Thinking about life

Last year around this time we were welcoming another little person into our family.  She was the physical, tangible picture of what God was doing in our life.  We had walked through a season of great pain, many intangible losses and just disillusionment with life in general.  I believed that Audrey’s birth would mark a new season of rebirth and renewal, which it did.  But when autumn came and Chris found out he would need to find a new job after working at the same place for 10 years the ‘new season’ took a drastically different look than we’d planned.   As always, there was more to the story than we could see and though it seemed impossible some days, we continued to put one foot in front of the other and walked the road before us.

We’re still walking.  And learning.  And growing.  The more all those things take place, the more amazed I am at who God is and what He can do.  I’m only 31.  I realize I’ve got so much more to take in.  But wow, as I learn to let go and just be the me that I was made to be, it sure feels good.  A couple years ago I sensed God whispering to deep places in my heart about children and family and trusting Him instead of making a plan that I would hold fast to unless He could wrestle it away from my white knuckles.

What He was saying to me about the treasure, the gift beyond any other, the blessing, the inheritance that children were was a message I hadn’t grown up hearing-not inside or outside of the church.  It first seemed something I might like to keep to myself (except for the living out of it was hard to keep a secret….babies are hard to miss) because it was so counter culture.

In the back yard a few weeks ago I was watching the kids all play and was overwhelmed at the thought that came into my mind.  What would my life look if I said ‘no-thank-you-to-more-gifts’?  I would like every other kind of good thing and blessing-money, vacation time, friends, etc.-except for children.

Maybe I would have nicer cars.

Maybe I would have a yearly vacation to Hawaii.

Maybe I would have the satisfaction of a full time job that pays well.

Maybe I wouldn’t have stretch marks and I’d still look good in a bikini.

Maybe I would have free time every weekend to pursue hobbies and get my nails done.

Maybe I would be well rested, not be addicted to coffee and know what 8 hours of sleep feels like.

Yes.  Maybe those things.

But then no one (including me) would be blessed by a little girl whose smile can make your whole day.  No one would get to laugh at the antics of a long haired, brown eyed little boy who loves everyone he meets.  No one would have taught me just what ‘the end of my rope’ means.  No one would have drawn love out of my heart that I didn’t even know existed.  So much would be missing my heart hurts just thinking about it.

I love watching  as our kids grow and learn and become the people they were created to be.

I love how much their presence has transformed the way we experience life.

They truly are a gift.

Laundry soap and enchilada sauce

After a romantic and dreamy weekend away, we jumped back into real life with both feet.  It’s been good.  Having soaked in so many hours of uninterrupted, easy going ‘husband-wife time’-I feel replenished and restored in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Since returning, I can say navigating kid behavior has been the greatest challenge for sure.  Not that I expected all present struggles to disappear while we were gone, but you know, one can hope right?  I am keenly aware of all the dynamics taking place in our house every day and with 4 different kid personalities and 2 grown ups too-I’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t easy.

Neither is maintaining an organized household.  Finding the balance between ‘frozen pizza’s in a pinch’ and homemade, from scratch, healthy, whole four course dinner for six isn’t easy either.

I have another post in my head but for now, let me randomly share a couple things.

In an effort to be economical and earth-kind, I recently gave my first go of making our own laundry soap.  The toxin-free laundry soap I use is spendy but I love it so it was a stretch to try something new.  I used the following recipe that I found online.

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax, 1 cup Washing Soda and 1 bar of castile soap (grated and ground)

Christopher kindly grated the soap for me then I ground it into powder in the food processor.

Then Kyler stirred it all up.  He asked to lick it.  I said no.

Down sides? I think that it cost about $3.50 to make that small amount and it washed about 10 loads of laundry.  Perhaps if you live alone that would seem appealing but when we do about 1-2 loads per day, it really seemed like a poor return on time/money spent.

Up sides?  We did it together, and that is always a good thing.  It also contained no bleach, phosphates or other things that harm the environment (or us!).  It washed the clothes well.

