Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Parenting 101

Apparently there are certain rules you are supposed to follow in order to be a fairly successful parent. For instance, did you know that children get hungry approximately 1.7 hours after finishing a perfectly extraordinary feast? You have to feed them again if you want to keep them alive. Smallish children require all manner of intervention in grooming matters. And, as I learned in one of the scariest lessons of my life, some slightly older children do not understand the use of sarcasm. They take what you say literally, regardless of the preposterous situation it might put them in.

My oldest son, Caleb, is a bit of an adventurer. Well, that's an understatement. He must have overdosed on adrenaline when he was still a baby, because his willingness to try the new and see the different knows no bounds. Jumping on the trampoline is fun, but jumping off the roof onto the trampoline looks better. Check.  Swinging on the swing set is fun, but swinging off the set using a rope you hold between your teeth looks better. Check. Riding a bike is fun, but riding a bike up a ramp and over a sawhorse looks better. Yep, check that one, too.

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but another of those Parenting 101 lessons is that I should have taken better note of Caleb's overall penchant for fearlessness before exercising that age-old, fool proof method of creating perspective through the invitation to participate in the scary. Especially when the invitation is issued using sarcasm. 

So, let me be clear before I actually share my story: Do not try this at home.

Through '09 and '10 Christopher travelled a great deal to and from the East Coast. I know that for many families traveling is a normal part of life. But those families are not mine. We struggled with the absences, and stress that accumulated as a result of daddy's work. I was tired, frazzled and not doing a very good job of learning to balance all the hats I had to wear. During the middle of a typical 2-week trip to Crystal City I "had just about had enough." It was 9 o'clock at night and everyone was still wide awake, acting as though I had just given them giant bowls of Sweet Simple Carbohydrate and Honey Flakes with a dusting of sugar for good measure. To say they were bouncing off the walls would be an understatement. I issued the command for everyone to clean up and get to bed! I was frantically running a load of laundry, finishing the dishes and feeling grit under my feet with every step I took. I hate a dirty floor.

Bah! I dried the last pot, hung up the towel and grabbed for the vacuum. As I ran it through the kitchen I noticed the debris stretching into the schoolroom... the living room... down the hall... and soon I found myself terrorizing the floor in the back bedrooms sucking up anything that got in my way. This also afforded me the wonderful opportunity to notice that my definition of "clean up" and my children's definition of the same phrase were not entirely equal. Leaving the vacuum cleaner running (because my on/off switch only works when you say the magic phrase but I have yet to discover that phrase) I began pulling toys, wadded up clothes and last week's "art" projects from under dressers and out of the closet. 

Vacuum. Vacuum.

"Clean. This. Up!"

Vacuum. Vacuum.

I made my way from the girls' room into the boys' room. Caleb was already perched on his top bunk, staring down at me. I could hear the sand and grit from a thousand pockets filled from treasure hunting rattle its way up the vacuum hose. As the nozzle continued to eat its way through the filth under his bed I heard a strange crumpling sound, like paper being wadded into a ball. I lifted the comforter and ducked my head under the bed. My cool left me entirely as I discovered the remains of one of our family's favorite books torn to pieces by Josiah and a large backpack stuffed with all of Caleb's missing clean clothes.

"Caleb, what is this?" I demanded as I held up the backpack, staring in disbelief at the clothes I had only that afternoon been searching for in vain.

"Oh, that's the backpack I made to run away with." His answer was nonchalant and even. He wasn't upset that I happened upon his scheme. He didn't show any remorse over his desire to leave our home. He remained in his bed, smiling down upon me.

"You were going to run away? Why?!" My voice squeaked over the vacuum that continued to roar.

"Oh, I watched a movie where they ran away and I thought it'd be fun." 

Here was another Parenting 101 lesson that should have triggered my brain. He wanted to run away because of a movie he watched. Not because I was a horrible mother. Not because I was failing at my job of caring for his needs. Nope. None of those reasons stood out in his mind. The movie (Ramona and Beezus) is a cute adaptation of Beverly Cleary's series on the pesky Ramona. At one point she runs away. The movie uses clever cinematography to picture Ramona's imagination of all the places she will visit during her flight from home. Adventure. It called to my son. At this point I should have calmly asked him to get down, put the clothes in their rightful homes, and gone back to my vacuum vendetta.

That's what I should have done.

"Caleb, if you want to run away then go!"

Vacuum. Vacuum.

