their example how to be a mom (and the new ones who are still showing me), ones who I needed for a season, and those who are are still around (or back!). Some fill many roles and others might fit in a certain slot perfectly, but it is my friends who motivate me, inspire me, make me laugh, let me cry, remind me of who I was, and remind me of how far I've come and how far I have to go. I have never lacked a friend who I could call when I needed a laugh, wanted to reminisce, to vent, or ask for advice or a favor.
  • for my financial security--I've never lacked a safe home, a safe car, food for my stomach and clothes for my back.
  • this beautiful place that I've come to live.
  • extended family, those who raised me and supported me my whole life, and those who accepted me and loved me when I joined the family by marriage.
  • hobbies and interests that I have the time and ability to enjoy and cultivate: reading, writing, cooking, hiking, and travel.

I know that there are many more little things and probably some big ones, too, but if I'm going to the trouble of wrapping a gift and carrying it around, then I guess it should be unwrapped.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Someone's Watching

I've had some workers in the house lately--painting, pest control, plumber, kitchen improvements. I always feel slightly self-conscious when they are around. Yes, I'm thinking of what they are thinking while observing my ritual during the half hour or half day that they are here. So, I make myself busy. That may mean just sort of walking from room to room tidying up or moving something from one place to another, while I'm waiting for the pest control guy to write out his estimate. What's the proper etiquette on this? Do I stand and watch him for two minutes, which seems like a long time when I'm just standing there? I can't go too far, like up to sort laundry, or get too involved in a task, like actually cleaning the bathrooom.

But it did lead me to realize that I can actually do a lot in just 2 minutes. So why don't I get more done on a daily basis when no one is watching? The answer is easy. When no one's watching I have no accountability. My two year old son doesn't care how much time I spend leafing through a magazine, surfing the net, or being a couch potato. There is Someone who is always watching, and I'm all too aware of that, but unfortunately there's not that immediate accountability for each moment of my time.

I have a friend with whom I've teamed up so that we can keep each other on track in these areas that are important to us. We have to answer the tough questions: How was our prayer life and time in the Word? How did we treat our family members? How did we keep up with our household responsibilities? How much time did we spend on TV and the computer? It does help to know that I'll be talking with her each week. It hasn't completely eliminated those completely useless hours (or days, unfortunately), but I think it has prevented me from falling into a long slump of lazy behavior that might have happened before this last year.

For example, unless pressed or encouraged by my husband or a friend/mentor, I'm often too content with mediocrity. The house looks great if there's a reason, such as company coming over. I like it when it looks great, and except for an occasionally busy week, there isn't usually a reason not to spend that time cleaning. My reason is comfort with mediocrity. If the house looks okay, like I wouldn't die of embarassment if someone came over unannounced, then I'm okay with it. But why don't I aim higher more often? It's not really a rhetorical question. I know the answer. I don't spend more time on my household duties, because I like to spend time on the computer, watching TV or a movie, meeting a friend, talking on the phone. . . . I am so aware that I am forever making choices about what to do with my time and those choices matter.

I've often heard the parenting philosophy that we correct, punish, or discipline our children for doing the wrong thing, so that they will learn to do the right thing. At first, they do the right thing, because they know that if they got caught, they would be punished. However, the goal is for them to be self-correcting--to do the right thing, simply because it's the right thing to do.

I so desire to be in the place to be making the right choices all the time, or at least the majority of the time. Things that help me keep improving:
  1. Short of inviting my accountablility partner to move in with me to keep a watchful eye on all my choices, I try to be honest with her in our weekly phone calls. By stating to her and to myself the areas where I know things should've been better, the next week I am motivated to work a little harder towards that goal.
  2. I also try to make lists of things that really should be done in a week's time. Unfortunately, I am better at making lists than crossing items off of one. But again, it gives me some standard of "should."
  3. Last but certainly not least, I pray. I ask God to help me to be self-disciplined enough to choose what I should be doing over what I could be doing.

I've never had a "life verse," but I recently came across one that I have memorized and tried to pray on a regular basis. I have changed the pronouns to make it more personal:

Psalm 90:12 Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.

That reminds me that God knows everything that I "need" to do, and in His sovereign wisdom, He knows what truly "must" be done. I know that He wants my best choices, so I keep working towards that goal of doing the right thing--whether or not someone is watching me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Homeraising Mom

I have a few friends who are homeschooling moms. Neither I nor my husband feel that homeschooling would be right for our family. I am far too selfish and far too appreciative of the time I have to do "other things" while Amanda is in school. In addition, I don't think I have the self-motivation to actually get it done. I'm afraid we'd take advantage of the loose schedule to do other things, and we might never get done with our lessons. Also, the combination of my personality and Amanda's personality just don't seem well-suited to me being her teacher all day. I think we'd end up like my mom and I did back in Junior High school when I was trying to do my first Algebra homework at the kitchen table--crying (one or both of us) and screaming (both of us). But in those families who feel called to do it, there are some things that I really envy.

