One Thousand Gifts-Week 40

holy experience

The rain started Friday night, on the way home from celebrating Shabbat, Beema's birthday and yet another uncle who had the dubious fortune of having his birthday land of Thanksgiving Day this year. By Saturday morning we were nearly drowning in wet. Then the hail started. But it hasn't rained in months, so we reveled in it. The kids ran out to play and came in to warm up over and over all day. They gathered up the hail where it lay in the grass. We lit candles, and made tea and hot chocolate. Oh, and set up a new, to us, computer that was a gift passed on from my BIL's girlfriend's family. (Got that?) Thank-you so much. It's great to be able to work in my own space again. Here's this week's list.

bowls of hail preserved in the freezer.

Piles of wet clothes near the door from playing outside in the rain.

Damp kids drinking hot chocolate.

Little singing a made up song, "Are you sleeping, little one? Are you sleeping..."

A balsam fir scented candle giving cozy light

The large gathering of friends and family around the table(s).

Caramel sauce.

My MIL's jalapeno bread stuffing.

a walk down a dirt road with old and treasured friends.

Sunset at the end of a long valley that reaches the sea.

The Boy throwing himself at me for a hug, repeatedly.

A long visit with someone that I expect will soon be family. I really like her.

Time with my big girl that I love, even if only for a little while.

The MIL and BIL who's birthdays we celebrated this week.


The Thanksgiving tree covered with leaves after dinner, each with something to be thankful for written on it.

Sitting around in the sunshine with the whole family together after church.

Dinner by candlelight.

Watching Little try, over and over again, to blow out the candle at the end.

Little girls in pretty nightgowns twirling to strains of Haydn before bed.

The Girl's funny walk on a still asleep foot when she woke up this morning.

The gratitude community is here @ a holy experience.


The First Sunday of Advent

I've been planning to keep advent for most of the year, but last night I was putting together a wreath at just before midnight. (It crept up on me. I had no idea it started so soon after Thanksgiving.) Thankfully, Leila's post on making advent wreaths inspired me so I threw this together from what I had laying around. A few small glass candle holders, and a shot glass because I only had 3, to hold the candles. I wasn't sure whether to use a large bowl or this silver try I have, and ended up resting the tray on the bowl to add some height. Then I ran outside in the rain and cut sprigs off of the 3 plants growing closest to my front door. The ribbon was languishing in a closet somewhere. I picked up some pine cones this afternoon after church where they fall near our parking spot and Voila! It's actually quite pretty.

I laced together two long acacia branches to form an outside circle with a few twist ties and the ribbon. The rest is just sort of arranged in the center. It's not permanent at all. Before we lit them tonight I took out the white candles and used some taller red ones instead. I know they're not the right color, but it's what I have. The kids were enchanted and ate dinner by the light of the lone candle.

Then there was church this morning. I was excited, because I knew they were going to be celebrating advent this year and it was family Sunday so the kids would be in with us during the singing. Now you must understand that we attend a church that plays rock'n'roll type music during the singing and keeps very few traditions, so I wasn't expecting much. But people, I was very miffed at how the whole thing played out. Up at the front they had all the posters that the kids decorated last week with the different weeks of advent themes on them; hope, love, joy and peace. There had been a build up in their classes. We waited through all the songs. They didn't light the candle. We waited through the announcements, they didn't light the candle. Then they dismissed the kids to their classes and we waited through the whole freakin' sermon for them to light the candle already, which happened at the very end. Which so misses the point of having an advent wreath in the first place. Grr.

I'm so sad because they missed such an opportunity to teach. It's like no one understands how kids learn. The pastor's wife even stood up there during communion and talked about how God told the children of Israel to keep passover and when their children ask why they do it to tell them, and that we should do the same when we take communion and our children ask why we do it. All the time she is saying this there is AN ADVENT WREATH BEHIND HER, that a lot of the kids have never seen, and wonder why it's there and what it's about, and they say nothing about it while the children are in the room! The mind boggles at the missed opportunities. Fortunately, I don't depend on them to teach my children anything so I was only miffed, and I got over it.

