Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics and Exercise

Well, it's time for the Olympics again! I loved watching the Olympics as a child, imagining I was one of the gymnasts, swimmers, or runners. If the television had aired sailing, I probably would have aspired to that, because I raced small sailboats as a kid. But I didn't even know small boat sailing was an Olympic sport then. I guess it doesn't play well on prime time.

Which leads me to this week. Now that the Olympics are streamed on the computer, we can watch all sorts of odd events, not just the most popular few. I was happily surprised that I could watch events like field hockey, which my daughter had played, canoeing, which is something Hubby did, and of course sailing! Though Mr. I thought sailing was boring, I was able to tell the rest of the family the different strategies that the sailors were using. There was even something I had never done, which was to let the sail out and bring it in continually during a run. I don't even know what that technique is called, but it is something like using an air paddle.

Yes, I've been sitting around in front of my computer too much this week. It reminds me of the saying, "50,000 people in the stands in desperate need of exercise who watch 22 players in desperate need of rest." My back was injured last week and I'm still am in a bit of pain, especially when I lift more than ten pounds. I've walked, but not much else since last Wednesday. Watching all those toned young bodies in swimsuits really got to me this evening.  So I went to the neighbors' house and swam hard for about 15 minutes. It wasn't much, but it was something, and it didn't hurt my back. I think I'll swim and walk instead of running until I'm completely healed.

Like many things in life, the Olympics are a negative and a positive for me. The negative is that I'm tempted to sit more than I should, especially since it hurts to move. The positive is that it motivates me to get moving! Hopefully, for my body, the positive will overtake the negative!


We have a guide dog puppy for a week. 
Meet Rosette.
Isn't she a cutie? She's only four months old and is learning a lot! She needed a place to stay while her puppy raisers go camping in Yellowstone.

Rosette Watching the Fish With Ms. D

Ms. D is having a great time, though she has to be awake a lot more than usual so she can take care of the puppy. I was kind to her and took care of Rosette in the early morning, but she's Ms. D's responsibility the rest of the day.

Rosette can be a handful, though she is really good for her age. Having a puppy is a lot like having a little human around the house. I may think a room is pretty clean, but these little ones find odd things in nooks and crannies. Though one good thing may come of all this. I'll have a puppy to back me up when people leave their socks around! Maybe they will clean up after themselves more if their socks get puppy slobber all over them!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Homeschool Beach BBQ

Yesterday Hubby, Ms. D and I had fun day at the beach with our homeschool group! Well Hubby, and I did. Ms. D, even though she had a friend along, was pretty surly much of the day. She's been like that lately.

The night before Ms. D had her friend sleep over at our house. They helped hubby pick up the food for the manna mobile delivery, so I don't think she got enough sleep. She's been sleeping 13 to 15 hours a night, and so 9 or 10 was not quite enough. Add to that, her friend was nasty to her parents when she got home, and they almost didn't let her go to the beach with us. That, of course, sent Ms. D slamming doors and having a proper temper tantrum. And her friend's parents think their girl treats them badly? Ms. D insisted she wasn't going to go with us. Mr. I backed her up, and asked why she had to go and he didn't. His best friend had a birthday party and so I had made an exception for him.  I asked him who is the parent around here, and he answered right!  I am! Ms. D was going whether she wanted to or not.

Now this happened while hubby was out delivering food. Ms. D was supposed to take care of a couple of neighbor dogs and a cat that morning, but she was busy raging. And pouting. When her friend came back and said she could go after all, Ms. D had only a half hour before my planned departure time to get ready and take care of the dogs. I had informed everyone that we were leaving at 11:30. Well, Hubby didn't get home until noon. One of the neighbor dogs kept escaping after Ms. D finally went to their house, and we had to call the neighbors to see what to do. The older girls and I had to help Ms. D with that problem. After that, I had to get all the beach chairs and picnic things ready to put in the car when I had a sore back. Ms. D was getting dressed and packed, and the older girls were taking care of the neighbor dogs so I didn't have much help. I was planning on Hubby and the kids helping me load and get things ready, but that wasn't happening. So I had to do quite a bit of lifting, which didn't help my back. Then one of the ladies in our homeschool group called because her daughter needed a ride because her son had a medical emergency.  I was getting pretty frustrated by the time we got out of the house an hour after I had planned. Of course, we had to pick up the girl and there was a lot of traffic going to the beach so it took almost twice as long to get there.

