Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"I thought you said we needed to rest?!"

"The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." 
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowed, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.  
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages!  Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five - and two fish."
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people it down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.  Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people.  He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.  The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand."
I needed time.  The immense needs of my family were overwhelming.  I was ashamed of the voice I heard coming from my mouth.  The visible reminders that having three bodies that require constant supervision lest they destroy things or harm themselves or each other, and the thought that things are going to get worse before they get better when the 4th becomes mobile and also requires constant supervision, came crashing down on me so hard I could barely hold my head up.  I found myself clutching my coffee and sitting on the couch staring into space, hanging onto sanity by a thread.  I felt I was fighting sitting in a corner, beating my head against the wall.

I realized the stupor I was slipping into, recognizing a place I'd been before.  I don't want to go there again.  So I thought I'd take some time to read Scripture.  I'd recently had a blog post arrive in my email about controlling anger as a mom, and one of the things mentioned was that even Jesus said to be by yourself in a quiet place, quoting Mark 6.  Of course, I was frustrated by the fact that I wasn't even able to use the bathroom yesterday without someone putting butter in their hair, so I wasn't sure how I was supposed to accomplish alone time without disaster spreading.  But I sat down in the floor of the bedroom, turned to Mark 6, and started reading.

I smiled when Mark records they didn't even have a chance to eat.  Don't young mothers know what that's like!  One day this week it was 2pm before I had anything besides coffee, and I'd been up since before 7.  I was a bit jealous when I read they went away to a solitary place; must be nice to be a man and not have to take the kids with you. But then I realized what the next story was.

Not only do they not get to enjoy solitude because Jesus teaches the people that followed them, but He turns to them and tells them to feed them.  They're exhausted.  Probably hungry.  Worn out.  Stressed.  And were hoping for some time to rest and recharge.  And now they're being asked to serve?  From the very guy that told them to get some rest?  In frustration, I imagine, they point out how expensive that is, and I'm sure they were also thinking they didn't want to go shopping and cook and spend more time on their feet.

But what does Jesus do?  He performs a miracle.  He spreads their resources beyond anything imaginable and enables them to serve in the way He asked.

And at that moment, in walks a crying Karen, face covered in snot and missing her pants, hair still messy from the butter escapade yesterday.  And she puts her head on my shoulder.  I pull her into my lap and realize she has a dirty diaper.

Yes, Jesus said they needed to rest.  And God says He will lead us beside quiet waters.  But that doesn't mean we're actually going to get to rest in the here and now.  He is capable of spreading my resources beyond anything I could imagine.  My patience.  My kindness.  My mental strength and creativity to deal with the challenges of multiple toddlers.  He has expanded our material resources and proven Himself capable of providing.  He is just as capable of providing for the mental and spiritual and emotional needs as He is the monetary and practical needs.  What an incredible realization.  What an awesome God.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bountiful Baskets Adventures

Since moving to the middle of nowhere, I have been challenged to find quality fresh produce for reasonable prices.  The girls love fresh fruit, but even bananas aren't good quality here just because of the distance they have to be transported.  And everything is more expensive.

Despite hearing about it before I ever moved out here, I just recently began participating in the Bountiful Baskets coop.  I've been extremely pleased with the amount we receive for the price, and the quality is much better than I can typically find in the stores.  I've not had decent strawberries since we left Tennessee, but my last basket included some that tasted like they were straight from heaven.  I really didn't want to share them with the kids!

Because it's a coop, you don't pick and choose what is included in your baskets.  I'm a boring shopper since the range of fruits and vegetables I've been exposed to is rather narrow, so this has been a great way of adding variety to our diets and exposing the girls to new things.  There are many things I won't buy at a store because I don't know if we'll like it or have no idea how to prepare it, but when it's already in the fridge I don't want it to go to waste.  We discovered we love pluots thanks to this new adventure in eating. I learned about avocados, made homemade guacamole, and now have some mushed and frozen just waiting for CJ to be ready for something besides rice cereal.

But today... we had the adventure of artichokes.  I didn't even know what they were when I picked up my basket Saturday.  But I'd heard of artichokes so a quick Google Image search confirmed that is what they were.  Another search led me to a Wiki-How article for how to prepare and eat them.

They tasted okay.

The girls love them.

I won't be buying them at the store.

I mean, really, who came up with the idea of eating these things?  At 65 calories per artichoke, I'm pretty sure I expended more calories trying to get the miniscule amount of edible... stuff?... out of them than I actually consumed.

Not exactly the most toddler-friendly meal

This...

