Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day Six

Maybe it's because the kids are excited about staying up until midnight tonight to watch the ball drop and are, therefore, exceptionally loud and bouncy. Maybe it's because we're all missing Brian since he's been gone for six days. Maybe it's because I really need a break!
Whatever "it" is, I am feeling quite edgy tonight and I think it's a really good thing we're going to my grandmother's house to ring in the new year with other people. The way I'm feeling at the moment, I'm pretty sure I would blow my goal of not blowing it with the kids this week if I had to do tonight alone.
We're taking Family Fun Cranium along to play with my brother, his fiancee, and my nieces, and my brother told me he'll bring some games, too. We have chips & dip, snack mix, and pop. We're going to spend the night, too. I'm sure we're in for a very enjoyable evening. And I'm so glad I'm not doing it alone!
Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Day Five

I have been going through the Gospel of Matthew during my quiet times and just finished chapter 22 this morning. As the Pharisees and Sadducees have been approaching Jesus testing and trying to trap Him, I've wondered, How did You feel about these guys? I know Jesus loved them, but I began to wonder if their behavior might have actually made Him sad.
They just didn't get it! They had the Savior of the world, God Himself, the Lover of their souls, in their midst. They could have worshipped Him up close and personal. They could have spoken with Him, asked Him questions, served him and loved Him. But they didn't understand who He was. Rather than enjoying relationship with Him, they were fighting against Him. Oh, foolish, misguided souls! Yes, I think Jesus may have been sad that these men were missing out on the relationship they could've had.
As I considered Jesus' interactions with these men, I came to the conclusion that He operated through the motivation of love and Truth. He always had the good of mankind in His heart. And so I wrote this prayer: Lord, will You make me wise? Filled with love and motivated by Truth? Will You guide me as I raise my children and help me know how to train them and interact with them? I don't want to be like combatants, but like comrades. We should play together today. Please give me a good idea. And I determined to come up with something to do that they would consider fun.
I sat at the computer and searched numerous community calendars and some Michigan website, but couldn't find anything. Then Brian called. His idea was to go to Caesarland. Oh, but it's Saturday and Caesarland is always chaos on Saturday! But it was a good idea. My kids frequently ask to go to Caesarland, and we almost always say, "No." So, the decision was made. I would take the kids to Caesarland.
Joshua's response was perfect. He said, "Wow! That's cool, Mom! Usually we ask you to take us to Caesarland. But this time you're asking us!" (I'm not keeping score, but someone please put a few points in the "Mom" column.) Of course, I managed to work hair cuts for the boys into the deal. Hey, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
We didn't even have to wait for a table when we got to Caesarland. Surely this was going to be a fun time. I gave each of the kids a dollar for tokens and they enjoyed playing games and climbing on the play structure. They got good and sweaty and after two hours were ready to go home.
After dinner we played "Twenty Questions for Kids," and I read a few chapters out of Joshua's new book Mitt the Michigan Mouse. We definitely had fun together today. Oh, don't be fooled - we had "moments," too. But the good far out-weighed the bad and, for that, I am thankful.
With a busy and active day under our belts, the kids were ready for a reasonable bed time, too. Which is a good thing since we have church tomorrow and they won't be able to sleep in, as they've become accustomed to this week!

Yes, they're getting used to a different sleep pattern, but they aren't adjusting as much to Brian being gone. This morning Elizabeth said she misses him and wants him to come home. (Me, too, honey!) She talked to him on the phone and told him so. I wondered if that made him feel good because he's loved, or bad because he isn't here. Awww, just two more days!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Rounding Second

Well, we've made it to the half way point without Daddy. The kiddos are in bed. We're rounding second base and heading for home! Overall, today was another good day. Though I failed again to know how to best deal with Joshua and I lied to Elizabeth. Let me explain.

One of Joshua's chores is to empty the trash and take the bin to the curb on trash day. And, of course, to bring the bin back to the house once it's been dumped. That should have been done oh, let's see, yesterday. I asked Joshua several times to bring it up to the house yesterday. (Note: I often get accused by Joshua of being bossy because I'm "always" telling him to do things. He doesn't like my reasoning that if he'd do it the first time I ask, I wouldn't have to keep on...) So today when I looked outside and saw the bins on the curb I decided I would try to get him to see for himself that there was still a job for him to do. You know, get him to realize it so I didn't have to be bossy. Good idea, right?
I called him and asked him to come downstairs. When he came I asked him to look outside and see if there was anything he needed to put away. He didn't get it. I said, "Look by the red car." A couple times. He said, "What? Am I in trouble?" I said, "No. You just need to bring the trash bins up to the house." Then he got mad and yelled, "Geesh! Why didn't you just tell me? I thought I was in trouble for something!" And he slammed the door and stormed off to get the bins as I stood dumbfounded, wondering if I'll ever understand him and know how to give him what he needs.

