Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm a little sad for Thanksgiving... after all, sharing your big day with another holiday can't be much fun. But, I just love the wonder and beauty of Christmas. (So does Lukey - just look at that face!)
And the family togetherness, fun and laughter.
And spending a month straight focusing on the reason for the season... The birth of a savior. The gift from our Heavenly Father. The promise of eternal life.
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17
I honestly didn't see a whole lot of Zach. He and M spent most of their time together. Reading joke books, playing with remote control cars, watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, comparing Pokemon cards, flying kites and playing ping pong.
Luke spent his weekend going back and forth between needing his parents and chasing the big boys. He did pool tricks with D, colored with me, played with A and the puppy, chased the big boys' remote control cars, begged A to do puzzles with him, stole everyone's whoopi cushions, and talked Zach and M into watching part of Toy Story with him.
We played games as an entire family, and played games in smaller groups. D is the Yahtzee master and beat me at one game of Checkers. I'm going to have to brush up on both between now and Christmas! All of the boys enjoyed some joke telling. Some jokes made sense, others made none... but good laughs were had by all.
It was a very nice Thanksgiving weekend. The laughter of young boys is a wonderful, wonderful thing. What a blessing it is to call each of these young men family.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
I have answered more "Why?" questions since 2005 than I care to remember!!
By the time he was three, we'd prepared ourselves for his questions about this man with all the white hair, dressed in a fancy red suit, hanging out with elves and flying reindeer... who appears at malls, on TV and in print shortly after Halloween. Halloween - the time when we'd assured him that everyone coming to our door was simply a person in costume. How could we possibly switch it up and tell him that all these Santas were real?
Even more important... Did we want to lie to him? For Bryan, he remembers being crushed by the news that Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were not real. For me, I just could not bring myself to tell him even the smallest of lies -- there are too many important things that I need him to accept on blind faith. God and safety issues being at the very top of that list! I couldn't risk blowing all of that on the myth of Santa Claus.
So, we have a story that we've been telling since Zach was little... I was just asked to tell it again last night.
It goes something like this:
Us: "There once was a man who gave gifts to children in his neighborhood who needed them. They didn't receive gifts based on naughty or nice, but based on their need and his heart to help them. Maybe he delivered the gifts on foot, horse back, or a horse drawn carriage..."
The kids: "No sleigh with flying reindeer?"
Us: "No... That is something fun that Mommies and Daddies added to the story to make it extra exciting. So... This nice man delivered a gift to each child who needed something. One gift. Not a big bag of gifts. He left them on their front porch; he did not come down the chimney. Isn't that chimney thing funny?!?!"
The kids: (laughing about Santa on the roof and burning his bottom as he comes down our chimney)
Us: "Other people heard what this man was doing and they started giving to people in need who lived around them. And that's how the tradition of Santa began... But it has obviously evolved into (an enormous marketing scheme) a time for parents to surprise their children with presents from 'Santa' - the fun, jolly, sly man who reportedly sneaks into homes after bedtime and leaves fun toys and stockings for all."
The kids: "Why do they say Santa lives at the North Pole?"
Us: "I'm not sure. Perhaps because this man lived far, far away from us... Maybe as far as the North Pole!
Me: "Zach, remember when you were asking me how many people we were shopping for, what they needed, what sizes and how old they were, and how much money we had left? You were helping us make the list and check it... over and over and over again."
Zach: "Oh my gosh... We're like their Santa!"
Me: "Yes... And God. God wants us to love one another and help those in need. He put this giving nature in your heart, Zachary. Not Santa."
"Happy is he who is gracious to the poor... He who is gracious to the needy honors Him [God]" Proverbs 14:21,31
Saturday, November 21, 2009
As I complimented my girlfriend on how great she looked the other day, she revealed her secret... A sweet little tank top underneath. A very special tank.
I searched high and low for one for myself.
At first, I was so self conscious. I felt like the dad in Mr. Mom when he went grocery shopping and the clerk asked for a price check on one of his items. "Irv, price check on these extra absorbent tampons, 48 count." Or, whatever she said. I did not want people knowing what I was shopping for.
I hit every major department store in Denver. Prices hovered around $70 and not one worked well enough to justify taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay the bill.
By the time I got back home and hit my local Kohl's, I was no longer embarrassed. Their "intimates" department isn't as well organized as the department store ones, so I kinda wished I'd had a megaphone so I could get some help. Alas... I found several to choose from. With much better price tags! In the $35 range and they were on sale!
I settled on this one. I don't know what the shipping runs on this website, but their prices are excellent. Would be a great place to shop after you've tried them on at the store!