...yielded this.
Now, the rest of the meal, which included steamed broccoli from our Basket, and made-up-on-the-fly stir fry of chicken, orange peppers (also a new food for me from Bountiful Baskets), onions, a few artichoke leaves as an experiment, and on my and Kelly's plates mushrooms and water chestnuts, seasoned with soy sauce and Dale's, was much more filling and also a big hit.  Despite their bulging bellies, I also gave the girls fresh cantaloupe from our Basket as "dessert."

I think I could get used to actually having fresh foods on hand. =)  Although, I can live without the artichokes.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Drowning in Blessings

"You've got your hands full!"

I couldn't count how many times I've been told that in the last 2 years.  No one thinks you have your hands full with one child who appears healthy.  But add another child less than a year later, and your hands are suddenly full.  Add a third child a year and a half later and you are guaranteed to hear that phrase every time you go out.  And if they see you out with the puppy too...

So I've developed a mental list of comebacks for that oft-repeated phrase.  The simplest is, "Yes, I do!"  If I feel exceptionally spiritual that day, I might say "Yes, full of blessings!"  When I'm sick, my response has been "No kidding."  If I only have two children with me, I might tell the person "this isn't all of them, there's another at home."

I frequently feel overwhelmed.  Like I'm barely treading water.  Basically, I'm drowning in blessings. They are blessings that are wearing me down, stressing me out, and turning me into someone I don't want to be.

Or am I allowing it to happen?

The saying goes that you can't change or control anything but yourself.  Now granted, I'm trying to change my children.  If I didn't try to change them, they'd be in pretty sorry shape when they turned 18.  I'm trying to change my dog.  Little puppy bites are sort of cute annoyance.  Big dog bites are a hazard.

But what am I doing to change myself?

My husband mentioned something he'd like me to work on last week, and my immediate mental response was, "I can't."  I caught myself before I said it out loud and realized, that's a pretty lousy attitude to have. Why can't I?  Because I'm a mom?  Because my kids are close in age?  I have a ready list of excuses for just about anything extra. While my children do limit what I can do, I'm setting myself up for failure and a continued trend of under-achiever by immediately shifting into the mental mode of "I can't."

So when I finally got a minute to take a shower today, I did some soul searching.  In between the prayers of "God please don't let the dog electrocute himself while I'm in here," I determined that I'm expecting myself to change without doing anything to help the change along.  Oh, I need to do a better job at cooking, cleaning, teaching, laundry, decorating, you name it... But just saying it isn't doing me any good.  I'm just letting more responsibilities pile up and getting further behind in everything.

The more behind I get, the more stressed I get.  The more cluttered and messy my house is, the more clenched and uptight I get.  I lose patience.  I can't focus on anything. And I get plain old hateful.

So I believe I finally listened to God's command to DO something.  To make a change.  It's one I've thought of before, often in fact, and yet always had an excuse. I still have excuses but I'm working around them.

I'm cutting ties with Facebook.

For a week. =)

Wow, you might say, a whole week, that's a great sacrifice.  In sarcasm, of course.

Little steps.  We'll see what happens. And after a week, I'll re-evaluate.  Did I get more accomplished?  Am I less stressed? Or am I so isolated and desperate for adult conversation that I'm driving my husband crazy?

I do have a few people I want to keep up with as they have babies or as their children have health problems.  I'll probably post pictures at the end of my week. But the scrolling, the window shopping into people's lives, the black box of time, is what I'm wanting to separate from.  Just to see what happens.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One day, I'll get around to catching up on this blog.  At least I kept Ladybug's story updated on her CaringBridge site, although there's a lot more "mommy perspective" I'd like to record here.  Someday...

But for today, I need to get something off my heart and into words.

There's not enough time.

Seems ironic that I am taking the time to type that.

But it's clogging up my brain till I need to get my thoughts out, and then maybe I can come up with some solutions.

I'm not talking about just having time to do the dishes and laundry and sweep.  I struggle with that.  But there's so much more I want to do, and I feel like time is slipping through my fingers like sand.

My two girls are primed for learning.  They are absorbing everything.  Repeating everything I say.  Picking up on things we say often without even realizing it.  Learning songs. Memorizing.  And I want to capture this time and sink truth deep into them so that it's always there.  Verses, songs, principles of life.  And I want them surrounded by beauty and order.  And I want them to start making memories.

But at the end of the day, I look back and wonder, what did I do today?  I survived.  Barely. Three meals on the table, or at least on the high chair trays, a few tablespoons of pee in the toddler potty, a few more in the floor, a few books read, a few blocks stacked, many many many many many many many "stop, no, don't, be nice, be loving, leave your sister alone, let your brother sleep, gentle, don't pull hair, share" over and over...

