Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The real world

I have been processing something for a few days. Long story short... I asked someone a question and they did not understand my motives. Rather than ask me about it right then, they talked to someone else about it. That person brought it to my attention very vaguely, and sort of asked me not to do it again while not directly telling me what I'd done wrong. Rather than just walk away mad or hurt, I pursued the situation and I'm happy to say that the three of us were able to talk in person today and have resolved the matter. However, the entire time that this was snowballing out of proportion, I kept thinking that this just had to be a misunderstanding, but I was still crying because they'd hurt my feelings. I didn't do anything wrong, but I took their response personally.

I am well aware that I'm an emotional person - many would laugh in my precious face and say too emotional. I have always firmly disagreed with that assessment. I like my tenderness, honesty, sentimentality, compassion and vulnerability... But as I was dealing with this situation, I was seeing clearly how I was overly emotional. What was going on with these other two women had nothing really to do with what I'd done, but what they hadn't done (talked to me directly). Yet I was the one crying.

As I was reading Sheila Walsh's Get Off Your Knees And Pray, I felt God speaking directly to me. She writes (talking about gratitude journals), "...each night, jot down three things that you are grateful for. It can come from a passage of Scripture you read or a friend who called to brighten your day. It can be that when someone said something unkind, you didn't let it take root in your heart but sent it packing." I never do that... I always let it take root in my heart first, and send it packing later (usually MUCH later).

This situation was no fun, but it was a learning experience for everyone. For me, I have learned that I am too sensitive sometimes. This lesson has come at the perfect time, as Zach and I are embarking on our first journey in six years out of what I affectionately refer to as our "Christian cocoon". As a stay-at-home mom, most of my time is spent at home, church, at Zach's Christian school, or with our Christian friends. As Zach enters public school in the fall, I feel I need to toughen up a bit and not be so sensitive. Other children, parents, teachers and school administration will undoubtedly do something that upsets me, but I cannot let it become personal. Nor can I expect for all conflict to be resolved biblically. In my little cocoon, we can hold one another accountable to Matthew 18:15. This will not always be the case in the real world.

As I was thinking about that yesterday, I asked myself a question... What good is one more light that remains permanently among a huge group of lights? That seems similar to hiding it under a basket to me. As safe as my little cocoon is, I would prefer to be salt and light unto the world...

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." Matthew 5:13-16

So, starting right now, I will be praying that God will help me to keep other's sins and mistakes from taking root in my heart, and that He would equip me to deal with it biblically, with rational emotions, and then send it packing. I don't want this issue to be what keeps my light hidden away out of fear.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Interview with the kids, March 30, 2009

Zach (5 ½) and Luke (2 ½)

1. What is something I always say to you?

Zach - “I love you”

Luke - “I don’t know.”

2. What makes me happy?

Zach - “Not hurting somebody or their feelings.”

Luke - “To talk.”

3. What makes me sad?

Zach - “Hurting your feelings.”

Luke - “To cry.”

4. How do I make you laugh?

Zach - “Tickle me, make jokes, and do funny things at me.”

Luke - (hysterical fake laughter)

5. What was I like as a child?

Zach - “I don’t know, cuz I wasn’t born yet!”

Luke - “Small”

6. How old am I?

Zach - “34”

Luke - “Good”

7. How tall am I?

Zach - “You’re as tall as you are.”

Luke - “Sittin’ down on chair.”

8. What is my favorite thing to do?

Zach - “Scrapbook”

Luke - “To play wiff me… Watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!”

9. What do I do when you're not around?

Zach - “Scrapbook, or maybe hang out with Luke and Dad, or watch TV with Dad.”

Luke - “I don’t know.”

10. What am I really good at?

Zach - “Scrapbooking and taking care of me.”

Luke - “Wiggling your mouth!”

11. What am I not very good at?

Zach - “Nothing.”

Luke - “Move your eyes!” (I think he meant winking with both eyes – I can’t do that.)

12. What's my job?

Zach - “Taking care of me and Luke.”

Luke - “Work. Go to park. Play in snow with our boots on.”

13. What's my favorite food?

Zach - “Salad”

Luke - “Peanut butter and jelly. Pancakes!” (these would be HIS favorites)

14. What makes you proud of me?

Zach - “That you take care of me, and do things for me, and make food for me.”

