June 24, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have a garden. I know it's hard to believe but I do. And it's actually producing edible food. If you know me at all, you know this is an amazing accomplishment. I'm great at growing houseplants but outdoor plants? Not so much. It probably wouldn't be so bad if I actually liked to be outside or if I enjoyed playing in the dirt but I really don't like either one.

So why start a garden? That's a very good question. Like everything else, I blame it on my mother. When I was young, my mom had a garden out back. She grew peas, zucchini, tomatoes and lots of other things that I don't eat. I can remember going out to the garden and picking tomatoes off the vine and eating them. I remember opening up the pea pods and popping those little green balls out and eating them right there. I've always told myself that I was going to have a garden like my mom did.

Now, I'm not a complete idiot. I knew that I needed to wait until I had the time (and yard) to devote to this garden. My house has the perfect spot and for the last 3 years, our friend and renter grew lots of things in it while I watched, shaking my head as she watered and weeded at 6 in the morning. She loved to be in her garden. I was content to watch her through the window.

This spring however, she wasn't here to plant her garden. I got the brilliant idea that I should keep it going. I spent days clearing out the space. Weeding, tilling, preparing the soil. My mom went shopping with me for seeds and starters and stakes and tools and gloves. Almost $200 and a few weeks later and my garden was planted. It looked perfect. For about a day.

What I didn't realize was that my friend didn't spend every spare minute in her garden purely for pleasure. It takes every spare minute just to keep up with all the weeds. Not to mention battling slugs and crows. I'm fighting a losing battle against all the critters that have found my strawberries so appealing. And it's not enough just to turn on the sprinkler and water every day. Some days it needs more water than that. And watering the plants also makes the weeds grow so I have to spend more time digging those out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against a little hard work. I just really don't enjoy working outside...in the dirt...with all the bugs. I've come to the conclusion that my kind of gardening is best suited to flowering shrubs surrounded by beauty bark. You pull a few weeds here and there, do a little pruning and water occasionally. Done. I'm not even against having nothing but grass and then all I have to do is mow.

And I can't say anything tastes better just because I grew it. I'd rather spend the money to buy organic from the grocery store than to have to live on the fruits of my labor. Someone needs to keep those farmers in business.

So far I think the idea of having a garden and growing my own fruits and vegetables is so much better than the reality! But really, isn't that the case with most things?

April 12, 2009

Saint Easter Fairy

I grew up believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I can't tell you exactly when I found out the truth about each one but I don't remember being very traumatized. It just seemed like a fun tradition, so when I had my own kids, I kept that tradition going. Recently, I've been second-guessing the wisdom in keeping those traditions alive. Do I really want to have to explain to my children that I've been lying to them all this time?

Doing without these traditions has benefits though. We've had to leave the Tooth Fairy notes on more than one occasion explaining that there was a tooth left but she probably couldn't find it under all the pillows so could she please come back and try it again? We were as polite as possible even though I knew full well that Tooth Fairy just fell asleep on the job!

The belief of Santa Claus brings with it an endless amount of questions that you have to try and come up with an answer for. Questions such as: How do reindeer fly? How can Santa get in when we don't have a chimney? I haven't been good all year, am I going to get coal? Why didn't Santa get me (fill in the blank) from my list? We provide answers for all of these but it's only more lies. And how do you tie Santa into the birth of Jesus?

The Easter Bunny is even harder to explain. We're supposed to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and in order to do that, we put on new, frilly clothes and have a giant bunny come and hide colorful eggs that may or may not be filled with candy and treats. Where was the connection again?

I don't mind giving my kids a quarter or fifty cents when they lose a tooth; it's fun. But why does it have to be the Tooth Fairy that does it? Why can't it be Mom and Dad?

Why couldn't we explain the true story of St. Nicholas and let our kids know that Santa is really the spirit of Christmas? That the point is to look out for others the way that God was looking out for us when He gave us Jesus?

Why can't we have an Easter celebration without a giant rabbit? Couldn't we have an egg hunt and let the kids know that the eggs represent new life, the new life we have with Jesus? Couldn't it be about God instead of bunnies and candy?

