Oct 312012
 

My kids love to color. I’m told this is a good thing. If they have a five minute break from school or I just leave them directionless for any amount of time, they will color. And then they will cut out whatever they have drawn. And then they will cut the extra paper into tiny bits. This might be their favorite part.

This is not my favorite part.

The hundreds of drawings and millions of bits of paper are often what stand between me and a clean house. Well, that and the dishes. Today, they were threatening to do just that, and the kids’ whining over picking them up was threatening to kill me. Be warned, today’s stroke of genius involves bribing my children with candy. But most kids get candy on the 31st of October anyway, right? So I felt somehow justified in my bribing. Ha.

“OK, everybody quiet down and listen up,” I said. “I’m going to split you up into two teams. You two go into the school room and you two take your baby brother into the bedroom and give him a job. Then you’re going to clean and not whine anymore.”

“Whaaaat? It’s toooo haaard. We caaaan’t!”

“And then I’ll buy the winners their own bag of candy.”

“Whaaaat?! Yes!! I’m gonna beat you!!”

Mad-skills cleaning began immediately after my declaration. I own three brooms and a whisk broom, I have no idea why I have so many; but they all came in handy today. I pulled out my violin and played along to Pandora while my children cleaned–happily, rapidly, yelling a little smack talk from one end of our house to the other. It was a twenty minute slice of heaven that resulted in two very clean rooms. And of course, I bought them all candy. I was already planning to, anyway. Don’t tell.

Once the rooms were clean and everyone had their candy, we set out to do what I had wanted to do for days. I’m finally learning to include the kids in those little projects that are work to do alone. Or maybe it’s just that they’re finally old enough to be helpful.

We gathered every crayon, marker, and pencil from the four corners of our house. Excuse the embarrassing, random basket.

Then we set out sorting, sharpening, tossing, and organizing while we munched sour gummy worms and red laces and watched a movie. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night.

“No, Baby, the crayons are out of the oven but that doesn’t mean we can eat them.”

And now we have brand new chunky crayons (crayon muffins), working markers, a box of marker caps (Never, never throw away marker caps or tooth paste caps. They disappear on their own, so you can never have enough. Umm…or it is just us?), and perfectly sharpened crayons and pencils.

Whoever said it was the little things sure was right!

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 October 31, 2012  Homeschooling Comments Off
Oct 262012
 

I’ve waited a full month to write this story. I’ve told it, I tell it and tell it and I will keep on telling it forever, I’m sure. I knew I should bask for a few weeks, walk in quiet victory for awhile, before sharing it with the world, though. Now, to tell it accurately, I have to back up about nine years.

Once Papa Bear and I were married, we almost immediately began talking about children. I didn’t know I would want them so quickly, but watching that skinny Marine long for the fullness of family was the most endearing thing in the world. As I began to daydream about babies and children, I discovered something absolutely amazing about myself: I was the most incredible mother in the world!

Can anyone relate to that?

I wasn’t judgmental. I rarely, if ever, saw someone parenting contrary to my dreamed up methods and thought, “Oh, I will never let my kids act like that.” I just sat in quiet expectation and waited for my newly planted dreams to become a reality. I might as well admit that these dreams began to wilt about thirty-seconds after conception, though. I spent the first twelve of those thirty-six weeks in bed while my husband lived on Ramen and other such bachelor foods. To move meant to vomit uncontrollably, and to vomit meant to die–or to wish I would.

At twenty-weeks, doctors would learn what I’d known for awhile. The cause of my hyperemesis gravidarum was a pair of wrestling, trouble making girls. I knew then that God was giving me the gift of daughters. I know now that He was also holding out two precious children, handing them to me ever so lovingly and saying, “Here, hurry up and fail. I’ll be here when you finally realize you can’t do this.”

