Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Mommy, Me Put Cup Up My Nose"

(I stepped away from my computer for a few minutes, and when I came back, this post automatically posted itself. If you received a draft version, here is the full thing).

Last week Thursday afternoon, I was upstairs laying down for a few minutes, and my boys were supposed to be having a quiet time looking at books but were watching Tom & Jerry cartoons instead. My two-year old came upstairs and said, "Mommy, me put cup up my nose." I looked and didn't see anything, but when I went downstairs, I saw that he had shredded a 4-ounce Dixie cup (the kind with the wax coating) on the couch. I figured that he had tried to put a piece in his nose but didn't actually do it, since I couldn't see anything.

That night, though, while he was sleeping, his right nostril was really stuffed up. I knew something was definitely up there then. Plus, the side of his nose started to look a little swollen. In the morning, I tried to use the nasal aspirator several times until he became uncooperative. That's where my husband took over. He was able to remove a small piece of Dixie cup paper. Then we thought we'd take a break and see if that fixed it, or if there was still more.

I called the doctor's office to find out what we should do. But, of course, with it being a holiday weekend, they were not there. Through the day, as he would cooperate, I used the nasal aspirator on him to see if we could work anything else down. We prayed a lot, too, for God's help and mercy.

Before I finish the story, aren't our noses fearfully and wonderfully made, as Psalm 139 declares about our bodies? The way our bodies recognize and attack something foreign is further evidence to me that we are not here by accident, but by the design of an extremely intelligent (and loving) Creator. My son's nose was producing everything it could to naturally rid itself of the Dixie cup. It started to emit a foul odor as well, as his body was working to decompose whatever it was that was in there. All this caused me to marvel at how God made our noses.

So while our noses are wonderfully made, they aren't made to hold pieces of Dixie cups. By day's end, we knew we had to give it one more shot, or else we had to take him to the hospital. My husband had to hold our little guy very firmly, and armed with a small flashlight, the nasal aspirator, and a pair of tweezers, he was able to remove another small piece of the cup. None of this was pleasant, or easy, since our son was crying so hard and saying, "Daddy, my nose hurts. My nose hurts!" as well as, "Mommy, I'm scared."

My husband knew that the little piece couldn't possibly have been big enough to be causing the problem (and the stench), so several more nasal aspirations later, he saw something large blocking the nasal cavity on the right side. It was too high up to safely pull it out with tweezers, so he worked with the nasal aspirator some more. Amazingly, the piece came down close enough where he could remove it.

Our son had managed to tear about a one-to-one-and-a-half inch piece off the top of the Dixie cup, wad it in thirds (or thereabouts), and stuff it up his nose. The piece easily fit on my ring finger nail. No wonder it hurt so much coming back down. I don't know how he got it up there in the first place.

It's out now. His nose is clear. I'm so thankful that we were able to remove it on our own without a costly medical bill. Definitely a "mom's-(and dad's)-in-need-of-mercy" moment." Hopefully it will never happen again--not with a Dixie cup, or anything else for that matter!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coffee Talk: Say What?

As women, we receive numerous comments and questions (usually from other women) on any number of things. Some are direct, and some are not so direct. But of course, as women, we're usually great at reading between the lines.

One of the questions that I've been getting so much lately, now that I'm expecting our fourth in six years, is, "So, is this the last one?"

Other variations include:
"You're done now, right?"
"Are you happy about being pregnant again?" (as if I've been "knocked up"--pardon the phrase--one too many times, not of my own accord)
"Are you planning to have any more?"

Recently, a well-meaning friend asked something like, "Will you keep accepting what the Lord is providing?" I honestly didn't know what she meant, but then I guessed it had something to do with family size. So I asked if she meant if we were going to have more children. Bingo. I told her maybe; we aren't planning on doing anything permanent, if that's what she was wondering.

It is funny to see the general perception regarding family size in our culture today--a perception that is revealed in questions like those above. No one asks a mom expecting her first child if she's planning to have more children. They're just thrilled she's expecting her first. Moms of two field questions like, "Are you going to have more?" I don't remember receiving lots of questions during my third pregnancy; maybe three is the commonly accepted number today. But when you hit four or more, people start to reveal their perceptions about acceptable family size.  Their questions hint at their belief that you really should be wrapping things up.

My other favorite comment is: "You sure have your hands full." I've figured out it's really not a compliment. I've even started telling the boys when we go out (usually to the store) that I better not hear anyone say, "You sure have your hands full." They know what that means. We usually only get comments like that when someone (or two someone's, or three) are being too rowdy. Then the person sees me with a 6-year old, a 4-year old, a 2-year old, and a 7-month pregnant belly and feels compelled to utter, "You sure have your hands full." Hearing that more than once on a shopping outing means the trip really didn't go well and someone (or two someone's, or three) are going to receive some discipline at home. So the boys are learning that they better not behave in a way where Mom gets a comment of "You've got your hands full." I would much rather hear, "Wow, your children are really well behaved."