So that's how I failed. Here's how I lied.

I was making bean burritos for dinner, which all my kids love. Sometimes I put a cup of diced chicken in with the beans for a little extra protien, but tonight I thought I'd use leftover turkey from our Christmas dinner. Elizabeth doesn't like turkey, but I didn't expect she'd be able to detect the difference so I wasn't concerned. That is, until she came into the kitchen and asked, "Are we having bean burritos for dinner tonight?" I replied that we were. Then, seeing me cutting up the meat she asked, "Are you putting chicken in them?" I said, "Yes." And she skipped out of the kitchen saying, "Oh, goodie!"
What was I supposed to do? Tell the truth? Then she wouldn't have eaten dinner! As it was, I could definitely taste the turkey and wondered if Elizabeth would pick up on it. But she didn't. In fact, she had seconds. Maybe she likes turkey today. I dunno. I can't keep track of their taste changes.
Fridays are traditionally "Movie Nights" at our house, so after dinner I did the dishes and the kids picked up the house and put on their pajamas. Then we settled down with popcorn (Kettle corn! Which Dad doesn't like, but he isn't home!) and watched Little Ghost. It's a cute show and after it was over the kids had fun fantasizing what it would be like to have a ghost for a friend, or better yet, to be able to turn invisible themselves. They ran around being crazy for awhile, and now they're in bed. Not bad.

I know we're only at the half way point of Brian being gone but, somehow since tomorrow starts the weekend, it seems like we're almost done. Gotta be careful not to get over confident. I think, though, we're going to make it through this time just fine.
I wish I knew how to approach and respond to Joshua in ways that didn't get him angry or flustered. It would be great if Matthew would be consistent with using the bathroom and would stop having accidents. I don't want to tell Elizabeth any more lies. But even with a few bumps in the road, I think we're going to make it "home."

Oh! I learned something today! Bloglines doesn't send e-mails. You have to log into your account and, there on one screen, you will find all the blogs to which you've subscribed and you'll know which ones have unread posts. With just the click of the mouse you are instantly taken to them for your reading and commenting pleasure. It's so cool! Thanks go to MomTeacherFriend for turning me on to Bloglines!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Day Three

Well, in spite of the fact we "slept in" again today, we experienced fall-out throughout the day from last night's late adventures. The fall-out showed up mostly in the form of bad attitudes, though "forcing" the kids to write Thank You notes even on a good day can produce bad attitudes. So, was it foolish for me to assign that task today? I dunno, but the job is finished now.

Finishing Thank You notes was the incentive I gave for enjoying a movie at the community center this afternoon. When the job was completed the kids left the house, leaving me with instructions to meet them there for the movie by 2:15 - so we could get good seats. By 2:30 we were enjoying the movie "Cars." It was my second time seeing it - cute show! I think Matthew slept through parts of it, as he was leaning on me pretty heavily, and Joshua was sprawled out on the floor wrapped up in my coat for portions of the movie, too. In the end, Matthew only had enough energy to hold on to me while I gave him a piggy back ride home.
From about 5:00 on, the fall-out became quite severe, and I announced (though I'd made the decision already this morning) that bedtime was 8:30 tonight. Joshua didn't like that decision at all, and he let me know it. He insisted he wasn't tired and could stay up late again. I knew better than that, especially as he started complainig of physical symptoms like a head ache. Guess what? He was asleep by 8:25!

As I made my way through today, several times I laughed and thought, "I'll have to blog this!" In many ways it seems my life has become one big illustration. It reminded me of when I was writing my book last summer.
One morning during my quiet time I was asking God if there was anything else He wanted me to write. Silly girl!!! Oh, did I have a "morning" that day. One thing after another went wrong. Ordinarily, that series of events would have sent me into an angry tail spin, but in the midst of it I thought, "This is going to make a great illustration!" (It's in chapter four...) And somehow it wasn't so painful.
My point? (Yes, I have one!) Perspective makes a big difference in how I handle hard times. Today I spent a lot of time taking deep breaths and reminding myself, "They're tired." Stepping back to look at things differently, and extending grace, really helped me make it through today.

