Patience, Humility, and Other Life Lessons

I'm not sure who coined the phrase "The Lord works in mysterious ways."  (So, I looked it up.  It's based on a hymn written by William Cowper - the first two lines of which are "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform".  There you go.  Your fun fact for the day.)  I do think we aren't always aware of God's "movement" in our life and how He has a hand in molding us through our circumstances.  The good and the bad.

I think, for me, a lot of molding has been done since I became a mother.  (Could I possibly talk about this again?  Yes.  Yes I can.)

You see, Sarah has been the answer to my prayer for patience. Patience isn't a gift you're handed, it's a virtue you learn.  And it's not even a virtue that I believe someone can come to on their own.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  Love and joy, those are easier to embody, especially once you have kids.  Patience, however, is something I personally have had to rely on to come from the help that lies Deep Within.  Sarah has found sure-fire ways to test my patience, and I find my reactions dramatically different on days when I wake up and remember to ask God's Holy Spirit to guide me versus days I think I can handle things on my own.  Long story short - I cannot handle things on my own.  No matter how good I think I am.

And I have to tell you, after having three kids, I think I'm pretty good.  Seeing as how Ben and Abby were and remain to this day complete and total opposites both in looks and in personality, I thought I had all of the bases covered when it came to parenting.  We have the strong-willed (aka "stubborn") academic type in Ben.  And we have the boundlessly energetic, whimsical, more-dramatic type in Abby.  Both of which required totally different parenting techniques.  We learned and we adapted.  And we were really good at it.

We had it all figured out...

...then we had Sarah.

She has taken their personality traits and combined them into a dangerous combination of strong-willed with boundless energy and she's topped it off with an excessive dose of independence.  We're still learning and adapting, but I'm not sure anyone really knows what to do with this type of personality in a two year old.  She's awesome.  Don't get me wrong.  But she's not easy.  And I think she is a gift given to me from God for this purpose:
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  Matthew 23:12
Zing.  Turns out, we have a lot to learn.  And I know I've been humbled.

Turns out, my kids have taught me a lot.  And here I thought it was my job to teach them.  I'm not off the hook - it still is my job.

As they get older and start to feel influences other than from their (so humble) righteous parents, I get to pull out my biblical wisdom and share it with them, just like my dad used to with me when I thought the world was unfair and I was looking for commiseration.  (I rarely got it.)

When Ben asks why he has to be good when everyone else is being bad, I can tell him:

Because if we know what's right we're duty-bound to do what's right.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.  James 4:17

When Ben asks why teachers have higher expectations of him than some of his classmates, I can tell him:

Because he was blessed with the ability to know and discern and achieve more.
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  Luke 12:48
When he asks why we have "so many rules" and (in turn) consequences?

I can tell him because we love him enough to discipline him.  (Minor soapbox here:  I don't really think we have "so many rules", but I do think that many parents choose not to have any, which I am sure does make it hard to understand for a seven year old.)
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11
I guess children are a gift in way more ways than one.  An unexpected benefit is how much more I've been convicted about what I believe through my relationship with them.  It's like God giving us a small glimpse of what it's like to be our Heavenly Father.  We love these kids unconditionally, even when they're far from perfect, and even when it seems they don't deserve it. 

That's it for today, folks - I have to go because Sarah is currently scaling the shelves in Abby's closet.  She is determined to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos.  Right now.

"Lord, give me patience."  (wink, wink)

#55 - Read the entire classic works of Dr. Seuss to my children.


We had to wait for May 2011 (not 2012, geez, what year is it anyway?) to finish this task from The List because the last book, I Can Draw It Myself, was out of print and unavailable until then.  By some sort of Dr. Seuss-reading miracle, it was re-released this summer.  Someone out there knew about this list, I'm sure of it.  I definitely have that kind of pull, right? 

I don't remember where I got the list of the collection of classic Seuss works.  I'm pretty sure it's not comprehensive, and it also includes several titles written under the pseudonym of Theo LeSeig.  But whatever.  It's the list I found, and the list I used - with 63 titles.  Ben, Abby, and I read them all together -

Excepting One.

