Dog Blessings: Brodie, Bella and Zelda Ballerina

I was a freshman in high school when we got Brodie. We knew from the start she was smarter than your average dog. She had a soul that seemed to speak to one and all. Everyone who met Brodie, loved her. I mean really loved her. To the point where people would ask how she was before they would think to ask about us. Had you known her, you would understand. She really was more than a dog. She was a soulful, intelligent friend and we were blessed with her for 14 joyful years.
A year ago, around Christmas, we found out she had crippling cancer that prevented her from walking. Her limp went from bad to worse and pain meds didn’t last long. Bless her beautiful heart, she kept trying to make the best of the pain and loved us as unconditionally as she always had. Never a complaint from this friend, though we knew just how badly she hurt. It would be selfish of us to make her continue through that pain because we couldn’t bear living in a Brodieless world, although we still barely can. In just two quick months we had to heartbreakingly say goodbye to the best dog we had ever known and a friend we knew we could never replace.
Aside from our own grief, we had the heartbreak of our kids, especially our then 3-year-old daughter. She had been with Brodie every day since she was born and loved her just as deeply as any of us. It was a tender age to lose a beloved family pet. Shortly after that, my mom and her husband, who live next door, co-adopted a puppy with us from the shelter for my daughter to pour her love into. She named her Bella and has spent the year loving her despite the fact that Bella has to spend the majority of time next door at my mom’s (unlike Brodie who could be here all the time) because she is so big and still being trained and knocks over our toddler son and any visitors we have.
Last Friday we found out horrible news from the vet. We took her in for x-rays because we knew she was running strange and her hind legs didn’t seem to be developing like her front legs were. Bella has the worst case of hip dysplasia the vet has seen in 20 years of practice. It is a birth defect and horrible luck. The vet asked if we wanted her put down immediately. I was outside the church we hold our homeschool co-op at and I burst into tears. The thought of what this would do to my little girl was overwhelming. She still talks regularly about how she misses Brodie and includes her in her prayers as she knows Brodie lives with God in her heart and in Heaven. All I could hear in my head was my daughter’s farewells to Bella that morning on our way to co-op, “Bye, Bella,” she had cheered, “I’ll see you when I get home from learning with my friends!”
I knew we couldn’t do anything before giving my daughter a chance to say goodbye to Bella and also didn’t know how to even break the news that Bella was sick. My friends at the co-op gave me support and hugs. I tried to pull myself together in front of the kids, but the tears kept falling anyway. I was cursing under my breath the drive home and once the kids fell asleep I wept my way to a migraine.
My mom, myself and many friends all said prayers that night. I asked God for a way to comfort my little girl, not realizing how much comfort I needed myself. My mom asked Him to feel the burden of pain in her heart.
God is amazing. The next day, He brought an unbelievable turn of events, an answered prayer right to our doorsteps. The kids went to the store for a few hours with my husband. Home alone again, I started to sob. I called my mom, confessing I couldn't shut it off, I couldn't stop mourning Brodie, how everything with Bella was refreshing our loss. I know we'll never have a Brodie again, but we started talking about possibly adopting an older dog from the Safe Haven Humane Society before we did anything with Bella. I called the number while the kids were still gone to explain our needs, a gentle dog that was playful but calm. I got a machine. Suddenly, my mom came to the door with a gentle, sweet, nice dog, a lab/retriever mix. We both laughed at the thought of the irony, knowing that a dog this nice and well behaved with a collar will have an owner coming to look for it soon. Sure enough, the dog belonged to the neighbors behind us. We complimented them on what a nice dog they had. Here is where the miracle started to fully reveal itself. Come to find out, they have three dogs, are not home as often as they would like to care for them, and offered to let us keep the dog, for free. My mouth dropped open. What were the chances? This dog is trained, fixed, up to date on shots and meds. She is calm, sweet and loving. At 9-years-old, she is so good with the kids, they can walk her and she doesn't pull them down. They even gave us her crate she sleeps in at night (although before long I am sure she will be sleeping on my daughter’s bed).
My daughter is the happiest girl in the world to adopt this dog that actually gets to stay at our house instead of at Grandma’s, and it will make the transition so much easier when Bella needs to go back to live with God. It is such an answer to prayer. The woman said she didn't know why the dog just took off unexplainably that day, but we know why. She walked right up to my mom's back door and licked her hand. That is from God, knowing we needed another dog to love and a little girl needed a place to pour her love and this dog is just perfect. Zelda Ballerina has found a home in our hearts and we feel the warmth of God’s blessing bringing her to our door. He truly heard our cries and sent us a gentle spirit to ease our pain.
“My new dog looks so much like Brodie, mom, and she has nice eyes like Brodie had,” my four-year-old reflected. “I think Brodie and Zelda would have been friends and liked each other.”
You can be sure of it. I also don’t doubt that Brodie is happily running again and waiting for the day she shows Bella how to run without pain, either. What a merciful God indeed.

