Snow Day: Expectations vs Reality

Snow Day. I remember the joy those words used to cause when I was a child. Back in those olden times, we wouldn’t know it was going to be a snow day until we woke up early in the morning. Our parents would check the closings on the news or the radio and then come quietly say the words at our bedroom doors, “Snow day! No school today!” We would of course then jump out of bed and race to the window to see how much snow there was. Forget about sleeping in, it was a Snow Day!! Must get outside as fast as possible and play with the snow for as long as possible!

Now I’m on the other side of the equation. Nowadays I hear the night before that school is cancelled for the next day. I receive an automated phone call from the school board. They make their decision based on all the weather reports and predictions. Forget about waiting to see what actually happens. This of course has resulted in us sometimes having a snow day and no snow as the weather refuses to cooperate with the weather channels’ forecasts. But, that’s alright. I like knowing in advance. Being forewarned means that, in theory, we should be able to switch off the alarm clocks and sleep in. In fact, my mind conjured this really great image of a Snow Day.

It looked something like this..

fireside#1

And maybe some of this…

fireside#2

So the reality is my kids were in my room at 7am, before sunrise, asking to go outside. I made them wait till it was light enough that they could at least see their hands in front of their faces. Then we had to dress everyone in snow pants, coats, gloves, hats, snow boots…we didn’t even attempt scarves as that just seemed one thing too many. All of these items had to be pulled out of storage. (We get snow maybe two or three times a year.) Then someone dressed the two year old for me, trying to be helpful, except the baby had a poopy diaper, so I then had to to completely undress him again to change him first. And of course, since my kids like to use our gloves for things like storing dirt; or making baby doll hats; or storing a marble collection, we didn’t have enough gloves for everyone which then resulted in this…

noahgloves

 

After finally launching all of them out the door, I stood at the doorway in my slippers and took the obligatory Snow Day Pictures…

phoebenomisnow

judahjoshsnow

 

The teenagers of course tried to sleep in as much as their younger siblings would let them. When they did finally emerge, they looked out the window at the snow, grunted, and went back to their lairs…I mean bedrooms.

Little children ran in and out of the house in soaking wet, snow-covered clothing, complaining about wet gloves, snowballs in the face, and the most interesting one: the claim that the eleven year old had stolen all the snow. My pointing out the window at all the white stuff on the ground was not convincing enough evidence for the seven year old making this claim. Apparently all that white stuff didn’t count, he had stolen the “good” snow.

I did make an attempt at being Pinterest Worthy. And told the kids I would make them hot cocoa. I got the water boiled, cups laid out, children gathered around, then opened the hot cocoa tin and found out that we only had a tiny bit of hot cocoa powder left. I divvied it up and everyone had a little bit of weak cocoa. Without marshmallows.

The house got trashed. The kids watched a lot of TV. I may have “raised my voice” a couple times. Ah yes. Snow Day.

Finally late afternoon I got hold of the situation and had everyone clean a section of the house. Turned the TV off, played scrabble with my daughter. Enjoyed a cup of tea. Made a nice hot supper. Had a chaotic, but family centered evening.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school, one hour delayed. That sounds so much better. One hour to sleep in a bit later, not be so rushed, but we still have a schedule to cling to. I think that’s going to be my new plea to the Weather Channel, Let’s have a one-hour delay!! That works for me.

 

