Monday, February 14, 2011

A Whirlwind Week

The last two weeks have been like a whirlwind and I hardly can hardly even remember what I did or how I lived! Abdoulaye and I did not even see each other for a stretch  of about five days. He was up and gone to work hours before I woke and then asleep when I got home. The good part of that is that I had given up hope of him ever putting the boys to bed at a normal time but for the last two weeks he has been doing it and going to bed at a decent hour himself, which is so encouraging! All of them are getting a healthy amount of sleep and building a routine, which I've always wanted them to have.

I worked an extra day last week and it did throw us quite off kilter. I didn't get to do fun things with the kids like I normally do on Sundays. This Sunday was much better, though. A easily went down for a nap and left E and I free to work on E's scissor skills, which require my full concentration and supervision at this point! Yesterday was a very warm day for this time of year, so as soon as A woke up we headed for the playground! It was a treat for all three of us to get out.

Home from the playground we ate leftovers, then mixed up some cookies together. E and A love to help pouring and stirring ingredients. Toward the end E lost interest in the actual cooking and started a duel between measuring spoons! Actually there were three spoons so it wasn't technically a duel. What would you call that?

After a bath we settled down on the couch to eat cookies, cuddle and watch a movie. E stuck a video in the player and then asked me "What movie is this?" I said, "You chose it, you should know." It was Cinderella and he giggled a little at the animals' antics and giggled a lot at the scene where the king is chasing the grand duke around the chamber with his sword! I enjoyed hearing his laughter.

Today I'm off and we have lots to do again. Lord willing, we'll be doing some grocery shopping and some school activities. If it's warm we'll start preparing our garden and hopefully walk to the playground again.

I hope you all have started the week as well as I have and have time to enjoy your children as much as I am!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sometimes my heart breaks

I've been talking about the peace, joy and contentment I've found since I have accepted my job and begun to submit to my husband regarding that. It has been a long road, but since last summer the road has been mostly smooth and bright. Sometimes, though, I hit an unexpected hard bump and I crash. Like last night.

My little ones spent most of the week at my parents' house because mine and my husband's schedules conflicted and we were not able to switch off caring for the kids as usual. On Thursday my mom brought them over to our house because she had something she needed to do out my way. E and A did not want to come home and had to be promised that they would go back to Nana's house in the evening! I got to spend a few precious hours with them that day, playing in the 10 inches of snow that fell on Wednesday, but then they went back to my parents'.

Friday night I couldn't hold in the tears. I bawled. I missed my kids. I hurt because they wanted to stay at Nana's and didn't even want to come home to me! Yes, it's normal, most kids love spending time at Grandma's and don't want to come home. But what hurts the most is that I know they are getting what they need there and it's something I can't give them. My mom takes them for walks every day, she practices numbers, colors and workbooks with E. My dad, grandma and siblings take turns reading to the kids and playing with them. There is life in my parents' house and the children sense that.

They never have that warmth of attention and activity at home. I generally have about four hours between when they wake up and when I go to work to squeeze in breakfast, morning hygiene routine, Bible time and school or outside time, getting lunch ready, and stopping for dirty diapers, potty training, and loving discipline along the way. Then I run off to work. It's so crammed that we always have to choose whether we will play outside today or do "school" today.

I sobbed last night, crying out to God to please release me and let me come home to my children. I've been given the gift of motherhood but I feel like I'm not taking good care of that precious gift and that I'm missing out on so much of my children's lives. And they need me so much!! Why can't I be there for them? I've learned to be content now, God! I've accepted my job, I'm not fighting about it with my husband, I've learned to be thankful for it. Please can I come home now? Please!

Last night all I could do was cry and turn to God's word. I didn't feel like cooking, cleaning, watching a movie or reading a book. I just was drawn to the Bible like a magnet. I didn't know what part I should read. I just read. I fell asleep reading and when I woke up this morning I had to turn to it again. The same despair hung over me until I read Paul's words to the Ephesians,

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being . . . . Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

My heart became a little lighter after reading that. It reminded me that I'm still hoping for a transformation in our lives for God's glory. And I have to keep praying and waiting and working until the Lord does it.

