wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Parenting and Pink Sugar Donuts

I observed a particularly awful sort of well-meaning parenting yesterday.

There in the aisles of the discount store where I was checking out the salad spinners and area rugs, I noticed a tiny, imperious child. Little Curly Top was ruling with a heavy hand over her parents, dictating where they could shop or not shop, picking up things they told her to leave alone, begging for snacks that duly got placed in the cart. She was such a beautiful child with such a stinky attitude. It was astonishing, the contrast. Suddenly she took off running to the far side of the store. “COME BACK,” Mom said, but Curly Top had other ideas. “I AM PUTTING YOUR SNACK BACK ON THE SHELF. SE-E-E? WE ARENT BUYING THIS BECAUSE YOU AREN’T BEING GO-O-OD.” Dad hauled a kicking, crying  child back to the cart and the shopping continued. She saw a breach in the wall and dashed off again. Meanwhile the snack had once more gotten into the cart. Mom sighed, exasperated, to Dad, “Go get her. Tell her we won’t buy her a snack if she isn’t good.”

At this point I couldn’t watch anymore.  I felt so sorry for that child. The oddest thing is that this sort of circus is considered normal and totally acceptable in society, but a mother who is peacefully shopping with a crowd of happily obedient children around her is taking up too much space on the earth. Not only that, she is also seen as being suspect to all the ones who experience children to be cumbersome brats who will embarrass their parents with their desires loudly expressed at every occasion.
It’s the self esteem movement parents now attempting to be parents themselves, and finding their own training lacking somehow. I am the last one to cast judgement on someone who is having a rough time with a cranky toddler, but when I see them trying to wheedle a child into happiness instead of being in charge- you know, a firm little nonnegotiable nap or something equally corrective- then I am afraid I do cast a bit of judgement.

The thing about mothers is that their job is to nurture and take care of their people. However, we cannot let the world’s philosophy of “the chief end of man is to feel good” rule us here. Listen. You can do your job to the best of your abilities and with every dollar available and still never be able to keep your child happy all the time by trying to manipulate circumstances so they do not have anything but happy feelings. It’s a vicious, unending, impossible cycle. It is like being lashed through life by a tiny dictator with unstable emotions and a dubious worldview. “You want some juice? Sure, here is it with a nifty little straw? Oh, you don’t like that flavor? How thoughtless of Mommy to get apple instead of mango/strawberry. Wanna play trains now? What, that’s not a real Thomas? Don’t cry. Let’s go see what they have at ToysR Us. Have a donut on the way, honey.”

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Our role as a parent is not to make every moment of the day amazing. If you feel stuck in this cycle, you can actually let that expectation go. It’s not gonna happen. There are lots of sweet, happy instances in life, sure, but there are an equal amount of un-amazing kidney beans. In acceptance lies peace.

You might say, “But don’t you want your children to be happy?” Of course we love to have happy children! It is delightful to do things that make them shine with joy. Mine light up any time the chocolate gets passed around, but I would never feed them a steady diet of chocolate, even if chicken broth doesn’t bring out the sparklers. They don’t like to pick up toys and do dishes. Jobs like cleaning out the poo in the barn make them downright glum. We aren’t unreasonable; we give them milkshakes occasionally and they get more in allowance if they do a good job on it. The requirement is simple: push through and finish, or forfeit the pay. I say the same things my mom said to us, “Why shouldn’t you help with the work? You live here like everybody else. Now get busy.” Or even better is this one, “He who does not work should not eat.”

Our parenting goals should be bigger than happiness. What is the chief end of man? It’s about glorifying and enjoying God. That bliss comes from learning to live life unselfishly, and those lessons begin when we are still little tots without the ability to direct our own lives. A two year old cannot understand the deep doctrinal truths in verses like,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it,” but they are extremely malleable and effortlessly pick up values as they go along. Guess what- They get their values from their parents.

