Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Face of the Unwrap

I could never quite capture their looks as they unwrapped their presents, and then I realized I did it perfectly. How about you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top Ten Toys to Not Get!

I've been writing this post for weeks, each time I sneak a toy into the garbage or give-away-closet. Nothing is worse than an annoying toy that's only purpose it to hurt bare feet as you maneuver your way across the floor. And there is nothing more glorious than a toy that gets played with over and over again...and is not a video game!

I read in our local paper that the best toys are the ones that are 90% kid and only 10% toy. The examples would be a plain doll: 90% kids/10% toy or a Tickle-Me-Elmo: 90% toy and 10% kid.

So here are items to avoid:

1. Bakuguns: at first they seemed fabulous, but for my kids they were not long-lasting. They lasted the afternoon, but that was about it. I know there is a game to play with them, but I nor the kids put the energy into playing by the rules.

2. Trick Tracks: the funny thing about this, is that I posted on this about three years ago, raving about how great they were. I have a box full of them and most of them are broken and no one plays with them.

3. Coloring books: so I've discovered that my boys, and maybe all boys, prefer white drawing paper or puzzle/maze books, but not coloring books. I have a drawer of these classic coloring books that I should use for fire starter.

4. Small action figures found at McDonalds: throw all of these away or just don't buy them! I guess they are good for a road trip and some mindless entertainments in the van.

5. A super cool, child's accordion: I bought this before my oldest was born and had visions of kids playing tunes on it for hours. I think, in the last 6 years, it has been played for no more that 5 seconds at a time, but I still keep it because it looks cool and I never step on it.

6. Mini-skate boards: I think my kids are too young, not sure. But my oldest was sure he wanted some and a mini-state ramp. I never step on this either because it never leaves the toy shelves.

7. Tinker Toys: I really thought these would be great, but there are just too many pieces and the tubs do not come with enough to allow for any to get lost. Once you loose a few, you can't really make anything very exciting. I'm ready to haul these off, but I keep them around hoping my youngest might discover them on lonely days when his older brothers are in school.

8. Lincoln Logs: Also something my oldest did play with right around age two, but I ended up doing must of the building and once they were old enough to build with them, they lost all interest. You can pretty much only build square structures and there isn't enough room for imagination.

9. Transformers: I hate these things. They are too hard for my boys to transform, so I spend a lot of time doing it and then they eventually break. The idea of them is cool, but I think it is better to let them watch a 30 min. episode and then play-act the story than actually buy them a plastic version.

10. Dodge Ball set with Velcro vest and balls: You'd think this would be a great gift, but it isn't. The balls are too light to really be thrown any distance and even my husband and I had trouble getting them to stick onto the vests. Just let your kids throw pillows at each other as they run across the living room, way more fun.

The Top Ten List of Toys to Get is coming.....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What's On Your Christmas Tree?

I know you are jealous of my kid-theme-tree. I had a very heavy, ugly, dough ornament that I made as a child, and I made sure it always had a place on our family tree. As I got older I still wanted it on our tree, but would hide it near the back and toward the bottom.

This is my son's ugly ornament he made two years ago with his Grammy. And that is why he loves it. I suggested we not hang it, "No, I made that with Grammy!" And so it is front and center.

What ugly ornament adorns your tree and why?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wolf Ears

We were the last family to get a microwave, the last family to get a colored TV, the last family to get a VCR, and the last family to get a cordless phone and answering machine. Notice the trend? I’m repeating the cycle of being technologically deprived with my own children. They do not own any gaming systems, portable or otherwise, and neither of their parents owns an iPhone.

At church, the other day, I sat behind a mom roughly my age with young children. Our families have many parallels, but then she stood to sing and out of her coat pocket fell her iPhone. I smiled to myself wondering when I would get one, someday, I guess. It’s a little inevitable.

But for now, I am appearing very archaic and old-fashioned. I got made fun of at a school board meeting when I pulled out my paper calendar to write down an important date. My husband pointed out that my lack of electronics is equal to having a parent with a fanny pack. I think he might be right.

One major reason we aren’t keeping us is money. We live on a pretty strict budget. However, I know other people who live on tight budgets who do have these gadgets. So, that is not entirely it. I’m sure if it was more of a priority we’d have them.

My parents did an excellent job of modeling want and need, maybe to the extreme. My sister and I often laugh at these childhood memories. When we took vacations, we skipped meals. Visiting the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock is still as vivid to me now as it was in 1988. Why? Because I was hungry, starving. We had breakfast and had been hitting the significant East Coast historical sites at a vicious pace. It was about 2 o’clock and we were all hungry, although not complaining. Then I saw it, the ice cream cart. I knew my father’s weakness for ice cream and knew this was our big chance. He caved and later admitted that his stomach was growling too.

When my sister and I ran track, my mother would give us five dollars to split after our meets for food. Even in the early 90’s five dollars didn’t go very far. But we were clever girls and were able to get what we needed by using a little savvy and strategy.

Hans and I recently took the boys to Great Wolf Lodge. (Our children are hardly deprived and neither were my sister and I.) I often tell the boys, “Well, we could spend our money on that, but then we would not be able to do….” And when we do chose to do something extra I say, “We are doing this because we planned and saved for it.

It was a good mini-vacation. We enjoyed the water park. We did not enjoy the consumerism that surrounded us. This place was designed to get you to spend money. Just the way the halls and stores within the lodge were designed tempted children to say, “Please, mom, please. Can I have those wolf ears?” At the evening story time I noticed that my boys were the only children not wearing the signature wolf-ear-headbands. They seemed just as happy. They also seemed to be the only children not being photographed during the story hour. The mom beside me spent the whole story time editing one shot she took of her wolf clad child with her phone, zooming in and out, cropping, and then posting the shot to FB as soon as her picture was perfect for social viewing.

My oldest is playing basketball and loving it. Last night were his team pictures. I was the only parent who had not purchased a photo package. I did feel a bit embarrassed as I asked, after the professional was through with the team, if I could get a team shot with the camera I had brought from home. Everyone cooperated. I even got a solo shot of Bren holding his treasured basketball. He beamed and smiled.