"Now?" Caleb's voice changed ever-so-slightly to the incredulous.

"Sure. Why not?"

Vacuum. Vacuum.

Caleb fumbled out of bed, unclear on what exactly to do. He heard me tell him to run away from home. I took his movement as the ultimate insult, seeing it as proof that he really did want to leave. He grabbed the backpack from the floor and headed out the door. I continued vacuuming, working to get every last speck of dirt, when I suddenly stopped in a panic. Something was wrong.

Hannah and Bethany glared at me as I walked into the living room. I expected to see a chastised son sitting on the couch fully aware that running away at nearly 10 o'clock at night was nowhere near the realm of possible. He was supposed to be realizing the error of his ways for even wanting to leave. He was supposed to be recognizing how I was emotionally fragile, and that his altogether innocent attempt at adventure could be interpreted as rejection in my altered state. Obviously I had not reached the point of Parenting 101 where realistic emotional expectations from 7-year old sons was discussed. 

"Where's Caleb?"

"You told him to leave!" Bethany blurted at me.

 You know those camera shots in movies where the character stays fixed but the background suddenly zooms in, giving you the eerie feeling of extreme focus? It happens in real life, too.

I ran out the door, yelling Caleb's name. My heart pounded in my chest as each passing moment failed to bring an answer from my son. I was afraid that he could hear me but simply wasn't responding. And in the back corner of my mind I was sick at the possibility that something much worse was happening. I ran back into the house to grab the car keys. 

"Bethany, did he do anything before he left?"

"No, he was just holding the backpack and said you told him to leave. He ran out the door in his pajamas. Mama, I'm scared!"

"I know, sweetie. I am, too." I grabbed both the older girls and gave them a hug. I quickly explained that I had not specifically ordered him to go. I didn't want him to leave, and I was going to do whatever it took to make sure we got him back home. Then I desperately started praying, repeating over and over my pleas for help.

Please God, keep him safe. Please God, bring him home. Please God, let me find him. Please God, protect him. Please God, let him be okay. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. I'm so scared.

I saw Hannah run out of the house calling for her brother as I pulled out of the driveway in our car. I drove out of our cul-de-sac division while she began searching up and down the few short streets in our small neighborhood. My mind tried to calculate the number of possible variables placed before Caleb's decision making process. Would he seek shelter? Our home is very close to an elementary school but he was nowhere amidst its covered halls. Would he run for help? I drove down to Wal-Mart but didn't see him anywhere in the parking lot or along the streets. It seemed like he had simply vanished. I couldn't imagine how much further one 7-year old boy traveling on foot could get in such a short amount of time. I raced home.

The weather was unseasonably warm for a mid-October night. It had been sunny during the day but we were expecting rain, and the cloud cover was keeping the day's heat trapped. I was grateful for this small piece of grace knowing that Caleb was running around in a thin set of pajama shorts and t-shirt. However, as I drove into my driveway at 10:15pm the skies opened, and rain began splattering against my windshield.

"Did you find him?" Bethany was beside herself, crying with worry and fright. Hannah slumped next to her, dejected from the failure to find him. They were both aware of the obvious answer as I shut the door behind me.

Simultaneous to my Parenting 101 lessons, Christopher was learning a few of his own. We had grown so accustomed to using his cell phone for easy, reliable and direct contact that he had failed to give me any information on the exact hotel where he was staying. This didn't seem like such a big deal until he muted his phone during the night so he wouldn't have his sleep disturbed by any inadvertent Pacific Standard Time calls... including my call to tell him he needed to pray for his lost son. Not able to get a hold of my husband for moral support, and trying to stay calm for my children's sake, I knew the next step was to call the police.

The phone conversation that ensued was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Beyond the normal description and location of my son there were several questions which sought to understand the motivating factors in my 7-year old's decision to leave his home at such a late hour. Trying to effectively remain truthful without implicating myself in a CPA investigation (Why, yes officer, I did tell my son to leave in his pajamas) was beyond nerve racking. The dispatcher, after taking all my information, placed me on hold to transfer me to my local police station. I was on hold for an eternity. When I was finally patched through these were the first words I heard:

"Ma'am, we have your son."

Incredulously, and with tears running down my face, I listened as the operator explained that my son was found outside a local fast food restaurant trying to stay out of the rain. Police were already in the area due to another call, and immediately noticed his age, clothing and... get this... lack of shoes. He hadn't even stopped to put on any shoes! We ended our conversation with me asking where I could go to pick up my son. I just wanted him in my arms.

