Monday, April 30, 2007

Recap of this weekend

4 kids, ages 4,3,2, 6 mos.
3 naps
3 American Idol microphones, which got lost approximately 38.2 times
34,735,951 joules of energy burned
1 really cool toy castle built
8 baths given with 40 toes washed
29 diapers changed
4 pictures painted
at least 6 hours logged in the car
108 teeth brushed
7 play meals cooked
16 boo-boos kissed
8 time-outs given for 26 minutes total
1 brand-new baby brother visited

Best Moment:
Group hug!

Worst Moment:
Natta getting pushed down in the parking lot and scraping both knees.

Pronunciations:
"Kay-ray" (Kyrie, by Natta)
"I-zowa" (Isaiah, by Natta)
"Nalla" (Natta, by Isaiah)
"Hyper" (Piper, by Kyrie)
"Miker-pone" (Microphone, by Natta)
"Wa-wa-wah" (Singing into microphone, by all)

Cutest Thing Said:
"Everyone will LOVE my new dress." ~Kyrie.
"Mine too." ~Natta
"Mine too." ~Isaiah

Mommy Melt-down Moment:
Kyrie and Isaiah jumping on the bed/crib and yelling instead of going to sleep after lights-out. (To be fair, after they got scolded, they settled down very quickly. They're good kids.)

Future plans:
Looooong nap!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Welcome Jayden Christopher!

Yay! My friend had her baby tonight. He was big...9.8 but it sounds like he did just fine. I am so happy for them. I love new babies. The other two kids have stayed with us and it's been a riot to have them here. They're so much fun and it has been like having a niece and nephew stay with us. I know my friend and her hubby were a little concerned about the logistics of having a third child, so I pray that mommy and daddy just totally fall in love with the little guy. That will make any problem seem small. Jayden is so special and created by God just to bless this family. And God will take care of them and provide for them in every way. May God bless him and all of them. :)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sweeten Taters

Another Seth video! He is so cute I cannot resist :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stopping for a cookie

Hi, checking in for a minute before I hit the hay. I watched my friend's kiddos (she is 9 months pg and needed a break)from 11:00-7:45 today and it went great! I like kids. They were a lot of fun and they had fun together. Our kids play so much together that they act like siblings rather than acquaintances. So here was my day. It takes 30 minutes to get to my friend's house. So I dropped Natta off at Daddy's office so they could have lunch together. He was to then bring her home and put her down for her nap before we got there so she'd have a chance at sleeping. I drove over and picked up the kids and brought them back. Hubby totally came through and Natta was in bed. However she came alive immediately upon our arrival. I expected that and let her get back up to play for an hour. Then I was a mean mommy and made her go take her nap. Kyrie and Isaiah played together while I fed Seth and coaxed him to sleep.

At 3:00, after Natta was up again I began to load everyone in the car to go to Bell Choir practice, which started at 4:30. It is like steering a large ship...once on a course of action you're ok, but changing activities takes some effort and time. We got all four kids loaded in my Toyota Camry. Picture three carseats in a row in the back seat and one strapped for dear life in the front seat (no, I don't have an airbag). Then a 50 minute drive through road construction and lovely spring fields down to the Valley. We stopped at McDonald's and everyone got a cookie, just for fun.

At Bell Choir practice, the kids played in the nursery and had a ball for the hour-long rehearsal. Then we headed to my parents' house for dinner. I did not realize that warning my mother of the extra kids was not the same as warning my father who was doing the cooking. He handled it surprisingly well, dishing up four extra plates of tacos, with mandarin oranges on the side for the kids. While i nursed Baby Seth, mom herded everyone to the table, breaking up one fight along the way where several kids wanted to play the same keys on the piano at the same time. The kids ate their dinners...well...Kyrie ate tortillas, Isaiah ate cheese and Natta ate oranges. Between the three of them they had a balanced meal.

Shortly after dinner I bundled everyone back into the car and we headed back up the hill, watching the sun set as we went. After I dropped Kyrie and Isaiah off with their Mama, Natta and I split a Blizzard and drove the 30 minutes to our house. After her bath, Natta fell asleep instantly upon her arrival in bed and I sank gratefully into my recliner for some well-deserved rest.

All in all, I'd call it a very successful day. I was unsure of my ability to handle four kids under the age of five but we did great! We played toys, sang songs and had an adventure, driving to the Valley. It helps that I can remember being four and I really like talking to kids. I got such a kick out of the funny things they say. Kyrie, on the way home, lost the two pennies I had given her to hold. "I lost my money," she wailed, "I need that for my whole life!" Oh, dear Kyrie, if only two pennies would magically do that...

