Monday, March 31, 2008

Relief for parental stress?

I found this on a blog I read regularly and it looks very interesting. I thought I'd share it with you.
If you want to join the study, the deadline is tomorrow, or just try it to see if stress decreases in your own life.
This would be good for teachers, too, and others who are not parents. You don't have to have children to have stress, I'm sure.

Gratitude is always right.

WANTED: Parents who desire to reduce child-related stress.

COST: A little bit of your time.

PERKS: Improved outlook and better parenting relationships! HOW? Introducing an exciting study in the works with an outcome that will benefit you! We are happy to present you with the chance to participate and hope that you will find this helpful to your daily life. Read on for more information ~

The Purpose of the Study:

- To consider gratitude as a method for reducing stress in parenting
- To measure instances of parenting stress using the method below
- To measure the potential benefits (and maintenance) of gratitude as a means of stress reduction in parenting

The Method of the Study:

The 2 Simple Steps:

[Prior to beginning, compile a list of 10 specifics for which you are grateful. This should make the required expressions of gratitude easier.]

#1: When you experience a moment of stress related to one or more of your children, “reset” your thinking by verbally expressing gratitude, either in reaction to the current stressor, or by reading/saying something from your list.

#2: Add a mark to your daily tally (so that we have a record of how many times this happens each day).

That’s it.

This exercise will be carried out for seven days, beginning on Tuesday, April 1st, followed by a seven day break, and then repeated for a second seven day period.

If you want to participate, please e-mail by Tuesday so we can have an idea of the size of the study. Give your name, age, and gender—although you are welcome to participate anonymously, if you like. Feel free to spread the word to as many adults that you know that wish to participate. (This would make a fun project to do with friends and/or a spouse—men being specifically encouraged to participate as most studies tend to neglect the impact of gratitude from a male perspective.)

What’s in this for you?

Multiple studies have shown that people who feel more gratitude are much more likely to have higher levels of happiness, lower levels of depression and stress. They are seen as more empathetic, agreeable, and extroverted. Grateful people should be more likely to notice they have been helped, to respond appropriately, and to return the help at some future point.

You mean, you’ll get all that, just by adding some gratitude to your life? YES!

Definitions, for the purpose of this study:

Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

Parenting Stress is defined as those moments when life as a parent seems overwhelmingly unpredictable and uncontrollable (based on the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale). Within the context of parenting,

- you become upset because of something that happens unexpectedly.
- you feel you are unable to control the important things in your life.
- you feel nervous and “stressed.”
- you feel you cannot cope with all the things you have to do.
- you become angry because things are outside of your control.
- you feel difficulties are piling up so high that you cannot overcome them.

Obviously, this will be a largely subjective assessment—that is the difficulty in measuring an emotional state. Just try to be as aware as possible.

Thank you! We look forward to sharing the results of the study.

Join us at by Tuesday.
(Feel free to repost this post in its entirety. Let's give thanks in all things!)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Tale of Three Boys

I have three boys. I write this not because you do not know it, dear reader ( I am sure you do), but because I know it.
Here are a few snippets of their lives.

Isaac had a friend over the other night, and as we sat around the table having dinner, Isaac came up with a good recycling idea (which I can't remember at the moment. I'll have to ask him about it tomorrow. It's not that important to this story).
"You're good at that," I said.
"What?" he wanted to know.
"Thinking about the environment and how to make it better, change things. You think about that a lot. Maybe you'll be an ecologist one day. I bet they have training for fields like that in the Army."
A little back-story: Isaac came to me about a year ago, sat down at the kitchen table and announced, "I have long term goals."
"Okay, what are they?" I asked slightly shocked, but not very, by this mature conversation he was initiating. He has always been somewhat of an old soul.
"College for four years, graduate, Army for four years, then either play baseball for the Yankees or be the commander of a S.W.A.T. team."
The mom heart in me did not want to think of my 8 year old son as a soldier. He is my first born baby, after all.
"You don't want to go into the Army and fight in wars . . .," I began.
He cut me short.
"Mom, I have a responsibility to my country."
He said it with such conviction that I felt a bit convicted.
"Who told you that?" I asked
Apparently, he had been taking pamphlets about Army recruitment from the mall when we would go, and what I thought was a fascination with the pictures of soldiers and tanks was serious reading material for him.
Later that night, he showed me one of the pamphlets tacked to the bulletin board above his bed.
He didn't say anything. He just pointed.
Back to the other night: "Maybe," he said, thinking about the possibilities of that.
"The Army!" his friend recoiled.
"I wouldn't go in the army. I'm too scared I'd be killed!"
Without hesitation Isaac said with fire in his voice, "Live or die, you have to fight for something!"
Who is this little man?
Someone I am very proud of, I can tell you that.
And though my mother's heart melts within me to hear him talk about living and dying and fighting, I know it is right -- that he is right.
Live or die, you have to fight for something.