In the event you decide to skip the pricey department stores and head out to a place where you won't get personal service... Here's a piece of very handy advice the Nordstrom gal gave me. Put it on as if it's a one piece swim suit - feet first. You'll dislocate your shoulders if you try to go over your head!
This is some Fat Free Dressing that I will proudly consume! I think I've lost an inch already!!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Our family talked over dinner tonight and we've decided to do something we've never done before. We are adopting two families for Christmas this year! I am overwhelmed to be in this position. It wasn't all that long ago that we were in the middle of (I believe it was) our fifth lay-off in five years... We know what it's like to live lean and how it feels to receive generously from others.
I wish we could be there to see their faces as they open their gifts. Instead, I will have the pleasure of helping my family pick out gifts for people we will likely never meet, and have frequent discussions of just how richly blessed we are... and how much God loves it when we love one another.
Can you believe that some of their wish lists include only bath towels? Or socks and a dress shirt for work? Or a Hannah Montana t-shirt, glittery nail polish... and socks and underwear? It's amazing how little one wants when they have next to nothing. Necessities make the Christmas wish list.
We will not only provide two families with the items on their wish lists... We plan to stick a Bible and Christmas story into each family's gifts. We will share our love and His Word.
Please don't interpret this as bragging... I'm sharing this with you because (a) I'm so excited I think I might actually sleep with this ear to ear smile on my face, and (b) we were encouraged and inspired by hearing about what others are doing as part of their celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. May God bless you and use you always.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Anyway... Here are the Rockets. Fall 2009. Bryan had a wonderful time coaching and we loved watching each of the boys improve and have a great time. Our season just ended two weeks ago and we're already looking forward to spring soccer.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I can honestly say that if we were ever to consider a move away from our hometown, I'd be pitching a move to Denver! So much to do. A fun downtown. Lots of dining. Shopping. Spas. Walking. Tiny parking spaces. People everywhere, but not crowded. Attractions. Sports. Entertainment.
And early snows!
What a beautiful view we woke to on Sunday! But, not enough to lure us into another day away from home.
We did a lot of walking and shopping this weekend. Had a fabulous spa night. Split girlie meals at girlie restaurants. Listened to live jazz. And talked non-stop. Sixty hours of uninterrupted conversations!
Sandra and I met when our older boys were about two years old. She only lived in our city for ten months! We were immediate friends and have just about everything in common. Notice the same taste in jackets! Purchased in different parts of the county - funny.
Every conversation we'd ever had prior to this trip was interrupted. Kids. Places to go. The busyness of life. Then we had our weekend.
Texts and a few phone calls home, but mostly it was just us. We finished conversations we'd started 4 1/2 years ago. Got caught up on each others lives. Grew to know more about each other. Encouraged each other. Supported each other. I even read part of a book to her... till she fell asleep! I prefer to believe we shopped till we dropped and not that I bored her into a coma.
It was a wonderful time that I am so grateful for.
My family did such a great thing for me in letting me go. And I returned to well-fed, sleeping boys... A clean house. A full fridge. A cuddly husband. It is dreamy to be home.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I love Bryan. And Zach and Luke. And Gary.
Bryan and the kids are giving me such a great gift in this trip. And Grandpa Gary is watching the kids for us on Friday.
Sandra and I are going to have a great time. We'll have fabulous discussions, eat good food, hit the spa tomorrow evening, sleep in, even go dancing.
We probably will not be super silly. That's generally reserved for our husbands and kids!
We will laugh. A lot. I'm sure we'll cry some too! That just happens when you're talking about real life with real friends.
And we'll miss our guys.
I love mine soooo much!
Ahhhh... I'm going to Denver! To meet Sandra!!
Now... What to pack?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Luke Shrader originals...
The to-do list he made for January 1. It reads, "Eat breakfast. Go out to play. Play superheroes with Luke. Eat lunch. Give the Indians toys that I don't like." (Indians = the children in India that we've been talking about who don't have shoes, schools, clean water or even parents in many cases. He wants to give them any Christmas presents that he doesn't really need or want. Not exactly the spirit we're shooting for, but he's getting it.)
And with the above note, he drew the following...
Our Christmas tree and stockings hanging above the fire.
I know it's only the second week in November... but many blessings to you this holiday season.
The Shrader Family
Monday, November 9, 2009
"We respond with words like 'Amen', 'Convicting sermon', 'Great book'... and then are paralyzed as we try to decipher what God wants of our lives. I concur with Annie Dillard, who once said, 'How we live our days... is how we live our lives.' We each need to discover for ourselves how to live this day in faithful surrender to God as we 'continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.' (Phil 2:12)"
"Am I loving my neighbor and my God by living where I live, by driving what I drive, by talking how I talk? I urge you to consider and actually live as though each person you come into contact with is Christ."
