Monday, January 31, 2011

Squatty Potty Props

You know what I want to do?  I want to go to Thailand again and use a squatty potty.

Yes, it’s really called a squatty potty.  It’s the perfect name for a toilet seat (just the seat) covering a hole (literally) dug into the ground that is famous throughout third world countries, including Thailand, where I once lived for a few months doing some mission work with a team.

I did not enjoy using these uncomfortable toilets (great for the glutes though!) so I don’t REALLY want to use one again, I just want to be reminded again of what the rest of the world is really like.

I DO want to get outside of my own little world for a day so that I can get a fresh perspective on things again. Maybe if I remember that most people in this world don’t even own a toilet I wouldn’t groan when it’s time to clean mine (a common job with two sharp shootin’ potty training boys that love to pee standing up).

Maybe I wouldn’t sigh when I have to kneel down to change a dirty diaper if I could remember mothers around the globe who don’t have the luxury of disposable diapers to make this task a relative breeze. Maybe I wouldn’t mind eating macaroni and cheese (again!) with my kids for lunch when I think of the children around the world that would be amazed by the amount and variety of food we can choose from here in America.
Just maybe...

There is so much that a simple squatty potty can help you to remember.  Happy flushing!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Must Love Dogs

I’m coming to the conclusion after being married for almost six loooong years (I know, still a novice really!) that men are like dogs.

Guys, before you put pen to paper and write me hate mail, please read on as I think you may be quite pleased with how this theory will turn out.

I do have a disclaimer before I begin.  I do not like dogs, as all my dear friends know well!  I WANT to like them, they are adorable to LOOK at but the actual presence of a dog (dog hair, barking, slobber, dog food to buy, kennels to clean and food bowls to fill) is just too darn annoying to me to actually enjoy the end result (loyal protector and best friend for life).  So I am the first to admit I am no Cesar Millan when it comes to understanding dogs and training them but I have been around the furry little fellows enough to get some dog basics 101 that I think apply perfectly to men.

Dog Basic #1: If you want a dog to do something, it must be trained.

I’m learning when I want something from Bob, just TELLING him is not always enough.  I need to model it and then quietly show him again, giving him a good petting when he does get it.

Dog Basic #2: If the dog doesn’t get something, you don’t kick the snot out of it.  You just teach it the concept again.

Enough said.

Dog Basic #3: The dog will learn if it receives LOTS of rewards and petting.

I will freely SHOWER praise on my children for accomplishing little task we’re teaching them such as using the potty, clearing their plates and putting their laundry in the hamper.  As soon as that plate is put in the dishwasher or dirty clothes in the laundry, I am smooching their cute little faces and exclaiming, “I am so proud of you!  Good job, bud!  You bless your Mommy!  Thank you!”.

Yet when my spouse accomplishes a task I’ve been “reminding” (i.e., nagging) him about, such as replacing the doorbell batteries (hint, hint, Bob!) or cleaning his workshop area, he’s more likely to get a tiny smile upon completion and something along the lines of, “Well, I’m glad you got that done…finally.”

Little have I realized when I walk away after neglecting to give him the praise he would feel so blessed by, it’s like he’s a little puppy that stops wagging his tail and collapses into a dejected pile on the floor.  There’s no doubt that puppy wouldn’t be very eager to do that task again when his master commands him to.  I think there are a lot of discouraged puppies out there.

Thus, I am attempting (so help me God) to implement some dog basics around this home.  Imagine with me this scenario the next time your man completes a job that you’ve been ever so sweetly (remember, we’re imagining!) reminding him about.  What if we said (with as a sincere a heart that we could muster), “OH BABY!!  You are amazing!  Look at how well you did this job (trash, cleaning, child care, etc.)!!  Its obvious you threw your heart into getting this done and it is so EXCELLENT!  I feel SO blessed by you.  Thank you!”  Now, if this were followed by a hug or kiss and (situation permitting) a little trip to the bedroom…I think you would have yourself a VERY happy and obedient puppy.  

