Archive for the ‘Everyday Life’ Category

Projects long neglected

February 25th, 2019

Baby Tirzah Mae had some spit-up issues. Serious spit-up issues. And since she initially received breastmilk fortified with preemie formula, her initial spit-ups were of the nasty staining variety. The slipcovers of our cream-colored throw pillows acquired yellow and brown blotches of varying sizes from being spit upon.

I kept telling myself I would make new slipcovers.

But a year passed and two. And we had another baby spitting up. And then another (who spit up less thanks to #termbaby!)

The slipcovers didn’t get made.

But after I spent a frantic week sewing Christmas outfits and Christmas jammies for the little ones this past Christmas, I realized just how much I enjoy doing something creative. I set a goal to try to do something (anything) creative once a week this year.

In January, I made new slipcovers for the throw pillows. I cut one week and sewed one slipcover a week until, at the end of the month, I had covered all three of the formerly cream-colored pillows.

My new pillow covers

I love how well-lit my living room is – but it does make getting photos of the couch a little difficult :-)


We’ve been cleaning out our basement in preparation for getting it finished – and as I cleaned, I found some Dr. Seuss-themed reusable shopping bags my sister-in-law had given me years ago (I’m guessing right around when Tirzah Mae was born!) My sister-in-law had used one side panel to decorate her children’s playroom and had offered me what remained so I could do the same for Tirzah Mae. Of course, I accepted (because I’m all about anything free and am a serious hoarder of craft supplies.)

At any rate, I found the shopping bags and decided maybe I’d use them to decorate our foster children’s room. That was February’s project.

I got right to work at the very beginning of the month, stretching a couple of panels around some stiff chipboard and sticking them up on the clipboards in the “green room”. I puzzled a bit about how to complete the task and arrived at colored panels with circles in them.

The kids and I painted panels, including extras to make circles with.

The panels sat and sat and sat for weeks (I’ve not been great at getting in creativity every week this month!)

And, at last, since this is now the last week of February, I cut out my circles and got them completed.

The Dr. Seuss wall art - at last

Not bad, if I say so myself.

Making Butter

February 20th, 2019

Laura Ingalls Wilder describes the buttermaking process in detail in her Little House in the Big Woods.

Ma Ingalls grated carrot and heated it with a little milk to dye the cream. Then she churned the cream in a big dash church. The cream grew thick and then little bits of butter would slosh through the cover on the churn. Ma had to rinse the butter over and over in cold water. Then she put it into a pretty butter mold and turned the pats out onto a plate. The young Laura and Mary drank the buttermilk when Ma was all done.

We don’t have a dash churn, so we followed the instructions in A Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker to make butter in a quart jar.

Let me tell you, a quart jar with a little over three cups of liquid in it is much too full to effectively make butter. We shook that thing off and on all day long to no avail. I put it in the cup holder of my car and we shook it when stopped at stoplights. We shook it here, we shook it there, we shook it everywhere.

Not butter yet

It whipped up and thickened but would not turn to butter until I opened it up (whipped cream everywhere!) and poured half into a second quart jar.

And we have butter!

Then I shook for a couple of minutes. Yellow grains of butter appeared. I was surprised when three more shakes gave me a solid mass of butter.

Rinsing the butter

I rinsed in ice water and gave the children their begged-for tastes of buttermilk.

Our (mostly) rinsed butter

Then to find the mold from my wedding mints to use for fancy “butter pats”.

Our pretty butter

We’re still eating our butter, but the kids are eager to make more so that they can drink more buttermilk.

Tirzah Mae drinking the buttermilk

For my part, I’m glad we did it but I’m also thinking we’ll hold off on doing it again until the kids are capable of shaking their own jars. My arms got TIRED!

Complicated thoughts

February 11th, 2019

There’s no such thing as uncomplicated foster care.

Children don’t go into foster care unless something complicated has happened to them. They’ve been neglected or abused. They’ve been exposed to drugs, in utero or out. They’ve lived in squalor. They have scars. Physical scars, emotional scars, developmental scars.

Foster children behave in complicated ways. They’ve learned to “overreact” or to not react. They’ve learned to cope however they can. Many times, they’ve been exposed to things their young brains cannot process.

And foster families? Well, we can be complicated too. We get tired and frustrated and angry. We get confused. Sometimes we have no idea what to do. We do what seemed to work for our biological kids and it completely backfires on us. We try to do that thing we read about in a book and we can’t figure out whether it isn’t working because we haven’t been doing it long enough – or if we just need to give up on it because it’s never going to work.

The foster families I know try. We want to what’s best by our foster children. We don’t always know what that looks like, though.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s Three Little Words, written after she’d been adopted out of foster care, illustrates the complicated-ness of foster care – and induces complicated thoughts and emotions in this particular foster parent.

Ashley was taken into foster care at age three and was passed around from home to home – 14 total homes before she went into a “children’s home” (aka orphanage) and was finally adopted as a preteen.

