Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Texas Rubies retreat

I just got back on Sunday from my first Above Rubies retreat. Gabe and I had a great time and I really came back refreshed and renewed with vision for my children, home and marriage. I wanted to share a few little observations from the weekend.

1. Austin is lovely. I really had no idea that there were parts of Texas that were so hilly and green and gorgeous.

2. My husband is totally stinking awesome! I came home to a wonderfully clean house and happy kids.

3. Nancy Campbell and her daughters are very tall! And very sweet. They were all very gracious and approachable. It was amazing to me that they would take the time to come do this retreat with all the stuff going on in their lives right now.

4. There are humble, kind women from all walks of life. I was somewhat trepidacious about going to this retreat. I'm not the kind of lady who is quiet and meek and gentle all the time. I prefer capris to dresses and occassionally (working on this!) say bad words. I think my spiritual gift may be sarcasm (kidding!) I was worried that I wouldn't fit in. I was just overwhelmed with acceptance, from ladies who appeared Amish to those who dressed more like me. Everyone was sweet and kind. Several even told me that they were glad that I had come and they appreciated my joy and humor. I can't tell you how much this blessed me. So often I fall into the trap of thinking God can't use me as much as someone else because of who I am. I start thinking that I would be a better Christian if I covered my hair, wore long dresses, and stopped watching TV. But I don't think that's true.

Sure, I am supposed to be working towards holiness. And there are certainly times that I need to work on keeping my mouth shut. I need to listen more and talk less. I need to be discerning about what I watch on TV and not allow it to eat up my free time. But I also need to realize that God made me the way I am. He chose an outgoing, ebullient, joyful personality for me. When He formed me in the womb He must have been saying, "THAT one is going to be a firecracker! She's going to crack Me up!" And it's okay. God needs all kinds of folks in His Church. And I need to stop being a whiny baby about my place. Some folks are feet and some are hands and some are kidneys. And each of us is vital. Instead of trying to be each other, we should all be emulating Him.

5. God convicts us all about different things, and we need to be more sensitive to HIS voice than our peers'. For instance, there was a time not too long ago when I considered covering my hair and wearing dresses. (Honestly, I was just hoping that the outward sign would help my change my disposition towards submission). Dh was not on board. I realized this weekend that while other women may be led to do these things, for me it would be disobedience. My sweet husband does not want me in a prairie schooner dress or kerchief. So for me, adopting that style of dress would be the opposite of submission. It would be rebellion.

Nancy made a great point. She talked about how she went through a phase of dressing plainly and wearing no make up in order to show that she was "set apart". One day the Lord convicted her, saying "Is that the only way you can show you are different?" Ouch! I think putting on love (Col. 3:14) is more important than any physical garb we put on our bodies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Strawberry heaven!

Yesterday we took a trip to a farm near our home that allows you to pick your own strawberries. The kids had a blast and couldn't pick enough. Luke really liked picking the green ones and then making horrible faces.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I guess they really are listening...

My daughters were playing with their My Little Ponies on the floor. Anna's baby pony was nursing from her mama and Anna says, "No biting, Little Man, or it will be no boob for you!" (Imagine this in a Soup Nazi tone of voice). I just about fell out of my chair laughing.

It's not called babysitting!

Can I share a frustration with you? I'm often asked who babysits the kids when I'm at work. I reply that my husband and I alternate our schedules so that either he or I can take care of the children. "Oh, that's so nice that your husband is willing to babysit." What??? Back up the train! It is not called babysitting when your husband watches his own children. It is called being a dad! Seriously!

I will preface this by saying that I am blessed with one of the best husbands ever. He is an active participant in every part of parenting. He changes diapers, gives baths, makes meals, cleans house and kisses boo boos. Last weekend he even took all five kids to Chuck E Cheese all by himself (with the baby in a sling!). And nearly achieved sainthood in the eyes of my mommy friends for doing so.

I am appalled at how low the bar is set for fathers in this culture. Because so many fathers are little more than sperm donors, any father that sticks around and does anything for his kids is considered a good dad. And good Christian fathers like my husband Philip are anointed as superheros.

