Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sammy at Four

Sammy’s birthday blog is a tad bit late since we were lucky enough to spend his birthday with our family in Athens where I zoned out on all things writing related.  I now have a four year-old little man who helped me weigh bananas and pick out kiwi at the grocery store today.  I’m in shock.

Here are some fun facts about what the Sam man was like this last year.


played Barbies with Wren using his Thomas train to provide the Barbies with transportation

asked to go to the bakery twice for his birthday in lieu of doing anything else

is a foodie.  He asked for and received an apron for Christmas because, “Wren has one and I help cook so why don’t I?”

says, “that’s weird” if he sees you eating food he wants to try

is good at saying, “speaking of” and moving seamlessly to the next topic

has been obsessed with Ninja Turtles, Jack Frost, Minions, Toy Story, Cookie Monster, and Fix It Felix

saw his first movie, The Box Trolls, at the big movies

saw his second movie, Big Hero Six, at the big movies

can sit still and color, use scissors, and do puzzles for an insanely long amount of time

used scissors on Wren’s finger this year just to see what would happen.  Was demoted to safety scissors for a while after that.  (He’s honest.  He confessed he just wanted to see what would happen, though I kind of suspect he knew it wouldn’t be good since he didn’t use them on himself.)

is passive aggressive as opposed to confrontational.  As opposed to asking for a cookie, he will just walk up and say, “Cookies sure do sound good.”

loves to grab my hair and say, “You’re not going anywhere.  You stay with me forever!”

calls me Gisele from Enchanted.(He’s my Prince.)

loves Asher and Eowyn and likes to remind people, “these are my babies.  You can’t take them.”

adores Wren and wants her everywhere he is.

started AWANAs as a Cubbie and is earning badges!

asks me to turn on the oven light so he can “watch the food.”

is an introvert.

For his birthday he decided on a Minions birthday cake and the trampoline bounce place.  It was going to be a boys’ day for him and daddy, but he wanted the whole family to come.  Due to sick babies, he took Wren and Daddy and they had a blast. 

The day after Samuel Dylan was born
It's been a miracle-filled journey with this one from day one.  What a gift.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wren at Age 6

Wren turned 6 Tuesday.  I have no idea how that happened. 

Since I have abandoned all attempts at baby books for any of my kids, I’m going to list some things about Ms. Wren at this stage in her life. 

Ø   She is a completest.  She finished her book of verses for AWANAs in October, her extra credit book on December 1st, and is now working on TruthScripts.  Her reason for moving so fast is because she likes to learn verses, likes to read them, and needs to finish things.  Like her dad, she does not like to leave a task unfinished.  She also earned Sparky Clubber of the Quarter in November.

She also:

Ø  Loves clothes

Ø  Is a girly girly who just happens to love to dig in the dirt for worms

Ø  Likes adventure stories

Ø  Has finished several chapter books and LOVES reading comics with dad

Ø  Is a master at the Minions computer racing game

Ø  Learned to climb trees (and fall out of them!)

Ø  Is my ultimate helper with the girls and Sammy

Ø  Can draw anything she can see

Ø  Has perfectionist tendencies (upon completing 42 double digit addition problems and only missing three, she cried and said, “maybe I can do better tomorrow since I messed everything up today!”  Sigh.)

Ø  Is convinced she can run as fast as The Flash

Ø  Learned to do cartwheels (says Hi-ya! like a ninja when she does them)

Ø  Knows more about Star Wars than I do

Ø  Saw Big Hero Six, The Box Trolls, and How to Train a Dragon Two at the big movies

Ø  Went ice skating twice

Ø  Wrote her first comic

>  Is known as "No Shells Wren" because she can crack eggs and leave no trace of shells behind

Ø  Has a bond with her brother that is closer than any two siblings I’ve ever seen.  Common declarations are, “I’m crying because Sammy is sad”, “I hope Sammy doesn’t mind that we are having a girl day” and “Don’t worry, Sam.  I’ll cover your ears while mom gets the soap out of your hair.” 

For her birthday this year she opted to bring a sweet friend ice skating at the Galleria, grab cupcakes at the bakery and wear her birthday present, the coveted Elsa dress.    

Six years flew by.  This kid is one of a kind, and I'm glad God gave her to me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ms. Cathy

A couple of years ago, God dropped an angel in my lap by the name of Cathy.  I needed someone to keep Sam and Wren for only five hours a day two days a month, manage Wren’s Celiac and make sure she did not get contaminated, and help Sammy transition to staying with someone who was not his mom or dad when he had never done that before.  Plus, they could not cost me the kids’ college tuition.

Easy to find, right?

Not so much, but after much searching Ms. Cathy emerged.  She met all the requirements and even taught my kids Spanish and letters, created art with them, became an expert Barbie dresser while also knowing how to throw in a pirate for Sammy so he could terrorize Barbie.  She even submitted curriculum plans to me every month so I would know what her ten hours with the kids was going to look like.  We struck gold.

Then I told her I would raise her pay ever so slightly if she would juggle four kids when I gave birth to the twins.  She said okay, brought me food and all the kids gifts while I was on maternity leave, and refused to work for her other employer on the Fridays she came to our house even though I’m 100% sure she could have made more money. 

When my Nanny was visiting a few months ago, she witnessed Cathy in action.  Since that day, anytime Nanny sees me with the kids she starts her sentences, “Well, Cathy holds them this way” or “Cathy got them down for naps without as much fuss” or “Do not EVER lose Cathy.” 