Car Trips, Broken Ice, and Laughter

Today we drove about an hour north to go visit my parents. My youngest daughter had a birthday and we were going to celebrate with Grandma and Grandpa. We had seven kids in the car, our oldest three off living their own lives. We were traveling on a small country highway and I was looking outside enjoying the view: farmland, creeks and rivers, pretty little towns. We were driving along and I noticed a pasture covered in puddles which had then frozen over. I suddenly had a memory of living on my grandparents farm in Eastern Kentucky, maybe ten years old, stomping around on a cold winter day. I was wearing my old light blue tennis shoes, full of holes but wonderfully comfortable, my old worn out blue jeans, hand-me-downs from my older brother, my pink puffy jacket with decorative flaps on the front and secret inside pockets, an old knit hat and a worn out pair of gloves. I remember stomping through my aunt’s pasture where her ponies lived. The ground was covered in muddy indentations from the ponies’ hooves and each indentation had filled with water from the earlier rains and now had frozen over. I remember the sensation of the thin ice cracking under my feet, my foot bending with the frozen ridges in the ground. Stumbling along as I tried to find more ice to break under my feet. I remembered all this and then felt a pang. My children would not have those country-living memories. They were city kids. And I felt this overwhelming longing to just uproot my family and move to a farm so my kids could know the joy of running through fields in winter, breaking ice under their feet.

We spent the day with my parents and then loaded up the van to drive home again. I love car trips. I love just looking out the window and thinking about whatever random topics pop into my head. I love looking at the houses that we pass, wondering about the people who live there. Watching the sky turn colors until it’s just the stars making tiny dots of light. Seeing the dark hulk of hills looming in the distance. As we drove tonight I thought about all the roads I had traveled on in my life. I remembered driving home from Cap Haitien, Haiti to our little house on the mountainside. Laying on a bench in the back of our truck, watching the moon chase us down the road, marveling that we could never outrun the moonlight. I remember driving on sandy, gravelly roads in the bush town of Bethel, Alaska, looking out from the road into pure darkness, no lights to interrupt the horizon, only our little island of a town, floating on the tundra. I remembered driving the Alaska Highway, the vast forests of never-ending trees. And all the other roads, highways in Chile, cross-country road trips out West. I felt melancholy. I couldn’t share these things with my children. I couldn’t give them these experiences.

As we drove along I started tuning in to what was happening in the car. In the very back seat my eleven and nine year old boys had made up their own little game. The eleven year old was singing favorite Disney songs, but he would stop at key words, MadLib style, and then the nine year old would fill in a random word. In the next row up were my two little girls, seven and six. They were giggling and laughing their heads off at the antics of their brothers, sometimes offering a suggestion of a word here and there. Lots of singing. Lots of laughing. In the next row up my four year old and two year old were strapped into their carseats, the thirteen year old sitting next to them, trying to ignore them. The four year old was holding up different shells from a little container of shells that his grandma had given him. He was explaining that if you held up the shell to your ear,  you could hear the ocean. Then he held up a different shell and said, “In this shell you can hear a crab playing rock and roll on his guitar.” He studied the shell thoughtfully for a minute and then pulled out another shell. “In this shell you can hear a turtle biting a fish.” And on it went, each shell with it’s own story. The two year old was fussing and wanted to hold my hand, but his carseat was a bit too far back and so in order to hold his hand I had to bend my body backwards, stretching as far as I could. It was a position I could only maintain for a couple minutes. I would finally feel something snapping in my back and I would pull my hand back and he would instantly start fussing again. My husband started making up a lullaby with silly words for him in an attempt to distract him. And it occurred to me. My kids have these memories. These are good memories. They are worth having. Memories of outings with the family. Memories of singing and laughter. Memories of talking to Mom and Dad about your shells. Memories of being loved.

I am so happy that I don’t have to replicate my own childhood for my children in order for them to have happy, fulfilling memories. They’re writing their own stories, and those stories are good.

Fat Fridays: Week 5 It’s All A Mind Game

I’ve been thinking about rules and diet plans and cheating on those rules and diet plans. I am feeling ready to move forward…I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about how I think, figuring out why I eat, but I want to make some changes now. The problem is, when I think about diet plans I start feeling panicky. Let’s see, if I do this diet plan, it means I can no longer ever eat sugar. Ok, well, before I start this diet plan, I need to go buy a box of chocolates, and maybe eat a bit more ice cream and maybe have some cake and pie one more time, because, I really love desserts and if I’m going to have to give them up, then I better have one last fling! Oh wait, I could do this other diet plan instead, it says no animal products. Ok, well, first I need to have one more cheeseburger and some bacon and maybe a really good piece of grilled BBQ chicken, cause if I’m giving up meat, I need to have one last fling! And on and on it goes. Someone tells me that I can’t have something ever again and I instantly want to have it.

