Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fear Journal

The new color of my kitchen--a bright, yellowish green

For my birthday and Christmas this year, I asked for nothing but money.  See, I have wanted to paint my living room, kitchen and hallway for years but haven't gotten around to it.  Actually, that's not true.  It's more like just the idea of painting all that myself overwhelms me and makes me content to stare at dings in the walls, white lines up the stairs (sharpee marker drawing cleaned up with a magic eraser takes the dye off wallpaper), peeling wallpaper in the kitchen.  This year I decided enough was enough and I am going to hire it done.

Now that I have the money and have called a painter, I have this dilemma.  What colors should I paint the walls???  Oh my should this not be a decision a person like me should have to make.  Indecision is my middle name.  Should the living room be this shade of white, or this shade of white. or maybe one of these other hundred shades of white???  What about the kitchen?  I was thinking blue but Hubby says he hates blue, so we're left with sticking with green like we already have.  Hubby wants a sage color (basically what we already have now) but I want to go brighter.  But what if it doesn't look good?  Would a bright green be too much?

I was sitting on the floor of my kitchen tonight stripping away the wallpaper and thinking about paint colors when a thought came into my head:  "This is a really stupid thing to stress over.  Stop trying to play it safe and go with the color you really want.  If a bright green makes you happy then go with it."

Decisions can be so difficult for me because I am afraid to make the wrong one.  I make up my mind, but then waffle for a while because maybe something else is a better idea.  Play it safe or go with what I want?  Take the same old road or take a risk and go a new way?

I've been praying for a while now about what I should focus on for this coming year, which starts in about...an hour and twenty minutes.  I was looking at a few journals online that had names like "Who I Am" and "Love Journal" and "Happiness Journal" when an idea hit me.

I should write a Fear Journal.

Not a journal listing all my fears, but a journal that chronicles all the times that I face my fears and do something.  The times when I do things afraid.  Or when I do things that used to make me afraid but now don't.  Or when I want to do something but end up chickening out.

I was thinking about my life a few years ago and how I lived in a pretty constant state of fear.  Fear held me back from doing just about everything.  I never stayed home alone overnight, I was too afraid to go to new places by myself, trying to find a new church was incredibly stressful for me with the whole meeting new people and unknown of the church, I feared for my kids way beyond healthy, I had to check the locks on my house more than once every night before going to bed.  I could go on.

That isn't me anymore.  I am so far removed from that person today that when I looked in the mirror a few weeks ago, I was struck with the thought that I don't even know who that girl is looking back at me.  She is a stranger.  She does things that she never did before.  She told her daughter just the other day that she wanted to go bungee jumping just because it was scary and she wanted to do scary things.  She talks to strangers and friends alike without silently sweating bullets inside.  She lets her kids play outside without fearing they will be kidnapped.  She decides to paint her kitchen bright green and doesn't let her fears of making a mistake sway her.

A new museum in another town--
A new place used to be too stressful for me

I took the kids to Chicago without my Hubby for the first day
He ended up getting the time off and joined us later but I agreed
to go on the vacation thinking he wouldn't be there

Me bouncing on hippity hops and racing the kids instead of
sitting on the sidelines because I didn't want to look stupid
Yes, this is the infamous source of my back pain
that has completely cleared up as of a week ago

Vacationing at the lake house--just the kids and me

So 2014--You will be hearing even more from me about my Fear Journal project.  About my many many feats of bravery, and possibly with a side dish of stupidity.

Bring on the New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gingerbread Houses and Christmas Cookies

I have never decorated a gingerbread house before.  The closest I've come is decorating graham crackers into the shape of a house.  So I decided this year we were going to rectify the situation.  I bought one of those kits that comes with everything you need.  I set it on the shelf where it sat for two weeks.

Tonight we were supposed to go to our church for a Live Nativity event, but the weather is awfully frightful tonight with all this freezing rain.  So I pulled out the gingerbread house for us to decorate instead.

I opened the package only to discover this.

Yuck.  What is that???  Why would I waste all the delicious frosting and candy on something that looks like cardboard disguised as gingerbread?  What a disappointment.  "Okay, girls.  Let's make cookies we can actually eat and use the decorations on them instead."

We cracked out the kitchenaid and got to work.

We made up a batch of sugar cookies.  And I passed off my least favorite part of cookie making onto the kids.  They were more than happy to squish the cookies into balls as long as I turned a blind eye to their sample snitching.

And then came the fun part.  Decorating!

What we lack in actual decorating ability we make up for by using extra sprinkles and candy--for some of us that would be lots of extra candy.  I just cringed and turned the other way.  Hubby got all creative with his designs by using the piping set that came with the gingerbread house.  Here is the cookie he made for me.

It wasn't the evening I had planned on, but we had a lot of fun and can now say we made Christmas cookies this year.  I still haven't decorated a gingerbread house, but maybe I will try again next year after baking my own gingerbread that doesn't look like cardboard.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Miraculous Healings--So Long Peanut Allergy

This is the arm of a boy who is no longer allergic to peanuts

Once upon a time David was a baby.  He was cute and chubby except for one thing.  His face was always covered in horrible, red eczema.  We took him to the allergist to be tested when he was around 10 months old, suspecting a dairy allergy a the only thing he ate was dairy-based formula.  Testing revealed an egg and peanut allergy.  Interesting, as he'd had no exposure to those outside of when I was still pregnant.

Over the years he has added new allergies.  He did develop a dairy allergy, followed by soy, which were both outgrown by age two, thank God.  A tree nut allergy was discovered after a bad reaction to a mango smoothie (Did you know that mangoes are closely related to the cashew?  We didn't either at the time).  But for sure, the worst allergy we discovered was to fish which was discovered the hard way.  A nice meal of tilapia resulted in an epipen shot and a trip to the ER.  Fun night.

The rule of thumb with childhood allergies is that most allergies are outgrown by age 5.  Those that are not outgrown by then are usually with you for life.  Or so I've been told.  You can imagine that our hopes for David ever outgrowing his allergies to egg, peanuts, tree nuts and fish were pretty much nil by this point now that he's 10.