My last day as a part-time library employee for the City of Plano is next Friday.  Today is Cathy’s last day with the kids.  We have vowed to stay in touch, have playdates (her two sons are close to Wren and Sam’s age), and not ever completely lose contact.  She’s too important to our kids, too important to all of us.  Still we know we won’t see her as frequently.  Wren has a complete breakdown when Cathy leaves the house and is coming back in two weeks.  I dread her leaving today more than I can put into words.  My guess is Wren will still be weeping on Monday. 

We made her a gift to pay tribute to all the arts and crafts she has done with the kids through the years.  I won’t lie, we did not do as great of a job as she would have.  Still, we tried.

The transition to being at home full-time is welcome in many ways, but there are hard parts and this will be one of the hardest. 

So, to Ms. Cathy for all the love she’s shown my kids and for being someone I could trust them with when trusting was not the easiest thing for me after the shell shock of what we call “the Celiac trauma”.  I couldn’t have asked for anyone better and received so much more than I expected.  You’re a blessing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Story of the Fall

We covered the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit and all the awfulness that came out of that adventure in disobedience.  We took a lot of time and drug this one out because I think this is a story I always felt like I knew, but I have read so much more about it and developed more understanding that's made this story more meaningful to me in the last couple of years.  It's also made it so much sadder, so much more devastating.  I want the kids to understand the enormity of this, the pivotal change, the before when God was hanging out in the garden with the people He loves and the after where we long for His presence.  Then the biggie: that He came back for us.

Bible Story:  Read about the fall in The Action Bible.

Verse:  Psalm 51:4 Against You, God, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.
We chose this one because it was from Wren's Awana's book covering this story.

Art Activity:

We did our own version of the above and wrote "the devil lies" on the back of our tree trunk.
We also collected items that might be in the Garden of Eden and put them in a shoe box.  We're assembling Little People figures so the kids can perform "The Fall" using their tree and box. 

What we emphasized:

Misinterpreting or misrepresenting facts is not good
 Adam told Eve they couldn't even touch the tree, which wasn't exactly true.  Adam told Eve they couldn't touch it instead of what God said, which was don't eat from it.  The devil used the misinterpretation to his advantage when deceiving Eve.

The devil lies
Sin does equal earthly death for all of us.  Satan is a deceiver. 

I wish I didn't know sin
When I was younger I wondered what in the world could be so wrong about that tree.  Who wouldn't want to have knowledge?  However, if I could save my kids from the knowledge of bad things, I would.  I would not know evil.  I didn't need that knowledge and I don't feel lucky to have it.

The heartbreak of God
Donald Miller's book Searching For God Knows What does an excellent job when discussing the heartbreak God must have felt at this betrayal and how awful it must have been when He knew He couldn't, in His perfection, be in the garden with these people He loved anymore.  Miller really brings out the relational betrayal, makes you feel it.  I think I cried reading it.

The heartbreak of humans and that desire to be near Him
About once a month Wren goes to bed crying because she wants to see God.  See Him, for real, right now.  She knows she has a relationship with Christ and He is always with her, but sometimes the desire to be with Him overwhelms her, and it's at least a half hour conversation to calm her down.  For me, the story of the fall helps explain this.  Of course we want to be with God all the time; that was the original plan.  Until we get to Heaven, it makes sense that we would desire His presence.  I think Wren's desire for that presence is stronger than anyone I have ever met.

He sent His son to fix our mistake
After such a betrayal, it's even more amazing He would send His son to save us, but God wanted us back that bad.  That's the silver lining to this one. 

We didn't sing a song this week.  I'm sure I could have found one on YouTube, but it didn't feel like a sing-a-song-about-sin-entering-the-world kind of week.  This particular story was a bit heavy. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What It’s All About

Anyone who has seen my Facebook posts this week is probably curious about why I would want to host a trunk party for Noonday Collection when the only thing I’m usually accessorized with are children and left over breakfast food.  I put on a pair of earrings the other day and Sammy said, “Wow, mommy, you look like a princess.  Now go put on pretty shoes and brush your hair.”  I’m the antithesis of the accessory crazy girly-girl. 

Also, I have no interest in becoming a Noonday Ambassador, though it’s probably a cool venture if you are interested in that sort of thing.  I am bowing out of my part-time job at a library that I have enjoyed for almost three years because my full focus needs to be on D and the kiddies.  I plan on writing, trying to carve out a niche freelancing if that work outs, but I don’t plan on taking on another form of employment in the near future if possible.  It’s hard to commit to be anywhere but managing Ramirez, Inc. right now.

So, why would a non-girly girl not seeking a financial incentive who also can occasionally be an anti-social introvert want a bunch of people in her messy house looking at jewelry and purses?

I like Noonday, and I don’t find a ton of companies these days doing things I like.

I want to be a part of helping marginalized people work using their gifts and talents.  I would rather send my dollars their way than up the chain of corruption most places offer.

I want to set an example for my kids that it makes a difference where I spend the money God gave me and that seemingly little things matter.

I want to feel like even in this stage of life where I don’t feel as “out there” participating because I am home educating and playing and keeping fingers out of electrical sockets that what I do can still make a difference. 

