1st day of Advent

Today is the first day of Advent.

And although we are currently on the road from Thanksgiving, I know that at home this:

Has already been transformed to this:

Nutcrackers at the ready, candles hopefully not already lit, and an empty Jessie tree, awaiting its first ornament.

So long Fall.

Snow Day!

"Zeke look out the window."

"SNOW!!! It's a SNOW day it's a SNOW day it's a SNOW day!!!!!" he screamed while he literally ran in circles in his pajamas.

You see, this past July he received a stack of old books, one of which was entitled "Snow Day". It was an instant favorite that he made Josh read him before bed every single night for literally months. So saying that Zeke was ready for snow seems a bit of an understatement.

When he stopped running in circles long enough to yell "I need my coat!", head twisting wildly in a manner I could only assume meant he was searching for it on the ceiling, I sadly had to inform him that we weren't going out into the snow until we had all eaten breakfast- not to mention gotten dressed for the day.

I expected arguments, if not a full blown tantrum, but I think he was too excited for even that. Instead he froze, hands wide in front of him like some tiny football player, and yelled "OK! Breakfast! Come on, lets eat breakfast RIGHT NOW!" and started running into the kitchen.

I've never seen my son, a notoriously slow eater, finish a bowl of cereal faster and by the time Malachi (who cared more about getting every single cheerio into his mouth then about going outside) was finished Zeke had managed to get one of his gloves and both of his boots- no small feat.

And that my friends is why #82 is waking up to a winter wonderland. Not because I necessarily enjoy snow- I do not. Nor because I was looking forward to shoveling our driveway with 1 child strapped to my back and another with a glove that fell off 3,982 times- I was not. In fact, we are leaving town on Wed and I have already ensured that I will never be forced to drive until then. That is, unless I get desperate enough to trek to the South Hill for knitting group Tuesday night (and I might).

But this is real-life magic, folks. This morning- it's magic. And watching Zeke bound from room to room, window to window, exclaiming "there's snow here!...and more snow here!....there's even more snow out here!" to ensure and delight in the fact that we are completely surrounded, I've got to say- Its worth it.

#67-82 of 1000 Moments of Grace

67. The 25th Sunday after Pentecost- a promise of holidays to come.

68. Zeke playing quietly by himself on a morning when I really really needed that extra hour of sleep.

69. Long, long, dinosaur trains.

70. A library, and all the wonders it contains, just a mile away.

71. New haircuts.

72. New hats, and the idle hours that make them possible.

73. A surplus of overripe bananas, a "problem" easily solved by warm banana bread.

74. Books I've read 1,000 times, yet still cant put down.

75. The husband that lets me sit on a Sunday afternoon, hour after hour, not putting that book down.

76. Hand print turkeys.

77. That first person getting crossed off the Christmas shopping list.

78. Brothers holding hands in the car.

79. The normal, "do nothing", nights that I know we will all forget.

80. Those first few snowflakes falling, and the yearly debate of whether it will melt off or we will never see the ground again until April.

81. A working furnace on cold nights.

82. Waking up to a winter wonderland.


Often, when my desire to homeschool comes up, I am asked if I feel like I could teach my boys everything they need to know. And honestly? The math and the science and the grammar don't bother me a bit- all that can be found in books and I've got a library card. But dependability? Self-Control? Compassion? Generosity? Honesty? Patience?

There are a lot of things I feel utterly at a loss to teach my sons.

It is not a new struggle. I am often reminded of my very first ventures into this balancing act that is discipline, that very fateful habit of sticking his fingers up my nose that Zeke had. I've come some way since then, but not far. I am still no gymnast.

Right now, Malachi loves to pinch me with his little fingers- particularly when he nurses. He also bites me when he's frustrated or his teeth hurt; or more commonly right now when he's frustrated and his teeth hurt. Yet these struggles seem blessedly easy.

Because Zeke and I are having issues with respect.
It started with a very annoying habit of, when asked to do something, saying "Momma do it." I suppose a whole host of shortcomings could be blamed- laziness comes to mind, arrogance that his time is more important then mine. But at the heart if it, I think it's a respect issue.

Since then he has taken to telling me "no", to "go away" or "go into a different room", or that I am a "boogie head".

Ezekiel, at the ripe age of 2 and a half, has decided that he is the man of the house.

And the thing with respect is, that no amount of example-leading is going to teach this. I just plain don't have many people in authority over me for him to see. And while I try to show him respect (I don't call him boogie head after all) I do have the right to tell him "no" or to "go into a different room" if I feel its necessary. He just doesn't have the right to do the same to me. Authority is a pain, son, your dad could probably write a book about it.

