Friday 31 May 2013

What I Am Into - May 2013

What I Am Into :: MAY 2013

I don't know what it was about May, but it seemed to drag on and on and on. In my mind, it's been May FOR.EV.ER. This has not been helped by far too many dreary rainy days. Bring on the sunshine, June. In the meantime, here's what I've been into this past month.

On My Nightstand:

Apparently this was the month of Sci-Fi. I re-read Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, which I love for somehow managing to be both intriguing and mindless. Perfect. Then I moved on to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. It was my first time reading it and wow, intense. Completely absorbing and fascinating. Five stars, all that good stuff.

Now I'm moving onto something a little more standard for me, Ami McKay's The Virgin Cure. I've loved her since reading The Birth House front-to-back without putting it down, so I have high hopes for this one as well.

On the screen:

I finally heard enough about Call the Midwife to convince me that I Had To Watch It. And it's true, I did. I fell head-over-heels in love with the show after only one episode. I adore it for being both tender and raw, sweet and witty, hopeful and realistic. Beautiful. I watched the season finale of season two last night; I'm not sure what to do with myself now. Probably watch it again, because yes, of course.

In My Kitchen:

Our Friday nights have for many months now consisted of a mad dash through dinner, a frantic "we're going to be late again" drive through the city, a lively discussion with our small group (the last remaining piece of our now-dissolved church plant), and finally a relaxing London Fog latte from a fun little coffee shop before heading back home to do the whole bedtime routine. As much as we loved our Bible study, it was the London Fogs that we really waited for each week. (Just kidding.) (Mostly.)

Now our friends have moved and Friday night Bible study is no more. Which means that Friday night London Fogs are no more. The horror!

(That's right, Paul and Julie, I'm talking about you. You see what you've done? Honestly, guys, I don't know where your priorities are.)

So when it's Friday night and you and your husband are both craving London Fogs and driving to that cute little cafe seems a bit excessive just to indulge in a latte, you do what you have to: comb teh Internetz for an acceptable homemade replacement.


Which means that every day this week, I have been making myself a London Fog (also known as an Earl Grey Latte) using this recipe, which I love for its all-inclusiveness. The recipe for the vanilla syrup, instructions for an easy microwaved foamed milk, and of course directions for the latte itself are all right there on one page. Easy-peasy; I love it.

It took me a few tries to get the milk to really foam up nicely, but I've now perfected it. I heat the milk in the jar for one minute, put the lid on and shake it like mad, then take off the lid and pop it back in the microwave for another 45 seconds. Warm foamy delicious milk, every time.

In My Ears:

The boy received a shiny red ukulele from one of his many aunties this month, so that's been in my ears. Fortunately, it is actually quite pleasant to listen to. So thank you, Auntie Katie, for choosing a ukulele and not, say, a recorder. My ears are grateful.

What I'm Looking Forward to in June:

We're taking the kids on a much-anticipated trip to Mt. St. Helens this weekend. (Talk about starting the month off with a bang...okay, okay, that was bad.) The boys have a slightly morbid obsession with this volcano, including watching documentaries to go along with the library books they've read on the subject.

As if the mountain alone wasn't enough, we get to meet up with our friends who moved to Oregon last month! The kids are excited about seeing their little friend again, and the husband and I are looking forward to catching up with our former pastor and his wife.

I'm also excited about the prospect of sunshine this month! Rain, rain, go away...

Finally, huge changes are coming as the husband (finally! finally!) graduates, taking his shiny new Electrical Engineering degree with him to his new job! I feel like I can let out the breath I didn't realize I've been holding. He has a job. We're going to have a steady income for the first time in...many years. *sigh of relief* Of course, all of that money will be going straight to paying off those student loans as fast as we can manage it, but still. Steady income. A job!

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Monday 27 May 2013

Catching Raindrops

I glanced at the sky as I shuffled three kids out the door, the fourth one snuggled against my chest. Nah, we won't need an umbrella.

We needed an umbrella.

Not that I could have juggled it, really, while holding onto a two year old, a three year old, two soccer balls, a water bottle, and an off-in-dreamland six year old. We made it to the field just as the other six year olds were starting their soccer drills. The boy joined in while the rest of us kicked around the second ball nearby. I was feeling a bit supermom-ish, so I kinda deserved what happened next.

Rain happened next. Buckets of it. Unrelenting buckets of it.