On our drive home I started to regret my choice, “Honey, was that embarrassing for you? Were you OK that I brought my own camera and took a picture of you?”
He nodded and smiled, “No that was just fine. You know, sometimes if you buy certain things then you can’t buy other things like toilet paper.”

I’m sure there will come a time when I can’t get away with all this frugality, but I think the lesson is being learned and a healthy foundation is being laid within my boys. And when the time is right, one of these Christmases, they’ll be an Xbox under the Christmas tree and iPhone in my hands to document the much anticipated moment.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prayer: Part 2

I am doing life. I am continuing my routine, showing up at scheduled events, being a mom, attending grade school feast parties, taking my kids to their basketball games, and yet there is a constant prayer and concern running through my thoughts at all times. And I'm not even a "direct" casualty of this tragic event. A dear childhood and current friend was in a accident six days ago and is in ICU, critical many unknowns. She's in a coma, this is the first time I've known someone intimately who has ever been there, here, but not accessible. It is a strange feeling.

The other day I found a note with her handwriting on it. Handwriting is strangely intimate and I loved it. I find myself wanting to text and call her. Wednesday was a strange day for me because we'd made plans to spend the morning together. It didn't happen.

I hate to sound like this is all about me, because it really is not. It is about her. It is about her children. It is about her family. It is about her parents. And it is about God. I keep thinking back on my post I wrote about prayer, about submitting and surrendering. I find myself doing that a lot with my friend. But there is a new element to my prayers: hope and power.

I find my mind thinking of Jesus and how if he was with us right now, he'd march into that hospital and heal her on the spot. I just know he would. But, he's not here. Then I think, but he left us with someone, we are not alone...or at least that is what I was taught and this is what I know as I look back over my 34 years of life. The Holy Spirit. When I find myself grieving and upset, saddened...that isn't just me, that is Jesus in me. I feel like I'm being prompted to take a risk and pray for the miraculous, to tap into that image of God within me...for my friend.

That is just a small piece of the greater picture that is currently going on in this situation. This is just one small layer that is surrounding this dear friend who is also created in the image of God.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

God-Sighting 15,089-Prayer

Prayer is one of those strange things God wants us to do. Strange because we aren't sure it is really doing anything. Or at least that is how I feel sometimes. Recently I have found myself in relationships with several people who are making choices that aren't giving them life's best. (Note: I am the same way. It is just easier to see it in others, oops.)

I found myself wondering if I was saying enough, encouraging enough, loving enough. Surely there was more I could do to get them to see why God gives us certain instructions. He doesn't just come up with a list of guidelines because he rolled the dice one day up in heaven and poof: The Ten Commandments! He created this earth perfect for us. It is our perfect place for us, his creation. We fit it well. There is a reason we love it. A reason we swell with pure contentment when we see that perfect sunset or climb that high mountain. (Sorry if this is too cliche'.) We are supposed to feel this way. He made it with us in mind. And he created us to be in his image. If we are in his image, when we act outside of his image, it doesn't work out so well for us. There are certain consequences that follow as a natural result.

Anyway, I found myself frustrated that my dear friends weren't living fully into this image of God. Recently I have been given a few close friends who speak boldly into my life and speak truth to me, and one of these friends pointed out that I had in fact done all I needed to do...except one thing: pray. And then it hit me, prayer was my act of being in God's image. It was my tangible way of saying that I did believe that God works, that I was submitting myself to God and handing my worries to him. This was, in fact, an act of worship.

So I did it and am doing it. I'm seeing the Holy Spirit work, I'm seeing God-sightings in these situations and it makes my heart praise! It is good to be open to the workings of God. It is a major faith boost, which is really what I needed right now in my life. God is truly good and knows where we are all at intimately. It was good to be reminded of this. It was good to be reminded that God is all-powerful and all-loving.

I've been feeling guilty for not being in a structure Bible Study, guilt I carry with me from my evangelical upbringing, but this recent God-sighting helped me realize that this life-lesson was probably taught to me in some study somewhere along the way, but I didn't really learn it, know it. The best Bible study God could give me is just being in loving relationship with others. For this I am humbled.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Author Bug

I'm not sure when I decided that I wanted to be a writer. I do remember lugging out the heavy typewriter in the third grade and attempting to start and complete my first novel right then and there on the circular, 70's, rag rug in our living room.

I think it had to do with audience. I've always loved the power of captivating an audience either with humor or with good thought. Story is a celebrated power in my family, starting with my Grandpa....another reason I wanted to write?

My son, who is in the 1st grade, found one of my writings from when I was in the 1st grade. He found this very amusing.

Here is what he read: (I am typing it just as I wrote it, so there will be mistakes for you to discover.)

My family, written by Rebekah.

My job at home is to get the eggs. (There was a drawing of a large red chicken shed and the attic was full of eggs.)
Something my family likes to do is work and play. My mom work inside and washe the dishe. My sister plays my dad and me work too.
My house is white and green. My house is nice and warm. My family has a dog and cats too.

My son had some criticism, "Mom, you should have drawn your pictures on the same pages as the words so I didn't have to flip over to see them." Good point B, thanks for that editing advise 30 plus years later.

Things I noticed: I liked my family and my house. My sister, in all the drawings had really long, red hair. My dad worked. He still does. This is an accurate observation. While some men have hobbies that take them away from their homes, my dad's hobby has been working around the house and property. My favorite part is that I thought my house was warm. Must have been warm with love because our house was freezing back then. We heated with only wood and if my dad was not home to get he fire started my mom never even tried and so we just froze until he came home.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random Thoughts

I've been having them, thoughts. I just haven't been finding the time to write or process about them. I was sharing this with my friend Jen who also blogs and we both admitted that we are doing good if we both get one blog a week off these days. We are both transitioning out of the preschool years and have kids in both elementary and preschool. We talked about how no-nap-time has changed our writing now I really don't have one.

If I write it means that my kids are zoning to the TV. I'm not one of those writers who gets up early to work my craft, nor stays up late. Then there is the little problem of sharing one working computer. This is not a hardship. I'm very aware of the fact that owning a computer is a luxury. But everyone wants to use it: me, my husband, the boys....I almost need to have my own secret laptop that I keep hidden and then can pull out and type away on when all family members are good and occupied by some creative endeavor.

