Friday, March 29, 2013

the end of the story

Today I find myself reflecting on the Lord's followers.  The ones who watched in confusion and fear as their celebrated hero was betrayed, arrested, and hung on a cross to die.  They didn't understand, those men and women.  Those who were fishermen, tax collectors, and more.  They couldn't remember that He'd told them, warned them - of everything.  That He would be killed...and rise again on the third day.  They watched (those who could bear it), stunned, maybe even despairing.

And those days they spent in between.  Knowing He was dead.   Fearful of what might happen next.  Feeling abandoned and lost.

They didn't know what we know.  They couldn't comprehend the end of story - how beautiful would become their pain.  Let's revel in the fact that we know what was coming early that Sunday morning - and that we serve a risen Savior.

The world can do its worst.  The enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy may attack...but even so, it doesn't change the truth.  Jesus came to take our sins away.  He died a terrible death on a Roman cross, but three days later He conquered sin and death.  He is the victor, our savior and redeemer.

Have a blessed and wonder-filled Good Friday.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mr. Chattypants

Here he is: Mr. Chattypants.

Much to our astonishment, our fifth child has been far more verbal, and that far earlier, than his siblings.  At 15 months he can name everyone in our family as well as the typical "hi," "bye," "ball" and such.  He can say "water," "cheese," "crackers" and other food words.  I can't even remember everything he says as I write this.  You'll just have to believe me when I say that never have we had a child speak so much, so early.

I'm pretty sure that this week he has even been using two-word sentences.  I took his brother to a friend's house to play today, and after Gabriel's morning nap we had a near-constant stream of "Where Kyle? Where Kyle?  Where Kyle?"

I have suspected for quite awhile that I had another sanguine on my hands.  The past year has only confirmed that suspicion - and I am thinking this is another evidence of it.    And while sanguines sport many wonderful and enviable personality with them in my home can be very wearing on this homebody-introvert.

And we go.  This could be a very interesting toddlerhood!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

pondering seasonal fashion

Ah, springtime.  This season is absolutely stunning in this part of the country.  Blossoms burst into bloom all over.  Bushes I barely glanced at through the winter are suddenly covered with petals.   Temperatures loosen up a bit - even if the rain doesn't.  We live from day to day not knowing if the day will feel warm, or if we will be ripped apart by the cruel East wind.

This is the time of year when I break out my brighter clothes.  After months of tending to wear darker hues, suddenly I feel like turquoise, coral, and deep, saturated pink.  I change my heavy coat for lighter jackets - even if the weather is still chilly, I feel like something different!  Occasionally, these days, I even find the need to slide on my sunglasses.  Oh happy day!

But one thing has me puzzled.  You see, I am new to the world of boot-wearing.  It's only been a few months since I stepped into my first real pair of adult boots (aside from the snow boots I rarely don, that is).  During the colder months I gained three (yes, three!) pairs of boots, and I have had so much fun experimenting with them.  Discovering which skirts and dresses they go with, and which combinations make me look dumpy.  Figuring out which looks I adore, and what I'm still too afraid to try (skinny jeans, anyone?).

So now I'm wondering: when is it time to pack those boots away?  They seem to be such a staple of cold-weather months, adding warm and protection from the elements.  But I am loving them, and...I've noticed that the women around me seem to still be wearing them all. the. time.   So where is the boundary?  Is it different depending on where one lives?  Does it depend on temperature or personal comfort, rather than the calendar?  I'm trying to work out what I think about this vitally important tissue!

When do you put away your boots?  After the first day of spring?  Just before Memorial Day?  Whenever you please, thankyouverymuch?  I would love to know; please share!

Monday, March 25, 2013

a first for my fifth

My fifth child had a first last week.

Remember this photo?

Well, with the help of a skillful friend, we did something about that.

 He was very stoic.

But before long he was all done!

His very first haircut.  How exciting is that?

Gabe looks so grown-up and handsome!

Friday, March 22, 2013

ready, set, party!

