Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fun Stuff

Last year I flatly refused to let Rachel participate, but this year I finally caved. Saturday was the GHS "Cheerleading Fun Day", where elementary kids could spend the day at the high school, playing games and learning cheers to be performed during half time of the JV game that night. To my extreme chagrin, the day exceeded Rachel's expectations. She absolutely loved it. And she was pretty cute out there on the gym floor, along with about 90 other little girls, doing her cheering routines, although there was a bit too much hip-swaying for my liking! We did enjoy going to the game and were pleasantly surprised that Mr. Moo made it all the way through 2 quarters and half time before we had to make a fast exit.

On Monday, all four kiddos and I headed down to the Newport Aquarium, where we were joined by my mom, both my sisters and their little ones. They're doing a special promotion during the month of February, and for every adult ticket purchase ($20), 2 kids 12 and under are free. It was well worth the 1.5-hour trip (even with all the gas station pit stops)! We were there from 10 (when they opened) until 3, and all the kiddos did pretty well. Malachi wasn't in the greatest mood, but as long as I kept his mouth stuffed full of cheese and crackers, he did alright.

We saw penguins, alligators, frogs, turtles, sea anemone, sword fish, sting rays, sharks of all sizes, just about every character from Finding Nemo, gigantic star fish, and a fascinating array of underwater life. The only bummer was that my favorite display - the jellyfish - is closed for the next 6 months for renovations. But there is a new play area called the "Frog Bog" - a favorite both for the kids and for their tired moms (grandma)!

Below are a bunch of pictures, which is really just a small sampling of everything we saw . . .

The alligators were a big hit.

I don't want to be anywhere near one of these guys!

Me, Moo, and some kind of large snapping turtle

I loved that the place was so hands-on.

The kids met Paula the Penguin, who, we found out, poops 20 times per day. (nearly as many times as Karis)

Rachel's favorite part was "petting" the small sharks.

Malachi was just beside himself with delight at the little sharks. He even tried to dive in after one of them.

Rachel was a big help with Malachi . . . when she felt like it.

The Amazon tunnel, in my opinion, was one of the coolest parts of the whole experience.

Sting rays are such graceful swimmers - I could have just stood and watched them for a very long time. It looks like they are smiling from the underneath.

Relating with Jonah . . . except I guess he was swallowed by a whale, not a shark.

My view of Mr. Moo for most of the day (this and his rear end waddling toward forbidden exits)

I would love to know what's going through either one of their minds at this moment.

Off to explore another tunnel with Grandma

Six of the Seven cousins

The aquarium is part of a beautiful plaza overlooking the river. The kiddos thought the riverboats were pretty cool. Truth be told, Rachel thought she was pretty cool with her new "Littlest Pet Shop" sunglasses.

We packed our lunches, so we spent a grand total of $20 for all five of us. Not a bad little field trip. It's nice this time of year to have a day like this, and I'm pretty sure we're going to be hearing about different elements of it for the next 2 weeks!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kiddo Craziness

There is never any shortage of laughter around here, and God has a way of supplying humor just when I need it most.

Like Mr. Moo's attempts to play a little plastic recorder we got at a white elephant gift exchange. He "hums" into it, so you hear his weird little voice and the high-pitched notes from the recorder at the same time. The best part is the self-congratulatory smile that consumes his face afterward. One of his very favorite things to do is to start smacking his tummy with both hands as soon as he's naked. And when he's trying to tell me he wants something and I finally guess the right thing, he just goes nuts, laughing and dancing around. (Although I can never get him to be happy in a picture.) I'm just thrilled he's finally learning to feed himself with a spoon!

And then there's our bizarre second son - the best bear-hugger in the world - who makes me wet myself (it actually doesn't take much) at least once a day, with his unique dress-up concoctions and the even more unique noises he constantly feels the need to make. I recently found out that he told his Sunday School teacher, "You can call me Beef Man". Talk about a compliment! I'm not putting any up pix of him in action for this post, because for his 5th birthday, at the end of March, I plan to treat everyone to a collage of Zekers craziness. You won't want to miss it.