Today, I looked up from feeding Daniel to discover Josiah standing on the living room chair in crane position (yeah, you know you've seen The Karate Kid) and just as I was about to administer some stern motherly direction ("Josiah Elijah! Get off the furniture like that right now!") he scrunched up his eyes at some invisible opponent and said calmly, with a deadly edge, "Your Karate is no match for my Kung Fu."
Then he sprang from the couch, a streak of sound and motion, landed on his opponent, and dealt what I can imagine was a fatal roundhouse kick before turning to take on the evil legions lurking behind the fallen enemy.
I sat in stunned silence, the admonishment lying mute on my tongue, never given voice.
He was a vision of grace and strength in that moment, so serious as he leaped through the air, so focused(eat your heart out, Chuck Norris!).
And so, well, adorable. It was all I could do to keep a straight face as I addressed him.
"Where did you come up with that?" I asked.
"The 'your karate is no match. . .' bit?" I added, to be clear.
He stuck his finger into his hair, "My own head" he retorted.
He smiled a big grin right into my face and than turned with deadly intentions to the bad guys waiting to get walloped who I had so rudely interrupted.
I wanted to scoop him up right then and lavish him with kisses and hugs.
But he was busy fighting bad guys.
I did get some good shots, though.

Today, Daniel was crawling all over the house.
It was rainy, but very warm and humid and I had the front door open.
Daniel loves outside.
He crawled over to the door and looked outside for a long time, watching the cars swish over the wet pavement, the birds bathing in puddles in the driveway, the squirrels scamper and scrape over the mud and into the trees.
After a bit, he began pushing at the door, as though he could open it and go for a stroll outside.
"And where do you think you're off to?" I asked.
He looked at me and pressed his face to the glass, longing to be "out there."
Watching him-- pushing at the glass, grunting, hoping the door would budge, his legs would carry him with such raw hope -- I thought of a song from my all-time favorite musical, Into the Woods:
Don't you know what's out there in the world?
Someone has to shield you from the world.
Stay with me.

Princes[ses] wait there in the world, it's true.
Princes[ses], yes, but wolves and humans, too.
Stay at home.
I am home.

Who out there could love you more than I?
What out there that I cannot supply?
Stay with me.

Stay with me,
The world is dark and wild.
Stay a child while you can be a child.
With me.
But he will not . . .he will go into the wide world one day. They all will. And pieces of my heart will go with them.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Honk if you love . . .

Today was a busy day.
Woke up and had breakfast with the family. Joe made omelets and sausage and cinnamon rolls. I love having breakfast together.
After that, we got the house ready for the buyers to come and see. They have actually never seen it!!
It was chilly and misty all day, but we got out and took a drive in search of cheaper gas. We did find some, but when gas is over $3, cheap is relative.
One hour later, the buyers were still at our house, so we hit some fast food joints for lunch. Another pass by the house, and guess what . . . the buyers were still there.
We headed to mom's and ate there, had some great coffee and talked politics with Ryan. We all came to the same conclusion -- it's looking pretty grim all around.
Isaac and I brought Joe home to get some rest before his shift, and Isaac got a much needed haircut from his Dad.

