Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Faces and Homemade Goodness

What a day! This morning I was able to go to Panera for ALMOST TWO HOURS BY MYSELF! I ate a whole grain bagel and read my Bible the entire time. Well, I didn't eat the bagel the entire time, but I did read my Bible the entire time. I popped my earplugs in and was able to focus really well. I finished 1 Kings. I just joined up with a couple other moms for a Thursday morning kid swap, so I was able to take Ladan to a friend's house. Since Gabe was sick, Chet stayed home with him. Normally Chet comes home from his morning class and goes straight to bed, so this was a really big treat for me that I thought wasn't going to be possible because Gabe is sick. Yippee!!!!

When I got home, Ladan asked if he could have a piece of candy from our church Reformation Party. He picked a blue Starburst, and this is what it did to his mouth...

It was great! He thought it was hilarious! His blue mouth made his face happy for quite a few minutes. I'd say that there was enough dye in that one piece of candy to color enough icing for an entire cake.

Once the boys were in bed for their naps, I did a few things around the house. For dinner, I made a chicken pot pie... with a happy face cut out of the top (forget the boring scalloped circle recommended in the recipe)! It only takes about an hour to make this, and it's really good. It's also huge, so it lends itself well to leftovers. And apparently you can assemble it, wrap it well, and freeze it for future baking. I'll post the recipe in another entry just in case you're interested in trying it out.

Once I got dinner cleaned up, I started making some pumpkin bread out of that friendly pumpkin we brought home from the pumpkin patch a couple weeks ago. Although it took a while from start to finish, it was very easy and included long chunks of time to do other things. If you'd like to see the recipe, click here. I turned our pumpkin into one loaf of pumpkin bread and three cups of pumpkin puree that are in the freezer waiting to be turned into three loaves of bread sometime in the future!

As if all that wasn't enough homemade goodness for the day, I decided to attempt to make the ear infection drops suggested in a FABULOUS book I reference all the time--Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Natural and Conventional Treatments for Infants & Children. (I just realized that there is actually an adult version of this book when I went to copy the link. I'm going to add it to my Amazon wish list immediately! I've been using the kid version even for myself, and it's been great, but this will most certainly be even better for we old folks.)

Anyway, back to the ear infection and drops. I can't be sure if Gabe has an ear infection. I haven't taken him to the doctor, because even if I take him, all they'll do is give him an antibiotic. All I know is that he sure has been crabby for almost a week, has hardly eaten, and today he started pulling on his ears. He's got a pretty wet cough, so I wouldn't be surprised at all by an ear infection.

I know there are varying opinions on antibiotics for this type of thing, but in short, I don't like them much and will avoid them if at all possible. I talked to a nurse who works at Children's Hospital in St. Louis once, and she told me that they don't even administer antibiotics there unless there is danger of death. She was shocked when I told her that so many of our friends' kids are continually put on antibiotics for ear infections. Sure, ear infections are painful and irritating, but there has to be a better way in most of these cases to help kids get through it that doesn't diminish their resistance to future infection. Well, I think I found at least one helpful solution today!

In Smart Medicine, they suggest making some simple ear drops. You put about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a small pot on the stove. Then peel a fresh garlic clove and cut it into about three or four pieces (the book doesn't say you have to cut it, but I did so the garlic would get out into the oil faster). I heated the oil and garlic on medium for about 5 minutes, removed it from the heat, and let it cool until it was still a bit warmer than body temperature but not too hot. You then suck up a bit of the oil in a medicine dropper, lay your kid on his/her side, and drop one or two drops into their ear canal.

We did this in both of Gabe's ears, and while he absolutely hated the process of being held down, after about 10 or 15 minutes, he was up and running around like himself and had a great time until he went to bed an hour and a half later! Apparently, garlic has antibacterial properties and works to heal ear (and other) infections. And the warm oil mixed with the garlic helps to relieve pressure and pain. It was awesome! We'll definitely be doing this once or twice a day until this thing is gone completely.

