Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Viking Bottoms

Jamie and I were tired. It required all of our energy just to put fork to plate to mouth. As a result, we involuntarily let the children rule the table. The conversation spiraled at an alarming rate. Bathroom jokes, rude noises, selfish boasts. It was getting ugly. We snapped to. Energy or not, some things -- dinner conversation among them -- require daily guidance and training. They can't be allowed to run rampant.

Jamie and I eyed each other and took the reins once again. "I know!" I suggested. "Let's all share something new we learned today. We'll start with the youngest." Avery's eye gleamed, and each child squirmed eagerly for his or her turn. The lively banter continued, still focusing on and honoring the children, but strategically guided by the parents.

We were quite entertained by Avery's retelling of our history lesson. She had been very much impressed when learning that Viking boats had flat bottoms. (The word "bottom" is irresistible to this wayward child.) Aidan snickered, but added the reasons as to why this feature was advantageous to the Norsemen. Drew and Bethie, in turn, shared the details that stood out vividly in their minds, and we were all soon engaged in an animated discussion about this chapter in history.

We've had this insipid banter problem arise many times in the past. Jamie's solution is frequently a "Question of the Day." Someone comes up with a question for everyone to answer, such as, "If you could go anywhere in the world . . . " or "If you could meet someone from the past . . . ." Again, the conversation is always very lively, but because it is guided by the parent, the words are uplifting and mind-enriching.

Although it can be draining and just one more task in my long day, I know it's so worth it for me to keep a level head at the dinner table. It's an ideal opportunity to help my children practice life skills such as patiently listening to one another, asking thoughtful questions, and sharing wholesome pieces of information. Well, wholesome most of the time. I suppose there's always a chance we'll encounter those Viking bottoms again. Especially if Miss Kate has the floor.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Learning to See

I walk through the clean hallway, checking the bedrooms, double-checking the bathrooms. Nice and spit-spot. The kids work hard, helping me pull the house into shape. But wait! What's this I see? I take a closer look at the kids' bathroom. That mirror! Why can't it stay free of toothpaste and fingerprints for just five minutes? Just five minutes! Is that too much to ask?

I look more closely. Someone has obviously been here since I came through with the Windex. And I know who. Someone with a very small hand. I'm irritated. I breathe. I force myself to stare at the blemish until that selfish tightness within me releases.

And then I see it. I see the perfectly formed print, the five little fingers, the unique contours on each finger tip, the palm -- all indicative of a little life within our home that brings joy and laughter. The hand I love to hold, the hand that reaches up to stroke my face. And I see beauty.

There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises . . . .
It's all a matter of keeping my eyes open . . . .
~Annie Dillard

Keeping my eyes open to see the beauty . . .

*kids' patience when lunch is late
*a dozen cheery yellow cloth napkins -- a project completed!
*Aidan helping Daddy with groceries
*a book finished
*a book begun
*Drew and Avery, giggling uncontrollably
*Jamie and Bethie trying out hula-hoops. In the grocery store.
*tea and scones
*date night
*sleeping in!
*clean sheets
*stacks of pancakes
*comforting a fitfully sleeping child, seeing her face muscles relax
*swapping kids for the afternoon
*bird watching with Papa
*catching rainbows

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Problem With Dish Gloves

The problem with dish gloves is that I'm right handed. I suppose it would also be a problem if I was left-handed. It would cease to be a problem if I was ambidextrous. Or if I had a left-handed twin.

My right thumb always wears out before my left glove shows the slightest sign of deterioration. So then I'm stuck with one horrible glove and one perfectly good glove. I hate to throw them both away, but I absolutely cannot allow water to trickle into my little thumb. It creeps me out.

I've tried to think of ways to recycle the left glove. I've worn it backwards on my right hand. Very uncomfortable. I've given it to my children to play "milking the cow." Very weird. I'm out of options.

Oooh -- wait. I just thought of something. (For real -- just now.) Maybe I could cut off the tip of the good left thumb and save it. When my next pair starts to fail me, I could somehow attach the good ol' thumb tip from the previous pair . . . . hmmm . . . . It just might work. I'm excited. Maybe there isn't a problem with dish gloves, after all.

(Please tell me I'm not the only one that obsesses over dish gloves.)
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When the Glass is Half Empty

I just took a quiz. It was one of those "How many books have you read out of these famous 100" type quizzes. I always love to see which books turn up at the top, which books I should add to my reading list. So I dove in. Turns out I've read 32 of the 100.

And I felt like I had somehow failed something.