Hannah was supposed to be teaching Sunday school for second service. It's a hard job because there is such a mix of ages in there. This week, due to some oversight, she had no curriculum to work with so while we talked about what she could do I sort of jumped on the advent theme, duh! I read to the kids about the angel coming to Zechariah and Mary, and then we made advent calendars. (Full disclosure: I didn't even think about advent calendars until last night, and I was kicking myself for not getting one for the kids to do. So this craft may have been slightly self serving.) I think it's really cool.

For every day between now and Christmas eve we pasted in the number of candles that would be lit on the wreath with construction paper. Each day the kids are to draw a flame on the candles in that days box to mark the time. I think it's pretty cute. And if you are behind like I am on these things, it's also got the benefit of being another thing you can throw together with the stuff you have on hand, like we did.

It was easy to do, the kids can count down, and it really brings home the idea of the light increasing as the time draws near.


Thanksgiving in the Slum-Updated

I'm putting this one here at the top again for today as I run around and bake and finish painting and make a Thanksgiving tree with my kids just in case some people missed it. It helps me as I run around baking, making candied orange peels, gluten free chocolate cookies for my FIL and SIL, and try to finish a million projects to remember how blessed I am to have these things to do and work on, unlike most.

Thank-you so much for your donations so far. When I told my MIL how much had come in she was only half joking when she said, "At this rate they're going to be able to move out of the slum." It will be a huge blessing to this sweet family when they receive what you have given.

 ps. Our version of a Thanksgiving tree is really simple, and good for the last minute people like me. Stick a branch in a pot and anchor it with dirt or pebbles. Cut out paper into leaf shapes. This year we are using scrap book paper so it looks really cute and patchwork quilt like. Leave a few leaves on everyone's plate at the Thanksgiving table with a ribbon or piece of yarn attached. Every writes a few things they are thankful for and ties their leaves onto the tree before the meal starts.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

original post*************

 Sometimes I'm just really happy that this is the family I got when I married Aaron.

This was in my inbox last week from my MIL.

We've all heard and some of us have seen, that even if we have to check under the couch cushions for gas money, we are still better off than the rest of the world. We have MUCH to be thankful for. This year we are taking the opportunity to spread our thanks to the other side of the world.
There is a family I know who live in one of the slums of Visak in India. One of their daughters has been blessed to live and study at Grace Life kid's hostels. Her name is Usha and she is a beautiful teenage lover of Jesus. The last time I was there, her family asked if I would come to their home and walk through the slum to their relative's home to pray for their nephew who lay paralyzed from the chest down from falling off a 3rd story roof. I did and I hope I never forget the honor it was being invited into such a situation.
Usha's parents and young siblings are literal, glowing lights in the darkness of the demonic and Hindu slum they live in. Their hut seems to shine at the end of a long, dark tunnel, but it's some kind of spiritual optical illusion. The path, under the open sky and a few overhanging branches is in full light of day, while their hut is so dark they have to guide me in. A filtered light falls from the smoke hole in the back room they've designated as the 'kitchen'. Their beds are a piece of dirty fabric on the concrete slab they are so happy to have under part of their plank and metal sheeting home. A fan hangs from the ceiling of the little room where everyone sleeps. It's wires threaten to strangle me. The blade hits my head even though I'm already stooping. But this family sparkles with joy.
Usha's little sister was born prematurely and suffers from seizures and is "different". Her mother hip holds her 4 year old frame and asks me to pray for her, but before I can open my mouth, the little girl reaches out and touches my chest and then my head, while looking steadily, lovingly into my eyes, and speaks words that might be Hindi or Telegu or some construction of her own and I receive the purest, straight from Jesus, blessing ever. Not because it was sweet having a little kid 'bless' me, but because it was the purest, straight from Jesus, blessing ever. She did it to me twice and I was nearly undone by the deep joy that filled me. And then there was outright laughing when I asked what her name was and they said it was Blessy.
It is very easy to see the Kingdom of God in this slum. The Light is life radiating out of and around this family. The path that leads to their little home is a gauntlet of dark, heavy, empty eyed families spilling out of their huts. There is no light in the eyes that stare back at me. Not even a glimmer.
Jesus said it is more blessed to give than receive. I want us to thank Him for that dynamic this Thanksgiving and get in on that blessing by collecting our extras for Usha's family as they love and follow Jesus in this visibly dark and demonic place. I want them to know that the family of God is proud of them and 'with' them and willing to share what they have with them. I'm not asking for a lot, just the extras that can be collected during this month leading up to Thanksgiving. The pennies and dimes you see on the street. The change you find under the cushions. The coins that fill up the little compartments in your dash, on your dresser, in the bottom of your purse. Bring it on Thanksgiving and I will send it to Kell Frandsen of Grace Life Ministries to deliver to Usha's family.

