Sunday, 31 March 2013
Today we celebrate life.
The life, death, and resurrection of our amazing Savior-- and the promise of eternal life that He extends to all who will call upon His name.
Jesus paid it all.
Today I am letting that word sink into the deepest parts of my heart, the places that still at times doubt and wonder and question how that can be true.
He paid a debt I could not pay, and won a victory I couldn't even dream of, and He shares it with me.
He is risen, and we will rise with Him!
And today we celebrate one year of life with my beautiful baby boy.
Despite long days and nights, somehow it really does feel like a blink of an eye.
Right now, standing here, all I know is, I don't know how I didn't know him before last year. How has he not always been part of my life, part of this family, part of what happens day in and day out in this home?
Thank You, Lord, for letting me get to know him.
His blue, blue eyes and bald little head. His funny eyebrows and the way he raises his right one ever-so-slightly when he is amused or surprised or curious. His widely-spaced teeth and hugely-round grin. His chubby hands and the way he reaches for me at night. His soft cheeks and dimpled elbows. His growls and grunts and little man noises that mean, "I'm having fun." His deep down belly laughter when he finds me hiding around the corner for the tenth time in less than a minute. His enthrallment with the guitar and drums and piano and any music that is being played any time, anywhere.
I wonder what other things I will learn about him in the coming year. I know these next months will be ones full of exciting discovery and growth and adventure.
But I know that each day just keeps bringing us further from infancy... from babyhood.
I'd be lying if I said that doesn't make me more than a little bit sad.
And so it is with a certain bittersweetness in my heart that I wish my littlest boy his first happy birthday.
Elliot Hale, you are a gift from God. Made in His image, filled with destiny and promise and potential, more valuable than words or my best efforts could ever communicate.
We are thankful for and blessed beyond measure by this year with you!
Friday, 22 March 2013
:: My children participated in Christian Fellowship Academy's annual Grandparents' Day celebration this morning. They did beautifully and-- more importantly-- learned some valuable lessons in the process. I'll be brutally honest about my reaction at times to the attitudes and plain old sin that can rise up when we ask them to step outside the box and do things that are hard for [some of] them: I just want to walk away.
I could do that, you know. Throw my hands up. Say the kids aren't my problem. Decide that whatever it is that's bringing these issues to the surface isn't worth it.
The problem with that is that even if I cushion life for or pass off my children so that I don't have to deal with their sin, the sin is still there.
What a blessing when the junk inside is brought to the surface and I can say with tears in my own eyes as we work through it all, "See? Right there! That's why you need Jesus! That's why we all need Jesus! He came so we don't have to be slaves to that!"
:: In our studies at home and with a small literature group that we meet with once a week, we've moved on from our 6 week study of World War I and are beginning a study on the 1920s. I so appreciated studying WWI as it's a time and event in history that I honestly knew only the vaguest things about. That said, I am so glad to be crawling out of the study of war.
War is really awful.
And it's had me thinking a lot since January about how when we make friends with sin, we are at war with God (James 4:4).
Oh! That we would run from sin and turn to Jesus! We can be at peace with God through the Cross.
:: We had the privilege of hosting a guest minister in our home for 6 days last week. We had oodles of meetings, tons of laughs, little sleep, and lots of edifying conversation.
At the end of the visit, he looked me in the eye and said, "Brietta, you are doing amazing."
I knew what he meant, and because I knew what he meant, I felt Jesus in those words.
Because sometimes I wonder, you know?
I mean, I'm doing my best. I love Jesus and I sincerely want to honor and bless Him. But I mess up a lot (just take my word for it) and I often feel like I'm slugging it out day after day, working as hard as I know how to work and wondering if it amounts to anything much as I drop the balls I'm supposed to be juggling and am certain I'm letting people down left and right and consistently realize my priorities are wonky.
His saying that didn't make me feel puffed up. Far from it. Rather, in that moment I almost tangibly felt the Lord's hands under and around and over me. I am doing my best and, yes, it falls so short. But He is strong in my weakness! When I cook that dinner and I feel like a lousy cook and bad budgeter and I'm running so late my poor husband doesn't even have time to eat before he has to head out to another meeting but I do it with a sincere heart that truly wants to glorify God, the Lord is honored.
That is so humbling. And so strengthening. And so what this walking with Jesus thing is all about.
And if right now you're feeling in over your head and barely able to whisper a prayer that somehow the Lord would be lifted up in your life, know this: you keep trusting and loving Jesus, and putting one foot in front of the other in obedience to Him, and He is causing you to be amazing. Not perfect, not altogether together, but a wonderful testimony of His undeserved love and mercy.
After all, that's what amazing is.