Also, this would be an excuse to get together with friends I have put on hold because they haven’t been right in front of my face every day and four other tiny people always needing food have.

Even as a non-girly girl, I can get excited about pretty stuff, and if I’m going to spend money on anything, I’d like to know where the money is going and that it is meaningful.  Plus, I have a couple of birthdays and white elephant Christmas gifts coming up.  Instead of pacing through Target a week before the events panicked, frustrated, muttering, “Where do you go to learn to shop?”  I will have items I love already wrapped and ready, and I know the people receiving them will love them.  (Ladies in the family, get ready to THROW DOWN over the white elephant gift I will be bringing!)

So, I hope that clears up any confusion.  I knew when Wren saw me in a nightgown and thought I was wearing a dress and ready for an evening on the town that further explanation must be provided.  I’m low maintenance maybe to the point of being borderline sloth-like about appearance, but perhaps after spending dough on precious, meaningful items that directly help others live dignified lives, someone can teach me how to accessorize.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How You Know You or Someone You Love Has Celiac

Somehow Celiac Awareness Month scooted by in May, and I didn't post anything Celiac related.  That's a good thing; Celiac doesn't dominate our lives the way it did right after D and Wren were diagnosed.  Of course, we still have to be just as diligent, but that diligence is now second nature, habit.  It feels less like a nuisance and more like just living our lives.

Still, there are moments when you know what you're experiencing is Celiac specific.  I'd like to share a few:

You Know You or Someone You Love Has Celiac When:

1.  You are hungry for toast, but by the time you defrost your bread, broil it so it's not soggy and let it cool so you don't burn your tongue, you don't remember why the bread sounded good in the first place.

2.  You dread people cooking food and bringing it to your house because you have to politely smile and then find another family without 26 food allergies or sensitivies to eat it.

3.  Your grocery budget rivals your mortgage payment.

4.  No matter where you go, you bring your own cooler.

5.  When someone says "animal crackers" or "goldfish crackers", you immediately go on alert as if someone screamed "shark" or "zombie attack."

6.  Your pantry is full of essential oils, homeopathic remedies and vitamins because if the person with Celiac gets sick and needs an antibiotic, that means you have to call the companies who make antibiotics and experience red rage because they have no idea what is in their products.

7.  Everyone in your house is way too comfortable talking about farts.

8.  The people at the very few restaurants you can eat at scream, "Celiac on the floor" and start changing gloves before you even put in your order.

9.  Most restaurant managers in the area hate you because of all the questions you call and ask before you eat at their place.  They really hate that you call back four times using different accents to make sure you get the same answers from each person who touches the food.

10.  When someone who has just had their hands on Wonder Bread attempts to touch your gluten-free food, you slap them, explain basic food manners, then explain Celiac food etiquette including the words, "Your crumbs kill people." 

Happy Celiac Awareness month two months late!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Homeschool Bible Time

We finished reading the Action Bible to the kids on Sunday!  Now that we're done, we are starting over, going through each Bible story and taking time to break it down, learn more songs, memorize more verses, and do more activites related to each one.  I'm going to try to post what we are doing on the blog so I will have it as each little one comes up and we repeat all this.  If it helps anyone, YAY! 
Full disclaimer:  I am not reinventing the wheel, so I'm basically using great resources I find and plugging them in. 
Here's is what we've been up to this week in regards to Bible Study.
> We've been reading the first pages of the Action Bible that cover Creation. We read about days 1-3 one day and days 4-6 on the next day.
> We then did the activity from this Pinterest site. I just created my own based on her picture.

We discovered the Creation Song and have been singing it all day!
Creation Song:
Tomorrow we are going to go through why God rested and what it means to have a day of rest and what we think God wants our day of rest and worship to look like.
Probably Thursday I am going to read a paragraph from the attachment below. We are teaching a Creationist/young Earth perspective, so we want the kids to know that they may come across people who question how the Earth was created, but it's fine to believe it was created exactly the way God said it was.
I'm just using the paragraph from Day 1 for now.

Verse to remember:  Genesis 1:1  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth (or the "erff" if Sammy is saying it.)

Again, I'm going to attempt to keep up with posting everything as we go through the Bible again.  I will probably get behind because that's what I do, but maybe not!  If you find anything awesome you think we'd enjoy, please comment.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Year, Four Kids

The twins turned one on June 19th. I really imagined on that day I would cry and reflect and just be overwhelmed by my youngest kids turning one. It’s true that the days are long but the years are short, and this year flew by. However, I was saved weeping for 24 hours by hand, foot, and mouth disease. Actually, I still wept but it was delayed for five days and then mainly because I hadn’t slept in a week, couldn’t remember the last time I showered, and felt like the personal Jersey cow for two breastmilk-crazed zombie babies. And I had watched my sweet girls suffer for days. That was the worst.

Here are some tidbits I want to remember about the first year now that I have time to remember:

Asher and Eowyn are both standing on their own. Neither is walking yet (update:  Asher took her first steps on June 27th.) They just like to balance on their chubby little legs and prepare to lung. I’m not sure if they are preparing to walk or fly.

Both say “da-da” and “mama” and Asher says her own name. Eowyn says “hi there.”

They weigh 16 pounds each, which puts them both in the less than 1 percentile for weight. Whatever. That’s 32 pounds worth of baby for me to carry, so I think God knew what he was doing when he made them tiny. They are healthy!