The thing about starting my kids on these beliefs is I don't know how to stop them. My kids are 10, 8, and 6 and they all believe 100% in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I've decided to tell them the truth before but I always sabotage myself. Before we went to Grandma's last night to dye eggs, I had decided that when we were done, I would tell the kids the truth about the Easter Bunny. Well, on the way home, a small brown bunny ran across the road. I stopped the car so all the kids could see it. When it finally ran off in a flash of white fluffy tail, I turned to the kids with uncontrolled enthusiasm and said, "Maybe it's the Easter Bunny!" What is wrong with me?! Of course the kids were excited. They thought it was great that they got to see the real Easter Bunny. Corban decided after we got home that maybe it wasn't actually the Easter Bunny, but he knows the real one is out there. So that meant I had to be the Easter Bunny for another year. They found eggs around the house this morning that you-know-who must have hid. It certainly couldn't have been Mommy and Daddy.

So how do I back track and get out of all this without breaking their hearts? I love to watch them light up whenever they think that one of the Trifecta of Holiday Gift-Givers has been to see them. They're so sweet. But it can't last forever. Sometimes I feel bad that I've let it go on this long, much less started it altogether. Because, really, Santa and the Easter Bunny and Miss Fairy have nothing to do with their respective holidays. They are NOT what my kids should be focused on. The question is, do I tell them now or do I let them find out on their own?

April 10, 2009

To Sassy, From God

God is so good. Last night, Sassy and I were heading to a baby shower. We were driving and listening to the Christian music station when her favorite song came on, "Here I am to Worship." She sang along quite enthusiastically and I soaked up every second of it. When the song was over, she asked if I thought "Our God is an Awesome God" was going to come on. It comes on occasionally but the odds of it coming on before we got to the church building were slim so I just answered a generic, "I don't know." Another song came on and her question was forgotten. But when that song was over, just as we were exiting the freeway, "Our God is an Awesome God" began to play. We were very excited and I told Sassy that God was playing it just for her. But that wasn't all He had in store. We noticed a rainbow in the sky as the song was playing. It's probably been years since we've seen one. But here we were, listening to her song and looking at this beautiful sign from God. As we pulled into the parking lot, the song ended and the rainbow was blocked from sight, but I made sure she knew that she'd just been given a very special gift from God. I'm so thankful that He made Himself known to her in that way. God is so very good.

April 2, 2009

World Autism Day

Today is World Autism Day. In honor of this day and of my Bubba who was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism at the age of 23 months, I wanted to share some stats about Autism. If your life has not been touched directly by Autism, you probably know someone who has. Please take a moment to read over this. Feel free to share it with anyone who may benefit.

Autism is a neurobiological disorder for which there is no known cause, prevention or cure.

1 in 150 people are diagnosed with Autism. It affects more people than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. (*That number is now 1 in 88*)

It occurs 4 times more often in boys than in girls.

Autism impairs the ability to communicate and relate to others.

It typically results in rigid routines and behaviors and can range from mild to quite severe (to the point of a person being "locked" inside themselves without the ability to communicate or even "notice" others).

Some children are this way from birth while others seem to have just "lost" skills and regressed (as was the case with Bubba).

Parents are usually the first ones to detect anything is wrong while many pediatricians take a "let's wait and see" approach. As a result, many of us parents find ourselves having to educate our pediatricians in the latest research and therapies.

Early intervention is absolutely critical.

Intervention and therapy can include physical, occupational, and speech therapy; biomedical intervention; special diets; social training. All of these are expensive (speech therapy is around $200/hr) and most are not covered by insurance.

Every child has different symptoms and responds to different therapies. There is no one way or standard for treating this.

Raising a child with Autism is hard, very hard. It's a lifetime job. It's lonely, frustrating, maddening, sad, surprising, depressing, rewarding, draining.

Autistic children look "normal" and so if they act up in public, people assume that you just have a bratty child and should be disciplining better. Many are even quick to let you know what they think about your parenting.

Many couples with an Autistic child end up divorced.

Many pediatricians don't keep up with the latest information that comes up about Autism because it's all anecdotal. Meaning, there isn't concrete medical research to back it up. How can there be? Every child has different traits and responds to different things. There is no way to do any conclusive studies when that's the case. And the funding is definitely not there. And so moms of Autism are experts on the subject. We've read all the books, studied the research, tried every option. You have a question about Autism? Find a mom of Autism, not a doctor.

I feel especially lucky in that Bubba responded so well, so quickly to intervention but he will always have his "issues" and life wasn't always this easy. He lost speech around 13-14 months and didn't speak again until he was 4. MC and I didn't go out together once in 3 years. For 3 or 4 years, I HATED going to church. It was just a battle of how long we could make it before Bubba was just too unmanageable and we would have to leave.

