Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We got a new couch!

There's nothing like a piece of new furniture to show you how beat up your old furniture looks. How did I not notice how scratched the seats are...

...or how saggy the cushions are?
Thankfully, we are able to enjoy scratch-free and sag-less cushions once again due to the almost-new couch Toby snagged from a moving co-worker. It's exactly the same as the old one (did ya notice?), so at least we know it matches.

Now, if we can only keep the kids off it to prolong its life. It won't be long before it starts looking as worn as the old one, though. Until then, I think we'll switch couch positions in the room so that the first thing one sees isn't the beat-up version, but the newer model. Do "first impressions" apply to couches too? Well, just in case...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Living the Melody

I sat in my favorite chair with a baby while I listened to piano practice. I wasn't sure what she was playing, but it was lovely - a soft, gentle melody played at just the right rhythm.  I closed my eyes and listened until she hit a discordant note. I opened my eyes while she backed up and tried again. A few minutes later, another false start. Normally, about this time I jump in with practice suggestions or question where in the piece she's at so that I can offer some "helpful" advice. This time, though, I kept my mouth shut and listened. At the end, I said, "Sweetheart, that was beautiful. Could you play it again?" She beamed at the praise (which can be too hard to win) and began again. As she played, I was impressed that while some of the areas she had stumbled on were now problem-free, there were other areas that needed work - a wrong note, uneven timing.
As she continued to play, I felt the Lord impress on my heart how my own desire for accomplishment and excellence can lead me to miss the joy in the simple tasks I've been given. Though her piece wasn't quite "performance ready", it was still beautiful and she was clearly enjoying playing it. Do I enjoy my work, whether I'm doing it perfectly or not? Or am I so bound up in "getting it right" that I fail to enjoy being at home with my family?
Do I freak out because the baby isn't sleeping when I'd like, or do I relish a few extra minutes to snuggle with him? Do I get wound up over the mess the kids left, or enjoy the fact that they worked together happily on a project they had fun with? And like my musicians tend to do, do I rush past the trickier, more difficult areas to the parts that I'm familiar with and do well, or do I seek to learn from my (many) mistakes, being prepared to try, try again?
Our God does not promise ease and instant success, but toil and trial. But there is beauty, too, if we have eyes to see it. A friend who had done some battle with cancer (and has since won) said, "I don't want to waste this. I don't want to miss whatever He might want to teach me in this trial." I don't want to miss it, either - I want to receive all the goodness He has for me, both high notes and low, knowing they all come together to make a beautiful melody, enjoyed by the Audience of One.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Because I love looking at his face... I'm going to make you look at it too.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Praying for my kids

I'm gonna say this up front - I am a pretty terrible pray-er. I get distracted, forget what I said I'd pray for, or get stuck in a kind of rut, praying the same old thing 'cause I couldn't think of what else to pray for.
However, I've learned a few things about praying for my kids. Mind if I share?

Photo from Crossroads Church
  • It's not too early or too late to start praying for them - for their salvation, for their future spouse, for their relationships with others. Whatever it is, start today, regardless of age or situation.
  • Pray the Bible for them - I've been aware of certain areas in my children's lives that need a special measure of God's grace and correction, and there have been several times where I've not even been sure how to pray for these needs. I'd heard somewhere the idea that you ask the Lord for a special verse or passage to pray for certain needs. In doing that, I've got a better understanding of the issue my child is struggling with, a better understanding of how God feels about it, and a better way to pray for my child. For me, this means I pray Philippians 2:4 - Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others - for the child who struggles with selfishness, that God would help that child to see the interests of others and prefer them above their own.
  • Probably my favorite way to pray, which is actually the hardest to see answered, is to pray that they would get caught when they sin. I will tell you that this is dangerous! I heard this idea on a podcast a few years ago and thought, "That's excellent! I'm gonna do that!" Thing is, God answers that prayer and you have all these sin issues to deal with! The number of times I have seen or heard something or simply walked into the room at just the right moment to see or hear something I had no business knowing's staggering. It's hard work to deal with the nonsense I'd rather not know about, but it's good for them and me to remember that though we think no one else knows, He knows our sin. For the unbeliever, this is fearsome, but for the believer, we can be comforted that He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust, but He does not hold our iniquity against us (Psalm 103). It's also kind of funny to hear them say, "But how did you know?!" and be able to honestly tell them, "I prayed that God would let me catch you in sin, and He answered. God told me!"
What are you praying for your children?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting long in the leg

