singing herself and her big sister to sleep

My daughters have been sharing a room for a number of months now.  They both seem to really enjoy it, and I am very glad.  But one thing has happened that I didn’t expect, and it’s really surprised me.

Curious J does not fall asleep as quickly as Lyd does.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that Lyd is super tired out from her school days, or if it’s the fact that Curious J still takes afternoon naps most days and isn’t as sleepy at bedtime, but usually Lyd falls asleep long before J does.

However, J is not content to quietly lie in bed as she waits to fall asleep.  No, no.  Instead, she moves restlessly around in bed, talks to herself, and sings, which seems to be her favorite thing to do.  She mostly sings songs from our Music Together classes, but sometimes she makes up her own songs, too.

Yet, despite all of that noise, Lyd still falls right asleep.  J’s singing doesn’t keep her awake one bit.  I asked Lyd about it once, and she said that she sees J’s noise at night as a kind of lullaby.

I look at it as a good way for her to learn to sleep in all kinds of noisy circumstances.  I was the oldest, and the only girl, so I always had my own room.  Perhaps because of that, I cannot handle any kind of noise (except for white noise or ambient noise) while I sleep.  Some nights, this zero tolerance for noise is … a problem for me.

Meanwhile, J has been in bed for an hour, and she’s still making noise upstairs.  Calm, content, but a bit noisy.  Oh, well!

Now if I can just figure out how to wean her off of her pacifier at nighttime…


another reason to be thankful for kids

The holidays are often a bit bittersweet for me.  On one hand, I love our life in California and the friends we’ve made here.  But on the other hand, I miss being around family and friends in Wisconsin.  As holidays emphasize the theme of getting together with family, I tend to feel a bit lonely around these times.  It doesn’t help that holiday times are usually extra-busy for my pastor-husband (ie. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter), so it’s often just me and the girls, especially since most of our friends around here have family in the area with whom they spend their holidays.

But if I think about it a little more, I realize that life in California is all that my girls know.  JJ and I are their family.  I try to keep that in mind, and use that to create traditions that suit the four of us (or just us three girls, as the case may be).  For example, I’m not a “Black Friday” kind of shopper.  But today, the day after Black Friday while the sales were still going on, I braved the crowds and took the girls with me to our local mall while JJ was busy writing his sermon.  I had a list of a few things to keep an eye out for, but there was nothing that I had to buy.  Without any real shopping pressure, the girls and I ended up having a really enjoyable two hours at the mall.  Lyd and I showed Curious J what a Christmas tree is, as she had forgotten from last year, assisted by a huge, beautifully decorated tree in the center of the mall, as well as smaller trees scattered all over the mall and in the stores.  I even had some good shopping luck at Macy’s, finding a pair of much-needed knee-high black boots for me as well as matching Christmas dresses for the girls (these items were 50% off, and then 20% off of that).  All things considered, the girls behaved very well, even when we were stuck in a slow-moving checkout line.

This afternoon, Lyd and I looked through my Christmas cookie books and chose some that we’d like to make over the next few weeks.  For our first cookie, I mixed up a batch of Gingersnaps (molasses cookies), and after supper we rolled them out and then rolled them in red and green sprinkles.  We’ve also been getting into the Christmas mood at our house by playing Christmas music.  Lyd still wants to watch and listen to nothing but “The Sound of Music,” but she was mildly appeased when I put on the Julie Andrews CD “Greatest Christmas Songs,” one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums.

I get lonely when I think about family gatherings that I’m missing back in WI.  At the same time, I know that CA is all that my daughters know.  They don’t feel like they’re missing anything, and it’s up to me to make the holidays special for them.  This is my time to create traditions that will become our own family traditions, and from that perspective, living out here is very freeing.  We truly can do whatever we want without stepping on other family members’ toes.  But, I do wish there was some way to combine the best of WI with the best of CA, especially around holiday times.

(Sigh.)  I really do try to remember that it does no good to focus on what you can’t have; you have to make the best of what you do have.  And most of the time, I’m pretty good at that.  However, I felt a little lonely at the dinner table tonight, as JJ was absent, still off preparing for tomorrow’s service.  So, I looked at my two beautiful daughters, and told them, “I’m so glad you girls are in my life.  I would be so lonely without you here!”