So I sent him to bed with a bit of Olbas Oil on his shirt, the humidifier on normal setting, and a HAPPY FACE on the front of his head for the first time in almost a week! Praise the Lord!

Chet even had a happy face before he left for work. He was able to write half a paper in the chunk of time after dinner until he left. Great work! He's still got a TON to do between now and next Monday, but he's on a roll!

Oh, and I made some hummus from scratch earlier this week, which turned out to be 1/4 of the cost of buying it in the store. I'm on fire! Too bad I don't have a photo of my happy face tonight!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Illinois... and Gabe in Concert

We spent Friday and Saturday traveling to Springfield and Champaign, Illinois. It was a packed 38.5 hours from 11am on Friday when we left Louisville till the time we arrived home at 1:30am on Saturday night (Sunday morning for those of you who are concerned about precision). Gabe was a showing some signs of being a little bit under the weather before we even left, so I packed the Ibuprofen and Olbas Oil.

When we set out, Ladan asked for a cookie randomly. I told him he could probably have one when we got to Illinois. On the way, we stopped at Old McDonald's (that's what Ladan calls it) in Danville, Illinois and got some chicken nuggets for the boys. Danville is just inside the state, so we had just told Ladan we had entered Illinois. When we were pulling out of the parking lot, Ladan said in distress, "Oh, no! We almost forgot to eat a cookie in Illinois!" We had to explain that Illinois is a big place and that we'd be in it for another whole day. Whew! He felt so much better.

The boys didn't sleep at all on the way. Nice. We got to Springfield at about 4:30, settled into our hotel room, and met up with Chet's old youth pastor, Ed Ingram, and his family. We went to dinner at a place called the Pizza Machine. It's something like three stories, but you can see each of the levels from one side of the restaurant. There are all kinds of crazy things to watch and do in the place. They hold birthday parties on the lower level, which you can see from any spot in the place. They make a 40- or 60-inch pizza, put it on a massive pan, and lower it with a chain and pulley system from the ceiling above the third level. Crazy! Needless to say, the boys were a little bit overwhelmed to start. It really wasn't until about 20 minutes before we left that they even broke in and wanted to play with things.

Gabe had a horrible time falling asleep and even woke up in the middle of the night. Not normal for him. We had to have the boys ready by about 7:45 so they could go to Kevin Ingram's soccer game. I was not optimistic that they would do very well. They're used to having 12 hours of sleep at night and at least 2.5 hours of rest/nap time in the afternoon. They had missed their nap on Friday and only had a maximum of 9 hours of sleep that night. And Gabe was definitely getting sick.

The Ingrams kept the boys for about 6 hours, and when we met up with them again, the boys had been really good! They had eaten well, obeyed, and had a great time! The Lord provides just what we need when we need it. Gabe was in pretty bad shape at this point, though. He was hardly talking (a sure sign he's not well), had a fever, and was coughing.

We popped the boys in the car and headed off for Champaign. They each slept for about 45 minutes in the car. Hardly a full nap, but at least enough to hopefully sustain them. We met up with our new friend, Jim, in Champaign. He hopped in our car and showed us all around the city. It was awesome! Pretty much like Columbia, only a little bit more of everything. The campus is a little bit bigger. The downtown area is a little bit bigger. The city is a little bit bigger. However, it pretty much has exactly the same feel to it. I guess the only difference is that there probably weren't nearly as many wooded or road walking/bike trails in Champaign, but they had more large parks than Columbia. Nevertheless, it was just our speed... pretty much everything we love about College Town, USA. We had never been there before, so it was definitely fun to see it.

We ate dinner with Jim and his wife. Throughout dinner, I'm pretty sure that Gabe didn't say even two words and ate only his applesauce. Ladan, on the other hand, was shockingly social. He was talking and playing with the kids in the booth behind us. He laughed and joked with Jim. He even ate all his food, including some appetizers. All of this on very little sleep is really great for him!