Luke - “You hug me.”

15. If I were a cartoon character, who would I be?

Zach - “Like Wonder Woman or something.”

Luke - “You would fly in space like Goofy when he fall down on Mars!”

16. What do we do together?
Zach -”Sometimes we paint together.”

Luke - “Kiss!”

17. How are we the same?

Zach - (Zach) “Did you have a telescope when you were a kid?” (Me) “No.” (Zach) “Hmmm… We go to the same church and live in the same house.”
Luke – “Live together.”

18. How are we different?

Zach - “You don’t go to school like I do.”

Luke - “I Luke and you Mommy.”

19. How do you know I love you?

Zach - “You tell me all the time and I just know it.”

Luke - “You show me.”

20. Where is my favorite place to go?

Zach - “The kids museum.”

Luke - “The kids museum.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seven wonderful years

At 6:15pm, on Friday March 29, 2002 Bryan and I became husband and wife. It was undoubtedly the wisest decision I have ever made! Back then, Bryan was definitely loving me in spite of my difficulties and far-too-many shortcomings. In the coming years, he loved me through a healing process that I had never dared dream was even possible pre-Bryan. As our children entered the picture, he believed in my abilities as a wife and mother and has encouraged me every step of the way. I have always believed that Bryan was my gift from God and each day this gift keeps getting better. I love you, Bryan!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The truth

I love my son's school. He has been at this sweet little Christian school since January of '08. I volunteer as often as I can, have gotten to know each of his teachers, the director, the school secretary and even a couple members of the church staff. Worship time is the last 10 minutes of school and the parents are always invited to come. I care about all parts of his education, but the faith part is the one that just cannot be done the wrong way. The Bible is very clear about godly living and the only way to spend eternity in Heaven... I need to be sure that his school and his family are on the same page, so I go to worship time frequently. This is the time of day that they read from God's word and sing "God songs" (as the kids put it).

The children have been learning the Easter story all week and will continue to do so until Easter break. So far we have heard about how there was a parade for Jesus, people shouting "Hosana", how some people were unhappy about Jesus declaring that He was the king, Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection... As the teachers read that people killed him because they did not like him, the children always interject with, "But it was God's plan all along. God sent his son to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven for our sins and go to heaven!" These children know the truth... A truth that has been taught in many of their homes, but for some that they are learning only at school. Their teachers know the truth and are planting that truth in the hearts of these youngsters. In fact, one of their worship songs today was about that very thing!

As I was chatting with one of his teachers today, I discovered that one of them is Catholic, one is Methodist and the other is Lutheran. This made me smile inside... So many times I have heard people voice the question, "Are Catholics Chrisitians?" Perhaps the confusion comes from the terminology itself... Many Protestants classify themselves as "Christian" and that somehow implies that Catholics are not (since when are Catholics and Protestants opposites?) But what makes one a Christian? Knowing that Jesus Christ is God's son. Admitting that we are all sinners. Accepting that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we can be forgiven. Seeking God daily and trying to live a life like Christ's. That is what makes one a Christ-following Christian -- heaven bound.

In every church you will find people who say they are Christians but do not really know Jesus. My heart aches for those people, and I pray that they will discover what it truly means to be a Christ follower sooner rather than later. I have heard a lot about different downfalls of the Catholic church, but I have never yet come across a perfect Protestant one either. My own church has not been immune to heartbreaking scandal, disagreement or fallout. However, I firmly believe that our church leadership has always sought the face of God in all circumstances. Any church can become stagnent or troubled (or have a tradition or ritual that you don't understand) but I don't think that's a fair indicator of Christian or not. Isn't it all about, "Who do you say that I am?" Matthew 16:15

I hope this post doesn't start some heated debate about Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, etc... I am completely ill-equipped to speak to any specifics. I just do not think that ones church or particular denomination has anything at all to do with whether or not they are a Christian.

Lord Jesus, I profess and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my Lord and my Savior. Make my faith strong and help me to live in the victory of the cross by rejecting sin and by seeking and accepting your will for my life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The other day I was using a long list of synonyms to describe something. Zach blurted out, "That's reduntant!" Yes, yes it was...

