Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Sprit

He wants to decorate the pets for Christmas.
We haven't decorated for Christmas yet. I'm planning to get to that this weekend. Maybe. In all honesty, I'm still enjoying my two autumn decorations. They're so festive. Plus, I'm cracking down on my exercise routine, and I'm sore. Sue me.

But I have started listening to a smattering of Christmas music, and today I'm letting Littles watch Christmas Veggie Tales episodes while Tiny takes an unplanned morning nap (teething is really getting him today; the snot waterfall--snoterfall?--is unparalleled). Then we're hitting up the commissary so I can make chicken and salsa soup for dinner, but that's totally unrelated. Or is it? Soup is Christmassy, right? And I'm putting in zucchini, so in combination with the salsa, it'll be red and green. Hmm, let's light the evergreen candle and bring it on!

I love Christmas. Admittedly, it's easy to get distracted by all the extra "stuff" we add on to Christmas, but the Man and I are being more purposeful each year with how we spend our time and money during this season (and how we ask other people to spend their time and money). So I'm planning to relish every moment of doing the Christmas decorating this weekend, and then every moment of pulling Tiny out of its spiky branches. I'm most excited about decorating the boys' room. For some reason we have more than a handful of excess stockings this year, and I plan to hang them from the clothesline in their room that is currently displaying all of Littles' drawings from "school" this year. He does love some handprint turkeys.

This blog had a point. I don't remember what it was. I was up running at 5 this morning in 22 degree weather, and I'm pretty sure my brain froze. So, my point...um...evergreen candles, plans for advent calendars and Christmas lights, Mannheim Steamroller, trains and singing legumes, more soup for meeeeeee, presents starting to accumulate on the desk in the guest room, who Jesus was and is, nutcrackers, frozen brain (not to be confused with brain freeze), and the need for more coffee and my very ugly and fuzzy red snuggie. Christmas doesn't get boring. Plus, I'm really psyched about how the boys are going to react to the Christmas decorations. Littles is still thanking me moving his room around and that was 2 months ago. This is no lie.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Gifts

Yep. It's 6.38, and both the boys are in bed. And before you go crying foul and telling me what cruel parents we must be, Littles asked to go to bed. We just cheerily acquiesced to his request. So my loving husband asked me if I needed to write tonight, and I admitted that I probably did, and he prodded me in the direction of the computer since the kitchen is clean and it's early enough that I can blog and we can still watch The Avengers before bed. Our lives are terribly exciting.

I was going to write about Thanksgiving and how mad I am that I didn't take a picture of my three handsome men, and then share with you a few of the thousand gifts I've recorded over the year (Ann Voskamp, anyone?), but I realized that three out of my four journals containing my 1110 gifts from the last 11 months (I do not make these numbers up) are in the guest room where Littles is currently sleeping (we're trying out solo sleeping for Tiny tonight), so that's was a no go until miraculously Littles decided he wasn't asleep and wanted to share something unintelligibly sleepy with Mommy who took that moment to quickly swipe aforementioned journals. It was a moment of brilliance. Also, I think I write about Ann Voskamp a little too often.

Anyway, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few of the wonderful gifts I have been thankful for this year:

25. Crescent-moon eyelash shadows on round cheeks.
85. Watching the Man love on newborn Tiny.
99. Juice, even juice that's only 15% juice.
153. Colouring purple and orange spotted dinosaurs.
221. Belly buttons! Or rather, detached umbilical cords.
240. Daddy-son lunch dates. More specifically, being married to a daddy who wants to take his son out on lunch dates.
359. The sound of my sisters laughing.
367. Learning to say thank you, even for deployments. (Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? John 18:116)
420. Band-aids. Because even if they result in blood curdling screams from Littles, they keep the blood in.
443. Fourteen dead caterpillars. You'd think they would learn.
568. A stopped up kitchen sink that forced me to stop, drink some coffee, wait for the plumber, and focus on Christ.
575. Making military mistakes. Because, yes, I'm still a clueless hippy.
634. Littles calling the Man "Captain Honey".
645. Tiny's brother-proof skull.
793. "Mommy, why did you put clothes on me again?"
916. A long "England" walk with the dog, tiny bits of mist on my face, when my heart is breaking.
963. That gratitude begets gratitude.
1000. Pretend naps and having my brown eyed boy pat down my blanket and say, "I like you, Mommy."
1054. That there was nothing but black coffee in the travel mug that sat in the car for a week.
1110. God's incredible Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

