Sweet, mostly

I go into the still too warm bedroom 5 hours after sundown and the Baby has a blanket covering her, a tidily arranged little baby blanket that someone tenderly put over her as she slept.

Only it wasn't me.

I look over at the curled up form of the Girl in the bed next to her, all her blankets kicked off and rumpled at the foot of the bed, white hair streaming away from her face, and smile to myself. (She always wants to start with blankets, even in this heat.)

I imagine her waking, and with maternal tenderness, careful enough to not wake her sleeping sister, arranging the blanket over her.

I kiss her forehead fondly.

And then I remove the blanket and put it away again before the Baby wakes up cranky from being too hot.


Parenting-The Reward

The day did improve after lunch. They finished their school work and played with friends and rested at the right times. Before quiet time I uttered my standard, "I will tell your friends they can't come if you haven't had a good rest." They scurried to their beds and lay as still as 4 and 6 are able.

At bed time we talked about the day. I asked them to forgive me for the moments when I had been wrong, and told them I was still sad about them. We talked about the kids who always go to school hungry and how hard it must be for them to learn. I took extra time hugging and cuddling and repairing the ties between us.

I was sitting in the living room nursing the Baby as the girl yelled for me to come over and over until finally I could go. She was trying to tell me the Boy had been out of bed a lot since I left the room, a bed time no-no in our house. Tired, lazy, not sure about the tattle tale aspect of it all, and just wanting everyone to get to sleep, I mildly said to the Boy, "Don't get out of bed again."

As I listened to the Girl squeezing in just one more thing to tell me before I left the room again, I heard the Boy start to mutter something in my other ear.

"What was that Boy?"

"I said that if I were you and I had a Boy who disobeyed and got out of bed I wouldn't just tell him not to again."

"You think I should discipline you then? You think you chose it?"

He hung his head down and very quietly mumbled, "Yes."

My 6 year old offering me parenting advice. My wise wise son who listens to the strong voice of conscience.

What would you do?

I administered the standard consequence around here for disobedience. And he seemed almost relieved. As I was sending him back to bed he turned around and said, "You need to think of something different now mommy, because that isn't strong enough anymore to make me want to obey."

This morning they ate breakfast very early, before doing anything else. The Girl was quite frantic for the minute that she waited her turn to pour the milk lest she run out of time to eat. And we all had a mostly pleasant day.

Now if only I could learn from my mistakes as quickly as my children do.


Oops. I missed someone

Annmarie from My Adventures in Simple Living also linked back to the refugee post.

Is there anyone else I missed?

Blogger doesn't support trackbacks, so if that's what you used I have no way to see it.

Thanks for letting me know annmarie.

Parenting-The Hard Part

The thing about parenting is that while you are prepared for it to be hard, and expect to face a few challenges along the way, you are always surprised to discover exactly what the nature of the hard part is.

Take this morning for example. The kids have developed a habit, formed over the course of a few lazy summer weeks perhaps, and maybe longer, of waking and playing around for a few hours, and waiting for me to remind them to do things like; eat their breakfast, put their clothes on, brush their teeth, make their beds, etc. This is all fine and good when lounging around at home and playing all day is the only thing on the agenda. But school started yesterday. And at 9am, when I told them to get their books out I was met with refrains of "but I didn't eat breakfast yet, I'm hungry." Yesterday we didn't start school until almost 10am. Even by my very lax home school standards that's pushing it. Kindergarten kids in this town start at 7:45am.

Which leads to today. Yesterday, as I was faced with this debacle, I announced the new law. School starts at 9am. Anyone who hasn't gotten themselves up, dressed, bed made, and breakfast eaten before school starts will wait until lunch time to eat. No one is allowed to eat breakfast unless first their beds are made, clothes are on, and pajamas neatly disposed of.

They woke up this morning at 7am. At 8:45, they had not done any of the above mentioned things. I headed for a quick shower and reminded them one last time. I even took a little bit of extra time in the bathroom getting dressed, because I really did not want to deal with hungry kids all morning.

