Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PRIDE Classes

My husband and I are taking our County's version of classes for Fostering and / or Adopting children. They're called PRIDE Classes. PRIDE stands for Parents Refusing Idiotic Demands, Etc. Just kidding! It stands for Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education. Which is almost as bad ;) So far, we've done 3 classes + the required Introduction. Total is 8 classes + Introduction. Four down, five to go. It's interesting stuff, but we've been through this several years ago when we thought we would adopt. We then changed our minds, so we're back again :) The classes are both heart-wrenching and ... tedious. Tedious because when one adopts from their county, it's a governmental, bureaucratic adventure. And rearing children really shouldn't have anything to do with government. Or bureaucracy. But adopting them in this fashion does, and there's no getting around it, so here we are! Fortunately, we know several families who've both fostered and adopted through this route and are giving us wise counsel.
I'll keep you posted on how this develops.
"...I tell you the truth; whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Some favorite sites

Not much time to blog today, buuuut...have you seen this site? It's one of the funniest in blogland if you ask me. And you did ask me, right? Right?!
Go to the page titled "Conversation Starters" on February 15, and be prepared to laugh. Then check out all the other hysterically funny posts, often followed by beautiful cakes. Have coffee and snacks nearby, since you won't want to leave your computer for some time, but don't drink and scroll, since there is the ever-present and very real danger of snorting your latte on the keyboard.
"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Proverbs 12:25

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quotes I Like

Most are ... trite, if we're being honest. Many are just plain "Duh!". But sometimes even one of the "Duh!" ones resonates with where you are that particular day.
Or even that particular moment.
"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity
in every difficulty." Winston Churchill
Yes, I know. Sometimes a difficulty is ... just a difficulty. Sometimes there is no "silver lining" to an illness or a death or a really rotten situation. But often we can look back, sometimes years later, and see that what happened was actually for good. Perhaps we didn't like it at the time, or didn't understand it at the time, or still don't understand it. But in the end, it was for good. I don't claim to be 100% optimist, but I'm certainly trying to be less pessimist.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..." Genesis 50:20

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review--"Take Your Best Shot"

I read 112 pages of this 212 page book in one shot. That wasn't exactly my best shot, as I actually wanted to read more, to completely finish the book in one go. But it was late and I'm not a night-owl.
The book's author, Austin Gutwein, is a teenager who started a ministry for AIDS orphans while he was a child. He has raised over $1,000,000.00 in relief funds and started an organization called Hoops for Hope (, AND built a school and medical clinic in Zambia. His is an amazing story of how a (then) 9-year old boy was touched by another 9-year old child halfway around the world. He had a heart-change-moment and was moved in a way that many adults have become desensitized to. He encourages us to ask other young children what they want to do with their lives and listen: many of them want to "save the world" in one way or another. He is actually, really, truly doing it. And it started out very, very small. With no intention to do more than a one-time "basketball-a-thon" -type event, he and his family were as surprised as anyone to watch as God revealed His larger plan. His challenge to us: to do something bigger than yourself.
There are many inspirational stories out there. Many books, many videos, many local heroes. But this boy has touched my heart in a really different way. The book does read as though it is written to teenagers, with the occasional yet ever-present "hip" wording. Nothing at all innappropriate, just "young", which is part of it's appeal to teens and older kids. While you may or may not find it endearing, it does not detract from the book's message at all. My classic-book-loving teenage daughter found it too annoying to read all the way through. But I couldn't help noticing that shortly after she read part of the book, she started her own small charity at church. Teenagers and young people are so much more capable than we give them credit for. Austin highlights that in his book, with the Introduction telling us that "The world expects so little out of us right now, it's almost ridiculous...if we don't do drugs, don't drop out of school, don't have sex and don't get arrested, that's "success". That's crazy! Who set the bar so low for teenagers?".
You simply gotta love a book that starts out with that in it's Introduction. Especially when it's written by a teenager. I can't wait to finish it.
"Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."
1 Timothy 4:12

