Friday, April 24, 2015

Asian Fusion

The little boys and I grabbed groceries at Walmart today.  I was wanting some crunchy chow mein noodles to make an Asian salad with but Walmart was out.  So when we got done at Walmart, I thought we'd try the one Asian market in our town.  By my best guess, it's actually a Vietnamese store so I wasn't sure if they would have chow mein noodles but I have often thought I'd like to stop in and this seemed like a good opportunity to do just that.  Definitely made me think of a little Asian shop stall in a place like China or Vietnam.  Every shelf was full of noodles and jarred sauces, all sorts of stuff you can't usually get at an American supermarket.  Occasionally, there was a can of Dole pineapple or Del Monte peas.  Freezers and refrigerator cases stuffed full of shrimp, pork, and tofu plus things like lemongrass and ginger.  I didn't even notice the live crabs that were sitting in a cardboard box on the floor by the checkout until we were waiting to pay.  We didn't find our chow mein noodles but we did get lunch:  ramen-like chicken Pho (just add water), a homemade container that by the American writing on it was supposed to contain pork blood but instead was full of pickled vegetables (carrots and daikon radish, I think), and a homemade red bean paste bun.  I am apparently feeling ethnic today since I almost bought plantains at Walmart to do Banan Peze (fried Haitian style plantains).
Zeke ate two huge helping of the Vietnamese Pho.  He also really liked the vegetables which from my quick little bit of research are just veggies in rice vinegar, salt, and water.  Kai also ate the carrots which I thought was pretty funny considering they were pretty darn sour.

Bean paste buns are a common Chinese item.  It's a sweet bread filled with a sweet bean paste and sprinkled with black sesame seeds.  It's not super sweet, as most Chinese pastries are not.  It also has the often used Asian twist of sweet and savory together.  Maybe it was 5 Spice powder I was tasting?  Zeke thought it was great.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

True Confessions

And so it begins.  Kai stuck d's toothbrush in the VCR today.  None if my other kids put things in the VCR.  Perhaps the best part if this story is that I just confessed to D that Kai likes to use D's toothbrush while I am getting ready and that most times, I don't make much effort to stop him.  Perhaps the husband should stop storing his toothbrush under the sink.

Box Fun

Boxes, boxes, boxes...can't say there is any better form of free entertainment.


Crayons on the cement-always a good sign.

Zeke and Kenson worked on the same box.


Kenson wanted to make a firetruck.  He was inside the box and kept writing his letters upside down.


Buttons for stop and fire (not exactly sure what the button for fire does)  I also let my children use steak knives to cut their boxes.  It was a bit of a numbing experience but we all have the fingers and toes that we were born with.

Conleigh made a book


Everyone needs a cardboard costume.  He actually ended up adding to this with a paper helmet and cardboard breastplate.

Zeke did this all by himself.  He took the box apart, made the shape of the mask and the paper band for the mask and then I cut the eyeholes and helped taped the mast to the band.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rest

It is no secret that this time of year is stressful for our family.  When soccer season is in full force, on practice days, D is gone from 7:45 to 6:30 or 7.  On game days, he is gone from 7:45 to sometimes as late as 10 or 10:30.  The early weeks of the season also see D putting in extra hours as he organizes paperwork and tasks like pumping up balls and handing out uniforms.  He also has to do his regular teaching job.  It puts a lot on his plate.  The season also means a lot of alone time for me.  The days involve not much down time or quiet, a lot of chaos as I do supper and homework and bath and bed for all four kids by myself.

To be clear, this is one of D's passions.  He loves coaching and soccer in ways I don't quite understand.  We both see it as a ministry opportunity.  It's  about soccer but it's a lot more about modeling for teenagers what it means to become men and what it means to be in a family.  It's a way to help kids learn life lessons about faith, reputation, responsibility, and relationships.  We are not complaining because we chose this.  But it does stretch us thin.

For whatever reason, these last few weeks have left me feeling that tautness, where I just am weary, where I feel like I am playing "whack a mole" with a to do list that is constantly lengthening.  The house seems messy, the laundry seems overwhelming, our finances seem out of control, the kids seem to be terrors, and I seem to be crabby.

It's just a vicious cycle.  The more I feel like things are out of control, the more I try to reign them in.  It's feeling like you've been handed a gigantic bouquet of helium balloons, all with loose strings.  You know that in order to keep them all earthbound you need to to pull them in, to tightly grasp those strings but the more you try to adjust and reposition, the more likely it seems that one or two will slip right through your fingers.  So you pull a few more strings and find yourself feeling more in control but then notice that those on the opposite side are starting to work their way out.  It's this constant battle of pulling things near and watching them starting to escape, of worrying about the red one and then the blue one and then worrying not just about the balloon but about a whole bunch of other things that you never even noticed when you were first given the balloons.  One of them suddenly seems lopsided.  Perhaps it's deflating?  One of them seems larger than the others.  It must be too full and ready to burst.  And that string on the yellow one has a knot, right near the middle.

