Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Artistic Family History

 I love reading magazines.  It makes me happy to read short snippets of information that can inspire me for a brief moment before I put the magazine down and forget it or rip it out and try that new craft, recipe, exercise, organizational idea, etc.  The past couple years I have been on a break from "womens" magazines and just getting Runner's World.  This year I felt it was time to take a break from reading about runners and instead go back to my girly magazines.  I went straight to the source and am now recieving Martha Stewart each month.  I also threw in Women's Day when I realized it was so cheap that 2 issues at the grocery store cost more than a year long subscription.

I haven't gotten my first Woman's Day yet but I have read this months Martha from cover to cover.  Some stuff I just glossed over.  She added a new column about pet care.  I know she loves her animals but I am happy to live in an animal free zone so I skipped that.  They are chronicling the re-decorating of one of her editors and this month was about his closet.  While I normally enjoy a good closet organizing article I could not get passed the obscene number of button down shirts and pants this man owns.  Rather than inspire me all I could think is that he clearly had a sickness and nobody should have more shirt choices in their closet than is available at the mens store down the street. 

There were many other articles I did find interesting but then I came to it, the article worth the paper this month.  It is an article about a woman who creates what they are calling "scrapboxes". 

Now I am not a scrapbooker per se.  Conceptually I really like them and have create a few simple pages over the years.  My sister-in-law makes beautiful albums.  But it just hasn't been the thing that has sucked me in.  However, I do love pictures.  I have many great pictures on my computer just begging me to do something with them.  Anything.  Just don't leave them hanging there in my computer waiting to be lost in the great computer crash of the century.    I have been wanting to print and frame a bunch to hang on the wall in my basement so I am constantly ripping out magazine pictures where they have a collage wall of pictures.  So here is yet another to rip out. 

Scrapboxes are pictures put into shadow boxes along with a little something extra.  Each box is simple and has one single theme.  Here are some examples:

Her favorite childhood book with a picture of her father reading it to her.

Turkeys made with her children's hands. I have these of Jake and Isabelle from 2 years ago.

She loved the picture of her Grandma reading to her mom so recreated it with her own daughter.  How great is that?

Isn't this fun.  Just one picture printed in a bunch of different sizes and placed on top of one another. Very fun. 

Her daughter wrote out new years resolutions and she saved it with a picture from new years and added some festive ribbon.  Love.  Will my daughter make resolutions someday too?

A family picture at the beach with shells they collected on the trip.  Something to think about as we contemplate an upcoming trip to Florida.

Aren't they all great?  And there are so many other fun ones here at Martha's web site.  Now these are nice but what makes Martha do a whole article on someone's scrapboxes?  Well they aren't just something cute on her wall they were part of an art show.  Someone who owns an art gallery saw them as more than a way to display family photos but as a form of art celebrating the history of the family.  How great is that.  Our family photos will likely never grace the walls of an art gallery anywhere but doesn't it just change the way you look at your photos to think of them that way?  It does for me.

My family room has always been the space in my home where my decorating took vacation.  I have never been inspired down there so just let the hodge podge of crap that accumulates over a lifetime pile up down there.  I have recently begun seeing it as a place where I can display family treasures.  Like our Africa souveniers and photos.  Or that collage wall of family pictures I mentioned.  Or anything else I find that I love.  I had already been wanting to make it into a place that displayed family pictures but now see that it could be a place that chronicles our family history.  What we love, what we do, who we are, where we have been.  And all that together is my art collection.  That room is my art gallery.  In this home where so much of my family history has been made I am excited to begin creating a way to showcase who we are.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I want to go home

Several weeks ago during a control battle between Isabelle and I she suddenly announces, "I want to go home."  Hello, you are at home.  "No my real home.  Where I was born."  The idea that at 4 years old she had put together the tiny amount of information she has and come to the conclusion she used to live with Lauren was so absurd to me that I just had to laugh.  I decided she had no idea what she was talking about and ignored her but a week or so later I heard the same thing during another tantrum.  I had told her she had to eat one bite of her dinner or go to her room for the night.  She had been in her room for a while having her break down and I went in to assess the situation and see if I could convince her to eat.  She begins,

"I want to go home"
Me: this is your home.
Her: no my real home.  Where I was born.
Me: the hospital?
Her: No with Lauren
Me: Even if you lived with Lauren she would make you take a bite.
Her: She is having the same thing?!  Thats....Weird.