So the question remains, how does one teach respect? Josh isn't always home after all (and I have noticed the boogie head comments are much less when he's around).

I suppose I will either figure it out or raise convicts.

Wish me luck.

Christmas Thoughts

Every Sunday morning for quite a few weeks now Josh's finger has led my eyes to our church bulletin. "20th Sunday after Pentecost" he will say, his mouth twisted into a smile. Then 21st, then 22nd, and suddenly, last week 25th. He is teasing, the long count of...well, nothing...after Pentecost tickles his sense of humor.

Next week the bulletin will read "Last Sunday before Advent" and then the long 6 months of Common Time will be over as the steady march of the liturgical year commences; Advent turning to Christmas, turning to Epiphany, then the shortest of breaks before Lent, followed by Easter, followed by Pentecost. A familiar rhythm set on repeat for all time.

But I will admit it- I haven't historically been all that fond of Christmas. In fact some years I've been downright cranky about it, last year most especially perhaps- with my hatred of things growing to previously unreached limits.

But I think this year I am having a bit of a softening of the heart.

It began one morning when I came downstairs to find Zeke (he let me sleep in with Mal, sweet sweet boy) playing with his beloved dinosaurs.
These plastic dinos are his most prized possession at this point (well, maybe besides Baby Burt, and his blankie). And the thing is, they aren't just things, and cheap plastic things at that. They are prized. They are treasured. He has named them- every one; and he cares for them as if they were people.

And don't we all have things we love?

One of my favorite traditions of the entire year is lovingly unwrapping and setting out the Nutcracker Army as soon as we are back from Thanksgiving. There are few better examples of useless excess then my nutcrackers. Two full boxes in the basement that are used for exactly 1 month every year. But they are my treasures.

I'm afraid that in seeking out the holy and the valid in this holiday for myself and for my children I have overlooked the value in the secular and even commercial aspects of it. I failed to understand that the one can serve the other, if you only allow it to.

Gift-giving teaches generosity, after all. It teaches thankfulness. It gives a sense of blessedness.

There will always be that knot in my stomach as the season rolls closer- as I look at my Christmas list, and then at my checkbook, and realize that the difference between the two is one not to be met. The decisions of how much for who, and who will be left out (because there are always those left out), and what I can make and where I will find the time to make it will always be there.

And I will always be a devoted donater of my kid's outgrown things, a sworn sifter of toys, and never one to buy more then a few gifts. But I think I'm going to smile, this time around, as they open those presents. And I think I will pause, and consider, as I go thru those old toys. Because sometimes things are important. And some traditions have meaning whether I fully understand or not.

Go Chiefs!!

Our church all went to the Chiefs (hockey) game for "buck night" (1 dollar popcorn, soda, and hot dogs). As you can see, Zeke was really really impressed.

Like, really impressed.

He really likes hockey, apparently. This thrills me to no end because its the only sport I can actually watch with any interest.

Plus, he got to sit on the stairs next to his friend Makenzie. Not to mention he got to eat popcorn, a hot dog, cotton candy, and even his first soda.

But I think even better than the food was someone to whack (and be whacked by) with a cheer stick.

Malachi, surprisingly, also seemed to really enjoy himself. He liked the hot dog as well, and all the clapping. By the end of the game he was really getting into all that clapping.

I'm thinking this is definitely a yearly event for us. By Zeke's screams the entire drive home, I think he agrees.

Sometimes I'm Hanging By a String (#52-66)

Sometimes, oh sometimes, I am holding on by a string.

I will admit it.

I'll even admit that sometimes even that string snaps with a crack that reverberated these walls, and oh God, my God, I am left shaking and crying and just plain don't. know. what. to. do. Two babies looking up to me to guide them thru this life and here I am- drowning. A husband who comes home and never knows what wife will greet him and oh I know we've had our seasons- we have both leaned on the other at one time or another because isn't that what marriage is? But he has been holding me up for just plain too long this time.

Hormonally nothing has been easy since my miscarriage in July and I rollercoaster from top of my game, to chugging right along, to just plain desperation. I've experimented with herbs, and with vitamins, and now even with hormones but I just can't get myself leveled out to a state of non-panic that lasts any longer than a week.

I am exhausted, and I've run out of options.

And surprisingly that very running out of options is what I am thankful for the most this week. I know its not popular but I will say it- Its when I'm out of all other options and my strength is the lowest that I draw closest to the source of all strength.

"My soul waits in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; and I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times. Oh people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalms 63:5-8

"For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but my lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and my peace will not be shaken" Isaiah 54:10

My hands often shake as much as those hills as I light my prayer candles in the afternoon, I am so filled with need. And when the clock chimes my hourly Jesus prayer never has my whispered "Have mercy on me, a sinner" filled my heart so. Often these days I need that mercy anew every hour.

