Monday, August 15, 2011

Things that only an older brother can teach you...

Say you are an 11mo old girl and the youngest in a bustling house of awe and wonder.  You are fascinated with all of the wonderful living that happens around you and the loving persons you dwell with, but you don't quite know what kind of potential it has. 

Fear not!  Your older brother(2.5yo) is here to help you learn the ropes!

If you squeal with delight as he jumps on the couch when Mom leaves the room but you are frustrated that you can't climb up and join him, he will push the cushions off to facilitate your access to said trampoline and jump <gently> holding both your hands so you can get used to your new skill.

If the oldest brother is making cookies and "carelessly" leaves an unattended bowl full of luscious cookie dough, your 2yo brother will scale the step stool with lightning quick agility and grab a handful of dough for you so that you can savor all of the wonderful nuances of this new flavor of food.  But of course his plan is somewhat foiled when big brother returns to his post. 

But, that's ok! 
There is another wonderful skill that you can learn in this situation!! 

What a wonderful opportunity to teach you every evasion method he knows!  He will teach you to split the booty with him and  run in the opposite direction of him so that one of you will have a reasonable chance of getting away with your spoils that can be shared when the pursuit is over.  (Note:  You will be meeting under the dining room table.)  He will always be sure to warn you  that a pursuit is inevitable but you have a 50/50 chance of evading capture, if you are alert.

If you want to splash in water and it isn't bath time yet, once again...big brother to the rescue!  He will fill up a watering can and shower it in front of you where you stand and teach you to step in the puddle and leave wet footprints across the floor, and he will hold your hand so you don't fall.  You will feel safe and confident in his capable hands!

If he tries to explain the wonderful substance SNOW to you and you do not understand, he will be sure and SHOW you the best he can!  Dumping a whole big box of baking soda on the kitchen floor may just give him the desired effect he is looking for.  He will then lay down on the pile of whiteness and proceed to show you how to move your arms and legs back and forth so you can make your very own snow angel in summertime!  Just to make it easier on you, he will make sure you are both without clothing so that you can pretend to be Frosty the Snowman when you are finished and he will march with you and the broom over the newly vacuumed carpets across the whole length of the house.   Experiential hands-on learning at its best!

Your big brother loves you so much and wants you to love him back.  He will patiently take your hand and run it down his face from his hairline down to his chin saying patiently over and over "gently, gently"  And is very patient with you as you repeatedly smack him in the forehead yelling "ge, ge" and then he will watch you clap your hands in delight.  He is so happy that you are happy, even at his expense.   Don't worry, he will be patient and you will get the hang of it soon!

If you want the chance to learn the wonder of art expression, your brother will give you the brightest sharpie he can find and show you the wonder of creating large scale murals on the girls' bedroom wall.  Since he is a head taller than you, he can help boost you up so that you can create the  height you desire your mural to have.  The light pink color of the walls will show off your drawing beautifully and there is virtually no chance that it can be erased.  You can be certain that he will also show you how to color your body with the same sharpie and demonstrate how to effectively swirl the colored pen around and around on your belly button.   
Pure bliss! 

Your brother knows all of the best ways of discovering this fascinating world you have found yourself in.  There is no limit to his wonderful creativity so you can be encouraged that you will always have the best time while sharing his company.  Assuredly, he will share with you every tip and trick in his repertoire that will see you well through your third year of life.  

Ah, the joys of having a doting  big brother that truly loves you! 
How blessed you are, little one!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dusting Off Gratitude

"Once upon a time, there was a little house. This little house longed to be a HOME...a warm cozy place where people and love meet head-on and create beauty together (even amidst its distressing disguise). The house had "great potential", but she was a run down and neglected little thing. Her disorder was covered up with layers of paint and plumbers putty. Character it had and character it would take to find the true beauty of this home.

Once, even a well meaning squire tried to make her more beautiful but his gifts were given without love. His time and efforts were only for profit so his advances in purpose proved to be advances in distraction with no real purpose at all. It was work that would only have to be redone as it hid its very real structural problems . It was as if the house led an empty existence."

