I’m Blessed

Good Morning, Friends.

We had such a good weekend.  Knut and his family finished planting the corn, and they are onto the soy beans.  The weather could not be any more obliging for planting season.  This means we see very little of Knut.  Of course, I didn’t get my garden in last week like I had planned, but the garden prep is going well.  It feels late because of this glorious weather, but in fact I’m still early.  I’m trying hard to not let it mess with my head.  It’s that time of year where there is massive amounts of work all around me that will likely take all summer to mostly complete.  It can either be exciting and inspiring, like a blank slate, or overwhelming like an army of grass invading on every side.

Speaking of armies of grass, the kids and I have named our gardens.  I told David as he was helping me prep the “old garden” that this area was actually the country of “Gardentopia” and it was being invaded in a brutal war from the country of the grasslands.  We were soldiers sent to fight for the territory of Gardentopia.  The kids liked that.

The kids really liked this story, so we had to come up with a name for “the new garden” which are the French style beds that we added near the chicken coop last year.  I named that country “Versailles” after the famous palace just outside of Paris with it’s vast gardens.  Elias really wanted to name a garden “Bloom” so that is the name of our front flower bed.  The country of Bloom is in really bad shape in it’s war against the grasslands.  However, we must fight for Gardentopia first, because we have a vested interest in that country because of it’s export of vegetables which takes priority over Bloom which has an expert of flowers, though I plan on putting all my herbs there this year, so it’s not like it’s just completely frivolous.  Once martial law has a firm hold of Gardentopia and Versailles, we will turn our forces to Bloom.

As you can tell, we’ve been having some fun.  But I’m totally not showing you pictures of the garden yet.  I can’t bear to.  It’s too depressing.  I do not want to record and remember how slow it is going.

I am so relieved to be done with April.  It was far too busy, and I feel so ragged from it.  May promises to be extremely busy, but just a hair less.  At least I hope.  Those are famous last words.

This last weekend we got to grill hot dogs and vegetables.  I had a playdate with one of my best friends who I never get to see because she’s even busier than even me, but she’s one of those people who you feel is just like balm for your soul.  I don’t have to carefully word my conversation around her, or wonder if she is secretly judging me.  And every time I meet with her, I feel like she pushed me more towards Christ.  I feel uplifted, and full of hope.  I know she’s probably not aware that she even does this for me, but she is the definition of a kindred spirit.

Sigh.  I haven’t always had a friend like this, with so many years of feeling completely lonely, it makes me feel the weight of the blessing of having even one friend like this.

I’m Blessed (Affirmations)

The weather is simply gorgeous.  Knut’s parents invited us over last night to their house overlooking this lake, and the kids got to go canoeing and kayaking on the fine, fine day.  I stayed home on Saturday and got as many things done for this week as I could, but then I realized yesterday when I looked at the forecast that we have a gorgeous week ahead of us, and you know what that means…
I’m going to be in the garden this week.
There’s already weeds growing in my garden folks.  Already.  
I haven’t even…  
I just can’t…
This is so not fair.
Just give me a chance, this year alright?  I’m trying to move towards a no-till, mulching type garden, similar to “Back to Eden” gardening as it’s being termed.  My garden is so obviously in desperate need of it.  I’m honestly a little afraid.  I’m afraid of physical labor.  Last year was my best gardening year ever, but I’m still nervous.  My injury is like a shadow standing over me saying, “If you do that, you will hurt.  You won’t be able to move for days.  You will be stuck just putting on the t.v. for your kids and snapping at them for 2 weeks.  Go ahead.  Put in seeds.  Move some mulch.  Wield that wheelbarrow.  You’ll regret it.”
Having experienced chronic pain from a car accident, even though it’s slowly getting to a place of being managed now… it leaves an impression of fear.  I’m not sure what is more crippling some days: the pain, or the fear of pain.  
I could give up.  I don’t have to garden.  There are grocery stores near us.  But I love it.  I love the fresh food for my family.  Our whole budget revolves around it.  Our health is managed through it.  I could list 1,000 reasons I press on.
Mostly, though, I press on because I refuse to live in fear.  Well, I can’t say that.  Sometimes I’m just afraid and I can’t control that.  I refuse to let fear make decisions for me.  I refuse to live by fear.  I don’t want to run my life according to fear.  This pain will not steal my life.
I’m an overcomer.  I am not a victim.
(Hear the need to pump myself up in my words?  I’m saying this to myself people.)
I’ll start small.  I’ll prune back the raspberries, and make space for the asparagus to come in.  I’ll weed and mulch the cutting flowers in the old garden, and…maybe we’ll just start there today.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be ready to put some seeds in the ground.  We’ll see.  I’ll bring my kids alongside to help.  I’ll be wise and listen to my body. I have worked up to a mile on the elliptical at the YMCA and I’m doing my physical therapy.  I can feel my muscles getting stronger.  
This is going to be the best gardening year ever. 
I’m blessed.