Owen had such a fun 5th birthday party!  He was able to  have five friends over (in addition to his siblings - who are a party waiting to happen) as well as Jeff's family.  We all enjoyed his Hot Wheels party.  It was a pleasure to celebrate one of the sweetest boys we know!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

how I became a mother of five

My husband and I have a larger family than I ever dreamed.

Back when we were dating, we had the talk.  You know: the one about family size.  How many kids did I want?  Two...maybe three.  But my husband?  He wanted six.   Yes, six.  I wrote him off as a little crazy and decided that I ought to be able to have the final say because, after all, I was the mama.

I really was pretty meek and mild, but on this I was firm.  I wasn't having any six children.

The summer I was pregnant with our third son, we talked a lot about whether or not we were "done."  I was feeling finished, and I thought Jeff was on the same page.  Still, after our little one was born, my husband didn't have peace about closing the door on more children.   So we waited and talked, and talked some more.  I must admit, I was a little annoyed.  I thought we'd had a deal.  I thought, "Okay, we've had three healthy, gorgeous kids.  We've had the births we wanted - safe, perfect waterbirths.  Let's stop while we're ahead."  Besides, our house was feeling a little crowded with three boys under the roof.

But my husband didn't have peace about it.  So we waited.

And you know what?   The Lord completely changed my heart.  It's true, and do you know how I know it was the Lord?  Because I never, ever would have chosen this way of my own accord.  I wanted things neat and tidy, easy to manage.  I wanted things wrapped up in a neat little bow.  Three kids. Three bedrooms.  The minivan.  No extra chairs needed at the dining room table.  Convenient.

But He did, He changed my heart.  It was a complete 180. And when I decided to let Him call the shots, and to respect the way He was leading my husband, I had the most tremendous peace about adding more children to my family.

If they weren't all healthy?  That would be alright.  If we ended up having a less-than-perfect birth experience?  We would be okay.   And bedroom arrangements, we would figure those out too.

So we opened up to the idea of God growing our little family.   We let go of that control, we relinquished some of our preferences.  We opened our hands and our hearts to receive what He might give us. I experienced so much joy at that letting go!  There were times of anxiety and nervousness, but we believed God would be faithful; He would lead us.

Since that time we gave been blessed with a perfectly delightful daughter and a dimpled son who is absolutely bursting with charm.  They are gifts to our family.  They bring us joy every day.  Of course they stretch us.  Of course there are times when things are hard.  But they are worth it.

God has been faithful to us on this journey.  He has provided us with a spacious home - but we would be fine if He hadn't.  He has graciously allowed us to experience two more beautiful home waterbirths - but if that wasn't to be, we would have coped.  He has provided.  We don't know what the future holds, but we do know this: He is faithful.  He gives grace daily to parent this little brood He's given us.

It's not always neat.   It's not always tidy.  Yes, there's more laundry and we go through more food than some families.  I am regularly amazed at how often I run the dishwasher.  And I often play the single parent when my husband serves in church on Sunday mornings and sometimes manage five bedtimes (not to mention baths) all by myself.  But I've learned how to do what needs to be done.   With God's help, with God's grace, you figure it out.

It's not always convenient, or neat, or tidy.  But this is our family.  These are our children - our beautiful, amazing blessings from above.  And they are worth it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

that's not how it works

In my 5-year-old son Owen's Sunday school class, they discussed service.  He came home with a "service spinner", and I'm thinking he might have missed the point.

I could be mistaken, but my thought was that he is supposed to consider ways he might serve others.

Instead, he keeps using the wheel to indicate who is serving at the current moment.  We've tried to explain this, but he refuses to change his mind.  When his brother was emptying the dishwasher, the wheel read "Ben."  As Owen observed me helping my daughter when she had a sore finger, he exclaimed "Oh!  Mom's giving Elise some essential oils!" and rushed over to turn the spinner to say "Mom."

