Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moving On

It's time.
Time to move.
We're running out of bunk bed space.  Perhaps someone will buy our cute little house, someone with fewer children.
So we're doing what anyone logically would.  We waited till I'm 8 months pregnant, and put the house on the market.

Take a bigger bite of life whydoncha?!?

So in between cleaning house so complete strangers can judge my homemaking skills, and Braxton Hicks contractions, and prepping for the homeschool year which will be starting in a couple weeks for us, I've decided to start a new blog.
Why not?  I was getting bored.

It's a process.  But it's also a great excuse to sit down (and learn computer codes, yay).  While I figure it out and put my feet up, feel free to drop by the new site.  It's a work in progress.  But it should be more of the same brilliance that oozes out of this one :)  Please bear with my mommy brain and come visit it.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Partridge in the Pear Tree, baby edition

This version could be more aptly named
The Stork in the Family Tree...

In the first month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
Let's have a baby; how hard can it be??

In the second month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
I'll watch the kids and give you two free hours to sleep in.

In the third month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
You threw up three times in front of your mother in law?!?

In the fourth month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
I've gone through four baskets of dirty laundry and I still have no pants...?

In the fifth month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
The ultrasound says it's our FIFTH GOLDEN-HAIRED BOY!
... Four baskets of laundry
... Three hurlings
... Two free hours of sleep
... Let's have a baby; how hard can it be?

In the sixth month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
You started a garden, cleaned my car, and painted the bathroom; I wish this would last!

In the seventh month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
We need a bigger house, new car, more bunk beds, and a lot more money!

In the eighth month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
Do you know how Jonah's whale felt now?

In the ninth month of pregnancy, my true love said to me,
What were we thinking?!?

... Eight ton pregnant whale
... Seven panicked minutes
... Six month pregnancy glow
... Four baskets of laundry
... Three hurlings
... Two free hours of sleep
... Let's have a baby, how hard can it be??

The directions don't say how to fit two sets of bunk beds and a crib in this room...

Monday, July 8, 2013


A car seat advertisement on the baby website claimed, "Nothing is more important that your child's safety."
That's a good selling point.
What kind of mother could disagree with that statement?

... Timid hand raised.

Wait.  Don't call DHHS on me just yet.  Please.  It's not that we overlook safety.  On the contrary; I've spent enough money on car seats in the past seven years to fund a new car.  (Which is why I drive a rusty clunker that needs new tires and air conditioning.)  The two year old has had a video monitor trained over his crib since his first day home; we can watch him breathe in his sleep.  The boys know not to accept anything from a stranger.  There are permanent imprints of baby gates throughout the house; outlet covers, a set temperature on the water heater; even the Oreos are safely out of reach so the kids don't suffer a sugar crash.
They are covered by insurance and fancy band aids.  Their finger nails are clipped, their meat is well cooked, most wasp nests have been eradicated from the property, they don't eat yellow snow.

But, really, if safety was paramount, my kids would live in a bubble.  They wouldn't need car seats, because it certainly isn't safe to take them for a ride in a car.  Their atmosphere would never be too hot or cold, their air would always be pure, their home would be always be clean and free of paint, germs, and spiders.  They wouldn't eat vegetables grown in, gasp, dirt.  Or eggs that come from the bottom side of a chicken.  Or play with germy other kids.  Ever.
Their milk would be ultra pasteurized, their toothbrushes super sterilized; they wouldn't have snotty little brothers.

"Mom," a shrill voice calls from the living room where the three that are too old to nap are supposed to be all cuddled up together watching the Backyardigans while I blog, "Mom, he's breathing on me!"
"What would you rather he do?"  I holler back absently.
"Make him stop!"
"I don't think I can do that, Honey."
"But I'll get germs!"
I snicker.  "He's a little boy, Son.  They're called cooties."
Whomp.  A pillow hits its target.  An even shriller voice screeches.  Big brother took matters into his own hands, apparently.  I hear the muffled voice of little brother under the pillow.  Big brother gets kicked in the ribs.  Other brother jumps on top of the pile, because he can.  They scuffle.  I ignore them until somebody gets mad, then appear in all my big mommy authority and turn off their show.  They whine.  They get sent outside to play in the dirt.
Crisis averted.

The day that Solomon was crowned king of Israel, his aging father David gave him a command.
Be strong, and prove yourself a man.
I just read that the Knox version of 1 Kings 2 renders it, "Play the man, Son."
He was probably a teenager, as young as 12, no older than 20.  He hadn't known that morning when he rolled, tousled and sleepy, out of bed, that he would be sitting on his father's throne by afternoon.  But a rebellious older brother had gone out and tried to nab the monarchy for himself.  If David hadn't acted quickly, Solomon would have been conveniently killed by evening.  Instead, the crown was placed above the cowlick on his head.
Israel was at its zenith, peaceful, strong, and prosperous.  Suddenly, it was on his bony shoulders to keep it that way.
David's strongest mighty men of war would fight and die at his command.
Priests and prophets would come to him first with the words of God.
Faraway kings would tremble when they heard of his laws.
Beautiful women would swoon in his presence.
Anything he desired, he could have.
Everything he saw was his to protect.
It was a big day.  First, a death sentence, then the monarchy.  He would have wished he had shaved that morning, if he'd had anything of substance to take a razor to.  The eyes of the nation peered up at him, cheering for him, placing their hope in him.  His mother watched him from a corner of the throne room.
A tear trickled down her still-smooth cheek.  No longer could she protect him from either hate or adoration from the world.  Just yesterday, after an hour studying history from the books of Moses, she'd watched him run out to kick a ball in the courtyard with the other boys.  Ruddy, carefree, a dark scab on his elbow where he'd bashed it in the dirt a week before, he'd blushed when a few servant girls wandered by the game, giggling and whispering.  Females would be his undoing, if he wasn't careful.  She thought ruefully of her own marriage with the old king.  It was a lonely existence to be one of the conquests of a great ruler, no matter how much his eyes lit up when he saw you.  She hoped she'd gotten through to her son the beauty of what a loving marriage could be.
She clenched her fists.  There was so much he still needed to know!  He was so young!  So much evil he would encounter!  Such big decisions would rest in his hands!
With a great sigh, the queen mother relaxed her hands.  This child - her child - was a man today.  He must be.  He would enjoy great happiness.  He would suffer much pain.  She still had some influence on him, true.  She hoped he wouldn't suddenly be too grown up to let her kiss his cheek.  Even if she had to stand on tip toe to reach.
But she must let go.  There were bigger things than his safety now.  Today, she could not play the mother hen.  She would stand back.  She would watch him be stung.  She would watch him reel under the responsibility.  She would watch him do wrong.  But she would see him also make hard decisions and be right.  She would be proud of him.
She already was.      
"Play the man, son" she whisperingly echoed his father as she looked at his thin form sitting tall on the great throne.                
"Play the man."
She she stepped back into the shadows of the great throne room.
And God took over.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Margins of Blessing

Sometimes, this bearing and raising of boys is tiring.  Sometimes.  Sometimes the four year old drops a dozen eggs on the floor the day we get them from a friend's backyard chickens.  Sometimes the five year old digs holes in the lawn and fills them with gravel from the driveway - in the pouring rain.  Sometimes I have to fight to convince well-meaning folks that this whole bearing and raising of boys is a blessing, even when I'm tired of doing it myself.
Because sometimes I am tired.
But always, always, I know I am blessed.  Always.

The baby in my stretching tummy is around 32 weeks old now.  He kicks and wiggles and hiccups.  His brothers can feel him moving; they delight in the fact he'll push back when they lay a hand against my shirt.
This pregnancy has been boring compared to the last one, 2 and a half years ago now.  That baby didn't kick so much.  We didn't know what his life would be like after he emerged into daylight for the first time.  No one could say if his body would function or if his brain would work.  The second half of his pregnancy was full of ultrasounds and meetings with specialists.  The first weeks of his life were busy with back and brain surgeries, MRIs and testing, and lots of interaction with doctors with strings of letters after their names.

Comparatively, this pregnancy has been dull.  The only issue has been the placenta growing low on the uterus.  Usually, it plugs in higher up, safely out of the way.  This placenta isn't blocking the exit, but it's right at the door at the bottom.  They say I have marginal placenta previa.