Easter Blessings

I had a great Easter.  Did you?  The church service hit my heart so deeply.  The music, the songs…everything.  I didn’t do any “Lent activities” this year besides an occasional sermon, and I really didn’t feel prepared for Easter Sunday.  And yet, the message “He is risen” just hit so close to home that I found myself welling up in tears over it at random times during the service.

He is risen.  He is risen indeed.  And that makes all the difference.  I have heard this message so many times I couldn’t count.  And yet, it hits me hard every time anyway.  
The afternoon had one downside.  Knut’s youngest brother and his wife had their 1st child just a month ago.  I have not seen her yet.  I have not held her little body, or smelled her fuzzy head, or heard her little baby grunts except via electronic devices.  My sweet new niece was supposed to ride a few hours with her parents to the family Easter celebration yesterday, but her mother, this brand new mommy, had the audacity to go to the emergency room with intense pain last week and went home on Saturday, weighing one gallbladder lighter.  I know.  How dare her?  Didn’t she new I’m aching to hold this girl?
So I had to settle with hanging out with my own 5 children, and 9 of my other nieces and nephews.  (Well, actually 1 niece and 8 nephews were there.  Silje and David are the oldest of the cousins on both sides.  The rest are about 2nd grade on down, and mostly boys.  It’s a bit loud.  And active.  Just a bit.)  So if you do the math, that’s 14 small children/toddlers/babies, and we were missing the newborn.

I also learned after nearly 13 years of marriage, something new about my husband.  I always start eating a chocolate bunny starting with the ears, and he always starts with the tail.  I cannot believe I never knew that before.

Moving on…

I had a moment of frustration last week, as I was stomping through the house in some sort of tizzy because everywhere I looked there was messes.  I was stepping over messes, sweeping up messes, bumping into messes.  It was interfering with the flow of the day, and the food I was trying to cook.

I can think about a thousand ways to handle the situation better than I did.  It was basically handled through very loud grumbling and complaining.  “Why am I the only one to see this mess?  Do you guys not have eyes?  Don’t you see this bookshelf is dumped out?  Do you not see your sweatshirt that has been laying here for days?  Does this table look like a trashcan to you?  This isn’t where trash goes.  Don’t just set it on the table.  Guys!!  I’m not going to wash these socks if they never make it into the hamper!!  You have to see your messes.  Why am I the only one who sees this?”

Ahem.  I’ll be honest, messes make me rant when they build up.  My kids hate when I rant.  I hate it too.

I tried to settle myself down and be honest with them.  “Guys, I am really trying to get ahold of my stress, and I get really stressed out when this house gets this messy.  I don’t like having people over when it’s like this, and I just don’t like living like this.”

Silje was trying to comfort me, and said, “Don’t worry mom.  We don’t even notice the mess.  It’s not as bad as you say.”

Let’s just say I didn’t feel comforted.

In fact, I may have ranted a bit more.

Don’t worry Mom, we don’t even notice this mess you are trying to train us to clean.  It’s invisible.  What mess?

I actually stopped the ranting before I went further, and just stewed.

They don’t notice the mess.

It doesn’t bother them.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to grow up to be one of those people who just dives into helping.  I want them to pick up trash that isn’t theirs.  Just because they see it.  One of my first jobs at a summer camp had a saying, “If you see it, you own it.”  That was in reference to jobs, not stuff.  If you see a job, it’s your job.  Don’t leave it for the person behind you.  What resulted is one of the most well-run camps I have ever encountered.