"May God be merciful to us, bless us, and cause His face to shine on us." -Psalms 67:1



Zelda Ballerina
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A Day in Dragon Land

It's good I love my kids even when they are dragons. Today I found myself telling them both that I would search out a dungeon to put them in if they kept acting like medieval creatures. My daughter chuckled at my empty threat, informing me a dragon would be kept outside, not in a dungeon.
I had a suitable plan for the day. It included a dental appointment for my son that I wasn't thrilled about, as it was an hour's drive away, but it was scheduled nonetheless. I also made overdue plans with friends on that side of town to make the most of the trip. Not to mention, I only had to go to a specialty dentist in the first place because at 23-months old, my son is too stubborn to let a local dentist look in his mouth, or, for that matter, to let myself or my husband brush his teeth. We brush them twice a day, mind you, but doing it while prying open a determined toddler's mouth doesn't make for the best brushing conditions. Pretty sure he has a cavity.
None of that matters now, because I had to cancel all those plans. We were five minutes from walking out the door, shoes on and all, when I went to change my daughter's shirt and saw what could only be described as the Chicken Pox all over her body. She's had this unexplainable raised rash on her trunk with no other symptoms and no fever for at least four days. Phoned the nurse yesterday and was told to keep an eye on it. If she was feeling fine, no fever and it didn't get worse, just let it be. Well, this morning, it was worse. Took her in. Two doctors looked at it and couldn't tell me what it was.
Keep in mind, my daughter's fourth birthday is this Saturday. She's having a small Princess Ballerina Tea Party. Shouldn't I reschedule that then, I asked the doctors? Oh no, she's not contagious, they assured me. How they can be confident it's not contagious when they don't know what it is, is beyond me.
Got home, called Grand Rapids friends to explain why I wouldn't be coming there this afternoon. Drafted an email to the parents of invitees to give them a heads-up on the rash and see if they'd prefer a reschedule anyway. Took a call from a new member of our homeschool support group interested in co-op information. While on the phone discovered my son had undressed and torn off his mess-filled diaper on his sister's bed. Wonderful. Half an hour after that, my daughter had a disaster in our bathroom from the potty seat not being on correctly. Awesome. Between all of that mayhem, the kids pretending to eat each other, and the cat sneaking outside to hunt our chickens... I'm ready to lock MYSELF in a dungeon. I surrender!
Luckily, I don't need to surrender to being chained in a dark basement someplace, I can simply surrender my day to God and give up trying to control any of it.
My kids still haven't napped, I didn't get school in at all yet, they are watching The Jungle Book, begging for Halloween candy and I don't have the slightest clue what I'm making for dinner tonight. But with some prayer and refocus, I'm taking a breather to write this, look at the bright side and regroup. We may start school at 4 p.m. today or pick up school on the weekend instead. We may just get by with emergency frozen pizzas for dinner. And I may feel like breathing fire again before the day is done, but we'll survive. As Earl Balfour once said, "Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all."
Everyone has days like these and to lament doesn't make tomorrow's sun rise any sooner. I would rather find the adventure in today, because even on the worst of days I'd prefer to be with my lil dragons, potential cavities and scaly rashes included, than anywhere else on earth.
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Check out my BRAND NEW BLOG!

I've started a brand new blog all about my family's homeschool adventures, entitled "To Every Purpose." Check it out! http://toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/

I'll be sharing tons of free resources, project ideas, crafts and inspiration!
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A mini-van... and a chicken coop?

