Monday, November 29, 2010

Loving the Little Years


As I write this I my three little monkeys are noisily attempting to go to sleep in the other room. The fourth little monkey may only be the size of a raspberry, but from a cozy position in my womb he or she is making his or her presence felt (headache, queasiness, fatigue...). I have 60 nails on 60 fingers and toes to keep trimmed, not counting my own! There are toys in the Tupperware cupboard and Tupperware in the toy box. And yes, I probably could recite Green Eggs and Ham. I know what motherhood in the trenches looks like.

Loving the Little Years is not a book to make you feel good about how long it's been since you cleaned your bathroom. This book won't tell you to hire a babysitter so you can have a day off with your girlfriends and keep in touch with the real you. This book doesn't say that the answer to all your stress is to spend two hours with the Lord at four in the morning. There are no suggested schedules, no spanking formulas, no pity parties. This book is real.

With wisdom and humor, and in 20 short, punchy chapters, Rachel Jankovic reminds us mothers that we are sinners too. Sometimes when the attitudes are bad and everyone is crying the first person who needs to repent is Mommy. As mothers we pour everything we've got into "training them up in the way they should go" but we have to remember that our own journey to sanctification isn't over. God is using these mischievous little imps to make us more like Him.

When all they seem to do is make messes and all that seems to come out of their mouths is mostly unintelligible gibberish, we can tend to see our children as little bothers. But throughout this book Rachel encourages us to remember that they are little people, eternal souls, personalities in the making. She urges us to study them, know them, learn their needs, hopes, strengths and weaknesses. And she reminds us to see the individuals in the half-sized mob. The Jankovic family is fabulous at coming up with creative imagery and catch-phrases for helping their kids see their sin and to remind them to do better. From selfish dragons to Cranksters to picky chickens, Rachel has shared many of these helpful ideas.

When I bought this book I immediately took it home, put the baby down for her nap, turned on Baby Signing Time for the toddlers and read it cover to cover. Literally, I laughed and cried. I will be reading it again soon, chapter by chapter, taking notes and absorbing ideas. In fact, I will probably read it every year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Charlotte's Web

Today I finished reading Charlotte's Web to the kids. I managed to do it without crying, though I was sniffing a bunch and had to stop to "cough" a few times. What a beautiful book!

I didn't grow up on a farm or in the country and I find farms to be pretty messy and stinky. But books like this make me wish I had some barns and animals and hay and manure and cherry trees and ponds in my life. I guess that's the beauty of reading. For a little while, I did have those things.

I used to think this was just a cute story about a pig who didn't want to be made into bacon, but it's much more than that. It's about the joy of living and what makes living joyous. Wilbur is not very clever, not very handsome, and not very talented. Charlotte is an ordinary gray spider who sucks blood and has an impressive vocabulary. What can a spider do to save a pig? And why would she even bother? In Charlotte's own words:
"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Advent Log


This elegant, handcrafted Advent log is available for sale at Exodus this year. Handcrafted from birch logs by Josiah, my sister-in-law, Leah, provided the 5 PartyLite votive candles in traditional colors with glass candle holders. Exodus is selling them for $30 and proceeds will support a special adoption this Christmas. Limited quantities available!!!

After the Christmas season is over this lovely candleholder would look pretty with any season's decor. Use it in the spring with blossom colored candles or in the fall with your favorite autumn scents. If you prefer to keep it special for Advent, its compact shape makes it easier to store than a bushy wreath.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Decorating

Yes, Thanksgiving is still a week away. Yes, December is still a couple weeks out. No, I'm not one of those people who turns on Christmas music as soon as summer is over. However, it's been dark and chilly enough that I thought some cheery Christmas lights would be nice to have around.

So, today I put up our Christmas decorations. The days may be getting darker, but our home is only getting lighter and more cheerful as we begin to anticipate the celebration of the birth of the King of Light!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soup

I have made soup a few times since we've been married, but mostly they've turned out watery and bland. Last night I finally made a soup worth eating - nothing worthy of a five star restaurant or anything, but it was savory, creamy, and warming on a cold fall evening.