Next time I’ll try making a liquid and make a much larger amount.

On another domestic note, I have 10 quarts of homemade enchilada sauce in my kitchen cooking right now.

It was an accident.  Sort of.  In trying to do the math to make a LOT more than the recipe said, I over estimated the amount of chili powder (1 1/2 cups did sound like a lot of chili powder!).  So I kept adding.  Adding water, adding broth, adding tomato sauce and even sugar as a last ditch effort.  It still is a bit spicy.  But it is really, really yummy.  I plan to make 4 trays of black bean & beef enchiladas with it and then freeze the rest for future use.  Since making the sauce involved mess, I figured I should make a lot and just make a big, huge mess.  That is most often my cooking philosophy whenever possible.

This is my recipe in case you’d like to give it a try.  It puts canned enchilada sauce to shame if I do say so myself.  Mind the math if you make it x 6 like I did!

3 T vegetable oil

1 small onion (or half a large one), finely minced

1 clove fresh garlic, crushed

2 T flour

1/4 cup (or less, if you have kids I’ve decided)

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups of water or chicken broth

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet (med-high) and saute onion till tender.  Add garlic, briefly saute.  Stir in flour and chili powder, stirring constantly, careful not to burn it.

Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water/broth & cumin.  Simmer on low-med heat for 10 minutes till slightly thickened.  Pour over your enchiladas and enjoy!

For this batch, my filling includes green chilies, black beans, brown rice and ground beef all mixed up with a bit of the sauce.  Each tortilla I dip quickly in the sauce too, to keep it all moist.  I also pour a bit of sauce in the pan before putting the enchiladas in so they don’t stick.  I topped it with shredded cheddar cheese too.

Naptime is about over, so that’s it for now!

10 years today

I really don’t feel old enough to be celebrating a 10 year wedding anniversary today.  I surely look old enough, but my husband still looks like a college student.  Ten years ago today my high school sweetheart and I said “I do”.  It was the perfect sunny May day, with nearly 450 guests, two receptions and lots of dancing.

I recently found my old journal from high school and these are the words (verbatim) I penned in spring of 1995:

My head was turned in the direction of a certain Chris Strovas.  We were friends so I called him 2 weeks before the April 1 Loyalty Tolo Dance and asked him to go with me.  He said yes.  After the dance we went over to Holley’s house and we watched movies for a while.  We fell asleep and then all the sudden it was 6 AM so Chris went home.  When he left I walked him out to the car (I was staying the night at Holley’s).  He kissed me (REALLY kissed me) and it was quite nice!  I walked back in the house in a daze…

I still remember barely being able to walk up the stairs after he drove away.  Though that kiss was not my first, or second or…you get the idea. But it was unlike any other.  And our relationship continued in that manner because a few months later I wrote these words as a smitten 16 year old girl:

He treated me different that any guy I’d ever known.  He held me in the highest respect.  Chris made me feel like I was his most precious, valuable princess.  He always could make me smile and feel so special.  Each moment we’ve spent together is so precious.  A few weeks ago he took me out to Denny’s.  He was nervous acting, twiddling with sugar packets.  He told me he’d thought a lot about it and he realized he loved me.  Hearing those words come off the lips I adored was something I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear.  He is the first guy who has truly held my heart in his hands.

There is so, so much more to the story.  We didn’t get married for 4 years after that.  But we finally did.  It was easy then to whisper sweet words to each other, to kiss on the front porch, to write letter after letter proclaiming our love for each other.  It was easy to forgive.  Easier to make time for one another.  Life was pretty simple and pretty perfect really.  We have weathered many hard seasons since then.  Ones that involved us and ones that didn’t but broke our hearts anyway.   We have traveled and been on countless adventures together.  Four years into our marriage we welcomed our first baby and we were forever changed in a moment.  We had never before been so afraid as we were during those first days of Rylee’s life and we had never cared so much for anyone else.

