Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall is in the Air

I LOVE fall. The cool crispness of the air. The need for a jacket when you wake in the morning. The need to throw it by the wayside by noon. The smell of burning leaves. The royal colors that robe the trees and then gather at your feet. Fall is soup simmering on the stove waiting to fill everyone with warmth. This is how we enjoy fall here. The slide is great for sliding into the baby pool every summer and into a pile of leaves in the fall. Every year, we pile the leaves high and slide in them. I know. I know. It's not so hot for the allergies, but that is why they are getting baths every night and every day before nap.
Let the fun begin!

Backwards, forwards, feet first, or headfirst. It doesn't matter. They love the pile of leaves.

Some even pose as they fall! = )

So much fun!!!!

That night, we followed up the outdoor play with pumpkin carving. It was daddy's day off yesterday, so after dinner and clean-up, we pulled out the pumpkins.

Little side story here: After we had come inside to eat dinner, our dear goats (who I do believe think that they are house dogs inside their little brains) kept coming up onto the porch. I think that Luke got up from dinner half a dozen times to chase them off the porch. They kept butting the door and front windows. Luke is slowly getting the fencing done, but for now, they still wander the yard. (which is good, because they are eating a lot of the fall leaves too). (less to rake, and when you live in the woods, that is good).

Luke went outside after dinner to get the pumpkins that I'd bought 2 days ago and discovered WHY the goats were wanting to "hang out" on the front porch. They LOVE pumpkins!!

OOPS!!! They had eaten several bites out of each of the pumpkins and large chunks out of one of them.

Somewhat fortunate, and not so fortunate, Mr. Smiles had come home from school yesterday feeling sick. He didn't really care that his pumpkin had been eaten. I promised to buy him another one because I knew he would care when he began feeling better. He loves pumpkin carving every year.
Luke locked the goats up in their lean-to and fed them the already bitten into pumpkin, and came back to wield his pumpkin carving tool. Pictures are below.

I love those pudgy little cheeks and hands!! Last year, he was too little to know what was going on. This year, Nater Mater was totally into the slime stuff. So great for texture!

This was just before he attempted to throw the handful of slimy seeds at me who while I was holding the camera. Gotta love that kid!

I just love those curls!!! And he could not stop sticking his head in the top of the carved pumpkin to "wook!!" (look)

Here is how true men carve pumpkins: with a drill. Yes, he breaks out his drill for carving time. The kids love it! They get such a kick out of it. It actually makes cool designs that you couldn't otherwise do with a knife.

It makes a bigger mess because instead of pumpkin chunks, you have pumpkin slivers everywhere.

The end result of two of them. The one on the left is Good Lookin's pumpkin. His had a rather large hole in one spot the goats had eaten, but since he only wanted a ghost silhouette, it worked well. Precious Jewel wanted a ghost with eyes. Daddy's drill worked good for that request.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon with daddy home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Varie-Tea is the Spice of Life

"Variety: A number of different kinds; the abscence of monotony or sameness."

I was reading this morning in my tiny little pocket devotional that my mother gave me. It has this delightful little cover with a delicate china cup full of peonies. All of the devotions are based on "tea. "

(that picture is obviously not the cover. It's one of my paintings).

Those that know me, know that I love tea and coffee and any hot drink inbetween. It's due to my mother who is a tea lover herself. My two true vises in life are a cup of tea and a good book. (oh, and some really good chocolate).

This mornings little devotional struck me though. It talked about how there are so many people in the world, but most of us are trying to copy or follow each other to fit in. We follow the same well-worn rut of our peticular society trying not to look too different ot act to differently than those around us.

I can remember growing up and LOVING the book Little Women mostly because of the character Jo. It was an even bigger bonus that my middle name was Jo as well. I remember crying right along with her when she lamented about how she just didn't seem to fit in. Everything that was expected of her (and all women in society at that time) was not how she was made. She was passionate, outspoken, impetuous, and a deep feeler. She wore her emotions on her sleeve. She hungered for adventure and didn't care so much if she was around the same social class as her family.