We've had David prayed over by people who are world renowned for their healing ministries.  No change.  We have prayed over David ourselves numerous times.  No change.

Year after year I took David to the allergist hoping for an improvement in his allergies, or at least in his asthma, only to be told that he is worse and needs MORE medicine.  He had been on Singular since he was first diagnosed with asthma at age two.  A few years ago I learned that Singular can cause personality changes--as in aggressiveness and ill tempers.  Last year I went to the allergist determined to get David off the medicine as he hadn't had an asthma attack in a long time, only to learn that his lung function was compromised and he couldn't quit Singular and now needed a daily inhaler.

You can imagine that by this point I'd basically given up hope of David ever outgrowing any of his allergies or getting off the Singular.

Two months ago I took David in for his annual check-up.  In the past year he has had several unintentional exposures to eggs in baked goods, so I asked the doctor his thoughts on us introducing eggs into David's diet.  He was very supportive as long as it was in baked goods but told us to come back in two months for testing.  He couldn't test David right then because I forgot to have him stop taking his allergy medicine five days in advance.

We left and bought David his first donut.  He's now eaten cake, donuts, cookies, pancakes, and biscuits with egg in them with no issues at all.  This year he was able to join in on my favorite birthday tradition--candy cane donuts from Tim Hortons.  He loves them just like I do.  Woohoo!!!

David's first donut

Today we went back to the allergist for allergy testing to see if his egg allergy is gone.  I also asked for David to be retested for his nut allergies on a lark.  You never know.

The weirdest thing happened.  He actually showed a reaction to eggs, so no actual eggs for David any time soon, but baked goods are still fine.  But the big surprise was that his peanut test didn't swell up at all.  As in no reaction.  The doctor and I just looked at his back, looked at each other, looked at his back again and were shocked.  A stronger test was ordered where they insert a bigger amount of the peanut protein under the skin with a needle just to be sure.  Again, no reaction.  None.  The doctor told us we could introduce peanuts into David's diet and see how it goes.  So we rushed home and served him a PBJ.  Just kidding.  I'm going to take this one slowly because I admit to being a little nervous.  He will have his first taste of peanuts while I stand over him armed with an epipen.

The little dot on the top left in column A is the peanut test.
We were expecting it to look like the big welts under the tree nut section.

The other big news is that back in October I decided (without informing the doctor--bad, Lisa) to take David off Singular and have him only take his daily inhaler and use a nasal spray for allergies and see how he does through monitoring his peek air flow daily at home.  If his lungs showed they were getting worse, I'd put him back on the Singular.  His daily peek air flow testing has shown that his lungs are doing really well.  Better than ever.  Today, David took the lung test where he breathes into a machine that tests his lung function.  Then he is given a breathing treatment and retakes the lung test.  For the first time David passed the test the first time with the breathing treatment only making a marginal improvement.

Which means that we can keep him off the Singular (which was causing behavior issues that have almost completely resolved much to my further amazement).

I walked out of the appointment hopeful and excited for the first time basically ever.  While he is still very allergic to tree nuts and fish, he can eat things with eggs and peanuts in them for the first time in his life!  The girls insisted that he needs to try M&Ms now.  Oh the possibilities...

So this is me claiming and proclaiming a miraculous healing from the Lord that has opened up a whole new world of deliciousness to my son.  A healing that has strengthened David's lungs and weakened his environmental allergies enough that he is doing better without taking Singular than when he was. Which has allowed my son's true nature to be revealed sans personality-altering medicine.  (And yes, I will share more on this topic in a future post)


Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Didn't Know What Love Was

Lisa, I want you to grow in love.  Learn to love.  Love others.  

This has been a recurring theme in my prayer times over the past...two years.  Over and over God keeps bringing up my learning to love.  Which is great.  Because loving others more is easy, right?  Of course I know how to love.  I just need to do a little more service and listen a little better and give more hugs.

I signed up to do Meals on Wheels, because that's loving others.  I did the dishes without complaining and picked up after my family.  That's also love, right?  I snuggled with my kids a little more than normal.  I gave my Hubby an extra smile.  I closed my laptop and gave my undivided attention when someone in my family wanted to talk to me.  I got this whole love thing down pat.  Wew.  Mission accomplished.

In previous posts, I alluded to the fact that the Lord has been at work in me, changing me in major ways that have had a big impact on me and my family.  I've already shared about my revelation in regards to my kids and how I see them and their penchant for chaos.  I shared about how the changes have born good fruit and led to a new joy in me and my family.

Today I am going to talk about love.  And how I totally didn't get it until now.  Which is probably obvious from what I just shared.

So this one day about three months ago, Hubby and I had a heart-to-heart with David about something or other.  I don't even remember the reason for the "talk."  What I do remember is this--David saying that he feels like he is a failure and can never do anything right.  Which is something he has said before and often.  I always brushed it off with platitudes.  Of course you're not a failure because of this...  Then Hubby said that he often felt the same way.

And this is when the bells started ringing in my head.  Ding ding ding!  This is important Lisa!

An idea started forming in my head.  A bad one.  I tossed it around for a while.  I didn't like it.  I stewed on it for a while--okay, for like two months.  I told you I didn't like it.

But I started making changes just in case the idea in my head was true.  Because even if I didn't like it, it would be really bad to continue ignoring the idea if it was actually the truth.

Then after my surgery a few days after praying that Jesus would hold my hand, the idea cemented itself in my heart and I knew it was time to face facts.

My sin of focusing on the faults of others and remaining silent 
about their good parts was destroying those I love most.  

I was focused on correcting wrong behavior, wrong answers, wrong attitudes, etc.  I focused on the faults and failures of my family and pointed them out.  What I wasn't doing was also pointing out the good stuff.  The successes, the improvements, the follow-through, the good attitudes, etc.  I saw the good stuff; I just didn't say anything about it out loud.