I've been hoping to avoid a c-section.  I've been through natural labor and birth three times and had a surgically-removed baby once.  Having major abdominal surgery means a long recovery time.  After a c-section, I won't be doing much cooking or cleaning or driving.  And I won't be able to pick up my little two and a half year old - the one who can't stand, or walk, or climb.  (At least not yet.)

(Disclaimer: this picture is actually from my pregnancy with Ben.  There are none yet of me currently with child... But you get the idea.)

Sometimes I think the doctors believe I'm crazy for wanting another baby after having one with disabilities (and after having 3 kids before that.)  Sometimes I'm convinced they just want the easiest option for them, forgetting (or not knowing) the blessing of these children.  They subtly recommend abortion if the fetus appears to have complications.  They mention often the option of tying my tubes so as to avoid any risk in the future.  They push to plan a c-section since I had one the last time.  Sometimes, I disagree with these intelligent and capable people who've studied birth and babies for many more years than I even attended school in total.  Sometimes.

They said this week that they want to schedule an early c-section (when the baby's around 37 weeks' big.)  They want to do an amniocentesis before it, to check the baby's lung development.  And I know there's a risk, if I go into labor, that the placenta could separate from the wall it's attached to.  If the bleeding from it was significant, it could be deadly.  But that risk is slight, considering the position of the placenta.  The hospital is minutes from my house.  I've gotten a bit more used to doctors giving me worst case scenario in the past couple years, no matter how slight the risk.
But sometimes, I don't know what to do.

I know only one thing that always works.
Would you pray with me?

Pray that as the uterus grows larger that the placenta would be pulled up and further out of the way so that bleeding won't be a concern.
Pray that I would be wise to decide if a c-section is necessary.  There is pressure to agree to it, but if it's not necessary, it doesn't seem advantageous to me in the long run.  

It's a little thing, in some ways.  Good doctors have perfected ways to get a baby out safely.  I am so thankful.  I also know that much of the time, babies have popped out au natural and healthy, and have for thousands of years.  I want to do what is best.  

But I could always use a little prayer.  Help!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Death and Taxes

It was breezy, hazy under the new summer sun.
The water sparkled, gulls called shares greedily when they spied a fisherman, the rumble of small motors echoed over the expanse of the bay.  I inhaled the fishy smell of the dock and peered up at my husband over the two year old's warm blonde head.
A sharp intake of breath beside me made my spine straighten.
"I got one!"  The seven year old gasped unbelievingly.  He jerked on the line; the pole bent against sudden tension.  He started to reel in quickly, prancing in a rather ungentlemanly excited jig.  "I got my first fish!"
Daddy laid a big hand on the small quivering shoulder.  "Ok, ok.  Slow down.  Steady."  
Gavin focused.  He cranked the handle methodically.  We watched for the flash of scales beneath the dark ocean.  
Suddenly the water parted in perfect shimmering circles.  A very unwilling fish broke the surface.  It hung, suspended, dripping, from the monofilament line.  A seagull wheeled overhead, nasally voicing approval.  Father bent over son and held the squirming fish so young fingers could extract the hook.  And there it was.  Flopping, ungainly, silver scales foreign against the worn paint of the dock.  Gasping silently.  Fish don't cry.

The two year old pulled back against me, uncertain.  Everyone was so excited.  But he watched wide-eyed.  Witness to something new - the first death.  Is this right Mom?

They took the catch to the beach.  Gutted, cleaned.  Then to the kitchen.  Fried in butter, salt.  Consumed proudly.  Full of fresh protein, boys raced off to the sand to dig holes for the tide to find.  Ben pulled himself over to the window to watch a moth trapped on the wrong side of the clear pane.  He reached for it.  "Butta-fwy!"  The crumpled insect left a dusty trail against the glass.  Little conqueror had vanquished his conquest.  He poked at the lifeless wings, then looked up at me innocently.  "Mom, hewp it."
"Ok."  I quietly scooped up the remainder of the bug and flipped it quickly out the door into a bush.  "Ok, bug's outside."
Satisfied, he pulled himself under the table to get a kiss from grandma's little dog; the moth's sudden demise was dismissed.

Reeling 'em in.

In the New Living Translation, Psalm 29 calls us "heavenly beings."  We are "sons of God."  The "real" part of us isn't from around here.  It hails from heaven.  It is eternal.  Forever young.  Death to a soul is a foreign concept.  Souls don't end.

And yet we're in these bodies that degrade with time.  My two year old doesn't know that yet; he's still discovering how much this limited body can do.  It's all exciting.
It can feel kitten fur.
It can move fast.
It can taste ice cream.
It can feel the exhilaration of a mud puddle, the warmth of a deep bath.
It can interact with other bodies, and tickle and laugh and snuggle.
He doesn't know how much it can't do yet.  And I don't mean just because he has a wheelchair or can't feel his toes.

Perhaps he just chalks up pain and physical failures to immaturity or the fact that mom wasn't there to be an extension of his limbs.  He doesn't know his body's not invincible.  It's not like his soul.  I don't think he understands mortality.  He's so busy living that death doesn't have any weight yet.

I hope I am never too comfortable with death.
Video games perpetuate it.
Movies glorify it.
Even newspapers dull my senses to its commonness.
But it doesn't mean I should ever just accept it.  Death, sin, taxes, degradation and dirt are part of earthly existence, but our actual existence is so much deeper, longer, more purposeful...  I hope I always question, humbly, like my toddler, "Is this right?"  

Oh, I'll still kill ants with abandon if (ok, when) they dare cross the threshold of my kitchen.  And spiders...  But they don't have souls.  They were made for this world, and to the dust of it they return (or at least to the depths of my trash can.)  And if I can get my manly little sons to do the deed, believe you me, I will.  Death is a natural part of reality.  For now.  But we won't always live in the "now".  We'll live in eternity, where there will be no blood, no pain, no fear.  No death.  

A wise man once realized he had desires that nothing in this world could satisfy.  He concluded that he must have been ultimately made for a different world.  He was C.S. Lewis, a staunch atheist, who lived through World War II.  Eventually though, he turned to Jesus, the Heavenly Man, to fill that hole.  Nothing else would.

We're not from around here.
I've gotta remember that.

But I'll certainly enjoy the fresh meat while I am here.  This physical body should eat well as long as I have sons around.  There are certainly worse things about being mortal.

Proud little mortals.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Lest I forget how flat out interesting it is to listen to children sometimes, here's a list of a few recent kid-isms from my own brood.

- "Everyone head for deep space!  I have to go to the bathroom, but it's too crowded on this planet and you'll all hear me..."  -Gavin, age 7

- "Where's my i-pod?"  -Ben, age 2  (And no, he does not own an i-pod or any similar device).

- "I don't like organic.  I like Fruit Loops."  -Gavin

- "When I stick out my tongue and touch my lip, I can feel my man-hairs."  -Shiloh, age 5

- "Mom, does the President think his job is just for fun?"  -Henry, age 4

- "I'd feel better if I was driving."  -Shiloh, from the backseat.

- "When I'm a teenager, I'm going to stay up super late - till 9 - and eat cereal!"  -Gavin, the rebellious.

-  "Where are the matches?" - Henry

- "The alphabet would have made more sense if I had written it."  -Shiloh

- "Do you have to obey the rules if you're in jail for breaking them already?  Like, do you have to brush your teeth?"  -Gavin

- "That was a speed lemon."  -Henry, referring to an old, but very loud and fast, car.

- "That was the worst cake I've ever had!"  -Shiloh, telling a friend's mom his opinion on their homemade birthday cake.

- "Princesses are too girlish and I am not too girlish so I do not like princesses."  -Henry, logic.

- "It's too bad Oreos aren't good for you.  But at least there's still goat cheese."  -Gavin

- "It's good for us to watch Veggie Tales movies.  It makes us like vegetables and there's always some Bible words at the end.  So can we have some crackers while we watch it?" -Shiloh

- "Mom, you can't dance."  -Ben (it's true.)

- "If we could just make a fire and cook meat, we would be happy."  -Henry, the very male child.