I’ve been trying to think how I can circumnavigate this tendency of mine. What if I decide to go on a certain diet and I just go in with the idea that I can cheat whenever I want to? Or what if I just give up on diet all together and just make small healthy changes, one at a time? Here’s the problem. My baseline behavior is to crave food that isn’t good for me and eat it in quantities that I don’t need. I need structure. I need a system. I need a chance to wean myself off of some of the more addicting foods like sugar and excess salt and fat. Processed foods that excite my taste buds, but give me a stomach ache. I need to get off of all that stuff so that I can re-learn how to enjoy the taste of fruit and vegetables. I need to restrict myself so that I re-learn how to be satisfied with a much smaller serving. I need a diet plan. I even have a diet plan. One of my own making that is simply based on what my body seems to like and not like: unlimited fruits and vegetables, limited grain, limited fat, lean meat, no dairy except maybe the occasional sprinkle of cheese, no sugar. Over years of dieting and “lifestyle changes” I’ve discovered that this particular way of eating makes me feel good and I drop weight when I do this.

What I’m trying to figure out is how to deal with things like birthdays and holidays and potlucks with friends. I find that when I severely restrict myself I do good for months and then suddenly something snaps and I just get tired of depriving myself of dessert and so I cheat and then that cheat just seems to open up the floodgates and suddenly I am no longer eating healthy any more and am instead bingeing on all of my favorite unhealthy foods. This is what I’m trying to figure out how to avoid.

Maybe if I go into the diet telling myself, you are going to eat healthy, but if temptation should rear it’s head on a special occasion, then you can just go ahead and have a small helping of the bad stuff. And maybe, if I know that I can cheat whenever I want, it won’t be so hard to resist or go back to the healthy eating after I’ve cheated. It’s a mind game. All of this is a mind game.

Well, I think that’s going to be the plan. I hope to start when I do my next grocery shopping. Here’s to healthy eating and here’s to winning the mind game.

Morning People

Morning People. Ugh. I am not a Morning People. My husband is a Morning People. Ugh. My alarm goes off at 6:45. That gives me 15 minutes to get out of bed, get dressed and lay out breakfast for the kids. My husband is usually leaving the house about the time I get up. He walks up to me, all chirpy. His eyes are wide open, he’s grinning. He gives me a big enthusiastic hug. I passively stand there. Raising my arms feels like a bit too much work at this time of day. My eyes are barely squinted open. He laughs and makes some comment about opening my eyes up. I grunt. Barely murmur the words..Love you..and send him on his joyful way.

I used to think that I was a Morning People. When I was a young teen I would habitually wake up early to exercise or practice piano before going to school. I would read my bible and eat my breakfast and have a leisurely morning. Then college came and this thing called sleep deprivation. I remember coming home for Christmas break when I was in college. I would sleep in till noon every day. Of course it helped that we were in Alaska and the sun wasn’t getting up till after 11 am. I think that is some of the best sleep I ever got. I still remember it fondly.

Sleep deprivation has become a way of life. For the past 18 plus years, I have been pregnant or nursing a baby or had toddlers climbing into my bed. I can honestly say that I haven’t had a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep in 18 years. Of course, my husband really hasn’t either, but he still manages to be chirpy in the morning. So maybe I can’t use that as an excuse. Hmm.