So I made a decision.  It was time to keep my mouth shut about all but the most important faults and to start pointing out any and all successes.  For example: when a child hands me their rough draft in writing, I will point out all the good stuff I see (what excellent handwriting, you did really well forming paragraphs, I love the way you worded this, you spelled this really hard word correctly) and then I will help them with the errors.  When I see my child offer to share their candy with their sibling, I will comment on how loving it is to share.  When someone does a good job with their chores, I will point out how nicely the bathroom shines.  I will say things like, "I know that song was really hard for you to learn on the piano, but I am so proud of you for persevering to get it perfect."

Unfortunately, this area of sin in my life was not exclusive to my kids.  Oh no.  My worst offendee has definitely been my dear Hubby.  A few years ago, through much effort and prayer, I learned to stop treating him as if he were another one of my children, a habit that was quickly eroding the peace and love in my home.

This step was a big one and very good.  But it wasn't enough.  While I'd stopped disrespecting Hubby, I continued to keep my mouth shut about the good stuff.  I saw him take out the trash, I was grateful when he made dinner when I was too tired, I noticed how loving it was when he played a game with the kids and demonstrated some extreme patience with them.  But I rarely said anything to him about it.

So I started applying the same practices with Hubby that I had with the kids.  Shut my mouth about the negative and praise the good stuff.  Notice what he does.  Point it out.  Comment on it.  Thank him.  Encourage him.  Love him with my words.

Of course it didn't come naturally or easily at first.  But I have been working hard at it without having said anything about it to my Hubby.  Until a few nights ago when I commented on how much I've seen David blossom in the last few months since I started working on this area.  How he's more willing to try harder things, his frustrated rants over schoolwork have been way less frequent, that he seems so much more confident in himself in general.  And then I casually mentioned that I'd been doing the same thing with Hubby.  Hubby was silent for a minute.  And then he said, "I noticed and have felt so incredibly loved by you lately.  That you notice the good that I do.  That you really notice me."

Insert ax to Lisa's heart.  The heart that was shattered in that moment by the "what ifs" and the regrets.  I don't think I've ever truly mourned the effects of sin in my life so strongly before that moment.  I felt it deeply to my core that my sin had so adversely impacted my family.  And then I was flooded with gratefulness that God didn't give up on me when I just wasn't getting it when He kept telling me to grow in love.  That God pursued me month after month, bringing about situations that He used to make the point He was trying to teach me hit home.

I was so completely blind.  I just looked at Hubby, puzzled, and said, "How could I have missed this?  I am almost 35 years old.  I have been a Christian my entire life.  How did I not know this?  How could I not have understood what it means to truly love people?  To show them with my words that I love them?"

I do now.  And it has made all the difference.

(Warning: This post is honest about what has been going on in my life.  I share this because God is so good to not leave us in our mess, and as I know I am not the only person to experience this, I want to open the eyes of others who need to hear this.  But, while I am seeing major victory in this area, I'm not perfect.  So if you see me fall flat on my face about anything I've mentioned here, pray for me, but keep it to yourself.  LOL!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Jesus Story--A Book Review

It's time for another book review.  This time I read The Jesus Story: Everything That Happens in the New Testament in Plain English by Dr. William H. Marty.  I chose to review this book because I like reading books that sum up the Bible in a way that gives it a fuller picture.

Basically, I read the Bible and I get stuff out of it.  But I don't generally read the entire New Testament in one go.  And because the Bible isn't necessarily written in chronological order, I don't always realize that certain events happened at the same time or certain people lived at the same time as others.  Maybe it's just me who is clueless about this sort of stuff.

On the off chance that I am not alone in my ignorance, books like The Jesus Story do a good job of summing it all up in a nice little package.  It puts the stories into context.

Overall I liked the book.  It served the purpose I was looking for--I learned a few new things, got a better understanding of how events in the New Testament fit together, and now have a book to hand my kids to read for Bible class when they are a little bit older.

If you are looking for a short and sweet summary of the New Testament, this is a good resource.  If you are looking for a meaty summary, this isn't for you.  It basically sums up the events in the order they happened without going into further detail.  (Sometimes it's nice to have other historical content thrown in to the story and sometimes just the facts from the Bible is nice)

**Thank you Bethany House Publishers for giving me a copy of this book to review.  All of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.**

This post may contain affiliate links – Ladybug Farms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Homeschooling Secret Weapon

This is how Joy does math--outfit is essential

I have been struggling a lot lately trying to homeschool my kids.  Mostly because they don't always want to listen when I read out loud to them.  Or they pretend to not retain anything they've just heard.  Which can become extremely frustrating.

"So what did we just learn about?"  Met with blank stares.

"Who was the main character in today's reading?"  More blank stares.

Makes a person want to give up.  But that's the downside of homeschooling.  You can't give up.  You have to figure out a way to get through to your kids because they have to actually learn and there's no back up plan.  As in--I can't just pass them onto the next grade and hope the new teacher can do a better job.  I'm it.

After weeks/months of trying to come up with a solution--from switching teaching methods, curriculum, letting them do puzzles or build with blocks, etc--I finally hit on the winning solution.  I was standing in the checkout lane at Walmart on Monday and inspiration struck.  BUY THESE it said.  So I did.

I pulled them out Tuesday morning.  I told the kids that I was going to read to them and at the end I would ask questions.  If they got the right answer, they got a cookie.  I started reading.  Absolute silence.  I asked a question.  All three kids were falling over each other to be the one who got to answer.  When I asked them to narrate what we'd just read, they all wanted to go first.  I assure you, this is not normal in my household.  It was the same story today during school.

All I can say is that I am not above bribing my kids to pay attention and learn.  If it works, I am all for it.  If a few cookies will transform my wiggly, brain-dead kids into astute children eager to learn, bring on the cookies! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith In The Land Where Jesus Walked

Yesterday my blog included a quote from a book I have been reading.  Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked by Lynn Austin.  It is another book I received as part of the Bethany House Books review program where I get free books in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked this book.  The author, Lynn, is feeling dry in her walk with the Lord.  She is slogging through life and feeling really dry.  The whole wilderness experience.  She's also a little depressed after a bunch of major life changes occurred in the space of one year--all her children moving away, deaths in the family, etc.  