Shouldn't involvement and care be the norm for Christian dads? How is a man supposed to be priest of his home and disciple his children if he is not with them? Our culture has sold us a lie in the form of "quality time". That whole idea is baloney. Kids spell love "TIME". Deuteronomy 6:4-8 says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." How is a man supposed to do this if he is not involved in his kids' lives? Is he supposed to share Biblical truths during the commercials on ESPN while he watches his game? Or is he supposed to be active with his kids, teaching them day in and day out? Teachable moments come up often when you spend time with your kids, just doing life together. Trips to the park, chores around the house, handiwork in the garage and meals at the table all serve as springboards for discussions of the depths of God's Word.

Philip says that men who don't spend time with their kids are missing out. I agree, and I'm glad to have a husband who doesn't want to miss out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cloth diaper redux

Flat fold diapers are the most simple diapers around. They are just a one-ply square that can be folded several different ways. They have to be Snappied or pinned in place. A receiving blanket can even be used in a pinch, though I prefer birdseye flats. This is a tutorial for my favorite fold, the origami fold.

1. Start with your square diaper

2. Fold it in half horizontally so the fold is towards you.

3. Grab the bottom left corner and fold it up towards the top right corner, forming a triangle.

4. Take the top right corner of the triangle (the one you just formed) and move it across over the top left corner.

5. Grab the center of the top of the triangle with your left hand and the top right corner with your right hand. Fold towards the left side so it appears square.

6. Take the left side and begin to fold it inward until it is in thirds in the center.

7. Now you're ready for the baby! Place the baby in the center of the diaper and fold the middle section up.

8. Fold the outside wing tips over a bit and then fold them over the baby's tummy.

9. Secure with a Snappi or pins.

10. Tuck the hip sections under the bum a bit to create poo-catching gussets.

11. Put on a cover and you're done!

Now kiss that happy baby!

Cloth diapers are easy!

So many folks say, "Oooo, I could never do that! Too much work!" when I say we use cloth diapers. They don't believe me when I tell them how easy it is. Just to prove it, here is step by step tutorial for most basic kind, prefolds.

Prefolds are the basic diapers many folks use as burp cloths. They come in different sizes and are thicker in the middle. They can be pinned, Snappied or just trifolded and slapped into a cover (which is what we do most of the time). Prefolds tend to be too long and have to be folded down a bit in the front. I have trimmed mine by cutting a strip off the end and sewing it on sideways in the wet zone. But this is not necessary.

First, assemble your supplies: one cover, one prefold.

Next, fold both sides (the thin parts) over the center (the thick part.)

Lay the trifolded prefold into the diaper cover. Some covers (like the Swaddlebees ABC cover pictured here) have a little flap to tuck the front under, some don't).

Place the child on the diaper and fasten the velcro or snaps (just like you would a disposible).

As my kids would say, "easy peasy lemon squeezie". When the diaper is wet you can just take out the wet prefold and insert another. If the diaper is poopy, replace both the diaper and the cover.

I keep my diapers in the pantry/laundry room in a large rubbermaid tote with a tight lid to contain odors.

Birth control revisited.

My wonderful dh and I have had a long running discussion about the practice of birth control in the modern church. We agree that the devil, the enemy of our souls, hates children and wants us to avoid having and raising up families who love the Lord. We know that our culture values prosperity and personal hedonism more than children. So it should not come as a surprise to us that this attitude has crept into the Church. Many of my church friends assume that having children is an area of absolute personal liberty, no more significant to the Lord that what color car you drive. Simply an area of personal preference. They see no problems with artificially limiting the size of your family in order to maintain a certain standard of living or keep you from being "stressed out."

On the other side of the equation we have the Quiverfull movement. These Christians believe that any limiting of family size is sin. That we should eagerly desire and embrace as many pregnancies as possible during our childbearing years, trusting that God will open and close the womb as He sees fit. God bless the QF for planting a flag and causing families to reconsider God's design. I am grateful that they stand up and proclaim the truth that children are blessings and a gift from the Lord. But some of the more radical elements of this camp say that there is no reason a woman should ever use any kind of birth control (even Natural Family Planning) - even if her health is poor or God has a special task for her family for a season. The problem with this camp is that is smacks of legalism and judgment.