1. The Schedule--Being able to vacation at times other than school breaks when everyone else is trying to vacation. And as much as I like to know that I have some time alone to do housework, read, watch TV, or lunch with friends, Amanda is gone an awfully long time each day. I would love her to be home a couple of hours earlier.

2. The Team--By going to "Insert Your Last Name Here" school, there seems to emerge a sense of community. Yes, we are all a community within our families, but Amanda's community at school is a different one, whereas for the homeschooled families, the school community is layered into that of family, creating a more significant bond.

3. The Influence--For most people I know who choose to homeschool, the influence that others would have on their children factored into their decision. Five or six years old is awfully early to have your child facing influences from other students, the school curriculum, and to spend as many or more waking hours with another adult instead of you. When your children are home with you, their primary interactions are with you and with their siblings. Homeschooled children remain sheltered at home, and when I say sheltered, there is no negative undertone at all. I continue to try to shelter Amanda in her outside playdate choices, TV and movie viewing, and things that she is exposed to. Homeschooling extends the amount of time you have to exert influence, or raise, your kids.

I have latched onto this notion, and decided that even though Amanda is away from me a good part of the day, I can hopefully continue to be her primary influence, as opposed to a teacher, the school system in general, or her peers. Fortunately, she shares pretty much everything with me, so we actually have the opportunity to discuss choices, behavior, and consequences of actions. In fact, I've even seen a benefit to her interaction and eductation at school. While she's still young and still values my opinions above all others, I can help her respond to a cruel classmate, or others who want to exclude a girl from their play, or explain to her why saying "Oh my God," is disrespectful to our Lord. These are opportunities that one friend who homeschooled realizes that she won't necessarily be able to face at this time. Of course, her children are completely unaware of some of the choices that Amanda's secular classmates make, and in this case with a young child, ignorance really is bliss.

So, I'm not a homeschooler, but I'm trying my best to be a homeraiser.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cooking Shows, Cookbooks, and Magazines

I do enjoy cooking, but I really love the idea of cooking more than the actual process. I love watching cooking shows on TV, reading cookbooks and magazines about cooking, discussing a new recipe or a streamlining process with friends, planning menus (that sometimes never get made), and of course--eating.

So, here are thoughts on some of my favorite things:

Shows:

  • I've recently gotten hooked on the Bravo show Top Chef. It appeals to that fixation on reality shows and specifically competition (like the Apprentice), and also showcases how a chef thinks and the process of creating something great.
  • I always enjoy watching Paula's Home Cooking on the Food Network. She comes across as such a warm person, and she genuinely loves food. She makes real food, fattening food, that's just, well, home cooking. It's one of the few shows where I often do look up the recipe and try it.
  • Good Eats, also on the Food Network, is sort of a new fascination. It feeds my desire to possess a lot of knowledge. Alton Brown goes into detail in each episode about a certain food or process. I like knowing why (and then of course, I can share this new-found expertise with others). What makes it even more of a love is that my second grader watches alongside me, because she has an even bigger desire to know "why."

Books:

  • As another way of knowing how and why, the Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe series is a great resource. The first book I bought in the series is the Cover and Bake. It has wonderful recipes for oven casseroles, stews, and even a few crock pot recipes--not all simple, but all really great. In addition, these things are taken directly from the magazine (which is why I just buy the books instead), so they include the whole test kitchen process--what they eliminated, what they added, why a certain ingredient was better.
  • The cookbook for people who like to read cookbooks is Beat That. Ann Hodges is funny and opinionated and presents an interesting collection of recipes that she says are the best. I'm not sure if I ever made anything out of this book, but it's a great read.
  • The Mr. Food Cookbook was one of my first favorites. I turned to this for ideas for dinner for my husband and me, and also for simple ideas for company. I don't use this one much anymore, but everything I tried in here was easy, family-friendly and came out great. He's also fun to read.
  • Once a Month Cooking--I tried this process once or twice. It's a great concept, and the plan and recipes included in here are okay. I'm not organized or committed enough to pull it off regularly, but reading this book, and trying some of the concepts, changed the way I planned for dinners. Cooking once and eating twice is great, and getting a jump on the week is great too. Knowing that there's something in the freezer for nights that I don't feel like cooking is a great comfort.