A lot of parents have made the decision to not allow their children to watch TV. We try to limit it, but that has pretty much been reduced to limiting WHAT they watch and WHAT TIME they watch. For instance, no movies, computer or video games before school. They are allowed two PBS or Noggin shows on school mornings. We are more generous with TV time on non-school days - but still limited almost exclusively to PBS or Noggin... Our favorite these days is WordGirl. By day, her name is Becky. She's a little girl with a mom, dad, little brother and a pet monkey. By night (or whenever she's needed) she changes into the superhero WordGirl and her monkey becomes her sidekick. She teaches people about manners, fairness, correct grammar, vocabulary, and even fights some crime. Every 30 minute showing is comprised of two 15 minutes episodes, each featuring two words to listen for. This is where my boys have picked up words like "redundant", "oodles", "constant", nuisance", "troublesome" and "trustworthy".

Not all shows are created equal... We think that WordGirl is superior to many others! If you haven't seen it, it comes highly recommend by the Shrader crew.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A harvest of peaches?

For every flower will there be a fruit? We certainly hope so! Zach wanted to grow peaches, so after many failed attempts at growing them from a seed, we bought a tree. We hope the peaches will be as plentiful as the flowers and as delicious as the flowers are pretty.

Luke helps himself to a drink

Need I say anything?

Zach loves soccer!

When we found out that Zachary was going to be a boy, Bryan had visions of baseball dancing in his head... As an infant, Zach loved balls and took to rolling, catching and kicking right away. He's always played a lot of basketball and t-ball in our yard, but when we got him involved in some clinics last year, he didn't care for it much. After the third failed basketball clinic (this past fall), we'd come to terms with the idea that Zach just might not like team sports all that much after all. We were not forcing it on him (he'd always asked to participate in the various clinics), but this past fall we had a heart-to-heart and Zach said that he just really didn't like people watching him, being in a big group, the loud cheering, and definitely not all the practicing! So, when we had lunch with Amanda a few weeks ago and she was talking about how much she loved soccer, I was surprised to hear Zach say he wanted to try it. I called around to see where our friends played, and called the club that was recommended. We were WAY past the registration deadline, but there was still one team that needed two more players. We were in! And the season started the following weekend...

As we showed up on the soccer field last Saturday, Zach looked at me and somberly said, "This might have been a bad idea." My first thought was that he didn't want to play soccer after all, but rather than assume I said, "What might have been a bad idea?". "WEARING SHORTS!" He was cold, but I assured him that he'd warm up as soon as he started moving. And he did.

During the game, one of Zach's shoes slipped off his heel. Coach told him to go over to the sidelines to get it fixed... Zach came off the field saying, "My team can't win if I'm not out there!" So Bryan fixed it quickly and got him back out on the field. Did I mention that ZACH SCORED A GOAL? What a great day. We are so proud of him - he is getting so very mature and bravely trying new things.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How Great is our God

I love music, but I'm terrible at remembering names - names of songs, artists, movies, actors, etc. Since I primarily listen to the radio and not CDs or an ipod, I guess I figure there is no real reason for me to take note... However, there is one song that means a great deal to me, "How Great is our God" by Chris Tomlin.

In the fall of 2005, Bryan and I were about six months into ministry leadership. We were leading a small group for young families and it was going wonderfully well. Everyone showed up every week, engaged in conversation, we were growing and we all got along well - it was a pretty smooth operation. At that same time, I was co-leading our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Group. The leadership team consisted of 14 women and most of us were newborn babies in terms of our relationships with the Lord. I had (and still have) a great love for each of our MOPS leaders, but it wasn't always smooth sailing. In fact, that fall was particularly difficult as our MOPS year got underway and we began to disagree on things. Additionally, our MOPS group consisted of about 100 women and it's never easy to keep 100 women pleased at all times either. But as my co-leader and I led that group, I always had that sense that God was in the mix. It was His group, He called the leaders, He laid out the plan and He would carry us through whatever challenges we would face. I just knew that this ministry was so well worth every effort. And it was. The leaders put a lot of time and energy into the ministry, but everyday I felt that the blessings I'd received were far more than I'd given. During my two years in MOPS leadership, I personally experienced a tremendous amount of personal and spiritual growth. As the team and I met the needs of 100 women and their families, I found that my needs were always more than met by them as well. I did not set out to lead our MOPS group (I was recruited by the previous leaders and said no twice before I said yes) but God used that time to teach me, grow me, prepare me for future ministry and (perhaps more than anything) to minister to me.

