Saturday, October 25, 2008

eine kleine nachtsprechen

if you had been a fly on the wall in the kids' bedroom tonight, you might have heard this after I sang "Jesus Loves Me" to Isaac.

Me: "Goodnight, sweetie. Jesus loves you!"
Isaac: "where is Jesus?"
Me: "Umm, Jesus is in my heart! One day he will be in your heart too. He's everywhere. Jesus is God, you know." (how's that for a little concise theology? :)
Isaac: (thinking) "Jesus is in Mama's belly!"

Which proves that we are around too many pregnant people :)

new chef in the house

This is what happens when Isaac is left alone in the kitchen for a few minutes...he makes his own version of cinnamon toast! I had left the loaf and fixins out after making Vance and Isaac a morning snack...but apparently Isaac hadn't had enough. :) It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but he poured a cup of water on top of the bread and cutting board after shaking out all of the cinnamon sugar. I think he was trying to "clean" the loaf after he had made a "BIIIIIIG mess". I was upset about the soggy bread, but had to laugh at the same time.

True to form, as soon as I post about how thankful I am, things in the parenting world take a turn south. I'm slowly learning that this is the rhythm of life with a 2 year old (or, at least, my two year old). We go back and forth between opposites. The past few days, Isaac has been disobeying a good bit, and talking back to me. It needs to be addressed, but sometimes it can be funny....
Isaac: "Mama! COME UPSTAIRS, RIGHT NOW!" (with an angry face and wild gesticulating for emphasis).
Me: "Isaac! You do not speak to me like that! You are not the boss! How do you talk to Mama?"
Isaac: (trying a new tactic, with a sweet voice) "Mama, can you come upstairs and put your shoes on and go outside with me?"
Me: "That's a much nicer way to talk to me. Yes, I can come." (I go upstairs and put on my shoes)
Isaac: "Good job, Mama! Good obeying!!!!!!"
Me: hmmmmmmmm....
Something tells me he still needs to learn basic authority structures around here... :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a thousand thankfulnesses

We have been having a great week. Last week was pretty amazing, too. But I better back up, before you all start to hate me and my fairy-tale life :).

About two weeks ago we had a really rough week, the kids and I. Mostly Isaac and me, to be exact. I never realized how angry I could get until I became a parent, and it turns out I can be pretty nasty to the people I love. There were far, far too many times that I was responding impatiently and harshly to Isaac's attitudes, reluctunces, and disobediences. I felt like there was a huff in my breath and a hand on my hip and a pointing finger in the air much of the week. I just wanted everyone in my life to behave perfectly and not get in my that too much to ask?

After feeling convicted and then condemned and then finally hopeful again, God reminded me of the importance of gratefulness. Instead of acting like a spoiled princess who has been gypped, I need to remember that I am an undeserving girl who has a million and one blessings to rejoice in. The ungrateful me focuses on...ME. The grateful me can get out of myself enough to delight in God and the unexpected loveliness of the life he has for me.

Gratefulness lends itself to wonder, and there's plenty to be amazed at when you live life with little people! I've been trying to hold onto every bit I can this week, and I thought I'd document a few of the things I'm loving right now.

Because life is a shadow as it passes, and I'm going to forget faster than that.....

Life with Claire:
- the funny new faces she's been making...the above is similar (but not exactly) the new scrunchy-nose smile she's been sporting for the last few days. It makes me laugh every time.
- little Miss Claire has been trying on vocalizations like a teenager tries on moods. There's a new one every day. She's grunting, screeching, hiccuping, barking, and babbling up a storm.
- she may--just may--have said "Dada" to Vance yesterday.
- Watching her eat. She kicks her legs and makes amazing grunting noises to voice her pleasure at the delights of food.
- She's already obsessed with shoes and accessories. True, she's eating them instead of trying them on, but I'm sure that will come.
- I love how she's almost always my cheerful girl and my ray of sunshine, who makes us all smile. I noticed while shopping today that Isaac is so much happier running errands when he can talk and laugh with her.

Life with Isaac:

- hearing him scream, "OHHH! IT'S TOO TURKEY, MOM!" when something's too difficult for him. I don't ever correct him and say "it's too tricky?" now, because I know he will grow out of it all to soon.
- getting inside his head and learning to wonder at the sublime nature of construction vehicles and men at work. He spent 45 minutes yesterday watching some guys install new garden beds in the apartments across the street.
- hearing him address an unnamed person simply as "people." As, when talking to the aforementioned construction crew yesterday, "Look, it's a front loader, people!"
- hearing him talk about "struckin workers" (construction workers) and "helltalkers" helicopters and other mispronunciations.
- having long, detailed discussions with him about what EXACTLY happens when an airplane lands at an airport and then takes off again.
- hearing him use everyday manners with real sincerity and without prompting, such as "please" and "thank you"
- watching him learn empathy ("Mama's sad!"), and apologize for something done wrong.
- watching him do the Dinner Dance in his seat when he really likes what he's eating for dinner.

