"LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:5-6


Ours is a story of what God can do with two silly teens, starting off with no clue;

And baby thrown in, just for good measure. We didn’t know that God would increase our treasure

With four added on in rapid succession, filling our lives with joy and hard lessons.


We’ve had our share of valleys and hills, of times of abundance, and unpaid bills.

We once thought success would bring us bliss; we’ve learned that loss does a better job of this,

As we lean on our Savior, Who always delivers, regardless of the size of our quiver.


Although we’re grateful for the times of ease, the hard times are useful for learning to please

Our Heavenly Father, learning to walk in His Truth, of which we often talk.

May the Lord help us humbly and faithfully serve, staying mindful that the next generation observes.


Prop up your feet and grab a cup of coffee or tea while I open up

The book of my life, without further ado, and narrate the musings of my heart to you.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nursing "Bibs"



It's so exciting to have friends here who are having babies and plan to nurse them. I just love making these nursing covers. Actually, since I began making these a few years ago -- and even when I owned an early version of one back in the mid-90s -- I've always called these nursing "bibs". 

The one that I used when I had our older son was nothing more than a receiving blanket with a bias-tape strap that attached with velcro. Now, nursing "covers", as most refer to them, have become much more stylish, in keeping with the current apron craze, I suppose. (Or maybe it's because younger mothers want to feel more like divas as they sport spit-up on their clothes.)

A few years ago in Alabama, I was so impressed by a friend's cover that I decided to start making them for gift-giving. Recently, another friend kindly offered some useful feedback concerning a feature that didn't prove beneficial long-term. I'm so glad that she shared this with me, because I'm now able to remedy the problem with future "bibs".

I made this nursing bib a few days ago for a friend here who is expecting Baby #5 soon. We don't know whether Anna is having a boy or a girl, so I thought that this fabric would work fine (Of course! It's my favorite Heather Bailey!): green, in case it's a boy, and pink because Anna deserves to wear something girly, regardless of the gender of the one she's feeding.



I really appreciate the convenience and neat finish of a D-ring, so I include these on all of the nursing bibs that I make.





I don't always make the pockets the same way. Here, I added a small one between the two layers. Sometimes I put it right on the front of the entire cover; but when I first began, I made a small, triangular pocket on the back in the corner. The purpose of the pocket is to stash the nursing pad until after the feeding. (This beats shoving it under one's leg, which is what I used to do.)





The problem with the older "models" was right here, with the flexible insert that I sew between the layers at the top of the bib. This allows the mother to peek at the baby easily. I now have to use a different method of creating this flexible feature. The new way should work much better, and is certainly what I should have used in the first place. (If you're reading this and you have one of my old ones, "I'm really sorry!")





And here is Anna modeling her new nursing bib, a tissue holder that I gave to her (every mommy should carry one!), and the chocolate chip cookies that Morgan made just for her.


What's in a Name?


Morgan

"Lives by the Sea"

I've read a lot lately about the meaning of names. Many people take very seriously the process of choosing a name for each child, as we all should, I suppose. When Craig and I were younger and just having our babies, we didn't name them according to what we thought their names would make them become. We trusted that the Lord has a plan for each of them (Ephesians 2:10; Jeremiah 29:11), and as long as we didn't name them something like "Jezebel" or "Adolph", it was acceptable for us to choose their names based on other criteria. 

Throughout our years of parenting, we've taught our children the importance of having a "good name":

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
   bind them around your neck,
   write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
   in the sight of God and man.
 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:3-6

"A good name is more desirable than great riches;
   to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
Proverbs 22:1




Growing up, I watched day and evening soap operas (not something that makes me proud, but this is in my past). Two of my favorite actresses were Morgan Fairchild and Morgan Brittany. I determined in my youth to one day have a daughter named Morgan.

In my extended family, there are several male Morgans, including my late Grandpap, who recently passed away at the age of 96. Although Morgan is a name I chose because I find it elegant for a female, Grandpap used to affectionately refer to our Morgan as his "namesake" -- despite having a son, and grandson named after him already, and more recently a great-grandson!




We had a marvelous time celebrating Morgan's life yesterday! 
Her birth was unique in a few ways:

~She was the one baby whom we attempted to "plan" (although we know that it is the Lord Who does the planning -- cf Psalm 139)

~She's the only one of our children born in California

~I noticed signs of fetal distress in the final week of my pregnancy

~Craig took me to Ocean View Drive in Monterey for a walk in hopes of inducing labor

~She was born with the cord wrapped three times around her neck

~Hers was the first of three births after which I experienced hemorrhaging (Praise God for knowledgeable & fast-acting hospital staff!)