What We’ve Learned During the First Year of Twins

Eowyn, Mommy, and Asher

People think we are super parents because we have twins and a large family. We're not. On a daily basis D and I have a lot more opportunities to do it right or screw it up, and having tons of people in close proximity all the time teaches the true definition of grace.

They can fight, which I've read is good because it means they aren't too dependent on each other and see themselves as worthy individuals. They also are okay with being together or in different rooms.

They can love. They still cuddle and hold hands. They twin chatter every morning. They crack each other up.

They are hugely attached to me. I know, aren't all kids attached to mom? But I do have to admit that when I was pregnant, I wondered if they would need me as much or attach to me as thoroughly as Wren and Sam did because they have each other. They attached. They are securely attached!

They are very identical and very much their own people. It's weird because they are generally described as "the most identical twins" anyone has ever seen. Appearance aside, they have some commonalities, some differences, and I view them as distinctly themselves, even though it's hard to tell them apart.

Wren and Sammy were born to be older siblings. I'm not exaggerating when I say I do not know how I would have survived without the older two through this transition. They've retrieved diapers, entertained babies so I could shower, made me laugh when I was sleep deprived, and taken care of each other. Daily I wonder if I'm homeschooling them or if they are schooling me. I think I'm probably learning more, healthier habits from them.

People are still fascinated with twins/big families. I think after this year, I know what it must be like to be tailed by paparazzi. We can't go many places that people don't comment on the size of our family and that we have twins. Most comments are very kind. Some folks take offense to us trying to be fruitful.  But seriously, when you look at all this preciousness, how can you not understand why we have a herd?
Asher, Eowyn, Wren, and Sammy


Friday, May 23, 2014

Based on Circumstance

The twins will be one next month. I have said repeatedly to many people many times that they will be weaned by one for the following reasons:
I’ve been breastfeeding for almost six years;
There’s two of them, so it is a bit more work;
I will get more sleep not nursing;
I have had mastitis no less than six times while nursing them, with the most recent bout being last week;
It will increase mobility for the rest of the family.
The thing is, Wren and Sam nursed well over the year mark. Still, I thought once I hit one with Asher and Eowyn, we’d move the boobs back into the push up bras and label them “For Recreational Use Only.”
Then we night weaned. It was a 21 night roller coaster ride of staying up with them, holding them, patting them, kissing them, giving them baby massages, playing the Mozart Lullaby Station on Pandora, but we convinced them to allow me to sleep from 11pm-5am without having to nurse them. That’s six consecutive hours my friends, in a bed, not a recliner, with no one grabbing for my ta-tas. That’s forever in sleep-deprived-parent years. And it’s the first time I have had that much sleep in 11 months.

Apparently, I will give you anything if you let me sleep. I will continue to wear unflattering nursing bras, nurse two kids through naptime, change my whole life plan for sleep. I am a completely different being with a completely different threshold when allowed rest. Without sleep, I am subhuman. Ask any member of my family, or don’t because they have awful stories and in none of them am I awesome.

It makes me think of how much of my behavior is based on circumstance. This is where I wish I was D, because he is solid. He can wake up with a head cold, step on a Lego, and then have a child poo explode through her diaper on his arm and he is the same person as he would be if he woke up and was told he won a million dollars and would live to be 115 years old. He knows where his joy comes from, where his contentment is based, and he doesn’t let earthly circumstances change him.

Me, not so much. I know my joy comes from Christ, but I tend to try to remind Christ that I am more joyful when I am well rested. I am better at serving my family if my eyes are not swollen shut. I am less likely to lose my patience when Wren passively aggressively asks, “So, breakfast, when is that happening?” if I actually feel like standing on my feet to cook it.

I know it’s okay to need rest, but I hate that I display different behavior when I’m tired, because it’s nobody’s fault. D and I have made our choices on how we want to parent, and I wouldn’t take any of them back. We did choose the less sleep option, and knowing we made that choice means I need to take responsibility when less sleep happens. Everyone in my house still deserves my patience, my time, my consideration. I am still a child of Christ, and because He is unchanging, I should cling to Him for my rest, the important soul-filling kind, even when the earthly rest escapes me.

For now, I am still very much a work in progress. That six hour stretch of sleep guarantees the twins as much breastmilk access as they want during the day for however long they want it. When they start the two am whining I am tempted to say things like, “I have cabbage in the fridge. I can dry these girls up by tomorrow morning!” I’m working on it. God is molding me and shaping me in His time, and I am a very slow learner. I’ll get better because He will help me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What I’ve Learned: Jesus is the Real World

I thought about calling this series Jesus in the Real World because of all the ways He’s shown up for me in music, movies, people, sunsets, just life.  But then I realized it would be more accurate to say that Jesus is the real world.  Everything in it is His.  When I don’t see Christ, it just means I’m not looking or listening or tuned in the way I need to be.

We’ll start Holy Week Sunday, one of my favorite and most conflicted times of year.  We have our family traditions related to this time of year, and more questions come up as the kids get older.  They spent last week building a Resurrection garden with grandma and Aunt Sherry, and we’ll take that to Athens with us next weekend for Easter to spend time with my family.  We’re starting a new tradition, putting a small-enough-to-fit Jesus in the tomb of the Resurrection garden on Friday and then having the kids come out Sunday morning to see the stone rolled away and the Jesus figure gone.  Some kids get Easter baskets; our kids get empty tombs and the truth of a Risen God. 

