May 26, 2011

Behold, Children Are a Gift From the Lord

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."
                                                                                                                          Psalm 127:3


Aughhh!!! I can't tell you how many times a day I probably need to read this. Today was especially one of those days. Not only was I frustrated with them, but apparently so are other people.

Honestly, I love my children. Each of them are a blessing from God. I truly believe that. Life is a fragile thing, and death is still very fresh in my memory. I know that God has given us each one of these children to love, to nourish, to teach, and, in turn, to test our patience teach us selflessness.

There are days when they drive me crazy (Sunday through Saturday), but I can't imagine our life without them. Actually, I probably can. It would be a quiet house, Adrian and I would have all the "stuff" we could possibly want, I would be a successful career woman outside of the home, and we'd travel the world. I also wouldn't have such a badly misshapen bellybutton.

But, what difference does any of that make when your life draws to an end? Will your multiple trips to Europe ease the suffering in your dying days? Could all of the "stuff" in the world conquer your desire to have more and more "stuff"? Does a successful career really fill the void of a life without butterfly kisses from your toddler, or the sweet smell of your newborn baby smothered in baby lotion, or the big, toothy grin that is on the face of your 8 year old, or the toothless grin from your 6 year old? Does a toned and fit body in your 30's really mean anything once you hit 70? (A bikini body once you are that age shouldn't be shown, even if you still do look great.)

When our first child was stillborn, there wasn't a thing I wanted more in the world than to see that baby with life in her. I ached for it. I still ache for her. It's a memory that will always be with Adrian and I.
Every time that I wish my children would just go away for a while makes me remember how it is when they really do go away. It's terrible. And, so, I will bear with the craziness of our household, because life is truly a blessing. It's a gift granted to us, and something that most of us take for granted.

I know that our children drive people nuts. I live with them! How do you think I feel most days?
 I also realize that because we have so  many children, people are less likely to be friendly towards them. Or towards us. We are viewed as "weird" or "irresponsible", the children are viewed as "unruly" and "obnoxious" and "wild" (even while they smile upon the single child throwing a tantrum on the floor). How many times have I been asked, while pregnant, "You know how that happens, don't you?" Yep. I sure do. (Sorry if I just made you puke in your mouth) It all frustrates me to no end.
People will hardly ever say anything to the single, pregnant mom about how irresponsible that is. But, we are fair game to criticize, even though we are married and try to make a home for our family.

Nope, we won't be able pay for our children to go to college. But, I'm not too worried about it, because our children already know that. They have their own ideas about the future and already are aware that studying hard and being a good student may earn them scholarships.

Nope, they aren't each going to have a great car. Or any car. Who ever said that parents are in charge of providing a car for their kids anyway? The boys have already realized that they are going to have to get a job if they want those things. And I don't have an ounce of guilt about it. My kids are going to have a thing called "work ethic" if they want "stuff".

Nope, they won't ever have their own bedrooms. I don't think they would even want to. They actually enjoy each other's company.

Nope, they won't ever have a day go by when there isn't a brother or sister there to help them. There isn't a day that goes by where they don't have a Christ that loves them.
There isn't a day that goes by where they don't have parents who pray for them.

We wake up each day, trying to do better than the day before. But, as all mankind is, we are sinful. And we continue to sin no matter how much we may try not to.
As Joanna told me tonight, "Mom, we are just kids. We try to do the best we can, but there is a lot of time that we forget just what that is."

Children are children. Mine are far from perfect, and so are yours. They won't ever meet adult standards for behavior, even with a good dose of discipline. This is a realization that still drives me crazy. I wish my children could always be on their best behavior for people, but they won't be. And, I guess I'm okay with that. Because, frankly, most times my children are kinder, gentler, and more understanding than the adults who berate them.

Adrian and I are trying our best to raise healthy, happy, Christian children. It's hard. There are days when we feel like we are barely keeping our heads above water. But, we have a belief that each life given to us is worth our effort. We've made the decision that however many children God grants to us, we will be happy with. Life is given to us by God, and I'm not about to mess with whatever plans he may have for us. I'm not going to tell God that, "Right now isn't a convenient time for me to be pregnant" or, "I just don't want any more children".  If God decides to give us another child, I will gladly accept. Because, I also know how quickly that life can be taken from us. It's something that I wrestle with in my mind, because I know how much easier my life would be if we didn't keep welcoming children into our home.

So, we feebly go down the road of life, trusting in our Christ to guide and strengthen us. And, most days we fall flat on our faces.  