Eight years ago, if you told me I would be living out in Greenville with my husband and kids, that my mom would end up marrying our next door neighbor, that my husband would eventually take up HUNTING (of all things!) and that we would be HOMESCHOOLING our kids, growing a vegetable garden and raising CHICKENS, I would have not only told you that you were crazy, but I would have paid your cab fare from here to Bellevue.
Life takes us in unexpected directions!
I was raised in a Forest Hills suburb of Grand Rapids. I didn’t do 4-H. I didn’t even know what 4-H was until adulthood. We didn’t have deer in the backyard, or coyotes. Our one neighborhood raccoon was a big, talked about, pesky celebrity amongst the neighbors. We had city recreation. We rode our bikes on paved streets. We swam in pools, not lakes. Sure, we would swim in lakes when we went camping, just as country kids occasionally visit pools. The strange thing about being raised in suburbia is you don’t regard yourself as a city kid OR a country kid.
Having considered my childhood awesome, I envisioned recreating it for my own children someday. I wanted them to have the same experiences I did growing up. When my husband and I were house hunting, I fell in love with the homes I saw on cul-de-sacs. With basketball hoops in the driveway. And neighborhoods potentially filled with kids that they’d ride the school bus with. My husband was not raised on a farm, but he grew up slightly more country than I did, and rode his bike on gravel dirt paths and swam in lakes and got lost in the woods. Looking for houses to buy, he fell in love with the big yards and homes that had character to them instead of “cookie-cutter” houses, as he called them. This was a source of argument for us. Yes, a big yard would be nice, I would say, but I don’t want to be out in the boondocks!
When we found an affordable house with a big yard out in Greenville, it was about 4 miles outside of city limits, a reasonable mixture of country and city. We compromised. The next several years I adjusted to country life without realizing it. Deer, coyotes, weasels, snapping turtles. We had whole families of raccoons at our bird feeders every night, one in the middle of the day that I would shew off with a pan and broom.
Even our cat, who had always been an indoor pet and lived with me in apartments in downtown Grand Rapids, slowly became an indoor/outdoor mouse-eating, bird-catching country kitty.
In hindsight, I don’t know why it took me so long to realize I was becoming a country mom. But for some reason, in the last 2 years, with my husband deciding to take up hunting for the meat, my mom and husband starting a vegetable garden to grow everything from tomatoes to pumpkins, and now for my mom and kids to convince me (somehow) that we should consider raising chickens… it finally hit me. This is not at all where I envisioned my life would go.
For the record, I’m glad that God dreams things for our lives that we could never envision. I may never have dreamt I’d end up here, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’ve come to realize that different doesn’t mean bad. Just because my kids won’t have a carbon copy of my childhood, doesn’t mean they won’t have an awesome childhood. Their social activity may come from various homeschool co-ops, clubs, community classes and camps, rather than the school bus, neighborhood and lunch line; but that doesn’t mean they can’t have valid, long-lasting friendships and a stable social environment. They may not have paved streets to ride their bikes on, but they’ll have trails to explore, gardens to water and chickens to chase. They’ll have grandma and papa next door to run back and forth from with frogs in one hand and buckets of rocks in the other.
Somehow, I am winding up as this strange combination of a soccer mom and farmer. I’ve got a mini-van AND a chicken coop. I may never be on the PTA, but I’m an assistant organizer for our homeschool support group, which consists of 50-some families and growing. How did I get here? Only God knows, and He is winking at me.

“God's surprises remind us of who's in control. He knows us better than we do, and He wants us to give our relationships—the beginnings,middles, and endings—to Him.” -Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse
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Sunflower project 2010

We started our sunflower project on April 13 and tracked the progress for over 3 months through July while learning about seeds, plants and all things that grow. Bonus learning: Measure your child along with the sunflowers month by month, comparing your child's growth with the growth of the sunflowers. Explain the differences and similarities between how we drink water and use air and how a plant does. Explore WHY things grow, and also the different uses people and animals have for various kinds of plants.

planting the seeds

keeping a notebook



planting them outside with grandma

as tall as she is!

July 16... three months after starting the project

taller than she is!

"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these." -Luke 12:27
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The Art of Tent Camping (with kids!)