My wise six-year old daughter responded, “Momma, it’s like our family is pieces of a puzzle.  You are a corner piece, and Daddy is a corner piece.”  [She paused and thought for a moment before continuing.]  “J and I are corner pieces, too.  We all belong together!”  And she got off her chair and gave me a hug.  Of course, J had to do whatever her big sister does, so she was quickly demanding a hug, too.  I got over my lonely mood pretty fast. 🙂

I have to admit that I was stunned at her wisdom and simplicity.  She had beautifully reminded me that as long as she and her little sister and her Momma and Daddy are in her world, she’s perfectly content.  We are her family; she doesn’t feel the lack of anything else.  From her perspective, our lives are perfectly complete.  She’s right; our lives are complete.  We are right where God wants us to be, right where God needs us to be.  And, we have each other.  Life is good.

My children are such blessings to myself and to JJ in so many, many ways.  I am incredibly thankful to God for my girls.

a quiet Thanksgiving

We have Thanksgiving worship on Wednesday evenings, so on Thanksgiving morning, we all slept in.  (Translation: JJ and I only got up when we were forced to by the toddler crying “Momma!  Momma!” from her crib, and the six year old climbing into bed between us and saying, “I’m hungry.”)  JJ made waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausages for breakfast while keeping tabs on the Packers/Lions football game.  Meanwhile I prepped the still-somewhat-frozen 21.5 pound turkey to go into the oven.  I figured that since it was still a bit frozen I had better put it in early to give it plenty of time to get done.  As it turned out, it must not have been as frozen as I had thought, because it was done by 2 pm!  We nibbled on it all afternoon. 🙂

After breakfast, we all lazed around, as JJ continued to excitedly watch the Packers win over the Lions.  I headed upstairs to take a shower, but remembered that I first had to clean it our, because it had gotten full of bits of broken tar pieces as well as other debris over the past three days thanks to the new roof that was put on.  I ended up also cleaning out the vent above the shower, as lots of debris was stuck in there, hanging precariously.  To do this job thoroughly took almost an hour, but it needed to be done, and once I got started, it was fairly easy to keep going.  I finally got my shower taken around 11:30 a.m.

After that, it was downstairs to decide what order to prepare the Thanksgiving dishes.  I did the sweet potato souffle first, then the cranberries, then peeled 5 pounds of potatoes and put them in water, and finally got the green beans ready.  Since it was just going to be the four of us and one other person, that’s all I made.  I don’t do stuffing, and I don’t do tons of sides (because I’m the only cook!)  However, we still had plenty of food.

The girls finally got dressed in mid-afternoon; Curious J didn’t get out of her pajamas until she woke up from her nap!  While she was napping, JJ took Lyd outside to ride their bikes in the parking lot, as it was a beautiful day.  When Curious J woke up, I dressed her and took her outside to join them.  JJ held her and rode around with her; apparently J was a little trepidatious at first, but then ended up really liking it.

Our one guest arrived around 5:00 with two homemade pies in hand, and I had everything just about ready.  Well, everything except for the sweet potatoes.  I make this dish practically every year, and I know that it takes longer to bake than the recipe says, but somehow I always forget how much longer it takes.  So, we started eating before the sweet potatoes were ready.  However, that was probably good because we might have filled up on those first before eating all the other stuff – it’s such a delicious dish!

Afterwards, stuffed and content, my parents called to wish us a happy Thanksgiving, and our guest called his family on his cell phone and chatted for a while.  After everyone got their calls finished, we ate pieces of pumpkin pie as well as pecan pie that our guest had made, and then we got the girls into their pajamas and settled them with blankets and pillows in front of the TV to watch (yet again) “The Sound of Music” at Lyd’s request.  While the girls did that, we grown-ups played the card game Guillotine, that was given to me by friends of ours.  They taught me the game when they visited us last summer, and I thought it was a hoot, so JJ and our guest familiarized themselves with the game while I was finishing supper.  Once we caught on to the strategy of the game, it became really fun.  By the third round, we were getting into the spirit of the game, and even getting a bit raucous.  🙂  It was fun, and I’m sure we’ll be playing it again in the future.