As for the girls . . . Rachel is just becoming a little sweetheart, and so independent. After begging for weeks and weeks, I finally caved and started allowing her to walk home from the bus stop this week. It's 4 blocks, and she has to make some turns and cross some streets, so I haven't been comfortable with the idea until now. She's just so little. But she's done great all week, and looks so grown-up bopping up the sidewalk toward our house. She loves to read and write, and composed her own book today, entitled "Whar Do I Sleep?" I also found a journal entry she'd done a while back about Mommy going to a "confrens" and hearing some "peple spek" and then getting hit by a deer.

Poobly- Boo has more quotable quotes than anyone I've ever met. The other night at bedtime she said a heartfelt prayer of thanks for "Mommy, Daddy, Rachel, Zeke, Malachi and President O-Bottom". I confess, in spite of almost superhuman efforts, I couldn't stop myself from howling with laughter, which kind of ruined the rest of the prayer time. Today, I sent her to time-out on the sofa 3 times in one hour for screaming loudly enough to burst our eardrums. The 3rd time, as she walked past me on her way to time-out, she rolled her eyes and said, "I give up!" And then there was the other night when she went with me to JC Penney and on the way back we stopped at Broadway Joe's. We chatted over cafe carmela (me) and a cookie with sprinkles (her). The conversation had me chuckling more than once. Suddenly she stopped in mid-sentence, got a sheepish grin on her face, and decided to announce to the whole place, "Whoops - I just tooted!"

I can't wait to see (hear) what they come up with as they get older.

Monday, February 16, 2009

One Lucky Girl


I really don't want to write about this. And yet I feel that I need to. It's been on my mind all morning and maybe writing it out will help me to be able to think about something else!

This is probably where I reveal how nuts I truly am, but here goes. . . Have you ever found yourself replaying conversations from the previous day? Or laid awake at night, inwardly cringing over something you said earlier? (This is pretty much every night for me!)

Two conversations from yesterday come to mind. In the first, when the person asked how life was going with 4 kids, I found myself replying, "Oh, well, you know - one day kind of runs into the next." Then later, in conversation with someone else, I lamented, "I am SOOOO ready for spring!"

OK, I've said a lot worse. But the thing that keeps getting to me is, WHY??? Why did I feel the need to complain about my life when I have so much to be thankful for? I love and enjoy my family tremendously. I've been blessed beyond measure in more ways than I can count. And why, for crying out loud, do these kind of comments flow forth from my mouth at church, of all places? During a time when we're all together as a body of believers to celebrate our Lord and Savior?

What makes me cringe the most is knowing these were missed opportunities. Instead of demonstrating the joy that comes from knowing Christ Jesus, I chose to reveal the discontent in my heart.

And that's really what this is about: "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Mt. 12:34) It's not about changing my words; it's about changing my heart.

I don't want to live my life just looking forward to the day when things are different. I don't want to live for the days when my kids are more independent - I want to soak in and LOVE every minute of their little-ness now. (with the possible exception of Malachi's blowouts) I don't want to spend every winter pining for spring - I want to embrace each day - no matter what the weather or the circumstances involved - as an undeserved gift from God.

There is a difference between transparency and complaining. I do not want to be someone who always acts as though things are just peachy when inside I'm fighting for sanity. We're called to bear one another's burdens as believers, and this can't happen if we aren't honest when we genuinely have a burden. But my speech yesterday was not transparency; it was discontent.

So, if I have ever made comments like these to you, I am truly sorry. And if you ever hear me make a statement that sounds like complaining, please call me on it!! (at least I'll be able to sleep that night) Because I really am one lucky girl . . . . and by "lucky" I mean BLESSED.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't Dwell!