To be honest. I haven't got very much spare change at all this month. Several weeks without paying work tends to do that to a family. Sometimes I like to think I'm exempt from these things because of all the work and sacrifice we already do to help people. But the truth is that I still have way more, that I don't really need, when I'm honest with myself. I can afford to give something.

For people who live on less than a dollar a day even $5 is a huge gift.

I've set up a donate button for Usha's family. It occurred to me that some of you might like the chance to pitch in your pocket change as well. So I asked her if I could post her letter here. I have learned to see an opportunity to give as a gift in itself, that I need to give to people. Some of you taught me that, when you wrote to thank me for giving you a chance to help in a meaningful way when we started The Charis Project. So here you go.


Busy with paint over here

I'm painting a chair today, doing some hemming for my neighbor, and going out to buy the Girl another pair of shoes because her feet just won't stop growing, and she has exactly one pair of running shoes left that fit. She wants something to wear with dresses too.

So in lieu of an actual post I will send you off to read some stuff I posted last week that you may have missed.

At the voice, the charis project blog, I wrote about the realities of running an orphanage.

It was the year 2001, we had been married less than a year and we were at the Door of Faith Orphanage in Mexico talking to DJ and Lynette, the couple who run the whole place. A month earlier we made the choice together that someday, somehow, we wanted to take care of kids who had no one, in a long term meaningful way. Of course, the first thing we thought of was an orphanage. We were there to learn.
I will never forget what DJ said that day.
“The truth is,” he said, “I spend most of my days fund raising, trying to raise enough money to keep this whole thing going. We hire people to take care of the kids, because we don’t have the time.”
 To read the rest click through.

At the real food revolution I wonder why anyone would make green been casserole.
Not Green Bean Casserole
I also provide a recipe for a much better tasting alternative, Garlic and Chili Green Beans

Oh, and I also pondered the role of forgetfulness in weight gain. Just One


One Thousand Gifts-Week 39

holy experience

Glorious golden tousled curls, bouncing as she laughs.

Boy laughing and making silly faces.

The little bit of a lisp when he's laughing and talking because of missing front teeth.

the homey smell of turkey broth simmering.

peanut butter trails in the honey remind me that the Girl made lunch for everyone today. All by herself.

Aaron walked in the door with lilies at the end of a long sad day last week.

Notebooks, bubble bath, and a bundle of decorative kale from my Milly.

The look the Boy gets on his face when he's saying something odd and funny.

the freshness of the air on my morning walk.

A night at Beema's house for all the kids, and a restaurant gift certificate from a friend for Aaron and me to enjoy together without them.

The way her eyelashes curl.

The Girl's crazy stories.

Little's stunning eyes.

Beautiful friends who send thoughtful gifts, and emails.

Hannah will be able come for part of Thanksgiving.


I am a complete failure

We are on our way to the laundry room. The girl lingers at the door, clearly ready to make a bolt for the playground.

"Come," I call. "Come with me to the laundry room."

"I don't want to," she replies and runs off to the playground.

Naturally this is unacceptable behavior. Blatant disregard for directions usually is. There are consequences for such things.

A few minutes later we are talking about it.

"I said come, you didn't come, you chose to disobey."

"But mommy," she argues tearfully, "I told you I didn't want to."



Let's try this again.

"When I say to do something it's your job to do it, even if you don't want to. That's what it means to obey. You do it because I said so, not because you want to. After you obey you have the choice to ask if you may do something else."

That's pretty clear, right?

"But I didn't want to, I told you I didn't want to before I ran away."

As if that makes it all better.

I think she really expects me to say, "Oh sweetie, I didn't know you didn't want to. Well that changes things then. You feel free to run off and do whatever you want whenever you feel like it."

Obviously she hasn't understood a word I have said in the past 6 years of her life.