Another thing I did today was learn how to add links to my blog. (Look to your left.) I have included some other blogs I've been visiting and a few of my favorite Christian women and organizations. Just give them a click if you want to visit.
I also signed up to receive e-mail notices for whenever new entries are posted on the blogs I'm following. Someday I'll put a sign-up link to bloglines on here somewhere, but for now I'm too afraid I'll mess things up. If you want to receive notices when I post something here, instead of checking on your own, click here to sign up. It's free!

So, Day Three is done. Matthew must be asleep because it's been over ten minutes since he last came down here and told me he can't sleep. And Elizabeth hasn't called me with a complaint for at least the same amount of time. The mess from last night's festivities is pretty much cleaned up. I learned a few new things today, and have entered a new post. Now, shall I go to bed, or find a new task to accomplish?

Good night!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Day Two

OK, this morning I was seriously thinking I was going to blow that goal of not blowiing up at the kids this week...
We slept in until almost 8:00, which was great because I stayed up way too late last night. Hey, the kids were asleep and Brian was gone - I had to take advantage of the time alone, didn't I? Anyway, I hid out in my bed with my Bible so I could have a real "quiet" time before facing the day. That was good. Then I came downstairs to three kids anxiously awaiting the exciting conclusion to our game of Life. (I convinced them I could eat a bowl of cereal while we played. Their plan was that I'd need to eat after the game, but I was hungry!)
I thought it would be a fun-filled, exciting conclusion. Silly me! Joshua and Matthew seemed more interested in filling the extra cars with "peg people" and driving them all over the board than playing the game, but insisted they wanted to play whenever I suggested they might rather sit out. Then Joshua started getting angry when he had to pay money to other players, and when he couldn't collect a salary for a Pay Day space he didn't really cross. Suddenly, for him, the game was "stupid" and he copped his angry attitude. I told him to get control of himself, and asked/told him to quit crumbling the game pieces. That's when he started in on me, telling me I'm too bossy. (And that's when I started thinking, "Well, if you would just respect me and behave like a mature adult, I wouldn't say the things that make you think I'm 'bossy'!" He's eight, Karen. Breathe!) I did make him sit on the couch for a few minutes to cool off, but he eventually rejoined us to finish the game. In the end, Joshua retired as a millionaire and all was well. But there was a time in there when I was really close to losing it.
I then spent some time on the computer, working on promotional stuff for the Women's Conference with Kathy Troccoli coming up at my home church February 2 & 3. (For details, visit Finally, I showered and we took the promised trip to McDonald's playland. The kids had a good time, I decided the Asian Salad is actually a pretty decent menu option (never thought I'd say that about anything at the Golden Arches!), and I read up on what I need to do to report and pay Michigan sales tax. All in all, it was two hours well spent. And on the way home, they hit me with the next request.
They wanted to go to the Salvation Army Thrift Store to spend some of their Christmas money. One of their friends once told my kids that he bought a stuffed animal there for 80 cents, and when we went to check it out my kids were delighted at what they could get for so little money. So they wanted to do it again. I couldn't think of a reason to say, "No," so I said I would call to be sure they were open and then we'd go.
Matthew needed a bathroom break when we got home and I needed to pick up the neighbor's mail, then we'd be on our way. If only it could have been that easy... With the kids in the van waiting for me, I ran inside to put the mail away and heard...something really strange. I put the mail down and ran into the basement, expecting to find the washer running with the lid open - that's what it sounded like. No, that wasn't it. I went to the corner and saw water pouring from the ceiling all over the furnace. Ahhh! It was from the toilet upstairs!
I went back upstairs quickly and darted into the bathroom. Yup! Water everywhere! I reached back and turned off the water feeding the toilet, and threw down a couple of towels to soak up the mess. Then I wrote, "Do not use," on some masking tape and taped the lid shut. Heading out to the van with a wet sleeve, I figured I'd deal with the toilet later. (That was eight hours ago. I have removed the towels, and Matthew has confessed that he "might" have used too much toilet paper and caused the problem when he repeatedly flushed the toilet. But, unless I get really industrious, I think we'll use the second floor bathroom for the rest of the week, and I'll let Brian play plumber when he gets home.)
So, we made it to the Thrift Store, the kids found some treasures, and Joshua was thrilled to learn that the "little" stuffed animals were only ten cents! What a bargain! His NeoPet collection is growing, and he is pleased. And it dawned on me that going to the Thrift Store was a simple thing to do, didn't require much of me, yet made the kids so happy. Why is it usually my first instinct to say, "No," when they ask me for things? It really made me glad to make them happy. Hmmm. Something to ponder.
Once home, the kids ran off to play at the community center and I worked on conference publicity a little more. Then we had dinner, I washed dishes, and the kids stuffed their shirts with extra clothing and got into a belly-busting match. It was quite humorous. I was thinking they ought to start thinking about bedtime when Elizabeth asked if they could all sleep in the living room tonight. Again, my first instinct was to say, "No." Why is that???? But I paused and said, "OK," instead. You'd have thought I'd just given her the world! She skipped out of the room to tell her brothers the good news. That news motivated them to clean up from the belly-busting match, get themselves showered and ready for bed, and all without me being "bossy"!
For well over an hour now, they have been playing games with each other, reading books together, doing math flash cards, math pages, and language arts stuff. They tell me they're playing "school" and are going to be really smart when real school starts back up in January. But it's almost 11:00. Am I a bad mom for letting them stay up this late? They're having a great time, and day two is almost over. This isn't so bad...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