Hmm.  Well, at least he notices when service is occurring around him.  It's better than nothing, I guess...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

kombucha finger gelatin

A wonderful thing has happened: I have discovered a beautiful marriage between the super-beverage, kombucha, and the super-food gelatin.

Did you know that gelatin is a super-food?  It is - real gelatin, that is.  (HERE is an article about it, but there is a lot of information out there if you decide to go looking.)  I'm not talking about the technicolor stuff shelved in your grocery store's pudding aisle.  Stay away from that artificial junk.  Made from the connective tissues of healthy animals, the best gelatin is from grass-fed cows.   Great Lakes Gelatin and Bernard Jensen are good places to buy real, healthy gelatin.

I've read a few different recipes for kombucha gelatin, and I didn't like the idea of heating the kombucha.  After all, heating fermented foods damages the microorganisms which provide those healthful benefits.  But then  Kimi from The Nourishing Gourmet posted her recipe for Kombucha "Jello" which didn't place the kombucha into the heat at all - bingo!

This finger gelatin recipe is based off of The Nourishing Gourmet's wonderful idea.  You can use kombucha purchased at a store or home-brewed stuff.  I used blackberry and chose to strain the fermented berries out.  The kids really enjoyed this; even my sole son who doesn't care for kombucha said "This is good!"  I'm so pleased to have a fun way to serve such nourishing stuff to my family.

Kombucha Finger Gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
6 teaspoons gelatin
2-4 Tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet/tart your kombucha is)
2 cups flavored kombucha

In a medium saucepan, add water then sprinkle gelatin over it.  Let this rest 5 minutes.   After 5 minutes, stir in your honey and turn the heat to medium.  Stir and heat for several minutes, allowing the gelatin to dissolve completely.  Make certain it is dissolved - trust me, you do not want a gritty result.

Remove from heat.  At this point you can stir the kombucha into the mixture, or transfer everything to a glass bowl to combine.  Stir well, then pour into an 8x8 or 9x9 glass pan.  Refrigerate, then cut and serve.


Monday, March 11, 2013

my fascinating new love

I think I'm falling in love.  In fact I'm pretty certain of it.  I've been interested for a long time, flirting with the idea, playing with the possibilities.   They are endless, those possibilities.  And although there's always a chance that I'm caught up in the newness of it all, I'm pretty sure that this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Essential oils.

I know I've mentioned them a few times here, but I didn't really know much about them.  As it is I'm still kind of getting my feet wet.   Reading, researching, learning...and using. Because yes, I am using them!

I've always assumed the purpose of essential oils was to make things smell pretty.  Largely the same as a candle but without the fire hazard.   Was I ever wrong!    In the just over a month we've been using them in our home, we've used them to soothe a teething toddler, fight off a sickness, quiet a cough, ease (*cough*) breastfeeding issues, clean, and much more.  I've even been using them in my water bottle and as a flavoring for food and my  Teeccino.  

I've stirred a drop of peppermint oil into my brownie batter (that's all you need, they're so potent), and sipped on glasses of lemon water.  I love using lemon oil in my water!  It is delicious and refreshing.

(Note:  Not all essential oils are safe for internal use.  The brand I'm using, doTERRA, is Certified Pure Theraputic Grade (R) and many of their oils are safe for consumption.)

Last week my daughter developed a fever and said that her ear was hurting her a great deal.  I've heard that basil oil is fantastic for ear infections, so I put a few drops on a piece of cotton ball and tucked it inside her ear.  I also used massaged a few drops of basil and frankincense around her ear and jaw, after which she went to bed...and we didn't hear from her again until morning.  It was amazing!  I have also used (diluted) peppermint oil to help bring a fever down, and the Breathe oil blend from doTERRA to ease congestion, among other things.

One of my most recent experiments was cleaning with essential oils.  I made batch of all-purpose cleaner with soap nuts liquid (see THIS LINK) and...oh my word.  I have cleaned with essential oils before, the grocery store variety.  But when I put a drop of my new lemongrass essential oil  into my cleaning bottle, I was in bliss.  I have never enjoyed cleaning so much in my life!