Magazines:

  • Everyday Food magazine is a Martha Stewart publication. I never really saw myself as a "Martha" person. A friend had recommended this magazine as something that really did present food you could make everyday, and after finding many ideas in the issue I bought, I subscribed. I not only enjoy reading it, but I usually try out one or two things each month, with great success. Another unique feature is a spotlight on a certain vegetable each month.
  • Reiman Publications magazines--specifically Quick Cooking and Light and Tasty--I have stacks of these all saved. I literally find 20 recipes in each magazine that I would like to try. Because I have so many, and still refer back to them, I stopped subscribing, but these are great references for me for dinner time meals, company ideas, desserts, pot lucks etc. There are lots of pictures, too, which is always a plus for me when I'm trying to decide how something would come out.

What are your top picks?

Editorial Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I have signed up for the amazon associates program. If you click on an amazon link and make a purchase from that click, I get some cents in my amazon account. Having nothing to do with shameless plugs, but only to help you out, I would like to share that ebay sells magazines at almost half price at times! I have ordered several from different sellers and have never been disappointed.

Why Blog?

My husband has asked me why I keep this blog. Good question. I've had to think about that.

I have to admit that when I had started my first blog, I had started it both as an exercise in writing, and also with the hope that it would somehow make a difference to someone, or lead to me getting published by someone who knew that what I had to say needed to published in book form. That blog ended up pretty much unread, I think, and with all of two entries, I believe. It never felt right, so I stopped writing.

I recently felt the desire to give it another try, and this is the result. I'm much happier with it, because I'm writing for different reasons.

I write in order to practice and perfect the craft of writing. Along those lines, I write to try to develop the habit of the discipline that writing demands.

I write as an outlet to all the thoughts in my head and heart (which is why my entries are turning out much more sentimental than I think I am in real life). And along those lines, I write to try to break down that wall of protection about my personal thoughts. An undercurrent of thinking about who might read what I've written, and what they will think (about me) when they read it is the mortar holding that wall together. So, I try to write now in semi-anonymity as I gain my sea legs, and open up this blog to more and more people as I forget about me and try to think about "it"--the writing itself.

In thinking about why I read blogs (and thus why people might be reading mine), there is an element of community that exists that has surprised me. Contributing to that community would be another reason that I keep writing.

And back to my title entry, I write as a way to journal--recording the present and the history and the future of myself and my family--Snapshots of our life.

Why do you blog?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Amanda's Baptism

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Today Amanda was baptized as a Believer in Jesus Christ. Terry's parents, brother, and our church family were there to support us and her in this momentous decision. It was a wonderful day for me. As parents, we so often wonder if we are doing things right, but in her making this decision, I know that I have taken care of her spiritual health (at least in laying the foundation properly). I am proud to now call her my Sister in Christ, in addition to daughter.

It reminds me of a story that I just heard. A man and his son made professions of Christ the same day. At the end of the church service, the pastor said, "We can welcome one and a half new lives into the Kingdom this day!" The man expressed his offense at the pastor implying that his son's life was just equal to half a life because of his age. The pastor corrected him, "No, he still has his whole life to live for the Kingdom. You have only half of yours left."

Amanda is unafraid to share about the God she loves. She has genuine concern for friends who do not believe in God or who do not attend church. I pray that she will continue to live her life with this eternal perspective, and that I will continue to encourage her and learn from her boldness.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Digipet Update

The Digipet has taken a turn for the worse. The first problem for Fuzzy the Bunny pet was that Kyle chewed on it. So, his spit got all inside and the buttons didn't work. Once it dried out, they worked a little better, but I still had to use a pen to really push it in. Yes, notice I said "I." Amanda doesn't seem to take note of the beeping which indicates that the bunny needs something anymore.

So, I cared for it for a day, and the extra effort got to me, so I decided to tuck it away and let it die a peaceful death. That was 3 days ago! It won't die! In addition to the fact that it's not dying of neglect, at 14 years old, I think it should've died of natural causes by now.

I do try to shelter Amanda from some of the harsh things of life, but if she's supposed to be taking care of a virtual pet, and she doesn't, it should die! Things/peoples/characters die all the time on video games.

Moms of the world unite. Bring realism into playtime. Neglected Digipets should die!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Brandon is Getting Old!

So, I'm watching Without a Trace tonight, waiting for my husband to get back home from out of town. The voice of one of the guest stars sounds familiar, and I'm looking at him, but not recognizing him. It's Brandon Walsh!. A very old looking Brandon. And I think his nose is different, too. I know that he was in some sort of racing accident, so maybe that's why, or maybe I just don't remember too well.

The sad thing is that when I pulled up that bio linked above, I noticed his birthdate and that he is only one year older than me. I'm hoping that all my clean living has left me looking better than he was looking on that show.