On my list of pre-pregnant musts and “to-dos” was a very strict no-yelling rule. I broke that one about twelve weeks into parenting in a sleep-deprived, colic-induced panic. I’m not sure I’ve ever admitted that to anyone. I yelled at my twelve week old infants! Once I had four (just thirteen months later), yelling–struggling not to yell–became a weekly battleground. I would not yell. I was not a yeller. I was not was not was not that mom!

But if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

I was quickly becoming the one thing I had determined never to be.

Over the course of the past six years, I’ve talked about my tone with friends and mentors and pastors. I’ve pleaded for prayer and told them how desperately I desired to be the honey-speeched mother who led her children through encouraging whispers. They’ve prayed over me, advised me, comforted me. But when I’ve woken to find the results of a midnight raid or found my favorite face wash used as Barbie’s bubble bath…I’ve still yelled. I’ve yelled (lost it, blown-up) and apologized, yelled and apologized. I’ve repented through tears. And I’ve gone to bed, on so many nights, feeling like the world’s biggest failure–at the very least, the world’s worst mom.

A month and a few days ago, after my regular bi-monthly Bible study where we’re taught all things parenting and marriage, a sweet friend and I sat up late and talked. We talked until three in the morning. We were both struggling, first and foremost, with the same issue in our parenting; we lamented our lack of success and then both agreed to pray continually for each other.

So many things can be said between eleven p.m. and three a.m., but I remember mourning one thing specifically, “I know God can deliver me from this curse of yelling, but I just wish He’d done it while my kids were too young to ever remember a yelling mom.” We both agreed on that point. We both sighed.

When I finally crawled into bed that night, it was close to four a.m. I felt certain I had ruined my Wednesday before it really started, and I mumbled half a prayer before falling asleep mid-breath. I woke up at seven with the same hair color, the same stretch marks, and the same ten extra pounds as the day before. I wasn’t taller or shorter. But before I opened my eyes I saw a picture in my mind. It was of a simple glass jar, and scrawled on the front in black Sharpie was one word: “Mean!”

I was as happy as a pig on Hanukkah. I knew God was showing me something important! I sat up in bed and asked Him about what I had just seen, and then I ran to the living room to greet my children and to tell them about our new plan.

I stuffed about twenty tickets into a large brown envelope, and I wrote the following on the front:

If I yell at you, put a ticket in the jar.

If I receive ten tickets in four days, I owe you an “I’m sorry” party.

If I receive zero tickets in four days, we’ll have a victory party!

I’ll empty the jar every fourth day.

I explained the plan to the kids, and they were all excited to help. Everyone was rooting for a victory party, and we threw our very first one only four days later. Two weeks and no tickets later, I sat in tears in my bathroom and talked with God about what had shifted. What had happened? It was then that He revealed to me the day He’d chosen to give me our simple, vastly ineloquent no-yelling plan. Some people call it the Day of Atonement. It’s also called Yom Kippur. From now on, I’ll call it the day I stopped yelling–the day I stopped trying to stop yelling–the day God stepped in and took over. It’s now the day I stopped apologizing to my kids for something I couldn’t change and instead let them battle with me. If think you’ve known joy, just wait until your six year old zooms through the living room, eyes your jar, and elates, “Mom, it’s still empty!! We’re beating the Devil!!” If you think your children respect you because you’ve done your best to hide your sin and struggles, just wait till you’re washed in the respect that comes after laying bare your flesh and allowing them to witness your victory.

When you come to my house, you’re welcome to take a peek in the “Mean!” jar. It’s right out for all to see. Right now, there are two tickets in there. I earned one while I was trying to take a shower in the middle of the day and the other one while I was trying to pay a bill via an automated system. I’m so excited I get to empty the jar tomorrow morning! I’m a human being, and that’s OK–or at least, it’s been paid for. He knows all about my failure. He knows all about what I can’t do without following step for step in His plan. When He gave me my wonderful children, God winked at me and said, “Here, fail.” For it is only in my failure that I learn, and it is only in my weakness that I fall broken into the arms of my Savior.