Our life is a busy one, not only because of the children and what they require as far as needs go, but also because we are involved with our church. We spend more time of our week at church than any other place. It would be much easier for us to not be involved in so many activities at church, but then,
1. Who else is going to do it? and
2. How can we expect other people to sacrifice their time if we can't seem to do it? and
3. My husband is the Pastor. We pick up the pieces when other people won't. 

Our children view the church as their second home. I won't deny it. Like I said earlier, we spend a good portion of our life there. So, I don't expect my children to stay at my side continually while we are there. It's not ever going to happen. I also don't ever want them to feel like the church is an awful place to go to. I want them to love being at church, to want to help at church, to be an active part of the fellowship that goes on at church. 
And, our children do quite a bit for their community of believers. From Children's Choir (we make up half of it) and Children's Handbells, to Sunday school, to Braille, to filling the pop machines, to helping with church remodeling projects, to weeding the church flower beds, to befriending new children who visit our church. They can stop doing those things, but will someone else fill in to take the void? I help with Children's Choir and Children's Handbells, am part of Adult Choir and Adult Handbells, and also do a fair share of cleaning up around church in general. I could quit, but will someone else be there to do it instead? Can you expect other families to continue putting time and effort into something that the Pastor's family doesn't even do? I could stop bringing my children to church entirely, but that sure doesn't seem to make sense to me.
Like I said earlier, our life would be much easier if we didn't do so much at church. Heck, our life would be easier if Adrian wasn't a Pastor! It would be easier if we didn't have all these kids! But, Adrian is a Pastor and we have a lot of kids who can be crazy and we will always be involved with activities at church.

So, I guess your only option is to put up with us for a while. We are part of the Pastor. We sacrifice our time together to do things for the church, and we don't ever care if people notice or not. I try to discipline our kids and, for the most part, I would say that they are more well behaved than any other child during Sunday service. 
Do they do naughty things? Yes. Do they get in trouble for it? Yes. But, honestly, what child isn't naughty?
We welcome the church into our home, the church views some of the most intimate parts of our life, and it will always be that way for us.

So, please allow our family some space. As well as other families with children. They are trying to do their best, just as you probably were at one point in your life as well.

Sorry for the venting, but it's been weighing on my mind for quite some time.

May 24, 2011

Granola

Are you ever super annoyed when you push your cart down the cereal aisle and look at the prices?
It always seems to aggravate me. Probably because I have to buy 2,000 boxes at a time to feed this crowd of mine. (Not really, just a little over-exaggeration there.) Seriously though, I usually buy at least 10 boxes of cereal at a shot. Just because I hate having to go back to the cereal aisle anytime soon. Didn't you just read what I said? It gives me "grocery bill rage"....

I have tried to do the Supermom thang and make oatmeal, or pancakes, or waffles, or eggs and toast, or muffins, or rolls, or coffee cake instead of cereal. It makes me feel burned out quick. For one, I'm not a morning person, per say. And, honestly, I don't usually feel like doing a sprint to the kitchen in the morning so that I can beat all of the children down there and have some wonderful, warm breakfast waiting for them. Because, once I'm awake and moving around in the kitchen, those cute, cuddly, little ones of mine will wake up and instantly want something. Like breakfast.

So, I opt for cereal. Not every morning. I do try and mix it up a bit. But, especially in summer, it tends to be our quick, go-to breakfast. And, if you have a bunch of mouths to feed, it can become a big grocery expense.

My answer to that problem has been to make homemade granola. It's good. You can eat it with yogurt, or with milk, or as a snack.
It's inexpensive. I buy oatmeal in bulk at our grocery store, along with some of the other ingredients, and I make one big, huge batch. It tends to last longer than cereal does because I think it fills you up faster. And, I like to pretend that it's healthier. I don't really know if it is, but you can pretend along with me if you want to. And, if you don't want to pretend, please just don't tell me how terrible it might be. I like to escape reality every now and then.

The ingredient list is simple: oatmeal (I use instant because it's easier for the children to chew), dried bran or wheat germ, coconut, whole wheat flour, powdered milk, nuts, dried fruit, honey, oil, and a little brown sugar.
You mix all those ingredients together, spread it out on cookie sheets, and bake it in the oven for about 40 minutes. After it cools, it's ready to be stored. I keep mine in Tupperware containers or glass jars with a good seal, and it stays fresh for a long time.


There you have it! A great breakfast option for those of you on the run!

GRANOLA
4 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried bran or wheat germ
1 cup coconut
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup nuts (your choice)
dried fruit (your choice, however much you want)

Mix these ingredients together in a large pan.

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup honey, 1 cup oil, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Heat just until combined. Pour over granola mixture. Spread this out onto cookie sheets and bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes or until browned. Keep stirring, every 15 minutes so your granola doesn't burn!!!  When cool, store in a dry place.




