Friday, February 27, 2015

Fog and Flowers: Availing My Family

They still fit.

Have you ever seen a need, and thought to yourself, "if only I didn't have these kids, I could totally help out!" I have.  And I had every good reason to do so. So do you. Lately, though, I realize that I've used my children as an excuse perhaps for too long. When they were little, I used to set the alarm on my wristwatch to alert me when it was 6:30 p.m. No matter where I was, no matter how much fun my kids were having, no matter how much fun I was having, that alarm would go off, and I would pack it up and beat it home in a minute flat. I only did this because, too often, I had previously found myself indulging in another half-hour of friend time, or I would give in to a few more minutes of play time... and I'd pay for it dearly when my kids missed their 7:30 bed time. There was a direct and predictable scale of crazy-- the farther off-schedule we got, the more frustrating bed time and my feeling of defeat grew. And my sweet relief when they were finally asleep was always tempered by the fact that these kids, no matter how late they got to bed, would still get up at 5:30 in the morning. So, sticking to the schedule and saying "no" became paramount skills to employ to  keep me sane, and my children unharmed. They're 8 and 5, and bed time is STILL pretty immovable. But other times... like free time in the afternoon... these are growing much more flexible, save the time set aside for extracurricular activities. But I'm finally beginning to see that a new world of opportunity is opening up to me. 


For instance, on Tuesday morning, a girl on my Worship Team asked if we could get together for an extra practice, and I truly didn't think I could find time to do so. It would mean a lot of prep time before she came, which I could do when my kids were in class. But I couldn't find a window of time to rehearse while my kids were gone. The thought of scheduling a rehearsal while my kids were home never crossed my mind until I was forced to imagine attempting it. And, all of a sudden, hours of availability became mine. So I held rehearsal after school yesterday, and it went FINE. There were very few interruptions (albiet a lot of iPad time for the young one). 

A couple of months back, a friend who needed to not be alone on a day she received heartbreaking news was able to come over. In the last few weeks, and she and I have had tea while I've listened, handed her tissues, and prayed with her, all while my kids have been home. Because little ears can be pretty big in a small apartment, I was once able to give them the privilege of letting them use the iPad behind a closed a door for more privacy for the grown-ups, and in one instance, run out to my friend's car and listen (I brought the tissue box with me). I was very much "home," but we still had a very private place to talk. And my boys new exactly where I was if they needed me. 

Today was my first time including them in a "helping" situation. A sweet neighbor has been homebound while her toddler recovers from surgery. Her daughter's cast makes it impossible for her to be buckled into a car seat, so running errands is actually a luxury she doesn't get these days. A couple of weeks ago, while anticipating the "big event," I asked God to help me figure out a way to help her. This neighbor answered my question for me by posting a Facebook appeal for any local friends to help.  She specifially asked for people to come over so she could run errands, or for people to let her know when they were going to the grocery store so they could get stuff for her. Well, that answered my prayer.  And I knew that with this shift in perspective of not dividing my time into what I can and cannot do with my kids in tow made it possible for me to offer US. Not just ME. I told the boys we were going to give our time to this family. A couple of hours every week so the mom could run errands, take a nap, take a shower, anything... just GET AWAY for a little bit. Today was the day we started. The boys did great keeping the toddler entertained. God's timing was pretty rad, because today has been the first day that she has been more "herself" since the surgery. Her sparkle was returning, and she was able to bowl us over with her giggles and funny phrases. I am certain my kids are looking forward to next Thursday. Same time, same place. And I wouldn't be surprised if they even wanted to go sooner. 

For the last several years, in my moments of solitude, I've had to be honest with myself, and with God. I've seen needs go unfilled because I knew it was not my job to fill them. I've wanted to give more than I had been able to. And it's not that I have NOT given, but I gave carefully measured portions of my time and myself--many times working administratively at coordinating Children's Ministries and Worship Teams after my kids were in bed. I've been tired a lot; very scattered-feeling. Proud of myself for the smallest of accomplishments--wow, I grocery shopped AND cooked dinner today! With something like that being an accomplishment, I often wondered would I ever again be the GIVER of the help I so often wished I could receive from someone with more energy, more free-time, more wisdom, more experience? I've been in a pretty thick mommy-fog.  It's not gone, but... BUT... it's clearing.  I don't know how much of this clearing is due to my circumstances changing (my kids are older and much more independent, and I've only got TWO), and how much of this is due to my perspective changing. But I've gotten to give a little more lately.  I feel like I've rediscovered the gardening gloves that I broke-in years ago, took off and set down for a quick break, but they got buried. These gloves once helped me tend to the garden in which I found myself way back when: taking neighbors places, impromptu get togethers, lingering chats where we talk about how we're not REALLY "fine."  But I took them off, and tended to other growing things. Two of which are my MOST important treasures:

