Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pillows and Ham Sandwiches

For the last few weeks, I have been in two different Bible studies.  The first is about how to grow spiritually into the person that you always wanted to be (The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg), and the second is how to parent your kids with grace rather than beating them over the head with rules and 'the law' (Give Them Grace by Elyse M Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson).  I have found both of these studies to be very enlightening to me, and I have also found that they seem to relate a lot to each other.

So far, and I'm only on chapter 5, Ortberg's big message to me is that my spirituality and its growth in me does not necessarily have to do with me sitting and reading the Bible and praying everyday, but more with how I go about living Christ in my daily life.  Not that Bible study and prayer are not important, nor that I should not participate in those activities, but rather than getting hung up and feeling like a failure because I am not doing those things as much as I 'ought' to, I should and can look to other aspects of my life and examine them to see how I, with God's help, can form my life into a better image of His.  Or perhaps I should say how God, without me interfering, can form my life into a better image of His own. 

This has really been an eye opener for me.  I have seen that by beating myself over the head because I have not done my prayer or Bible study as much as I would like, I am getting nowhere nearer to a more godly life nor am I a better parent to my kids.  At one place in the book, Ortberg says that at this very moment, one of the best things that I could do for my spiritual life is to put down the book and take a nap!  What a concept!  Why isn't he saying to put down his book and pick up the Bible?  Or say a quick prayer?  It's because without rest, while running on empty, there is no way that we (I!) can be a good, patient, kind, loving and graceful mother to my children, and therefore, there is no way for me to model a Christ-like attitude and lifestyle to them which is what spirituality is all about anyway.

My mother always used to say that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome.  Ortberg's point is that in order to grow and change, work backwards:  first, understand what true spirituality looks like, second, learn what particular barriers keep us from living that life and third, discover what practices will help us overcome these barriers.

The spiritual goal, if you will, that I am presently working on is showing grace and patience to my kids, ages 14 years, almost 5 years, 2 years, and 4 months.  And I have discovered that in order to show them grace, I have to show grace to myself first, and most importantly, I have to be willing to receive that grace that God and others are so willingly dishing repeatedly out to me.

How many times have I berated myself saying I should do this, or I should do that, but I'm just too tired and so I go to bed feeling guilty about all that I have not gotten done?  Then I awaken in the morning with an undone 'to do' list hanging over my head from the day before so that even before my feet hit the floor I am already discouraged and frustrated.  What kind of model of peace and grace is that?  But where in the Bible does it say 'thou shalt mop thy floors daily'?  Or 'thou shalt have a weed-free garden'?  But the Bible does say to train our children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6) and to not embitter them (Col 3:21).  But how can I model and healthy spiritual life and not embitter my children if I reject grace and am bitter myself?

Now, I'm not saying that this is giving me a free 'do nothing pass', but rather it has given me a 'take care of yourself so that you can effectively take care of everyone else' pass.  So that is the spiritual discipline that I am working on now.  It sounds simple, but my first steps are to be sure that I am eating well and sleeping enough.  Then, after those things are taken care of, I will be more equipped to deal with the next steps.

Who knew that spirituality involved a pillow and a ham sandwich?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

As Promised...

Because I have been 'accused' of procrastination...

I'll start with these two pictures:

I must say that Jesse is the happiest baby that I have ever had.  Gabriel was a happy baby, but that was different because my mother in law took care of him and she basically carried him around all day, every day and anticipated his every need so that he had no need to cry.  Jesse, however, is just happy by himself.  He plays with his toes and his little dangling toys or hangs out on my chest in his Bjorn and is just a happy man.  His eyes are still blue/gray/green, too, even though I have not squirted milk in them as I have been encouraged to do by many people.

 These 3 pictures are of our garden this year.  Yes, it is very out of control.  But wait!  Let me explain!

I went to Lowes and got 3 tomato plants, but after I planted them and started watering the garden, I realized that I had TONS of volunteer tomatoes that seeded from last year and from the compost that we put in the garden earlier in the spring.  So now I have tomatoes EVERYWHERE, and I know that I need to pull them out and thin them, but it is also just really neat to see what happens with them.  But I am trying to thin them, but I just can't seem to get myself to pull the ones that have flowers and/or little green 'maters on them, so here they are.  I'll let you know what happens.  Oh and there is also a big sunflower growing the middle of it all.
 This is a picture of our potatoes that we planted this year.  And a tomato and a pumpkin that volunteered.  The 'taters seem to be growing well.  We did well with them last year, and when we were prepping the soil for this planting, we pulled out even more rocks and loosened the soil even deeper.

