Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yay for Young Adult Fiction

Should you happen to have a closet obsession with young adult fiction or should you happen to have or have had a one year old who is excellent at escaping and not so excellent at obedience (YET!), then this post is for you. If not, I've given you fair warning.

The boys and I went to the library yesterday--mostly because if I had to make it through one more tantrum I was going to turn into some kind of eye bulging, tail lashing, fire breathing monster whose roar of exasperation would blow the roof off the house--and we returned with our book bag stretched to its sturdy canvas limits. Our book bag runneth over, which, of course, is perfection, and this time there were even two books included for me. This doesn't happen very often because the boys run straight for the children's section when we arrive and by the time I've managed to drag them out of it, they've exhausted their store of good behaviour and, instead of letting me browse peacefully, rampage throughout the library, wreaking havoc, and causing me to want to tear my hair out. Or turn into a monster. I choose not to subject myself to that for obvious reasons.

Yesterday, however, Tiny amused himself by escaping the children's section and running through the stacks, looking over his shoulder to make sure I was chasing him, and grinning cheekily. Because I am quick and my legs are twice as long as he is tall, he only made it to the young adult section before I caught him (all five times) during which time I managed to snag Claire Legrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and Rick Riordan's The Serpent's Shadow (remember when I went through that massive Rick Riordan phase two years ago?). At any rate, all I've been doing the last 30 hours has been reading. It's been great. And the wonderful thing about reading YA Fiction is that you can read two 300 some page books in that space of time if you really put your mind to it. And I did.

So last night, while the Man balanced our budget (because he's a real adult), I polished off The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, which was surprisingly well written and deliciously creepy, if you go in for that sort of thing. Normally, I don't. I still don't get the whole horror movie thing or haunted houses for that matter. There are enough things that scare me in life without me going to look for them. But... But... I made a happy exception for Claire Legrand. And the illustrations by Sarah Watts added just the right touch. Not many YA books include illustrations these days, and it was a nice addition. Premise of the story: twelve year old, type A heroine, Victoria Wright, discovers that her best friend is missing--and no one else notices. I will say: a little Stepford Wives, but it kept me on my toes. I did, however, have to go browse Pinterest for an hour after I finished reading just so I could de-creepify myself.

Today, in between being mostly good and while diligently playing legos with the boys, I finished The Serpent's Shadow, the third book in the Kane Chronicles, which fictionalizes and modernizes Egyptian mythology (a pair of siblings saves the world--huzzah!). Rick Riordan satisfies a part of me that has been fascinated by mythology since I was a kid--initially it was just Greek and Roman mythology that piqued my interested, but then I read Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, and I lost it for Egyptian mythology too. I have no explanation for why I'm so intrigued by wacko stories of old gods and goddesses. I just am. And Riordan's books are action packed and funny. I'm not saying that the writing is the most beautiful I've ever experienced, but they're fun books. And when you finish them, you finish happy, which says something. So happy, in fact, that I went and mopped the kitchen (all shepherds and their sheep survived--probably because I did a preemptive strike and moved them to a neutral zone before I mopped). Quick aside: if you haven't read Mara, Daughter of the Nile stop reading this paltry blog, go find it, and allow your life to be forever bettered.

At any rate, I will now return to my adult self and get back to other things in life, but I want you to know that I'm pretty sure Tiny is going to have fantastic taste in books when he grows up. Most of the books we brought home were culled from the dozens he cheerily de-shelved, and we have got a good batch this time around. I'm hoping this lasts because if I have to read another Bob the Builder book, someone is going to pay.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Grace and Goodness, Work and Worship

So you know that book that arrived last Tuesday? I finished it on Thursday. And then I talked about it all weekend. And now I'm finally getting around to writing about it. The only reason I didn't write about it sooner was that I've been feeling a desperate need to take naps and reread old books because have I mentioned recently enough how exhausting these two kids are? Plus, it pretend-blizzarded here. Anyway, point being, that I now need to tell you about Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman.

Guys, this encouraged me, it challenged me, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it literally kicked me in the pants (okay, not literally, but maybe literarily). And I, for real, haven't stopped talking about it since because it just challenged the way I thought about Jesus and what He actually means in my day-to-day life. The book is full of stories side-by-side with Scripture, which is my favourite way to learn, and Freeman backs up what she is saying with the Word of God, which caused me to dig deeper myself. You can probably guess the theme of the book just from the title, but basically Freeman delves into why we Christian women (especially) accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and then spend the rest of our lives working ourselves to weariness in vain attempt to live up to His perfection on our own strength.

