Monday, March 31, 2008

Knock Yourself Out

Last week was one of those weeks I'd rather forget.


So in order to totally thwart my efforts, let me tell you about it.


Saturday was a day we were all eagerly awaiting. One of the young ladies in our church, Dana, is getting married; and her bridal shower was Saturday. We love any kind of shower...not for the actual event, per se, but because it means the girls get to get gussied up and go with Mama while the boys do something gross and manly with Papa (like eating grasshopper cookies at the Bug Box...and I do mean the kind of grasshopper that has had moving legs).


We were excited. I had determined to knit a weeks' worth of dishcloths as my present. This determination ended up costing me many more hours than I would like to admit; and we will comment no further on how angry one can get with a knitting needle or with a fourteen-month old who carries around a stray knitting needle that used to be attached to forty-something stitches.


But the dishcloths were knit. The gussying was planned. The grossness was accounted for.


And then I looked at the calendar -- and realized Ethan's week-long intensive class on ethics was going to begin on Friday and continue through all of Saturday.


That, combined with my children's freshly caught colds, put an end to our Saturday plans. But all was not lost. My youngest sister was spending the weekend with us, and that's the next best thing to going to Disney World, let alone a bridal shower.


So we pulled out the hide-a-bed couch and giggled with Aunt Becca. The children were excited and giddy.


And on Saturday morning, Miriam (2) ran herself straight into that hide-a-bed couch, bruised the front of her head, ricocheted onto the floor where she hit the back of her head, and knocked herself out.


Being the truly vigilant mother that I am, I was in the kitchen and had no idea that anything had happened until my six-year old son carried her to my sister, who carried her to me.


And what I saw totally unnerved me. Miriam's back was arched strangely, her eyes were rolled back in her head, and her lips were blue. She was not breathing.


I panicked. I hate that I panicked, but I did. I grabbed Miriam, grabbed the phone, and dialed 911. I tried to explain calmly what had happened and what our address was, and then I yelled into the phone: "PLEASE HELP ME!!!"


Uck. Of course they were trying to help me. What did screaming into the phone like a maniac accomplish, except to instantly snap me back into reality as I heard my own voice sounding strangely like ... well, like everyone on all those recordings of 911 calls?


The end of the story is reassuringly anti-climactic. Miriam starting breathing and came to as I was on the phone, the rescue squad and firemen came, I apologized profusely for having them come out (and they were perfect gentlemen and very kind to the children), and Abraham (2) announced in a loud voice, "Mama, I hurt my pants," at which point the Head Medical Guy listened to his pants with the stethoscope and assured him that, "I think they'll be OK, little buddy."


When I called Ethan to tell him what had happened, he filled me in on all the physiological aspects of what probably happened. One of his hobbies is watching those prize-fighting matches (I know; who can understand a man?), and he said, "Kind of makes you wonder why someone would want to get knocked out, doesn't it?"


Not really. It does make me wonder why someone would want to WATCH someone get knocked out, but I guess that's beside the point.


And Miriam is back to her sassy self. My friend Kendra asked me if I had gotten over the adrenaline rush. Adrenaline rush? I don't handle stress that way. I handle it by wanting to crawl into bed.


But that's a adrenaline rush might get a few things done around here...I'll think about it after I finish my nap.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring





Benjamin and Lily


Last March brought this day, so complete with its tromp through the woods and end at the river's edge, where we threw rocks to our hearts' content. The duck intestines that we encountered on the way back only heightened the magic of the day for our children.


I think perhaps we'll revisit that spot (sans intestines, hopefully!) today, enjoying the sun on the way there and the wooded respite from the March wind. Homemade peanut butter and rhubarb jelly sandwiches on warm bread, apple slices, fresh chocolate chip cookies, partially frozen iced tea, and fresh-squeezed limeade should adequately fill hungry bellies. And the view should adequately fill hungry eyes.