But hard as it is, I am thankful for this time.

#66 The reminder of the source of all strength, when my strength has reached its lowest.

52. Offers to take a bath while Josh watches the kids.

53. Finding, and ordering, the perfect book for advent reading.

54. Creative outlets of all kinds.

55. Calender shopping and all the promise of those empty squares.

56. Knowing God will provide, even though we arent sure how.

57. Babies first spaghetti dinner.

58. Having God provide, oh so perfectly.

59. The way lemonade gives way to applecider, which gives way to egg nog- counting the seasons in my mug.

60. Cinnamon, and two children who appreciate it as much as I do.

61. Knitting group.

62. The way Zeke prefaces every sentence with "Sometimes..."

63. Turkey thawing in the fridge, even though its over a week to Thanksgiving.

64. Honest conversations with other moms about those moments when you have plain reached the end of your rope.

65. Eating dinner by candle light, because it makes the kids stop yelling.

Fairly Random thoughts on Tribes and Friends

I have been very very blessed since moving to Spokane, and especially since having children, to be surrounded by supportive women. Friendships with other women have always meant a lot to me. But after considering it, I dont think I've had a tribe like the one described in this classic mothering article) since high school. (High schoolers are tribal by nature)
(My high school bff's, Lianne and Becca aka Pepper)

And I got to wondering why. What is a tribe? How are they formed?

I thought about families, first. Sisters are natural tribe-mates. But I, like many other people these days, live hundreds of miles from my relatives.

(Jen, Becca, Me, and Adria at Rocky Horror)

Then I thought about Ivory, and Elizabeth. They are two friends of mine that both seem to have developed a tribe of close and like-minded mothers. I adore and greatly admire both of those women. The are probably even the two women in my social circle that I admire and try to emulate the most. And I consider us friends- but I am not part of their tribe. Their tribes seem to have developed naturally, with women that live near them and have many of the same parenting and life values.

I agree with the author of the article, however, that tribe mates dont have to have all the same values. For example, Kim is one of my most cherished friends for the past 2+ years. She is one of the very few people I can see myself vacationing with and loving it. In fact, we have and we did. And I have often thought that one of the most beautiful things about our friendship is that we don't agree on everything, or parent in the same ways- yet we are still able to love and support each other. It's easy, after all, to love someone you always agree with, or never makes you angry. It's when you love someone despite your differences, and despite bumps in the road, that a friendship becomes something really special. (In fact as I type this I am chatting with her via IM and I will have you know that we both begin and end every sentence with lol)

(Kim and I)

Friendships are just such a funny thing. There are people like Kim and I who hit it off the first time we met. Then there are people like Josh and his close friend, Jonathan. They knew each other for over a year, warm towards each other and working for the same company, until all of a sudden the relationship blossomed into something much more meaningful. I've had friendships that lasted years and years, only to grow slowly apart, due to no ones fault but just circumstances. I've had friendships that go one for years despite being in totally different stages of life. I've had friendships that have meant the world to me and painfully ended.

I'll admit that I am the type of person that makes friends easily. Josh often teased me, when we were dating, that I must know everyone because we hardly went anywhere without meeting some so-and-so from such-and-such. And I know that nowadays he can't ever take the boys out without someone walking up to him and saying he must be Zeke's dad, because they recognize our son.(Becca and I at ABBA)

But I don't easily make close friendships, like the ones described in the article. I suppose a lot of it is me. I have a hard time taking that barrier down to let people get close. And I will admit the thought of letting someone see my house dirty makes me break out into hives. Cluttered, sure. But really letting them see the dirt? Maybe the base of that is pride. In fact, I am sure that it is.

That's really the kicker about pride. And all other forms of dishonesty, for that matter. It's so easy to put up a front, but then that very front becomes a wall that keeps you from maintaining any meaningful relationships.

Aaaaand this blog post driveled off into no mans land.

But this is how my thoughts are right now. Mushy. I think the conclusion is that I would like a tribe of my own. And that I think sometimes my pride gets in the way of meaningful relationships, because I don't like to allow people to see my weaknesses.

Usually I would go back and organize my thoughts better. That or delete the whole mess. But I think I'll just intersperse it with classic friends pics and keep it.

Warmth and Light in Autumn

I always have a hard time in the late autumn/winter months with warmth and light. Maybe it's living in Spokane, which tends to be a rainy, dreary, gray sort of place during this time of year. But probably it's just me. I get cold; a kind of cold that I'll admit might not have much to do with the thermostat. I also tend to get depressed.