- "Don't throw Ben's diaper away!  If a bad guy tries to come in, we can scare him away with it!"  -Shiloh

- "It would be easier if you'd just let me have a credit card."  -Gavin

- "I'm not dirty enough to be cleaned yet!"  -Henry

- "You don't know how hard it is to be a boy, Mom.  You're just pregnant."  -Shiloh

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Skinny Soul

God bless coffee.
As a mom of four, going on five, boys in seven years, I heartily endorse it.  The first cup of joe is a necessary dose of medicine for early mornings when the little ones hit the ground running.  Which they do.  Momma can't be far behind.  Ahead is better.

"Tired" is in the description of motherhood.  Pregnancy, the odd baby schedule, then the rambunctious toddler years, the precocious pre-schooler, the inquisitive kindergartener, and the chattery elementary school kid can leave a mom a wee bit exhausted.
Times a hundred.
With a thousand million things to do that can't wait till tomorrow.
Plus the billion other things that can wait, a bit.
It's tough.

I'm using up calories and running through hormones like nobody's business.  So there are times I just need to eat an egg or up my magnesium intake or get off the computer and that'll give me a healthy kick in the pants to keep going till (the blessed hour of) bedtime.  But sometimes I must take stock.

Is it my body that is truly weary - or my soul?             

When was the last moment I paused in the day to thank God for something?
Did I pray for the child before jumping into discipline?
Am I breathing out impatience or encouragement?
Is there a verse in my head I'm pondering, or a complaint I'm harboring?
Why haven't I smiled today?
Can I really blame the rain for my attitude?  Or the finances?  Or the squashed bug under my barefoot?

I may be grumpy because this life is wearing, tough on joints and limbs and metabolism.  Maybe I need to sit down because the blood in my ankles just needs help to fight gravity past my bulging tummy.  It could be that my mind is spinning from the last dozen questions the 5 year old asked about reproduction.  Perhaps lugging the two year old around the garden for an hour really did do a number on my back.  It might be that I just don't know what to make for supper, and if it's healthy then nobody's gonna like it no matter what I choose.
But really, are my weariness and short temper a result of something beyond the skin-deep fatigue?

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."
Psalm 42:1-2

Perhaps my hunger is for something deeper than buttered toast in the morning.  It's my soul that feels thin.  Worn.  Craving.
I might try to satisfy my longings with donuts and too much Facebook.  They taste good, for a moment.  But there is no sustenance.  Need goes unmet.

The pure hearty laughter of a two year old jolts me from numbness back to awareness of some deeper desire.  No, I don't have hours to spend in Bible study; not for now.  But I don't need to.  Four course dinners are nice, but not practical during rush hour...

I don't have deep, hours-long serious discussions with my husband every day.  But I talk to him often, laugh with him over the antics of one of our shared descendants, smile over an inside joke we share at the dinner table.  I can have that with God too.  Even better, since I can talk to Him in the night while my husband snores oblivious beside me.  I can find joy in His creation even while my husband is at work.  I can trust to Him my tears, my worry, while arm deep in dishwater.  I can remember His tender hand on me when I feel a parenting failure heavy on my shoulders.

O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You...  (verse 6).

And, incrementally, I am revived as I turn my eyes back to Him.  My soul feels refreshed.  I throw out the remainder of the kids' peanut butter from lunch while my own chicken salad sits neglected on the counter until I have a moment to touch it, and this time I remember to praise Him for provision of food, and the invention of mayonnaise and pickles.  Deep within, before I ever get to that first bite of actual food, substance starts to meet hunger.

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.  The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me - A prayer to God for my life.
(verses 7-8).

There are moments when I get frustrated with this life I lead.  There's so much pressure to do it right.  But my understanding is pivoting.  This life I lead - aren't I supposed to be following instead?
He - my Guide, the Lamp to light my path, the King of all the earth, my Father, my Friend, my God - He is the rightful Leader of my life.  And I must say, He does a far better job of it.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?  Why are you disquieted within me? 
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
Psalm 42:11

Daddy always shares.

Hope in God.  He's got this.
As for the other stuff, well, there is a reason why God invented drive-through coffee places.
There when you need it.
Take advantage.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Extremely Uncomfortable

The Good:  Today, the last field trip of the homeschool year, was a lovely boat trip out on the ocean.
The Bad:  The tail light fell off the van on the highway en route.
the Extremely Uncomfortable:  My ungainly pregnant self had to dodge traffic to snatch the fixture off the pavement before it became expensive roadkill.

The Good:  It was incredibly hot everywhere except on the ocean, where it was refreshingly balmy.
The Bad:  The air conditioning in the van wasn't working.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  The fans which could have blown at least warm air past our sweating faces weren't working either.

The Good:  The son who's prone to motion sickness wasn't the least bit fazed by the rocking waves.
The Bad:  I over-packed for the possible messy drama of a sea sick child.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  I dragged all the stuff up and down the hill to the boat, and soaked the bottom of the heavy bag which made a conspicuous mark in an unfortunate spot on my pants.

The Good:  I'm not prone to swelling too much during pregnancies.
The Bad:  There are still hot, humid days when my legs will turn into cankles, and it's only May.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  My toes feel like cheap sausages.  Can you get stretch marks on those little piggies?

The Good: The boys were very good through all the heat and driving and didn't complain.
The Bad:  The youngest stayed home with Grandma and had a great nap in an air conditioned room.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  The oldest are exhausted and went straight to sleep, but the bright-eyed youngest won't stop talking loudly to them from his crib.

The Good:  We made it home in time for supper.
The Bad:  We didn't make it home in time to make it, just in time to be super hungry and ready to eat it.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  I ordered pizza on the way home; someone's diapers are not going to be pleasant tomorrow.

The Good:  We had to drive past Daddy's work place to get to and from the ocean.
The Bad:  We really didn't have time to stop and say hi.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  I remembered that he has some hanging flower baskets there that I've wanted to get for the porch, but I had already decided to spend the money on pizza.

The Good:  There were lots of homeschool mammas for me to talk to on the boat.
The Bad:  I'm an introvert.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  My kids were so excited that they kept chattering to me during the whole trip and I didn't do well catching up with anyone else.

The Good:  I remembered to leave windows open before we left, and it didn't rain.
The Bad:  A wasp managed to get in the house.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  One of my boys *may* always scream like a little girl when faced with a stinging insect.

The Good:  The piece that flew off the van wasn't a tire or an engine block, at least the power windows still opened, the kids are healthy, the baby in my tummy doesn't yet have to be considered a paying passenger on a field trip, the little one had a rare and special afternoon with Grandma, there happened to be a drive-through-to-pick-up-pizza place on the way home, I had money to buy the pizza, my introverted self at least won't be complaining if it doesn't talk, and no body got stung.
The Bad:  We all have days that don't go great.
The Extremely Uncomfortable:  I realize how blessed I am that all my difficulties are inconsequential in the big picture, and I am humbled once again.

Still, I really do wish the child who boldly kissed a sea cucumber this afternoon would learn not to scream like a girl.

I know, count my blessings.
At least his voice hasn't changed yet :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Minute Muffin in a Mug

This is the food blog I said I'd never write.
I am NOT a food guru.  I am not a doctor or a nutritionist; I am not particularly organic or vegan or anti-gluten or calorie-conscious; I am not allergic or picky.
I just like good food.
I did once gain the freshman fifteen (ok, it was more like the freshman 20).  I've gained over 130-odd pounds - if you count this year, it'll probably top 150 - over the course of seven years and five pregnancies.  And I've already grown out of several sets of jeans just this month.    
I don't exercise regularly. Lugging a two year old up and down stairs is great weight training, and pushing a wheelchair through snow or gravel borders on a fair cardio workout.
Here's the incidental trade secret: I nurse each baby for a year or more; that seems to be the best weight loss program I've tried; I eat a ton and it melts off.
So I'm not the one to ask about diet secrets.  I'd just tell you to have more kids.  :)

But I want to eat food that tastes good.  I want to be satisfied when I'm done.  I want to have energy after I eat.  I don't believe that the FDA (ha!) or even the health food stores have the answers.  The last couple general practice docs that I've had looked sicker than I ever did.  Scientists and health books seem to contradict each other.  And I've read enough blogs to suspect I'm not alone in this quest for a sustainable, tasty, healthy food lifestyle.
I'm growing more inquisitive from having a baby with congenital abnormalities for which there is no explanation, wondering about exactly what I'm feeding all my kids, and realizing I won't be invincible forever myself.  Is diet as pivotal as all that?