She takes a trip to Israel and visits a bunch of Biblically historical locations.  In the process of seeing all these places that she'd previously only read about in the Bible, she has a "moment" and is determined to go home and embrace the changes in her life and move forward in her walk with the Lord.  

I enjoyed the book.  I highlighted probably a quarter of it.  I learned a lot of background knowledge that put the events in the Bible into a new perspective.  She visits King Herod's mountain "fall out shelter"--his fortress where he could go and be safe if the zombies ever attacked.  Here I learn that King Herod was a paranoid man who killed his wife and kids, who killed all the Jewish boys under the age of two in an attempt to eradicate the threat of Jesus overthrowing him, who had vast stores of food and ammunition just in case he ever needed it.  Herod is a prime example of a Prepper.  

There are lots of other interesting facts I picked up from this book, but I won't go into them here.  Mostly I liked the book and would recommend it because it's about life when you feel dry and blah.  I already shared that I was feeling blah a few weeks ago.  I've gone through many highs and lows in my walk with the Lord--times when I felt really close to Him and times when I wasn't even sure He was listening.  

I've approached big changes in my life both with grace and with kicking and screaming.  I used to say that I hated change.  I was a very regimented sort of person who liked routine and had a really hard time when my schedule was thrown off.  Things like vacations and holidays did a number on me.  And major life changes were even worse.  Transitioning from working full time to being a stay at home mom was not a change that I handled with grace.  Not even a little bit.  

I was a flower in a pot who was squished so tight in my root-bound state and refused to budge out of that pot even though God was screaming at me to get out of that tiny pot and move over into the nice, new, bigger pot He had prepared for me.  Nuh-uh, Lord.  I am happy here.  Don't make me change.  

Over the last few years I have come a long way.  I can go on vacation and not turn into a shrew like I used to.  I can look at a messy house and not want to weep in frustration.  But when it comes to big changes, I still have room to grow in saying Yes to the Lord right away.  I've gotten way better, WAY better than I used to be.  And I have faith that I will get to the place where I say Yes right away and embrace the work God has for me and wants to do in me.  

I will leave you with these words from the book:

The question is, am I willing to leave the comfortable, familiar pot where I'm 
currently languishing and trust God to transplant me to a new one?

**Thank you Bethany House Publishers for giving me a copy of this book to review.  All of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.**

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Where Jesus Holds My Hand

That moment in life when you are so happy, when life is going so good, when your whole being is just bubbling over with joy that you want to hold your breath so the moment will last forever.  I don't want it to end.  I want it to stay this way forever.

Two weeks ago I hit a low.  My problems seemed to be stacking up--health problems, kid relational problems, extended family health problems, house a total wreck problems.  I woke up one morning two weeks ago and just felt yucky and beaten down.  I sat in my chair to have a prayer time.  My first real prayer time since my surgery due to my sleeping in every morning, exhaustion during the day, and forgetfulness.  (Possibly some laziness, too, but we'll ignore that idea.)

I started praying which may have more closely sounded a bit like whining and complaining.  I just felt defeated and worn down.  Problems on top of problems.

After a few minutes of this, I started journaling like I usually do.  First I wrote down all my problems and then I starting writing down what I wanted God to do.  As I was writing this, I found myself writing that I felt so thirsty and dry.  I hadn't prayed in two weeks.  I had barely done anything at all except make it through the day.

I stopped.  I thought about this for a few minutes.  There is a show my kids like to watch on Netflix called Oscar's Oasis.  In the show Oscar is a lizard in the desert.  One of the episodes is about Oscar being so incredibly thirsty and not being able to find any water.  His tongue is hanging out, just begging for one drop of water.  Anything to slake his thirst.  I felt like that.

My prayer changed.  I stopped complaining.  Stopped telling God how to fix my situation.  And I asked him to just hold my hand.  Hold my hand today so I can be strong enough to make it.  Hold my hand so I will respond in love to my kids instead of snapping at them.  Hold my hand so I can have the emotional fortitude to handle the failing health in my extended family.  Hold my hand so I can look past my own physical limitations and instead focus on the fact that my recovery from surgery has been uncomplicated and easy even if a lifting restriction and needing to rely on others so much chafes a bit.

Nothing in my life changed.  All my problems were still there.  My kids didn't suddenly become angels who stopped fighting and resisting doing their school work.  No one was miraculously healed.  My desire to do anything other than rest didn't go away.

The only thing that changed was....ME.

Since that morning I've had some major breakthroughs in my heart.  Major.  Life altering.  Oh my, how could I have missed this all these years type revelations.  I wrote about one of them already--about how I see my kids.  Really see them at a heart level and not just see the mess and chaos.  Other things have changed in me as well that I am still working through.

I hosted Thanksgiving for my side of the family for the first time.  I was so incredibly peaceful and joyful the entire time preparing for the event and through the event.  I didn't feel harried or stressed even once.  A miracle as far as I am concerned.

"Out here [in the desert], with no visible source of food or water, no shelter from the elements, it's easy to succumb to the fear that we've been abandoned by God in this desolate place.  Maybe that's why we call the dry, parched times in our lives, when our soul withers and God seems very far away, 'a wilderness experience.'  Such experiences often come at times of change and upheaval.  When God wants to shake us free from our old habits and lead us into a new walk with Him, He sometimes begins with a desert journey." ~ Lynn Austin in Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked

So here I am today.  None of the problems in my life have gone away other than my lifting restriction which was lifted as of Thanksgiving day.  Woohoo!!!  Time to move furniture!  (Okay, just kidding.  Sort of.)  But I have changed.  I can now look at my appendectomy with thankfulness.  It forced me to slow down.  Way down.  It caused me to hit a low point which led me to that morning of complaining which led me to pray a prayer I've never prayed before which resulted in big heart changes in me.  Which have resulted in good changes in my family.

Which brought me to the moment where I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror getting ready for my family Thanksgiving, the sounds of music and laughter blasting from my living room as the kids and my Hubby had a morning dance party, and all I felt was an intense joy.  A fullness of joy.  Like I had met Jesus in the midst of the wilderness and He led me out to the other side.

