Friday, September 26, 2014

The Books I've Visited Lately

Some women buy shoes or purses; I buy books.  Bradley and I were laughing the other night because when we got married he read all.the.time.  Like, we would finish dinner and then he would disappear, only to be found in the bathroom, with yet another book.  (Some day I'll share more about that season of life...).  Anyway, now I read way more than he does, just not in the bathroom :).

When he started teasing me a few months ago about how many books I was buying, I decided to try and reign that in a little.  I've been trying to read books we already have before buying new ones.  (Although, as I looked at this list, four of them are ones I purchased this summer...maybe I haven't done such a good job of reigning it in...)

This summer was challenging in many ways for me.  One of the things that has been helpful to me during this season has been to discipline myself to read.  Reading has always been a hobby of mine, and somehow I let motherhood rob me of this pleasure.  Instead of reading at night, or in my spare moments, I would turn to other means of 'checking out'--Netflix, a good movie, Pinterest, etc.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but I recognized an imbalance in my life, and so I've been working to have a better balance with my downtime.  By carving out time for reading I've been encouraged, convicted, and pointed to Jesus through what others have written.

Nothing compares to the Bible, no doubt!  And, if I'm not spending time in God's Word, then I shouldn't be consumed with reading books or blogs, no matter how excellent they are and how much they might point me to Jesus.  God's Word is central, and must be the primary source of  nourishment for my soul.  A friend posted a quote on Facebook that I loved:

"Visit good books, live in the Bible." -C.H. Spurgeon

I've been visiting some great books over the past few months, some of the best I've read in a long time.  I'll try to be brief in my descriptions, but I would highly recommend each of these.

Stepping Heavenward
, Elizabeth Prentiss
This is not your typical "Christian living" book, but it is full of wonderful principles by which women should live.  It's fiction, written in a journal style, but the author incorporated much of what she had learned and experienced in her own life as a young woman, wife, and mother.  Reading another woman write about her struggles and passion for Jesus was refreshing.  This is a classic book that I think every mother needs to read, and re-read.  It would make a great gift for a mom-to-be.

Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin
I had never heard about this book until I added a book to my cart on Amazon, and a little notice came up saying, "others who purchased this book also bought..." and then there were several books listed.  This one intrigued me.  I love to study the Bible.  In fact, I have a degree in Bible, but over the years I've become lazy in my deep study of the Word.  The times that I do dig and study like I did in college are my favorite, and often the times that I am transformed the most.  Jen does a wonderful job of expressing the importance of God's Word, the main theme of the Bible (the progress of Redemption), and why everyone should seek to be a student of it.  She gives the '5 P's' for studying:  Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process and Prayer.  This book is encouraging and practical for anyone who wants to study God's Word and come away transformed.

Good News for Weary Women, Elyse Fitzpatrick
Women, if you are tired--at any level--this book will refresh your spirit.  The gospel is beautifully woven throughout, speaking to the specific issues that women are facing.  We have lists of things that we require of ourselves, or that we feel others may have placed on us, and instead of truly seeking to live in light of the grace that God has granted to us in Christ, we fight either pride because we think we're following all the 'right rules' or despair because we aren't measuring up to the 'right rules'.  Elyse says, "Our highest calling is to believe in and love the gospel and then to live our lives in the light of all Jesus has already done for us."

And the Word Came With Power, Joanne Shelter
When we lived in Georgia, Bradley would often buy books that our Pastor referenced from the pulpit.  I wouldn't know until Tuesday when a random book would come in the mail.  Apparently Charlie used something from this book, and I'm glad Bradley bought it.  Missionary biographies are some of my favorite!  I love reading about how God has worked to bring the gospel to people who had never heard.  Joanne Shelter was a single missionary who worked to translate the Bible on an island in the Philippines.  Her story shows how powerfully God's Word goes forth to transform people's lives.

The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst
Lysa is funny, transparent, and her words are practical for every day living.  We are bombarded with all kinds of options on how to live our lives.  Choices lie before us each day, and the temptation is to say "YES!" to everything, only to later possibly regret it because we've said that a few too many times, and our souls are tired.  Lysa gives some great advice on how to make wise choices, saving room for those things which God has truly wired us to do.

