Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There's a First Time for Everything

The mood here this morning started out sunny and happy. As it does many mornings. Everyone was up within minutes of each other and Mei Mei was toddling around giving her morning hugs and kisses to the big siblings.

Suh-weet.... a good start is always appreciated here, as they don't happen as a matter of course.

Then Li'l Empress started the downhill slide with sadness about going to school. Sigh. She was home yesterday with the other gang members while they recovered from a nasty stomach bug. We were kind of on the fence about her showing symptoms so we just kept her home. Backfired into big alligator tears for the first 12 minutes of the day. That was resolved quickly and matter-of-factly (man, you canNOT show this kid too much sympathy for her plight or she miiiiiilks it outta ya!)

I sent the gang downstairs to start breakfast and got Mei Mei going with a clean diaper and let her pick a shirt to start getting dressed for the day (man, you HAVE to give that kid some "choice" in most of the inconsequential decisions of the day or ya get NOWHERE with the big stuff later!).

I settled Mei Mei at the table with the kids, got them all moving on cereal and excused myself to run up and finish my hair with BBE overseeing the whole process. Sounds easy, right?!

Heh. Nope, it's never that easy.

We still don't know WHAT set her off, but Mei Mei was in full freak out mode by the time I turned off the hair dryer and flew back down the stairs. Poor BBE, this was supposed to be so easy - she was buckled in, eating, and chatting happily with Lil E. What could go wrong over wheat flakes and apples?


That freak out turned into a time-in on the stairs, which escalated and became a THING that drove her mood through the big kids all leaving. Through Mommy's breakfast. Not even her beloved 12 minute short movie of minions broke the mood. Oh, man, I wasn't feeling hopeful about the morning's trajectory. Not that she was still in full freak out, thank goodness. But the mood. OH, the MOOD!!!!!
(To be fair, this time span only covered about 90 minutes of fast paced busy activity but it felt like 9 hours by the time I got all the kids off to school and Mei Mei settled enough to open the door for speech therapy.)
Then, mercifully, she put her mood on hold for sweet Miss Lauri. They had a lovely, productive session of PlayDoh time together. But as soon as Miss Lauri walked out that door, the dark cloud of MOOD resettled on her face.

So I did something that I've never ever done before. Not ever, in almost 20 years of parenting.

I bundled us both up, pulled out the dolly stroller and took Mei Mei on a long brisk walk. Nothing unusal about that, right?

EXCEPT. It was very cold. VERY breezy. And it was raining. Spitting, I believe they say in some parts.

Yeah. Me. Hater of all things cold. And all weather wet.

I didn't even care that my toes (and likely hers!) were numb with the cold. Or that it would take all afternoon for that stroller to dry out from the dampness.

There's a first time for everything.

It worked. Her mood shifted. She chattered and laughed and fussed like a little mother hen over her baby doll. And smiled. She smiled all the way around the neighborhood circle and all the way home.

We returned home, happily, to hot soup, more chattering, and finally some quiet snuggles in the rocking chair before nap time.

Sweet, sweet nap time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Julia Learns How To Vote Wisely

Purchase the book here!
Since we are heading into primary season in our region, I thought it would be timely to share this story with you and offer you my thoughts on this great little book that was sent to me by a friend of the author. {sheepishly admitting that it was QUITE a while ago}

This darling little book is full of Scriptural advice, simple explanations and engaging illustrations as little Julia walks through the month before a big election. As a momma to three very fashion-minded girls, I especially enjoyed the cover illustration of Julia in her too-cool-for-school voting ensemble!

The story starts with Julia's bedtime conversations with Mom about what the family will be doing for the coming month. Her parents open up a lovely age-appropriate dialogue and spend the whole month sharing their basic principles for civic responsibility. I loved, particularly, that the message was boiled down to this: Seek Biblical Truth first. Then seek and pray for a candidate that you feel most closely represents the Biblical Truth in which you believe. It really honed the focus down to God's Word and HIS heart for the privilege that we have as citizens to use our voice in the election process.