I was rolling on the ground laughing by the end of this conversation.  She said it all while crying hysterically.  I almost called Lauren on the spot to back me up on this food thing.  We did talk later and I told her if I ever called with a strange request like, "should Isabelle eat a bite of fish?" she should just go with it.  We laughed together at her comments and discussed the fact that neither of us are prepared for her to begin asking about this at such a young age.

Although I am very secure in my role as Isabelle's mother and in her love for me I would be lying if I didn't admit to having a little pang of sadness when Isabelle announced she wanted to live with Lauren.  I had to give myself a little pep talk to remind myself that this is all part of the process and part of what I signed on for as an adoptive mother.  I know that understanding Sam and Lauren's decision is complicated and difficult even for many adults and will take time for Isabelle to mature enough to accept.  Everywhere Isabelle turns and all the media that she is exposed to portrays a traditional family where the mother gives birth to a child she keeps rather than giving it to another mother to raise.  Guiding her through this understanding will be one of the most important rolls I have as her mother.

After the second comment which I was continuing to try to ignore I felt God encouraging me to talk with Isabelle about her adoption.  I simply shared with her that even though she was in Lauren's tummy that I have always been her mommy.  That I was there the day after she was born and brought her home from the hospital.  She has never lived with Lauren.  She actually hugged me and thanked me for telling her this and looked physically relieved.  It is amazing to realize that at such a young age her sense of security can already be under attack.  But I think if she didn't feel loved and secure she wouldn't feel free to say these things and ask questions.

So far these question have come up when she was being disciplined.  It came up again this morning after I sent her to her room for something.  I specifically remember during one of our early meetings with Sam and Lauren before she was born Sam telling us that if she ever called them because we were disciplining her for something and she wanted to get out of it that they would always back us up.  I think we were all envisioning a pre-teen or teenager calling them not a 4 year old but it is nice to know even at this age they have our backs.  (If she really knew what was going on she would run to Grandma and Grandpa, they are the real push overs.)

Never a dull moment around here.
Side note, I have finished labeling all my posts now so you may peruse all my thoughts by catagory.  Enjoy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Praying for my children

Every year when I am making goals and plans I take some time to come up with a plan for praying for my kids and godchildren.  This year I was specifically thinking of my precious Mady.  I am her "fairy godmother".  My family doesn't really do godparents per se but my sister wanted some extra prayer for her children and so chose a special person for each child and mine is Mady.  I wanted to come up with some theme that I could send her a note about throughout the year.  Enter the study on Philipians that have been working on all fall.  There is a ton of good stuff in there but I was struck by Philipians 4:8-9 as being perfect and full of matierial for the entire year.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
The things you have learned and recieved and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."

So much good stuff.  Of course I realized I didn't want to just save this for Mady but it was also perfect for my children and my other goddaughter.  Then a couple weeks ago a friend asked us to be godparents to their son so I have a godson to pray for as well.

Wednesday was the study of this passage and some great stuff came from it which will be so helpful throughout the year.  I think what attracted me to this passage, besides the fact that I could focus on each of the attributes pure, lovely, right, honorable, etc, is the idea of controling your mind and thinking.  It can be at times easy to physically do the right thing, keeping your mouth shut and obeying your parents for instance but in your mind you might still be sinning by thinking negative thoughts or blaming others for your circumstances.  The younger we can learn to control our mind and turn it to God the better off we will be in adulthood.  Actually one of the women in my study has a son in medical school.  He had taken a class on the brain and said that our minds develop grooves in the brain with our thinking.  So if you are in the habit of a negative thought then your mind just sort of rides in the grove of negativity.  You can create new grooves but it will mean working to stay out of that existing groove to do so and that old groove will always be there.  Much easier to create positive grooves in the first place than to pull out of the negative ones.  Much better to focus on all that is excellent and worthy of praise so that the God of peace shall be with us.