Well, this is plenty long and hubby is waiting for me to join him in heading to bed. I think that I, like Natta, will sleep very well tonight!

Through a child's eyes

Being around kids is so much fun. The most ordinary things take on the magic of fascinated wonder just because the child has not seen that thing a zillion times and children are not jaded by life. Their thoughts are free to ponder on the interesting things they see instead of being filled with debts and schedules and worries.

The other day my daughter was in the back seat as usual and we drove by a landmark on the UI campus, the "I" tower. This is a huge water tower on a hill with a black and yellow "I" painted on the side. She had apparently driven past it before with Daddy because she knew what it was.

"That's the water.... uhm..." She searched for the right word.

"The water tower." I supplied it.

"It's reaaalllly big!"

Yes, Natta, it sure is! She comments on red barns. She delights in the horseys that we pass. I have begun pointing out more and more objects to her, enjoying her surprise and delight. Today I had my friend's two preschoolers with me, headed home for the afternoon. One kid sat on each side of the car and it almost became a game, which had the coolest stuff to see out of his or her side of the car. The white cows, the golf course, the store, the green trees, even the stop sign counted. I began enjoying the game as much as they did.

Kids notice things that we adults miss. Their young brains absorb the world around them like sponges, soaking in the colors, smells, sounds. As an adult, it is so nice to step out of my adult shoes and step into a size 2 toddler's shoes and remember how fun it is to just look at the world around me. I notice pennies on the sidewalk again. Again, I revel in the deep pinky-orange of the sunset. I look for the moon each night.

Thank you, children, for reminding me that the worries and responsibilities can be set aside and I can enjoy looking at the horseys.

Monday, April 23, 2007

On Motherhood

Mothers are not the nameless, faceless stereotypes who appear once a year on a greeting card with their virtues set to prose, but women who have been dealt a hand for life and play each card one at a time the best way they know how. No mother is all good or all bad, all laughing or all serious, all loving or all angry. Ambivalence rushes through their veins.
(Erma Bombeck (20th century), U.S. humorist and author.

Every Mother is a working mother.
(Slogan, U.S.)

Mother's arms are made of tenderness,
And sweet sleep blesses the child who lies therein.
(Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.
(Gloria Steinem (20th century)

For if my father was the head of our house, my mother was its heart.
(Philip Dunne (1908-1992)

There was never a great man who had not a great mother.
(Olive Schreiner (1855-1920)

A mother understands what a child does not say.
(Jewish Proverb (20th century).

The good mother knows that frustration teaches tolerance and that instant gratification is not always best; the too good mother meets all of her son's needs instantly. The good enough mother knows that a son needs to have ownership of his actions. She stands on the sidelines and cheers him on but lets him run past her in the race. The too good mother keeps her child from becoming independent; she mothers in a way that benefits herself, not her son.
(Elyse Zorn Karlin (20th century)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Happy Half-Birthday, Seth!

My little baby Sethifer is six months old today! He just learned how to sit on his own the other day. I love him so much!

Pardon me, I haven't had my disaster yet today

If pity is a good thing, then Hubby was blessed this morning. Otherwise what happened would certainly NOT be called a blessing. Since moving to the trailer park, we have noticed an abundance of cats in our neighborhood (including our own). They wander, lurk and sleep under trailers. Yesterday hubby rushed outside at lunchtime to roll up the window on his car as there was a cat sauntering across his hood, contemplating the possibility of going inside the car. Coming on the heels of that warning, the irony of what happened last night could hardly be called a surprise.

Together we went to WinCo and got a load of goceries. Hubby's car had been forgotten back at his work, so he dropped me off there to bring it home. On my way, I stopped at Michael's to pick up some pom-poms for me and Natta to play with this morning. When I got home, the groceries were on the table and the kids were having their baths. Neither hubby nor I suspected the awful truth.

This morning hubby decided he and Natta would run to the store for an item we had forgotten. It wasn't long till they can back and hubby's face told me something was terribly wrong. Hesitantly he admitted: "I left the door of the car open last night while I was unloading groceries..." He went on miserably, "and a cat peed in the car."

WHAT??!?!?! OH NO! Cat pee is the worst smell in the entire world and the one hardest to eradicate. I remember my roommate's cat peed on the pillow of my green chair once and the smell stayed for years until I finally threw that pillow away.

