Thursday, July 31, 2008

Recipe for sparkling eyes and wonder


One plastic container
Twigs, sticks, bark (preferably without wood roaches and/or larvae sticking to it)
Fabric leaves
Glitter in various colors (I like the fairy dust glitter. It is much more realistic. After all, these are fairies we are talking about. You need portray them realistically.)
River rocks
Spanish moss
Silk flowers
Squares of felt (I like green (grass), white (snow) and brown (dirt).
Tiny nests and birds (the kind you find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby, not the kind you find in a tree)
Small fairy figures (I went to at least half a dozen store and finally found them at WalMart.)
Elmer’s Glue
Foam fairy hats from Michael's and foam stickers.


Place thin layer of Glue on some of the leaves and cover with green glitter. Let dry.
Pack everything in plastic box.
Allow children to decorate hats.
Take pictures.
Decorate hats with squiggles of glue and cover with various colored glitter.

Allow children to make fairy houses out of contents of plastic box.
Take pictures.



Nets from the elefun game
A willing husband
An accommodating sister

Take children to sister's house to ask instructions on how to find fairies. Good answers would include: Listen for bells, look out for fairy dust, ask cats (because everyone knows cats can tell humans where fairies are), and catch a butterfly (fairies often ride them when they get tired of flying).
While sister is giving you strange looks and repeating your whispered instructions, have husband apply green fairy dust to leaves in backyard. Take kids to backyard and allow them to "find" the fairy dust and exclaim with wonder that this must be where the fairies sleep.
Take pictures.
Have husband shake bells one floor up from kitchen window.
Allow kids to frantically look for the fairy that is teasing them with its tinkling sound.
Tell kids that one year old (the one husband is allowing to shriek from kitchen window) has scared the fairies away.
Take kids through woods behind house. Have an anxiety attack when daughter slides down an embankment and little girl you watch almost steps on a rusty nail.
Point out cat sitting by tree and tell kids to chase it out of woods and ask it where the fairies are.
Smile when daughter does so.
Tell kids you watch that they insulted the cat when they said, "cats don't talk." Now the cat will not talk!
Breathe when kids leave woods.
Take kids up the hill known as Fairy Mountain.
Take pictures.
Call husband from cell phone and tell him to construct a fairy house in front.
Walk around the community and watch the kids insanely try to catch butterflies.
Wave at neighbors.
Tell them you are looking for fairies.
Try not to appear in need of Psycho-somatic drugs.
Take kids home and allow them to "discover" fairy house. Notice that he also sprinkled pink, blue and purple fairy dust around the steps.
Give husband a big kiss.
Allow one year old to try to catch a fairy, too.
Take pictures.
Enjoy the imagination of your children.
Take pictures.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ellie's faith lesson