While we can find these questions and comments mildly irritating or offensive, we should aim to take them in stride, with a little humor. I love what Nancy Wilson writes in The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman about principles and methods. There are different ways--different methods--of applying God's principles. But as women, we can become overzealous that our method is the method every other Christian woman should follow. She writes,
I'm also wondering if it would do us good to not be so verbally expressive with questions and comments...
"Here are a few examples: 'Can you believe how often she has to go feed her baby? My baby was sleeping through the night at six weeks?' 'Your youngest is almost two? You know three children are better than two!' 'Why aren't you homeschooling?' 'Why are you homeschooling?' Women who feel free to express themselves about such things may have no idea of the damage they are doing. Common courtesy prohibits one woman from breezily criticizing another's methods. It also prohibits nosy questions, such as, 'Are you using birth control?'...Courtesy means we listen [as others share their methods] and ask questions (and not loaded questions). We don't interrupt, we don't get impatient and angry. And, if it is a sensitive issue, courtesy demands that we ask no questions and mind our own business!"
As we receive questions, though, we are called Biblically to bear with one another in love (Col. 3:13) and overlook offenses (Proverbs 19:11). Aim to take it all in stride, without letting the questions (or the perceived meaning) and comments destroy unity among believers. As Mrs. Wilson reminds us, grace is needed to accomplish this!

In good humor, I would love to hear the comments or questions you receive that you find the most colorful. And, with what Mrs. Wilson wrote about courtesy, do you think we would be wise to refrain ourselves from asking semi-personal questions--even if we mean no harm and are just curious?

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raising a Genderless Kid...Really?

Today I read an incredibly disturbing story that has me fired up. You may have heard it: the parents (who, by the way, are clearly not genderless) are seeking to raise a genderless child. (Here's the link). They have two other children, who they admit are boys. The strange thing is, their 5-year old son, although he dresses in pink and wears braids, doesn't like to be called a girl and wants his parents to list on his camp application that he's a boy. He wants people to know it, because guess what? It's God-given, but I'll get to that in a minute.

They say they don't want to intervene and make choices for their newborn, choices like gender. Here's what they said in an email to family and friends: "We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...)."

Let's go with that for a moment. "A tribute," in their own words, "to freedom and choice in a place of limitation." Why pick only gender to fail to impose limitations on? How about freedom and choice in other areas where parents normally impose limitations for the child's good, such as:
  • What foods to eat, or not eat? Can he/she eat five chocolate donuts for dinner if that is what the child chooses and feels like?
  • What time to go to bed?
  • What kind of movies to watch? Will the child be allowed to watch x-rated films if he/she would like to?
  • What words to use (and not use)?
  • How to speak to one's parents and elders?
Will the parents fail to teach manners, since its imposing certain rules on a child? Phone ettiquette? Language? Will the parents fail to insist on certain boundaries regarding curfews, computer use, sexual activity, and more? How is it any more imposing to say "No, you cannot have a pink stud in your ear," than to say, "No, you cannot eat a king-sized Snickers for lunch."

Since they homeschool (unschool, they admit, where the child's interests drive learning), it will be up to them to teach their children math. Are they going to "impose" rules like 3+2=5, even if the child feels like it should be seven. What about language? When their kids are learning to write, are the parents going to offer corrections such as, "No, that's not how we write an 'a.' This is what an 'a' looks like." Or will they say, "That looks wonderful! That squiggle is an 'a?' Fabulous. Great job figuring it out on your own." If they parent that way, where the child is free to create his or her own mathematic equations and language, the child will fail to fit into society. The child will never thrive, because how can it? It has failed to have been taught the basics.

Shouldn't gender be just as absolute as math and language?

Sure, I am approaching this argument not from an evolutionary position, but from a strong belief that we were created male and female in the image of God. Our anatomy was decided for us in the womb, and in all but the rarest of medical instances, our gender follows suit. Coaching your child in basic common-sense about being a boy or a girl is no different than teaching a child basic societal expectations, like, "No, you can't go to the store naked", "You can't take that without paying for it", and "No, that is not the way you behave in a public place."

There are rules set for us, for the good of society. Helping a child figure out what it means to be a boy or a girl is no different, and is a necessary part of good parenting. And yes, I believe the source for how we raise our children into strong, virtuous men and strong, virtuous women is the Bible. If that makes me horribly unprogressive, so be it.