And I bet that puppy would grow into a strong and happy dog that is eager to do whatever his master (that’s us, ladies!  Ha ha!) commands.

Okay, guys, how do you feel about that?  Are you okay with your wife using a little dog basic 101 training to motivate and reward you to accomplish tasks and maybe even change a little (just a little, we know you’re pretty darn close to perfect already)? 

There is a famous saying I have stuck to my refrigerator that says, “If you want your husband to grow into a man, love him like a little boy.”  I think after today, I will modify that to say, “If you want your husband to run with the big dogs, love him like a little puppy.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Happy Heart

We have a little saying around our home that is often said when we need to keep life in perspective, “Because a grateful heart is a…”  and the boys always shout the ending, “HAPPY HEART!”  Today I was thinking of yet another reason to have a happy heart, something that is easy to take for granted in our country which is the land of the free and the home of the brave. That reason is: the freedom to be who God made us; black or white, young or old, tall or short, blond or brunette, Catholic or Jew.

This hit me in a fresh way a few days ago when I was reminded of the shocking and sickening statistic of over 70,000 of a particular group of people that were killed during Hitler’s reign.  These were not Jews (though that statistic is also staggering and sickening) but rather fellow Germans who were deemed “imperfect” by Hitler’s standards.  This definition included anyone who suffered from deafness, blindness, mental or physical disability or any other birth defect you could imagine.  Hitler had actually commissioned a large team of doctors and staff working in all the medical care fields to “dispose of” (i.e., murder) any person that had imperfections in his dream to create a “perfect race”.

Some of these commissioned medical workers went as far as to visit the homes of people with new babies, check them over for defects and take them away (under the guise of doing further test to help the child) to kill them or put them in secret facilities with other “defected” children.

What really brings this sad piece of our world history home to me is that my son, Judah, would have no doubt been taken.

He was born with a birth defect of a cleft lip (that was easily repaired with a surgery when he was three months old).  After being reminded of this dark evil that happened many miles away and many years ago, I held my baby boy a little bit tighter today.  I watched him with a greater sense of wonder and joy.  I thought to myself while he did the things that normally would drive me a little crazy, “Thank God for this kid.  Thank God for his amazing life.”
Our precious Judah on the day he was born.
And thank God that we can raise our family in a land that is truly free because of the brave that defend our country.  The brave that stand up for the rights of children, both born and unborn.  The brave that advocate for people with special needs.  The brave that live out God’s unconditional love to people of all races, religions and physical/mental abilities. Thank God I can hold my son everyday without fear of him being taken away.  That is why my heart is thankful…and happy.
Judah at 3 months, the day of his surgery

Love this moment: Gideon (20 mo.) wanted to be just like Jude and asked to wear tape over his lip too when his brother got home from the hospital.
Reminded me of how Jesus showed us his love by becoming human and feeling our pain.
Still buddies today-brothers Gideon (4) and Judah (3).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Three Cheers for Truthful Peeps!

 Can I get three cheers for friends that kick our butts?  For family that loves us and socks it to us when we need a good socking-to? All speak-the-truth-in-love peeps of my life deserve a HUGE horay!  Yes, this includes you, dear spouse of mine…even if I don’t always cheer you for doing it most days.

Don’t you love those people?  

Now don’t get me wrong,  I’ll get in line with the best of the blues-crew/cryin’-in-my-beer (or soda) crowd hoping to get some fellow mourner to cry with me or, even better, pat me on the back and say how RIGHT and JUSTIFIED I am in my upset-ed-ness.  I really appreciate a good friend that plays a “hearts and flowers” tune on the world’s tiniest violin or serves me some cheese with my whine…but sometimes, I really don’t need cheese or a violin.  Sometimes, I need a kick-my-butt-talk that ever so gently (think piano dropping on your head from a fifth story window) helps me to see the error of MY ways (yes, this happens though it is rare) and shows me the light!