I woke Saturday morning with a twinge and tightness in my back but didn't want to miss ballet class. Unfortunately, our comfortable, sweet ballet teacher had moved back to Jersey and an overzealous, company dancer had taken her place. Her idea of a beginner's ballet class was like asking Chef Ramsey to teach my husband to cook.
I've had back problems since becoming pregnant with Grainne. One 9 lb. 2 oz. baby, three months of physical therapy and half a dozen very scary chiropractic visits later and I still suffered from sporadic pain.
Ballet has actually helped a lot. I guess the exercise worked. Well, it could be the constant refrain of my teacher pounding in my head all week long. "Suck in you belly! Tuck in your butt! Tighten your thighs! Push back your shoulders! Stick out your chest!"
Nothing beats the desire to look like a ballerina to remind you of your posture.
This past Saturday I was determined to at least master the mechanics of a tour jette. One glance in the wall length mirror assured me it wasn't very pretty but I could work on that later. In the middle of my one thousandth try (I'm slightly prone to exaggeration- don't take that too literally) I did a beautiful pique arabesque, a graceful chasse, a jump, a switch of the legs, a turn...and realized-midair- I should have stopped at my 999th try.
I haven't experienced such excruciating pain since having Grainne (remember-9 lb. 2 oz.) without any medication (again... 9 lb. 2 oz.) and a nurse who was ridiculously inept with needles.
Seriously, I spent all day Saturday popping Tylenol and debating whether or not I should take the last of my codeine (left over from having above 9 lb. 2 oz. baby). Sunday, I required the assistance of my mother to feed, clothe and strap my children into their car seats in order for me to make it to church so I could receive prayer and hopefully healing. Monday I wondered all day why I hadn't received my healing and again debating the codeine question, despite the fact that I needed to be cognizant and not under the influence of drugs because of my desire to not accidentally starve or maim my children. Tuesday (today) I hired a teenage girl from my church to help me with my two and the three I baby-sit. I spent most of the day flat on my back with my legs on a chair and the rest of the day lying over my exercise ball trying (futilely) to remember my physical therapy exercises.
Through this whole trial I received such an incredible blessing though and I honestly am glad it happened. Although, I kind of wished it had happened to Shane because I would have witnessed the following anyway.
My Ellie, who has always been so sensitive to my moods and empathetic when I hurt myself, asked me, "Mommy, does your back still hurt?"
"Yes, sweetheart."
"Can I pray for you?"
"I would love for you to pray for me!"
Ellie than goes to our vanity where we keep a little vial of anointing oil. We aren't really that spiritual, I just tossed it there after our pastor handed them out and exhorted us to pray for the people at the hospitals.
"Mommy, I need to put that on your back."
Where in the world did she learn to anoint people?
We pray as a family. I pray for her when she is hurt. We pray first thing in the morning and before bed, but we have never used anointing oil. (Sorry Rex. I promise, one day I really will attempt to cause a stir at Mercy hospital. Maybe when I can walk again.)
Maybe, in between her two dozen trips to the potty, her insistence for her snack and her desire to run around the sanctuary like a screaming, locked up monkey she absorbed the importance of anointing people with oil.
Shane put a little oil on her little fingertip. She pulled up the back of my shirt, asked me where it hurt and placed her sticky hand on my lower back.
"Dear Lord Jesus," she prayed, "Please thank you for Mommy's back. Thank you for making Mommy's back all better. Amen"
Wow. That's how we are supposed to pray for healing. No screaming, yelling, begging or whining.
Thank you Lord for your blessing. Thank you Lord for your healing. The end. Short, sweet, simple. No pretense, no excess. Honestly, it was the most powerful, healing prayer I've heard in a long time.
As Christians we sometimes think we need to embellish things. Make it more exciting and interesting. We want to make everything seem more important. We are not content to be simple. We are not comfortable with the basics.
Well, Ellie taught me something. I like to talk about "the faith of a child" but I have trouble putting it into action. How many times have you prayed for someone by thanking the Lord, than simply asking for a blessing?

"Thank you, Lord for my job. Please, help me pay my mortgage."
"Thank you, Lord for my mind. Please, heal me of depression."
"Thank you, Lord for my wife. Please, heal our relationship."

Matthew 7:7 says, "Ask and it will be given to you..."
Matthew 21:22 says, "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
Mark 11:24 says, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you."

Ellie keeps asking me, "Mommy, does you back still hurt?"
When I say "Yes, honey" she looks confused and asks, "Why?"
She fully believed when she prayed for me I was going to be healed. What she doesn't realize is that I didn't believe. Oh, I believe God could heal me but I didn't really believe he would. I've always been too pragmatic, too realistic and down to earth to deep down believe that.
But, now? Well, I'm tired of being in pain. I'm tired of worrying that I will suffer the rest of my life. I'm tired of trying everything but God. I've also become a little bit tired of being shown up by my three year old daughter in the faith department.
So, I'm sitting here on the floor, trying to ignore the pain and I've decided something.
I'm going to pray.
"Dear Jesus. Thank you for my back. Please, heal my back. Amen."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Raising swiss chard kids in an Oreo world.

Despite the title of this blog it is not a food blog. Although, there will be a few blogs with an emphasis on food, it is primarily a blog on practical parenting.
I'm not an expert. I don't have a PhD or MD or any letters after my name. I am, however, a mom. Which makes me a bit of an expert in the raising of my children at least.
Let's face it, though. Children are children. Children in America, Germany, India, China and Africa are still children. When you give an inch they will take a mile. When you submit YOUR will, they will take over and rule the world (or at least your home). When you give in to one temper tantrum, they will sprout horns, carry a pitchfork and gleefully make your life a living...well, you get the point.
In the nearly four years I have been a parent I have noticed a few things that cause me pause.
One, for some reason (and I have my ideas about those reasons) parents are loathe to make rational, down to earth, practical decisions regarding the discipline and parenting of their children.
Two, American's have formed a new religion- the cult of the child.
Three, because of number one and two, our children are generally rude, disagreeable, prone to ridiculous outbursts, defiant, disrespectful and have the manners of an orangutan. That's just the preschoolers. Teens, once on the precipice of adulthood, are now just toddlers that can drive and date (scary).