The funny thing is, the article states that the parents, "believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age." The children's father said, "What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious."

Ok, so fail to provide any parental guidance on an issue as important as gender, but prove yourself a hypocrite by choosing to make "obnoxious" decisions regarding food, bed-time, underage drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and other things that caring parents set "limitations" on all the time. Or...don't make any of those "obnoxious," "limiting" choices for your child and wait for Child Protective Services to show up.

Children need guidance in all sorts of areas. This couple's children are begging for gender guidance. That's why the boy admits he doesn't want to go to school and that it bothers him to be called a girl. The mom admits: "When I was pregnant, it was really this intense time around Jazz [the 5-year old] having experiences with gender and I was feeling like I needed some good parenting skills to support him through that.” Could it be that he is struggling so because being a boy is his created, God-given instinct? Yet, he doesn't know what it means to be a boy, because his parents refuse to nurture him in that regard. I'd say that would cause some emotional turmoil.

So, as the mom states, "culture...narrowly defines what he should do, wear and look like." Yet, a California-based psychologist who wrote a book called Gender Born, Gender Made ("a guide for parents of nonconforming kids") admits "there is something innate about gender." She is quoted as saying that gender-neutral experiments during the 1970s “only worked up to a certain extent. Some girls never played with the trucks, some boys weren’t interested in ballet ... It was a humbling experiment for us because we learned we don’t have the control that we thought we did.”

If a liberal psychologist admits "there is something innate about gender," then these parents are doing a grave disservice to their children by forcing them to ignore their innate gender. I steer my kids' choices all the time. We all do. It's called parenting. Good parenting demands we teach our children not only about who they are, and how they should behave, but we coach them into who they are meant to be--gender roles and all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Hospitality Helps or Hinders Relationships

During my teen years, after my parents' divorce, we never had anyone over. We met friends, and later, dates, at the door or outside. Because the house had reached such an out-of-control point, we would have been mortified if anyone came in.

When you grow up like this, it takes a long time to break out of a panic-at-having-people-over mindset.

Awhile back, I met a new friend, with whom I thought we could become quite close. Of course, developing a relationship takes time and fellowship. Although I invited her over a few times, many times I would think about it--only to chicken out because I felt like the house wasn't quite "show ready."

I've read that the difference between hospitality and entertaining is that hospitality (which we are commanded Biblically to practice) seeks to let people even if the house isn't perfect and make guests feel welcome and comfortable, whereas entertaining is all about creating the best impression possible. Pride can more easily factor in when we're in an entertaining mindset, and we can more easily refuse to have people over because "it's not quite good enough yet," or we can have people over with the wrong motivation: impressing them, rather than simply enjoying their company.

Now that this friend has moved away, I wonder how our friendship might have grown more if I simply would have invited her over more often. That brings me to the point:

I think hospitality is like a muscle: the less you use it, the weaker it becomes. The thought of having someone over seems like a major undertaking. The more you practice hospitality, the easier (and more comfortable) it is.

Another one of my friends has really served as a great example to me in this regard. She is very relaxed about inviting people over, even though her house may not be perfectly picked up at any given moment. It is the spirit of hospitality, and not the appearance of the house, that matters most. Certainly, to feel at ease with people dropping by on short notice, basic housekeeping routines must not be totally neglected. But, they don't have to be performed perfectly and spotlessly either. Again, it's the spirit and not the appearance that leaves a lasting impression. By practicing hospitality regularly, we build relationships. Failing to practice hospitality hinders the growth of relationships.

Related posts: Having People Over
Loosen Up and Let People In

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Working with What Works

Veteran homeschoolers will probably smile a knowing smile at this one, but in my homeschooling journey I've just figured something out:

Work with what works.

One of my children hates doing workbook pages. Absolutely can't stand them. It's a struggle every day to get him to sit down and do the front and back of his math page (and to a lesser extent, his phonics). The seatwork is preceded by grumbling about how he doesn't like the workbook, and I give him a pep talk to do it anyway with a good spirit. Sure, he needs to learn to do things he doesn't like, and pushing through develops discipline. But, especially at such an early point in his learning, I don't want him to despise math and language arts simply because the workbook pages kill his love for learning.

So let's find a new way.

The workbook pages aren't essential. It's the information contained on the pages that I want him to learn. After doing some reading, I realized there are plenty of other ways to cover the information, and those ways are much more interesting (and fun) for him.