And it just so happens, it was, perhaps, my most favorite book of them all.  (That's a tough title to give though, since I'm such a huge fan.)

It was this one:

(picture from Wikipedia)
Maybe this story was particularly endearing to me because of my own Lady Godiva.  You might know the one:

But the more likely reason is because it was Dr. Seuss's only book for adults.  Of course, it was an immediate failure, released in 1939, mid-Great Depression, and totally unappreciated in its time.  (The good ones always are.)  I would hardly say it's on Dr. Seuss's list of most popular books, but I feel lucky to have gotten a re-released version on Interlibrary Loan.  I ate that book up.  Against my better judgment, I read the naked ladies book to Ben, who had a few questions and totally didn't appreciate the brilliance of Dr. Seuss's unmatched wit.

In a nutshell (from my favorite source Wikipedia):
The book recounts in prose the tale of not one, but seven Godiva sisters, none of whom ever wear clothing. The explanation for their nakedness, even when walking in snow, is that "they were simply themselves and chose not to disguise it." The story opens with the sisters' father, Lord Godiva, deciding to leave for the Battle of Hastings on horseback. This upsets the sisters, as horses are wild and untamed animals. Sure enough, before Lord Godiva even manages to leave the castle walls, he is flung from his horse and killed. As a tribute to their father's fate, the Godiva sisters agree to never marry—despite the fact that each is courting one of seven brothers named Peeping—until they can warn their countrymen of the dangers of horses. The book then follows the sisters as they set out on individual quests for "horse truths", which turn out to be well-known sayings involving horses.
Apparently, given the reaction from the readers back then in the Depression Era, Dr. Seuss decided to stick to writing children's literature because they are "more appreciative".  This is when he coined his popular phrase, "Adults are obsolete children, and the hell with them."

While I'm elated about his kid literature, I can't help but imagine what he might have written had he stayed in the adult realm.

This is already waaaayyyyyy too long and only about one of his awesome books.  So, of course, I will default to a brief list of my remaining favorites from the list of 63.  I know you're all going to run right out to the library and borrow them.

Not surprisingly, I most enjoy the ones with the moral at the end (and the middle and the beginning).  That's just the kind of gal I am.

Jennie's Top Nine Favorite Dr. Seuss Books in no particular order
(because I already counted The Seven Lady Godivas)

So there's your challenge.  If you haven't read them.  Go do it.  Yes, I'm being bossy.  You won't regret it.  (And if you do, that's your prerogative.  Different opinions are what make the world a fun place to live, right?)

But you'll take away this kind of wisdom:
When you think things are bad, when you feel sour and blue, when you start to get mad… You should do what I do! Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky!

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
So be sure when you step.  Step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act.
I love it.  #55, you've been checked.  And it was awesome.


Sunday Fundries

Sometimes after church, we race the thousands of other church-goers in Warner Robins to a restaurant for Sunday lunch.  Mostly we frequent the type of restaurant that provides crayons and coloring pages for the kids, because, hello, we have three of them. 

A free salad bar for children two and under helps too.

And unlimited wipes available at the table are an additional bonus.

Sarah occupies herself by using her sophisticated sampling stick (sometimes known as a french fry) on each of the variety of barbeque sauces.

While we pull out every trick in the book for keeping a tired, cranky Sarah from climbing out of her high chair and taking laps around the restaurant, our older two kids contentedly entertain themselves with the aforementioned coloring pages.

Sometimes, these are real gems.

Apparently, Abby's favorite thing about a baseball game is when it gets rained out.

And she doesn't have to go.

And that, ladies and gents, was a short-but-sweet smile o' the day.


Flashback Friday: Remembering a bit of it all

While I was getting nostalgic over my birthday, I decided to go all out and reminisce about everything.  I tend to do this more regularly as I get older, as we grow our family, and as significant days come and go on the calendar.  Today is one of those days.  August 26, 1919 was the day my beloved grandfather was born.  He got married on August 26th, as well, to the love of his life, my grandmother, whom he adored just as much on their last day together as I'm sure he did on their first.  I've written about him a lotA great man, he was.  And on this day, every year, I miss him a little extra than I do on every other day of the year.

