Sunday, June 27, 2010

Heart Issues

Sometimes, in parenting, we forget how many of the things we try to train into our children, or discipline out of them, are surface issues. It's so hard to stop and think, "what is the heart issue here?" when your 5 year old has re-painted the newly painted wall with craft paint. Or your 7 year old whines like a toddler. Or your 9year old is in everyone's business or stalks his older sisters when there is no "business" going on.

The other night was a night of discovery for me. Our three boys fluctuated between Larry, Mo and Curly and a Zulu warrior, Hitler and a combo of Groucho Marx and the strong man at the circus, minus the leopard leotard (don't those words look fun together:) I'd sat down on the couch to watch a show after putting the boys to bed when the 7 year old came upstairs complaining of a headache. I gave him a remedy and he went back downstairs. Two minutes later the 9 year old, not wanting to miss out, came with the same complaint. I had him drink some water and sent him back down stairs. Two minutes after that the 7 year old returned, still complaining of a headache and that the 5 year old won't stop talking. I sent the 7 year old to sleep on the couch in the game room. Next came the 5 year old...are you still with me? It gets better..."Why isn't 7 year old in bed?" (for him to torture further...he'd left that part out). It went on and on. Headache boy fell asleep quickly but the fun continued with 9 year old bringing news flashes about hurricane 5 year old and the damage being done on the island of bedroom. 5 year old got in trouble several times. As I headed downstairs yet again I noted the look on my 9 year old's face. I realized something else was going on here. Yes the 5 year old was doing some "stuff", but I needed to address the heart of my 9 year old.

What I saw in my 9 year olds face was pleasure. He was rejoicing in his "enemy's" bad fortune. He was secretly enjoying the knowledge that his 5 year old brother was getting disciplined. You see, before he came to live with us he'd been terribly bullied at school (as opposed to the good kind of bullying?) and now he is the one with a bit more power and control over the fate of the 5 year old. If I had simply dealt with offender (who fell asleep anyway while waiting to be tried and sentenced) I would have missed helping the heart of my 9 year old. He's been through years of some very tough stuff and not only has he put up walls but those walls are covered with thorns and thistles. By addressing his heart and working toward a solution with him and helping him learn to acknowledge his weaknesses he learns that the walls needn't be so high and with proper tending those thorns and thistles produce beautiful roses in the spring and that the beauty of the roses helps to soften the sting of the thorns to himself and others.

Truly children help us work out our salvation with fear and trembling. They remind us to look into our own hearts and allow our Father to break down our walls and cut back the thorns and thistles we have used in our lives as protection or to justify sinful behavior. I thank God for these opportunities (not always right at that moment) and for the privilege of helping my young ones along their path to the Christ.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Son Went Home

He went home the other day, the prodigal who'd been gone so long. I know I've written before about my brother, Homeless Mark, but I wanted to expand on my thoughts a little and explain a bit more what his life meant to me.

He was the most amazing picture of the Prodigal Son but this man did not stop short of eating the pig slop. I have no idea how he became Homeless Mark to begin with. I'm pretty certain that when the teacher asked in Kindergarten what he wanted to be a homeless addict was not top on his list. I had only spoken with him briefly here and there, even offended him once while he was intoxicated. The amazing thing about this man is that he was always searching. He took longer than that long lost son portrayed in Holy Scriptures, but he was just as looked for, just as beloved, perhaps even more so due to the length of his absence from his Father and how base he had become. He had a Bible he brought around with him and other very large and heavy scripture resource books. In cartoons we often see the little shoulder apparitions, devil on one side and angel on the other. In his world the devil was very real in the addiction that held him for so long. The angel seemed to evade him.

What my older brother has taught me is that he is not the exception to the rule, he is the example of the rule. Sometimes we think that people like him with amazing stories like his are one in a million but they're not, it's all about perspective. Many were able to see Mark's incredible transformation. Some areas of his brain were affected irrevocably by the life he'd lived, but the heart of this man longed for his Lord. Each man woman and child has that same longing even if we never see any movement at all let alone a miraculous transformation. Yet we are called to give regardless of what kind of fruit we think we can see. We're supposed to stand and talk to those society calls unlovely, not just the starving children in Africa, but the filthy ones right here, right down the street holding up a sign. I'm not foolish enough to think that all those with signs are noble and have just lost their way, there certainly can be many other motives, or devils, involved there, but when we give to them we are giving to Christ.