Here are my thoughts recently:

1. I really don't love that my 1st grader gets technology a few times a week. My son is very computer savvy and doesn't need more screen time at school. However, I realize other kids do not have computers. Still, I wish he was playing at recess or working on some spacial, hands-on activity instead.

2. Two years in a row, I feel like my oldest has gotten an excellent teacher. He's learning a ton. And guess what we are discovering about him: he's a hard worker and very self-driven. My husband was very relieved by this recent announcement of mine. Sometimes I find myself encouraging B to relax and take a break. Last night he wanted to practice his flashcards, all on his own. And he also never wants to take a night off from reading to me. I do love it, but the other night he was sick and coughing and I thought, "Maybe this night we could just skip it." (My good friend Jessica pointed out that I am a very driven person...true.)

3. I am getting tired of reading about the stock market and economy. One day it is up, one day down. Sometimes in the same newspaper, there will be two columns: one declaring financial doom and next to it another one singing of the excellence of Caterpillar stock. I wish everyone would relax and trust the process. I feel like it is working itself out. (I'm not sure I totally feel this way, but when I read articles like this I do.)

4. My pastor asked me to contribute to a church blog. I was very honored that he thinks I have something worthy to share. Now I'm stressing because I can't think of anything great to say. This helped me realize that I haven't journaled to/with God in a long time. Which reminded me to not "neglect my first love." I've been writing my prayers to God since I was a preteen. Some people feel close to God through activity, through nature, through worship, through prayer....God and I have always written together. I need to get back to that.

So, there are just a few of my random thoughts. Others include: newspapers, the China bubble, Christmas shopping, good friends, fall weather.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Updates and Contests

Just thought I'd point out that I have a new blog family photo and that I went for the collage approach since that is what most readers wanted. Some of you responded on here and others let me know via FB.

Also, there is another contest going on at the Just Moms Facebook page. Basically, get a new friend to "like" our book and introduce us to them on our wall, and you and your friend will be entered into a drawing to win a free copy. The deadline is Oct. 31st.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Homemade Life: A Discovered Passion

I have never used the word passion and cooking to describe my feelings toward my time spent in the kitchen, although I do plenty of it. I cook three meals a day, and we rarely eat out. I actually cook a hot breakfast each morning for my children, and dinner time with family is given a high priority in our home. I see great value in good food and in spending time with my family enjoying that good food. (Restaurants are great, but not very relaxing...a bit noisy, way overpriced, and my husband and I never get to linger and visit at the table while the boys run off to play once their plates are clean.) I'm not a professional foodie, not hippie enough, but I do appreciate the food movement.

However, I would rather work outside or on a writing project and have a hired cook than spend as much time as I do working in my kitchen.

My book group picked to read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. They promised me I'd like it. That it would inspire me to cook. OK. I wasn't buying it. But get this...I really did like the book. I love Molly's writing style. She is an expert blogger and her chapter essays ooze with excellent writer's voice and a relational style that creates an intimacy with her readers/following. She has a blog called the Orangette. I loved reading about her intimate relationships that all involved food. And, I loved many of her recipes in the book. I tired several.

Each chapter is a story in itself with a recipe at the end that ties it all together. For example, the chapter that deals with her father's losing fight with cancer and their shared moments of clarity over an egg dish then includes the recipe for "Eggs Grotto" at the end.

I'm planning on buying this book for myself, read the library copy, and keeping it in my kitchen cupboard. The bummer is that I wish there was a recipe book version only so that the pages of her brilliant wit wouldn't become stained with various food matter as I whip and serve these recipes, but Molly would probably like that. She'd think it was fitting.

And I learned something about myself from this read, bonus! I like cooking....when I don't have to follow a recipe. I like cooking savory items because of this. I am quite pleased with myself when I can make a yummy soup by putting things out of my pantry and making it work. I feel more free, more romantic, and more bohemian when I'm cooking without the constrains of rules and measurements. Now I just need to take some professional cooking classes so I can do this with more successes than failures, or my family might not find our time around the table so enjoyable.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Needing New Family Photo: Vote!

I was told that my kids look nothing like the main photo on this blog, and that should be correct since it was almost a year ago that we had the picture above taken.

So, here is the soon-to-be-new-blog-photo. I thought I'd let the old one stay so you can compare and contrast, but starting more old photo to view.

But perhaps the second shot is more get to vote!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Am A Soccer Coach, Yep You Read that Right

I have a new passion. It isn’t Kit-Kat bars, chia tea, shopping at Costco, or even Zumba…like some of my past passions. It is quite ironic really. This soccer wife has turned soccer coach. Yep, you read that right. I am my son’s 1st and 2nd grade soccer coach.

When I first announced to B that I would be “wearing a whistle” he gave me a puzzled and skeptical look, “Don’t worry. I’ll get all my ideas from Daddy.” There was a marked, physical reaction of relief.

I was nervous, but after our first practice I actually felt a bit in my element: telling young children what to do and making sure they had smiles on their faces the entire time. I have six kids on my team and we play with a max of four players on the field, so it is right at my soccer level, but I am finding that after being the “coach’s wife” for over a decade, I have actually caught on to a few very basic rules, plays, and overall general coaching philosophy. I guess all my husband’s post-game talks late at night have paid off.

I find myself using phrases I have heard Hans say like, “Keep square to the ball. Play to feet. Don’t hold on to the ball, pass it. Keep shape. Remember, we play our style.”

In our second match the opposing team’s coach, another mom, looked very nervous, admitting that she’d never coached before.

“Oh, me too. Don’t worry.” But I think she probably hates me now and decided I was playing a sick, cruel joke because compared to her team my group played some beautiful soccer. (This is when I should probably mention that five of the six players have been to one of my husband’s soccer camps…several times.) We were passing. We were fluid. Kids were holding their positions. Our defenders were reading the game well and going out and winning balls only to set up the plays again in our favor. I mean, I was ecstatic. I’m sure in a few years B is going to find me totally embarrassing, but for now he’s so excited to be playing on a real team that he doesn’t seem to notice the loud, vocal coach, who happens to be his mom, shouting at everyone.