And we'll take along our Guide to Eastern Wildflowers.  But I'm NOT taking the Guide to Eastern Waterfowl and Their Guts.  I just can't, um, stomach it.


Happy Spring.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Say That Again?


Our oldest daughter, Lily (4), often leaves the "s" off of words that begin with an "s" blend. So snake becomes nake, stop it becomes top it, and scratch becomes cratch.


But when she loudly (and proudly) belched at the table the other day, she offered a cheery, "Oh, excuse me, I chirped."


"No," said Ethan, "You burped."


"Oh, sorry," said Lily, "I ... [long pause]...SBURPED."


Much better.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Selected Reading

The pile of materials that Ben (6) and Lily (4) took upstairs with them for their quiet time in our room:


  • Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wrath of Mulgarath (on audiocassette)

  • Little Golden Book's The Princess and the Pea

  • DK's The Young Martial Arts Enthusiast

  • The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes

  • Ben's Bible (Sunday School worksheets shoved inside)


What Ethan heard when he stealthily checked on them:


Ben's voice, reading Genesis 1 to Lily.


Aaah. Now THAT is some true soul music.


"Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts." Jeremiah 15:16


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's My Potty; I Can Cry If I Want To

"Weebles wobble;

Weebles wobble;

Weebles wobble;

But they won't flush down."


Especially not if they are wedged with a plastic baby doll cup way down in the dark recesses of the toilet.


Inspired by Kim C.'s competent post on toilet tank removal and pumped with the adrenaline that comes with the large sweet tea from McDonald's that comes after the total fatigue of dealing with all five of your children in a waiting room for 2 1/2 hours, being overly aware of the stunned stares of others as they count heads and measure your 7-month old pregnant bump....


Well, I decided to conquer our toilet.


The toilet in the one bathroom with a vent (of course) that had been out-of-commission for several months as no amount of plunging, snaking, or chemical cleaner would dislodge whatever it was that someone (ABRAHAM! ABRAHAM! ABRAHAM!) had decided to flush.


Lest you don't understand the urgency (and did you notice the urgency? It has been unusable for a few MONTHS!!) of this, let me reiterate that it is the ONE bathroom with a vent and that it is the only bathroom to which we could leave the door open for our cats to drink freely from the toilet freshwater receptacle. So instead of them being able to drink as they pleased in the privacy of the bathroom, we were forced to use the archaic means of a bowl on the kitchen floor, which led to the daily ritual of my 13-month old dumping said bowl on herself, resulting in a frustrated, "OH, Edee, not again!" and a fresh set of clothes.


But I was ready. Kim C. had taken her tank off; I could fix the toilet.


Armed with our copy of Any Dummy Can Do It: Fix Your Household Headaches (not the real title, but that's close enough and I'm too sore busy to go fetch it), I got to work. First item of business: children. The three youngest were put in bed, and the older two were occupied with walkie-talkies outside.


Hair in a ponytail. Towels at the ready. Water supply cut off. Water disconnected. Tank top (as in top of the toilet tank) set in tub. Toilet flushed (as best it would). Remaining water in tank sopped up with towel. Tank bolts un...bolted(??). Oops. One bolt broken. Tank removed. Remaining water in toilet bowl sopped up with towel. Bowl unbolted. And....HEAVE!!! Bowl off of floor. Bowl on side.


Flashlight in deep recesses of toilet, from underside. Object definitely lodged. Plumber's snake. No luck. Curtain rod. And....ta-da!!! A weeble-wobble! I did it! I can't believe I did it!


Everything back on, except for one bolt of tank. Towels thrown, with bleach, in the wash. I call my husband..."I have a song for you....weebles wobble..." and relate my heroic saving of our toilet. "Oh, I just put that on my list," he says.


I tell him, "The only thing is, one of the bolts to the tank broke, so maybe you can find one to fit it."