A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman
I've been wanting to read this book ever since it came out last fall.  I finally found a used copy online and finished reading it last weekend.  I'm so thankful that I waited!  God has been uncovering things in my heart over the last few months, and reading this book was such a help to me.  I could write an entire post on all of the ways I love this book, but I'll save that for maybe a later time.

The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller
By far, the best book I've ever read on marriage.  He collaborated with his wife to write this one, and they did an excellent job.  The first chapter is a little bit tough--lots of statistics on marriage--but it wasn't long until I couldn't put it down.  One of the things I loved most was that I wasn't just challenged in my marriage.  The gospel is woven throughout this book, and I was convicted about areas in my heart that needed reminding and changing, yes in relation to my marriage, but also in relation to my walk with the Lord.  We are given the power for our marriages by the Holy Spirit; the love we have received from God pushes us to selflessly love our spouse; we commit to each other's holiness.  One of my favorite quotes:

"The rest of the world sees us wrinkling up, but using marriage's powers in the grace of Jesus, we see each other become more and more spiritually gorgeous.  We are clothing, washing, adorning each other.  And someday the whole universes will see what God sees in us." (169)

Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis
I shared on Instagram back in August how I somehow made it through a classical Christian education and four years of Bible college without ever reading any of C.S. Lewis's books (the exception being the Chronicles of Narnia).  I've taken it upon myself to remedy this, and started with the first book in a four-book collection we have.  I'll admit, it was a tough read.  But I'm glad to have read it and I learned things about C.S.Lewis I never knew.  I plan to go back and read the other ones in this collection, but I needed a break from deeper reading.

What books have you read lately?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting a Little Messy

In first grade I had a friend named Sarah.  We would play on the playground during recess, chasing one another and I would push her on the swing.  I went to her house to play, I think on more than one occasion, and attended her teddy bear tea birthday party.  There isn't much else I remember about her; I just know we had fun together.

My relationship with Sarah was my first exposure to someone with Down syndrome.  She was my six year old friend who played, went to school, and shared a life similar to mine.  Sure, she looked a little bit different, but that didn't matter; I just needed a playmate and I had one in her.

When Mason was born and we found out he had Down syndrome, it quickly became obvious that I had no clue the implications this had on one's entire life.  The low muscle tone--often requiring multiple types and years of therapy--, susceptibility to certain diseases, delay in development, shorter life-span.....all of these things were new to us and it took awhile to digest.

At six months of age, Mason began physical therapy, and at that point we felt this was most important for him so that he could learn to roll over, sit up and crawl.  We added speech therapy at 15 months, feeling he was ready to push forward in other areas of development.

Now that he's reached several milestones, we've decided to add Occupational Therapy to his weekly schedule.  Along with speech, this is his most significant area of delay right now.

Occupational therapy is something I never really understood.  In short, I guess you could say it's therapy to help people function properly in their jobs.  What is the job of a toddler?  One therapist said it this way:  to play, eat, get dressed, and go to the bathroom.

Mason won't begin these therapy sessions until the beginning of October, but we've started working on a few things now that we know need to be developed.

Eating.  I'll be honest here.  I've put this off because I didn't want to deal with the mess.  Now, I wish I had started it in GA where our kitchen table was on top of a vinyl floor.  We have carpet in this house, and I can guarantee that they will need to replace it when we move out.  Getting his spoon (or fork) into his mouth comes easily, but we're working on actually scooping or stabbing his food.  He would much prefer to stab the table or throw his utensils across the table.  Meal time typically consists of him trying to get food on his utensil, then he pushes his bowl/plate to me, I get the food on for him, push it back, and he gets it into his mouth.  And then he claps and smiles.  And I try not to think about the bits of food that are getting smeared into my beautifully refinished tabletop.

The mess is only bigger because Jennavieve is at the same developmental stage.  They cheer for each other when food ends up in their mouths, and laugh when it gets spilled on the floor.  If one of them has a fork, the other one needs one too. Even though it's getting messy, I have to remind myself that the mess is really not that big of a deal; the important thing is that these two are learning and growing and they are doing it together.

Appropriate Play.  Physical therapy focuses more on the gross motor skills (walking, climbing, jumping, running) and Occupational therapy helps with fine motor skills.  Manipulating toys, putting puzzles together, coloring, pretending to feed a baby doll--these are all the sorts of things that I try to have Mason do during the day.  He doesn't know that it's intentional, but I try to provide a variety of toys that will require him to work on coordination and grasping small objects.  As much a I dislike having pots and pans on my kitchen floor, I'm glad that he pretends to stir things in my bowls.  This shows that he's understanding how to use objects appropriately.