I emerged to utter chaos. Everything was pulled out on the bedroom floor. Pajamas were still on. The only person who had eaten was the Baby, because I got her a bowl of muesli before I jumped in the shower.

For the first time in their entire lives, my children went hungry this morning. They cried, and cried, and cried, and cried some more. I felt like I was right up there with Cinderella's step mother, and Hansel and Gretel's stepmother, and the Wicked Witch of the West. I've handed out consequences before, it's never easy. But I was surprised by how hard it was to see my children, genuinely hungry, and honor their freedom to choose by denying them food.

Ask me how school was. Ask me how easy it is to teach children with rumbly bellies their lessons. Ask how well they absorb the information and can do the work on their own. Ask me how long it takes to get them to pick up the mess they chose to make instead of eating. It was miserable.

And I had a really fun day planned. We had friends coming for lunch. We had a play date planned for after quiet time, and yet, if the Boy didn't finish his work...would I let him play?

The stress of this had me getting really frustrated with him as he lay doodling over his last half of a page instead of doing it. I started losing it. He started crumbling. And then I finally stepped back.

I explained that my concern was for him, because I really wanted him to have fun today. I had worked really hard to do my part to give him a fun day. I was now trying to force him to do what he needed to do in order to have fun later. But I couldn't. And with that I handed the outcome back to him again. Where it belonged. Hungry morning? your choice. Still working on school in the afternoon instead of playing? your choice. How much you enjoy the rest of this day? your choice.

And with that I went off to do what I needed to get done, satisfied that the power in this moment was squarely where it needed to be, in the hands of my children.

I had no idea when I started this parenting thing how difficult it would be to respect my children's choices by letting them experience the consequences that come with it. Especially when those consequences are negative and all I want to do is protect them. I had no idea that the single greatest source of frustration would be when they resist me as I put great effort into orchestrating things that will bring them greater happiness.

I wonder if God feels the same way as he looks at us. When all he wants to do is lead us to a place of joyous maturity, and we fight and kick and scream at Him to rescue us from the mess of our own making, instead of learning from it and moving on, does he have to fight the loving impulse to rescue us when the best thing for us is to experience and learn from the consequences?


It's Pathetic Really

This weight of sadness that sits on my chest at the sight of an empty inbox. There were the two status updates on Facebook when he landed in two different cities after all. I know he's where he's supposed to be. I know there is no internet in the jungle. I know it's hard to send your wife an update from the back of a motorcycle on a dirt road in the middle of Tak province.

But I miss him.

He'll be home in one week and I miss him. I want to tell him about the blood vessel that I just noticed has burst in my eye, probably from staring at this monitor for hours a day with little sleep. I want to tell him that the Baby woke up calling for him tonight.

I want to ask him what settings he used to get that last picture to publish, because I resized it and want to upload it again. I want to tell him about the conversation I had with his dad this weekend, and I want to tell him the current status of my end of this little project we've begun.

I want him next to me when I fall asleep.

I think he's the better parent, because when he's not around I notice the sarcasm creep into my voice all day, along with the do it now that rises to if I could strangle you with words I would sound.

I want to tell him how I couldn't sleep the night he left. My brain was too full of things, everything from tax law and non-profit charters to sewing projects and the start of school. And of course the image of a plane making it's way somewhere above the pacific ocean that wouldn't leave me.

I want to tell him that today I feel like I failed, because he's so good at asking me if there is a logical cause behind such vague feelings. And I will say that the kids got to bed late, and only ate cabbage for a vegetable along with noodles slathered in butter and keilbassa. I will say that they watched many movies. I will say that the house looks a disaster and I didn't make them pick it up even once today. It will be messy for the first day of school. I will tell him I haven't figured out how to get the store to work, I'm still stuck on uploading images. I'll tell him I didn't get photographs of every single bag while the light was good. I'll tell him I spent at least two whole hours sitting outside while the kids played and several more walking to and from grocery stores and browsing. I will tell him I spent too much time trying to find a picture to go with a post I'm writing and didn't get any writing done. I'll tell him that I haven't worked on my book at all for weeks, and that the new blog I'm trying to get started remains empty. I'll blurt it all out to him and then he will calmly tell me why I am stupid to feel like I am failing.