Hubby feels the same way as I do although his nose is not as sensitive as mine so it doesn't cause him the same agony. He put his plans for a fun, relaxing morning away and went to work. Through the window as Natta an I glued pom-poms together to form colorful little animals with googly eyes, I could see him lifting item after item out of the back seat. The extra coats, the diaper bag, the floor mats. He came back in for the pet cleaner. He sprayed, he scrubbed. He filled the washing machine with coats and set the temperature to hot. Then he rummaged through the cupboards for vinegar. The best he could come up with was white wine vinegar in the fridge. I wonder if the "four monks" would be horrified to know that their gourmet product went to neutralizing cat pee.

After two cycles, the coats were pronounced tolerable and hung to dry. He said the car came out better than he had feared, but it has yet to undergo my super-smeller test. I hope it passes.

Through all this my sweet hubby did not complain. I felt so awful for him. What a way to spend his Saturday morning. I'll bet we both remember to close the car door next time though!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Spring!






Sleep is highly overrated.... I think?

10:30 Oh dear, it looks like Survivor isn't going to appear on the web till tomorrow.
10:45 Seth finally falls asleep nursing. Lay Seth down.
11:15 Hubby finished reading a chapter of Dave Barry Slept Here. Lights out.
11:30 Natalie cries out for the second time because her nose is stuffy. Mommy comforts.
11:45 Pick Seth up because he is fussing and still hungry as he fell asleep in the middle of nursing. Take him in bed and nurse.
12:15 Lay Seth down.
1:30 Natalie cries out again. I moan and hubby goes in and comforts.
2:30 Seth fusses again. Take him in bed and he falls asleep
2:45 Natalie cries out again and will not be comforted. Hubby and I both get up.
3:00 Natalie falls asleep again
6:00 Seth fusses. He is still in bed so I nurse him.
7:00 Hubby gets up and gets ready for work. I am still nursing and I wink at him.
8:00 Natalie wants to get up
8:15 I drag myself out of bed to get her up
9:45 I lay on the couch for a nap
10:15 Seth fusses.

11:13 I write about sleeping in my blog... :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Praying, along with the Nation

Impishness

Sometimes I wonder if I really am a good person. I know theologically it doesn't matter because the grace of God covers my imperfections, but I still attempt to be a person who doesn't offend the vast majority of humans around me. But since I have become an adult I have discovered a hidden strain of impishness in myself, a diabolical delight in subtle perverseness that makes my angelic side wonder what went wrong. I think the place that this manifests itself the strongest is in the car. I wouldn't quite call it road rage although it is certainly in the same vein. For example, one of my greatest delights when driving is when a car that has recently passed me is pulled over by a cop and is receiving a speeding ticket by the side of the road. My, how I love that! I usually go a few mph over the speed limit, so a tailgater or a car passing me feels imminently annoying. The passing wouldn't be so bad except driving on most Idaho highways is like sleeping on a really narrow couch. The white line is so close to the edge of the pavement that it looks like they actually painted the gravel in places. Added to this, the constant hills and curves on the Palouse cause visibility to dwindle to a few car-lengths. All of this combines to make passing a dangerous and unnecessary activity, except to people in too big a hurry.

Another road impishness that comes oozing out of me is deliberately annoying tailgaters. As soon as a car attaches itself to my bumper, I ease off the gas until I am driving about the same speed as most 84-year-olds. I take great delight in the thought of this irritating person feeling a building frustration in the reduced speeds.

Now the best scenario would be a tailgater who passes me and gets stopped by a cop. Oh, that would make my driving day and possibly carry over to the whole week. I have contemplated bumper stickers that say "If you tailgate me, I'll flip a booger on your windshield". But then I might look like an imp. It's a carefully guarded secret!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Visit from Grandpa Nave

Is it just my grandparents who are weird or are all grandparents stuck in the 1930's? My grandpa, who will be called Grandpa Nave, since that is what Natalie calls him, is perpetually under the belief that we still live in the Great Depression. This might give you the necessary background for what happened yesterday.

Since we moved into the trailer, Grandma and Grandpa have wanted to see how we fixed it up. In particular, Grandma wanted to see my mural since I inherited my creative bent from her. So yesterday they had a conference at the Nazarene church up here and decided it would be a perfect time to stop by. The planned this ahead of time and even asked me for directions to our place. it is not their fault I forgot. Strike one. So they come knocking and I have had one of those days where the kids are still in their pajamas and I am in a T-shirt. Yeah, a T-shirt. I hate to say it, but that's all. Let's not go there, ok? So I hear a knock and the dog goes nuts and i am sitting there in a T-shirt! EEK! I rush to the bedroom to throw on some sweatpants and scoop up the still yapping dog to open the door on my prim, proper grandmother and grandpa Nave who has had a "day" and is therefore in a "mood". Uh oh. Cheerily I invite them in. Stepping over toys and around shoes, they inspect the new floors, the paint job and my mural. Cringing, I look away from the piles of still unpacked boxes and the mess on the bathroom counter. Dirty dishes hide the sink.