Falling in love, marrying Christopher and spending the last 10 years together has been God’s gift to me.  I remember feeling like it was too much, too good, too lofty for me to even dream of as I pined away for him during our college years.  So it was only natural that the vows I wrote to recite on our wedding day began like this:

“Christopher, I stand in awe of the incredible gift God has given me in you…”

I am blessed beyond measure to be married to a man who loves Jesus, who cherishes me, who adores our children and who is willing to work (hard) to provide for us.  I am looking forward to many more years with the dreamy, patient and devoted boy that won my heart before I could even drive a car.

How did I get here?

Sometimes I feel like life fast forwards and I am not sure how I end up where I am.  After a fairly smooth transition to life with four kids, Audrey got sick in November and hasn’t slept well since her 4 days in the hospital.  Since Chris works long hours, I am the only one up with Audrey.  Without sleep, life gets more blurry for me.  The ‘fast forwards’ happen more often and my head spins.

For instance, I don’t think I ever would have imagined myself at a McDonald’s on a Sunday morning at 9:00.  I even had the bit of brilliance to go through their drive thru to get my cheap, rather gross coffee so that I wouldn’t have to wait in line inside with the kids.  Then we pulled around and ran inside where I watched them play in the play area for over an hour.

Did I mention I was still in my pajamas?  And so was Caleb-bright red footie pj’s with yellow rain boots over them.  Rylee as well was still in jammies I’m fairly sure.  Really it was only this morning and already the memory is so foggy.  We had a great time for the most part.  One of my children gets overwhelmed by that loud environment even when no other kids are present and took breaks to cry in my lap.  But the other three did have fun.

In the same way, I just folded and put away every stitch of clothes that we all own.  But somehow there are clothes in a big pile filthy dirty in front of the washer as well as clothes in every hamper.  How did one 6 year old manage to get pooped on by a chicken wearing three different shirts in two days? How is this possible?  How did time move so quickly?

Similarly, days ago I bought plants for the yard and somehow 4 days passed without me noticing and they were drying out and so tonight I  rather desperately dug holes with my bare hands, since it was pitch dark and I couldn’t find the shovel, knowing that the week starts tomorrow and it would be even harder to get them in the ground.  Just thinking about that makes me sigh.  Is it really the start of the week when your husband is working both weekend days and they have felt just exactly like any old Monday through Friday?

Strange to me this not having weekends.  I have had a far harder time adjusting to that than I expected.  Full time mama of four duty Monday through Sunday.  Not easy.  Adding in 26 little chicks?  Slightly insane actually.  But no regrets there, truly none.  The kids are happy.  They bring so much laughter and so many smiles.  If I can just stop ‘trying’ and keep slowing down to enjoy the moments as they come.  Why in the world is that so hard?

It seems to me I’ve let go of so much.  The little things that don’t really matter.  Showers.  Clean fingernails.  Getting out of jammies…..no, not the kids, me-don’t worry my kids do usually shower and get dressed.  And the big things that also don’t really matter, or at least they shouldn’t.  Perfection.  Appearance.  The invisible, unspoken “Mom Standard”.  But there is still so much in the way.

Big sigh.

Trying to breath in deeply.  Trying to give up my hopes of a detailed clean car that doesn’t stink like who-knows-what.  Thankful to have a car that is paid for and full of gas and cheerios.

Trying to realize I can’t clean the cobwebs or scrub the (white!) cabinet doors in the kitchen.  Thankful to have beautiful children to smear food on the cabinets and who don’t even know what a cobweb is.

Trying to keep exercising and eating better to lose (even a bit of) baby weight.  Thankful for a husband who loves me as I am.

Trying to catch brief moments with my husband that loves me so well while he is away from us so much.  Incredibly thankful he has a job and works so hard to provide for us.

