January 31, 2006

Running the Race

This morning I left the house at 6 a.m. for a morning run. It rained during the night, and the fresh scent still hung in the air. I love a good rain out west.

I walked the length of our street, then began jogging south. How far would I go today? Two miles? Two and a half? I decided to go a slightly different route and turned west on a street I haven't run on before. Unbeknownst to me, this 1/2 mile stretch includes a Hill of Death. The stop sign at the top of the hill seemed to keep moving backward with every step I took toward it, mocking my efforts to reach the top so I could turn north and catch my breath on level ground. But the laws of physics didn't change, and I eventually conquered the Hill. Thank goodness the hard part of my route was at the beginning of this venture, or I probably would have quit!

The rest of my run was normal. I kept a steady pace and enjoyed the feel of the wind on my face and head. Sunlight began to break through the rain clouds that still hovered, lighting the mountains in the east. It was a glorious sight and invigorated me, challenging me to keep at it just a little bit longer.

The first time I went running after my miscarriage, I went 2 1/2 miles. I felt great during and immediately after the exercise, but three hours later I was doubled over with painful cramps, curling in the fetal position on our couch, popping Tylenol and thanking the Lord that my mom was still around to get lunch for the children. I don't know if I would have experienced cramps that painful had I not gone running, but I decided not to chance it. A week passed before I ventured out again, and still I took it easy at a slow 2 miles. Two days later I went 2 1/2 miles.

This morning I told myself I would go at least 2 miles, but as I continued running past the Hill of Death and settled back into a good rhythm, I decided to go for 3. Toward the end of my route, I reflected that physically, I am doing just fine after the traumatic events of just 16 days ago. Emotionally, I still have my moments, and I expect I will for...well, who knows how long, but I'm realizing that the pain doesn't just go away simply because I know God is good. Mentally, I feel I am stronger than I was a few weeks ago, having been through great sadness and finding myself becoming more keenly aware of God's presence, listening to His Word speak to me, and following the Holy Spirit as He leads me.

Mom left a week ago, and our life continues on. We do home school activities every morning, get together with different friends about once a week, attend church events, serve in our places of ministry, eat, drink, sleep, laugh, and love. My routine, my beliefs, my values--those are the same. It's my heart and mind that are different. I now understand more fully the meaning of grief and sadness, the gut-wrenching pain of losing someone dear, a precious, God-created life. At the same time, I can also more fully appreciate God's hand in every aspect of my life. I have learned that it's not enough to sing glib praise songs, to say I believe God has a plan for me and those I love. What truly matters is that God is God, worthy of praise whether I feel like praising Him or not. He deserves my praise--He deserved it before I even knew Him, simply because of Who He is. Even if He did absolutely nothing for me, He is still worthy to be praised.

This is something that I have a hard time even putting into words, this lesson I've been learning about who I am and, more importantly, who God is and how I can relate to Him. Salvation was a choice I made when I was 5 years old. I knew and understood I was a sinner, and nothing I could do would get me to heaven. I chose Christ, chose to claim His work on the cross and the forgiveness and mercy He freely offered. Now, 25+ years later, I'm still making choices. I'll always be His child, but there are and will be times when I choose not to act like it. Today, only by God's grace, my heart chooses to praise the Lord simply because He is God. I don't know if I would have been able to do that had we lost Charis 6 years ago when I was 8 1/2 weeks pregnant with her. I'm thankful God didn't test me then, because quite honestly, I think I would have failed a test like that. I'm thankful that God continues to grow me and teach me, no matter where I am, so that He can bring me to a grueling trial, allow me to suffer pain, and then bring me to the other side of it, still rejoicing in Him, giving thanks to Him in ALL circumstances.

And so I keep running, because life is not a sprint--it's a marathon. Though I may face a Hill of Death, a trial that tempts me to get off track, to quit, or to turn around and run back down the hill, by God's grace I will put one foot in front of the other, knowing that I do what I do "to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly" (1 Corinthians 9:25b-26). No, I intend to "run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Cor. 9:24b).