Dressing.  While Mason is still a little young to be doing this, I'm trying to take a little bit of extra time when I dress and undress him to show him how to pull up his pants, or stick his arms in the armholes.  The other day I gave him his pants just to see what he would do.  He knew they were supposed to go on his legs, but when he couldn't do it, they ended up on top of his head and we played peek-a-boo.  I'm learning to just smile and enjoy his playful spirit rather than become frustrated with his inabilities.

Sleeping in a bed.  This came somewhat out of necessity right now.  Jennavieve does not like sleeping in a pack and play.  When we moved to Florida we just brought one crib, so for a couple of months we had them taking turns in the crib and pack and play.  Mason is getting too big for a portable crib, so we finally put a mattress on the floor and he's been doing great.  Some days I have to lie down with him during nap time so he'll stay in his bed and go to sleep, but for the most part he just crawls in and goes  right to sleep.  It's really nice when he wakes up in the middle of the night and instead of sitting in the rocking chair to soothe him, I can just slip into his bed and snuggle with him until he calms down.  Extra bonus:  he looks super cute and like such a big boy laying on a pillow and under the covers!

Going to the bathroom....let's just say I'm going to let the therapist give me LOTS of advice on this one!  I've been encouraged, though, because Mason seems to know when he has a dirty diaper.  I see that as a really good sign, and we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

I've learned in all of these things that I can only take one day at a time.  If I look too far ahead, I grow fearful and anxious.  And then I lose sight of what Mason can do.  He is growing and changing every day, and we are so very privileged to be able to participate with him in each step.  Bradley said it well  to me one night:  "We are so spoiled to have Mason for a son."

Yes.  Spoiled, blessed, loved, changed.  God is merciful and compassionate, and ever-so-good!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Weekend

Weekends have increased in value since Isabella started school.  I don't remember being this excited for Friday night since I was in high school!  We turn off the alarm, let the kids watch morning cartoons, nap, and try to find something fun to do around town.

This past weekend found us hosting our first overnight guest.  As we were cooking breakfast on Saturday morning, sipping coffee, and catching up on the past few years with our friend, Bradley leaned over to me and said, "I forgot how much fun it was to have company."  

We made our way to the weekly downtown market, purchased some cinnamon rolls from a local farmer and his wife, and then grabbed some coffee from a local coffee shop.  Bradley convinced me to try their vanilla lattes--I was not disappointed--and one Saturday morning, I'm going back to sit outside of this place, drink coffee, eat a chocolate croissant, and people watch.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect for a community day in the park.  The girls got their Zumba on with a group of ladies and had fun playing some of the games that were set up throughout the park.

Mason tried making friends with everyone he saw.  His delight in people, even strangers, makes me smile.  We enjoyed dinner out on Saturday night, complete with sitting outside in the chilly air.  The summer in Florida has been hot and humid, so being outside without sweating and feeling the need for a sweater was a treat.

We have decided on a church to attend while we're here, and while it's a bit of a drive, and the kids are sleepy on the way home, we have been challenged and encouraged through the preaching and worship there each week.  Sundays are our day of rest, so we come home from church, eat, and spend the rest of the day relaxing at home and being together as a family.

The slightly chilly air and football season being in full swing has me wanting soup.  We've been making weekly trips to the seafood market, trying various kinds of fish, so this week we picked up some steamed shrimp and made gumbo.  With fall officially beginning tomorrow, I plan to grab some mums and spruce up our front porch.  The canned pumpkin is already in the pantry just waiting to be made into yummy bread and muffins.

Living here has been a challenge for me in many ways, but I can honestly say that I'm beginning to enjoy it.  I suppose that's what happens once you feel settled in a place. It's taken a few months for me, but now that we're halfway through our stint in Florida, I think I might miss it when we leave.  The beach, the seafood, the rhythm we have's becoming normal and pleasant and comfortable.  

Happy Monday, friends!  Enjoy your day.

Rejoice.  Walk in the Spirit.  Honor God.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Speak?

When we moved to Florida one of the challenges I knew we would face would be finding new therapists for Mason.  There's a process:  see your Primary Care Physician and request a referral, wait for the referral, schedule an appointment with the referred therapist, have an evaluation of child's development, schedule regular therapy sessions, begin therapy.