Thirty-two percent? That's an F. An F, people. I found myself wanting to explain to someone -- anyone -- the truth about myself. "But I did read excerpts from some of the others! Do I get points for that? What if it was an abridged version from a high school text? Does that count? And who decided not to include all of the other books I have read?"

I pulled away, startled at my reaction. What was I so upset about? It wasn't a contest. Nothing was at stake. It was a silly list. But all I could focus on was the failure.

Too often, my instinct is to look at what I haven't done. The books I haven't read, the rooms I haven't cleaned, the children I haven't behaved nicely to, the papers I haven't graded, the dishes I haven't washed . . . . The list goes on. It's an attitude that, if left unchecked, can weigh heavily on my heart.

And this is right where the enemy wants me. Focusing on myself and my failure. He is prowling about like a lion looking for someone to devour. And if it's as easy as keeping me focused on myself? What a cinch!

What, then, is the solution? What is a failing mama to do? 2 Peter 5:9 tells me: "Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . . ." Resist the lies, resist the focus on self. And stand firm. Stand not on my accomplishments, not on my goals and dreams and attempts at perfection (which are anything but trustworthy and firm). But stand. . . in the faith. Stand in the truth of who God is and who I am because of that.

And who am I? I am the Lord's delight. I am not a failure. Although I do deserve an "F" because of my sinful nature, He's erased it completely and given me His Son's perfect score.

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

That's who I am. When I shift my focus, the glass is no longer half empty. I see the blessings in spite of the failure. I see the work I have been able to accomplish because of His goodness in my life. I see the children who forgive me when I wrong them. I see the household tasks that remind me of the privilege I have in making a home. I even look at my book quiz differently. I see the opportunities that I've had throughout my life to interact with some amazing literature. I thank God for the ability to read. And I eagerly add sixty-eight more books to my list.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

He Has Dealt Bountifully

Of course I would be tested immediately. Following last week's post, I came down with the flu. But that didn't stop me from focusing on the beauty and listing the goodness of my God. Each night, before my head hit that ol' pillow, I wrote it down. Even if it was as simple as "Kleenex" or "A good sneeze!" Because, really, wouldn't it be a bummer if we couldn't blow our noses on something soft? And you know how good it feels to sneeze three times in a row, even if you don't like the reason for sneezing. And when I couldn't go to sleep, I got to listen to Emma on CD and let the nice British narrator lull me to sleep. That was something to be thankful for.

The girls invented a new game. Those tights really snap back when you pull hard on the feet.

I kept my camera handy, too. "Sneeze, sniff, 'click!' Sneeze, sniff, 'click!'" Miss Kate has been on a roll. She kept me smiling during the flu -- not only the things she did, but the things she said. I'll share with you a few of our smiles, along with a verse that I kept close to my heart while sneezing. Three times in a row.

But I have trusted in Thy lovingkindness: My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.
I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13:5-6

Sneaking a brownie. I love how she opens the cupboard and steps up to reach.

Latest lines by Miss Kate . . .

"I need a deep drink."

An original verse . . . (written a while ago, but I must share):

"Be so good and love God and do not be bad or you will be sent to jail." Philippians 25:90

"As I become six, seven and eight, will you become 36, 37 and 38?"

Just playing "Cleopatra" one day . . .

"Mom, I'm hungry. I want . . . some brown beans."

"Daddy says we're going to leave as soon as pie!"

And I love the wonder of discovery: "Mommy! Did you know that fog is little drops of water?!"

This is why I chronicle. This is why I have notebooks everywhere. Because He has dealt bountifully with me. Even during the flu.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Probably a Good Idea

If I could hire a maid to do just one of my jobs, I would immediately usher her into the laundry room. It's not so much the sorting I mind (especially since the kids are starting to get the hang of it), and I certainly don't have trouble cramming stuff into the washing machine and then transferring it to the dryer.

But the minute the dryer signal sounds, that load is doomed. Sometimes it makes it into a basket, where it quietly resides until the basket is overturned by the child who needs to use it as a crib for her dolly. Sometimes the load makes it to the couch, providing extra padding during family movie night. Sometimes I exaggerate just a tad. But you get the idea. Laundry is not my favorite.

I've tried many systems, such as attempting to do all of the laundry in one day (epic fail) or tackling just one load per day (we go through too many loads for that to work). I've come up with a new plan, and I think it's probably a good idea. It worked really well for a while, and then I got sick. (I don't think the two were related.) I still think it's a good idea.

Here's the plan: Two a day, then put 'em away.

I realized that we're much more likely to fold a basket of laundry that is just moderately full -- it's not so daunting. Compared with that towering mound of whites? Oh, it makes my stomach churn just to think of it. So I'm trying to do two loads a day, even if the load isn't quite full.