January 28, 2006

Aliana Elizabeth

It was 4 days before Christmas when I took the home pregnancy test and passed. I was so excited...I had felt for awhile that we were to have at least one more child. However, I was a little nervous about breaking the news to Ted, who had mentioned on more than one occasion that he was content with our three children, and, having followed in the footsteps of his grandpa and dad, was thrilled by having a girl and then two boys. I needn't have worried, as Ted responded happily that evening when the children were in bed and I gave him a stamped "bundle of joy" and a typed copy of my journaled thoughts from the past few days.

We began making plans. Should we find a bigger house? Ted wondered. Absolutely not! I told him I felt God had led us to this house, and if He was giving us another child, we would certainly find a place for a new baby! The boys already share a room, so we decided that the baby could move into Charis' room after the sleeping-through-the-night thing fell into place.

One thing seemed all but certain. Since early in 2005, perhaps around March, Charis had been praying for a baby sister. When she first asked me if she could get a baby sister, I smiled and told her that she would need to ask God if that's what He wanted for our family. Let's just pray about it, I said. We'll see what God wants for us. If He wants you to have a baby sister, He'll send her in His perfect time. Although I had not heard Charis specifically praying for this in a few months, as Ted has been doing special bedtime prayers with her recently, Ted mentioned that Charis was still praying about a baby sister. We chuckled and decided that this baby must be a girl.

About a week and a half later I experienced my first instance of spotting. It was very light, but since I had had no spotting or bleeding at all (with the exception of one more period after getting pregnant with Arden), I was immediately concerned. I spent a good hour on the Internet looking for answers, since we had loaned out our What to Expect When You're Expecting book awhile ago. I was reassured when I learned that spotting is quite common. I didn't think much about it when the spotting disappeared after a few hours.

A few days later, more spotting. A few days later, cramps. The spotting was light, the cramps were mildly uncomfortable, and more reading on the Internet convinced me that all of this was very common, probably about as common as morning sickness, which I have never had. I noted the signs to watch for in case something really was wrong, and I continued on with life, making mental changes in preparation for another addition to our family by the end of summer.

We'll need a new car seat, as this one "expires" in December of 2006.

I wonder if I can get Charis' old clothes back from my cousin, who had twin girls?

Perhaps the baby can sleep in the loft during the night. We could easily fit our playpen/bassinet and a rocking chair up here. She can nap in Ted's and my room during the day.

I'll need to get our baby swing back from Page. But no rush.

I wonder how in the world I'll manage four children?!

My mom arrived in town on January 8 to spend 16 days with us. I left on the 11th for a training event in Memphis. It seemed my spotting was getting more and more frequent, but as it was still very light, I didn't really know if it was worth worrying about. I had called the OB clinic on base the day I learned I was pregnant, and they said that I would have to come in, take a blood test, and then be scheduled for their orientation. But they wouldn't schedule me until I was at least 8 weeks. I was only 5 weeks when I did my home pregnancy test, so I figured there was no rush to get to base and take the test there, especially since it's a half-hour drive to get to the hospital. I decided it would be best to do all that stuff after I returned from Memphis, while my mom was here to watch the children so I wouldn't have to take them in with me.

We shared our news with Mom the night she arrived, after the children had gone to bed. She was as delighted as we knew she would be. Though I had hoped to tell the children our exciting news as soon as possible after my mother knew, the next two evenings were a whirlwind of activity, and we never had the opportunity to sit down with them to make an announcement. Now I know that was divine intervention.

The next day I went to a MOPS meeting. As usual, they asked who had any pregnancies to announce. Since we had shared the news with my mom (we were planning to tell Ted's mom in person during our Colorado trip in February), I went ahead and raised my hand. I had to take a bracelet (without looking) from a basket to find out if I was having a boy or a girl--purely in fun, of course. I drew a pink bracelet. A girl, just as Charis had been praying for.

During my trip to Memphis I talked with a friend who has one daughter, had a miscarriage, and is now expecting their next child. I mentioned my concern about the spotting, and she reassured me that she had bled quite a bit when she was pregnant with her daughter, and everything was fine. I put it out of my mind, since the spotting was still overall quite light, and I wasn't having any more cramps.

