Saturday, October 25, 2008

Look What God Made

"What's that, Mama?" two-year-old Abigail's little voice questioned as she pointed to the animal in front of her. "Kitty?"

"Nope, sweetie, that's a jaguar."

Monday we went to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. It was Abigail's first excursion to any zoo, and it warmed my heart (despite the chilly Washington weather) to see her eyes light up in wonder at the animals. It was also fun to hear four-year-old Christian's roaring--doesn't matter what animal we saw, his response was, ROAR!!!

On occasions like a trip to the zoo, I always keep the phrase, "Look what God made," handy. I want them to know where to direct that awe they feel over the amazingness of nature. "See the speckled giraffe, the powerful gorilla, the purple, poison-dart frog? Look what God made."

I also experience another kind of awe when I gaze at them--an amazing feeling of gratitude. And on Monday, as they delighted in God's creation, I delighted in them, saying to myself, "Look what God made."

My Benjamin, Gabrielle, Christian, Abigail. Even the most awe-inspiring, intricate aspect of God's creation pales in comparison to my kids. What breathtaking spot in nature could attempt to surpass the feeling when Benjamin hands me a note from the heart--"You're the best mom ever." Or when Gabby has a smooching contest with me, or when Christian falls asleep on my lap in church, or when Abigail giggles. They are the most amazing creations in my life. And He's given me the privilege and duty to be their mom.

Look what God made, yeah. He made my kids.

"The Lord your God is in your midst. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Love to Laugh--Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!

"That does not sound sexy!" I blurted to my critiquing friend last night. Three of us gathered around our favorite table at McDonald's, struggling to tune out the loud voices of the older gentlemen's loud conversation. The point? To give our best opinions about how to make eachothers' manuscripts more griping, emotionally intense, or polished. It's very satisfying as a writer in many ways--and refreshing.

The best part is the laughing. Not a McCrit (that's what we call it) goes by when we're not snorting and guffawing about something. This time an out-of-place phrase a character said in a hot and heavy romantic scene just struck me. We all almost lost our Diet Cokes over that one.

As a mommy, I believe in laughter. It waters my dry land. The days filled with laundry, dishes, organizing, and most of all striving to be the best parent I can be sometimes saps the juice right out of me, but laughing gives it back.

Nothing bonds friends together like a full-bellied chuckle. It's hard to be transparent sometimes, even with other moms. We want to appear like we have it all together, like our backs don't ache at the end of the day, or our kids don't drive us to desparation at times. A good laugh can break down that barrier. Sharing a funny can make us feel free to share the struggles as well.

And how great is laughing with our kids? My 8-year-old son, Benjamin, can really get me going. He or I will mimic something we've seen Christian doing, like saying, "I a knight. I sword you!" And we'll jump and take his fierce knight stance. We'll giggle and giggle. Or my second oldest will tell me some story that I don't understand, and she'll start cracking up. I don't have a clue what it's about, but I join in anyway, because laughing is contagious.

Oh, and the ability to make a kid chortle helps with discipline. My favorite way to melt a kid's mad face into a smile? Say, "Would you like to eat my boogers?" Works every time.

What a gift laughter is. Thanks to the Lord, the source of all joy, for creating us to laugh.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Shoulders Feel Better

Since I finished my stint teaching twenty jr. highers everything they needed to know about the Crimean and Civil War, I somehow feel more relaxed. Huh.

I think it's good to have a big goal. I like it--the adrenaline rush, the sense of accomplishment, the knowledge that makes me feel smart.

And I also like gifting my kids the opportunity to experience these benefits of hard work. Their goals of, for instance, making their beds every day, or, finishing their math surely do give them the bliss of a job well done.

Okay, maybe not. But it is beneficial to have them work hard even if rather than blessing me for my wise foresight, they whine, get mad, slouch, procrastinate, and sometimes cry.

Another thing is good too.

A break.

After teaching for six weeks, I need a break. And my kids' hyper-emotions tell me they do too. So this week we've thrown math out the window. Their beds aren't made and I don't care! Yesterday we made thumbprint thank you cards. You should've seen little Abigail. The ink didn't quite stay on her thumb. Instead her fat thighs were decorated with swirlies and squigglies. But we had fun and the cards got put in the mailbox with the flag up. All five of us went for a long walk/bike ride (the older two riding bikes), and eight-year-old Benjamin made the coolest skids in the gravel. Today, my six-year-old daughter Gabrielle got to trade her treasures for the neighborhood kids' allowance money, and I helped Benjamin sell his Cub Scout popcorn. We've been reading books we like, and tomorrow, I plan on playing games with them--Jr. Boggle, Aggravation, Uno! Monday we're going to the zoo.