After dinner, we got back in the car and headed for home. We stopped for some $2.23 gasoline outside of Indianapolis, but other than that, we just kept moving. We were SO TIRED! The boys slept most of the way, and Chet and I wanted to sleep most of the way. I was trying to stay awake just to keep Chet awake. Let's just say that it was a good thing he was driving, because I would have sent us off the road.

We got home at 1:30, unloaded the van, and got ready for bed. By this time, Gabe's temperature was 103.4. I gave him some Ibuprofen, put some Olbas Oil on his shirt, and Chet turned on the humidifier. He was so happy to be in his own bed. He just quietly smiled when I laid him down and went to sleep immediately. He slept until 1:30 on Sunday afternoon.

When I went in to get him, I opened the door and was surprised to see that it appeared as though he was in concert! Chet hadn't paid too much attention to the setting on the humidifier, but it turns out that it was putting out so much mist that all I could see was Gabe's head popping out over the top of all the fog. It literally looked like those fog machines people use in concerts/plays. It was hilarious! Everything was damp, but I noticed that the curtains had been pretty nicely steamed. Definitely a benefit. (Note to self--never iron curtains again... just turn the humidifier on high output and shut the door!) Gabe felt so much better that he was eating, playing and chatting like normal. We determined that Olbas Oil and the humidifier on "concert setting" can possibly cure most anything!

In reality, Gabe's still got a cough and is pretty hoarse, but he's on the mend. It's actually been kind of nice to have him want me to hold him so much. He's not overly demanding, but he comes up and wants to sit in my lap while I type on the computer... and he doesn't even feel the urge to punch all the keys and wreck what I'm doing. He's just been sitting here pointing at all the letters on the keyboard and whispering what he sees. I can handle that. Last night we were watching baseball, and he was just chillin' on my lap with his little hand on my arm. I'll take it while I can get it. In no time he'll be too big to sit on my lap, and probably even sooner than that, he won't want to.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Vote Your Conscience"

A friend sent me the link to this video produced by the Catholic Church. I would suggest that most of what's included in it pertains to all Christians, not just Catholics... so please take 3 and a half minutes to watch it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Proud of My Boys!

I've been attempting to edit one of Chet's papers for an hour and a half now, but I'm totally delirious and can't focus. I guess four hours of sleep last night didn't turn out to be enough to sustain me for a late night of academic paper reading tonight. Shocking!

I just thought I'd post a quick note to say I'm so proud of my boys... all of them! Chet's been working HARD to get through this semester. In about six weeks, he'll complete his last full semester. Then he's got two classes to finish up. He's totally exhausted and has a ton on his plate right now, but the end is in sight! He's such a hard worker!

Ladan and I finished lesson 16 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons today. He's reading some short words, some short sentences, and has been introduced to some picture interpretation over the course of the last few lessons. And he's TOTALLY LOVING IT!!!! He can hardly wait for his lesson every day, and he is so excited throughout each one. It's so much fun to see him learning and enjoying it so much. I forgot what he did the other day, but when he finished, I told him he did a really good job. He replied, "Yeah, I'm so proud of myself!" This may sound a bit puffed up to some of you, but I am so excited to see this new confidence coming out in him. We've worked and prayed long and hard for this, and it's finally showing up! Rather than hearing him say, "I can't," I see him backing up, thinking, and then trying again until he gets it.

Gabe has really made some big progress in the last few weeks with his letters also. I wasn't too sure if he was going to be into letters and sounds, but he's really blown me away. He stands at the refrigerator or the white board and points out all his letters. He still gets about 5 or so of them confused every once in a while, but considering that he only knew 5 letters total about a month ago, I'd say that's pretty great. And considering that he does it all voluntarily, I think it's REALLY great!