My bathroom sink has never been more pleased to see me.

Water and a few drop of lemon oil also work great to clean; I'm not sure I'll mix them with soap nuts liquid  much in the future - it just doesn't seem necessary.

I also love, love, love diffusing these oils in my home.  We've used them to combat illness as well as to freshen up the house and lighten our moods.   My family as only had a diffuser for a few weeks, but we're already planning to buy another one for upstairs.  Love it!

So that's my newest adventure.  I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with essential oils, and what's more, I have seen headaches chased away and aching tummies soothed.

I can't speak for everyone, or every brand, what I truly love what I'm trying.  And no, I'm not a consultant or affiliate for doTERRA.   I'm simply very pleased with my experience - and I wanted to share.

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Owen's Birth Story

In honor of my sweet son's 5th birthday, I thought I'd post the account of his birth.  All of my babies have been born well past their estimated due dates, but with Owen it was by far the longest.  Still, he was well worth the wait!


Owen Daniel's Birth Story
March 8, 2008

On Thursday, March 6, I was feeling very emotional and overwhelmed
because I was so ready to meet my baby, and he hadn't been ready to come
yet. That afternoon I had a prenatal appointment with my midwife.
Everything looked beautiful with the baby. After a short discussion I
decided to have her sweep my membranes. It was uncomfortable and a
little painful, but not too bad Eventually appointment ended, and
throughout the evening I had a bit of cramping and spotting (expected
after having membranes swept).

The next day was pretty quiet and normal. I continued to have a slight
amount of spotting from the procedure the day before. Late that
afternoon my husband and I enjoyed some adult time while our two boys
watched a video downstairs. As soon as we were done, I started having
crampy contractions, about every 3-7 minutes apart. These continued
through the evening. My husband and I watched a movie, and I kept timing
them all the way through. About 9pm I looked at my husband and said "I
think we'll be calling Esme [our midwife] tonight!" We had planned a
home waterbirth, so my husband pulled out the tub and got things prepared. We
had previously had several false alarms, so we wanted to be absolutely
sure before we called for the birth team to come to the house.

We decided to go upstairs and try to sleep, but the contractions were
getting stronger now, and between that and the excitement, we both
realized that we would not be sleeping any time soon. We went back
downstairs and sat on the couch. I had heard about how kissing can help
with relaxation and dilation during labor, so we sat on the couch and
started to kiss. After smooching through several contraction, I felt a
strange sensation in my belly. My husband had been touching my belly,
and he felt it too. It didn't occur to me what it was until I felt a
small spurt of wet warmth between my legs, a minute or so later. I said
"I think that might have been my water breaking! It did feel like a kind
of ‘pop'!" This was about 10:20pm. We called the midwife to let her know
what was going on, and she said it sounded like it was early, and left
it to us to call when we wanted the birth team to come. About 25 minutes
later, I had been sitting on my birthing ball, and when I started to
stand up, I felt a trickle down both my legs...and then there was the
undeniable sound of fluid dribbling onto the floor beneath me. Then we
knew, this was really it!

My husband started filling the birthing tub. I was walking around,
getting things ready and checking email. When a contraction would come,
I would find something (kitchen counter, dining room table, my husband)
to lean on. It helped to brace myself and lean with my forearms on a
firm surface. Around 11pm we decided to call and have the birth team
come. The birth team included my midwife Esme as well as two midwife
apprentices, Rebecca and Tarrin. We also called my in-laws, who were
coming to help out and be responsible for our two older boys. We told
everyone it was not urgent yet, but that they should start heading our way.

Everyone arrived at about the same time, around 12:30am. I was still
able to smile & laugh, but during contractions I would find someplace to
lean and concentrate on breathing through the rushes.