In the late nineties, the self-esteem rhetoric exploded, but it took almost a generation to see the troubling patterns emerge. Even secular psychologists are calling it a bad parenting model now that the results are back. Many are sadly discovering that they were not handed any favors to face life when they were handed lollipops to make everything better, with Mom and Dad doing all the struggling. These people have a gut feeling that they were created for better things, but they really don’t have much sense of purpose in the world except to feel good. They were trained carefully along this track and told the whole time how amazing they are. The only problem is: they aren’t amazing. It is much easier to see when they are grown, totally unequipped for life.

I will tell you what is amazing. I personally am friends with many millennials who were raised by parents who didn’t buy all the nonsense. These young folks have embraced the mentality of the Kingdom of Heaven, that bit about living for others, it’s not all about me, etc. They are standing upright, fighting battles for others, starting businesses, teaching children in school, raising families, doing work that will not be paid in this life. They are the fruits of wise parenting and they are much too busy to obsess over whether they will get their pink sugar donut today. They know they can be happy without it.

 

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How to Beat the Flu: Elderberry Syrup

It’s my repost day, and I would like to make a public service announcement:  The flu is really bad this year. Have you noticed? My husband keeps telling me what an awful strain of flu this year is packing. This is not to be confused with stomach bugs, which are bad enough. It is the aching, please-let-me-just-die-now flu, and sadly, many immuno-compromised people are dying. By the grace of God our family has not experienced anything worse than common colds this entire winter. We have two people who are supposed to be extra susceptible to germs in our house. Aside from trying to stay away from germy situations, I keep waiting for it with my weapon that I stock in my fridge all winter long. I often get asked for this recipe, and I suppose you could always search for it in the archives where I posted it four years ago, but here it is, with love and a few edits.

(edit: My husband is extremely skeptical of potions, home-remedy-cure-alls, etc, but he swigs elderberry syrup as soon as he feels a little bit ill. He works with sick people all the time, and he has not had to take a sick day in five years. We credit the mercy of God above all, these amazing little berries that are a part of His mercies too, and maybe the fact that those in healthcare have mandatory flu shots. You can pick your chin off the floor now. )

 

Here’s our recipe for Elderberry Syrup

  • 1 Cup fresh elderberries or 1/2 cup dried
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • Bring first 5 ingredients to boil in a saucepan: simmer until reduced to half, about 20 minutes. Squash berries and strain mixture. Add honey to strained liquid: pour in a glass jar and store in refrigerator. Take 1 tsp or more when cold or flu symptoms start, up to 3 Tbsp a day. This is safe for children, but because of bacteria concerns in the raw honey, it is not recommended for children under 1 year of age.

There it is! My go-to potion when anybody in our house sneezes or sniffles/pukes or flus. I got this recipe from my sister-in-law, Rhonda, who got it from a friend… I don’t know who really gets credit for the original, but it is really good. I tweaked it a bit, and sometimes I stir in 1 TBS of bee pollen. The ginger soothes upset stomach, and we find it too cloying with over-much honey, even though raw honey has many healing properties. It also preserves the syrup for a long time in the fridge. I have seen other recipes where people add lemon juice, and the product you buy from Beeyoutiful contains apple cider vinegar. My children struggle a bit with the sourness of the flavor, so I haven’t added it. Yet. As you can see, the recipe is quite open to interpretation, made as pleasant or unpleasant as you like.

Edit: The cloves are the spice cloves, whole ones. Somebody I love dearly thought it was garlic cloves, which probably would also help the immune system, just not too tastefully in this preparation. She was ready to cook her concoction when it dawned on her that something was not quite right.

The star is elderberry, lovely elderberry.

Elderberries are effective against both bacteria and viruses, and act to prevent viruses from entering cells. Taking elderberry syrup, extract or juice can lessen the duration of flu symptoms. Elderberries contain anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Anthocyanins also boost the immune system by inducing the production of cytokines, small proteins that play a role in regulating immune response.