I guess I have my work cut out for me.



Remember Who You Are

I finished reading The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis to the kids this week.

(If you have never read it or the accompanying books in the Chronicles of Narnia series you should stop now, drop everything, go out and buy the books and read them all this month. They are very worth the time, and really great to read aloud to kids as well.)

I have no idea how many times I have read this book before. Many.

I noticed something this time through that I don't remember noticing before.

The villain of the story is a witch. Her primary power is her ability to make people forget; who they are, where they're from, and what they are supposed to be doing.

We see it first when the children encounter her on the moor. By the time they are finished talking to her all they can think about is their own comfort; warm beds, hot baths, and getting in out of the cold. So strong does this idea become in their minds that they almost completely forget that they are on a quest, miss the signs they are supposed to follow and find themselves in grave danger as well.

The earth men she causes to forget all about their homeland, to believe that there is nothing else for them but to toil in her service day after day.

Prince Rillian's enchantment is the most sinister of all. For 10 years she keeps him with her, and he is devoted to her, thinking her his rescuer, and benefactor. She plans to invade the country that he is already prince of and rule it by force through him. Essentially, controlling him and so controlling what is rightfully his to begin with. During the hour a day that he does remember she keeps him bound, and powerless, until he forgets once more.

There is nothing like a good story to get at a fundamental truth in a way that is approachable.

For that is what happens to us all the time. We forget who we are. We forget where we are from. We forget what we are supposed to be doing. Some of us never even knew to begin with, which is the greatest tragedy of all.

We end up filling our time and days with things that don't matter, distract and are dangerous. The relationship we have to our lives, our vocation, our sphere of influence becomes distorted and wrong. Instead of a blessing, they become a curse.

All because we don't remember who we really are, where we are really from, or what we're really supposed to be doing.

In fact, we're all like the prince. We're children of the king, heirs to a glorious kingdom, and tasked with the work of nurturing and caring for those in it. Ours is meant to be a large and glorious life. But if we fall under enchantment and forget that, we are merely puppets, cheerless miserable puppets with very small lives. Or worse, tyrants, abusing our power over those we are charged to care for.

for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light... Awake oh sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ shall shine his Light on you. (Eph.5)

We need to remember. We need to be set free. We need to find our way out of darkness into the light of the sun. But we are not alone. One who didn't forget and never succumbed to enchantment has come to shine his Light on us, rescue us and show us the way.



The Boy kneels on the floor sobbing, surveying what used to be an entire fort for his army guys to defend, complete with cannon, now scattered Lego pieces kicked all over the carpet. Little stands in the corner, arms crossed defiantly, brow furrowed, lower lip sticking out. She is angry because there was no page for her to scribble on identical to the big kids school work today, and she doesn't want to color in one of her 20 books instead. While the big kids were working on school she quietly knocked down and kicked to pieces all of the Boy's Lego creations.

I stand surveying the aftermath.

He is heartbroken. He can't remember how he built it, he can't reassemble the pieces and I kneel on the floor with him as he wraps his arms around me and sobs.

A while later I am holding Little, nursing her actually, as she continues to be sad, this time because of the discipline she received for choosing to hurt someone in anger. The Boy comes out of the bedroom again, still sad and leans into me, needing hugs and comfort.

I hold the child who is hurt, and the child who hurt him in my arms, comforting both at once.

This must be what it's like for God all the time. His children are constantly causing each other pain, and in pain themselves, and he holds us all at once, and loves us all.

A few minutes later I guide Little through an apology. "I shouldn't have broken your Lego. It was wong. I'm sowwy I hurt you. Pwease fowgive me."

"I forgive you," he responds, and I see a smile pass across his face for a moment.

"Do you want to give him a hug?" I ask.

She nods, and shifts her weight from foot to foot in the silly wiggling way she has and then throws herself at him and wraps her arms around his chest as he kneels on the floor to return the hug. They run off together laughing, inseparable. For an hour they want nothing more than to please each other. She wants him to lie down with her in her bed during quiet time, and he agrees for a while.

This is what forgiveness does. It heals us. It heals God's family. It brings us back into relationship with him and with each other. No wonder Jesus made such a big deal about it. No wonder Paul did too. Without forgiveness these relationships we have with each other don't work. We will always wrong each other, disappoint. We must be able to forgive to go on together. We must go on together or or lives become bleak, empty and desolate things without any meaning.


