Thursday, May 24, 2007

Watching the Pigeons on Trafalger Square

"I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me." - Cavilla D. Martin

This line from this famous hymn definitely exemplifies my middle dd. She always has a song in her heart and hums it constantly. Sometimes it's a song she's recently heard. Sometimes it's a made up song. But she always has a song. My great grandma was a whistler. And I can be a whistler too. I guess she gets it honest. Anyway, we love this little sweet thing about our daugher. Her happy hearted songs make us happy too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Idol Stuff

Even though I didn't share this in a timely manner because I haven't been blogging much, I just must say it:

Melinda was robbed!

There. I said it. Rant over.

Mothering Madness

Mothering is the one thing in life that I have always felt so under-prepared for. To be brutally honest, I have often (and I mean often) asked God why he chose me to be a mother. I feel that inadequate about it. I tend to beat myself up as a mother, always comparing myself to some perfect pie-in-the-sky mother, always disappointed that I don't live up to the expectations I have for myself. I rehash my parenting mistakes over and over again in my mind until they are blown way out of proportion. I talk to myself negatively as a mother, often thinking my children need a better one.
Do you have something that you beat yourself up for? Something that you just peck yourself to death about? Well, go and read this wonderful post by Beth Moore over at the Living Proof Ministries blog. Hopefully it will transform your thinking about what you beat yourself up about as much it has mine. I'm determined not to condemn myself in this area anymore.
Anybody wanna join me?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bloggin' Break

I'm taking a little bloggin' break right now while my mom and my aunt are visiting here with us. We have more visitors coming in for the next few weeks, so in order to enjoy them, I'll be posting less frequently. I did want to post this LUSH-ious link for you to see a new organic cosmetics company here in London that I'm loving. Just look at those fabulous bath bombs! There are some things here that I don't know how I'll live without when we have to return to America.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Marble Memories

We went to a marble making factory and museum called The Marble House over the weekend. While there, I was taken back in time to some special, nearly long-forgotten memories of my step-grandma, Grandma Allen, and the treasures at her house. She was a tiny little lady, the mother of my step-dad. She lived in an old house with a cellar full of preserves and homemade sauces, a front porch that cooled your feet under you on a hot summer's day, and a garden so full of rhubarb that pies were just begging to be made. Everytime we went to Grandma Allen's house, she'd fetch the green tupperware bowl from the freezer to let her kiddos dip into her famous oatmeal raisin cookies. She was a saver. As a teenager during the depression years, she had done without and it was obvious from the moment one tried to open up her junk drawer. Full of rubberbands, plastic bread bags, and who only knows what else, the drawer was so bulging full that it was nearly impossible to close upon opening. The attic in Grandma's house was one of those attics every little girl dreams of getting lost in. How I wish I could go back to that attic! I was awed by an antique baby buggy, perfectly sized for the old dolls, beautiful lamps and other furniture covered with sheets and a wonderful old trunk full with treasures.

But the trigger for all these wonderful memories this weekend was the marbles. Oh, Grandma had a wonderful old box full of marbles! When she wanted to keep my brother and I occupied for a little while, she'd pull the old Quaker oats box off of the shelf and allow us to play with her marble collection. We'd set up a little circle of marbles, each choose a shooter, and play for hours with the glass beauties. Of course, we each had our favorites, those we'd vie for at every marble competition. Some of the marbles were made of clay, but most were glass, obviously well-loved and much used if the nicks on their surface were to be believed. I saw some marbles this weekend at the marble House that reminded me of those marbles at Grandma's. They were antique. Most of them were glass, and because of their age and use, they too were nicked and had long ago lost their shine. But to me, those marbles were like magic marbles. Because they took me back to a place and time I'd nearly forgotten. A time of innocence and games and playing at my grandma's with her lovely, old, priceless, little marbles made of glass.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Following My Shepherd

We've had some interesting and unsettling news of late regarding our time here in the UK. We were informed at the beginning of this week that hubby's plant (he's in manufacturing managment) wants him back sooner rather than later because of some developments that have recently happened there. We have a work visa here in the UK that is valid until December and definitely thought we would be here until at least October.

