Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cabin Extravaganza

Every year this time energy levels gain momentum and my children begin operating with crazy amounts of excitement! Why? It is almost time for the annual cabin trip. It is the highlight of our summer!

Every 4th of July all of my extended family on my dad's side descend on one of the most beautiful places in PA and possibly in the country. At least in my opinion. But for me it embodies so much! Memories, my childhood, family, life, laughter, love.....We will travel just 1 1/2 hours north from where we live but we will be out of cell phone range. It is wonderful! No Internet, no TV, no phones - just nature, silence and hours of fun!

We are going for 4 days this year with our crew. We landed our own little cabin right across the road from the "main" cabin. Not having to pitch a tent and attempt to get my kids settled in the outdoors didn't sound fun at all. Having our own little cabin will be splendid! My grandfather was part of a hunting camp years ago who purchased this land nestled in the mountains bordering a creek. They built a small cabin to accommodate the guys who hunted there but the family outgrew it long, long ago!!

My father is the oldest of 19 children! So, when you figure almost all of the siblings (my aunts and uncles), their children (my cousins), spouses of both of the previously mentioned and all my cousins children are there we have a lot of people. I think we are figuring on 150-160 people on Saturday! It is quite a production but so worth it!!

I have gone every summer of my life which may make me pathetic but it has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It is in me! We never make any other plans over the 4th because we long for the mountains. I had this small fear growing up that my husband wouldn't enjoy the cabin experience. But Mark said to me today, "Everyone needs to experience this at least once in their life."

The camp fires, the guitars and banjos, the antics of mischievous children, the swimming in the creek, the cool mornings as the fires still smolder from the night before, the endless trips to the candy store that is within walking distance, the laughter that can be heard at any time.

So, yes! I am very excited to leave everything and get away for a few days of quietness. To connect with my relatives (the only time I see them), watch my children play with their cousins and second-cousins and just soak it all in!

I wish I could take you all with me! It is a rich heritage that I am blessed with!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Daily Grind

Sometimes I wonder what I have done in the past few days that could possibly be entertaining enough that someone would want to read about it. I am really nothing special, you know? I am just a mom doing the same thing daily. Wishing I could roll over in the morning when I hear little feet hit the floor, wishing we had a dog to clean up the spills on the floor at breakfast, wishing someone else would make all the beds, etc. My days are just normal days that feel as though they have little impact on the world at large. But I guess the only thing that really matters is that I am impacting, in a positive way, the world within my home.

I am learning that the thing that steals my contentment the most is comparison. You read blogs, books or stories of people that truly seem to have it together. You know the ones - they have 10 children, they run marathons, they homeschool, have a farmette and are self-sufficient, are getting their masters, you name it! They can do it!

I am not that person. It honestly took a session on my counselors couch to assure and convince me that having 5 children is not a walk in the park. It is doable for sure. But not easy in any way. The needs and demands are high. The feelings of failure are great. The moments of joy are sweet. The peace at the end of the day is tangible.

And I really cannot compare myself to others. It is a bad slope to begin sliding on because it is steep. I am who I am. It is not productive for me to sit around and compare myself to other women. Who I deem better moms because they are more creative, spontaneous, patient and pleasant.

I cannot compare but I do have to take responsibility for my actions that do not exhibit the heart of God to my children. I am quick to overreact to typical childish behaviors in my children. Quick to become annoyed with their needs. You name it - just not right.

Am I ever going to be perfect? Nope. But I can continuously work towards being a better me! Towards the woman God ultimately had in mind when He set about creating me.

So...the daily grind around here is fairly boring. Until your boys come in boasting about how many snakes they caught with some playmates, until your son tells you that his forehead will soon be a fivehead (one guess who said it since it involves numbers), until someone drops their entire bowl of rice on the floor at dinner, until someone attempts to pee in hopes of receiving a chocolate chip reward (I am getting desperate for a certain someone to pee in the potty) and get the picture.