Life with Vance:
- Sitting on the couch having devotions in the morning. I've only recently started to get up early enough to have my quiet time at the same time as Vance. True, I'm very groggy and tired, but it's still nice to start the day together.
- Seeing how hard he works. He is one of the most focused people I know, when he sets his mind to it, and he's doing really quality research. Now that he's getting close to the end, I'm realizing afresh how much he has accomplished and how hard he has applied himself toward his goals.
- Watching him enjoy our kids. I love watching him wrestle Isaac, or cuddle Claire, and knowing that he really loves his family, and that he's making sacrifices at work to get home and be with us.
- Scripture memory. I am horribly undisciplined with this kind of thing, and left to my own devices, would get excited about it for a week and then let it fizzle. But not with Vance around! Never say die!
- I love that after 4.5 years of marriage, he's still the most amazing man I know. That's a lot of up close scrutiny coming from a pretty cynical and critical person, so he must be the real deal.
- This is a family-friendly blog, so I'll stop there and just say that I love him. A lot.

I've got a thousand things to be thankful for!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hope for the Homeless

When I was in college, I was part of a group called Hope for the Homeless. They did various things, mostly working with local shelters, bringing in food from restaurants and grocery stores, things like that. I was involved with the tutoring program at the Salvation Army. A few of us would go over to the shelter once a week and help the kids with their homework. I didn't feel like I was helping much, but I was glad to at least be in their lives.

My most vivid memory of my (limited) involvement is of the night we spent on the streets with the homeless. We camped out outside an office building in downtown Raleigh, ate donated pizza, listened to music, and played cards with the homeless guys wandering the streets that night. It was surprisingly fun. It did two things for me: 1) It reminded me that those guys on the street are real people with real stories, and 2) It showed me that a lot of those people could have chosen to NOT be on the streets if they wanted.

Flash forward to my life now. Probably like everyone else, I go through that brief guilty/confused drama when I stop at a stoplight and see someone holding a sign and begging for help. I want to help: I don't know how. I'm busy, I'm cynical, and I'm selfish. I want to show love, but I don't want to enable. I won't just throw cash at some person I don't know, hoping that they won't use it on drugs or booze. So what's a girl to do? Drive on, unfortunately.

But those verses in the Bible keep nagging me... "

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares," (Heb 13:2)

And Jesus' description of the day of Judgement: "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' " (Matt. 25:37-40).

But now I finally have a good idea, thanks to my friend Maureen's friend! I'm so excited. I've given away grocery coupons before, but I think this is better. I'm going to keep a gift bag in my car, filled with non-perishable food like soup, crackers, juice, hot cocoa, etc. I also bought a bus pass to put in there, and I'm writing up a list of local shelters right now. I think I'll write a brief note on there to make it personal, since I won't have time to talk at a stop light. A booklet with a clear explanation of the gospel, and I think it'll be set.

I'm pretty excited about getting to give this away. I hope it's as good of an idea as I think it is.... :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

keepin it real...and cheap

All right! We are halfway through the month, and halfway through the cash I've set aside for miscellaneous and baby. I thought I'd update you with how it's going.

To be honest, I thought I had given myself a pretty wide berth. $80, I figured, would be pretty easy. But as I'm evaluating all the things I could be spending that money on, I'm remembering why Misc. is always my runaway-overspent category in the monthly budget.

For example: I want a haircut. Vance needs a haircut. Isaac could use a new pair of jeans that don't have holes in the knees (don't worry, people, he has other non-holey pants to look decent in). We're running low on Clorox 2. It's a new season, which means that I have the itch to go buy new fall things for a table centerpiece and my door. Oh, and I could use some new hangers to hang pants on. You get the picture.

But I'm reevaluating some of that stuff. We've only got $31 until the end of the month, and I'm probably going to have to blow $15 of that on diapers. So I think I'll embrace longer hair, until next month, at least. I'm seriously considering cutting Vance's hair myself (he is not seriously considering it, however :). A lot of that stuff is not that imperative. And if the more important things wait until next month, maybe that will help me not spend what's left over frivolously.

Our pirate costumes (see post below) were not stunning, nor well assembled. But if I had had another 12,471,236 hours, they could have been cool. And I only spent $3. I was okay with that trade-off.

The kids and I took a walk up to Vance's office the other day, and we collected pretty leaves and acorn tops for a free centerpiece I could use for the table. Isaac walked the half mile up to the office and still had enough gas to go back down home, without needing to jump in the stroller. I was impressed. Isaac was especially happy to thrust handful after handful of leaves into the stroller basket, and collect "mouse hats". Vance told him the acorn tops were mouse hats, and now Isaac can't remember their real name. He just calls them "hatmouse".

I was pleased with our foraging. It made a pretty nice centerpiece, though not what I had originally planned. Maybe being frugal will work out after all.

Full disclosure: I took this picture when the centerpiece I made looked beautiful and fresh. Now, my impatience has been revealed...since I didn't press the leaves, they're all curled up and dead looking. I'll have to try again with pressed leaves. But hopefully that will look good too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall Festival...arrr!