After he got home and was unable to find a spare bolt of proper measurement, we trudged to Wal-Mart with the kids, stopping for celebratory $1.50 Special Tuesday Happy Meals on the way (I know, enough with the grossness...). We picked up the necessary bolts and other possible necessities (wax ring EWWW! EWWW! EWWW!, plumber's putty, Zip-It drain cleaner tool), got the kids in bed, and set to work to finish the toilet.


Only it wouldn't flush. Still. Then I commented that when I looked at the object in the back of the toilet, it didn't really LOOK like a weeble-wobble, but I couldn't see it very well, and the weeble-wobble DID come out of there . . .


And the tank leaking? So I forgot a minor detail...a rubber gasket with a washer UNDER it is not forming any kind of seal. (Have you ever tried to screw in toilet tanks? Especially when one side is about 8 inches from the side of the bathtub? And you are getting post-McD's heartburn every time you lean over?)


So everything was redone: Hair still in a ponytail. Towels at the ready. Water supply cut off. Water disconnected...well, you get the point.


My heroic post-tea adrenaline was dwindling into post-Happy Meal hamburger discouragement, frustration, and unbelievable stiffness. The only professional plumber thing about me was the infamous crack. At least I've gained some sympathy...after struggling with maternity jeans while on your hands and knees under the backside of a toilet, you just don't care anymore. Some things are more important.


Needless to say, I had not come to the rescue. My husband did. He dislodged the plastic baby doll cup from the underside while I watched the bowl..."It's coming! I can see it! Oh, it just dropped back again!" (It felt like I was cheering on a toilet giving birth.)




Last night, we flushed the toilet. At least ten times. Just for the sheer music to our ears. There were no leaks (except for a new, slow one that just started at the water supply line...but nothing a good bucket can't fix), and I think the cats spent all night in there.


And THAT'S a job well done.


But oh, my aching back...


Monday, March 10, 2008

Don't Take My Word for It...Take His

I refer specifically to the Decalogue, the Second Commandment of which prohibits the Israelites from making concrete images of anything. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water beneath the earth." I wondered then, as so many others have, as to why the God of these people would have included instructions on how they were to symbolize, or not symbolize, their experience...We may hazard a guess that a people who are being asked to embrace an abstract, universal deity would be rendered unfit to do so by the habit of drawing pictures or making statues or depicting their ideas in any concrete, iconographic forms. The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking. Iconography thus became blasphemy so that a new kind of God could enter a culture.

   Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (ch. 1)


Everyone knows that young children are concrete thinkers. In fact, mine are so concrete that I can imagine my oldest (6) reading this and arguing that he only thinks about concrete sometimes and more often thinks about quicksand and force fields.


Still, I am struck by the fact that in my struggling to make the truths of Scripture more "concrete" for my children, I stand in danger of simplifying God to the point that I am no longer portraying God to them (and that is, in fact, portraying an idol). God has chosen to express Himself in His Word.


For who even of slight intelligence does not understand that as nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in a measure to "lisp" in speaking to us?  Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity.  To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book I:13:1)


So God has already chosen to "lisp" to us. We have His Word. Further, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).


We have His Word, the Scriptures. His Word, the Son, dwelt among us. And, "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).


We have His Word, the Scriptures. His Word, the Son, dwelt among us. And the Word of truth sealed His elect with the Holy Spirit.


What have I to add to this? Absolutely nothing.


I want to be clear here...I'm not advocating that it is my duty as a mother to do nothing. Deuteronomy 4:9 makes it clear that I am to teach my children the ways of the Lord. But I need to be sure that my "teaching" is clearly rooted in Scripture. There is no better source of truth than the Word.


What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation? A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.


Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 154


So what does this look like practically? Well, for starters, it means that my children hear the Word of God. They hear it in church, they hear it at home, they hear it when we sing, they hear it when we pray. I am so neglectful of this. There should not be a day that passes when my children do not hear the Word of God. That is one of the blessings of being a covenant child! Why would I withhold that from them? Because I think they can't handle it? HOGWASH! Who am I to judge how the Holy Spirit will move in their hearts? Do I truly believe that the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12)?