Jesus, thankfully, is not small enough to fit or stay within any kinds of boundaries.  He’s everywhere.  I’ve found Him in endless loads of laundry, in the face of a homeless man, in the five minutes I have to socialize with other mamas during AWANAs pick up.  I’ve heard Him in the whirl of the white noise machine breaking through teething cries that last for hours.  I’ve seen Him at midnight as D stares at Asher or Eowyn knowing he has to wake up for work in five hours but fine with the fact that they are awake and want to smile and coo.  I’ve seen Him in Wren drawing pictures for Sammy to make him smile and Sammy agreeing to play with Wren’s dolls if they will ride on Thomas the train instead of just prance around.  He’s with me, always.

Honestly, I could blog on what I’ve learned forever and never be finished.  In a way, I will since I’ll continue to blog and lessons from the Lord will be here, even outside of this series.  For now, I’m going to call this the final entry in the What I’ve Learned series, though I will post a sort of Jesus Year index throughout the weekend and next week, more for my information than anything else.  It will be a list of songs and books and movies that heavily affected this exploration.  I want to remember and I want to continue to move forward.  I want to carry it all with me and continue to collect the new experiences.

I’m toying with the idea of picking up the Trying New Things and Little Things series on the blogs again since I am in a place to start some new resolutions, I think.  Things are calming down a bit, as calm as they will ever be.  I’m going to continue to write because I won’t journal any other way, and I like it.  Feel free to continue to read. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I’ve Learned from One Republic: Everything That Kills Me Makes Me Feel Alive

 I don’t think One Republic meant their song to be taken the way I’ve interpreted it for my own life and Jesus year.  Jokes on them. 

"Counting Stars" is a song where the chorus talks about feeling wrong doing the right thing and feeling right doing the wrong thing.  I’m guessing in rock star speak that means the debauchery that comes along with rock star life is not right, but it sure does feel good.  Maybe it goes deeper than that and I’m wrong, but this song hit a chord for me because it’s very accurate when applied to the Christian life.  If you live “the right way” according to the world, it should feel spectacularly wrong and if you live the “wrong way” it should feel right.  Follow so far?

As Christians, we are called to take up our cross and die, every single day.  Die to self.  Die to personal wants and desires.  Die to everything.  Christ inhabits us.  We follow.  Everything that kills me makes me feel alive?  That should pretty much be how all Christians feel.  Anything that kills me and my self-absorbed desires should make me feel alive because it means I’m living in Christ.  The most alive I feel is when I am focused on Christ.  He forces me to look outside myself where I find all these places He wants me to be and all these things I’m supposed to be doing.  He also makes me sit still.  I can’t do any of those things effectively when I’m living for me. 

According to the world, the right thing is to look out for number one and pursue our own desires, our own happiness, build ourselves up, work on self-promotion.  According to the Lord, no.  There’s a reason we were asked to take up a cross, a tool for execution, to follow Christ and not just told to pack a bag with all our things.  Following Christ is going to kill us, for sure on the inside, and sometimes we will give over our physical lives for it.  But that should feel right.  “Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly.”

And I want to drown in my commitment to Christ, to be washed over by my love for Him.  I want to say, “Yes, I have never felt more alive now that I am dead to sin and living in Christ!”  I want that daily.  When the selfish desires and human reactions kick in, I want Christ fighting within me to beat them down.  If it looks wrong to the world, that’s okay.  If it looks right to God, that’s what I’m going for. 

Now when I hear this song I usually blast it and belt out the chorus.  Again, a secular song that has become a born-again anthem for a crazy suburban mom in a minivan.  Oh, well.  If it looks wrong to the world, I’m probably good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Plumb: I Don’t Deserve His Love, But I Still Get to Have It

I’ve blogged about this song previously, but I cannot overstate the profound effect it had on me when I heard it.  It is very rare still for me to get through the entire song without crying or singing or both, which sounds like a baby whale screeching.  That’s how I praise the Lord.

Plumb wrote it for her son, a child who can give her a run for her money sometimes but is obviously the light of her life.  I didn’t know that going in as it sounds so much like a song to Christ, and it didn’t affect me when I found out.  There are lyrics that, to me, can only describe a relationship with Christ.

You're the reason that I'm alive
You're what I can't live without

I don't deserve a love that gives me everything
You're everything I want

I love my family with a passion and they, like Christ, are forgiving and right next to me, even at my worst.  But I don’t believe, and I don’t want any of them to believe, that a relationship with a person can ever fulfill all their needs or give them everything.  Our reason for living is more than each other, even if being together is a huge part of it.  For me, this was a love letter from God saying He will chase me, catch me even when I run, be by my side always.  As previously mentioned, I had a very hard time accepting the being loved part of my relationship with the Lord.  My epic failures cause me to see myself as unlovable in front of a Holy God.  But Plumb’s lyrics knocked me over with the raw honesty, the facts of having a relationship with Christ.

Your heart is gold and how am I the one
That you've chosen to love
I still can't believe that you're right next to me
After all that I've done

There’s not much I can say except, listen to the song.  Also, D is creating art based on a vision in my head that pops up every time I hear this song.  He is an amazing artist and has been working on it for some time, but because it’s going to hang in my living room and because I am so passionate about it, it’s taking him forever.  He doesn’t give himself enough credit when it comes to art anyway.  I’ll post it when he finishes and reference back to this blog.