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Photo credits here, along with another informative article on flu-fighting elderberry studies. Listen to what they say, “A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine…found that elderberry decreased the symptoms of influenza (including fever) within 2 days and achieved a cure of influenza in 2 days in 90% of the group receiving elderberry, compared to 6 days with placebo.  The most interesting thing about this study is that it was looking at Influenza type B – a type of influenza that Tamiflu and Amantadine are not effective in treating.” I would so prefer to feed my family a medicinal berry made by God than a drug with dubious side effects, which might make you feel even worse than you did before you took it.

I want an elderberry bush. Actually, I would like a whole thicket of elderberries, so I could share with all my friends. I bought my freeze dried berries at Sunburst Superfoods. The price for one pound is less than the price for one (smallish) bottle of elderberry syrup, already prepared, which is why I bought them, of course.

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edit: I now have two elderberry bushes. The dog loves to chew on the stems, for some odd reason, and the birds have a way of robbing all the berries before they are quite ripe. Also, they are very tiny and labor intensive; the stems are toxic; it takes a lot of berries to make a pound of dried ones! It made me feel good to try raising them, but my best sources are still the bulk herb stores.

There is a source for already made syrup, which is what I always bought before I started making my own. I can heartily endorse the products from Beeyoutiful. See link above.

Does this actually work? Yes, it really does. I stay on the ball with dosing someone who is starting with flu like symptoms, and we rarely have any sickness that lasts longer than 2 days. I keep them dosed every couple of hours. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Stay well, my friends!

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Tuesday in the Life

Strictly speaking, today started where yesterday ended, at midnight. Gabe and I had  a President’s Day coupon code for unlimited pages in a printed photo book. We entered the code at checkout at 11:59 and held our breath(s) (Do married people hold their breath or breaths, seeing as two are one? I don’t like quandaries like that in writing.) to see if we would indeed get unlimited pages. We had been working together on this massive project of compiling a book of the adventures of 2017, and at a crucial point my text boxes did not get saved when he was adding pictures on another computer, so we were pushing it really tight to the deadline. The coupon worked. We went to bed this morning at 12:15.

It was a shorter night than one could have wished, but the morning was so balmy and promising that even the sleepiest among us sat up and ate the scrambled eggs.

The girls hustled with school because they knew it was ladies’ sewing day at church and they wanted to go. Addy and I read the story where little Tim had fun in the tub and when he got out, he did sob. Mom got him a top. Little Tim hid the top under the cot and did nap on the cot.

Sometimes her stories are so unexpected, we have to giggle at the conclusions. If you have never taught a child to read and gotten to watch them when the lights go on, you should try it.

Our arrival at the sewing was fashionably late, in time to do a little work before we had lunch. For a lover of fabrics and yarns, knotting comfort tops to send to relief agencies is a lot of fun. The ladies in our sewing committee have streamlined the art of comfort knotting so that often they get close to ten done in a day, maybe more. It may be a small thing, but it really is a good feeling to think of someone in dire straits receiving a beautiful warm blanket. Blankets are love, so we pray for the people who are on the receiving end to feel the love we are sending.

I made a little detour on the way home to pick up milkshakes for the boys who were assigned to clean out the animal poo in the barn after their school was done. This is the worst job on the farm, really… worse than picking rocks or pulling weeds, because it has accumulated all winter and requires muscles and pitchforks. It was 73 degrees, absolutely delightful outside, which was why they had to do this job because the weather has to permit. Was it ever permitting today! They wanted to save the chicken poo for tomorrow because it is supposed to stay warm, but I didn’t let them. They admitted to being grateful when it was done, to not have half the job hanging over their heads. Sometimes in parenting you just are right and you know it.

The girls spent hours playing house in the backyard, erecting little booth shelters with sticks and draping a pashmina or a grass mat over top. I went for a walk in flip flops. Oh, lovely February, please stay this way and forgive us for ever saying anything ugly about you.