I quickly drove to the restaurant, dumbfounded by the nearly mile long trek it took him to arrive at the same destination. He was sitting at a table by himself, wrapped in a police jacket and slightly dazed. He had a nearly untouched pouch of french fries sitting on a tray in front of him. He's allergic to potatoes. I ran up to him and threw my arms around his small little body, telling him over and over how sorry I was and how much I loved him. I had to answer a few more questions from the police, and verify that I was not, in fact, trying to throw my son out of our home. Apparently upon their initial questioning of Caleb he explained that he ran away because his mother told him to. Nice. The police were extremely gracious and recognized my lack of Parenting 101 credentials. They allowed us to go home without further ado.

As we quietly drove home I asked Caleb how on earth he had reached the restaurant.

"You told me to run away. So I ran. The whole way."

We didn't speak any more about the episode that night. But the next day I asked him to trace his exact path for me. We drove a rather circuitous route around parking lots and even along a dirt footpath beside a pond before he finally came to the rather major intersection of our town and the fast food restaurant. He admitted to being scared as he ran through tall sea grasses by the pond's edge. At one point a car passed him and yelled out the window for him to go home. I asked him what he thought he would do once he reached the restaurant, realizing by then that it must have started raining on him. He shrugged his shoulders and said:

"I was going to ask them if I could just sleep inside while it rained."

I again told him how sorry I was for the inappropriate use of sarcasm. I reiterated how I did not want him to leave, and did not ever want him to leave. He smiled at me and gave me a hug.

By the following week Caleb's newfound adventure was already reaching Tom Sawyer proportions. 

I am still awaiting my certificate of completion for Parenting 101.


Sunday, November 20, 2011


Mary announced her intention to run away one morning last week.


Yes, Mama. I'm going to run away. (long pause) Can I leave after breakfast?

Hmm, probably.

I won't be gone for very long. Only, maybe, 4 hours or so.

Oh, I see.

And I'm not going to leave Marina or anything. Just, you know, maybe go down to the library.

At this point Leah chimes in to ease me over the pain of letting my little girl leave home for the first time.

Mama, it's okay. I'll go with her. That way I can protect her.

You're going to go with Mary to protect her?

Yep. I can save her from wild animals. That way you won't need to worry about things like mosquitos.

Phew! I was worried.

PS - They decided staying on our street (thus ensuring their slice of homemade bread for lunch) was preferable to the adventures available in the greater Marina area.


I have a quandary on my hands. Believe it or not, I love to write. In fact, I often watch the events of my life unfold with blogger titles and descriptive sentences bubbling out of my head. So what's the quandary? I'm sure you can figure it out... 

When do I take the time to actually write?

I have no idea!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Jesus and Gum

We pray with our children each night before they go to bed. Besides free-form prayer we believe it is important that they learn scripture. To that end we usually recite either the Lord's Prayer or Psalm 23. Tonight, right as we finished the Lord's Prayer Josiah suddenly becomes very serious and says, "I wanted to do Shepherd." (this is the nickname in our house for the 23rd Psalm) "Oh, alright. Well, we can do that one, too." He then proceeds to recite the entire thing by himself which, if you're wondering, is the cutest thing you've ever heard. I then decide to take the opportunity to probe him with slightly weightier questions about his relationship to Jesus.

Josiah, what is the most important thing you will ever need to know?

He is lying in his bed watching me very solemnly. He furrows his brow slightly, thinking and pondering this most difficult question. Finally he breathes a sigh of relief as he formulates the obvious answer.

To know how to ask you for gum and candy in the morning.

Umm... well, he got the, "know how to ask" part down right. Now we just need to replace Jesus with the gum and candy. Come on, God!


Thursday, May 26, 2011


The irony of writing this post immediately after my previous one is not lost on me. It feels a little weird, like when you accidentally tell the birthday boy about his surprise party an hour before the party. 

A little foolish. 

A little embarrassing. 

A little awkward.

The truth is that I did struggle through the several weeks of this most recent pregnancy for reasons that don't really make sense, but were there nonetheless. I believe it might have been God preparing my heart to more readily accept His plan in taking this baby home much earlier than any of us could have anticipated. Whatever the reasons, my fears of losing the pregnancy were confirmed on Monday when an ultrasound showed that my pregnancy was no longer viable. Ironically, gestation ceased at around the same time I was taking my first pregnancy test.

