Friday, February 27, 2009

A Delicate Relationship

Recently I was part of a gathering of moms, listening to a speaker elaborate on lessons she learned from a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law. Her simple and powerful message used the biblical tale of Ruth and Naomi as a model of the kind of relationship we are aspiring toward.

Truthfully, Naomi sounds embittered by her life experience of losing her husband and two sons while living in a foreign country to escape famine at home. Yet Ruth went home with her and committed to care for her, to the extent that Naomi's friends said of Ruth, "She is better than seven sons." Pretty impressive for this insular culture that prized sons as one's inheritance, and was essentially closed to foreigners.

Painting by Guy Rowe

At the conclusion of her message, the speaker opened the room to questions. A palpable tension settled on the room as moms began to ask for wisdom on how to deal with different situations they experience. Hesitantly, then with growing urgency, they shared.

One wished to overcome her mother-in-law's emotional distance. Another tearfully described a situation of other grandchildren receiving preferred treatment over her own child. A third didn't feel the mother-in-law ever supported her marriage to the son, yet wanted to honor her by allowing her to know her own grandchildren.

As the other moms nodded and murmured in agreement to these questions, I realized that a woman's relationship with her husband's mother is indeed a delicate one. The tears and shaking voices were obvious indicators of the depth of emotion involved on the part of the young moms.

There are no easy answers to the hurt feelings and difficult interactions related that day. However, sometimes a little perspective changes our interpretation of a situation. Just as we learn along the way in parenting, so too do parents learn along the way in becoming in-laws.

I can only imagine from my point of view, that it must be difficult to be replaced as your son's number one girl, and to be bound in a legal relationship with this younger woman regardless of any opinion you may have on the matter. We were encouraged that a difficult mother-in-law probably has the best of intentions, or may be unsure of boundary lines in the relationship. Or she may be acting out of hurt on her own part from something that occurred long ago, possibly before the son was ever married.

Artist Unknown

In any relationship, we have the best chance of growth when we address problems and miscommunication simply and directly, and before they have a chance to fester into deep wounds. But in the end, there is only one person in the relationship that we can control, and that is ourselves.

Change is hard. People resist making changes in the ways they interact with others, even when that change is positive. So it's healthy to expect a little pushback when you begin to implement some God-honoring attitudes. But be persistent! Again, the only one we can really change is ourselves, and even that requires God's strength. The Holy Spirit is the real change agent, and as long as we obey God, then we will be blessed. Even if that difficult relationship never becomes what we wish it could be.

Regardless of whether we are considering in-laws, blood relatives, friends or acquaintances, all relationships require God's wisdom and help in order to function best. Fortunately, God's Word has quite a bit of insight for us, about the attitudes he expects us to have in our relationships with one another:

  • Live in harmony with one another. Romans 12:16
  • Care for one another with equal concern. 1 Corinthians 12:25
  • Be kind to one another. Ephesians 4:32
  • Show hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9
  • Do not pass judgment on one another. Romans 14:13
  • Be at peace with one another. Mark 9:50
  • Humbly treat others as better than yourself. Ephesians 5:21
  • Bear with one another, and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13

Imagine, if we demonstrated all of these attitudes perfectly, what improvement we might see in our difficult relationships! But even good change comes gradually, so perhaps today is a good time to pause for a moment to reflect on which one of these attitudes God might be speaking to you that he wants to develop in you more strongly. You might be amazed at the difference one small change can make in your relationships, with your mother-in-law (or daughter-in-law) or anyone else.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It is getting harder and harder to find time to post, let alone the brainpower to think of anything worthwhile to say! I have thought of titles for dozens of posts, but have been unable to get to my computer or even a notebook to jot down the ideas before they flit from my head. I thought of just making a post of titles, but alas, my short term memory is so fragile I can't even put that together!

I just keep plugging away at the stuff I absolutely need to do. I have spent almost three hours in the last two days trying to print my address book on label sheets. Three hours is a lot of time in my current economy! Dratted worksheet imports a third of the names and an apparently random selection of ZIP codes... what is up with that?!?