So I'm going to plug a book today that may help.  It's been my guideline for health and food.  It sites age-old wisdom.  And yes, it does say to eat your veggies.
It's called the Bible.  

Don't roll your eyes. I'm serious.  My kids may tell you the answer to every question I ask them is "God."  Well, it's pretty much true.  But I realize it's practically heretical compared to current diet advice.  God's Word says eat red meat, milk, and grain.  Eat salt.  Eat butter.  In fact, set aside days for feasting in celebration, and for eating in remembrance.
Deuteronomy 32 describes Israel as the "apple of His eye" - people He loved.  He wanted the best for them.  Verse 13 starts describing the food He would give them.  "Produce from the fields (veggies and grain?), honey from the rock (glucose?), oil from the flinty rock (fats?), curds from the cattle (butter), milk of the flock (dairy), the fat of lambs, rams, and goats (meat), the choicest grain (flour), the blood of grapes (fruit).
God made all these food groups; not one is a second rate choice.
A balance is obviously necessary, but eliminating a whole food group doesn't seem Biblical.
Certainly, if you misuse good foods, you will get fat and sick and messed up.  When my babies ate too many carrots, their skin turned orange.  If I eat too many beans, I'll feel bloated.  When I eat raw garlic, I try not to breathe much in public.  There are real food allergies and bodies that simply can't digest particular foods.  If you're allergic; don't eat it!  But as a general rule, God made lots of plants and animals as food for enjoyment and blessing.  Food was not meant to be a curse.

Here's some of what I've gleaned in the past year or so.
I need meat for complete protein (I'd need to eat two cups of beans or seven cups of brown rice to get the same amount of protein as a little slab of chicken breast). It's the best source of all essential amino acids, the only source of carnitine and taurine, and the only dietary source of vitamins A and D.  Skin and muscle tone depend on meat.  It also breaks down slowly, allowing you to feel more satisfied longer.  Good meat comes at a price; so there are plenty of days when we get protein from other sources.  But as often as we are able, we get meat on the table.
(My suspicion about life without meat is that you would certainly feel better if you suddenly turned vegan and eliminated all those white starchy carbs, processed food, and sugar from your diet, while also adding lots of fresh veggies.  But trying to connect the dots to say meat - especially from healthy, pasture-raised animals - is the culprit for poor health, I suspect, misses the main offenders completely.)
God said to eat meat.  I'm gonna go with Him on this one.  Plus, I'm raising five boys and a husband.  I can't imagine any of them being happy to give up steak or chicken nuggets.

I also need fat.  Yes, I  said it.  Need.  The outer layer of your body's cells requires fat.  Your brain needs fat.  Your skin needs fat.  A woman can't reproduce without enough fat.  And saturated fat is where it's at.  (I read a lot of The Cat in the Hat... Which is neither here nor there, but I can still quote it anywhere!)  In my house, we eat coconut oil, olive oil, and lots of butter.  And lard from some local pigs.  And fermented cod liver oil.  God made these.  He didn't make margarine; Napoleon did, as a cheap substitute for the soldiers who had no access to fresh dairy products to smear on their bread to make it more palatable.  It is made from an emulsion of plant oils and water, and naturally has no color.  There's a problem with vegetable oils.  They go rancid quickly, so they have to be hydrogenated to make them shelf stable.  Forcing hydrogen through them, and heating them through cooking, turns the oils into trans fats which your body thinks are actually saturated fats.  So it sticks them into your cell walls instead of natural fats.  That's really bad.  Also, those things called fat soluble vitamins - they are vital.  But they are unusable and nonexistent without good fats to provide and process them.  Yes, skim milk has calcium, but you need the fats from the creamy part to incorporate it into your body.  Plus, dipping an Oreo in a glass of skim is close to sacrilegious.

I eat grain.  Corn, wheat, oatmeal...  They are in the Bible.  Jesus called himself the bread of life, and that wasn't a negative thing.  Unfortunately, in our country, pretty much all the grain we have access to has been significantly meddled with.  It's been chemicalized, hybridized, grown for profit over provision, and way, way overused.  Wheat, and especially corn, are in everything.  Phytic acid, which is in the protein of grain, is very difficult to digest.  Long term over abundance of it in our systems wreaks havoc.  Our bodies turn grain into glucose.  That's good; we use glucose for energy.  But a single meal in our culture usually has far too much of it.  The excess is stored in fat cells.  The abundance of it exhausts our insulin capacities, daily.  If the germ has been removed, then there is very little nutrition in it; if it is still whole grain, then it breaks down into products that interfere with hormones and vitamin absorption.  
We eat less of it the more I learn about it all.  But I have so many boys growing and burning so much energy every day, we're not willing to give it up and go against the grain.  Instead, I'm learning how to soak or sprout grains before baking or cooking, which gets rid of a lot of the phytic acid that is so difficult to handle.  My husband likes sourdough which also does this.  It's easy to feed my kids pasta; they like it and it's cheap.  Yet it's cheap on so many levels...  I can understand where the anti-gluten folks are coming from.  But fresh bread on a rainy day is too high up my comfort scale to allow it to disappear.  God intended it to be satisfying and enjoyable.

For the sake of length, I won't get into fruits and veggies or sweets and desserts.  We could all stand to eat more vegetables, and be conscious of the sugar rush we can get from even good sweet stuff.  We simply try to stay as natural, seasonal, and local as possible.  Fresh just tastes good.  I'm looking forward to peas and tomatoes still warm from the garden, and trying my hand at our own batches of saurkraut, apple pie, ice cream, cider vinegar, and dehydrated fruits as we head into fall.  They spoil my taste for things pre-made, fake sugared, and over salted.  Hope my kids learn to think they're spoiled from all the goodness too!

There aren't a whole lot of books I've read on these subjects, and there are fewer I'd recommend.  But I'll plug two (in addition to the Original, as I mentioned above.)

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, is just chock full of the basics of what is good food and how to prepare it.  I haven't read the whole thing from cover to cover, but it has been the standard food reference on my shelf for the past several years.  I know how to make broth from chicken bones because of them, and fermented stuff like kefir and sauerkraut, and even some about what foods go together well and why.  Plus there's lots of other good food stuff they don't teach in school.

Trim, Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett, is the best diet book I've ever read (also the only diet book I've ever read.)  It is practical, sensible advice from two mothers with large families.  It was just what I was looking for as I tried, with a very non-scientific mind, to grasp how different foods physiologically work in our bodies.  Their basic rule of eating is "never include large amounts of both fats and carbs in the same meal."  It works.  They also happen to look at the Bible as the basis for their food and health choices too.  Isn't that a coincidence?  They have a lot of practical advice dealing with hormones and marriage to what a kid needs nutritionally compared to an adult.  I was encouraged to get the "why" behind the much conflicting health advice we get bombarded with.

This is a recipe they present in the book.  It's become a favorite based on speed, taste, and health.

Muffin in a Mug
Crack one egg into a coffee mug.
Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons EACH of flax meal and almond flour.
Add 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder.
Add a few shakes of Nunaturals (pure stevia powder), OR a scant tablespoon of sugar (if you're like my husband and won't do stevia.)
Add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil (even fairly solid, it seems to work in fine.)
Stir vigorously.
Microwave for one minute.  (Or, you can bake it in a ramekin for about 8 minutes, but it just doesn't sound as cool as a microwaveable minute muffin...)

I usually throw a slab of butter on top, or yogurt, and it's pretty filling.  And it's chocolate.  And it's fast.  And my kids think I look funny eating out of a coffee mug.  And my two year old loves to steal bites.

Don't you feel smarter now?  I just feel hungry :)


Saturday, May 25, 2013


Cool, wet breeze wafts through the cracked window, swaying the curtains.  The lightness of lilac sweetness and Spring mud floats in on it.  My husband breathes deep beside me.  The children's room is quiet, enrobed in overcast morning coziness.  I hear a creak as the wind checks the house's solid walls.  Satisfied, it moves on.  The home is at peace.
I shift my bulging tummy and try to settle it against a pillow.  It kicks back at me.  The clock stands sentinel.  A few minutes after 5.  It's Saturday.  Homeschool is over for the year (as much as homeschool can ever be, at least.)  No one need rush this morning.  White sheets are so soft.  They fit around my lumpy edges.  I am warm.  Breathing slowly.  Languid.