Dirt. Sticky ‘smores. Bugs. Worms. Rocks. Sand. Mosquito bites. Sunblock. More dirt. Campfire. Sleeping bags. Snakes. Sticks. Lake swimming. Birds. Fishing poles. Hot Dogs. Other people walking strange dogs. Even more dirt.
It is no wonder kids love camping so much. Rules that don’t make sense to begin with no longer apply. No clocks, so life isn’t run by bedtime. You get to stay as dirty as you want. Anything that sounds good to eat, like jiffy pop and marshmallows are okay by mom and dad. You can watch your dad do fun stuff like build fires and kill snakes. He’ll take you fishing, build really cool sand castles and spin you around in the air much faster and higher than mom likes, until you are too dizzy to stand in the dirt. You can watch your mom do her chores in a most silly fashion; she’ll wash dishes in a tub with a jug of water and hang wet swimsuits and towels on a rope in the trees. She’ll take you swimming in the lake, playing at the playground or to do crafts in the nature cabin.
Yes, camping as a kid is a childhood essential. My husband and I cherish the passing on of traditions through the art of tent camping. The trick is to find that perfect balance between amenities and nature. I’m not above bringing paper plates, easy foods like pre-cut fruit trays or granola bars, and small things to make inevitable dirt a little more manageable, such as a broom and dustpan for sweeping the tent. No need to pretend you are new cast members on Survivor simply because you are camping, especially when your children are 3 and 1 years old. With my husband’s love for the show Man Vs. Wild, I know he’d prefer to be out in the middle of nowhere and made to ring out his own shirt overhead for a shower. I, on the other hand, enjoy primitive camping as long as there are flushable toilets on the grounds someplace and running water within reasonable walking distance.
I was evaluating this balance during our recent camping trip, particularly when neighboring campers showed up half-way through our vacation and started unpacking. The paradoxical nature of their supplies bewildered me. Now, granted, there is a vast difference between camping with a camper or RV, and tent camping. There is merit to both. However, until last weekend, I sort of assumed that those who chose to camp in a tent with their kids were doing it to embrace nature and find the fun in the dirt of the earth. I assumed, falsely it turns out, that people who veered their cars to the “primitive sites” did so with purpose and understanding.
Trying to set aside my initial sardonic instincts, I truly would like to know if the incongruity of some of their supplies was from a sheer lack of reason and logic. Who brings Febreze Air Freshner with them to a tent campground? The mom set it on the picnic table next to her Clorox bleach wipes. Bringing a product which boasts the slogan, “it’s a breath of fresh air” with you to sleep in the wide open space of the great outdoors is more than just ironic. Are you hoping to bring the fresh and clean natural scent that a chemical plant tried to reproduce back to the woods? The scent was labeled, “Meadows & Rain,” which boasts the description, “the watery scent of dewdrops and cool morning mist.” Umm… newsflash: look around you. You are surrounded by woods, overlooking a lake and you are sleeping on grass and dirt. Tune in at 5 when we disclose the lasting effects of sniffing said aerosol can.
I am grateful that, while we’re not as rustic as we could be, at least I value the gift I’m giving my kids when we take them camping. The dirt is, in no small way, a part of what makes camping so great. As one former Boy Scout put it, “what I like about camping is you can get really dirty. Either you're all by yourself, so no one else sees you, or everyone you're with is just as dirty as you are, so nobody cares.”
Here is my plea to parents. Just for a few days a year, leave the television, hand sanitizer, portable video games, Clorox wipes and air freshener at home. Think magnifying glass, fishing pole, bug box, binoculars and pails. It’s not going to kill your kids to eat a hot dog off a stick, any more than it’s going to hurt them to take a week off from electronic entertainment. God built more adventure into this big beautiful planet than you can find in a Nintendo DS, and gave the earth more refreshing sights and scents than you can find in a bottle of Febreze. As scientist George Washington Carver thoughtfully suggested, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”
Enjoy God’s earth and give your kids the kind of camping memories that will last them a lifetime. They’ll thank you for it!

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A Day to Remember

Dear Future Me,

For days that are NOT like today, I write this letter. For days when the kids and I do not wake up rested and content, with the house already tidy, I note this to you. I know things will not always go this smoothly, where I have the patience for the kids to help me cook their food and they have the appetite to eat it all. I know there won’t always be days where I am not distracted by phone calls, bills, or errands. For the days when school work is not fun, effortless, productive and impressive for everyone, I memo this as a referral. For the days when we don’t get outside, plant flowers with grandma, play tag, run with the dog, find sticks to dig with, practice on roller skates, and use the slide and swing set; read this letter and remember that some days we do.
As soon as tomorrow could be a day where both the kids aren’t napping at the same time or at all, and you won’t have time to make a nutritious, four-square meal for your family before your husband comes home from work. There will be days where your husband is too tired to take your daughter out bike riding after dinner. Read this letter whenever you have a day that doesn’t allow you quality one-on-one time with each of your children to laugh and listen to them and cherish it all. Days will come when your kids won’t be excited to brush their teeth when you told them to. There will be days when the kids don’t go to bed on time after making up stories, songs and thoughtful prayers. And tomorrow you may not have the energy after the kids are in bed to clean the dishes, talk with your husband and do some writing. Not every day is going to be as perfect as today was. But that is okay. Just read this letter and know that some days are. As rare as these days may come, they are pricelessly worth it all.