I have been sewing - really, I have. It just comes in quickly and quietly stolen moments, and the projects have been small, guaranteeing quick gratification.
These pants of Ellie's for instance...
She wore them to co-op a couple weeks ago, and walked around all morning looking like she was ready for the flood. I didn't have time to go shopping for new jeans at the weekend, so I had a go at "making do"...
Cutting some leftover, sort-of-coordinating fabric, giving it a hem and a gather and attaching it to the inside of her pant legs did just the trick in lengthening her pants to acceptable levels. It won't last long, but I feel I've bought some time...
...and sometimes, that's about the best I can hope for.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Obedient faith

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
John 2:1-11
So, I've read this passage many times, but as so often happens, God had something to show me here that I'd never noticed before.
We've often heard, in this passage, about how Jesus steps up to provide the needed wine, saving the host embarrassment, or how Mary has faith in her son's ability to solve this problem. What got me this time, though, was the servants.
Jesus says to fill the jars with water, and they do. They are servants, after all - they know how to obey. Then Jesus instructs them to draw some out and give it to the "party master" to try. Again they comply, but I wonder if this time, there was a certain nervousness they felt - they know they put water in those vessels, not wine, and now they have to give water to the M.C?! They could get in big trouble here! Of course, we don't know if it still looked or smelled like water as they carried it to the man in charge. What we do know is that they did as Jesus directed, knowing what had gone in those jars. And so, when the master of the feast commends the groom on his excellent vintage, the servants are among the few who really know what just happened and the only ones actively involved in seeing Jesus' first miracle up close.
Every time I've read this account, I've glossed over the servants, viewing them as unimportant (which may be what their masters did, too).Yet what faith they must have had! Perhaps as servants, their first response was not to question or doubt, as so many others do, but to obey, even when it makes no sense to them. Yet how am I likely to respond? I realize that I must be quicker to responsd to Jesus in obedience and allow Him to grow my faith, rather than waiting for more faith before I obey.
I wonder if, after the wine was approved and served to the guests, Jesus gave those servants a little smile, a wink, maybe just a nod to acknowledge their astonishment? I like to think so, but what I'm pretty sure of is that they, like everyone else who truly encounters Jesus, would never be the same.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Crew

Our recent trip to the thrift store netted us some good finds, and some less promising options. I can't tell if they look like rock stars or something...less savory.
Ellie's ensemble, on the other hand, is totally innocent, and totally her. Who else would put vertical stripes with horizontal and then say with total confidence, "Don't I look pretty?"
 I know it's blurry, but I love baby sneezes. Somethings must be documented...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Praline-Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I love this cake. It's not particularly fancy to look at and not so good for the nut-allergic, but it's sweet and moist and yummy without all that icing malarkey. If you give it a try, let me know what you think!
Praline-Sour Cream Coffee Cake (from Mom's Best Desserts)
For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups sour cream
For the Praline:
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add sour cream and mix until smooth. Fold in flour and beat until blended, but don't over mix.
4. To make the praline, combine the pecans, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
5. Spoon half the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the praline evenly over the batter and top with remaining batter. With a knife, cut through the batter to distribute the praline.
6. Bake for 55 to 60 min until done. Cool for 20 min before removing from pan. Serve warm, if at all possible.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"It's getting kinda chilly out there"

"It's a good thing my mom did all that knitting! Don't I look cool, dawg?
Apparently I look 'cute', as well.
Aw, man, they're on me again - MOM!"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Battle Weary?