So, now you know that I'm familiar with the whole 90210 gang. I was a bit old for the show when it first came out (meaning I wasn't a high schooler or jr higher who wanted to be Kelly or Brenda), but I watched here and there anyway. It wasn't a show that my husband had any interest in watching, so it got thrown on the back burner, but over the last few years, I caught up with most of the episodes on FX. It's basically trashy, I guess, but as it got more far-fetched, it seemed more justifiable. It's just escapism fantasy fiction.

Also tonight was the season finale of Will and Grace. I am not a regular viewer of the show. I've seen it maybe a handful of times. Yes, it does amuse me, but I find it to be too real. I feel like there's a bit of an agenda there, or at least an erosion of moral fiber, and by watching it, it becomes more acceptable. However, the NBC marketing worked. I was seeing all the ads about the "last Will and Grace ever," and I was a bit curious. There's something about a finale. So, I tuned in. It was a nice ending. We got to see how they all turned out, which I think we want for these TV people in whom we invest our lives.

The West Wing also ended earlier this week. I have watched that show for most of the years it's been on, and even catch reruns on Bravo occasionally. I like most of the characters (or like not to like them). I was sad that it ended, because it's one of the three or four shows that my husband and I are interested in watching. It ended okay. The whole season was kind of an ending, and we have gotten a glimpse of what might be happening to CJ, Josh, Donna etc.

All in all, TV is pretty surreal--the getting invested in actors or the characters that they play. I have a hard enough time figuring out how people are perceiving me. Being an actor must be an odd thing. No wonder so many of them have gone over the edge about one thing or another.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I Come by it Honestly

I've been thinking more about this control freak streak in me. Maybe the reason that I don't also show that type-A perfectionist side is because there's a difference between being very opinionated (which I definitely am), and a true control freak who must do everything her way to be sure it's right. In the end, I don't really mind if Terry cleans the bathtub or does laundry in his own special way. I certainly do not redo it (as someone who has a passion for perfection might). I'm glad that it's done. I just want to have the right to complain and critique as to how it might have been done better.

I also was thinking that I come by it honestly, as they say. My dad also is highly opinionated. We both speak as experts on most topics, and of course we are not experts on everything. We are just confident in what we do know and express it easily (and probably loudly).

I think I've passed on the gene to Amanda as well. She is generally pretty respectful of us as grownups, however once when we were discussing a specific behavior that needed to be changed, she said that she didn't understand why I could do what I wanted, and she couldn't. Most of our conflict stems from the fact that deep down she thinks that she is right in her thoughts, her process or actions. There are times that we have told her not to do something, and her need to be right or to do it her way, overrules her desire to obey. And when we're discussing it later, she admits it.

It will probably help me to understand that she is modeling opinionated, self-confident behavior that she's seen from me for almost 8 years, just like I model the same behavior that I saw from my dad. Just as I need to learn to control my opinions sometimes, so does she, and we'll both keep working towards that.

In honor of my new resolve, I'll "let" Terry clean the bathtubs this weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2006

I'll Have it My Way

I'm a control freak. I think I just have to admit it. I've always known that I was opinionated, but lately I am feeling a bit more rigid than that. I simply like things the way I like them.

Duncan Donuts is big up here in the Northeast. In Texas, not so much. In fact, Duncan Donuts is consistently voted the best coffee in Connecticut. I don't really care for it. It's a bit weak for me. If I'm going to drink coffee, I like it strong and flavorful, with half and half. At Duncan Donuts, they don't even have half and half, and you can't make your own coffee. They fix it for you. So, the fact that I would be irritated that someone else would try to fix my coffee, because they couldn't possibly do it just like I wanted, made me begin to think about my control-freak tendencies.

The other thing that got me thinking that I thought that my way was the only way, was when I was recovering from knee surgery. For a few days, I was pretty much bed ridden. Terry was a pretty good nurse, but I found myself irritated that he wasn't doing things "right" (meaning, my way). From the bed, I could see him cleaning the bathtub--wrong. Why should I care? He's cleaning the bathtub!

We had a discussion about laundry last night. I would be irritated when he tried to throw a load of laundry in for himself. As he pointed out, I shouldn't care, because it's his laundry and he's doing it. However, as the domestic engineer of our home, I see things in a broader scope. Yes, perhaps he has done a full load of laundry, but that load might include a dress shirt, T-shirts, socks, jeans and a few towels to round it out. It isn't economical, because the kids probably have a couple of darks that could have been washed and don't make a full load on their own, but again, why should I care? He's doing laundry!