Here are four essential elements to a successful soup:
  1. A savory meat broth. I was able to simmer two bone-in chicken breasts for an hour or more for this one.
  2. Sautéed vegetables. Yes, the sink was piled with pans when I was done, but the flavor was worth every one.
  3. Fresh herbs. I don't usually have any on hand, so my soups end up tasting like salt. This time I used fresh basil.
  4. A roux base. The fried butter and flour is the most flavorful way to thicken soup and mixing the milk into it keeps it from separating. 
Served with whole wheat artisan bread, that was a soup fit for a king! And my tummy is happy knowing that there's still half a pot left in the fridge.

*MY* Ergo Carrier

Last night Eli called and asked, "You were interested in trying an ERGO Carrier, right?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," I replied, confused.

"Well somebody read on the website that you wanted one and they stopped by here to give you theirs."

I was so excited! I felt like I had just won a prize or something! And when he brought it home I couldn't believe it was mine. I just had an ERGO carrier dropped into my lap!

Of course I tried it on last night and I could already tell it was going to be both easy to use and quite comfortable. And Esther loved it too! Now I can't wait to take Esther shopping or hiking or just on a walk around the neighborhood.

I will still use my Moby Wrap for cuddling my infants, but after the baby is about six months I have a feeling I will quite frequently use the ERGO to carry him or her on my back.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Diaper Talk

My brother is having a baby (!) so I was talking diapers with my sister-in-law. Like me, Hannah likes to keep things natural and cheap. But if natural isn't cheap then both of us tend to say, "Why bother?" I was convinced that cloth diapers are indeed cheaper than their pumped-full-of-chemicals, bad-for-the-environment alternatives. After our conversation I looked back through our records and let the numbers speak for themselves.

Joshua was born in 2006 and I began buying the Wal-mart brand of diapers. They worked pretty well for me, only leaking when the size was wrong or if the blow-out was particularly huge. Also, I didn't change his diaper very often because I was too cheap to throw away a half used diaper. If I was to go back I would probably be spending about 30% more because I'm now used to keeping the children's bottoms fresh.

2006 - For Joshua’s first year we spent $300 on disposable diapers. That’s really not that bad for the convenience of just throwing them away. And it’s a lot less than pro-cloth diaper people will tell you that disposable diapers cost.

2007 - The next year Joshua was a toddler so he wasn’t changed nearly as often, but we did have Lucy in diapers too for the last three months of the year. We spent about $250.

2008 - The year after that Joshua and Lucy were both in diapers for the first five months and then Joshua potty trained. Lucy continued to use disposables until August. We spent $220.

In August that year I made my first cloth diapers purchase which totaled $80.50. Esther is using those diapers now. Cotton prefolds and waterproof wraps are the most economical option and I find them easy to wash and dry.
Including that purchase, I have spent a total of $380 on cloth diapers (wraps and wipes too) and most of it is still going strong. I will be using all the diapers themselves for at least one more child and possibly another after that. The waterproof wraps that I buy are about $12 each and I use 4 for each of the three sizes.

I did buy some used wraps that I didn’t like and I ended up getting rid of them. I used other wraps when Lucy was too big for them so they stretched and wore out early and I had to replace them. I also spent a bit more on one wrap (wool to breath better since Lucy got such terrible diaper rashes). The wipes that I’ve gotten aren’t worth the extra money. If you want to do cloth wipes (disposable wipes are easy and cheap) just buy cheap flannel to cut into squares. The number above also includes the aloe that I bought to make wipes solution.

I have looked at our water bill before and after diapers and it did not go up significantly.

Realistically, if you wanted to do cloth diapers, here is what it could cost:
Infant diapers: $1.50 each x 36 = $48
Regular diapers: $2.00 each x 24 = $48
Wraps: $12.00 each x 12 = $144 (this is for three sizes so you don’t need to spend this all at once)
Total (good for about 3 kids): $240

Anyway, maybe this is more information than ant of you are interested in, but these are real numbers from our experience.

Breakfast

I had changed a diaper, read the first three chapters of Acts, taken a shower and gotten dressed, all with just a few sips of water in my tummy. Esther was pacified by an apple which she happily munched, but Joshua and Lucy were both clambering for a "snack."

I opened the fridge.

I opened the pantry.

I sat down to think.

What should we eat for breakfast?

Pioneer Woman breakfast potatoes sounded yummy, but I didn't feel like cutting up raw, dirty potatoes. Omelets would be delish, but I didn't have anything interesting to go in them. Pancakes sounded too sweet. German pancakes (oven pancakes) would be good, but we didn't have milk.

All I could think about was Raisin Bran. If I could just eat a bowl of Raisin Bran then the world would be right and every problem would solve itself!