But we made it! We were late, but others were later. It was a perfect day at the beach, sunny and around 70 degrees. I forgot to take pictures, but hubby took a few, mostly of water coming out of a dammed up part of the beach. I didn't go to the water because my back hurt too much walking on the sand. But I did get to chat with other moms. I don't know what I'd do without the support of the women in our homeschool group. Many of us have kids with special needs. So they didn't judge me like other homeschool groups would have when my daughter and her friend kept to themselves and acted a bit odd.

It all reminded me to work on how Ms. D treats others this next school year. She comes off as being conceited and slutty, which isn't conducive to making new friendships. She doesn't like people until she gets to know them, and she flat out tells people she doesn't like them, or minimally will scowl at them. No wonder she only has one friend and other girls in the neighborhood want to fight her!

After the beach barbecue, we had a larger gathering of house churches about ten minutes away from the picnic. Ms. D let it be known to me that she was not happy she had to go, but I was beyond caring what she wanted to do. I was a bit tired of her attitude by then.

But I'm not going to let her attitude spoil the good things that happened yesterday. I'm thankful for the beautiful weather and for being able to live so close to the beach. I'm thankful that we found a parking space very close to the picnic spot and I didn't have to walk far. I'm thankful for a wonderful, caring homeschool group and for good friendships. I'm thankful that the little girl from the homeschool group that we took was pleasant to be around and that she was able to get a ride back.  I'm thankful for my awesome church. And I'm thankful for a great family that loves and helps each other.  I'm thankful that my back is slowly healing and that I don't always have pain.

Having a thankful heart helps me to be happier about life and to be a better mother, wife, and person. Appreciation for the good and beautiful things in life, no matter how small, helps me to make it another day.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grandson Visit

Today we had Grandson over for the day while his mommy and daddy went to San Francisco for a baseball game and an overnight date. Grandson's other grandma has him tonight, but we got to take care of him during the day.

We had so much fun!

Mr. I made and fed him french toast for breakfast! He is getting easier to take care of because he's using his signs more. He told us, using sign language, when he was hungry, all done, or needed a diaper change.
 We had some of Blackbelt Daughters Friends over too, which entertained Grandson. There wasn't a minute that Grandson was bored. He even took a walk with some of his aunts and his uncle.

 He had so much fun, he took a little nap in my arms.
 He drummed like his daddy when he woke up.
 And he had a snuggle time with his grandpa!
And after his other grandma picked him up, I needed a little nap! Taking care of Grandson is fun, but is tiring!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Attitude Adjustment

I don't know how people handle chronic pain on a long term basis. Pain puts me on edge, even with my pretty high pain tolerance. This evening I still hurt from tweaking my back yesterday from hauling all that food, and it has been affecting my attitude about situations around me.

I have less tolerance and patience for kid things. I sent Hubby out to check on Ms. D after Mr. I told us she didn't go to a friend's house like she said, but was seen wandering around the stores in our neighborhood. Hubby found her and her friend talking to a couple of male workers outside a sushi place. I'm glad Hubby took care of things. It would not have been pretty if I was there!

I took a walk with a friend, hoping I'd work out the kinks in my back. I don't think I was as encouraging while we talked, and I was pretty critical about things at home. I was definitely not looking on the bright side of life. I was pretty grumpy. I don't know if walking three miles helped or hurt, but I was hurting pretty badly by the time I came home. And when Mr. I came home with a scratched eye and wanted to spend the night at a neighbor's house that I don't trust much, I was pretty done with kid problems. Mr. I decided he really didn't want to go to that neighbor's house anyway. I was happy he listened to me and didn't try to tell his big sister that I said he could go. In a way, I think he was just trying to push some buttons because he was hurting and I was hurting too. There's nothing like a sick or hurt mother to bring out the worst in a kid with past trauma.  It's one of the most unsettling things for them, that and a power outage, and sirens, and the dark, and a big hole in the wall from accessing a leaky pipe...Well, you get the idea. A lot of things throw them off, including the fear of an incapacitated mother, which makes perfect sense considering their past.

After all this, I realized I needed to spend a bit of time alone with Hubby. I needed to talk and hear his perspective, since mine was becoming pretty clouded. We had to take a car in to get repaired and smogged, so I asked him to help me drop the car off at our neighbor's shop about a half hour away. I was still in pain, but after popping an ibuprofen and spending a half hour in the car with hubby, I'm not as negative. It wasn't exactly a real date, but it was so good to spend some time talking without the kids listening in. I am so thankful for such a good husband for me, one that can see things objectively when I am so emotional. And though I still hurt, I have had an attitude adjustment.