He will remind me that it's a show day, they're allowed to watch shows today. He will remind me that it's good for children to play outside. He will listen to bits about tax law and ask insightful questions that I had not considered. He will take over my desk chair and upload everything for me. Most of all, he will give me a hug and tell me that I'm doing a good job and that he trusts me.

And then he will gently mock me for my tendency to be melodramatic, and by gently I mean he will say something like, "How is that different from every other day?" when I mention the state of the house. And he will lean over my shoulder while I madly type at something and say, "You know what time it is right?" and then I will look up and go brush my teeth and rest my tired weary eyes beside him until morning.


And the Winners Are...

I really wanted to have the store ready by now. But alas, there is much that is time consuming about this whole business besides web design. Especially when I don't know what I'm doing.:)

I really wanted to have the store done by now because then when I announced the winners of the draw I could say, "Now go on over to the store and choose your favorite bag and I'll mail it to you."

Because really, how are you going to choose your favorite bag if you can't even look at them?

But I will let you know who you are you lucky few who someday, when I have a store ready for you to look at, will get to choose one. I promise it will be done by September somehow, I hope.

So, the first names of the lucky winners are, selected by random number generator,.... da dum dum...

Balaji and Melody.

I have your email addresses, so as soon as it's ready I'll let you know and you can choose your prize.

I've not yet made a draw from the people who linked back to the original post. I'll do that tomorrow. So if you linked, and you didn't use a permalink or send me an email, and you want in on the draw, you have to let me know right away, in the comments is fine. I'll also be linking back to everyone in tomorrow's post so you can see who linked.


A new baby

My dear, dear friend Rae,

Who first introduced me to blogging, (I didn't even know what a blog was until she sent me an invitation to start reading hers.)

has a brand new beautiful baby boy.

And I had dream that she was in labor a few nights ago. It makes me feel like we are still connected over all of the miles between here and India.

I'm so excited and happy for her. I just had to tell everyone. Go see him. He's perfect.


20 months

Having you around is like living with a two year old, only smaller. You want what you want when you want it and you have no qualms about yodeling at top volume when you don't get it. You have almost learned to whine. If I say no when you ask for something you start repeating, "Pease, pease, pease" in sad little pathetic tones that make me seem cruel and heartless for denying you. And then you descend into screams. It ain't pretty, but you will get over it soon enough. We hope.

You think hi is a magic word. Pair an exuberant "HIee" with a smile and a wave and people stop and smile and say it back. Neighbors give you cookies. Kids stop to play with you, all because you have mastered the nuances of this one magic word.

And bye-bye is a pretty cool word too. It's all encompassing in your efforts to get out the door. You point and ask, "BYE-BYE?" Or say it in pathetic tones of longing. It all points to one thing, you want to leave here now, and go somewhere else.

Here is a typical day for you. You sleep snuggled next to mommy until it's time to wake up. Then you sit up and grin at me before choosing whether or not to nurse a bit or just jump up and go play.

You run to the bed room door and yelling happily until your brother and sister come running in and take you off to play whatever game they are up to. The boy will cut you a pear, or a banana, or mix you some muesli while mommy showers. You almost always decide that I ought to let you shower with me. So the Girl will bring you into the bathroom and take off your jammies. You can almost do this all by yourself, but the shirt is a bit tricky still. Then you sit on my feet in the shower and demand that I wipe the water out of your eyes whenever you get any in them. This is because you now associate things in your eyes with pain, ever since the Girl tried to shampoo your hair herself and used too much and it got in your eyes very badly. They were very sad and red for a long time.

When we get out of the shower you point at the towel rack and demand a "Tow, tow."

Whenever one of your commands is properly fulfilled you give little self satisfied nod. It's my favorite thing that you do.

I wrap you up in a towel so that you can hold it around you and you run through the house proudly. Every time it falls off you bring it back crying "tow, tow" until I help you wrap it again.