Life seems predictable but yet I never know from one day to the next what will be spoken or done that will have me laughing. Some days it is something a child says. Today Judah asked me why I was laughing while Tristan and Eden were both crying loudly. I simply said, "I can either yell too or laugh. So today I am just going to laugh." Who knew I would laugh almost to the point of tears with Judah while the other ones screamed in the background? Or that I would again laugh to the point of tears when the rice got spilled everywhere. Have you ever tried cleaning up rice? I am sure my children thought their mother must be loosing her mind to laugh at such things today. And you know what? I wondered the same thing. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some Pictures

Going against my better judgement I am letting my children have a little bit of TV time this morning so I can get a few things accomplished. And yes....I am blogging instead of getting the dishwasher started. But oh well. Last week we had a lot of down time to try and recover from the previous week and all the festivities. It took me a while to feel like everything was back to normal. Along with everything else I have been nursing an excruciating back for 7 weeks now. I am going to relent and see a doctor finally. At least I think. I told Mark yesterday I will give it one more week to which he raised his eyebrows and gave me the look. Maybe he gave me that look because it is nearly impossible for me to sit anymore. As well as stand/walk. On Saturday I spent a good portion of the morning on the couch because I really could hardly move. And I do have a pretty strong pain tolerance. I am not a wimp when it comes to back pain. When I was nineteen I had an MRI which showed a herniated disc. At that time I had some physical therapy and seemed good to go. I have had flair ups over the past 13-14 years but nothing a few visits to the chiropractor didn't fix. I was all but begging for pain meds on Saturday so maybe that is why my husband is asking me to see a doctor. But who has time, right? But since I couldn't sit on my chair at breakfast I may have to call a doctor. I think I am just afraid of what they will find. Stupid fear again! about some cute children to brighten the day?! Watching the train never gets old. Heidi now climbs onto the back of the couch to try and gain a better view. All the trees make it nearly impossible to see anything anymore.
I mentioned before that some of Mark's extended family came for Grace's graduation. Here is his cousin Brianna with her little girl Karly (sorry about the spelling). She is 3 weeks younger than Heidi so it was a treat seeing them together. Eden loved her and just sat with her for a long time.
Mark's cousin Courtney with Eden. I am not sure what all Eden was telling her but she was getting an ear full. Eden's new thing lately is to attempt to tell Mark all the days events while he was at work. She gets incredibly frustrated if she feels like Mark isn't paying attention. She will say, "I am trying to talk to you!" Just last night I said to Mark, "What are you going to do when Heidi starts talking and we all are vying for your attention and trying to talk over each other?" He just shrugged. His life was fairly simple for a while - only one woman in the house and all the rest carrying copious amounts of testosterone. But things have changed!
I love this picture of Heidi complete with flowers growing out of her head! She is completely mobile now and is super fast! Tristan helped her go outside the other day (without momma knowing). I realized within a minute or two but I wasn't too happy. He assured me that he held the door so that her fingers wouldn't get pinched! So thoughtful!
Last Sunday we spent some time at my mom's house visiting with extended family on her side. While Mark and I both really liked the name Heidi I had a deeper attachment to the name than he did. I have a cousin who I always thought was absolutely stunning! I remember vividly as a little girl wishing I had her dark hair and beautiful skin. Her name just happens to be Heidi and over last weekend we were blessed to see her briefly and meet her two beautiful girls, Bea and Maggie. Eden again was obsessed and wondered constantly where "the babies" were.
This is a three generation picture that Eden squeezed her way into. This is Heidi, her mother Janet and her daughters Maggie and Bea. For those of you who know my mother how uncanny is the resemblance she shares with her sister Janet? I think Eden was a bit confused initially with Janet and my mom but once she saw the babies she didn't care who anyone else was or if anyone else was even there. She was on a mission!!
On another note here is Judah at his awards assembly receiving his awesome artistic talent award! His teacher was an absolute gem and I only wish he could have her again next year!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Winner

Well....either very few people read my blog (which is probable) or no one wanted a good read. I am fine either way. So, the winner this time is Koelle!! I will just email you to get your address. And since not very many people even joined in the giveaway I may send one to each of you. Haven't completely decided yet but it is likely. Even to you Charity! :) Until later......

Friday, June 18, 2010

Contentment and a Giveaway

If you have grown up in or near a church I am sure you are well versed in the contents of this verse: "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Before we go any further did you catch the pun? Because I admit I thought I was funny and rather pathetic too if I am being completely honest. :)

Back to contentment. What exactly is contentment? And what feelings do true contentment evoke? Contentment by definition is 'a feeling of calm satisfaction.'

For months now I have been examining my life with the curiosity to see how much contentment really exists there. For all my life I have thought of contentment as purely materialistic in nature. If I have.....If I can get....If I Do.....Our culture revolves around telling us we need, we want, we should do and then we will find contentment. We need bigger, better, more, etc. I started questioning this logic as I felt less and less peace in my life.

If contentment brings with it a calm satisfaction what was wrong with me? I have never been a consumer. I rarely shop, am typically very happy with what I have so I naturally thought I was content.