Three Books, Three Responses

I love to read! I've loved to read as long as I remember. I love to connect with the authors and discover more about people, the world, and myself. Sometimes I like to be inspired, other times I just like a good escape from the problems around me or a good laugh. Sometimes I read a rash of non-fiction, books on adoption, psychology, FASD, gardening, knitting. Other times I look to fiction, or biographies, which in my opinion always include a bit of fiction no matter how objective the author tries to be.

The past two weeks I've been reading three books I pulled from the new book section of our local library. The first one is When I Fell From the Sky by Juliane Koepcke. It is an autobiography written about her experience before, during, and after a horrible airplane crash in the rain forest of Peru in which she was the sole survivor. I picked this book because I wanted to read something inspiring, something that would be encouraging. I mean, wouldn't a book about a seventeen year old surviving a crash AND eleven days in the wilderness encourage me to not give up too?

I guess it did to a point, but that was pretty much because I was reading that message into it. Instead, it seemed she spent most of the time writing these kinds of messages: Will you stop asking me what happened in the crash? I don't want to talk about it! Just leave me alone to study the wildlife in my precious jungle, just like my mom! People keep getting the story wrong! Don't ask me what happened! Just make it so I can be left alone with my trees, bats, and birds! No one understands and cares to get things right! Don't talk to me about it!

It made me want to donate to a fund for some good therapy for her, rather than her wildlife preserve. I liked her descriptions of the beauty of the rain forest, but I just couldn't connect with Ms. Koepcke, which would probably suit her just fine.

The second book I read, Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson, was also about a plane crash survivor. I know, two books in a row about plane crashes? But in my defense, the subtitle was An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy, which is what drew me to reading this book, not the plane crash theme. There were glimpses of inspiration, but it was hard to connect, even to another mother of a large family who also blogs. The book could be summarized in three words, Faith, Family, and (F)phoniness.

I almost put the book down after the first few pages because of the EXTREME Mormon (LDS) preaching.  It doesn't let up either, but is on just about every page, Mormon doctrine, Mormon church, and Mormon families. It is so pervasive, it's hard to find the real person under the facade. First, before the plane crash, she depicted her life as so idyllic, it was unbelievable. She opened up her humanity while she was recovering from horrible burns, but her family quickly formed a protective wall around her, even buying a house nearby so they could more easily take care of her.  There were disturbing themes of outward appearance and image above all else, at least it seemed so to me, a recovering legalistic woman who had been caught in religion.  It's a good reminder for me to be real, open, and honest, even while admitting of my need to depend on God while I write. But the syrupy, "I'm better than you are because I have it all together, and my church has it all together" message is not inspiring. It's nauseating.

The third book, The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure is enjoyable, at least so far. I'm only fifty pages into the book, but I'm enjoying Ms. McClure's adventures in discovering more about the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the "Little House" books. I'm finding I'm connecting to another woman in Ms. McClure, who also has put herself into a character's shoes and wondered what Laura's life was really like. And not only wondering, but taking the steps to experience a world and time so different than we twenty first century women experience, unless of course, we live in some third world country. I can't wait to read about the author's next adventure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Manna Mobile

This morning I picked up some donated food to deliver to the needy and group homes. Hubby is out delivering it now. We call our car the Manna Mobile because we deliver food and because, like manna, it lasts only a day or two and needs to be distributed right away.

 This is how I packed our car with hundreds of pounds of produce and bread. Pretty impressive, isn't it?
I did pull a muscle in my back loading the car. I then helped to unload it in the house so it could stay cool until Hubby could deliver it this evening. The plumber was here so Hubby was busy, but Blackbelt daughter did the heavy lifting. After that I ran/walked with her for the Couch to 5k training. I wasn't hurting too bad then, but now my back is pretty sore. Oh well, people will be blessed.

Photography Son is here now to pick up food for an elderly lady on Social Security. She is diabetic and was found dumpster diving for food. These are the kind of people that we deliver to, the elderly, unemployed, those in group homes. So many are falling through the cracks. We keep finding more and more people that are on the edge. I'm so glad we can help.

"I Want to Be a Plumber When I Grow Up."