There are some important things that must first be in place before a “loving truth say-er” can truly ignite my heart with a passion to change and enlighten me with a fresh perspective (verses just making me want to go and pout…and eat chocolate…and ice-cream.). The first thing I must know is that these truthful peeps are FOR me. “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:23) I must know their intent is to HELP me become a better friend/mother/wife/Christ-follower. “In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy.” (Phil. 1:4) I must know that whether I CHANGE or not, they will still love me for me.  “Love is patient, love is kind…love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13)

I may be a softy on the outside, but I have a hard core and let me tell ya, sometimes I need someone to kick my pouty-think-I’m-always-right butt into shape…then give me a hug and still love me for me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Faith to Move Laundry

“Can I walk on water, Mom?”  Gideon asked me this today and I smiled, what a great way to have a God conversation!

“Well, Are you Jesus?” I asked him.

“No…”  He answered.

“Jesus could walk on water and do you know he said in the Bible that if you have faith, nothing will be impossible for you?  He said you can move mountains!  You can make difference that could change the world, buddy!  What do you think about that?”

Gideon shrugged then said, “I’d rather go swimming.”

Oh.  So much for Theology 101.

At least that conversation got me thinking about what Jesus did say in Matthew 17:20.  Nothing will be impossible for us if we have faith.  Honestly, that seems pretty impossible to believe sometimes.  Especially when it feels the only mountains I move these days are the mountains of laundry from my bed (when I didn’t get time to fold it) to the floor (where it will join the growing Mt. Kilimanjaro of it’s fellow wrinkled friends).

The question begs to be answered, how can I live a supernatural life of moving mountains when I need strength some days just to move laundry?

I began turning this question over in prayer as I talked to God (while loading the washing machine and cleaning floors of course) and I don’t feel like I got the life-changing answer I was seeking, but I do feel like I got an answer.

I feel like God replied, “Keep trucking.”  (I guess God keeps it simple, we are the ones that complicate it sometimes)

Just keep on doing what we feel God has called us to do.  And do it in HIS strength and with HIS joy and we will be faithful.  Once again I am reminded that God doesn’t call us to be successful, only faithful.  I think I can do that.

That is how we can walk on water and maybe one day, change the world!

And when all else fails, take a break and go swimming.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Your Wish Is My Command

One thing that blows my mind as a parent is the way you love each kid uniquely and to the max.  It makes me understand just a little bit better how God could love all of us so individually…and not have favorites!

With four kids age four and under in tow, it could be easy to miss the opportunities to get to know the God-given talents, personalities and passions of our children.  So we try to think outside the box and be purposeful about getting to know who Gideon, Judah, EvaLee and Gabby really are and what makes them come alive (granted, right now for Gabby that is pretty much limited to food and tickles, she’s still pretty easy!).

As part of our effort to celebrate each child in a unique way, we have implemented the “King/Queen of the Day”. Every child gets a different day of the week to be King or Queen.  On their royal day they are the focus as we all get to know and delight in who God made them to be (yes, we even are going to delight in little mischief makers that have “creative ideas” of how to paint walls and flood bathrooms!).

Yesterday morning King Gideon was knighted at the breakfast table with the royal scepter (thank you, Dollar Tree) and a crown of gold with great jewels (i.e., construction paper with stones glued on) was placed on his royal head. After this royal ceremony, we all went around the table and shared what we love about the King.  EvaLee was excused from partaking of this peasant responsibility until she can talk.  All other shires were required to lavish him with praise.
Then Gideon got to pick his favorite meal for breakfast and he chose honey crisp cereal which was lovingly prepared by the palace butler and served in fancy plastic bowls with superhero spoons.  

After breakfast, I asked Gideon what he would like to do for his special day.  The idea is it can be any game, activity or outing (within reason) and I was a little nervous when I asked him as I didn’t want to disappoint him if we couldn’t do it.  What if he asked to go to Disney World or visit the moon?  Four year olds don’t always get the money/location challenges that come with some request and I was hoping we could make his dream come true that day.

“Whatever you want, Gideon!  Your wish is my command!”  I said.