Well, our costumes were a little more slapdash than I had originally intended. But, in my defense, I was planning on having Vance's help in putting them together that afternoon, and then he had to work for an extra 4 hours last minute. So I was frantically taping and cutting all afternoon. Remember, the theme for the Fall Festival this year was Pirates of the Carribean. In case you can't tell what we're supposed to be...... I am a music pirate of the Carribean (I only pirate reggae music. Ya man). Vance is a redneck pirate (his ammo belt is 20-guage shotgun shells attatched with ductape), and Claire is a parrot. Isaac was too embarrassed by our shoddy costumes to pose with us. He was a scurrrrvy dog. I wanted to find some creative way to attatch lemon slices to a hat with dog ears, but considering that Isaac probably wouldn't have allowed a hat to stay on his head, and that I had run out of time, he just held the lemon instead :/. And it was all I could do just to get him to let me pencil in a nose on him. But he loved his sword.

the tissue paper that I had painstakingly attatched to Claire's jacket was already falling off quickly. It's sort of a concept piece, really :)

Hazel was a very cute little pirate

Look at the Patenaudes! Note the look on Becca's face and the clenched fist ("wait a second! why is no one else wearing costumes?! I went through all this trouble to have you all play a practical joke on me?!) We were playing tag football, and had all taken our costumes off for the time being.

Mike & Karly probably got the prize for best costume.

Look at the little dog costume that Howie has on!

photo phrenzy

I just uploaded a ton of photos...and now I'm sharing them with you. We got to watch Maddie while her mom was busy having a baby, and Isaac had such fun with her! They like each other a lot, as you can see (hmm, future matchmaking in order?). They even napped in the same room together (separate cribs, of course. propiety, please).
holding hands

Claire LOVES to eat, and makes loud grunting, guttural noises while imbibing her victuals. It's funny and scary all at the same time.
We went to the park with Bethany and Hazel while the guys went fishing last week. Isaac liked to swing of course,
but Claire was even more excited!
She settled down eventually,

and beamed the rest of the time she was in her seat.

Serious Hazel even smiled! Note Bethany and her little bump in the background :)
I tried to teach Isaac how to blow dandelion seeds in the wind,
and he tried, but couldn't get much velocity, and ended up inhaling some of the seedheads. We had fun trying, though!

Isaac really wanted to swing on the big swings, and I guess I've been in denial about how old he's getting. He hopped on, and was plenty big enough to handle it. He loved it. I cannot believe he's going to be 3 in January...

Up next...the Fall Festival and pirate costume pictures!

Friday, October 10, 2008

slipping through my fingers...

Today I had to make a run to Target to get "a few things". I don't know about you, but my list of always magically grows while I walk through aisle upon aisle of glittering merchandise. But I did better today, and stuck to my list, thanks to my new goal.

The bad news was that all the stuff on my list still added up to pack quite a punch. Wipes, formula, razor blades, shampoo, body wash, superglue, and cream cheese....a grand total of $44. A third of the way through the month and already more than half the way through my cash. Bummer.

Now I've got to think of something creative for our costumes tomorrow. If you have any great pirate ideas, start sending them my way! :)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Penny Pinching Contest

Thanks to my friend Becca's inspiring frugality, as well as Vance's work on our budget, I am ready to compete with myself for a new adventure in stinginess!

You should really go over to Becca's blog and read this post on her family's budget this month...and be amazed. It will render my own goals this month less impressive, but that's the world I live in--under the shadow of Becca's greatness. :)

A little background might be helpful for the uninitiated: due to the fact that our family's size is inversely proportionate to our graduate school/piano teaching income, we've had a negative cash flow since I came home to be with Isaac in January of 2006. We've made it okay, but have been drawing from savings a little bit most months. I've tried to be careful with our money, but after two and a half years of living in the red, it has been easy to "treat" myself to a few extra expenses. To reward myself, you know. The logic is overwhelming. :/ That, combined with rising food/gas prices, some sermons on finances, and the fact that Claire eats us out of house and home, were adding up to some financial restructuring.

But I've been blown away by how blessed we've been! Because of a fellowship Vance has for his thesis, he's making more money this year, and our income now theoretically meets our monthly expenses. Shocking, really, and I haven't wrapped my mind around it yet :). On paper, we ought to be able to deal with our needs without going into our savings. Which means I really need to work that out in person. Wish me luck!

Now for the fun part...I'm inspired to try to cut some corners in spending this month to help offset a suit we bought for Vance (interviews coming up soon!), and to set aside some extra for Christmas. I'm not going to mess with food this month, since I've already bought two weeks of groceries and Vance made me a VERY nice birthday dinner which wasn't exactly free. So I'm going to tackle Miscellaneous and Baby instead.

So here's my challenge: to spend not more than $80 in those to categories combined from now until Oct 31. And to not go over my food budget, since there are 5 weeks in Oct.

A lot of stuff ends up falling in those categories--diapers fpr 2 kids, wipes, sippy cups (why have I not yet bought stock in a sippy cup company?!), kids clothes, cleaning supplies, toiletries, decorations, batteries, ink, you name it. Misc. adds up fast, since it's the catch-all category.

So here we go! I better go to the bank and get some cash so my credit card doesn't lure me into a false sense of self-confidence... :) I'll let you know how I do!