I still do tend to them, but they don't need every ounce of my energy the way they did. Am I back? Not all the way. Nor do I expect to ever be who I was before I had children. But I think I can see some familiar flowers dotting the side of the road of my journey. I smell Availability, and it's reminiscent of Honeysuckle. I feel like I'm returning from a trip I didn't know I was taking, and I'm full of anticipation at what may bloom with just a bit of tending. 

Here's a promise to cherish: 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (New International Version).

If you're at a point of NEEDING help, God will provide.  There's probably someone waiting for a prompt.  ASK for help! If you're at a point of learning how to AVAIL yourself to others' needs, I PROMISE, God will provide!  Even if it means bringing your kids along for the ride. What a fantastic way for our kids to see that the world is full of opportunity to share God's LOVE.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sweet Dreams

I've always been jealous of those parents who've caught their kids falling asleep in the cutest places.  On the toilet.  Crawling up the stairs.  Eating ice cream. I always wished my kids would do something adorable like that.  Now that my youngest is 5, I thought I'd missed the boat.  But when I least expected it, after a crazy round of Night Time Glo-Stick Stairwell Tag with the other kids in our stairwell, we told the boys to brush their teeth and hop in their jammies and head to bed.  At least he tried. Sweet Dreams, little brother. 

Another DREAM achieved this week was to do a mini-makeover in my home. People who don't move every two years just don't know how hard it is for a Military spouse to actually keep the same address for three whole years.  Typically by this time in our assignment (1.5 years in), we've gotten word where our next assignment will be, and I get the exciting task of chatting-up friends who have already lived where I'm headed.  They hook me up with friends who still may be living there, and I get to ask a ton of questions, scour the internet for rental homes that show potential, and start purging my home of "stuff" I don't need.  But we really think this assignment will be three years.  If that's true, then I've still got another year before I get to anticipate a move...  so, to bide my time, I rearranged my furniture about a month ago.  But MORE needed to change. And on Thursday I just happened to find myself at the Thrift Shop, just to see what I could see.  There was nothing in particular I needed, but I never know what can end up begging me to take it home when I head there. I ended up getting a bunch of plates and bowls that I could mix and match with a few other plates I already had.  $20 altogether. So, my 12-year-old buttery yellow Pier One Ironstone tableware has found a new home in the basement, and here's my new casual dinnerware:

I already had the cow and black plates from a Thrift Shop in Carey, NC

A little bit of Art Deco feel
Pfaltzgraff Sand and Seas Sandbar Dinner plates.
I got three of these for $1 each.

This small plate started the whole binge.  I got 11 of them, plus a server for $5.
The manufacturer is Thomas Germany.
They're quite fine, and very Mid-Century Modern
Here's more about Thomas ceramics
(the mark on the back matches the last one listed)

Here's a coordinating bowl and plate.
They're made by Sango, a modern tableware company in Indonesia.
I got 4 of each for $6.
Not pictured is the grey-ish matte mid-size plates I also found.  They were from IKEA, and they were $1 each as well.  We've got NO lack of plates... but now I'm finding I may just need to update my linens.  No hurry. I've got a whole year and a half left to work on that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Helau! Helau! Helau!

The only Fasching festivity we celebrated was the Kinder parade yesterday. It wasn't advertised anywhere, but I caught wind of it while talking to one of the mamas in my son's class.  At 13:11, the kids of the village get to walk the streets of Bierstadt with a Polizei escort. Dressed in their Fasching costumes under their winter coats, with a small band leading the way, they stopped at several local businesses and the proprietors threw candy and trinkets out their windows into the crowd.  To say thanks, we all shouted, "Helau, Helau, Helau!" then marched another block or so until we got to the next business.  It was just our speed, and a great way to end our long weekend.