When my children ask me a question about God, or heaven, or the devil, where do I look for the answer? Do I give them some trite Veggie-Tale exploitation of truth in a sing-song fashion, or do they see me open my Bible for the answer? Do they hear me share their question sincerely, no (or at least muffled) giggles, with my husband?


As we leave the church service, do we talk about the things the pastor explained? When my husband and I take communion, do I explain the elements to my children? Do I prepare them for Sundays when there will be a baptism, and remind them of what their baptism means to us?


Do I read God's Word myself? (AAACCCCKKKK...I am so delinquent in this!!) Am I memorizing His Word that I might not sin against Him?


Do I pray? Without ceasing?


Do I remind them, after they have failed and been disciplined, that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)?


As the Resurrection Day approaches, are my thoughts on Easter baskets and dresses and colored eggs, or am I pursuing the truth of the incarnation and death and resurrection of the Word? Do I seek to explain His coming to my children, or am I satisfied that they will "get it" in their Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day Sunday Schools?


Huh? My own weakness and unbelief hit me hard. "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).


I desire for God to reveal Himself more clearly to me and through me. May I rest in the beauty and work and power of His Word.

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:13-15)



Thursday, March 6, 2008

Yes, Ma'am, Zicam

As far as I'm concerned, Zicam is the new wonder drug of the ages. Ages 1, 2, 4, 6, and 30 (oh, all right, and 31), to be exact.


I picked up my first box in a desperate attempt to find something that would stop my husband from sneezing and sniffling and coughing and keeping me himself up all night. Again. The only box of meds I could find that didn't have something that would bother his salicylic intolerance was this orange box of medicated spoons from Zicam.


So I brought it home, showed it to my ever-skeptical-of-medicines husband, and urged him to try one.


Within twenty minutes, even he was impressed. His nose was no longer running, evidenced by the lack of tissues literally shoved up his nose (a trick from his high school teacher in Brazil, and one I am not fond of, which adds to his delight). He could laugh freely, unfettered by coughing, at my disdain for his pile of tissues.


So I looked Zicam up on the Internet. Intrigued (the tales of loss of smell notwithstanding...everyone has to have his gripe), I picked up a box of their homeopathic nasal swabs. These you are supposed to use at the first sign of a cold (runny nose, dry throat, that achy feeling, whatever makes you think, "I think I might be coming down with something"). Clinical studies have shown these swabs stop a cold in its tracks (scientifically speaking). Oh, all right, they show that those who used the swabs had a cold for an average of 3 days, while those who didn't had a cold for an average of 10. I swabbed each of the children (except Edee, as it's labeled for ages 3 and up) at their first sniffle.


AND WAS AMAZED. By the end of the next day, no one (except Edee) was still sniffling. Three weeks later, Edee was still sniffling. So, at the unbelievable urging of my husband and with my typical disregard for labeling, I gave Edee some. And two days later? She was done sniffling.


I am sold. Except for Edee and my husband (pre-Zicam), we have all avoided colds this winter -- which makes a HUGE difference when there are so many little bodies to keep sharing the germs. And I've read that some people use it BEFORE they go into a germ-infested area, like an airplane or, well, church.


Works for me.


Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit

This is one of my favorite kitchen tips, courtesy of my Mainiac (person from Maine, of course) friend Kendra (who is my favorite source of tips, kitchen or otherwise).


It's one of my favorites because it ... WORKS. Noticeably. Ready?


In order to make beans less "musical," add a 2-inch piece of dried seaweed (like kombu). That's it. It is incredible how well this works. ***NOTE: This only works if you use the overnight soak method, not a quick-soak method.***


Beans with Seaweed


So here's how we do beans here (it's so simple, my 2 1/2 year-olds can help):


  1. Dump the entire contents of the dried bean bag into the crockpot. Add the seaweed. Cover with about 4 inches of water. Let sit overnight.

