Thursday, August 30, 2012

On my birthday

Dear Mommy,

Twenty-nine years ago today, you became 'Momma.' You prepared and pushed for that moment. I was just along for the ride. Nearly three decades later, I realize you worked the most for these 29 years. I was still mostly along for the ride. Even now, that your 'big-little girl' is all grown up, I rely on your work.

Thank you. You cleaned messes and wiped snotty faces and made hundreds of lunches I refused to eat. You swept and taught and prayed. Thanks for holding dinner while I rode Gremlin. Thanks for holding me while I cried over some silly boy {or some silly horse}.

My birthday is more about you than me. My life started, but yours' was never the same. Thank you for showing me how to love my family through serving them. I love you!! bug

Dear Daddy,

Twenty-nine years ago today, you became 'Daddy.' I will never forget Mommy telling me that you always had a boat... until I came along. Then you gave up oceans and lakes for the pool with a clipboard and stop watch. Did I ever tell you how much it meant to me that you were standing at the end of the pool when I climbed out?

Did I ever tell you how much it meant to me that you spent your weekends watching ponies trot in circles? Watching beginner skaters twirl at glacial speeds? Watching us play tic-tac-toe in the outfield?

Or that time we played basketball, and you blew out your knee... again. You told me, while we were sitting on the porch, ice bag draped over you knee, that you knew that might happen, but you wanted to play with me anyway.

Thank you, Daddy. I never doubted how much you loved me. You set a Godly example of sacrifice. I love you!! bug

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Seeking out a quiet moment

More so than January, September is a habit-forming time. The good kind {I don't reach for a bottle with the changing leaves}. Early fall is ripe for evaluating the summer rhythm and adjusting for a new school year.

With two new babies to care for, my rhythm is grossly off kilter. Where I once had quiet afternoons to spend on study and writing and baking, big one begs for extra books and hungry infant screams for a bottle.
I rise early for the quietest moment I can find. Only God is stirring. Even the sun is hitting snooze. I sit over my tea replaying how many times I have failed with an early morning study time. But I can't fail this time. I've written my day twenty ways. This early moment is the only one.

I beg grace to wake me early and with gladness. That my joy in uninterrupted time at the Teacher's feet will override the urge to ignore my alarm.

The still moment is everything I need for a day. To calm and quiet my soul before the busyness begins.

I feel selfish taking this time for myself, hoarding God's attention. What an awesome God?! That He can give singular focus to His every creature at once. That I could sit seen by God while he infinitely sees 7 billion other people. He is not the great heavenbound multi-tasker, but the Great I Am who sees in secret and in full.

Grace will keep me rising early to seek His face and steady my heart on the cross. Grace will make a hard-kept habit into a relaxing rhythm.
Scratching early in my journal, I remember Brother Lawrence, practicing God's presence in a bustling monastery kitchen after rising for midnight prayers. He lived the schedule of a newborn's mother. God doesn't require quiet and tea. But my frail flesh does. He speaks everywhere if I train my ears to listen.

Timely encouragement: I'm not the only one seeking new habits in a revised routine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teaching the art of learning

School has started. When I told big one she was going to start home school this year, she informed me that she didn't need home school; she needs high school. She is two and three quarters after all.

Our schooling is simple and short. Counting, letters, art, reading, Bible, science. I plan for 30 minutes or less. This morning she surprised me by focusing for 40 and asking for more school. A hungry learner who cannot sit flat in her chair. I think my first report card said the exact same thing.

As if on cue, our first butterfly emerged yesterday. We crowded around the little habitat watching blue, orange and black wings unfold and strengthen. Within a few hours, he was ready for a release party. The girls waved and yelled, "Bye bye, Eric," as he rode the wind out of our yard. A swallowtail passes by the kitchen window this morning, and I wonder if Eric is visiting home.

My mom commented last night that I set up our cross curriculum learning well with the science behind the butterfly and practicing the letter B and an art project. It was a shame that the girls were too young to appreciate it. She's right, of course. The girls may see photos or saved scribbling in a phonic book, but they won't remember our first butterfly hatching and coloring butterfly wings. This year of school is not really about them. It's for me. I'm learning how to organize and prepare and create and teach.  Learn alongside them. Think school, so that we stay in a steady of state of watching and learning.

The title makes this post sound more authoritative than it is. I'm still studying theory for creating life-long learners. But I start with a great advantage: my momma taught us to learn and to enjoy learning. She won't give herself much credit for the job she did homeschooling us, but when I started reading homeschool theory, it all sounded very familiar. As if someone had lived it out for me. Thanks Momma.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sandwich Bread

Today, I am offering what might feel to you normal 'glutenous' people like another gluten free bread recipe. To those of us gluten-freer's, I share golden, light, non-crumbly yeast bread. I've been working on this recipe for months, and only chose to publish it after proving it consistent. If you have any questions, ask me. I might have run into the same problem.
 Honestly, when was the last time you saw gf bread softly bend like this?
GF Sandwich Bread

Prep yeast:
2 T yeast
3/4 c warm water
Stir yeast in warm water and set aside for 10-15 minutes

Whisk flour mixture in separate bowl:
1 c milled flax seed
3 c whole grain flour mix {I use equal parts millet, yellow split pea and sweet rice}
2 t salt
2 t xantham gum

Using a stand mixer, mix:
2 eggs
prepped yeast and water
1/3 c honey
1/3 c kefir {1/2 c plain yogurt}

Add flour in 1 cup increments to the wet ingredients. This is the crucial step - Beat on medium high for 5 minutes until dough looks whipped {you are aligning the protein in the eggs just like you would kneading wheat bread}. Move dough to greased bread pan. Wet hands or spatula to smooth out the top. Allow bread to rise for 20-30 minutes {it over rises easily and will fall in the oven}, then turn oven to 350 degrees. When preheated, bake for 40 minutes, rotating the bread halfway through.