Trying to not try quite so hard but to keep letting go.  Remembering these words that I love tonight:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

A whole lotta turkey

After taking a quick look back at all my facebook status entries since I joined a few weeks ago, I am amused that so many have to do with food.  But really, as a mother who is at home with little people, a large part of my life involves food.  Learning about food, trying not to eat unhealthy food (like the peanut M&M’s on my desk here),  menu planning, grocery shopping, teaching about food/cooking to whoever wants to help, providing nourishing choices for our household to eat, snack breaks, sitting for meals…you get the idea.  A tremendous part of the day is related to food.  So I suppose it is not too strange that I blog or talk about it often.

I am not sure how it happened but I feel like I’ve turned into a ‘hippie’ in so many ways.  I used to think it so strange that people ate anything but cereal for breakfast every day, that there were wives who actually cooked real dinner every night of the week, that it was possible to ‘plan’ meals for weeks at a time, that people actually used freshly ground flour, that people could make anything tasty that had whole wheat in it, that using fresh garlic really tasted better than garlic powder-but now, I understand those and many other strange things and realize although I did not inherit a cooking ‘gene’ as my mother informed me more than once, it is possible to immensely enjoy whole foods, cooking, recipes and (duh!) eating too.

Since some of my favorite posts to read are about people’s tips, shortcuts and food ideas, here are a few I thought I’d share today.  I thawed a turkey last weekend to cook up (but it took longer than I expected so we had to serve pizza to our guests which was LAME compared to a full Thanksgiving dinner like I’d planned).  In case you too have a gigantic turkey hiding in your freezer that your neighbor gave you when you already had 3 from the holidays, here’s what my 20 pound turkey provided:

1 turkey dinner Sunday night (with potatoes, gravy and salad)

1 enormous batch of turkey brown rice veggie soup (enormous as in two dinners worth frozen in my freezer and dinner for my neighbors on both sides)

1 large batch of creamed lentil, pea, turkey and veggie soup (tonight’s dinner along with enough to freeze for another meal)

6 cups (individually frozen in 1 cup bags) of chopped turkey meat for random use in casseroles or salads

I figure that is roughly about 8 dinners.  That’s a pretty good return and pretty healthy too.  My last turkey made a big turkey dinner and then 4 trays of turkey tetrazini for the freezer.  Not so healthy but nice to have.  I’m personally sick of tetrazini.  Everytime I get to have a night off and need to leave dinner for Christopher and the kids, they get a tetrazini.  They all dig it, so it works out all right.

So here are a few ‘recipes’ if you could call them that,  to share, and one important note.  Instead of using canned broth which I cannot stand and besides it’s expensive, I always, always use “Better than Boullion“.  It is like concentrated paste and stays in the fridge for a long while.  It does not have extra yuckies like boullion often does such as MSG.  And 1 tsp mixed with 1 cup boiling water makes a cup of great broth.  Obviously not like homemade but my much prefered second choice.

Also, so that my kids cannot pick them out, I personally mince quite small veggies that go in soups.  This works best for my kids, you could surely do them bigger.

Creamed Veggie Soup (with turkey) – all this is is Bob’s Red Mill’s package of dried lentils, peas, barley and pasta.

I cooked a heaping cup of the legume/grain mix with several cups broth, a finely minced onion, 4 large carrots, a zuchinni, a red bell pepper and a few celery sticks (I put these all in the food processor together till they were tiny).

After it was all soft (about 40 minutes) I pureed it in my blender.  I then added a few cups of shredded, diced leftover turkey and a cup of milk to make it creamy-that was optional of course.  Heat it back up in the pot then serve.

Even my picky 3 year old ate his whole bowl.  This is shocking.

Turkey Brown Rice Soup –

After dinner tonight, in my (favorite, heavy, seasoned, still-dirty-from-the-previous-soup) large cast iron dutch oven that Kim just gave me, I tossed in:

a bit of olive oil

a huge pile of finely food processed veggies (same ones as above)

8-10 cups of broth as described above the first recipe

4-5 cups of chopped turkey

a cup of brown rice and another heaping cup of a grain mixture (Israeli couscous, orzo and red quinoa)

I put on the lid, went for a half an hour walk, came back and remembered the leftover gravy in the fridge, tossed that in too then 15 minutes later added a few grinds of fresh pepper and a tad bit of salt and turned off the stove.