I don't believe a loving husband would push his wife to have another baby at a time when her health was in danger. I don't think God would have a sick mom kill her unborn child through abortion, but there is a wisdom in allowing a sick mother to heal for a season before seeking pregnancy again. I know a couple who practices non-abortificant birth control because they believe God has called them to minister right now in a very dangerous area of the world. Their access to medical care is limited and a pregnancy at this point would mean that they could not continue their ministry. They do say that at some point they will move to a different area (and have children) when God tells them it is time, but for this season they believe they are in obedience to the Lord by not having children.

What I propose is a middle road. A place where each couple actively seeks to know what God's will is for their family. The world tells us that we should avoid "too many" children and the QF movement tells us that we should have as many children as physically possible. I think we should each listen to the Holy Spirit and stop trying to be the voice of God to each other. Let us encourage one another to ask "how many children do YOU want me have, Lord?" God bless those who have chosen to abandon their wombs to the Lord and eschew all birth control. And God bless those who use birth control for a season. And may the Holy Spirit convict any of us of our sins. Whether that be judging someone else for their use of birth control, or refusing to seek the Lord about His will for our family size.

So many of us want to bind each other with our own consciences. We forget that "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). Maybe we should be quiet and let the Holy Spirit work on folks Himself.

Christian hedonism

I am often told, "You don't look like you have five kids." This has always perplexed me, as I am sure they are not referring to my svelte figure (snort!). Finally, last week, when someone said this to me I asked them, "What should a mom of five kids look like? Should my womb be hanging between my legs or something?" She laughed and said, "You know, worn out, tired, unhappy, bags under your eyes." Where did she ever get the idea that children are so burdensome that I would look like a refugee from a slave labor camp? Maybe from the world?

I have a dear friend who told me that she knows homeschooling would be best for her kids (not that I am making a blanket proclamation that homeschooling is the way). But she says she doesn't think she could stand to spend that much time with them, and that it would really cut into her "me" time. I didn't say anything at the time, but I was saddened by her statement of priorities. If she feels convicted that homeschooling is what God would have her do, and yet refuses so she can spend more time pleasing herself, she is really missing out.

Our modern world tells us we need to "get away" from our kids. Some of my happiest times have come just enjoying my children. They are funny little people. We have found that as we lose ourselves in Christ and immerse ourselves in serving Him by raising our children that we are fulfilled. The Psalmist said, "Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy is the man who takes refuge in Him." (Ps 34:8). Why do we act surprised when the Lord tells the truth? He tells us we will find true joy when we serve Him. How are we supposed to win people to the Lord when we are not truly convinced that He alone holds the keys to true fulfillment and pleasure? Leading folks to the Lord shouldn't be like convincing them of the necessity of swallowing a bitter tasting but healthy medicine. It should be like inviting them to a lavish banquet and telling them to eat up.

Now, I'm not saying that we should entice people with smooth words and slick promises of a rose-petal strewn path to Heaven. Certainly, there will be suffering along the way. But as the Creator of our souls, God alone knows what will make our hearts most happy and fulfilled. And we will not find those pleasures apart from Him.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Well, move your arm, stupid!

So last night Abby came into my room sobbing after I'd put the kids to bed. After calming her down I asked what her problem was. "Nate bit me!" she wailed. Suspecting something was up (since it would be difficult for him to bite her if they were all in bed like they were supposed to be), I asked her what she was doing when he bit her. "Laying on him with my arm on his face!" she explained. Oy vey! Well, move your arm! Stop laying on him! Get in bed! After reiterating the instructions to stay in bed and kissing her boo boo, I went to talk about this with my husband. We laughed at her silliness, but I was struck by something.

This is how we act as adults too. We get the natural consequences for a behavior and we act surprised. We blame God for our own stupidity. We have financial difficulties because we are undisciplined and we cry that God isn't providing. We drive like idiots and then blame God when we get in a wreck. We eat junk food and watch TV all day and blame God when we get sick. We spend more time on the Internet than we do raising our children and then act surprised when our kids reflect the world's values instead of our own.