There are a million and one things that can go through your mind when you are faced with loss. Questions, doubts, peace and pure logistics all crowded into my own brain when we left my doctor's office Monday. I was sad. But I had such an amazing presence of peace surrounding me. I didn't fall prey to blaming myself, or asking questions to which I'll never know the answers. God softly spoke to my heart, reassuring me that the mess I saw surrounding me was in fact part of a design that would someday be made known to me.

And this time that was enough for me.

It hasn't always been enough. Facing the exact same situation in the past left me hurting for weeks, crippled with fears and doubts. I don't think I have hit on some magic solution that saved me from that fate over the past few days. And I am not prideful enough to believe that I have weathered all possible difficulties with only blue skies on the horizon. However, I do believe that a greater appreciation for the grace of a sovereign Lord has ministered to me in ways I could not fully grasp in younger years. A deeper sense of joy in my healthy, living children keeps me rooted in the here and now. I am thankful for those things.

I am sad that I will not be meeting a new little person in December. This Christmas will be tinged with some melancholy thoughts, I'm sure. I am confident that it will also be filled with joy, a brightness for the things worth celebrating during the yuletide. As for now, I am thankful for my incredible husband who walked every step of this journey with me. I am grateful for lovely children who care for me. I am indebted to friends who stepped in when I needed help. 

I am in love with my Savior who is tenderly caring for a child I have never met, but completely adore.

~Dear Mama, I'm really, really sorry about the miscarriage. Here are some Orange Stars to try to cheer you up. (don't worry, the flowers fell off). I love you very, very, very, very mush (much). 
Your daughter, Hannah ~


Saturday, May 21, 2011

You Might Be Pregnant If...

I have experienced a phenomenally easy first trimester this pregnancy. In fact, being so asymptomatic caused me some nervousness, and I took another pregnancy test a couple of weeks ago just to be sure. I don't know exactly what I expected it to read. 

It was still positive.

So, I decided to accept the blessing and move on with my life. Until today. I am no longer asymptomatic.

The children and I had a park day for our homeschooling group in Monterey. Trying to save a buck on gas I decided to stop at the grocery store next to the park on my way home. Besides carrying the brand of seltzer water I like best it would save me the hassle of fishing dinner out of my freezer. Chicken fajitas were sounding delish. I pulled into the parking lot of the largest Safeway on the peninsula confident that I could be in and out within 5 minutes. There were 4 items on my mental list:
- fizzy (seltzer water)
- peppers (2 sweet, 4 hot)
- chicken breast
- chicken taco seasoning

I headed straight for the produce section upon entering the store. I don't know what the reasoning is behind all the "floating" displays, but trying to find peppers in a fresh produce area larger than my entire house is no small task. And don't even think about something logical like alphabetizing the veggies. Why can't peppers simply rest between onions and quince? I was pretty near ready to have a chat with the head of the department over the total lack of systematic organization when I finally spied my veggies hidden amongst the fresh cut herbs. That makes sense.

After rounding up my peppers I raced to the soda aisle. "Why soda," you ask? Because seltzer WATER is not kept on the water aisle. No, no. You can purchase it in either the soda aisle, bordered by its high fructose corn syrup counterparts like Sugared Fizz and Cola Candy, or it is tucked next to the mixers in the "over 21" corner. And when I say "tucked" and "corner" I mean them literally. It would take Ethan Hunt a solid hour to discover there whereabouts. However on this lovely day seltzer water was not to be found in either location. Once again, Safeway was sold out. Apparently the new idea in inventory marketing is to discover those items that are sold regularly and they wait until they are entirely gone before ordering more. Let's make sure we have pig's feet in the butcher's case always, but seltzer water is only on a semi-monthly restocking shipment. That makes sense.

Frustrated but not giving up my dream of saving myself the hassle of freezer fishing I proceeded to poultry for my chicken. The one item I had no difficulty finding but had a seizure when I drew close enough to grab a package. FIVE DOLLARS & EIGHTY SEVEN CENTS A POUND. For crying out loud, I'm not serving top sirloin. For roughly twelve dollars I could have walked away with enough chicken to feed 4 members of my family. 