I remember when I found out that I was pregnant with Ben.  We had lost Grandpop just two months earlier.  After he was born, I remember feeling sad that my children would never know him.  The same can be said for his wife (my grandmother) and my maternal grandfather, who passed before him.  But as long as I remember him, I'm going to tell my stories about him.  Because, well, he was awesome.  And the kind of man every man should be.

As our family continues to grow, I'm brought back to that same place of realization - that my kids will never have the privilege of knowing their great-grandfather.  And he will never have the chance to meet them.

Now I am a parent, not even a grandparent, and I have that strange honor and joy of watching my sweet kids grow up in the blink of an eye.  Grandpop always used to say we were growing up too quickly.  I now have a small understanding of that - thinking back on each of their sweet lives and remembering how quickly it all goes by, and praying that they turn out to be people of character, just like my grandfather was.

I remember each of them as a tiny infant - in my arms - so wholly reliant on Sam and I to care for them.

There's the joy of seeing them become independent two year olds - so vivacious and ready to take on the whole world, just like Sarah is right now.


Before I know it, they're off to school - and facing their 5th birthday, just like Abby is at present.

Then, what feels like a few days later, they're about to turn eight, mature and confident, independent (more so and in a more timely manner than when they were just two years old), and just as amazing as the day I first laid eyes on them.  And I wonder - where has the time gone?

While my grandfather doesn't know my babies here on this earth - I do.  And I'm thankful for each and every day I have with them.  Even, and sometimes especially, on the days they drive me absolutely insane.

The days are long, but the years are short. 

No matter how old you are.

Flashin' back to every day before now that I've had the joy of being "Mom" to these beautiful babies,  remembering with gratitude the time I shared with Grandpop, and feeling blessed to be the bridge between these two incredible generations. 
What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.  ~George Eliot

Mom Things: Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

If there's one thing you've forgotten about potty training since your last experience it's that among the accidents and other unpleasantries there is one happy, naked, chocolate-covered little girl.

You remember one time, twenty minutes ago, when you had a clean floor.  You know, right after you mopped.  And the kids were asleep for the next twenty minutes.

You look forward to every afternoon pickup with your school kids because you get to dive into their agenda to see how they behaved for that day.  Upon first glance, you open your pre-k child's agenda to find a lengthy note home.  For a split second you dread what her offense was, until you read it:  Another student spit out a Cheerio at snack time and your daughter picked it up and ate it.  You know what?  If that's the worst to happen, you chalk that day up in the "Win" column.

Your 2nd grader found a Make-Your-Own Word Search online thanks to his spelling homework.  Needless to say, you received a book of customized word searches for your birthday.  Your favorite was the "List of Things Mommy Likes" one. 

There's this thing about reading - big bro might be "too cool" to be read to but he's not too cool to read to his little sisters.

You think it's sweet that your 2nd grader would rather be in the gardening club than the running club- his rationale being because he can "just run with you" anytime.  (Guess you better dust off the old running shoes.)

The day you realize your toddler can reach light switches is the day your electric bill goes up significantly.  You never know when fans and lights in random rooms are going to go on and be left on indefinitely.

There's nothing your third child can't do naked - complete puzzles, eat lunch, yell into the fan, scale pantry shelves.  The sky is the limit.  Literally.

Your toddler has taken crib-hoarding to a new level.  Instead of sleeping with books, she's resorted to sleeping on books.

While the older kids are off filling their minds with knowledge you put your toddler to work doing hard physical labor.  First job - mow the back yard.  You didn't start early enough with the other kids doing chores - here's your chance at redemption. 

Have a blessed Wednesday, everyone!
Thanks again for reading!!!


Half a Lifetime Ago

I don't know what it is about my birthday, but it puts me in a retrospective mood.  Last night at dinner, Sam commented that he thinks it's weird that kids born in 1990 can now legally drink.  Yes.  That is weird.  And it made me feel old.  Then I realized I am getting older, and so I thought about where I was half of my life ago.