Every morning I wake my kids up at 7, they get dressed, brush hair, put on shoes, come down and eat a quick breakfast and then we’re out the door at 7:15. Five kids going to school and often the baby and toddler ride along with us if they’re awake. I go to the elementary school and then the middle school. The middleschooler always rides up front. This suits me fine. The middleschooler has the same opinion of mornings that I do. We go over our Bible memory verses in the car, I pray for my kids, and the rest of the car ride is silent. Ok, my two little girls can be chirpy in the morning, but they sit further back in the van and I don’t have to hear them. My highschoolers walk to school. One time though I had to give my oldest son a ride to school. I can’t remember why, sprained ankle? Broken bone? I just remember that for a short time I had him sitting up in the front seat when we drove to school. He takes after his father. He likes to talk in the morning. Loud, enthusiastic talking. Telling me all about some show or movie that he really likes. And I’m just sitting there driving thinking…Stop, stop. Be quiet. Please stop talking. It is too early to be talking. Stop. Why???

I am fortunate that I am a stay at home mom. There is no pressure to be fully functional by 7am or 8am, or even 9am if it was a particularly rough night. I come home after dropping the kids off and sit on the couch with my two little ones. I zone out. I don’t do caffeine. I’ve never liked the thought of being addicted to any type of substance and so I’ve never developed a hot beverage habit. So, I just wait till my body finally says, Ok, we’re awake now. Let’s get on with the day.

Little kids, in general, are Morning People. Saturday morning they come bouncing into my room at 7am. What’s for breakfast Mom?? Me: hmmph? They climb up on the bed, hit me in the head with a book..Will you read this to me Mom??? Me: (barely whispering) Go away. Mom! Mom! Watch this! They do a somersault on the bed, landing on my legs. Me: AAAGHH!!! GO PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE!! They finally run off to make noise in a different room. My husband climbs out of bed, says in a loud cheery voice, Well, I think I’m going to go work on some projects right now. Me: (thinking to myself, IT’S SATURDAY!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!) covers head with pillow and groans.

I am hopeful that one day my children will all sleep through the night and then maybe I’ll start sleeping through the night, and then maybe, I’ll just wake up early because I’m well-rested. And I’ll be cheerful and have lots of energy. We’ll see. I’m not holding my breath.

Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Quite a while ago I had a vivid dream. The kind you wake up and think, that was important, I need to remember that, I need to think about that…

In the dream I was in a big castle whose King was in residence. There were all kinds of people in the castle, lord and ladies, courtiers, servants of all kinds. It was actually pretty crowded. I was a servant. I had never actually met the King face to face, but would see him in the distance occasionally. I also heard what everybody had to say about the King and I was in awe and a bit afraid of the King. One day, for some reason I ended up serving in the dining hall and somehow I managed to trip and spill what I was carrying all over the King who had been standing in a group of people. I was terrified. Face down on the floor begging forgiveness. The King was not angry at all and reached down to me gently to help me up and with a puzzled look on his face said, “What have they told you about me child?”

That was it.

So, it’s not too hard a dream to interpret. I would say I was the servant and the King was Jesus. My knowledge of him was as a harsh taskmaster when in reality he was kind and gentle and forgiving.

I am not sure why my initial impressions of Jesus were of a harsh, unapproachable person. I think a lot of it was the Christian culture I grew up in. Christianity seemed to be about learning the rules and following them. Christians don’t listen to that kind of music. Christians don’t watch those movies. Christians don’t go to those places. Christians don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I remember hearing the phrase “Jesus doesn’t like it when you: have a bad attitude, aren’t thankful, say mean things, talk that way…” Yes Jesus loves you, as one song says, but you also better watch out, better not cry, better not pout, Jesus Christ is coming…Oh wait, was that Santa?

My adult life has been all about learning about Jesus as a God of compassion and grace and mercy and forgiveness and love. It’s been a long difficult journey and I think I have come so far and then some behavior or thought pattern shows me that I still have a long way to go to understand God’s love for me and walk in it.

Today someone at church asked if they could pray for me after the service as I had been on their mind all week. After the service I went up to get prayed for and they prayed for me, spoke words of encouragement and wisdom, direction. It was an amazing blessing. The one phrase they spoke over me that hasn’t left me all afternoon has been, “You are much beloved.”