But why am I awake?  Had there been a noise that brought me back to consciousness?  I hear only pattering rain and a faint tick from the downstairs clock.  I heave my body over awkwardly.  The boys' room door is still.  Did someone call me?  Long minutes pass.  My eyes close as I wait.  No voice.  Nothing audible.  But there is a sense.  I am being called.

Maybe it's just the coffee pot.  I stir and sigh.  Maybe.  But it's more than that.  Nothing tangible.  Nothing loud enough for my ears to detect.  But deeper than I can hear.  I am being called.

A line from an old Nora Jones song echoes in my brain.  It seems to come from far off.  "Come away with me..."  I heave me legs over the bedside.  The floor is cold.  "Come away with me... I'll never stop... loving you."  The stair sighs under my weight.  I hold my breath so I'll be lighter.  Hope the children don't hear my heartbeat quicken.  But nothing stirs.

Downstairs.  The clock ticks loudly now.  The refrigerator hums faithfully as I cross the kitchen threshold.  I click on the coffee pot.  The spicy warm smell of brown liquid quickens my mind, anticipating the caffeine.  Both hands clutch the familiar mug as I pad on bare feet to the sofa by the window.  Pink azaleas outside it have mostly passed.  Rain has made everything so green.  I lumber onto the cushions and settle with my Bible.  I am awake now.  Still I can almost but not quite hear.  I am being called.      
"Daughter.  Child."  It's not the voice of children.  It's older; more familiar even than my own offspring's tremulous calls.  "You have come."  I pull a small blanket over my feet.  Warmth spreads through me in welcome.  Is it from the coffee?

The pages of the big Book swish lightly.  I'm heading to Samuel.  To the book written by a prophet of God.  So long ago.  He was called.  He thought it was Eli, the aging man in the next room.  His mentor.  Samuel was young.  His ears were sharp, his body quick to react.  He jumped up from his bed and responded.  But it wasn't Eli calling him.  
It was God.

I scan the page to find where I left off yesterday.  The chapter I recognize; probably one of the first Bible stories I ever heard.  One of the first I told to my children.  One of the favorites.  Good guy verses bad guy.  Classic.  I'm tempted to gloss over to avoid repetition.  But no.  Soon I'm immersed again in the drama.  David.  Young, sunburned, indomitable, vivacious David.  Goliath.  Brazen, defiant, bullish, impatient Goliath.  Humble and untested stared up at contemptuous and seasoned.  They had no comic books to base their hopes on.  I try not to make a movie of it in my head.  This was real.  Everyone expected David to die.
His big brothers groaned.  If they lived till tomorrow, how would they ever tell their father they had allowed his youngest to battle that foul-mouthed behemoth?  His blood would be on their hands.  Where was God to save them from this reckless, impetuous, poor little brat?

His king sulked.  Tall and muscular, leader, accomplished warrior, he knew he should have accepted the Philistine challenge himself.  But shadows made him jump these days.  The men whispered together when he forbid his own brave son to battle the giant.  There must be some large but foolish brute within his army who could at least put out a decent fight before they met their doom, and he himself could flee to some cave before they were all made slaves or roadkill.  This musician boy was not what he had in mind.  How embarrassing.  Where was God to reject him and allow his kingship to be represented by a measly shepherd kid?        

His countrymen trembled.  As if they hadn't been on edge for a month, hearing the taunts and jeers from the giant echoed across the valley from the entire enemy army.  Men had been deserting daily, slipping away in the night when they could bear no more.  Endless waiting under the scorching sun as the sordid enemy beat down their morale.  This day, they hardly made pretense of secrecy or shame.  Increasing numbers of shadows darted over the hills behind the encampment.  This boy represented their proud military?!?  He had neither armor nor sword.  Where was God to stand by and let this injustice continue?  

God was waiting.  Waiting for someone to answer His call.
"Son," David heard in the recesses of his mind as he stooped to grab a handful of stones.  "You have come."

I didn't plan to fight giants today.
I changed diapers, and scrambled eggs, and wiped questionable-smelling mud off of boots.
I read library books, dashed through puddles with a two year old balanced on my 6-month-pregnant belly, ate leftover peanut butter bread.
I sopped up spilled milk, wiped tears, searched for marbles lost.
I chased three week old chickens so my disabled son could hold them.
I ate a nasty cheeseburger.
I buckled.
I unbuckled.
I went to the grocery store on a rainy Memorial Day weekend with four hungry kids right before supper.
I consoled a child who tried to clobber the friendly groundhog with a plastic hockey stick and couldn't decide if he was more upset that he didn't kill him for supper or might have hurt him and left him to suffer.
I told another child he couldn't wear all five of his favorite pairs of underwear to bed.
I made another child eat his broccoli even after he spit the first chewed bite out.    
I made another child cry when I removed the bowl of rice he was deliberately spooning into the recesses behind his booster chair.
I killed a spider.
I brought my husband a surprise coffee at work (and a lot of kids who wanted him to buy them stuff.)
I protected children from the scary automatic flush toilets in a public restroom.
I chased a train in the rain (in the van) just to watch it go over the bridge.
I said yes.
I said no.
I said just be quiet I can't hear myself think.
I said I love you.
I kissed a hurt toe.
I kissed a hurt forehead.
I removed scotch tape from a stuffed animal.
I did dishes.
I vacuumed.
I tucked and re-tucked in.
I blogged.
I survived.

And, somehow, though I didn't expect it, the giants are dead.

He called.  I answered.  I'm so glad I did.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


It's the season.  Spring.  Ahh.  Sweet warm breezes wafting through newly-opened windows.  The kids (and I) would be much happier spending our days outside, sucking in sunshiny vitamin D and planting pretty things.  But we're trying to finish the school year without drowning in it; I'm smacking hard into the third trimester of this pregnancy, and have no constructive plans for Summer other than surviving it, which isn't terribly motivating...  It's May here.  How is it going for you?

I MAY take impromptu naps while the boys are supposed to be doing their reading homework with me.

I MAY have Spring cleaning lists written out in triplicate, but I pull the ligaments around my tummy every time I get off the couch.

I MAY have ordered pizza instead of grinding and soaking my own grain to make fresh homemade dough on a long night when my hubby was working late.  (I know; how could I?!?)

I MAY have felt like a terrible teacher when my kid claimed he had no idea how to carry the ones in his adding problems.  He's been doing it well for months.  But when Daddy asked - he suddenly forgot.

I MAY have thrown away some of my children's artwork from the past school year.  Shhh.

I MAY have left the trash can super full and stubbornly waited for my husband to notice it and take it out.  (Though I was the one who couldn't stand the smell.)

I MAY have broken one of my personal cardinal rules.  I ate ice cream alone.  I am ashamed.  A bit.

I MAY need fellowship with actual grown ups, but can't find the energy to clean house or the humility to invite someone over when I haven't mopped in weeks (I MAY need to hurry up and order a new mop head instead of rubbing sticky spots with a paper towel under my toe...)

I MAY have turned on Sesame Street so I could take a late, long shower in peace.  Several times.

I MAY have needed a glass of water but opted for a second cup of coffee instead.

I MAY be losing sight of my toes below my tummy.

I MAY be over-planning a garden that will need attention in August, when I'm nine months' pregnant (and then post-partum.)

I MAY feel a little cooped up when it is gorgeous weather outside, but I still have a mountain of laundry, sink full of dishes, and a catch-up history lesson still to complete before nap time, or else I have to leave it till after bed time or for another day.  Chores don't just disappear because the air got warm.

I MAY have gotten my favorite pregnant skirt smeared with something unmentionable when the naked toddler got excited after bathing, and had to change into unforgiving not-pregnant pants that I can't bend over in and simultaneously breathe.  (Really should have dealt with that laundry pile.)

I MAY have contemplated my options as I watched the big spider crawl frantically around the ceiling over my head while I sat, helpless, in the bathroom.  (Isn't that the age-old conundrum - If you scream in the bathroom, and there are only four young children to hear you and come panic/and/or try to save the spider/kill it with a plunger above your head - could you resist the urge to scream if said spider landed on your head while you were indisposed?)

I MAY have found both gum and puffy glitter paint partially dried on the diaper bag.  But I could not find diapers in it when I looked.

I MAY have gone through a whole box of Angry Bird band aids on all the new boo boos after the boys pulled out their tricycles and scooters.  (Note: not all boo boos actually needed a band aid or ten...)