The sun streaming in my windows gave me an urge to clean the worst one, which was in our bedroom where the stink bugs hover. They seem to wait to relieve themselves until they make a great big spot, almost like the tobacco stains that grasshoppers leave. Every week my white trim gets besmirched, and sometimes my white down comforter. They like white toilets. :/  It’s beyond annoying, especially when it seems I cannot ever get them all with the vacuum cleaner. We had reached a sort of uneasy truce, where I let them go if they stayed on the outside of the window sash. I spent almost an hour cleaning that window, an hour that I multitasked by talking on the phone with my sister, so it wasn’t unpleasant. Still, I went in search of some nasty chemical spray that we had for the spiders in the basement. Sure enough, it is supposed to work for stink bugs too. No more truce. The battle line has been sprayed onto the outside edges of the window sashes. I expect only to see casualties from now on.

Supper was picnic food, sandwiches and mandarin oranges. The girls ate outside while I practiced songs for choir. Our group practice usually takes about 2 hours on a Tuesday night, so when I got home I tucked in my children, cleaned up some rubble, and ate 4 spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s Truffle Kerfuffle with roasted pecans, fudge chips, and a salted chocolate ganache. If I eat more than that, Gabe will notice, so don’t tell him. I bought this special for him when he hits a rough patch while he is studying, but it sits there in the freezer and taunts me. It’s the salt in the sweet. To be honest, I thought it said salted caramel when I bought it, and we all know it wouldn’t be 4 spoonfuls if that were the case; I need an intervention when it comes to that combination. By the way, Gabe wouldn’t reproach me, but I would reproach myself and then I would have to go buy more for him.

Well, it feels like time to say, “Good night!”

 

 

 

 

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A Breath of Fresh

I have a podcast recommendation for you today, a bracing, happy sort of podcast where two sisters get together in the car (to escape from the children and the housework for a few minutes) and they just chat about life, laundry and cleaning.

Maybe that sounds dull to you, but let me tell you, these ladies are anything but dull. They are mothers, homemakers, wives, and one is a teacher, but they have not let the cares of life bog them down into blahness. I have been a huge fan of Rachel Jankovic’s books, Loving the Little Years and Fit to Burst ever since they were published. I still think they are the best books to give to a new mama because the author is writing in the midst of the little years, not when she is a senior looking back through a haze of sentimentality.

Rachel and her sister Rebekah do this podcast, and I will tell you right now that my favorite part is when they get uncontrollable giggle fits at some aspect of life that could actually be distressing, depending on how you look at it. They seem to have learned to view the larger picture, and I just love it. I need to see the bigger picture myself. Also, Rebekah calls her sister “Rach” and their conversations sound pretty familiar to me sometimes.

I listen to What Have You, the podcast, while I do dishes or chop veggies for salad. I stand in the kitchen and laugh, which of course brings all the curious people around to see what is funny, and they look at me as if I am really weird. “What’s so funny about decorating tin cans for holding toothbrushes?” This makes it even more hilarious to me, because I am in a exclusive little club called “Career Homemakers” that finds this podcast invigorating and good for the soul. Sometimes I put on my bluetooth earbuds (which my children hate, because they do not like any aspect of life where mother is at all inaccessible) and chuckle without context for the family. No, no, I am not laughing about the tomatoes, kids.

If you have read any of Rachel’s books, you know that she calls sin what it is, no excuses but with a crisp call to repentance and then moving on. She also has a very clear vision of headship, with roles defined by God for husband, wife, and children. You will not find waffling, mushy thinking in her talks.

Another thing I enjoy is these ladies’ embracing of creative work, learning new things just for the joy of learning them. I have never had a yen to learn how to make stained glass, but I can relate to the desire to master a new skill. I still can’t knit and I am just dabbling with sourdough, but my pots are getting better and I love to feel that I made something. I think this creativity feature is a design passed to us from the Creator, and is actually one of the best ways to keep ourselves from muddling into the puddles of boringness that life can become. Also humor. But I have mentioned that one or four other times.

I share this link with you because I think you too will enjoy some fresh ideas and cheerfulness in your life this winter.