It was back to mom's after that, and Ryan cooked up a killer dinner -- slow-cooked steak on pita (not pocket pita, but a light and fluffy pita with no pocket -- more like flatbread) with all sorts extras -- cheese, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, sauces of various kinds. Good stuff.
The boys occupied themselves with --yup -- boxes, again (why do we spend money on toys?). This time, they went a little high tech and added some lights to their cardboard hideaway. Inside the box, the boys designed a couch and TV (complete with remote). There were pictures on the walls and, my favorite part, a vase with flowers. They may be tough little guys, but they can appreciate a thing of beauty.

Daniel was fussy on and off all day. I think he is still not feeling his 100%. But he loved being with his new girlfriend -- MeMe, of course.

After dinner, Patty, Ethan, the boys and I went to see Honk! (See previous post for link.) It was pretty good for community theater. I know not to go to local plays with Broadway ideas, but for a small town production, I thought they did a decent job. And you could tell they were having a blast. That is what really counts, what gives a production soul (even if the voices are a bit off key). I would love to do what they are doing! The doctor who delivered Daniel was one of the main characters. It was kind of strange to see her in that roll. We had fun, but it was rather long, and we didn't get out of there until late.

We are home now. They boys are sleeping soundly and I am ready to be.
One more thing . . . somehow, in this busy day, I managed to see August Rush. It's pretty fantastical, and pretty fantastic. I loved it. It has an awesome soundtrack, and definitely made its way on to my "favorite movies" list.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Up. up and away. . .

The boys flew kites in the late afternoon today.
They were laughing and running and their kites were soaring.
They were so excited, and amazed at what they were doing.
It was chilly, but we couldn't bring ourselves to pull them in and go indoors.
I watched the boys running, eyes shining and full of ripe joy, and my breath caught in my chest.
"These are whispering days, that are passing us by . . ."Peter Himmelman

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You're a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!

When you send it flyin' up there
All at once you're lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze
Over 'ouses and trees
With your first 'olding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Let's go fly a kite!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another day

The earth is heady with Spring today.
It is warm and has been sunny most of the afternoon.
There is a breeze, but the nip has been removed, and it is soft and warm, like a caress.
The trees and flowers have bloomed overnight, it seems, as though they just decided to dress to the nines and go for an outing at the last minute.
The buzz and zig-zag of insects drunk with the nectar of fresh blooms is enchanting today. Where are their secret bowers? (In a few months, we'll be spraying them to death with pesticides.)
On days like this, you can smell the sunshine -- smell it warming the earth.
Nature, to me -- the beauty of it, the breathtaking quality of sunlight on the tops of trees, falling through the branches into kaleidoscope patchwork beneath; the aromatic rows of brilliant, colorful heads dancing in flowerbeds; the white and pink blossoms of the cherry trees, bowing with ancient grace to every slight breeze, dropping their petals here and there, a silken carpet; the brilliant greens of grass and leaf and blues of sky and waters -- is further proof of God's love for us, of His grace in our lives.
I heard it said recently that God's plan for relationship with man began in a garden (Eden) and, after the fall, became possible again in a garden (Gethsemane).
I am home with Daniel today, who continues to have congestion and a bad cough.
We have the windows flung open, though, to let the Spring in.
I missed seeing a play (Honk!) with the elementary grades this morning, but later found out that the theater didn't perform the whole play -- today was a sneak peak. I am planning to go see it with the boys Friday night, so I really won't miss a thing (if we make it).
I did some packing today, though not a lot. I need to get moving on that (pun definitely intended).
Josiah, Daniel and I read library books this afternoon:
Cranberry Easter by Wende and Harry Devlin
Little Bear Marches in the St. Patrick's Day Parade by Janice
The Berenstain Bears On The Moon by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Leprechauns Never Lie by Lorna Balian
The Sound of Color: A Journey of the Imagination by Jimmy Liao
We sang and danced around the living room to worship music. Daniel had his hands up and was "singing." Josiah was bustin' some major moves! We were grooving to "Holy is Your Name" (from the CD City On A Hill: Sing Alleluia). There is a line in that song that I love: "Your mercy flows like a river running wild".
Josiah played with one of the best toys there is -- the laundry basket.