Blessed with Today Me

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Post columnist to appear on Take Five

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Dandelion Prayers

Sibling squabbles. Where to begin? My kids are young, so it has indeed, “only just begun” for me. However, I have already had my fill of the bickering. Not yet have I recorded how many days are “good” days, when my children enjoy each other and play nicely, but I should, because chances are high there are better days then I think.
The problem is, at 3-1/2 years old and 17 months, my kids are still at a vulnerable age in which sharing, tantrums and a sense of fair-play are hard to manage. Emotions ascend mountain tops over something as simple as whether the cardboard box they are in is supposed to be a train or a pirate ship. My daughter, being the older child and able to grasp the rules of playing fair, is especially struggling when she doesn’t feel like adhering to the rules, or when her brother is the naughty one. My son, not yet able to use words to express his anger, his wants or his complaints, does a lot of screaming and throwing.
I let them have their own quiet time to play in their rooms. This is particularly helpful for my daughter, who enjoys her right to not always share with her brother. I allow her to shut her door and have time to herself.
Lately she makes claim over whatever toy her brother has, or, for that matter, any toy he doesn’t have, but looks at, therefore may consider playing with. Sometimes, she cleverly tries to disguise this by offering him a different, less exciting toy instead. Given that he is now old enough not to fall for this, she has resorted to old fashion bullying. Last week, after she snatched his toy and made him cry by holding it out of his reach, I stepped in and told her to stop being a bully to her little brother. “But how do I stop being a bully?” she asked.
“You start by not grabbing toys away from him when he is playing with them,” I retorted. “You know how to be nice, take turns and share.”
I went on to elucidate that he is learning from her how to behave. If she acts nice, he will learn to act nice, if she acts like a bully, then he will learn to be a bully, too. She asked again, “but HOW do I stop being a bully?” I tried simplifying it further. She knows how to be nice. I could see she was still giving it thought, but she gave the toy back and left him alone.
A few days later, outside, she found a white wishing dandelion. I told her to make a wish, expecting to hear her desire for a goldfish or a new Barbie. “I wish…” she paused with reflection. “I wish I could stop being a bully to my brother.”
My heart ached.
She obviously did not like it about herself that she could be a bully at times and wasn’t sure how to change her behavior. I joined my daughter in the grass. It takes practice, I told her, to think before we do things. Even grown-ups have to practice this, I confessed. We must listen to the little voice God gives us that tells our thoughts whether it is something nice to do, or something not nice. It feels good and makes God happy when we’re nice. I went over “the golden rule,” do unto others as you would have done unto you. This, by the way, is the same lesson of ethics across the spectrum, no matter what religion you are. (Because I’m now a homeschooling mom, I’ve since dug up unit studies around The Golden Rule to incorporate into our curriculum and focus on in the coming weeks. Everything is a lesson!)
I also let her know, if there is something we want to change about ourselves but it feels too big to change alone, that is what God is there for. “Just like the wish you made on that dandelion,” I explained. “You say that in a prayer to God, in your heart, and ask Him to help you.”
As the bible reminds us, God does not want us to rely on our own strengths, but on Him. “Look to the Lord for His strength; seek His face always.” -1 Chronicles 16:11
It is invaluable to teach my children, and it is a lesson I am still trying to learn. When we need to overcome something, the power and necessity of prayer lasts our entire lives. We face challenges and pray for strength in place of our weaknesses. That does not wither away simply because you outgrow making dandelion wishes.
Come to think of it, why should any of us outgrow making dandelion wishes, anyway?