Maybe, like little Abigail, we should move our arms. Stop doing stupid things and we won't have to suffer the consequences. It's not God's fault when we set ourselves up.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Fossil Rim Wildlife Park

Over Spring Break we took the kids on a super cool (read, expensive) trip down to Fossil Rim Wildlife Park. It was really neat. The kids loved feeding the caribou, adaxes, and big horn sheep. It was a great day.

Why Obama scares the tar out of me

"Yes, we can!" I'm sure we can, but should we? The things Obama stands for frighten me. He has a consistently liberal voting record. He wants to lead us deeper into a dependence on the government for our daily bread. He wants the government to be responsible for our healthcare. He wants to extend the reach of public schooling, even down to infants. He wants to strengthen hate crime legislation (thought police anyone?). His desire to turn the US into even more of a nanny state is frightening.

In his recent condemnation of his pastor Jeremiah Wrights comments about the US he asks that we judge him based on who he is and what he has done. Well, what has he done? I ask many of my Obama friends and few of them can name a single accomplishment. (see:obama's accomplishments) "He's so inspiring!" they gush. "He's such a great speaker!" Big deal. So were Hitler and Jim Jones. Public speaking ability is not an indicator of leadership ability. Another friend said she is voting for Obama for "historic reasons" - how is voting for someone because of the color of their skin (whether black, white, purple or green) anything but racist?

What has he done? He voted against a bill that would have made it illegal to kill infants that were born alive after abortion (claiming that we cannot give these babies the rights of full term infants). When you are so liberal that you vote against a measure that even Barbara Boxer says will not impede women's right to choose to murder their children, you have issues. Recently, he said that he would not want his daughters to be punished for any mistakes they may make in the future (ie, having premarital sex) by having a baby. Some say this means he would rather that they be educated and use protection against the natural, normal outcome of sex. Given his track record, I would lean towards believing he is actually talking about abortion. So he would rather his daughters be shielded from the natural consequences of their actions at the expense of his grandchildren's lives. Nice.

No, I won't be voting for Obama any time soon. The change he promises is not one that I would embrace.

Kids are kids, no matter where they go to school

So, I didn't realize that by choosing to homeschool our children we would become the poster family for homeschoolers everywhere. That every single action my children take, good or bad, can be traced directly to our choices in their schooling. Confused? I am too.

Case(s) in point.

My oldest son is acting like a seven year old boy. He is squirelly and hyper and likes to run around making a lot of noise at the park. I'm talking to another mom and she says, "Look how happy he is to be around other boys his age. He must really be missing that interaction." As if there is a dearth of children at our house and he sits alone in a corner. Give me a break. She then went on to explain how his social skill must suffer because of his homeschooling. Really? Because it is somehow natural for children to be surrounded by children of the same age? Because God must have made a mistake putting us in families, where we learn to interact with all different ages of people?

My daughter is being silly at one of our extra-curricular activities (why we call it homeschooling is beyond me - we're never home, maybe we should call it "real world schooling"). The intructor remarks that homeschooled children can't focus and are used to acting however they want. Funny, I was under the impression that most five year old little girls are silly and like to spin around like a princess. But maybe that's just every child I've ever known. Surely they can't be representative of normal behavior.

I guess what gets me irritated is that children whose parents have chosen traditional schooling never have to defend their decision. If their child acts up or has some personality quirk it is never blamed on the schooling. But if my child talks too loud or generally acts childishly it must be because of his schooling.

Children are children. They act like children. Let's all remember that we are each doing the best job we can raising our kids as we believe God would will us. And the next time you catch yourself attributing a child's behavior to homeschooling, ask yourself this - if a public school child did the same thing, would you assume it was because of his schooling? And don't be prejudiced against homeschoolers.

Tummy tub

Cute little feet, huh?

We bought this new tub for Gabriel. I'd say it's a hit. It's called a Prince Lionheart WashPOD.