I've also calmly explained the situation to the dear peeps: Mama needs your help!!! Today during our afternoon reading, for example, they folded and put away their laundry. It was extremely helpful, and it's a system that is becoming more and more efficient the older they get. Drew and Bethie also sort the kids' dirty laundry. They have a hamper that is divided into two sections, so the lights and darks are already separated. Their job is to make sure the jeans aren't wadded into balls and the pockets aren't full of LEGOS and pennies.

This is what the week boils down to:

Monday: Two loads of kid laundry (darks)
Tuesday: One kid load (light), one parent load (darks)
Wednesday: Two parent loads (delicates, whites)
Thursday: Two loads of linens (towels, napkins, dish rags, etc.)
Friday: Two loads of kid sheets/blankets (alternate boys/girls each week)
Saturday: Two loads of whatever is left (our sheets, cleaning rags, etc.)

Being caught up on laundry is especially helpful on unexpected snow days . . .

The kids are being trained to fold and put away their own laundry. (Drew and Bethie have it down. The others are still working at it. I am ever hopeful.) Every Monday morning I also have them do a quick drawer tidy-up in their rooms so it's easier for them to put in the fresh laundry as it's ready. They also help round up towels, bedding, napkins and other linens as necessary to keep that machine hummin' all week.

Their diligence helps me stay on task, too. Surely I can handle putting away Daddy's and my laundry. Right? (Cue the chirping cricket.) Of course I can handle it. I just need to do it.

The goal is to wake up Sunday morning with an empty washing machine, an empty dryer, two empty baskets -- and an empty couch. And now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to fold.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

When You Lie Down

I recently awoke and found that I was praying. It wasn't like I woke up and was reminded to pray about some pressing need. I woke up and it was already happening -- I was in the middle of talking with the Lord. It was absolutely glorious. I felt complete, as though I were doing exactly what I was created to do.

Last weekend I went to a baby shower where I was reminded of the powerful words in Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I so desire this "when you lie down and when you get up" kind of life. I want to wake up in prayer every day. And I want to impress this upon my children. This, of course, means that I sure better be practicing it myself. Sometimes it helps me to be literal. So I've placed a small notebook on my nightstand -- open, with a pen already uncapped -- all ready for the "lying down" part of my day.

My desire during these 40 days of Lent is to not let my head hit the pillow until I've said thank you to the Giver of gifts. This "lying down" exercise means that I fall asleep with gratitude on my lips. Gratitude for the midnight rain on the roof, gratitude for the four children tucked in bed, gratitude for the man at my side . . . gratitude, gratitude, gratitude . . . until each line on that day's page is brimming with thanksgiving -- yes, even the hard thanksgiving that some of you precious mamas have shared with me this week . . . .

Each night, as I look back over my day and am reminded of His goodness toward me, I know that I will lie down and sleep in peace. And when I get up in the morning? There's my chronicle of blessings, waiting on the nightstand -- proof that He who blessed yesterday is just waiting to do the same today.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Powum

The other day Miss Kate was working on a reading lesson. She came to the word "poem" and stopped abruptly. "Where's the 'L'?" she demanded. "There should be an 'L'!" She grabbed a pencil and wedged an 'L' between the 'o' and the 'e.' "There. Polem."

She's my fourth child. All four of them have thought that the word poem was pronounced polem. I'm beginning feel self conscious about my diction.

But poor diction hasn't kept Miss Kate from penning eloquence. I share with you her latest, followed by a translation:

bethie powum

bethie concked my head

with a oerdumit yestrday

on chrismis i wusit very

mad bcus it didit hrt

not atal but

the tree wobold
intel it fel over
and brok the


dad was mad SO mad

the next day derw
took a pesol and

pooshed it in my

nail it rily hrt

and the next day aidan

poosht me in the pool

by and by i

thru up on
the cowch wal wocheng

A (rather necessary) translation:

Bethie Poem

Bethie conked my head
With a ornament yesterday
On Christmas I wasn't very
Mad because it didn't hurt
Not at all but
The tree wobbled
Until it fell over
And broke the ornaments
Dad was mad SO mad
The next day Drew
Took a pencil and
Pushed it in my
Nail it really hurt
And the next day Aidan
Pushed me in the pool
By and by I
Threw up on
The couch while watching


By and by, I feel compelled to add that none of this actually happened. No wobbling Christmas trees, no excessive "pooshing," no conked heads. Just plenty of Kipper. And just a girl who is coming to grips with the word polem no longer existing. So she writes powums instead.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Conversation

: Mommy? What's a tat?