Eventually, one of your siblings will decide that you need clothes and they will pick out something for you to wear. They fight over this privilege. Then, and they fight over this too, one of them will put a clean diaper on you while you almost always lay still, and then they will get you dressed. You will immediately find shoes and bring them to me. Once your shoes are on you go to the door and reach for the knob while begging, "Outide?"

Then I say, "no, not yet", and you cry. But you soon forget about that and start playing with toys.

You bring me the bag of wood puzzles and, a bit like a crack dealer, I dole them out one at a time. You bring me an assembled puzzle to trade for a new puzzle. You go on like this for hours. Until you are distracted from the puzzles by the big kids running around, or the doll stroller, or a "bebe". Then you bring me the doll, and a crumpled up dish towel that you pulled down from the dish rack and I wrap up the baby to sleep, over and over again, every time the blanket falls off.

Then you are hungry, and want your water bottle. As soon as I walk into the kitchen you start shoving the stool over next to me and climb on it to reach for stuff. You beg from the moment I start until the moment you get food. You sit at the table with the big kids. You eat the most enthusiastically. And then it's time for nap.

You wake up from nap and get in the way while the other kids pick up their toys. Sometimes you are a big help, sometimes you are a distraction and make a bigger mess behind them.

Finally, the toys are picked up, the snacks are consumed and the magical door opens.
You grab shoes and purse and "bebe" and fly out the door on your little red fire truck making for the open road. You are very fast. You push and coast and steer like a pro. If the next door neighbors are home you stop and yell "Hiee" and then "Pease, pease" and they give you always 2 animal crackers. You eat one, and give the other to me. Then you nod in a very satisfied fashion. Perhaps you are pleased that every thing is going according to schedule?
The next few hours are blissful as you run around outside and play with all the kids.

And then I bring you in to make dinner and you yell, and hang on me, and try to climb up and touch everything. And then you eat.

When Daddy comes home you stretch your whole body out towards him and yell "DA!DA!DA!" over and over again. Your day is now complete and you finish it off by distracting your siblings when they should be in the bathroom brushing their teeth, and instigating chase games and giggle sessions.

You push your way jealously onto my lap as I read, knocking off the story book in the process.

Once the big kids are in bed you mess around a bit with mommy and daddy before climbing into my lap and nursing until you fall asleep again and I carry you to bed.

It's hard work being the family baby, but someone has to do it. And you seem to be holding up under the pressure admirably.



Yes, this has become a fund raising contest blog. Sorry, I'm a bit obsessed. Only two more days before the contest closes. If you want to read something else today you can go over to Marriage Hacks where I am a new columnist on Mondays.

It would cost about $3300/month total to feed, clothe, house, school, and care for all of the physical needs of these kids in an ideal situation. They could all live on less than that, and they do right now. This is approximately how much it would take to set them up comfortably by Thai standards. In about 6 months we hope to be able to set up something more organized with him, and work out a budget etc. For now, know that this much a month would give these kids everything need in terms of material things.

So if everyone who has stopped by here in the past 4 days had donated just $2 each. We would have raised enough money to take care of everything the kids need for an entire month or two.

Please don't not give just because you can't give more than a couple of dollars. The couple of dollars of many people can change things.



****Me, I suck at the zeros. I always get them confused. 1600, not 16,000 and not as many hits as I get in a year. The fact that it took me 4 days or so to notice the mistake, also embarrassing.

My jaw is on the floor. Seriously.

In one day this little story has gotten more than 16 000 hits. That's about how many hits I got all of last year! :)

Thank-you, thank-you to everyone who is linking.

And thank-you everyone who has made a donation.

The current total is right around $360. That's an amazing amount of money for these kids.

My heart is full of gladness right now. Thank-you all.


Rethinking Mess

It's been getting very cluttered and chaotic around here of late. In a drive my clutter hating self crazy type of way. I can ignore it to a certain extent but then I'll step on something trip over something, the doorbell will ring... and a white hot hatred of all things clutter will be ignited. But don't be fooled into thinking that because of this my house is always clean. Oh no. See, I also hate cleaning. I used to really like cleaning, back in the days when whatever I cleaned stayed that way for a while. I would get it all tidy and then sit down for a celebratory cup of tea and a good read, content in the knowledge that I wouldn't have to do that again for another week.