 

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Lover of My Soul

(This homily came to me in a sort of dream-picture. Generally I do not take my dreams very seriously, but this one I tried to write down before I forgot it. What it means to you may be different from what it means to me, but I hope it blesses you.)

He came to her when she was crouched weeping in her barren garden. She had come face to face with her failure to make anything grow. The world was starving, yet no essence of goodness was produced from her hands. The mess around her was enough to repel anyone. There were the shards of broken pride where she had fallen headlong and shattered the priceless vessel of independence she had been carrying so protectively. There was the stench of self-rule, the fertilizer she had been planning to apply, its black filth so artfully disguised in her vessel. It oozed around her feet, exposed. Worthless. The dejection of failure streaked down her cheeks. She couldn’t even grow a simple garden.

In that hopeless moment of shamed realization, he came. She smelled the fragrance first, clean and pure. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him there, a great bouquet of crimson lilies in his hands, face alight with, could it be? Forgiveness? Love? Confused, she looked around, but there were only the two of them, so she took the token of his acceptance and hope. She glanced around her garden plot, but there was nothing to offer in return. Returning to her weeping, she became aware of the wrinkled little lump that was her heart, shriveled as an old seed potato. Ashamed, nothing to lose, she held it out in her palm and she offered it to him. She held nothing back, no bits of dirt or sprouts of ambition.

His smile of joy transfigured the situation. The mess was no longer the focal point of her existence. He took the shriveled little potato-heart and did something curious. She watched as he knelt and dug a hole right there in the disarray and planted her offering, heaping the dirt gently around.

No one was more astonished than she was when the tiny green leaves pushed out of the dirt, and a plant grew sturdily, blooming white and full. He showed her how to water it, pull the weeds, keep the soil soft. One day they dug under it gently. In the roots they found abundant new potatoes, healthy and nourishing, sprung right out of that old shriveled heart.

“They grew so you can give them away,” he said. “They are for others.”

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Today’s book review is one for the children, but I can assure you that adult readers will enjoy it as well. We read it aloud in the evenings. It was one of those books where you “could hear a pin drop” and brought up a lot of good conversations with our children. I often feel unsure how to impress on them that they are in a very privileged class of people: stable home, meals 3 times a day, their longings and desires taken into consideration when the adults in their lives make decisions, choices- so many choices which are really luxuries. This is the sort of book that helps them to understand this in a way that is not preachy at all, although it does include starving children in Africa. I personally liked the bits that described the utter happiness of a child who didn’t have toys, so he made toys, who didn’t feel a lack of stuff nearly as keenly as the loss of friends.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is William Kamkwamba’s personal story of a childhood in Malawi as the son of a farmer. William describes the games the children play all across Africa, weaving in stories of the folklore and some of the darkness that is so prevalent in the superstitions of the simple people. He feared the magic of the witchdoctors, screaming, a terrified small boy in the night, until his father told him that with God on his side the dark powers of the wizard could not harm him. William’s family was doing all right until a terrible drought hit their entire region and wiped out any buffer they had for survival. The misery and desperation of the food shortage was so widespread, it was hard for anyone to outrun it.

William had to drop out of school because of an inability to pay the fees, but he did not waste his time. With a remarkable degree of determination, he found a loophole into getting books out of the library, teaching himself how to read and make sense of the English language science books in particular. He scrounged endlessly on junk piles for parts for his many inventions. Each one became more sophisticated, closer to his dream of generating electricity, of pumping water out of wells right in the village.

We savored the triumph with William as he described how it felt to be no longer the “crazy boy” when he got his first windmill to produce enough electricity to light a 40 watt bulb.

This is a good book for young tinker-scientist boys. (Mine don’t like the “mad scientist” label, but they do tinker like mad. :D)

You get two for one today. I have a recommendation that pairs well with this book: A Long Walk to Water.  For eleven dollars, you can buy the two together, and watch your children’s minds open up in admiration for the resourcefulness of someone they cannot just dismiss as some poor soul in some forsaken country. Teach them compassion for the tremendous obstacles that so many others face with no greater difference than the geographical region of their birth. If you aren’t a book collector, ask your children’s librarian to get them for the shelves. These are books that all American children should read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more bonus: You can watch William Kamkwamba’s TED talk for yourself.