For me, stress tends to become a ever increasing situation.  The more stressed I find myself, the more I worry and analyze and plan and seek to control, and the more tightly wound I become.   The more tightly wound I am, the less I like myself.  I am no fun to be around.  I am irritable, short tempered, harsh, and quick to yell.  The more tightly wound I become, the more the relationships around me get tangled up in the knot I have created.  Bickering, disrespect, pettiness-these all increase which then in turn adds more stress and irritation for me.

I have felt a bit trapped lately, knowing that my own attitudes and heart issues are what is fueling the discord and drama in our house.  It is so much easier to know what is wrong than rectify the wrong.  I know that my heart is not at rest and that much of that is about my own refusal to rest and abide.

I often pray Matthew 11:28 for my husband at this time of the year.  He often seems to need prayers connected to being weary.  And so I pray, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  for him.  But I found myself praying those words for myself the other night.   As I looked up the whole passage, I took the time to read the remaining verses, "Take my yoke upon you 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.”  Rest from weariness is somehow connected to tapping into Jesus' gentleness, a quality that has been quite lacking in my heart lately.  

As I dug in a bit more today, trying to get my heart situated, I read as someone shared how the difference between the words 'rest' and 'resist' is simply the letter 'I.'  Isn't that the truth?  I cannot find rest because I resist and it's mostly because I get in the way.  It reminds me of another saying I heard this week.  "Let go lest you be dragged."  Dragged is certainly an apt description of my last few weeks.  

Rest is such an enigma.  You cannot try harder and rest.  Physically, the harder you try to make yourself tired, the more likely it seems that you will stay awake.  Spiritually and emotionally, the same is true.  Trying harder will not produce a calmer spirit.  Resting is an action and yet it is not.  It is quiet reflection alongside some healthy deep sighs, letting go of some control in order to regain a gentle spirit.  Because turning a heart towards Jesus is less about willing the heart and more about the longing of a heart.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Scrapbooking, Family Yearbook Style

Occasionally, you get to feel like you are a super hero.  Usually, it seems to be connected to stuff that you know doesn't really matter in light of eternity but it is something that you value on this earth.  Keeping track of my kids' childhoods probably is one of those things for me.  In fact, that's part of why this blog even exists; blogs are often online journals that provide a glimpse back into the past.

It's funny how things change over time.  With my first two, I started lovely paper scrapbooks, embellished with die cuts and stickers and fancy paper.  Then, I realized that I could purchase CD's that would create custom scrapbook pages with out the mess and fuss of actually owning die cuts and stickers and paper.  I switched to using that for a bit.  But Shutterfly and Snapfish then started offering the ability to do basically the same thing.  So now, that's how I scrapbook. 

I have to say that so far, it is actually working really well.  Right now, every child has a scrapbook from the time they were born and that seems like a minor miracle.  How?  Well, a few things really help me out.  

1.  I do not create a custom book for each child.  Instead, I create a family yearbook for each year.  I make multiple copies of the same book, one copy per child.  I cannot tell you how much my kids enjoy looking through the books.  They will fight to be the first one to see the newest one once it arrives.  (That is probably the biggest time saver.  Making one book versus four is a game changer.)

2.  I use my blog as a way to help organize my pictures chronologically as well as a way to help me remember the stories and events that I want to include.  Having the stuff sort of organized already makes the big task seem a lot less daunting.

3.  It can be a bit pricey to make so many books.  (Although if you were doing paper scrapbooking, it really might not be all that much different.  I think my latest order was right at $35 a book without any discounts.  But if you figure for paper scrapbooking, you would have to buy an album that might be $10 on sale plus another $15 worth of paper just to fill the pages, I think you'd easily be close to $35 for a handmade paper scrapbook.)  So I take the time to create the books, save them to the publishing company, and then print them once I have a coupon or when there is a great sale.  That does require committing to one company before you find the coupons.  (I've also done it the other way, where I found a coupon and then made the book based on that company.)  I have kind of decided that Shutterfly seems to have the most promotional offers.  I just printed our 2014 book from Shutterfly because I had a Groupon that saved me like $10 and because I got a special coupon while shopping at Kohls that was for $20 off of a $20 order.  To save money, I actually ended up doing two separate transactions since I couldn't use both at the same time.  I think one book was $28 and the other was $25 when I ordered instead of the $35 regular price.  I actually have to order two more books since I only had two promotions but I'll just wait until another offer comes around.  