Here the song by pasting this link:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What I've Learned from Free-Range Kids: Fear Has No Place

Lenore Skenazy blogs here, and wrote Free-Range Kids based on the same topic she covers on her blog.  Skenazy proves through research that the times we are living in are not any less safe for our children than they were for us, but our hyperawareness of every bad thing that happens everywhere all the time has made us think it is.  We’re raising kids who leave home as adults unable to make their own decisions because of fear, fear of everything.  Skenazy argues that it’s the parents and our society creating this monster since we are not encouraging or allowing our kids to assess practical risks and take chances developing their independence while they are home.

Skenazy’s book showed up at a point in our lives when D and I were hit in the face with this problem times about a thousand.  Wren’s Celiac and the addition of every gluten-filled bread crumb on the planet being an actual, real threat to our child has caused more than a few hiccups in what are considered normal childhood activities.  How do you raise a free-range kid when a wrong food choice or forgetting to wash hands before a meal increases their cancer risk?  And what if Wren gets contaminated enough to do internal damage but not to make her vomit or show outward signs leading to the contamination continuing until there are very real, hard to fix problems staring us in the face?

Of course, we have to raise Wren to learn to manage her Celiac and take on the responsibilities related to caring for herself.  But when and how much do we ask her to take on at each age?  That question has been debated between our pediatrician, our naturopath and us endlessly with no clear answer.  For sure we have to proceed carefully because Celiac compromises adrenal function which controls fight or flight mode.  What does that mean?  Taking on too much too fast could cause unnecessary stress on Wren’s body, especially if we ask her to make decisions she’s not ready to make or that require too many steps or risks.  She’s five, and adults have a hard time managing and staying safe in cross-contaminated environments.

After reading Skenazy’s book, D and I sought the Lord as to how to turn over some, but not too much, of the Celiac responsibility to her.  We started with Sunday School.  We moved to AWANAs this year, and Wren has LOVED AWANAs and is finishing up Cubbies.  So far, so good.  We’ve kept it simple and made the steps she has to follow limited.  She knows the drill and is not stressed by it. 

As we come up on each new challenge, like yes or no to VBS this year for three whole hours with multiple snacking/cross-contamination issues and the possibility of Play-Doh and flour activities, we seek God to help us not make a fear-based decision.  We want to make a guided, responsible decision based on the obvious risks, but fear alone as a motivator isn’t going to do any of us any favors.  We have to prepare Wren, and we also have to decide when going it on her own is above her level at this point in her life.  We want the Holy Spirit leading us, because as Skenazy points out, if I look to the world and to media alone, I will never even let my kids leave the house, let alone enter a house with Wonderbread.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Hair and Jesus: Looks Shouldn’t Matter

Wren wants to cut her hair, really cut her hair.  So Friday we have a girls’ date to let her chop it as short as she wants and see if she likes it. 

I think before my Jesus year and time spent trying to focus on what matters, I might have attempted to talk her out of it.  The reason would have simply been hair doesn’t grow back overnight, and I wouldn’t want her to be upset if she didn’t like it.  My response when she told me the other night: whatever you want to do.  It’s just hair.  Because it is, and if I stress that it is something worthy of getting upset about, then that’s what it becomes instead of being just hair.

I would like to say vanity is not a struggle for me, and I think it’s probably not as much as it could be.  There is something great in never being classically pretty, having a face that doesn’t fit standard beauty proportions, being called too pale, too thin or too not muscley (that’s my word for still fairly thin but with loose hanging skin instead of muscle).  I learned early not to bank on being liked because I was cute.  I had to actually develop a personality, though that did not always make people flock to me.

It’s a double-edged sword though.  By telling someone they are physically beautiful all the time or focusing on all the ways they are not physically beautiful, it sends the message that looks matter.  And I would guess if me or any of my close friends kept a tally of how often our comments are about someone’s appearance, it would startle us how often it is the focus, good or bad.  What if I tallied all the times I just thought about appearance, mine or someone else’s?  That makes me think vanity may be an issue for all of us. 

Jesus didn’t seem to be into looks. He was described as “having no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” Isaiah 53:2

He didn’t comment on people’s appearances but rather the state of their hearts.  He loves people even though He can see beyond their outward appearances, therefore seeing our ugly on the inside which is where ugly really lives and matters.  I wonder what He thinks of our obsession with celebrities losing baby weight in a week, people being “fat-shamed”, and selfies.

It’s obvious I can’t blindfold my kids and pretend everyone looks the same.  Wren has made it obvious since these are comments that have all been said very loudly in public places in the last six months:

Mom, that girl’s hair is pink!
Mom, that man is brown!
Mom, that man is wearing a ponytail, but he’s not a girl!

There are times I’ve wanted to crawl under the grocery cart and die, but I have just said, “yes, everyone is different” and all of these individuals were awesome, seeing Wren for what she is, a child noticing that not everyone is the same, pointing out differences as just differences, not insults.  (Where Wren is not observant: her family.  I told her grandpa has brown skin since D’s dad is from Venezuela and has dark skin.  She was blown away!  Wow, Grandpa IS brown!  Cool!  Never noticed.)