My first thought - Seinfeld (arguably my favorite show of all time) has officially been off the air for half of my lifetime.  Now that blows my mind.

I know that I'm relatively young, and certainly too young to be having memory troubles, and yet, I had to resort to a scrapbook in my 257 degree attic to get the memories flowing.  I still have no idea what half of the things in there are all about, but I remember a few things, and they made me smile - mostly.

Seriously - why did I save this?

According to the back of it, it qualified me as a member of the "Traced Name Club".  No recollection of that.  At all.

And this?

 I vaguely remember this being a "funny" thing one of our teachers said.  No idea why.

But this?  I saved this as evidence from my half-life-ago to prove to posterity that I am and always have been a super nerd.

Apparently, memory problems plagued me even in my earliest days because, as I flipped through the scrapbook I found that one of the comments on my Farewell to 5th Grade paper on which each of our classmates wrote a memory about us, my 5th grade teacher quipped, "I will miss how you always forgot what you were going to say, your sweet smile, and your constant generosity. ~Miss Ryan"  So, yeah, I've always been a bit of an airhead, I guess.

Regardless, it was a fun exercise to think back to my 14-year-old self.

On August 22, 1997, I was about to start high school.  I had come off of a summer of volunteering at the VA nursing home at the hospital complex over which my dad served as the maintenance engineer.  I got over 50 hours in that summer, doing things like refilling water pitchers, wheeling patients to the canteen to make purchases, doing crafts, and just chatting.  I met one of JFK's body guards during my stint there.  He was a particularly grumpy in-patient who grumbled every time I brought him his Ensure to drink between breakfast and lunch.  Encounters like that are the kind that make you almost famous by association.  I may as well have been present at the assassination.  

By the time my birthday rolled around that year, I'd already endured a couple of weeks of early morning field hockey practices, during which time I either demonstrated enough skill or was lucky enough to have joined the team when there was an unusually low number of upperclassmen and found myself one of two freshman on the varsity roster.  I don't have a record of how we fared that season, but if memory serves me correctly, we couldn't have won more than two games, and our coach rounded out the season with a bona fide nervous breakdown.

About a month into the school year, there was an electrical fire at the high school rendering the entire building unfit for use.  The resulting solution was for the middle school to share their facilities with the high school.  Half days for everyone.  It was a sophisticated operation, and one that we freshman were less than thrilled about.  We'd just gotten out of that school.  We sure didn't want to go back (even if our entire school day was then about 4 hours long instead of 7.5).  Just in time for the homecoming game and dance, JHS re-opened.

I remember the things that plagued me back then.  The biggest troubles in my life were "so major" like whether to be in band or play sports.  In my mind, they were mutually exclusive.  You simply couldn't do both.  As a freshman, I was in band for two semesters.  Betcha if you didn't know me back then (or even if you did), you wouldn't have guessed that I was a flute player.  During the first semester of freshman band, I apparently caught the eye of our director and was invited to play in a small group of wind instruments aptly dubbed "Chamber Winds".  The nine of us had the privilege of performing for the school, at a church concert, and at our school's Blue Ribbon Awards banquet for distinguished Maryland schools (back when JHS was still a pretty awesome school). 

In the spring, I played lacrosse.  Basically, I was copying whatever my sister did in high school.  I didn't even  buy my own equipment - just used her old stuff.  This time I was the lone freshman on the varsity team, and I'm pretty sure I didn't belong there.  One of my most vivid memories is when the coach would pair up an old guy with a young guy to practice passing.  One of the "old guys", in particular, would always pick me as her partner just so she could throw the ball as hard as she could right at my face.  I suppose she thought she was doing me a favor by forcing me to catch the ball.  I suppose she actually was.  But she didn't have to have that scowl on her face while she beamed it at me.

I didn't know, at the age of fourteen, what adversity or troubles even looked like.  I hadn't lost a loved one that was close to me.  Teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, the heartbreak of a first love - these were all things that I only read about in young adult novels or the newspaper and things with which I certainly didn't have any first hand experience.  My life experiences were limited to those of my small, metro-Baltimore suburb - population: 14,700.  My friends were coasting through life in a similar fashion.  Being 14 was, in a word, easy - simple. 