I said I wouldn't write about grief this month, I changed my mind.

I wake to the regular morning sounds of chatter and clinking at my MIL's house. "The spare room is way too close to the kitchen," I think to myself, for the 567th time. Little sleeps on my shoulder and I am pinned to the bed, plotting how to escape without waking her.

"...It was a pretty long labor. The baby was finally born this morning but the mother had a seizure right after and needed to be transferred. She's been there all day holding the baby..."

My youngest SIL is working at a midwifery clinic, job shadowing if you will, to gain experience, to decide if this is the direction she wants to take with her life. She left before dinner last night to attend another birth.

I am momentarily jealous. I long to hold a newborn these days.

I finally wriggle free and stumble blindly to get dressed before putting in my contacts. The potatoes are already cut and in the pot. One turkey pulled apart and ready to serve. I spend the next three hours making mashed potatoes, gravy, and pulling apart the remaining turkey my MIL cooked the previous night. I forget to eat breakfast, I remember to hang wet laundry because the dryer is broken.

We drive downtown, loads of Thanksgiving dinner in the trunk. Four hundred people are expected to file through today, to get their turkey dinner, a gift from Bridge of Hope to refugee families who have escaped wars and destruction in their various countries of birth.

I get blisters on the tips of my fingers, in spite of the silicone gloves I wear, pulling apart the countless hot turkeys that arrive just in time, without a carving knife. I don't notice the burns until later in the evening.

People are fed. I wish I had pictures of the beautiful scenes; all of these children all different and beautiful playing together, the faces that light up when we offer the turkey bones to take home for soup.

It is a good day. I am fine all day.

This morning we drive to church, my mind is wandering staring out the window. The houses near the freeway that burnt to the ground two years ago in the wildfires are almost completely rebuilt I notice.

Without any warning I find I am blinking back tears, the image of a newborn in my SIL's arms fresh in my mind again. There are no babies or births for me this month, though there should have been. Just like that, this day becomes an ordeal, something to survive, to get through, before I can go home and curl up into a ball where no one can see me.

The kids get to their classes. I stop at the restroom, try to collect myself. "OK, I can do this," I think,"just get through."

There is a newborn baby outside the main door with a crowd of well wishers gathered round. I turn my head away, go through a different door. I will find Aaron, sit next to him, and I can hide there. I don't want anyone to look at me with concern and ask how I am. I will completely lose it if they do.

He isn't there, he's sitting at a table outside reading. I can't do this today. I can't be in there alone. I can't explain it to him without breaking down. I go hide in the car instead.

Once the sobbing subsides I try again. I blow my nose, comb my hair, put on my sunglasses, and head back inside. And there is a friend, and she asks the dreaded question, and I cannot speak, I can not say, "I'm fine" and walk away. I fight back tears, again. What do I say? "I'm crying, again, because I want my baby, my Shiloh, to be here. I can't get the image of the delight on Little's face as she holds our neighbor's newborn out of my head. I wish so much she could be a big sister this month."

I can't say that. I can't talk at all past these stifled tears. I croak out a short explanation.

She understands. She hugs. I eventually stop crying on her shoulder. I can talk to people again, carefully.

MIL wants to meet us after church, have a picnic, go for a walk, spend some time. I'm afraid talk will turn to babies. I ask Aaron to tell them to please not mention it.

We eat Costco pizza on the new stress ribbon bridge spanning the lake, or rather, the mud with dead trees sticking out of it. The water is low again this time of year. Some sit, and some walk. I have to walk, even in shoes that will give me blisters.

Red earth hills rise all around the lake like a cradle. Brown hills, blue water and, every so often, a patch of brilliant green that startles. The sun is gentle today, the wind is cool.

Fire scarred trees are around every corner. I marvel aloud at green leaves curling out of blackened twigs. They look dead to me, but they are not.

I walk alone, held, it feels, by sky and the earth together. I keep thinking that there is some kind of lesson here, some encouragement to take from this triumph of life after such devastation.
But it feels too far away to hope for right now, life. I feel blackened and scarred, tired and sad. I know the story doesn't end here. There are trees and laughing brooks round a few more bends. But I cannot see them yet, cannot hope. I can only take each curve as it comes, and keep walking, knowing that good days and bad can cause blisters.