One Down, Six To Go

Well, they aren't asleep yet, but the kids are all in bed. There now, that wasn't so bad, was it? Today was the first of seven days I'm going "solo" as a parent of three kids at home for Christmas vacation.
My husband is on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Michigan State University and every three years he serves at InterVarsity's Urbana Missions Conference. So this morning at 8:00 he left for Detroit Metro airport and won't return for a full week.
I have been preparing for this adventure mentally for quite awhile, and am determined to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I go through this week. Call me crazy, but I have made it my goal to get through the week without blowing it with my kids. Unrealistic? I dunno. Didn't Someone once say, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"?

I'm not sure, but I think we may have already made it through the most difficult task of the week. I usually do my grocery shopping on Mondays, but since Monday this week was Christmas I went shopping today, with the kids. I have gotten so used to shopping by myself that I really was dreading this trip to the store today - especially since the kids wanted to bring their Christmas spending money and browse the toy section. But we did it. We actually made it through Meijer, toy shopping and grocery shopping, without incident. Amazing!
During the afternoon the kids played (mostly) nicely with each other. (OK, there were one or two "incidents" this afternoon.) After dinner we finished yesterday's cheesecake, and Elizabeth and Joshua washed the dishes. Then we set out to play the new game we got for Christmas, Life. (Yes, I am re-living fond childhood memories through the purchase of that game. Anyone else grow up playing it?) And now the kids are in bed. Like I said, they aren't asleep yet, but for all practical purposes I think it is safe for me to say I've made it through one day and have just six more to go.

We have plans to visit McDonald's playland for lunch tomorrow, take in a movie at the downtown library one afternoon, and play a few times at the community center. Who knows, maybe in the midst of trying to survive this week we'll make some good memories!? I'm open to that! I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

My Merry Little Christmas

No alarm clock this morning. We all slept in until a pleasant 7:45. After breakfast we held our own Advent candlelight service and sang Christmas carols before opening gifts. Then I got started on laundry. (Hey, Christmas or not, it's Monday and I am a creature of habit!)
Between loads of wash, I made No-Bake Cheesecake. I'd forgotten to get something for dessert, but found a box of cheesecake mix in the pantry. Whew! Jell-o to my rescue! I put the turkey in the oven and then we all got in the van for a trip to Hawk Island, where we (and a few other rebels who went to the park, even though it was "closed") played hide and seek on the play ground.
Now, we've eaten our Christmas dinner. Left overs have been packaged up and stored in the refrigerator. The dishes are washed, dried and put away. And the kids are enjoying their new toys and treasures. Sounds like a great day, doesn't it?
Really, it was. And I will do my best to remember it as a great day. But it didn't come and go without tears, and moments of feeling like I'll never "get it right" with Joshua.