The day I flew home, however, I noticed more blood. Enough blood that I wanted a pad, but there was no machine in the bathroom. Sigh. I had to do the high school girl thing and sidle up to a fellow Stampin' Up! demonstrator who looked to be about my age. I whispered my need to her, but she couldn't help. I explained my situation, and she promptly began to reassure me. She experienced spotting, sometimes heavy, with both of her children, and nothing went wrong.

I made it to the Phoenix airport and found a pad. By now I just wanted to get home and rest. I had run on the treadmill at the hotel before I left that morning; perhaps the exercising had caused more bleeding. I wasn't sure, though, since I had been running for several months, and there were many times I ran even after knowing I was pregnant and nothing had happened. At home Mom encouraged me to go to bed and rest, then see how things were in the morning. She was concerned enough to tell me that if nothing had changed overnight, she thought I should go in to the hospital to get checked out.

I was exhausted from my trip and slept soundly. I do remember a vivid dream, though, proving I must have been worried about the whole situation. I dreamed I was at the hospital having an ultrasound. The doctor was telling me that I had miscarried a child, but that there were twins and one of them was still alive. I awoke immediately after this dream. Ted was already awake and making breakfast. I prepared to shower and discovered that I was no longer spotting--I was outright bleeding. I showered as quickly as I could, crying the whole time. I dug out my pads, packed some in a bag, and went downstairs to tell Ted and Mom what was going on. After a hasty breakfast and a phone call to the pre-school hotline to tell the workers I would not be coming to church that day, we were off to the hospital.

The day was incongruously sunny. As we drove in silence, my mind latched onto a name for our baby. I don't know why--we weren't even planning to consider names until we knew for sure whether we were having a boy or a girl. But my heart told me this baby was a girl, and the name Aliana Elizabeth sprang to my mind. I didn't dwell on this too much, but tucked it away, choosing instead to focus my thoughts on praying for God's will to be done...for strength to endure whatever lay ahead.

The emergency room was fairly quiet. I was checked in as quickly as an Air Force hospital can check in a spouse who apparently isn't registered in the Tricare system, despite her active duty husband having already filed the paperwork months before. After the nurse took my blood pressure and asked me some questions, she told me they would go ahead and do a urine analysis. Ugh. When I went to do my thing in the bathroom, I knew immediately that things were not good. The bleeding had increased exponentially, with clots being passed that I knew could mean nothing but bad news. I cried as I told the nurse what was going on, and immediately we were ushered back to a bed with a curtain around it. Then came the infamous ER waiting. To our left a man snored so loudly we couldn't help but smile at the discordant sound. I suppose there is comic relief in almost every difficult situation, if one is able to see it.

We were eventually informed that we had to wait for the ultrasound technician to be called in. As it was a Sunday morning, no one was on duty, and they were having difficulties getting through to the lady on call. So we continued the interminable waiting.

At some point (I think we had been there about 2 1/2 hours or so total) an aide pushed me in the bed to the outside of the room where the ultrasound would take place. She said Ted had to wait behind, though I'm not sure why. As I waited alone in the hallway, the words from the song "Blessed Be Your Name" came to my mind. It was during that time, those few minutes by myself, that I made a conscious decision to bless the name of the Lord no matter what the outcome was to be--though by this point I admit I would have been surprised to find out that anything other than a miscarriage was happening.

The tech arrived, wheeled me into the room, and began the ultrasound. She was very kind, with a soft, quiet voice. She didn't say much during the process, and I lay on the bed staring at the cracks in the ceiling, trying to ignore the discomfort.

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I'm going to say...blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your name, Jesus, blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your glorious name...

When the ultrasound was finished and the data entered, the woman sat back with a small sigh. "Technically I'm not supposed to say anything," she said, staring at the computer screen. Then she turned to look at me. "But you pretty much knew already..."

I nodded, a lump in my throat. There was nothing to say, and I wouldn't have been able to speak even if I needed to.

The good news, she said, is that the pregnancy looked to be normal, not tubal or anything like that. She continued by saying the results would be sent to the lab, and then the doctor would notify Ted and me and speak with us further. She left to go and get Ted for me, and I lay waiting and praying.

You give and take away, You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be Your name...

Ted and I had some quiet moments together in the ultrasound room before the tech came back to wheel me back to our cubicle. The delays were all the more unbearable at this point, since we knew what had happened, and there was nothing more to be done but sit around waiting to be released.