I wanted so badly to fit in, so badly that I even tried cheerleading one year of HS. Bad. Bad Bad. THe practice and cheers and the girls I cheered with were fun, but I soooooooooo did not like getting up in front of the crowd and encouraging spirit participation. Not my thing at all. Not to mention, I am so uncoordinated and lack much of any ability to memorize sequences and chants and all that stuff. Disasterous.

We need as Believers (I need) to look and act different than those around us...not in a "I'm better than you" way. But in a way, with grace and love and forgiveness. It's something God has been working on my lately. I'm a judger by personality. I'm not gracious, even though my name meaning says I am. I am intensly loyal and have difficulty not holding a grudge (for a very long time) when I feel abandoned. I have a quick tongue that is far to sharp. Yet, God has been stripping me these last 2 years of a lot of what I have held dear. Things that I should not hold onto.

He has been teaching me a lot about Grace and what that means. What does it mean to ask for forgiveness if I've wronged someone? What does it mean to forgive? Do I look that different than the rest of the world or am I trying to walk to the same beat as everyone else? How am I spending my day so that I ultimately glorify my Master? How am I training my children to bring Him glory? What do I need to get rid of, or invite in, in order to do a better job?

I want people to be able to look at me and my family and say they can see God's grace in us. I want to be that different spice of Christian that points people to God instead of them taking a whiff and then bolting for the opposite direction.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the [one] who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Angels are beans

Last night I was doing family devotions with the kids. My mom sent me this great little hardback devotional book for children that was written in the 50s.
It has that lovely old book smell that makes you cough when you open the covers and flip through the pages. I have no idea where she found it and keep forgetting to ask. That, or she has told me and I forgot. It's probably the later.
Anyhow, aside from the language being a little old and the drawings seriously 50ish, it is a great little theological book for children. It touches on 48 basic theological points: everything from Is there only one God? to Why did Jesus save me? to How do we know the Bible is true?
It has a 2-3 pages lesson, scripture reading and then a hymn you can sing after. So far (we're only on ch 8), most of the hymns I can't even find in our modern hymnbook. But I try to think of another one or a chorus and we sing that.
Nater Mater and the little boy I babysit until late usually just play around us (sometimes trying to launch themselves over the back of the couch where we're reading) or play at the train table. I have finally figured out that if I can get the older 3 to color or do a puzzle that they will sit still and listen as well. Just telling them to sit and listen is a session in futility that ruins our whole devotional time with me yelling, "don't you want to learn about Jesus?" (or something really stupid like that). Um, duh mom, not if you're yelling at us. Way to re-enforce living like Jesus.
ANYWAY, I digress.
Like I said, last night we were reading Who Are The Angels. It started out, "A LONG LONG LONG TIME AGO, long before God made the sun and the moon and the stars, before He made Adam and Eve, God made some beings, or creatures to live with Him in Heaven. These beings are called Angels."
Mr. Smiles and Good Lookin' were fighting over a crayon color, so I chose that time to ask them, "what did I just read?"
Dear old, and may I add quick, Mr. Smiles spoke up, "Mom, you said that a long time ago before God made the sun and moon and earth and trees and stars and (several other things) that he made beans and he planted them in the ground to grow wings and called them angels. Mom, why don't our beans turn into angels?"
I started laughing which only confused the poor little guy more and made him mad.
I obviously had to explain the difference between beans and beings to a 1st grader who still has no idea who to spell. Once he understood, it became his new joke that angels grow from beans planted in the garden and he giggled all the way until bedtime.
I can remember being confused by the Pledge of Allegiance. The whole "for which it stands" phrase baffled me for the longest time. I always that it was talking about "witches stands" and could not for the life of me think of why we pledged to witches when at home they were considered bad. It pays to ask your children if they understand.
Ah, life with small children.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For pt2

Several 0f you asked for an update on how the whole separate family trip and retreat went. Here's the highlights the best as I know it since I only went to the retreat and not on the trip.

My husband is amazing and that's all there is to it. He took all 4 of our young children on a 9 hour car trip to see my family, his in-laws, in Nebraska without me!

First of all, I don't know many guys who would take their 4 young kids on a 9 hour car trip to begin with without their wife.

Second, I don't know many guys who would go on a trip to see their in-laws for 4 days without their wife.