In a sense we "just got here". We've moved twice in the past two months. Then the news came about yet another relocation as early as possibly the end of May. It's funny, because just the day before at church, feeling yet again lonely and left out, I bemoaned our time here. I was very homesick on Sunday, just longing for something familiar and in a word, easy. But then Monday came, and with it this news. And I was sad. Not sad because I don't long for home, but sad because there are so many things yet to do here; things we want to see and do, people we'd love to get to know better, a culture we'd like to come to love and invest in. Who knows what will happen? And what is God's purpose in all of this --whether in be coming in the first place, staying, or going home much earlier than we'd planned? Only He knows.

For the past two days, since we received this news, I've been questioning our decision to even come here. Did we hear God wrong? But in my heart of hearts, I do not believe we did. Several things confirmed for both hubby and me that God was bringing us here for this season. So, what of this apparent change in God's plan then?

I've been reminded of His sovereignty in all things of late as I've been reading through 1 Samuel and examining the events in the life of David before he took the throne. Was David questioning if he'd heard God right when he was hiding in the cave of Adullum, terrified that Saul would kill him? Perhaps, as he sat there, he recounted his annointing in Bethlehem and his victory over Goliath, the good times he'd spent in Saul's court using the harp to soothe the king. Maybe he was asking God the very same questions that we are asking Him right now. "What are you doing God? We thought we understood your plan." Ah...therein lies the problem. We will never understand His ways. For as Paul reminds us in Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unseaerchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out!" Back to David, he must have wondered, "What is a predestined king doing sitting in a cave, hiding from a madman who seeks his very life?" Did David wonder, like us, "How can good come out of this situation?"

In Psalm 142, verse 3, a contemplation of David when he was in the cave of Adullum, I read: "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path." Yes, again, I am reminded of His knowledge of his good plan for me and for my family, even when my spirit is overwhelmed with uncertainty. And then another reminder from Job 23, verse 10: "For He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me I shall come forth as pure gold." Pure. Yes, that's His ultimate goal for me: my purity. And His glory.

The words from this song by the Parachute Band were so comforting to me this morning:

"Lord, when I hear your call deep within my spirit calls, "Yes, I will follow."
Lord when I start to walk through that narrow gate, I cry, "Yes I will follow."
And in the valley of shadows no evil will I fear.
You are the Shepherd of my heart.
I will trust you.
And I go wherever you lead me. Safe in your arms I'll be alright.
How I love you.
And I go wherever you lead me.
Lead me."

Yes, I will continue to follow my sweet Shepherd, wherever that may be. I am his sheep. And he knows the way that I take even when I do not.

Lead on, Father. Lead on.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Umm, Am I Missing Something?

I just heard this coming from my telly:

"The smash hit USA classic game show is coming to the UK!"

"3,2,1....cue Donnie!"

That's right. You know that smash hit, $500,000 Pyramid? Apparently it's made it's way across the pond. I do take issue with the words smash and hit, however.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I Do So Love My Electric Tea Kettle

"When moving house, the first item to be unpacked is the electric kettle. Tea in conjuction with sitting down is so important in British culture that its consumption after unifying and world-shaping events (such as moon landings, cup finals, and the shooting of J.R. Ewing) results in millions of extra kilowatts of electricity being generated to cope with ten million British households putting the kettle on." --From Nicey and Wifey's "Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down"

When we headed over to this side of the pond, coffee was my drink of choice. To be more precise, a tall non-fat mocha extra hot with whipped cream from Starbucks, please. I enjoyed a nice Starbucks at least 3 times a week. Please don't try to calculate how much that equals in added pounds! It really didn't help that the local Target housed a Starbucks. I mean, I was in that place at least once a week, and the Starbucks smelled soooo good as soon as you entered the "home of the Spot". I was almost always suckered into buying one.