My in-laws went upstairs to try to get some sleep, and the birth team
stayed in the background, letting us do our own thing (which worked so
well for us in my previous labor) and coming to check baby's heartrate

Around 1am I got in the birthing tub. The warm water felt great, and the
pain of the contractions was lessened a lot after I got settled. After a
while my husband got in, too, and we experimented with different
positions. Pretty soon things started to get much more intense. We tried
kissing through some of the contractions, and that really did help for a
while. I tried to focus on relaxing my whole body, and taking deep
breaths helped me to do that. Another tactic for this labor was making
low, moaning sounds. I think that helped to loosen things up "down
under" and also it gave me something to concentrate on.

The next few hours are a little blurry in my memory. The contractions
got really intense, and we both were feeling so tired. I sat leaning
back against my husband's chest, and we would just be really quiet in
between contractions. My poor husband kept drifting off to sleep, and
his chin would bonk me on the head, at which point he would say "Oh, I'm
so sorry!" That was actually pretty funny, he was so remorseful.

I was starting to feel like it was getting hard to handle the
contractions. Then there came a contraction that felt a little
different. I wasn't positive, but I thought "Was I just feeling a little
pushy there?" And without my mentioning it out loud, my husband asked
"Did you just get the urge to push?" I told him that I thought I had,
but I wasn't sure. He called for Esme to come, and I asked to be
checked. I had not been checked before I started pushing during my
previous labor, but for some reason this time I wanted the confirmation
of being complete. Rebecca checked me and said that she couldn't feel my
cervix at all, and the baby's head was "right there." Whenever I felt
ready, it was okay to push.

So I got up on my knees, leaned on the edge of the tub, and got started.
Right away I remembered how much I detest pushing! And this time it
seemed really intense and scary to me. I had torn with both my other
labors, and I just felt sure that I was going to tear again. Still, I
tried to take it easy and listen to my body. I had always wondered if I
just pushed with too much gusto those other times, and that if I had
taken it a little more slowly and let the tissues stretch, it might have
been better.

My dear husband kept saying "Push to the point of comfort, push as long
as it's comfortable." This is something that we had learned in a Bradley Method childbirth class we'd taken during my first pregnancy. It really bothered me, although for a while I couldn't find the words or energy to say anything to him. Finally I said, with my teeth gritted a bit, "I wish you'd stop talking about it being comfortable." There was nothing comfortable about this pushing business!

The last few pushes were really scary for me. I could feel the baby moving down, and I could feel him crowning, or almost crowning-- that might be more accurate. Then I would run out of steam, or courage, or contraction, and the head would scootch back a bit. I knew this was normal but I really, really wanted to be finished pushing! Finally after two contractions like that, I managed to just pant after the contraction ended, and the head stayed forward. The next time I pushed, my husband said the head was starting to come out, so I bore down, gave it all I had, and at 4:08am, with one savage holler, my son was born!

His dad caught him, the birth team helped me turn over so I could meet him. My dear, sweet husband handed him to me, and we sat close as we sang the lullaby we have sung all of our babies in the moments after their births. The first stanza goes,

"Baby boy fusses, baby boy laughs
The Angel who watches says 'Hey, look at that,'
There's your faith, the mountains will shake
'Cause God gladly bends just to hear baby boy when he prays..."
(adapted from a song Rich Mullins wrote for a girl named Madeline)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

gifts, teaching,

It's a funny thing.

See, I am not a teacher.  When my husband first mentioned the idea of homeschooling, I nearly ran screaming from the room.  Every single experience I'd ever had teaching Sunday school or vacation Bible school has felt like a nightmare.  I don't mind assisting in a classroom.  If a teacher needs support or an extra pair or eyes of hands, I'm there.  I'll quietly follow her lead, no problem at all.  But me as the teacher?   Not at all my cup of tea.

And yes, I homeschool my kids.  But as I've mentioned, it's a huge challenge for me.  It is hard.  And also, they're my kids.  I know them better than anyone else in the world does, with the exception of my husband.  So it's a little different.  As a mother I'm teaching them things all the time, homeschooling or not.