I know that I’m on the right side of wanting to train them in life skills.  I know it is good to teach them how to clean.  I know it’s not fun for either of us sometimes, but it’s good training.  It’s good.

And yet, the more I simmered (aka ranted inside my head), the more I saw the beauty in Silje’s words.

They don’t notice.

It doesn’t bother them.

Their joy is not wrapped up in how clean this house is.  

There it is.  I think that’s what she meant.  It’s something that I’ve been repeating to myself over and over.  My kids’ joy isn’t wrapped up in a pristine house.  They just like hanging out with me.  I’m getting through to them about so many other, way more important things.  They love playing board games.  They like looking at bugs.  They enjoy the moment.  They get excited over pretty much everything.

I am not ruining them, or their childhood with my messy house.  Life will go on if the floor isn’t swept.  That’s why we got a dog, anyway.  She can clean up the food the toddler threw on the floor.  She does a pretty decent job on the oatmeal on the chairs too.

I will continue to train them, but I also need to remember where a clean house needs to be on my priority list.  It surely needs to be on the list.  But not at the expense of trampling things higher on the list to get it.  And joy shouldn’t be wrapped up in a clean house.  A clean house is a sterile house.  Sterile means no life.

In fact one of the definitions of sterile is: producing little or no vegetation.  Unfruitful.  We have a house full of life.

In fact, there was this bacteria we were growing that…

Never mind.  You get the drift.

I’m blessed.

I’m Blessed…A Victory

Sorry I’ve been so busy, friends.  I’m catching up around here, though I’m still behind on about 1,000 more things.  Somedays I feel like I’ll never catch up.  In fact, I know I won’t.  I suppose God says he prepares good works for us to do, and there’s never an end to that.

The picture above is from this last weekend.  We were asked by some friends to help them collect sap from their sugar Maples.  Knut and the kids are riding in the back of the pickup with the sap.  David is walking alongside.  It’s a fun picture.  I’ll hopefully get to show you some more this week…along with the chick pictures I promised.

I’m still surrounded by laundry, and a pile of paperwork to attend to.  We had a victory, yesterday.  I know it may seem trivial, but to me…to Knut and me…and David, it was so good.

I have written so many times about my son David, and haven’t published so much of it, that can’t remember exactly what I have told you all.  I think we’ve alluded to the fact he’s our strong willed child.  I have probably mentioned that he’s had a tracking problem with reading that we have worked through.  I’ve probably mentioned we put him on a fish oil supplement that has helped him concentrate the last few years.  The last few months we found out that he has trouble sleeping and staying asleep as well, and our doctor pointed us to a magnesium supplement that has helped him greatly.  (His body was not making sufficient melatonin.)  We’ve also learned that red dyes, and perhaps other processed foods triggers tantrums and confusion for him, and we have removed them from his diet.

It has been years of trying out various discipline methods, just to humble ourselves as parents and move beyond books to actual people to help us.  Besides his small learning disabilities, we are realizing he has some sensory issues, and we are in the midst of figuring out what they are, and what we can do to help him.  These processes are slow, and tedious, and involve offices and therapists with busy schedules.

For school, David has been thriving.  He likes to work early in the morning, and prefers to stand up or move while doing school.  He takes lots of breaks, every 30 minutes at least, though now that we’ve got his sleep issued figured out, I’ve been able to stretch him to 40 minutes sometimes.  He thrives on work, and we give him lots to do outside.  He’s happiest when he’s working.  He’s bright…crazy bright like his big sister.  Though it shows up in very different ways.

He has a big heart.  Last week I had some mom friends over, and without me asking, he brought in a couple of trays to us, with a teapot full of hot water, sugar, cream, and an assortment of teas.  He just does stuff like that.  Through all his tantrums, and fighting, he loves big too.

Honestly, we’ve climbed so many mountains here at home, with our David.  The biggest change was when we stopped treating it exclusively as a behavior issue, and started dealing with it from a spiritual standpoint, and addressing the real, biological struggle he was wrestling with.  Behavior is what all the books are about, but the soul and the body are pretty important too.  When we switched gears, he started spilling more information, and as he is learning we are on his side, we are making big progress.