I think the most important part of this passage is the word "practice".  Paul, the writer of Philipians, tells us to "practice these things".  They don't come naturally to us.  Paul knew this, God knows this.  We need to practice.  In practicing we don't always do things right but we keep trying to do better and we improve each time we try.  What a great lesson in life.

Of course I will confess that I haven't sent Mady that first note yet and now the first month is almost over, so that is my task for today.  Send a note to Mady and spend some more time in prayer for my children and godchildren.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Above Average

I was reading a devotional today which had a quote from Florence Littauer--"It takes so little to be above average."  As my mom would say, "that's deep."  So simple but so true.  And in a way so sad.  Why do we contribute so little to our lives, relationships, homemaking, parenting, marriages, society that it only takes a little effort to make us above average?

How hard to put just a little effort in and become that shining star God has created us to be?  The devotional was on keeping promises, if you say you will call at 7pm do it.  How amazing that keeping a simple promise like that makes you above average.  Yet I know I have broken promises like that before.  In fact on Sunday morning I thought I might be on for serving communion.  I wasn't sure but rather than check and show up for my responsibility I decided someone would surely cover for me if I was on and so I slept in late and went to a different service.  It is easy to say everyone does it but that doesn't make it right.  I made a promise I didn't keep.  I am usually one of the faithful, I had been above average in this area of my life but today I am simply average, like everyone else who doesn't really take their responsibility serious.  How simple to be above average.

This weekend we threw a shower for my cousin who is having a little girl after 2 boys.  It will likely be the last baby for both her and this generation of our family and we wanted to celebrate.  We wanted it to be above average and it was.  But it was so simple to make it above average.  To buy a little pink tulle, and some pink fabric (which my mom made into a table cloth but could also have simply been draped over the table), to simply feel the love for the family and spend a few moments creating the details that make it above average.  We aren't a creative family but we are all bonded and so it came to me we should make a quilt together to symbolize our bond.  Of course, again, we are not a creative family, but we can all tie knots and so we all tied a beautiful blanket together for the baby.  How simple to be above average.

My family wants to eat dinner every night.  They are quirky like that.  Yet somehow giving them this simple thing on a regular basis seems to escape me.  This month I planned the entire month of menus ahead of time and except for planned excursions we have only picked up dinner once because I wasn't prepared.  That is big for us.  And I am amazed how easy it has been to just go in the kitchen and make the meal I planned and to grocery shop for each weeks needs as a result.  And not that I haven't always planned menus or shopping lists but I just don't always follow through.  This year I have resolved to take control of this area of my life and am finding it to be a very simple and rewarding experience thus far.  How simple to be above average.

How about you?  What are you doing "above average"?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Birthday Tea with Grandma

My newly retired parents are preparing to spend the remainder of the winter in the warmth and comfort of Florida.  They will be gone for almost 3 months during which Isabelle will turn 5.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity to give many gifts, my mom took Isabelle and I out for a fancy tea at a nearby Arboretum as an early celebration.  It was lovely and Isabelle was definately the hit of the room in her party clothes, her excitement each time we let her open another of her 4 gifts from Grandma and daintily pouring herself tea.  A man even came and sang her happy birthday.

Grandma and Isabelle

I brought our tea hats to wear.  Grandma seemed embarassed and wanted to take it off as soon as the picture was taken but what is a tea without a fun hat?

Enjoying her Madame Alexander Fancy Nancy Doll.  Grandma really knows how to spoil.

Pouring her own tea perfectly.  Fingers holding the lid on and all.  Just add lots of milk and sugar and a few ice cubes and you have her perfect combination.