I MAY not be saving much money by planting a garden this year if I factor in the water bill from all the help I've had with the hose this month.

I MAY need to find a better way to wander around frog ponds this summer than lugging a 2 and a half year old on my pregnant belly while he inadvertently tries to decapitate me with his slimy frog net.  We just may not engage in this inexpensive, muddy, but kid-favorite summer activity so much this season...

I MAY be stocking up on good tissues as some sort of spring fever makes its snuffly rounds through the kids.  (And some shoulder pads for me that will protect my shirt shoulders from the snotty cuddles.)

I MAY have grumbled about the sun rising earlier.  It helps me wake more easily, but I'm not the only one.  Wish you could teach a 2 year old to tell time (and abide by it.)

I MAY have left dishes to marinate in the sink while I started a blog post...

I MAY need to regroup before we head into June.

Life in color.

Some months are just like that.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cold Rice

This story of motherhood is not full of dandelion bouquets, ice cream, safety and comfort.  But I hope I can be more like this faithful woman's mother as I continue on my own parenting journey.

My mother, in a quiet place, with her grandson.

Esther Ahn Kim's mother had neither church nor Bible.  She taught her daughter to live by four tenets that a missionary had taught her when she was a child:
1. Jesus is the only Son of God and is the only Savior.
2. Jesus will never forsake his believers.
3. Jesus is able to take all the misfortunes of believers and turn them into good.
4. Jesus hears the prayers of his children.

My mother was one of those persons who always lived for others.  Once a week she filled a sack with aspirin, salve, candy, and tissue paper and visited the poor.  I had never seen her eat warm rice.  She would always cook a large amount of rice at one time.
"If I have plenty of cooked rice," she told me when I asked her about it, "I can give some to a beggar when he comes.  In order to follow Jesus, I think we should always be prepared to give to others."
Mother was so different from the other members of my father's household.  They only gave away that which they did not want to keep for themselves.  They seemed to hate each other and only lived from day to day.  They had no God, no holy day, no true joy of confidence.  Wherever Mother was, it was like a chapel of heaven around her.

By 1939, most missionaries had left Korea because the Japanese occupation endangered the local people when they had contact with them.  Everyone was commanded to only speak Japanese and take on Japanese surnames.  Those who didn't comply would lose their jobs and their children wouldn't be allowed in school.
  Shrines were built in every city, and small ones were placed in every school, church, and house.  It became a rule that every Korean must bow before the shrines.  Esther was a music teacher when her school was called to a rally at a great shrine in Seoul.  She had no choice but to go, though she felt very much like she was marching to her own execution as she led her students up the mountain.  The bold words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego echoed against the fear in her mind.

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But if not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.  
Daniel 3:17-18

In eerily coincidental fashion, the order came to bow.  As one, the entire great crowd obeyed, bending the upper half of their bodies at a straight angle.
Only one person remained standing.

Four detectives were waiting in her classroom; her students watched as Esther was led away for her brazen disobedience.  Though she managed to slip away before being incarcerated, she felt the need to prepare herself for the cold prison cell ultimately awaiting her.  She slipped onto a train, and her mother met her in the far north, near the Manchurian border, where the two of them found an isolated, deserted house.  This place was both retreat and preparation.  Her mother knew Esther's fear and frailty, but she also knew the strength of God.  She did not try to keep her daughter from impending suffering.  She helped her prepare for it.
In the weeks they were there, Esther memorized hymns and over 100 chapters of the Bible.  She fasted for longer and longer periods, even from water.  She slept without a quilt.  She practiced living in deep poverty, eating rotten beans and poor produce.  She expected it would only be worse in the prison camps.  She had many clandestine meetings with persecuted Christians who already hid in the mountains and could tell her their stories of torture and pain.  All too soon, she heard the Japanese knew of her whereabouts, and she had to flee.  Alone.

It was hard for Mother to see me leave... The tears flowed as I thought of Mother, who was left alone now with her aching heart.  She would be even more dependent upon the Lord than before.

When next they met, Esther's mother told her "The time has come for you to prepare yourself to die."  So, as Esther put it, she started "practicing to die."  In fact, she felt a burden to go to the Japanese and tell them of their wrong before God.  She left Korea and headed for Tokyo.  No longer waiting for death, Esther was diving into it.  Her mother watched her determine to follow God's directing, saying, "Concerning your going to warn the Japanese authorities, I can think of many things that make me feel that God has planed this for you since you were a child."
Esther and a friend made their way upward, talking and preaching to many in authority throughout the capital.  Finally they made it into the Japanese legislature.  They spoke boldly.  They were arrested.

Esther spent the next 6 years in prison, mostly in Pyongyang.  Often she expected to die.  She used the time to speak and live before many other prisoners and guards.  But years of cold, sickness, harsh treatment, and little food aged and weakened her body.  At one point, the prison doctor asked that she be released because she was growing blind and had frostbitten feet.  She met her mother outside.  The matron woman's figure was waif-thin and she hobbled painfully.  She remonstrated her daughter, explaining what life was like beyond the prison's brick walls.

We can get nothing except by rationing... We eat anything we can get... Because of these, I am blind; I cannot see your face... We can't get fuel.  My feet are so frostbitten I can hardly walk.  A citizen who is loyal to God has no place in this world.  Christians in prison are dying, but so are the believers outside...  Didn't you give everything to the Lord, including your eyes?

Esther thanked her mother for reminding her of reality, then asked the guard to return her to her frigid cell.  "I have never seen anything like this before," said the Korean senior officer.  "The daughter is great.  The mother is greater."

Thirty-four Christians had entered Pyongyang prison in 1940.  On August 17, 1945, when the cells were opened and the Japanese occupation was over, fourteen had survived.  Esther and her family fled from North Korea, where the Russian occupation would prove to be worse even than the Japanese.  In Seoul, she met her husband.  She'd always wanted to marry an engineer; but her mother had always hoped she'd marry a pastor.  Esther said, "Mother and I had competed against each other in our prayers.   We both laughed at our predicament."  It wasn't long before Esther's husband gave up his engineering work to become a pastor.

Esther's mother was nurturing and very caring.  But her sympathy did not make her soft.  She was not stoic, but managed to be strong and courageous in the face of both her and her own daughter's intense suffering.  It is agonizingly difficult to speak the prayer, "Do whatever You will with my child," knowing that it may very well not be physical comfort, ease or happiness.
Yet I suspect there was never a mother prouder of her child, or a child more loved and prayed for than Esther Ahn Kim.

I always felt strengthened when I talked with Mother about God and His love.  I began to think that life might be worth living in this time of persecution.  It might even be a truer picture of the believer to agonize, to suffer, to be hated, and tortured, and even to be killed in obeying God's words rather than to live an ordinary, uneventful life. 
-Esther Ahn Kim

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you... Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12

(Most of this story was taken from the book, Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper.  Piper obtained the quotes and biography from If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim.)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Be Littled

Oh, to be a kid again!  Or at least, to be like a kid...

The Bible says that's actually something us old folks are supposed to attempt.  I have had a fair amount of opportunity to study kids.  (I read once that to truly be considered a master at something, you have to spend at least 10,000 hours doing or practicing for it.  If you only count the 2+ years I've parented a minimum of 4 boys 24/7, then I have over 18,000 hours under my belt.  Yes, I counted night time in there too.  Plenty of humble mommy-ing happens in the wee hours.)  A fair amount.
By now, I have noticed a few reasons why Jesus might have encouraged us to emulate the children.