Finally the doctor came to inform us of what we already knew. Though he seemed sympathetic, he irked me when he referred to me likely passing more "products of conception." It's a baby, I wanted to shout. I've lost my baby, not a fetus, not a product of conception. By this point our baby would have been about the size of a grain of rice. Fingers and toes were forming, bones were developing. Though I have no physical evidence to prove the gender, in my heart I know I was carrying a girl, just as I knew Charis was a girl when I was 8 weeks pregnant with her. We named her Charis Noelle at that point, figuring we could come up with a boy name later just in case, but we never did.

I don't remember much about the ride home, but I remember falling into bed for a three-hour nap, mercifully dreamless. Waking from my nap was one of the most difficult times of this whole ordeal for me, because I had to go through everything all over again in my head, reminding myself that I was no longer pregnant. It all seemed so surreal. That didn't really happen. It couldn't have. I've wanted this baby for a long time. Charis prayed for this baby for almost a year. Why did God seemingly answer our prayers, only to take it back after 8 1/2 short weeks? I found comfort in the thought that Ted's dad, our baby's Grandpa J, would get to meet this little one before the rest of the family did. He missed out on seeing his other grandchildren, going to heaven just 3 days before Charis was born.

I was so thankful to have my mom with us, thankful also that the next day was a holiday and Ted could be home with me. My brother-in-law, Joel, sent me a link to a poem he wrote after Ted called to tell him the news. We hadn't even told him we were expecting, figuring we would be able to tell him and Ted's mom when we saw them in person. Ted didn't tell Joel we thought the baby was a girl, didn't mention my thought (that I didn't even voice to him until after his conversation with Joel) that our baby was in heaven with her Grandpa J. Nevertheless, Joel's poem reflects both of these ideas. I read the poem Monday morning and slipped upstairs unnoticed to our bedroom, where I crawled under the covers and sobbed for at least a half hour without interruptions. It was a painful time, yet somewhat healing. When Joel called our house later that evening, I could hardly speak to him when I answered the phone, thinking of how much I appreciated his tribute.

We announced our loss via email to a few friends and family members who already knew of our pregnancy, and I was overwhelmed by the response. Over the next few days I could feel the prayers of loved ones--they truly upheld me and gave me strength.

On Thursday (4 days after the miscarriage) I went running for the first time since it happened. When I turned west, about a 1/2 mile into my run, I could see the mountains rising in a purple haze, dusted with snow on top. The sight took my breath away, and I thought of Psalm 121:1-2, "I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." I felt in a tangible way the presence of my Almighty God, Creator of all life, including the short-lived earthly life of our little one. I drank in the morning air, praising God for Who He is and ALL that He has done. After awhile, I remembered the name I had thought of for our baby as we made that dreadful drive to the emergency room.

Aliana Elizabeth. Yes, I knew in my heart that was to be her name. Aliana, a name I had heard from a godly mother I met briefly in a fast food restaurant in Maryland. When I asked her what her daughter's name meant, she told me, "Light bearer, or giver of light." Elizabeth, God's oath.

Aliana, you never had the opportunity to personally give light to others while you were here, but it is my prayer that through the pain and sadness of losing you, your daddy and I can somehow bring light to others, the Light of the world Who knows and understands our pain. Aliana Elizabeth, God never promised me a perfect pregnancy, or even a healthy newborn baby. But the promises He has given me are even more precious, for they are eternal.

I will see you someday, little one.

January 26, 2006

Blessing in the Grocery Store

Yesterday I had to go to base to get a blood test. The day of my miscarriage my pregnancy hormone level was 19,000. Two days later it was 3600. Yesterday it was 140, so I still have to get another test next week.

The kids and I did our school routine in the morning, then packed up and made the half-hour drive to the base hospital. We met Ted at the lab, and I was in and out very quickly. (I had to call the women's health clinic when I got home to find out what the level was, so there was really no wait.)

Then we drove to a park near the building where Ted works for a picnic lunch. The sun was shining and the air was quite warm...until we got halfway through our lunch and discovered the wind was kicking up. The kids were running around by this point, so it didn't seem to bother them. Ted headed back to work, and I let the kids play for a bit before we went to the commissary for some groceries. I figured if we had to make the drive to base, we might as well make it worth it!