We had to call in a plumber to fix the leak in the wall between Ms. D's room and the hot water heater. Waiting until this morning cost us only $100, but if we had it fixed last night it could have been twice that much. Fortunately, we have awesome neighbors who let us use their water overnight, though one of our daughters didn't realize they were out of town and drove to the store to use their bathroom. We needed help from our neighbors this time and they need our help other times. It all works out when you have great neighbors like we have. We had offers from two other neighbors also!

Mr. I was a bit out of sorts last night. I could tell not having water was stressful to him. He even dropped a quart of chicken soup when he got something out of the refrigerator. Accidents are more frequent when the stress level rises.

So this morning, the plumber came. He is a fairly young dad and let Mr. I help him and learn. Mr. I had a great time! Now he says he wants to be a plumber when he grows up.

 He even threw a football a couple of times with Mr. I after loading up the truck.

Thanks, Mr. Plumber, for making a good time for Mr. I. It's better than making lemonade out of lemons, because he will now look back at this not as a bad time, but have good memories!

Oh, and Mr. I, I'm not going to pay you $95 an hour for helping the plumber, even if you did a lot of the work. But nice try!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More DIY...This Time Hair

One way I've saved money has been by doing my family's hair myself.

Today, I cut Mr. I's hair and colored my own hair. Hubby thinks I look a lot younger.
 With the money I saved today doing our hair, we were able to go out for Chinese.
In Natural Light

Mr. I's haircut can be spiked in a faux hawk.
Oops. We just found a leak in Ms. D's wall. More repairs needed!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fixed the Washing Machine!!!


We are really on a string of home improvement and appliance repair jobs!

Yesterday, the lid switch on our washing machine fell apart in my hands. If the lid switch doesn't work, the washing machine won't drain or spin. I was left with a load of clothes and a lot of water. This part failed a few years ago, so I knew what to do.

First, I took a picture of the broken part and my machine on my phone.

Then I went to our local appliance parts shop, A Apc Appliance Parts Company in San Jose. The guy there only needed to see the picture of the washing machine and gave me the right part. He even gave me a little advice.

Next was the hard part. I used a pitcher to drain the washing machine in order to move it away from the wall. I had already taken out the clothes, rinsed them, and hung them up to dry this morning. The plants were really happy with the gray water.

Then I realized I had completely forgotten how to replace the switch, so I looked up how to do it on Youtube. I couldn't have done this a few years ago, and would have had to decipher an appliance repair manual. This showed me how to do it much better!

Now looking at this video makes it look pretty easy. It really wasn't too difficult, but the video shows a guy working on a brand new washing machine with plenty of light and room, not one that is in a corner of a dusty garage which has a bunch of spiderwebs all around! But it sure was handy to be able to pause the video after each step. I did have to put the machine together twice, because the front didn't set right, but with Hubby's help, I was able to do it!

You have to hug these things to tighten a screw in the back!

I really need to do something with my hair soon!

Fixing the washing machine myself saved a ton of money! We now have a working washing machine after spending less than $40 on the part and less than an hour of work!

Oh, and thanks Microbio Daughter, for finishing supper for us so I could get this job done!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beautiful Taekwando

Blackbelt Daughter has a second degree black belt in Taekwando. This evening, she was practicing one of her forms, Chung mo 4, in our living room. It was so beautiful to watch, I took a short video of part of it. It's hard to believe that this young woman in a skirt was practicing a martial art! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt_bbZZX6qw&feature=g-upl

Bob the Builder and Wendy Strike Again!

New Shelves
A few years ago, one of our hot water pipes under our slab foundation sprung a leak. Concrete slab foundations are great for earthquake country, but not so good when the plumbing is run underneath. Over the years, the pipes start to break down. We could pay someone a couple of thousand dollars to dig down and fix the pipe, but that didn't prevent a new leak from another place. So we decided to pay an extra thousand or so to have the pipes run through the attic. We had to take one of my cabinets down in order for the plumber to get to the wall, so I've had to work with one less cabinet in a fairly small kitchen for a large family. Since it costs so much for new cabinets, we've put replacing them off.

Hubby and Microbio daughter
Yesterday, Hubby went with Microbio Daughter and Photography Son's wife to the MBARI open house. All three of them love science and had a great time. I was going to go with them, but Ms. D had a bad headache and needed me to be near her. While they were gone, I ran to the lumber store and picked up some brackets and shelves. I was just too tired of not having enough room.

I could have done it myself, but this kind of job is a bit easier with help. I like to measure and don't like power tools as much, and hubby doesn't like measuring, but loves tools. So as in many parts of our marriage, doing a home improvement project together is more enjoyable and more successful than if we try to do it alone. We make a great team!