I mentally ranted at the husband. I had wanted to put the boy in circus school, which is indoors, where it never ever rains. He was the one who had to suggest soccer, after which any discussion of all other options was a lost cause. Yes, soccer, that's what the boy really and truly wanted to do. Fine, I said to the husband. But you're taking him. I'm not standing out in the rain every Saturday morning.

So of course I was standing out in the rain that Saturday morning, and with three other kids too.

(Okay, fine. So he was helping some dear friends move. In the rain. It's not like he was at home, warm and dry and sleeping in. But whatever. That's hardly the point.)

As the rain got steadily worse, I did my best to keep the baby semi-dry under my hood while watching the boy play soccer and keeping an eye on the other two. As it really started coming down, I turned to check on the boys again, expecting that at least one of them would be in tears by now.

They weren't.

There they were, faces turned to the sky, mouths wide open and tongues hanging out. They lapped up those raindrops with joyous abandon. They didn't care about being soaked straight through, about water squishing in their shoes, about being cold and wet and umbrella-less. To them, this rain was pure gift.

It's hard to feel miserable after witnessing such delight. Oh, that I would live my life that way, joyous and grateful, face upturned and arms wide open to whatever the day may bring.

"This is the day that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24

Just writing along with the EO...

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Finding the reset moment

"Come here, baby," I whisper. He's three and not my baby anymore, but I can't shake the habit.

He comes, unsure. I have spent the morning speaking words of frustration and anger and annoyance; what do I want with him now? But I pull a blanket onto my lap and beckon him forward. A grin transforms his face and he climbs up. We sit together, snuggling, whispering, apologizing, forgiving, giggling. Reconnecting.

He wants down now, ready to go play, spirits high and sense of security reinstated. I catch the older one's questioning gaze and lift up the corner of the blanket in invitation. He, too, grins his acceptance. I kiss his hair and shift to make room for his long limbs, grateful that six isn't too old to curl up on my lap. Again, we take a few minutes for whispered reconciliation and reconnection; again, we end with giggles and a renewed sense of tenderness and camaraderie.

* * *

It had been a rough morning. Too little sleep, too many arguments, too much whining and yelling. There had been spilled milk and spilled paint and spilled tears when my own reactions were too big for the moment. Sometimes those days happen.

But there it was, a simple moment of reconnection, a deliberate choice, and our day turned around. Frustrations still arose but we handled them with more grace, connection reminding us that we're on the same team rather than working against each other. When I choose peace, they soon follow close behind. When I choose love and gentleness, they do the same. I cannot expect from them what I refuse to do myself.

And always, always, that moment is there when needed, ready to reset the course of the day. I only need to choose it.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 98}

Wild Food, Wild Knowledge @ The Parent Vortex
Just as we might grow our own food or collect wild edibles from the forest, we can organically gather the knowledge and experience we need to grow and mature in the world. We can answer the question about what to do each day based on our own needs, not our expectations of what other people think we should do. We are free to decide what is really important to us, what we are able and want to eat or do. We are omnivores in many ways. And with the freedom of omnivory comes the responsibility to choose wisely. When we could eat anything, how do we choose to feed ourselves things that aren’t toxic? We should be asking often, “Can I eat this? Should I do this?”

Wherever it Rises @ A Deeper Story
I am overly compassionate to the spiritually disoriented and unfairly critical of those under the steeples. We needn’t be unanimous in the Body of Christ when we’re all redeemed by the same mercy. I might not agree with your every position, but neither must I disagree simply to mark my own territory.

Love for the truth can so easily become arrogance. It is shockingly simple to lose the thread. For times I’ve disparaged old forms without honoring the faithful Christ-followers who shouldered the church in their generation, please forgive me. Your leadership raised me to love Jesus. I will certainly get a dose of my own medicine one day, and if I am half as humble and tender as you are, it will be a miracle. Oh that your wisdom would leach down into my fiery, zealous heart.

Bad Mother @ The Loving Parent
So I must love myself unconditionally, as they love me unconditionally. There’s no point in me beating myself up about how I behaved. What’s done is done. NOW is a new moment. I can use the experience to connect to a part of myself that is normally hidden, to see it, acknowledge it and integrate it so that it no longer has the power to rear its ugly head. I’m learning that I don’t have to love all aspects of my behaviour to unconditionally love myself. I must give to myself that which I (try to) give to my children: nurturing, loving guidance and a safe space to reflect.