“Well,” Gideon replied with a big smile breaking out on his face, “I would like to do…CHORES!”


“Yeah, we can do that.”  

Well, some things in life turn out to be easier…and a bit stranger than we expect them I guess.  So, on this special day, there was a very happy boy wearing his royal crown as he swept the floors and helped me load the dishwasher.

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.”  Richard Wagner

"King/Queen of the Day" RULES
(These are some ideas our family does for the King of the Day but add your own pizazz to them!)
*Breakfast: Choose anything to eat for breakfast for the family!
*At breakfast: everyone goes around and shares what they 
LOVE about the King/Queen.
*All meals: A parent or sibling clears their plates/etc. for the King/Queen.
* Use The Special Plate and Cup at every meal.
* Dinner: Choose your favorite meal and help cook it with Mom!
* Pick ONE special outing/activity to do that day! 
(may be a family event or something by themselves)
* Stay up past bedtime with Mom & Dad!

Believe it or not, these are actually Burger King Kid's Club crowns (FREE!) that I made up for the kids in no time at all and for pretty cheap when it was all said and done.
1. Painted them (acrylic paints work great) in their favorite colors (took a guess at what Gabby's will be!) = $1/paint bottle
2. Applied shiny things purchased at WalMart = $2
3.  Applied glitter & glitter stickers (for their name) = $4
4.  Took them in to the printers and had them sealed in a heavy laminate = $9 (but could do this cheaper your self though may be a bit more work)
5.  Total cost for "lifetime crowns" = $19 (but could be cheaper if you have less children or just use stuff you have in your craft box already!)
Good Luck! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blanket Bandit

Kids make you live life. Like break-out-the-china (and then break it) and throw-the-decorative-throw-pillows LIVE life.  They are the inspiration for living in a home that doesn’t look like the pages of a magazine (even though that does look lovely).  They make life messy, fun and real.

Something happened the other day with Judah and a quilt that made me realize magazine page homes and throw pillows actually staying where they belong is not what leaves lasting memories in life. Here’s the story.

My wonderful grandma just passed away at the age of ninety two a few months ago.  One of the precious keepsakes my mom brought home for us after sorting through her belongings was a hand sewn quilt.  I was excited to get something so beautiful to cherish Grandma Radel (Gigi) by and after fluffing it with some fabric softener, I carefully folded it and set it up just so on the back of our couch. “There,” I thought, “it should be displayed like that forever.”

That’s what I thought.  Judah had a different idea which I discovered when I went to tuck him in that night and he was just a set of dancing brown eyes with a tuft of hair poking out of a quilt burrito like a blanket bandit.

My first reaction was to get after him for using the sacred blanket.  I was just about to open my mouth and scold my 3 year old blanket thief when I broke into a grin instead.

“Well, what the heck!”, I thought to myself.  I think their “Gigi” would be smiling in Heaven if she knew her quilt was being used to keep her two little great grandsons warm at night.  In fact, I am quite sure she would prefer it be used to cover tiny toes than to adorn an empty couch.

I think it is just a little more fun when we get messy and use all the “good china” and items we are waiting (for what, exactly?) for some perfect day to use.  Let’s drink hot chocolate with our kids in those fancy mugs (with extra marshmallows, of course), have a pillow fight with those froufrou (yes, that is a word!) pillows and track snow onto the freshly cleaned floors if it means we just had a blast building a snowman outside.

Kids just seem to know this truth: life is meant to be LIVED.

"Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life" 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shut Up & Kiss Me

I finally realized the other day when Bob gets a sultry Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind) look and says, “You need to be kissed…and often…and by someone who knows how”,  he is actually hoping to get me to shut up by kissing me so I can’t keep talking.

Of course, I'll take that statement from him over his other favorite, "...It's hard to kiss the lips that chew your a** our all day long..." that he heard once in a country song. Either way, it's a win-win for him anytime I'm actually quiet and let the tide of emotions roll on by instead of riding those waves every time they come around!
Ah, to be The Prize Winner from Defiance, Ohio.