As I read through the story and conversations that Julia and her sisters have with their parents, I appreciated anew the simplicity of a citizen's participation in the process and the importance of choosing wisely. I also really liked that the book doesn't tell Julie WHAT to believe, only that she must consider what The Word says and that she need only measure the issues she faces against the standard of that Word to find the answers she seeks. That's such a great lesson for our kids - beyond even the message of how to vote.

I really enjoyed the book and Li'l Empress enjoyed the idea that her voice will "count" some day when she gets the privilege to vote. I've always made an effort to include my kids in the conversations of election seasons and usually bring them into the voters' booth with me. This book helped "pull it all together" for Li'l Empress when we voted together last fall.

If you are a politics-junkie or news-junkie like I am, or if you are looking for additional resources with which to teach your children about the election process, this great little book is for you! And if you are a home-schooling family looking for another resource for your civics or social studies curriculum, I even more highly recommend the story.

*I was sent this book free of charge in exchange
for a fair and honest evaluation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Red Skies by Kay Bratt

I've just finished a third novel from Kay Bratt's series called Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters. This particular story is a "stand alone" meant to be read with or without connecting to the whole series. But I promise you, once you delve into the life of Benfu and his unique little family, you will WANT to read the whole series.

I'll be digging in to book three, Bitter Winds, this weekend as part of the Advanced Reader team and I can't wait. The kids might have to fend for themselves while I visit with Benfu and Callie and The Boss snores off the remainder of his jet lag (more on that next week!)

Here's what I had to say about Red Skies (which is currently only available in e-reader form - click on the title link). I could have said so much more, but I can't and won't spoil it for anyone else. Trust me - you really need to read this book!

The Scavenger's Daughters series has completely captivated me. I have just finished Red Skies and I think Mari is my favorite of all of Benfu's girls (at least until I read the next one!). Her strength, her determination, her ability to see with her heart and not just her eyes - all of it made for a fabulous story of a young woman overcoming what Chinese society would have branded a permanent disability (that being the condition of being an orphan). The parallel story of An Ni and Mei's journey to each other and then to their point of intersecting with Mari was both devastating and yet incredibly hopeful all at the same time.
I think Kay did a really great job making Beijing teem with life and with building such believable personality and depth of character into the main characters. My favorite scene was when Benfu and Calla Lilly arrived in the midst of Mari's distress. It made me sigh with relief, almost as if I was with Mari in that little apartment, waiting for their rock-solid support and age-old wisdom. That's how believable these story lines are. 
As a momma to a former orphan of Beijing, I was cheering Mari, An Ni, and Mei on in my heart - it's only too easy to recognize that "there but for the Grace of God" could have been my child. My prayer is that Kay's books go far and wide toward raising awareness of the very difficult issues of orphan care in China and the often-forgotten crisis of street children. 
**I received this book in exchange for an honest review

Come on back later for my review on Bitter Winds, and for some pretty awesome KIDS' books that I've had the privilege of reviewing recently. There's even a sweet give-away for one of them!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Who Dunnit?

Okay. I wanna know? 
Who explained the mechanics of the time change
for Daylight Savings Time to my child?

Cuz I KNOW that I KNOW that Mei Mei does NOT know how to tell time.

Yet somehow... 
when her former 1 p.m. naptime is supposed to start.

And she lays up there in that crib, mocking me,
laughing that I've missed that window for the perfect nap.

Three days in a row now.
What a GRUMP she is when she wakes, too.

Don't EVEN get me started on her former 8:30 p.m. bed time.

Really. Who Dunnit? I need a word.

Monday, March 3, 2014

An Unwelcome House Guest

It's been pretty quiet here in my little corner of the blogosphere. I know. We've been in a hard season with things. This season has been exhausting. Frustrating. Desperate. Isolating. Painful. Exhausting. Draining. The pace of our household has hardly relented in deference to the hard season. It couldn't.

I can tell you exactly when it started.

Let me tell you the story.