Hubby With the Drill

Hurting People Hiding

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own family's problems I don't see people around me that are really hurting. The elderly woman who has no food, the ones in pain, the ones struggling with relationships or their marriage, the families who are struggling financially, the troubled and abused kids, the women who are battling cancer, depression, or migraines, these people are all around me. Some are loud and outspoken when they are suffering, and they, for the most part, draw attention to their needs. Others are quiet about it. I think they are doing more or less fine, until they are in crisis. Yes, they've given me subtle signs of distress, but I've more or less blown them off. Just about everyone I know isn't doing as well financially these days, right?

But too often I miss the soft cries of distress. In too many instances, the people in the most need of help, emotional support, and of course prayer, are the ones who hide their needs until they can't take it anymore. I don't know if it's pride, despair, shame, fear, wrong thinking, or what, but I'm guilty of not involving others in my struggles too, at least until the crisis is over and I tell them how bad it was. Not that I expect others to do for me what I can and should do myself, but I have come to the realization that I can't do everything alone. No one can live this life alone. We need each other. And even if we can't do much for someone else, we can come alongside and share our lives.

Yes, I'm figuratively kicking myself today for missing the cries of a friend. I was too busy. I was overwhelmed with my own stuff. I could have taken the time to listen, but when I finally made the time it was too late. I was insensitive. Of course hindsight is 20/20, and I shouldn't stay in this place of shame, but I pray that God will open my eyes and give me wisdom for the next time. In the meantime, I am grieving for my friend, and pray that God will bless her and give her wisdom. And I pray that God will bring to her those who can lift her up in her time of need.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Couch to 5k

Today, Mr. I and I joined with Blackbelt daughter and a couple of her friends to do a training called "Couch to 5k." We did intervals of jogging and walking for twenty minutes. Each week changes the time ran so that by eight weeks, we should all be able to run 5k.

I actually didn't do too bad today, and was able to keep up with the girls. Of course both of them had injuries from Taekwando. I'm not exactly a couch potato. I walk a lot, hula hoop, and do a bit of light weights. But I normally don't run. Even so, I was able to do the whole course, which is pretty good for a fifty year old grandma!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When Kids Rage

 Guess what? I'm not writing this in response to a recent rage of one of my children!!! Neither one of them has had one in a week and a half, and the rages are getting rarer and less violent.

I'm writing this because even though I desire more people to adopt and do foster care, they should get into it knowing that many of the kids who need homes have behavioral issues. Some rage, some have FASD, are traumatized, have RAD, or are on the autism spectrum. Some have other psychiatric conditions that all the love and good parenting in the world can't fix. Only God. Not all of the children have all of these conditions, but many have at least one of them. And it is stressful for the family, especially since many children seem so sweet out in public but save their worst behaviors for home.

One blog I read is by a woman whose two children have FASD and PANDAS, and have rages when they come down with an infection, especially Strep.  When they rage, the kids break things.
Now my kids haven't broken anything lately during a rage, but they used to. Another thing they would do is make big messes when they raged or were dysregulated, which made keeping the house clean enough for the foster agency a challenge! We have spent so much money and time repairing and cleaning. We knew fostering hurt kids would be difficult, but we just didn't grasp the full extent before we got into it.

Someone responded to this woman's post I read, saying that leaving something broken would bring the kids to a place of remorse. I didn't think so, given what I've learned about FASD and RAD. They either wouldn't understand or they wouldn't care. So I wrote the following:

I have found that when my kids get to a certain point in their rage, they honestly forget what they did. They can't believe they broke, screamed, or swore.  They might remember the lead up to the rage, and the aftermath, but not the worst part of it. They are acting on a lower part of their brain, and their logic and higher reasoning just don't work at that time. So leaving things broken doesn't have the effect it would have on a more neurotypical kid. It is confusing to them. People say they did something, but they don't remember. So sometimes calmly fixing it and asking for their help without blaming them helps. I've become awesome at do it yourself projects. I even learned how to do knockdown texture on sheet rock from Youtube! Sometimes I just live with things broken. Other things, like towel holders, I look for a go around because I repaired them too many times and want to keep the towels off the floor as much as possible.

No one ever told me the cost of adoption would include lots of home repairs. I've also spent more money on things that relieve my own stress than I would have thought. But my kids are worth every broken thing, every penny I spend, and every extra gray hair on my head. I know you think that too!