My dear husband did and made it in just 10 hours there and 10 hours back. I am amazed!!!

I am so blessed that both Luke and I truly love our in-laws. Most people consider their in-laws out-laws. Yes, we get frustrated at times, but it's usually because we're frustrated with something that we aren't accustomed too--not the people themselves.
The kids had a WONDERFUL time. They got to spend time with their cousins playing on hay bales and in the creek and even spend a morning doing what a lot of country kids do ---go mudding. Whoo! Whoo!! I'm told they were caked in mud from head to toe but, as any child who is allowed to enjoy nature to the fullest, had a marvelous time.

Poor Luke did not sleep much. I know how that goes from my trips alone without Luke. Our Nater Mater is not one for quiet sleeping. He is a thrasher. Not just a flailer, but a violent roll around the bed, smack into the sides of his crib several times a night thrasher. (another reason he's still in a crib: I don't want to keep picking him up off the floor during the night. Even with a bar, I think he'd still manage to fall out of his bed because he rolls literally ALL OVER his crib). I've slept on the floor with him before and he often ends up on the other side of the room and cold if not somehow contained.

But my husband texted several times saying that they were all having a great time.

Precious Jewel got to spend the night at her cousin's house at least once or twice I think. Dear Mr. Smiles and Good Lookin' went on and on about the secret passage way. (My old walk-in closet that led from my old bedroom into the sun room).

I know they rode their trikes and such in my old basement and spent a lot of hour outside.

All-in-all it was a great trip and I'm so thankful that my dear hubby went--even without me.

I spent Wednesday through Friday doing my normal babysitting while they were gone.

Thursday, I only had one 2-year-old for 12 hours. I was dreading that day. I don't know what to do with only one child anymore!! But, a close friend of mine invited me to go to the zoo with her and her 4 little ones. So we trekked off to the zoo with 5 children ages 4 and under and had a great day. Shhhh....don't tell my children I went to the zoo without them.

While there, we saw them feed the alligators--which all the kids loved. My friend and I even got a real nature education on elephant procreation. I had no idea that male elephants grow a 5th leg! I kid you not! The "thing" was that long!!! We nearly fell over laughing! I was kind of glad that at least my older 2 children weren't with me so I wouldn't have to explain what that "thing" was!

Friday, I babysat the whole day again and as soon as the boys were gone, I ran and jumped into the shower and headed out for the retreat.

I had a great time at the retreat. The first day was mostly stuff I knew, but desperately needed reminding of: GET INTO THE WORD EVERY DAY!!!!! DIG!!!! I KNOW this, and there are many days I do great. There are also MANY days I don't do so good and I'll go for several weeks without opening my Bible. Then something kicks my backside and I go back.

There were more "older" ladies than us young moms and I soooo learn from them. They have all raised Godly children (and not without difficulty). They are open and I feel comfortable asking questions without being judged. It's a gift for us moms with small children. I had fun just laughing and walking and talking and playing games together. In a word, I was glad I went. I needed the re-charge and I feel a lot more relaxed than I have in a very long time.

I also slept 5 nights in a row without being woken up!!!! Wow!!! That hasn't happened in some time!

So there you have it. We went our separate ways and it was not only OK; It was good. I don't want to make a regular practice of it, but I was glad that this time we chose to do what we did. Luke got intense time with the kids which he NEVER gets. I got time ALONE--which I never get.

Now I'm hopeing that during Spring Break they'll give him time off again, and we can ALL go together as a family.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