Armed with animal crackers, water, books, and a magnadoodle, we proceeded to wind our way through the store, packing far more into my cart than I originally had planned. But, as I mentioned, I figured we had better make this trip to base count! The children were wonderful, with the 2-minute exception right before we went into the store when we had to choose 2 out of 3 kids to ride in the "drivers' seats" in the special cart. Charis reluctantly gave up her spot to Arden, who doesn't understand taking turns and only sees that he is the only one NOT in a cool seat! I promised that halfway through she and Tobin would switch, and peace reigned. I pushed the cart with groceries and pulled the kiddos behind me. We made our way up and down the aisles with little trouble and quickly found ourselves in the checkout line. Thank goodness it wasn't as crowded as it sometimes is!

As I was finishing putting the groceries on the conveyor belt, I sent Tobin ahead with the empty cart to push it through while I helped Arden get his shoes back on and made sure Charis was buckling her own shoes. An elderly lady on a motorized cart pulled up behind me, and we had this short exchange.

"Are all these children yours?" she asked.

"Yes, they are."

"Oh, my. The Lord has surely blessed you."

Though the past couple of weeks have been a challenge, I was able to look this dear lady in the eye and reply, "Yes, ma'am, He certainly has blessed us." I turned to pay the cashier and found that one of my two coupons had expired. Oh, well. I suppose a 25 cent savings is better than nothing! After I paid and was shoving the grocery money envelope back into my bag and preparing to get the kids out of the cart, the lady motioned to me. She leaned down, holding her wallet out, and whispered, "Would you allow me to bless your children with some money?"

A lump formed in my throat. It doesn't take much these days to bring tears to my eyes, and I could hardly speak. "If that is something you feel the Lord wants you to do..."

"Oh, yes," she said. "Please." She handed me a $20 bill. "May God bless you."

"Thank you," I whispered, blinking back tears as best I could. "May He bless you also."

With my bagger ready to whisk our groceries out to our van, I turned to gather the children and leave. I will likely never see this lady again, but I pray God will bless her heart as she did mine. It's not that we needed the money--it's simply that she was touched by watching my children and wanted to somehow share her joy with me. She had no way of knowing that we recently had to say goodbye to a child whom we will not see until we reach heaven, but I hope one day to introduce her to little Aliana and share the story of a God-fearing lady who gave me joy during a difficult time in my life.

January 16, 2006

Four Things

Four Things-

Four Jobs You've Had In Your Life: Data Entry Assistant at Cedarville College's Admissions Office, Career Center Coordinator at Mountain Home High School, English teacher at MHHS, and--the best one yet--stay-at-home mother and Stampin' Up! demonstrator!

Four Movies You Would Watch Over and Over: the Lord of the Rings trilogy; Disney's Miracle; The Princess Bride; the original Star Wars trilogy

Four Places You Have Lived: Texas, Idaho, Ohio, Maryland

Four TV Shows You Love To Watch: We only watch 2 shows, Survivor and Amazing Race! And those have been just in the last couple of years. We do enjoy M*A*S*H and Hogan's Heroes episodes, some of which we have on DVD, so maybe that counts?!

Four Places You Have Been On Vacation:
the Inside Passage of Alaska (first Stampin' Up! cruise!), the Western Caribbean (second SU! cruise!), camping in the mountains of Colorado, visiting my dad's mom in New Mexico

Four Websites You Visit Daily: the Stampin' Up! demonstrator web site, mapquest (I'm usually trying to figure out how to get to a hostess's home or a play group site!), comics.com, hmmmm...I can't really think of anything else I daily check, but I do pop on and look at my friends' blogs several times a week.

Four of Your Favorite Foods: I have to echo Claire's answer and say without a doubt, chocolate, and chocolate that includes nuts almost warrants its own 2nd place category, but instead, I will also list my homemade pizza, spaghetti pie, and tacos.

Four Places You Would Rather Be Right Now:
in my stamping room, working on our scrapbooks and/or stamping cards; at the family condo in Vail, soaking in a hot tub; at a hostess's home doing a Stampin' Up! party; or curled up in bed with a good book.