So, in trying to get this on paper, I notice that I keep describing my attitude as "irritated," and realize I need to get over myself, and let these little things go. There's no reason to be irritated about those issues. The funny thing is that knowing this, someone would assume that I am probably a perfectionist about things, and the sad thing is I am not. I seem to have the negative side of being a control freak, and am missing the positive aspects of being organized and efficient that often go hand and hand with it. So maybe I should just give myself over to the lazy, lackadaisical part of myself who would not be bothered by the bathtub being cleaned by a toilet brush or jeans being washed with white Tshirts. Better yet, I should probably seek to be so efficient and organized that I stay on top of my tasks and am able to do them the way I think that they should be done. No one is going to be irritated by that.

And when I go to Duncan Donuts, I just order a latte, which they make just like I like it, for at least $1 less than Starbucks.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

My friend Katrina made a sweet post of the Great Eight things that she loves about the two men in her life at her blog, Callapidder Days. It made me think about the things I love about my loved ones as well.

But then I noticed that Katrina's friend Dianne, who has become a blog-friend of mine, decided to copy the idea on her blog: Unfinished Work.

So, I'm not sure if I'm copying Katrina or Dianne, but here is my entry, in honor of Mother's Day, for without them, I wouldn't be experiencing the joy of motherhood.


Terry

  • has become so gracious and forgiving of me, teaching me forgiveness, and truly showing me the love of Christ
  • supports me in whatever I try to do, even at personal expense (of time or money)
  • accepts and tolerates everyone, in a genuine, non-PC sort of way
  • is a hard worker, and does what he commits to do
  • is a man of integrity
  • appeciates my sense of humor
  • makes me laugh with his sense of humor
  • is the person I most enjoy spending time and sharing life with

Amanda is

  • outgoing and kind to others
  • honest (even when it might get her in trouble)
  • exuberant
  • an avid reader (like me and her father and a few generations before her) and a quick learner
  • a follower of Jesus, already applying His teachings to her life
  • curious and thoughtful
  • persistant
  • a great playmate for her brother

Kyle

  • likes to be the center of attention
  • so he's developing quite the sense of humor to get it
  • is loud and wild, but will still sit still in my lap to read a book
  • has a quickly growing vocabulary that's fun to watch develop
  • loves his big sister
  • amazes me with his ability to figure things out (like the VCR, DVD, etc)
  • melts my heart with random and unexpected kisses and hugs

Tag Sales

A friend of mine was having a garage sale last week (what the rest of the world outside New England calls a tag sale). She was trying to figure out why people weren't buying the stuff that was so great that she was trying to get rid of it. "What are you looking for when you go to a garage sale?" I wasn't really sure.

I'm pretty much an amateur at garage sales. I have only had one in my life, and I don't think it was that successful. As far as shopping, I somehow feel odd about driving up, getting out and taking a quick look around and then not buying anything, which is what a seasoned shopper must do to find the real bargains. This past fall, Amanda and I would stop at tag sales on the way home from her soccer games. It was kind of fun, and we did find a few great deals--a lamp, a toy for Kyle, and a little fold down secretary type desk with drawers for only $10 or $15! I love that desk. For some reason, I don't feel so conspicuous with her there with me. It makes it fun to stop in whether or not we find a purchase.

So, the Spring tag sales have started. I picked Amanda up from a girls' sleepover at church (where she had a ball), and we stopped at a few tag sales on the way home. The first one was a miss. I was tempted by some 25 cent paperbacks (yes, there's my weakness--books!), but didn't get any. At the second, I found a new condition counting board book for Kyle on the free table. Then I found another new condition Sandra Boynton book. It was 25 cents, and we didn't have it yet, so I picked it up. About that time, Amanda saw the neatest looking Elmo/Cookie Monster Magna Doodle, also like new, and also 25 cents. She said, "Kyle would love this," and she was right. I told her that she could pay me 25 cents from her allowance, and give it to him for his upcoming birthday just from her. So, we left stop number two fifty cents poorer and excited about our finds.

Tag Sale number three tempted Amanda with an Easy Bake Oven. I have resisted the Easy Bake Oven for many years, and I will continue to do so. She seemed okay with my answer that "it's big and hard to store, and you have to buy the special mixes." I feel a little guilty, but it's not the kind of thing we have room to keep. I don't feel too guilty, because instead of Easy Baking together, we Really Bake.

But we did get the Guesstures Game for only $1, including the instructions, which a control freak like me needs, and probably the best find, an almost-new hardbound Thomas the Tank Engine Collection for 25 cents! I shared this with Kyle right away, and I was amazed at his ability to name all of those Engines to me. It has taken me a while to figure out all their names and the differences, but at not even two years old, he can differientiate between Percy (small and green) and Henry (bigger and green), which took me a while. He wasn't quite ready to sit for an entire story, but he enjoys being read to, so if the timing is right, I think he will be able to sit through an entire story.