For example, although we've been having lots of rain lately (and snow today!), on a really nice day, the boys were outside writing with sidewalk chalk. I took the math book out and sat down and quizzed my son on his math problems while he was drawing with chalk. He did his number exercises with sidewalk chalk and enjoyed it. He told me with a smile that it made him happy to do math this way. That's what we want. A love for learning.

A few days ago, we covered the money problems not with the workbook, but with real coins at the kitchen table. All of the boys took part and learned something at their various levels. We practiced counting by fives not by the pictures in the book, but with real nickles. My two year old is even learning what is a penny, what is a nickel, and what is a dime.

While one of my boys loves workbook pages, and I literally have to cut him off because he says "No, Mom, I want to do another page," I realize that my other son's particular learning style is better geared to hands-on activities. So we'll work with that as much as possible, rather than force him to struggle through a different system that he doesn't do as well with.

Some of the books that have helped me gain confidence in this regard:
I'd love to hear how you've gained confidence in tailoring your approach to each child's various learning style, and what resources have helped you get there!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Heart of Hoarding

Hope you're all doing well! It's been a busy couple of weeks around here, with company and a birthday. I've had posts I want to blog about, and they'll be coming. For me, blogging is not a business but a fun hobby and a ministry; it takes a back burner to the demands (and time constraints) of real life. That said, I'm happy to have a few minutes to sit down and write a post that's been on my mind for a few weeks!

A house in our town burned down a few weeks ago. Its owner had passed away a couple of months ago, but apparently, the family had not yet gotten around to cleaning the house. Firefighters said they could not enter through the windows, because the house was packed floor to ceiling with stuff. A quote in the newspaper from a family member blamed the man's hoarding on the fact that he was a "Depression era kid" with the mentality of saving everything.

Certainly, I'm sensitive to those raised during the Depression and the mindset it can create. Both sets of my grandparents also grew up during the Depression, and while they lived frugally, the Depression did not cause them to hoard anything and everything usable from floor to ceiling. So I think chalking the condition of this man's house (or his mental health) to being a "Depression era kid" is only telling part of the story.

Thinking about this made me wonder about the heart of hoarding. What is it ultimately that causes us to keep more than we need? Is it a lack of trust in God--a fear that our future needs will not be provided, so we save unreasonably to provide for ourselves at a future time? (I am not equating a certain amount of prudent storage with hoarding and lack of trust in God).  Do we find comfort in our material things? Have our things simply taken control of us, where we feel they have more power over us than we have over them?

I suppose, for people prone to hoarding, the reasons are unique and vary person to person. If we're prone to clinging excessively to stuff, I think it is helpful to check ourselves and really search out the why behind it. Then we can deal with each individual's unique situation (and the reason behind it.) I think the worst response is to blame something else, such as being a "Depression era kid." When the blame is on something external, there are always excuses and behaviors never have to truly be dealt with, because "it's not really one's fault."

My husband had a good point: when intangible stuff seems to control a person ("you can't get rid of me. How dare you?", rather than the person controlling his or her stuff ("I think I'll keep this, because..."; or, "I think I'll toss this because..."), that's the sign there's a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Food for thought...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Coupon Success: Free Pasta at Smith's (Kroger Stores)

I always marvel at the women who are able to reduce their grocery bills down to just about nothing through pairing up coupons and sales. I'm ok at it, but I certainly wouldn't consider myself an expert or an advanced couponer. But today, everything worked out great! And it can for you too.

Smith's (or Kroger stores) is running the mega event, where if you buy a combination of 10 participating products, you get them for .50 cents less than the regular sale price. American Beauty pasta and related brands are on sale for .49 cents if you buy a combination of 10. There are coupons for $1 off 2; you can print coupons for four varieties, and you can print each coupon twice. There is another site where you can print the same coupons again.

So today, I stocked my pantry with pasta for free. Using these coupons with the sale, you could easily end up with more than you need, so you could make a pasta basket for a new mom or someone who's sick or just needing a nice gesture. This Saturday, is the U.S. Postal Service's Stamp Out Hunger food drive, where you can leave non-perishables in a bag with your mail and the postal carriers will deliver the food to local food banks.

Here are the links to print the coupons:

Monday, May 9, 2011

If Momma Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

While I cringe at it grammatically, I'm sure we've all heard the phrase, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy". Perhaps we've all felt justified in dragging down the mood of our homes on our bad days. I know I've certainly felt that way, thinking, "I'm sorry you're probably having a bad day because I'm having a bad day, but sorry, that's just that way it is today."


In  Family Fragrance: Practical intentional ways to fill your home with the aroma of love , the authors state that children (and husbands of course!) have a right to live in and count on an atmosphere in the home that is "fair, consistent, and predictable." They write, "That does not leave out the qualities of mystique that add interest, but it does rule out mood swings that may make children wonder or worry if Dad or Mom is going to be in a bad mood from a tough day at work [or at home]. Family members need to be able to rely on the fragrance in their home to be consistent and predictable" [bold mine].