I did finally make a decision and now "egg-in-a-hole" is being digested by an unwilling stomach. "Acquire Rasin Bran and milk" is now on my to do list for today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"The labor of the righteous leads to life..."

It was the middle of the night and I heard ringing. I tried to ignore it. Maybe Eli would take care of whatever it was. Then I realized that it was the phone and I should answer it. I had been invited to attend a friend's delivery, but she wasn't due for a couple days and we all thought she would go about a week past that. When I saw Johanna's name on the cell phone screen, I was still confused. But then she said it. She was really in labor and it was really time to drive down and join her! It felt so strange leaving my family at four in the morning. But Eli had that day off and as I ran down the housekeeping tasks I realized that it really was as good a time as any to be gone.

I had been at two of my brothers' births, but it was completely different being there after giving birth myself. Johanna's mother, her mother-in-law, and I kept giving each other knowing glances. We were having to relax and breath right along with her during each contraction!

It was an honor to be there to watch my friend labor. I've known her since she was a little squirt with big glasses and long, tangled hair. We scampered around together on many an afternoon and now I was waiting with her for her tiny child to make the difficult journey into life. She would make it through each contraction and then lean back smiling sweetly, relieved. Her husband was there for each one, rubbing her back, keeping her focused, praising her, loving her. Towards the end she was dilated and ready, but that stubborn little baby's head was turned the wrong way. That's when she had to lay on the bed in the most uncomfortable position waiting through each contraction for the moment when the head would slide into place. It was her own valley of shadow, but she was surrounded by friends and family and midwives helping, hoping, praying, waiting. But oh, what a wait!

Then finally, all of a sudden, Johanna knew it was time. She turned over and before we knew it we could see a matted, hairy little head! The exhilaration! The joy! We exclaimed, sobbed, and rejoiced! It was only a few more pushes and a new person was born, changing colors and slimy.

"It's a girl!" John cried out and with a catch in his voice he announced, "Here is my daughter, Victoria Faith!"

We sobbed some more as this little girl took her first breaths. We were overjoyed as her lusty cries filled the room. The rest of the evening was spent cooing over tiny hands and listening to every little squeak and snuffle she made. She pooped all over the place, she nursed like she was born for it, and she was perfect in all the ways a brand new person should be.

Little Victoria Faith, your mother is a strong woman. She was not afraid of the task of bringing you into the world and she handled it like a warrior fighting the good fight. Your mother is a beautiful woman. Peace settled on her face as she rested between contractions and she continued to smile sweetly at us, even when she knew another was on the way. And her face just beamed with true inner joy when she was finally able to hold you in her arms. She loves you more than you will ever know until you grow up and have babies of your own. May God bless you and strengthen you and may He grow you up into just such a woman.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Clues

  1. I walked past the tomatoes in the grocery store and had a sudden urge to buy some. I don't even like tomatoes.
  2. My nose has suddenly acquired super powers.
  3. My stomach is not my friend.
  4. I am looking seriously for a minivan.
Yep, you guessed it!

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

Lucy turned three and we had ourselves a little party!

Friday, November 5, 2010

As a door turns on its hinges...

...so does the lazy man on his bed. (Proverbs 26:14)

Last year, when we took our kids to the zoo, I learned that lions spend a lot of time lying around. In fact, they will rest for up to 20 hours of their day! Lazy beasts, huh? But no, they sleep this much because the animals they eat typically don't want to be caught. So those four hours that lions work are four hours of hard work.

My mother is a lioness (and a Lyons). She needs a lot of sleep, but when she is fully rested she gets more done in the hours she's awake than most of us have the drive to do in twice or three times the time. Getting up early doesn't lengthen her day, it just makes her tired. Instead she takes that extra hour or so of sleep (more if us kids have been keeping her up late asking for advice) and then she can just go, go go, attacking those projects like a lion brings down an antelope.

I am not a Lyons anymore and I never really worked like a lion. However, it is only the past year or so that I've realized this. I used to work very hard to get the proper amount of sleep to maximize my energy during the day. Nap times were enforced religiously and boy did I struggle with my attitude if people around here woke up before the approved hour. But then something a good friend just mentioned in passing about her studies in Proverbs changed my life forever.

