Keeping me humble

I finished the Chronicles of the Kings series by Lynn Austin. King Manasseh’s story was VERY different from King Hezekiah. With Hezekiah, you have Isaiah and Micah along with some fictional characters that you can’t help but love. Manasseh was truly horrible. His enemy and the supposed good-guy, Joshua, was so full of anger that you couldn’t really love him either. It was easy to get sucked into that mindset that Manasseh had to pay for all the complete horror. When the story ends with forgiveness and mercy, we are totally with Joshua and feeling let down for this seeming lapse in justice. But that’s where it pricks your heart. The whole Christian story is supposed to end in forgiveness and mercy for if we all received justice then none of us would have any hope.

I wanted to go back through and read the Old Testament. I have read 7 books now based on the Old Testament so I think it’s time for a refresher. I thought about doing The Bible in 90 days again. The best reading plan that I have found for the Catholic Bible was the Bible and Catechism in a year that I did once before. I figure I can read 2-3 days at a time if I want to do it in less than a year. So far, I’m on day 5. I lost the checklist once before so this time, I’m keeping it in my cell phone cover so it’s with me wherever I go. I’ve also put one Bible and Catechism in the van. I spend time in the van waiting in the car riders line and waiting at taekwondo. With my checklist with me and the books wherever I am, then I can use extra moments to read through a day or two.

Today was a real productive day. I went through prayers. Went to the gym to work out. I added more verses to my Scripture typer list. I made sourdough to rise for bread tomorrow. I started refried beans and fajitas in two crockpots. I helped David with school work. I practiced piano. I cleaned house. I crocheted pot scrubbers from plarn (yarn made from plastic grocery bags). Katie Rose got Leader again for good behavior in class at school. I read books to the little ones. I took the kids to taekwondo class. I went to the library to pick up a few more books.

Just to keep me from getting too proud of all I accomplished, John Micah had a knock-down, drag-out temper tantrum because James beat him to elevator button. It literally took both James and me to get him strapped in the double stroller and out to the van. Probably need to have a little more down time as a priority on the days he has school. I did find last week that an early bath does a lot of good to calm nerves after a busy school day. May do that again on his next school day.

The fajitas tonight have never been better. I use my huge slow cooker since I can spread the meat and veggies over the bottom so they cook evenly. I slice up 2 onions and 4 bell peppers and drop in the cooker. I add a bag of frozen chicken breast tenders. This seriously couldn’t be easier. All that’s left is marinade. I add olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and a little oregano. The fajita marinade is based off the recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook but I have made it so many times that now I just eyeball it instead of worrying with measuring spoons. I cooked it on medium-low for 6 hours.

I cooked the pinto beans on high in the small slow cooker til soft. I used the wire whisk with my kitchen aid mixer to pulverize them. I added cumin, chili powder, salt and a few pats of butter. If I had a little extra time, I would have sauteed some onion in the butter and added it to the beans. Butter makes everything better! And it doesn’t take very much at all. Since the fajitas and beans were well-seasoned, I thought plain rice would work best. We love fajita night!

I can see!

I was able to get my glasses fixed. I took them to the eye doctor. I didn’t have any warranty remaining. She immediately said, “There’s nothing I can do for a break like that!” But she did give me the name and address of a jewelry repair shop. I went there Wednesday and unfortunately that was the guy’s day off. Yesterday, he calls me and explains that he’ll have to use a torch and it will discolor the frame a bit. But it would only be $25 which is way better than needing to buy brand new frames. It looks great. You would have to get real close to tell there was discoloration. I am glad they are fixed. Wearing my sunglasses everywhere did make it possible for me to function better. But every time I looked in the mirror,  the dark lenses and wire frames reminded me of John Lennon. It was very nice to look in the mirror and recognize myself instead.

Since Katie Rose has been in school 5 days a week now, I can see the little boys getting much closer. John Micah was holding the fridge open and I asked him to close it and eventually had to force it closed. He fell out in the floor in a temper tantrum. So Joseph got right down there with him in solidarity. Joseph was copying John Micah’s movements last night. It’s really precious. They are very different from each other in personality just as the older boys were, but close nonetheless.