"Is that your yard?" Grandpa Nave eyes the neighbor's junkpile out of our front window. "Where does your yard end? Do you have to mow all of that?" While I am still trying to figure out how to answer his first question, he heads to the dining room. "Is my car in the way, do you think?"

His car, parked in the exact center of the street was most definitely in the way.

"Uhm..." I started.

"Maybe we should go. C'mon, momma, our car is in the way. We'd better not stay."

My grandmother, holding baby Seth responded, "You're just a barrel of fun."

I winked at her. So Grandpa Nave went back outside and moved the car. A few minutes later they had chatted sufficiently, asked me everything they could think of about living in Moscow and why we could possibly like it and had told us how hard our house was to find and how we ought to go to the Nazarene church.

Hubby chose that time to come home from work and I politely told Grandpa Nave that we were headed out, which was true. So Grandma shooed him out the door and they entered their nicely parked car to leave.

If Grandpa Nave had a blog (which is impossible since he has technology-phobia. He won't touch a computer or a cell-phone with a ten-foot pole) he would likely write about how his granddaughter and her husband have chosen the dumpiest part of town to live in. Why couldn't they stay down in the Valley where it is so nice? And they have to spend time and money mowing their neighbor's yard, not to mention the gas it took to drive out to their place. And why in the world can't she dress her kids? Poor things running around in their pajamas. Someone ought to teach her how to keep a house.

I think I'll go get a Mocha. I love Moscow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ways that Caillou is a total FARCE!!!

Yes, another anti-Caillou blog. You know you're bored when entertainment is sitting around bashing a PBS kid's show.


1. When Mommy stands around explaining to Caillou why he should do what he is supposed to, his little sister Rosie, who is two, just STANDS THERE! In reality Rosie would be painting the curtains with toothpaste.

2. Caillou wears a helmet without protest.

3. Caillou's mommy is cheerfully watching him learn to skate while Rosie is sitting quietly by her. In reality Rosie would be climbing on the bleachers and falling off and getting hurt.

4. Caillou's cardboard box plane actually looks like a plane. It is pretty vanilla though, unlike my hubby's self-professed "wicked cool" plane of his childhood.

5. Caillou's Mommy has time to sit and argue with him constantly and Rosie stands and watches without commenting. In reality she'd be interrupting and talking right over them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Glorious Getaway

Yep, I am successfully back from an overnight camping trip and had a WONDERFUL TIME!!!! It was so refreshing and such a nice change of pace. My very bestest friend in the whole world and I went up to a mountain in the back country where there is a donated park that you can camp in for free. That appeals to my frugal nature, lol. There is a spot with an outhouse where we camped. Since it was pouring and no one else was remotely likely to be there, we pitched the tent under the day-camp shelter and stayed snug and dry. We even had all 8 picnic tables to ourselves! I got to play with fire to my heart's content. My goal on this trip was to bake bread. And I did it! In a coffee can next to the campfire. Wooo woo! The weather was really cold though. It was about 35 at night and 45 during the day. That was the worst part. (The other bad part was missing my family.) I didn't sleep much because I was so cold. During the day, we stayed snuggled up to the fire. I love fire! I scrounged for wood and build a nice roaring fire even though rain was falling on it, lol. I also wanted to try to start a fire with flint, like they have to do on Survivor. It looks hard so I wanted to see if it really was. My verdict: it is *really* hard. I'm glad I brought matches for the "real thing". But I started two practice fires with flint after about two hours of experimentation. Hey, there's nothing else to do while you're up there yakking, right? Hee hee. Then there's the food! Besides the bread we had steak and baked potatoes and shrimp and cocoa and bacon and eggs and butterscotch pudding....mmmmm! Oh, and lots of Oreos. And I did not wash one dish. There's no running water up there, so we used paper plates and re-used the cast iron pans. The best part was just getting to hang out with my friend. She is the kind of person who can finish my sentences and when you suggest something, she says, "I was just going to say that." We can talk about anything under the sun and we did. I love spending time with her. And I really needed the break from the babies, much as I love them. So 24 hours in the back country was a great success.

P.S. Congrats to hubby who did a SUPER job overnight with the babies. What a great guy!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hang in there baby!