As all parents do, I wanted to get gifts for my kids that would light up their faces and bring them joy. And I thought I had made the right choices. They all seemed cool to me! As gifts were unwrapped, the squeals of delight indicated all was well. That is, until Joshua decided his air gun wasn't as cool as Matthew's disc shooter. In fact, Joshua thought his new toy was stupid (never mind the fact he'd been all smiles just minutes before as he was opening other gifts) and now his attitude toward life was decidedly grim.
I tried to reason with him and coach him in gift receiving etiquette. Elizabeth chimed in and said she thought the air gun was neat, and even played with it to try to convince him further. I told Joshua he could use some of his Christmas money to buy a disc shooter just like Matthew's if he wanted. (It was only $5!) Nothing was helping.
In time, Joshua and I were both upstairs and he brought up the subject of his "stupid" gift again. Joshua essentially said I must think he is dumb because I got him such a dumb gift. He really knows how to push me! I told him I was doing my best to pick nice gifts, and if he didn't like what I picked, maybe I just wouldn't buy him gifts anymore. (Admittedly, not one of my more mature comments.)
Joshua stormed off and Elizabeth approached me saying, "I know you're doing your best, Mom." I thought, "Yes, but sometimes my best just isn't good enough!" And I went to my room to have a few minutes alone when I could cry and talk with God. I told Him, though this moment was hard, I know He didn't make a mistake in giving me children. I said I know I can't do this mothering thing without His help. My best isn't good enough. I need Him. I refocused my eyes on Him, and went out to face the day again. (And many times found myself singing the chorus about turning my eyes upon Jesus...)

Ahhh, but now the dust has settled and I am able to see God's hand in the day's events. Isn't what I went through - rememebering my best isn't good enough, and that I need Him - what today is all about? Originally, I thought the lesson was all about mothering, but was it?
Christmas is all about celebrating Jesus coming to earth - God becoming man, and why? Because our best isn't good enough. We need Him! How amazing that Jesus would choose to leave the glory of heaven, to set aside His rights as God and live as a man, ultimately enduring death on the cross! And all because our best isn't good enough. We need His best, and He was willing to give it. All because He loves us. Wow!
I hope your Christmas was a merry one, and that you will take some time to reflect on God's incredible love for you today.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Shoes

Have you heard the song "Christmas Shoes"? It's about a little boy out shopping for a gift for his sick mother on Christmas Eve. He finds a pair of shoes that are her size and he is sure she will love them. He wants to buy them for her so she'll look beautiful if she "meets Jesus tonight." Apparently, she is that sick. When it comes time to pay, the boy doesn't have enough money and is frantic because he so desperately wants to get these shoes for his mother.

The love of this boy for his mother is beautifully portrayed in the lyric and expressed by the artist. (I don't know who sings it...) It is a precious song, and nearly brings me to tears each time I hear it. Though I'm often in a hurry running around in the van, this is one song I'll sit in the drive way or parking lot listening to until it's over.

I heard "Christmas Shoes" today as I was coming home from the store, having just bought new shoes for Joshua. (And I sat in the drive way until it was over!) Sitting there, listening to the words and thinking about the "shoe" ordeals I go through with Joshua, I realized why that song is so precious to me. In spite of the time a month or two ago when Joshua "hated" me because he didn't like the play shoes I bought for him, and even though he was intensely angry with me today because I wouldn't let him go out and play in the mud since he only had his "good" shoes with him, I know he loves me.

Joshua (as you may have picked up from these blogs) is, for me, the most difficult of my three children. We clash over many things. Sometimes I must make a very deliberate choice to love him. And I often wonder if he is more sincere when he says he loves me or hates me. Yet, when we get beyond our battles, I can see he has a very tender heart, and it is full of love.

To me, "Christmas Shoes" is a beautiful picture of a little boy's love for his mother. It reminds me my own son does love me, and gives me hope. I don't know if that was the intent of the song writer, but that's how God uses the song for me.

What reminds you of your kids' love for you?