This made about 4 or 5 dinner’s worth of soup.  My pot was all the way full.  And the kids had some for snack after our walk.

Turkey Tetrazini-

I didn’t do this tonight but last turkey I did, everyone loves it but me.  I’ve had it too much.  And it’s not super healthy.  It’s adapted from my friend Deb’s recipe.

Cook 10 oz of whole wheat spaghetti noodles, drain.

While they are cooking chop and saute one onion in a bit of butter.

In a big bowl, toss in the noddles, the onion, a few cups of chopped turkey leftover, a good pinch of fresh rosemary (or other favorite herb), 2 cans cream of chicken (or celery) soup, 1 soup can full of milk, 3-4 cups of shredded monterey jack or mozzarella or parmesan cheese, a cup or so of frozen peas and/or a 1/2 cup cooked chopped broccoli.

Stir it all up.  Pour it in a 9×13 dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Till it’s all bubbly and hot.

This freezes awesome, I often make it triple or quadrupled.

I realize we aren’t really in turkey eating season, but thought I’d share anyway.  Happy cooking!

A book review: The Mom Walk

mom-walk1

Sally Clarkson is one of my favorite mom-ish writers.  In moments of desperation I have bought many kinds of parenting books.  I probably have 15 or 20 at this point.  Most of them have been started but not finished.  It is a rare day for me to finish a book.   My friend Kim gave me a one to read several years back called The Mission of Motherhood. I read it, skimmed it, didn’t really get all of it.  I knew there was a great deal of rich truth in it, I just was so new to the journey and was quite possibly fairly overwhelmed with a firstborn who had significant health problems and a new baby who was extremely challenging in other ways.

About two years ago I read another one of Sally’s books, The Ministry of Motherhood.  I finished it in two weeks.  It resonated so much with the heart that God was beginning to develop in me for this new task of parenting. About that time  someone very close to me, whose opinion mattered greatly to me, told me something I’ve not been able to forget.  We were talking about a family member and another woman in our lives.  She said the same thing about them both.

“They have poured themselves so much into raising their children. They have given everything they have.  They haven’t made time for themselves to do other things.  I wonder if they even know who they are anymore. ”  But it was said with such a disapproving tone.  One that communicated volumes to me.  It told me that the investment they made was somehow not enough.  That they needed to be also working at a ‘real job’, volunteering at church, taking up hobbies for fun, signing up for graduate school, something more.  It left me feeling like I didn’t measure up to her standard and that somehow I should be able to have both worlds.  Hobbies, work, volunteering, school and mothering too.

I was seriously thinking about quitting working my part time job at the time.   I didn’t do it for a long time.  I wanted to be able to ‘maintain my own self and life’ to ‘earn money and contribue to our finances’ and to ‘get another degree behind my name’.  My marriage suffered.  My kids suffered.  My heart was split down the middle.  Working with a needy population as a social worker.  Taking care of 3 kids 4 and under.  A husband in a challenging ministry position that meant our life was observed by a lot of people all the time.

I finally did quit working.  When I did I felt like I let so many people down.  I could not do it all.  I could not have this great job and raise these sweet kids and serve at church and support my husband the way he needed me.  I simply couldn’t do it.  In those overwhelmed, trying-so-hard-to-live-up-to-it-all months I heard God whisper to my heart over and over…they need your whole heart, you have to let it go, trust me to provide for you, let go.  This job was something I adored.  It was fulfilling, I saw people’s lives changed, I could provide tangible help for them.  I was proud of the 7 years I spent doing it.  It broke my heart to move on.