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In Which I Feed Macaronis to the Multitude

I was scheduled to take a hot lunch in for the children at our church school today. If you, like some others, feel a bit blank about the logic of that, it’s okay. Everybody in church participates in the meal list, whether their children attend school or not. I have considered putting up a meal list for once a month “homeschool mom relief” but of course, that would be silly, because we would have to make sure our students are properly dressed for the event. 😀 And there are always hotdogs.

Anyhow, I decided to do a chicken casserole, because these were children I was cooking for. I found what I was looking for at allrecipes: Chicken Casserole Del Sol.  I have no idea why this is considered the casserole of the sun, but we all need the sun on a day like this, so that clinched it. Then I went on to “Aunt Ruth” the entire recipe, which is what we call it when I substitute more ingredients than not. (You can find her story here.)

Instead of rigatoni, I used macaronis, 4 pounds of them. As I was cooking them, I had a flash back to the Worst Casserole I Ever Made when I was 16 and my mom was away. We had decided to have some friends over for Sunday lunch and I called Mom for advice. She suggested I do this really easy macaroni dish. I did not have the confidence to Aunt Ruth recipes back then, but something went horribly wrong with the amount of time I baked the dish in relation to how often I stirred it. When it was time to eat, there was one solid mass of pasta disintegrated into flour with some bits of chicken and I think peas were in it too. It was inedible and so embarrassing I never forgot it. All that to say I have a phobia of overcooking pasta, stemming from a pool of pain when I was 16. I did not cook these maccies very long, and I shocked them in cold water to avoid the flour mass.

Then I got my son to grill 5 pounds of chicken breasts. Easy peasy. When a recipe says 2 chicken breasts, I feel perplexed because I have bought some that were the size of an entire chicken all by themselves. I figured I would eye it for when there was the proper ration of meat to starch and just went with the 5 pounds.

I no longer buy cream of chicken soup except under duress, so I made a roux with a half cup of butter, about a cup of finely chopped onions and flour. To make my soup, I used chicken broth that I had cooked off the carcass of a whole chicken last week, then I added a cup of shredded cheddar, 1/2 of the mayo called for in the recipe, some milk, and a pound of Velveeta queso blanco. I probably had five quarts of chicken soup/sauce by the time I was done. I wanted light soup, not heavy. So far so good.

The recipe said to add mushrooms and green beans. I pretended I didn’t see the mushroom bit and the green beans were going to be cooked as the side dish. I do love to throw a little whole kernel corn into my chicken noodle soups, and this was a similar situation, so I did that. You hardly notice it, but it is just a really nice surprise, unlike mushrooms from a can. Once I had all the seasonings (Morton’s Nature’s Seasons instead of salt, lots of parsley, black pepper, red pepper for zing) mixed into the sauce, the chicken chopped up, and all of it mixed together, I found that doing times four on the recipe was a prodigious amount of food.

I stepped back and just looked. Wow. A roasting pan and a deep lasagna pan full of Chicken Casserole of the Sun. Then I made another digression from the recipe. I did not put the crushed cornflakes on top. Instead I grated cheddar to sprinkle on top just as it was ready to serve.

That’s it folks. And I find myself a little surprised to now be one of those women who can wing it on a recipe for a crowd, and it actually tasted pretty good, wasn’t gloppy (you have to shock those maccies) or goopy.  I guess all those thousands of meals between 16 and the current time must have taught me a few things.

The extra lasagna pan full of casserole turned out to be providential, because my parents-in-law were in town and they stopped by after an appointment to have supper with us. I cut up some vegetable to eat with Ranch, got out a jar of applesauce and served an easy frozen strawberry dessert.