I find myself running up and down the sidelines, hollering at the kids to pass to open players, reminding them to “shake hands with the line”, and guiding them toward sweet victory. (This is also when I should probably tell you that a good coach never does this type of “coaching” during a game. My husband chastised me after our second match.) But we were all feeling quite good about ourselves. We aren’t supposed to keep score, but I secretly love that the kids do. I mean, what’s wrong with a little competition? Shouldn’t kids learn to win and to loose, not just get participation points leaving everyone feeling “good” about having fun with a ball? (I might not feel this way if we are ever the recipients of a blowout.)

By the end of each match, I’m exhausted. My adrenaline has pumped a bit too much, and I’m in need of a cool down. I’m so happy though, so proud of my team. At our second game, everyone got at least one shot on goal and most got it through the middle of the two, red flags! Nothing feels better than seeing a seven-year-old score! And nothing feels better to a coach than seeing these kids beam with soccer love.

And then it dawned on me, the true reason my husband loves coaching soccer. Yeah, we all know he loves the game, but I think what keeps him doing it season after season is that there is something rewarding about working with youth, seeing them succeed, and hearing them express how good they feel about all their hard work and end results. And I think this is the passion that I am currently, truly, addicted too. It’s not really about the game of soccer, it’s about the kids.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Rage Like No Other

I guess I’m still in need of refinement. My youngest tested my ability to keep my cool this morning by throwing a ginormous fit that lasted a full 35 minutes. I felt a bit helpless because he threw this fit while I was driving away from the bank. It was obvious that something had not gone his way, but we were all amiss as to what.
I am continually impressed with this third child and find myself saying, “Well, you’d better go far in life mister,” due to his perseverance and determination, also known as being stubborn and strong-willed.

A's two older brothers were in the van with me watching the rage and trying their best to distract A, cajole A, and threaten A into obedience. I heard B speak calmly, “Use your words A. Tell us what you want.” I smiled at B’s attempt to parent. Wonder where he’s heard that line before? But instead of being rewarded by a calm explanation there was more screaming, more kicking.

C tried another approach, “Stop it A. You are being naughty. Mom, he’s trying to get out of his seat. He’s trying to get out of the van. A, stop, this is not safe!” The yell and scare tactic, another one I often pull out of my parenting tool belt.

I tried also, really, I did. I was becoming a very distracted driver and so my oldest suggested that I pull over immediately before we all ended up in a car accident.

By this point A had freed his upper body from the 5-point-harness and was screaming, “I want out! I want out!” I guess he was taking B’s advice and using his words.

A was trying to unlock the moving van’s door with his left foot, as he successfully lowered the window with his left pinky finger. I did win this small battle by pushing the child-lock-window-button and by keeping the van in motion which has a child-safety-feature: while the van is moving, no side doors can be opened. Go Honda Odyssey engineers.

I pulled over. I’ve been working with this very interesting final installment of Schneiter’s procreation now for exactly 2 and ½ years, and I’ve discovered that the soft approach works best. I got out of the van and opened his door. I stroked his sweet face, only a mother would find this angry face sweet. I said things like, “Honey, you need to stay in your car seat. You need to stay in the van. You need to stop. You need to be safe. What do you want? Use your words. Do you want mommy to buckle you back in or do you want to do it?”

“A do it!” This was followed by even more intense and loud raging, the kind I’ve never seen or heard before. I was afraid the other people in the parking lot were going to report me because surely a child screaming that loudly was being mistreated by their mother, no one would stop to think that it was I that was being mistreated by my son. At this point I wanted to wither up and cry. But then there was a slight pause.

“OK, now, we are leaving and going home, thank you.”

It was merely the eye of the storm. The brief break was just a reprieve before the hurricane’s onslaught. I found myself trying to tune it out, focus on the road. My oldest offered to help me drive by pointing out all the stop signs and merging traffic. We promised and reassured each other that A would give up, eventually. Surely he wouldn’t last the entire trip home. The town we were in was a good 35 minute drive from our house.

C and B plugged their ears with their fingers and took their little minds to another, peaceful place. I was jealous of their Zen skills as little feet and legs wildly kicked the back of my seat. I kept waiting for a police officer to pull me over and ask me if I was a fit parent and a fit driver…if I needed to sign up for some parenting classes, maybe I did. Maybe I should. I have been parenting now for almost seven years, and I was at a loss. None of my usual tactics were working.

A did not stop screaming until we pulled into our driveway and he knew the ride was over. I let him out of his car seat. He crawled onto my lap, a puddle of tears and exhaustion, “Sorry mommy, sorry.” It was nice for him to say sorry, but by this point in time I was the one who wanted to create a scene. My scene would be a pity party. I wanted to melt into the driver’s seat and cry, “Oh A, why? Why were you so angry? Why were you so unreasonable?”

And then I turned a bad mommy moment into a constructive one because two out of the three children had been brilliant, “Boys,” I turned to my older sons, “I am really proud of you for putting up with all that craziness. You were very patient.”

B smiled, “I just tried to relax my body.”

I’ve decided to give myself a golden star in the good mommy column. Wouldn’t you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oh Bank of America, Don't Do It

I'm very upset by Bank of America's plans to start charging a monthly 5 dollar debit-card-use-fee. That equals 60 bucks a year for the right to swipe your card, to spend your own money. The thing is, banks have been pushing for customers to use their debit cards. It helps avoid the whole bounce checked idea.

I am glad I am not a Bank of America customer, and I'm hoping those who are will jump ship. I hope they experience the "Netflix Syndrome" and that their plans to gain revenue backfires....not because I want to see this bank go under, but because I do not want other banks to follow suite, including my own.