You know when you're presented with 2 equally great opportunities and you nearly kill yourself trying to make a decision? That's what I've been handed.
About a week ago I wrote a now-deleted-and-never-published post about NEEDING SOME ALONE TIME AND SPACE. I am really enjoying taking care of these sweet little boys, but between Luke's crazy work schedule and that particular day, I was feeling very hormonal and tired and whiny.
Well, I got my wish...about TIME FOR JUST ME.
Our church has been planning this Ladies Retreat since last Spring. I knew it was iffy for me to be able to go, but I thought I'd at least register and do all the garage sale stuff to be able to pay the registration fee. We don't know Luke's schedule more than a week in advance and since his work times change literally from day to day and he works nearly every weekend, it's hard to plan anything ahead. We've learned to just plan for something big and then be flexible if they don't allow the time off or it doesn't work out.
Hence, for the last 2 years, I've gone to family reunions and to visit my brother with just the 4 kids and myself. Only once has he ever gotten to go with us. On the EXTREMELY positive side though, Luke allows me to do this without making me feel guilty about leaving him for 4-6 days once or twice a year. He ENCOURAGES me to see family who I'd otherwise rarely get to see.
Well the tables have turned. Luke found our last week that the 3 days he put in for vacation so that he could keep the kids for the weekend and allow me to go on the retreat---he got. Not only that, but his days off for this week are today and tomorrow (Wed and Thursday) and then next Monday and Tuesday for next week. That gave him 7 days in a row off. That never happens! He was so excited and so was I.
Then he exclaimed, "let's all just go to Nebraska together to see your family!"
I stopped cold. We have only been back once to where I grew up and it was for a job interview when I was 6 months pregnant with Nathaniel. But, this year is the first year my whole family has been back to where I grew up since almost 9 years ago when Luke and I got married. Both my parents and my brother's family are missionaries, and this is the first year their furloughs have co-insided; and they are staying in the same town.
What's the big deal you ask? Just go! Well, I still had to babysit for 3 little boys for 3 of the days he was planning on being gone. Yes, I could take off, but when I ask the parents to sign a contract giving me 2 weeks notice before leaving someplace, then I need to do the same for them.
Also, I'd been planning for, working for, saving for and then asked to co-run the games for a 2 1/2 day retreat. Not really a big deal...unless you're the one who gets all the work dumped on you at the last minute. I didn't think my co-game helper would appreciate me for doing that to her or the leaders of the retreat who would have to cover for me and who have full-time jobs and families themselves.
I cried. We drove past the house I grew up in when we were there 2 years ago, but someone else was living there and I just pointed it out to my kids as we drove by.
This year, and it's another long story, my parents have ended back up in the house that they sold 8+ years ago and are now living in it this year again. Luke and I would be staying there in my old house with our kids.
I'm sort of a nostalgic sucker. I want to be the one who shows my kids where I grew up. Show them the walk-in closet that I would hide in the way back of when we'd play hide and seek. Show them the basement where we'd roller skate around or sword fight with pool sticks together as kids. Show them the dark and scary cellar that I was terrified the Boogy Man would jump out of and grab us. Show them the hole in the back basement wall that more than one snake crawled in and at least one skunk found it's way into. (We left him alone and he eventually left on his own I think).
I wanted to be the one to show them the railroad tracks that ran just 100 yards behind my house that my brothers and sister and I would walk down and challenge each other for balance when we'd play. I wanted to be the one to show them where I grew up.
I also REALLY WANT to have some time to myself--which I'll get this weekend. I've needed to re-charged and be filled-up spiritually. I've felt like I've been running on fumes, and although I can function decently well, it's not exactly healthy. I've needed SLEEP! I've looked forward to this retreat for months and hoped and prayed Luke would get the time off so I could go. HALLELUJAH! He did!
So, my kids and husband will drive the long trip to Nebraska (pray for him) without me. My parents were sad but understanding. I'm still torn, but I don't feel right about just leaving. Luke and the kids will have an awesome time and I WILL GET SOME REST (which I wouldn't get if I went there either. Long car rides are not rest full).
I've tried to make it as easy for Luke as possible. I made up about 24 little surprise treat bags for the kids to open at every 100 miles on the way there and back. I was short about 5 bags, but I ran out of little treats and trinkets to put in them and couldn't get to the Dollar Tree to find anything else. I just went around the house and found toys, tapes, notebooks and crayons and such that they enjoy but never think to play with. I've put it all within easy reach of Luke so he can hand them back to the kids at every 100 miles stop. It's around a 500 mile trip one-way. (You're brave dear!)
He is also stocked with about 8 of the kid's favorite movies if all else fails. They may be a little brain-numbed when he gets there, but they should all still be alive.
I am going to SLEEP IN tomorrow before my little babysitting charge arrives! I haven't slept in past 8am since...well, I'm not sure when. Watch me wake up early.
I'll let you know how it all went.