Back up to 2002... Like many couples, Bryan and I devised our "big plan" before we got married. We didn't want to wait long to start our family. Nine months after we married, we became pregnant with our first child. Pregnancy was great, we were all healthy, life was wonderful. We'd begun our cycle of Bryan's annual lay-offs, but had enough money in savings that we didn't worry very much back then. Our big plan involoved having our children exactly two years apart. So, when Zach was 15 months old we were all geared up to get started on #2. What I didn't know was that trouble was brewing inside my body. On December 13, 2004, out of nowhere, these excruciating pains appeared in my abdomen. Several hours later I was practically unconscious in an ER. I had pancreatitis. I was hospitalized for five days, missing our chance to conceive that month. I was more devastated over that than the severity of my illness! After I was able to recover a little from the pancreatitis, I underwent two endoscopies to determine the cause. Nothing was discovered, so the doctors decided that it was best to remove my gallbladder in an effort to prevent more episodes since it can be fatal and one can live without their gallbladder (I'd had pancreatitis once before when I was almost 16). So, needless to say, the baby was postponed for several months. Once I was healed from surgery, we began trying again. And it took several months. After a lot of disappointing negative pregnancy tests, I woke up one Sunday morning in November and took another test. It was a few days before my missed period, but I was too impatient to wait. It was positive. Bryan was still in bed. I walked out of the bathroom, blurted out, "IT'S POSITIVE" and crawled back into bed with him, tears streaming down my face. After the 11 month delay in our plan, we were overwhelmed to see the PLUS telling us that our second child was on the way. I know that many other couples have far more devastating stories of difficulties having a baby, but this delayed answer to prayer and my "broken body" were heartbreaking and left me feeling so guilty.

I can't remember the exact date, but it was mid-Nov. 2005. That night we went to church. As we sang "How Great is our God", it hit Bryan and me like a ton of bricks. He is not just wonderful, he is all-powerful, all-knowing, purposeful and perfect. He is the creator of life. Life that was growing inside of me. We were too overwhelmed to sing. Bryan could not even stand!

I cannot hear that song now without thinking about God giving us our youngest son, and the many other ways that he has created life in me. Our small groups have been life-giving blessings - our first one is especially sweet. That is where we learned to pray and found safety discussing God's word for the first time. My years in MOPS were also enormously powerful - giving me a place to develop many meaningful and blessed friendships. And then there is the sexual abuse ministry that He has used me to create. What shattered my life is now being used to rebuild others' lives. And, in that, God has completely rebuilt mine.

Before I close, I want to say that God has not always answered yes. As a little girl, I prayed that my parents would stop hurting me. I prayed for safety. I prayed that I wouldn't be lonely anymore. I prayed that I would be deeply loved by my mother and father. I prayed that I would be someone special to them. I prayed that I could be normal. And, at times I even prayed that He would turn me into a boy. Those prayers could not be answered specifically the way I'd ask them to be. God does not force His will onto us (this includes my parents). I believe that His will was absolutely to answer each of my prayers (with the exception of the gender change), but He allows us free will in order that we will choose to love Him, which leads to truly loving one another. He did not force my parents to do the right thing, but He never left my side. He is my Heavenly Father. He has never hurt me. I am safe in His arms. I am never alone. I am deeply loved by Him (and many others). I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am as normal as the next gal. And I no longer want to be a boy, so I'm okay with that unanswered prayer. Even when He cannot answer our prayers the way we would like, He is still God and He uses all things for His good.

The words are simple, but so powerful. How great is our God. I especially like this version. The hymn at the end takes me back to sitting in a church pew as a little girl, right beside the woman who jump-started all of this - Kitty Wright. Oh, how grateful I am for her and for all of God's perfect, intricate plans.

Friday, March 20, 2009

After the toddler years

I am writing this post for any woman who feels like she doesn't quite measure up to "all the other moms" who appear to have it all together and also somehow seem to have more hours in their day. When each of my kids were really little, I felt like my days completely revolved around their needs. I felt like I was constantly changing diapers, bathing, dressing, feeding, playing with them, or getting them down for naps. I felt completely inadequate as a housekeeper, grocery shopping was overwhelming, getting dinner on the table was hard, and going to the park was almost always out of the question. After all, my toddler could easily get hurt and there was nothing relaxing about Mom spotting her little one up on the play structure for an hour. I played it safe a lot; staying home far more than I left the house.