Dear Son:"What are you doing?"

Me: "I am writing a tale about our house."

Dear Son: "Well did you include the words Run Away! Run Away, NOW!"

Me: "Uh, no. It just might ruin the fairy tale feel of this...."

Ahem...allow me to continue to tell you this story, dear. It just begs to be told!

"So it was one day when finally the little house found a little glimmer of hope. It became the simple dwelling of a young family with 4 children and (one on the way). "Surely within my walls I will find the beauty that I was created for!" cried the house.

Somehow this young family knew that there was great potential to be found in its walls but once they started to live there they realized that any work done on the house in the past was just a facade. The squire that inhabited this dwelling did sell them the home under false pretenses but there was nothing that could be done about that now. This little dream cottage was in a sorry state. In order to uncover its true beauty they had to become like valiant knights. Monumental courage was needed. In an unusual turn of plot it was seen that the improvements that that house needed, were also a visual sign of the improvements that its inhabitants needed. "Oh, why did we ever buy THIS home?" the inhabitants moaned.

Knowing that things could not stay as they were, with the little money they did have, they slowly started making improvements. Through fits and spurts progress was made but not without it costing them something for their efforts. And to make matters more challenging, their family grew and grew and the house around them seemed smaller and smaller. At times it was realized that only through the eye of FAITH would they continue to take on a project that was bigger than they were. They made a firm decision. They would not cover up the flaws of this house as its former owner had done. They would NOT do to another owner what the former had done to them."

Ds: "Fairy tale?! Don't you think it were better written as a horror story?"

Me: "Cautionary tale, perhaps. Don't you think "horror" would be too strong of a word...? Besides you have to see past the surface of things to find the real meaning..."

"Relying on Providence to supply whatever was needed at the right time and place...even accepting help that was not freely given and not without costing them something by surrender of pride and acceptance of humility.

As that family grew, their possessions grew. The amount of things needed to feed, clothe, educate and provide rest, shelter and relaxation grew exponentially. Even if all of their needed possessions had a place, they would only have to be moved many many times whenever the house needed major renovations. And despite these renovations, there were still not sufficient places to house their possessions intuitive for use. Even after the master organizer had worked and reworked these possessions and gave away and threw away whatever was not needed, the master organizer (the MOM) realized that there was now, after 11 years, too much. WAY too much of even very useful and handy things. The little house witnessed this and sighed. It wished it could make itself larger to suit the family it had come to love, but it could not. This was something they had to learn on their own. God was allowing it...all of it for their sanctification and growth in UNITY...a growth for them to become who God had intended. A little push in the right direction. Another opportunity to choose the narrow way as a FAMILY."

Ds: "And they all lived happily ever after, I suppose?"

Me: "I guess not quite yet. But I bet the mother of this family won't mind as much getting up in the morning facing her daily work if she knows she has a mission that may bear good fruit. Hope gives great courage."

Ds: "Says who?"

Me: "Says the mother of this family. It is all a matter of perspective, I guess"

Ds: "I still think that you should warn that family to run away, but it is your story..."

Me: "But honey? You have to look DEEPER than what you see at present. You see..."

"...the clutter was there. They were not hoarding, by any means but they found that there was too much clutter for them to be simple. They were plastered in clutter as the cracks from faulty structure were falsely plastered. They had to get to the root of the problem to find what was really needed if both they and the house would be at their best. Better to declutter and simplify than be buried in work that blinds you to the real work that has to be done around you...the real service that needs to be given to the hearts of those that dwelt therein."

Ds: "Don't you think this is laid on a bit too thickly. This isn't Elizabethan England..."

Me: "It all depends on what kind of glasses you are wearing. I mean, I gotta deal with this junk somehow!"

Me: "Well, as it so happens...I did learn a thing or two here."

Ds: " Like what? What not to do?"

Me: "Perhaps. Perhaps that and a bit more...See it's kinda like this:"

When my house became more cluttered, my heart did too. It happened so slowly, I had no idea it was happening, but it DID happen. We live in a smallish home with 11 people. We needed to rethink the idea of home. We needed to rethink the idea of what family life should look like in those spaces. I needed to rethink what gratitude looks like in a home. Not only was my gratitude gene dusty, it was so masked I forgot I had it. It got cluttered. It is no ones "fault". It was the result of overwhelming generosity. God had blessed us to overflowing.