Friday, December 15, 2006


It's ten days before Christmas, but the way the family caledars work out, my family and I are in Gaylord this weekend to celebrate Christmas with my parents. That means after school today the kids had to clean their rooms, pack their things, and pile into the van for the trip up north. We've all been looking forward to this weekend with Grandma and Grandpa Sheaffer but, honestly, I was not looking forward to the drive. As our time for departure drew nearer, my disdain for the drive grew stronger.
To begin, last week the kids were told they would be in snow up to their belly buttons when they arrived in Gaylord, and that made them very excited. Today I had to break the news that all the snow had melted (this is Michigan!!!) and their disappointment was evident.
When we were packing, Joshua was in one of his "moods," which colored his world very dark. He couldn't find his boots and stomped around the house, angry that they were missing. He didn't like that I told him to get his coat and accused me of being too bossy. Matthew had left his gloves at school and was insisting that we had to go back and get them. He was sure his mittens simply wouldn't suffice. And he was mad at me for not letting him bring his comforter -his bed cover, not the Spirit!- along for the ride. So I had an angry boy and a grumpy one, and I was not wanting to road trip with either one of them. However, since leaving them behind was not an option (I'm sure it wouldn't turn out as charming as Home Alone), we piled into the van and began the trek up north.
I entered the adventure with fear and trembling and was surprised at what happened. There was the usual barrage of, "Are we there yet?" "How much longer?" "Would you cut that out?!" "Mom, make him stop touching me!" And it was peeking with Joshua's stomach ache and his inability to get comfortable in the front seat. (Riding "shot gun" had originally been a good thing. Now the seat was "stupid.") We still had nearly an hour to go and I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it through while maintaining any sense of peace or self-control.
Joshua and Elizabeth were trying to figure out how they could rework seating arrangements so Joshua could lay flat, which is when I had my good idea. (Or was it God's good idea?) We pulled over, Elizabeth took over shotgun, and Joshua came back with me so he could lay his head down on my lap.

As Joshua lay there, I rubbed his head and scratched his back. (He loves this kind of touch). I sang some of my favorite praise songs. I prayed for Joshua. I thought about how God is using my children to shape me and make me who He wants me to be.
Several times today as I was going through little battles with the kids I had the thought, "If I didn't have kids, things would be so much easier." For a moment I had a twinge of jealousy toward those who don't have children, or whose children are already grown. (I realize this confession doesn't make me sound very loving...) But in this moment of quiet, when I turned my eyes toward Jesus and thought about what is True, I remembered how precious my family is to me, and how very much I do treasure them - each one of them. I considered with joy the ways God has been refining my character as I go through trials with my kids. I have sooooo much growing to do, so much more refining that needs to happen, but He has been working in me. I really believe I am a more patient and kind person now than I was just a year ago.
In these moments of peace and reflection, God gives me hope.

How about you? How have you seen God working in your life?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm a mess

In the end of October I heard Julie Barnhill speak at a church here in Lansing, MI. One phrase she repeated over and over, and encouraged her audience to embrace was, "I'm a mess." Well, Julie, I'm admitting it to all of cyberspace tonight - I'm a mess!

I was a substitute teacher this afternoon, and that wore me out physically. My kids were quite needy after school, we got home late because of my subbing, I needed to get dinner ready early, and take the kids to church for a dress rehearsal for a Christmas program that’s happening this weekend. Of course things didn’t go smoothly getting out the door on time, there was fussing about getting costumes on, and once we were in the woods the boys didn’t want to listen to me or follow my direction. Climbing on logs and throwing rocks through the ice was much more interesting. It didn’t take long for me to become worn out emotionally.

It also didn’t take long for me to realize that having them participate in this program was a stupid idea. They’re boys! They don’t want to act like townspeople in Bethlehem. They want to act like boys in the woods! Armed with this realization, I battled with myself over calling it quits and sticking it out, trying to get the boys to "act" like townspeople and letting them be boys, maintaining some form of self-control and screaming at the top of my lungs. Only by the grace of God, we made it through our portion of the rehearsal and were dismissed. Of course we still had the task of getting back into the church, hanging costumes and finding our way back to the van, but surely the worst was over. HA!

Once we were safely in the privacy of our own van, my tears started flowing. I wished I was safely in the privacy of my own room, but I just couldn't hold them back any longer. When Elizabeth saw me, she got mad at the boys for “making” me cry. Joshua started calling himself “stupid” for “making” me cry. Through my tears I was trying to tell him it wasn’t his fault – that I was feeling bad anyway. (How do you explain hormones to an eight-year-old boy???) Finally, I asked if we could have a silent ride home - no one yelling at anyone else or blaming each other for things that aren't their fault anyway. Fortunately they complied.