Momastory - A guest post from Julie @ Momastery
Now that I’m a parent, I get it. I get how you can love with your whole soul and still make mistakes.

And my kids...they keep getting bigger and more complicated. They’re growing up faster than I can deal with. I will not lower my expectations of them in terms of kindness, respect and hard work. This will cause problems sometimes. I’ll try not to yell, but I’ll probably lose my temper at some point. I will make mistakes and so will they. We’ll apologize and start over. And while I’m not always good at being their mom, I will wake up every day trying to do this job better. I will never give up and I will never stop doing that, even if we are parted.

And all I can hope is that they know, as I did, that I love them with my whole heart. No matter what.

Friday 10 May 2013

Sunny days

There's sand in the bathtub and the hamper and little boys' pockets. I pour it out of their boots, shake it out of their socks, and sweep it off the floor only to sweep it again. On particularly good days, I even help them rinse it out of their mouths. It sounds like pop rocks candy as it crunches between their teeth.

There are pill bugs in leaf-filled jar homes, fruit flies dancing around my compost bucket, and beetles crawling across my computer screen. I'm just waiting for the day I wake up to a line of mocking ants marching across my kitchen floor. I hate those ants. And then I'll line the doorways and baseboards with cinnamon and try to ignore the twinges of guilt as we mash the remaining ants beneath our fingers. So much for my pacifist leanings. I offer my sincere apologies to our Aunt Jo, who would be absolutely horrified to hear about the mass ant murders that take place here on occasion.

There is the heady smell of flowers in the morning, sunshine in the afternoon, and barbecued dinners in the evening. The cherry blossoms have already fallen into pink carpets and turned brown under passing feet and strollers and wagons. Everything is bright and colourful, backed by a hundred shades of green. Every breath feels like praise - thank you, thank you, thank you.

There are picnics at parks and visits to the farm and the zoo. Bare feet delight in the cool grass and the warm pavement. There are squeals as tiny toes test cold ocean waters at the beach. The sun comes out and a whole new world of possibilities seems to open up for us.

The door opens after lunch and doesn't close again until bedtime. We've fallen into a nice routine. The babies - mine and the daycare child - lay down for their first nap mid-morning while the rest of us have a bit of quiet. The babies wake up just in time to join us for lunch, then there's a quick tidy and we all head out into the yard. It's early afternoon by then, so the baby sits in the only bit of shade there is, right in front of the Japanese maple tree and rhododendron shrubs. The boys roll down the sloped yard in oversized toy dump trucks for as long as my nerves can stand it, and then out come bubbles, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, whatever catches their fancy that particular day. We all enjoy the sun until it's time for the sweet girl's afternoon nap. The rest of the afternoon is filled with books, crafts, and the continual coming and going of boys (and their accompanying dirt) through that ever-open door.

There are early suppers and evening walks, nightly baths to wash off the day's activities, and more laundry than seems possible. Such is almost-summer, and an easy trade-off it is for all this warm sunshine.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Notecard giveaway winners

Congratulations to Lauren and Estelle for being randomly selected as the winners of the Peace, Beauty, and Joy notecard giveaway!

Lauren and Estelle, I am unable to get in touch with either of you directly via your profiles. Please contact me to claim your prize.

It was absolutely lovely to read through all your comments about letter writing. Thank you to Peace, Beauty, and Joy for this fun giveaway, and do head over to their Etsy shop if you'd like to order some notecards of your own!

Friday 3 May 2013

Peace, Beauty, and Joy (and a Weekend Giveaway!)

I get rather disproportionately excited each day when I slip out to check the mailbox. The air is fresh, the day is bright, the quiet is refreshing, and there's always that tiny thrill of hope that maybe the mail will contain something exciting.

It usually doesn't, of course. Bank statements and junk mail, mostly, with the occasional magazine for one of the boys.

(They always turn to the back to read the jokes first. Knock knock. Who's there? Billy. Billy who? Billy the goat, that's who!)

But sometimes there's a card or a letter just for me, all my very own, from a dear loved one, and it about makes my entire month.

I know that if I get that excited about a handwritten letter, chances are good others enjoy them too. As such, I'm always on the lookout for lovely artisan cards to keep stashed away, ready to pull out for whomever might need a little something in the mail. I'm always scooping them up at craft shows or slipping them into my cart on Etsy.