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Cheers to Grace

I watched a segment on 20/20 regarding stay-at-home moms who secretly drink. Consumed by the lack of appreciation, loneliness, and sometimes mundane repetition that can accompany the tasks of raising children, these women have become closet alcoholics. One of the featured moms even published a book entitled, “Nap Time is the New Happy Hour,” which encouraged humor and cocktails to cope with the struggles of motherhood.
Initially, I found myself judging. “Please!” I thought, “I’ve had days when my babies are both screaming, won’t sleep, hang-on-me-through-every-last-disgusting-dirty-dish-in-the-sink that I’m washing by hand due to a broken, useless dishwasher while I have not showered or brushed my teeth in days… and I don’t fill my morning coffee cup with wine!”
Then I realized, I easily could have. In fact, I have had days where, if there had been alcohol in the house, I know for certain I would have turned to liquid courage. It is precisely the inspiration that started me writing this column in the first place! Sitting unshowered, half dressed and at my wits end with screaming, inconsolable kids, I searched my mind for a fix to escape, relax and unwind. Through the grace of God, I used prayer and His mercy as my fix. I have since been able to rely on Him through the times I have felt like ripping every last one of my rapidly-turning-gray hairs from my head.
My husband and I do not drink. There’s not even a bottle of wine lying around our house. Are we prudes? Perhaps. I have a long line of alcoholics in my family, including my father, who, due to his unstable behavior and severe alcoholism has never met my children. I decided nearly a decade ago that, while I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, it was best to stay away from it all together. If there were clear lines in the sand that showed “this many drinks” (whether socially or habitually) means you are addicted, then there would be no such thing as alcoholics. Everyone would simply stay one drink away from the line. Since there are no clear lines in the sand, and given my family history and tendencies to fall into bad habits, I steer clear from the party beach. We make our own lame-fun parties with bean-bag tosses and monopoly.
It is through God’s mercy that I am not one of those closet alcoholic mommies featured on 20/20. Instead of using humor and cocktails to cope with the struggles of mamahood, I use humor and faith. I write this column, in part, hoping to inspire others to do the same.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” -Psalm 46:1
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The Illusion of Super-Mom

A dear friend of mine, who I admire greatly in her abilities as a mom, a wife, a homemaker, and a gifted artist, recently sent me an email that left me scratching my head. “I have to tell you,” she wrote, “I really admire you… you're my one friend who's advice I'd take above all else on the subject of being a mom. Not only do you ‘do it all’ it seems, but it appears you do it all so well!”
Goodness, me! Had she sent it to the wrong inbox? As much as I would love to gobble up that amazing compliment and pat myself on the back for being Super Mom of the Year, it just isn’t so! I do not "do it all" or even, "all so well"!
I am a terrible housekeeper, dinner doesn't make it to the table on time 5 out of 7 days of the week, I ignore my kids more than I should, I let my husband "fend for himself" more often than not, I spend too much time on facebook and other online message boards, I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life, I don’t clip coupons like I should and forget about stocking my house with all-organic food. I am flawed in nearly every aspect of homemaking! I see other moms who have time to quilt, or make homemade bread, or make breakfast from scratch more than just on Saturdays, (and have MORE KIDS than I do!), and I think, "ugh! I'm a lazy, lousy, good-for-nothin' housewife!" Right now, for instance, I chose to put my kids to bed without their bath, because I selfishly felt like writing this column instead! Sure, their teeth are brushed, they got tucked in and read a book, given kisses and such… but they are covered in marker doodles, play-doh, and specks of spaghetti sauce from the Stouffer’s Easy Express Cheese Manicotti that I “micro-baked” in 16 minutes along with some steam-fresh microwave broccoli when I looked up at the clock at quarter to 5 and realized my husband would be pulling in the driveway any second--tired and hungry--and dinner hadn’t even crossed my mind.
In spite of all these flaws (and more!) we’ve decided we are going to homeschool the kids. (Yep, as if I’m not crazy enough to think I can handle this wacky road of parenthood, I’ve decided to add “teacher” to my stay-at-home mom resume and tackle their education along with the heaping piles of laundry! Better open Belleview back up!) Even though my kids are still 3 and 1, I’ve been busier than ever trying to research, plan and prepare for the journey ahead. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also now an assistant organizer for a local homeschool support group which is just getting off the ground and running (and growing faster than we can keep up with) so I’ve got my brain full of things like co-op classes, field trips, clubs and newsletters. God didn’t waste a second putting me to work in the world of homeschooling the very moment we decided to take the leap.
So, when I have a friend tell me I appear able to “do it all,” I must smile, say thank you, while simultaneously shouting out, “IT’S NOT TRUE!” If it appears I do it all, then that is an illusion. I don’t! No one can! We all have flaws, we all have areas we take pride in above others. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all do the best we can, even when we feel like we’re at our worst. Why? Because we all love our kids. That’s one thing moms have in common whether they sew or not, whether they cook or not, whether their house is a showcase or a clutter nest, whether they make their own laundry soap or just buy what’s on sale, whether they are crafty or couldn’t make a homemade card stand up straight, and whether they take their kids on weekly outings to the museum and theatre or just to the nearest park. We all must feel at times like other moms are doing it better than us, but that can’t be true, because God didn’t give our kids to those other moms, He gave them to us, and He never gives us more than we can handle.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Want more proof my house isn’t perfect? Here are my undressed kids eating popcorn in the middle of the day watching a Disney movie…