Dear Erin,

I know you've had a rough week. That's why Fridays are great, right? Weekends are busy and tiring but at least they are different. Your week started with the craziness on Easter and with little sleep. Seth has been waking up a lot at night. The neighbor revs his truck for 20 minutes at 6:15 each morning. It sometimes wakes Natta up. Your daughter has been pushing the limits of her two-year-old world with more strength of personality than you knew she possessed. You know that strength will stand her in good stead someday, but right now, you think it might break you. You think about today at lunch where she got so upset about the noodles and how you just gave up and made her go to bed. You think about how sweet she was this evening as your family went out to dinner then went to play on the Tree-Slide. I know you're remembering how Seth fussed so much today and how hard it was for you to hold him and still get things done like eating your own lunch. I see the pain that still rips through your body and the worries it brings with it. I see your fear of the future. Just as I see your joys. You're learning to take pleasure in the small victories. Natalie teaches you to see the wonder in life through her eyes. Together you watch the sun set. You take joy in your son's smile. I was proud of you today the way you took a Mommy-Time-Out for ten minutes when you wanted to scream and throw something. Instead, you cried out to Me and I sustained you. You found the strength to carry on yet one more step. I know that you feel tired beyond what you ever thought you could handle and that it is hard to see beyond the next footstep tomorrow. But tomorrow will pass by. And the next day. All those steps will add up to a journey made up of "now moments". So through the pain and frustration, through the anxiety, I love you. And I am with you always, even on those days when I seem ten thousand miles away. I will give you the strength you need to face tomorrow when tomorrow comes. For tonight, it is enough to know that I see you. I know what you face. And I love you.

~Jesus

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Welcome Meghan Rose!

My friend had her baby today. Doesn't that sound simple and mundane? But the details of this miracle family can be called anything but mundane. It began with a woman crying on Mother's day years ago. A sweet woman with love to give, wondering why God had not answering her prayer to be a mother. Slowly over the years the dream began to die. My friend, who is staring her 50th birthday in the face had long ago given up the dream to have children of her own. But God had other plans. Late last fall, she received word that her cousin was pregnant with a fourth child that she would not be able to keep. The surrogate parents of the other three did not want to add a newborn to the bunch and this little one needed a mother. Far away in Tennessee a mother-heart needed a soft bundle to hold and raise. Wheels began turning, lawyers were hired, paperwork was filed. A rigorous homestudy, licensing in two states...

Then...a snag. The bio father, who was in prison, refused to sign termination of parental rights. All over the world, prayer warriors stormed Heaven. Months of waiting and praying...

Hallelujah! He signed! The way was clear for the mother-heart to receive her dream. Her daughter. The baby's room stood ready, painted and bedecked with flowers. The doctors set a date for the delivery. Thursday, April 12, 2007. Tiny Meghan Rose, crowned with dark curly hair as a legacy from her black bio-dad entered the world today and in her God made a life-long dream come true. A mother-heart full of love now has a small soft bundle to carry home and cherish forever.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I Gotta Fevah....And The Only Cure...Is More COWBELL



The greatest SNL skit ever!

My Easter Pants

I wore pants to church on Easter this year.

Now that several days have passed I simply have to write about my Easter experience because it is one of those moments in life that we can look back on and laugh our heads off at ourselves, thanking the Lord that it is over and that particular moment will never come again.

As Easter morning dawned and I sleepily nursed a squirmy baby, I mentally checked off the list of activities for the day. Church, then dinner with family, then a visit from my brother-in-law all filled the day to bursting. With satisfaction, I congratulated myself for remembering to bring a dress up for Natta to wear to church. Most of her clothing up here at the new house consists of jeans and t-shirts. Then I panicked. No shoes! She had no shoes to go with her dress. Suddenly it hit me. I had planned to dress my daughter but had NOT planned to dress myself! Oh no! I had no shoes either. I had my paint-splattered tennis shoes at this house and sitting down on the floor of the closet of our old house like a troll in a cave was a big box of all of my other shoes. Wistfully I pictured my favorite little brown sandals or my white flats.... all an hour away and utterly out of reach. Well, I tried to salvage the situation. Maybe my yellow dress was in the closet. Maybe it at least had gotten moved....