At age 2 1/2 things took a great turn for the better with Zach. And again with Luke too. Luke was 2 1/2 in late January and every day just keeps getting better and better. I am amazed at my ability to carpool (having to wake Luke up early from nap in order to retrieve the kids at school), we can all three walk through the grocery store now without anything getting broken or stolen, we are at the park nearly everyday and I can sit on the park bench if I so choose, and taking the kids with me to the doctor is no longer a nightmare.

In the last week - I purged all of the old toys and too-small clothes, got a haircut, spent two days at Women of Faith, went to the grocery store (twice!), went to the library (some of you are laughing - you know I hate that place!), went to book club, prepared dinner most nights, took Zach to the dentist, got Zach signed up for soccer, went to Target a couple of times, and even had a garage sale (without a babysitter). With the exception of my haircut, Women of Faith and book club, I had the kids in tow. My point is this -- I do not have more hours in my day and I am not suddenly more organized and "with it". My kids have just grown easier with age. Be encouraged that the time consuming days do pass and it is possible to leave the house with both your children and your sanity. I absolutely love the ages my kids are today, but I also miss those younger years. After all, Luke's precious mispronounced words are less frequently mispronounced and Zach has been walking himself into school for months. Last night Zach asked to tuck himself into bed... After spending so much time wishing the hard days would be behind me, I'm now dreading the arrival of "school kid" days and how much more quickly our boys will grow up.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A talk with the teenager in my life

We met Emily 4 1/2 years ago. She was 11 1/2 at the time and babysat for us every week for three years (we had small group in our home - she took care of Zach downstairs while the adults met upstairs). The very first night she babysat for us, little Zach (11 1/2 months) was having a hard time so I went downstairs to hang out with them. The three of us were sitting on the couch when Emily asked, "So, did you breastfeed him?" We had an easy discussion about it, but I was shocked that at such a young age she even knew what breastfeeding was! There have been many other grown-up conversations with Emily over the years... To say that she has always been mature is an understatement!

She took care of Zach and Luke for eight hours a day, Friday and Saturday this week, so that I could go to the Women of Faith conference. I didn't see her on Friday night, so when I got home yesterday she was eager to ask about the conference. Mind you, she is almost 16 now and has never been to a conference of any kind... She asked me what it was like, "Did one pastor spend two entire days preaching to you?" She must have thought I was out of my mind to want to sit through that! So, I first explained the format - breaks, different speakers, worship music, lunch... I made a point to mention that Mandisa and Steven Curtis Chapman were there - I figured those names would ring a bell and would not sound boring. Then I told her about how each speaker talked for about 40 minutes and shared pieces of his/her own life experience and the difference that God has made. I quickly listed off several of the topics - eating disorders, depression, divorce, abortion, sexual abuse, pornography, loss of a loved one, body image, financial strain. As I finished listing off the topics, I said that I just really loved how they addressed so many women's issues that we tend to keep private -- so many things that keep us isolated from one another and from God, so many of the things I teach at my support groups.

That statement led to a discussion with her about the support groups I lead, why I lead them, and how incest has impacted my life.. I do not consider this an "adult conversation" and I know that Emily and her parents don't either (I would not have overstepped the boundaries if I thought that her parents would have a problem with this discussion). As Emily and I were talking, I was acutely aware of the fact that many of her peers are survivors of sexual abuse but are unable to talk about it. And that my story was the first of its kind that Emily would hear first hand. As I talked and she listened, I prayed that she would hear the right message... Not stay stuck on, "I can't believe someone would do that to their child", but that she would walk away thinking, "It is amazing what God can do!"