I have seen grown, professionals cower before the wrath of a toddler denied a cinnamon sugar Auntie Anne's pretzel. Parents today run to the latest parenting guru's (usually childless) and eat up all the psycho drivel that pours from the pages of their shiny, paperback books. They read Star magazine so they can mirror the parenting prowess of the stars (and if three year olds sucking bottles and five year olds demanding Gucci is your thing, I suggest to find another blog) and they are so afraid of hurting their child's self esteem that they are loathe to give so much as a time out. For the record, after the millionth three minute time out on the naughty step a three year old will learn she will eventually be set free. I recommend changing it up a bit. How about a two hour time out in the bedroom one day and gleefully putting every beeping, singing, china-made toy in time out the next.
There is so much focus on the children these days we forget that in a few years these kids will be adults and they won't know what to do with the loss of attention. Ask any married couple with kids when the last time was that they went out on a date, let alone a vacation (sans children) and you will see that the majority are terrified of leaving their kids. If the adults do get a date they inevitably spend their time talking guessed it, the kids. Now, I adore my children. They are two of the most important things in the world to me. I miss them when I am away and love to be with them. However, I don't feel guilty about going out alone with my husband- even when Grainne (my 17 month old) is standing at the door, clutching her baby, with tears rolling down her cheeks, screaming "Mommy! Mommy!" I go to ballet lessons twice a week and don't bat an eye when Ellie (my three year old) begs me to take her with me. "Mommy, I want to be with yoooooouuuuu!" she will cry. Well, mommy wants to be alone for two hours. See you in the morning.
Children are masters of emotional manipulation. If I followed Darwin's line of thinking, I would say it was natural selection at its best. I can picture a cave woman able to feed only one child and trying to choose between two. Which one will it be? The stoic one that is emotionally distant or the big eyed one whose lips quiver and arms wrap around cave daddy's neck?
Since I am more a creationist type I'll just chalk it up to every person's (and yes, I mean children too!) sinful nature.
We've established that today's parents have lost their spine and today's children are doing what comes natural. Let's discuss point three. When I was a missionary in India I noticed something about the children. The children, before every church service, would gather at the front of the auditorium. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of them. They would sit, cross-legged, on the hard concrete (if they were lucky) or dirt (if they weren't) floor. The pastor would get up and speak for HOURS. Indian pastors are much for brevity...or the after church rush to Applebee's (they really don't care if the Baptists get the best seats.) So, you have a very large group of children. All ages, from toddling one year olds to lanky fourteen year olds. And you know what? You wouldn't hear a peep. After my first few church services I was curious. I was a children's minister, after all, and I wondered if it was some genetic mutation or tranquilizers slipped into the curry.
It was neither. The motivating factor behind the children's good behavior was the man walking up and down the aisle with a long stick. A whisper, a giggle, nodding off, even a nervous twitch and this guy would reach his stick out and, WHACK, across the shoulder it would fall.
I'm not advocating smacking children in church (although, I've been tempted a couple times to swing my praise flag in a wide arc and knock bratz dolls from the hands of the five year olds playing teenager behind me). What I am advocating, is teaching our children that there are repercussions to bad behavior. I know. I know. I'm not supposed to say bad. Hush. That is a very bad word. I'm also not aloud to say no, because I said so, wait until your father comes home or "If you hit your sister with your stick pony one more time I am going to send pony to the dog food factory". But, I have said all those things. And you know what? People constantly comment on how well behaved, well mannered and obedient my children are. I've made a ton of mistakes parenting but at least I do it. Parent, that is.
So many parents today are afraid to draw the line. They are afraid of offending modern parenting experts. They are afraid their children will call CPS if they deny them dessert because they didn't eat their dinner. They are afraid of the collective "them" judging them unfit and unloving. Here's the thing. Why should we parent from fear? Your children won't hate you if you have rules. They won't grow up to be maladjusted sociopaths unable to show love because you punished them. And despite what most of the "experts" in America (and most of the population of Denmark) think, your kids self esteem shouldn't be your first priority. Their ability to grow into productive, compassionate, responsible adults should be.

So, what's up with the whole Swiss chard thing? That's simple. In a country where most kids consider sugar to be a food group, my children love Swiss chard. They dance for it, actually. No joke. Grainne does the seventies pointing finger thing when she gets a bite of that green goodness. Why do my children love Swiss chard (and asparagus, hummus, kale, and spanikopita)? 'Cause they have no choice at dinner. They learned very young that mom is not a short order cook and I will not feel bad if they go to bed hungry because they didn't like what I made. They are not always allowed to have cake and ice cream at parties. We don't have cookies in the house and they think an apple with almond butter is dessert. I know parents who give their kids Oreo's (really, I'm not picking on Oreo's) because they won't eat their chicken. Well, my kids don't have that option. They eat their Swiss chard because they have to. Why?
Because I said so.