I hopped out of bed and began frantically pawing through the closet. No yellow dress. The only dress that was in there was a floor-length blue one that I'd made myself and had accommodated my pregnant belly a few months ago. Had it been that long since I'd dressed up? I think it had, since churches in the Valley generally promote jeans and a clean shirt as Sunday wear. I pulled on the blue dress then realized with a shudder that a one-piece floor-length dress would be a nightmare to try to nurse in. I pictured myself in the Nursing Nook of the second floor at church hiking my dress up to my neck before other astonished mothers. No, it simply would not do. By this time Hubby was up. One look at my flustered face and he knew something was terribly amiss. I hastily explained my dilemma while he tried to keep a straight face. Since he likes to dress nicely, he completely understood and suggested that we hit Wal-Mart on the way to church. I agreed although the thought of traipsing around Wal-Mart in my blue dress and tennis shoes buying Easter clothes and shoes at the very last minute sounded embarrassing in the extreme. It turned out to be different than I had feared. I traipsed around ShopKo. Yes, for once Wal-Mart was actually closed and even weirder the Pullman ShopKo (the store with the most inconvenient hours on the planet as well as the irritating tendency never to stock the item you are actually looking for) was open on Easter morning. I came, I traipsed, I bought. Walking around in my swishy blue dress and old, paint-splattered tennis shoes, I bought some nice white slippers, knee-highs and a darling outfit of soft cotton. ShopKo apparently does not sell dresses or even skirts so I stepped down one more level and went with Capris. Green ones. A cute flowered blouse followed the pants into my cart and I was done.

In my discombobulated state I had of course forgotten the diaper bag, so hubby picked up two packages of diapers in the appropriate sizes while we were at the store. The clerk must have chuckled when our family went through the line but to her credit she said nothing. In the car, I tore off my tennies and replaced them with the white slippers. At church, I made a beeline for the restroom and the blue dress came off to be replaced with Easterish flowers and spring green. AAAHHHH, relief. Life was as it should be again. I think it was the first time in my entire life I wore pants to church on Easter Sunday. And I felt completely dressed up and totally beautiful.

Monday, April 9, 2007

For Great-Grandma J.

Here's a present from GG for you, Natta!
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What's in there?
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A BIG pink bunny!
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She likes the bag and the tissue paper too.
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May I open this one too?
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Wow, MORE tissue paper.
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Another big bunny. That's Baby Seth's bunny.
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Here Seth! Natalie gave Seth the blue bunny without us even asking her. :)
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That camera flash was bright!
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I like my bunny.
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My bunny tastes good!
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Thank you GG for the sweet gifts! Love Natalie and Seth.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

He is not here, He is Risen!

Today I had a DAY! So instead of posting a big long rant about the crazy day I had, I want to post instead about Easter.

We went to see the annual play at church. I've been in many of these, but I'm glad I saw it cause I wanted to think about the real reason for Easter. The play itself was the usual cheesy "Easter-story-with-a-twist" drama/pseudo musical that our church always does. But although the story of the resurrection becomes a bit threadbare on stage, it never ceases to thrill me in my soul.

We serve a God who came to earth as a helpless baby, grew up among us and then died at the hands of cruel men. He submitted to torture and death, then turned the tables and conquered evil by rising again. Our hero, the basis of our religion is not some long-ago prophet who wrote a few words and went the way of all men. He is alive! He lives right now and relates to me right now! That is amazing. He is the Lord of Time and Space and yet he still loves me and chose me to be His own child. It blows my mind.

I wish there was a better way to celebrate it than the holiday we have put together for ourselves. But I guess if this holiday turns my mind again to the wonder of what Jesus has done, it is still a good thing.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Our New-Old House

Finally! All of our work in painting, re-carpeting and moving has paid off. I even re-covered my little chair. I am so pleased with our little house. It's not fancy like the houses of some of my friends, but we have worked hard on it and we did the best we could to make it a nice place to live.

The Living Room
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The Dining Room. The window seat on the right is an antique cedar chest from my grandma.
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Our room. I hand painted the border and did the sponging myself.
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Palouse Hills mural in the kids' room
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Front Entry
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My Garden in the "Before" state
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Spring Flowers
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The Mail room
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Typical Place
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Making a Statement?
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Our Neighbor's Creative Front Porch
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Redneck Landscaping
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The view out the front window. This is why I put up lace curtains!
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OLD Glory
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Friday, April 6, 2007

Parenting Issues

To spank or not to spank? This question seems to resonate around every parenting circle, threading its way through stories in parenting magazines and popping up in conversations. Due to some recent conversations I've had with friends I have been thinking about spanking a lot lately. My daughter threw a rather spectacular fit recently and I have seen some shocking fits from other children in the past few weeks as well. How in the world do we poor parents ever make it through the toddler years with any degree of sanity? Along the bumpy road of toddlerhood, I have gleaned a few thoughts and I want to try to organize them into some kind of coherency here.