My mom came for a couple weeks to visit Lulu and the other kids. We had a nice visit, although Boo ended up being home sick from school for an entire week. It was nice for her to get to spend a little extra time with Gramma. However, I am so glad she is back to school this week. That gave me a small taste of how summer is going to feel. Busy busy busy!

One highlight of this week is that we collected our first photo of the five of us. So special! Now if I can just create that birth announcement, we can move on. Guess there's no rush until I get that address label business figured out, though...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Squeaky Wheel

The thing about your third-born is that she's not the only one in line for your attention. She may have pushed her way to the front of the line for this season, but the other two still need their due.

Miss Boo came home from school last Friday looking and acting sick. Since the stomach flu has been circulating around our small town, we took drastic measures: farm out Rooster to the grandparents, quarantine Boo to the second floor, and stock up on Lysol and Clorox products.

I have never been paranoid about germs, but with our 3-week-old bundle, we have to be real careful not to let her get sick. There's our own sleep to think about, plus the way those tiny ones end up back in the hospital if they can't keep fluids down.

After a single barfing episode Saturday morning, her symptoms were limited to sore throat, cough, and achiness (I can't make that word look right). She stayed home from school Monday for good measure, but acted ready to return.

Tuesday, yesterday, the focus was back on Lulu, who, apparently coincidentally, had three episodes of major spitting up in 24 hours. This from a baby that has hardly spit up at all so far. By the second time, I was starting to wonder if there might be something more serious afoot.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep much last night with this baby who seems to have had an upset tummy for more than a day now. Once Captain and Boo were off for the day, I settled Lu down and went back to bed. For 45 minutes.

It turns out Miss Boo's part in the drama is not over yet. I had to go pick her up from the nurse's office this morning with a temp of 104. She is back in bed now, complaining of an upset stomach.

I shudder as I contemplate that this might be that stomach flu bug. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I think my tummy is starting to hurt, maybe it's only sympathy pain.

Crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First Bath

On Sunday we decided Lulu needed to have her hair fluffed. So we gave her a bath! I seem to remember that Boo loved her first bath, but then again she has always been a water baby.

Lulu did okay, although she did not enjoy being cold and wet very much. However, contrary to the way this appears, I don't think she was actually putting up her dukes.

Things got much calmer once she was wrapped in her soft ducky towel. We'll have to make this a regular event!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Boo Bear's Birthday

It seems so long ago, but we did recently have a birthday around here. In the last few weeks, I got busy and have neglected to share about Boo's special day. I only have a couple of minutes, but need to give her day the attention it was due!

To celebrate birthday #7, we sent Little Debbie brownies to school to share with friends in her first grade class. I like to send something, but figured I was due a pass this year since I was about to pop. Little did I know how soon that would be, but at least we were able to spend her day thinking about her!

After school I picked up her and one friend from school and took them to Sonic for slushies and onion rings. That's what she wanted to do! Then I had them run around at a park for a bit before returning home.

The original plan had been to have spaghetti night at home with grandparents, aunts and uncles. But one family was home with the flu, and the other had been unable to make their flight in from PA the previous day, so we were left with us and the grandparents! We all agreed to take the easier way out and treat her to dinner at Cotton Patch.

Poor Roo was so tired from his own fun that he climbed into Grammy's lap and fell asleep in the middle of dinner. Boo didn't pay much attention to her own dinner, because she was worried there wouldn't be any presents for her (she had not seen any). Brother missed the entire remainder of the evening, and ended up having to have his dessert the next day!

Once we got home, we had cake and presents. I think she enjoyed herself quite a lot.

The highlight of the evening, although she loved all her presents, was the new barn her daddy had made for her with his own two hands. It is even lighted to allow for better visibility inside! There was also a Vet Barbie to take care of the horses.

I suppose I already waxed philosophical about this little girl and the ways she has changed my life. She has a strength of character that I hope to be able to mold into something constructive. She loves her new baby doll, Isabel, as well as her new pony Pearl. She loves to read, is good at math, and we are still working on developing a love of writing in her.

I am bracing for the adventure of what the next several years of raising this girl will bring. She definitely keeps me on my toes!