A lot would change in my life in the next fourteen years.  (Don't worry, I won't start singing Tim McGraw here.)  That's just what happens in this crazy ride.  Cumulatively, it's what has made me "me" at 28 years old - a former full-time engineer turned housewife of three, soon-to-be four, kids in a suburb of central Georgia, a member of an amazing Christian church, with a circle of friends that can't be beat.  But I still forget what I was about to say all of the time. 

The good news is that I finally look my age.  You know, as opposed to the 12 years old I looked when I got married.

Or the 8 year old boy I looked like when I was a freshman in high school.


Pretty sure I'm thankful to have aged.

 Thank you, God, for all of my blessings, big and small.  Old and new.  Including those wrinkles, hard times, and these precious children that have made me look every bit of twenty-eight.  (About time.)


Simple Pleasures: Reading in Bed

There have been a lot of traditions I have tried to start with my family that have fizzled out over time.  One tradition that I am happy to say I have been ridiculously committed to, however, is the bedtime story with each of my children.

For those years when Ben was a solo child of mine, we read book after book at bedtime.  We let him persuade us into reading more and more of them.  We knew it was a stall tactic, but we didn't mind.  Those were precious moments, and we knew they wouldn't last forever.

When Abby came along, we limited bedtime to two stories each.  It was amazing, still, how much longer it took with just one more little child.

Just before Sarah was born, there was a short period of time when I was able to cheat and I would read one "boy" book and one "girl" book to both of them together, as we laid Abby - Mommy - Ben, side-by-side in Abby's double bed.

Then Ben started reading to himself, those big chapter books, and he didn't "need" me anymore.

And, really, I was okay with that because while he didn't need me to read to him, he was still reading.  And that's what we were trying to instill all along - a love of reading.

Besides it came just in time for me to start reading to baby sister, Sarah.  This girl is third in line of three kids who love to read.  She'll grab any one of the books we've amassed over three children, and she will bring throw books to at anyone who might remotely look like they're able to read and sit in their lap before they know what hit them.

Following in the strong-willed steps of her older brother, I find her resisting sleep in favor of devouring a good book in her bed.  Even if I don't actually witness her doing this, the evidence is clear -

She's got no less than a dozen books in her bed on any given day.  She rotates them out from a giant stack she has shoved underneath her bed.  (Apparently the bookshelf is just too far away.)

I love this.

I should be upset that she's staying up late and straining her eyes, but the truth is, it's in the genes.  I did this when I was a wee one.  I kept 3 or 4 novels under my pillow and read by the dim light of my nightlight so that I wouldn't get caught by my mom for staying up past bedtime. 

This is about as rebellious as goody-two-shoes get.

I still love reading at bedtime.  It seems to be the only remedy for insomnia I've found guaranteed to work. 

Today's simple pleasure is knowing that all of these children of mine love to read - at bedtime or not.  Though, the fact that it happens at bedtime reminds me of my childhood when I looked forward that precious time with a good book.
TV.  If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six.  Open your child's imagination.  Open a book.  ~Author Unknown 
Sharing this at Dayle's Simple Pleasures Party today - better late than never!

What kind of things? Mom Things.

You realize that laughing might have been the inappropriate reaction when your son (in complete monotone) tells you "Sarah just broke a toy with her bare hands."

You turn the corner of the hallway to find a trail of toys from one end to the other.  Your oldest son inventor informs you it's all part of his plan to lure Abby into a "booby trap" in his room created especially for her.  Later, he thought better of letting her fall victim to it because "it was way too painful for her".  Geez.  (Good thing she had no idea what all of those toys were about after all.)

Your husband took each of the oldest kids out for an individual date night on Saturday only to find out that your four year old is scared of Smurfs (her quote when the movie started "This was a bad idea.") and that going to an all-you-can-eat buffet before a playground results in a short stay...because nature calls.

The first time your daughter got in trouble at Pre-K was (in her words) because the kid next to her wouldn't be quiet.  Apparently he was making weird noises just to bother her.  (With an older brother you'd think she'd be used to that by now.)