What does that mean? Perhaps that God is for me not against me. That I’m not trying to earn his favor. That I am not alone. That God is someone I want to be with.

Here’s the hard part. God’s loving me has nothing to do with how awesome I am and everything to do with how Awesome he is. That is the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around, that He is that Good, that Kind, that Compassionate, that He can extend his love to me, an everyday human who is tangled up in sin and selfishness. I feel unworthy and so thankful. And joyful and wondering and hopeful and excited. And just a little bit scared. Do I dare believe that it’s true? I have heard this message before, but somehow, every time it’s brand new, once again. God Loves Me.

For those of you reading this…It’s true for you too. He loves you. Oh that you could know this for yourself. That is my heart’s desire for you.

This is one of my favorite hymns. May it’s words bless you.

O THE DEEP, DEEP LOVE OF JESUS

TEXT:
Samuel Trevor Francis
MUSIC:
Folk Tune

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Public Domain

Fat Fridays: Week 4 First Things First

This year January first came and went and I never started up on a new diet. You know that saying that goes something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..” . Well, that’s how I feel about diets. Years of starting diets have done me very little good over the long term. I have decided this year that instead of jumping on the latest dietary fad wagon, I wanted to get to the root of why I am overweight. Why do I overeat? Why do I turn to food? Why do I constantly fail at adopting a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps if I can understand these things, I can change the base behavior that has brought me to this state. Writing the Fat Fridays blog has been a good step in this direction as far as starting to analyze why I do what I do, but I still have felt like I needed a plan, something to actively be working on.

This past Sunday in church we had several different people give words of encouragement, words of counsel, words of wisdom, and the theme I kept hearing over and over again was, you need to get off your devices (phone, internet, kindle) and give more time to God instead of submerging yourself in entertainment.

This has been nagging my conscience for a while. I have definitely developed a really bad phone addiction. I would see all these memes trying to show people just how bad their phone addiction is and I would cringe because I knew that was me. How did this addiction develop? Well, I would say that I had a real desire to not be “present” in my surroundings. It was a way I coped with depression…don’t think, just read books…don’t think, just get on Facebook…don’t think, just read some mindless articles on the internet.. It has become a full-blown addiction. Subconsciously I knew this, but I didn’t want to deal with it so I tried not to think about it.

So, this was the message I felt like God was telling me, the path he was leading me down…You want to lose weight? Ok, disconnect from your phone.. Deal with that addiction first and then you’ll be in a better place to deal with your weight loss issues.

On Tuesday I laid down the law. No more than one hour a day on the internet. Only get on my kindle when I’m exercising on my elliptical or when I have to wait in a doctor’s office or some such place as that.

It’s Thursday night and I can tell you that this has been extremely difficult. That one hour seems to disappear really quickly. I’ve done twice as much exercise because my book got really good and I didn’t want to stop reading. I went over my internet time a bit yesterday and felt guilty about that. Disconnected from the world-wide-web, I find myself just thinking, pondering things instead of automatically trying to find something to read or look at. I find myself talking to my children more, being a bit more present. I find myself getting more projects done as I have a restless energy to keep myself occupied. This has been difficult and necessary and exciting. Difficult because breaking any kind of addiction is hard. Necessary because it’s hard to assess your life and habits and make changes when you’re completely tuned out of your life. And exciting because I feel like I turned off the background noise and suddenly I’m hearing the birds singing again, and the wind blowing in the trees and I find myself thinking about the future and dreaming and imagining and feeling hopeful again.

I don’t know why, but getting space from my device is making me happy. And I find it a lot easier to tackle weight loss problems and challenges from a place of happiness than from a place of depression.

I don’t know what the next step is going to look like in this weight loss journey, but I’m feeling optimistic.