Already irritated that I only had two of the four items on my list I finally swung around to grab some chicken taco seasoning. I walked up the "ethnic foods" aisle where the sign marked Hispanic Foods rested over refried beans, corn husks and salsa. No taco seasoning. Huh, silly me. Why would taco seasoning be in the aisle where all the other taco products are kept? I wandered down the spices aisles, the packaged food aisle, the canned meat aisle all to no avail. I finally stopped a worker who told me the taco seasonings are kept on Aisles 16. Perfect. Aisle 16 is the prepared dairy aisle with cheeses, yogurts, butter and such. Sure enough, right across from the Greek yogurt sat a whole wall of packets containing every given type of taco seasoning you could imagine. Low sodium, original, hot, mild, brand or generic were all on full display. Everything except any chicken taco seasoning. I easily shrugged it off and looked for chicken fajita seasoning. Nope. Nada. There wasn't even an empty space for it. Apparently no one in the greater Del Rey Oaks area makes tacos or fajitas with anything other than beef.

I left the store (after a typical line story I won't even go into) holding my small bag of peppers and brimming with angst. I would have to stop at another store in order to finish my shopping. I headed home, calculating the location of the store with the best chances of having both chicken and seasoning within a reasonable distance to my home, and without requiring a small loan to make the purchase. I decided on Walmart.

Again, I pulled into the parking lot and rushed inside to get my two items. The chicken was easy, and at $1.88 a pound for boneless skinless chicken breast you can save your breath on why I should boycott Wally World. I trudged over to the dried goods aisles hoping my sense of organizational genius would prove correct in ferreting out the seasonings. No such luck, but after a much shorter hunt I found the seasoning packets (remember, my Walmart has decided to make its grocery section 85% processed frozen meals leaving the bulk of real food to fit into a rather tiny space consisting of 3 "half" aisles). Perfect! But not really. Once again, there was every known seasoning available in 3 different variations but nothing for chicken. Seriously? Please tell me SOMEONE else fixes chicken tacos and fajitas occasionally?

At this point I was nearing tears. I stumbled out to my van, slammed the door behind me and just about lost it! I kept trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and why I was so upset about the seasoning. The entire time I drove to the 3rd store, saving not an ounce of gas, I continued mulling over in my head what was going on in my life that made me feel so crazy at that moment. By the time I got to SaveMart I realized:

I'm pregnant!

Because the SaveMart I was driving to was our regular grocery store before we outgrew it and moved to Costco, I knew where everything was located. I quickly ran inside, located the seasoning, found both chicken taco and chicken fajita packets, grabbed six and made a bee-line for the register. The ease of the entire transaction made my heart swell with appreciation, and as I walked back to my van my eyes misted over. What a beautiful thing to be able to buy chicken taco seasoning.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


     jaunty. Josiah has a natural charisma that exudes from every pore. He faces the world with a trademark glimmer to his eye and ease in his person. 

     obstinate. I don't think any of my children require discipline like my Josiah-Boy. It doesn't seem to matter what threat we make, he is sure to trespass within 10 minutes. We are only sure of his obedience when he sleeps.

     smirk. It's a classic look. He lowers his chin ever so slightly, gives just a hint of a raised eyebrow,  twinkles his eyes mischievously, and grins. He is utterly disarming when he lays it on this thick.

     impatient. Even before Josiah was verbal he had this incredible way of letting everyone know that he was frustrated - usually because he wasn't getting a toy fast enough. Screaming quickly became his favorite sound to inform all in the house that he wasn't getting what he wanted NOW! As he has grown, and his vocabulary with him, he now resorts to asking... a million times.

     affectionate. Josiah loves to snuggle. He is a mama's boy! One of his favorite activities is to tenderly brush my hair. He cuddles up next to me on the couch, or embraces his sisters for a good movie. 

     hilarious. All of our children make us laugh. Some of them by their jokes, some by their faces and idiosyncrasies. But Josiah beats them with his sheer personae. He struts around the house like a peacock, showing off his tail feathers. He unabashedly proclaims that he wears panties, and gleefully wears his sisters' frilly dress-up clothes. He revels in his own little personality, and we LOVE it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Proof Of The Fall

There are many things broken in our world that show us how far from perfection we live. Mosquitos, hanging chads and freezer burn come immediately to mind. But I think, without argument, the proof most clearly visible of creation turned horribly perverse is: Poison Oak.

It is not a stretch to say that poison oak is the manifestation of all plantly evil ever made possible by Adam's sin. I am particularly susceptible to this great tragedy of flora. It hunts me down like a heat seeking missile, and targets me with its maniacal schemes.

You may think I exaggerate. I assure you, I do not.