Last week I met with a couple of other mom friends to pray for our homeschools. As we began to share what's going on in our families and the needs and issues we're facing, I was struck with the reminder that while everyone's circumstances have their own particular flavor, there really isn't anything new under the sun. Complaining kids, bickering siblings, toddlers run amok, the desperate desire for quiet and order. These things are common to every parent, and homeschooling parents in particular. But what do we do about it?
We train and correct our children, we plan our schedule, we organize our homes, we try to see and meet the needs before us. But it's not enough, and we know it. Before, during and after the discipline, direction, and decision, we must pray. It's not a last resort option - it's the first stop that informs all other decisions. God can turn the heart of the whiner, restore relationships, give wisdom for errant toddlers and provide insight for scheduling.
And when progress is slow, frustrating or non-existent and change seems far off, we remember the battle cry of every parent:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up
Galatians 6:9
If it's oft quoted to the point of trite-ness, it might be time to reconsider the truth. We must ask ourselves, "Am I weary because I'm doing this job according to my own strength and understanding?" "Do I want to give up because I'm expecting immediate results from all my labors?" "Do I see what I am doing as a long term investment?"
Asking these questions of ourselves and each other can help reveal what's going on in our hearts, and allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate our weariness with His power and peace.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lest you think I have it all together...

  • Daniel ate hand sanitizer the other day and declared it "tasty".
  • One night, Toby found little black floaty things in the water jug. The next day, there were plastic sea toys in there.
  • There has been smoothie spots on my dining room wall for more than a week, with no sign of them coming off soon.
  • More than once, Dan has poured powdered laundry detergent into various containers in the laundry room. I'm thankful it wasn't liquid.
  • My children love to climb everything, including up the hallway walls and out their bedroom windows.
  • They also pull out winter hats and gloves as soon as the temperature drops below 75F.
  • Usually, if Ellie dresses herself, it looks like she lost a bet.
  • One of Abi's history questions was "Name a country that one of Prince Henry the Navigator's expeditions reached." Her answer was "Las Vegas".
  • It has been so long since I've ironed, Toby was struggling to find a subtle way to ask me to iron a shirt or two. What he came up with was, "So, how do you feel about ironing?"
  • I have an upholstery project to tackle that I am so under-inspired and overwhelmed by that I'd rather get rid of the piece of furniture itself than make the needed repairs. However, I've already bought the material, so repair it I must.

I can't be the only one who has yet to get her act together. Any fun tales to share?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Cheap Dinner Option

I never grew up eating taco salads and such - ours was an Italian home. We do meatballs and pasta, Italian sausage and lasagna. In fact, I think my first taste of taco salad was after the birth of one of my children, when someone brought it over for dinner. My first thought was how messy it was going to be, but it wasn't as bad as I thought, and the fun of it and ability to customize it for picky eaters can't be sniffed at.
One day I was looking online and stumbled across this wonderful recipe for Mexican Rice at Good.Cheap.Eats.  This totally completes the meal and does a great job of filling up my hungry crew. Follow the link for video instructions, or simply:
Heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add 2 cups rice and toast until the grains are very white. Remove from heat and add 8oz of tomato sauce. Stir will then add 4 cups of chicken broth. Return to the heat & bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
For the full meal, add some taco-flavored meat or heated beans (we like black or pinto) and serve with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cheese, salsa, sour cream and tortillas. Yum.

Friday, October 5, 2012

9 things about Caleb

  1. He is my third (yes, third) due date baby - my water broke just after midnight on August 30th, and he finally arrived at 1:01pm. For most of the world, only 2% of babies come on their due dates, but at my house, it's 50%.
  2. He's very laid back, a must for a sixth child.
  3. He has a lot of hair. We like to comb it into a "faux-hawk".
  4. He has kind of a large nose. Not massive or anything, but he kinda needs to grow into it a little. Eleanor said he has "a piggy nose", and I confess, I must agree.
  5. He is the only baby of mine not to have even the slightest bit of jaundice. I put it down to all the pooping he did his first 24 hours. 8 bowel movements the first day of life will get things moving!
  6. He has a short frenulum. I had never heard of this before, but it's basically a slight tongue-tie. It's not bad, and he nurses well, so will not need to have it clipped (eek!).
  7. His breath smells like peaches and cream, but his diapers do not.
  8. He has done two real, proper, reaches-the-eyes smiles. The first one brought tears to my eyes, it was beautiful.
  9. He is amazing and marvellous and beautiful and everyone who meets him falls in love. He has this affect on people.  We shall watch him very carefully when he's 16.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Making snacks easier

Before Caleb arrived, I was already feeling the need to make my kitchen a little more efficient. It's pretty efficient when I'm in it (I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm kind of a whirling dervish when the need arises), but my kids getting to the age and our family is getting to the size that they are going to need to be a little more self-reliant and less expectant that I wait on them.