Like my husband pointed out, we will just switch all our accounts to our credit union, which we are liking more and more these days. The other night I was looking over our bank accounts and noticed all these monthly fees that we'd never had before. I was quite upset and called the bank immediately. They apologized and removed the monthly fees, but I was told that I would need to go into a local branch and clear up the misunderstanding as my accounts were no longer set up the way they had been initially and the lady on the phone could not guarantee that my bank wouldn't try charging me again in the future. These accounts were savings accounts for my boys! They hardly had enough funds in them to constitute a monthly fee. I'd rather just keep their savings in a sock in a secret floorboard at my house if I'm going to be charged to have their meager pennies held in a big bank's coffers. Have I mentioned that these are savings accounts...the idea is to save money, right? Not watch your bank spend your money for you. I did not enjoy seeing money taken out of my son's accounts. They work hard for their change. It takes a lot of egg collecting to make a small impact toward their savings goals.

Since 1995 debit card usage has slowly gone up and surpassed credit card usage, which I think is good for the American consumer and good for our overall economic health. Studies show that people spend more when they use a credit card, a little less with a debit card, and they are the most fiscally responsible when they pay in cash. (You can learn these fun facts and life-changing ways if you take a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class.)

The article I read in the newspaper this mornings predicted that credit card usage would again gain popularity if banks began charging for debit card use.

I know that we will switch banks and return to the golden-olden days of checks and real, cash, money.

If you bank at Bank of America, I'd encourage you to leave! Send them a message. And if you don't, let your current bank know you'll be going somewhere else if they try and copy this latest move in bad business.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Andy, I'll Miss You

Andy Rooney is a comfort food for me. He represents family, open-face-grilled-cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, cozy time on the couch with a blanket...he was that space right before the whirlwind of the week began again. He was our last moments of Sunday Sabbath.

At 92, he is going to retire. I guess we should let him. How cool is that? My grandma, a contemporary of 97, is also still alive, but in no way capable of being on 60 Minutes. I want to be able to be 90-something and still be "at it." Whatever "it" is.

I grew up watching the Muppets, 60 Minutes, and Mash with my family. 60 Minutes really gave me my first look into the world and built a foundation for my worldview, and Mr. Rooney was a part of that.

I guess I'm a bit sentimental about his last show. Will you be watching?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Butter Woes-Friday Photo

I do enjoy butter, but I have never enjoyed my butter dish. Why do butter dishes get so nasty?

Any tips?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Creative Gift-God-Sighting 5,763

My son C is a God-sighting. Only God would be able to create such a unique, passionate, emotive, clever, empathetic, observing, and funny little five-year-old boy who is the perfect fit for his family. Yep, God-sighting 5,763.

He was supposed to be born on my b.d., but beat me by two days. He's my favorite birth because he came all on his own, labor started in the early morning hours, and when I got to the hospital he made his grand entrance like four hours later in one very easy push.

Of course, he came out crying and only stopped when he was in my arms. He taught me that babies do come out with personalities and no amount of "Baby-wise" is going to alter that. I didn't sleep for a full year without interruption from his hungry lips and need to snuggle.

When he was two we thought he was stubborn, but soon learned he was extremely sensitive and passionate. Once he was able to communicate, the stubborn disappeared.

He wows me everyday with his ideas and thoughts.

1. "When we go to heaven, I'm going to get new skin and it is going to be brown."
2. "My mind controls me. I have these thoughts and then I do them."
3. "I'm like an exploding volcano. I just can't stop the anger from coming out."
4. "Lucy was prettier than a pink dress with feathers."
5. "Mom, I wish we could get married."
6. When we couldn't find our youngest for a moment one day, "No, I liked the number three, I just liked it!"
7. "Which way is east? Which way is south? Oh,, I'm south."

I could keep going. I love that he loves his friends, that he loves being with people and is social. I love that he draws people to him and that when he smiles, the world smiles around him.

Happy Birthday Number 2 boy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Because Who Runs Around Covallis Taking Pictures of Their Pants!

You all must really read my friend Dala's blog. She ran all around Corvallis taking pictures of her jeans in various locations. That alone is a good reason to follow her blog. But there are a few more: she's an amazing graphic design artist, she has two little boys that are only a few months apart, she moved here from South Africa last winter, and she has a killer accent which for some reason I can hear in her writing style.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Where Were You? Where Are You Now? (9/11)

My latest issue of Time came. It was a tribute, a reflection to 9/11. I have to admit I had trouble reading it. I wanted to. I did. I looked at each of the faces in each of the large, black and white photos. I remembered many of those faces, those stories from 9/11. But the larger essays, I just couldn't. I think I've tried to pretend that this attack that took place across the country from me 10-years-ago was something that didn't really affect me. But it really did. Yes, no one I knew and loved died in the either of the Towers or in that field in Pennsylvania nor where they near the Pentagon, but it was my country and reading through Time made me realize how much I really didn't like seeing and knowing this happened to my people. Or to any people. Although I seem to be able to stomach atrocities that happen in other countries easier.

I'm pretty open with my boys about tragedy. We read the morning newspaper together and talk about the pictures and the articles, but I found myself hiding this issue of Time from them. I just didn't want them to feel scared or vulnerable.

My cousin Paula visited us this summer. I hadn't seen her since my wedding in 1999. Since then a lot has happened, and one of those happenings was her experience of being a survivor of 9/11. She was in the basement when the first plane hit. She heard the sound. She saw the second plane hit. She was there. All those clips I saw on the news, she was experiencing first hand. Her apartment was so close to the Towers that she and her husband could not go home. Paula recounted her story for me this summer as we sat in my kids' playroom, ironic location. We sat, her on the couch, me on the chair. I listened. I knew this was her experience, but I had never heard it from her mouth. And actually she is the first person that I've known, met, or talked to in person who was there...the first person in 10 years.

Maybe that is why I'm more sensitive? It opened it all back up again? Or is it just knowing that it has been 10 years. It should not have been that long, right? And at the same time, since it has been that long, why is it a topic I avoid?

I feel like I would be offended if a movie was ever made of the attack. I don't think I would go see it. Is that how Holocaust survivors feel about WWII movies? Is that how the veterans of Pearl Harbor felt when Hollywood made that catastrophe into a romance flick?

Memorials don't create this aversion in me. When my family went to D.C. (1989)and stood silently before the Vietnam Memorial, I know my father was not offended. I saw with my eyes how it moved him.

When I went to Dachau it seemed reflective, respectful, and honoring. Not an easy experience, but one that I'm grateful I have had.