Movies can be so educational and inspiring.  Once in awhile there is a movie that raises the bar of who we could be.  The Prize Winner from Defiance, Ohio is based on a true story of an enterprising mother (played by Julianne Moore) of ten who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry and she had an upbeat attitude even though she was married to an alcoholic that couldn't hold down a job.  
What grabbed me about Moore’s character wasn’t so much what she did but rather what she didn’t do.  If anyone had a reason to get in their spouse’s face and point out some major flaws, it was her.  If anyone had the “right” to have a bad attitude about the way life was turning out, she had it!  She didn’t just take lemons and make lemonade, she made lemonade with a smile and even figured out how to make their family some money while doing it.

The quiet and kind way she responded to trials ranging from spilled milk (when it was all they had to eat) to more bad news from her husband simply amazed me.  It seemed like she knew somehow that no one thrives or reaches their fullest potential under constant criticism.  Instead, she used words of encouragement and quiet support that produced real change.  Lasting change.

It’s been years since I saw that movie but I still often ask myself, “What would the prize winner from Defiance, Ohio do?”, (although I don’t know if W.W.T.P.W.F.D.O.D would make as cool of a bracelet as W.W.J.D.).  I aspire to one day posses her attitude of grace in all situations.

Sometimes that helps me actually shut my mouth when I’m about to start chewing someone’s you-know-what out.  Just sometimes.

But on those rare occasions, I am always reminded that some sugar and a smile really does help my man reach his potential and motivate him to want to change.  And it motivates him to actually want to kiss me instead of just distracting me in the hope that I’ll finally shut up.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mr. Interrogation’s Determination

My oldest son is destined to be a interrogation officer in the C.I.A.  He can get people to admit things they never planned on admitting to.  Case in point is the conversation I overheard between him and his brother last night after lights out (which usually just means “let’s start the party” to these little night owls)…

“There’s some bad guys in our bed, bro!”  Judah, the younger brother sounded pretty  sure about this.
“There are no bad guys here.”  Gideon said with a “please get real” sigh.
“Yes, there are!”  Judah held his ground.
“Okay…are you telling a lie?”
“NO!”  Judah was outraged at the accusation.
“Well then, Judah, are you not telling the truth?”
“No…”  Judah had to think about that one.
“Hmm.  Are you just pretending?”
“No, bro!”
“Oh.” Gideon was getting bored but persisted, the truth must be found out.   “There are no   bad guys here, are there?  Are you pretending to tell the truth?”
“No…”  Judah was now confused.  What were they talking about again?
“So you did not tell the truth!”
“No….yes…I NOT KNOW BRO!”  Judah cracked.
“Judah, you should not lie.”

At this point, I admit…even I was confused!  Whew, who needs truth serum when you have a relentless four year old on a quest for truth.  I was laughing quietly when I walked away, leaving little Judah to fend for himself in the hot seat, but it hit me that my son’s determination was something I needed more of in my own life.

I love the determination of children.  Think about it, have you ever heard of a toddler not walking because they just gave up trying?  No matter how many times they bang the coffee table (ours is on a sabbatical in storage until all our kids have learned to walk) or get plowed over by an older sibling when they take a tentative step, they just keep on trucking.  They get up again.  And again.  Finally, they take off and become unstoppable!

Lately I have been overwhelmed.  Life has a way of getting busy without providing much of a break sometimes and it’s on those days I want to just give up.  The mess is back.  The laundry is piled to the ceiling, again.  The kids are messy…again (seriously?  I just gave you a bath a week ago!  What’s going on?!).  And the TO DO list gets longer and longer with no end in sight.

I need to take some tips from my little interrogation officers and beginning walkers to not give up.  I don’t have to do it all, I just got to keep trucking.  Take one more step and move forward another day.

Sometimes it’s not the profound truths that change our lives but rather small acts of faithfulness lived out in the day-to-day grind.

I’m just relived we don’t have to do this in our own ability.  The One who has called us to this mission in our life will be faithful to equip us for it.  Just one step at a time…

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6