E and A are finally home tonight. They are asleep next to me, curled up in their adorable way, as I write. I'm so thankful for them. I pray that God covers over for all the elements that are missing here at home and pray that he guards them as they grow. The tears are running down my face even now. I pray God continues to give me grace to joyfully go to work each day. He reminds me of a truth I learned as a child:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crock pot chili!

Mmm, came home tonight to yummy meatless (i.e. cheap) chili that was all ready to eat from my wonderful slow cooker! Tried a new recipe for cornbread also which remarkably did not call for butter. Not that I'm trying to avoid butter. As I said before, I'm a dairy fanatic. But it looked quick and easy and I thought it would be interesting to try fatless (using fat in the traditional cooking sense, not the "nutritional facts" sense) cornbread. It turned out surprisingly well and really none the worse for lacking oil or butter.

The most interesting thing about the cornbread was that the recipe came from Depression Era Recipes, a fascinating cookbook compiled by a certain Patricia Wagner from handwritten family cookbooks that were over sixty years old by the time she started her project. The recipes are fascinating just to read, let alone make! They list the ingredients and then the most brief of instructions I've ever seen in any cookbook. I've always thought it would be nice to have a cookbook that assumes the reader knows how to cook and doesn't give a lot of steps to sort through. The More With Less Cookbook is something like that, with tips and simple "throw together" instructions in the margins of the pages. Anybody else have the MWL cookbook? If you do you know what I'm talking about. I love that cookbook just for those tidbits. This one has recipes which look as though Mrs. Wagner really copied them exactly as they were jotted in those family books. One recipe calls for "brn. sugar" while the surrounding recipes call for "brown sugar"!

This Depression Era cookbook is so  fascinating because each page has a fact about daily happenings or headlines from the '30s, and each section's front page has advertisements for various brands or cooking advice from contemporary sources. For example, the "Soup" section begins with a Campbell's advertisement. Would you believe their can labels have changed very little over the last seven decades! The "Meats" section begins with a vintage chart for buying various roasts depending on whether your meal will be "special" "moderate priced" or "less expensive". If the Lord blesses me with the privilege of homeschooling my children beyond preschool, it would be so much fun to use this book as a hands on part of a history lesson about the Depression!

Obviously I'm  really enjoying this book! What is your favorite cookbook?

(Wow, I've done two posts in one day! Can you tell the boys are away at my parents' for a few days?)

Works for Me Wednesday: Paper Towel Alternatives

I've been trying to cut back on paper towel use ever since reading how Money Saving Mom eliminated them from her home. We haven't bought paper towels for several months now and I'd like to keep it that way. I've been cleaning the toilet with pieces of old clothes and then just tossing them in the trash, where they were going to end up anyway. One of the things I couldn't figure out was how to drain fried things like bacon and french fries without paper towels.

The other night my husband and I were cooking together (a very rare but fun occasion which happens only when the boys are with my parents, don't ask me why ;-) ) and we were making french fries. I'd forgotten we don't have any paper towels. We tried a cooling rack usually used for cookies, but the fries fell right through. Finally an idea came to me and I pulled out my pizza pan which has lots of little holes and it turned out to be the perfect thing for draining. We just set the pan on top of a baking sheet and piled the fries on it as they came out of the oil!

I try to find responsible ways to save money and be a good steward of God's earth without taking too much extra time at my family's expense. This worked! Does anyone else have creative substitutes for paper towels? I'd like to know!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Journey to Peace: What I Lost

This is a continuation of my story about my journey to peace as a working mom. If you missed the beginning, read parts one , two and three.

Because of my constant badgering and whining about working, my husband finally relented and reluctantly let me change my status from full time to part time, three eight-hour days per week. I thought that would solve my problem, but it didn't make either of us happier. I still thought I could make it work, though. I knew I needed to get a part time job, but I wanted to get one that would allow me more time with my kids. To be honest, though, I spent very little time looking for a second job.

I did have an interview at a supposedly Christian preschool, but my heart sank when I walked in the door and saw how dark and drab it was. I felt claustrophobic. Then during the interview I began to sense that perhaps the staff did not really have a heart for helping these children learn academically, or more importantly, instilling in them a love for the Lord. It seemed like it was just a job for them. Happily, my availability would not fit their schedule, so it was an easy no. I was discouraged and so was Abdoulaye.

