Friday, October 31, 2014

lifestyles of the tired and desperate

A word to the parents-to-be in the family: you're about to get some free advice.

What? You haven't gotten any of that yet? Welllll lucky I came along...

Do what works. And if it stops working, try something else. 

I know. It's a bombshell.

Let's just say, things were getting rough. I could be all kinds of a downer here and make out a laundry list, but suffice it to say that central to the things-aren't-working-
right beat of the Psiaki parade of late was that Susie was NOT going down in her crib. Like, at all. Like, somebody was holding her, and rocking or nursing (you can guess who is who) from her bedtime til our bedtime. (And no, we don't do cry it out, yadayadayada, this post isn't about that).

It was getting hairy, friends. And then Tim remembered a trick from when Linnea was a baby, right around this age, also teething and generally a stinker at bedtime: the changing pad.

Yes, the same pad we change diapers on. The one that is five years old and has been peed on more than a few times. That pad is a miracle worker.

Here's what you do: swaddle baby, put baby on pad, put pad in crib. Baby feels like she's being snuggled in the contoured sides of the pad and stays asleep. Parents have alone time again! I would post a picture, but you don't think I'm dumb enough to attempt flash photography with a sleeping baby, do you?

Second win:

Linnea took afternoon naps in this stroller for a while. Peter took afternoon naps in this stroller for a year. Susie started taking afternoon naps in it this week. I sit on my bum and read a book while ever so gently nudging it back and forth. Oh yes, I think we've turned over a new leaf.

Monday, October 27, 2014

indoor camping

Update: edited for grammar by my lovely husband. Thanks for the dose of humility, honey.

And this is hthe confidence that we have toward him, that iif we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
1 John 5:14-15

We know that he hears us!
This is a post about the small ways God blessed us this weekend when we were without power from Saturday night to Sunday night.

But let's back up a bit...

What a week! It rained buckets almost every day. After some struggles on Monday we declared a Fall Break -- seven weeks of school with no break was starting to take its toll, mostly on Peter, who I need to serve better by creating more playschool activities. We ignored the books and went to parks, painted pumpkins, turned on their favorite show (Canadian series Mighty Machines) in our new "TV room" (aka the guest room with the TV in it), went out for frozen yogurt, painted with watercolors -- in short, we just played and did crafty things. It felt a lot like our pre-school days in a really good way. Yay for breaks!

One thing we were leaving for the weekend was making caramel apples. On Saturday, after some play time outside, walking in the woods, seeing the one pretty tree on our back property that turns color (seriously- only one gets bright red; the rest turn yellowish brown), setting up the propane stove with a safety fence because we hadn't turned our heat on yet, and a bit of therapeutic blackberry whacking for Tim, I roasted some chicken and veggies for dinner and left the pot of caramel I'd made on the stove. Long story short it was boiling furiously when it was done, so we wanted to let it cool before twirling the apples in it -- and then it became hard as a rock. Tim tried melting it over a double boiler but it still wasn't ready by bedtime, which made Linnea very, very upset. 

Everyone was settling down to sleep -- it started getting really windy -- and then the power went out.

Really, it was not that big a deal. But Linnea and Peter were uncomfortable in their rooms (no white noise or night lights), so they slept downstairs on the couches by the stove, and Tim slept between them on an air mattress on the floor.

We weren't expecting it, but God had made us prepared anyway.

  • The stove was on when we otherwise would have had no heat.
  • We had a bunch of batteries around for flashlights.
  • We already had gallons of water stored because we need electricity to use our well.
  • I had just filled the car with gas and picked up extra bread on Saturday afternoon - pb sandwiches got a lot of love this weekend!
  • The load of Susie's laundry I had washed, containing basically all her warm pajamas and clothes, was miraculously dry Sunday morning, instead of a wet mildewy heap in the dryer, which had shut off during the cycle.
  • And my quick thinking husband suggested we go out to grab ice to save what was in the freezer (though we lost most of the contents of the fridge).
In short, we stayed warm, had food and water, and could get out to grab the things we needed. 

I am thankful God cares about the details of our lives! (And that we now have things like light and running water to clean up that caramel...)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

dog people

I know you're out there.

People who love dogs. You have two, three, or maybe even four dogs. You train them, or show them, or blog about them. Your trunks are reserved for crates and your pockets spill dog treats and dog-doo pick-up bags. You are the people who buy the enormous dog beds at Costco, or have them, monogrammed, from a place like Pottery Barn. Man's best friend would never be left out of your Christmas card. You are dog people.

Dog people, I need you.

Because I may soon be joining your ranks. Gulp.

Here is what I seek:

A dog that is friendly with children, suspicious of strangers, but warms quickly to friends.

A dog that barks if there is a problem, but not otherwise.

A dog that will not shed.

A dog that likes to play or laze about, and can fall in step easily with our family. High-maintenance breeds that need lots of exercise or a job to do are out.

A dog that will get fairly big in adulthood. We want a guard, a protector, a deterrent to unfriendly men and beasts.