This may seem like a big tangent from the book, but all this to say that Sally’s perspective on mothering is unique and bold in that she is not afraid to speak to the issue of mom’s being at home and raising their children.  I am quite sure it has cost her, it isn’t a popular opinion.  But it’s what God has spoken to her heart and it is powerful.  The Mom Walk was refreshing and just the reminder my heart needed for where I am at.

If there is one area almost all mothers I have ever talked to complain about, it is how inadequate they feel to fulfill their roles as good mothers…There are so many standards they feel they must live up to….Our teeth should be white, our bodies tight and sleek, our clothes ever hip.  Our house must be straight, organized and decorated as perfectly as a Pottery Barn catalog home.  Nutritious homemade meals should be an every night affair.  Reading to our intellectual children should be a daily habit after we’ve hosted stimulating devotionals….this is a recipe for discouragement and depression.

When I am accepting the limitations of my life and learning to dance through each day because of the joy I have from being accepted by God, my attitude helps fill their cups and make them feel that they are a part of a happy home…it sets a tone of love and joy in my home that feeds their own hearts with life and love.

Goodness, this has gotten too long.  All this to say, it’s taken four children but I am learning to let go and to walk confidently in the role God’s given me for this season.  I didn’t apply for grad school, I didn’t keep working at the job I loved, I didn’t keep giving of my time at church, I didn’t limit God’s plan for our family to include two children like I thought I wanted to, I didn’t pursue new hobbies or even keep up with old ones,  I didn’t keep slaving away in efforts at top notch cleanliness, I didn’t do a lot of things I felt great pressure to do.

But I am doing the things I’m supposed to be doing right now.  I am spending my days with four energetic little loves that amaze me and bless me and exhaust me.  I am loving my husband the best I know how.  I am trying to simply love and bring life to whatever people cross my path every day.

The books I’ve read of Sally’s are the most written in, loved ones on my shelf.  They speak deeply to my heart.  They have encouraged and equipped me to do what I am doing right now…trying to get wild crazy boys to sleep without biting their heads off in the process.  Choosing relationships with my children over rigid rules is a overriding theme in her books and it’s one that is continually shaping the way I interact with my kids.

Sally’s blog is always a blessing too, it can be found here.

I wish I smelled like Versace…

..but I smell like strawberry flavored cod liver oil instead.  I was trying to get Kyler’s shoes on while he drank his vitamins-a bad idea apparently-but multitasking is the name of the game around here.   After I said, “Hold it with two hands, don’t spill it!” , he promptly poured the cup in my lap.  I flew off the handle “Are you kidding me?  I just said hold it with both hands, I just told you not to spill it, these are my LAST CLEAN PANTS!”.  Now Kyler is crying, he feels really bad.  I run to the bathroom, no towels, check the hall closet, no towels.  For crying out loud, where are all my towels?  I use a dirty sweatshirt but by now the juice is soaked in to my skin.  Then I remember all my laundry is in the family room.  On the couch.  Lot of good it’s doing there right now.

And to think I actually got a shower today after spending two nights and all day yesterday in the same pajamas (and yes I went to the doctor, the store and the park) and I actually did spray my most favorite Versace perfume gracefully onto my neck and wrist just minutes before I was covered in cod liver oil.  Okay, not covered but really, it was a lot.

I held Audrey in my arms all night as she cried, tried to sleep and had a fever.  I did not sleep but dozed off sitting on the couch a few times.  We were headed to the dr this morning already to get Caleb’s cast sawed off (that should be fun) and his foot x-rayed again.   Now we’ll get to have Audrey checked out too.  That works out nicely.

I wonder if anyone will notice my new fragrance.  I really don’t have any other pants to wear.  This life as a mother is really something else.   Trying to remember what goes on my thankful list for today and taking a deep breath.

#1-Four darling children call me their mother and love me to pieces even when I get upset.  Oh, that’s right.  I guess stinky pants and no sleep is worth that.  Actually I don’t guess, I am quite sure it is.  Even today.

Is it really morning?