Many of Ashley’s placements were well-meaning folks, although ones that seemed overwhelmed with greater-than-capacity children. Further, it seemed few of them were aware of the difficulties surrounding raising a child with a background of trauma. Foster parents overreacted when Ashley peed the bed or described sex as she’d seen it. I wondered as I read if this sort of thing is why the new “TIPS-MAPP” classes were put into place: “Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence – Model approach to Partnerships in Parenting.” That’s what we took when we were preparing to become foster parents. We learned about the effects trauma has on kids, about the role of attachment in fostering, about how our own emotions and thoughts and experiences interact with the pressure-cooker environment of parenting kids from trauma. Maybe I am able to be better than these parents Ashley had because I took that class. But I still know that if either my biological children or my foster children were to write a book, they could certainly isolate the times when I lost my cool, when I overreacted, when I snapped at the kids or blamed or shamed them. By the grace of God, I’m growing in patience and gentleness as a mother – but there’s still plenty of growth needed.

Then Ashley had some truly terrible placements – one with a child molester (who fortunately was not able to get to her before she was pulled from the home) and one with a sadistic child-abuser who mistreated her and other foster children for years. It’s tough reading, but surprisingly not as tough for me as the not-so-bad homes were. These folks were monsters I could not identify with – I would not do those things to a child.

But the “normal” homes, they fill me with self-doubt. Maybe fostering requires one-on-one attention. Maybe being a part of a big family is fine and good for kids who’ve known my love from day one, but maybe it’s impossible to love a child from hard places amidst the pressures of leading a large family. Maybe I’m still not patient enough. Maybe my distaste for buying stuff communicates lack of care to the foster children in my care – after all, if I loved them, wouldn’t I be buying them new toys and clothes all the time?

I read this book after our most recent foster daughter was placed in a kinship home. We didn’t get any calls with potential placements for over a month. And then when we did get a call? I read the paperwork and stuttered. I’m afraid. Ashley Rhodes-Courter has made me afraid.

It’s a very complicated book about which I’m having some very complicated emotions.

Making Molasses Candy

February 7th, 2019

Tirzah Mae has been begging me to make molasses candy since we first read Little House in the Big Woods last year.

We just re-read the Christmas chapter again today and this time I was ready. After rest time, we would make molasses candy.

We don’t have snow here in Wichita right now, so I whizzed up some ice cubes into a very respectable snow using my immersion blender. I put the snow back into the freezer.

I called Tirzah Mae into the room and kept her busy stirring molasses and sugar while I prepared the baked beans for supper.

I deemed the syrup hot enough and poured it over the snow.

It wasn’t hot enough. I really need to get myself a candy thermometer (I must have broken my last one, because it’s nowhere to be found.)

Our molasses candy was a gooey mess.

Our sad, soft molasses candy

What’s more, it tastes like… well, like… molasses.

[Gasp!]

Louis spit his piece onto the helping tower, where it melted into slime.

I scraped up the rest (the stuff that was on the snow, not the stuff that had been in Louis’s mouth) and stuck it in a patty pan in the freezer – maybe I’ll see if the kids are willing to try it again, or maybe I’ll use it as a sweetener for something else.

Then we sat down for dinner – baked beans and cornbread using the recipe Daniel and I devised in 2015 from the one described by Laura in Farmer Boy.

So even if our molasses candy experiment was less than satisfying, it does pay to keep on trying the things we read about in books – occasionally we end up with keepers (I make Mother Wilder’s baked beans at least every couple of months!)

Pfft…

February 3rd, 2019

I’ve been using our exercise ball as my seat at the dining room table since I went into labor with Beth-Ellen (I used it during Christmas Eve lunch while I was in labor!)

It’s been a wonderful chair.

But tonight I sat down and heard a Pfft and a pop.

And then I was on the floor.

And then I was laughing.

My ball, post-Pfft

And then Tirzah Mae was bawling with the shock of it all.

Don’t worry, she’s fine. I’m fine.

The ball is definitely not fine.

A new one is on the way.

Lest I Get Cocky

January 27th, 2019

Going from four children to three (in a good way) is a strange experience.

In a life that generally just gets harder and harder (as we add new children and new developmental stages), things suddenly get that much easier.

The kids all fit in one row of the Expedition, allowing me to enjoy the full back for groceries. The number of children is only one more than my number of hands. It’s that much easier to coordinate nap times.

I start to feel like I’m on top of it all, like I’ve got strength in myself to handle anything, like I don’t need anyone.

And then we do weekend respite for a two-month-old on the same weekend Daniel was volunteering for something and we were having people over and have a Sunday night meeting at church.

I’m exhausted.

And I’ve been disabused of any secret thoughts I’d been harboring of my self-sufficiency.

“I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
I come to Thee.”

Celebrating MLK Jr. Day

January 21st, 2019

One of my bookish goals this year was to check out a book from the “Holiday” section at our library for each holiday of the year.