It isn't a book to just read and set aside. It's one that I want to go back through with a pen to underline and write notes. In the meantime, I pulled out some of my favourite quotations:
  • If I am trying to please God, it is difficult to trust God. But when I trust God, pleasing him is automatic.
  • God's expectations of us are not the same as our expectations of ourselves.
  • There are those who will say that obedience is the key to the Christian life, and that to say otherwise is to wave the dangerous, offensive flag of passivity over our churches. To that I will simply say this: good girls live obediently, but they do not know the mystery.... Jesus calls us to a new and better way. He still asks for our obedience, but it is no longer obedience to the law, [but]...obedience to the truth.
  • This obedience to the truth doesn't come naturally or automatically. There is laboring. There is striving. But this striving labor has the potential to be new and light and joyful.
  • He asks us to open our hands, receive the gift, and then live as if it were true. Are you trying to be who Jesus wants you to be? Or do you trust him to bring out who he has already created you to be?
  • Worship, not work, flows out of the hearts of those who believe.
If any of these ideas pique your interest, pick up the book for yourself. It'll be ten dollars well spent. Or, if you'd like to poke around a little bit more, you can catch Emily Freeman writing regularly on her blog: Chatting at the Sky.

I, personally, am going to go worshipfully clean the bathrooms. Possibly preceded by some grace-filled chocolate chips.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (Phillips)

Friday, February 22, 2013

To View Grace

This window is my saving grace.

I know it doesn't look like much, smudged dirty and reflecting back my battle scarred kitchen sink as it looks out onto three dead trees and the Oklahoma blankness, but you just don't know how many times it has been my sanity.

For me, that window is sunrise and sunset. It's the one impossibly sun-green spot in my day as I look out over winter farmland. It's a "mountain" interrupting the unbroken horizon. It's the nightly appearing of the lights of the town just twenty minutes north.

That window is gratitude when bed time for the boys can't come soon enough. It's a deep breath when all around me is chaos crazy, laundry piles, and unmopped floors. It's a reminder to slow and be purposeful, a reminder that all is grace.

I don't know how to explain this to you without telling you that, to my tropical eyes, most of this area is barren, brown, brittle, and broken. And while my view may not look like much to you with your big trees and your ocean and your snow capped mountains, it stands in sharp contrast to my daily reality. And I rejoice.

It reminds me of the iridescent blue kingfisher who used to join me at my high school track at dawn, whispering "God loves you" over and over again.

Sometimes I hand wash my dishes just to stay at that window a little bit longer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Skidding Shards and Stupid

So do you remember when I wrote about the little shepherd boy I shattered into barely glue-able smithereens? Well, God didn't think I got the point.

Today, I knocked off the entire wall shelf and busted the other shepherd into 7 separate chunks. Amazingly, the already broken one caught in the shelf and survived the four foot fall and the little lamb (read into this what you will) skidded across the kitchen floor completely unscathed.

And yes, I was mopping again. I can't figure out if I'm really that clumsy or if somehow the kitchen table has shifted closer to the wall or if I just so desperately hate mopping that, subconsciously, I will do anything to get out of it (even breaking beloved manger scenes). I moved the table just to make sure my bases were covered. I'm running out of super glue.

It took me all day to get that shepherd back together again. I'd glue a piece in--go read a few more pages of my book. Glue a piece in--go pick up dog poop in the back yard. Glue a piece in--start the chicken pot pie. Glue a piece in--bathe the boys. And some of the pieces really had to be delicately man-handled.

And I kept wanting to say: I get it, God! I get it! Brokenness! I'm there. I understand. Healing hurts sometimes and it takes a while, but you have said (and reminded me repeatedly)--blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

But instead of saying that (or maybe along with saying that), I took both boys and the dog out for a walk in bitterly cold 20 mile an hour winds because I am a smart mom, and now I will be known forever as the woman with the Crazy Eyes because every person that drove by received The Look (whether they were considering calling Child Protective Services or not) as I held onto the wind-tugged stroller and dragged the shivering dog with one hand while pulling a protesting Littles behind me with the other.

They don't call me bright for nothing.