So, based on today, I guess I have an answer for my friend as to what I really want to buy at a garage sale--books! Books that I look for for me (not only at tag sales, but at used bookstores, sale racks at regular bookstores, and online bargains) include cookbooks, cheap paperback fiction for leisure reading, and interesting Christian nonfiction. For the kids, good condition board books for Kyle that are priced cheaply and in decent condition, or something like the Thomas book that is just a bargain! Amanda is quite an avid reader, so if I can find some of her favorite series such as Nancy Drew Notebooks, A to Z Mysteries, or the Boxcar Children, I feel like I've done well.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I missed Jesus

Recently I had been feeling a little bit of a spiritual slump. I had been reading the Word, praying, doing Bible study, attending church, but there was something missing. I wasn't feeling devoted when I read my devotionals. I know not to judge my own spiritual conditions by feelings, because God is unchanging, but I did know that something was lacking. I couldn't quite figure it out.

But then one thing hit me. I felt that I had some sort of unconfessed sin that was interfering with my ability to pray. I had a time of confession, mostly confessing my lackadasical attitude towards my time with God, and felt that helped me feel more connected.

Then on Sunday, my pastor preached from Matthew. Hearing the words and Jesus and the impact of His actions set something else off in mind: I missed Jesus! Being involved in two organized weekly Bible study not only keeps me reading the Word, but also studying and applying it. However, I've been studying Genesis all year, I'm currently studying Philippians, and I had been focusing on a couple of Paul's epistles in any personal Bible reading I was doing.

I realized that even though Jesus is on every page of the Bible, including Genesis, there was something better about hearing it straight from the source. So, this week, I began reading Matthew, and it seems to be filling that void.

Once I realized what had been feeling wrong, it got me to thinking that I probably miss Jesus more than I should. I miss the opportunity to share the work He's done in me; I miss the grace offered by another Christian; I miss the wonder of a new day dawning. What's the most disturbing is when I go about my daily life and don't miss Him for days on end.

I'm thankful that I have God's word to turn to again and again. I'm thankful that even when I don't miss Jesus, He's missing me and will draw my heart back to His.

Thank you, Jesus, for all you've done in me and for me and through me. Keep my eyes open so I don't miss what you are doing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm not cool

The babysitter was here to watch Kyle as she does each Monday night when Amanda and I leave for Bible Study Fellowship. I had called last week to see if she could babysit on either Friday or Saturday night so that Terry and I could go out to dinner or something. She was going to a concert Friday night and had a birthday party Saturday night. So, when I saw her, I asked her who she saw in concert. "Fall Out Boy." Never heard of them. I am not cool.

Actually nothing has made me feel older than being "the mom" in the eyes of the babysitter. How did that happen? It seems like I was just the adolescent riding in the car trying to make conversation with the mom. And now I'm the mom, trying to make conversation with the babysitter. I think that I feel as awkward now on my side of the conversation as I did 20 years ago on the side of the babysitter.

Honestly I was never cool. No one in high school would ever have called me cool, and I didn't even want to be "cool." In fact, I thought that people who spared no expense of time or effort to be cool had a "cool complex" that didn't ring true with me. I wanted to be liked, yes, and respected, but I honestly spent no time worrying about being cool. I do have to admit, though, that it delighted me when a friend of mine in junior high told me she thought that I was cool in 5th grade, because I wore yo-yos (those big platform type shoes that are now sort of back in style! I think that they were my mom's, and I don't think I wore them often).

But what is cool? Does it exist beyond the social structure of school? If cool means feeling pretty good about who you are, then I'm pretty cool at 35. I think that cool doesn't exist in a vacuum. There's some sort of evaluation from others required. I think the best we can hope for now is to fall into some sort of cool category.

Cool Mom--a mom who knows when to keep her mouth closed (most of the time if there are others around); dresses fashionably, but not like a teenager herself; a mom with not too many rules

Cool Friend--this just means you are cooler than the friend calling you cool, either because you have cool Mom status, better clothes, or hipper taste (in clothes, music etc).

Cool Aunt--a variation on cool Mom. Aunts are cooler than mom by definition. A cool aunt is allowed to dress like a teenager and still be cool. An aunt can give the same advice as a mom would, but it comes off cooler.

Cool Grandma--looks or acts younger than her age; comes with perks, such as buying ice cream without worrying about spoiling dinner, doing special crafts or activities on request, and saying "yes" more than "no"

Dictionary.com didn't even really have a satisfactory defination. In the slang category, "excellent or first-rate" as in a "cool sports car" is as close as it comes to my mind's eye view of the word.