Growing up I was bound to get the dreaded itchy rash every spring when the bloom burst forth in the forest surrounding my home. I would swell up to roughly the size of a blue whale, eyes closed to slits and skin covered in scabbing pustules while my mom diligently used a cotton ball to dab pink calamine lotion all over me. Cotton ball dabbed pink calamine lotion on poison oak is akin to 7 water droplets used to extinguish a grease fire -  highly ineffective and strangely comical. We would also employ ice packs to help numb the painful sores but the condensation from the packs just served to moisten the rash and keep it from drying out as quickly as possible. To say I hate it is a gross understatement.

As I grew I learned to avoid the deadly plant like the plague. I memorized the cute rhymes meant to teach children what to look for, like: leaves of three, let it be; and berries white, poisonous sight. This knowledge, along with a godly sense of fear for any contact with the detestable shrub kept me from my nemesis for years.

Then I had children.

To be fair, they are not trying to be tools of the enemy. But any one trained in tactical arts will tell you that getting the target's loved ones to do the dirty work is worth bonus point. Poison oak is a powerful tactician. Most recently my beautiful 2nd born daughter Bethany was beguiled by the insidious weed while spending the night at a friend's house. However, not satisfied with one victim it also left its toxic oil all over her clothes for me to "find" while doing laundry. Within 24 hours the tell-tale rash with its itchy burn erupted on my left shoulder. A few days later we were both covered from head to toe.

Thankfully today there are a great deal more robust and proactive measures to use in the fight for justice. Topical steroids, oral steroids and even injectables all give much greater relief in a much shorter time... 

except me.

Apparently I am one of the few random people who continues to erupt in the hateful breakout for weeks after the contaminate should have washed clear of my system. Why do I know this? Because 5 weeks after my initial contact (and with no possible options for fresh exposure) I am breaking out in a new wave of pustules in the EXACT same location as the initial scourge. Nice.

I'm telling you, there is no greater proof needed that we have fallen woefully short of the Garden of Eden. In fact, I think maybe the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a pre-cursed poison oak plant.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

And baby makes... 10!

To be honest, I was quite surprised. It's not that a positive pregnancy test is such an unheard of occurrence in our home. However, Phoebe weaned over a year ago and my modus operandi up to this point had been a mere one or two months from weaning to new pregnancy. So when months one and two passed without any significant happenings I shrugged it off as odd, but nothing extraordinary. But when months 9, 10, and 11 also passed without anything extraordinary I began to wonder...

Could we be done?

I had prayed for the Lord to allow us a little more time between babies after Phoebe was born. I was extremely convicted over my poor stewardship of health, and I felt strongly God's conviction that I needed to address those concerns. Not becoming pregnant right away would make some of my necessary changes in eating and exercise significantly easier to employ. But while I prayed that God would give us a bit more space I certainly was not ready to throw in the towel.

God is so gracious, and knows us better than we know ourselves. He heard my cries for time, and honored my desires to regain lost health and vitality before going through a pregnancy. He also heard my cries for his hand to once again choose a broken, sinful human to help bring the next generation into this world. I am forever humbled when I see those two pink lines show up on the pregnancy test.

Why me?

I make so many mistakes in my parenting. I don't deserve the responsibility He already placed on me with the gifts of my first seven children. I hardly deserve more! Yet He loves to lavish blessing on those who love Him. I am awed that once again He chose to lavish His blessing on me.

We are thrilled to announce the newest Randall, joining our family sometime towards the end of December, 2011.


Monday, May 09, 2011


Merriam-Webster defines patience as: the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset; the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed when dealing with problems or with difficult people; the ability to give attention to something for a long time without becoming bored or losing interest. Essentially the gist is that you don't let things get under your skin. It is probably the virtue I am most commonly anointed with by strangers, and the trait I feel most lacking in my own possession. However, I have happened upon a few things that I believe are essential in understanding what patience is, and what it is not.

First, what it is not. Patience is not the ability of a person to spend 1 hour with your small children, never minding the insatiable curiosity or arbitrary repetition that plagues youth. By its very definition it must be exhibited over a LONG TIME. I no longer feel any guilt when friends or loved ones tell me that they have more patience for a certain situation because they aren't around it all the time. That makes them untried, not patient. Patience is also not the misapplication of authority creating an environment devoid of spontaneity or childishness. If I think myself patient while my children are simply squashed cabbage leaves for fear of inciting my anger I am missing the mark.

So, what is it?