People who foster and adopt need a lot more support from those around them. It's hard to ask for help when you've chosen to take something on. Many are so exhausted and overwhelmed they can't think of who to ask and what kind of help to ask for. Believe me, I've been there. Sometimes help with some of the oddest things, like fixing a cabinet door for someone, can make such a difference. We I need to get better at seeking out and supporting those that are parenting difficult, but awesome, kids.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mixed Berry Jam and An Ounce of Prevention

Yesterday afternoon I had cool weather, a bit of time, and a bunch of berries. I had strawberries that were needing to be put up or eaten right away, a little over a cup of blueberries from the grandparents, and a cup of blackberries from our garden.

Put them all together, and I have the most awesome tasting jam! I like the combination of the three types of berries. I've never tried that combo before, but this time I didn't have enough of any one kind for a whole batch. Isn't it wonderful when an experiment or substitution turns out better than you expect? I wish I could give you a taste over the computer, but you'll just have to come on over or make some yourself!

Jam is so easy to make and can as long as you follow the directions on the pectin box. I don't think it took even an hour from start to finish, including gathering materials and clean up. I made a little over eight cups of jam, and every jar I sealed made the satisfying "poink" sound when they cooled. When I first started canning years ago, I learned that the most essential part of the process is to make sure the edge of the jar is wiped clean and there are no chips or rough spots to break the seal. Special attention to neatness, and following all the steps, yield the best results.

It's a little like other parts of my life. Often I'm tempted to let some things slide, thinking I'm too busy to pay attention to some details. But how many times have those shortcuts been the very things that cause bigger problems later on?

How many times have I had to go out and buy a tool or a paintbrush because I didn't put the one I already own away when I last used it? How much have I spent on library fines or late fees because I was too busy, and forgot to do things when they were due? How much money could we have saved, had we changed the oil regularly or took the car in when the check engine light first turned on? How much suffering could we have avoided by taking better care of our health and teeth before getting sick or having cavities? Mending clothes when the rip first appears, fixing a leak right away, keeping up with the housework and garden, and taking the time to organize, all save time and money in the long run.

I may feel I have too much on my plate to slow down and take care of things, but it's better to spend time, energy, and money on prevention, rather than to have to deal with bigger problems later. The old saying, a stitch in time saves nine, is really true!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ordinary People

Tonight I went with Hubby and a group of people from our church to City Team to hear David Hunt talk about discipleship and church planting. Over the past three or four years, hundreds of churches have been planted throughout the world. Tonight was an introduction to the ways City Team has accomplished such rapid growth through God.

As the room full of people introduced themselves, I felt very ordinary. I wasn't a pastor. I haven't started any churches. I wasn't a big lay leader of the Catholic Church, or a teacher at a college, or a church planter. I haven't been to seminary. I don't even have a degree. I don't lead large organizations or do anything really special. I can't really say I've done more than love, pray for, encourage, and help people around me. I am an ordinary woman. Exceptionally ordinary.

But as the night went on, I learned that ordinary people have started more churches than the specialists. City Team's most successful church planter is a grandma with a third grade education. God has worked through people in wonderful ways, people who the world would think are rather ordinary. So I guess it's OK to be that way. And it might even help God to work through the ordinary, rather than those that don't need Him as much.

I can be so insecure sometimes. Yet other times I have faith that God can do anything He wants through me. It's a real struggle to break through that insecurity. But when I do, I love better. When I keep my eyes off my shortcomings, I can better see the needs of those around me. When I take the focus off my own failings, I have the energy to help lift others up. And when my eyes are on God, I can see myself and others the way He does, and my life has a greater impact on the world.

May God use us ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

Monday, July 16, 2012

In Our House...

Today I saw this picture on a friend's Facebook page:

It reminded me of when Mr. I and Ms. D first came to our house. The social workers from Advent, our foster agency, taught us to use "In our house..." statements. And I think they were really helpful in our kids' adjustment to our home.

We needed to keep it positive.

So instead of "Don't steal",
We said, "In our house, we ask to use our sister's shirt before we wear it."

Instead of saying, "Don't swear",
We said, "In our house we say it nice."
Or "In our house we say ouch when we fall down."

Instead of saying, "Don't break things",
We said, "In our house, we treat other people's things gently."

Instead of saying, "Don't hit me", or "Don't kick",
We said, "In our house we use our words to say we are angry."

In our house, we love each other. In our house, we forgive. In our house, we hug. In our house, you are safe...