With that in mind, here's my definition of a cool (excellent and first class) person:
honest
loyal
kind
fun to be around
presents him/herself outwardly in a pleasing way, even if she isn't traditionally attractive
puts the needs of others ahead of her own
no offputting social habits, such as drinking to excess or using foul language

Friday, May 05, 2006

Real Mothering

Amanda has recently started getting an allowance, and she has a hard time not spending it right away. When we went to a toy store last weekend to buy a birthday gift, she just couldn't resist buying a Digipet. It's really a neat little toy. She is able to choose what pet she wants to virtually care for, and it beeps to remind her that it needs something. She is currently caring for a rabbit. As it turns out, I am caring for a rabbit. Rabbits apparently sleep a lot. On the index where she (I) can measure her (my) success in taking care of the rabbit, the sleep section has yet to fill up. I put the thing to sleep when she leaves for school, then it wakes up and I have to clean up cyber poop (yes, really), and then I put it back to sleep after playing with it, and/or feeding it. So, I'm taking care of the Digipet. And the funny thing is that I don't mind. She wants a real rabbit, and there's no way that I'm taking over that responsibility, but I feel like her partner, her helper by doing this small thing. She even knows that I'm there for her, and told me, "You are doing a good job taking care of Fuzzy."

Two years ago on Mother's Day, I was nine months pregnant with Kyle. I was sleeping the sleep of an exhausted mother-to-be. I had a vague notion of Terry getting out of bed. I keep drifting in and out of sleep, and hearing footsteps upstairs. At about 3am, I went upstairs to find Terry sleeping on the sofa in the game room outside Amanda's room. Amanda had gotten sick (all over herself and in her bed). Terry took care of it all, not waking me, or asking what he should do. He didn't want me, in my current state, to get sick. I was overwhelmed. Terry has always done a great job of taking care of the kids, but this was not his forte, and yet he did it. By this time she was seeming to settle down, having woken at least once an hour since she got him at 11pm. He hadn't been to sleep, so I relieved him. He had to go to church to teach Sunday School the next day, so I stayed home with her. Somehow it seemed appropriate. It was Mother's Day, and I was mothering my sick child. At that moment, there was nowhere else I'd rather be.

Such it is with the Digipet. I know, it's just a $4.98 little digital toy, but it's a connection with my rapidly growing daughter. I have a feeling that in the coming years as she grows up and away from us that I will cling to whatever she offers. I'm not going to burst into song, crooning,

"And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?"
"I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad. You know we'll have a good time then."

Oops. I sang. Maybe you're singing now, too.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

When Am I Going to Learn?

This morning I was in my son's room, sorting through his clothes and reorganizing his drawers for summer. He was down the hall in my room. I could hear Barney on the TV, and Kyle was even shouting, "Hooray," because he was happy and he knew it. Things were going so well. I had given myself a mental cheer as well, because I had already crossed something off my to-do list by 10am. Then I went into my room and saw Kyle standing with a crayon in his hand. The screen from our windows are off because we are painting the outside of the house. Kyle had applied the crayon to the screen in big sweeping curves.

Quiet is not usually good with a toddler. Kyle proved this to me a couple of months ago, but I apparently have a short memory. This first escapade happened while I was on the computer. He was playing--so nicely and quietly. I'm sure I had peeked in on him a couple of times so as not to distract him. Then I go up and there's black stuff all over his face and hands, and the TV screen. "Oh, no," I thought, "he somehow found a black marker. I hope it's not a Sharpie!" I also looked immediately at my leather chair, and fortunately it seemed unscathed. Upon further investigation, the black stuff was mascara. The wand made a nice paintbrush apparently. It also cleaned up nicely--off the stuff, and off him for the most part. The funny part is that it was concentrated around one of his eyes. Apparently he knew what it was for. So, for a day, he did look a bit like he was wearing some eyeliner, because I didn't want to clean it off that close to his eye.

Amanda had also tried to teach me the lesson many years before. Again, me on the computer. Amanda in her booster seat at the kitchen table. I would tape down a big piece of paper, covering her end of the table, and let her color and color. "Oh, she's so quiet. She's got such a good attention span." And then, I walked in. She had gotten down out of her booster seat, taken a marker with her, and drawn on the leg of the table. She had also drawn on the tile, and the grout. Green marker, I remember it well. The tile (and the whole house) was brand new. The marker came off of the table leg and the tile with no problem. The grout was another issue. It faded, and I didn't notice it after a while, but there was a little reminder of her adventure if I knew where to look.