The peace was good, as it gave me opportunity to pray and to remind myself of what is True. Yet I kept on crying, thinking, "I'm such a mess!" I was realizing again how desperately I need God. On my own I cannot manage mothering, a household, my sanity and PMS. What would I do without Him???

So, I reminded myself that He is good and all His ways are perfect. Though the evening was rough, my tears were plentiful, and I kept on thinking, "I'm a mess!" I have chosen to trust that God is fully in control and that He's using all these things to refine me. It hurts sometimes, but I know He is caring for me perfectly.

In the end, He used my daughter to speak Love to me. I was laying on my bed with the light off - trying to gain some composure before I went out and faced the kids again. Elizabeth came in, turned on the light and sat beside me. She started reading the "Love Passage for Kids" (1 Corinthians 13 - kid style) and when she finished she simply said, "They love you, Mom. They just aren't showing it very well right now." So much for gaining composure! But this time I was shedding "happy tears."

Isn't it good to know God loves us, even in our mess?

Friday, December 01, 2006

The roller coaster

This week at school has been dedicated to the Scholastic Book Fair, and last night I went up to volunteer. Before I left the house, the kids were describing the books they wanted and I said I would look for them and maybe buy them for Christmas gifts. (Don't you always want to be a little vauge - for the "surprise factor"?)

At the Fair I looked, with little success, for the book Joshua wanted. Not to worry...It was so heavy on his mind that he called me to see if I had found it. We spent several minutes on the phone, Joshua describing the book and its location on the book shelf in relation to the main entrance, and me walking all around looking and asking one of the librarians if she knew anything about this particular book. Finally we discovered it - in the hands of one of Joshua's buddies. James had the last copy at the Fair and when he learned Joshua wanted it, he gave it to me to buy for Joshua. What a nice kid!

Upon arriving home, I was bombarded with, "Did you get me...?" questions. I answered vaugely (that "surprise" thing), but Joshua pressed me so I said I did get the book he'd wanted. Then he said he wanted it now and I reminded him it was for Christmas. Oh - that didn't go over well! At all!!!! Joshua started crying and yelled that he wanted it now, and if he'd known it was for Christmas he wouldn't have asked for it. He started tearing paper up. He ranted about "wasting" a Christmas gift. He said he would do anything to have the book now - even offered to give me his pet mice.

Joshua has never handled disappointment well, and this display was a reminder to me he still has a lot of growing up to do. I talked about disappointment with him and tried to help him understand that he needed to get control of himself. Attempting to reason with him is often futile, but I thought pointing out that his mice really are much more important to him than this book would help him see how outrageous he was being. I'm not sure what it was, but something helped him calm down.

He came up with the idea that he could buy the book from me. He asked, "If I give you the money, could I buy the book? Just like I was buying it from the Book Fair?" I agreed to that request because if he'd given me the money beforehand, I would've bought it for him when I was at the Fair. "Ahhh," I thought, "it's settled then." But then I asked him how much money he had. Not enough. And then despair hit again as he considered it would take him "forever" to earn the money. (He gets irrational very quickly!) Surely Christmas would be here before he earned the money and, well, that's just too long to wait! I said good night, kissed him and came downstairs.

Moments later, Joshua came down, plopped $5.20 by my side and asked for the book. Elizabeth had loaned him the money he was short. OK. So I gave him the book and he went upstairs. Happy. And once again I thought, "So it's settled then."

Moments later, again, Joshua came back down as "buyer's remorse" had settled in. He was wondering if he could keep the book for a week or two, give it back for a full refund, and then accept it on Christmas as a gift. I told him, "No." He could buy it now or wait 25 days and have it as a gift. That was my "final answer." I could see the pondering going on in him. What is more important? How can I make up my mind? Can I really wait that long? Do I really want to spend my money? Finally he handed me the book, I refunded the money, and I was certain the issue was settled. Joshua went to bed and stayed there.

So I got off the roller coaster and wondered, "Did he learn anything tonight?" Times like this one make me wish for perfect wisdom, or at least a parenting manual that tells me what to do in every situation. I want to train my children in self control, help them learn how to handle disappointment, teach them to make wise decisions. And I realize I'm still working on those very things for myself. I am reminded once again of my desperate need for God and am so thankful for His grace and patience with me.

Has anyone else been riding roller coasters?