Apollo

I let you go Saturday little buddy. It was such a hard decision. I prayed the Lord would just take you in the night. You were my best little companion.

I haven’t let myself cry since Saturday, but I guess it’s time to write about who you were to me.

I got you after my dad died, in the aftermath of the tumult. There there many times I held you and cried. You didn’t know why I was crying but you were just my little snuggler. You helped me welcome all my babies into our family and You loved playing tag with my first cat Willow. Then you welcomed Zappa into your life with ease. You hopped like a bunny as a puppy and I loved your tiny fluffy happy body. You read my moods and fit in perfectly. When I picked you up, you jumped up into my arms. You never took a treat from my hand. I always had to put them on the floor for you to sniff them alone.

I carried you with me everywhere so proud to have you with me.

You loved your toy duck and you were so funny with him Jolie got you another one just like it. You were the most well-behaved dog in your puppy training class. Even the mean dogs liked you.

You didn’t complain about anything except at the end. You must have had back pain and some arthritis. I’m sorry you had any pain at all Apollo. You were a silent sufferer.

You went on all our road trips with Stinky. You didn’t like that we got her at first, but she kept you good company, didn’t she?

You didn’t like dog parks. The dog fights scared you. When you were scared you sat right under me between my feet.

You used to love being groomed. You used to fall asleep as I brushed you.

I miss you a lot, and so do the kids.

Kade says how you were so fluffy. And Micah says he will miss your sweetness.

Love you so much.

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The smartest pairing ever

Food is an intrinsic reward, and it doesn’t have to be sweet. Another natural reward is being able to move onto “the next thing”.

I have worked hard this summer on our habits. I think I can confidently say now we’ve built a few, and I thought they might help you in your home.

  • Tidy up before X – children must do a tidy up before moving on to a meal, to the next activity, to outside the house. I have consistently required a tidy up.
  • Morning five – before breakfast, you must floss teeth, brush teeth, wash face, comb hair and make your bed. Even my 3 year old (almost 4) knows this routine now. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it has taken us this long to get to this form of order, especially on the hygiene things. I have insisted on it now.

Now I’ll share some behavioral habits we’ve formed.

  • Mop the floor – if my kids flick food on the floor I clap my hands and celebrate the fact that they have the privilege of mopping that night. Yipppeeee!
  • After a fight, we’re routinely apologizing, naming what we did and asking for forgiveness. But we’ve also added this: “God gave me to you as a brother. My job is to help and protect you, to respect and love you.” We chase that with a “brother hug”. We talk about what should have happened instead of whatever response was given, kind of like having a do-over.

That’s all! I hope that helps you!

These are some of the smartest behavioral triggers you can form in your home for your children!

The sorrow of social media

God asked me to abstain from social media a while ago. Not just social media, but also YouTube and Netflix. I obliged.

I looked at Facebook some today and yesterday as my Daniel fast was over. And I realized that peering into other people’s lives makes me feel sad and lonely.

The purpose of social media is to share your life and stay connected to friends. But it offers a shallow connection, and a fake friendship.

Real friends reach out to see how you are doing. Real friends ask you over for tea. Real friends are interested in your life too.

I’d always known a poor friend is one who only talks about themselves when you call them on the phone. This is social media.

The Stress of Moms

I know why moms are stressed. I use the term ‘multiplier effect’ in other areas of life – mainly positive ones. But this time, I’m going to use it in a way that describes the frustration of children. Children multiply things. They multiply the fun, they multiply the laughter, they multiply the interest of the things you are doing together. But they also multiply the volume, the questions, the dirt, the crumbs, the trash, and the need to clean the bathroom. My children even multiply the number of times I need to make my bed in a day, because they jump on it. Even. If. I. Tell. Them. Not. To. Jump. Or. Else. This is why moms are stressed.

I never thought of myself as a sensory-sensitive person. However, put me in a room with many children talking to me (or should I say “at me”) simultaneously, and I realize I’m overloaded.

I get to see friends, but have to leave early because of a discipline issue. I’m punished with my kids, because I’m training them.

I get frustrated about my home. And then I realize why I’m frustrated. The baby finds an apple. She eats it. But at this age, more goes out than in. My toddler tries to put part of an elastic band over a cup. It spills. He goes to the bathroom, partly misses, and comes out pants-less. My 6 year old doesn’t want to finish lunch, which means he’s going to become hangry around 3pm, and little brother will copy him. There’s a fine line between I’m-setting-a-boundary-it’s-not-time-to-eat AND I-have-a-hangry-three-year-old-to-deal-with-and-everyone-is-less-happy-because-he-needs-a-snack. Because of the apple, I realize I’m stepping on wet food with my socks on. So I go through an extra pair of socks that day. More laundry.