It's pretty straightforward, but this always exhausts me.  Yes, bringing all of my children to an appointment is a challenge, and that in itself can be tiring.  But, the evaluations with therapists are what I most dread.  For thirty minutes to an hour, I'm forced to think on all the ways that my child is not like other children his age.  Questions are asked like, "Does he distinguish between objects in a group?"  "How many words can he say?"  "When he plays with toys does he use them appropriately?"

Then, we move onto the observation of Mason's behavior.  Inwardly I try to will Mason to point to the right picture when asked to find the cookie or the ball.  I know he knows what these things are, but to point to it?  We're not there yet.  Instead, he finds the baby on the page and gives it a big wet tongue kiss.  (Insert very proud Mommy moment here because this obviously shows how much Mason loves people!)

The evaluation ends, and even though I know what the therapist is going to say hearing the words, "So, the test results show that there is a severe delay in his development," still hurts.

In that moment I have a choice to make:  dwell on the delay or think of how far he's come and keep pushing forward to help him.  I'll be honest.  Some days I dwell on the delays.  Maybe this will always be a struggle.  But, can I just tell you that God has been so good!  He is making it easier and easier for me to rejoice and move forward.  The psychologists would probably call this acceptance; I'm going to call it grace.  And I'm ever so grateful for the strength God gives.

Last week was Mason's second speech evaluation since we arrived here.  The first clinic had a waiting list of 4-6 weeks.  Since we're only living her until December, I didn't want to wait that long to get him started.  I was able to find another clinic, very close to Isabella's school, and he starts speech therapy there this morning.  I instantly liked his therapist when I saw that we had the same sandals.  The evaluation process and her way with Mason really sealed the deal for me; I think she's going to be great.

Yesterday I shared about Mason's physical developments over the summer.  Up today:

Speech Developments

Comprehension.  Mason understands so much!  I can tell him to go get his shoes and he does.  He starts heading for the stairs when I tell him it's nap time.  Just in the past few days when I ask if he's stinky, he'll point to his diaper.  (And I even think he said diaper a few times).  He may not respond with words when asked a question, but his facial expressions communicate his excitement, his disagreement, and his confusion.

Body Parts.  We've been working on these for months.  This summer, he's finally gotten some down.  He can now point to his belly, head, nose (or my nose) and mouth.  Occasionally he does hands, and I'm really trying to work with him on feet.  It helps that Jennavieve is almost on the same level now, so we can work on these things together.  She keeps pushing him to learn more.

Animal Sounds.  There's still some confusion as to what is and is not an elephant, but Mason can definitely tell you what a dog says, sometimes an elephant--complete with trunk raised and all--, and last night he said 'moo' for the first time.  Even though they aren't words, it's part of the speech development process and we cheer and jump up and down when he acquires something new.  Many times our animal sessions end with a dance party to 'What does the fox say' (per the request of my two oldest children).

Words.  Most of Mason's words are just grunts.  This is tiring.  And now Jennavieve has picked up on it.  We're working hard with both of them to replace the grunting with something else, whether sign language or an actual word.  Mason can sign 'please' and 'more', and he says 'Daddy' distinctly.  When he starts calling me Mommy we're going on vacation, or something.  I can't wait to hear him say my name.  I can't tell for sure, but I think he calls Jennavieve 'Dede'.  This week I've been trying to have him distinguish between eat and drink.  It's pretty obvious when he stands at the fridge grunting, that he wants a drink, but now he's actually signing it and making the 'd' sound.

Mason has a long way to go before he's using words appropriately.  But you know what?  I know he gets it.  He knows what's happening around him.  He understands us.  He tries to tell me things, and even though he doesn't use the right sounds, he communicates with me.  While I look forward to the day when he can say words and speak in sentences, there's also something special about this secret language he and I have.  It's rewarding when he grunts, I translate, he smiles and waves his arms, and I know that we've understood one another.

I love this little monkey.  I love him just the way he is.  Even if he never says my name, he knows I'm his Mommy.  And I pray that he will always feel how much he is loved and how proud we are to have him as our son.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

He's Come so Far

There were days when I thought Mason would never walk.  I had prayed for him to be walking by his second birthday; his birthday came and while he could walk behind a cart or holding onto both of my hands, he refused to let go.