This post may contain affiliate links – Ladybug Farms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent-Preparing for the Coming of Christ

Today marks the beginning of the Advent season.  Over the years I have tried to do something for Advent with the kids.  Two years ago I discovered the Jesse Tree and we followed a scripture guide and made decorations every day to go along with the scripture verses.  Last year I used a different Advent devotional book.

This year I wanted to do something different.  Something that would both engage my kids and give them something to look forward to.  I decided to stick with the Jesse Tree scripture guide but instead of making ornaments, I came up with fun activities that we could do as a family.

I sewed an Advent calendar with pockets for each day.  Then I made a chart for each day of Advent that includes the family activity, the theme of the day, and the scripture verses to read.

Today I was too late for making up our scripture reading, but we did do an activity.  We played Apples to Apples together.  We've never played it as a family before and we all loved it.  It's definitely going to be a new family favorite.

I am completely illiterate when it comes to creating PDF files, so I am just going to copy our Advent chart here for anyone who is interested.  (And I can't figure out why it's not formatting to be the same width, but I don't care anymore so I'm posting this sloppy.)

If you celebrate Advent with your family, I would love to hear what you do in your home.

Decorating the Christmas tree 


Paint Ornaments

Jesse Tree
1 Sam 16:1-13
Isaiah 11:1-10

Make Advent Wreath

Genesis 1:1-2:3

String Popcorn

The first sin—Adam and Eve
Genesis 2:4-3:24

Moonlight Walk

The Flood—Noah
Genesis 6:11-22, 7:17-8:12, 20-9:17

Read Aloud Christmas Book

The Promise—Abraham
Genesis 12:1-7, 15:1-6

Fire and Sing Christmas Songs

Offering of Isaac
Genesis 22:1-19

Christmas Movie

Jacob—Assurance of the Promise
Genesis 27:41-28:22

Candlelight Dinner

Joseph—God's Providence
Genesis 37, 39:1-50:21

Make Christmas Cookies

Moses—God's Leadership
Exodus 2:1-4:20

Deliver cookies to neighbors

Israelites—Passover and Exodus
Exodus 12:1-14:31

Hot Cocoa

God—Giving the Torah at Sinai
Exodus 19:1-20:20

Make Christmas Cards

Joshua—The Fall of Jericho
Josh 1:1-11, 6:1-20


Visit Grandparents

Gideon—Unlikely Heroes
Judges 2:6-23, 6:1-6, 11-8:28

Game Night

Samuel—The Beginning of the Kingdom
1 Sam 3:1-21, 7:1-8:22, 9:15-10:9

List of Love and Appreciation of Family

David—A Shepherd for the People
1 Sam 16:1-17:58, 2 Sam 5:1-5, 7:1-17

Wrap Presents for Family

Elijah—The Threat of False Gods
1 Kings 17:1-16, 18:17-46

Snow Ice Cream

Hezekiah—Faithfulness and Deliverance
2 Kings 18:1-19:19, 32-37

Christmas Lights Drive

Isaiah—The Call to Holiness
Isaiah 1:10-20, 6:1-13, 8:11-9:7

Carol to the Grandparents

Hab 1:1-2:1, 3:16-19

Living Nativity 5-7 pm

John the Baptist—Repentance
Luke 1:57-80, 3:1-20, 7:18-30


Mary—The Hope
Luke 1:26-38


Snowman Contest

Joseph—Trust Matthew 1:19-25
Magi—Worship Matt 2:1-12

Make Birthday Cake for Jesus
Church Service 5pm

Jesus—Birth of the Messiah
Luke 2:1-20

Birthday Party for Jesus

Christ—The Son of God
John 1:1-18

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Once Was Blind...An Aha Moment

Joy making bread

I am a perfectionist.  Sometimes.  Mostly when it comes to my baking.  I want my baked goods to turn out perfect and delicious.  I want my kitchen to remain orderly and not end up covered in the spoils of flour and sugar and yeast.  Don't even get me started on the less savory things like honey and oil and other gooey ingredients getting all over my kitchen.  Painful.

So imagine this scene.  An ordinary home kitchen-mine.  Two moms.  Twelve girls ranging from 3rd-6th grade.  120 sugar cookies.  4 tubs of frosting.  10 containers of various sprinkles.  Free license to decorate enough cookies to take home to their families.


Absolute total complete beyond my imagining chaos.

I stood there watching the girls dipping their fingers into the frosting jars and licking them.  Dumping mountains of sprinkles on their cookies.  Spilling sprinkles all over the table and floor.  Frosting being smeared across my table.  The mess.  Oh my goodness.  The mess.

I almost died.

But then inner Lisa had a talk with myself and said, "Look around at these girls.  Laughing.  Talking.  Having a great time.  Doing something innocent and fun.  Is having a clean kitchen and perfect looking cookies more important than this moment?"

So I ushered the girls out of the kitchen when they were done and got to cleaning up the worst of the mess while they played a game with my hero (the other mom) who agreed to stay and help me with the party.

Later as the girls were all leaving, they all stopped and thanked me, telling me they had a really good time.  And it wasn't even prompted by their parents.  They genuinely had a good time.  And I thought about that later as I was sweeping up sprinkles and scrubbing frosting off my table.  But the lesson didn't stick until this morning.

A little kitchen chemistry as Joy learns to weigh ingredients

I needed to make bread for dinner and Joy asked to help.  She basically made the bread by herself, measuring the ingredients herself on the scale.  Every time I tried to intervene, she pulled the measuring cups away and said, "I got this, Mom.  I can do it myself."  Once again my eyes saw the flour and yeast and water on the counter and floor.  But then the Holy Spirit checked my soul and said, "Lisa.  Stop.  Let her do this.  You can clean up the mess later.  She is learning to make bread and to create something to be proud of.  Let her.  It's okay if it isn't perfect.  It's okay is things get spilled.  The lesson is more important than the end result."