A dog that is easy to train and could be let off leash in an enclosed space (such as our yard with new fencing that we would install.)

A dog that can be happy alone in a crate a couple of times a day so I can do naps or errands.

A dog that will not chew up my shoes or furniture after some basic training.

A dog that is pleasing to look at (I'm sorry, Airedale Terriers: you don't make the cut.)

And, if at all possible in the realm of canines, a dog that has all these traits AND is hypoallergenic. Because... I am ALLERGIC to dogs.

Friends, family, countrymen! Is this possible? I have researched several breeds and I don't know it if exists. Why are we getting a dog, you ask? To protect me and the ones I love from the cougars and the crazies. To sound the alarm when something is amiss (but not, like Marley in that wonderful movie, launch a barking attack through the window at the garbage truck once the babies are finally asleep). Don't hate me- this decision is primarily driven by utility, not my love of the four legged creatures. Linnea is still afraid of dogs. I am allergic to them (but plan to have another allergy test since my last one was about 14 years ago). And we have a baby... So it will likely be next summer before we jump whole-hog into dog ownership.

Dog people, I beseech you:

What kind of dog should we get?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

embracing spontaneity

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom to make our day look the way we want it to. Obviously my vision needs to be held with an open hand: things never turn out quite like I expect. But I also crave routine. I read all over the place that kids thrive on it, and I agree that life seems happier for everyone when we all know generally what to expect.

But sometimes a sudden change is just what we need for today.

We had errands to run that I could put off no longer. With everyone but me experiencing some sort of cold symptoms for the past week plus, we hadn't ventured further than our front yard for seven days. Honestly, I like being at home. And we haven't lacked for things to do! Linnea loves her schoolwork, and though we sometimes have to rearrange for bible study or the occasional doctor's appointment, it works best to get lessons done in the morning and save the afternoon for unstructured play, reading aloud, and the other fifty things I try to get done in a day.

(Really, I made a list. It has 37 bullet points.
Once I saw it all written down, I realized there is nothing noble in stressing myself to do what simply can't be done. I'm trying not to try so hard.)

Aaaaanyway -- we got out. The sun was shining. The weather was perfect. It was glorious to make a few stops and be out of our element for a little while.

And of course, at the consignment store, stocking up on some fall duds for these three little peas, I paid and checked my phone and it was half an hour later than I thought it was.

Peter wanted to go to the park.
Linnea wanted to eat out. (She always does.)
And I turned my face up to the sun and realized... It's okay!

It's okay to drive home, change a diaper, throw a bunch of food into the car, and head back to the park.

It's okay to use napkins as plates on the picnic table and eat straight out of the tupperware full of homemade applesauce.

It's okay to stretch a little -- embrace the unexpected -- and as a matter of fact, it's good for us sometimes.

Susie didn't nap in the carrier.
She almost never does if we're out of the house anymore.
But we enjoyed the fresh fall air,
picked up ginormous leaves,
had enough to eat,
played with new people,
and even got the mail.
(That, my friends, is a big deal.)

Tomorrow I'll be glad to get back to normal. But we'll all have the memory of that time we took an impromptu picnic in the early afternoon one sunny, spontaneous fall day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A photo post: thankfulness

We celebrated one year in our house last weekend! There was leaf raking, pumpkin- and apple-picking, and time around the dinner table sharing all the things we are thankful for in living out here.

Instead of fear, my overwhelming feeling this week has been one of thankfulness. I am thankful for my kids, and for leaf piles they can jump in, and all the minutes and hours and days I can spend at home with them.

I am thankful for the freedom to homeschool -- for Linnea's love of learning at this young age! -- and for the freedom to declare two baking days back to back because, hey, we have apples, and it's delightful to make apple pie. That's a skill, too.

In the background is our Thankfulness Tree. I made it last November for Thanksgiving. I hauled the kids, in the dark and starting to get B I G in pregnancy with Susie, to Kinko's for a rush order. True story: it cost me 50 bucks to laminate this free-hand cut out tree made of taped together construction paper. But we love it. Last spring, after Susie was born, it sported lime-green leaves and pink cherry blossoms. Right now it's becoming adorned with the reds, oranges, and dandelion yellows of fall, each with a short scribble of what we're thankful for. I love it.

Most Fridays are our nature day, and last week we went to a wonderful farm-park in Redmond. I was enchanted to learn they have a preschool there -- how fun, next to the goats and horses! -- but I'm happier still to come and go as we please. :)

In other news:

Susie is crawling and has her two bottom teeth.
Tim got a free drum set from someone at work.
We harvested our first Cinderella pumpkin and enjoyed it as a centerpiece...until we turned it into soup. :)
Peter likes to sort beads sometimes during Linnea's math lesson. In math we've been using Lego, Uncle Mike!
I took Linnea for a "princess" mani-pedi as a belated birthday present.
Susie likes to wear the flower crown.
Linnea sometimes helps Peter with his socks. (I die of cuteness).
And late afternoon is often dancing time. Yes, that is Peter in a teal colored tutu. He got that from his Dad.