Hello again! I had totally intended to blog at least once before my trip to Memphis, but it did not happen. It looks like it's been about two weeks since my last post, so I'll give a very quick rundown of what we've been up to.

On Sunday, January 8, my mom flew to Las Vegas to spend a couple of weeks with us. This was very fun! We had a couple of days together before I left for my trip to Leadership Training for Stampin' Up!, during which she got to see our home school routine in action. The kids were thrilled to finally have Grandma K here and regaled her with tales of their exploits and numerous show and tell items. I spent much of my "free time" frantically preparing for my trip, working on swap cards, gift items for demonstrator friends, and packing.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Ted drove me bright and early to the airport, where I hopped to Phoenix and on to Memphis. My friend Monica was waiting at the airport for me, and we met up with our other demonstrator friends at the Convention Center, where we received GORGEOUS bags with our usual free stamp set and Make-and-Take materials. We stamped a bit, but not much since we were late getting there. Then it was out to eat at The Pig, a local joint with fabulous pork barbeque sandwiches! After that was a meeting with my 3rd-level upline and her group, at which we learned some great business ideas and got to visit with other friends.

Thursday was the first day of the conference. Stampin' Up! unveiled many changes to our career plan, and let me tell you, they are INCREDIBLE!! I am so excited! And, by the way, if any of you are interested in building a home business with Stampin' Up!, I would LOVE to talk with you about the wonderful possibilities! :-) That evening was the Managers' Reception, with a 50's theme. Very fun.

Friday was the second and last day of the conference, with an additional Workshop for Leaders that several of us attended that night after dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I left on Saturday to come home and enjoyed reuniting with my family. The hugs from the kids are extra precious after being gone a few days!

I am so thankful my mom could be out here to help take care of them. She has been having some physical pain, and I'm thankful the Lord sustained her during my absence. Now we are enjoying her company for another 10 days or so before she flies to Phoenix to visit a friend, then on home to Wisconsin. My mom, the world traveler! :-)

Later I will blog about some personal things we have been going through...right now, though, I will just say that I need a little more time before we share what those are. I need to focus on some positive things, so I will post again responding to a tag I got from my friend Claire, my first ever blog tag--and I'm not even sure what it is, other than I'll be answering some fun questions!

January 04, 2006

A Good Day

I made it out at 5:45 a.m. to run today! Go me! I went maybe 2 1/2 miles. I wore a sweatshirt and sweatpants and was fairly comfortable...a little cool when I was heading into the wind, a little warm when headed away. I managed to be home in 40 minutes, including my warm-up and cool-down...I was really slow, though! I felt like I was just plodding along! It probably didn't help that I had a headache, I think from being dehydrated. I'm trying to concentrate on extra water today.

Our schedule has gone beautifully today. I did a load of linens in between school activities, which went by very quickly. We read a lot this morning, or at least, Tobin and Charis and I did. Arden mostly toddled around talking to himself, pausing to interrupt us now and then only to decide our non-fiction books weren't all that exciting. But the rest of us enjoyed learning about the habitats and habits of various baby animals! The readings were from some little books my mom had gotten for Tobin last Christmas. We did our regular school stuff, too, but I had told him for his school time he could bring me some books, and that's what he chose!

Today I can tell Charis has made an effort to get along better with Tobin, and it showed--all 3 kids played extremely well together after lunch. While they were playing upstairs, I prepped our dinner and put it in the fridge, ready to pop in the oven later on. I even did all the dishes as well! Then, after Arden went down, the kids learned how to change the trash bags in the little wastebaskets--2 for each kid! I did the kitchen trash, and we all hauled everything out to the big waste can in the garage. Yay! They were so proud of themselves. I made them tie the knots (helped Tobin) and put new bags in the baskets, and Tobin was bursting with pride when he came downstairs and announced he had done it. We washed hands and had time for an extra long storytime since today's chores were so quick. (I had done the master bathroom while Tobin and Charis did computer games, right after I laid Arden down.) I feel so productive!! And I am extremely proud of the kids, mostly for getting along so well, but also for the responsibility I see them taking with their chores. On days like this, it feels great to be a mom!

January 03, 2006

Life Rolls On...