I so clearly remember those days approaching my 16th birthday. Life was exciting, but awkward, painful, and full of secrets too. I carried a lot of "baggage" with me everywhere I went, but didn't know it. I'd never heard of baggage! So, I took some time to talk with Emily about baggage... About how everyone gets hurt and many times we try to rid the pain by turning to something else - boys, parties, being the skinniest girl in school, being the peppiest cheerleader, achieving academic excellence. But none of that can make us permanently feel better - we will eventually have to deal with whatever has hurt us and we will find the most successful healing in the Lord. Emily shared with me then about her friend whose parents have recently divorced. Her friend is having a very difficult time and Emily is doing her best to be a good friend to this young girl. I am so proud of the young woman Emily is and I'm honored to have had the opportunity to talk with her yesterday. She has the compassion and wisdom of a woman many years her senior. God sure did bless us with Emily.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The not-so-independent type?

Luke was born ready to take care of himself. Aside from needing us for diaper changes and meals, he's always been determined to do things on his own. Do not turn on the light - Luke will do it. Do not get Luke's plate for him - he will do it. Do not fetch his shoes from the basement - Luke will walk down and back up two flights of stairs to get them himself. Do not lift him up onto the changing table - Luke will climb without your assistance. Do not turn the bathwater off or drain it - he has it all under control.

His strong will prevents him from peacefully doing anything he does not want to do. This most certainly used to apply to bedtime! One night, as he was throwing a major fit about having to go to bed, I came up with the bright idea to say, "You can either stop crying and walk up by yourself or I will carry you." Worked like a charm. His desire to be in control of his own body far out weighed his desire to stay awake all night long. He walked up to bed, stifling his tears, sat down with me for prayer time (after he turned his light off, of course) and then crawled over the rail and fell into his crib. This is how the last month or so went before moving into his "new big bedroom".

I find it rather charming that he fancies himself as the strong, independent type.... as he also sleeps with a satin sheep and sucks his thumb! He has always been a child who needed comfort items - but he found them on his own and never has relied on another human being to soothe him. Until recently... Luke is "Mommy's boy" and Zach is "Daddy's boy". If anyone other than Mommy says they love Luke, his normal reply is, "I love Mommy. I'm Mommy's boy." We must explain ten times a day that God gave us lots of people who love us and whom we love.

Zach was born wanting to cuddle. As a toddler, he was the kid who would "check in" with Mom during playdates, just to hug and say "I love you." Luke was the kid who didn't care that Mom existed! Till now... It's not unusual to find Luke hanging onto my legs as I stand in the kitchen chatting with Bryan as we clean up dinner. Or to have him walking across the Target packing lot holding onto my rear (as he's trying to put his arm around me), or to hear "I want to snuggle" during a TV show or at bedtime. The biggest surprise though has been that HE WANTS TO BE CARRIED! At the store last night, he asked me to carry him. I happened to be carrying Zach at the time, so I just scooped them both up! Bryan thought for sure I'd lost my mind or was about to lose my back - but we were just fine... After Zach warmed up (we'd been outside without jackets) he hopped down, but Luke wanted to stay in my arms. Since I didn't get much of this when he was a baby, I am happy to have it now. Who am I kidding? I'd be happy to do it even if I did hold him non-stop as a baby! On our way up to nap today Luke shyly said, "I want you to carry me up." And I did...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes

As we loaded into the car after school yesterday Benjamin (the boy we carpool with) said, "Hey, I like your shirt!" What a sweet way to start the afternoon.

We were having our usual, "How was your day?" discussion when Zach said, "I told Miss J. that she is the best teacher a student could ever ask for." Could he get more thoughtful and sincere?

And Luke... We stopped at the playground for a little while after school. It was packed with much older school kids. There was a family of three boys (ages 11, 9 and 7) who had brought a basketball. Luke spotted it and wanted to play with it. I told him he would have to ask the boys who brought it. So he trots up to the oldest boy, hops as he gets to him, holds his hands behind his back and says, "Can I pway wiff he baketball? Pweeze, pweeze, pweeze!" The 11 year old says, "I don't know, you will have to ask him" (pointing to the 7 year old standing a few feet away). So, Luke trots over to the 9 year old, hops, puts his hands behind his back and repeats, "Can I pway wiff he baketball? Pweeze, pweeze, pweeze!" The 9 year old smiles and tells him the exact same thing the 11 year old did. So, Luke trots over to the 7 year old, hops, puts his hands behind his back (and now a tad weary) says, "Can I pway wiff he baketball?" (no more pweeze, pweeze, pweeze). As the three boys' mom was repeating (in her head) "Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes!", her 7 year old said YES. It was just too sweet! I think every mom there was considering having another child after watching these four boys be so kind to one another...