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 October 26, 2012  Christianity, Mommyhood 8 Responses »
Oct 212012
 

I have quite a few posts piling up in my drafts folder. Alright, so my second book is interfering with my blogging about as much as the first one did. Drat. I have a fun (more than fun, but I don’t want to oversell it) story to tell you–hopefully on Tuesday. And I definitely want to answer all those questions about the Sabbath that have literally poured through my inbox lately. Or not literally. That’s gonna drive my dad crazy.

Tonight, I’m departing from my drafts to tell you about a wonderful lady and a talented writer. She was my pastor’s wife until her husband had a heart attack, died, came back to life and was ordered out of the mountains by his doctors. We miss them tremendously around here, but we are so glad they are safe and flourishing back in their original home state of Texas.

Golden Keyes Parsons has written several books over the past few years. I have yet to read them all, but I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have read. I read her brand new novella in an afternoon while the kids played around me. It’s a fascinating interpretation of the woman trapped (the adulteress brought before the Pharisees for stoning). It held my interest from word one, but I don’t want to give too much away.

I curiously quizzed Golden about her the heart wants what the heart wants plot-line, and she answered that that was, truly, a bondage she was tearing down in this writing. I cannot share the whole conversation without ruining the book for it’s first time readers, but I will share her answers to my other questions.

1. How did you come to the conclusion that this moving but brief story (in the Bible) should be tied in to the Pharisee’s plotting against Jesus?

I actually wrote this story years ago after I had taught on the passage and was intrigued by the fact that this beloved story that teaches us so much about the love, mercy and forgiveness of God concerns a woman who is not even named. I read volumes of commentaries on the passage which I’m sure you know some say was not in the original manuscripts. However, they feel it was so characteristic of the compassion of Jesus that it finally was included in the canon.

This is not really “my interpretation.” It is a fleshing out of one of the theories that the adulterous woman was not a prostitute, as commonly thought, but was a betrothed virgin and was trapped in order to frame Jesus. That made the accusation of adultery so much more serious under the law. And the fact that her partner was not accused with her further supports the framed theory. Also, there were supposed to be two or more witnesses. How in the world would that happen unless it was a set-up?

2. Do you feel that modern American women will relate to Anna? If so, how?

It’s interesting that I keep getting asked this question. My answer is that God’s Word is eternal and the standards that he has set for us to follow are for our good. He is for us. So when we break those standards, it is to our detriment. Even in today’s tolerant society, adultery is still wrong. And I think the consequences to the individual and the betrayed partner are still as devastating as they were years ago. In addition God’s forgiveness is still as freeing.

3. How do you relate to Anna?

I wrote this at a point in my life when I desperately needed God’s forgiveness. I don’t think I even realized that at the time I was writing it, but although the circumstances were not the same, I still had sinned and needed to be forgiven. To work through Anna’s emotions and the forgiveness that she found served to help me understand that Jesus would do the same for me.

4. What would you like to say to my readers, and why do you hope they will read this series of books?

I would like to say that God is always faithful. We can trust Him even when circumstances look bad. Even when we’ve sinned and think we’ve messed our lives up beyond hope. This series is about women who felt they were beyond the reach of the forgiveness, the grace, the mercy and the healing of God. No one is. I hope that the women who read these books will look to Jesus in the midst of their own issues and find that he offers the same hope and compassion to them as he did to these nameless women in Scripture.

 

Thank you, Golden, for this wonderful new series and for putting names and faces to these woman who have taught us and blessed us for so long.

The e-book version of Trapped is now available on Amazon! Paperback coming soon.

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 October 21, 2012  Reviews Comments Off
Oct 162012
 

I don’t want to think about how old I was at the time, because it was a very, very long time ago. And I don’t want to admit that it was Sister Act II that stirred me (even though I still have the soundtrack and love it), because I like to think I’m somehow impermeable to the shallow–to anything that swims at depths that require no more than a snorkel. It is what it is, though; it was what it was. When Whoopi Goldberg told her talented music student that what she woke up thinking about in the morning was that thing she was made to do, I knew that I had–I would die if I wasn’t–I had to write and to be a real writer. 