Katie Rose had been telling people for the longest that she had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. I took it as a sign to be very careful with natural family planning cause the next pregnancy could be triplets. We would feel blessed but that would be a bit overwhelming. Then after Cinderella, she says that she has two step-sisters. She doesn’t understand the concept of a step-family and went to tears when we corrected her that she did not have a step-father and Daddy was enough. Then this week, she said, “Mom, I need another brother. Then I’ll have 5 brothers instead of 4.” I asked her why she needed another brother. She said, “There’s one missing.” Oh my!

We had fall pictures at school this week. I asked the older boys to bring me all their hanging clothes. I sorted and took out all the outgrown clothes. Then I was able to find the best shirt for him which happened to be a green polo that had gotten stuck back in the closet and never been worn. James loves green so he was very pleased.

Dressing a girl for pictures is much harder. I have nice Sunday clothes for her but I couldn’t send her in them since they would go to PE. They could be ruined. So the search for something nice but not too nice. I worried a lot about her hair. After I braid or put it in a ponytail, it’s starting to fall before she even gets to school. I found some barrettes to put on both sides to keep the stray hairs out of her face. Then put on a dab of hairspray. She liked her hair out of her face. So this morning, her hair wasn’t acceptable until barrettes were put in.

I had another idea for prayer. I am finding how thinking on different people and groups has made me feel a bit more connected to the billions of people on this planet. But what about the rest of the body of Christ? We believe in eternal life so death does not separate the body of Christ. I really have enjoyed learning about the saints. I think it’s one of the biggest tragedies of being Protestant. What if I could add a saint to various intentions and activities throughout the day?

This is really cool. Did you know there was a patron saint for coffee? His name was St. Drogo. Witnesses said that he could bilocate. They would see him at Mass and others would see him working in the field at the same time. Now, the skeptic in me wants to question the validity of that. But then I imagined the many people that have to sacrifice their time to worship because their job requires them to work on Sunday. What if that was St. Drogo’s situation? Maybe he couldn’t get out of work so he prayed for a solution. With God, nothing is impossible. So as I make coffee in the morning, I’ve added St. Drogo, pray for us.

When I check backpacks in the afternoon, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us. (because she was a teacher) When I make tea, St Patrick, pray for us. (Because Irish and tea seems to fit together in my mind) When I make my bed, St Anne, pray for us. (She is the patron saint of homemakers) When I practice my memory verses, St Jerome, pray for us. (Since he was the one who copied the various Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts into the Latin Vulgate)

This is just for the purposes of becoming more familiar with the saints. And to be reminded of Hebrews 12 and how we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Plus it makes my everyday activities feel a little less ordinary.

I read Until we reach home by Lynn Austin. It was about three Swedish girls who lose their parents and then head to America to escape an inappropriate uncle. It was very sorrowful and I contemplated that this might be the first Lynn Austin book that I didn’t care for. Until they got to Ellis Island where they were separated. One sister meets a German man. He tries to comfort her but neither speaks English. But they both have a Bible. He gives her references to look up to communicate, ask her questions, offer her comfort and eventually profess his love. I cannot think of anything more beautifully romantic. It was so good!

I finished the third book in the Chronicles of the King series, Strength of His hand. Amazing story. It helps you see the Old Testament from their point of view. Could I sit by and watch the powerful nation of Assyria conquer nation after nation yet be content when God says to simply wait for His deliverance? And then how could they see how God delivered them over and over again and yet we know that they would eventually forget and end up in captivity? But yet, isn’t that what we do? We see him move, blessing us, healing us, helping us, etc. And yet sometimes I forget. I am as guilty as King Hezekiah in looking for solutions and then praying for God’s blessing on my plans instead of seeking His plan and ordering my actions around His will.

We’ve been working on a data binder to track David’s activities. I realized at the meeting at James’ school when the principal explained how The Leader in Me program encouraged the students to track their data that I was asking David to write or journal about what he was doing which does not appeal to him. He is a master of efficiency at seeing how little he can get away with writing. So instead of using language-based motivations, I’m trying to switch it to numbers. Tracking data appeals to both his love of math and science.