Learning is so much fun! And lest you think that my boys are the only ones doing the learning, I'll let you know that I too am catching on to new things. I had a chance to take Beth Bloom's senior photos yesterday. In preparation, Chet had to teach me a little bit more about our big flash. Beth, Kathy (Beth's mom), and I went out to a few fun spots around town to snap the photos. We had so much fun! I almost fell in the creek about five times, but thankfully I managed to stay on dry land. I had downloaded the 30-day trial of Photoshop Lightroom to play around with, and I had a blast using Beth's photos as a learning experience!

Then tonight I went to a meeting of current and potential homeschoolers at our church to learn more about how to homeschool on a tight budget. Homeschooling freaks me out in many ways... but every time I think about acquiring materials/supplies, taking time to learn or re-learn all that content myself in order to teach it, and then watching my kids' faces light up every time they learn something new, I realize it could the perfect combination of all the parts of school that were my favorites!!! Only the Lord knows if it's what we'll end up doing for sure, but I'm so thankful for the opportunity to learn from so many wise, experienced people here. My friend, Becky, is always telling me that I'm already homeschooling my kids, and she's right. It's just not structured-sit-down-and-do-worksheets homeschooling.

Ladan and Gabe are both having a great time singing. Their current favorite is "Holy, Holy, Holy". Ladan knows all the words and sings it along with his air guitar while he dances around. And Gabe apparently doesn't want to miss out on the fun, because he inevitably chimes in, "Woewee, woewee, woewee!" and then belts into an endless stream of babbling with the occasional clear syllable until finally at the end, when Ladan is shouting out, "Blessed Trinity," Gabe ends on cue with "i-tee!" as if he just sang the song as clearly as his older brother. Great!

Ladan is loving his Jesus Storybook Bible. We've been through it quite a few times already, but he still can't get enough of it. Whenever it's time to read together, he only wants to read his Bible. I can't argue with that. He saves his other books for his independent "reading" time. Tonight we were reading about God's message to Isaiah, and the story referred to the coming king as a servant. I asked Ladan if he knew what a servant was. He kind of stumbled around for a bit, so I explained that it's a person who helps another person. He replied, "Yeah, Jesus is that servant. He helped us because he died on the cross to take our punishment." Okay! I guess he knew right where this story was headed!

Gabe, on the other hand, tends to have a hard time sitting still for books that have any length to them. But that kid cannot get enough of prayer time. Especially before bed, he loves it when we hold him and whisper our prayers in his ear. He bows his head, snuggles close, and says, "Pay?" So we pray with him, and when we finish, he'll ask again. My prayer is that this time will provide a foundation for him and that he'll know without a doubt that the Lord is near and that He hears us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Consider This...

I've mentioned before that I'm on a quest to read the whole Bible in a little over six months. I started with the New Testament and am now working through the Old Testament. I don't think I'll always read through it this quickly, but it's really great to get the big picture in a short period of time. I'm finding that I'm picking up connections that I didn't necessarily get in longer, more spaced-out reads.

I've been reading 1 Samuel for the last few days, and I wanted to mention a couple of things that caused me to stop in my tracks all over again even though I've read them many times before.

The first is in 1 Samuel 12. Israel is asking God for a king. Samuel warns them that they really don't want a king. They insist that they do indeed want a king. They're tired of trusting a king (God) that they cannot see... they want an earthly king, partly so it's someone they can see and partly just because it's what everyone else around them is doing. The Lord appoints a king, but it's not without consequence to Israel. Here's how it goes down:
1 Samuel 12:17b-25 (ESV) [Samuel says,] ... And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord in asking for yourselves a king. So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

And all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king." And Samuel said to the people, "Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king."

