Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Break

It’s a long weekend in Minnesota. There is a state-wide teachers conference so the kids get Thursday and Friday off. And so do the teachers. I really don’t know any teachers who actually go so I think we could just call it what it is : fall break. In Northern Minnesota and a lot of other places this year, fall looks like this.

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The big girls and I and some friends are going to see the musical “Little House on the Prairie” at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul. We are spending the night and doing a little shopping before we head home. Grant is riding along with us to hang out with his cousin while we do girl stuff. I’m hoping the weather, road construction and trying to park my van in the city won’t ruin any of the fun. I don’t think there is internet at our luxurious hotel my parent’s house.

On Friday the whole family is going to Camp New Hope. It’s a camp for veteran’s and their families to get away and get help when they come back from overseas. Mike has been helping out at previous camps and they invited us all to go along this time. Mike reminded the guy that we have five kids. He said they had the perfect place for us and then he told Mike to get a hobby.

I’m looking forward to a fun weekend, although I hate leaving the little girls when it comes down to it. Even if I have been counting the days to getting a break from them. If you don’t care, don’t read my blog on Monday because I’ll definitely have pictures that I took with my daughter’s camera since I lost mine. I did find the cell phone though. It was in a band aid box in the linen closet. Why didn’t I think of looking there?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Do you ever catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye and get creeped out?  Every time I pass the little girls room lately I do a double take.  It feels like there is someone staring at me. Or sitting up with a big smile on their face at four in the morning. Or a creepy clown took up residence in our bunk beds.  It’s especially bad in the middle of the night.  It’s all because of this.

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Why on earth would we have such a creepy, hideous stuffed animal in our house?  And why does our daughter adore it so much that she sleeps with it every night.  She even calls it Barney which only adds to the revulsion I feel when I look at it.  But, there’s kind of a sweet story behind it.

Annie and I went to Walmart all by ourselves one afternoon.  As we were walking in, the greeter made eye contact with me and said, “Can I do something for you?”  and ran into the side room.

He came out with this stuffed animal and gave it to Annie.  He said he likes to play the crane games in the entry and doesn’t have anyone to give his winnings to.  She was thrilled and we thanked him.  Isn’t that sweet?

But after being freaked out by this thing over and over, I’m starting to reconsider.  A strange man, a random store worker that apparently has no family or friends passing out free stuffed aliens animals?  On second thought, that might be a wee bit more creepy than sweet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Serious Business

While I was waiting at the jewelry counter to replace my watch battery, Annie was happily looking at necklaces. I went around the corner to check on her and found her stuffing a necklace in the pocket of her coat. Although I remained calm on the outside, I'm guessing the initial look on my face was shock. We put it back and I double checked her other pocket to make sure it was empty. I told her never to do that and that it's wrong to take things without paying for them. I wasn't sure if she knew what she was doing was wrong.

After I got my battery we went on our way and she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I'm just really sad that I did that." Then she started wailing and sobbing. She said she did know it was wrong. We stopped right in the shoe department and had ourselves some repenting and forgiveness.

It was such a great opportunity to teach her about sin, honesty and the mercy of Christ. We prayed and asked for forgiveness. I hugged and reassured her. When we met up with the rest of the family she told them she was not happy. She was not her usual chipper self the rest of the night.

Sin is serious business. God in His holiness can't tolerate sin. It's so serious that he sent his only Son to die for our sins so we wouldn't have to. Sin is treated way too lightly. Sometimes it's disregarded as no big deal or swept under the rug. Very few people are mournfully repentant of their sin. I'm not usually that bothered by my own sin. Oh, that we all could be as sorrowful over our sin as she was.

When I tell two fighting siblings to apologize to each other, they usually say "Sorry" in an ice cold voice. They said sorry, but they aren't sorry in their hearts. When they feel sad then we are truly on the way to being sorry.

In the Old Testament King David over and over expressed sorrow and repented of his sin. And there were consequences for his sins too. One example is in 2 Samuel 24 when David goes ahead and counts up his army. God didn't want him to. God wanted them to trust in His power, not the power and glory of Israel's large army. 2 Samuel 24:10 says,

David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guild of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing."
And yet David is called a man after God's own heart. God is forgiving.

My daughter just about broke my heart that night. Not the action, but her reaction. It broke my heart to think about the pain of sin and how there's no avoiding it.

It broke my heart to think that I cause God to feel the same way all the time when I sin. He is my Heavenly Father and is pained when I callously turn away from Him or try to pretend it's no big deal. And I can imagine Him crying along with us as we seek his forgiveness like I did in the middle of the store the other night.

Sin is serious. It can't be brushed aside as a childish mistake or no big deal. It's important for kids to know God's laws and follow them. It's good for me to follow God and seek holiness. It's good to be sorrowful over our sin. But it's even better to know that there's hope.

Hope because the story doesn't end there. After we turn from sin, Jesus is waiting with open arms of forgiveness. He's paid the price and set us free. And that is a lesson that you are never too old for.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10
yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Psalm 103:8-13
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

House of Pink

Growing up as the only boy in a house full of girls, pink and hormones has its benefits: No hand-me downs, your own guy cave and bathroom in the basement, getting to go with Dad to do guy stuff like Men’s retreats, football parties and bow shooting. 