Parenting: It’s Not A Competition

The other day I overheard a conversation. Two moms. One was telling the other, while talking about schooling choices and the spiritual good of your children “And of course you would never want to send them to public school!” Which of course I am doing with my kids. I felt my hackles rise and a bunch of retorts came to my tongue, which I of course didn’t say, because the moms weren’t talking to me, about me, or even meant for me to overhear them…They meant no offense. But I found myself mentally defending my parenting choices, and thinking, “I bet your kids aren’t going to turn out terrific just because you’re doing it a different way..” and then my final mental argument, “The proof is in the pudding!” You’ll see! My kids are going to turn out better than your kids and then you’ll know that you shouldn’t have been putting down my parental choices!!! And then I stopped, because by this time my mental defense was getting a bit ridiculous. The proof is in the pudding. What does that mean anyway? Does that mean that if my children all turn out to be law-abiding citizens who go to church every Sunday and marry within their faith and do good works…Does that mean that I get to claim the prize of “GREAT PARENT” ? And then you have to ask, well at what age do you assess your grown children to decide if you were successful or not..20, 30, 40? Ok, so what if you have 10 kids and one of them turns out to be a saint, but another one goes through a really rough period and does jail time? Am I a success or a failure? At what point in time does your children’s decisions rest squarely on their own shoulders and you are exonerated from any blame? Or, at what point in time do their good decisions reflect their own good character and not just the fact that they were “raised right”.

In the Christian circles that I walk in, there is a definite fallacy that we parents seem to hang on to very tightly. The fallacy is that our children are perfect little angels or at least, only mildly sinful, and it’s our job to keep them away from all negative influences, all exposure to evil, and keep them “pure” at all costs. If we do so, and we can launch them into society without a single wrinkle in their reputation, then we are good parents. We have done our Christian duty to raise our children right.

Guys, my parenting journey has taught me very clearly that this is WRONG! I am realizing more and more that I need my children to not be perfect..instead I need them to be aware of just how imperfect they are. I need them to know just how short of the mark they fall. I need them to be aware of just how desperately they need Jesus to come and wash away their sins. Because, they are definitely sinful people. We all are. I need them to see that their natural selfishness is sinful. I need them to see that their desire to always be right is prideful, and that’s sin. I need my kids to realize that just because they live in a church-going family does not mean that they are somehow better than the kids who have never set foot in a church door. I need them to know this about themselves so that they can know how badly they need Jesus and they can learn that He is the only one who is going to bring them forgiveness and peace in this world.

This means that I can’t parent with this idea that if I can turn out perfect children then I will win the parenting prize. No. That’s not the point. The point is to spend their childhood teaching them about this God who loves them, teaching them that HE is the Way the Truth and the Life. Everyone is nodding their heads right now, “of course, we all want our children to be saved..” If that is our goal, then we also need to realize that We can’t save our kids. It’s God who calls them. And he has this really annoying way of doing things in his own time. Not my time. This means, I might have a child leave my home who doesn’t know Jesus personally yet. Can I do anything about this? No. But, I can certainly make sure that they know everything there is to know about God, Jesus, and the Bible before they leave home. And I can make sure that they always feel loved by their family, and I can bring them daily before God in prayer, on my knees, asking him to bring my child to salvation.

In the end, I have to step off the comparison box. I have to remember that this whole parenting thing isn’t about turning out perfect individuals. Me looking around and deciding that my kid turned out better than your kid is just stupid. This is not a competition. We are all raising up the next generation, together. We have the same goal…to raise up children into adults who love God and love people and who will take over the running of this earth after we pass on. We don’t get different colored ribbons depending on how our grown child turns out. This parenting thing is not an 18 year long job. It’s a lifetime job. We will spend the rest of our lives praying for our children, praying that they will grow in their knowledge of God, praying that they will be wise, praying for their protection…

May we resist the urge to compare ourselves with each other, getting worried or defensive when other parents do things differently,  and instead keep the end goal in sight…May we raise up our children to know God and be aware of their great need for him.