One thing that counting my blessings is teaching me is that there is a stark difference between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes. As a person that's struggled greatly with seasons of deep depression there is even a comfort in admitting that fact. But joy? Joy is constant. There will always be joy, even after daylight savings and the sun starts setting at 4:00 in the afternoon.

A habit I've gotten into the past few weeks, to fight off the seasonal malaise, is lighting candles. I've never been much of a candle person in the past but lately I've gotten a bit candle crazy. I'm even seriously considering having one of those candle-parties after the holidays, as my stock is withering fast.

I've got scented candles in the livingroom, that I light for just that extra bit of warmth when the afternoon hits and we are all a bit stretched for patience. In another season we would go outside, but it's beginning to get chilly, we've all had a bit of a cold, and did I mention the sun's 4 o clock bed time?

I've also put some small candles on our table for dinner-time lighting.

And even more in my bedroom for lighting during my afternoon prayers.

The immediate calming effect they have on me is a bit amazing. Josh will tease me for saying it, but I swear they make the room noticeably warmer. And the smell...especially the few beeswax candles I have let off the most comforting smell.

I find myself drawn every day during nap time to the small corner of the bedroom where my prayer journal and bible are kept, which I will admit lately hasn't been the case. What was becoming a tedious chore has been revitalized by the simple exercise of lighting a few candles. And as always, I have been revitalized by re-starting this practice of daily time in meditation. Keeping a sharp eye, I've found that the dim light has also allowed me to let Malachi play with a few quiet toys while I try to pray- a situation that has never ended in much but exasperation on other days the boys' naps haven't overlapped.

Even Zeke is beginning to enjoy the routine of lighting the livingroom candles in the early evening and blowing them out before he goes up to bed. And the dinner centerpiece, as simple as it is, helps hide the crumbs and spills and loud-boy voices that tend to accompany a meal around here.

I think with a few candles, a few quilts, some thick socks, and a really big mug of hot chocolate I might even make it thru this winter ;)

The First of Many (plus #37-51)

The first but definitely not the last very dangerous think I have walked in on my sons doing:

Yep, that's right. They are whacking each other with sharp sticks. And laughing.

Why? Why was I given boys?

Only after looking at this picture again do I realize this could also be titled "Guess What Temperature It Is In My Livingroom"; I would explain why I have one child in a coat and one naked, but honestly? I would rather not. It's kind of like this all the time around here.

And to continue recording my thankfulness, I have #37-51

37. Persevering despite rain.

38. Hot apple cider.

39. Favorite movies watched under warm blankets.

40. Family traditions.

41. Mood candles.

42. Eating out.

43. Vintage dress patterns and big dreams.

44. Friends that only live 2 blocks away.

45. Google chats ability to turn people-I-havent-seen-in-years into people-I-talk-to-daily.

46. Remembering to begin Advent preparations in late October.

47. A toddlers pure joy in watching a garbage truck.

48. The sun peeking out after a long string of rainy days.

49. Steamy bathrooms.

50. A peaceful baby after hours of restless cold symptoms.

51. Surprises.

The Halloweekend

Did anyone else notice that a Sunday Halloween sort of dragged the holiday out? It was a full 3-day affair around here; we got dressed up 3 nights it a row. I have to admit that I am exhausted.

Friday afternoon we went trick or treating at Josh's office.
Josh takes the office decorating contest very seriously and thinks he will win again this year. I'm not as sure, competition was rough.
Malachi appreciated the fake bones strewn about, however.

Saturday we had our church Halloween Hullabaloo. I made 40 cupcakes for the cakewalk (plus a half dozen for Josh to pass out to certain people at work, and a dozen for home), and I have to admit that I noticed my cupcakes were among the first to be taken

Humorously, Zeke won the cake walk right away when it was his turn to play it, which dismayed Josh and I as we didnt really want any more cupcakes. We soon realized, however, that Zeke didn't know there was a point to the game besides walking in a circle to music. I guess he though everyone was just marching along for the pure enjoyment of it. So we let him keep on believing it.

His favorite game was probably eating a donut on a string.
That or throwing pies.

Sunday we trick or treated our 5 or 6 close neighbors, and our friend Jonathan, who lives about 2 blocks away.
Then we went home to welcome the trick or treaters that came to our door. And to enjoy the bounty of 3 days of candy.

Malachi, not willing to be left out, insisted on munching on the wrapped candy.
Zeke didn't always appreciate it.
And now its time for our Hallween ghosties to be retired until next year, (told you I'd put up a pic) and our Jack-o-Lanterns to be thrown out before they start to rot.