This summer was a summer of growth in many areas of Mason's development.  When I look back over the past three months I stand in awe at what God has accomplished through this little boy, and I can't help but smile at how far he's come.

Over the next few days I'll be sharing some of the specific ways that Mason has developed recently.  It's encouraging to me to recount, and I hope that those of you who have prayed for Mason will be encouraged as well!

Physical Developments

Wednesday morning Mason has physical therapy for 30 minutes.  We have been going to the clinic for the past few weeks and we've enjoyed getting to know his new therapist, and experiencing the fun things that she has in her room, like this cool jungle gym!

In Georgia we were privileged to have in-home therapy, which was wonderful!  The situation here is a bit different, and that has been an adjustment for me, but I'm thankful that Mason has something to look forward to by being in a new environment for his therapy sessions.

I shared in this post that Mason and Jennavieve were both taking their first steps.  That was about a month ago, and now Mason is walking all over the place!  He has definitely made the transition from crawler to walker.  Sometimes when I see him toddling around I still cry at what a blessing this is!  If he falls, which he still does from time to time--balance is still a bit tricky for him--he finds the closest thing and pulls up again to keep walking.

Over the last two weeks he has been able to bend over and pick up toys, stand back up and continue walking.  We're working now on getting him to stand up on his own without help, and walk up and down stairs.

One of the biggest shifts in this area of development has been Mason's desire.  Now he wants to walk.  In fact, when we head for the car, he refuses to hold my hand.  I have to figure on a few extra minutes each time we're going somewhere, because he still moves at a pretty slow pace.

When we pick Isabella up from school we have to walk inside to get her.  Most days I try to let Mason and Jennavieve take turns walking in, the other rides in the stroller.  Mason looks like such a big boy walking down the sidewalk to get his big sister.

Last week at the end of his therapy session, his therapist let him ride the tricycle.  Oh my goodness, I thought I was going to burst!  She had straps on the pedals to keep his feet in place, but other than those and a gentle guiding on the back he was riding that bike by himself!!

When we reached the waiting room to sign out he did not want to get off of that bike.  We literally had to pull him off and he fought me all the way to the car.  I love that he is enjoying all of these new experiences.

My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for giving us these blessings.  I struggled to learn patience while we waited for Mason to get to this point.  There were tears, anger, and discouragement for sure.  God used all of those things, though, to teach me to trust Him.

Thank you to those who have prayed!  And thank you to those of you who read these updates and celebrate with us!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding Our Rhythm

Moving always has its way of shaking things up a bit.  I like consistency.  And that translates into just about every area of my life.  Each time we move I have to learn a new place, unpack our belongings and figure out a new home for the pictures and dishes in differently positioned spaces.  New jobs take time to become familiar, and relationships start from nothing.

All of this takes time.  Time that isn't so free when you're also trying to figure out change for the other five people in your family.

If it was just me, I could wander aimlessly around town, hang pictures on the walls a million times before getting it 'perfect', and go door-to-door visiting for hours with my new neighbors.  The reality is, that can't happen right now.

So, instead, I hustle to feel settled, easily become unglued and this makes me lose step to the beat that is happening around me.

//From Routine to Rhythm//

Routine has been my best friend for years. Through high school, college, single life, married, and even with children.  I realize to some people this seems absurd, maybe boring, but that's just how I always felt I functioned best.

Over the past two months that we've been living in this new place, I have been extremely frustrated at what I considered the lack of routine in my life.  Yes, there were fun elements to it:  we went to the beach, took walks, had spontaneous dinners out--all good things.  But, in my home I felt like things were out of control. Cleaning was sporadic. My two youngest always had sticky black legs from crawling around the dirty linoleum floors, and we ended up grocery shopping every few days because I couldn't decide what to plan for our meals.

Then, I read a post by the Nester on routine vs rhythm.  She defined routine and rhythm like this:

Routine: something cheerleaders did when I was in high school to 90s dance music. It had predetermined, robotic movements and it was either correct or incorrect, and it was obvious if you messed up. Routine focuses on rules and doesn’t like to be changed.
Rhythm: a frame of mind that suggests more of an art. If you have rhythm, then whatever you decide to do with intention fits in the dance. Rhythm feels like choice and nuance and paying attention to your surroundings. Rhythm is alive and open to adjustments based on the circumstance. Rhythm focuses on needs.