My husband will come home later and we will have leftovers if I’ve gotten the timing decently okay with the baby. I will feel badly that the house isn’t cleaner than it is.

My own creative juices are frustrated because who has time for detailed crafts with kids?

The one and only moms-only Christmas party I get to attend, my husband said no to keeping the baby. She wailed and almost threw up three times all the way home. Am I being selfish? Or was it his turn to be selfless?

This is why moms are stressed.

Taken by surprise

I’ve gotten good at anticipating sorrow over my father but today I was taken by surprise. Maybe it’s the holiday season… I don’t know. But if I could call him, this is what I’d say.

Daddy, you were a fiercely loving man. Thank you for loving me wholly and unconditionally. I miss you. My kids would love you – they would run and jump up on your lap and kiss your face all over. They would ask you questions and ask you to read them books, and show you things in the world. They would laugh at all your silly jokes and marvel at your fun hand tricks. You are never far from my heart and my thoughts.

Ian and I would ask your advice and tell you all the things God is showing us. I would ask you to write down your family history for me. I would ask you for your prayers. I would tell you about your children and grandchildren, all 7 of them, and how I want to give you more of them too.

Many people my age haven’t understood what it’s like to have this kind of hole in their hearts. Mostly I can smile and tell them what a great job you did. But the hole will always be there as a shallow mirror of the love we still share. And I flood that hole with tears every now and again. I’m glad God is there to catch them.

I long for a hug. Heck, I’ll even take the way you used to say my name with a warning when I was doing something wrong. Thank you for teaching me right from wrong, and dealing gracefully with all my teenage angst.

I thank the Lord that He allowed my husband to know you for three years before He took you. God’s design has mercy woven throughout it in small details like these, too. Thank you for loving Ian, even as a child, too!

What’s it like in front of Jesus? What do the angels sound like when they are worshipping? Does God let you peer down over us and watch? What family members have you rejoined with there? Would you tell me how short this life really is, while we are waiting for Jesus to come back? What does your spirit look like without a body?

I’d love to buy you a cheesy necktie for Christmas and mix a cd of music for you. I’d love to bake you a cake and sing happy birthday. And I’d love to plop one of my babies into your lap and watch you bob them up and down on your knee.

Anyhow, I miss you and I love you.

A Year in Review

Here goes my reflection time. Last year was another season of huge changes. We moved across the country last year, and between my last birthday and this birthday, we invited our first girl into our home, and our third child. If I had to name three words that describe last year, it would be humbling, opening, and exploring.

My husband would say, this was a continuation of a work God was doing to humble us. I agree. It was opening, because I feel like God opened the doors to show me more and more about warfare. And it was exploring, because my family literally took up exploring this new part of United States with great enthusiasm.

God has been showing me areas of sin. While I won’t name them publicly, if you’re one of my prayer partners, then I have been transparent in sharing them, because I covet and need your prayer covering. He is merciful. I am grateful. God has been showing me where I am naive. One of these areas is to learn how truly hard it is to travel across country with three small children. It is just physically difficult to have small children, and to uproot them for a vacation is hard work. It’s worth it, but it’s expensive and it’s hard work. I am also naive to the juggling act of educating more than one child at a time. I’d say I have it easy, because my second one is young, and his education is not too demanding yet. Actually, my first one is young, and his education is also not too demanding yet. I just imagine what it’s going to be like in 3 to 5 years from now, when I can see myself with another baby or two, plus the others, who really require more rigor. It will be an awesome journey.

I’ve also decided that motherhood is somewhat of a blind faith journey. You trust what your mother said. You find mentors. You read the Bible. You reflect on your own childhood and life lessons. You pray. But literally, only God knows how it is all going to turn out. When you are a mother, you know your children are your life’s most prolific work. Your children will spin out whatever you teach them. But they are not a perfect product. There’s so much out of your control. My mom is in a Bible study right now, where everyone there seems to be preaching that your children will walk with the Lord if you do everything right. Can I get a “no” button? As mothers, we cannot control our children as adults, as teenagers, and even as young children. The way God designed us, is to have free will. Discipline is from the inside out. We are handicapped as humans, because we can really only work from the outside in, meaning we can only read our children based on their behavior. Then we fumble and strive first to know, and then to address the heart issue. Only with God’s mercy and help will we ever get this right. And even then, our children only turn out walking with the Lord by God’s own mercy. I digress.