We took a break from the game to put the girls to bed around 9:30, and when we finally finished playing cards around 10:30, our guest kindly stuck around a little longer and dried dishes for me, as I hadn’t done them earlier.  That was much appreciated; it’s no fun to face a giant pile of dishes all by yourself.

It was a quiet Thanksgiving, but it was nice.  The food all turned out well, and it was fun to do something completely different, like play a game.  Of course, it would be nice to be around family on a holiday, but it’s also nice (especially for JJ) to have a truly relaxing day.  We definitely had that kind of a Thanksgiving.

one step back

For the past week or so, I’ve subtlely noticed my anxiety creeping back in the evenings.  At first, I thought I was just overly-sensitive and imagining things.  But each successive night I’ve noticed it more and more, and tonight, I was most definitely anxious.  We had church tonight (Wednesday evening Thanksgiving service), and people could noticeably tell that something wasn’t right with me.  I certainly could tell that something was wrong, and I was unable to pretend that it was something else.  It’s definitely my anxiety coming back.

I am hoping that I just need another dose of the homeopathic remedy that I took last time that gave me such great results.  I’m really hoping that does the trick.

I’m feeling rather dejected about this.  But, JJ consoled me by saying that we took two steps forward, and now this is just one step back.  We found something that worked; it just needs to be refined and tweaked a little more until it’s just right.  And, hey, I’m thankful we found this solution at all!  That month or so that I spent anxiety-free was such a wonderful blessing.

I’ll look forward to that time when I feel better again, and until then, I’ll try to not focus so much on me and focus on others as well as all that I have to be thankful for.  Hopefully tomorrow (Thanksgiving) will give me the chance to do that.

a new roof

We’re finally getting a much new roof on our house this week.  The parsonage in which we live has needed a new roof pretty much ever since we moved in eight years ago.  We started having leaks a few years ago, and, well, after the big storm we had in October, the church council finally agreed to a new roof.

Of course, this costs major bucks, and our church, like most churches these days, is not rolling in the dough.  However, thanks to a some generous donors, the roof is already over 3/4 paid for.  Yay!

The roofers were supposed to begin last Monday, but then they had to finish up another job, so they wouldn’t be able to start until Wednesday.  Then, there was a big storm forecasted for Friday, so they decided to put it off until this week.  Of course, with Thanksgiving on Thursday, this is only a 3-day week.  However, they’re doing 2/3 of the roof.  They’re doing the peaked garage roof as well as the flat upstairs roof.  Next week, they’ll do the flat living room roof.  The living room is a whole section of the house by itself, and the room measures 18×28.  (Before the church was built, they used to hold church services in the living room.  Apparently about 60 people could fit in there!)  So, that will be done next week.

On Monday, a group of about eight hispanic gentlemen arrived bright and early at 7:30, ringing our doorbell (and waking us all up!)  They tore off the old roofs on those two sections, and were out of here by noon.  Around 4:30pm, another truck arrived with the next day’s materials.  The girls and I sat outside and watched as three guys and a huge conveyor belt unloaded tarpaper, shingles, and big canisters of tar off their truck.

This morning, the first guy was here at 8am.  I think he was here to put on the new, fancy-schmancy uber-super gutters that hopefully should not have the problems the old ones did.  An inspector arrived soon after, looking cross and stern and making violent hand and arm gestures (not obscene, but very demanding, pointing here and there quite fiercely).  Everyone else arrived at 8:30, and the hot tar melter machine was turned on right away.  Pee-yew!  Very stinky.

Luckily, Curious J had an art class this morning, so we headed off to that and escaped the smell.  After class (where I knew a suprising number of moms and nannies, thanks to my 6+ years of teaching music classes), we went to the adjoining park, where I met another mom and child from my recent music class.  It was a simply beautiful day today, weather-wise, probably the warmest day we’ve had in weeks.  So, it was a good day to be outside at a park.  After playing a while, J and I ran a few errands before heading back home.  Everything still stank, so I made a quick PB&J lunch for the girls and I, and J and I ate down in the church fellowship hall with Lyd and the other school kids.