Secretly, Daniel is a baby samurai.

Isaac is back from school now. I couldn't be happier to have them all home for the day.

I always ask the boys, "Where would I rather be?"
They know the answer.
"Nowhere but with us and Dad."
For dinner, mom picked up food from the Deli. De-lish! Bless her three times over!
After cleaning off the table, I made hot cocoa from scratch for the boys.
The air is turning chill.
The windows come down.
And so another day goes down to evening, and there is a peaceful hum of activity, of family life in our home.
Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Electric Company

Remember the public television show from the 70's designed to teach children to read? I used to love it! Now, thanks to DVD box sets, I can enjoy these programs again, and my children can discover and enjoy them too!
My favorite? Easy Reader, of course. Some of the segments are truly "groovy". Josiah is watching an episode now, which is what has prompted this little foray down memory lane.
We have been sick, and it has been hectic around here.
Easter was great! This was Daniel's first. He looked like such a little man. And of course the older boys were handsome as ever.

We had a coffee and pastry bar at church before service to raise money for the school. Yum. It was a great opportunity to chat and connect with friends before coming together to worship.
Worship was amazing, and then we saw a monologue from the perspective of Jesus -- very moving.
After church, we had friends over to help celebrate life in Christ.

It was early to bed Sunday night, as it would be early to rise Monday morning.
And rise early we did. School started Monday after a week off for Spring Break.
I love school. I love teaching and being able to be with my children throughout the day. It certainly keeps me busy though, which is why blogging has slowed down a bit.
Over the break, I learned about lapbooking. Where has that been all my life? I am quite excited about this new (to me) learning opportunity and experience, and I started my students on lapbooks right away.

The Latin students are on Ch. 19 in Latina Christiana I. It's about the constellations, which is perfect for this kind of project.
My Rhetoric students are doing a lapbook on fables.
They will be first attempts.
Hopefully, I will learn more about how to create and use these fun resources in the near future. I think they can be a great learning tool.
After school, Josiah helped Daniel discover bubbles. It's so awesome to watch your child see something for the first time.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Spring, I think, has finally sprung!

Today was filled with doctor visits and medical tests.
A few weeks ago, at homegroup, Scott talked about the miraculous and asked why we don't expect it in our daily lives.
I thought about that as I drove from doctor to doctor today.
I prayed for Daniel and Isaac and Josiah and Joe.
I remembered that by his stripes we are healed. He died not only to save us (which I believe with all my heart), but to heal us.
Heal us, Jesus.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Resurrection Life

"And if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit who lives in you." Romans 8:11 NIV

These are my thoughts as we head into Easter Sunday:
Through the work of Christ on the cross, I am living a Resurrection life.
A life free of the bonds and guilt of sin and the threat of death and hell.
A life promised to eternity.
A life of communion with God through Jesus Christ.
A life indwelt with His Holy Spirit.
A life of healing.
A life of joy and peace.
A life of purpose and passion for His purposes and passions.
And in my not-so-resurrection moments, like when I was frustrated with my children earlier today, there is the possibility and the hope that the very next moment can be, will be one of rising again from death to myself unto life with Him.
I must choose to die to me -- my wants, my dreams, my comforts -- so that I can live in the dream of God.
The resurrection life of God, who raised Jesus, dwelling in me makes it a possibility, a reality.