Mark helped us all learn to give offerings of ourselves to Christ through himself without even knowing it. He taught us that lovely or unlovely we are all welcome. He taught us to accept into the wedding feast all who Christ has called without questioning the Bridegroom's invitation list. We were blessed and humbled to see each agonizing step he took, sometimes crawling or clawing his way, to his heavenly Papa who'd been waiting all this time...waiting to place those sandals on Mark's feet and have the fatted calf prepared and include all creation in the rejoicing of His son's return.

That son is home. He is not Homeless Mark, his home was being prepared all this time. He has returned to his Father. He is at peace and in his right mind. He will be buried Monday and many will mourn him. His life was truly a testimony of God's grace and mercy toward us whether we realize we're prodigals or not.

May His grace and mercy lead us all HOME ~ Memory Eternal

Monday, June 14, 2010

Head Shoulders Mud and Dirt

It started with a fight. Loud voices can be heard so clearly when one is trying to sleep. Of course I wasn't sleeping at that point, but I was day dreaming about real dreaming. The oldest boy and youngest boy each got up on the wrong side of the planet this morning. Each one blamed the other, was offended by the notion that they each should take responsibility for their own part in the fight and were willing to lose privilege after privilege before this first fight was finally resolved. "Maybe it's not so bad", I thought "we just got it out of the way early today." HA! Of course not, that would be too easy.

The second fight was after breakfast and over Legos. There was a miscommunication and words too big for the situation were used to express frustration. I reprimanded the younger who had destroyed the creation of the elder. I discussed with the older child the need to remove himself from heated situations and encouraged him to use more appropriate words to express his frustration. You would have thought I was an alien with four heads. I made sure each head said the same thing and we concluded our interview.

Just before leaving for a counseling appointment the doorbell rang. Of course, today had to be the day our wonderful social worker came for her annual surprise visit. Apparently moments before she entered my home our lovely, severely under trained, dog brought in a gift of chicken feathers from our recently departed chickens (foxes we think) and deposited them on the floor in the living room. It's always awkward when you have a guest and a somewhat normally clean room is suddenly cluttered and you feel the need to explain yourself but end up looking more foolish than if you'd just kept your mouth shut. Oh well. Our social worker truly is a lovely woman and already loves our family:) She knew we were in a hurry and as I escorted her to her car, by way of the garage so the under trained dogs couldn't maul her, two mud covered creatures burst through the outside garage door laughing and shaking their booties. The youngest had neglected to put on underwear this morning and so became an exhibitionist when his mud laden sweats fell down during one of his dance turns.

The social worker left and I ran out the door to a van that took 5 tries to start (thinking the starter is going...ugh!). We finally made it to counseling for the oldest boy when I receive a text from my eldest daughter that read "Brother #3 is naked and I can't turn on the hose." ...sigh... I finally communicated through texts, while trying to show my focused support and encouragement to my oldest son, who of course refused to tell the counselor anything because he was still throwing a silent tantrum because he lost video game privileges.

I usually stand there puzzled, or crying, on days like this. I search my mind for how my girls behaved when they were little and I am comforted. Not because they were little angels (although none of them ever yelled I HATE YOU at me or one another), but because I do remember the day they found the Tempura paint and painted the toilet, washer and dryer, their bunk bed, the carpet and the walls. I remember them sneaking into the kitchen and stealing the fresh made bread. They didn't steal the whole loaf, no, that would be too boring, they hollowed it out by carefully taking handfuls of the center and I'd be none the wiser until I went to cut some in the morning. They snuck sugar cubes and candy. They used to strip and run outside. The oldest threw mud clots and an old woman's car as she drove by...yes, I certainly got an earful for that one.

With all of the mud, language and crazy antics of my children I still find myself feeling so blessed and would love to be blessed with more. When I asked my second daughter how many children she thought we should have she said 16. I suggested we might as well have 20 to which she replied "20?! That would be too many." HA! Children truly are a blessings even with the arguments, mud footprints all over the floor, peeing in the...uh...wrong places, adolescent hormonal explosions or artistic mood swings...I am blessed by it all.

Friday, June 11, 2010

For the Love of PVC

For $2, yes $2, I can provide one child with the most versatile non-electronic gaming system ever. Never worry again about losing parts, or power outages, batteries or plugs. What is this system, you ask? PVC pipe! I gave each of my boys two 3ft. sections of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and they've come up with a myriad of uses. So far they have been Knights on horses (PVC providing the sturdy front legs which transform into weapons when they hit the battle field). They have been used as cross bows, bow and arrow, ninja nunchucks, binoculars, swords, machetes...and that was just in the first 5 minutes!