Francis Chan goes on to clarify that he is NOT saying that everyone must become a missionary, or sell their worldly possessions... "What I can say is that you must learn to listen to and obey God, especially in a society where it's easy and expected to do what is most comfortable."
"I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn't match our lives. We say things like, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,' and 'Trust the Lord with all your heart.' Then we live and plan like we don't believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn't come through. But true faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God's fidelity to His promises."
"Jesus said, 'If you love me, you will obey what I command.' (John 14:15) Jesus did not say, 'If you love me you will obey me when you feel called or when you feel good about doing so.'"
"When people make changes in their lives like this [having full faith in God and obeying Him], it carries greater impact than when they merely make impassioned declarations. The world needs Christians who don't tolerate the complacency of their own lives."
There are dozens of paragraphs in this chapter that I did not rewrite here. It's powerful stuff. Encouraging. Convicting. Challenging. Thought provoking.
As I said in my last post, there are many reasons that things go undone... I talked about it with my girlfriend yesterday and she shared something with me about grace.
"God gives us grace each day to get through that day. He does not give us extra grace -- to get through today, and cover our worries about tomorrow and the next day. His grace is new each day, but it's for that day only."
Anticipating how things could go wrong is what causes me to stop in my tracks (tomorrow's worries!). Here's an everyday example that we are all familiar with... I know I should love my enemy. After time alone with God, I feel inspired to do it. I'm up for being nice to my enemy the next time our paths cross, but then I begin to wonder... What if I get bitten? What if I get bitten? It will hurt... It will most likely happen that way. I just can't risk it. Instead, I will just avoid my enemy.
Same applies for giving money... What if I give it away and then need it? Sure, it's going to a worthy cause, but feeding my kids is a greater cause.
Or is it?
If I really believe that life on this earth is a blink of an eye compared to all of eternity, then why do I care to hold on to material things? Or my lifestyle? Or a grudge? In the grand scheme of things, the house I live in, the clothes I wear and the car I drive are no more important than what I ate for breakfast today. In fact, the house, the car, the clothes and the grudge only serve to harm if I cannot live life without them. They become my idols.
Francis Chan wraps up the book by writing:
"What will people say about your life in heaven? Will people speak of God's work and glory through you? And even more important, how will you answer the King when he says, 'What did you do with what I gave you?'
"Daniel Webster once said, 'The greatest thought that has ever entered my mind is that one day I will have to stand before a holy God and give an account of my life.' He was right."
"I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:7-8
That is my prayer for today. That I will fight the good fight. That I will walk by faith. That I will not hesitate in my obedience to my Heavenly Father.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
But for some reason, these things go undone.
It could be any number of things... Donating hair to Locks of Love, becoming a stay-at-home parent, giving your time and/or money to a favorite charity, becoming a missionary, tithing. The list is endless.
My undone thing is being a foster parent.
At the age of nine, I decided I wanted to foster and adopt until old age. Hundreds of kids. The unloved. The rejected. The lonely.
As I grew up, got married and had children of my own, other things began to factor in. I'm no longer alone with the ideas and dreams of a third grade girl. I carry the responsibilities that come with the positions of wife and mother.
In our case, I think the number one undoing is fear... or perhaps it's selfishness. The unknowns of how it would affect our boys, our marriage, our finances. The heartache and difficulty that go hand-in-hand with loving a broken child into wholeness. But... Oh the benefits! Loving the child into wholeness is the reason for fostering and/or adopting!
Our second undoing is the matter of timing and life circumstance. Are our boys old enough to understand and get behind the idea of bringing another child into our home? Am I ready and capable of mothering another child? Do we have enough "free time" to commit to the process of getting qualified to foster (I don't even know what that process is called!)?
And the third undoing is the question... "Is God calling us to do this, or is it all my big idea?" Which may be less of a question and more of a cop out.
I really don't know where we'll end up with all this. I know there are other ways to help. Many other ways. But why not give a precious child a loving home if we're able?
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'
"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'"
-Matthew 25:34-40 (The Msg)
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Like singing while biking through the city streets in the Sound of Music happy!
Is it the clean house? Healthy foods perking my spirits? Both are great, but surly do not account for my super chipper, happy, peaceful, joyful outlook on every minute of every day!
Then it hit me... Sunday night. Bryan. The state of our marriage.