1. Kids are naturally happy.
My children automatically tend to look at glasses as half full - even if for no other reason than that makes it more fun to dump out.  They aren't generally depressed.  They embrace life, as if it's an exciting adventure.  Even going to Walmart gets their heart pumping (It does mine too, but not from joy.)  It's infectious (Ever been grumpy around a three year old giggling uproariously?  It's not easy.)  
Rejoice always.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

2. Kids wake up eagerly.
"It's five a.m.?  Yay!  What are we waiting for?  Let's get this day rolling!  C'mon, sleepyhead brothers, let's sing!  Help Mom get moving so she doesn't miss out."  (Honestly, they have to stay quietly in their room until 7, but especially the littlest ones don't get this for a while.  Maybe it's just in my house...)
...She also rises while it is yet night...  Proverbs 31:15

3. Kids trust.
Parents have to teach their kids not to talk to strangers.  Why?  Because their natural tendency is to want to trust.  Really, more often than not, this is to their advantage.  My boys have gotten free balloons, candy, money, attention, cheese, and puppies (ok, no puppies... yet) simply by holding out their hands and believing the big people in charge of those things would share the good they had. Surprisingly often, they're right.
The children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

4. Kids ask for what they need.
Even babies grasp this concept.  Want food?  Cry for it.  Need comfort?  Hold up your arms for a hug.  A kid doesn't sit around worrying about not having it.  He goes right to the source (in his mind) of everything he needs.  And he expects an answer.
Ask, and it will be given to you...  Matthew 7:7
5.  Kids are curious.
They are humble enough to admit they don't know "why" or "how."  So they try to find out.  This is similar to the former point.  It goes beyond asking, though.  They experiment, they poke, they test gravity and Mom's limits.  They want to know what "exterminate" means, and why you can't usually see the moon in the daytime, and which kind of ice cream can they have for breakfast.  (The kind with oatmeal and nothing from the freezer, fyi.)
I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven... Ecclesiasties 1:13

6.  Kids touch.
Up here in the northeast, natives are fairly reserved.  We don't hug a lot, link elbows for a stroll, caress in public, or even poke people on Facebook.  Our west coast friends teased us constantly in our college days for being so physically inhibited.   Maybe it has something to do with the cold weather; we're just cooler in our interactions.  Most folks I know will bend over backwards to help someone in need, but don't expect backslapping or sharing a sofa with only one cushion.  I remember in the early days with the first baby, laughing about how much constant contact a newborn afforded.  It was foreign (though not unpleasant.)  My kids have no such inhibitions.  They hug, they cuddle, they keep each other in almost constant headlocks.  My four year old is ninja master of attack hugs from behind.  The two year old isn't an ankle biter, he's more of an ankle clinger.  They literally need physical contact to grow, both bodily and mentally.  So - they touch.  They reach out.  They grab and cling to me.
Love the Lord your God, serve Him, and cleave unto (cling to) Him...  Deuteronomy 11:22

7.  Kids are so tough.
My boys aren't very breakable.  They've fallen down the stairs.  They've gotten up close and personal, at high speed, with the pavement beneath their bikes.  They've been bumped, and scraped, and smushed, and strained - all within just the last week.  My two year old son has had a handful of surgeries already - spine, brain, the nether regions...  The surgical wounds healed in days.  I would be a miserable helpless ball of pain for weeks if you did that stuff to me.  I think often they must be made of rubber.  They feel pain, certainly, and cry, and come limping to Mom for a hug and a band aid.  But within minutes, even if they're still bleeding, they are back to giggling and playing.
Be strong and of good courage... Joshua 1:6

8.  Kids are powerful.
Arrows filling up my quiver.  Children are often looked at as lumpy, snotty baggage in our culture.  They are expensive, time-wasting, whining debt makers that only the people who've already lived the good life are supposed to condescend to birth, twice, maybe three times, and then raise them to school age, at which point they can finally get back to their real, meaningful lives and careers.  (That may be a bit overblown; I'm trying to make a point.)  I'll admit, when I think of my kids, I don't always look at them as gifts, rewards, and or even as particularly useful.  Arrows?  Arrows are tools, exactingly made for a purpose.  They are mighty.  Arrows have the power to kill; they can be used to start or end wars, to make provisions, to hit a mark.  I've seen my littlest kids melt the stern demeanor of the most stoic old women.  Careless hard living men have had their seared consciences smote by innocent eyes of children staring up at them.  They've certainly been used to shape my life.  They've helped define my purpose and priorities; their very weaknesses make me bolder to fight, and gladly.  They are gifts, precious, costly, and I will defend them as such.  I hope God uses each of them to show the way into the joy of His kingdom for many more.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but speak with their enemies in the gate.  Psalm 127:4-5

I wouldn't go back to being five again.  Those were fun days of running around in tutus, playing Barbies, catching frogs, and being generally amazed by puffy clouds, graham crackers and apple juice.  I reveled in the good that God did, taking it for granted.  I wouldn't go back, because I want to be the mommy and wife that I get to be now, but I don't want to forget those innocent days.
Jesus liked to refer to himself as the Son of Man.  He didn't say he was King of the World, though he was.  He didn't say he was the Man of all men, though he was.  Not the macho-ist, or the wisest, or the richest, strongest, or nicest, though he definitely was.  He identified himself as a son.  One who was younger, simpler, humbler than the grownups.  Though he had it all, knew it all, was it all, he became a squalling helpless infant.  A dirty, tousled, sniffly preschooler.  An awkward, bucktoothed 8 year old.  An acne-prone, hormonal teenager.  And he did it on purpose.
...For of such is the kingdom of God.  Mark 10:14

That settles it.  I'm digging out a graham cracker from the stash in the diaper bag and going to spend some time with my Father.  Every Bible can handle a few crumbs between the pages sometimes.  It could be the forgotten secret to making 5 a.m. look a bit brighter now that I'm so old.  If not, there's always Cheerios...


Monday, April 29, 2013

Days that Don't

That week was simply hard.

Deadly bombing in Boston.
Lethal explosion in Texas.
My husband didn't get the expected promotion.
The kids were cranky and unruly.
The toilet clogged.
Vacuumed up my engagement ring.
And mud season started.

Life was dirty, messy, incomprehensible.  Plain old muddy, inward and out.  

At bed time, the five year old burrowed down into his blankets on the bottom bunk.  "Mommy," he confided, "Dark is scary.  Why does God have to be so invisible?"

I've asked that myself.
Where was He when my father was diagnosed with cancer in his forties?
Where was He when my son's spinal cord was being irremediably formed in a bubble outside his fetal spine, rendering his lower legs feelingless for life?
Where was He when I lost my temper after praying all morning for patience?
Where was He as my son's clear eyes gazed up searchingly into my face that evening?

I breathed out slowly, trying to shush the harried voice in my head urging me to close the bedroom door and move on to the dirty dishes, the muddy floor, a moment of quiet with my husband before our own bedtime.  This was bigger.

"Well... God is so big.  He is so real.  I think He must be even more "real" than our bodies could handle.  Maybe if we saw Him all the time, it would just be too much... I don't really understand it myself."  I finished lamely, brushing his fuzzy head.  "We'll have to talk more in the morning."

The next day, I dished out scrambled eggs and waited as the fight over favorite forks subdued to quiet munching.

"You know how you were so excited the day of your birthday, you felt like it was too much joy to keep inside?  And when you scraped your hands and legs all up and told me the pain was too much... You guys are tough, but you can still hurt..."

He nodded.  Even little superheroes know they're not invincible.

"And eventually, this body will get old.  You'll need a new one.  I think that new one will be made to handle all the joy of heaven, and it will be able to handle seeing God."

"Like this body is just for practice?" He seemed to follow me.

"I think so." I agreed.  "What we do matters now, but I think it will all be just a shadow of a dream compared to the real life we get to live next."

"In that next life, I want to live in a red jello house."  He happily told me a favorite thought.  "And my real body will be able to eat it, and bounce in it, and not get sick from eating too much sugar all the time."

And there went the conversation.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
2 Corinthians 4:17

The phantom pain of missing feet doesn't distract from the raw emotion of losing limbs to a bomb.
The hypothetical promise from insurance companies hardly lessens the ache over lifetimes of built memories suddenly leveled in Texas.
The crushing pain of loved ones irrevocably gone barely loosens its grip long enough for those families to take another breath.
It is hard, unimaginably heavy.  The pain seems interminable.

I breathe in the warm scent of sweat and sunshine on my two year old's hair as I scoop him out of the sandbox.  He gazes longingly at his brothers racing their scooters on the pavement.  It aches to watch him begin to realize he can't move like them.  We strap him into heavy metal braces and he stands, defying gravity, for a moment.  But the weight of his own body is too heavy for him to bear alone for now.  It is hard.  It will be, his whole life long.
Yet it is all "but for a moment."

Someday, I know, that unbearable weight will be but a memory compared to the gloriously free body he will be running around in.  Life will be so clear and beautiful.  So real.
And it won't be like looking through rose colored glasses.
Even from a red jello house.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oreos and granola

There I was.  Barefoot and pregnant.  Grinding my own grain.  Dirty children everywhere, playing with sticks.  This was yesterday.
It's happened.  I've turned into a hippy.