While a huge part of being content revolves around consumerism where does it start? What prompts us to act on these whims? I started looking deeper and really.....being dis-content carries with it a lot of self-absorption! We compare our lives and begin wishing for something better. We start feeling less satisfied and more justified. I have worked hard, I deserve, I want, I..I...I...I

One of the things I have wrestled with for a long time now is this pervasive feeling of entitlement. Really, and I am sure some will disagree with me, I don't think we deserve anything. I cannot look at my life, at how I have been blessed and think it has anything to do with me. If I did think that then how do I account for mom in Africa who has to sneak away at night, prostitute herself so that she can feed her children the next day. Has she done something to deserve that life? That is absurd!!! So how do I deserve my life anymore than she should deserve it? You tracking with me?

True contentment begins in the reworking of ones heart! And it filters down in so many areas. I can learn to be content in my sleep deprived state because my children are healthy and enjoy my company at night. *insert sarcasm here* I can learn to be at peace with the demands of a young family. I can find calmness in the midst of active behaviour of children. It needs to be a lifestyle of keeping yourself focused on the Truth! And the truth is that if you can be content with your life you will have great gain! And the great gain is calm satisfaction. No more internal anxiety. No more comparison. Just being still in His presence!

So...on that note I am doing my first blog giveaway!! A few months ago as God was working in me this whole new concept of contentment I actually was the winner of a book on another blog. It was perfect timing and really got me and Mark thinking. There were two books I read during that time that had profound impact on me: The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns and the book I am giving away today: The Power of Half! If you haven't heard of it look it up on Amazon. It is pretty astounding!! Chances are you maybe saw this father/daughter duo on a TV show or in person somewhere in the past year. Two days after I finished reading the book they spoke at Penn State but I didn't find out about it until after the fact. We were disappointed because we would have enjoyed hearing them speak.

The concept of the book is finding areas of your life where you can cut things in half. The family the book is written by sold their home, gave half of what it was worth away to help with development in Uganda (I think). They took a year researching non-profits until they found who they wanted to work with. Now...most of us cannot sell our home, down-size and have $800,000 to give away. But what are some other ideas? The family I won the book from went through their closets and gave away half of their clothing to Haiti! How about doing without air-conditioning for 2 months and giving what you saved on your electric bill to your local assistance office to help with their electric assistance? What about growing a lot of your own vegetables and giving what your saved to a local food-bank?

It really is thought provoking. Makes you start analyzing your life and you begin to see how frivolous we are. We personally went through closets and toys. Took them to a local consignment shop, sold them and are putting the money in a fund that we have started at our house to try and help buy a portion or a whole well in a village in Africa. If really gets your children thinking. We have begun looking at things we aren't using and are going to try and sell more things over the summer so we have more to give! It is pretty fun!!

So, if you are interested in this book just leave a comment with your name! I am not even going to ask you to do anything - just leave your name. On Sunday evening we will put the names in a hat and pull out the winner! The only thing I ask is if you happen to have a blog that you continue passing this book along. And if you don't have a blog give it away to someone you think would enjoy it and take it to heart! Let's get creative!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Feeling Tired

We had a very busy week last week and it continued through the weekend. I am playing catch-up, getting kids back into the normal groove and trying to catch up on some much needed sleep. Last night I crashed a little before 10 o'clock and it felt wonderful!! I was only awake two times during the night to help both Heidi and Eden so that wasn't too shabby either.

Today was Judah's last day of school and he arrived home in tears. How many kids come home on their last day of school with tears in their eyes struggling not to cry? I think it was a combination of school being done for the year as well as processing his class assignment for next year. Some of his favorite class-mates will be in the other 4th grade class and he was afraid he wouldn't have such a good year next year. Poor guy! Mark took him and Shane out for ice cream tonight to celebrate the official start of summer vacation for them. We had to wait until the little ones were in bed so there wasn't a big problem. I knew that they would fall asleep driving later in the evening and then it would mess up bed-time. And I am feeling a desperate need for ease in my life after last week.

So...when I am feeling refreshed I will return with some pictures from the weekend and to finally have my blog give-away that I mentioned about two weeks ago. Where does the time go?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Pictures

Here is the birthday girl enjoying her moment! Complete with gross salsa bowl in the front of the picture.
If you can look past the salsa bowl, my side profile intruding into the picture you will then notice a sweet little boy clapping for his sister! I love when my children are happy for their siblings. Those brief moments make me feel like quite possibly they may end up good friends someday!