I mean, seriously. Just sit and read that second paragraph again. It's amazing, and it applies to every human being who ever walked the face of the earth. Israel totally blew it! And yet they had this great encouragement from the Lord through Samuel. And they still messed up. Over and over and over again. We mess up over and over and over again. Which is exactly why God had a different plan from eternity past, one that doesn't count on our ability to get it right. Jesus.
And isn't Jesus' message to all humanity the same as Samuel's message to Israel? We have all sinned against the Lord and worshiped "empty things that cannot profit or deliver" (ourselves, other people, knowledge, things, status, good hair, a clothing size, etc.). If you are reading this and are in a place where you are not trusting in Christ ALONE for the forgiveness of your sins and hope of eternal life, you can choose right now to recognize that God is the only One worth worshiping, turn away from your sin, receive His forgiveness, and begin to serve him faithfully with all your heart.

Even those of us who have already accepted the Truth of the Gospel still need to hear it over and over again. It's sweet every single time we hear it and recognize how wonderful God's grace is. The Lord has done great things for us, and He alone is worthy of our praise and honor.

Samuel points out that it would be a sin against GOD for Samuel to give up praying for Israel. There are times in life when we have done all we can physically do for a person, but there is NEVER a point in time when we are allowed to give up praying for those who are wandering or separated from the Lord. He also says that he will continue to instruct them in the good and right way. As an added note, if we're receiving instruction or correction in "the good and right way", let's not reject it. It is a gift from the Lord, a mercy that gets or keeps us on track.

Samuel warns Israel that if they continue to do wickedly, they and their king will be destroyed. Likewise, if we fail to turn away from all of the empty things that we worship and fail to repent of our sin, we will be destroyed right along with all the stuff we focus on that doesn't last. This warning is very scary. But ultimately we don't worship the Lord only as a way to get out of being destroyed (although it's definitely a healthy part of our motivation). We worship and serve him faithfully with all our hearts because he has done great things for us. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). There is so much more (infinitely more), but hopefully, I'm getting the basic point across.


The second thing I wanted to mention is the story of David and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. I would encourage you to read the entire chapter, but I'm not going to type it all out here. In short, Abigail is married to a guy named Nabal. Nabal acts a fool and is a punk to David. David decides that he's going to seek revenge and kill Nabal.

Abigail finds out about David's plan and approaches David to ask him to have mercy on her husband (who she admits has acted foolishly). She encourages him to let the Lord take care of it and says, "And when the Lord has... appointed you prince over Israel, [you] shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for ... taking vengeance [yourself]." (1 Samuel 25:30-31)

"And David said to Abigail, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand!'" (1 Samuel 25:32-33)

David decided not to kill Nabal. Abigail told her husband all of these things. Ten days later the Lord struck Nabal dead.

"When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, 'Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing.'" 1 Samuel 25:39.

The Lord used Abigail to speak to David, to prevent David from doing something terribly wrong. Even if the Lord had not struck Nabal dead, it would still have been His job to decide to avenge David. It is not our responsibility to get back at people who do wrong to us. We are to trust these things to the Lord. And we are to heed the warnings of other people that God uses to warn us. David humbly accepts Abigail's warning and praises her discretion. He didn't continue on with his plan just because he had already resolved to kill Nabal. He snapped out of it and realized that it would be a big mistake. He saw Abigail's action as loving.

Like Abigail, when we see other people heading into a situation where they are about to make some big mistakes, it is our responsibility to come to them in love and warn them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Weird Shouting Guys

Tonight, Ladan and I went for a walk to Walgreens and to the bank. It's about a mile or so each direction, and since it was a nice night, I decided to see how long Ladan can walk. It was lots of fun! He held my hand the entire way and wanted to run every time we needed to cross a street (after looking both ways and yelling out, "We're safe!" every time of course).

Well, we got into Walgreens, and since Halloween is approaching, there were lots of strange looking creatures hanging from the ceilings and the walls. Ladan doesn't know a whole lot about Halloween, so these things were a little bit surprising to him. He kept saying, "Mom, look at those giant weird guys up there."