We’re also working on weekly goals. Encouraging him to decide what is important for this week and make a plan for how to get those things accomplished. This will be important in college and career. I’ve also decided I need to make weekly goals as well. I have lots of tasks in my Remember the Milk app. I’m getting a lot more accomplished. The downside is that it is a very narrow view of the day-to-day business of our home. That helps me to get moving and not get overwhelmed by the big picture. But I think that my actions would be more purposefully if matched to longer term goals.

Ebb and Flow

Today, I did some decluttering and tossed a kitchen garbage bag of unnecessary stuff. One of the best things about the Konmari method is to organize things based on ease of putting away with the old adage “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” We store the same things in multiple rooms. I thought that made life easier. I was wrong. I have started with a few simple things like all ponytail holders go in my closet, all crayons go in one box, all empty hangers in the laundry room, etc. Yes, sometimes I have to walk across the house to put something away. The time is saved in not having to think about it. I pick it up and in a split second, I know what to do. I’m not thinking, “well, I can just put this in this drawer for right now. Should they be stored there? Where should I keep them?” On and on it goes.

in the past couple weeks, I have finished three more Lynn Austin books. The first two books of The Chronicles of the Kings series were so awesome. When reading the Bible cover to cover, it can be hard to match up history and prophecy. The story of Hezekiah is connected to passages from Micah and Isaiah. It can be easy to read it in the Bible as a bunch of abstract facts. Lynn Austin shares it in such a powerful way so you really see that these were real people behind all these stories. I put the next three on hold at the library.

I also read Eve’s daughters by Austin which is a series of conversations between three generations of women as they realize that each one’s choices had been shaped by the generation before them from a German immigrant to a disgraced divorcee to a submissive wife and finally to a career woman. What they thought were the right choices were often in an attempt to please the previous generation or not repeat perceived mistakes. The theme is how joy and sorrow ebb and flow. That is life. It’s real. It’s messy and beautiful and rarely turns out exactly as expected. I stayed up way too late reading it. But there were several ways it could have played out. Not at all predictable. I finished it today while standing in the kitchen to eat lunch so I wouldn’t spill on the book. I cried over the ending. It didn’t wrap up all the loose ends but it ended hopefully but with the understanding that life would continue to ebb and flow.

They had this great tradition of the crying cup. A regular cup passed down over 6 generations that family tradition promised to soothe the sorrows of whoever drank from it. It distracted kids from their childhood sorrows of skinned knees and hurt feelings. It connected the homesick and sometimes heartbroken women despite an ocean (real or imagined) between them.

Joseph climbed in my lap and was bouncing around. He head butted me and completely broke my glasses. This is the second boy to do that. For the longest time, I had my old pair on my nightstand. I put it in a safe place and forgot my safe place. I need an app to keep track of where I put things, I swear! So I’m having to wear my prescription sunglasses even inside. I used to forget my glasses. Not anymore! It is a reminder how thankful I should be for them.

Barefoot

We are dealing with some back-to-school germs. Last Thursday, we were tempted to keep Katie Rose home. All three little ones were sniffling and sneezing. More than two kids and you can bet there is a viral aspect to it. I took her to the school nurse and she thought she was well enough to stay. Other than my grocery shopping, we did nothing over the weekend. It did us good.

This morning, Joseph had his first Early Intervention session. I am working with a couple services so he will be getting services every week. He is very social and developmentally advanced in most aspects. But every time that I attempt modeling language then he just giggles.

He is such a fun fella. He throws all his blankets, pillows, toys and such out of bed and then shrugs his shoulders like he hasn’t a clue how it happened. He reaches over the side with an exaggerated grunt to say, “help me.” He may not have all the language for an almost two-yr-old but he can definitely interact and get his point across. He makes everyone smile and light up.

Katie Rose is already having boy trouble. She complained all the way home about some boy who made her cry because he told her she could have a turn and then didn’t let her. Turn with what I never figured out.

