Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors

I've never seen it, actually.  It is the only musical my mother in law likes, but what I have seen of it in show choir competitions a thousand years ago was enough to convince me that I don't really want to watch it. 

But this morning I used it to prepare a mini musical for my husband's branch of the family tree to perform in the talent show at this weekend's family reunion. 

The family reunion is always a challenge because some of the people there have been related for their whole lives, and then some have only started hanging around more recently.  So there is this wierd melting pot thing that is supposed to happen.  But it is challenging when you share neither blood, nor history, nor common world view to really melt with people in a more or less positive way.  Challenging.

I was singing in my devo yesterday this little chorus I made up:
Wherever I go, whatever I do, let me be found hiding in You
Wherever I go, whatever I do, let me be found leaning on my Beloved

What I meant was,
At the family reunion this weekend, as I'm feeling socially awkward and counter cultural and freakish, and am trying not to eat piles and buckets of food that will do me no good whatsoever, please help me stay connected to the only One that can get me through my little crisis. 

I have a phrase I am pretty sure I invented:  fishbowl parenting.  When a goldfish lives in one of those glass fishbowls (think: Cat in the Hat), he has no privacy, except darting in that little castle thing.  He is on display.  I always call parenting in a situation where you are in continual close encounters of the unavoidable kind, "fishbowl parenting".  In a fishbowl parenting environment, if your kids misbehave, everyone knows.  If you discipline them, everyone hears and knows.  If you 'train' them, instruct them, indoctrinate them, brainwash them, everyone knows.  And if you train them in a wierd, countercultural way, well, everyone knows that too. 

And if your wierd, countercultural way is hypothetically different from the way the listeners are raising or did raise their children (including, hypothetically, the way they raised your husband, hypothetically) there exists the potential to offend or alienate or tick off in some way.

And it is also possible that this whole thing is mostly in my hypothetically paranoid and insecure brain and that no one gives pig snot how I raise my children.  Maybe.

But all of this insecure wierdness feeds my desire to eat crap, because everyone knows that highly processed carbohydrates and mostly hydrogenated lard and high fructose corn syrup makes insecurity and fear go away, right?  Well, in the moment, it seems like it would.

On the contrary, eating carrot sticks and hard boiled eggs and bunless hotdogs while washing s'mores off of lots of little sticky fingers always makes one feel so secure and confident and, just, happy.

What an opportunity to live out my fasted lifestyle and choose eternal pleasures rather than earthly and temporary anesthesics.  What a great time to build character.  What a beautiful moment to lean on my Beloved.


But that's my only option.  I can't go over it, can't go around it, can't go under it.  Gotta go through it.  If I make it to the other side without gaining 5 lbs, that will be evidence that God exists.  Not that I'm wondering.  And if I can get through the next several days leaning, clinging, abiding with some measure of joy because I (quoting Ann Kiemel) have a giant of a God in me and together, He and I, we're out to change our world, if I can do that, then I think maybe I can call myself a grown up, a bridal soul, a real Christian.

I'll let you know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My heart, my choice

Have you ever heard somebody say something like, "You don't choose who you fall in love with."

Well, that's hogwash. You choose who you spend time with. You choose where you go and what you do. You choose who you sit by and when to answer the phone. You choose what to say and what not to say, what to think about and what not to think about, what to wear and watch and focus on.

If you don't choose who you fall in love with, what hope do us married folks have? We're just walking along and then, BANG! We fall in love with someone new. Stank! What happens to our current spouse? Our kids?

The Bible says, Philippians 4, whatsoever things are good, pure, lovely, right, excellent, worthy of praise (or something like that) think on these things. You have a choice, or else scripture wouldn't tell us to choose. It also talks about taking our thoughts captive. I'm not saying it isn't hard. In fact, I don't recommend trying to do what the Bible says to do without Jesus' help and His forgiveness - you'll get really discouraged.

I am saying that He gave us both guidelines and a means for our escape (He said He will provide an escape in any temptation). And even more impressive, He has walked this road, as a man, as a teenager, with zits and hormones. And he made it through. He was, like all of us should, saving His heart for His bride - the church. He kept Himself pure. He encountered every trial and temptation common to man, and He saved His heart for His one bride.