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Lost in the world of imagination

A stray Dalmatian wandered through our yard recently. It would not come to us, but you can imagine our 3-year-old daughter’s elation, especially since she happened to be wearing her 101 Dalmatian pajama pants at that very moment! You would think her favorite movie came to life before her eyes, as though wearing those pants made the dog appear.
One of my favorite aspects of parenting is witnessing my children become lost in their own little worlds of imagination. The possibilities seem as endless, vast and borderless as the universe. As a child, if you are lucky enough to be gifted the opportunity and time to get lost in your imagination, it becomes as strong and vivid as any treasured memories, and more powerful than that which is concrete. As Albert Einstein explained, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
At our house, imagination goes hand-in-hand with childhood. Our dress-up chest is overflowing with costumes and props, large cardboard boxes are frequently transformed into hand-decorated fire trucks or trains, and our entire living room will occasionally become a gigantic blanket fort that is typically either a mouse hole or a dog house, but has also been known to be a cave to bears, octopuses and lions.
As fascinating and powerful as my children’s imaginations are, still more enthralling is that which is imagined by our Creator. This beautiful world and all that we are capable of imagining or creating within it was first envisaged by Him. Even our wildest imaginations cannot grasp the full essence of God, nor, for that matter, what He has planned for our lives. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” -1 Corinthians 2:9
That which we are capable of imagining, as beautiful and creative as it is, and as alive and wondrous as it is in children, is but a small reflection of the creative beauty He imagines. From the smallest speck of splashed color on an isolated wildflower or cloud captured rays of a sunset, to the genius workings of the circle of life—His Mind’s Eye is ever joyous, His abilities beyond measure. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” –Ephesians 3:20
Whether a paper towel roll turned telescope is transporting them across the ocean to buried treasure or dogs are coming to life from the magic of their pajamas, I truly hope the essence and beauty of imagination lives forever in the hearts of my children. Perhaps tomorrow, if our daughter wears her Ariel shirt, a mermaid will splash out of the neighbor’s pond. We can only imagine!

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Mr. Clean to the rescue!

With a 3-year-old daughter who loves to color every day, and a 1-year-old son who wants to imitate but has yet to master the concept of not eating crayons or using my walls as a canvas, I’m bound to wind up with some crayon marks on the wall.
I am quite certain the little stress of coloring on the walls would be, in my world, a much more magnified disaster if not for one tiny miracle product. Moms, if you haven’t yet discovered this modern marvel, I have the blessing of four small words for you: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
Now, granted, there are much more powerful things in this world than Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pads to offer a path toward salvation. Take baptism, for example. But, similar to baptism, they sure appear to contain the regenerative power to wash away sins! No longer do I have to feel my blood pressure rise with despair as I watch my son happily defacing the walls, chairs and other furniture with his small wax weapon of choice. I can simply hand him a piece of paper to redirect his artistic efforts and sigh with relief. Yes, it really is that simple. The cleansing pads don’t look like much at first glance. Initially, you think, “Yeah, right! How is this feather-weight marshmallow square going to remove something an SOS pad couldn’t put a dent in?” Then viola! Right before your eyes, you witness the only product containing the word “magic” that astonishingly seems to live up to it’s title. Crayon marks, coffee stains, mysterious black scuff marks that until now no amount of elbow grease could uncover, is effortlessly disappearing with minimum effort. No, I’m not selling them. If I were, I’d be faring much better in these economic times than we are with my being a stay-at-home mom. It is just an amazing phenomenon. How do they work? I may never fully understand. Then again, there are a lot of things on the grander scale of faith that are even more unbelievable, mysterious and marvelous. And, while Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is not an actual requirement for spiritual sanity or salvation; some days, when life as a stay-at-home mom is filled with continuously scrubbing the walls of peanut butter, diaper cream, and Crayola murals, it feels like the little miracles can make a big difference.

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