So I backed off.  I let her do it all by herself.  I died to my desire for perfection and order.  And I left the end result of our bread up to Joy.  After we were done mixing up the bread, I started cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes.  Joy said she would help me with the hand washing.  Again, I wanted to step in and do it myself because Joy's method of hand washing involves half a bottle of dish soap, lots of water on the floor, and dishes that are still dirty when she's done.  But I let her wash them anyway with plans to rewash them when she was gone from the room.  As she was washing the dishes, I glanced behind me and saw this.

I almost insisted it be picked up immediately because we were in the process of cleaning the house for company.  But again the Holy Spirit checked me and something very different came out of my mouth.

"So why are the stuffed animals all over the hall?"

"I'll pick them up when I'm done doing dishes."

"No, I'm not asking you to clean them up.  I'm asking what game you are playing."

"Really?  We're playing a toy game.  The hall is death valley and David has to kill all the animals in order to get through."

"So how does he kill them?"

"He has to throw his fish stuffed animals at them."

"Who came up with this idea?"

Lizzy piped up, "I did!  I came up with the idea and Joy made it happen."

"That sounds like a really imaginative game.  I'm glad you are having fun."

And this was the moment that I realized that I have spend my kids' entire childhoods focusing on the wrong things.  I see the mess.  And only the mess.  Yesterday I would have seen the mess and told them to clean it up.  I wouldn't have asked them why the mess was there.  I wouldn't have asked about their game and how they play it.  I wouldn't have let them keep my hall lined with stuffed animals.  I have had blinders on my eyes all this time.

Messes can be cleaned up.  Order can be restored.  But creativity and ingenuity and learning and sense of accomplishment can be squashed in a heartbeat the moment Mom steps in and says STOP.  Clean up this mess.  No, don't do that.  Here, let me help you.

And so I am making a promise right now that I will stop focusing on the wrong things.  I will ask questions before making demands.  I will see the creativity and ingenuity before the chaos.  I will embrace the learning opportunities and pride in accomplishments without stressing over the resulting mess.  I will see my children as mad geniuses busy inventing instead of as F5 tornadoes bent on destroying my orderly life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cleaning Blast

Folding their own laundry

Sometimes inspiration hits me out of no where.  I get an idea in my head and I think, huh, that just might work.  Today I had one of those ideas in regards to how I handle cleaning the house.

My usual pattern of cleaning is to assign chores.  David, you clean the bathroom.  Lizzy, pick up the living room.  Joy, the dining room.  Which the kids will do--more or less.  But it usually involves some whining.  And the need for a few reminders to stop dawdling or playing with found toys.  And I often have to drag at least one child back to the room to address something they left undone.  Sometimes they do a good job without much oversight, but not always.

So today we had to clean up the whole main living area because we have company coming over this weekend.  I thought about doing the cleanup in our normal way but then I started thinking--the kids always do better when I am right there to oversee their work.  But I can't be in three different rooms at the same time.  So what if instead of assigning individual rooms, we instead cleaned everything together.

And thus I created what I call the Cleaning Blast.

"Oh," says David.  "Is that where we attach a rocket to everything and blow it up?"  Um...no.

Here are the rules:

1. Everyone helps

2. We tackle one room all together with everyone doing something

3. We don't leave the room until it's all done

4. Haul the trash can from room to room with us so there's no need to run to the kitchen every few seconds

5. Once the room is all picked up, move onto the next room

6.  The most important rule--Blast loud music because it's impossible to clean without the music blasting

Our dining room table cluttered with school "stuff"

We managed to clean the living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen, the kids' bedrooms and fold a hamper of laundry in 45 minutes.  All I have left is the pile of mess that always hangs out on my kitchen counter--AKA the dumping spot.  Were I to have assigned the rooms like I usually do, we may have gotten half that done.

I am not going to resort to cleaning blasts every time we do chores, but it will definitely be my new once-a-week routine for our bigger weekly cleaning.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sugar-Free, Yeast-Free Homemade Ginger Ale

3 Approve, 1 Says Yuck

It has been said that if you are going to give up a habit, you need to fill that void left by the bad habit with something good.  Otherwise you will most likely return to your bad habit.  Well, I have an addiction to soda.  Hard core addiction.  I love Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, and will drink Diet Coke-ish products when Pepsi is not available.

For years I have been drinking this delicious poison.  About two years ago my Hubby decided that he was going to quit using artificial sweeteners after reading about the bad things they can do to you.  At that time, I decided I would join him.  Thus was my first experience with aspartame withdrawal.  We both felt like we'd been hit with the flu.  Aches, pains, agony as our bodies went through detox.

Hubby was a good boy and didn't go back to drinking soda.  I was not so good.  I lasted about four months before I just could not go another day without drinking something other than water.  Juice is gross, milk is worse, coffee tastes like death in a mug, tea like dirty water, pop is out, which leaves me with water.  Boring old water.  No wonder every time I've tried giving up pop I only last a few months before I can't take it anymore.

Today I was reading an article about ginger and how good it is for you.  And then a little later I read a totally different article about curing super bad morning sickness by eating fermented foods (I wish I had read this article 11 years ago) and talked about the benefits of root beer and ginger ale when made the old fashioned way.  Say what???  I could make my own ginger ale?

Of course I had to do some research on this.  I like pop.  I need to eat more ginger.  I am going to make my own ginger ale.  The first recipes I found involve sugar, yeast, and fermentation over a few days.  I thought about that for about two seconds and decided that waiting was not for me.  I kept looking.  Which is how I found the quick method.  Steep fresh ginger root in boiling water, add sweetener, vanilla, and pour over bubbly water.  Hello instant gratification!

I dragged the kids to the store to buy bubbly water (I went with sparkling water because it was the cheapest) and ginger root.

Key ingredients

I boiled water on the stove and threw in the ginger and some pure strevia extract.  I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then steep, covered and with the burner off, for about a half hour.  Then I strained it, added in some vanilla and lemon extract, and mixed 3 ozs ginger concentrate with 5 ozs sparkling water poured over ice.

Boiling the ginger

David and Joy declared it delicious.  Lizzy said it was gross.  I thought it was pretty good, though next time I am going to omit the lemon extract.  But I am really happy with the results of my first foray into pop making.  This is definitely something I will try again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Baking With REAL EGGS!!