Mommy: Well, it's a very delicate kind of stitch, like knitting or crocheting . . . .

(Aidan's brow furrows in confusion. Mommy decides to gather more information.)

Mommy: Um . . . . Where did you hear that word, Sweetie?

Aidan: You know, it's in Jesus Freak: "I saw a man with a tat on his big fat belly."

(Pause. Mommy is pretty sure the gentleman with the protruding midsection is not sporting a doily.)

Mommy: Oh. Never mind. That would be short for tattoo.

(The light dawns. Aidan is relieved to know that DC Talk has nothing to do with lace.)

My husband thinks I'm so weird.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Waking to Gratitude

I forced myself out of bed this morning after sewing way too late. That's what tends to happen on birthday eves. But I knew the cinnamon rolls had to be in the oven so we could share birthday breakfast together before Jamie left for work.

I washed my face, shuffled out of the room . . . and I was greeted by gratitude. A white sheet of paper lay on the floor outside our bedroom door. My dear Aidan's scrawl proclaimed, "Thank you!!!" Folded on the inside was the succinct sweetness,

Dear Mommy,
Thank you for the pteridactal!
It's sooo cute!!

He had found his pillow present. He was thrilled with the little stuffed dinosaur. And his first response was gratitude. Written gratitude.

As I prayed with my eight-year-old tonight, I thanked God for a son who began his day saying thank you. A son who smiled all day, a son who attacked me with hugs all day, a son who jumped for joy when I said we would do science for his birthday school work, a son who has brought us eight years of sheer delight.

Like Aidan, I can't help but write the gratitude. And this boy has reminded me of the beauty and holiness of a day that begins with thanksgiving.

From the #800s . . . .

*A fresh blanket of snow
*smiles first thing in the morning
*daddy on guitar
*son at the keyboard
*laundry away!
*re-organized school room
*just enough eggs
*finding the perfect gift
*son putting away the groceries
*country roads
*snow on distant hills
*Winnie-the-Pooh with Avery
*little girls in pink leotards
*tiniest buds on the trees
*the first crocuses
*an eight-year-old boy

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Friday, March 4, 2011

There You Have It

Apparently today was National Grammar Day. This day followed other memorable holidays that were celebrated this week, such as National Pancake Day and National Dr. Seuss Day. It was quite a week, folks.

In honor of this special day, I shall pass on to you a little grammar trick. I have a child who struggles with the usage of three notorious words: there, their and they're. To assist this child, I devised a fun memory tool. Here goes.

When the word "there" is appropriate, imagine this scenario: You see a person in need of immediate medical assistance. You gingerly approach. "Um . . er . . . um . . . er . . . you seem to be bleeding all over the place. Maybe you should go over there . . . to the ER." You may notice the subtle triple usage of "er" -- the two letters that appear in the middle of "there." We are reminded to go to the emergency room over there. If it's somewhere you can go, then the word "there" should be used.

Next we have "their." For this word we get to envision dear Old MacDonald and his farm. You know, the E-I-E-I-O fellow. Imagine that you are introducing Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald's animals to someone. "This is their goat," you say. And, because it's the MacDonalds' farm, you must include a little yodel. "E-I-E-I-O!" You continue. "This is their cow. E-I-E-I-O! And this is their pig. E-I-E-I-O!" Again, take note of the "ei" placement in the middle of the word "their" (hence the charming yodel). If it can belong to someone, the way a pig belongs to the MacDonalds, then it is their pig.

That leaves us with "they're," which is not as convoluted (or as entertaining) to explain. It looks like two words chopped and hooked together. That's because it is two words chopped and hooked together: "they are" becomes "they're."

Well, there you have it. That's how we think about words over here in the Lawson home. Emergency rooms, cows, pigs and chopping. I hope I haven't terribly confused anyone. And I really hope this post is free of grammatical errors. Either way, happy National Grammar Day.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Bread Crumbs

I appreciate clever writing. Of course it's normal to find witty words in books and articles and poems. But lately I've been keying in to another fun source: food. Have you read your food lately? Take, for instance, bread crumbs. It never occurred to me to read a bread crumb label because, well, with bread crumbs you pretty much know what you're getting.

Well, one afternoon I found that my supply was depleted. So I figured I'd try and make my own. Which lead me to read my bread crumbs to determine just what made them "Italian Style." Turns out the Whole Foods bread crumb people are not lacking in the creativity department:

Bread crumbs are very useful -- just ask Hansel and Gretel. Our Italian style bread crumbs are made from scratch and are perfectly seasoned with parsley, onion and garlic to create a light, flavorful breading. A true pantry staple, you can roll almost anything in them from chicken and fish to tofu and asparagus. And you know what to do if you ever get lost.