Our weekend, and Valentiine's Day

Had the best weekend! Here are some highlights:
We had a friend and his daughter over on Saturday (Hi, Dan! Hi, Sydney!). We all had breakfast at a local restaurant, then watched some Chinese New Year celebrations in the parking lot. We live in a very diverse area, and our neighborhood consists primarily of mixed Asian and east Indian folks. So we see a lot of cultural celebrations. After we watched the dragons we came back here and my husband and his friend began working on their project while his daughter and my little one played. All day. Which is so, so great for Regan, since she doesn't often get to do that. She was really happy to have a mate to hang out with for the entire day! The next day, Sunday, we all went to church, had a great time and had some friends from church over afterward. (Hi, Jules!) Then we watched 2 church-friends afterward, while their parents had an appointment. The family (whom I'll call the Kurtz family, because that is their name), ended up staying for a meal and lots of fellowshipping, discussion and fun. All 3 kids played really fabulously together. OK. Not exactly well at first, but what can you expect when a 6-year old girl tries to ... instruct a 4-year old boy in how best to play "Pretty Pretty Princess"? Or gets upset at him because he isn't playing "The Nativity Scene" to her standards? Aaahhh, my dear little movie-director does have her bar set high. Once I explained why her friends were really here, things lightened up and they all had much more fun. Then something really great happened. My wee one has had her front tooth loose--no, wait--dangling, more like, for over a week. That thing was just hanging there. Parents, you may have a child who just will not, no matter how hard you try, pull a tooth or let someone else help it along. This tooth was amazing. It could go in any direction: front, back, either side, you name it. It flapped in the breeze when Regan talked, and actually vibrated when she "poofed" her breath out. It was beyond loose, but she wouldn't let anyone touch it. So many people at church yesterday were just itching to yank that thing! One trusted friend even got Regan to wrap her hair around the tooth, but she got wise to his plan before he could implement it (Hi, Mr. Johnny!). She was missing meals, and actually losing weight from not eating. Well. I couldn't have this, now, could I? Thinking...thinking...nope. I got nothing. I had decided to pull it out when she was sleeping, when our visiting friend had a brilliant idea: he asked Regan to wiggle it, to hold it really tight, and then he smacked her in the arm really fast (and as gently as possible). OUT! came the tooth! Sounds more violent in print, but I was about to go all Tiger-Mama on her anyway, so this was actually more gentle than that. A bit of blood (OK, 15 minutes worth) and a cold washcloth, and she never shed a tear or was upset. She was asked repeatedly if she was glad the tooth was out and she always said, "Yes!". She is the type of child to get upset at anything she deems inappropriate, so we all wondered for a while how she would react, but she was never anything but glad.
Sad--last night she asked me again if the tooth fairy was real. I asked her what she thought. She said, "I think when I'm asleep, you come and put something under my pillow." I asked her if she really, really wanted to know the absolute truth. She said yes. I said, "You know you cannot 'undo' the answer--once you know it, that's that." (Which is pretty much giving away the answer, isn't it?) But she said she really wanted to know the truth, then said she was hoping it was me, since that would show her how much I love her. (And I'm thinking, seriously? I cook, clean, homeschool you--for pete's sake, I birthed all 11-pounds of you sans epidural, and a Reece's under the pillow is your yardstick for judging my love for you?) Wow. I couldn't hold back the truth now, could I? She took it just fine, but I'm a little sad. I didn't expect her to learn the truth of such things while still so young (she's also asked about Santa and the Easter Bunny, whom she believes is a total farce, since bunnies do NOT deliver eggs, I have been informed). I guess it's all in how the kid handles it, right? If they are completely OK with the truth, then who has the problem? It's obviously me, but I'll just journal about it in her book and she can read all about her silly mama's emotional notions when she's an adult.
The kids all decorated cookies for Valentine's Day yesterday as well. When my oldest and I got home from the evening service at church, we saw that our little one had made us personalized cookies: One had an "M" on it, for mommy, and the other an "A" for Addie. There was pink icing, swirls of color, and a generous (but tasteful) sprinkling of little pink and red hearts, pearly white bally-things and red and pink sprinkles. Along with two notes: Dear Mommy--eat this, it's a cookie. Love, Regan. And another one for her sister. So. Sweet. I am so blessed to have these sweet, sweet kids in my life. And their friends. And our friends. And good conversation, and those pink and red hard-as-rock cookie decorations that nearly chip your teeth and then get stuck between them, and my husband, and Valentine's Day, even if it is a made-up Hallmark holiday. We can celebrate it because we live in the greatest nation on the planet and we are all blessed and fortunate to have it so.
Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours. Enjoy!
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life Without Facebook, Day 1