At first I kind of chuckled because I would definitely fall under the 'robotic movements' and I always felt like I was messing up because we hadn't settled into a good routine yet.  Later that day, as we were hanging out as a family after dinner, getting ready to start the bedtime 'routine' I realized that although we weren't following strict rules, we had a sweet rhythm.

For some reason I felt pressured to keep my consistencies in every area of my life.  Breakfast is at 8, laundry is on Friday, grocery shopping on Monday, plucking my eyebrows on Sunday, etc.  I was focusing on my own rules, hating that things were changing, and then berating myself for not keeping it all together.  The reality was that everything was going just fine.

Myquilin said it beautifully in her post:

Where I get into trouble with pre-planning my meals is when things change and I get all worked up over changing my precious plan. Suddenly it turns into a routine that’s the boss of me.

Routine had become the boss of me.  Instead of providing me with the freedom and direction it had previously given, I was feeling crushed beneath the weight of expectations for myself and basically flipping out.

Releasing the idea of a routine enabled me to feel the rhythm around me.  We were learning to embrace the changes, pay attention to what was taking place around us, and focus on the needs of our children. Our rhythm was good.

//Keeping the Beat//

I started taking piano lessons when I was eight years old.  It came pretty easily at first, learning how to plunk out simple tunes, memorizing the notes in each scale.  But then I progressed on to Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart and somewhere between Mary had a Little Lamb and Fur Elise, I discovered that I could not keep a beat.  My teacher made me get a metronome and I would practice each day with that little machine tick-ticking away to keep time, giving me the beat I needed to stick with the rhythm.

There are a few practices in my daily life that help me to keep the beat, my metronome, if you will, making what I now call our rhythm seem not so harried, flow more smoothly, and help to keep me from getting unglued when things change.  They aren't all earth-shattering practices, but I share them with you to maybe help you notice some of those things that you do (or might need to do) in order to keep your beat.

Set the coffee the night before.  There's something about making coffee in the morning that just sort of sets me off.  When I discovered this, it became much easier to add coffee prep in with cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, rather than grumbling about having to start it in the morning.  It's also an added bonus to be lured out of bed at 5AM by the smell of fresh coffee brewing.

Plan out a grocery list and meals for one week at a time.  Buying in bulk is wonderful and in the past that has worked well for us.  The past two months have revealed that I dislike that right now.  It's less overwhelming to prepare for one week, and I find myself more excited about cooking dinner and being creative when I only have to think ahead for seven days.

Rearrange daily activities to fit into the rhythm.  As I mentioned above, breakfast has always been at 8, and my babies always stayed in bed in the morning until just before this.  With Isabella's school schedule, we leave the house at 7:10, so I lost almost an hour of my morning time.  This was hard for me at first, but there's no getting around it.  Our kids are all in bed now by 7:30 in the evenings, so if I'm disciplined (which isn't always), I can utilize that extra time in the evening to accomplish some of the things I had previously done in the morning.  Laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping get done.  But now they are squeezed into times between Mason's therapy sessions and picking Isabella up from school.  Errands don't have to take place first thing in the morning, and I have learned to be okay with that.  I'm just keeping with the rhythm.

Daily time with the Lord.  Some days this looks different than others, but as a general rule I get up and with that coffee that got me out of bed, I journal about life.  Emptying my mind of what's been running through it since the day before helps me prepare to read God's Word.  Generally, I read through a book of the Bible at a time, reading just a few verses.  I read and re-read, sometimes write down verbatim some of the passage, other times I might outline a little of what I understood, and often there is a prayer written down.  I need Truth, and for me, starting the day out by thinking and meditating on it keeps me grounded throughout the rest of the day.

Relax.  A few months ago I asked Bradley how I needed to change most.  He gently told me that I needed to relax.  About everything.  I would get worked up over the slightest thing and it negatively affected him, our kids, and certainly me.  Keeping to the beat doesn't happen very easily when we're uptight and resisting any change taking place.  My best performances on the piano happened when I was relaxed and let the music flow through my fingers to the rhythm.  As I relax I'm able to accept the changes that come and work with them to keep our family going.