They brought he a special Happy Birthday cup to drink from.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Simply painting

Another aspect of simplicity I didn't mention the other day was finding new ways to solve problems that don't involve buying a specialty item. I am trying to be more creative. The first challenge before me was Isabelle's paints. I had purchased larger paint bottles but now never wanted to get everything out because it was such a hassle. I wanted to buy the fancy paint cups that I could just open up let her paint and then close up but knew they were several dollars each and didn't want to spend it. Enter baby food jars. While I am beyond this stage I know a few people who are empting a few jars a day and found a friend who happily passed on about 20 jars to me.  They are working great.  I used a few for her paints and plan to use a few for the house paint to make touch ups a little easier for me.

                                                      Simple paint pots

                                                    Simply painting

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rules for Dating my Teenage SON

There was alot of excitement here over the Christmas break not the least of which was my son deciding to break up with his girlfriend of almost 2 years.  While I did like his girlfriend I feel a little relieved to see him end such a long term serious relationship at such a young age.  They both have so much of life and themselves left to discover in the coming years.  I firmly believe teenage dating is about learning to interact with a woman and develop relationship skills not for finding a spouse.  There is plenty of time for that.  And yes I know I am married to my high school sweetheart but we started dating at 18 not 13, there is a whole lot of growing up between there.

Now that Jake is on the market we have been busy discussing what qualifies as girlfriend material and what doesn't.  He has many friends who are girls and I like them all.  However, I would not consider the majority of them to be girlfriend material.  While there are many jokes and a tv show about the rules for dating your daughter I am realizing that somehow, culturally, we seem to think the guys are just free to run around with no rules at all.  Well, while all the fathers of daughters are out worrying about what kind of boy might come knocking on their door they forgot to teach their daughters how to behave appropriately with a boy.   I am here to tell you that girls are not too innocent in this whole boy/girl dating experience these days and when it comes to dating my son I have a few rules of my own:

#1--Most importantly this girl must be a Christian.  She must share our faith/Jake's faith.  She must be committed to a growing realtionship with Christ and encouraging my son to continue growing in his realtionship with Christ.(and, well, you know, if she was Anglican that would be a bonus.)

#2--She must be commited to remaining sexually pure until marriage.  Right or wrong I believe the girl sets the tone here.  I know Jake desires to wait for marriage but I also understand that men tend to start thinking with other parts of their bodies when put in compromising positions and if given the green light will not always make the right decision.  I realize he is my son and maybe I shouldn't be saying these things about him but lets be real here.  If I bury my head in the sand on this issue I miss so many opportunities to encourage him to make good choices.

#3--She must be interested in knowing him, what he loves, what his dreams are, what his fears are.  She must be able to encourage him to try new things, see himself in the best light and believe in himself.

#4--She must make him happy.  He should feel light and relaxed with her, able to be himself completely.  Laugh together at life, the world, themselves, each other.

#5--She should have goals and dreams of her own.  At this age it isn't about sharing dreams but about discovering who you are and what you want for yourself.  Until you can stand on your own you will never be able to stand with someone else.

#6--She should demand respect from my son.  I am raising my son to show respect to a woman and want him to date a girl who expects and accepts nothing less.  Not a girl who defensively insists she knows how to open doors herself but a girl who can graciously accept my sons offer of assistance.

#7--And, of course, she should like Jake's parents. :)  Treat them well, respect them, laught at their jokes, pretend to think they are cool.  You know, the usual.

For right now Jake is enjoying being a bachelor hanging with his buddies, staying up late playing plenty of x-box live.  A friend did ask him to go to the up coming school dance and I am excited to see him go.  And while she is one of a small number of his friends I would approve of him dating I hope they remain simply friends.  This is a great time in his life to just enjoy his friends without any pressure to turn it into something more.  There is so much time in life to be a grown up and take on the responsibilities that go with that.  Now is his time to just relax and have fun.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What is Simplicity to me?

I have been talking about simplifying my life for a while.  I really like the concept.  I would like my life to be simpler.  I love reading blogs of people who have "simplified" their lives.  People who sold their homes to prioritize family, shop at thrift stores, make their own apple sauce, soap and clothes.  People who live on farms and grow their own vegetables.  I love reading about all that imagining that simple and relaxing life. 