Someday I will take my sons to Ground Zero. I will proudly tell of the heroes and of the brotherhood that was exhibited through this national tragedy.

But for now, I'm just not ready.

9/11 is on a Sunday this year, and I would be very offended if I were to go to church this Sunday and nothing was said, no mention was given, no prayers spoken. I do expect something.

So, where were you? I was 23-years-old, shy of 24 by one week. I was starting my third year of teaching at a middle school. I was driving to work, listening to Z100 when the very obnoxious DJ said something horrifying. I thought it was a crude joke, but the more he talked the more I realized this was for real. I sat in my car in the school parking lot, stunned. I looked around me and all the teachers were just sitting, listening to their radios. We made eye contact and got out of our vehicles, lunch bags in hand. We checked to make sure we were all hearing the same thing.

We walked numbly to our classrooms and each of us turned on the televisions that our school had installed for Ch. 1 News. There it was. The visual of what was happening, playing out before us in real time. I remember the horror as the news reporter shouted that the second tower had been hit. We had students on buses coming to school, unaware. They would be in our rooms in less than a 1/2 hour. What were we supposed to do? Send them home? Watch the news all day? Teach? Our principal called an emergency staff meeting and made the decision that we would address the topic, that during 1st period students could watch the news if teachers chose, but that we would press on and teach as if this was any normal day.

I can't believe that is what we did. I still remember a student named Alex very frustrated that I would not let his class watch the news, but instead made the students review their literary elements. I think this was a coping mechanism. Sometimes I think it was wrong that we acted like everything was normal, but then I try and imagine what a day with 7th graders would have been like watching the news for seven periods straight. That seems like that would have been wrong too.

I remember thinking I couldn't wait to get home and get to my husband, process it all.

After so many days of this, it was all too much, and we all chose to stop watching the replay events. We pushed the normal button and trudged on. Of course, 9/11 never ceased to be the underlining theme of that year (and decade to follow), all the events in the world could be traced back to that moment. Even though we pushed the normal button, normal had changed. Our worldview had been altered.

Where am I now? Then I was 23, no kids, living in community with other young adults, going and doing whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and working full-time.

Now, I no longer live in the metro-area. I have returned to the farm I grew up on. I have three young boys. I am the CEO of my home. I've written a book. I have deep, meaningful relationships, I love my church community of others who are seeking God's truth in their lives, and I have a list of goals and dreams for my life that I see the foundations of being built. Also, I see a world that is hugely connected to one another, a world where if one thing happens in one country it always affects another and another and another. Decision and action should always be considered in length.

So, where were you and where are you now?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Smell of Onions

I was finding myself gagging each time I had to walk by the onion patch, and so I decided to harvest them. And I timed it well with all this hot weather we are having.

There are currently 87 onions sunning themselves in this excellent Indian Summer weather we are having. (Is it Indian Summer yet?)

We go through so many onions in the winter, my mom and I share. I think I need to double the planting next spring.

Anyone have any onion tips?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm Just Not Done With Summer

Yes, I know, countless moms across the blogging world are posting shots of their little ones going off to school, but not me! I'm just not done with summer. Our summer was so late in coming. We went camping in the middle of July and got rained on, for example. And now the boys are back to school and we are supposed to have a week of 90 degree heat! I just didn't get in enough river swims. So, the picture of B's first day of school will be coming.

But, for now, I am posting pictures that show I'm in school denial:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Multi-task Warnings

Sometimes trying to do too much all at once only creates more work. Here are my morning happenings:

-Snuggled with C this morning, A tried to make coffee....on the kitchen floor

-Made a double batch of zucchini bread and talked to my sister on the phone at the same time: this means my kids watched too much PBS Kids

-Moved sprinklers around my yard: my youngest took this time to decorate the backdoor with my lipstick

-Cut and tied ribbon to my grape arbor, pretty sure the birds were mocking me: youngest poured coffee and milk into the waiting zucchini bread batter, 3 loaves were baked...the 4th had to be thrown out. Although I did consider baking it and seeing if I had created a new type of coffee flavored zucchini bread

-Writing this blog entry means my boys are upstairs jumping on their beds and making even more of a mess in a room that is a Lego war zone

Monday, August 29, 2011

Giving, Sharing, Abundance

I strive to teach my children to give to others out of abundance and out of need. If we model giving when we have more than enough, then enough will never be enough.

I guess I should maybe be more vocal about this with my kids. I think maybe they only see me giving out of abundance, but maybe not. Currently, I have an abundance of garden food, and I am enjoying sharing it with others.

This morning I read an incredible story about the Fresno school chief giving up 800,000 in pay. The line that struck me the most was, "How much do we need to keep accumulating? There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money."

I posed the question on the Just Moms' FB page, "How are you modeling giving and sharing to your kids?"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eggs Without A Rooster?

I often get asked how we get eggs from our chickens without a rooster. Once a friend told me that she went to a comedy club and one of the comedian's routines was all based around the awe that eggs come and there is no rooster. The place was laughing, but probably wouldn't have if there had been any chicken knowledge in the room.

It is simple ladies. Let me state it like this: don't you get your monthly egg with or without your rooster? And what happens when your rooster gets involved....that is right, a possible little chick. But, the egg comes faithfully with or without your man.

Well, that is how it works with your hens, only their egg comes faithfully everyday. And I personally would rather have the eggs without the roosters and the possible fertilization.

So, whenever we get a new batch of chicks and a rooster emerges, whack! Dinner. The last time our youngest kept sounding off, "Cock-a-doodle-doo," the whole dinner. It wasn't quite as tasty knowing that we were all eating an "almost pet."

Our Rhode Island Reds started laying about a month ago, and just like you when you were a young girl, their eggs are small to start with. I thought you'd enjoy the pictures....and hopefully the compare and contrast between the hens and any of you ladies out there.

Friday, August 19, 2011

School Shopping for a 1st Grader

Last year I was appalled when I read that the average mom spends 600 per child in school shopping. We didn't come close, but we did have a very short school supply list and we get a lot of hand-me-down clothing.

This year I braced myself for a bigger list. It was bigger, but in total I think I spent about 25 dollars on supplies, gotta love those Staples sales.