We have been very intentional with our marriage since we took a 12 week marriage enrichment course nearly four years ago.
Since completing the study, we've seen a counselor during times that were more difficult than others. No relationship is immune to difficulty. This counselor happens to be someone we have personal relationships with, and those relationships provide him with the insight needed to reach us where we're at and move us to where we want to be more quickly. He knows us. And it's a safe place for us to be real and seek the guidance we know we need.
We have recently seen him for some issues that have gone unresolved for a long time and had become the issue behind every topic we argue about. We were to have a session on Sunday morning, but Luke looked like he might have pink eye, so I stayed home with the kids and Bryan went by himself.
When Bryan got home, he walked into our normal family chaos... He hopped right into lunch preparations, or whatever it was we were doing. We didn't have a chance to talk about his session until the kids were in bed that night.
We sat down on the couch and Bryan had two things in his hand. A couples devotional book and the movie Fireproof. He had some things to tell me too. He told me things I didn't know I'd longed to hear. The "solution" to our issues is not what I'd envisioned, but what he said spoke to my heart in a way that "getting my way" would not have. We have a connection and respect that we wouldn't have if things had gone any other way - his or mine.
The next night we watched Fireproof. The acting was a bit awkward at times, but the message is unbeatable. I'm sold on the Love Dare. There must have been a line in the movie that was about "getting used to the new normal" because Bryan said that to me the next day. Cheesy, but I'll take it! I love our new normal.
And I love and adore my husband.
This was dinner last night.
With tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, spinach, wheat germ and multi grain pasta!
I used this recipe for inspiration, but sort of did my own thing with it. Especially since I wanted to add veggies and they have to be smuggled in or my kids will eat around them (and complain!).
I pureed 1/4 of a white onion with 2 cloves of garlic in mini-food processor.
Sauteed them in olive oil.
While the onions & garlic were sauteing, I added my uncooked chicken strips.
Once the chicken strips were cooked through, I added:
Two cans of diced tomatoes (one can pureed) and 1/2 cup pureed carrots.
Seasoned with Italian Spices, to taste.
I chose not to add tomato sauce, but my husband thought it needed some.
I also did not use the chicken broth as called for in the recipe linked above.
I did add a little water...
And wheat germ!
I let it all simmer together for about three hours, as I don't really care for chicken and wanted the chicken to absorb the flavors from the sauce. YUM!
Added fresh spinach leaves to the pasta sauce about 30 mins before serving.
Served over Barilla Plus Thin Spaghetti Multi-grain Pasta. The pasta noodles alone were fabulous. I had no idea! I will never buy 'regular' pasta again.
Thank you, Susan, for the Wheat Germ. I'm off to buy some of my very own today!
I think I will pick up some wheat pita bread and make some red pepper humus this afternoon. I'm pretty sure Zach will gobble it up, none the wiser that he's eating garbanzo beans!
Also... I'm reading Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious cookbook - thanks for the loan, Molly. I don't know if her recipes are any good, but I'm all for pureeing fruits and veggies and adding them to our everyday meal rotation! She has great ideas and I'm inspired!
Friday, November 6, 2009
Inside, I was somehow offended by the news. How dare you call and tell me such things? And you want me to come back in six months? I'll show you. High cholesterol. Not gonna happen.
No or low fat? I've got to be honest. Other people buy those items. I reach for all the fat! But no more. I've warned my family that our lifestyle is about to change and we'll all have to adjust to the new taste of our food. But we'll adjust and be all the better for it.
I found this information yesterday. If this is true, I don't see a reason for our labs to come back high next time. We'll see.
This is me sneaking veggies into our chili last night! The kids would pick around them if there were chunks, so I pureed 1/3 of a cup each: carrots, celery and red bell pepper. It was simple and delish!
Heart smart chili
1 lb ground turkey
1 can each: white beans, kidney beans, red beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
Pureed carrots, celery, red bell pepper
1/4 of a white onion, pureed
2 cloves garlic
Chili pepper, parsley, basil and oregano to taste
Bryan laughed when he saw three avocados in the fruit bowl and a bag of almonds on the counter. I mean business with this healthy eating thing. Little does he know that a spinach salad is on our dinner menu for tonight. He will not be pleased.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I've decided that it's high time we have some order around here. The kids are old enough and are responsible at church and school... It was time for me to encourage them to clean their own messes at home every time and not just occasionally. It's amazing the difference it's made! And they feel so good, knowing that they are helping. They also love knowing where their toys are, since the new rule requires them to put toys away as they move from one activity to the next.