Well, it's back to reality, I guess! Ted went back to work today. In fact, we are awaiting his return now. We are having dinner with our small group tonight, so I didn't have to cook. I did, however, make some sky-high whole wheat biscuits (yummy recipe, Claire! Thank you!), and they turned out very good! (The kids and I shared one forlorn-looking biscuit that was made up of all the leftover dough scraps, so it wasn't even really a circle. All the better for sampling, I say!)

During the break Ted did get away for two snowboarding stints. He got a season pass to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort and has been trying to get in shape for the annual snowboarding pilgrimage to Colorado. Unfortunately, there wasn't too much snow up there on the mountain! They haven't even been able to make much snow because it hasn't gotten below freezing very much. But they did have a storm (which gave us quite a bit of rain) a couple of days ago, so hopefully he can head up again this weekend and avoid the rocks. Until then, however, he has to make it through the first few days back at work after a break, always a challenge! We were discussing last night how we'd be getting back to work, and even though I too am "back at work," I have to admit that the ability to "go to work" in my pajamas if I like is definitely appealing! I so love being a stay-at-home, home-schooling mother!

The kids did quite well today with Daddy being gone. We had a good school day. Charis learned about subtraction and seemed to handle the new concept with ease. I have to admit that it would actually be hard NOT to get it, with the wonderful way that Math-U-See explains math concepts. She did her first dictation exercise from Phonics Pathways and then read me a couple of stories. Tobin finished off the letter sounds from starfall.com, and then once again we all piled on the couch for Sonlight stories. It was still a bit chilly outside, so the children were reluctant to have "recess," but I could sense restlessness and fighting coming on. So we acted out our Bible story from this morning, Joshua and the walls of Jericho. Charis dragged down a bunch of blankets to pile in the middle of the floor to be the city of Jericho. (My own idea was to build the walls out of our mega-blocks, but obviously Mom was overruled! I thought it would have made for a spectacular fall, but since a 5-year-old girl instead engineered the city, it was much softer than it could have been!) We marched around the city one time, then went and "camped" for the night on the rugs in the school room. This process continued until the "seventh day," during which Mom almost passed out from getting dizzy while marching around the VERY small city 7 times. But the horn-blowing and shouts were tremendous! And the blanket shuffling was sufficient to deem Jericho overthrown. Mom stepped down from being Joshua, and Charis took over for Round Two. I snapped these pictures of the kids as they played without me...one of them marching around the city, one of them camping out!

After an early lunch, we went for a walk outside. It seems weird to be walking around in January in a t-shirt and jeans, wishing you had put shorts on! But I won't complain. It was nice to get us all outside and exercising. Arden went down well for his nap, and the older kids and I dusted. As part of our daily schedule, I have blocked out a short time each day for chores that rotate depending on the day of the week. I've put Charis in charge of dusting the downstairs on Tuesdays. Tobin wanted in on the action as well, so I gave him another dustrag and he happily swished it around, thinking he was helping as well. Dusting is not high on my priority list of household tasks, so I don't mind if it isn't done perfectly. If it were up to me to get it done, it wouldn't happen at all!

The boys both took wonderful naps without incident, and they were pleasant-tempered when I woke them up, a nice change. (Of course, an M&M snack and a God Made Me DVD probably didn't hurt!)

Though our day overall has been a good one, my heart does ache at a growing trend that I see happening with Charis. From the beginning she has been in love with Arden, who was a baby when she was old enough to understand and appreciate babies, unlike when Tobin was born and she was pretty much a baby herself. There has been a special bond between her and Arden, and I do appreciate that and thank the Lord for that. She has been a wonderful big sister, patient, gentle, and helping, cooing over him and generally mothering him along the way. Now that he is older they are turning out to be great playmates.

Unfortunately, all the love, tenderness, and affection she gives unconditionally to Arden, she withholds from Tobin. Arden could do the exact same annoying thing that Tobin would, and she would fawn all over Arden while screaming and hitting Tobin. It has gotten very noticeable lately, to the point of excluding Tobin from their play. Arden just goes with the flow, and he and Tobin play well enough together when undisturbed. But when Charis is in the mix, invariably I hear complaining that Charis and/or Arden is hitting Tobin. Poor guy...it's not his fault he was born in the middle place! I know he certainly isn't blameless. He definitely instigates his fair share of trouble. But as I've been observing more carefully, I'm definitely seeing the problems the sibling favoritism has been causing, and I'm afraid if we don't do something soon, there will be a major rift between Charis and Tobin that will affect their relationship for a long time.