But, alas, being in the land of tea, I thought I'd try it out. Not that I haven't had tea before. I'm a big iced tea drinker back home. And, on rare occasion (and I do mean rare), I have been known to get a Tazo at Starbucks, but for the most part, I'm a coffee girl. Hubby and I decided to try tea during our first week here, after visiting the Princess Di Memorial Playground with the kids. They were having ice cream (in very chilly, windy weather, I might add!), and so we opted for a spot of tea. Now, hubby had been here for a month previous to work, so he schooled me on the preparations of tea. Add lots of milk. And some sugar. Milk? Doesn't that go in coffee? But, "when in Rome, right? So, I added the milk and sugar. And do you know what? It really hit the spot. It was good in a gentle sort of way that coffee is not and cannot be because of coffee's inherent bitterness.

So, pretty much every afternoon now, I fill up my electric kettle (finally figured out what the thing was after 6 weeks being here) and have tea. I have a little individual stainless steel pot to pour from and I love it. I also give my children tea about 3 times a week. They also enjoy it. I think they feel so grown up, drinking out of the real china cups and all. Although, as soon as this box of tea is gone, I will be buying decaf from now on. They love the biscuts much more than the tea, but still. They do enjoy it.

And do you know what? I'm definitely bringing an electric kettle back to the States. Voltage differences or not, I'm bringin' me home a kettle. What would I do without it now?

What Can I Say? The Girl Loves Birthdays!

On the way home from church, while passing a field of grazing sheep, this is what hubby and I heard from the backseat from dd4:

"When do you think is those sheeps birthday, mom? 'Cause I wanna give 'em some birthday cake!"

Do you think this has anything to do with the fact that she asks when her birthday is about 3 times a week and it's in December?

Caring for the Prisoner

Prison Fellowship, which is a non-profit agency supporting prisoners and sharing with them the love of Jesus Christ, is offering a chance for moms on the outside to send an e-card of support to moms in prison. Now, this little gesture won't solve their problems, but maybe it will lighten their load a bit to know that someone cares for them and is praying for them. I encourage you to go here and send an e-card. Then pray for the person who will be receiving it.

"'For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly, I say to you to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of mine, even to the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

Friday, May 4, 2007

God's Breaking Me

God is teaching so much about mothering and myself in this time away. I liken it to the Israelites desert experience in a way. The Israelites were removed from everything they had known in order to focus completely on God and His deliverance for them. I too have been removed from all my familiar surroundings, including family, friends, church, and even familiar events such as grocery shopping in order to learn from him, and to hear His voice. In many ways, He is wooing me here. But in that wooing there are also some hard lessons, mainly about myself.

I'm discovering new, gentler ways to parent my children. I mentioned in a previous post that I had been reading "Heartfelt Discipline" by Clay Clarkson. Through the reading of this book and the reading of daily scripture, I have been convicted of being so controlling in my parenting. My son can get especially beligerant at times. I think I often provoke him to anger in trying to force him to be the way I want him to be. I often worry about how things look on the outside --what will people think of me as a mom if he throws a fit in public? God has pointed out how graceless my parenting can be --a sort of "my way or the highway" approach that I've been taking. And I'm broken hearted over my lack of extended grace. Shouldn't I, of all people, be extending grace to my son when he gets angry. After all, how many times has my Father forgiven me for that same sin?

In her book, "Barefoot in the Kitchen", Alie Stibbe talks about a time when God convicted her in her mothering this way:

"I found that by removing my shoes, being cut down to size and getting in touch with reality (of God's holiness), produced a sense of mourning in me over all the bad attitudes that had accumulated in my life, but God used this to reinforce what He was teaching me: in the Bible people who mourned went about barefoot (2 Sam 15:30). It seemed that part of the process of commitment and finding God on my patch of holy ground involved mourning over the past so that a genuine act of repentance could take place, so that I could know God's forgiveness and be prepared by His Spirit for what lay ahead. When we are truly sorry for our past, the forgiveness we receive in the present is truly comforting."