I can see the difference in our kids' behaviors when I use positive words to correct and bring change. Now that the Mr. I and Ms. D are older and have been in our home over nine years, I see that I haven't worded my corrections in a positive manner as much as I should. I've drifted into saying a lot more noes than are necessary or beneficial. This picture of the stairs was a gentle reminder for me.

So in our house...
I will say things kindly, positively, and in love.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Team Brake Lights

Who is Team Brake Lights?

Black Belt Daughter and I!!!
Black Belt Daughter's car's brake lights burned out, so I went to the auto parts store, paid $7, and got some new ones. Both lights were out and the car's electrical system has been a bit funky over the years. It has, after all, over 287 k miles on it! I was worried that we'd have to dig deeper and replace a switch or fuses, but lights are cheap, and it doesn't hurt to get new ones once in awhile. So we replaced the easiest and cheapest first, and worried about anything more complicated if the first thing we tried didn't work.

We did pretty well, except I got the signal lights and the brake lights mixed up. But when we started to go back to the store, Black Belt Daughter noticed that the signals were acting weird, so we parked on the side of the road and changed the right lights.  The lights worked!

Team Brake Lights rocks!

Chicks and Math

Friday, Ms. D and I were out grocery shopping when she reminded me that I said we could get a couple more chicks after Grandpa and Grandma left. Some of our older chickens have stopped laying, and if I want a steady supply of eggs, we need to get new ones every year or two. I learned a long time ago that chickens need company, and one chick is much louder than two.  So we got one Easter Egger and a Buff Orpington.
Aren't they cute?

What do chicks have to do with math? You can count the chicks, adding them to how many chickens we had before, how much they and their food cost, measuring the temperature and adjusting the heat to the age of the chicks, the cost of raising them until they start producing, and maybe figuring out the cost per egg when they finally do lay.  A person can use a lot of math when gardening and raising animals, but that's not the math I am thinking about when I am titling this post.

Yesterday a friend, who is a teacher, came over to try out a method she's learning to teach math to middle school kids. Mr. I and Ms. D were reluctant at first to do math on a Saturday morning, but we bribed them with a movie if they would cooperate. It turns out they had a great time, and were disappointed when the hour was over.  Mr. I memorized his eight multiplication facts and Ms. D was reminded of them again. They asked my friend if she could come another time.

It encouraged me to have some more fun when teaching the kids.  They often resist doing their work. I then get more serious about getting through the material and tell them we'll do the fun things after we are done. But too often, I'm exhausted from all the resistance, and don't have the energy for things like art, music, educational games, or field trips. I think I need to schedule the homeschool time so that we have more interaction, and breaks throughout the day.

And maybe we can work some math into their lives, by figuring out how much each egg our chickens produce really costs us.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Grandparents Visit Overview

We had a great time with the grandparents! They left Thursday after staying about a week. It seems so quiet around here, not because they made a whole lot of noise themselves, but because the whole family came over just about every day they were here. I loved it, though it took me a day or so to recover.

So during the week we puppy sat a guide dog puppy,
Took Grandma to the emergency room to check out some pain in her back from the long drive here,
Grandpa went with Hubby to deliver food twice this week,
Some of the family went to the model air show near our home,

Went rafting,
Visited Microbio Daughter's work, 
And had a bunch of family dinners.
We even remembered to take a few pictures, though only with our phones or point and shoot cameras, which bothered photography son. He has such high standards for his photography.

Grandpa also helped Hubby to install my "new to me" dishwasher,
And Grandma helped me clean the refrigerator. Thanks, Grandma! It looks beautiful!
Blackbelt Daughter was able to give lots of hugs, which is her specialty,
 And wore Grandpa's hat before he left town.
6:00 am Thursday
I am so glad that Hubby's parents were able to come down and spend some time with us! I'm also thankful for such a great family that enjoys spending time with each other.

Friday, July 13, 2012

California Cavern

Hubby, Grandpa, Mr. I and I went to California Cavern after we packed up from camping. We took a shortcut over a sometimes one lane road over a mountain. I was surprised to see a few nice looking cars, so I figured I couldn't be too out of the way, but I wondered sometimes. A pickup with a large trailer whizzed by me with inches to spare as I went as far as I dared off the road next to a steep drop off. He seemed to know what he was doing, but that kind of close call would have sent me into a panic if this would have happened thirty years ago. I grew up in flat Illinois, so mountain roads used to be pretty frightening sometimes almost every time. But now, after living in the West most of my life, it takes a lot to get my heart going. Fortunately, the trailer sped past so quickly, without hitting me, so I didn't have time to get all worked up. I was so glad when we made it to a two lane road!