Along with 8 others from our church, I've been taking part in a 13-week counseling class (I guess you could call it "Biblical Counseling for Dummies"!). For the past few weeks, we've all immersed ourselves in big thick books and little skinny pamphlets on various topics such as Fear, Worry, Anger, Suffering, and even the need for Biblical Counseling.

I tell you what - the class has pretty much amounted to an intense counseling session for me! I really don't enjoy my sin being continually put before me; and yet this class has opened my eyes to attitudes and tendencies in my own life that I can't pass off any longer with excuses like "That's just the way I am", or "It's just so hard trying to raise 4 kids" (whiney tone included). The fact that I sometimes spew hot lava all over my kids when I allow myself to erupt is SIN. Wasting time and energy worrying about the future is SIN. And holding grudges against others - failing to truly forgive - is SIN. This has been the most convicting week for me by far.

See, I haven't really understood before what true forgiveness involves. In his book The Christian Counselor's Manual, Jay Adams spells it out: "Forgiveness means no longer continuing to dwell on the sin that was forgiven. Forgiveness is the promise not to raise the issue again to the offender, to others, or to oneself." (p. 65)

And there lies the rub. I've grown when it comes to not bringing up past wrongs to the offender or to others (although a lot more growth in this area is needed). But where I allow myself to get bogged down is in the area of dwelling on offenses - allowing my thoughts to spend way too much time there. It makes sense: where we allow our thoughts to camp out makes the difference between falling into sin or leading a life of righteousness.

Luke 17 contains a hard truth. "If your brother . . . repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying "I repent", forgive him." (vs. 3-4)

So, the same person could do the same hurtful thing to me seven times in the same day, and I have to forgive them? Yup. So, the person just gets off scot free? They need to know that whatever they did / said hurt me and be made to suffer for it!

If I continue on in this attitude, I become like the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. If I fail to truly forgive, and to make efforts to reconcile the relationship, I am, in essence, refusing to acknowledge the sin in my own life - forgiven in full by the blood of Christ. He forgave a debt I had NO HOPE of repaying. How can I refuse to release a fellow believer from a debt so much less it's not even comparable (any more than 100 denarii to 10,000 talents).

If I refuse to forgive - if I harbor bitterness in my heart over past offenses - I am not displaying the gospel in my life, nor am I acting like a child of God. To be honest, I've had to spend a lot of time this week praying (and crying) over offenses I've hung onto, and asking God to help me release them. If only we would exercise the discipline to let these things go. What is any relationship - be it marriage, friendship, or whatever - without forgiveness and reconciliation?? What kind of message would this send to people who are lost if they saw us forgiving the "unforgivable" - seven times a day, and "seventy times seven" times? How much more glory would Christ receive from this kind of forgiveness?

And as hard as this teaching seems, at the end of the day Christ's words are: "So you , too, when you do all the things which are command you, say 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" (Luke 17:10)

This teaching is so contrary to the natural man that everything inside my hard head and stubborn heart rebels against it. This teaching is so difficult and shocking that the disciples, upon hearing this, immediately cried, "Increase our faith!" To which Jesus replied that they already had the faith (faith as small as a mustard seed is sufficient); but that it is a matter of obedience. We don't forgive expecting a medal for our supreme righteousness. No, we forgive, recognizing that we are only doing what we ought to have been doing all along as followers of Christ. No matter how much someone has sinned against me or hurt me, I've wounded and sinned against Christ far more - and He's forgiven it ALL!

Oh God, continue to show me the magnitude of my own sin, and of Your sacrifice on my behalf - the amazing GRACE that covers it all. And because of this, help me to forgive - repeatedly and joyfully, because in doing so, I'm becoming more like You!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Steelers Fans

Sunday morning of Steelers' Super Bowl Win - 2006

Sunday morning of Steelers' Super Bowl Win - 2009

Well, it looks like we've managed to produce one more Steelers fan in the past three years. And my feelings remain the same: although we like dressing the part, this is the closest I will ever come to posting on football!