I get the hard cover 8 x 11 versions.

All the embellishments are just a part of the company's photo albums so it's super easy to create a custom layout.


I also love that you can do a combination of text and photos.
It makes it so easy to include milestones, funny stories, and facts about a holiday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gaps in Confidence

My adopted kids really are very typical kids.  They really are loving, thoughtful, capable kids.  But that does not detract from the fact that for two of my kids, their lives started in very atypical ways.  They spent the early years of their lives in orphanage care.  They were blessed to be in places where they were rocked and held and talked to, where they learned to love and trust and smile and laugh.  But that does not change the fact that orphanages, even good orphanages, are not substitutes for families.

As Kai has continued to blossom into a toddler, I have loved seeing him understand more and more things and to start to follow simple directions.  He can now respond to being told to "Go find your shoes." or "Put your blocks in the bucket."  Since we want to encourage him to do these things, his obedience is often met with clapping and praise both by Mom and Dad and by his siblings.  He is learning that his actions can be make Mom's eyes light up and cause the big kids to clap like crazy.  He is learning to feel good about himself based on his own abilities.  

We don't think much about that when we parent toddlers.  It's kind of just a natural response for a lot of people, that when their toddler follows directions, that people heap on the praise.  We also don't often think about how this assigning of tasks and subsequent praise starts a toddler off onto the path of independence.  A toddler does a tasks, receives positive feedback, and then starts to push away a bit from having his parents meet all of his needs.  He is starting to realize, bit by bit, that he is capable of successfully navigating tasks on his own.  

It's those small pieces of feeling good about himself that form the building blocks of self confidence within him.  In other words, those first initial interactions with parents and siblings, where a child is encouraged to do a task and praised as he does it, those seemingly small interactions, are the very foundations of a child learning to have a sense of self confidence.

This week, as I was encouraging Kai to get his shoes out of the dresser, I realized that those daily, maybe even hourly, interactions like that were something that my two big kids missed because of living in orphanage care.  I do not mean that they were not ever praised or encouraged because I don't believe that to be true.  I also do not believe that my kids are always downcast and down on themselves.  But I do think that they were a bit cheated by not having the one on one attention that a family provides, that they missed out on early opportunities to build confidence as toddlers.   I do think that sometimes that this catches up with them.  Sometimes I see it when they are struggling with a new or difficult task and they are quick to give up.  Sometimes I hear it as they talk about themselves with critical words.  Sometimes it's verbalized and sometimes it's just downcast eyes that seem to flash doubt or shame.

So here's to aha moments, of seeing with my heart how my kids are not damaged but how their unique backgrounds are a bit different, and to a few more prayers, asking for my kids to be deeply ingrained with a belief that they are worthy because they are creations of the Most High God. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter is done...

Anyone else struggle a bit with feeling like you fall short of being spiritual enough for certain holidays?  It seems like every Christmas and Easter I find myself feeling disappointed that the holiday snuck up on me and that I frittered away amazing opportunities to bask in the days leading up to such momentous events, that somehow there will be no epiphany, no fireworks in the sky because I have failed to do the spiritual disciplines associated with properly preparing my heart to hear God.  My head knows that God doesn't necessarily speak more clearly just because it is Easter or Christmas.  My head knows that trying really hard to get to some nirvana like state is foolishness, connected to this innate need to do and earn.  Which then kind of crushes me a bit because that is not what Jesus wants from me.  He doesn't want someone who is working really hard to be spiritual enough to celebrate.  He instead wants my attention, my communion, my meditation, the beats of my heart and the whispers of my breath.  He wants people to recognize who He is in history but also who He is today.  He wants people who live in awe of the Nativity, in the shadow of the cross, and in the glory of His resurrection, people who choose to live and love because of those three earth altering events.

So I watched "Killing Jesus" on National Geographic.  And I read Jen Hatmaker.  And I remembered that Jesus called fishermen and prostitutes.  That Jesus confused his mother and scared his best friends.  That even in the flesh, it was easy for those closest to Him to fight over the inconsequential, to be distracted by things like money and power.  That Jesus is the Jesus who finds homeless girls pink purses.  That "Jesus is a redeemer, a restorer in every way. His day on the cross looked like a colossal failure, but it was his finest moment. He launched a kingdom where the least will be the greatest and the last will be first, where the poor will be comforted and the meek will inherit the earth. Jesus brought together the homeless with the privileged and said, “You’re all poor, and you’re all beautiful.” The cross leveled the playing field, and no earthly distinction is valid anymore. There is a new “us” – people rescued by the Passover Lamb, adopted into the family and transformed into saints. It is the most epic miracle in history."

(From Jen Hatmaker's, The Easter Conundrum)