So we made it in one piece to the cave. It had a lot of history, having been found by gold rush miners. Of course, parts of the cave have been abused by people, but there was one part we went to that had been fairly recently discovered.
Getting Directions Before Heading Into the Cave
We really enjoyed the cave. It was a good place to go to get relief from the 100+ degrees F. weather. Since there were a few tighter squeezes and low ceilings between rooms, we had to wear hard hats. I think this is the first cave I've been to that I've had to wear one of those, but I really was glad I had it on when I bumped my head. Mr. I did well in the cave.
Grandpa and Mr. I

Hubby Locked In!
On the way back home I got a craving for something cold. It's funny how after every camping trip we can't wait to eat ice cream, or drink a shakes or smoothies, especially if it's been hot. At the first town we came to with a fast food place, Valley Springs, we stopped to eat. Everyone at the restaurant was white and knew each other. One man, who had a large tree removal business, had a long white beard, ponytail, and arms like trees. He'd be pretty scary, except when he chatted with all the other locals there, he seemed friendly and kind. The locals looked tough on the outside, with their tats and worn clothing, but soft on the inside. They were talking about the economy, job openings, the heat, and how the kids were doing. Then another person would walk in and they'd chat with that person too. We were the only people in the whole place that didn't know everyone else! One guy came who had a large pickup laying upside down on top of another pickup, and had to park out back where there was more room. Valley Springs is definitely not the Bay Area!

It was pretty hard driving home after a camping and all the hiking we did that day, but it wasn't as eventful as the mountain driving. When we arrived home, Grandma's back was doing a lot better. I'm glad she chose to rest and not go with us, since my back was feeling a bit sore. I can't imagine how she would have felt. I made chicken tacos for supper, which were really easy and one of my standby meals, and started to unpack. I must have looked as bad as I felt though, since people kept telling me to get some rest. I finally gave in. Although it's fun to camp, there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Some of our family had to go back home after the rafting trip, but a few of us went deeper into the mountains to camp. Hubby selected an awesome campground, Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Some of the best things about camping here?

Big Trees, even a redwood you can walk through.

Campsites and paths that are wheelchair and stroller accessible. Not that we had a wheelchair or a stroller, but it's great to see a place where just about anyone can experience such beautiful scenery. The paths around the North Grove were even, wide, and smooth.

A campground that wasn't too crowded and was pretty quiet, except for the noise we made, bringing a baby and a traumatized kid. The campsites were spacious. Even though we reserved and used two, because we thought we'd have at least a couple more camping, the seven of us and three tents could have easily fit in one site. We came on a Sunday evening, so we missed the weekend crowd, but it's still summer. I expected most of the campsites to be taken, but over half were empty.

Bathrooms with running water, flush toilets, and showers! Whoohooo!

Our campsite had a bed of pine needles, so sleeping in the tent was a lot more comfortable than if it was on rocky ground.

We also had a fire pit, so we were able to make s'mores! Yum! I think I'll make one in the microwave now, even though it won't be as tasty as using a marshmallow toasted over hot coals.

Every camping trip has to have something that isn't perfect. It wouldn't be a real camping trip otherwise.

There were a few mosquitoes that targeted Green Mama. Exclusively. We forgot to carry the bug repellant while we took the walk around the redwoods. Poor girl!
Grandson Playing With the Bear Safe and Mr. Spatula, His Favorite Toy
There were bear safes to put our food in. Though we didn't see or hear any, there was the possibility of bears coming around. The problem was that this fed into Mr. I's fears. He's the guy who barricades his room with his bike at night and sleeps with a pocketknife under his pillow and the light on. His sister had cramps and didn't come camping with us, so he would have to either sleep in his own tent, with Grandpa and his snoring, or alone in the van. None of those seemed like a good option to Mr. I, so he had a panic attack, hitting himself and kicking. I could tell it was a fear response, rather than a manipulative tactic, for a number of reasons. Later, when he was calm, we said he could sleep in the tent with Hubby and me. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, even though our tent is supposed to be able to hold three people. Hubby had a hard time breathing because of the tight quarters, asthma from the fire, and high altitude. Thanks, Hubby! You made your boy's camping trip a good experience!

But all in all, we had a great time! It was fun camping with Grandson. We'll have to do that again!