We were walking out of the store to go to the bank, and he saw a strange-looking ghoulish kind of guy. The guy was bald, had no eyebrows, had his mouth open like he was yelling, and had a sort of dirty-looking robe thing on. This particular guy stood out to Ladan for some reason. He stopped to look at the guy and said, "That's really strange, Mom. That guy is shouting."

I asked him what he thought the guy was saying. He replied, "I think he's yelling, 'Help! I lost my eyebrows and my hair and I'm all dirty!'" Nothing about, "I'm going to get you!" or any such phrase that might be scaring someone else. Ladan was fairly certain that the guy was just freaked out because he looked like a freak! Hilarious!

On the way home, he was talking about the weird shouting guys in the store, and I said something like, "It's not too nice that they're shouting like that, is it?" He answered, "No. That guy should have said, 'Would you please help me find my eyebrows and my hair and clean me up?' He didn't need to shout about it." We laughed all the way home!

On Saturday we took the boys out to Huber's Orchard to pick a pumpkin. We went into the kids' area and rode out to the field to feed the animals. And then we rode a different tractor out to the pumpkin patch. It was a lot of fun! Here are a few photos...

This is about as close as Ladan got to a goat's mouth.

Gabe, on the other hand, was all about the goats licking the corn right out of his hand. He loved it when they had to pry his little hand open to get their food! His own tongue was sticking out the entire time he was feeding them.

These are out in the pumpkin patch...

The boys loved this green pumpkin.
We had to convince them that it wasn't necessary to throw it like a football.

Ladan was having a blast!
I think Gabe was trying hard to develop a strategy for choosing.
(Doesn't he look like a coach standing on the sidelines?!?)

Here's the little guy we finally brought home. As a result of our new friend's presence in the middle of the table,
Ladan is very proud to be properly pronouncing pumpkin (as opposed to "ponekin").

Did you notice that Gabe has to wear his hat just slightly tilted to the side just like Ladan did? How cute is that?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The New 20

Today I turned 30. My brother called me a couple of days ago and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I can never think of anything when people ask me this question, but I remembered that I do have an Amazon wish list. I got on the computer while I was talking to him and sent the link to Amber, my sister-in-law. While she was pulling up the list, my brother was heckling me about how old I am. I heard Amber yelling out from the background, "30 is like the new 20!" He said, "Yeah, she said that 30 is like the new 50!" Nice. That's what little brothers are for I guess.

I was just excited to hear Amber say that she thought my Amazon wish list was so fun that it caused her to think that she needed to spice hers up a bit! I guess I'm not a total dud yet.

Last night my guys gave me my birthday present early. They got me Volume 1 of the Love Comes Softly movie series. We do like them because they're wholesome movies... but apparently part of the reason Chet bought them is that we laugh really hard at some of the acting, particularly the body movements and facial expressions of Dale Midkiff (Missie's father). Chet can do a mean Dale Midkiff impression that causes me to crack up. You'll have to ask him to oblige you sometime.

Earlier today I was getting ready to go to the grocery store, and Ladan walked me to the door. He gave me a hug before I left and spontaneously said, "I think you're really cool." That's a great birthday gift right there!

My mom had Chet go out and get me some balloons. He thought it was too much to get 30 balloons, so he got six latex balloons and wrote "5", "plus five", "+ five", "add cinco", "+ V", and "add another five" on them. Then he had them include a mylar balloon that says "thirty". He said that 6 x 5 = 30... and he was able to accomplish the goal with only seven balloons. Efficiency is definitely key. Now you see why we fit well together.

Before I went to the high school girls small group at church, I stopped at Starbucks and got my favorite treat, a mint javachip frappuccino. While I was waiting for it, the barista gave me a free multigrain roll and apple bran muffin. He didn't even know it was my birthday, so I consider that a gift straight from the Lord!

Then the small group gals had another little treat and a very sweet card for me. All of these things on top of the MANY Facebook, phone, and e-mail birthday greetings were a real blessing today. I definitely don't feel much different than I did when I turned 20. That said, I think Amber is probably right on. It's the new 20!