And then there entered into my life other people. A husband, to begin with, who shocked me after we were first married by dropping his clothes in a trail that led all the way from the front door to the bathroom floor, every day after work. I could not, and still can't figure out why he can't wait until he's in the bathroom to start stripping.

And then entered children, 3 of them, 3 creative exuberant children. Three little clutter whirlwinds. I can leave a spotless room, spend 15 minutes in my bathroom and come out to a floor that looks like the toy box just vomited. Living in a small space doesn't help.

Even though I do make them pick it all up once a day, just before dinner so that the GH and I can enjoy a relatively toy free evening after they are in bed, it's enough to drive me nuts some days tripping over things.

So the other day I was looking at everything on the floor, feeling overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of tiny pieces that were scattered everywhere. And then I decided to try rethinking some of my attitudes toward all of this mess I was tripping over. And I took pictures, to share with you.

This is not hundreds of little pointy pieces scattered all over the table and floor. This is a little girl learning about shapes and spatial relationships. Also practicing for her future career as a tile layer.

This is not every puzzle we have all pulled out and dumped out together. Why can't you remember to work on them one at a time and put them away? This is advanced puzzle making. This is challenging not only her memory and manual dexterity, she is learning to sort and categorize as well.

This is a child using his imagination and building stuff on the TV instead of watching it.

These are boats carrying the survivors of a volcano wracked island to a new mountain home atop the TV. And that is the tousled hair of a child who has been rolling around on the floor all day having fun. There is also an abandoned princess cape in the picture.

Some one started a weaving project. Maybe they'll finish this time. I can be optimistic.

This is me biting my tongue. This is me choosing, daily, not to nag my husband about the giant mess on his desk that he rarely touches. There are more important things in life.

This is what I do so I don't have to look at it. And to keep out of sight when company comes. This some days is the price of peace and I don't mind paying it.

Now, don't you feel better about what's going on in your house too?


I have the Best Friends Ever

You may think that you do too and that's okay. I'll allow that. But only because you haven't met mine.

The afternoon after I posted about our anniversary plans that fell through my friend Megan who lives all the way over in Michigan, (start a blog Megan) called me to say that if I still wanted it she had arranged for her sister to come and watch my kids and lend me her car. Is that a fabulous friend or what? Not to mention her sister.

Of course, When I called the GH he had already passed the tickets on to someone else, who was very happy to get them, and since we didn't pay anything for them to begin with it was no big deal.

So thanks for the suggestions. We did have a quiet dinner together, very late, after the kids were all asleep. And dessert. And the antique tawny port that has been our celebratory drink of choice since we shared a taste of it and chocolate after we brought the Boy home from the hospital the very first time. And we did dance to our wedding song in our candle lit living room, and I did look amazing, if I do say so myself, and thank-you Chantelle for the suggestion. I got all choked up doing that. But refrained from crying because that would have been a mood kill.

We're not that much better at slow dancing together than we were 8 years ago. But some other things are vastly improved with time. And best of all, we still like each other after all this time even though there have been seasons when we didn't.

So here for you to listen to and enjoy also is our wedding song. Lord of the Starfields by Bruce Cockburn

**I'm not totally fond of all the images in the video. I think some of them are distracting from the song. I would turn off your monitor and just listen. But don't have time today to fiddle with learning how to upload audio files today.


I need Anniversary ideas-Quick

What can you do to make your 8th anniversary special, and by your I mean mine, when the free concert tickets are useless because your standby childcare people are off to the Grand Canyon for two weeks, oops, poor planning, and the car you would have borrowed to meet said husband at concert is no longer available either? Not that it matters, because there is no one to watch the kids.

I have no budget for groceries for these two weeks (Plane ticket to Thailand and week of work missed makes frugality a priority.) I have a lot of rice and beans and chicken in the freezer.

So here's the deal. Three little kids. Dinner at home. Husband working all day. What can we do?

Hit me with your most creative ideas to make tomorrow special. Pretty pretty please?
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