Well, we already saw what the literal definition says. It is the uncanny knack or ability to keep the same reaction to your child's 85th question about why blood comes out of their skin when it is cut as their first - especially when the questions are posed during a highly necessarily but poorly timed trip to Costco. It is gently reading the same book, watching the same program, saying the same thing over, and over, and over again. 

The assumption that because I have so many children I must be simply oozing patience never fails to amuse me. I believe, actually, quite the opposite is true. You see, your patience isn't tested until you have been at something for a LONG TIME. Remember, that is what patience requires... length in the trial. So, for instance, where other moms might have worked through two, four or maybe six years worth of toddlerhood I have no less than fourteen. Fourteen. To say I am over my fascination with the endless need for crying before peeing in the toilet would be a significant understatement. In fact, I could probably survive without ever hearing another whine, ever again. But that's not my life, so I digress.

Because my home harbors so many opportunities to express patience I began wondering how I could get more of the stuff. I can tell you straight away, willpower won't do it for ya. Trust me. If anyone could white-knuckle their way through parenthood it was me. I tried for years. Tried is the operative word in that sentence since I also failed. And, also contrary to popular opinion, patience doesn't come simply by merit of difficult circumstances. Being in the middle of a snowstorm doesn't necessarily mean you are prepared to effectively handle it; it just means you are surrounded by snow.

Then I stumbled upon a wonderful bible study by Beth Moore called Living Beyond Yourself. It covers the 9 attributes of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I was eager, above all, to read the chapter on patience. As a Christian I already knew that these were not optional, or even occasional characteristics required by Christ. If I truly have the Spirit of God living in me than His qualities must pervade me. It is a necessity. So, I snuck a peak at the patience chapter and read this perplexing phrase:

Patience through mercy

Huh. That didn't seem nearly spiritual enough for my way of thinking. Where was all the "just pray for patience" stuff? And I had no idea how Beth Moore was going to connect patience with mercy. The two appeared entirely incongruous in my mind. I somewhat disappointedly went back to the current week, and settled in to wait for the patience lesson to arrive. In hindsight I should have been ecstatic that I didn't peek at that chapter and read the dreaded "just pray for patience" mantra I had so often heard from both inside and outside of my head. I am happy to say that I am quite elated at this point in my journey, and regularly remind myself of the joy that comes from understanding that enigmatic phrase: patience through mercy.

The bottom line is that since I can't make myself feel patient my patience has to come from somewhere other than my feelings. And that it now does. Mercy is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion." It essentially means sympathy towards another person's distress with a view to help alleviate it. Sometimes that distress is a consequence of their own foolishness. Sometimes it is not. Come to find out, it apparently doesn't matter whether the person is responsible since we are to act towards others with Christ-like love; and he certainly bears with us through all manner of distress brought about as a direct result of ongoing (often belligerent) actions of great foolishness and disobedience. He sees us for what we are: broken, afraid, and hurting. He responds to us through that truth. He doesn't try to candy-coat our weakness or hide our imperfections. He is never patient with us by burying his head in the sand and pretending we are not, once again, rebelling against his righteousness. He doesn't ignore anything. And neither can I. That was my big hang-up. You see, I thought that in order to have patience, to feel patient, I must simply ignore the things that really drove me nuts. The faults of myself and my loved ones couldn't be genuinely acknowledged, because somehow recognizing their rub was itself an act of impatience. But the bible tells us that the truth will set us free, and that's exactly what patience through mercy sets up for us - a freedom through truth.

When I acknowledge that my child's behavior is taxing, frustrating, juvenile and even perhaps ludicrous I am freed to choose, of my own volition, to bear with that child in mercy. I can bless that child through compassion even though their actions are foolhardy. I am free to recognize my feelings of exasperation even while simultaneously choosing not to allow them to control my choices. Patience is suddenly nothing whatsoever about how I feel in a given moment, but how I choose to respond. I no longer need to strain, grunting and groaning, towards the elusive prize of feeling blissfully ignorant of any irritants that might come my way. Now I can clearly face my day square in the face, and actively walk out:

Patience Through Mercy.


The Perfect Randall Pet

I really wanted a dog. I mean I REALLY wanted a dog. Christopher didn't think it was such a good idea for us to commit to yet one more responsibility considering our already responsibility-oozing lifestyle. He was right. But I still pleaded, begged and brazenly campaigned for a four-legged Randall.

When we purchased our home a few years back the agreement was finally struck that we could get a dog once our backyard renovation project was complete. This was sensible, and upon completion I began earnestly seeking after my dog.