We are called to do the same. As a married woman, I am called to keep myself unto my man. But before I knew who that man would be, I was still called to keep everything that belonged to him for him. My body, my kisses, my fantasies, my affection, all belonged to him before I knew him.

Any gesture that says to a boy or a girl, "I belong to you" should be kept for the one you belong to. To hold hands with a boy tells him, "I belong to you." It tells everyone, "I am with this guy." The Bible says it is good for a man not to touch a woman. That doesn't mean bumping into her in the grocery store. It means not touching in a way that conveys feeling that is inappropriate.

An easy test for this for singles is to say, 'if I was married to someone else, would it be okay with my spouse for me to do this with another person?' If not, and if I am not sure this person is my spouse-to-be, then I am defrauding him. I am taking something that belongs to someone else. I am giving him something that belongs to someone else.

As a married woman, I belong to Jesus and my husband. If I were single, the same thing would be true. Being unmarried doesn't mean I can just do whatever I feel like doing until I get married. It means I don't know the whole story yet. But I still belong to the Lord and to my husband, should the Lord give me to one someday.

Same thing for guys. It would be NOT OKAY with me for my husband to hold hands with or kiss or give a nice long front hug with another woman. Not ok. So I am training my sons not to do any of those things with a girl until 1) they are both old enough to marry, 2) he is able to provide for her, 3) he has our blessing and 4) he has her father's permission. Unless those things are in place, he is taking something from her that very likely belongs to someone else.

[note, if young people are in a prayer situation and there comes a command from above to all hold hands, I still think, having been a young person, it is a good idea not to strategically place oneself next to the person you hope to marry in hopes of such an order, but neither do I think one is required to take a flying allergic leap from anyone of the opposite gender in that situation]

And honestly, I think our young people need to be wise, not just about their intent, but about the perceptions of a person of the opposite gender. This impacts the way we dress, of course, but it also includes the way we touch or don't touch each other, saving seats, even the way we talk to and tease and look at each other. I'm a big prude, ok. Just call it that. But a girl needs to be aware of the impression she is giving a boy. Vice versa. It's called Not-causing-your-brother-or-sister-to-stumble. It's also called not being a tease. We're responsible for our actions. If your intent is to keep your heart pure unto the Lord and save yourself, body, mind, and soul, for your mate, then do your level best not to give some poor soul any other impression.

Your heart is yours. My heart is mine. I choose everyday to keep myself for the Lord and for the husband He has given me. The rules are the same. Make good choices now; have good marriage later.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


We went to Kenya a few years ago, my husband and I. And one of my memories of the places we went and the people we spent time with was of entering various homes, hearing the greeting, "Karibu!" (welcome), being served chai and having this delightful unhurried visit in the afternoon. So much of life outside of America strikes us as so relaxed because we're in such a mad rush about everything.

Today my devotional set at the house of prayer reminded me of one of those visits. It was like a cup of chai. I lingered. I was in no hurry. I had a hour and a half to be with my Beloved, my Friend. I sang to Him whatever I wanted to sing. I flowed between a half dozen songs and the Song of Songs and Philippians 3 and other scriptures hidden in my heart.

I am my Beloved's and He is mine. It was a pleasant moment in the frenzy of life, that made me wonder why I don't make more like it. Lingering.

Wimped out

Yeah, I wimped out.