May 13, 2011

Special K Bars

Since the whole subject of elementary cafeteria food has been swirling around in my head, I've been reminiscing about some of the food that I remember being served in our school cafeteria.

(You can feel free to post what you remember eating at the cafeteria below, I'd love to hear it.)

I can positively say that almost every child in Kindergarten through Sixth Grade loved the mini pizzas that our lunch ladies served. You know, the kind where you take an English muffin, split it in half, put the pizza toppings on and toast it. Yum. I still make those occasionally for my children when I need a quick, easy meal.

I also vaguely remember some type of salmon patty, that always seemed to have a layer of slime on top. I also remember eating it, because I was so hungry, and actually living through the experience. Now I love salmon. I think, at the time though, the slime substance on top probably kept a few children from enjoying it to the fullest potential.

Of course there was the chocolate milk on Friday's. Do schools still do that? I think the only time in my life that I've ever drank chocolate milk was on Friday's in elementary school and high school. It was such a treat!
And, I also remember Rice Krispie treats and Special K bars being two of my favorite desserts. They still are.

Special K bars are gooey. And sticky. And chocolaty. I'm sure that they would be regarded as toxic waste now in the school cafeteria's because one of the main ingredients is (gasp!) corn syrup!!!
But, because they are so good, I'm going to share one of my most favorite childhood memories with you. And, I guess you'll just have to decide for yourself if you want to risk the side effects.




They are pretty irresistible. And children love them. But your bathroom scale may hate you for eating them.






SPECIAL K BARS
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup

Combine these first two ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a short boil.
Stir in:

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
6 cups Special K cereal

Spread this mixture in a greased 9 x 13 pan.

In another saucepan, melt together:

3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Spread on top of bars. Cool and cut into bars.

I hope you enjoy making and eating these! For me, it brings back great childhood memories!

Where Have All The Parents Gone?

I did a really stupid thing yesterday.
I read the newspaper.

I have been purposefully avoiding the newspaper, Internet news, talk radio... all in a vain effort to bypass stories about stupid things that people do.

But, it was a cold, rainy, dreary day outside in Colorado yesterday. There was a warm fire blazing in the fireplace. The coziness afforded by the fire and sofa were too much for me. I snuggled myself into the sofa, picked up the newspaper that lay sprawled on the floor (due to my children picking it apart for the comics and crosswords) and started to read... all against my better judgement.
It didn't take long for me to find an article that made my eyes want to bleed....

This news article came from the Associated Press and discussed a research project that is in progress at five elementary schools in San Antonio, Texas.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding this project (to the tune of 2 million dollars) to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity by improving the eating habits of children. A camera placed in the school cafeteria takes pictures of the kids lunch trays before they sit down to eat, and then another picture is taken of what food remains on their tray when they are done eating. A computer program then calculates the number of calories consumed per meal of that child.
And parents are good with this? Apparently so, because the article states that about 90% of parents gave permission for their children to participate in the study.
Seriously???

My elementary school cafeteria certainly didn't need any fancy cameras.
In the fifth grade, I had a teacher who ruled with an iron fist. In the cafeteria, it was well known that you didn't mess around with her by not eating your lunch. (Of which, we weren't given a million choices of what to eat. The menu for the week was posted and if you didn't like it, then you could pack your own sack lunch.) One of my friends tried stuffing her peas into her empty milk carton one day. Our teacher made her open the milk carton up and eat those saturated peas. It didn't seem like anyone had a problem with finishing their vegetables after that episode. She was a tough cookie, but she also made it clear to us that she was going to make sure we ate a healthy lunch. Never mind the fact that her lunches consisted of a banana and a cup of coffee. The sixth grade teacher was even better... he always packed zingers or ding dongs for his lunch! But, I digress....

There used to be a time when children understood authority. Teachers were in charge in the school. Parents were in charge at home. Parents used to be at home, taking care of their own children and setting an example, even with relatively simple things like a healthy dinner menu.
Our nation does have a big problem with childhood obesity. But, it's something that our government can't fix. It has to come from the home. From the parents. And, if parents aren't around to do their job, it doesn't really matter how much teachers try to do at school or how much money our government pours into studies... it simply isn't going to fix the main problem. We need parents to start acting like parents again.
Just my humble opinion.

May 11, 2011

Aprons

If I only had more time in the day.... I would probably take a nap. Just being honest.

If I had a tenth of the creativity of some of the ladies at our church, I might just forgo that nap.
Nah... who am I kidding?

Regardless, we are very blessed to have some enormously talented and creative people in our congregation. And, they are extremely generous and kind to our family. We love each of our members and consider them to be our extended family.