Everybody's rhythm is different.  I don't expect you to keep to mine, and I won't try to march to yours.  But whatever rhythm you have, find those things that help you keep the beat, and when things change, you'll be okay to eat breakfast at 8:30, do laundry as needed, even if it isn't on Fridays, and pluck your eyebrows on Thursday instead of Sunday.

What do you do to keep the beat in your family?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First Weeks of School

We are three weeks into school and still going strong!  Isabella loves going and always comes out of the building with a smile on her face at the end of the day.  Watching her enjoy this new season of life has been a privilege for all of us, and we are so happy with our decision to send her to school this semester.

I've always known that she was a social girl, but this has come out even more in the past few weeks.  When I ask her about her day, the first things she tells me are what different people were wearing that day, including the little girls who have 'these beads in their hair, Mommy.  And, when they shake their heads, they jingle.  Can you do that to my hair, Mommy?'

She didn't finish her snack for the first week of school.  Initially I thought this was due to her talking to those around her.  Nope.  No talking allowed during their short snack time.  So, then I realized that she's not eating her snack because she's too busy looking around at everyone.  She takes it all in, and I love this about her.

After we hear about recess and who wore what at school, eventually she shares with us what they learned.  Right now they're focusing on phonics and letter/number writing.  Much of this we had already done together, but reinforcement is great, and there is oh, so much more to school than academics.  One of the things they learn in Kindergarten is to write in cursive.  She was bubbling over one day when she explained to me that they were learning to write like the teacher.

Mallory has had the hardest time adjusting to Isabella attending school.  The younger two don't understand how to 'play' with her, and so for four hours she's without a constant playmate.  Guess who this responsibility falls on?  Yep, me.  And, I'm learning how to better involve Mallory in some of my household tasks, as well as try to find ways to spend focused time just with her.  On the days when I get it right, she says to me, "That was the funnest day ever!"

 It took me a few days to figure out the drop-off and pick-up system at school (aka, minivan parade), but now I think we have it down.  We try to leave the house around 7:10 so I beat the crazy traffic, getting Isabella to school a little early for some extra time with her teacher.  I'm so thankful that the teacher encourages this, and always has something for the kids to do before the official start of school.

Mason and Jennavieve are pretty much clueless about the change in our family, which is a good thing.  They roll with whatever comes pretty well.  Mason now recognizes the parking lot of the school, and gets pretty excited when he knows we're picking up his big sister.

I'm still adjusting to our new schedule and working to figure out how to best manage everything and everyone.  Something tells me I'll always be working on this as our children get older, job schedules change, and moves with the military happen every few years.  The Lord is teaching me flexibility, something I learn over and over again, and Lord willing, I'll be back on Friday sharing a bit more about this.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Post-Vacation Catch Up

Last week we spent seven wonderful days with my parents, sisters and their families on the gorgeous Alabama Gulf Coast.  Although we weren't too far from our home, it still felt like getting away and coming back was pretty hard.

The alarm went off at 5 this morning and I had to hit snooze twice before finally turning on the lamp and forcing myself out of bed.  Reality stinks.

Not really, but that's how we feel right now when we are still tired from sleepless nights with our #4, who has the hardest time teething.  None of my other babies struggled with this, but when she gets teeth, only snuggling with Mommy calms her down in the middle of the night.  This equals little (or no) sleep for me, but precious moments of cuddling with my little girl.  Night time and nap times last week were spent much like the picture below. She obviously didn't get the memo that vacation means extra rest.

Today we're back to the grind of school for Isabella and figuring out a good routine for the rest of us during our mornings without her.  I'm hoping to order some preschool workbooks for Mallory, who is begging me to do 'homeschool' with her.  She is still trying to to find her way without her big sister around, and I'm learning more and more about my middle girl all the time.

We have some appointments to schedule for Mason's therapy--and hopefully all of that will be settled this week.  It's been a long road this time around, trying to find the best options for his care, and quite frankly, it exhausts me (more on that to come).

One of my goals last week was to spend limited time on the computer, and more time in some good books.  I didn't open my computer all week, and that felt really good.  I was able to squeeze in some quality reading time, and I'll share some book recommendations soon.

Now, we're back to our day-to-day.  The Lord is teaching me to be content and joyful, no matter how my circumstances make me feel.  There is joy in the Lord, and He is constant, so my joy should be constant if it's truly found in Him.  Right?  Preaching the truth to myself, over and over, and praying that I will live it out every moment of the day.

Happy Monday!