Somewhere inside me is someone so much better (and I mean more talented) than I have the time and energy–the focus, maybe, to be. She speaks to me in those early morning hours when I’m too tired to reach for a pen. Apparently, she requires much less sleep than I do. She preaches violently if not eloquently as I shower, but the revelation leaves about the time I stop dripping. I’m dry. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it quickly–rapidly–do or die. I wrote late at night and through the wee small hours of the morning. I edited while Dora the Explorer babysat loudly in the foreground of my 800 square foot mobile home. Dora, Dora, Dora… I was broken; yet, as I wept, even the oldest scars reopened and then truly healed. I had to share, and I didn’t want to forget it all before I had written it down. So I wrote,  and when it was finished, I hit “publish”. And then I mourned it. I allowed Satan to torment me over it. I had published my first book, and I still didn’t feel like a writer.

If you’ve read 31 Days to Lovely:A Journey of Forgiveness, I hope you’ve received it as truth. It’s just the Bible alongside my meek and simple life. It’s not flowery or overtly pretty. Truthfully, it’s not what I’ve spent the last fifteen plus years hoping my first book would be. It doesn’t showcase me–it’s not about me at all. Still, maybe I wanted it to be about me. I still want to be a writer.

Today, my book received it’s first bad–pot-shot filled review on Amazon. The words that everyone feels sure I can brush off  captured the depth of my secret self-loathing. It’s from there the melancholia is flowing. You see, Satan won’t knock on those doors that are barred and guarded. He slips through the open ones. He knows all about my writer’s envy, it comes from him, and how I have a hard time loving Ann Voskamp (I’m kidding, how could anyone not love Ann?!). But so what if my book lacks the polish I might have found through more time and maybe a little more solitude? What does it matter if my words are simply words and not prose? The message, if received, will change lives. I truly believe that. After all, it changed mine. That’s why He asked me to write it.

I’m writing this post to break my silence–to speak to yours. I’m writing to every musician who has slaved over a song and then flipped on the radio to hear something better. I’m writing on behalf of every mom who has baked and decorated a two a.m. cake only to discover Pinterest later that same day. I’m writing for every athlete who has given her all only to be beaten by superior talent. I’m writing to every ex-beauty queen who has manually lifted her aging face as she’s leaned a little too close to the mirror. Someone will always be smarter, better, prettier. And that’s OK, sisters, because we are not our gifts. We are daughters of the Most High God! What people think about us cannot touch that. What we believe about ourselves cannot touch that. But what we think about ourselves will effect that we do and in what ways we serve His Kingdom.

I feel silly, like I usually do, admitting tears because one of you doesn’t like me. Maybe, I hope, my silliness will help to heal yours.

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 October 16, 2012  Blogging & Writing, Me 17 Responses »
Oct 132012
 

Around here, we observe the Sabbath. It’s not a popular idea in our busy world, but I feel it is necessary for life–at least, for my life–in addition to being a whole lot of fun. In all its peaceful, prepared, glory, it’s everyone’s favorite day. Right now, I’m in my bathrobe while lunch reheats on the stove. The kids are watching Shark Week and are coloring away. Currently, they’re not copying the gore of the show, but I keep waiting for Lil Prince to ask for a red crayon. I may or may not have slipped the dogs a Valium. OK, I didn’t, but they always seem to catch the spirit of the day.

As wonderfully restful as is Saturday, Friday is a whirlwind. By sundown on Friday night, Saturday’s food needs to be made so that I can truly rest the full day. Yesterday, after baking four loves of bread, my oven and stove top worked overtime to make Friday’s dinner plus all three meals for today. I made it really easy on myself this week because I also wanted to make a cake for Papa Bear’s birthday. So, last night’s dinner was chili and rice, today’s lunch is chili dogs, and tonight’s dinner will be taco salad with (ta-da!) chili! Y’all are gonna comment and tell me that that wouldn’t fly in your house. But in my house, I’m in charge. Ha! And really, there are few meals we all love as much as chili.