I got really overwhelmed before I made it out of my bedroom today, and the mass trip to Walmart was quick to get dropped from the critical list. Here's what I DID do:

I put medicine on Eight's wart
Changed diapers, found bottles, washed bottles, filled bottles with milk, fed breakfast
Ironed shirt, then lint removed the dog hair from it
I finished the testing for two kids and got a third child to within one
4 loads of laundry were run, not by me, but I'm taking credit
I buddy wrapped my broken toe
Fed 14 children smashed bread sandwiches, using up the last of the bread that I dropped a case of bottled water on
My niece, who has been visiting her bread-crust consuming cousins for several days, ate her crust (also something I didn't do but am totally taking credit for)and didn't choke, die or throw up
I did my devotional set at the house of prayer
I brought 10 kids, 2 guitars, 3 drumsticks, a backpack, 3 Bibles, lunch for 14, and a dog to pick up my older kids (if you're keeping track and the numbers confuse you, that's 12 of mine minus the 4 at leadership training, plus one niece, plus another 9 yr old girl that hangs with us on Tuesdays in the summer)
Fed kids spaghetti for supper and cleaned the babies up after
Took oldest 5 to Walmart (much easier than 14)

What can I say, I'm a lightweight.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Taking the show on the road

Tomorrow I shall attempt the impossible.

Today my four oldest are at a leadership training for a camp the kids attend. So I am at home with the youngest 8, plus a cousin we are delighted to have with us for a few days.

Tonight they will come home and sleep, and return for the rest of the camp in the morning. They have the option of sleeping over, but we are declining that option for various reasons, not the least of which is that I selfishly want them to sleep, because having my four besties dead to the world, grumpy, and exhausted isn't a great idea for anybody.

There are other reasons too. While the event is Christian, and the leaders are Christian, and the intentions are Christian, there will be a decent percentage of teenagers there who know about Jesus but don't know Him, and another decent percentage of kids who don't even know about Him. This is my kids going out into the world. Certainly the framework is church-ish. But even so, it is a somewhat worldly environment, partly because of who is there, and partly because it is designed to attract worldly kids. (The desire of the leadership is to get those kids to church and hopefully bring them into the Kingdom of God. I agree with the goal, and I don't necessarily have a problem with the method. But that doesn't mean having my kids sleep over is good or beneficial or necessary.)

Being there for 8-9 hours today and another 4-5 tomorrow is quite a jump for my gang. It is quite a dip in another pond. We may have a lot to talk about.

But spending the night is a whole nuther thing. I would be willing to wager a large number of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that the entire populace of the leadership training event(unsaved and saved and somewhat saved) will not all drop right off to sleep at 12:00 a.m. And I have an opinion (conviction) that people get stupider with sleep deprivation. They (we) are more likely to say things and do things that otherwise they would think twice about or choose not to do.

Will my children someday have to make those choices on their own, when to sleep, who to hang with, what to say, what to do? Absolutely. Are they mature enough and old enough to be permitted to make those choices now? Maybe. But do I want to put them in an environment where the odds are potentially stacked against them? No.

I don't put myself in an environment where the odds are stacked against me. If it happens, it happens. But I don't choose it. And God forbid I choose it for them.

I'm not eating sugar. It's a committment I've made before the Lord. So I don't go to dessert nights. It isn't wise for me. As a woman who belongs to Jesus and my husband, I try not to spend time alone with other men. It is not wise for me. As a person who remembers everything I hear and see, I don't watch movies that probably contain content I'll remember for years to come or that direct my feelings and convictions away from Truth. Why? Because I know my weaknesses.

My children are young and weak. Spending 12-14 hours in a 24 hour period immersed in an environment of a mixed bag of their peers in a somewhat worldly setting will be challenge enough. Sleeping over and becoming sleep deprived in that same environment with that same crowd and making good decisions is setting them up for failure. So their dad will pick them up tonight and take them back in the morning.

Then, I will attempt the impossible.

I will pick up the four of them at noon and take 13 children to Walmart. Yep, I'm gonna do it. We have another appointment close by at 2, no point in returning home, and some things to do at Wally world. We need to try to find some more affordable material for making some skirts (sewing with my girls :) and a new BB gun (for my oldest son ;). Big stuff.

I'll try to let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Boy or girl?

In this age of technology, when ultrasounds are frequent and there's even something you can pee on or in early in pregnancy that tells you a probable gender, we are counter cultural in a way that is totally not spiritual. We do not find out the gender of our babies ahead of time.


Well, for one thing, we never have. We can't start now!