Then we came home and Littles tried on The Man's combat boots, and maybe I'll have something profound to say about that later, but for right now, enjoy:

Oh, and (because this is just too cute not to):

The End.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Still Here

Yep, I haven't gone anywhere, but I've been spending a lot of time with my nose in several different books lately, none of which are finished yet, but when they are, I will diligently write all about them so you can decide whether or not you want to read them yourself (the answers should be yes, yes, and only if you are vaguely interested in the Marine Corps or get dared to read military biographies by your husband). Anyway, so, nose in a book and further occupied by stuff like the Man and Boys and Friends and figuring out my New Smart Phone (sorry for all the caps--I have no explanation) and messing up my knee again (running hates me: why do I love it so?) and letting Tiny flip his high chair over and exploring the world of mismatched sheets.

But then I thought of you, poor lonely blog reader, who has absolutely nothing better to do with your time than stalk my blog (I know you're out there, please, be out there stalking my blog), so I thought I'd come on by and tell you the following really important things:

  • I am now officially out of pasta salad, and my grief is overwhelming. The fact that I didn't make a double recipe is further contributing to my guilt ridden sorrow.
  • That fire pit was the best purchase ever. Last night, as I sat by it with the Man, sipping on old coffee, I was finally able to process some thoughts that have been tripping me up for three weeks now. And it is incredible how much more fun today has been now that they have been duly burnt out of me.
  • I need to know: do you give guests a tour of your home when they arrive? I have distinct memories of my mom doing that when I was growing up, but every time the thought crosses my mind now I feel extremely pretentious. Also, we have only one picture up in the hallway.
  • Me: Eat your dinner now or forever hold your peace because when we get home, I'm not giving you anything else. Littles: I'll hold my peace. {Seriously. WHO TAUGHT HIM THAT?}
  • Getting a new book in the mail after a long morning is pretty much the. best. thing. ever. And yes, that deserved both the italics and the extra periods. And if you don't agree with me, consider our friendship OVER. Just kidding. I'll still like you. But only to your face. 
And on that loving note, my children are awake, and I need to get back to being Mom as opposed to doing what I'm doing right now which is being something else (uuuuuuh....). But give me a few days or hound me relentlessly and I will be back to tell you all about Chesty Puller and/or Grace for the Good Girl. Because it will make your life better. No lie.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I promise I will stop talking about Valentine's Day after this

Because I know you are all going: Who are you and what have you done with Marian?

And the truth is that Marian had two kids and went off the deep end and became a massive sap. But that is, of course, neither here nor there. The point is that:

Yesterday, I woke up and made these for breakfast:

And it just added to the awesomeness I was feeling after making my own super crafty Valentine's for the guys:

Yes, I know. It's hard to breathe around my incredibleness, right? Construction paper is my friend.

Anyway, then I dropped off Littles at Mother's Day Out and ran to Walmart for a couple quick things where I ran into a friend and her son, who informed me that he'd just seen a card that he wanted to buy me (me?!) because it said, "Best Mom Ever" and he wanted to buy it for me. Talk about ego exploding. (He did make sure to cover his bases by saying it could've been for his mom too--he's slick, that one).

So I'm going through my day feeling pretty good about myself, having at last arrived as the Best Mom Ever (it's true), when I picked up Littles and his bag of Valentine loot. 

Of course, the first thing he wanted to do was to show me every single cookie-accompanied, hand-made, Pinterest-worthy Valentine's card in there that the obviously superior mothers of the children in his class had sent.

Yeah, all I'd sent was a few Walmart-bought, Dr Seuss cards with the Little Man's name scrawled at the bottom.

I laughed until I cried. Or did I cry until I laughed? At any rate, goodbye, Best Mom Ever award! Maybe next year? (Nope, because I am so not that mom, c'est la vie.)

But for your viewing pleasure I will include a couple quick pictures of the kids laughing at me in my misfortune:


I'll close with this. The moral of the story is (I'm thinking really hard about this): eat all of those gourmet heart shaped cinnamon raisin biscuits because if you don't, the dog will, and then you'll be mad. Other morals are: be awesome. And: suck up to your friend's kids. And: hug your children, love Jesus, and pass the coffee.

If you have a desperate desire to read more about Valentine's Day, this made me laugh (and if you haven't checked out Jackie's blog, please do because she is one of those superior human beings we all want to be like) and this made me cry (why do you do this to me, Ann Voskamp? WHY?).