The after school crew - Benjamin, Zachary, Lucas

Friday, March 6, 2009

From sledding to shorts in five days

It's hard to believe that we were sledding in 3" of snow on Saturday and playing in shorts and t-shirts yesterday (the temp was 82 degrees!). We spent two hours enjoying the amazing weather at our neighborhood park.


I hope that those of you who knew me when Zach was little are pleased to see my growth. There is NO WAY I would have let Zach climb this when he was 2 1/2. "He could get hurt!"

Cannot get enough of Luke's delighted smile!

The boys were "excavating" together

Zach in the top of the slide

A self portrait of Mom and Zach

Like brother, like brother

Zach is turning into quite the daredevil these days (never thought I'd hear myself say that!)

Luke shoveling in my shadow


This was Zach's crazy hair after bath

And a self portrait of Zachary

"Feast or Famine"

The term that has defined our financial / work lives over the last 6 1/2 years continues to ring true today. After being laid-off for four wonderful weeks, Bryan returned to work last Monday, February 23rd. He has returned to work for a contractor that we were with for about three years before and absolutely loved. He has a lot of friends working for this particular contractor (at various job sites throughout the metro area) and is working on the same project with a good friend of his. He seems to like his foreman and the other people on the job - this is always a plus! The commute is about 30 minutes, so I'm hopeful that he's enjoying his "alone" time while in the car, as he's not getting it anywhere else! He is working six days a week (M-Sat), ten hours a day. The project should last for about four more months, and they are scheduled to bump up to twelve hour days and eventually seven days a week. (Obviously the "feast".)

When he's on a "normal" job, he is home by 4pm at the latest. The job he was on prior to this started an hour earlier, so he was actually home by 3pm for the last 6+ months. Since the kids and I are so used to having Daddy home so early, these much later days have required some adjusting. We're eating a little later than "usual" and I've had to figure out how to get dinner on the table while also mothering! But we are doing amazingly well, I must say!!! The kids miss their dad, but they are awesome little troopers. Zach had a couple of rough days at first (we'd all been sick too), but we all know the drill now and eagerly await Daddy's arrival everyday.

A part of me likes these times a little... Bryan and I notice just how little time we have together right now and are making extra efforts to get the boys in bed on time, hold hands on the couch, whisper to one another during dinner, leave sweet notes for each other, and have even been on a date! I also find that it is suddenly a much higher priority for me to keep the fridge and pantry well-stocked, make good dinners with plenty of left-overs for lunch, and keep Bryan's work laundry cleaned. I notice just how much I take him for granted when he's here all the time!

Our time with the kids is also more intentional. We have family game night whenever the kids want, shut the TV off and battle imaginary bad guys nearly every night (we're a family of super heroes), do special science or art projects if they want, and I fill Bryan in on every big thing that happened throughout the day so that he's sure to ask the kids about it if they forget to tell him. Since Bryan only gets two hours a day (at most) with them M-Sat, we try to make all of it quality time.

Keeping this schedule up for 4-5 months will not be easy, but it is always well worth it. In that time, Bryan will earn an entire year's salary... He may be laid-off again when the project is over - we don't know. If he is, we will not worry. The Lord knows what He is doing and, while unpredictable, our family is so very blessed by this craziness!

It is my prayer that when the time comes for us to return to a "normal" schedule, that I will continue to appreciate Bryan and our time together. He is my best friend and I love him to pieces.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A very easy and delicious chicken dish

I do not like chicken very much, so I have to find ways to hide it in dishes.. That usually involves bread crumb coating and slathering it in cheese and some sort of sauce. Bored with all my usual recipes, I decided to try something that I've come across countless times and passed over it because it involved crushed cereal. What a mistake I was making!!

Best Chicken Ever

6 boneless / skinless chicken breasts
16 oz sour cream
1 oz packet of Ranch Dip mix
2 cups crushed corn flakes or Crispix (6 cups pre-crushed)
4 TBS melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line glass baking dish with foil for easier cleaning and better browning. Spray foil with non-stick spray.

Rinse chicken. Combine sour cream and dip mix. Crush cereal in a freezer bag. Coat each chicken breast with dip, then crushed cereal (top & bottom). Place on foil in the baking dish. Once all the chicken is in the dish, drizzle with melted butter. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Will be tender, moist and delicious! Was even delicious left-over and I never say that about chicken.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My last ditch effort...