While I tell my kids they are beautiful because I think it’s good for every kid to hear that, and I think they are beautiful, I try not to place beauty as the ultimate.  And honestly, I try not to say it often because being called pretty is addictive like heroine.  After physical appearance praise, being called a hard worker, kind, or a person with a servant’s heart can leave the person receiving those compliments thinking, “Thanks, but am I pretty?”  Maybe that’s just the voice in my head who needs counseling, though that voice is dying more as I get closer to God.   

Looks are not the most important thing and shouldn’t really even be on the list.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23  Being hot is not there.  I want to praise my kids for what is valued by Christ, and I want to value the same things as well as try to inhabit those virtues.  It’s not easy in a looks-obsessed culture, and it is taking a ton of conscious parenting and wise word choosing.  We are wired to see and speak on very surface things in this culture and country.  But it’s worth the effort. 

So, we’ll see what Wren’s hair looks like after Friday.  I’m sure it will be fine, and either way, it’s just hair.  I hope she can live in a world where it’s always just hair.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Leena: What it Looks Like to Show Jesus

We have the Jamie Grace station on Pandora, and she sings a million songs I love. “Show Jesus” is one that reminds me and the kids of Aunt Leeners, or Leena if she’s not the adopted aunt of your kids. It talks about living life in a way that shows Jesus to everyone through your love, you smile, just your presence. Since I met her in 2006 when were wide-eyed newbie middle school teachers, she has been a light I can always look to.  I’ve learned more watching her live out her Christian life than I have hearing anyone else talk about their own.   Here are some reasons why:

Faith During Loss

Leena’s dad passed away in 2011 after a valiant fight with cancer that was looking good. Everything turned at the last minute, and he passed when Leena was 28, way too early.

Leena’s family is one of those that could have really wholesome sitcoms written about them. They are precious, kind, and ferociously attached. As her dad battled cancer, I watched what it looked like to see someone prioritize everyone over herself, and I saw her family pull together beautifully to support her dad and each other.

Throughout his illness Leena prayed and believed he could be healed. We all prayed with her. Even on his deathbed, Leena still prayed that he would stop hurting, would recover, would be okay. When he passed away, she let all the prayer warriors who were waiting to hear know and asked for some time to recover.

Leena praised God after her dad died, praised Him for giving her such a wonderful father, for ending his pain. She mourned, of course, but she never lost her compass; she kept her heart pointed towards Christ and fell into His arms to recover instead of pulling away. And somehow, she kept up with friends and family, checking on everyone, coming to birthday parties and dinners. I’ll never forget this time in her life which was so painful but so awe-inspiring for anyone watching her.

Show Me the Money

In the middle of her dad’s illness, Leena was nominated for Teacher of the Year. This is huge, especially since she was still relatively new at teaching. She won on her campus and then made the finals for the district, which put her in the top five category. I believed she was a shoo-in.

On a night that should have been celebratory, Leena’s dad was too sick to attend the banquet where the winner for the whole district would be announced. Leena attended knowing her presence would be expected and gracefully applauded the teacher who was awarded the prize for that year.

Here’s why I love her: The prize for Teacher of the Year is acclaim, but it’s also cash. Teachers’ salaries aren’t great, so anyone who says all they want is the prestige is a liar; they want the cash.

In an unexpected turn of events, there was a raffle at the door. If you came to the banquet you were entered for a chance to win $1000, the same amount given to the Teacher of the Year winner. Leena won. Not only did she win, but she screamed, “Yes, that’s all I really wanted anyway!” before she could stop herself when her name was announced. This made me love her more than I thought was even possible.

Her Life is a Service Project

Call Leena anytime of day and she will more than likely be volunteering or serving in some capacity.   She doesn’t talk about helping out; she does it.  From chaperoning teens on international trips to helping at local food pantries, she takes what Jesus said about serving others seriously, every day. 

She Likes my Kids

Sammy tried to breastfeed through her shirt and she didn’t even flinch.  I have a picture; enough said there.

I’ve been blessed with rich friendships and Leena is someone I can’t imagine living without.  Wren and Sammy both pretty much scream “Aunt Leeners!” anytime songs by Jamie Grace about being an awesome Christian come on.  And they should.  My Jesus year and my life wouldn’t be the same without her.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What I’ve Learned From Jen Hatmaker: So Much I Have No Title For This

Here’s Jen Hatmaker’s blog.  Go read it.  Please come back. 

Did you come back?  Wow, I wouldn’t have.  She is awesome.  Why aren’t you reading more of her blog and buying all her books.  Is this a relative reading?

Anyway, I can’t even remember how I stumbled across the gem that is Jen Hatmaker, but I love her.  If I ever visit Austin and see her I will probably make a total fool of myself, even more than usual. 

Here’s the short list of what I love, though it's not short:

Ø   She was raised in what sounds like a pretty standard Christian home, grew up, questioned everything and fell head over heels in love with Jesus even more;

Ø  She is honest about flaws in the church, but she LOVES the church and is trying to be the change she wants to see (stole that last part from Gandhi);

Ø  She says hard stuff but in a loving way, and her goal has never seemed to be to stir the pot for the sake of hurting people or causing controversy;

Ø  She gets love, like real love, Jesus love, loving people more than politics or rules or reputation or the easy way.  She wants to love like Jesus;

Ø  Her writing style makes me laugh, sometimes out loud in a very obnoxious way where I can’t explain why I’m laughing because I can’t stop long enough, but I try anyway;

Ø  Her writing makes me cry;

Ø  She introduced Sarah Bessey’s writing to me;

Ø  The book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess;

Ø  This could go on forever.