Today was the day I fed macaronis to the multitudes. Well, maybe about 50 people, so not that many. What did you do?

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Joyfully Doing the Work

“I have so much to do,” little Miss Drama wailed, “it just isn’t worth living anymore.” This, because of one basket of laundry to fold? I investigated; it did look like the older children had saved the biggest, most overwhelming basket for her to do, so I told her to do her best and I would come help her finish it up once I had supper underway. She kept on sighing about how I would never get done so I could help with her work. The most logical solution at the moment was to march her off to bed for some quiet time. Things quieted down very quickly and I saw that she had fallen asleep. After a nap and a hamburger, we tackled her laundry together and she cheerfully put it all away. Mama loves her; her folding skills are better than she thought they were; life was worth living after all.

I copied a verse from Isaiah recently. Then I taped it beside the kitchen window where I see it when I am washing dishes.

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” Is. 64:4

I am not unlike my little girl some days. Of course I wouldn’t holler and cry out loud about my impossible work assignments, but I might think they were just too much and not fair, and when is He going to show up to help me, and besides, couldn’t we spread the work around a bit more?

I have been thinking about how He does show up, always, when I am joyfully working righteousness. I look forward to those meetings. Who doesn’t like to be with a person who is eagerly waiting for them, interested in what is going on in their world? Making space for them to be right there, have conversation, work together?

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I don’t know of a worse waste of time than wallowing in how huge my basket of laundry is. Granted, sometimes I need a nap and some food, but it does help my attitude when I fully expect God to show up in this ordinary, humongous task that I am expected to do.

When we are engaged in anything worthy, it means we will be grappling with hard things. Being useful, fruitful, working righteousness… anything you want to call it… means getting tired. So how about we stop whining about no hammock and lemonade, just stop at the end of the day and let Him give His beloved sleep, then get up and go at it again the next day?

Every time I think I have learned this, a humdinger challenge comes along. This is why I do not  proclaim it too loudly, because the next grade is bound to be harder. You know how it goes. If you don’t flunk out of the times tables, you will most certainly be doing long division next.

Well, yay! for advancing! Onward and upward, friends.

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Sometimes Love Picks up a Rock

Sometimes Love picks up a rock, staggers with it to a structure that is being raised, carefully places it in the correct spot, walks back to the quarry for another boulder to repeat the whole scenario again and again. …And that is how a home is built to shelter from the storms.

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Sometimes Love digs a hole, a deep and dangerous chore that requires days and days of patient effort until the sweet water rushes up. …And that is how an endless thirst is quenched.

Sometimes Love lifts the burden off a fellow traveler’s pack, shoulders it through rocky mountain passes with blisters rubbing raw and breath failing under extra weight in the thin air. …And that is how the longed-for vista opens up for not just one but two.

Sometimes Love plants a garden, seedlings placed in rows upon rows, freeing the place of noxious weeds, waiting for the sunshine and rain in their course. …And that is how the small and larger places are nurtured with goodness.

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Sometimes Love wields a scalpel, cutting cleanly, carefully, where rampant growth swells wrong. …And that is how a cancer is removed.

Sometimes Love weaves a blanket, bright threads running back and forth in patient patterns across the darker weft. …And that is how the cold and lonely world gets wrapped in warmth.

Sometimes Love makes music, clear and full of light, winging out through the listening atmosphere with no particular destination, but just for joy of singing. …And that is how the jubilence of love spreads through the solitary darkness.

Sometimes Love walks alongside, pledging in a blaze of selfless abandonment to live in all these ways for the sake of another. …And that is how Love gets to live out its days.

 

 

 

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Going to the Moon

Sometimes I dress up a little on ordinary days, just because it helps me feel better than wearing old stuff. Same with washing my hair even though I will just be home. It is no fun to look into the bathroom mirror throughout the day and see that I am having an awful hair day, nor to think, “We need milk, but there is no way I can walk into a store looking like this.” I still have not figured out how the pajama-clad folks at Walmart do it. I find I can’t even look. Not very long ago you got put into asylums for stuff like that.