Like the dramatics? No, I won't be chronicling my life day-by-day apres Facebook. Just thought I'd tell you what we did and how I did it all without benefit of regularly checking for a red icon or feeling the need to post to 200 people that I've "Just had a latte and boy, was it tasty!". We had the best day, my kids and I! Not perfect, but really, really good.
We got some homeschooling done, some deep cleaning (and then proceeded to spend the rest of the day in the deeply-cleaned room, it was so nice). I made something different for lunch (following) and then the highlight: we all sat around on couches and chairs, with blankies over ourselves, drinking hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows in it, while I read from The Magician's Nephew for nearly 2 hours. That. was. fabulous. Just fabulous.
Here's what we did for lunch: We took some crescent roll stuff from a can (Trader Joe's, with no icky ingredients or hydrogenation) and broke all the little dough-things into triangles. I sauteed up some onions and mushrooms, put in a little spaghetti sauce, and put a spoonful of this mixture on each triangle. Then we put on a little grated mozzarella and a little parmesan and sealed up the little dough-things. Some were not pretty (OK, I admit I'm overly generous with the mixture, making the triangles impossible to seal. I'm not a big fan of dough by itself.) Baked at 350 till they were golden and dived in. Nom-nom. What a fun experiment! I was going for sort of a "calzone" thing, and although it wasn't perfect, everyone loved it and I didn't have to make pizza dough :)
I also tried something new for dinner, although with less success. Ever had polenta? I don't think I have, and it looked so good in the store, and then a couple days ago, I saw them make it on a tv show. Well. Gotta try. Bought some pre-made, in a little chub. So cute. Slice, oil pan, cook 4-5 minutes on each side till golden brown. Unfortunately, no matter what I did I couldn't get this stuff to brown up. I have that problem sometimes, like with hash browns. So the fault might be mine. I then covered them with more of the sauce-mixture I had at lunch. It was supposed to be delicious. It looked fabulous, like something from Food Network. But the taste just wasn't right. Something was missing, I don't know what. I think the only way I'll try these little store-bought chub polentas again is if I bake them and serve them topped with butter and salt as the meal's starch. Serving it alongside buttered carrots was probably not the wisest move either, since neither of my kids like buttered carrots. I know, I know--WHAT?! It's true. And they're both my biological kids. Huh. Go figure.
Followed up with bathing my wee one, reading in bed to her (Betsy, Tacy and Tib) and getting to bed early, just the way I like it. I'm currently reading some extreme mind-candy, a book series that makes me laugh, although painfully. I'm embarrassed to tell you the title. (It's the Shopaholic series, by Sophie Kinsella. I'm on the latest one, Mini-Shopaholic, about her spoiled rotten 2 year old. It is a hoot, let me tell you.) It's OK. I just finished a bunch of classics and was in danger of adding "dear" to the end of everyone's name and taking up needlepoint, so a current no-brainer novel is just what I need.
Today we're breakfasting (see, classic-novel influence, right there) with a friend of ours and his daughter, whom we are meeting for the first time. I hope everyone gets along well. If not, we can always go out for a carriage ride.
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." Galatians 5:13

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Goodbye, Facebook

I just de-activated my Facebook account.
I can't believe it. I love, love, love Facebook. But I also hate it. Hate, hate hate. I love it because it's fun. And I hate it because it's fun, and takes me away from things I should be doing.
And, it's not that fun.
This doesn't make much sense, I know. Especially if you don't have a Facebook account. I can sit in front of a cake, and eat one piece (OK, maybe 2). I can sit in front of a bottle of Bailey's and have one drink (OK, maybe 2). But put me in front of my Facebook page and I will find stuff to do. I tried hiding 75% of my friends. That didn't work. I have too many. I tried going on only at "certain times" of the day. Turns out I'm not as disciplined as I thought, or as disciplined as I expect my kids to be. Ouch. There is a bible verse that says "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Matthew 7:21) And lately, the computer, which is upstairs and in a separate room from the rest of the house (ironically, to keep temptation at bay), has been my "treasure". Not literally. I could easily live without it--after all, I did for the first 35 years of my life. But like microwave ovens, cell phones and sliced bread, we do become accustomed to things, don't we? And then we wonder how on earth we ever lived without them.
It's time to go a bit "Little House on the Prairie" around here.
And I'm sure I'll be just fine.
I never considered myself an "addictive personality". I can take things or leave them. Sure, I go through stages, cravings, fleshly "lusts", if you will (potato chips, chocolate, whatever). That's normal, right? Everyone does that. But when I start sniping at my kids to "just give me a few minutes alone, will you?" then something. is. wrong. Yes, mommies need time to themselves. No, mommies do not need time to themselves so they can stalk on Facebook. We just don't.
No matter how you justify it.
We. Just. Don't.
Good Grief, how much time did this woman spend on Facebook? you're wondering. Surprisingly, just about 30 minutes / day. Some days, maybe 45. Not much, right? So what's the problem? Well, the problem is that I was thinking about it just a leetle too mucho. Always checking for that little red icon in the corner alerting me that someone might have "liked" or commented on one of my status updates. (Status updates? Sounds so incredibly ... weird. And not a little self-absorbed, if we're being honest here. Which I am.)
Truth is, we would all be just fine without Facebook. Kudos to it's inventor, whose name I don't remember. I know he's making a bazillion dollars off of it and I'm all for free enterprise. Wish I'd thought of it myself. But I can do what is now being called, "Face Time" just as easily. Well, not as easily. But as happily. I would rather have friends over than to "chat" with them. Unfortunately, we've turned into such a tap-foot-in-frustrated-impatience-while-waiting-in-front-of-the-microwave type of society, I don't know if most folks will find the time to squeeze in a visit between classes / extra-curricular activities / enrichment opportunities. Not that there's anything wrong necessarily with those. Or Facebook, for that matter. But there is something wrong with substituting any or all of those for an actual sit-down with a cuppa and a good buddy. Letting the kids play together--unencumbered by adult structuring. You know--an actual visit. Who does that these days? Who has time, you ask? Well, I do. I have more time now because I won't be spending 45 minutes of my day with a technology that really, truly, in the end, doesn't matter.
My God matters. My family matters. My LIFE matters.
Facebook? Not so much.
While I realize the following verse is not written about Facebook, it is fitting:
"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other." (Matthew 7:24)