Lastly, I think I'll keep my Valentine. He's a hottie, AND he's got medals. And a bow tie.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Picture Celebration

The Man has decided to upgrade my phone this week. Against my wishes. I like mine with its sticking pound key and scratched up screen. It's retro, you know? Which makes me super cool. Anyway, point being that now that he is forcing me (against my will) to get an iPhone (cruel and unusual punishment), I have also been forced to finally download all the pictures that I've been taking on my phone for the last almost two years. And when I say "I", I mean, of course, my wonderful husband who actually has the technological skills to figure out how to get aforementioned pictures from the phone to the computer (which is why they have been languishing in loneliness on my phone for the last 20 months).
So, on that note, here are a few (and I do mean, a select few--it took me a while to narrow them down) of the exquisite pictures that I have taken with my little mobile device thingie over the last few months. This post, of course, comes right in time for Valentine's Day complete with pictures of the men I love most.
Here is Tiny, the young superhero. Very young. And very super. And two seconds after this picture was taken, Littles ripped his cape back off of his brother, nearly strangling him in the process. That velcro did not want to let go...
And Tiny, the happiest little Glen Hansard fan ever. You have to start them young, you know?

And my beautiful boys together. Looking at them just doesn't get old. Although it's less of an active sport when they're sleeping or I'm only looking at them in picture form.

Here is a young Littles, lifting weights like a champ. And don't waste your time trying to wipe that spot off Little's nose--it's not on your computer screen, it's from when he tried to use my curling iron on his nose.

Littles again, showing us his deep and abiding love for all things Indian, especially Chicken Korma. Kid has great taste.

Here is a fantastic shot of Oswald. He keeps us all on our toes.

Is that not the most beautiful thing? Ever?

And one last picture of Tiny because he was a baby while I had this phone (sniff) and just WOW (which, of course, is exactly what I think of the two wonderful men in the last picture too).

So, Happy Valentine's Day, and may you have a special day celebrating the ones you love and the wonderful God that loves you. And may the Man teach me how to download pictures from my phone before another year and a half has passed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Beautifully Broken

"Broken I come to you for your arms are open wide. I am empty, but I know your love does not run dry."
"Hungry (Falling on my Knees)" by Joy Williams

Last week I broke one of the shepherds from the manger scene I left out after Christmas this year. It's one of my favourites, and it worked so well with the kitchen colours (and fit so perfectly in the little box shelves), that when I started to consider leaving out a manger scene year round to bring my thoughts back daily to the wonderful gift that is Christ, I knew it was going to be that manger scene. Incidentally, it's not the Man's favourite manger scene, but he has lovingly given in to me. This is becoming a thing in our lives much to his chagrin and my somewhat guilty glee.

Then on Thursday, I was mopping underneath the kitchen table and when I straightened up, my back jarred the wall shelf and the little shepherd boy went tumbling down in dismay. He broke into three large pieces and a few tiny shards, so I swept up the shards and put the glue-able pieces next to the sugar bowl and finished mopping the floor (crying a bit on the inside). 

Last night, I took a few spare seconds to super glue Shepherd Boy back together and then this morning I slid him back into place next to his friend and the poor lonely lamb that thought he'd been ditched forever. There was a joyful reunion.

But all day I haven't been able to stop thinking about the little shepherd, broken, chipped, glued back together, and coming to worship Jesus. 

All day, as I've been fighting my lack of patience with my children, who decided to spend the day throat punching me, groaning dramatically when told to pick up, and asking me the same question over and over again...

All day, as I've been snapping at my husband who not only helped me get dinner finished, not only posted a really nice picture of me on facebook, not only allowed me in his squadron this afternoon and acknowledged that he knows me (and is married to me!), not only all that but also came home this afternoon to help me with the small discipline problem known around these parts as Little Man... Anyway, all day, as I've been snapping at that Paragon of Manly Virtue...

All day, as I've been clumsily maneuvering relationships and praying for grace...

All day, as I've accomplished less than half of what I've hoped to and been frustrated about it (and let everyone know)...

All day, as I've thought of others who have lost more than I have, who are going through harder times, who are walking through the valley of the shadow...

All day, through all of this, I've thought about that broken and pieced together shepherd, bowing before the Lord. And I've thought about Jesus too, nail scarred, thorn torn, blooded and beaten, who says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

He loves the broken. He loves the broken. He sees their worship as incredibly beautiful. 


So. When I am in that place when I do not feel like enough, when I do not feel whole enough--because I am grieving or angry or disappointed or just because I find myself saying to the Man, "I feel completely ineffective today"--when I find myself in that place, I want to think of my beautifully broken shepherd coming, inexplicably perhaps, to worship an infant King.