And on that note, I'm going to go kick the dog off the love seat, curl up with the Man, and watch The Avengers (yeah!), possibly with a slice of apple pie (also yeah!). Happy Thanksgiving, and try hard not to cry about the lack of a cute picture. I know it's hard. Frankly, I'm upset too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Worshipful Obedience

Last week Little Man and I read the story of David and Goliath together. It's one of his favourites and gets fairly frequent retellings in our home. I'm not quite sure what attracts him to the story since he doesn't quite understand the concept of Goliath getting killed, but something about it gets him. At any rate, as I was reading to him I caught something new (this is the advantage of reading Bible stories to your children--if you can't manage to squeeze in your own quiet time, you can still learn something). That day all David was doing was taking lunch to his brothers as his father requested. He didn't go visit the army because he had received a specific calling from God to go kill Goliath. He went because he was being obedient to his father in the small things. This is something I've been trying to learn the last few months, and something I've been writing about as well (though for the life of me I can't remember what post it was...maybe this one).

Just this Sunday, I was talking with our Sunday School class about hearing the Holy Spirit's voice. We were reading in Acts 13 and 14, about how the church in Antioch was worshiping the Lord when God told them to send Barnabas and Saul out from among them. We discussed how when our focus is on God and not on ourselves, when we practice moment-by-moment worship, we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit's voice.

Then I ran across a blog by Ann Voskamp that started tying everything together for me (I know it seems like I'm rambling but I promise I have a point I will get to eventually--bear with me). She writes (and I'm jumbling her words here a bit, mea culpa):
Your father calls you. And if you can't hear him? ...[You're not where you're meant to be]... We want clarity--and God gives us a call. We want a road map--and God gives a relationship. We want answers--and God gives us His hand.
We cannot be in real relationship with God without the inevitable response of worship. When we worship, He tends to speak. And when He speaks, we must respond, taking the obedient next step, however small, however insignificant--taking lunch to our brothers, perhaps. Because sometimes, when we open ourselves up to the Lord through worship, through purposeful obedience, He puts us in the right place at the right time so that we might give Him even more glory.

It's Wednesday now and I started writing this blog on Sunday; it's taken me that long to finish up, not because I didn't know what I wanted to say but because life happens. Library books need to be returned; bloody noses occur; laundry needs to get folded; dog hair must be vacuumed. And each small moment is a choice that sometimes I forget I am making. As I give Littles the stink eye for waking his brother up at nap time, am I remembering to worship? Am I remembering that this too is a chance to be obedient? As I dig the wood-chips out of Tiny's mouth for the hundredth time, as I re-hang the hand towel that has been left beside the sink, as I scoop up dog poop in the back yard, am I remembering? Am I really holding onto His hand?

Because I might find that if my hand (dry from soap, chapped from the wind, smelly from diapers) is held in His (scarred and blood stained) I'm in the right place at the right time after all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Buffalo Boy Won't You Come Out Tonight

This is just a smattering of wonder. Allow yourself to be blown away and don't be distracted by the fact that the items in this post have little to no connection with each other. Sit back, relax, and eat some doughnuts while you read. You'll thank me later.

1. Buffalos are awesome. My two year old will tell you so. He will also spend the entire time at the Wildlife Refuge saying, "Daddy, I want to see more buffalo!" And then as soon as you get close enough to one to take a picture, "It's scary. Let's leave." And then "More buffalo!" and then "Drive!" and then "Another buffalo!" and then "LEAVE!!!" Really, we think he has a split personality.

2. Christmas cards, on the other hand, are terrifying. There's too much pressure! That thing is going to be hanging on someone's fridge for a whole year (two, the way I do things--last year I had a baby instead of sending out a Christmas card--no, that's not an announcement). What if I accidentally use a picture where someone has a booger hanging out their nose? On that note, if you want a Christmas card, speak now or forever hold your peace (and don't judge me if all the pictures have red eye).

3. The Man and I typically agree that preschool programs (really, programs by children of any kind) should be lovingly skipped. However, now that we have our own kids, we can't get out of them. So today we diligently cheered on Littles as he stood, shell shocked, before a microphone and whispered "Gobble, gobble" a couple of times. His stage presence was unparalleled. We're starting him in show business next week.

4. Tiny decided to start for real walking this week. Incredibly, I have a video of Littles pretending to be a statue in a turkey hat from the program today but none of Tiny walking. My priorities are sadly out of whack.