Months passed before I had any other leads and tension between Abdoulaye and I began to mount. I had really blown it, insisting on cutting back to part time. It was not working out like I thought it would at all. I was at home with E and Abdoulaye was picking up lots of overtime and coworkers' shifts to make up for the income I was not bringing in. 

But God, who is always loving and merciful despite my disobedience, graciously gave me a job at a truly wonderful Christian preschool just down the road from my house. When I walked into Covenant Christian School for the interview, my heart nearly leapt right out of me. Everything was bright and cheerful. The director shared that she had been praying for someone who needed this job and who would bless their kids. Upon reading my application, she felt that the Lord had answered her prayer. As she told me about the school I knew I wanted to be a part of it. She was flexible, willing to work with my availability which was four afternoons per week. She even said I could start bringing E in January when he would be 27 months old, even though the normal age requirement was 36 months. I would have to leave three-month-old A with a babysitter those afternoons, as Abdoulaye was still picking up shifts, but at least I could have one of my children with me.

I met the other teachers the following week and was warmly welcomed. Like the director, they were gracious, godly women who had a heart to show the love of God to these children and their families.

I worked there for nearly one full school year, when after much prayer the board decided to close the school. I had to either find another job or return to full time at my primary job. My husband told me I needed to take the opportunity to return to full time, and this time I listened.

We lost a lot of income during that year especially when I had only one part time job but also while I was working at the preschool because the pay was not equivalent to what we would have received if I had remained full time at my first job.

The fact that we did not make as much money is not in itself a loss. The real loss was the loss of peace between my husband and I and the fact that we missed what would have been a fantastic opportunity to buy a house. That was in 2009, when the housing market had dropped so much. We could have purchased a house and by now have been settled and well on our way to paying off our home. As it was not only did we not have enough savings, but we couldn't even qualify for loan because of my reduced income.

Again, God is merciful in spite of my stubborn disobedience and for five months now we've been living in our home and are paying for it little by little. I can't help but wonder, though, how blessed we might have been if I had obeyed the Lord's Word and submitted to my husband's wise leading.

Recently we have experienced a phenomenal transformation in our marriage, but I regret that I lost three years of living and working with my husband as a close and dedicated team, just because I held so tightly to my dream of staying at home and because I impatiently tried in my own selfish way to make that happen. God got a hold of my heart this past summer and when he did I wept for what I had lost. Read about that in my next Journey to Peace installment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Visit to the Doctor and Harris Teeter

Last Friday morning we made a trip to the doctor to get E's three year check up and A's 18 month check up. Praise God I have such healthy boys. They love to go to the doctor, mostly because they like playing with the toys while they wait. I know, I know, I shouldn't let them, but what am I supposed to do when fun and 'new' toys are beckoning them and we're waiting for half an hour for the doctor to come in after the nurse has done the preliminary work?

That evening at bedtime E declared, "Wehw (well), I will just drink some water and then go to bed and then go to the doctor." I explained that he wouldn't need to go to the doctor again for another year, Lord willing, unless he got sick. To which he replied, "Wehw, I will just have to get sick." A liked the circus bandaid covering his shot so much that he protested "No!no!no!no!" when it was thrown in the trash.When I explained that it was not a toy and needed to go in the trash he repeated with a pouting lip, "twash".

On the way back from the doctor's office we stopped at Harris Teeter and the shopping was a breeze. I'm so glad I limited myself  to the free and/or essential items because it made the trip go so much more smoothly and quickly. And I was really happy with what I bought.

 I was so pleased that I got all of this for $1.79 (plus tax) thanks to Deal Scoop and thanks to a $3/1 Kashi Go Lean coupon that I received from Vocalpoint. I never buy non-dairy coffee creamers (I'm a dairy fanatic) but my sister, who lives with us, loves the flavor and since this one was free I picked it up for her. My best buy was the Seventh Generation dishsoap for free and disinfecting sprays for 50 cents each! I love their products, although these two are the only ones I buy since I use baking soda and vinegar or ammonia for most of my other cleaning and can't afford their laundry detergent even with coupons.