As she read through that book of wisdom she realized that many of the references to sleep also referred to the lazy man...or the sluggard...or the fool. She described how she had been counting hours of sleep and allowing herself to be tired and grumpy if she got less sleep than she thought she needed. But she could have been describing my own habits. If I stayed up late and then certain little people got me up early (and the two always go together, don't they?) well then I would be sluggish and foggy all day. My friend made me realize, though, that it didn't have to be like that. I was letting myself be tired. It was all in my head.

Wait a minute, back up, hold the phone! There are times and seasons when the hours of sleep just don't add up. I've had newborns, I've had children with croup, I've been to midnight showings. Some days are just meant for piling on the couch reading books together or laying on the floor and letting the kids pile on you while you close your eyes for just a minute or two. But at the time I heard this I had two kids who slept till 8:00 am and took a synchronized two hour nap (thanks to the aforementioned religious sleep training). I was pregnant with the third, but I was thriving and fit.

I've always thought, "If God wanted me to see sunrises he would have an 8:00 showing." This paradigm shift came in the summer and I began to wonder if maybe I was missing out on something. Besides I thought it was silly and inefficient to install room darkening shades to keep half the morning light out and then turn on electrical lights for hours in the evening. Why not just get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun?

So I gave it a go. I took some early morning walks. I weeded and mowed (okay, once or twice) in the cool hours before breakfast. I began reading the Bible regularly while the house was quiet and still. Sunrises sure are stunning! Each one different, each a reflection (and blurry at that!) of heavenly glory...

I do not get the perfect amount of sleep to balance the demands of the day. But I have stopped relying on sleep to get me through the day. "God," I say, "if You bring us an episode of croup on the night we stay up watching a movie and cuddling on the couch, well then You're just going to have to help me through it. And God, if the baby chooses that morning to wake up early, then please be in my smile as I wish her a good morning!"

There just isn't anything like motherhood to make a woman realize her own inadequacy. But thankfully, there's a God for that.

Bored Books

I have a basket for our board books. They are all such funny shapes that they don't fit on the shelves very well and I wanted them separate so Esther could easily find them.

One morning I put a blanket on the floor and told all the kids to stay there and read books while I went off to get something done (I believe the project of the moment was getting dressed). They did a pretty good job obeying... When I came back they were still there and the toys were still put away, though the little chairs had been moved and they each had a blanket.

As I helped them put the books that they had looked at away, I told them to put the board books in the basket. That's when I heard Lucy say, "I'm bored of this book so it goes in the basket."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Because the freshly vacuumed floor was just too clean...

I do not compulsively clean our home. Over the past five years I have learned better systems and discipline so that I can keep the place looking peaceful, but I don't clean for love of the process. Today I vacuumed the children's room for the second time since we moved here in May.

Rewind a bit. A few days ago I received a package in the mail. It was a tidy little box and after I removed my item it was still about two thirds full of packing popcorn. The garbages needed to be taken out so I didn't have anywhere to dump the stuff and I thought Eli might want to add it to the stash at Exodus. So, instead of taking care of it I set it by the door so he could take it with him on his way to work.

Fast forward to this evening, right before dinner. I had forgotten to tell Eli about the afore-mentioned box of packing materials so he didn't even know it was there for the taking. I had been working on an Exodus project with my brother, Zack, all afternoon instead of preparing for our dinner guests so I was just hurrying down to get pork chops frying. While the cat was away, the mice had found the forgotten box. Its contents had been dumped, walked on and crumbled. Fluffy white popcorn crumbs were strewn across the freshly cleaned carpets and I had to get dinner on the table in an hour.

Thankfully, because I had been cleaning today, the vacuum was handy and the right attachment was in place. Packing popcorn vacuums up quite nicely. The garbages had also been emptied in the cleaning efforts of the last few days and since most of the popcorn had been sucked up by the vacuum there was plenty of room to dispose of the rest appropriately. I would say that a lesson has been thoroughly learned today, but for some reason I just don't think like a kid when I leave something as fascinating as packing popcorn lying around.

Hard Work

Things that are hard:

  • Picking out a color to paint the walls of the fellowship hall at church. Said color has to be dark enough to be interesting but light enough not to make people claustrophobic. Said color also has to match dated cabinets that may or may not get refinished.
  • Writing about Thanksgiving and suffering when one's own life is really quite grand.
  • Scrubbing an old cast iron Dutch oven, bought from a garage sale in support of adoption. Something like this is now on my wish list.
  • Getting up with the kids after doing all of the above until past midnight.
Good night!