I didn't take these lovely photos of Lake Hodges. They were taken by villanninv, bookish in north park, and vissago and posted under the terms of a Creative Commons License


Dear Anthropologie, This is getting kind of ridiculous,

Ever since I bought my super cute apron from you you have been stalking me. You won't stop sending me seductive emails, and at least once a month I open my mailbox to find you've sent me yet more photos of yourself. I will admit, they are beautifully shot and very creative and I may have been willing to continue simply sighing over their loveliness before throwing them in the trash, knowing that you and I shall never have have more than a mild flirtation. You prefer women with money to burn.

But with this month's decorating themes you so kindly sent to my inbox I can no longer keep silence. Anthropologie, I hope you don't take this the wrong way but, it's time to get over yourself. Really.

Your new home decor line titled recycled? Let's talk about this.

My kids could make something that looks exactly like this, for free. All you need is a pair of tin snips and some rivets. Or failing that some glue and cereal boxes for the exact same look.

Do you really think I'm going to pay $60 for something like this, which most people will probably never put where birds can live in it?

But that's not all, no.

There is this.
An elephant carved out of flip flops that washed up on the beach in Kenya. For $298. Are you freaking kidding me?

You want people to pay $300 for a carved up flip flop? Even if I thought all of the money was going to the artist, which it's not, let's just be honest here Anthropologie, they aren't seeing half of it, this is completely ridiculous. It's a rubber elephant. I can find 20 like it at a world market for less than $20.

Behold, the Magpie Chandelier. Want to guess the price? Go ahead.
$4800 plus $259 shipping for something that looks like it was made out of all the stuff I can find in my mother's craft closet, including the old chandelier with wiring attached. I mean really, it is sort of charming. But it's made out of galvanized wire and found items. Anyone who can string beads on wire and can find their way through a hardware/craft/thrift store could make this themselves for less than $200.

This I-phone dock, for only $98, reminds me of something my little brother made from woodpile remnants when he was 10. Only his was better. It's a hunk of wood, with a branch glued to it, and an iPhone charger glued in through a hole drilled in the bottom. If the desire ever seizes me for an item like this, which it won't, I will pay a Boy with a saw to make it for me.

Ditto for this, which looks remarkably similar to my first ever attempt to create anything out of clay.

I could go on, you provide so much fodder, but I have other things to do. Like figure out how to get people to pay me exorbitant prices for stuff I can make out of trash. Toodles.


One Thousand Gifts-Week 38

holy experience

A quiet night at home, just me and my little girl.

Silly buns with friends.

Watching Little lay out the cards for a game of memory. The level of concentration is astounding.

My kids all singing together, "Twinkle twinkle little star".

Laughter from the bathroom where they're supposed to be brushing their teeth.

Little money for groceries. But there are free guava everywhere around here. They use the trees for landscaping. The Girl loves to pick them and bring them home to eat.

Quiet children, heads bent in concentration, diligently working on their writing assignments.

Man humming a tune as he sorts laundry.

I let Little walk to visit a friend this week by herself while I watched across the courtyard until she reached the door safe. She looked behind her at least three times as she crossed, to make sure I was still watching, before waving goodbye at the door.

Those little hard and sweet fall apples that smell amazing.

Walking all together, no agenda, just walking all together outside. And climbing a bunch of stuff too.

Hugs from my Boy that he doesn't break.

Lavender flowers in my tea.
That concentration.

My lovely SIL.

Dinner with friends. Good food, good wine, good conversation.

Little-'Mommy, you cute!'


Long talks with the man I love.

The gratitude community is here.


7 quick takes

1. This is the latest video by my friends Levi and Jesse from Drawn from Water.

Drawn From Water, Adopt from Drawn From Water on Vimeo.

I want to adopt one of these babies so bad. If I could figure out how to pay for the whole thing I would. In a heartbeat.

2. I walk very early in the morning around what is essentially a little treed courtyard beside my apartment. I go in circles, that way I can hear if one of the kids wakes up and needs me while I am walking.