This morning I dressed up a little because I knew I was going to sneak in a coffee hour with my sister-in-law at some point. The children usually notice the “going away clothes” right away. “Where are you going? Huh?” and if I reply, “To the moon. Wanna come along?” that’s our code for Mama is Going Solo This Time so Just Stop Begging.

Addy got to go along this afternoon. She was done with her school. Also she seems to be going through a scrappy streak, taking many things as personal affronts because she is the smallest child. The scrappiness comes out like a spitting kitten bristling its tail, and tends to degenerate quickly into howling cat-fights if there is no mother around. She is working hard at not getting her fur so knotted up, but there is a huge temptation for big brothers to stroke it wrong, just like a little experiment, not meaning anything by it, of course. I know now why my mom would ask my siblings and I if we even love each other. We would look at each other like, “Duh. Why does she wonder such a thing?”

I know now, too, why there were times when we had to sit and read and were not allowed to say one word until the timer beeped. Sometimes children at this house who spar constantly have to work together at a job like washing the kitchen floor on hands and knees, or doing dishes by hand, one washing and the other drying. Other times I make them play a game together. Occasionally they are not allowed to be in each other’s company at all until they miss the annoying sibling enough to be civil again. I don’t know whether any of these mechanisms are more effective than others. At least it makes me feel like I am being a parent, teaching them to value their siblings, but I have a feeling they think, “Duh. Why does she wonder such a thing?”

Well, that was a meandering trail. I got my groceries, including some highly processed food for our Valentine’s Day party tomorrow. We plan to have fun with the pretty dishes and sparkling juice in goblets. There will be finger sandwiches, Little Debbies cut up in tiny pieces, and some chocolate candy for each person. I like to include the children in this one; they are, after all, the direct result of Cupid’s arrows. Gabe and I rarely go out on Valentine’s Day, but we always do something nice for just the two of us; we are, after all, where this family started and it’s good to remind ourselves of that when the dust settles after the children go to bed.

I had two hours to drink coffee, eat a muffin, and just visit about life with my sister-in-law Rhonda. Our little girls played and we talked. It was a spot of quiet happiness in the day, and on the way home I reflected on how wonderful it is to have  friendships where I can walk into a house, pull my feet up on the couch, coffee mug in hand, just say whatever it is that is currently happy or sad in my life, and be completely accepted.

I told her I think I am writing mud these days, and she said it wasn’t that bad, so I will take her word for it. It’s a little weird to push through and publish posts that I am not excited about and that I know certainly won’t change the world and just possibly you are all terribly bored. My mind isn’t the strongest in midwinter. Also I am reading Jeremiah. And the children seem to get in each other’s space a lot.

I saw three road-killed skunks today. That means they are starting to stir out of their winter torpor, looking for love. That means baby skunks on the way and that means spring. It was a good sign, although I was sorry they died on their quests across the road.

Rita and I are growing little lawns inside the house. Here is mine.

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A few adventurous sunflower seeds got mixed in with the potting soil, so they are pushing up sturdily as well. Rita has three different containers with grasses. She gives them haircuts with scissors when they get too tall. Gabe shakes his head, amused, but I told him we really can’t help it. Some of us are born with souls that need green and sprouting things. I cannot think of a worse plight than being called to live in the Arctic. I guess a cell would be worse.

Tonight was choir practice again, always a highlight in the week for me. I came back home to peaceful children, bless their hearts. They were listening to Anne of Avonlea on Librivox. Some were coloring up a storm and two of them were trying to braid as many little braids into each other’s hair as possible. Nobody had any troublesome tattles to tale, which I feel I should mention in all fairness. They really are “nice”, which is what our elderly neighbor used as the one all-purpose adjective for them. Sure, I had some kitchen cleanup to do yet, but all in all it has been a good day.

Tomorrow is the day to celebrate the people we love! Let’s pull out the stops and really bless them, how about it?

 

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