 We planted the apple tree in the fall last year, but it looks like we may get a few apples off it this fall.  Hopefully they make it to fall without getting either eaten by bugs or picked by Gabriel, and then we can see if they are firm and sweet/tart like I'm hoping.  They are Winesaps.
 We planted the grapes last spring, but since I worked all summer super long hours, they didn't get watered and didn't do well last year.  I have no idea how to take care of them other than train them to vine on the supports and water them, so we'll see if they succumb to disease (or Gabriel).
 These are our raspberries which are actually pretty much done with their fruits this year, but we got a lot off them.  We were able to can a  lot of jelly, which is good because I like raspberry jelly, but I don't like the seeds in it and the only ones that don't have seeds have a lot of sugar.  Elizabeth and I have been canning our jams and jellies with no sugar so it is good and tart.  So good on sandwiches and pancakes!

Ok.  So there are a few pictures of what's going on around here.  We are headed to the pool with the church tonight, so I should have some good ones of the kids to put up soon!

 This is Jordan, our 6th child (Annie is #5) and she was complaining that we had no pictures of her on the blog, so here you go, Jordan!
 And here we all are trying to beat the heat for a few minutes before we go to the pool!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not Today...

I fully intended to write today and share the pictures that I have been promising.

However, you will not find me here tonight.  I have one picture that I will share with you and you will understand:

This is a picture of the inside of our refrigerator.  And to make it worse, only the right side of the fridge is ours.  The entire left side and half of the door is my in-laws.

So yes, I will be at the grocery store tonight, not here sharing fun pictures of the kids and our gardens.

But can I extend my promise to next time?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Where to Start

I don't really know where to start the account of what has been going on here, so I will start with the school stuff. 

Elizabeth finished her last school lesson on Saturday, June 3rd.  The reason that this date is important is because she was supposed to finish it at the end of May, but she didn't.  Which meant that I had to be a mean mom and keep my word and not let her do anything til she got it done.  Which meant that she missed her soccer practice on Thursday and her game on Saturday.  She was mad, but I do believe that next time she will finish her work on time.  I wasn't home anyway, so I didn't even get to witness the 'madness' that went on, so honestly, I'm not concerned.  At all. 

I had ordered her a yearbook from the school that we took her out of, and she went today to take back a few books that she still had and to get her yearbook, which she got in the mail yesterday, to be signed.  But, when she got to the front desk, they told her that she could not go back to her classroom because the teacher was in the middle of class and couldn't be disturbed.  It's the last day of school.  How much lecture do they think he is going to be doing?  Anyway, at least she got the book even if it isn't signed by anyone.

The last 2 weekends Jesse and I have been going to festivals for the Pampered Chef.  It's been a lot of fun, but it makes for a long weekend.  He hangs out with me either sleeping in his seat or hanging around in his Bjorn.  He's such a trooper. 

Last week Thursday and Friday Jesse and I went to the homeschool convention.  It was pretty awesome although a bit overwhelming.  The used curriculum sale was pretty incredible, but Jesse decided that he needed to fill his diaper when we got in and then, of course, after the filling of said diaper, he had an empty spot in his tummy that needed to be filled, so we didn't end up getting to look at all the books that I wanted to.  But that's probably ok anyway because I found the science and math books that I needed for Elizabeth and I found the readers that I was looking for for Jo.  So I feel much more prepared for the coming year.  I just need to find the other books for Elizabeth, but I am tracking them on eBay, and I will purchase them soon.

Elizabeth is working like crazy babysitting.  She has earned all the money that she needs for the mission trip and camp, and now is just working to save up for whatever.  She is excited because she got a checking account and a bank card with her name on it so now she can pay for her own stuff and write her own checks.

Gabriel and Jo are signed up for classes at the rec center for the summer.  Jo is taking gymnastics and the class for Gabriel is just called Zoom Around the Room.  I thought that sounded exactly like something that would be good for him!  Both classes are just one day a week for 45 minutes, but they look like fun and will give us all something to look forward to in the heat of the summer.