1. Toolbox full of variety

I see carpentry as a metaphor for parenting. In each process, tools are used toward an end result. Each has specialized tools for certain functions. And each carpenter has different "favorite" tools. Such is parenting. Every parent has the standard hammer and nails: the Time-Out. Every parent has scolded, bribed, coaxed. But some parents have a more specialized toolbox. Creative parenting comes easier for some people than for others and the results show. I think of my friend who made up the game "K. Obeys" to teach her two year old son how to be a helper when his baby brother was born. To me, the more tools we have, the better building we can build. Many parents try to make do with a hammer and a handsaw. It's all they know and they are too defensive to ask for help. Those are the kids who end up having a meltdown in the grocery store. And that has nothing to do with whether or not a parent believes in spanking. It has to do with whether or not a parent understands the purpose of discipline. More on that later.

But to talk about spanking. To me, spanking is a tool. No more, no less. It is a powerful tool when used correctly and like all power tools it can be dangerous when used incorrectly. Should we throw it out completely just because it has the capacity to be abused? I say no. Keep it in the toolbox to be used only in certain situations where such a tool is needed.

Let me clarify something here. I am NOT talking about swatting. Swatting is where mom catches child on the way by and pops him one on the butt with her palm. That is not a spanking and should not be used in my opinion. When people talk about spanking teaching kids to hit when they're angry, I am pretty sure they are referring to swatting. Mom gets ticked off at Junior and gives him a swat...of course that will teach Junior to hit others when frustrated. No, I am talking about spanking, the real thing.

2. Proactive parenting

Let me backtrack for a minute and say that if you get to a point where you need to scold, coax or spank very often, you have already done something wrong. In my opinion, a wise parent will think ahead and prevent problems before they happen. This takes a certain mindset, I have found. It's easy to slide into "reactive mode" where you trot merrily along until Precious Little One throws a big tantrum then react to it. Oops. There is a better way. For example, leaving a fun place often is a danger zone with toddlers. Who wants to leave the playground to go home and take a nap? I cringe when we're at McDonald's and a mother says "Time to go". Prepare for meltdown! But the preventative medicine is really very simple. First of all, treat a child with respect. A child is a person, just like you are. You don't like to be abruptly stopped in the middle of a pleasant activity. So give the child a little time to wrap it up. "We're going in one minute" warns the child that it's time to finish, but also gives him time to go down the slide one more time. Another thing I like to do proactively is give kids a choice. Kids have very little control in their world, but since they are as human as the rest of us they are little control freaks, just like we all are. A way to do this effectively is to create a scenario where both choices are acceptable to mom. This seems like parenting 101, but how many of us parents really stop in the heat of battle and use it? We should. Instead of "get in the car right now...I'm going to count to three and you're going to be in big trouble...." how much easier is it to say "Would you like to sit behind mommy's seat today instead?" I think the more we parents can keep our cool and play games with our kids, the better they will respond to our efforts.

3. Spare the rod and spoil the child

I have thought a lot about whether or not I should do away with spanking entirely. There is a big movement in parenting to do that since spanking has the dubious connection with child abuse. I think the thought in the back of a lot of parents' minds is "If I don't spank my child at all, there is no way I can be accused of abusing my child." There is a flaw with this type of thinking.

Proverbs 23:13-14 says that a father who spanks his child will not kill him but he might save his soul from hell. Now in today's popular thinking avoiding hell is not a priority. People aren't very concerned with the state of their souls. But popular or not, maybe we should be. Proverbs 13:24 says that the father that avoids using the rod hates his son. It is hard to spank a child. It's incredibly wrenching for a parent to strike their child. So it certainly is easier to avoid it, especially when our culture tells us it's the best thing to do anyway. But should we listen to God or to popular culture? God says if we love our children we will take the hard road in teaching them what is right. It's a painful lesson but one that must be taught or much grief will come to them later in life.

Ok, the obligatory spanking disclaimer. I hate child abuse. In our foster parent training courses we heard horror stories of kids with broken bones, bruises, burns, hair pulled out. This stuff makes me sick to my stomach. I am NOT advocating beating children or abusing them. Never lock children in, choke or pull hair, break bones or bruise them. Don't withhold food and water. Don't cut or burn them. That is not discipline, it's abuse.