You guys are great. Thanks for reading this silly blog and for commenting and encouraging me. I really appreciate your time!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trial by fire: Childcare

We've  been eating dinner for an hour. Big one just exclaimed, Mommy, I didn't know there were olives in here. Observant she is not.

Hanging out with my beauties. Absorbing the sea turtle movie with large eyes. We're all girls tonight. Time for Momma fun: a trip to the library. The brightest spot in a long, challenging, growing pain day for this momma.

We've entered a new venture - childcare {that sounds like the girls have raised themselves like wolf-children up to this point}. I should say, care of someone else's children. I now have four girls under age three in my care. {I'm sorry. Did you just choke on your coffee as you read that? Me too.} How did this transpire? Who would ever trust me to guard the wellbeing of two more babies? I still shake my head at my optimism, my unfailing belief that I can 'make it work.'

I am three days into babysitting and have almost reconciled myself to never using the toilet again. Without fail, the girls deny needing to use the potty until my hand touches the bathroom door. As soon as I need to relieve myself, the toddler bladder dance starts. I need go potty right now!! Inevitably, I let the toddler jump line so I don't have to clean up an accident. Once one is using the potty, every other baby realizes how badly they need to go, even small one who is wearing a diaper. Now I have a line of hopping children when the first one on the pot says, I need go big poop. Of course you do.

But toddlers in the bathroom are contained under a watchful eye. My larger problems occur when I sneak away to the bathroom. Problems such as dumping a brand new box of formula on the kitchen floor, then throwing it up in the air and grinding it into sweaty tiny toes. An example. {I still cannot comprehend how those three tiny figures, barely 75 lbs. among them, managed to spread that formula as far as they did.}

And what did I do when the formula formed a sole-like crust on my bare feet, and the infant it was supposed to feed started wailing? I sang {my other options: maniacal laughter with the accompanying eye twitch, torrential tears, or cursing that would redden a squid's cheeks}. So I sang. Mostly to interrupt Big One from asking again, Mommy, what did you do to Baby Mollie's formula?

Trust and obey, for there's no other way. At that moment, literally no other way to keep from using my tongue to exact revenge on four unsuspecting girls. Trust and obey. Something tells me this venture will take an enormous amount of trusting, obeying, and singing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two hungry caterpillars

We are caterpillar crazy today. The black swallowtails are pillaging our parsley. Soon they will be beautiful bivouac-like cocoons.

Last year I gave up the caterpillar fight and let them have the parsley. No Seven dust. And was rewarded with sighting a butterfly emerging.

This year, I actually moved two into the house and bought extra parsley! The girls are smitten. Their very own very hungry caterpillars. Their wide eyes peer into tiny insect lives.

And so begins our first home school science experiment. Meet Eric...
and Carle...
Big one does not understand how long this venture will take. We walk to the grocery store, and she expects butterflies when we get back. Small one doesn't understand what we're doing at all. She just wants to poke them, especially since they send out these crazy orange antler things whenever you touch  them {I looked it up - they're not toxic}. 

Truth be told, I'm having the most fun. Not only enjoying the girls' discovery. I like the idea of hatching butterflies in my house. I like having a science project sitting on my dining room table. A natural wonder unfolding before our eyes. I like the teaching. No doubt these will not be the last caterpillars to find their wings in our home.

For helpful hints on raising soon-to-be butterflies: Joyful Butterfly

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Planted by streams

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.

With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel,

The shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,

Their life shall be like a watered garden,

I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
from Jeremiah 31

This words come while I stand before a soapy sink, green rubber gloves up to my elbows. A vulgar altar. But God is not hampered by my commonness.

Reading a novel about WWII, my heart is heavy over the condition of man's hearts. The atrocities we can tolerate with relative ease. No political, pacifist rant from my dangerously uninformed mind. Just a heavy heart.

I read somewhere where one of these ultra-marathoners of the faith listened to the Bible while she drove. At the time I thought, Will I ever grow up to the point of listening to the Bible? Replacing music or, perish the thought, NPR podcasts with the spoken word of God? I can't see myself ever being that Christian. I'd probably have to paint scripture on the wall above our bed and place worship banners around the house too.

Here I am, at the sink, listening to Jeremiah, barely running the water so I don't obstruct the sound. 

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, 
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, 
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8
It's water to a weary soul. No fear in trials, for the Lord provides. No anxiety in trouble, for the Lord brings fruit.