It's hard to call on even family and friends to help. If you're not even sure how to deal with your own child, how can you ask someone else to? Honestly, sometimes it's even hard to keep loving your own child when he's been biting you, screaming at you for hours, trying to claw your eyes out or even choking you, and all this during a time when you never hear him say mommy or daddy and definitely not I love you. Maybe he never will? How can you ask someone else to give him the same kind of unconditional love? It's not realistic. And so as moms, we are typically isolated and alone. No matter how many fits someone may have witnessed my son throw, they have never seen him at his worst. I'm not even sure if Dad (in my case at least since I'm the stay at home parent) has seen the depths that I have.

If it's possible to have a "typical" case of Autism, Bubba is not it. Most kids deal with more issues than he does. If you know Bubba, he seems like a "normal" kid nowadays. This should not be your picture of Autism. Autism is not just having a quirky kid. If you know someone who has an Autistic child, just stop and give them a hug. It's nice to have physical contact that doesn't come from having to restrain or redirect a speeding freight train of energy and determination.

I know this is long, but if you read this, parents of Autistic children will thank you for taking the time to try to understand it better. God bless your day!

March 24, 2009

Lent

Howdy learned about Lent in his Sunday bible class and decided that he should give up desserts for Lent. I was very impressed that he would choose this voluntarily especially since it hadn't even crossed my mind to observe Lent. It hasn't been easy for him. He's used to having dessert every day (a habit that I am more than happy to see being put on hold). After about Day 3 he was having second thoughts. He said, "I think I picked the wrong thing." When that means he's given up precisely the right thing.

In a show of support for his struggle, I decided to give up something as well. I have given up reading novels for Lent. This, of course, means that I am not reading my usual 5 or 6 vampire books each week. It hasn't been too difficult until these last few days. It helps that I haven't had any new books around to read but still I'm going stir crazy without my books. I took the kids to the library today and I thought that I would just look at the paperbacks so that I could see what I've been missing. They didn't have a single book that I would have checked out. I think that's supposed to be a good thing.

I've never observed Lent before and I know I'm not doing it properly now. The idea isn't just that you give up something important. I believe you're also supposed to pair that with setting your mind on God now that you've removed this desire that is usually in the way. To be honest, I don't think it's actually considered observing Lent if it's not done with the right mindset. What I'm doing is really only moral support for my son. I'm not teaching him any valuable lessons here, just that he can live without sugar longer than he thought.

I have close friends who go through Lent with it's full meaning close to heart. As I think about what it means to replace those "priorities" in your life with thoughts and focus on God, I am convicted that I need to do this more on a daily, hour to hour basis, as opposed to a yearly, dictated event. I am aware of God's presence in my life. It's His will that opens my eyelids in the mornings, not my own. But that's not enough. That's like saying, "I'm aware that I have children but I'll get to them when it's convenient." If my children had to wait to be taken care of until I got around to it or when I was "in the mood", they would have starved to death years ago!

I spend almost every waking minute immersed in my childrens' lives. I can tell you what they will ask for at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can flip through the TV and tell you which kid will want to watch which shows. I could even tell you what they would say in their bedtime prayers most nights. I know what they like and what they don't and I try to give them what they like. I can tell you who's tackling whom just by the muffled voices drifting down from their bedrooms. I am not just "aware" of them, I live and breathe them. My children, children who were given to me by God and ultimately belong to Him alone.

Our call is to be completely immersed in God, to live Him, breathe Him. We need to know where He is in our lives even when it seems like His voice is muffled. It's not enough to know of Him, I should be intimately involved with Him, His word, His teaching.

But still, I find a complete sacrifice of spirit and will to be much more difficult than any physical sacrifice. Nothing I give up will compare to giving up my own selfish wants and desires and replacing them with His words and deeds. I'm not sure I can do that completely in 40 days.

March 9, 2009

Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed. There's no better word to describe what I'm feeling right now. I've been a little stressed lately. Imagine that. Actually, it doesn't happen quite as frequently anymore. But it's been weighing on me lately. That's why I've been reading 6-7 books a week and getting nothing done. It all came to a head Sunday and I dumped it all on my husband as usual.

I suffer from the same guilt that I'm sure all parents experience. You know that feeling of never doing enough for your children? There's always more that could be done, should be done. It's just a fact of life. But the problem with me is, I truly am not doing enough. I'm not just being hard on myself. I'm not teaching the kids everything they're supposed to be learning in school. I haven't been studying the bible with them or reading them verses or stories. They don't know how to bathe themselves or ride bikes or other things that independent kids their age know how to do. They are not playing sports or taking lessons. (Well, they take piano lessons but I never remember to have them practice.)