People really needed helmets and eye-pro for this part of the parade!

Monday, February 16, 2015

True confession: Addicted to Facebook!

A year ago, for Lent, I set aside Facebook. A few things changed during that time, and I liked them!  I had so much more time in my day for meaningful things.  Including Bible study and prayer, first thing.  I also found that my voracious reading habit returned.  This year, I'm withdrawing from Facebook in a major way, but don't want to disappear completely.  I'm not giving it up entirely, because I utilize it for messaging groups, and it's a reliable way to not get bogged down in email "replies of replies."

I love to catch up with people on FB.  I love the sweet smiles and happy news I read every day.  But I also find myself getting more offended, opinionated, distracted, disappointed, and defensive when I scroll through, rather than satisfied. I also realize that I'm very bad at disciplining myself and can't stop scrolling, even when I want to.  Addiction is one word to describe it.  And there are sure a lot worse things a girl could get addicted to, but I truly would rather NOT be addicted to tiny little tidbits coming across my computer screen.  And so, I'm cutting back by inviting people to catch up with me via an "old-fashioned" blog.  I'll first slash my friends list (not in a "I hate you" kind of way), then lock down my FB pretty tight.  It's not you.  It's me.  I won't be hard to find.  As a matter of fact, I think this will make me be more "around." Living my life where I am.  Not where other people are.  

So, if you want to catch up, stop on by my blog.  If you want to share news with me, I've got an email address. I have a phone.  I have a mail box. I have an actual apartment that I live in, and you're even invited to stop by if you want! I can guarantee I'll offer you a cup of coffee or spot of tea. 

So, for my first actual blog entry in two years... Here are a few pics of our Valentine's Day/Fasching weekend getaway to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  We stayed at a farm with a holiday apartment in a town called Creglingen, about 10 miles from Rothenburg.  The boys enjoyed helping with some of the farm chores in the mornings.  We got to purchase some of the very eggs they collected, and scrambled them up for breakfast the next day.  We spent a chilly Saturday in Rothenburg where we ate Schneeballchen (snowballs--a pie-crust-like pastry cut into strips, then formed into the shape of a ball, cooked, then sprinkled with powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar, chocolate, or nougat... any other type of topping you can imagine), saw the Kriminalmuseum and St. James' Church (in German it's St. Jakob's).  You can read more about either of these places by clicking the names.  On Sunday we drove to Fürth (about an hour away) to Fürthermare, a fantastically fun indoor/outdoor swimming complex. We slept until 9 Monday morning, thanks to the Rouladens on the windows blocking out any speck of sunlight.  THIS is a personal record since having children.  I've not slept this late in over EIGHT years!  Miracles never end! We drove back to Wiesbaden and unpacked in a flash, and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.  Hubby goes back to work Tuesday, but the boys and I have one more vacation day before school starts on Wednesday. We'll head into the village dressed up for Fasching, and go on a walking tour with the rest of the school-aged Kinder, shouting "HELAU!" and collecting all kinds of delicious treats from local merchants.  

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Driving through the countryside

Chicken Feed 
Fatten the Calves!

What goes in must come out.

Murano in Oberrimbach, Baden-Württemburg, DE, the location of our Ferien Wohnung (Holiday apartment)!

Baker's Baptism--kept a baker honest!

Outisde the Kriminalmuseum

Neck Violins.  Made for contentious women and couples.

W in the Pillory

This marriage certificate was given the "Seal of Approval" by 13 family members.

W is a bit ill.

S seeing the "evil" side of Midieval times

Murano in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bayern, DE

The bakery where we tasted Schneeballchen

Valentine's Dinner at Michelangelo's, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

One of my handsome Valentine dinner dates.


Creglingen, Baden-Württemburg, DE.  We had dinner at this restaurant (Da Salvatore).

St. James' Church 12 Apostles Altar, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

A rare depiction of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Holy Blood altarpiece of the Würzburg wood carver Tilman Riemenschneider, carved 1500-1505

These seats were the only chairs in the original church, reserved for the Teutonic Monks

W reading his Valentine

Being my Valentine! 

The relic piece in St. James' church

This tree trunk carved into a boat shape with the Holy Family is in the sanctuary of St. James.
It is a gift from the people of Tanzania, as a thank you to the congregation of
St. James for their humanitarian missionary efforts.