So, now I'm off to the garage to see if we have some WD-40. That's what www.crayola.com recommends for getting crayon off metal, formica, brick, etc. I tried some dish soap and that didn't work, so here's hoping that this does.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Awkward Years

Amanda is 7. Well, 7 and a half, as half-years are very important as you probably know. In the last couple of posed pictures that were taken of her, she is smiling with her lips closed. She lost both front teeth this summer, so she has the "big teeth" in front now. When we got a picture that had been taken at church and put into a frame that they made, I told her that it was a very pretty picture. I also asked her why she was smiling that way. "I don't know," she replied. "Are you embarassed or self-conscious about something?" I prompted her. "Kind of, I guess," she admitted. Another thing that helped me put all this together was when we had a portrait made in March with her brother and her baby cousin. They were all wearing jeans and white shirts. Baby Paige was barefoot, so we could see those adorable baby toes. I suggested that Amanda and Kyle take off their shoes. Amanda refused (politely and respectfully, of course), because "I don't like the way my feet look with no shoes."

I have noticed on TV how very many commercials there are for losing weight--Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Curves, other gyms. The list goes on. One time when the Nutrisystem commercial was on, she said, "When I go on a diet, I'm going to go on that one, because you can eat chocolate." When she goes on a diet?? It's a hard time to grow up now. I pray for her self-image. I pray specifically that she will learn to eat healthily, neither to excess nor starvation. I pray that she will see herself as loved and created by God, who doesn't make mistakes.

Only seven, and already self conscious? And this from an otherwise confident, head-strong leader. I was reflecting on the term: self-conscious. Conscious of self. It has a negative connotation, but there's nothing inherantly wrong with feeling yourself. So I thought why when we feel "self-conscious" we feel insecure, doubtful, like we are awkward inside our own skin. I think it's because we really are created to seek out and rely on Him who created us, not ourselves. If we remember that God has a plan for us, and if we follow Him, He'll help us get there (in spite of ourselves). I also don't tend to feel self-conscious if I'm thinking of others. It might be awkward to go take a plate of cookies to a new neighbor, but if I think of them and their need to be welcomed and feel accepted, instead of my awkwardness and what they will think of me, then it becomes (slightly) easier.

Already 35 (and a half), and still self-conscious? Unfortunately, yes. I also pray for myself, to move from this self-centered and self-conscious frame of mind, into a place of genunine peace with who I am, not who I'm becoming, not who I was, but who and where I am right now. A place where doing laundry, picking up toys, wiping noses, fixing lunches, and then doing it all again the next day doesn't feel awkward. A place where I'm happy with myself and the plan that God has for me. Right now.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

September 11

I remember the day clearly. It's one of those days we'll all remember. Where we were. What we were doing. Who we were with. I was online. With slow dialup and no second line (and no cell phone for that matter--it was the dark ages for me, I guess). So, no one could reach me to tell me. If the TV was on, and it probably was, it was on Nick Jr. or Playhouse Disney, entertaining my preschool daughter. When I got offline I had messages on my voice mail from my dad and my husband telling me to turn on the TV. I did, and I was shocked. Stunned. As you all know, there are no words to describe the feeling that America was under attack. America, the superpower. Home of the Free and the Brave. My friend called me and brought over Starbucks' lattes, and we watched together for a while. She didn't want to be alone.

Because of the new movie, United 93, September 11 is the news again. "Is it too soon for this movie?" the media has asked. I don't know. It does seem awfully fresh. It still brings with it that feeling of dread, confusion, and despair. Recently we watched a show on the History channel about the FAA's role and perspective on that day. It was very interesting. It was a different side of things--all the passengers on all the planes that didn't go down and had to be grounded. What did they do with all those planes and people? We found out. But the movie--dealing with the plane that didn't go down--it's such an emotionally charged issue for all the people involved.

My husband's grandfather was in Pearl Harbor serving in the Navy on the day it was bombed. He still doesn't talk about the day. He did go to Hawaii with some other military personnel who were there for the 50th anniversary. He also saw the movie Pearl Harbor at the urging of the small town newspaper reporter, who covered the opening of the movie in the small town movie theatre. It was okay for him to watch the movie. Not being a big 21st century movie-goer, I don't think he really liked the movie, and I don't think that it was too bad to watch and reflect upon. It was over 50 years later.

My own grandfather was on a PT Boat in France near the Normandy invasion. He and my grandmother also went on European tour aimed at the men who had served there around the 50th anniversary. They both enjoyed it, and they keep up with their PT Boaters at yearly reunions, but they aren't talking about the bloody and violent invasion on the beach. He would never watch the movie Saving Private Ryan even though my mother and grandmother wanted him to. He just wasn't interested. It's not something he wants to relive on film. It's his choice.

I will not see the United 93 in the theatre--partly because as my husband says, "They don't really know what happened up there." Partly because as the mom of two young children, I don't get out to see movies as often as I would like, so I'm choosier. It might be too soon, but it's Hollywood. If they think that there's a market for it, and there probably is, then they'll make the movie. There's no real harm done. The families of those involved, or those who lived through it in a different way can all make their choices. No one will force them to see it. They'll watch when, or if, they are ready.