This evening, we went to parents night. We got James’ test scores from last year. Then someone stepped on my flip flops while I was mid-stride. Torn completely! Every step would flip the shoe around. So two choices. Drag my leg along to keep my shoe under my foot. Or go barefoot. For the sake of keeping up with the kids, I went barefoot. So I walked around with five kids and no shoes. It’s not like you can explain to everyone that your shoe got torn up so I am sure I looked like the biggest redneck ever. I am seeing a certain wisdom to Daphne from Scooby Doo always carrying an extra pair of shoes.

Monthly shopping and Christian fiction

I decided to shop for four weeks and see if I could make the grocery budget stretch a bit better with a once-a-month trip to Savealot. We have to go all the way across town to get to this store. Only 15-20 minutes but now that we live close to everything, it feels like it’s SO far away. I love shopping there because I came in at almost fifty dollars below what I wanted to spend.

Today, I cooked up all the hamburger into savory meat mix. I used some for chili tonight. I baked three loaves of sourdough bread. I made cornbread to go with the chili. I will still need to go to Walmart for milk and bananas weekly. I like knowing that I’m set for the month for the main meals. James got home and admired the pantry. “It’s so full!”

I finished reading The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. It wasn’t as good as The Centurion’s wife. It did have a pretty good storyline. Although I was able to predict several things before they happened. A predictable story is no fun.

Why does everyone want to mess up the story of Stephen? I really didn’t care for how AD, The Bible continues television miniseries turned Stephen into a hot-head. Making it appear that he kinda brought it on himself to be stoned to death. I picture him calmly bold. I guess that is the problem with how we picture things in our mind. Not everyone will see it the same way. The Hidden Flame did do a much better job of portraying him as a calm leader. But then they suggest that revenge is part of what made Stephen the first martyr. I think both approaches cheapen his martyrdom. He was martyred for preaching the truth.

I spent much of the last part of the book trying to figure out what felt so unsatisfying about the book. I am pretty good at seeing how a story is going to play out. So it couldn’t just be the predictability. It was written from a Protestant perspective but I am familiar with the historical inaccuracies and theological differences. That doesn’t bother me. It was almost at the end when I realized what it was. The story was written in what appears to be an effort to make the First Century Christians familiar to the modern Protestant church. There is an old familiarity to it which makes me wonder if that is what I liked most about Janette Oke.

The problem with writing everything from your familiar perspective or reading things only from your familiar perspective is that you don’t learn anything new. Lynn Austin’s books really transport you to that era. You feel what it is like to be a young woman during the Civil War or a Jew in Babylon or living in Jerusalem. I want to leave a good book with a feeling that it was complex characters that I haven’t encountered before and that I’ve had a chance to walk in another person’s shoes with an opportunity to see things differently than my own experiences have allowed. Still love Janette Oke’s stories. Just maybe have outgrown them.

The worst sinners

As I’ve worked on my prayer intentions, I’ve mainly focused on people I care about and the struggles they face. Then God took me out of my comfort zone. I was about to add a prayer for the persecuted Christians for ISIS when I heard, “What about the man that fights for ISIS?” Ouch! I did add persecuted Christians to my list. I also added those who support and perform terrorist acts. While I was at it, I added those who promote and perform abortions. It was a reminder that they also are made in God’s image and are in need of his mercy.

One optional prayer to end a rosary decade after the Glory Be is the Fatima prayer. It originated during the Marian Apparitions in Portugal in 1917. It goes like this:

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven; especially those in most need of thy mercy.

That last line is very poignant. “Especially those in most need of thy mercy.” Not especially those from my church. Not especially those in my family. Not especially those in my country. No, especially those who seem to deserve it the least. The terrorist, the abortion doctor, the thief, the liar….the adulterer.

I think there is a huge failure to see the whole of mankind as “made in God’s image” and as people whom God loves even if they are like the prodigal son and far away and eating with the pigs. He loves each and every person before they ever love Him and even if they never love Him. That is who God is. He is love.