I got away for an hour or so last night.  I spent some time reading one of my favorite parenting books and some time texting my friend Kristin who just moved away.  Between tears and texts I didn’t read much but felt like I needed a little primer on sacrifice so I skipped ahead to that chapter.  Here is an excerpt:

God calls us as parents to lay down a blanket of sacrifice on behalf of the next generation.  This is the way of Jesus.  In many ways, sacrifice defines love.  It was one thing for Jesus to tell the world, ‘I love you’.  It was another thing entirely when he demonstrated his love by dying on our behalf….Without sacrifice, love becomes mere words and empty sentiment.”                          -Gary Thomas Sacred Parenting

So this being fresh in my mind, with a very sore throat and a cold coming on I went to bed early….you know where this is going if you read this post two weeks ago.

It took me an hour to fall asleep because of the severe throat pain, every swallow made me want to cry.

12:30 AM – I wake to Caleb sobbing in his bed, I run in, he is waving his hands everywhere and crying about his trucks, “They are gone, someone stole them, it was Kyler, it was Daddy, they are not here, I put them right here”.  I rummage around in the dark to find his bag of cars.  Crisis solved.  Tuck both boys in as Kyler woke up in the mayhem.

1 AM-Still can’t get back to sleep because of the throat, get up and take some pain medication.  Lay in bed 30 minutes waiting for it to work.  It does.

2 AM-Kyler standing 4 inches from my face “Read a book?”.  Me-are you kidding me, I just fell asleep-“No, come into bed with me and snuggle, it’s nightime.”  He spends 20 minutes trying to get comfortable then wiggles out of bed.  I take him to his bed, tuck him in there.

2:30 AM-Just fell asleep again.  Audrey wakes up, I feed her.  While she’s nursing, I hear noises.  Then more noises.  I am hyperventilating, sure someone is in our house.  I am too tired to think clearly.  I lay Audrey down and creep out to the living room.

Kyler, no burglar.  Just Kyler.  Playing with daddy’s lighter that was left on the floor.  Taking the contents of daddy’s wallet out and lining them up on the floor.  Playing with daddy’s leatherman tool.  Taking out his work papers.  He asks for a snack.  We put all daddy’s stuff back where it was.  I let him blow the lighter out a few times and praise God he didn’t light the carpet on fire while he was out there alone.   I give him some milk and put him in bed again.  Lay with him.  Tuck him in.

4 AM-I wake to the sound of Kyler on top of me  and something sticky dripping on my face.  I smell peppermint.  He tries to talk to me.  I can’t understand anything he says.  He is drooling all over my head and pillow.  Finally I realized he’s chewing most of a pack of gum.  No idea where from or how long he’s been up.  I ask him to spit out the gum.  He’s happy to oblige.

I’m about done with this fun.  I finally wake up Christopher and ask him to deal with Kyler.  5 seconds later Audrey wakes up.  Only she doesn’t go right back to sleep like usual.  She’s up for the day.  So now it’s 6:30 and she just went down for her first nap of the day.  Somewhere in there before 5:30  Christopher left for work too.  And you do the math, how much did I sleep?  Yeah, I don’t even want to know.

Sacrifice indeed.  The phrase that I’ve read so many times in the Bible about Jesus laying His life down for us has never been so real to me as it is right now.  I’ve said it before to friends but it’s taken a few kids to bring me to my knees in so many ways (good, hard ways).  I could fake it, keep it together, act like things were under control and generally keep up with life with one child, two kids and even three surprised me.  But I can’t anymore.

My desperation for God to carry me through the day, to sustain me in ways that are truly beyond comprehension are a daily reality in this life with four.   There are many, many days that by all signs should be in the toilet from lack of sleep, sickness, etc.  But I believe with all my heart that God hears my quiet prayers and He is faithful to answer them.  Not always my way, but He always comes through.  I can feel it.  I know He’s here.  I know He’s placing one foot in front of the next and tenderly leading me through the day.  I could not survive a day without that.  He is more than able and I am SO not able, especially on days like today.