After lunch, and after spending recess time with the school kids, I took J to JJ’s office, where he had set up the Pack & Plan in anticipation of J needing a quiet place to nap.  (JJ was off doing an in-home BIC class (Bible Information class), and then he was camped out at Starbucks writing an article on Catholicity that he was asked to write for the next “Worship the Lord” newsletter that all WELS pastors get.  I’ll see if I can link to it when it comes out in January.)  I brought a quiet project of mine along to the office, and after a few increasingly-stern admonishments to J to “lie down,” she finally zonked off.  I got some progress done on my project until school was out at 3:30.  Lyd came home and we got ready for her gymnastics class.  We woke up J and headed out to the car, and on our way out I noticed Juan, the foreman, heading towards his truck.  I rolled down my window, asked how things were going, and he said they were done for the day, but that they’d be back tomorrow.  I noticed the only white guy there, so I talked to him a bit, too.  He said he was the owner, and he assured me that he’d have the two roofs done by tomorrow, and that he’d be back next week to do the other roof.  Excellent!

So, tomorrow, I have to figure out one more day of what to do with J to occupy ourselves away from the house in the morning.  I think another trip to the park will be in order, as well as a big pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip.  I picked up a 21.5 pound organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free turkey this evening at Lunardi’s.  Only one person is coming over so far, but I always make a huge turkey at Thanksgiving.  It’s a lot of work to cut up and process the whole bird, but then it lasts a LONG time.  It’s worth it for me.

But, all this inconvenience is still going to be worth it in the end, when our roof doesn’t leak anymore!  Or grow moss on it!  I’m looking forward to this all being done.

the kid’s got a sense of humor

Recently, Curious J pointed to each member of her family and named them.  “Momma. Daddy. Lee-ya.”  Then she pointed to herself, and with a big smile said, “Dyoo-dyoo-bee!”



thoughts on prayer

Does God have our future mapped out for us?  Or do we have free will to make choices?  The answer is: Yes.  It doesn’t make logical sense, but the answer is still — yes.

With that in mind, does what we do or how we pray make a difference?  Recently, I’ve found some interesting blog posts that touch on these questions:

I was introduced to the blog My Charming Kids when a number of famous bloggers wrote posts asking for prayers for Stellan, a little boy with serious heart problems.  Stellan’s mom blogged about his medical journey, and just recently, she happily wrote that the doctors managed to do some procedure on Stellan’s heart that seems to have completely fixed it.  Stellan shouldn’t have problems with his heart again.

Stellan’s mother wrote a post, entitled “Miracle,” expressing her thankfulness over her son’s successful surgery, as well as her gratitude for all the people around the world who were praying for Stellan.  But, she also wonders why prayers were answered for her son and not for the children of others.  She writes:

While for Stellan, the doctors hit a home run, for others, who are just as prayed for, loved and special, their child faces more hospital stays, more interventions and more medicines. Children died this week. Children who were every bit as loved and important. Children whose names were also lifted to God, with parents and families and friends who went to Him with the same fervent spirit that you did, that we all did. But there are children who, even so, were not healed on earth.

That just doesn’t make sense to me, or to my husband … It is pretty clear from reading the Bible that we are not meant to understand God’s ways, we aren’t created to make those decisions about what type of healing arrives, what plan God has for any family … But He does give us something. He gives us faith. It is faith that can help us to accept what He allows to come our way, and faith that He will give us the strength and judgment and wisdom to keep going, especially if we do not get the miracle we wanted.

It is so easy now for me to sit here and say I would have trusted God no matter what, even if Stellan had died. But the truth is, finding the miracle in the situation when a child dies is something I do not understand … [God] chose to allow the doctors to fix Stellan’s heart.  And I’m just struggling with what my response is to that. While our son is recovering, other sons and daughters are not. We are reunited as a family of six, yet other families are separated because of death. I could not be more grateful for our healing miracle, but at the same time my husband and I are grieving anew with those who grieve. It is unfair and beyond our grasp of comprehension.

I’ve had a similar experience myself.  Curious J could easily have died during her delivery, but she didn’t.  However, another little baby girl, equally loved, arrived at her time to be born in the same physical situation as my baby, even down to the two girls sharing the same due date, yet my baby made it safely through the delivery while the other little girl did not.  Why did her baby die and not mine?  I have no answer, except to hug my daughter tightly and praise God for his great mercy and love.