Holiday #1 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The kids and I read four books about Martin Luther King, Jr. – and I learned just how very little I knew about the civil rights movement.

I’ll fix that further as time goes by.

For now, we’re rejoicing in the gains the civil rights movement has made – and praying for an end to the continued malice and distrust between races.

Because we agree with Dr. King’s dream.

It is our dream too.

Our kids' new wall art

“I have a dream… that one day right here… little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Snowy Day

January 20th, 2019

A couple of weeks ago, we checked out a DVD of Ezra Jack Keats stories from the library. First of them all was the 1963 Caldecott winner The Snowy Day. In it, young Peter goes out in the snow and does the sorts of things a young child does in the snow. He played with his footprints, he made snow angels, he made a snowman, he declined to get into a snowball fight with the big kids. And he hit a tree with a stick so that snow fell from the tree’s branches.

Making tracks

Yes, that’s right. He hit a tree with a stick.

Almost the moment the “show” was over, Louis was asking me if he too could hit a tree with a stick.

I made some tracks of my own

I sadly informed him that we don’t often have snowy days and so it wouldn’t work for him quite like it did for Peter.

Nevertheless, Louis kept on asking. I told him that maybe we’d have a chance to hit a tree with a stick some Christmas when we’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s house (where they more often have snow in winter.)

Tirzah Mae making a snow angel

Grandma and Grandpa told us on our monthly video call that they’d had snow the past weekend, snow that fell in great clumps from the tree branches once it started to thaw.

I felt for our boy, who would likely not have the chance to hit a snowy tree with a stick – at least, not while he would still consider it fun. After all, we’ve only once had a snow that’s stuck around longer than a day in my six years in Wichita.

Immediately post snow angel

And then Friday night, I walked through the dining room after dark and was shocked to see snow on the ground outside the patio doors!

Here was Louis’s chance.

Beth-Ellen loved the snow!

The temperature was hovering around 19 degrees Fahrenheit, but we stuffed the kids into their winter clothes (including their fleece Christmas jammies over their regular clothes – not enough cause here to buy snow pants, so we had to make do!)

Helping papa shovel the patio

We played with our footprints in the snow, made snow angels, and attempted to throw snowballs (the temperature was too low for them to stick together!)

See our pretty snowflakes?

And yes, Louis hit a tree with a stick to see if he could get some snow to fall off its branches.

Hitting a Tree with a Stick

Snapshot: A diaper-folding contest

January 16th, 2019

Tirzah Mae is no longer napping, but in the new year, I’ve decided that my sanity requires mid-day time without kids. So she gets “rest-time”.

I put the younger two down for their naps at 1:30 and Tirzah Mae stays up for the next hour working with me on household chores.

Today, we raced to see whether Tirzah Mae could put away the play dishes before I could put away the play food. (She won, thanks to a tomato that was hiding inside a jacket draped across the little table!)

Then we put laundry in the washer (Tirzah Mae pulled the knob to turn the water on), Tirzah Mae sorted yesterday’s (clean) diaper load, and we had a diaper folding competition.

Tirzah Mae and my piles of diapers

I won, narrowly, having given myself a handicap of snapping and folding all the diaper covers.

And then she went to bed with some books, to stay in bed for an hour until the pink noise (we use this app on one of my old smart phones) turns off.

And while she’s in bed, I blog or do my physical therapy stretches or read a book or eat a piece of chocolate (no sharing!) or knock out a few seams on my next sewing project – or just do whatever. It’s lovely.

The Prayer I Keep Coming Back To

January 14th, 2019

Last year, in an effort to strengthen my prayer life, I searched for lists of “things to pray for your children.”

I dutifully recorded the lists in my prayer app (PrayerMate) and began praying for each of my children in each of the suggested categories.

The app would tell me to pray for Tirzah Mae’s future – and so I would. “Oh Lord, grant that my daughter would have a future among those who fear you. May she know your salvation and cling to you as her only hope.”

The app would tell me to pray for Louis’s purity – and so I would. “Oh Lord, would you grant that my son would be pure in heart – that he would have the purity of heart that can only come by being washed in the blood of Christ.”

The app would tell me to pray for Beth-Ellen’s health – and so I would. “Lord, would you bring my dead daughter to life by your Spirit.”

And on and on.

Character. “Lord, would you draw my children to yourself. Bring them to life through the work of your Spirit and cause them to grow in Christ-likeness.”

Holy Desires. “Above all, would you awaken their affection for you, that they might desire your salvation and recognize their own inability to save themselves. Grant that they might fall upon the mercy of Christ.”

Salvation.

It’s the prayer I keep coming back to. May my children desire relationship with God. May they see their sinfulness. May they see the worthlessness of their own striving. May they fall upon the mercy of Christ. May they grow in the grace of the gospel.

Save my children, O Lord, I pray.

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