:: Elliot is nearing a year old. My baby is growing up. He plays now. He thinks he's funny. His favorite games are peek-a-boo and wrestling with Daddy. He was recently introduced to an old white whiffle ball and it has provided hours of entertainment since.
What a gift he is.
The truth is that before he came, I seriously questioned the wisdom of God in entrusting another child to me. I felt I had just about all I could handle with the five I already had. My brain was getting ever mushier, my energies were spread about as thin as they seemed to be able to go, and my stomach muscles would surely never be the same-- just to name a few areas of me that seemed completely used up.
But I was forgetting God.
I've spent much of the past year holding this little man-child who cries for and wants and needs me-- holding him far more than I did any of my other babies.
And with tears in my eyes, I have on more than one occasion thought, "I wish I'd held the others this much."
Elliot is such a gift to me. In so many ways.
He has helped me see life more clearly: what's important and what's not. He has been a physical expression of a God who knows better than I what I need.
And he has been a beautiful tool the Lord has used to continue teaching me that this motherhood thing has pretty much nothing to do with me and my resources and everything to do with Him and His endless provision.
Thanks, God, for Elliot and for this past year. I am so humbled by Your wisdom and grace in my life.
:: Winter is hanging on with fierce tenacity this year. Twelve months ago at this time we'd already busted out the flip-flops and sunscreen, taken long walks in unusually hot temperatures, plotted vegetable and flower garden work, washed and waxed the vehicle. This March we're hunkering down even deeper into our down comforters and wondering if the pocket-book might be able to handle bumping the furnace up just a teensy bit more?
I am a four seasons kind of girl. I adore and tire of each one in its own right: spring with its promise and mud, summer with its spontaneity and humidity, autumn with its fresh start and ever-darkening evenings, winter with its coziness and bleakness.
Yeah... we're living the "bleakness" part.
But my soul is so stirred by the bleakness this year.
Because I know spring is coming.
And there are some things in my life that are far weightier than snow on the ground and freezing temperatures on the thermometer outside-- some things that feel bleak and unending and tenaciously unchanging.
But spring is coming.
Sunday, 03 March 2013
I am, by no means, the inventor of the 5 Fingers Chore Chart.
My mom wasn't even the inventor, but she sure was the perpetuator of it. The source was this book (and may I highly recommend it as a great tool for helping you teach your children to work?).
It's simple, really.
Which is why it is so perfect for young children and for busy moms who need simple ways to streamline their day.
I am a terrible artist, but my 3- and 5-year-olds get the gist. When I ask them in the morning if they have done their 5 Fingers, they know I mean this. It's taped to their closet door at their eye level.
And they know they don't get breakfast until they've done them all.
(The older children also have to do their 5 Fingers, but they are-- for the most part-- memorized and habit at this point.)
You can pick any 5 things that are important to you. I've stuck with the ones my mom taught me when I was just a little girl myself:
- wash hands & face
- brush teeth & hair
- get dressed (down to slippers/shoes)
- make your bed
- pick up your bedroom (clothes & toys)
Some of my friends also have their evening 5 fingers. Really, this chore chart can be used for any "transitional" times of day.
It's important for children to learn to work, and I know that even as an adult I have often benefited from having 5 Fingers ingrained in me! Certainly, I have my seasons of not getting around to showering/dressing or making my bed until hours after I've first woken, but I am thankful that these are things I only need get back to, rather than learning as an adult. (Thanks, Mom!)
The guest room is completed and ready for its first guests.
When Daniel sat down at the table the other night-- after finishing the last bit of caulking and the final brush strokes and having carried the heavy mattress set up our steep, narrow stairs by himself so that I could set about with all the "primping" work in the room-- he looked at me with an incredulous look in his eye:
"It's finished. It's... done."
(Well, the interior is done, anyway. Please ignore the Tyvek exterior for a bit longer. Lord willing, we sure do hope to tackle that this summer.)
Perhaps you, dear reader, can't comprehend what a monumental thing this is-- though if you've ever done remodeling, I'm guessing you can.
We are done, hallelujah!
It's a bit of a story, this house addition thing.
Too long and still a bit too deeply personal to share right here and right now. But suffice it to say: on the surface, they're just rooms. But for me, they're the awesome, obedience-inspiring provision of God.
In June of 2011 we blew open our roof to make more bedrooms for our [ever-expanding!] family. Up until then, we'd had a 2-3 bedroom house, and we needed more space. We tossed around selling and buying a bigger house, but it wasn't going to be a practical option. We had been able to purchase our house for far less than we would be able to upgrade for-- not to mention, I like my house. I like the age of it, the details of it, the flow of it. Finding a 4+ bedroom house in our area isn't easy to begin with, but finding one I really like?