What?!  I'm minding my own lick-ness.
Wow does that girl crack me up

Almost ten years ago I received the news that my sweet, little boy was allergic to eggs.  Thus began my journey in egg-free baking.  I learned to make cookies, sweet breads, muffins, cake, and other delicious baked goods without eggs.

In the beginning, my results were slightly less than wonderful.  But over time I became a pretty darn good egg-free baker.  I perfected the eggless chocolate chip cookie to the point that people raved about my cookies, not realizing they were lacking a key ingredient.

And then a few weeks ago I took David to the allergist for his annual check up.  Two years ago his doctor said that we could try introducing eggs in limited amounts in baked goods.  I was never brave enough to try that.  But now I was ready.  I told the doctor that I wanted to try giving David eggs and he said definitely.

Thus opened a whole new world to David and potlucks.  For me and my baking.  For my family.

Enter baking WITH eggs.

I made a cake with eggs.  David tried it.  He didn't like it but he tried it.  And then today we baked up real sugar cookies and cupcakes for a girls event Lizzy is attending tomorrow.  Delicious, sugary, eggy cookies.  Oh my.  It has been way too long.  I tried egg-free sugar cookies in the past and they just never turned out quite right.  Passable, but always missing just a little bit of something.  No more.

I present to my readers our first batch of cookies made with eggs in our household for the first time in almost ten years.  I used this recipe I found of the Food Network.  They turned out beautifully.

10 dozen sugar cookies ready to be decorated

You will notice Lizzy mixing cupcakes in a bowl.  Thanks to all the baking lessons she's been getting from a friend of mine, I was able to hand her the box and say "Make this."  She only needed to know what temperature to set the oven to.  Otherwise she made them all by herself.

As for David and Joy, again, due to the influence of my friend, the baking teacher, I decided to back off and let them make the cookies with only minimal help from me.  Not the easiest thing for a woman who cringes every time flour gets spilled, butter goes flying, etc.  But they did a really good job and only made a medium size mess.  Which I made them clean up.  And I quote, "You know, the best part about baking is cleaning up."  Really?!  They even have to ask.  But they washed up their dishes anyway.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finally Making A Home

His and Hers chairs--which will not be misused by the children
under penalty of banishment from said chairs forever

Hubby and I bought our house over six years ago with the intention of it being our "forever" home.  It is big enough for our family without being overwhelming, a ranch style home with main floor laundry, right down the street from both our parents and my Grandma, in a good neighborhood.  The sort of home you would buy when you are looking to retire.

Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the "forever" part of our plan and started dreaming about our next house.  The house we build that has the big master bathroom, the extra room on the main floor so I can stop using our dining room as our school room, higher counters for all 6 feet 7 inches of Hubby, a bigger mud room we can all fit into without tripping when it's time to leave or come home, with the acreage and mature woods without undergrowth.  And maybe a pond or creek somewhere would be nice.

We started talking about it and making plans.  We made decisions to not make improvements on our current home.  Wood floors in the living and dining rooms.  Cork flooring in our bedroom.  Turning our 3 seasons sunroom into a 4 seasons room, thus creating a school room.  Redoing the master bathroom.  Turning the basement playroom into a game room where more than just kids would want to hang out.  Installing a third bathroom in the basement where we already have the plumbing stubbed in.

Tonight after Hubby and I wrestled the living room furniture around to fit our new recliner (okay, HUBBY wrestled the furniture and I just sat there and directed while Hubby kept telling me to sit down and not try to move anything), we sat down in our matching seats and started talking.

"I don't think we're going to move," says Hubby.

"Okay," says me.

"I want to start making improvements on our house and make it the house we want it to be.  Starting with the sunroom.  We're going to turn that into the school room and reclaim the rest of the house from all the books and papers and art projects."  Which involves insulating the plywood floor, the walls and ceiling, installing windows in place of the storm panes, and putting in a real door and not just a screen door.

I reached a point recently where I realized it was time to...I don't know...grow up maybe?  That I needed to stop dreaming about a different house and start investing in the house I have now.  Which is why when I was asked for my Christmas list this year, it only had one thing on it.--money to hire a painter to repaint almost the entire house.  It is something I have wanted to do for several years now but just never found the time or energy.  It is time to buy furniture that is not just functional, but actually matches and looks good together.  It is time to not just slap pictures up on the wall but to actually try to decorate.  It is time to be...a grown up.  Gulp.

So be prepared for big changes in the pipeline as we turn this house into a home.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Answered Prayer In The Midst Of Yuck

Snuggling with Joy as I rest up

I shared about my fun times with appendicitis.  But I left out a few things that are pretty amazing to me.  Things that really showed God's love and blessing despite my misery.

Previous to going into the hospital, I had a sinus infection.  Stuffed up, could barely breathe through my nose, head pounding sinus infection.  I actually had a doctor's appointment for the next day so I could get an antibiotic to knock out my illness.  Incidentally, my research suggests an infection of another sort (sinus) can cause appendicitis.  Who knew those sinuses could be so dangerous.  Anyway...

I was laying in the bed in the ER, miserable, in pain, exhausted because it was well after my new normal bedtime of around 10:00 pm.  The CT scan was taking forever to happen due to a back log.  I just wanted to sleep.  But I couldn't sleep because...my nose was stuffed up.  And I'm funny where I can't sleep if my nose is stuffed up.  I have to use nasal spray to clear it up.  The nurse offered me morphine.  I asked for Afrin.  "I'm sorry, I can't give that to you."  Fine.  Then I guess I won't sleep.

So I just laid there, kind of brooding in my head, how the heck am I supposed to sleep?!  I didn't want to watch TV--like there's anything on at 2:30 am anyway.  I had already stalked my email and facebook and any other website I could think of.  I decided to pray.  

Lord, I know this is silly when I'm laying here in a hospital bed most likely looking at surgery soon.  But if you could just heal my sinus infection and help me to breathe, I would really appreciate it.