Sooo, all you moms and dads (and grandmas and grandpas!) with wisdom and experience, what would you suggest?! I did have a talk with Charis earlier today about this, telling her that I wanted her to think about the way she treats both of her brothers and see if she was treating both of them the way Jesus would want her to. She dutifully listened to all I had to say, chirping, "Yes, Mommy," every so often. However, we just had a major blowout, which resulted in Charis being spanked (which happens extremely RARELY!) and confined to her room until Daddy comes home. (The room is in need of a major cleaning anyway, so that is keeping her quiet and busy.) The boys are playing quietly together, and I am meanwhile praying for wisdom! Our sweet little Charis can turn into a firebrand at times, and while she is usually an easy child, it's moments like these that cause me to fall to my knees asking for help!

January 02, 2006

New Year, Fresh Start

Happy belated New Year, everyone! Our ringing in of the new year was extremely uneventful. The kids didn't nap that day, so they were all in bed by 7:30! Ted and I read from our library books a little, then had hot tea while watching M*A*S*H episodes on DVD. Not particularly a very spiritual way to celebrate the new year, but we did have a time of prayer when we went to bed, which was before 10 p.m.! Such party poopers we old married folks are!

Today was the last day of Ted's free vacation time. He didn't have to officially take leave last week, just checked in twice so they knew he was still in the area. It's been nice having him home--in fact, I hear much merriment upstairs as he chases and zerberts the children! They are doing "puppy piles," which is what Ted calls a "dog pile" with the kids! I love hearing and watching them play together. The kids definitely get a different type of playing with Daddy than they do with Mommy! Mommy is just not really into puppy piles. :-)

Even though Ted was off today, the kids and I attempted to have a "normal" day, starting with school time right after breakfast. During breakfast we had read our Bible stories and our weekly reading from Right Choices, which gives us our Bible verse to memorize. Then Charis did some handwriting (capital P today, learning about the pumpkin!), and we reviewed telling time until I felt she really did know what she was doing with the Math-U-See clock set-up. Now we are working on transitioning to a regular clock. We got the toy clock with the see-through face that shows the gears working and practiced on that. Then we did a couple of pages in Phonics Pathways, and then it was time for Tobin's school. Charis played with Arden upstairs, quite well, I might add. Tobin worked on some handwriting pages of his own, and then we reviewed letters A-K on the www.starfall.com site, which Tobin adores.

Following this, we all piled on the couch for some Sonlight reading, and Ted came home from getting the oil changed in the van and a Home Depot run shortly after that. I took advantage of his being home to meet my friend Sarah for a 3-mile run! We've been running together off and on as our schedules allow since maybe November-ish, and it's so encouraging to have an accountability partner for exercising. I had gained 7 pounds after we moved here, and I've lost 3 of those pounds just from the past few weeks of concentrated exercise. I feel good about being able to run so far, and my goal is to run 3 days a week and do toning exercises 3 days a week, with Sundays being my rest days.

I guess that kind of sounds like a New Year's resolution, eh?! But truthfully, I'm so glad that I made the decision back in December to just DO this, because now I feel that it's more of a change in my thinking as opposed to a "resolution" that will probably be broken in a month or two. My goals are different than they were when I exercised years ago...now, I simply want to be strong and healthy for my kids! In previous times, I would have been obsessed about maintaining a certain size, but now, as long as I'm healthy and not outgrowing my clothes, I'm OK with where I am--for the most part!

I haven't really made a list of resolutions this year, though I am normally all over that. In fact, I pulled out the list I had from last year, and it can pretty much remain the same! They are habits that are fairly ingrained, though I do need to work on some of them to be more consistent.

However, one thing I have vowed I would pursue is keeping our schedule based on Managers of Their Homes, which I have blogged about before. The past couple of weeks are proof enough for me that our children NEED a schedule, as do I, and we accomplish far more when we are working to that end than we do when we leave things to chance.