So it seems kind of silly to say that the hardest thing we still struggle with is church.  We have come so far that instead of occasional good days like years ago, we have 5-6 excellent days a week with him, leaving Sunday as the big mountain.  We go to a small church, but one that’s like family.  Families usually sit together.  We only divide up for Sunday school, and we have about enough kids in our church to divide the kids into a big kids group and little kids group.  David’s teachers are super understanding, one is a father with a child who deals with similar issues.  The other is a longtime friend of mine with kids of her own as well, and a third is Knut’s cousin.

And yet, he gets so disruptive he has to be removed from class weekly.  Sitting in church for a full hour is nearly impossible for him.  It takes every ounce of his strength to do it.  We’re a family church, and it is relaxed, and he isn’t that disruptive to other people, but it’s terribly disruptive to Knut and I, and it’s hard on the other kids too when David gets all the attention.  This piece of the puzzle has been a tough one.  We have been experimenting with ways to make church work for a few years now.

Yesterday, we came up for some air.

It all started with the first tap on our shoulder during adult Sunday school, with a usual motion of the head that either Knut or I needed to come.  It was my turn this week to deal with David at church.  Well sometimes we tag team in on an hourly basis, when daily isn’t working.

It happens every Sunday, and I’ve asked David if he just wants to hang out with me during Sunday school instead of go to class.  We sat outside of class one week, and he missed it.  I could see on his face he wanted to be in there.  He’s determined to make it work.  Honestly, he’s a stubborn kid, because I would have given up sending him to Sunday School months ago.  The last 2 years I was his Sunday school teacher, but I needed a rest from that.  This year has been difficult for him in that way.

Honestly, when we first started homeschooling David, there were concerns voiced in our circle that he would never learn to sit.  It is good to know how to sit.  I won’t deny it.  I’m just not sure it’s more valuable than all other knowledge.  If I had to choose between knowledge of history, math, stories and writing, and the ability to sit, I’d say all those other things are more important.  David told me once when we were having a reading lesson at home that when he sits, all he can think about is, “sit still, keep the legs still, don’t move” and then it’s hard to read his assignment.  When he is standing, his mind is free to focus on his lesson.

And yet, we force him to sit in church, knowing that he can’t sit and learn at the same time.  Honestly, if I have to choose between him learning about God, and learning to sit, I’m going to want him to learn about God.  It’s not that learning to sit is useless, it’s just not as high in priority for me.

When I got to David in the hallway yesterday morning, he started to tell me what happened, and was irritable and defensive like always.  He is usually kicked out for kicking or pestering another student, (usually his sister) and for generally being out of control.  Saturday I had to pull him out of his sister’s choir concert, another hour+ long sitting activity.  He was so worked up I couldn’t settle him then, and only Knut was able to do that when we got home.  Team effort, people.  Team effort.  A week ago we kept him home from church completely.  I saw on his face and in his attitude we were on a road for trouble.  He snapped out of it about 10 minutes after the rest of the family left and he realized that he and I actually weren’t going to church.  He was shocked.  He was remorseful.  We never skip church.

So anyway, yesterday at church:
“Come on, bud.  Let’s find a quiet space.  We’ll reset there.”  I put my arm around him and he put his defenses down.  We spent years disciplining him for this behavior.  Years.  I still see the fear in his eyes from it.  I’ve come to realize, that he needs equipping more than punishments.  Equipping is another form of discipline.  It’s a Biblical one, even.

He followed me to an empty classroom.  I looked him square in the eyes.
“I love you, you know.” I said.
“I love you too, Mommy.” He says.
“Remember this is a battle.” I say.

David thinks a lot in 3D.  I’m learning to apply this a lot to his schooling.  He loves the battle image for times like this.  It came to me a few months ago during a church service, and he and I have been talking about it since.  We talk about how we go to church to worship God, be encouraged, and encourage other believers.  We study the Bible.  All those things make Satan mad.  He will whisper promises that if we do wrong, we will be happy, but it always leaves us feeling frustrated and angry.  So Satan will set traps… try to rob us of joy.  The battle is for joy.  The battle is for worship.  We have to fight distractions like we are in a battle.  We have to fight for joy, because something will always happen, as any parent who has ever attempted to take a child to church Sunday morning knows.  My mom always said that Satan works extra hard Sunday mornings.