Yet in the past few months I've found myself more and more in the role of teacher.  A friend asked me to show her how to make kombucha and I agreed. She came over one January afternoon, and I went through the process - I explained, poured, etc. while she took notes and asked questions.

Since that day I have given three more kombucha tutorials, the latest one being today.  I'm finessing my spiel, working out how to present the steps in order without having to wait for time to elapse (think of a cooking show where they put one pan into the oven and then pull another, the finished result, out).  And I think I'm getting a little bit better as I gain experience and confidence.

So yes, it's a funny thing.  I'm not a natural teacher.  I never sought out teaching - in fact it still stresses me out at times.  But here I am - teaching my kids decimals, and teaching my friends how to make kombucha.

God did not make the ability to teach my gift.  But all the same He is using teaching to stretch me, push me way out of my comfort zone, a share the blessing of making kombucha at home.  I'm so thankful for that - all of it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

groundhog day

I'm in one of those seasons where it feels a little as though I'm living in the movie "Groundhog Day."  You know, the one with Bill Murray, where he has to relive the same day over and over and over?   Or maybe a better way to describe it is as being on a hamster wheel.  Making the same concerted effort with very little to show for it.

See, it's actually not that every day is the same.  I do have some variation, and for the most part I'm happy with our routine.  The part that feels "samey" is easily one of the most frustrating aspects of my life.  Organizing a major playroom overhaul, only to find the space in complete disarray three or four days later.  Tidying the downstairs in the afternoon - and it's trashed again before dinner.   Mopping the floor and enjoying the beautiful sheen...for about 90 minutes.  And don't even get me started about the laundry.

And then there are the things I find myself saying over and over again.  "Inside voices, please."  "We don't run in the kitchen!" "His feelings were hurt; please go make things right with your brother." "Sweetheart, you forgot to [sweep, empty the litterbox, put away your books, etc.]."

Are my efforts making any difference?  Do my words fall on deaf ears?  Or am I wasting my energy as well as my breath?  Because there are times, like this moment, when it seems that I'm doing the same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, with very little so show for it.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm invisible.

But I'm clinging to the hope that it does matter.  That some day my children will become responsible, mature, compassionate adults.  I'm choosing to believe that as I commit my work to the Lord, it will eventually, beautifully bear fruit.

Here's hoping.  And here's to showing up day after day.  I pray that the sacrifices made during this time will make a difference in the lives and hearts of my family members, and will "stand as a monument to an even greater God."
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  ~Galatians 6:9

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Winner!

Image of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz from Tropical Traditions. This certified organic product is a healthy cooking oil and high in antioxidants.

How fun to begin this week by announcing the winner of my very first blog giveaway!  I appreciate each and every one of you who stopped by.  I hope that this product will be a blessing to the winner, as it has been to my family.  

Even if you didn't win, I encourage you to give coconut oil a try.  It's so versatile, and I just love to use it on my skin...although my favorite thing to do with coconut oil is to make candy!

And now it is my pleasure to announce the winner of the Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil Giveaway for the Sweetness in the Small Stuff blog.  

The winner is....

Emily Dicks!

Congratulations, Emily!    I will be contacting you soon.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, March 1, 2013

girls are different

Yesterday afternoon I sat on my living room couch, sobbing.

I've been viewing the film "Schindler's List" for the first time in years, watching it in 30-minute installments as my little man had his afternoon nursing-snack.  

Always looking over my shoulder, lest my kids should unintentionally see someone being shot in the head.

"Schindler' List."  Beautiful and ugly, tragic and inspiring.  Today I watched the last part (well past the violence) and my 3-year-old daughter sat beside me.

Hearing the first sob catch in my throat, she turned in wonderment.  Then she tilted her head and reached her hand toward my arm.  Patting it, she smiled knowingly and sweetly said, "It okay, Mama.  It okay."

My boys have never done anything like that.

The haunting tune of the violins rose and fell...stones were placed on the grave...and tears rolled down my cheeks.  And my daughter looked back at me and said "We be happy now?"

I'm telling you, girls are different.