Around Easter, one of our talented ladies at church, whose name is Winnie, sewed these cute little aprons for the girls.
Maggie's has a "M" embroidered on the front. And, you wouldn't believe how tiny the apron for Annie is! But, it fits her just perfect!
The girls have them hanging on hooks by our kitchen and have been busy helping me bake things lately. It's great!

Now, I just need to ask Winnie if she can make me a cute little apron to match!

Nathanael and Ben

Nathanael and Benjamin celebrated their birthday's this past week.
Are you tired of hearing about birthday's at our house yet?

And, now it's time for a great big, fat, lousy mother award....

I can't find a single picture taken from Nathanael's birthday. I keep telling myself it's on a memory card somewhere.
What am I going to do when, 20 years from now, I finally have the time to put together scrapbook albums for the children and I don't have a single picture from his 9th birthday? Will it even matter 20 years from now? Will this seemingly innocent mistake send my child to counseling for part of his adult life? I hope not. Maybe the smart thing to do is forsake the scrapbook albums all together.

I did manage to get a few pictures from Ben's birthday, here they are.




At least I can say that we did have cake and candles for both of their birthday's. And, we did do a fair amount of "Happy Birthday" singing. And, each of them came away with gifts and cards....
Does any of that count?

Happy Birthday to my big boys, Nathanael and Benjamin! We love you dearly!

May 9, 2011

Grandpa and Grandma Come To Visit

Almost a week after Easter, we had some visitors from Michigan come.
Grandpa, Grandma and Caleb!
It had been months since we'd seen them last, so all of us were excited for their visit!!!

We did lots together in the week they were here. I only have a few photos to share right now, but it gives a pretty accurate picture of what we did last week.

First night here, Caleb received a head injury in a game of Nerf basketball. Somehow, we'd managed to go four years in this house without a single one of our children cracking their head on the brick fireplace mantle. Poor Caber.... the brick took a piece of his scalp and left him with a big cut. Can you tell we wrapped the bandage ourselves? He looks pretty cute, doesn't he? Maybe even cuter than Little Bo Peep herself....




Grandpa and Maggie did a fair share of reading together in front of the fireplace. And, yes, there was a fire going almost the whole time our visitors were here due to crazy Colorado weather.



Grandma did the girls hair for Sunday morning. Maggie is sporting the Shirley Temple look.



Then, it was Adrian's birthday. This is the first time he's had his parents around to celebrate a birthday in years. It was really special.



Apparently, you are never to old for a little rendition of "Around The Room You Must Go"....



Instead of cake, we had Rhubarb Meringue pie and Cherry Pie. Yum.
And, in the icky container behind the yummy pies is my compost stuff. (Yay for compost!)



We had plenty of birthday noise for the occasion!






The children were fortunate enough to have another Easter egg hunt!



We had a round of wrestling in the living room. It just wouldn't be normal if we didn't have a little of this going on in our house....



We ended up the week with a hike at Red Rocks.

I know there is more to share, some of it will have to come later when Caleb shares his pictures with me.

Thanks for visiting us Grandpa and Grandma! We love you!!!!

April

The month of April was a blur. Busy. Crazy. Cold.

We celebrated the Princess (Maggie's) birthday at the beginning of the month. Don't ask me the details about it, because I simply can't remember too much. But, at least I have a few photos to share...



I don't seem to have any pictures of Maggie and her birthday cake... I'm hoping my memory serves me correctly and one of our friends has those pictures on their camera... otherwise, we don't have much to show from Magglio's third birthday!


Then, it was time for baseball games to begin.
Baseball seems to be taking up all the free time on our calendar these days. I like the game of baseball. I am happy the boys have an activity that helps them to burn some energy off. I am glad they are making new friends and learning new skills. But baseball in April is cold. And I'm not fond of coldness. So.... I guess I'm glad it's not April anymore.
Baseball is one of our main activities in the summertime. I'm sure I will eventually have a post about it on here...


Then, Holy Week and Easter hit.
I'll leave it to your imagination what our house looked like that week.



Here we are an hour or so after church was over. The kids were starting to come unraveled. Annie had already fallen asleep and Susie had a major case of the grumps. But we still tried for a family photo.



One of our church members invited us to her house for dinner. It was wonderful! Plus, we were given leftovers to take home, which was great!





Then, someone got a hold of my camera and started taking pictures. It was pretty interesting to see ALL of the photos I had when we got home!



Of course, there was an Easter egg hunt, and then shorty thereafter we went home. The children were exhausted! Maggie fell asleep in the car on the way home (about 4:30pm) and didn't wake up until 7:00am the next day!

Now, I think that catches me up on the month of April.
Was that kind of "cheating" to put all of this together in one post?