“I want to go back.”  He says.  “But I’m afraid that I’m going to get kicked out again.”  I feel the fatigue in him.
“You don’t have to go back.” I say.  “I’ll stay with you again.  I don’t mind.”
“I want to go back.” He says again.  “But I’m scared of messing up again.”  Where on earth did this kid get so determined?

“Well, there’s 3 things we need to do.  You know them?”
He nods.
“First, we pray.” I say.
He steps closer to me, and puts his hands in mine.  We bow our heads together, and we pray.  We pray for wisdom and strength.  We pray for joy, and for clarity to always see the truth.  We pray for victory over the battle.

“Step 2″ I say.
“Putting on the armor.” He says.  He knows this one by heart.  He told me a few weeks ago, that sometimes he puts on the armor even before he comes down to breakfast, just to help make sure he has a good day.

Together we quote Ephesians 6:10-18 (we actually shorten it to verses 14-18 for this exercise), and pretend to put armor on our bodies:
-the belt of truth buckled around your waist.
-the breastplate of righteousness
-feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace
-shield of faith
-helmet of salvation
-the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Once we are outfitted with our invisible armor, I look at him and say: “Step 3.”

“Obey the rules” he says firmly.
“Can you do it soldier?” I ask?
He nods, but not with as much certainty.
“Don’t let evil win.” I say.  “Don’t let anything steal joy that comes from God.  There is blessing for you in there.  God intends you to be a blessing too.  You cannot be bugging other people.  Be a blessing to them.  Don’t hurt them.  Don’t fall into any traps.”
“Can you come and sit in the back?” He asks.
“If you want me to.” I say.

I walked him back into his classroom.  He joined the rest of the kids and I took a seat out of the way.

He did beautifully.

After Sunday School, and a little snack during the “fellowship time” the church service started.  David was so excited he didn’t get kicked out of Sunday School again he was riding a high and felt he could do anything.  We pick our seats carefully, and loud sounds bother him, and we’ve realized that a seat too close to a speaker could mess up the whole morning.  We don’t have loud and crazy music at our church.  We do a fair number of hymns, and mix it with praise music.

Knut and I spent years taking David out of church for being disruptive.  It happened pretty much every Sunday with very few exceptions.  We started realizing that he wanted to leave, though not the church…just the sanctuary.  He liked sitting in the back fellowship hall, where he could still hear, but it wasn’t too loud.  We’ve talked about getting him earplugs, but David says he just doesn’t like the crowds of people.  Like I mentioned, it’s not a large church, but I suppose we can fill up the seats that are there from time to time.

So the last few months we have been training him to try to stay with us as long as he can, but if he needs a break, to just excuse himself to the fellowship hall for a few minutes, and come back when he’s ready.  It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes he gets into trouble out there too.

But yesterday, during the sermon, he whispered in my ear that he was having trouble sitting still and needed a moment outside the sanctuary.  I nodded.  I should have been listening to the sermon, but I was straining my ears to see if he was fine out there.  Nothing terribly loud happened, and about 10 minutes later, he slipped back into the service without us having to check on him.  He had a smile on my face and squeezed my hand.  I heard later it wasn’t all perfect out there and another adult asked him to stop doing something, but he stopped immediately.  So even in that, there’s victory.

Both Knut and I got to stay in the whole service at our church.  I’m not sure how many years that has been.  I know it may seem like a small victory, but it was big to me.  I love our church and it’s family atmosphere.  I love how everyone pitches in to help.  I love how the distinction between family and friends fades there.

Sometimes training takes years, not weeks.  Not hours.  Years.  I’ve grown tired of all of the obedience-quick parenting books out there.  I suppose that’s why I’ve latched onto the Clarkson books.  They’re actually have experience with out-of-the-box…no-system-works-kid.  They remind me I’m blessed to have one of those.  They are the future leaders, movers and shakers.  They remind me what we are striving for as parents when we finally get to the realization that perfectionistic obedience is unattainable.  What is attainable is grace.  What is attainable is life when we feel dead, and strength when we feel weakness.  If I can’t teach totalitarian obedience, I can teach those things.  And really?  Those things are so much better anyway.