Friday, February 6, 2009

My 25

I was tagged on Facebook to reveal 25 random facts about myself. As usual, I turned it into quite an essay, and decided to share it here. For those I have yet to hook up with on Facebook:

1. I suspect that if I had a prior life, it could have been as a feline; my two favorite pleasures are sleeping and eating. Right now sleeping is in short supply around here, so I console myself with food.

2. I love to eat a grapefruit every morning for breakfast. Grapefruit reminds me of visiting my grandparents in Arizona when I was a kid. Their neighborhood was built on an old grapefruit orchard, and their lot had 14 grapefruit trees on it. My grandpa McHolm viewed the eating of a grapefruit as a science, and taught me how to eat it just-so. To this day I always eat a grapefruit the exact same way... Did you know that most grapefruit have 12 sections? And that it takes 72 cuts to section a grapefruit? The days I also split one between the kids, I make almost 150 cuts with a paring knife before I can eat the glorious food. But it is sooo worth it!

3. I also adore an English muffin toasted just-so, with butter and blackberry jam. And usually coffee, although I'm taking a break right now. With a newborn in the house, one never knows when one will get to catch a nap, and I would hate to not be able to sleep because of a caffeine buzz! The withdrawal headache was not fun last week, but it's all for a good cause.

4. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. My favorite pizza is Papa John's, although I am a bit of a junkie and will eat any pizza that comes my way.

5. I could also eat cookies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. My favorite cookies are... well, cookies.

6. I love avocados, artichokes, shrimp, and sushi. I learned to like all of those things the first year I lived in California. There were so many new foods there, I decided I would just make myself a rule that I would never order chicken. Turns out there are a lot of other good things to eat besides chicken! To this day I seldom cook with chicken, mostly for the adventure of what else I may discover.

7. There are very few foods I will not eat. One food I have a hard time eating is crab. When my brother and I were kids, our parents took us to New Jersey for an ocean vacation. One afternoon we went walking on the boardwalk. We came upon someone in a tent selling live crabs. Much to my surprise, my parents decided to buy a bag. I had no idea where we were going to keep them; but being a lover of animals, I thought to myself that I would enjoy having them as pets. When we got back to our campsite, my mom pulled out a metal pot to put them in, and covered them with water. And then to my horror, she put the pot on the camper's stove, put a lid on the pot, and lit the fire beneath it. I will never forget the sound those claws made on the lid as the crabs struggled to escape being cooked. Once the scraping sounds stopped, the crabs were removed from the water and served to us as our dinner. I cried as I was taught how to pull off the shell and dig out the meat. Unfortunately, every time I smell crab, I have a flashback of this moment. I even get uncomfortable whenever I smell the ocean, but I have worked hard to let that go so I can enjoy the beach. But crabs... well I have learned to like many things but that one is still a challenge for me. It's okay, Mom. You tried.

8. One of the biggest surprises of my life was discovering I could cook. Not only that, I have a reputation for being pretty good at it. A large part of my confidence in the kitchen came when my brand new husband bragged to others about what good food I made. Friends, never underestimate the power your positive words can have on others.

9. Lately, I have been too busy to cook as much. I discovered my hubby can cook, too! It's amazing what you can miss when you try too hard to be in control of all the details of your life. Learning to let go and let those around me participate has been an awesome life lesson for me.

10. Since the age of 17, I have always had polish on my toenails, with the exception of an occasional day here and there. Last year I discovered spa pedicures, now I have someone else paint my toenails for me. My last pedicure was January 17. Current color is baby pink, in honor of my new baby girl.

11. Since the age of 19, I have color treated my hair. Justin has been my stylist for 12 of those years.

12. Although I do not have any tattoos, I have always secretly thought that in the right company and under the right provocation, I would be fine with getting one. Maybe a rosebud.

13. My current perfume is Pink by Victoria's Secret. I also like Bath and Body Works products in Pink Grapefruit, Coconut Lime Verbena, Freshwater Cucumber, and Sweet Pea.