Did anybody else get great deals at Harris Teeter this week? I'd love to hear about about your success!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kidorable giveaway at Go Graham Go

Felicia at Go Graham Go is hosting a giveaway of a Kidorable umbrella!

I purchased Kidorable's frog scarf and mittens for E for Christmas and he loves them! In fact, although I bought them with E in mind, I didn't realize that A would be fascinated with them as well, so they have to take turns wearing the scarf now (the mittens are way too big for A)!

I love the fact that this company provides a creative alternative to clothing and accessories based on TV show characters. Now they need to add bedding and suitcases to their product line! I wanted to buy a fun sheet set for the boys' room for Christmas last year and there were no non-character choices! My youngest brother who's turning 12 next week and too old for this sort of thing passed on his old carry-on and matching backpack (in great condition) for E. They are in bold, fun boy colors with no character themes. They just don't make things like they used to! Kidorable is a refreshing option.

Check out Felicia's giveaway and see if you win a fun umbrella of your choice from Kidorable!

Meet my precious family

My oldest, E, who just turned 3 in October!

My youngest, A, who is now 19 months old!

My husband, Abdoulaye, and I celebrating his US citizenship earlier this year!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Harris Teeter Super Double Coupons!!

The only time I get excited about shopping is when Harris Teeter runs their Super Doubles week!! I'm so excited that it's starting tomorrow!  

Wednesday, January 5 through Tuesday, January 11, 2011 Harris Teeter will double manufacturer coupons up to $1.98 Face Value!

I love this event. I was hooked the first time I tried it and bought $60 worth of food for around $26! I have to be careful because I can easily be tempted to buy something just because it's 25 or 50 cents or even a dollar. In the past I've enjoyed getting "treats", since this event allows me to buy things I normally would never purchase at full price. Like the carton of Dibs and box of Totino's bagels that I got for 50 cents each one time. This month I think I'm just going to go for the free stuff and things we really need, like cleaning products and pasta.

My favorite resource for composing my Harris Teeter shopping list and spending minimal time doing math in the store is The Deal Scoop's fantastic Google Document compilation of coupon and product match ups, including the final price you'll pay after coupons are doubled.

Lord willing I'll be slowing sorting and matching up coupons this week and will be heading over to Harris Teeter on Monday, my next day off! I'm always sad that I don't have one nearer to me. The nearest one is ten miles away in Ashburn! It's really a terrific store because although its everyday prices are high, its sales are phenomenal for this area! I have a Safeway within easy walking distance of my house, but rarely go there, which is sad. Their everyday prices are laughable and their good sales are rare.

I'll really try to post my shopping trip here next Tuesday and would love hearing from any of you about yours!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mom and Dad: A Team

My mom was the dedicated, diligent wife and mother I just described partly out of necessity but largely because she and my dad agreed at the outset of their marriage that this was who she was called to be. They believed that God has chosen, equipped and blessed mothers to be the ones most capable of nurturing and caring for children and the home.

It was vital to our family's well-being that they believed and acted on this principle together. As we, their children, grew we felt safe, loved, well cared for, and blessed with a fantastic education contributed to by both our parents. We respected and admired both of them in the was they wholeheartedly devoted themselves to the work God had given each of them to do.

Growing up I believed that this was the only way a family could function well. I believed this right until just a few months ago. I still am certain that it is the best way for a family (under normal circumstances, i.e. barring divorce, death or disability)  to truly thrive and to reach their fullest capacity to love and serve the Lord, each other and people around them.

However, I have come to realize that this way of life can only bless, in fact, can only function when it is the desire of both husband and wife. This is where I went wrong, because my husband, from the outset of our marriage, has not had the same convictions as I. If husband and wife are pulling in different directions they will not be able to serve the Lord well, not be able to give  their children a sense of security in a loving environment, and certainly will not be able to minister to others outside their family.

All these thoughts came to me after three and a half years of ugly and highly detrimental tug-of-war with all the tugging done by obstinate and belligerent me, while my admirable husband calmly and firmly held his end of the rope to keep our family from falling to pieces. More about that another time. I'm thankful for the joy and unity we are now, by God's grace experiencing. Our marriage is far from perfect, but we are on a smoother path now. The rocky road behind us was long, though, and I'll share about that in my next life story post.