I didn't mean to.  I didn't want to.  But it struck me the other morning as I washed my hair with baking soda and cider vinegar and thought through the homeschool morning plans - I'm really starting to go granola.

Maybe it's not too serious yet.  I mean, at least I do still wash my hair.  And I do buy boxes of macaroni and cheese.  And drive a relative gas-guzzler.  And daily interact with my Keurig.

I think it was reading about fluoride-in-water debates that put me over the edge.  From much of what I can find, it's toxic to ingest, Hitler used it to keep prisoners docile, it's illegal to dump into rivers, and causes a lot of dental discoloration, particularly for children.  But many towns put it in drinking water and toothpaste, at least they have since the end of the world war when we had a surplus of the stuff.  I've always been told it was good for you; but if all - or any - of this discrepancy is true, then I'm disturbed by the conflict.
And that's just one.

Yes, I know there's a lot of misinformation out there.  There's a lot of doom and gloom reports and conspiracy theories.  And it would be easier to just pass the blame for personal health and wealth difficulties onto large, faceless organizations.

This blog isn't meant to be political.  It's not a foodie blog.  There are plenty of those out there, and I've been known to read them.  But it's not always theological or philosophical.  This is tidbits of my life and lessons I've learned along the way, particularly through mommyhood.  Recently, more and more, I am disturbed rather than placated when I read about mass production and political control of the basic necessities of life.  Assembly lines have their place, after all.  But when it comes down to genetically modifying grain and corn that I want to feed my kids, making it less digestible and nutritious, all in the name of greater output and income for mega companies like Monsanto, eh, it's disheartening.
I want to trust the FDA to tell me food is safe and wholesome.  I want to rely on the CDC to supply safe and effective vaccines and medicines.  I want to believe my government has the interests of its people at heart.  I want to...
According to the Bible, which I hold as my highest authority, my body is the temple of God.  Ultimately, I answer to Him for what I do with/to it.  My children are my responsibility to raise physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Not the government's.  And I am supposed to be wise with my time and a good steward of my resources because I'm quite sure He has made them and then given them to me.  I don't hug trees, I teach kids to climb them, because I'm not particularly worried about a sustainable earth.  He ultimately plans to make a new one anyway.  I'm not out to blame politicians or corporations if they don't look after my health and wellness as well as I would like.  It's my job, not theirs, when it comes down to pointing fingers.

Homemade something or other.

So I'm making my own yogurt today and planning my garden.
After I showered this morning, I sprayed the bathroom fixtures with white vinegar to clean them and make them shine.  When Ben scooched himself in to see what was keeping me, I let him attempt the spray bottle, because I wasn't worried about him getting it on his skin (though he did smell a bit funny till it dried off.)
Making up a fresh batch of deodorant and grating soap to make into laundry powder are still on my list, perhaps after the kids are in bed.
The microwave is used more for a time keeper than a food-heater.
I grind my own grain and am looking for a good place to buy old grain versions that haven't been genetically altered. (If anyone knows where to buy einkorn grain in bulk for less than a fortune, send me a message!)
I compost.
I use the clothesline all summer.  (Clothes just smell fresher.)
Coconut oil is my baby's diaper rash treatment, I fry my eggs in it, and slather it all over my face every day.  (And I do keep it in separate containers for each of the above uses.)
Supper will involve hamburger from local, pasture-raised cows (probably as meatloaf.)
My oldest son is spending the afternoon helping Grampy build a chicken house so we can all have fresh eggs in a few months.
I'm researching ways to deal with a low functioning thyroid to figure out what causes it and what's the best way to fix it.
Edible cultured things grow on my countertops.
The hand soap in the pump by the sink - I know what's in it, because I made it.
In the past month, I've learned to render lard and make dishwasher soap.
I'm wading through mounds of vaccine debates.
Essential oils have a special place in my cupboard.
The two year old actually likes getting his cod liver oil.
I think about making magnesium oil in my spare time.
I'm willing to fight a bit to have a natural birth rather than schedule a c-section for my baby as long as we're both healthy, even though the last child had to arrive surgically.

I'm not militant about it all, at least not yet.  We bought Doritos for my four year old son's birthday this past weekend, and dyed his scrambled eggs so we could have green eggs and ham.  (FYI, bacon doesn't dye well.)  I still shop at big box stores for toilet paper.  I still buy disposable diapers.  (Gasp.  I know.  That's real life.)  There are Cheerios in the cupboard.  I occasionally pull out the bleach if there's been a particularly nasty event in the bathtub.  I like nice shoes.  I only let my legs grow fuzzy in deepest, darkest winter.  And I will never convert to carob over chocolate.  You can quote me on that one.

So among the au naturale folks, I'm far too commercialized to fit in.
Among those of the current culture, I'm far too out of the loop to commiserate with their daily life.      

I will fight you if you try to give my baby soy-based formula after he's born.  I think that stuff's horrendously terrible, especially for newborns.  But if you are over for lunch, you may see a horde of children eating store-bought frozen chicken nuggets.  It happens.
In fact, I'm going to go dig out the Oreos and milk so my 4 year old and I can have a treat before his brothers come home from Grampy's.  Double stuffed.  Times like that are every bit as important to me as eating spinach from the backyard garden.  At least the milk is from grass-fed, local cows...

And then I'm going to make granola.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

At last, God comes first.

No one would have blamed her for staying home.
No one would have said she was wrong.
No one would have disagreed with her logic.

The plan now laid before her was to spend a year traveling unreached northern portions of China at the beginning of the 20th century.  It meant transient life, poor sanitation and living conditions, far from anywhere, threat of rampant smallpox, diphtheria, and scarlet fever epidemics constantly.  She had buried four children already.  The family had almost died many times during the Boxer Rebellion.  Rosalind Goforth agonized as her husband Jonathan asked her and their three youngest children to join him now on this new venture.

In my innermost soul I knew the call had come from God, but I would not pay the price. My one plea in refusing to enter that life was the risk to the children.

Again and again my husband urged that "the safest place" for myself and the children "was the path of duty"; that I could not keep them in our comfortable home at Changte, but "God could keep them anywhere." Still I refused. 
Just before reaching our station he begged me to reconsider my decision. When I gave a final refusal, his only answer was, "I fear for the children."

I have honestly never been in this woman's shoes.  There have been dark times, hard times, painful times of learning to trust God's leading when I could not see the path before me.  But I have only felt the faintest inkling of difficulty compared to many that have gone before me.  Is it possible to learn a lesson just from someone else's example?

The very day after reaching home our dear Wallace was taken ill. For weeks we fought for his life; at last the crisis passed and he began to recover. Then my husband started off alone on his first trip! He had been gone only a day or two when our precious Constance, a year old, was taken down with the same disease that Wallace had. From the first there seemed little or no hope. The doctors, a nurse, and all the little mission circle joined in the fight for her life. Her father was sent for, but arrived just as she was losing consciousness. 
A few hours later, when we were kneeling round her bedside waiting for the end, my eyes seemed suddenly opened to what I had been doing -- I had dared to fight against Almighty God.

In the moments that followed God revealed Himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself to Him with unspeakable joy. Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to Him wherever He might lead. 

I saw at last that God must come first.

As I write this, eighteen years have passed since we started on that first trip, and none of our children has died. Never had we as little sickness as during that life. 

Oh me of little faith!  To know God as dearly as this woman did would mean I must trust Him as fully. I get upset when we have to disrupt nap time!  How much I have to learn!  A long, typical Monday is enough to ruffle my feathers.  But to have such a relationship with my Creator as she did, I have barely dared to indulge for fear of the difficulty.  Yet I know it is worth it all.  Incomparably.

Trust the hands that guide you...

As I recall those years of touring life with our children, words fail me to tell of all the Lord's goodness to them and me. Though there were many hard, hard places, these were but opportunities for special grace and help. 
Many times, when discouraged almost to the point of never going out again with the children, there would come evidence that the Lord was using our family life, lived among the people, to win them to Christ. Then I would take new courage, and go again. It is so true that:

We may trust Him fully
All for us to do;
Those who trust Him wholly
Find Him wholly true.     

(All italicized words quoted from How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth.  Chapter 6.)