Snack time is when I saw this in particular. Coming off teaching, chasing kids into the dining room, pulling things out of cupboards, finding an alternative for the inevitable kid who doesn't like what everyone else is getting (or dealing with the pouts because they won't be catered for)...ugh. They would be more than happy to help themselves, of course, but between the horrible mess they'd leave behind and the knowledge that most of my kids are not graced with much self-control (dreadful gluttons, all of them), I was breaking out in a cold sweat.

I truly think my solution must have been a divinely-inspired, and so I thank God for The Snack Bucket.

I got a bunch of snack bags and put a different type of snack in each: raisins, goldfish crackers, pretzels, graham crackers, cashews, etc.  Then I found an empty 5L ice cream tub, labelled it, filled it with snack pouches and stuck it in the pantry.

Now, when it's snack time, one kid runs and gets the bucket, they pass it round the table and each take their pick of what's available, and back it goes. Everyone gets what they want (within reason) and we reuse and refill the empty bags for next time.

It's such a little thing, but this has been so helpful! I reckon it could easily be adapted for the fridge to store sliced fruit, yogurt, and applesauce cups. Even my husband, who has endured many of my weird-and-wonderful schemes, has complimented me on my excellent idea. :)

What's a good snack I can add to my bucket? What does snack time look like at your house?

I don't normally do this...

...but this time, I reconsidered.
After seeing the appeal for the Barlow family through the Simple Mom feed, I almosted moved on, but this time, I paused. I thought about this family whom I don't know and will likely never meet, who just lost a husband and father so suddenly. Then I thought about my family - what it would be like if Toby was suddenly gone. Tragic doesn't begin to describe. I'm not sure there really are suitable words to express what we would feel, what this family must now be feeling.
I thought about what a blessing it would be to be cared for by friends who endeavored to help in whatever way they could. What a balm it would be to a broken heart to know that they not only offered their services to help me, but also shared the need and widened the circle of help on my behalf.
And so, I made a purchase. After all, what's five bucks when you're husband comes home every night? We can swing that. I think most of us can.
Would you please consider going over to Simple Mom,  NOW, following the link and making a purchase? It's only good for another day or so, so please head over now. It's such a little thing that can be such a comfort to a hurting family.
And if you're of a mind to, pray for them. God binds up the broken hearted in ways we could never do.

Monday, October 1, 2012

One Month In

It's been a little over four weeks this little person has been here. In that time:
  • We've been cuddling
  • We've been kissing baby head and cheeks
  • We are stunned by how much bigger Dan suddenly seems
  • We're thankful that Caleb and I were able to leave the hospital after 24 hours
  • We are rediscovering the joys (and occasional trials) of breastfeeding
  • My mom came for a few days and let me nap.
  • Toby's mom came for a week and let me nap. 
  • Toby's dad came for a week and let me nap.
  • Dan started creeping out of his room during nap time, waking me up from my naps.
  • Abi turned 10.
  • We went to the DC zoo.
  • I turned 35.
  • We went to Ladew Gardens
  • We went out to eat - a lot.

We are now learning the new normal. That tends to mean lots of tweaking, rather than all change. I am grateful for the systems and schedules I put in place before Caleb's arrival, but now it's time to adjust them to accommodate a nursing infant and sleepy mommy. I have a list of projects as long as my arm, but happy to tackle them when I'm able - life is definitely taking a slower pace. I'll endeavor to keep interested parties (all 3 of them) up to date!
 I'm looking forward to re-entering the blog-world, but don't be surprised if it resembles more of an elderly shuffle than a full-on run...