Given the hour, I hear my neighbor's alarm clocks when they start to go off as I pass by. This has raised a question.

How on earth is it humanly possible for some people to let their alarm keep going, for 5-10-15 minutes without shutting it off? Does anyone really sleep that soundly? And even if a grown up could manage it, who are these children who aren't woken up by that sound?

My mind is completely boggled.

3. I was due this month. The realization has crept up on me. I have crying fits all over again. This is all I'm going to write about it because I would prefer not to write long mournful posts on the subject. Though I think it's partly to blame for yesterday's sad mournful post about the Girl. November might be sad. You have been warned.

4. I'm almost finished with a children's book I'm writing. I love, love, love it. I also love that my SIL is illustrating it. It is an attempt to show small girls that real beauty comes from the heart, in a way that will engage even very small brains. We have plans for a series. You can be sure to hear more about that as time goes by.

5. I have mice. I caught a glimpse of one on Friday, sneaking along my kitchen floor. My first thought was, "That must be an exceptionally large spider over there that I saw it moving from over here... oh crap that is gray and furry, it's disappearing behind the trash can, find it, get it out NOW!!!" Then I dumped an almost sleeping Little on the couch while I went on a rampage behind the trash can. But of course, it was no where to be found.

I figure the colder weather drove it indoors. Though it's not cold enough that my patio door next to my kitchen where it came in was closed mid afternoon. Pest control arrives tomorrow. In one week it has managed to poop all over the cupboard under my sink, on all my clean towels of course, gnaw a hole in the base board next to the dishwasher, and wreak havoc on my sanity.

I want it gone! But I don't want it poisoned, because I have visions of it creeping somewhere completely inaccessible before it dies and smelling the rotting carcass for months on end. And I don't like glue traps because I don't want to find a mouse, dead, alive, or half dead in one of those. I will ask the pest control people if they come back to check the traps, in which case, I'll just do my best to pretend I don't know about them.

6. Sorry, this one is about mice too. I worked in a greenhouse one winter of my college days. They left poison out to control the mouse problem so every so often we would find dead mice between the rows. The mice we found were all deer mice, which are known carriers of the hantavirus. There was a protocol for disposing of the corpses that involved putting on mask and gloves, disposing of mouse, disposing of mask, and finally tossing the gloves so as to not get sick. I was the one to deal with every dead mouse found on my shift. My co workers were too squeamish. Lest you think that any of my previous comments on the subject are indicative of general ladylike delicacy. I am rarely ladylike. I, alas, do not faint either, except once, from blood loss in childbirth, which was in itself not very ladylike at all. Womanly, but not ladylike.

I just found out that there is an entire free Charlotte Mason Curriculum at Ambleside Online, using mostly books that are available for free download as well. How cool. Especially for someone who wants to home school but worries about the cost. If you don't know about Charlotte Mason they tell you about her teaching philosophy as well. Hers was the idea that young minds should be stimulated, with real literature, the outdoors, discussion, etc. There's a whole lot more to it than that and you can find it if you're interested.

HT to Notable Blogger

As always, thanks Jen@Conversion Diary for hosting these.



"Mama. Mama. Mama," she calls, "Just one more thing."

My hand hovers on the doorknob, poised for escape. On the other side of that door is sweet relief that I made it through another day, quiet, and time to myself, time to get things done. I am almost free, but no.

I sigh, turn back toward her. "What is it sweetie?" I ask, trying to keep the irritation from leaking through.

"Mama? When all your work is done can you come in and lay down next to me? And if I'm awake can you rub my back and sing me a song. But if I'm NOT awake can you still give me a hug and lay down next to me for a little while?"

Every night it's the same question. Usually I cut her off mid sentence, so great is my desire to escape. "Yes, I'll lay down next to you, but you'll probably be asleep by then and won't know it," I hedge. "Goodnight, I love you, go to sleep."

I slip out quickly, hoping to cut off any more talk. I'm done. I'm tired. Bedtime exhausts me and I long for it to end.

Some nights I completely forget to go back into that room before dragging myself into bed several hours later. More than I would like to admit. Some nights I lay down, remember, and get up again to go in and hug her, though she never wakes, so I'll know I kept my promise to her.