This post isn’t about chili, though. This post is about breakfast. Monday through Friday, we have eggs or pancakes…even peanut butter and honey if we’re in a rush. I like to bake muffins on Friday so that Saturday’s breakfast is made, but the kids keep on asking for cereal (and let’s face it, that would be much easier). Now, I’m not a health nut–not even close. I can’t afford to give and eat organically, and organic is what I’d rather sacrifice. But I do try to eat well and to feed my children well enough to justify the occasional white flour, white sugar treat. Ahem. I know enough to know that no prepackaged cereal is healthy, and that most of them are downright toxic. So if we’re gonna do cereal on Saturdays, I’m gonna have to make my own. Here’s the result of my first attempt.

Let me again preface that I am not a health nut. If you are, please forgive me. I’m just after something of which I know all of the ingredients. I didn’t sprout grains or do anything fancy. But this took me about twenty minutes, and (based on what we ate today) it will last us about four cereal days–maybe more.

Yes, you’re seeing popcorn. After a few vain attempts at the so-called easier way to puff brown rice, I have officially given up–forever. But then I thought, hey, popcorn and puffed rice have pretty much the same consistency! I headed to Google with my brave new idea only to find out that it’s pretty much the oldest idea known to cereal. Oh well! At least I know it works. 

What I have here is:

42 ounces of rolled oats (tossed in a generous amount of honey, loads of cinnamon, a melted stick of butter and slowly toasted at about 360 degrees)

1/2 C of popcorn (air popped and then slightly crumbled–just to keep it from taking up the whole jar)

and

1 C of raisins

In case you’re wondering, it was a big hit! We’ll eat it in smaller amounts with yogurt and fruit, but today, it was simply cereal.

I’d like to add some raw nuts and more dried fruit, but I can’t decide where to start. What would you add? And if you already make your own cereal, please let me know what you do.

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 October 13, 2012  Foody Friday 6 Responses »
Oct 082012
 

Alternately titled:

This is Just an Elaborated Version of the Last Paragraph of Last Week’s Post–Because You Asked For It

I have a few friends who are also single mothers under similar circumstances. It’s funny how that happens. Wherever you are in life, you will find others who are right there, too. The thing I’m hearing most from my single mom and military mom friends is, please explain to me why you don’t hate the evenings. Aren’t you worn out and frazzled by then?

And no, I don’t hate the evenings. Actually, I think they’re ah-mazing.

I know I’ve blogged this before, but I’d rather rewrite the post than search back to look for the old one. Ha. Also, I’m hoping I’ve learned something since then.  So first and foremost, you’ve got to eat dinner early. And I don’t mean you can never drag your kids out to a late night at church or what-have-you, but as a regularly scheduled thing, it works best to feed small children about the same time your great-grandparents get hungry. And I know, that probably means you’re gonna want to eat a second dinner later on. I highly recommend keeping chopped veggies and pretzels around the house. You’ll thank me later.

If your kids are old enough to bathe and brush their teeth while you clean up from dinner,  go ahead and bring out the nice plates. If not, go with paper ones. Either way, I plan to be done with my housework about the same time I tuck my kids into bed. It’s not productive to clank around while little ones are sleeping, I tell you!

My kids love story time, so we have a nightly deal. If they’re in bed, teeth brushed, pjs on, water drank in and peed out, even one minute before seven o’clock, I’ll read a few chapters of our current book crush. If not, there’s no punishment, just a skipping of the coveted reward. After story time, we spend a few minutes sharing, praying, and counting blessings. Everyone’s lying down at this point, which inevitably makes them sleepier than they were willing to admit a few minutes before seven.