Because I can look at the fault lines and stretch marks and scars that render my life ugly to the uninformed viewer or I can fix my eyes on Jesus and see myself as beautiful in the light of who He is--and worship.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vacuuming in the Dark

The Man is in the kitchen working on tax stuff and budgeting because he is awesome, and I am sitting in the living room moaning and groaning, because I seriously think lugging Tiny around is compressing my spine, and thinking about chocolate. Don't judge. We can't all be as cool as he is. Meanwhile, from the boys' room, I keep hearing snippets of conversation, mostly Littles conversing with the Thomas plush toy my wonderful Mom-in-love sent that says deep thoughts such as, "I've run out of steam" and "We've been really useful today." It also plays a really creepy lullaby version of the Thomas theme song. Naturally, Littles loves it. Also naturally, I've begun having nightmares about Thomas. Just kidding. Kind of.

Anyway, all this is very exciting to you, I'm sure, but I'll get to the actual point of this post now and tell you that after my extensive housekeeping career I've finally realized how hard it is to vacuum in the dark. Let me rephrase, it's not hard, but it's kind of a waste of time. I learned this the hard way. Of course. Is there any other way to learn something of value?

Let me explain: our hall is windowless. All the bedrooms open onto it, and, well, you can figure this out. It's not rocket science. No windows. That's the point. A couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to fit in a quick vacuum while dinner cooked--multitasking at its finest--and I got on that. I didn't think about the fact that the sun was quickly sinking below the horizon and I hadn't turned on a single lamp. I was zeroed in. Vacuuming was the goal, and vacuuming was going to be accomplished (so help me). Besides, it's not like you have to see to vacuum. Just cover the ground, and the vacuum should do the rest, right?

Yeah, no.

About halfway through, my helpful oldest son flipped on the hall light for me, and I saw all the junk I'd managed to miss. Part of it was I was in a rush, part of it was that my vacuum isn't the greatest and I sometimes (frequently) have to pick things up by hand, and the rest of it was that I just couldn't see what I was doing. So I started over again. This time with the lights on.

And that's when it hit me that vacuuming in the dark is such a phenomenal analogy for trying to live morally without Jesus (really, trying to do anything without Jesus). We think we're making a difference, covering our bases, checking items off our list, and we might be getting some stuff accomplished, but when the lights flip on, we're left with dirty carpet. We need to see what we're doing, working in the light of who Christ is and what He is doing in us, before any change is worthwhile.

This is what I'm thinking about. I'm learning that I can think I'm doing all the right things, and they're really just not worth very much if I've missed the point (if I would just flip the light on!). And yes, I do feel like I'm sounding a bit broken recordish these days, but I have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again, just in slightly different ways.

On that note, unbelievably, Littles might have actually fallen asleep so I think I'll go harass the Man until he stops being productive and decides to hang out with me instead. Good idea, huh?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Familial Photos

February is my middle sister's birthday month. In honour of that, I decided to share with you some classic Amanda photos--because she is awesome and everyone should join in the celebration of her existence. Also because it's February 4th and I'm just now getting my blogging for the month started and feel really behind but don't have the mental energy to put into a real blog.

To start off, here is this wonderful picture of Amanda eating a live bunny. In the background, you can see our oldest sister showing off her tender maternal instincts, oblivious to the fact that extreme violence is being done to the sibling of that little fur ball she's petting. Is it any wonder that Joanna has two kids with another on the way while Amanda makes Jo's and my parenting lives a lot more exciting whenever she comes to visit?

Next we have a typical sisters picture, with Amanda flashing a super cool peace sign. This is why she lives in Asia still. I have no explanation for what Joanna is doing, and since it's not her birthday month, you are just going to be left to draw your own conclusions.

Finally, I give you proof of the terror Amanda used to practice on my stuffed animals. For those of you with failing eye sight, in the foreground, my pink crocodile is making a quick meal of a mouse while the penguin family looks on between horrified flippers. Vintage Amanda. I told you Littles got it from her.

At any rate, happy birthday month, Amanda, and may we all enjoy sharing in your awesomeness, which is beyond all compare. If you are not Amanda and happen to be reading this blog and find your interest tweaked by her terrifying brilliance, feel free to go check out her terribly entertaining blog about life in India and elsewhere. Meanwhile, I will go take myself to bed and dream about my really awkward high school years of which I purposefully did not include pictures. Hurray!