It’s easy to think like the righteous son in the prodigal son story and see it as unfair. We’ve been doing what is right and they’ve been doing what is wrong. Of course, that’s always a lie. None of us always do what is right. I like the acknowledgements of where we have sinned in the Confiteor prayer during Mass.

in my thoughts and in my words,in what I have done and in what I have failed to do

But still I wondered why we would pray for them ESPECIALLY instead of, well, let’s just say, “Lead them to heaven also.” I got my answer last night. Christians have had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing God’s presence. We’ve been able to talk to him, cry to him, adore him and even intimately commune with him in the sacraments. We’ve experienced the glimpses of heaven and His holy presence. Those in most need of His mercy have not had that blessing. What a way to move us with compassion!

Time management

I am wanting to give David more flexibility to manage his own time this year in 7th grade. He has all his subjects and materials so for a couple of weeks, I encouraged him to create his own schedule. He did write down the four most important subjects on a piece of paper.

I got him back on his ADHD medicine. He had complained of stomach pain and we weren’t sure if it was the medicine or sinus drainage so we took several months off. The first day back on the medicine was amazing. He spent over four hours intently focused on chemistry. He was drawing out models of elements and reciting a lecture in his own words back to himself.

But we’re still not managing time well. I made him a list of what needs to be done every day including grooming and chores. I asked him to write specifically what he did in each subject. We have to keep a lesson journal so I thought this would be a way of accepting the responsibility of his own time management. That hasn’t happened either.

I was thinking about reading more about time management to see if I could find any ideas more suited to him. I couldn’t find anything in the teen section on managing time so I looked in the adult section and found Time Power by Brian Tracy. I really just skimmed the book after a while. There were a few good points and few not-so-great. But a lot of it felt like I have heard a lot of this before. I found a couple ideas that were interesting like the paradox of “you can’t get any work done at work” thus the need to work early, late or through lunch and the ABCDE method of determining the greatest priorities with ABC being top three levels of importance and D-Delegating everything possible and E-Eliminating everything possible.

This author argued that you shouldn’t waste time in libraries. Just buy books and create your own library. Nevermind that the library is an infinite supply of an ever-changing catalog of books and the process of storing a lot of books might not be terrible for a business executive but most certainly problematic at some point for regular households.  And heaven forbid, rip pages out of paperbacks 20 at a time so they are easy to carry with you to read while you’re waiting. Good grief, it’s a paperback! How much space and weight are you really saving? I’m all for ripping pages out of magazines and tossing the rest. Books are a totally different thing. I told David that I really didn’t like this guy cause he doesn’t think you should go to libraries. He laughed heartily and said, “That’s ridiculous! Of course, you should go to libraries!” That’s my boy!!!

But I did like one idea that talked about motivating yourself to efficient and productive work. A salesperson might make a cup of coffee and make a sales call then take a sip. Then he has to make another call to take another sip and work quickly to drink it all before it gets cold. You could break a cookie into small pieces. I found a pack of smarties and told David that we would do an experiment. I told him that he could have a smartie after each correct answer on Khan Academy Math. He did go through several but not really efficiently. He still paused to expand at times. One answer was 525 and so he noted that if that was divided by 5 then it would be 105. Although dividing by five had nothing to do with the problem he was doing. His brain is a fascinating web. One thing lights up another area and it can go on and on. He kept going even after running out of smarties. I think I will get some kid-desired cereal and try breaking up tasks into smaller bits to see if we can build a bit of efficiency in our school day.

This tendency to expand can be used to our advantage. I figure he will turn any high school course into a college level course with all his extra thoughts and connections. Two college courses will get him an Academic Honors high school diploma. I will encourage to take as many courses and Clep tests as possible. Since a college course counts for twice the credits as high school courses, we’ll be making the best use of his time and amazing mind.

You know, he can tell me intricate lectures that he heard two or more years ago. One day, he went through a whole discourse about convex and concave lenses complete with jokes that he heard in fifth grade. This week, he was telling me the intricate process of making metal statues that the Columbian people used. That was something he saw on Khan Academy years ago. He has an amazing filing process in that head of his.