I did the research. I read the reviews. I spoke with dog trainers. All on the quest for the perfect, family-friendly, hypoallergenic puppy. I finally settled on a Cairn Terrier. To be sure they can be feisty and rambunctious, but I wanted a playmate for my children and all roads pointed to this little guy.

Of course all roads did not point to the price tag associated with buying the Perfect Randall Pet.

So, when a military family from our church were preparing to leave, and mentioned their desire to relocate their beagle to a new family I jumped at the opportunity. Sure, beagle wasn't on my list for the Perfect Randall Pet but hey, free was an awfully large word.

Enter Daisy.

Daisy Lou to be exact. You have never met a mellower dog. Ever. In the first year that we owned her I think I heard her bark out of excitement once. The only other times she ever barks is to remind us that she doesn't like her crate at night. That's it. She sits on the couch and sleeps 14 hours a day. She lies in her kennel and sleeps for 7 hours at night. She lounges on the rug in the living room for another hour and 30 minutes. She sits at our feet during mealtimes for an hour and 15 minutes each day. She eats and meanders outside for her business during the remaining 15 minutes of her day. That's it. But she eased Christopher into dog ownership with her calm ways and quiet personality. She has definitely become an integral part of the Perfect Randall Pet.

Oh, and she loves Christopher.

Yes. Our dog that I wanted so badly adores my husband. She wags for him, runs to him, snuggles with him, listens to him and obeys (when she is in the mood) him. I was cheated, and I felt it!

Then, about a week ago Hannah and I had an interview with the SPCA to begin volunteering in the adoption center. Hannah has a passion for animals, and is excited about putting that heart to use. When we were done speaking with the volunteer coordinator we decided to take a peak at the dogs.

Enter Rodger.

Rodger Thursten to be exact. Rodger is a rescued Irish Terrier mix and at 2+ months old is one cute puppy. I fell in love. I sat in front of his kennel for 30 minutes playing with and enjoying Rodger. When I arrived home that evening Christopher met me with a smile and one simple question: So, which one do you want?

My very sweet husband knew how much I still longed for a dog that would play with our children, and even perhaps love me. He took time off the very next day and we went out as family to the SPCA to see if Rodger was meant for us. We came home with our second dog.

Rodger loves to play. He adores Daisy, who has miraculously begun to move! She wrestles and bears with great equanimity his puppy ways. We are all quite speechless to watch Daisy, the lover of sleep, bound around engaging her new friend in a game of chase. Rodger is sweet, and loves to cuddle. He is excellently crate trained, and we are working on finalizing his potty-training. He plays very well with the children, and will gleefully run around the backyard for hours chasing and being chased by little Randalls.

Together I believe Daisy and Rodger make the Perfect Randall Pet.

And Rodger loves me.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Josiah's First Joke

Tonight, during our ritualistic bath routine, Josiah shared his first-ever original joke. It bears repeating.

Why did the fire cross the water?

Because he was being rude.

*Here is where you break into spontaneous and unstoppable laughter.*


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


     modest. Mary is quite shy, and inwardly drawn around unknown people. Her quiet reserve are often mistaken for submissiveness, or meekness. Don't be fooled. However, her modesty is not simply bound by her timorousness. She often shows genuine acceptance of honest praise or critique for her work, and the work of her siblings. Mary does not require flattery, and signs of a sensible head peak through more and more.

     assertive. Mary's middle name is Ellen. Because of her penchant for howling when she did not get what she wanted as a baby we nicknamed her Mary Yellin'. She has no problems with asserting herself. This can be a good thing when seen against the backdrop of a large family - she won't be overlooked. I think that as maturity and life-experience round it out she has the potential to be greatly effective in her generation.

     regal. I'm not sure who wrote the rule, but if you are going to play dress-up properly you must use a British accent. You may not realize it, but Mary was born in Buckingham Palace. Her flounces and jewels are second only to her dainty voice and precise tea-drinking habits, replete with raised pinky.

     young. Mary somehow got stuck at 3 and a half. She simply refuses to grow beyond it. The sliding glass door for the backyard can be opened by every other member of the family (including her 3 year old brother, and at times her 1 year old sister) but never by her. She literally hops an eighth of an inch off the floor to show she can not be expected to reach anything above her shoulder. And the idea of gaining responsibility is anathema. She obviously discovered the Fountain of Youth and had herself a drink.