Nothing happened.  Oh well.  I will just wait for drugs to cure me.  But then an hour passed and I started breathing better.  A few minutes later and my nose was completely clear.  I finally drifted off to sleep.  When I woke up a while later, my nose was still unstuffed and the fog in my head was gone.  Like completely healed of my sinus infection gone.  Just like that.  This is the only time I can ever remember being completely healed almost instantly.  My appendix was still broken, but God healed the rest of me.  

And then the fun part.  Around 6:30 am they finally admitted me to the hospital and someone came in to wheel me to my new room.  I was groggy, having just been woken up, so I didn't realize who was pushing my bed at first.  But then I looked up and was like, "Hey, I know you."  Pushing my bed was a guy I used to work with back in my A&W Restaurants days.  I haven't seen him since I was 18.  We had a nice chat between the ER and my new room.  

Finally, the last surprise was that out of all the places they could have stashed me in the hospital, I ended up on the floor where my sister-in-law works.  She was off work at the time, but I was very well taken care of by her coworkers.  They were extremely nice.  If I ever end up in the hospital again, I hope I get placed back in the same unit.  

Yes, I am one of those weird people who actually thinks hospitals are fun.  I was sort of sad when they kicked me out a few hours after my surgery.  I was looking forward to laying around all day being waited on, my meals delivered to me, and not having to do my own dishes.  I don't even mind shots and tests and surgery--I think they're actually cool.  When I woke up from my surgery, I asked the nurse if the doctor took a picture.  She handed me a glossy picture of my appendix and let me keep it.  I showed the kids who were not as excited as I was to see it.  And no, I will not share it here because it is kind of gross if you aren't interested in that sort of thing. Ha!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Appendicitis--When Stomach Pain Isn't Benign

Dr. Joy says "Mommy, you're sick."

You know how sometimes your stomach hurts really bad and you think for sure you have appendicitis and need to rush to the ER?  But then a few hours pass, and you pass a whole lot of gas, and the pain goes away?  So you know it wasn't actually your appendix.

Wednesday I felt fine.  No pain at all outside of sinus pain.  Hubby left to go to my brother's house around 7:00 pm.  I still felt fine.  A few minutes later uncontrollable chills set in.  Bone rattling, cannot get warm despite a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and laying in bed under all the blankets, still shivering.  My temperature went from 98.2 to 100.7 in an hour.

I laid there thinking, oh no.  I have the real flu!  And we just had my kids' friends over today.  I hope they don't get sick.  Then my stomach started hurting.  Active labor hurting.  Moaning and groaning, shivering and quivering, wanting to die hurting.

Webmd and Mayo Clinic, my two favorite sites for researching symptoms, gave me three top contenders for my condition:  Appendicitis, diverticulitis, or gastroenteritis.  Of course I figured I had the stomach flu.  Or food poisoning--sorry Qdoba, it really wasn't your fault that I felt so sick.  I shouldn't have blamed you in the first place.  You are still my favorite fast food restaurant.

And then all the pain localized to my right side.  All within a 2 hour time frame.  I was still home alone with the kids.  My parents had already spent the day at a hospital an hour away with my Grandpa.  My Hubby was at my brother's house.  I called my mom who was at the grocery store at 9:00 pm.  I told her what was going on and she said she would check out immediately and come over so I could go to the hospital.  I called Hubby and told him he needed to come home and take me to the ER.

In the back of my mind I am thinking that it's going to turn out that I am just really constipated or something stupid like that.  Because what are the chances that it's really my appendix?  Not likely.  But I still felt horrible enough to go in.  Which is saying a lot because the only time I have ever gone into the hospital for something other than child birth was when I was 5 and broke my arm.

I thought I was going to die in the car driving to the hospital.  Every bump in the road, every time Hubby pressed on the brakes, crazy pain shot through my stomach.  Getting out of the car and walking to the ER hurt.  Just standing there made me feel queasy.  The poor lady trying to check me in handed me a barf bag when I turned green standing there talking to her.  Which turned out to be a good thing because five minutes later when I was in the triage room I lost my dinner.  Nothing more embarrassing than losing it in front of other people.  Despite being sick, the pain did not diminish.

I then spent the next four hours in an ER bed, getting blood drawn, getting morphine, and eventually a CT Scan.  Eventually the resident came in and asked me if I had a preferred surgeon.  I looked at him like he was crazy--does anyone have a preferred surgeon???  It's not like I go around having surgery all the time.  But it confirmed that I wasn't crazy and that really did have appendicitis.

Hubby went home around 3:00 am after the resident assured us I wouldn't be operated on until the morning.  I tried to get some sleep despite being hooked up to an IV, a blood pressure cuff, and an oxygen level sensor while having horrible stomach pain.  Needless to say, I got about 2 hours of sleep and was anxious to have the surgery just so I could finally get some sleep.  At 7:30 am the surgeon came into my room, asked a bunch of questions and then told me I was going to go have surgery right then.  Huh?!  I hadn't even called my Hubby yet to tell him to come to the hospital.  I managed to get a quick call in before they wheeled me away just to let him know.

Hanging out in the ER

Post op, I apparently called Hubby to tell him I was worried because no one was there with me and that they were going to make me leave right away.  I have zero recollection of this conversation.  I saw this awesome video on youtube of a guy coming out of anesthesia who doesn't recognize his wife.  In the back of my mind I wondered if he was just faking.  Now I know he wasn't.

The second time I woke up I was much more lucid.  I called Hubby a second time.  He was sorting out childcare so he could come be with me.  My wonderful sister in law came over and watched our kids for the day.

My nurse kept asking me how I was doing pain wise.  I thought that was kind of funny.  My pain post surgery was nothing compared to my pain pre surgery.  The residual gas pain is much worse than the surgical pain.  I love the after affects of having my stomach filled with air--yeah shoulder and stomach pain!  After a few hours recuperating, I was deemed ready to go home.

So, here is the moral of the story.  Usually when I feel sick, it is not the worst possible diagnosis.  But sometimes it is.  And it's important to not ignore that 0.0001% time.  Now, going forward, I will know that any horrible stomach pain is not appendicitis since you can only get that once.  It will have to be some other mystery diagnosis only made unmysterious by the wonders of Webmd and Mayo Clinic.