Lately though as I have read some of those blogs I have pesmistically wondered if those people weren't just irresponsible members of society who were living in denial of the world they live in and really just mooch off those of us doing the very things they scorn.  And how long can they really live like that?  Didn't the flower children of the 60's turn into the power brokers of the 80's?  Eventually you realize you do have to work, we live in a culture that costs money, a culture where we meet friends out at restaurants,  it costs $400 for your child to get a driver's permit and he needs money for some school activity practically every week.  Are all these people dreaming of sustainable farms and simple living really just putting off the inevitable need to get a full time job and join the rest of us in our culture of consumption?

Maybe there can be a balance.  For me there will need to be a balance.  As much as I like the idea of making everything from scratch, I just don't have the skill, patience or desire to do that regularly.  Interestingly as I want to pesimistically say that some striving to be simple are simply irresponsible I found in trying to define what simplicity would mean to me that it was all about responsibility.  I desire to be responsible with the gifts and resources God has blessed me with.

Initially as I wrote a list trying to define simplicity for me I found myself writing about an idealistic family life where we all sat around the living room each evening working on projects, reading to one another and becoming better people.  I suspected my family might not be on board with that plan and when I brought it up one night they confirmed a complete lack of vision for my vision.  However, I think taking responsibility for my family by prioritizing spending time with them each day rather than focusing on myself and expecting family time to just magically happen is a more realistic definition of simplicity for me.

Along with that vision I was imagining us learning new things.  I gave them the vision of us all sitting around the living room with me knitting or sewing something while John was reading a book, Jake was learning to play some instrument and Isabelle was working on a puzzle.  That would be our regular evening activities (because we would never be on the computer or x-box, we would want to be together and work on improving ourselves instead.)  I can still learn to take responsibility for my own learning, still work on those projects I was going to do while listening to Jake play piano but instead I will listen to a cd (or I could go watch him kill things on Halo while knitting.)  I will encourage my family to learn new things but won't try to remove them from the culture in which we live to do so.

I tried to sum up the family part of simplicity with this, "living a life prioritizing God and family.  Helping my family and myself learn new skills, over come fears and obstacles to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives."

I also envision simplicity creating a sense of contentment with what we have in our life and valuing our possesions enough to maintain them rather than see everything as disposable.  My family was with me a little more on this one.  We have already begun to work on changing our attitudes in this area and be more responsible with all that God has given us.  When I asked John what came to mind for him when I said simplicity his words were, less clutter and more self-reliant.  I think both of those fit into this part of simplicity.  Getting rid of what we don't need and doing for ourselves what we can.  I believe the other side of that is hiring out what we can't.  John hires people to do parts of a remodeling job he either doesn't know how to do or knows others can do better than him.  We have learned to appreciate both the better turn out of a job for us and the client when he knows his limitations and the appreciation of a subcontractor looking for work.  While hiring out work might not seem to fit in with simplicity and self-reliant, being responsible to know your own limitations does. 

As I thought about my romanticism with the idea of making all my meals from scratch or making my own butter or soap or other staple item I had to ask myself what was the real attraction.  I don't really want to make butter.  It might be fun to make soap for gifts sometime but not to meet my daily cleansing needs.  I realized what really attracted me to those things was the planning that went into them and the preparation it creates in your life.  If you can't just run out and buy butter at the grocery store then you need to watch your butter supply and plan a day to make it before you run out.  That planning is what I like.  Not reacting to an empty butter dish but anticipating the inevitable need for more.  I want to anticipate the fact that my family will need to eat dinner every night, my children will need new clothes every fall and Christmas will be on December 25th AGAIN.   These are things I need to take responsibility for and not act surprised when they come up.