Now, I don't see myself rolling tofu anytime soon, but this description made me smile. Who would've thought that bread crumbs could be so fun?
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Before her head hit the pillow last night, she was very clear: "Put my present under my pillow right when I go to sleep. And not a Polly Pocket. Or a Calico Critter." Big happy smile.

She woke up. She was five . . . and a half. It took her a whole six months to get there (which, as you may recall, is a very long time when you're a kid). We're still not quite sure exactly when her half birthday should be. If there was a February 30th, that would be it. There was much debate among the family members, and we finally decided on March 2nd.

At first she didn't see it. I'm not sure how one misses a seven-foot sparkly pink feather boa next to one's pillow, but it took her a minute. And it was love at first -- er -- eventual sight.

Naturally, I assumed she'd add it to her dress-up collection. I was wrong. She promptly named it "Fluffy" and proceeded to drag it around all day like it was some sort of pet.

She insisted that Fluffy should do everything that she did, which included taking a bath. (Thankfully I caught that one in time. Fluffy took a "dry" shower while draped over the curtain rod.) Fluffy also got a bandaid for some feathery wound. (Oh -- and sorry about the feather trail we undoubtedly left during piano lessons, Mom.)

I'll probably be vacuuming up stray feathers for quite some time. But I don't really mind. I know she'll outgrow it long before I'm ready. In a flash, she'll stop naming her feathers and stomping around in cowgirl boots and carrying a rainbow umbrella and demanding peanut butter smeared rice cakes . . . . I don't even want to think about it. No, we'll just stick with our five-and-a-half years for as long as we can. Well, for about six months.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I can't get away from it. It's like the green Volkswagen van that our friends used to drive: once you've seen one, you suddenly start seeing them all over the place.

But it's no longer green Volkswagens that pursue me. It's grace. Moment by moment grace.

Two years ago I was first intrigued by Ann Voskamp's blog -- and now her book -- through which she explores the idea of looking for God's gift in absolutely everything we encounter, from the beauty of a delicately falling snowflake or the scent of freshly baked bread right down to the hard "gifts," like pain and suffering.

I started chronicling these gifts. I'm over 800 now. But only because my mind is still limited --  still thinking small -- and my hand simply cannot pen the grace fast enough. The gifts are everywhere. Even now, I feel the sun's light shifting on my face as I sit at my desk and type away. A bird trills from a branch just ten feet away, and my girls are giggling upstairs in their dress-up clothes. Gifts. All of them, gifts.

When my mind drifts away from seeing each moment as a gift, I'm soon reminded to look closely and try again. Recently, I couldn't get away from the reminders. God clearly had a message for me.

I opened my Spurgeon devotionals and read, "Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength . . . . It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you. . . . Enjoy your continual allowance." Yes -- a daily portion to enjoy. Even an hourly portion. Dare I suggest a moment by moment portion? If my 800-and-counting list is any indication, then I would answer a hearty, "Yes!"

And then again the reminder came on a Sunday morning: I am called to be faithful in the moment. Each moment, I submit in faith. And what better way to submit in faith than to praise the Giver of gifts for every blessing that has been crammed into that moment?

The service concluded with a song that left me in hallelujah tears:

What can I do but thank You,
What can I do but give my life to You

Hallelujah, hallelujah

What can I do but praise You,

Everyday make everything I do a hallelujah
A hallelujah, hallelujah.

Again, what better way to make everything I do a hallelujah, than to praise the Giver of these moment by moment gifts?

As if that wasn't enough, a friend sent me a message in response to a recent post. She could relate to the frustration of raising a . . . spirited child. Her words echoed the message that I'd been hearing again and again over the last few days: "I'm trying very hard to not just look with hope to the future, but to also see the the daily gifts of now . . . ."

The daily gifts of now. Now. Each moment. Given as a gift, given that I may choose to accept . . . and praise.

I dare you. Stop for just a minute and take a look around. Do you see it? The gifts are everywhere. The sights -- yes, even the pile of laundry! (Father, thank you for clothing!). The sounds -- yes, even the commotion! (Father, thank you for children's voices!) The smells -- yes, even the diapers! (Father, thank you for . . . um . . . functioning babies!) All of them opportunities to accept the gift and offer praise. Before you know it, those green vans are going to bombard you from all directions. You'll never be able to get away.

"What Can I Do" by Paul Baloche
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