My mother in law left to go to El Salvador and has a return ticket for August.  At first she said that she was not going to come back in August, or ever, for that matter, but now that she has been there and seen how things really are, she is ready to return.  My father in law is still here and is still looking for a job, but he has some good leads and has been told that if he gets his asbestos license in VA, then he will be able to work there, too.  Which means that it appears that we will not be getting our room back anytime soon. 

Jesse is a smiling giggling machine.  Seriously, that's all he does.  He is an amazing baby.  Have I told you that he sleeps for the night?  Yeah, he's been doing that pretty much since he got home from the hospital.  He also often sleeps at the same time as Gabriel and Jo in the middle of the day.

Which reminds me that Gabriel is doing much better going to bed now.  Jimmy and/or I can usually get him down with just one try, meaning that I can just rock him for a few minutes and then put him in bed and he will stay there. 

And Jo has been doing really well with her quiet time.  I give her a few choices of what she can do, draw, a puzzle, look at a book, fold laundry (yes, this is an exciting activity for her) or something like that, and she stays quietly in her room for at least an hour. 

And my canning has been going well, too.  I have canned strawberry preserves and raspberry jelly.  I'll tell more about that, but that's for another day.  It is getting late here and my 2 oldest, Jordan and Elizabeth, will not go to bed!  Jordan is under a dog blanket barking and wagging her tail.  Jordan is our other 'adopted' daughter, along with Annie, who has been MIA for a while now. 

Anyway, that pretty much sums up the last week or so. 

Pictures?  Well, you see, I pretty much write in the minutes that I find lying around at the end of the day, and they never happen close to a camera, so I'll catch you up on those next time.  Promise.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Plan

I am one of those kinds of people who like 'a plan'.  I start off my day with a plan, and I usually try to get other people on board with me and my plan.  I just feel like the day is more in control and it makes me feel like I am dictating my day rather than just letting my day happen to me.  Not that all of my plans work and I certainly don't mean to imply that I have things under control, but it just makes me feel that way, and besides, you never know when something just might work out.  The kids and Jimmy tease me about me always saying, 'Ok. Here's the plan...'  They groan and roll their eyes when those words are uttered. 

But then if I don't say anything either nothing gets done or one of them will ask me, 'So, what's the plan?'

Recently, however, I have been plan-less.  My days have just been happening.  They have been broadsiding me, sending me spinning into some outer orbit where I have little or no control.  One of those things that has been really setting me off is the whole bedtime issue.  I would like to say that this issues is resolved, but it's not.  Today was a rough day in that because we went to a new friend's house this morning and ended up staying into the afternoon which meant that Gabriel was so tired he fell asleep in the car so I carried him to his bed.  Then he only slept for a little while, so by the evening, he was overtired and his schedule was way out of whack so it took him forever to sleep even though he was utterly exhausted. 

But other than that, I have just been missing a plan of action.  I don't have a plan for school for next year yet, and that was really really bothering me.  The homeschool convention is coming up next week, and I felt horribly overwhelmed by the whole thing. 

And that's where the whole new friend thing came up. 

I really felt like I was just floating around out here by myself.  I know that I am not the only homeschooling mother around here, and I know I'm not the only one with a highschooler (although I may be the only one with a highschooler and a kindergartener at once with no one in between).  But I just felt really lonely and confused about the whole thing.  With Elizabeth being so advanced, I was just worried that I couldn't do it on my own and that I really really really didn't want to mess up her chances of a good college by making some stupid mistake, which is what I hear from people it seems like all the time. 

In steps a friend of mine from church who put me in contact with a lady who has a kid who is almost Elizabeth's age and who was willing to meet with.  So this morning, I loaded up the 4 kids and we descended upon her house.

She was great!  She didn't bat an eye when Jesse spit up milk all over her floor, and she didn't even get worried when Gabriel dumped out all her nerf darts nor when he went up and then back down her stairs with a doll stroller.  She didn't even say anything when Jo and Gabriel ate all her watermelon and left a mountain of rind on a plate on her table.  It was, after all, there to eat, and at least they did it at the table, right?  So, even if the pile was as big as their heads, it just shows they liked it, right?

But the most wonderful thing was that she was patient with me and my questions.  She gave me advice on how to get through the convention and she showed me the books that she uses with her girls and the curriculum that she follows. 

Now I know what I am looking for at the convention, and I have a bit more of an idea of how next year will work.  I have a better grasp of how the curriculum guides work and how to get what I need for less money.

I'm so excited!  I have a plan!