It was time to re-bless others with what we had that was getting in the way of using things in a way that showed being grateful in each moment, in each person. We had to re-bless because our sights were lacking the visual perspective of the big picture of our uniqueness of purpose and character. And boy are we unique. 'Somethings' were getting in the way of serving. Those somethings were stifling. I tried the family meeting. There was no motivation.

Ds: "Hold it right there. I was listening to you."

Me: "I know, but nothing changed after that meeting. And things were getting out of hand even with all of the time and energy I spent."

Ds: "And I suppose that's my fault?"

Me: "No, not at all, but I had to change things somehow and the same old things that made change in the past just weren't working. Please just keep listening a little longer..."

"I prayed...and mostly it was crying. I felt like the tears were not ones of personal pity, but ones of sadness of seeing beauty in the hearts of my loved ones but not knowing how to find it beneath the false veneer that they had erected. I felt like the old man and the deep vast sea.

I thought that maybe I could just pile things up and look at those piles for awhile and inspiration would hit. This time that idea stunk. All it took was a bathroom remodel of our only bathroom, the "turn for the worse" and ultimately the death of my Father-in law, and ONE two year old acrobat that made me wish I had just ignored the stuff and spent some meaningful time curled up in the fetal position behind my closed bedroom door...avoidance looked SO good to me, SO incredibly attractive!! But, of course I couldn't do that. I had to do SOMETHNG though.

So, mustering up a little courage with a caffeine buzz and an arsenal of DVDs for the kids, I began with ONE box...Just one little box and it created even more clutter than that box could hold. Pandora had nothing on this vessel! Oh, it expanded to 20 times its natural size. The 2yo dove through it, the 8yo and the 6yo scattered the things even further, the baby wanted to eat it. I wanted to throw it out the window by the snowshovel full! about a big ole fire hose...the honey-do list just got longer with the "drain in the floor" ...and on and on went those escapist thoughts."

Ds: "Now you're talking, Mom. This is funny stuff!"

Me: "Real life is often funny. And my life is as real as it gets!"

"I then summoned up the thought of looking at just ONE thing...

...One thing. Just one.

And then it hit me...

IT stomped on up to me and whacked me across the heart with an old shoe (the shoe was in the box and it just seemed to fit). IT finally brought me peace. The big IT was just simply GRATITUDE. I was so overwhelmed with THINGS that I forgot the spirit behind why my heartache existed. If things piled up one over the other...was I not seeing the SOMEONE that is so generous as to give me a CHOICE?

Free will. To freely choose what stays and goes. To bless others if I need to. "It is up to you what you do with it..." was the word that was put into my heart. It WAS up to me. I was throwing an internal temper-tantrum but I realized that it WAS up to ME to open or close my hand. it was up to me to sculpt what I wanted to see here.

I think the honor of being a mom is the greatest honor that could have ever been bestowed on me. And I was asked to trust God over and over again against the advice of well-meaning family...hey! SO life gets a little cluttered sometimes. Don't you get it?! We have been given an embarrassment of riches. It is up to us what to do with it. We can freely choose how to spend our time."

Ds: "So, with great power comes great responsibility?! (Cool Spiderman quote, huh!)"

Me: "Pretty much..."

Ds: "So, what happens when you don't have any?"

Me: "Oh, you have plenty of responsibility, but it is up to you to ACKNOWLEDGE it, dear."

Ds: "Ahem. So you were saying...?"

Life giving...everything MUST be life giving! From the food we eat to the books we learn from, to how we spend our free time and how we deal with when you find blemishes that you didn't know were there....even a cluttered house...all of it are opportunities to freely choose LIFE. To serve or not to serve. And, to be grateful...for all of it. I am determined to make this family and this house work. How hard would you work at something for those you love? How hard would you work if you knew you couldn't fail?