  2. In the morning, drain the beans. Add fresh water, covering by about 2 inches (or more). It's fine to leave the seaweed (which will have "grown") in there. You won't notice any seaweedy just kind of dissolves and you might find a few "green" beans.  

  3. Put the crockpot on "HIGH." Leave for 2-4 hours (until the beans are soft). Let cool, and spoon the beans into 2-cup (or more) portions in freezer bags with some of the bean juice. Now you can freeze them. When you need beans, microwave for 3 minutes to thaw. TA-DA!


Now you can enjoy your beans without the "organ recital." Thanks, Kenj!



Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Right as Rain

Steady, rhythmic rain. I sat in the darkened doorway, the wind from the screen refreshing in its promise of spring. The candle behind me flickered just enough for me to read the words in the book, scents of vanilla and jade wafting. Then I saw his car lights: bright in the darkness, clear in the streams of rain. I grabbed my slippers and tiptoed outside to help him bring in the groceries he'd purchased for me after his night class.
The rain seemed not-so-gentle as I stepped off the porch. The mild wind had strengthened, and we clumsily wielded bags while trying to avoid hidden puddles.
We stepped into the safety of our house. Candle blown out, light switched on. Groceries put away, BBC mini-series pulled out. Warm blanket, fresh bread, easy viewing.
Until the lights dramatically went out and the candle was re-lit, this time less for its scent than its light. The wind was no longer mild or strengthened; it was fierce. With each sheet of lightning, we watched the trees sway vigorously. When we found a break in the storm, he went outside to see if anything had happened.
And it had. The windshield of his car, the wipers of which had been quickly beating a metronome-like rhythm only an hour before, bore the violent scar of a heavy walnut tree branch. The top of the car folded in on itself, and the rain continued to dribble through the roof.
He came in and told me what had happened. Using a spare flashlight, we tried to get a grasp of the damage. We came in, back to the comfort of dry floors and vanilla and jade and bread, and sat stunned.
But not fretful. Not anxious, not angry.
Stunned, but safe and secure.
And the words I had been reading while waiting for him in the then-fantastical world of flickering light and gentle rain and sleeping children? (You know, candles are so soothing when you don't need them!)

"This indeed is an excellent art, to be able to draw from God what one had before in the creature. Christian, how did you enjoy comfort before? Was the creature anything to you but a conduit, a pipe, that conveyed God's goodness to you? 'The pipe is cut off,' says God, 'come to Me, the fountain, and drink immediately.' Though the beams are taken away, yet the sun remains the same in the firmament as ever it was. What is it that satisfies God Himself, but that He enjoys all fullness in Himself; so He comes to have satisfaction in Himself. Now if you enjoy God as your portion, if your soul can say with the Church in Lamentations 3:24: 'The Lord is my portion, says my soul,' why should you not be satisfied and contented like God?"


-Jeremiah Burroughs,

from Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (1651), ch. 3


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gifts from Afar

My mother-in-law from Alaska recently thawed out vacationed in Hawaii, and last night brought giggles and shrieks as the children unwrapped a goody package she sent, full of bright, sunny treasures. This after an afternoon at the park (including picnic) and evening at the library (where they actually got to go IN instead of waiting with one parent while the other dashed in to grab whatever could be grabbed in five minutes' time). Yesterday definitely qualified as "one of the best days of my life" (direct quote from Child #1).




However, Child #5 wanted nothing to do with having her picture taken or being restrained by siblings for said picture. I guess she had other plans, like downing a baby margarita or surfing


Aloha 2


Monday, March 3, 2008


Double Chocolate Raspberry Surprise Muffins


If you need a little pick-me-up tomorrow morning, try this:


Take your basic muffin recipe and throw in about 1/4 cup cocoa and a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips. Spoon about half a muffin's worth into each muffin tin, add a teaspoon of raspberry preserves to each muffin, and top with the remaining batter.


Bake, remove from oven, and savor each delightful bite.


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