Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the schedule

I've had an idea rolling around in my head since before Christmas, and yesterday I finally sat down and did it. I made a daily schedule. For me, and my kids. At home. I know, I know. It kind of sounds ridiculous, right? I swore I would never become "that" stay-at-home-mom (might as well start saying SAHM, since this is such a very SAHM-ish thing to do). My parenting style is pretty laid-back, so actually scheduling the mundane activities of our day seemed restrictive and uptight and... well, unnecessary.

But God has been teaching me (read: DRILLING into me) to be moldable, teachable, and obedient. So last fall, when I noticed that I was wasting a tremendous amount of time during the day, and that I rarely actually sat down and played with my kids, and that Eli wasn't learning his letters and numbers as quickly as I expected, I began to ask God if he wanted me to change. Turns out, he kind of did. (Shoot.) I came across this verse:

"His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'" Mt 25:21.

And this one:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart." Col. 3:23

Truth be told, I was slacking. Being a low-maintenance mommy, I have pretty low-maintenance kids. But I was getting frustrated with them - a lot. I was impatient with their neediness. I was constantly behind on everything. I crashed into bed each night feeling deeply unsatisfied with how my day had gone, how much was left undone and how much was on my to-do list for tomorrow. I know this is a common state for most people, especially for a mom. But I knew God wanted more from me. He had more for me. More responsibility, yes, but also more blessing.

One day, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind a reminder of my past (short) life as a teacher. I wasn't a great teacher, but I was a pretty good one. And darn it, I was organized. I kept things running smoothly with a classroom of 20+ kids. Why, then, couldn't I run my own home the same way? Soon after, a wise friend shared how she schedules her day - every hour, every activity is accounted for. She homeschools, and has a child with special needs, so her schedule is ten times busier than mine. But the idea stuck.

So, the experiment begins. My schedule is loose, and I don't expect to ever follow it completely. The point is, it's there. It tells me to get up EARLY and have my quiet time before the chaos of the day. It gives me times to stop everything and devote my attention solely to my kids. It includes times for specific activities with Eli (and Lucas, by default) to work on his early language and math skills, because it's important to me. It even tells me when to do laundry, clean my bathroooms, and weed the garden. And every night, at 8:30, it says "RELAX."

Feel free to laugh out loud at my idea. Eye-rolling and "Girl, please" will be allowed. After all, we're already off schedule - it didn't tell me to spontaneously post on my blog with numerous interruptions to play elephant, referee, and Old Lady Who Really Wants Your Trains. But you know, that's the beauty of being a (gulp) SAHM.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

wednesday thoughts

It's a random-thought kind of day.

The sun is shining and there are two gorgeous blue jays sitting on my back fence. Oh spring, how you tease.

Two New Year's resolutions this year:

1. Start every morning in the Word. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read through the entire Bible. In this season of life, I've learned that nothing - no devotional, no sermon, no worship song - can substitute for the life-shaping power of God's own words. So far, I'm keeping up with our church's Bible-in-a-year plan, although dragging myself out of bed an hour earlier is painfully hard to do. I quickly learned that trying to have this quiet time after Eli gets up is impossible - or at least, unfruitful. (Is that a word? Fruitless. There you go.) Yes, some days it feels more like a "to do" than a desire, but the more I dig into scripture the more God makes me hungry for it.

2. Eat (and feed my children) more fruits and vegetables. In my mind, I was going to make smoothies for myself and the kids a few times a week, sneak pureed veggies into some of my recipes, and ample fruits and veggies cut, packaged, and ready for snacking. In reality, I finally cut up said veggies today - the 20th day of the year. Oh, well. Baby steps.

Have been trying some new recipes out and really enjoying cooking lately. I made my first homemade pasta into ravioli (thank you, Top Cheftestant Fabio, for making this look so deceptively easy). I made a delicious soup - pasta e fagioli - that they serve at the Olive Garden. Prosciutto and sage and garlic and white beans and tomato - oh, so good. The problem with my cooking phases is that they rarely involve really healthy food. It's always the comfort foods (read: fattening) that grab my attention. Sauteed kale with olive oil? No thanks. Bacon mac-and-cheese? Bring it.

Two major victories in my house of late. After the longest potty-training battle in the history of parenting, Eli has finally begun to poop on the potty every day. Before bed. Without screaming. What magical bribery tool finally brought this about, you ask? Was it the multitude of Hot Wheels cars? Dips into the candy jar? Threats of bodily harm? No, it was stickers. Just... stickers. (And yes, we've tried stickers a few times in the past. Apparently my child is now "developmentally ready" for stickers.)

The other victory is that I haven't taken migraine medicine in over a week. That may not sound like much to you, but believe me, it's huge. I can hardly remember when I could go two days without a migraine. Who knows why or for how long it will last, but I'm just gonna go ahead and praise God.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

mr. personality

This kid.

He's coming up on four years old, and he is a Character. Eli has had personality to spare since he was a young toddler. He keeps me either in stitches or pulling my hair out. There's very little neutral with this one.

Eli isn't often outright naughty, but he is curious and mischievous. As any reader of my blog (or anyone within hearing distance) knows, he gets into trouble the moment your back is turned. The other night, around four in the morning, I woke up to a very quiet tap-tap-tapping on my door. "Eli?" I groaned. His little head poked through the door, and he informed me he needed to go potty. After putting him back to bed, I stumbled back to my room and noticed my broom leaning against the wall outside our door. "That's odd," I thought sleepily. "I don't remember sweeping the carpet before bed." I went downstairs for some water and on the way passed a random empty sake cup sitting on the bottom step. "Also odd," I murmured. "I don't remember drinking sake on my way to bed."