14. I am blessed to be surrounded by good friends, old and new, that love me for who I am. I am also blessed to be related to many of those friends. Facebook has been wonderful for helping me reconnect with my cousins and to realize how much we all have in common. Kay, Angie, Anne, Ami, Christie, Katy and Val, it has been a pleasure to discover we really are friends too.

15. The worst thing I ever did as a child was to punch a neighbor girl in the mouth just to see what it felt like. I have carried guilt about this for more than 25 years. Then a few months ago the neighbor girl found me on Facebook. I humbly apologized, only to learn that she has no memory of the incident, and that she forgives me anyway. Thanks, Kristen. You are officially my Facebook friend from the earliest time in my life, except my mom and other relatives, of course.

16. One of the coolest things I ever did was climb a live volcano in Guatemala. At the summit, we were probably less than 200 feet from a vent that was spitting out red and black chunks of lava. Dr Alvin Anderson, who happens to be Marva's dad, Kristi's grandpa, is the spryest old man I've ever met, and he led the way. And I'll just tease you while I'm at it, Kristi's brother is a Rock Star, in a band you've probably heard of!

17. My other grand outdoor adventure was a few years ago when a couple of my friends, Christina and Jeanette, dragged me on a day-long hike through the canyons of Escalante National Park in southern Utah. I even got photos of that trip, which you can see on Facebook in my album called Canyoneering.

18. My first date with Justin was in 1996, at an ice cream shoppe called Ivanhoes. I knew I was in love with him by the end of that first two hour conversation. You can ask Heidi and Laura; they lived through that time with me.

19. My favorite ice cream shoppes anywhere are Ivanhoes of Upland, IN; and Milk and Honey of Canton, OH. My favorite brand of ice cream is Blue Bell, out of Brenham, TX. (Oops! Another food one! Did I mention I love food?)

20. I love Justin more for the way he loves me in my unlovable moments, than for the way he looked at me the first time he said he loved me, on March 16, 1996. And that was an awesome moment.

21. I am a princess in my little world. On January 13, 1997, Justin took me to New York City to see Sunset Boulevard on Broadway and treat me to dinner in a revolving restaurant at the top of the Marriott. We also walked through Times Square, FAO Schwartz, Tiffany's, and past Rockefeller Center. But first, he proposed to me during a carriage ride through Central Park. Jim and Dawn, Justin's parents, shared that day with us, except for the carriage ride part! We were pulled by an enormous shaggy black horse named Rocky. I was dressed for the show in a coral colored formal dress with a crinoline slip, and it was a coooold day. I remember nothing of Central Park itself after the moment he asked the question. But he reassures me we did complete the ride, and I loved it.

22. Another of the great surprises of my life was falling in love with my children; and realizing that each new addition does not divide my available love, but adds to my capacity to love. It's an amazing miracle.

23. I love making art through quilting, card making, photography, and cooking. I also love to create pictures with words. Strangely, I hate scrapbooking. My favorite art is consumable, as in... I make it and give it away, therefore it does not accumulate in my house. Maybe someday when the kids are in school and the writing is manageable, I will get my act together to turn my brainchild, Firefly Design, into a profitable business.

24. My ideal place in this world is in a spot where I can be crafty; share parenting and cooking information that helps other people; and use my passion for writing to encourage others in their spiritual journey. In this moment in time, I have found a sweet spot just for me as a member of my local MOPS chapter, on the leadership team. Seldom in my life have I been so confident in belonging someplace. I am blessed to share leadership with Leigh and Marian, among others.

25. I believe it's not just important what you say, it's how you say it. Except for those times when you just have to get it out because if you wait to say it right, it will never be said.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Attempt Number One

I tried.

Not so much of a planning-ahead kind of try, more of a seize-the-moment kind of try. But at least I did try. After all, it has been two weeks (today!) and I had yet to get a single photo of all three of my kids together.

Admittedly, baby had just been pulled from her nice warm spot in the swing, and Roo was dealing with an allergic reaction to playing in the grass this afternoon. Of course I will need to try again to get that perfect photo I have in my imagination.

But surely this is better than letting another day pass without capturing them all together for one moment.