Well, the long awaited and much anticipated Accutane was finally prescribed for me today. It is probably easier to get a gun, and possibly even a mortgage... I had to fail two pregnancy tests, at least 30 days apart, before they would even write the Rx. I also had to read a 22 page booklet and initial repeatedly on two different informed consent forms. And I was interviewed by the doctor to ensure that I understood all that I'd read and to make sure that I was of sound mind. Hmmm.. I took my second pregnancy test last Thursday and skipped out of their office all excited to move on to the next step.

What's that, you say? The doctor's office has to input my info into a computerized system, confirming my negative pregnancy test. Then I access that same system from home, answer a bunch of questions again to make sure I fully understand the process and risks, and (upon passing the online test), I should have been approved to take my written Rx to the pharmacy to have it filled. However, due to a clerical error at the doctor's office.... The doctor's office failed to input my info! And, since they are closed on Fridays, no one was able to clear up the error before today. The gov't regulations stipulate that the dr's office has 48 hours to input the pregnancy test results before the test becomes invalid. So, I had to go back to the dr today to repeat the pregnancy test. (Yes, with my kids. Yes, before school. Yes, they ate McD's in the car again.)

So, after the THIRD negative pregnancy test, the dr's office got my info into the system, I passed the silly online test, and finally got the Rx filled at Walgreen's. The gov't mandates EVERYTHING regarding this drug... The Rx can only be written for 30 days at a time, so I will repeat the pregnancy test and mental health screenings in the dr's office every month, plus I will always have to rely on them to do the necessary computer work so that I can do mine. Let's hope it goes smoothly from here on out!

Speaking of smooth.. I have struggled with moderate to severe acne since I was about 10 years old. I am not overly concerned with my appearance, but there have been many times when I've cried over my reflection in the mirror, and some days I refused to leave the house. However, I've been using Arbonne's acne line for several months. It has helped a great deal, but the flare-ups can still be intense and the scars are awful. If you are in pregnancy/breastfeeding mode, you cannot take Accutane, but you can use the Arbonne products. I have never recommended ANYTHING for the face before. I do recommend Arbonne's acne line... I can't take it while on Accutane, but I have some left if someone wants to try it.

I'm only trying Accutane because the doctor firmly believes that it will cure my acne and I've had several friends who have used it with great success. This truly is my last ditch effort (again). I am not obsessed (Arbonne is working well enough) but if I can have nice skin, why not give it a shot?

Do not expect to see any before and after pictures. That's why I have PhotoShop. I've had good skin in pictures for a few years now!

'Tato Head

I had a fun time playing 'Tato Head with Luke this morning. He loves Toy Story and has a special fondness for Mr. Potato Head. Luke is a hilarious little boy - he was born to entertain. He is quite the comedian. As we were playing 'Tato Head, he kept quoting lines from the movie - "Take that, you hockey puck!", "Look, I'm Picasso!" "You uncultured swine." All with Potato Head's bad attitude! But then there were sweet little 2 1/2 year old moments... Like how he says "stash stash" (mustache) and "teef" (teeth). And when the hat fell off, he announced that "Tato Head is naked!" We had fun.


When Bryan is working a lot of overtime, he tends to bring surprises home for the kids. On Friday, he brought home some clay... That night we made volcanoes. Bryan made this clay one (it was harder to work with than he'd anticipated) while the kids and I made volcanoes out of play-doh. After Bryan was done with the clay volcano, it had to dry... By the next night, it was dry enough for our science experiment - making it ERUPT. Zach loves everything science (and I suspect that every child loves exploding and erupting things).
Ready to go...

Our volcano erupted several times - and is still in good enough shape to be used many more times.

Snow worth mentioning!

I'm not saying that it snowed because I blogged it.... but I did blog it and it did come! FINALLY. Even though the boys are recovering from double ear infections and Mommy has a bad cold, we still had to go out and play. The snow was beautiful... and so much FUN! The wind chill was bitter though, so we didn't stay out for long. Daddy had hot chocolate waiting for us when we came in - he was working and got home just in time to help us get out of snow gear. Looks like this will be the only decent snow day this winter - now we're looking forward to spring!