Sometimes in my frenzy to check off the to-do lists I make for my kids I forget they need a break. We all do sometimes--it helps those shoulders relax.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Giggling with Abigail

"Go away, bug!" my two-year-old squeaked in church today. A fly had swooped by her ear during the Prayer of the Church. Her commanding words were heard far beyond our pew.

We're trying to train her to sit in church, and I was pretty impressed that she made it that long, so, for the sake of the others trying to concentrate on worshipping God, I took her to the cry room.

But that doesn't mean she can run free. Like I said, we're trying to get her to sit through service, so the rule is she must sit on my lap and be quiet. Well, how do you think that worked out? She's a talker, you see. She loves words and wants to tell me everything. Yet, I know she needs to be quiet.

So we begin a back and forth dialog, starting with the items in her surroundings. "Mahm, toy." My response? "Quiet, Abigail." She says, "Mahm, nose." I say, "No talk, Abigail." She taps her soft little finger on my sweater. "Mahm, button." I respond, "Shhh, Abigail." Then she grabs a book. "Mahm, goggie," pointing to a dog, and "Mahm, goggie," pointing to a donkey. "Abigail, pray with Pastor Randy." Now she looks out the glass to the people in church. "Mahm, Barker." (Our church's pastoral intern.) "Mahm, Papa."... "Abigail, listen to the Bible."

The problem is, she's just so cute and sweet, it becomes a game for both of us, and soon she's giggling. Okay, I'll admit, I giggle too. How could I not? What better place than in church to enjoy her? What better way to glorify God than to rejoice in this precious gift He's lavished on me.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let's Encourage Each Other with Our Words

What a day! This morning I went to my MOPS meeting which I haven't been able to attend for, well, a long time. As I dropped off my little girl to the nursery, one of the mommies saw me. Her face lit up and she attacked me with a big hug. "Hi!" she said, "It's so good to see you." The same thing happened all morning. Even the director from up front, when she saw me, paused and squeeked in joy. "You're here!"

How good did that feel? So good. I also just got an e-mail from a lovely lady at my homeschool co-op telling me how much her kids, who are in my class, "love and respect me." Now, I know I probably need more praise than some. (Verbal affirmation is my love language.) But every mom feels encouraged by kind words.

I remember once a few years ago. A lovely young mom was herding her two wee toddlers around the zoo. Her kids were so cute and she was so sweet with them, I couldn't help but comment. "You're doing a great job with your kids." You should've seen her face. She actually teared up. A simple kind word from a stranger.

Maybe it's because our own self talk isn't always the most positive. Maybe it's because we doubt ourselves as parents. Maybe it's because our kids don't always have the nicest things to say. I don't know, but we mommies need positive words. And who better to give it than other mommies--the ones who know how hard it can be. Let's take this challenge and encourage one another. Is there someone you can call, or send a card to? Maybe just remember to bless a mom you know with a "good job" the next time you see her.

So thanks to those of you who've blessed me today. I hope to pass the love on to others.

"Encourage one another and build each other up." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Time management--ha!

Hi everybody,

I haven’t blogged in so long. I’m glad to be back. Because of my schedule, I’m going to only write short little blurbs for you, and they won’t be perfectly edited. Gasp! The perfectionist editor in me is screeching, but that’s just the way it has to be.

What’s on O’s mind? Well, a lot about time management. I’ve been teaching a 6-week history unit to a group of twenty jr. highers. It’s been so fun. Such a great age and a nice break from my little ones—four of ‘em ages 2-8. But my quest for perfection does make my teaching stint very time-consuming. What have I learned? Even imperfect class activities still bless my students! (A Flylady concept.) The activities don’t have to be perfect and I don’t have to be an expert in the causes of the Civil War to be able to teach them something valuable.

How does this apply to us mommies? Well, I have to keep telling myself that I don’t have to be a perfect mommy. In my striving to be a good mom, I find myself adding more and more to my schedule—gotta read to the kids or they won’t be smart enough; I must do more activities with them or they won’t be mentally stimulated; they need more play dates or they won’t make friends. And there’s the pressure to organize their dressers, scrub the corners, take them to museums, library story time, soccer, dinner! Not to mention the pressure to take care of myself. All the magazines say I must have “me” time. I must, or I won’t be a good mommy! But when????

Ugh. I can’t do all this. I don’t know what the secret to time management with little ones is, but I do know that I am loved—by my husband, kids, family, friends, and especially the Lord. As my four-year-old Christian commands in his most bossy tone, “One at a time!” Maybe that’s the answer. One moment at time, with my hand firmly grasping the nail-scared hand of the Lord.

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalms 139:9-10