Today was relaxing.
The boys slept over a friends house (a very rare treat!), so it was quiet this morning. I missed them so much I could hardly stand it.
Finally, they arrived home in a flutter of ruffled excitement, unrolled sleeping bags sweeping behind them as they burst into the house. I was making muffins for the Easter Breakfast fund-raiser, and they piled into the kitchen, wanting to eat the warm, soft muffins steaming and fresh from the oven. They had so many stories to tell.
After a bit, we all went to the church to see how the Easter production was coming along. It is quite powerful, and I am looking forward to seeing the whole thing tomorrow.
When we got home, we played a new game I got for the boys called In A Pickle.
What a fun game. Here are the basics of play:
There are like, a jazillion word cards (320 really) with "nouns of all shapes and sizes" on them.
Each player gets five, and then four cards are laid out N, S, E, W fashion, with a word facing outward.
Players determine if they have a word that is smaller than any of the words in play (which then get played behind the appropriate word card in play) or larger (which then gets played on top of the appropriate word card in play).
The player to lay the fourth card on a "row" creates a "pickle round" in which each player is allowed to trump his/her card with a larger word card.
The effect is something like this:
New York
You are encouraged to be creative, but another player can challenge your word choice. You can defend it, but in the end, a vote among the other players decides if your word stays or goes.
In the end, the player with the most word rows wins.
Are these instructions clear as mud, yet?
It took us a few "rows" to get the hang of it, but then we got going and we had fun.
Isaac loved it, even though he was losing, which, as a 9 year old boy, is hard for him.
Josiah didn't like it so much because he had difficulty reading some of the words. He ended up helping Dad so as not to become frustrated. His final comment on it, "I liked it a little and I didn't like it a little." There you go.

I thought it was a great game; fun and challenging. You really have to think about where to put your words.
Joe won.
We had some frozen pizzas for dinner, and after baths, we dyed and decorated some eggs to share with family and friends tomorrow.

Daniel has been into everything all day, and looks like he's been caught "red-handed"!

This one's from yesterday. I couldn't resist. Sportin' that squash 'stache!

Now I must make my way to the kitchen to clean up the cups with the multi-colored dyes in them.
"Where is the resurrection life in that?" one may ask.
"All our acts have sacramental possibilities." (Freya Stark)
Everything we do, including cleaning the kitchen, may be done with purpose and joy, in servanthood, laying our lives down for our families, our friends, the kingdom. The common made holy through dying to ourselves daily so we can rise with Him in the power of the resurrected Christ.
I love this song, and found this video on YouTube. I think it says what I am trying to, only better. Enjoy.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome Home, Joe!

Today was a great day!
Joe came home from Sweden.
The boys and I got up this morning with anticipation.
I had coffee with a friend and we had some great talk time. While she was here, Joe called to say they'd be a few hours earlier than expected.
After coffee, we got ready and the boys and I went to pick up dad.
Daniel was fussing as I tried to get him in his car seat.
Josiah was talking to him in high pitched tones, trying to distract him while I buckled him in.
When we were finally triumphant, I let out a sigh, and Josiah turned to me and said, "Having a baby is hard work . . . a lot of hard work!"
"Yes it is", I said.
It made me chuckle.
When Joe arrived the boys ran to meet him and hugged him, welcoming him home with enthusiasm.

It took Daniel a minute to register who he was, I think. He stared into his face for several minutes. Then, slowly, a grin began to form on his bottom lip and it spread all the way to his eyes. Daddy was home!

When we got back to the house, Joe unloaded goodies from his luggage, candy and coffee and a special treat for me - a beautiful Italian-made teapot and four tea cups. It is so beautiful and unique. Very delicate. I am anxious to have tea from it.

We sampled some candies and looked at photos and videos of the trip. Joe said it was an amazing time.

The highlight, for him, was visiting our friends Frank and Betina in Denmark and seeing the communal church there in action.
God is doing some marvelous things in the earth in these days. I am so happy that Joe got to see some of it firsthand and can share it with us.
This afternoon, we just relaxed and talked and hung out around the house.
We made our way to family dinner and found Gramp cooking up a storm when we got there. Joe shared some more about the trip, but he was very tired from the traveling, so we did not stay too long.

On our way home, a full moon hung in the sky, pregnant with the promise of sleep for the weary and the possibilities of a new tomorrow.