So, like Alie Stibbe, I've been brought to the desert, to a patch of holy ground. A place in which my Father has wooed my for such a time as this. A place in which He has broken me in a sense over some sins in my mothering including self-centeredness, not extending grace, fits of anger, and other things. A place in which now, after the woundedness has come, the healing can begin.
I'll close with a prayer that Alie shared in the book.

"Yes, God, you have placed me in this situation with these children for however long it is you have planned. I accept the situation I am in. I accept these children you have blessed me with, and I ask that you will help me to be committed to a daily loving relationship with this family for as long as it takes.


What's Up With the Plastic Surgery, Jon?

You might recall that I was so excited to find my beloved American Idol on in London every week. I have to watch it two days late, but that's fine. I just try to avoid any information about it on the web and I can enjoy it just as much as I did back home. So, tonight I was really excited because Bon Jovi (my favorite 80's hair band, for sure) was going to be mentoring the contestants. Back in the day, I really rocked out with Bon Jovi. I know, I know, I'm aging myself. Plus the fact that thinking of my 37-year old mom self "rocking out" is a bit hilarious. I'm just trying to give my children future fodder for major embarassment.
So, imagine my dismay when I saw my number one heartthrob of the eighties sporting some new (no, not hairdo)...plastic surgery?!? What's up, Jon Bon Jovi? I couldn't even look at him, no kidding. I was ranting and raving to my husband. It went something like this:

Me: (with a screechy, horrified voice) "Honey, he's had plastic surgery! Look! It's so ridiculously obvious!"

Hubby: "Hmmm."

Me, again to hubby (Maybe he didnt' HEAR me. My main man from the eighties was apparently old enough for some plastic surgery): "No, seriously honey. Look at his eyes. They're unnaturally puffy. Look! Last time I saw him on Oprah he looked much different, much more natural."

Hubby: "Okay."

Me: "Baby, really. I mean....honey...I can't even LOOK at him. He looks so unnatural! Can't a girl from the eighties see her heartthrob age gracefully. Come on. Look! Oh. I am so mad. Our society is so messed up. Why did Jon think he needed plastic surgery? Of all people. Honey. I'm so angry."

Hubby: "Sorry?"

Now in hubby's defense, what would you say to something so weird and psycho as that. But, I am really sad about Jon's plastic surgery. I would love to see him age. Gracefully. Not with some plastic holding his cheeks up and some nips and tucks around his eyes.

Then hubby said something that REALLY made me mad.

Hubby: "What are you so mad about? Now he just looks like he did back when we were in high school!"

Me (clearly disgusted beyond belief): "Whatever! No he does not! That's just what somebody convinced him he'd look like. Clearly, now he looks like an overaged hairband rocker in his forties who is trying to appear eighteen!"

I guess hubby just doesn't get it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Boning Up on the Bard

This isn't something I'd be hearing if we were still in the States:

"Mom, you know what my favorite story was during my quiet time today? King Lear. It was about this king who had three daughters........."

It seems the Brittania story book that I got him has gotten him into Shakespeare. Now he wants to go see the Globe too. Ahhh, the things that this blessed 5 year old is getting to see and do.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Laundry Day

While I do miss my dryer back home, there is something so peaceful about a clean line of laundry drying itself in the afternoon sun. To my great surprise, I actually rather enjoy hanging out the laundry. Lots of birds to listen to, the sunshine, a garden to enjoy looking at, and the fresh scent of clean clothes. Aaaahhh!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Why This Year Might Forevermore Be Referred to as the "Year of Spam" in Our Family

Have I spoken at all about how difficult I am finding grocery shopping here in the UK? I think that it is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the thing that I was least prepared for in coming over from the States. I guess I was pretty ethnocentric in my thinking, because based on the fact that I have friends who have lived overseas and prepared my for culture shock and other things, and the fact that we had excellent inter-cultural training before we left, I assumed that buying products would be quite similar to that in America. Wrong-ola!