So how can we turn a bad mood around?

Here's some great advice for "mood replacement therapy" from the book:
"When He sensed the quick downswing of the moods of the disciples after He notified them that He was leaving, Jesus changed the atmosphere with some fragrant words: I want you peaceful, untroubled, and unafraid (John 14:27)."
  • "Be peaceful--by believing He is in control. Jesus did not offer His disciples a worldly absence of conflict. He offered them HIS peace--a peace that has God at its center and His will is in control...
  • Be Untroubled--by dwelling on His peace. We become troubled when we dwell on the unknown and the 'what if's' of every circumstance...A troubled spirit only serves to deepen trouble itself.
  • Be Unafraid--by having a heart of faith. Dwelling on uncertainties and problems leads to eventual acquiescence to fear. Fear rushes to the chair where faith once sat. Fear blocks potential faith and steals our serenity."
Isn't that great? Reading this convicted me that I am not justified in carrying around a bad attitude. For the sake of my family (and certainly my own spirit), I need to snap out of it by putting my relationship with Christ into practice and allowing the Holy Spirit to change my natural response to things. I can pray and focus on Christ's words to essentially be peaceful, untroubled and unafraid. Then, as we better control our moods, we can also model proper attitudes for our children and teach them to become healthy adults by not feeling justified to slip into a sour mood.

Another great quote:
"Creating a soothing fragrance in our homes, we face a multitude of choices that require maturity." So we can choose if we're going to harbor resentment, frustration, irritation, injustice, etc., or if we're going to let it go for the benefit of ourselves and all those around us.

"We who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." (Proverbs 16:32).

For more on this wonderful, practical book, see also: The Fragrance of Beauty in Our Homes

What do you think about bad moods? Do you agree that we should not linger in them for the benefit of all around us? How do you intentionally shed one?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Too Much Stuff

With the prospect of moving potentially on the horizon, I have been taking a much more critical eye toward all the stuff we've managed to accumulate through the years. While most of it is useful, is it necessary? Would I really want to pack it and move it? Or would I prefer to go "alpine-style," as my husband is fond of saying (where you take the least amount necessary so you can trek fast and light through the mountains or wherever). 

Some things are easier to get rid of than others. Parting can be such sweet sorrow. Why does clinging to certain objects strangely comfort us? I really don't know why. We can't take any material thing with us when we die and go to heaven, so why do we have a hard time letting go this side of paradise? It is amazing how an external pressure (such as a possible move) can motivate one internally to do what would otherwise be put off indefinitely. 

As I work to more freely let go of excess "stuff," my practical therapy is I need to donate to charity my ever-growing bag before I get cold feet and start removing things from the bag.

Then I need to start another bag.

For more tips on getting rid of stuff, check out my post: Shed 10 a Day, the Easy Way

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wait on the Red, Go on the Green

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." (Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT).
There are two responses to the passage above: we either take it as a nice little inspirational phrase, or we accept it as truth, believe it fully, and cling to it--especially when it doesn't seem apparent that our steps are being directed by the Lord.

I'm reminded of the girl I took driver's education with when I was fifteen. She was so nervous behind the wheel. She'd stop at a red light, then keep asking the instructor if it was ok to go now (even though the light was still red). He had to tell her, "We stop and wait at the red lights, we go on the green."  

So as I reflect on trusting the Lord to direct our steps, this phrase from the driver's training instructor comes to mind. Wait at the red lights, go on the green. If we don't sense a clear green light, keep waiting for the red to change. Sometimes, though, the light may be yellow. A "proceed with caution," but even then, it is wise to stop if you can.

When studying at a theological seminary in London during my junior year in college, I read a book called Guidance and the Voice of God. One thing I took away from that book was that, many times, we may fret over decisions, such as "Is God's will for me to move to city x or city y?" The authors were saying that in some ways, it doesn't matter, for God's will--they said--is how you live in that city: you will have opportunities to minister, to witness, to help neighbors, to grow spiritually, to be a good spouse, a good parent, in either place. They were trying to encourage readers that you can live out your faith in either geographic location, and that is a bigger concern than your physical address.

Their point was--sometimes, we just need to prayerfully make a decision with the wisdom God gives us. Although from our perspective, it may appear we made the decision, we can trust that in God's sovereign control, it was the right decision from His hand all along. But no matter where we're at on the path, I think we will sense clearly whether we're at a red light, a yellow light, or a green light. Then we can proceed accordingly.