God has shown up big in so many areas of my life this past year. I have been keeping a bullet journal. In it, I have a miracles page. He’s filling the page. This year, we had our first “Family Day” in April. It was truly beautiful to recount God’s blessings with my family that way. Amazing.

Although there is always room for improvement, I feel like I’m keeping things in balance in our homeschool. Like I said, there are many things I’d like to add that I consistently think of doing. But when we get down to the brass tacks of a first grade education, we’re hanging in there. I think this is largely because my Micah memorizes well, and he likes learning. Micah does a rock star job memorizing his Bible scriptures for Awana. To me, this is more important memory work than CC, but he memorizes that like a champ too. I just started reading lessons with Kade… as in M says mmmmm and S says sssssss. I also focus on songs with Kade, and we pick out different letters while we are reading books together. We also work on our speech skills when I notice he says a word incorrectly, like any word that starts in S… he usually needs repeating practice. And Hope, well, she’s in baby school, just learning how to eat food and use some sign language. I’m trying to teach her “milk”, and “more”. All this to say, what I’m really focusing my children on at these ages is to know and love the Lord, be kind and considerate with others and each other, have a cheerful and helpful attitude, and be responsible with their things. I’m really working on the tone of my home being cheerful and giving.

I need to make improvements in many areas in my 36th year however.

  • Keep better track of what we’re actually doing in homeschool. I need to improve my system of tracking things.
  • Do a better job of slowing down before I say yes to things, including saying yes to myself. I am an idea machine. My latest thing is I want to write and speak and produce a “wisdom series” for children. I had better ask God about all these ideas!
  • I could do a better job of keeping the clutter down in our home, and do more cleaning. This is a constant battle. I’m really trying to get my kids to do chores.
  • I need to work on hygiene and organization with my kids – this means I need to really have them work with me. When they have a stain in their shirts, they will need to spray them down and scrub them. When they are done with food, they need to clear their plates, and then wash their mouths and hands.
  • I need to do a better job of juggling the various hats I wear so I don’t drop balls. And God is taking different balls out of the loop anyhow.
  • My mind races. I need to do a better job of slowing my mind down. Lists help. But lists can also be the enemy.
  • I’m still chronically behind birthdays, and although I was doing a good job of being on time places, I’m starting to slip.
  • Spend more time organizing on the weekends.
  • Cook more for the family.

The best books I’ve either read, or revisited, for personal enrichment in my 35th year have been:

  • Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare Manual by John Eckhardt

  • Different by Sally Clarkson
  • Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend
  • The Core by Leigh Bortins
  • The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Raising Your High-Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcina
  • The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • Strongman’s His Name… What’s His Game by Jerry and Carol Robeson
  • Childbirth Without Fear by Grant Dickey-Read
  • The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
  • The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson (and the Life Giving Home Experience) <– I’ll probably use this one every month of every year if I’m smart
  • Expand, Grow, Thrive by Pete Canalichio

I’ve enjoyed being a Support Representative with Classical Conversations this year as well, as well as working with Pete Canalichio.

I hope in my 36th year I’ll see revival, family growth, and more self-discipline.

When you’re still homesick

I’ve lived in this place now since last June, so I’ve been here a year and a quarter. Though now I’m just beginning to find a sense of belonging, I am still homesick.

When I’m homesick I get a little restless. I wonder if I’ll ever have friends like I did in Atlanta. I wonder if I’ll find camaraderie in a group like I had in Rochester.

And then I look at what the Lord is doing and I’m grateful.

Meanwhile, He’s taken me to a place where we might be the most unchurched in America. I heard this Sunday, that this city has the highest percent of people who followed God and then left. Wow.

We all strive for a feeling of belonging. We want to be known and to know others.

Today I was privileged to have a dear woman share with me her plight with cancer and how delicately and intricately God planned her rescue. A year that felt like one hit after another, lined up opportunities and circumstance that allowed for her care. She was so vulnerable. I cried with her, even if only on the inside. She is amazing. She is stronger. God has a future for her. He’s not done crafting the quilt of her life.

I’m completely taken by this God who cares so deeply and perfectly for our needs.

And I know He sees mine.

So while I spend my days trying to be less selfish and focus on learning about others, I remember my own heart cries out to Abba Father, and says “see my need”.

By the way, this post is not a ding on any of my friends here. You’re doing a fine job. It takes time to build intimacy. And one year doesn’t equal 25 years in another city. I’m not comparing you as friends. I’m considering my own sense of belonging. That’s all. And I figure, since I have lots of friends who are new to this town too, that you can probably relate. So, I send my love to you too! It’s okay to be vulnerable.