In early December, Trauma came to visit. He snuck into the house, bringing Control, Anxiety, and Fear with him. They are the kind of house guest that rolls into your pretty little guest room unannounced. The kind of house guest that brings his unpleasant friends stowed away in his suitcase before you can even process that his suitcase has been tossed on your guest bed. On the good linens no less. They are the kind of house guest the adage speaks of: "Company and fish start to stink after three days."

Let me tell you, it stunk way sooner than three days.

It seems as if Mei Mei's first surgery brought Trauma out of hiding. It's totally understandable and we knew to expect it from lots of previous experiences - Trauma lurks in those hospitals for lots of kids. Kids from great, loving, nurturing beginnings. Kids from hard places. Kids with serious sicknesses. Kids with simple playground accidents. But it really feels like he was waiting for her in that room. Hiding under that oh-so-institutional crib cage. Hovering under the ugly, rough blankets.

Worse, he felt it necessary to follow her home from the hospital. He toyed with her, making a game of randomly waking her. He got his buddy to help. Fear clutched at her throat. Trauma whipped Control into a frenzy of raging tantrums over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that weren't cut "just so." He'd whisper in Anxiety's ear a teensy little musing, thus starting the "Telephone Game" of insecurities repeated and grossly warped beyond recognition by the time they got to my girl's ear. It took us a few weeks of muscling through our own sleep deprivation and the dirty laundry of these unwelcome guests to figure out that they thought they were here to stay.

When the awareness took root that these weren't visitors, but squatters, The Boss and I dug into our bag of spiritual warfare tactics and started making things very uncomfortable for these intruders. It's been hard work, this remediation of the damage they sought to inflict. It's taken all of our energies. Certain Fruits of the Spirit have gotten extra work-outs, through the muddle of sleep deprivation.
{Really, moms, isn't the irregular sort of sleep deprivation the worst kind of all? I think I could probably get used to 4-5 hours of sleep if that was the new norm. But 8 hours, then 4, then 6 then 4 again? Oh.MY.WORD.}
Scripture is being spoken, sung, hummed, and prayed. The new rocking chair is logging many, many miles. Old hymns of Truth and Promise are being called to mind, used as lullabies, even if the verses are mixed up and tunes are badly mangled. The security and anchor of The Word that my folks encouraged me to memorize and sink deeply into my heart as a young believer are pouring out when I'm too tired to coherently put together my own prayer.

Practical things had to be tended to, to aid the eviction of the unwanted tenants. So January was spent re-establishing household routines and my beloved systems. (Gasp! Yes, even I was shocked at how long it took me to get back on that bandwagon I so love!) I grocery shopped multiple times between snow storms. I baked and cooked whenever the snow dumped on us, and we were snowed in. Menu planning, preparation of the daily dinner, and laundry days all were re-instituted. Many days those tasks were literally ALL that I could handle. But handle them I did. Anxiety had no choice but to pipe down in the wake of the loud, proud boasting of permanence and structure that our return to routines gave. I much prefer when Security and Confidence hang out with my gang, don't you?

February was focused on establishing some kind of social schedule for the little extroverted Mei Mei and her extrovert momma. Too many unstructured days staying home all day gave Trauma and Control way too much freedom to wreak their havoc. Play dates here at home and busy mornings out to do our errands made way for Joy, Cooperation, and Peace to hang out with us. It continues to amaze to me just HOW much of an extrovert this little girl is!

And while we aren't certain that Trauma has left the building just yet, we do feel as if he's recognized that his days are numbered. When he slinks off into the darkness and muck from whence he came, he will have no choice but to pack up his traveling mates with him. The foundation upon which we have built our home has made Trauma's stay an uncomfortable one and he's learning that we cannot, WILL NOT co-habitate with him.

Since our name is on the mortgage, he's the one that's got to go.

Special thanks to my lovely friend, Amelia.
Her keen eye for detail, spiritual wisdom,
and excellent writing skills
helped me pull this metaphor
together with far more eloquence
and consistency of voice
than I am capable of in this hard season!