As a very small child, Morgan wowed us with her expressions, like:

~"Mommy, why do you have sad water in your eyes?" (when she saw me crying)

~"Daddy, you know what? Noses eat boogers!"



Today, we treasure the wisdom God has given her, and the love she shows to our family. What a gift God has given us in Morgan.


Our prayer is that our children will live lives worthy of the calling they've received in Christ. The Word of God speaks of gaining wisdom and respect through a life lived to glorify God. This is what is meant by a good name. This is what we desire for our family.


"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
Ephesians 4:1-3

"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,"
Colossians 1:9b-11

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Intramural Grocery Organization



Our children are SO fun! I love spending time with them! When they were all very small, Craig was in the Army, which meant that we didn't live near our extended family. I remember wishing that I could have my mom nearby so that I could go grocery shopping alone just once in a while. But alas, she was 800 miles away in those days! 

Now, I nearly have to beg someone to go with me. "More hands make light work", and I appreciate having someone to help load and someone else to return the cart (not to mention extra feet to run after the items on my list that I've inadvertently passed by).

I tend to get better results when I'm under pressure, so seeing that I was outnumbered in those early days by these precious treasures from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5), I decided that I should train our children to happily join me on errands without the drama that is commonplace among young mothers shopping with little ones in tow. This, of course, meant that I had to be especially strict in the beginning, until they learned my system. 

For starters, as a homeschooling family, we have the freedom to shop during the day while others are at work or at school. I continue to enjoy this option, as it means that I can avoid crowds, for the most part. However, in the military community there are many retirees who also value the option of shopping in the earlier parts of the day. 

One thing that I've always tried to install in the children is the biblical command to be considerate of others:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
Philippians 2:3-4

In the commissary, this meant that they'd have to show deference to these honored veterans and their spouses as we meandered through the aisles. To solve this dilemma, I taught all ambulatory children to follow behind me, single-file. (It's funny -- to this day, I have to tell them to walk beside me; but of course, my boys take up the rear in order to "watch my back".) The others rode in the cart. Imagine the joy I felt when the Ft. Benning Commissary finally provided those nifty carts with the double-seat extension! At one time, I had one child in the regular cart seat, two in the extension, one walking beside me, and one on me in a sling! What a sight I was!

My second non-negotiable rule was that no one was allowed to make special requests. It's likely that I never would have gotten out of the store with all of the appeasement that would ensue, had I allowed them to make demands at those ages! I would occasionally reward them with special treats, but they had to learn to be thankful and obedient first. Again, they outnumbered me. :-)

Probably the toughest part for me was facing the possibility that one of these little sinners would suddenly decide to throw a tantrum in the store. Praise be to God, only one out of five of our children ever threw tantrums -- and only at home. (I'll save that story for a future post. Maybe.) Still, I never wanted them to think that it would be acceptable for them to whine, cry, pout, or otherwise display ungrateful or impatient behavior in public. I had a couple of speeches prepared to ward off any such inclination.

First, I'd remind them that we are 1) Christ's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and 2) representatives of Dad's leadership in our home, when we are in public. I'd ask them whether they wanted to show, by their behavior,  that Craig wisely teaches and encourages our family, or if they wanted to portray a false image of a foolish father who disregards his biblical responsibility to raise our children in the "training and instruction of the Lord".

My final line of defense was to clearly warn our children that if they weren't too embarrassed to publicly behave like foolish children, I wouldn't be too embarrassed to publicly correct them. There has only ever been one challenge to this (as far as my memory serves); and by God's goodness, I emerged the victor, with the child unscathed. :-)

I'm thankful that the Lord gave me the chutzpah to face head-on the challenge of grocery shopping -- and all other errand running -- with five children in tow and no help. (In Craig's defense, he was usually at work or in the field during these times, but he was very generous in his off hours -- even to the point of taking over the evening bathing ritual so that I could exercise with a friend.) It all paid off in the end. We've always been able to take the children into nearly any situation and trust their behavior.

These days, they're almost all teenagers and they've become my buddies. I absolutely love being out with them. Most of our shopping rules have long since been relaxed or eliminated, and now I even consult them on some of my purchases. The girls have made a great contribution to the planning and preparation of meals, as well as grocery shopping for me at times.