Adding on was going to be the best option.
For those first two weeks of renovation, we hired some good friends/contractors to do the tricky work: severing the major beam that ran the length of the house and restructuring accordingly, framing and sheathing and roofing the new space, and laying the new subfloor. You can take a look at my facebook album for more pictures of that time.
When we started, the top of our stairs looked like this. On the left is the boys' bedroom door; on the right is the [old] doorway that led to the 3/4 bath and the girls' bedroom. This is the picture from Day #1, and you can see that they had removed a small window and the sheetrock that had been straight ahead.
Those two weeks were dusty, commotion-filled, exciting days! The process of new framing is pretty cool, if you ask me. Seeing space that wasn't come into being was awesome.
When the initial push was done, the picture below was the view from the top of the stairs. Already transformed, but still with quite a bit of work ahead: electrical, insulation, sheetrock, taping, flooring, trim, doors, painting-- not to mention the plumbing and tiling in the bathroom that we had ripped out. I don't think either of us realized just how many "days off" would be required to complete the job! We estimated about a year to complete all the interior work; the true time frame was 20 months.
Here we are today: finished landing (which is the same square footage as the original landing, but without the knee-wall directly in front of you and having torn down the wall that divided it in two, it feels much bigger), finished bathroom (around the corner on the right), and finished bedrooms (ours is the door directly ahead on the left; the guest room is the door directly ahead on the right).
The bathroom was finished last March, just before Elliot's arrival. I literally tiled those walls while pregnant with a 9lb baby. Nesting taken to a whole new level.
Double sinks are where it's at, I tell ya. With 6 kids, it still feels like we're short a sink or two, but it does help an awful lot!
Now for the bedroom picture tour, but with a caveat: I did nothing to prep these rooms for photos. Nothing. I'm assuming the pictures are too small to show dust bunnies and fingerprints, and that the less-than-perfectly-organized closet will be looked upon with grace. I thought about waiting until sometime when the bathroom and bedrooms are freshly cleaned, but, well, the chances of all those spaces being freshly cleaned on the same exact day are slim to none!
That closet might not seem like much, but it is crazy good in my book! You have to understand that I spent more than a year beforehand without a real closet at all-- and even before then we had a closet that was simply a rod behind bi-fold doors. No organization, no efficiency. This closet makes me smile just about every single day of my life.
The nursery/guest room, which is the last piece of the puzzle (you know... if you're not including the exterior, which I'm not since it's winter and I forget that we even have an exterior about this time of year):
Here are the details on the nursery/guest room, since it's the "newest" addition to the home:
Before Elliot was born, I bought this zebra for him for his Easter basket. I didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl, but I had a strong hunch that blue was on the horizon-- and even if it was a girl, I figured I could tie a bow around the zebra's neck and make it a bit more feminine. He was just too cute to pass up.
And I knew as soon as I bought it that I wanted to freshen up all the crib bedding, too. The old stuff was, well, old. Five babies later, it was torn in some spots, worn through in others from many washings, and stained. I decided to go with an inexpensive, all-white set and then just look for a nice blanket to bring in a touch of something special and personal.
After Elliot was born, I saw a picture on pinterest of a quilt. It was perfect for him. Perfect to go with his zebra. Perfect to pair with all white crib bedding.
My only dilemma was that I don't quilt.
Lucky me, I have a friend on pinterest who saw the picture and messaged me, asking me if I would like her to make it for me. Um, yes please?
Another friend helped me pick out the fabric, I delivered it to the afore-mentioned friend, and not many days later the completed quilt arrived. It is flawlessly constructed and just right for my chevron-wearing baby.
And it inspired the color scheme for the entire room.
I majored on gray and white (the walls are Benjamin Moore Feather Down, the trim is Benjamin Moore Sandy Hook Gray, the bedding is all gray & white from Ikea) and just added pops of yellow here and there (close-out Urban Outfitters curtains, leftover quilt fabric in thrift store embroidery hoops, and yellow suitcases rescued from the stoop across the road). I wanted to keep the more permanent things simple. Yellow accents can easily be swapped out at a later date if I grow tired of the color scheme. This particular gray and white combination is very Sense and Sensibility-ish, which I can tell you very confidently, I will never grow tired of.
I'm not great with crafts of any kind. I don't sew. I don't draw or paint. But I can print!
I needed something for the wall above the crib. Ideally, I'd like a shelf with fun, little boy knick knacks. Realistically, I had zero dollars to work with. So I rummaged through some frames I was no longer using elsewhere and found three matching white ones in my stash. A bit bigger would be better; this size does the trick. A softer yellow would be nicer; a bird in hand is worth two in a bush. I then printed and framed three verses I wanted hung right above where my baby sleeps.