5. Does anyone feel all Thanksgivinged out before Thanksgiving actually rolls around? It's not that I dislike Thanksgiving (it's one of my all time favourite holidays), but by the time I finally get to Thanksgiving I will have attended four other Thanksgiving meals. It just seems a little overkill. Unfair thinning of the turkeys, I say. But bring on the pumpkin pie.

6. Trig-dog gets really sad when he has no email.

7. I have a Cars band-aid covering a massive bug bite on the back of my leg. I am the coolest. In contrast, mystery bug bites are not cool at all. They are as terrifying as Christmas cards. Is my leg going to shrivel up and fall off?

8. I have to stop myself from spewing a ridiculous amount of stories about Tiny and Littles on here. Like how Littles asked me if he could take swim lessons with a turtle or maybe a dolphin. Or how he told me his first story last week (Once there was a little cow, and he was very nice). Or how I walked in on Tiny at two in the morning bouncing up and down in his crib with no pants or socks in sight. Or how he already thinks he's funnier than he really is (okay, as ten month olds go, he is pretty funny). This is just the tip of the iceberg but I realize that not everyone comes to my blog for the sole purpose of stalking my children. For those of you that do, however, I will leave you with this:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fear and Failure, White Noise and Writing

My computer has been comandeered by the boys. In our desperation to get Tiny to sleep through the night, we are using it as a white noise machine during naptime and night time. This should be great, except that I have trouble writing when they are rampaging during the day, and all my cool pictures for the blog are on the Mac. So aforementioned Mac is playing ocean sounds absolutely guaranteed to make our baby sleep through the night (they haven't) while I type up pictureless blogs on the Man's PC. This is how the world goes...

I've been thinking about writing lately. Not just writing, really, because I write pretty frequently, but writing to be read. The truth is: I'm a chicken. It's not even the fear of having someone tell me that what I'm writing is absolute rot (though that's there too), but the way that words can bounce back at you from the silence. And the echo effect makes them sound incredibly pretentious and idiotic. Ever noticed that?

I'm learning to risk more. I've put more out there this year than I have in a while, but the fear is always there, and it would be so much easier to just Not. There is no risk involved in sitting on the couch watching a movie. There is no risk involved in going through the motions at home. But I'm not sure I want a risk free life at this point. It's baby steps, and I acknowledge that. I'm not writing a three part novel and sending it in to a publisher by any means. But even just typing this blog while my husband plays a video game and reads over my shoulder invites that little trickle of fear that challenges me to step out of my comfort zone and venture into uncertainty.

It's an every day process to look myself in the eyes and ask, "What is it that you are afraid of doing?" and then go do that very thing. But I think the results might be worth the effort.

The results of my computer-turned-sound-machine are not so promising. My prayer life, on the other hand, is spiking in preparation for the day when I can pray for something other than a semi-decent night of sleep. You win some, you lose some.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Bath and Book Combo

Every once in a while I have a day when all I want to do is take a hot bath and read some E. L. Konigsburg. Today is that day. I reached that conclusion somewhere between folding yesterday's laundry and loading the dishwasher with french toast encrusted plates. Tiny systematically upending the contents of my diaper bag may have had something to do with that as well.

Anyway, as I said, today is that day. The View from Saturday. Bubble bath. Really ridiculously hot water. And maybe I'll shave that patch of extra long hair on my left knee that I obviously missed in the shower yesterday.

Other women read romance novels, but I read children's books. And I have this deep seated premonition that if I ever make it to my dreamed of bath and book date, I will discover a squirreled away chocolate bar to take with me...

Bathtime reading? Anyone? Anyone?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Joy in the Morning

This morning I wake to primordial screams coming from our sons' room. Upon entering, I discover Littles sitting in bed holding his brace in two hands--broken--again.

My frustration is tangible. Vibrant, if you will. Most definitely, loud and possibly a bit abrasive. Even after I realize that all he had done was take out a screw that I can very easily replace.

It's just not nice waking up to 1. full throated yelling, 2. the potential rearranging of an entire day to get the brace fixed, but worst of all 3. my own lack of grace and patience as a parent.

The screw replaced, the tears dried (Little's, not mine), two sopping wet diapers and a bed sheet changed, and I drag myself to the kitchen to get breakfast on the table. And that's when I hear myself:

Today is a bad day.

I've brought the day in to court and acted as judge and jury. I pound the gavel, and it is so.

Except that it isn't.

Because regardless of the lies with which I brand my life, real Truth reminds me that This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! And I know that joy is in part an act of obedience. The coffee is still brewing in the pot and my mind is working double time to function past all the trips out of bed with Tiny throughout the night, so I scramble for truth and come up with the children's song:

This is the day, this is the day that the LORD has made, that the LORD has made...