Heidi loves pushing this little stroller around the patio. Poor unsuspecting baby is being drug around upside in the bottom of the stroller.
She has begun walking this week. At first with a lot of coaxing and now without any cheering section. And she is liking the excitement and celebrating it garners her!
I had her to the doctor today for a re-check of her ears and she had gained 1 1/2 pounds in 3 weeks! I was positive she was looking and feeling different but it took the scale to prove my intuition correct.
I was trying to get a picture of Heidi and Eden in their matching pj's but as soon as Heidi sees the camera she charges!!
Early morning snuggling on the couch!
And afternoons in the sun!
Silly faces being made!
And hugs to be given!
Judah playing a little basketball....while Tristan and Eden scale the basketball hoop?
Shane also getting in on the basketball action while Eden continues her attempt at climbing!
All in a day of my life! I had forgotten how much more I enjoy life in the warmer months. I think it is a combination of the sun, warmth and ability to chase the children out of the house for their rowdy play. They can run, ride bike, play in the sand box, get dirty, play in the kiddy pool, be exhausted at the end of the day and fall into bed without arguing! Makes me very happy!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Little Catch-Up

We breeze through every winter pretty much unscathed by the typical colds, flu's, illnesses, etc. When April rolls around though things begin to change. I cannot figure out why we get all the sickness in the spring and summer. What a drag! It makes a whole lot more sense to be sick in the winter when you are all cooped up inside with little to do. Over the past two months Heidi has had 3 ear infections. Tristan and Eden are both being treated for strep right now and the doctor assured me there is a high possibility that Heidi will also get strep since she has a lot of exposure. I hate having my children on antibiotics for many different reasons but the biggest reason is how crabby they get! Oh well!!

Heidi is completely weaned now and is sleeping a lot better. Except for the disruptions from getting teeth and ear infections. I don't mind nursing and actually enjoy the bonding that happens while nursing. I don't mind taking my baby with me everywhere but I must say I love the increased energy I am feeling!! I forgot how much nursing drains a person!!

We celebrated Eden's 3rd birthday this past week and she loved all the attention. I will post a few pictures when I get the chance. She asked specifically for shoes, chocolate and hats for her birthday!! I think she likes getting shoes and clothes more than toys which is fine with me. I am a practical person and the fact that she asks for things that she needs is great! Then I don't have to step on, trip over and get hurt by the extra toys all over the floor!

I finally relented after 7 months of daily fights with Eden about peeing in her pants. I did what I never thought I would do - I put her in pull-ups! I was so tired of the daily battle and it seemed to be eroding our relationship in a hurry! I was continually frustrated with her and didn't like her very much. It was so purposeful and it made me exceedingly angry when she would smile at me upon peeing her pants. She was getting a lot of satisfaction out of seeing me visibly angry and frustrated. I was having a harder time remaining robotic and was becoming more emotionally involved. I kept asking God for wisdom in how to break through to her little heart. Two weeks ago, on Saturday, I was folding laundry. I decided to see just how many pairs of underwear we had gone through in the 3 days since I had last done laundry. She had peed in 14 pairs of underwear!! I didn't even look at how many pairs of pants, skirts, shorts we had gone through as well! I sat on my bed, looked at the stack of underwear and in that moment realized it just isn't worth the fight!! Yes, she has control over her peeing. She had been completely and totally potty trained for 2 months with no accidents. But what we were dealing with was a battle for control over me and she was winning! She was manipulating me in a huge way and I was finished!

I got out the pull-ups that she wears to bed and told her we were done with undies! She was a little upset but I told her when she is all done peeing in her pants we can get undies out again. And you know what? Over the past two weeks she has hardly peed in her pull-up at all. And I think a large part is because I just don't care! I don't care if she pees in the pull-up because it isn't soaking her pants. I don't care if she pees in the pull-up because she isn't peeing all over the bathroom floor. But the most marvelous thing of all isn't the fact that she isn't peeing in her pants anymore. The most marvelous thing is the fact that we like each other - a whole lot more! She is changing right in front of me! She is becoming more affectionate, more helpful and just plain sweet!! I actually like my little girl again! Please don't misinterpret what I am saying - I have always loved her dearly. Just had plenty of moments over the past months that I didn't like the actions she was exhibiting very much. But taking away the battle has eliminated the power struggle!!

I don't know when we will begin using undies again. Right now it just feels wonderful not having the constant battle! I know in the eyes of many it may seem like I gave up, we digressed, that she ultimately won, etc. But for me this feels right and I think it was the wisdom I was begging God for. I have always known this is not a potty issue. It runs much deeper for her. And I am more concerned about the healing of her heart than her success with the potty!!