I also added my middle son to the clothing mix this year, and between the two boys (including supplies) we spent 125 dollars. I think we are well below the average.

But I am noticing something: compared to most of the other kids my sons play with my kids have way less. Less toys, less electronics, less snacks, less outdoor contraptions...less, less, less. I worry a bit that they are going to prefer their friends' houses to their own, and yet I am actually being very intentional in my less-is-more approach to parenting.

I'd love to hear your thoughts over at the Just Mom Facebook page. I posed a question over there regarding school shopping and how to combat all this keeping up with the dream of more, more, more.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Coach's Wife

The coach’s wife, you’ve met her before. She’s the one in those feel-good-sports movies that appears exactly three times. Once in the opening scene, she’s up in the bleachers rooting the team on, and you realize she’s the wife after her husband’s team has lost, disappointingly, and the camera goes from her look of sadness to her husband’s slumped shoulders. The second scene she gets to star in is short, and the only time the writers give her any lines. The coach needs a little pick-me-up, and so the coach’s wife is there to let him know how much she believes in him and his team. The last scene she’s in is at the very end of the movie. Once again she is up in the stands, but this time she is jumping up and down and smiling because her husband has brought the under-dog-team to victory, and of course, they’ve won a championship. If she’s lucky the coach, her husband, looks up into the bleachers and smiles.

I’m the coach’s wife. I’ve been a coach’s wife for eleven of the twelve years of our marriage. And I keep wondering why there aren’t any blockbuster films where the wife is the star and the husband is in the sidelines.

I mean, I am a fairly intriguing and occasionally exciting personality. I’m the constant. I’m always there. I’m there in the preseason, the regular season, and the off-season. I hear all the team drama. I know all the squad secrets. I know what the coach really thinks of all his players: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I know what the coach is like after a win, a victory, a defeat, and an utter failure.
I’m that lady with the three little boys who is often not watching any of the games, but is instead trying to entertain the children: snacks, toys, bathroom runs, concession stand visits, and games of tag and wrestling in the grass. I often wonder if any of his players think, “Wow, what an amazing mom. Look at her wrestling with her three boys. I wish my mom was that developmentally appropriate.”

And I have my dramatic moments too. I have those scenes where the coach talks me out of quitting, convinces me that this is all worth it. That these late nights and no-weekends-with-daddy will all pay off. It’ll all be worth it for that one season when they win the championship. I too dream of glory. I hear the soundtrack running through my mind as I live the sport’s dream.

Fall is but weeks away, and so my friends have started to ask, “So, is Hans busy? Has soccer started?”

I want to yell, “When did it ever end! Do you realize there is no off-season anymore? It is a year-round obsession and commitment.”

But I don’t, “Yeah, daily-doubles start next week. Soccer widowhood here I come.”
They smile and nod and that is the end of it.

And then it hits me, the reason that there is no movie titled The Coach’s Wife is because then the wife would appear to be the true hero, and that would ruin all the other great sports films of history past. And we certainly wouldn’t want to have the mirage come crashing down, now would we.

(I read this out loud to my husband, laughing the whole time. His response, “Wow, a little bitter?” I told him it was necessary therapy, and not to worry. I’d be on the sidelines cheering them on, even during the wet games of November.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Guess What Was Found

Apparently Hans' aunt has sticky fingers. She came to visit us up at the cabin and saw our camera on the table, thought it was her daughters, and took it home with her. So I wasn't going crazy when I was totally befuddled with my inability to find it.

I was so elated to receive this returned treasure in the mail today. Here are some of the pictures from our vacation, before the camera went missing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Missing Link

I’m trying to convince myself that it will be all right: we are still having fun, still having a good time, still creating memories. But, in the pit of my stomach is the knowledge that something dreadful has happened on our vacation: we have lost our camera. This grand disappointment occurred the second day of our family getaway. I can still visualize the few shots I got on that first day, which only makes me feel worse since I will never see them again.

There was one picture taken on a hike with Daddy leading the way followed by three perfect stair-step boys. Then there is another picture I took on day one where two of the boys are wearing their 4 wheeler helmets, the youngest has the cutest gleam in his left eye as he looks up at his older brother in complete adoration and excitement.

We took the camera with us on a 4 wheeler ride, my regrettable idea. My husband dropped it once, but came back and retrieved it. From that point on neither of us can remember anything else about our camera. We don’t remember having it when we got off the ATV’s, we don’t remember putting it on any of the cabin’s counters, and we don’t remember thinking we didn’t have it either. A mystery. It wasn’t until later that evening when the boys were sitting on the dock down at the lake with their bare toes skimming the top of the water that I thought, “Oh the perfect shot. I must get my camera.” At that moment I realized I had no idea where the camera was located.

With Biblical zeal I looked for my lost coin, I scoured every corner, swept every cupboard, looked in every logical and illogical location at least five times, but unlike the spiritual parable, there has been no rejoicing over the once lost camera now found, instead utter befuddlement.

That first night after I realized my camera was gone all I dreamed about were possible locations my beloved Kodak might be resting, waiting for me to find him. I could hear my beloved memory maker calling for me to rescue him. I was sure he had flown off the back of my husband’s 4 wheeler as we raced over mountain trails. So, I made my husband retrace our adventure, nothing. I kept hoping a lone hiker would knock on our door and hand us our lost friend. Sadly, my fantasy was not becoming a reality.

I try consoling myself that when we pack up the cabin at the end of our retreat, I’ll find that black case and red camera just sitting down in our luggage waiting to be found.

We’ve moved on. I have tried to release my loss. I want to enjoy my vacation, but this disappearance has made me realize something about how I live and vacation: a big part of creating memories for me is capturing them on film. I am the documenter of small and large events in my children’s lives, and it makes me sick to think that this family vacation will have no digital memories, just the ones we c an hope to remember in our minds.

I remind myself that many of my best childhood memories do not involve photos in an album. They are mine and mine alone. I am the sole keeper of these treasures. Surely my sons will capture these family adventures we make this week…forever. I’m taking special attention of photo-worthy-moments and trying to etch them into my mind. I value memory; I’ve always had an exceptionally good one.