I told a friend today about our first year in Virginia, when our house in Tennessee wasn't even showing, when complicated pregnancy bills were piling up, when student loans were still due, and power bills were sky high from a limping AC unit. During a broke month, we were called home to see an ailing grandfather. Filling up with gas, I realized I was putting the month's grocery money in the car. In great anxiety, we arrived home to find a bouquet of gift cards, over $300, sitting in our living room. A gift from the youth ministry.

Our trust is the Lord.

P.S. I have scripture painted all over the girls' room, so I suppose I was already on track to be one of those Bible listeners. Still no worship banners.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

On art {a brief post with little expertise}

Big one: Mud-der, are you taking pictures of me coloring for the bawg?

Me: Yes. Is it okay if I put you on the blog today?

Big one: Umm... I don't know.

Me: Do you want to see the blog first?

Big one: Yes. Show me at the hospital.

We are enjoying their new rainy day find. A large blackboard DH restored from the curb. Big one slashes gray lines, over and over, clumped together than farther apart.
Me: What are you drawing?

Big one: Rain.

She continues to trace the fall of rain drops down the board. When her storm gets bigger, she draws faster and closer together, slamming chalk.

I think back to the obtuse honors art seminar I sat through, mostly with a vacant stare. One of the weeks featured preschool art and what it said about their perception of the world. I won't bore you with all the details {I didn't follow all the 'art speak' then and don't remember most of it now}, but I think back to this scribble of a lawn mower, actually a circular mess. The hip young professor waxed poetic about the child following the movement, the concept of the machine rather than the physical appearance. I sat in class thinking, If I'm supposed to identify it as a lawnmower, it needs to resemble the physical appearance of a lawnmower.

Of course, when my preschooler is drawing the movement and concept of rain, I think it's pretty cool, and I easily see the resemblance. I even get that the big circle is a barn because it encloses all the animals. Funny how our perception changes when our kids are involved.

Con't think that I get art any more now than I ever did. DH and I recently enjoyed an overnight in Richmond. After a fabulous dinner, we headed to the gallery district for opening night. We picked our way through half a dozen galleries before agreeing that we are simply not cool enough for artists. Outside of the occasional mixed media piece, we were lost. Scanning canvas, head cocked, eyes searching other 'patrons' thinking, Maybe if I had as much to drink as they have, this would make sense. Probably not.
Speaking of art, big one pain-stakingly arranged this chalk sculpture 'for the bawg.'
Art is a peculiar science, and very much in the beholder's eye. Not unlike a blog. For those of you who have had enough of the renaissance kool-aid to get the concept behind the hashes, thanks!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Toddler Crazies

Two false starts this morning. I keep trying to turn my ridiculous week spiritual, but it just isn't turning. Instead, a snarky post on life with toddlers.

On the phone with my mom, first conversation in a week. Big one interrupts, singing from the top of the stairs, I pee pee'd my panties. Don't think I neglected her. I offered several trips to the potty, to be told, Ummm, no thank you. At least she was polite in her refusal.

Speaking of the bathroom, this morning, DH is enjoying some privacy while he showers {a distant memory for me}. Big one knocks and knocks to join him, then begins blowing on the door. When I ask what she's doing, she responds, I huff and puff and blow the door in.

Big one resorts to huffing and puffing because we have child-locks on the bathroom door knob. At least we did. When babies were way too quiet for way too long this morning, I found the child-locks off the doors and condoms spread all over the floor. Awesome and why we have condoms in the first place.

What has small one been up to, you wonder.

A cold - her stuffy nose seems to have clouded her judgment. Yesterday, she fell down the stairs, then not an hour later, she climbed the oven door, only to have it fall open and smack her, Splat!, on the tile. She is a hot mess, covered in lumps and bumps.

Reading back over these stories, I sound like a negligent parent. Where was I when small one was climbing the stove? 3 feet away. No lie. She is just that fast. She has no stamina, but for the first 5 or 6 feet, she gets the jump on big one. 2 meter sprinter in training.

In the background of toddler craziness, wildlife craziness moved in. Literally, a crazy mole found her way into the house and scampered day and night through the kitchen. We spent days trying to plug holes. She just found new holes. We laid out sticky traps. She pulled out of them.
Finally, DH took drastic measures, sniping her with a bee bee rifle. Before you gripe about animal cruelty, let a large hamster scurry around your toes for a week, then chide me about tolerating wildlife in the kitchen.

During all of this, I am was trying to give up coffee. Why would you do such a thing, you might ask. DH and I take every August to simplify, turn off the TV,  close the laptop, read more, spend quality time as a family. This year, we thought we'd fast from every beverage but tap water. And, well, we're going to need to find another way to honor God.

Basically, I'm wiped. And the girls are not. This is why God gave us VeggieTales {hey, I was able to turn this post spiritual}.

This week hasn't just been craziness. The girls have had some seriously sweet moments, like right now. Big one just called down to me, Mommy, I worshiping and praising God and praying. Thank you God for everything!! She punctuates this last sentence by jumping on sister's bed. Her excitement is infectious.

Thank you God, for toddler faith!


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