Eggs instead

We have had the blessing of money provided this month specifically for food.  So last week, I stocked the freezer fuller than it has ever been.  Ground beef, turkey, chicken…all the things I cook with as a basis for our meals.  I had my weekly planning time yesterday afternoon and laid out meals for the week.  The days of leftovers are fairly over, we usually eat it all or make two full meals, one to freeze.  So tonight was burgers and fries because it’s F week and fries sounded fun.

All well and good right?  One small problem.  In order to access the well stocked freezer, here is what I would have to do:

Go outside.
Get a ladder.
Bring it in and place it in the hallway.
Climb the ladder into the attic.
Crawl through the attic (which I’ve discovered has rather damp places and traces of mold).
Shimmy (is that a word?)  through a hole my husband cut in the sheetrock/firewall in the attic last night with a saw.
Crawl down through another hole to get into our 6 feet of garage where our freezer is located.
Get said food out of freezer.
Climb back up (all this in the pitch dark) into the attic.
Drop food through the hole in the wall.
Fit myself through the hole in the wall.
Carry food across attic and down ladder.
Make dinner.

Why can’t I just open the garage door to get the food?  After hours of cleaning and organizing our little garage space, when we shut the door, the spring broke and the door crashed down.  Without the springs, it weighs nearly 400 pounds and we could not even budge it last night.  Why don’t I want to go to all that trouble to get some beef to make hamburgers for dinner?  Truth is, I won’t fit through the hole Christopher cut in the wall up in the attic.  So even if it sounded fun, I wouldn’t make it.  Or I would end up wedged like Winnie the Pooh when he ate too much honey and got stuck in Rabbit’s doorway which is for me a fabulously vivid and highly amusing mental picture.

So no burgers tonight, we’ll do eggs instead-maybe omelets to be more dinner-ish.  Tomorrow’s dinner?  We’ll see how long it takes to get this worked out.  Trying to be flexible and just laugh.   I’m really striving to roll with the punches and figure out how to delight in the challenges that come up every day.  My kids watch everything I do and I’m seeing responses from them that I really don’t like sometimes.  No one else is responsible for that but me as they are with me nearly 100% of the time.  I feel like they hold a mirror up to my face and sometimes it is so endearing and other times it makes my heart sink.

Back to grace.  Just finished Grace Based Parenting and now am about to pick up Philip Yancey’s famous book, What’s so Amazing About Grace?.  This whole raising children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, that’s for sure.

What did Kyler do today? For those keeping track, he stuck a screwdriver up his nose  and hurt himself quite badly I’m sure he will never do it again.  Blood and tears and more blood.  He also, without anyone knowing, carefully placed a good many Kix cereal balls back into the milk container then put it away.  At lunch time today, Caleb had the surprise of pouring a glass only to find it was quite contaminated with little yellow balls, he was less than thrilled.

Bliss

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This is it.  Pure bliss.  Every mother’s dream.  All four kids, caught on film napping at the very same time.  How wonderful.  Yes, Rylee and Caleb are sleeping in Rylee’s bed.  They often pretend/try to nap together but it never works out.  I sarcasically said they could try today, knowing in 3 minutes I’d be splitting them up (Caleb doesn’t nap) but lo and behold, I found them like this.

Four kids at Costco (when it was more crowded than I had EVER seen it) however, is not pure bliss.  Far from it.  We went late because Kyler threw up all his vitamins all over the light tan couch this morning in a coughing fit and it took a while to clean up-like lunch time-and scraped up enough samples to make it through but with all four in the cart and all our groceries, this being our last Costco trip for quite some time I’m sure, by the end my kids were opening all sorts of things in the cart to satisfy their hunger and I had shaky legs from pushing the enormous weight of the cart around the store.  Wow, run on sentence I know.  You should have been there.

And what am I doing with my kid free moment?  Blogging and dishes and laundry and cooking of course.