However, I’m noticing something: the longer I live, the more memories I have, the more I am forgetting the most recent ones. Those old ones, those early ones, I never seem to forget. And that is why I’m still sad about not getting to preserve this family vacation with my trusty ally, my camera.

Instead of being in charge of my memory and what gets filed away forever, I am leaving it up to chance and my mind to sort out the important memories versus the forgettable.
I truly hope my mind sifts these picture perfect moments to the top of my brain, and that these short years when my boys all love and adore me are never forgotten in this cabin by the lake.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Photo

I love it when my kids play in unique, imaginative ways. It reminds me of my childhood.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poop: Not Again

I stomped into the TV room and glared at my husband, "There's poop all over A's bedroom." He grumbled, got out of his chair, and came to help me. We've been through this before, with our first son. We were lucky enough to skip it with number two. At roughly the same age, 2 1/2, our oldest and youngest decided that they no longer liked the feel of poop or pee in their diapers, but instead of seeking us for help, they tried to solve the problem themselves.

This means that last night when A pooped in his diaper, he attempted to changed and clean himself with wipes that were in his bedroom. He also attempted to get himself in a set of new pajamas. (The top ended up twisted around his chest, the arm holes not utilized.) I'm sure you can picture how this went. I'm very irritated because the house we were in with B had hardwood and our current house has carpet.....white carpet that my mom picked out when she no longer had children. I hate this carpet so much and poop stains don't help my loathing. I have big plans to rip the carpet out and put in something one can actually keep clean. Although carpet keeps your feet warm, it is a dirt trap! I'd rather just invest in some nice slippers.

So, in salute of my latest parenting adventure, I decided to post an old column I wrote about Potty Training. Enjoy.

To potty train or not to potty train, not only the ultimate dilemma, but the ultimate parenting adventure. An adventure to me includes new horizons and exploration, forging the unknown with great expectation, and all of these certainly reflect my mental state during the era of potty preparedness/awareness, as we have not dubbed it.

I remember feeling panic rise up in me as my son became acutely aware of his inner workings. Should I gently guide his developmental milestones, vigorously demand skills, or act like nothing is really happening and proceed with the status quo, diapers.

This was like nothing I had encountered in the first two years of my oldest son’s life. Rolling over, jabbering, sitting up, crawling, walking, and scoring soccer goals in our backyard had just happened! It was beautiful. His little self just figured it out, but somehow I knew this would not be the case with potty awareness. Sure, he was letting me know he got the concept of wet and poopy, he’s remove his diapers himself the second either one of these occurred and stash them random corners of his bedroom.

He’s ready. This was the mantra other, experienced mother’s explained. But, isn’t 2 and then a few a bit young for a boy? Right? I was explaining this baffling juxtaposition to a fellow mommy in the local library. Her eyes got big as she noticed the title to a DVD on the shelf, “Here, have him watch this!” She triumphantly handed me a DVD titled Potty Power.

Awesome, a video! I just plop him down in front of the television, place him on the potty, and in no time he’ll be a big boy with his big boy potty. We raced home; I was getting the adrenaline rush, a true symptom of an exciting adventure. We got ourselves comfortable in front of the T.V. and I pushed play. Surely this informative movie would help my son get to the porcelain throne, mesmerizing him into big boy pants. The results: a toddler running naked through the house shouting, “Potty Power” as he sings the lines, “no more diapers for me, no more diapers for me.” The propensity for diaper freedom was only exasperated by his newest DVD loyalty. Major mommy mistake.

I guess new adventures in life lead to making a few mistakes; they are par for the course. However, I think I like the mistakes I make on fun, exotic vacations. You know the kind, where you sign up for a snorkeling tour that should only take the morning, but the tour you’re on takes the whole day, which turns out to be amazing as you end up swimming with dolphins. Yeah, that is the kind of adventure I find myself yearning for during these days of the toddler doldrums.

But instead I had ventured out in uncharted waters with my oldest being the guinea pig. I now know to skip the Potty Power video with any subsequent children.

This was actually just the first of three attempts to toilet train my son. I really shouldn’t have given into the peer pressure to potty train. The diaper flinging was just a phase and was not a true indicator of potty preparedness. It was more of a two-year-old reaction to new-baby-brother.

During the craziness of the power struggle that soon ensued between mother and son, I kept having to remind myself that this all-encompassing activity, potty training, would soon pass, and my child wouldn’t be a young man (someday) and still in diapers. I had to calm myself down, quit comparing my child to other boys who seemed to respond well to parental potty instruction, and just wait.

That is why I did. I waited. I told myself, Christmas. I would wait until he was a few months shy of his 3rd birthday and try again. So I did. And it worked! It didn’t seem nearly as complicated by round three. I sort of knew what to expect and how to react. What rewards would work and which ones wouldn’t. I wasn’t a novice anymore. After all I had attempted this before. By Christmas it was slightly familiar, like a family cabin one returns to for comfort and retreat.

Before the New Year he was wearing big boy underwear and telling us when he had to go, no longer us telling him. It was a beautiful thing. I was relieved. My son would not go to kindergarten in pull ups. Most of all, I was OK. I survived.

Now I’m not quite as scared about training the next one, however as any mother knows, not one child is like other, so I know all my tricks, bells, and whistled won’t necessarily work with number two, and that is why I still claim that potty training is my least favorite developmental marker. Even when I try and remind myself that being a mom is one huge adventure, and potty training just a bigger bump in the road, I guess I’d really just rather swim with the dolphins to get my thrills.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Win A Copy of Just Moms

We are giving you the chance to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Just Moms. Simply follow this link to our Facebook page and post a picture of your kids enjoying the simple pleasures of summer.

Become a fan of our FB page and you'll be updated on book happenings, pictures, discussion questions, and more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Camping Part 3: The Camp Fire

I always look particularly great after a few days without a shower or a mirror.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Camping Part 2: Spirits Lifted

By noon on Saturday the rains had stopped, well, at least subsided. We went to the lake, went on walks, played on bikes, and the adults got some chatting in between chasing children episodes. The trip got much better. Seriously, if it hadn't stopped raining I would have been tempted to pack it up.