To be sure, there are many American products here. I can find Coke, Frosted Wheats, Skippy peanut butter, even Rice Krispie Treats. But, oh how different many things are! Take cheese for example. They have a phenomenal cheese selection here, but all the names are different, so you're never quite sure what you're getting. Plus, the american cheese that is a staple in our diet at home seems non-existent here, while cheddar seems to be used in that capacity here (Duh! I guess it is called American cheese!). Things like sour cream and whipped cream are very different in texture and consistency to what I'm used to at home.

Now let's talk about meat. Warning: I'm going to discuss my distaste for English beef here. I'm sorry, but it's just gross. It's got such a different taste, being grass-fed instead of grain fed. I swear to you, even the cows look different here. Of course, this is quite a biased opinon, coming from the granddaughter of the best cattle farmer in all of Indiana! So, I'm pretty much on a beef-strike until I get back home, except for McDonald's and Outback Steakhouse, which both import their beef.

Onto another meat, the traditional Easter ham. I couldn't find one. Clearly, there were things that looked like hams but had different names, but I was afraid to buy them because I wasn't sure how to prepare them! And it's a good thing I didn't. An expat yahoo group I'm on has just gone through a discussion about how hams like we're used to in the States don't exist here. You know --the pre-cooked, spiral cut ones? Yep. Not available. The group suggested if you ever buy a ham here soaking it overnight in the fridge and then boiling it all day to rid it of the overly salty flavor. No thanks!

So, I guess now I'll explain why I think this year might be henceforth and forevermore known as the "Year of Spam" in our family. I know how to cook it. It's familiar. It's available here. And it has become a once-a-week meal in our house here. Now, I know you might be gagging right about now. And, I didn't think I'd ever confess that I was feeding my family Spam once a week. I've had my run of guilt feelings related to the cholesterol that is coursing through my family's veins because of this particular meat product. But, even with all these thoughts, it still makes an appearance as the main course once a week.

Can anyone tell me what that slimy stuff is that comes out with the Spam when it comes out of the can? Eeewwwww! Just wondering.

Savoring the Baby

"Sometimes I would almost rather have people take away years of my life than take away a moment." -Pearl Bailey

"Cuh you hoe me minute, Mommy?" says my youngest climbing up on my lap.

I stop what I'm doing to pick up my chubby toddler. "She's growing so much," I lament to myself. Sometimes, when I hear her talk and mimic her brother and sister, or when I see her little face peeking out from big-girl pigtails, I wonder where my little baby has gone. And I mourn a little. Well, maybe a lot. Because she's probably the last baby in our family.

We play patty-cake. The soft, tender skin of her hands slap mine, my hands which are starting to look more and more like I remember my mother's hands looking growing up. Mine are becoming more wrinkled and colored with age, and hers are so fresh, so soft, Even yet, over two years after coming out of her warm abode inside of me, her little hands feel so new.

And I revel in the moment, as we share some uninterrupted games of patty-cake, while her siblings are otherwise occupied. These moments are rarer with her being the third child. Of course her brother, the oldest, got lots of patty cake and fingerplays and board books. She, being the youngest of three preschoolers, does not get that luxury --the luxury of uninterrupted time with Mommy all by herself.

Each time we finish the pattycake game, she giggles and asks for more. I'm enjoying these moments so much that I happily oblige. After all, I reason, soon she'll be thinking she's too big for pattycake and not wanting to climb up in my lap as often. Those days are coming soon, so I want to hang on to these days of being needed and adored as long as I can. I want to savor these moments, just like the coca-cola addict in me savors that burning sensation when the drink hits the back of my throat. These moments just feel so good.

Teach me to number my days, Lord. Teach me to number my days.