Those are a few of the ways I am going to "Simplify in 2010".  What are you going to do this year to simplify your life?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Simple New Year

I love the new year, a new season, start of school, Mondays...any time that marks a new beginning, a moment to start fresh and go forward improving yourself in some way.  I wrote last year on my love of resolutions...twice.  As talked about in last years second post, 2009 was a theme year, the year of Africa.  I hadn't really done a theme in the past but it was a special year.  Of course in reading about creating goals many people suggest having a life goal or some over arching concept that guides all other goals you make.  As I wrote out some of my goals this year I found myself writing at the top of the page, "Simplify in 2010" (I did spend some time trying to think of a way to make that concept rhyme but couldn't come up with anything.)  I am also turning 40 this year and so am thinking about how I want to end this decade of my life and start a new one. 

Actually 39 could sort of be a parallel to today...This is the last day before we go back to a new routine and official launch into life in 2010.  My plan for today is to finish up a bunch of loose ends and then go to bed early so I am ready to launch into my life and discover all the new things I will learn and adventures God will take me on.  If today is that day for 2010, this year is that for my 40's.  Finishing up those last minute projects of my 30's and preparinto enter my 40's ready for all the new life experiences that next decade will bring me.

I actually just came up with that thought as I was sitting here typing this up but interestingly most of my goals for this year do revolve around finishing up or improving things I am already doing.  Crafts and home projects that have been filling up my closet for years, solidifying a consistant work-out schedule, continuing with a second year focussed on prayer, finally figuring out a system to put dinner on the table for my family every night... 

These are also a reflection of my desire to simplify my life.  I don't want to run around trying lots of new things, making lots of changes or reinventing myself in any way.  I want to simply go forward in this new year continuing to grow and become the woman God created me to be.  Some years are about change and big happenings, 2009 certainly was, but some years are about stepping back and simply living your life, taking stock of how God has blessed you and reveling in those blessings.  That is what 2010 will be for me.

One of the things I continue to work on is my health and healthy eating habits.  As I am being challenged by my sister to begin the year with a detox, an extreme healthy food week to jump start my commitment to healthy eating, I have decided I am also going to detox from electronics in my life, no spending WAY too much time on my computer emailing, blogging, reading blogs, playing solitare, etc.  Time that could be better spend working on those neglected crafts, maintaining my home or simply enjoying my children and husband.  So for the next week I will be keeping my thoughts to myself, or sharing them in person.   I will be checking my email as I have created a life where all communication comes through it but won't be responding unless absolutely necessary.

I am going to try one new thing, I am going to try to write a blog post and schedule it to post in a couple days.  If it works out I could bang out all my thoughts once a week for you all rather than spending WAY too much time contemplating them each day.  Just another way I am thinking of simplifying my life in 2010.  As a can look for a post on what Simplicity means to me later this week.

Happy 2010.  Let the Games Begin!

ps I have a new set up from blogger which I mostly like but can't seem to find the spell check button, I count on that button to make me look more intellegent than I actually am.  If anyone knows where it is please tell me, in the mean time, ignore the spelling errors.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Hope Filled Year

Happy New Year! I love a new year. Another of many opportunities throughout the year for a fresh start, a time to take stock of what you have done and what you are going to do. We all heard alot about "change" in 2009 (and 2008) but what I have heard a couple times in the media about 2010 is the word, "hope". I like that. A year of hope, where we dream our dreams and believe they are possible. We have hope that this year will be better than next year.

Of course the word "hope" has meaning to me because many years ago I felt hopeless when it came to thinking I would ever have a second child. Then one Sunday morning I was in church singing, "I put my hope in your holy word." As I asked God to help me understand what that was and to revive in me the hope I could get pregnant, He helped me understand that I was putting my hope in the wrong thing. We can't put our hope in people, things, family, politics, money, a baby, etc. Our hope can only come from God. My hope wasn't to be that I would get pregnant, rather it was that no matter what happened God would be there holding me, caring for me and directing me. My hope came from knowing and believing that whatever plan He had for me was the best plan for my life. And now having that second child I prayed for in a way I never would have planned myself I can assure you it is true, God's plans are best. And so as I make plans for a hope filled year I place them at God's feet knowing that ultimately he is in control and my joy will come from following Him.