I don't go back in before she's asleep if I can avoid it. She takes longer to sleep if I'm in with her, and talks and talks until my mind blanks out entirely and I fall asleep before she does. I can't afford naps like that. They have me up far too late at night, doing work that should have been done earlier. Little still takes so long to get to sleep and I feel I have nothing left for the Girl who has finally learned to fall asleep on her own.

Yet every night she falls asleep, happily hoping that I will come in and spend some extra time with her, sing to her, and rub her back.

I'm aware, as I choose not to most nights, that one day I'll wish I had. One day I will regret not taking the opportunity, every night, to spend some more time with my little girl. She will be all grown up and gone and I will wish I could hold her again and spend more time. I even think to myself that if she were to suddenly die tomorrow, the one thing I would regret the most is not going in before she sleeps and laying down with her and singing to her one last time.

I know this is important, and yet, at the end of the day, it feels impossible. Or I just don't want to. Or both. I feel her question like a weight, another burden added to my already full load. Or perhaps it is my own selfishness that burdens me so, I never can tell.

There are so many choices like this that we parents are confronted with. Pay the bills or read a story? Make a healthy nutritious dinner or play together outside and eat something convenient? Lay down with my little girl, or do work that keeps 35 other children I've never met, and hopefully many more, from starving to death or being sold in the street while mine safely rests in her bed on the other side of the wall.

Sometimes the choices we have to make tear our hearts apart. We can never be present as much as we would like. We will always wonder if in the moments when we are, it is enough? Or at least, I will, every night when I hear, "Just one more thing mama, just one more thing," and then shut the door.


the mouths of babes

She loves princesses. She obsesses about hair and curls and pretty necklaces. Yes, already, at almost 6. I have not encouraged this trend, it's just who she is. She loves to plan things, and sweeps us all along with her schemes and imagining.

A few nights ago we were praying together, as we do every night before bed. After prayer time was over I hurried through the songs and the hugs as fast as I could, because I wanted to get her prayer written down before I forgot it. This is what she prayed.

I pray that you would give Chala and the kids lots of money for food, and that the people who are selling the food would give them change so they can buy more stuff. And I pray that the pigs would not get sick and die so they can sell them for more money. (They are raising pigs for market, but lots of pigs in their area have been dying of sickness.) And I pray that they would not get malaria.

Please make it so that in Burma they aren't killing people anymore and so that the Burmas (sic) don't want to kill the tribes anymore so that when they are driving around they won't be killed. Please make it safe for the tribes, Amen.
What could be left to add but a hearty Amen?

In the end we are all God's children, our understanding always childish compared to His. Yet he invites us still to sit with Him "in heavenly places" Eph. 2:6 and participate with his work/be His presence on this earth.

Do any of us truly understand this?

Yet still we pray. Hopefully with at least as much confidence and trust in His response as a 5 year old girl, who believes she is a princess because her father is a King.


One Thousand Gifts-Week 38

holy experience

The Girl and Little working together to "make me pretty" by brushing my hair, putting in clips, and putting on all of my necklaces at once.

The starlit sky framed by palm fronds.

Little-Do you want to pway dis game wif me mama?

The Boy's when he smiles.

The Girl laughing while telling me about the dream she just woke up from and thought was real.

Boys swinging swords, practicing to be heroes.

A relaxing, post church beach adventure with friends and family. Perfect temperature, warm, but not hot.

The way waves catch and reflect sunlight in a ceaseless dance of light.

Caves etched in sandstone by waves and tides, inverted trenches with rippling walls as smooth as glass.

I forgot how much fun a game of catch with a frisbee can be.

The Girl singing a new song in the backseat of the car, joyfully off key.

Thousands of tiny, perfect shells smaller than a fingertip.

The love of a husband.

Watching the faces of kids who have seen too much, too young, light up as they have fun.

Remembering that God doesn't abandon us when we make mistakes, and he's not surprised by them either.

(This week I started an experiment. I have such a twitter habit anyway, I started noting gifts in my twitter feed with the hashtag #onethousandgifts. I found I'm catching more things this way, recording them before they slip away. I like the idea of using twitter as place to also give thanks for what He has done, and to join together in doing it. If you want to join just tweet what you're thankful for and add the hashtag at the end.)

You can find the rest of the gratitude community here.
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