Add this to the list.  This week she said some hard things on her blog about what happened with World Vision and her stance on issues, and she took some serious verbal/typed beatings for it, and I'm not sure why.  In reading her words, I saw someone who had prayerfully sought the Lord and was hurting and was putting it out there in the way she knew how.  I respected it.  I respected that she knew she’d have to deal with some heat but did it anyway for the people it would touch in a positive way.  She prayerfully seeks and tries to convey what she finds.  She knows people have different opinions, she stands firm on Biblical truth, but she doesn’t condone hating your neighbor because they don’t agree with you.  She is all for loving them so much they don’t even know what to do.  I want to learn to build community like she does.  I want to learn to not be afraid to say hard things.  I want time to refine my writing style like she has, because reading her words is like someone pouring poetry into my ears and letting it swim freely in my mind and heart. 

So if you currently have not liked Jen Hatmaker’s page on Facebook, do that.  You’ll see when she posts new blogs and can jump on them like I do.  Read Seven.  Sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy her writing like you do meeting with an old friend because that’s what it feels like.  An old friend I might stalk if I can ever drag my crew to Austin.  I’m sure all six of us will make stealthy stalkers.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Hair-Pulling: Being Right is Not as Important as Being Right With People

Wren ran into the living room screaming that Sammy had pulled her hair out.  Her hair did have a desperate look about it, and she launched into a tale of woe and betrayal that led to her hair problem and Sammy being the cause of it.  Unbeknownst to her, Sammy sauntered in behind her with a busted lip. 

 Me:  Wren, what happened?
Wren:  I told you, Sammy pulled my hair.
Me:  Did you do anything to Sammy?
Wren:  Uh….
Me:  Think hard, he’s standing right behind you. 
Wren:  Maybe.
Me:  He’s bleeding.
Wren:  I did punch him in the mouth. 

Understand I had two sleeping infants nursing on me, a noise machine on and was pinned to the recliner.  My goal:  get to the bottom of this without waking up Asher and Eowyn.  Mission not accomplished.  The girls stayed asleep, but I still have no idea what happened between Wren and Sam.

Wren’s attempts at telling the story always involved a lot of pausing and editing.  She is a bad liar, and it definitely benefits me.  Here’s Sammy’s version:

Me:  Sam, what happened?
Sam:  I pulled Wren’s hair.
Me:  Did you pull her hair first?
Sam:  She hit me in the mouth.
Me:  Before you pulled her hair?
Sam:  We got in a fight.
Me:  What order did it happen in?
Sam:  I’m hungry.
Me:  Good grief, child, I am trying to help you!

Wren and Sam love each other desperately and fight so infrequently that Sam doesn’t really care who started it or ended it.  He generally just wants to be fed. 

Solution:  They both had to sit on the couch and not talk, though they could read or color, until the twins woke up from nap.  Any further fighting would lead to naps for them, too.  This worked beautifully. 

I’m a recovering need-to-be-right-all-the-time person, so a situation like this would have infuriated the former me.  I would have wanted to know who started the fight, why, how did it turn aggressive.  Now I know enough to feel certain there were no really innocent parties.  Sure, someone resorted to making it physical first, but that’s only part of the story.  My guess is a) Wren put more of Sammy’s prized race cars in her panties and laughed at him while he searched his room trying to find them, then he pulled her hair out or b) Sammy pulled his underwear down, put his tush right next to the back of Wren’s head, declared himself “fart man” and let one rip, therefore resulting in Wren punching him in the face.  They learned their lesson.  They didn’t fight anymore that day. 

Parenting helped me learn that most of the time I only get a portion of the story and that has taught me to look at life and assume the same thing. I’ve come to a conclusion:  being right isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, even if you are right.  Yes, I believe in absolute truth; I’m not wishy-washy about most anything and can and do offer truth in love.  But I’ve found leaving room for someone else’s voice, whether I agree with it or not, is a much better way to cultivate relationships than to launch my right answers into their face.  Knowing what I believe allows me to be open to other people’s experiences instead of constantly needing the last word.  And it allows love and truth to shine, not me and my know-it-allness.  It also hopefully lessens the amount of times I fall tragically on my face when I am completely wrong. 

I’ve learned I want the mommies around me to raise their kids however they see fit and not judge or feel judged on the hot-button issues (breastfeeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. crib, homeschool vs. public) as if there is only one way.  I want my Jesus without political affiliation, and I’m tired of each party raising their flag as to why they are right and therefore much more God-blessed, never where they need forgiveness or reform and repentance.  I want to not agree with people and hear them out, and maybe still not agree with them but never stop loving them or letting them know they’ve been heard.  I want others to do the same for me.

So while I may never know what led to the hair-pulling, punchfest, I know it doesn’t matter.  I don’t condone violence, and no child walked away thinking I do.  They both walked away knowing each may have been a little right and a little wrong and they learned what NOT to do if they want freedom from the couch.  And that was okay.  Everyone got a chance to tell their version of the story, to feel heard, and to recover from their emotional and physical woes while still dealing with consequences.  Feelings were considered over shaming the wrongdoer.  Everyone was valued even if they hadn’t made the best decision.  In a unique way, it all turned out just right.