I was excited, then, to see this beautiful new Millefiori card collection from Peace, Beauty, and Joy. The notecards, featuring turtles, geckos, frogs, and chameleons, are even more striking in person than in their Etsy shop.

The professionally-printed cards are rich in colour and smooth to the touch. The detail on the Millefiori patterns is incredible. I love it.

I'm a big fan of blank cards, perfect for any occasion or no occasion at all. Personalization is available, though, for one line on the front of the card and up to ten lines on the inside. The high-quality cards are lovely to write on and come beautifully packaged.

The boy immediately asked for one of his own as soon as he saw them, eager to write a note to his grandparents. The cards held up beautifully to the marker - his chosen writing implement for the day - without bleeding or showing through the back of the card. Not that you're likely to write your own notecards in marker. Still. Good to know, right?

Peace, Beauty, and Joy would like to give two readers a set of 10 notecards with matching white envelopes! To enter, simply leave a comment below.

Giveaway will close on Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 pm PST. Two winners will be chosen via random number generator and announced the following morning. Good luck!

Contest closed; congratulations lauren and Estelle!

Thursday 2 May 2013

Dear pastor who laments church shoppers

I was at your church that Sunday when you criticized church shoppers. My husband and I were there with our three children to see if we could find a home in your community. You know. Church shopping.

I understand your concern. We're a culture that doesn't value pushing through the tough stuff, a culture that values the freedom of wings over the growing of roots. And probably we criticize too easily and leave too quickly and focus too much on what we can get instead of what we have to offer others. I get it.

But we're not in this place because we didn't like the music at our old church. We're not looking for a new church home because our feathers were ruffled by a hard-hitting homily. We're not here because we want the church to serve us and entertain us and meet our every need.

We're church shopping because our deeply loved church home closed its doors. Our cherished friends moved back to their home country. We were, in so many ways, mourning very deep and real losses as we sat down in your church that Sunday - and all we heard was shame.

What you didn't offer, however, were any solutions for those of us thrust against our wills into this very place. You mocked the post-service question, "how was it?", but what else are we to ask each other as we leave your church and consider whether we might be able to put down roots there? You criticized any consideration of music, preaching, ambiance, congregants, really anything at all, but are you truly suggesting that we close our eyes and hearts and simply walk into the nearest church and call it home?

This process of finding a church home has been both immensely challenging and deeply painful for us. We didn't want this. We didn't choose this. But we continue our search because we value, as you do, having a community in which to live life together. Instead of extending grace and understanding to those of us on this road, you heaped more shame upon us for not easily stepping into a new community. What place, I wonder, does discernment and wisdom have in your vision of what it means to choose such a community?

These past weeks haven't been easy. Each Sunday, we have been surrounded by strangers. We have answered all the usual questions, week after week, and left exhausted from the emotional toll of this process. We have walked into each new building only to be met by someone shaking our hands and informing us that they would take our children to Sunday School. (Where else do we do this? Where else do we hand off our children to complete strangers and assume that they will be fine?) We have been to churches too large for our introverted selves to feel comfortable in, churches that our children have loved simply for the massive screens overhanging the fog-filled stage. We have been to churches with scarcely any other children at all. The service at the first church we visited began with a woman's testimony of a half-hour lecture she had given to her friend on the gift of spanking, and how by the grace of God, her friend was brought to tears and convinced of the mandatory place spanking has in the biblical raising of children. So that was awesome. And by awesome, I mean oh hell no.

And you're suggesting that in our search for a home filled with both love and truth, we should question nothing?

Maybe it's shallow to leave the church and discuss the music, the message, the atmosphere, or our general gut-level reactions, but we can't help but give at least some consideration to these things. If the baby can't even stay in the service because the band is rocking out too loudly for her comfort, well, it's just not going to work out for us. If you come on too strong, demanding that we hand over our children despite our (and their) polite refusal, well, it's going to freak us out a little bit. And if the best testimony you can give of God's work in your life is your ability to convince another mother to hit her children, well, we're going to think that's a pretty sad sort of God to worship in the first place.

It hasn't been all bad, not at all. We've met some lovely people, witnessed some lovely services, worshiped in holy places. But what we haven't yet found is a place to call home. We're certain we will, but in the meantime we're stuck in that much-maligned role of church shoppers.

Please. Extend us some grace and encouragement as we walk this road, and I promise you, we will commit ourselves wholeheartedly to our new community when we find it.

In Peace,

A Church-Shopping Family