I sing from obedience (but also a little bit of desperation) as I slice pumpkin bread and hand out sippy cups, and the croaking of my morning voice is joined by Littles, a smidge off key and off tempo, but so lovely. From habit, I continue:

Hari ini, hari ini harinya Tuhan, harinya Tuhan. Mari kita, mari kita bersukariya, bersukariya...

The words are just as true in any language. And that's when I hear it: my stubbornly monolingual son singing along. In Indonesian. And it's my first hint that today is absolutely not and never will be a bad day. It's my morning gift from the Lord. As I choose joy, He pours out more.

So I let the boys rampage in the kitchen, creating a joyous noise with the pot lids, as I drink my coffee and write and listen. Listen because every few minutes Littles sings, "Hari ini, hari ini..." Just that short phrase, but it's enough.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Bevy of Books

I picked up Randy Alcorn's If God Is Good again this week. I say "again" because my parents gave it to the Man about two years ago and we started reading it at the time, made it about 50 pages in, and then lost our momentum. It's been sitting on my nightstand since then, glaring at me. And now I'm guilt-free and thoroughly enjoying it.

But that's not what this post is about. The boys and I went librarying this week and picked up a couple fun books that I feel the need to share with you about.

So here you go.

As shortly, sweetly, and succinctly as possible and in no particular order:

Itsy Mitsy Runs Away by Elanna Allen. Super adorable, great illustrations, not just for girls, funny even for adults, and full of my favourite colour--green. I now want to run away, or at least let Littles run away (and possibly Tiny). But the very best part? Her dog is named Puptart. Yes. Puptart. My favourite line: Little girls don't mow lawns! Grown-ups do!

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by author Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. Hands down the best truck/bulldozer/machinery (stuff with engines and wheels that boys like, you get the picture) book that I have read. And I've read a lot of them. The chalk drawings are whimsical and sweet (my favourite part is when the crane truck cuddles up with his teddy bear), and the story is written in rhyme and meter that actually flow, which is more rare than you would think...

Press Here by Henré Tullet. Quirky and lovable. Plus, teaches important things like "left" and "right" and how to follow silly directions. I'm enamored.

And finally...

Moose on the Loose by Kathy-jo Wargin, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello (which may be the coolest last name ever). All that needs to be said about this book is that after reading it, Littles wanted us to get a moose and I decided that the next time we PCS, we'll get moose antlers to carry all our stuff instead of a U-Haul.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Smelly Memories

I love this country
It's dark outside, and the stars are still out as I stand over my battered kitchen sink peeling an orange for Little's lunch. As each curl of peel falls into the disposal, the scent of citrus greets me and, with it, memories. Memories of sitting carefully, knees together, a plate of wedding food in my lap--rice, curried vegetables, spicy meat, a midget banana, and one small orange with its thin peel holding the slices together into a glowing globe of celebration.

My mother used to say that wedding receptions in Indonesia were about her three least favourite things: smoke, trash, and really loud sound systems. If I force myself, I remember that too, but mostly when I look back, I remember the food and the scent of jasmine (this is called selective remembering, ha!). The physical act of peeling that orange transports me back to my awkward childhood self, trying to tuck too-long legs neatly beneath a folding chair.

The sense of smell does that for me often. The smell of clove cigarettes brings memories of the streets of Indonesia, crowded with street vendors, beggars, scrawny chickens, and overflowing public transportation. The wafting scent of fresh baked bread  takes me back to Jordan and sitting scrunched between my sisters in the back of a taxi, tearing off chunks of fresh baked bread as we drank in the sights. And the smooth aroma of percolating coffee always reminds me of waking up at my in-laws, knowing that the Man's father has a pot of decaf brewing on the stove for me (yes, on the stove--no cop out coffee pots for them).

I suppose what I'm saying is how grateful I am for the gift of my nose. Although on the whole I think noses are a little weird looking if you think about them too long, they help me to remember. And while sometimes that makes me homesick, most of the time, it just lets me enjoy being momentarily transported elsewhere.

And then Reveille plays, and I'm back in my kitchen, filling up a Thomas lunch box and getting ready to start another day. A door bangs open, and the sound of running feet greets me. Littles throws himself into my arms for his morning hug and says, "It's still dark outside, Mommy." That's right. And I've already made a PB&J and put a note that you can't read in your lunch box. Labour of love, dude, labour of love...