Sometimes the less expensive, basic and simple things really are the best. Rocks, cardboard, pvc pipe, duct tape...all for less money that one normal toy would cost. Many more hours of fun. With video games or other games with all the bells and whistles they play until they conquer it and then the fun is gone. But with toys, or tools, that require imagination, there really is no limit to the fun that can be had. Of course I have to make sure they don't turn the PVC pipes into anything that could cause damage to our home or the neighbors...NO MISSILE LAUNCHERS!!!... but outside of that, these are amazing toys. Next week we hope to add more PVC and joints to go with them! That coupled with a couple of flat sheets (I mean, really, who uses those anymore?!) Look out forts here we come.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cleaning Recipes!

Okay, so here they are. I'm really not an exact measurement person, but I'll try.

All Purpose Spray Cleaner:
1T Borax
1T Baking Soda
2T Liquid Castille Soap
15 Drops Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)
15 Drops Lemon Essential Oil

Put all items in spray bottle and add warm water to half way. Shake to mix ingredients. Let settle and fill rest of the way with water.

What I use on my tile floor:
1 C White Vinegar
15 Drops Essential oil (peppermint, lemon, grapefruit, lavender)
1 T Olive Oil
1 Gal. Hot Water

I just mop my floor and it leaves a nice little shine, but not a greasy residue.

Laundry Detergent:
1/2 C Borax
1/2 C Washing Soda (NOT BAKING SODA)
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap or 1/3 C liquid castille soap
(optional: essential oil and tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract)
6 C Water plus more to fill 5 gal. container

Heat water on stove. Add soap and let melt/disolve. Add borax and washing soda mix until disolved. Pour into 5 gal. container. Add enough water to fill 2/3 of the way while mixing. Add essential oil now and mix. Cover and let set 24 hours. It will look a lot like egg drop soup and this is what it's supposed to look like.

1/2 C White Vinegar
1 T Borax
10 drops lemon essential oil which helps boost whites
I pour this mixture into the bleach dispenser.

Glass Cleaner:
50/50 Rubbing Alcohol/Water
Spray Bottle
That's it!

Olive Oil
15 drops essential oil
atomizer (little spray bottle)
just spray little on a paper towel and go to work.

I'll do the deodorant and soap on another day ;)

So there you go:)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Humility Stings

Here is the end of yesterday's story.

I actually went to bed at my newly appointed 10 o'clock bed time (yay!) but didn't sleep well. I'm one of those people who can have 499 people happy with me but if #500 is not happy with me I dive into despair head first. So the knowledge that there was no positive closure between me and my neighbors sat heavily upon my...stomach, because that's where it seems to settle. I also tend to obsess over things like this and have a constant running commentary going through my mind about what I should say, what they might say back, etc. The problem with that is, IT'S NOT REAL! They may or MAY NOT follow the script that I've penned in my brain. I prayed for them...not the "Lord change them" prayer, but that the Lord would bless them and prosper them. And to my surprise, I really meant it!

I baked bread today and thought perhaps a warm loaf of fresh ground whole wheat bread could serve as a peace offering (much tastier than a white flag). I headed over there and knocked at the door. No answer. I left with the plan to try again later. Three times I went back and no one answered. As the bread cooled, my resolve got weaker and weaker. I took the baby with me two of the times for surely no one would be mean to a woman holding an infant. Finally, I peaked over the fence and saw a sure sign of life. I grabbed the bread and headed over. Alone. Thankfully the Lord blessed me by having the lady of the house answer the door. I apologized again for my sons actions and let her know I was a Momma who disciplines her children when they do wrong and that...I couldn't believe I said this part...I didn't vote for Obama and I'm not "one of those liberal parents who doesn't think their child could ever do any wrong" (where did that come from...perhaps my fear that race might have something to do with their strong reaction to yesterdays events...I'm a coward, I know). I didn't restate my sentiments from the day before because those words had already been spoken. What didn't seem to get across to them yesterday was the fact that I agreed with them that my boys committed a "misdemeanor" of sorts and needed to be responsible for their actions. She thanked me for making the extra effort and took my peace offering and we parted, not as friends, but at least as cordial neighbors.

Humility stings because I want so much not only to be right but to have others acknowledge that I'm right, or at least less wrong than they are. But if my Lord can humble Himself to be born in a stable and die naked on a cross for me...I think I can muster the humility to offer the bread of peace to my neighbor. We're all neighbors after all :)