After praying, I hit play on the best present I have ever, ever bought myself. It’s the NIV on CD, and it’s how we fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. They fall asleep while I lie there with them. This is the most important part! Over the past few years, I’ve periodically made the mistake of trying to get on with my evening immediately after tuck in time. It doesn’t work. And it especially doesn’t work without someone here to help me tag team. In fifteen minutes of lying still I can accomplish what forty five minutes of to and fro oftentimes couldn’t. And this way, I get to listen to the Word while they drift to dreamland and I recharged for a full evening of phone talking, blogging, writing, coffee drinking and just a general doing of ma thang.

Of course, you don’t have to do things this way. And maybe you have kids who just, I don’t know, fall asleep when you tell them to and I should be reading your blog (maybe I should–leave blog addresses in the comments!). But if you have normal kids, this tip’s for you.

What’s the one tip you think everyone should know about bedtime for kids?

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 October 8, 2012  Mommyhood 11 Responses »
Oct 082012
 

I grew up without a sister. At least, I felt that way while I was younger…

As I grew, I learned that sisterhood was something special enough to seek out and demand out of life–and I now have many.

If I’d had my way, though, I’d have grabbed a sister of the biological nature, perhaps on my way out of the womb. There are real sisters among my group of sisters, and I’ll always be just a little bit jealous.

About ten weeks into my first viable pregnancy, I knew I was having twin girls. Of course, no one believed me until the sonogram ten weeks later, but I knew. Twins. Girls. Sisters! My first child would be born alongside the greatest gift I could ever give her.

I spent quite a bit of time lying around (because they almost killed me) just dreaming about their lives. Now there are three sisters in our kingdom. Life is a pink, twirling, musical. That is, when it’s not a scratching, yelling, “That’s my shirt!! You can’t wear it without asking!” cage match. Ah, yes, I wish I’d had a sister.


When I was asked to review Disney’s newest fairy flick, “Secret of the Wings”, I said “yes” without hesitation. First of all, I could just picture my daughters’ faces at the thought of seeing Tinker Bell flit and fly more than a month before any of their friends. That would make it all worth it, right there, no matter how I ended up feeling about the movie.

In this made for DVD and Blu-ray movie, Tinker Bell, the tiny rebel that she is, seeks out expected mischief by sneaking across the border that separates summer from winter. Why would someone do that, I wonder? But while she is there, she discovers something unexpected and wonderful. When Tinker Bell’s wings begin to shimmer and glow as she steps into the magic of winter, she commits to do anything in her power to venture back into the deadly [to summer fairies] cold and find out why.

While incognito, in addition to snow and ice and sights Tink has never seen in summer, Tinker Bell stumbles upon her twin sister–who had also noticed her own glowing wings and felt deeply that something new and wonderful had entered her frigid world.

Peggy Holmes, who also directed my all time favorite, Newsies, enlisted the help of a noted twin-study expert for the making of this film. And I think I can say with full certainty that it shows. In fact, there was quite a bit of realism contrasting the glittering backdrop of Fairy Hollow.

Watching Tink and Periwinkle slip and glide through the wonders that are winter made me glance out the window at the snow clouds circling the tip tops of surrounding mountains. And for a moment, I didn’t wish them away. Jodi Benson, Timothy Dalton, Anjelica Houston and others will warm your heart as they test and prove the unbreakable strength of the bond of sisterhood in this surprisingly heartwarming, funny, and romantic look into the life of my girls’ favorite fairies.

Watch it with your daughters–and your sisters, whether they were given or earned. To date, I’ve seen it six times. Preorder your copy of Disney’s “Secret of the Wings” today! And let me know what sisterhood means to you. Comment for your chance to win a “Flitterific Fairies Blue-ray™ Double Pack”, which is a Blu-Ray/DVD combo containing Secret of the Wings and another fabulous fairy adventure!

Rules:

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following unique term in your tweet message: #SweepstakesEntry; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post”

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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This sweepstakes runs from 10/8 to 10/31.

Be sure to visit the Secret of the Wings Reel Sisterhood brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

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 October 8, 2012  Reviews 21 Responses »
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