4. Spanking the "right" way.

Back to the tool metaphor. If you have a chainsaw, there is one right way to use it. Use it incorrectly and you will probably lop off your foot. But use it correctly and you have a method for sawing wood that far exceeds the efficiency of a handsaw. Spanking is just such a tool. There is a right way to do it. Do it right and you have a powerful tool in your parenting toolbox. I am grateful to my parents for doing it "right" with me. I think they learned it from Dobson. Wherever they got it, they did it right. A correct spanking looks like this: Child breaks a rule that causes danger to the child or something that warrants a "big" punishment. Or child has gone through all the other "lesser" tools and still rebels. Parent decides child needs a spanking. There is a process here. The parent never spanks on the spur of the moment or in anger. If parent is angry, they should wait and cool down. Parent tells child what they have done and that they will be getting a spanking for it. By the time a child has reached this stage, there should be no talking mom out of it. No weaseling or manipulation. Parent takes child to a private place away from siblings. Never spank in public. I like to have both parents there when I can. But never siblings or guests or others. This tell the child that 1) this is serious and important. 2) Mom isn't doing this out of anger but because she thinks you need it. Then parent spanks child firmly on the bottom several times with something like a wooden spoon. Not her hand and not something thin that will actually wound the child. It should sting but not bruise or break the skin. Now, the most important part. Parent looks for repentance in the child. I remember one time as a kid when I screamed rebelliously after a spanking. I promptly got another. Parent leaves child to cry and think for a few minutes then comes back and talks with child. In an age-appropriate manner, they discuss the offense. Parent makes sure the child knows what he did wrong and why it was wrong. The parent makes sure the child is repentant for doing the wrong thing and promises not to do it again. Parent communicates love and forgiveness to the child including hugs. My parents always made me hug them, which was hard when I was mad, but I see how important that step was. Then child is allowed to resume normal activity with full forgiveness.

5. Discipline is about the result, not the method

Why do we bother discipling our kids anyway? Is it because we cannot stand them when they act like little demons so we scream and scold till they stay out of our hair? I've always maintained that we discipline our kids so that they will someday be self-disciplined adults. We parent what we are. A lazy parent will generally raise lazy kids. A self-indulgent parent will raise self-indulgent kids. It is so amazing to see ourselves in the little mirrors that our kids hold up in front of us. But to this end, discipline becomes infinitely more important than just getting Precious Little One to behave herself for an hour in McDonald's so SuperMom looks good. Parenting is about teaching character, shaping destiny. It is about giving kids the inner strength and self-discipline to master himself or herself as adults. It is about teaching them values that will shape their lives. They will need the skills to filter the many voices coming from all sides and to make positive choices.

For that reason, discipline is not just about behavior. It's about attitude, about character. And it begins young. The seeds of a good character are sown in the soft soil of a two-year-old's heart. A parent's everyday choices affect the entire life of a child. To me, it matters less whether you believe in spanking and more that you expect a good attitude. Good behavior with a rebellious, grudging attitude doesn't cut it. Since each child is different, different tools will work better anyway. But the basic expectation is the same. As a parent, I expect my child to behave herself. (There is a line drawn where certain behaviors are not tolerated.) I take proactive steps to give her a good chance of success. This begins with good sleep, good nutrition and a lifestyle that is stable and secure. Then I treat her with respect and clearly communicate with her what I expect. Lastly when she chooses not to comply with those expectations, she may expect consequences in proportion with the severity of the offense. Consistently.

Of course we parents learn very quickly to pick our battles. Expecting perfection leads to discouragement in kids. I read somewhere that we need to praise or encourage ten times to every once that we correct a child. When you have a mischievous toddler who seems to require correction every two minutes, the math seems overwhelming! But I try to slip in a positive word whenever I can. Ephesians 6:4 says Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Sometimes I wish it said Children do not exasperate your mothers!

After much soul-searching I think it's best to leave spanking in the toolbox. I have used it a couple of times and Natalie doesn't always respond very well to it. Most of the time, time-outs work better. Some kids probably don't need a spanking if another, softer punishment does the trick. To me, the idea is to stop the bad behavior entirely using the least amount of discipline to do it. A punishment should be just enough to deter the child from repeating the offense or the attitude that causes the offense. But all that being said, I think it is very important to take seriously the task of raising our children. And to do a good job, we need every tool in the box.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Peace

As I sit here in my new living room with my children, a sense of peace steals over us. We're in the right place. Our home, thanks to our efforts in remodeling, looks as nice as a 30-year-old trailer can look. I'm so glad to have the move over. Time to settle, putting away all those hundreds of little things that need a home, like thumbtacks. Our adventure in Clarkston is over. Another new chapter begins.