Now, we are all back at our house, settling in for the night. It is good to have Joe home.
As usual, I am the only one up now, recording our day in this post.
I thank God for Joe's safe return, for his hand of protection on us while he was away.
I think of all the people Joe talked about. All the people he met and talked with, shared heart and soul with, half a world away. I believe one day I will meet them.
I think about what God is doing in the places where they live.
I think of Micah and Sarah in Suwon, Korea.
I think of all the bridges that are being forged and formed by God's hands and our willing hearts.
I can see and hear the heartbeat of God resounding in each of these places, evident in the stories and testimonies we hear from friends all over the globe. And though I am amazed to see that what is happening in Sweden is what is happening in Korea is what is happening in Denmark is what is happening here in the States, I shouldn't be.
Same God, different places -- that is what it all comes down to.
It's a big world, but God is bigger.
He is over all and in all and through all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Agnus Dei . . .

qui tollis peccata mundi.
We learned this in Latin a few weeks ago.
It means, "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world."
I have been thinking about this a lot lately, as I meditate on the coming Easter weekend, and what it means to me.
I was reading some of C.H. Spurgeon's sermons, and I came across this passage from a message he preached on Oct. 8, 1893.
I would like to share it with you.

What did John mean by saying, "Behold, the Lamb of God?" In the Latin, ecce, is a note of admiration, of wonderment, of exclamation. "Behold the Lamb of God!" There was nothing of greater wonder ever seen than that God Himself should provide the Lamb for the burnt offering, that He should provide His only Son out of His very bosom, that He should give the delight of His heart to die for us. Well may we behold this great wonder. Angels admire and marvel at this mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh; they have never left off wondering and adoring the grace of god that gave Jesus to be the Sacrifice for guilty men. Behold and wonder, never leave off wondering; tell it as a wonder, think of it as a wonder, sing of it as a wonder at this glorious Lamb of God.

Here comes the sun

After two days of rain, the washed skies seemed bluer than blue today; the sun sang it's brightness and the wind blew over the earth, drying it off.
It was a beautiful day.
I am up to my ears in boxes and messes, packing, sorting through our tangible life and deciding what stays and what is expendable.
It is quite a chore, and today, I wanted to go outside to play.
The boys called up a friend to spend the day with, and we were off.
Isaac and Jo had coupons for free happy meals from a reading program they participate in, so we stopped at McD's to pick up lunch and went to the park.
We sat on benches under a canopy of trees and watched the geese and ducks meandering around, or sleeping in the sunlight, feathers fluffed up, beaks buried under wings.

The boys had a quick romp on the playground after lunch, and then we went to the tennis courts so they could practice. They have a tournament in April.

It was pretty windy, and I walked Daniel around in his stroller while Isaac and Colton played a bit of tennis. Josiah was an excellent ball boy.

After a ride out to check on the new house, we stopped at Tropical Sno, the first trip of the season.

Daniel had his first small taste of Tropical Sno ever! It think he liked it : ).

It was warmer by the time we got there, so we sat on the benches, watching the people come and go, all craving the sweet, cold ices that are a part of spring/summer life here.

We ordered a Wolverine, Pink Pixi, and Volcano. Guess which one was mom's.

When we got home, the boys played some hoops with their friend and I cleaned a bit and ordered pizza.
Grandpa stopped in for a few minutes to drop off some paper goods he picked up for us (bless him) and he chatted and played with the kids a while.

Mom brought tulips after work to brighten up what has become a cardboard jungle (bless her).

We had a smaller homegroup than usual tonight, but it was good. We talked about what God is doing in each of us, recapped Sunday's sermon, which was excellent, and our friend Nancy shared stories from her life. Amazing, how God has his hand on each of us. We all have such stories to tell.
Before we knew it, it was almost 10 p.m., and then the phone rang.
It was Joe!
I hadn't heard his voice in over a week! It was so good to hear him.
Tomorrow, he will be home, and we will tell him all the things that happened here, and we will listen to all the stories he has to tell.
We are quite excited to see him.
I look around now, and the boxes are all where I left them this afternoon, still waiting to be packed or stacked. There is a pile of laundry that would put Mt. Everest to shame. The boys room looks like a small tornado spontaneously whipped up in there.
I sigh.
If we stayed in this afternoon, it would have all been done.
But today was not a day for boxes, or laundry, or messes.
Today was for playgrounds and fresh air and Tropical Sno and laughter in little boy's eyes.
The boxes will be here tomorrow . . .