That right there is DIY for simpletons like me.
I love a good house project. I really like the process: seeing things take shape, learning lessons of perseverance and when to hit things hard and when to pull back so that we can invest in other areas, working hard to create something beautiful right here where I live each and every day of my life. Sometimes people ask me why I like cleaning and decorating and cooking. It isn't because I think I'm so amazing at any of it, and it certainly isn't to impress anyone (quite frankly, I'm not good enough at any particular area to really hang with the professionals!).
It's because this is my home and I was created to be a homemaker.
My home won't look quite like yours. In some seasons the hammers will be ringing and the dust will be flying, and in others the blankets will be folded nicely and the books will be organized just so. In yet others, pb&j will be nothing short of a masterful kitchen creation because they were made by weak hands, sick with illness or preoccupied with the growing of a new life or just plain weary.
For now, I am relishing a job finished; the celebration of having thrown my heart and soul into something and now getting to look back and say, "It is good."
Not perfect (let me be the first to say, nothing here in this world is ever perfect), but good.
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
It seems that on a regular basis, we need fresh life breathed into our chore system here in the Paladin home. I'd say it's the kids, but it's me, too. I get off track with inspecting and praising completed work just as much (and probably more!) as they get off track with doing the chores they are supposed to be doing.
Generally, I update our chore chart each fall. This year, I had to put out a new one in January, too, because some things about the fall one just weren't working any more.
As I was recently sharing with a friend, the system of rewards/consequences has to change at least as often, it seems.
Sometimes the reward is a pat on the back and a "Job well done!" from Daddy and I. Sometimes it's a treat from a candy jar. Sometimes it's simply not having a privilege removed. I like to keep this changing, but one thing I'm still learning: rewards and consequences are an essential part of teaching responsibility.
About a month or so ago (right around the beginning of the year), I felt ready to pull my hair out with the lack of thoroughness when it came to chores. In a moment of desperation, I vented to Daniel, "I don't know how to get these kids to a place where I am not calling them back repeatedly to do the job right!"
"Well, what happens if they don't do it right?" he asked.
"They have to do it again. And again. And again! Until they do it according to our standards. And theoretically, that should inconvenience them enough that they start doing it properly the first time-- but apparently it doesn't!"
"What are you doing for rewards and consequences right now?"
"Um... not call them back if they do a good job, and call them back if they do?" was my response.
"Well, obviously that's not enough of an inconvenience. We need to up the ante!"
Thus the Media Jar came into existence.
The Media Jar was a little bit my brain-child, a little bit his. I'm not sure who thought of it first, but we concluded that we might be able to tackle the requests to play Temple Run or watch Backyardigans or play games on the Upward website-- and who has done what recently-- right along with providing fresh motivation for chores in one fell swoop.
What it is: a mason jar filled with small green tickets that each say, "FIVE" on them. Each ticket represents five minutes of screen time (computer, iPhone, movies, etc).
How it works: for each chore the child has to do (example: clean the bathroom, wash the water bottles, meal duty, laundry, etc.), they have the opportunity to earn THREE tickets. In order to earn three, they must do their chore instantly, cheerfully, and thoroughly. If they fail in one of these areas, they automatically lose the corresponding ticket. This is generally enough to quickly correct that failure.
As they earn tickets, I put them in an envelope with their name on it.
To redeem them, they have to ask if it would be a good time and if what they're thinking of is acceptable at that moment. Generally, we find that the kids like to save up enough tickets for a movie or to play a game of wii Madden football; the tickets rarely get used for 5 minutes of Angry Birds or whatnot, though this is simply because it's what they seem to prefer. Saving up 80-90 minutes worth of Media Tickets usually takes them 2-3 weeks, as each child has about 2-4 chores assigned per day (we don't do tickets for things like 5 Fingers, practicing instruments, etc.).
The results: they are doing their work with more attention given to all three aspects of a job well done and we have less time spent on and more accountability with media.
I particularly appreciate that it gives me the opportunity to not just give a blanket "Job well done" or "Job not well done" to each task, but to really break it down and talk about attitudes, timeliness, and diligence. We've all seen plenty of people (and sometimes are those people!) who can get the job done, but grumble the whole time. Or perhaps are cheerful, but often late and take too long to complete tasks. Or still yet, are pleasant and prompt, but cut corners and do the minimum to get by.
This system will, undoubtedly, be replaced at some point by another (they all are). Perhaps it will be something less tangible, depending on the season and what we feel our children need to learn at that time. But for now, this system is a huge help with inspiring the children and practically assisting me in keeping them accountable in both work and entertainment.