It also seems to have its drawbacks and can be difficult.  Like when you constantly have a Barbie pool party going on in your bathroom sink, having birthday presents wrapped in Dora wrapping paper, knowing all the words to the High School Musical soundtrack and being very familiar with the ups and downs of a girls mood. 

Being the oldest and the most laid back does lend to him being a little forgotten at times.   Like when he comes up and tells me I need to clean his bathroom.  You don’t even want to know how nasty it needs to be before a ten year old boy will deem it dirty.  This is the kid who went to my sisters for a few days and forgot to pack underwear and a toothbrush.  Rubber gloves are not optional.


When he finally came up the stairs for church on Sunday, I asked what took him so long and he told me he was combing his hair.  He said it takes a long time to comb it because of this. 

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Apparently, he has grown some sideburns Elvis would be jealous of.  He also had the start of a tail growing in the back.  I thought maybe I really was neglecting him since I hadn’t noticed.  But he has carefully been combing the burns behind his ears.  I did what any good mother would do and coupon in hand, took him straight to Great Clips after school. 

I can’t change the fact that he lives in a houseful of girls, but I can try to help make sure he doesn’t have to spend his weekend hiding his sideburns or start shaving in fifth grade.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Not To Say

I was shopping with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. She is a super woman. She is raising 6 kids under the age of 8, four of which are adopted and she gardens, cans, bakes, sews and saves the world in a single bound. She is a tiny petite girl who asked me if there were size two dresses at the store we were at. How on earth would I know? The last time I needed a size two I was 2.

As we were walking the mall, she told me that she is really self-conscious about her long torso and short legs. Do you know why? Because when she was in junior high she bought a new outfit. The first one she picked out by herself and bought with her own money. It actually sounded awful but wasn’t everything in the ‘80’s? Her mom made a comment to her about her body that she remembers to this day and it still makes her feel self-conscious all these years later.

I am sure her Mom didn’t mean it to be that way. She was trying to help her because she loves her. I think my mom had the same thing in mind when she used to tell me to sit up straight and stop chomping my gum. It used to drive me up a wall, but now that I’m a Mom I get it. You want to help your kids fit in to society, learn to look their best.

But my friend’s story made me realize that I want to be much more careful about what I say to my kids and how I say it. Even if it is truly something I want to help them with or that needs to be addressed. I think the way I view myself as a mom and the way my kids do is probably really different. I often don’t come across as an encouraging, supportive mother like I want to.

For instance, I can hardly stand to be in the same room as my kids when they eat their cereal in the morning. Slurp, crunch. Slurp, slurp, crunch. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. But I try to let it go because those are things that will come in time. I don’t want to say what I’m thinking: “You guys are eating like pigs and its driving me nuts! Keep your mouths shut when you eat!”

I’m certainly charged with teaching them. But I need to be careful not to put too much importance on those outer, temporal things. I have to try to remember what it says in my favorite parenting verses.

Deuteronomy 6:5-8

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.

And Ephesians 6:4 says

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

It doesn’t say make sure they are well dressed, groomed and don’t eat too loudly. It’s not vitally important to God that they keep their fingers out of their mouth and nose, although I would certainly appreciate that. It doesn’t matter so much if their rooms are a mess. God’s concern is the state of their hearts. I know I have been guilty of exasperating my children about superficial things. I don’t want to, but I do.

Jenna likes to wear grubby pants. These are her favorites.

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I would like her to dress nicer. I dressed her in dresses until she was 11 months old. Then she screamed every time she had a dress on after that because she couldn’t move fast enough. We do have to compromise sometimes. I don’t make her wear dresses. I can live with the holey jeans, not the paint smeared sweats for school.

I don’t make her French braid her hair even though I learned how to do it just for her. She wants long hair but hates to comb it. I do make her comb it. Sometimes we can agree on regular braids or a pony tail which will be all messy when she puts her favorite stocking hat on over it.

But are any of those issues worth ruining our relationship over? No way!

I think there are a few things for me to be aware of when dealing with these issues.

First is Timing. Is it the best time to bring up the issue? When everyone is scrambling to get out the door or a friend is over. When you are tired and annoyed. I need to choose a time when we are alone and calm.

Second is tone. Even if I am making a valid point, it’s not a good plan if I am being mean or argumentative.

Jenna: Mom, can I wear my paint-stained sweats today?

Me: Not on your life! Those belong in the garbage! Do you want everyone at school to think you are a hobo?

Matters like this call for gentleness on my part. I can lead my kids and train them without being harsh or rude. I found some direction in Proverbs for this one.

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 25:15

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Sometimes I am just lashing out at my kids or nagging them so they won’t be a poor reflection on me or because I am annoyed. I need to take these verses to heart which means they’ll end up on my fridge.

This topic especially hits home for me with Jenna. She is a wild child. She is a lot like me and we butt heads because of it. I want to her to be lady-like. But she’s a girl. I don’t want her to look back and remember my words with pain or regret. It’s a tough line to walk between training them to have manners and grooming habits and breaking their spirits. Why would I want to break her of this?

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The running free with messy hair and bare feet are part of who God made her to be. And part of growing up. And part of a fun childhood. I need to watch what I say. I want to be sure that my words are reflecting the love that is in my heart for them. The love is great and I want them all to know that without a doubt.

Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.