On Saturday mornings, everyone in your family tries to pile into your queen-sized bed to watch cartoons.  If only you'd known that throwing a couple of pillows on the floor in the shape of a "bed" could be so much fun, you could have been catching a few extra's zzzz's all these years.

When your toddler emerges from her big sister's room wearing a different colored sock on each foot and on each hand, you hesitate to see what's become of the sock drawer.

As much as you love routine, your toddler waking you up every morning by jumping on you, shouting "[Little] Ensteins!" in your ear, and subsequently demanding, "Milk!" is not your ideal start to the day.

Now that the older brother and sister are back in school, you and little miss have been known to occasionally frequently regularly have chips and string cheese for lunch.  That's half-healthy, right?

After teasing with your daughter that they weren't going to let her in school because she was dragging one morning, she asked what would happen then.  You told her she'd just stay home with you, to which she replied, "Well that would be bad."  She's quite the little encourager.  Good thing you are mostly secure in your mom-abilities.

After having two kids who get embarrassed when you catch them playing pretend, you finally got one who is not ashamed to be "caught" playing with her toys.  Her favorite exchanges between the toys (typically Barbies) - "What you doing here?"  "My turn next!"  "We're flying, flying, flying!"


Dennis, I mean, Sarah the Menace

I have always said that age three is "worse" than age two.  By worse, I mean that the "Terrible Two" thing is nothing compared to the "Thunderous Threes". 

Then I had Sarah.  And I learned what the terrible twos are about.  It's not that she is terrible.  She's just very...passionate.  About everything.  Some might say she's got all of the characteristics of someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Particularly the extreme highs and lows within nanoseconds of each other. 

The terrible twos, in my opinion, are the direct result of a yet-undeveloped means of communication.  She says lots of words, but mostly nouns - not adjectives.  So it makes it harder to describe how she is feeling.  That makes life challenging to say the least.  And the result is a violent reaction.  Thunderous even...a year early.  She's so advanced.

So in the times when there is a calm, I should know by now that mischief is abounding. 

And yet somehow, I find myself so relieved for the calm, that I enjoy it for thirty seconds, a minute, maybe even two.  And then...

I find her.

Sometimes she's digging in the refrigerator for string cheese or pepperonis. (Are two year olds supposed to be able to open the fridge unassisted?  Do we need to sign her up for the World's Strongest Girl competition?)

Sometimes she's quite literally scaling the pantry shelves in a quest for lollipops or other candy.

Sometimes she's buck naked jumping on my bed.

Sometimes she's coloring on Ben's bunk beds with markers that are available only in his room.  (The same bunk beds, I might add, that I grew up sleeping on, and that for the past twenty-some years, have existed with nary a single marker mark on them.  Thanks, Sarah.)

And sometimes, she finds something new, something exciting...

Something wet.

Like...overflowing the bathroom sink, but only after dumping an entire bottle of kids shampoo into it...and smearing her soapy hands all over the mirror.

 "Uh oh"
What you can't tell from the picture is that there was quite literally half an inch of standing water on the counter top, a cupful of toothbrushes tipped over and filled with the soapy water, and thanks to the non-existent overflow hole (which is something that's always troubled me) in our "fancy" sinks (which, by the way, came with the house when we bought it) there was also enough water to fill the two drawers under the sink, and wet every towel in the cabinets underneath. 

That's talent, ladies and gentleman.  (And apparently, I'm a neglectful parent.  Moral of the story:  Two minutes of Sarah-unseen is two minutes too long.)

Come to think of it, I don't think that this is an example of the Terrible Two's at all. 

I think it's just Sarah.  Period.

I'm pretty sure she's kin to Dennis the Menace.  (And here we thought Abby was our mischievous one.)

Just goes to show you - you can never get comfortable in the parenting role.  Because then God will give you a situation - or, in this case, a whole new kid to rock your socks off.

And that she does.  She rocks them right off.
I love this little girl.  Menace or not.

(And we're having another one of these???  Ha!  Bring it on.)

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