I love that I have been entrusted to love and care for and guide my three children. But when I think about all that entails I'm overwhelmed. It's my job to make sure they hear about God and know the bible, I have to teach them respect and decency and manners. I have to make sure they know how to care for themselves and the world around them. It's my job to teach them games, read with them, show them how to pursue their interests and make friends. And that doesn't include all the 13 state required homeschool subjects or the quirks of Austism that I have to help them deal with. In some respects, I can see why so many kids grow up with no values and no sense of respect or responsibility. It's so much easier to stick them in front of the TV or video games. It's a lot harder to be a constant presence and really know what's being planted in their minds, not to mention trying to combat it all.

The truth is, I'm lazy. I know, no surprise there. But I know my kids, I know how they learn best and what they need. They do best when our day is run by the clock. They have to have specific deadlines or nothing will ever get done. Most children do better with structure but I think mine take it a little deeper. The problem is, I hate it. I resent having to plan out every minute of every day. I hate living by the clock. I would much rather just have a general idea of what the day should look like and hope that it comes close to that. I like to stay up until midnight or 1am and sleep in until 9am. I prefer to eat when I'm hungry and run off to do errands whenever I get around to it. But this is not the way my kids function. I have to have our routine posted up where they can see it. They need to know what to expect. And they don't do well with unstructured time. Of course they get it every day, but it usually culminates in wrestling, fighting and crying, in that order.

It's hard knowing that the best thing for my kids is completely contrary to the way I would prefer to live and my natural tendencies. I am not a great housekeeper. I wouldn't even consider myself a good one. But how can I expect my kids to get themselves dressed when they don't have clean clothes in their dressers? How can I expect them to try new foods and get over their food issues when I don't cook a healthy dinner introducing new foods? How can I expect them to get in the habit of cleaning up after themselves when they're used to living among the clutter? I want them to show respect but I've never explained why or taught them on a consistent, day-to-day basis. It's not ingrained into them so of course it doesn't come naturally.

I love my children and I am so grateful that I get to be home with them. I want a whole house full, busting at the seams. But I can't even run this one smoothly with only three. I think this is a challenge that God is presenting to me. This life isn't about me and what I want. My task, my most important job at this period in my life is to nurture and mold these children. I am to provide a warm, safe, stable home for them to grow up in. I am to be the example of the kind of life God wants them to live. What kind of example am I? Am I the kind of person who starts each day thanking God for all that He's given me? Or do I start each day grumbling about all that I've been given to do? If I truly believe that God has given me these children, that I have been honored with the task of raising them, I need my life to reflect that. I need to be doing what I can to be that example for them. I am their guide in this part of their lives. I should be preparing them and directing them on the right path. Whether or not they choose to take that path is up to them. But I need to make sure they are equipped to deal with their choice.

Father,
Please help me to remember that it all comes down to you. You are the most important thing that I am supposed to be teaching my children. So often I get bogged down in the details and forget the bigger picture. I pray that I can always keep in mind that I am to be preparing them for life with you, not just life in this world. I pray that I will be an example to them of what it means to live for you and not for myself. Help me to have patience, wisdom, and plenty of rest. You are so good. I pray that I will keep my focus on that and not on the things that overwhelm me. I thank you for all your love and blessings. Amen.

January 16, 2009

What Makes You Happy?

The other day as I was visiting with a friend, I was reminded of a challenge that I came across in a scrapbooking magazine. The challenge was to come up with 100 things that make you happy. It sounded like fun and so I did it. I thought it would be hard to come up with so many but once I got going, I easily passed 100 and had to make myself stop writing.

I would like to post this challenge to you. Can you come up with 100 things that make you happy? I would hope that you can.

What you do with the list is up to you. The magazine suggested you scrapbook the list. (I, however, can't even seem to find it.) Maybe you could post it up somewhere so you can see it often. It's a reminder that there are so many good things in life.

While I can't find my original list, I do know some of the things on it, and I'd like to share of few with you (in no particular order).

I love the smell of Crayola crayons, fresh cut grass, and new shower curtains.

I love the sound of the ocean waves hitting the beach and Bubba's laugh.

Gadgets for organizing make me happy, so does a freshly made bed sprayed with Lysol.

I'm happy when I make my husband laugh.

I'm happy when I hear Sassy singing a worship song, sitting at home in the middle of the week.