And lest you think the wrong thing about us, we also do tantrums. We do huffy walks when it's time to clean up or set the table or brush teeth. We stand in the corner. We brush crumbs off the bottoms of our feet when the maid forgets to sweep (again). We read when we're supposed to be doing something else. I pull out the paper plates for dinner now and then. Everybody's had a cold of one sort or another for weeks.

But I'm still thankful!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When fear comes knocking

One of my favorite heroines of children's literature is Caroline Ingalls. We've read the Little House series to Linnea and Peter three times through, and are currently on our fourth go-round. So it's not surprising to me that hardly a day goes by that, for better or for worse, I ask myself - what would Ma do?

It's kind of funny to have a literary mentor, and one who is probably a great deal fictionalized at that. But there are many qualities about Ma Ingalls I admire, two being her steadfast, biblical respect for and peaceful submission to her husband (who, charming though he seems, was foolhardy in many ways!), and the way she approached difficult situations with a quiet resolve. She did what she had to do.

Ma was a woman who worked hard to ensure her family's survival in tough circumstances. Homemade and home sewn were the name of the game. When Pa was away on a trip to town, Ma did all her regular work, plus the barn chores. She made do with what she had and valued beauty and order in the process. While not all of the values of that culture are to be emulated (we regularly remind our kids, when reading, that we do not expect them to be seen and not heard at meals, for example, or to hold their tears), Ma's can-do, positive attitude in the face of a life of hard, constant labor is an inspiration to me.

Ma also encountered some truly terrifying and difficult situations. Like when Pa was away and Laura went with her to do the chores in the Big Woods...and the shape in the dark they thought was their cow, was actually a bear. And the time the Indians, belts hanging with knives and shriveled scalps, burst into the house on the Kansas prairie and demanded Ma cook for them. Or the time on Plum Creek when Ma had to carry wood in the midst of a blizzard, fearing Pa must surely be lost in the snow and cold. She managed all these things without breaking down or giving in, living among wildlife, often in true isolation, sometimes without the support of her husband, sometimes not knowing where the next meal would come from.

The verdict is in: Ma was tough.

All of this has been percolating in my head while I consider the situation I found myself in this week. There are lots of ways to respond to difficult or frightening circumstances. And since we read aloud every day, I have Ma's example in front of me constantly.

Ma could do it. She was a real homesteader's wife.

Ma never backed out, begged off, or put her foot down, saying "I can't. This isn't what I bargained for." She didn't demand to move back to the city, where life would have been easier.

Ma took her life's challenges head-on and made the best of them. She had courage and tenacity.

Why can't I be more like that?

But there's something missing in this picture. Nevermind what you may think of her child rearing methods, and putting aside the fact that it's problematic to compare yourself to another mom and homemaker. There's still something missing.

Where is God in this equation?

I don't mean for Ma. Her time has come and gone. While the Ingalls were churchgoing people, this side of heaven I'll never know the true depth of their faith.

No, I'm not talking about the source of Caroline Ingalls' hope and trust. I'm talking about mine.

You see, I'm the skittish type. I scare easily. And I am quick to conclude that something is too much, too hard, or unfair. This isn't what I bargained for.

I wrote a couple of posts ago about the thoughts of inadequacy that nag me. That I'm not tough enough to live in the country. And when a cougar shows up in somebody's yard not much more than a mile from mine, I panic.

Ma lived around wolves, and bears, and panthers -- but the idea of those teeth and claws nearby sends me into a tailspin. And all the voices start talking at once:

You shouldn't be here. You don't belong.

You aren't tough enough to live out here.

Danger is lurking around every corner.

One day tragedy will be on your doorstep.

When I told Tim I couldn't turn off the voices; that I was afraid to take the kids to play in the yard; that I fairly ran to and from the car getting in a load of groceries -- he listened. We talked about guns, and dogs, and clearing away some underbrush. We talked about cougar statistics, and all the things the Department of Fish and Wildlife will tell you about living near predatory animals. And we talked about trusting God.

See, all along I was thinking: I have to be tougher. God led me here to make me tough. But all the scary things are starting to outweigh all the beauty, and I'm caving. It isn't working. Maybe...maybe I don't belong out here. But how could we go back?

At bible study this morning, the teacher gave us an overview of Joshua. She read a verse I meditated on last weekend, after I learned about the cougar sighting. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

A big theme for me right now is trusting that God has put me where he has -- right here in Duvall, in this house, on this acreage. I want to be up for the challenge. It isn't easy. But I've been trying to have courage on my own. I can't will myself to get rid of my fear.

But he said to me“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

I've realized the latter verse is the one I should be meditating on: not to will myself to have strength, but to admit my weakness and boast in it that I may receive Christ's power. I can't mold or fashion myself into the perfect country wife, with the muck boots and the spark plugs and the pitchfork. If something jumped out from the bushes I would scream. But I can keep coming to the throne of grace; I can keep casting my cares on him; I can keep praying for the faith to trust him. I haven't attained it yet. I like to feel safe and comfortable. But I believe in a good God, and I might be able to enjoy my front porch again today.