And this is where I start wondering why I thought 3 children in less than 3 years was a good idea. Because this is it.  This is the only chance I get.  I don't get a do-over.  I don't get to realize any mistakes and fix them for the next kid.  I don't get to savor these little years.  (Well, it just seems a lot harder.)  They are flying by, and I'm going to blink and I'm going to have three elementary schoolers.  And then heaven help me three teenagers.  And then they'll be gone.

I'm doggy paddling.  Holding my head above water, occasionally sinking under but then fighting my way back up for air.  But that's not a fun way to swim. Just listen to Ladybug's screams from the community pool every night for the last two weeks during "Aquatots."  But then there's Turkey's new found style of swimming: drifting.  She floats with her little behind up in the air and has no control over her direction.  She floats whichever way the current takes her.  And I don't want to parent like that either, aimlessly being carried towards whichever focus is being talked about on the radio today.

What's the verse, something about redeeming the time?  And then I read horrible news stories about children, sexting and being preyed upon by sick people, and I watch poorly behaved children and adults, and I wonder how in the world I'm supposed to train them right.  I need 40 years, not 18.  Holy cow.

I guess that's why we're commanded to teach when we lie down and rise up and walk along the road.  That's the only way you have a hope of teaching them all they need to know.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

3AM Catch Up

I'm beginning to think the odds are that I'm not going to sit down and actually get to type on a keyboard anytime soon.  As is, I'm on my Kindle wondering if CJ will go back to sleep on his own. And the answer is quickly becoming no. He was asleep till I had to put him down because his oldest sister was crying. =/

To sum up recent events and the reason I can't manage to sit down with a keyboard,, here's a run down of the last few months.  I was put on restricted activity to try to prevent preterm labor, told to sit down if I had contractions which meant I was basically couch-bound from 31 weeks.  Plumbing problems caused me to call my landlord at 35 weeks, who pitched a fit over the state of the house.  8am, two toddlers with lots of toys, a mom who can't be on her feet more than 2 minutes at a time, sorry that you have to step over some toys.  And a basement is meant for storage.  After being verbally threatened and intimidated, I chose to not follow doctors orders as closely as I should in the interest of keeping a roof over my family's head.

I needn't have bothered, because there was no satisfying this man, as proved by his refusal to even answer questions as to how we could get things to his satisfaction, instead storming out the door while harshly telling us to get out despite our efforts to meet his unclear demands. So in the midst of preparing for Ladybug's surgery, making travel plans and planning for expenses, petitioning insurance for better coverage, and preparing for the arrival of my son, I was given an eviction notice.  The day we received the official notice, the stress proved to be too much and I went into labor at 37 weeks.  Attempts to stop it were unsuccessful and CJ came bursting into the world at 1937 on April 21st, weighing in at a healthy 7 pounds 11 ounces and 21 inches.

Unfortunately, despite his weight he was not ready to be born.  With multiple problems going on, he was airlifted to the nearest NICU just a couple hours after birth, without being held by me.  The Mechanic made the 5 hour drive to be with him, church friends took care of the girls, and I sat in a hospital bed with empty arms.  Thankfully, he got his act together quickly and I was able to hold him for the first time at around 50 hours old.

We were released from the hospital and I survived the first week home alone with all three children, despite Ladybug being in a complete meltdown over the chaos.  The Mechanic's mom came for CJ's scheduled birth and mercifully helped pack, calm many tantrums, and kept me from completely bleeding out.  We were kicked out wrongfully on May 18th, spent the night homeless in a motel with a basically autistic 2 year old one month away from major skull surgery, a one year old, and a barely 4 week old, in addition to a 4 week post-op mom.

We thankfully closed on a house on the 19th and moved in that afternoon.  Within 5 days we became official home owners when suds started seeping from pipes in the basement while doing laundry.  Over a week later, we are throwing up our hands in surrender and calling a plumber, while carefully restricting how much water goes down the pipes at a time.  The plague of 50 year old iron pipes in this neighborhood just happened to hit us in the first week; gotta love our luck, when even an inspection wouldn't have caught this.  Oh yeah, and California's emission laws have meant we've been down to one vehicle for over a month and a half now, since there's only one mechanic in town who'll work on foreign cars.

But through all this, the Lord has provided.  It's been incredible.  I really want to record in detail what's happened, because in future years I want to remember just how faithful He has proven Himself.  I just have 3 inches of bills to take care of, three suitcases to pack, an entire house to unpack and prepare for helpful guests, in addition to keeping my girls from yanking out each other's hair or smothering their brother with kisses.  And several trips to the laundromat to make while we wait on the plumber.  =)