Baskin Robbins Peanut Butter and Chocolate ice cream makes me happy (fat, but definitely happy).

I love sitting in front of the fireplace and listening to Enya while it rains.

I love when Howdy holds my hand, even though he would never admit to doing so.

These are just a few of the things that make me happy. What makes you happy? I imagine this challenge will be easier for women. I think our brains are just wired to think along such paths. But try it. I would love for you to share some of them with me, but you don't have to.

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the news and circumstances of the day, that we forget life is full of good things. So, grab a pen and paper and try to come up with 100 of the things that you look forward to in life. And I hope that you have to force yourself to stop writing because you're running out of paper.

January 15, 2009

Break Out the Rubber Boots...Again

Dear friends, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I've actually done both. It was quite a job cleaning up after our basement flooded last week, but we finally got it done. I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week trying to make sure nothing mildewed. My craft room is in the basement and I have every inch of it packed. I had to move everything out of one area, mop everything down with bleach water, dry it out, move everything back, and then start on the next area. It took a long time but I finished it. (It helps that I had a friend coming over and I didn't want her to see it :) )

But then it happened again. At 5:30 this morning, our friend/basement tenant came up to tell us that it had flooded again. My first thought was, 'But it hasn't rained!'. No, it wasn't because of the rain. This morning's flood was brought to us by the friendly folks at Old Pipes. It seems a connection in our pipes had come loose and literally poured water all over place. When our friend woke up this morning, she heard the water and thought someone was in the shower because it was so loud.

MC had a great wet/dry shop vac that we used during the last clean up and it was still downstairs. However, it was right underneath the waterfall and the motor had completely filled up with water leaving it useless to us. The water was widespread but not deep enough on the floor to allow the pump to work. So we got to clean it up the old fashioned way--with towels and buckets.

Cleaning up the floor and drying out the storage areas were actually the easy part. You see, I have a large shelf unit along the wall where the water originated. On the shelves were totes that I store my craft supplies in, totes without lids. All of those 56 quart totes filled up with water. I took both of us to get one tote off the shelf because they were so heavy. We had to pull each item out of the tote, dry it off (or throw it away if it was too damaged) and then set it aside. Many items were wood and we had to lay them out on towels to air dry.

I felt that I lucked out during the previous flood. I had several boxes of craft books that got wet but I only lost a few books. There were a few that got wet that I had set on the bottom of a bookcase with a fan blowing on them to dry out the pages. Unfortunately, this time around, the water came down with such force that it soaked everything that was within 2 feet of the floor. Those books are now wet, along with the dry books and magazines I had stacked with them.

But it could have been so much worse. We didn't lose anything precious, nothing that couldn't be replaced. The fan that I had on to dry out the books was still plugged in, turned on and sitting in water. And it seems that we had water pouring into our breaker box. One breaker tripped but that was it.

Am I sick to death of mopping up water? Uh...Yeah! Do I want to bulldoze this house and move somewhere, anywhere else? Definitely. But I am so thankful that this is nothing major. We're all fine, and the problem was actually fixed quickly and without expense.

Our friend heard us laughing while we were cleaning up the mess and she commented that not all couples are lucky enough to have these things to go through to bring them together. Ahhh, the power of positive thinking.

January 9, 2009

It's Always Something

My husband finally returned home to us on Monday...late, of course. I was so happy to have him back. I thought, "Hey maybe now I'll get some sleep." Well, I did get to sleep in the next day (Thank you! Thank you!), but then it rained. Not just the typical WA rain, but a flooding rain. Our basement has been converted into an apartment that we rent out to a friend of ours. She had to come upstairs and wake us up at 3:15 in the morning on Tuesday? Wednesday? (They all run together for me.) She had got up to use the bathroom and found herself standing in water. We spent the whole night bailing out water and trying to find a way to keep it all outside instead of all over the basement floor. All of Wednesday was spent doing the same thing. MC finally came up with a way to keep most of the water out--he's so smart! Wednesday night we worked in 2 hour shifts mopping up the water that was still seeping in (I had the 12am-2am shift...zzzzz). By the time Thursday morning rolled around, the rain had stopped and so had most of the flooding. (Hey, I think I actually just made a long story short! Go me!) Now we just have the task of drying everything out before it starts to mildew, always a fun job.
We feel very blessed and grateful that we didn't have a major crisis to deal with. We didn't lose anything of value and the water isn't much more than a nuisance now. To anyone else that is still dealing with the flooding, you are in our prayers.