As for me, I try to use my time more wisely. Instead of watching the kids dress (hovering, bossing and nagging!), I dust their room and make beds. While supervising their baths, I take Lysol wipes to the sink and toilet. I never leave dirty dishes sitting around and I am putting away laundry immediately after folding - no more stacking for days on end! Honestly, my friend Melissa told me the other day that she'd never seen our dining table - formerly the laundry folding station.
I would think that all this cleaning would make me tired, but it actually excites and energizes me. I'm THRILLED to have a clean house and I feel so productive. I think this is similar to the way exercise makes other people feel. Other people. I have yet to feel 'energized' and 'better' after exercising!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
And this man cares. A lot.
He reads bedtime stories.
He loves them. With all his heart.
"He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Malachi 4:6
Bryan and his dad had a great time at the game, and the girls and I had a great time dining and jewelry shopping. Which has me thinking now... Girls night at my house once a month during the season! Why didn't I think of this sooner? I think we should play Bunko one night, do dinner and a movie in PJ's another night... We'll come up with stuff to do. It will be great.
I am so grateful for the many friends God has gifted me with. I am wholly certain that I have the best ones on the planet.
"A friend is one before whom I may think aloud."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
These are the kinds of friends I have.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Here's the deal. Zach is a slow mover and easily distracted. He generally needs to be told to do something three times before he does it - and if it's a multi-step process, I have to keep asking him what he should be doing. Put on his shoes, head up for bed, get his backpack, etc. Far too many times a day I repeat myself and nag. More times than I care to admit, this pattern annoys me into a serious state of crabbiness and overreaction.
I feel guilty about this whole thing - wondering if I just don't have enough patience, am expecting too much out of a six year old, or am not giving him enough time to respond. But really, should I have to wait three or four minutes before he makes a move towards his shoes when we're getting ready to leave? And should it take more than six years for him to figure out where that shoe closet is when he takes his shoes off and throws them on the floor?
My husband suggested setting the timer. He gets a good response out of Zach when he uses the timer, but I'm usually nowhere near the timer when I need something done. And should I have to use a timer? (Can you hear my whiney voice from where you're at when I ask that question?) I'm feeling so defeated.
We started making "I mind the first time" charts when he was about two. He always responded well when we had the charts going, but when there was no sticker to work for, responding the first time lost its appeal. And it's been four years. Shouldn't the charts have worked by now?
So... These days I feel like all I do is nag him and stand on top of him to get things done. Honestly, I feel like I've failed him. Like all of my nagging and all of my "help" (laying out clothes, putting away all of his laundry, picking up his toys, sending him off to play while I do all the cleaning, etc.) has done us all a disservice.
Luke is a serious self-starter who wants to do everything himself and is ultra focused. There is no telling Luke anything twice! And that actually makes it harder for Zach. I get frustrated with all the nagging I do and now things like, "He's three and does all of this. Why don't you?" come flying out of my mouth. Yes... I have said that to my precious child.
I'm nagging, and I'm frustrated. I need a better way to deal with this. Got any ideas?
Halloween is thrilling for a lot of reasons.
First - the costume.
Second - the scary decorations.
This is our inspiration - the "scary house" just up the street from us. It comes complete with a cage, funeral, butcher shop, actors, skits, and an electric chair.
Here's our version of scary. Skele Bones, spider webs, a werewolf pumpkin, and two flying/noise-making ghosts (that I didn't get a picture of).
Third - wonderful friends.
Zach's classroom party. (And my first Room Mom event!)
Girlfriends from church
The children belonging to the above girlfriends
Not photographed are friends and family from three other parties that we stopped in at on Halloween. We are well-blessed with friends!
Forth - trick-or-treating.
Bryan and I took the kids out and decided to leave 300 Dum Dum suckers out for trick-or-treaters. We came back two hours later to an empty bowl (we fully expected that - we get 100's of kids every year). We put out two more bowls containing 180 pieces of chocolate. Went to the party next door for 20 minutes and came home two empty candy bowls on our door step. The teenagers (presumably) got greedy and ignored my sign. I think we'll have to come up with a different strategy for handing out candy next year.
We had a fantastic time trick-or-treating. We always start with our favorite scary house before it's completely dark...
A block and a half from home, Zach didn't think he could take another step... and we still had two more neighborhood parties to go to!
But he made it. And around 9:15pm, Bryan found Zach nearly asleep on our friends' couch. It was clearly time to go home. Some say that Halloween is a dark day, but we find nothing dark about spending time with friends and knocking on the doors of neighbors and making new friends! Honestly, we met the new couple that moved in up the street a few months ago and I invited her to a party I'm having tomorrow. She's coming! Halloween is great.