Secondly, we don't really need to know. We go in with two names, two coming home outfits, and we're good. It's not like we're gonna paint a room pink or blue or anything. Yellow and green are my favorite colors, so even if I knew what the baby would be, that's the stuff I like anyway.

Finally, we (I) think it is a great way to get through and end labor. Making a phone call in the middle of the night saying, "It's a ____ !" is so much more fun than, "She's here."

We have some first names, and are entirely unsure of middle names, but have some good potential front runners, so I'm not too panicked. We picked the names, in part, related to meanings that have to do with things we are believing God for.

And sometimes I let myself think a little about what if it's a _______ ?

What if it's a boy? Well, that would be unbelievable. My favorite moms growing up were moms of boys. And, as a mom with 7, that would make me one of those kinds of moms. Great senses of humor, easy going, not freaked out with a little blood, snacks and bandaids flowing freely - that's the kind of mom I pictured myself being.

My mom had one son. Her mom had one son. My dad's mom had one son. I kind of figured you only get one. And I have rejoiced greatly with each son. Sons are something special. I remember calling my dad after my second son was born, sitting on the couch, watching March Madness (basketball) with my SONS. "Dad," I said, "I'm just sitting here watching basketball with my boys. Just wanted to let you know." So very cool.

But then I think, what if I have a daughter? My daughters are my delight, my treasures. They sing with me and with each other. They draw and create and cook. Crayons and paints and colored pencils, scissors and glue and lots of paper. Fabric and ribbons, trying to remember how to sew again and experimenting with new recipes.

They are full of beauty and grace. They dance and worship and love the babies. And having another little girl when I have two little girls would be just pure sweetness. I'm not a person who eats desserts and says, that's too sweet, or too rich. No such of a thing.

I don't get tired of sweet girl-ness. I love matching outfits and cute hair (although, when it happens, it is more likely that my elder daughters did it to them). I especially love cute sleepy girls "uggling" with their daddy.

My girls are an expression of the better version of me. I see in them the person I wish I was, the person I try to be, the person I was once and try to get back to sometimes. Play the song In my Daughter's Eyes by Martina McBride. That's how I feel about daughters.

So am I hoping for one or the other? Well, for the sake of my youngest, who is a boy following two girls, I think another boy would be grand. But no. As the most blessed woman I know, I wouldn't dare to form a strong preference, when God knows so much better than I do who best to put in our family.

Sometimes when I have had a preference in a pregnancy, I pray specifically for God to prepare my heart for whatever He has made in me. And He has, marvelously.

So, boy or girl? I have no idea.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Testing 1 . . . 2 . . . 3

This falls under that category of "How You Do It" posts. We do standardized testing every other year at the end of the school year.

We order them from an internet company called Family Learning Organization. The testing we do is relatively cheap ($35 per kid) and relatively flexible (we do it at home, on our timetable). Once we receive the tests in the mail we have 2 weeks to complete them and send them back in the mail for grading. This has always been enough time.

Each child has 10 tests to complete. The younger grades (through 3rd) are done with a great deal of administrator involvement, for the most part. From 4th grade, I start them off with the samples and then we set the timer.

The tests are older tests, I know because they have questions about library card catalogs.

We do it because our state requires some sort of ambiguous "assessment" and because it lets us know how we are doing. It also gives my kids great practice on test taking, finishing within a time limit, not being able to get Mom's help, being quiet while others are working, those kinds of things.

It also gives my little kids plenty of time watching Backyardigans and other brain melting fluff that they may miss out on ordinarily.

Once we send the tests in, it is usually only a few weeks till we get the results back. They are the normal test results, raw score, percentile, what grade level they are approximately performing at. (I know, I'm not supposed to put a preposition at the end of a sentence, but this isn't my test.) We take all that with a grain of salt. But, when a certain son got 7 out of 28 on his spelling exam, we realized we needed to change our spelling program. We did. This time he missed 7 out of 30. Still not his best thing, but way better.

I have the olders do it together and the youngers (those that need my help) take turns watching tv (I mean, watching the babies) and takig tests with me. I could probably juggle them if needed, but they are already a distraction for the olders. So is my typing, probably. I'll stop now.