Me: "So what do you think about my story?"

Ds: "You did this all yourself?"

Me: "Yes...with a great deal of divine intervention."

Ds: "So... you're the person that saves us all..."

Me: "How many times have I told you to never underestimate the great power of a motivated prayerful MOM."

Ds: "Powerful? Can you predict the future?"

Me: "Sometimes...I can predict that we have a lot of work ahead of us..."

Ds: "Then we are all doomed to a life of greater servitude? Lets play it safe and pray the rosary again. It is all about balance, Mom."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Making things a little sweeter for hubby

My dear husband works very hard and just loves his morning cuppa. I am NOT a morning person and the baby usually finishes a marathon nursing session just before the alarm rings. I know dh really loves it when I get up and make him a hot cuppa in the morning but I am so brain dead by then and I greatly need a nap.

Do you like the picture on the right? I plan on stenciling this on the bedroom door after I repaint it later this summer. It is sooo true. Sometimes I just need sleep. I can do anything if you just. let. me. sleep. Dh knows this and he tells me to remain in bed but I feel guilty if he doesn't get some I help him when I am awake by prepping all I can for him and making it special..the day before!.

Little things...just little things done with love! I tell you, some little things I do for my family take a minute or two. Sometimes just taking just a moment more makes a big difference in the life of another.

My solution? I keep the coffee press, sugar, coffee scoop, travel mug and nice coffee in a nice basket on a shelf just for dh. It looks cute and everything is in one place. My 10yo dd is an early bird and loves making her Dad coffee in the morning. She loves using and maintaining this basket. If she is not available, dh is more than willing to make his own knowing that I put just a little extra thought and prep into his morning and he also feels good letting me get my rest...he is such a good man, isn't he?!

The nice thing is, no more searching for travel mug parts or just the right size measuring instrument...etc... all the while running late! This makes things go faster. As simple as it sounds, it is restful finding all you need in one grab.

Hubby also has a pre-made go-breakfast in the fridge all wrapped up and his lunch is in there too...ready to grab and go. He likes to munch his way through the day so this works out well for him. Maybe someday I will share my go-food ideas with you. He doesn't like to sit down and eat a meal all at once during the day as it makes him sleepy and slows him down. So we adapted!

Most of this food is prepped as we go along during the day before with the final prep being done as the dinner dishes are finished at night. Many of the items I pass along to him are the very same things that I prepped for meals and snacks for the kids while dh was at work the day before. If we make cookies, extra are placed on a special plate for Dad. Some is given to him after dinner when he is relaxing, and some make it into his go-bag for work.

This plate is a big deal. It is a special sandwich sized plate I picked up at the thrift store. This teaches the kids that Dad is special. He has special things and a special place to put them. Even without Dad being here, we are including him in on our daily lives.

Any extras for Dad I do in little steps so I never feel overwhelmed, especially if I am called away from the house...I know just where to pick up or how to assign parts to one of my older children.

One more thing we do for him is to make a full pot of coffee for him sometime during the afternoon every few days...or every day when it is ultra hot outside. We divide the finished brew into a few mason quart jars and add sweetener and fresh milk and let it cool in the back of the fridge. A few hours before he gets home (while we are making dinner) we pop one of these jars into the freezer to make it ultra cold. When he arrives home, he has the option of a coffee smoothie or iced cold coffee which is so refreshing and rewarding after a long day in the hot sun! There is usually some left over and he opts to take the last jar on the run in the morning. I guess he alternates between hot and cold as the mood suits him.

One thing that is very fun is this wonderful idea:
I love it...contained in glass and straw ready! If I had a camera I would take a picture for you, but I don't have a camera yet. (But hey, if you have an extra working one laying around, I would be happy to take it off of your hands...LOL)

I usually leave a sharpie message on the lid for dh..."For my beloved..." Sometimes if I am feeling festive I cut a piece of round scrapbooking paper in a circle for the top of the lid... Sometimes having a little something nice to look at makes a person feel simple and it takes like 3 minutes. I can do that!

It is the little thoughtful things that make life sweeter for those hardworking hubbies, God love them!