The next morning I noticed a few other strange things around the house. Another sake cup in the refrigerator. The pantry door left open, and the quarter-bag of chocolate chips from the pantry lying on the floor, empty. A pair of pajama pants stuffed into the coffee table drawer.
Someone had done a little exploring during the night.

Later that morning, Eli pointed to a glass measuring cup that was sitting out on the kitchen counter. The night before, it held a good amount of leftover balsamic vinaigrette, but now it was empty. "Mama?" said Eli with a mournful look on his face, "I dwank that chocowate miwk and it. did. not. taste. good."

Later still, we found the last sake cup in a drawer, with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette still in the bottom.

Eli definitely inherited his mommy's gift for words (which is a nice way of saying that he talks, endlessly, just like I did. Again, mom and dad,
I'm sorry.) I usually fall asleep and wake up to him babbling away in his room. He's developing a great imagination and loves to play with (and talk to) his stuffed animals. He already has a great sense of humor and we laugh together a lot - and at him a lot. I could, however, stand a fewer pee and poop jokes.

Oh, and he loves his little brother. A few months ago, he turned a 180 from trying to clobber Lucas at every turn to trying to (aggressively) hug him at every turn. Every time he says, "Wucas is my sweetie brudda," my heart melts a little.

Monday, January 3, 2011

a little tiny soap box

So, it occurs to me that the blog post I wrote late last night may have come across a little too transparent for those of my readers who prefer light-hearted "Guess what Eli said today?" posts. I hope that I didn't send anyone into a panic - I am not planning to jump off any bridges, and I don't need an intervention. One of my New Year's goals is to blog as often as possible - and that means that on some days, you will see the sunny side of my life, and on others, you will see something much more raw. The truth is, as women, especially as Christian women, we tend to live lives of great secrecy. We share the whole truth - the really ugly, scary thoughts and emotions - with very few people, if any. We are afraid to speak up when what we experience or what we feel isn't found in any Beth Moore book. And this? The shiny half-truth that we clothe ourselves in before we head off to church or work or play group or Target? It's a tool of Satan. I know, I know, nobody's comfortable tossing around the word "Satan." But he's real. He is the enemy. And this enemy of ours tells me that the Me who is content, self-controlled, faithful, gentle, and patient is the "Christian me." And the one who fails to live out the fruits of the Spirit is the sinner, and has to hide. But the truth is, it's all just me. I'm a real human being, and I live a real life. I swear when I drop something on my foot. I lose my patience with my kids when they whine and fight and make messes. I feel real things joy and sorrow, lightness and anger, hopefulness and hopelessness. Yes, I strive to live a life that pleases and glorifies the Lord. I try to be controlled by the Spirit and not by my emotions. I am quick to repent when I know I am hurting His heart. But my humanity does not make me a hypocrite. Please, don't believe that yours does, either.

I have two purposes in writing this blog. One, to encourage other women that they are not alone, even in their ugliest moments. That is why I try to write very transparently. Oh, I self-edit, of course. I do so to protect the people I love (because really, I swear a lot more than my mother-in-law thinks I do). But I see no need for another blog about another "perfect" Christian woman. I love to hear from readers who tell me they can "so relate" to what I've written. But even more important to me is to ultimately point you to Christ. I hope, and I pray that even when I let you see me at my weakest and lowest points, you will understand that I still have incredible, unexplainable joy and hope in the arms of my Savior. It's a tough balance to strike, and I know I fail at it often. Thanks for coming back anyway. Tomorrow, I promise, will be all about my cute kids.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

happy new year

I've been reflecting on the past year. This morning, I was thinking about a women's prayer night at our church last spring. I was given a verse that would prove to be a touchstone for a very hard year.

Ps 18:2: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

If ever I've received a prophetic word from God, that was it. While the past year brought many moments of joy and laughter, it also brought some incredibly dark days. In 2010, I was overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, discouraged, or sad more often than I've ever been. I spent countless hours on my knees, praying for circumstances to change and mountains to move. I pored over scripture, asking for answers to problems I couldn't begin to solve. I sobbed, shouted, and pleaded with God over pain and sorrow that ran so soul-deep that I could sometimes barely breathe.

Most years are marked by lots of little battles (a protracted potty-training standoff, for example). But 2010 seemed like a different type of animal. Trial after trial headed our way, the desert season seemed endless, and I spent a good deal of the year feeling like I was drowning, or at best, furiously treading water.

I'll be honest. In 2010, God's most frequent answers were "No" or "Not yet." And while I was dying for a "Yes," aching to see him move, I clung to his promises, dug deeper into his word, and staunchly refused to give in or give up. I'd love to say that I was never shaken, but trust me, I shook. I trembled, and I faltered, and I got really angry and full of doubt and tried to hide from the One who I felt was most failing me. But that verse, that promise, stuck with me. "The Lord is my rock. My fortress. My deliverer. My stronghold." I couldn't shake that.

The turning of a new year didn't magically fix the holes in my boat. Did it for you? I think we all hope that January 1st will bring a fresh start to everything in our lives, but on January 2nd, we wake up to the same reality, with a new calendar. I know the coming year will have its trials, and while I pray for a way in the desert, I know that sometimes, life just... sucks. There's a reason that we're not home yet. But life in Christ, on the rock? That life is hope, and joy, and renewal. That is the life I look forward to, this year.