But, does prayer even make a difference?  The famous mommy-blogger who writes Her Bad Mother recently wrote about this topic in her post Just Like a Prayer.  I don’t think she is a believer in any particular religion herself, but she wrote about the topic of prayer in regards to a fellow famous mommy-blogger with three young children who last week had a sudden massive stroke, and is now fighting for her life.  (You can read her husband’s blog post updates on his wife’s condition here.)

Her Bad Mother writes:

I don’t believe in petitionary or intercessory prayer. I’ve written about my reasons for this at length, but it boils down to this: I don’t believe in, can’t believe in, a God who responds to such prayer. As I said some months ago, ‘why should God help us find a cure for cancer, and not for muscular dystrophy? Find one lost child, and not another? Help the Red Wings win while leaving children dying in sub-Saharan Africa? If God is a god who lets bad things happen, the only way that I can understand that is if the point of letting bad things happen is to compel us to cope with pain and heartbreak and evil ourselves, alone, to better understand those things. And that idea of a didactic God doesn’t square with a picture of God as a moody patriarch who dispenses favors to his children on the basis of who supplicates most fervently.’

But that is not what prayer is for, I don’t think. It’s not a letter to Santa, it’s not a note to the Tooth Fairy, it’s not a solitary or collective clapping of hands to show that we do believe in fairies, we do, and please don’t let Tinkerbell die. Not that there isn’t some force or value in letters to Santa and notes to Tootherella and fervent Tink-saving hand-clapping: these are powerful expressions of our faith and our desire and our will. And when they are wrought collectively, they give us shape as families, as communities, as circles of love and hope and friendship. But wishes – even the strongest ones, even the ones that issue from a thousand hearts at once – don’t come true from the asking. They just don’t. And as go wishes, so go petitionary and intercessory prayers.

Is Her Bad Mother right?  Do many people today believe in the collective power of prayer, meaning the the higher the number of people praying, the better the chance that God will hear and answer?  Is prayer about the numbers, or is there something else involved?  I agree with Her Bad Mother on this point: I don’t know if I could believe in the kind of God who chooses to act simply based on the amount of prayers headed his way on a certain issue.  Thankfully, I don’t believe in such a God.  My belief in God is very simple; I believe in a God who works everything out for good for his children (Romans 8:28), and “working things out for good” can and most definitely does include life in heaven.

In fact, I’ll tell you something that might make some of you angry at me, or at least confused: I didn’t pray for Grandma Violet to get better(Well, she wouldn’t have wanted me to anyway because she was eager to get home to heaven, but that’s not the point.)  And, I didn’t pray for my aunt to be healed.  Instead, for both of these wonderful women, I prayed that God would continue to work out the circumstances of their lives for their own eternal good and for the eternal good of those around them.  Is that a vague prayer?  Yes.  But I believe this kind of prayer treats God as God, and it trusts that he knows better than sinful humans do how to truly work things out for the good of his children.

I have to admit, though, sometimes I’ve wondered about prayer myself.  Does it really make any difference to pray?  If God is going to work everything out for good anyway, do I even need to pray about it?  God knows exactly what’s going to happen in the future anyway, right?  But yet, I know that Christians are instructed to pray: “In everything, present your requests to God.” (Philipians 4:6)  And the Bible also says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) So, as with other doctrines in Christianity that don’t make logical sense to human reason alone, I have to just trust what God says and stop asking so many questions.

Meanwhile, I keep on praying for my father to find a job.  Well, what I actually pray goes something like this, “Lord, if it’s your will, please help my father to find a good job that can support him and Mom.  But whether you decide to provide a job for Dad or not, thank you for your promises to always provide for your children.  Help all of us to trust that you’ve got a perfect plan, and even if we can’t understand it, we know that your way is best.” 

It’s not an easy prayer to pray.  It’s easier to simply tell God what he should do.  And, of course, I really do hope that my dad finds a job!  But at the same time, I’m trying to trust that God’s got everything under control.  Holding onto this kind of attitude saves one from feelings of guilt (like my first blog quote) or from hopelessness (like my second blog quote).  Christians have to let God be God, while holding to the knowledge that “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)  In the end, our focus in life should not be about sickness or health, employment or unemployment, or even happiness or sadness.  The focus of our life on earth should be on heaven, always remembering that this earthly life is short and a poor reflection of what heaven will be like.  We look heavenward; it’s not about our “best life now,” it’s about our best life then.