As "big kids" they have creative ways of making the mundane more exciting. Today as we put away groceries and bags, they came up with a new kitchen sport. The above photo shows Graham holding the extension ring of my grain mill over a bag full of grocery bags. The others stood across the kitchen tossing balled-up grocery bags through the ring and into the bag. 



Morgan





OK, so I use a lot of canned beans. I've done the long dried-bean process for things like beans-and-rice or hummus, but I've found that it just isn't worth the time it takes.




Gabriela & Morgan




Craig Grayson




Graham

To my "guys" (which I call them, collectively), I don't know if you'll end up reading this, but thanks for making my load easier and my life more blessed! I praise our Father in Heaven for giving you to us! I'm coming to pinch your ears!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Guess I'm Just a Push-Over



A while back, I wrote a blog post about this spoiled dog's attempt to really push the boundaries in our house. In it, I declared victory over his presumptuous use of our hall rug, by purchasing a doggie pillow for him to occupy, instead. I had shown him who is boss (well, at least when Craig's not around).

Apparently, though, he's found an "in". One tired young man -- exhausted from lifting weights with the football team -- gave Rhodes his golden opportunity to push the limits.

They're just so cute, I couldn't bear to shoo either of them away. So, I stepped right over them and went on about my laundry duties -- after capturing the moment, of course.

I guess I'll just have to toughen up. Later. Yep. That's what I'll do. But later.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Don't Make Resolutions, But...



... I do plan to spend more time with my sewing machine, now that life is back to something akin to "normal". (What is "normal", anyway? The "norm" seems to shift often. Perhaps this can be a future blog topic.)

Way back before we returned from Moz, my cousin, Denise, asked me to make an apron for her. I kept promising, but with a move, a struggle to get settled, multiple guests, the holidays, and being short one "staff" member for three months, I just didn't get around to it until last weekend.

I used Butterick's B4945 pattern for this one, which isn't quite as easy as making up the design myself; but it's a cute one, and I didn't have to really think about what to do. The option I chose didn't actually have a pocket, but I promised Denise that her apron would have one. I played a little with some decorative stitching, as well:




In other sewing news, Liesl has presented a wonderful challenge to her readers. I'm actually having a bit of a struggle with the commitment that this one requires -- not because I don't think I can accomplish the task, but because I can't imagine further delaying the gratification of purchasing the sewing book I've been wanting. I've been searching for a loophole in the deal. For instance, if I sew at least two items per month from the sewing books I already own, maybe I can purchase this book sooner. Maybe?

Well, here is my first finished project of the new year, and the first one to post for Liesl's challenge. It comes from Amy Butler's Style Stitches. I'm thinking that I must not be as smart as other woman who make Amy's purses, because I had to walk away from this project at least once, and I kept my seam ripper in very close proximity. (It is, after all, my most-frequently-used tool.) In the end, I love the result; but I don't think that anyone could pay me to cause cramps like that in my fingers again!






It's such a tiny detail, but I love the magnetic snap! I can't wait to use one again. (I know. I'm a late bloomer in the sewing world.)

OK. Break's Over.


In my last post, I mentioned that I'd be taking a break while I attempt to get my act together. I've since realized that my "act" won't be "together" until Jesus returns or calls me home. So, the show must go on!


I've had many ideas for posts recently; however, I didn't write any of them down, and I have a terrible memory. Those ideas may or may not make their way onto the blog; but I thought that I should at least start somewhere.


We've had quite a bit going on since my last post -- both joys and sorrows. Since October, we've had the blessing of hosting thirty-eight overnight guests. What a joyful season this has been! 


On the flip side, we suffered two losses just before Christmas -- a close family friend, and my 96-year-old grandfather. Both were great men who touched many lives, and they will each leave a vast void in the lives of those who loved them.


A high point for our family was the return of our beloved Caelyn from her 3-month stay in Alaska with friends of our family. For her 19th birthday, which some of you may know is Christmas Day, we surprised her by redecorating her room (which she'd never occupied before, since we moved in after she left). Unfortunately, with funerals and Christmas prep, we ran out of time to have it all painted and ready before she arrived. Still, she's quite pleased with what we did manage. 


Having Caelyn back is a tremendous blessing for all of us. We're excited to see how the Lord will direct her future as she trusts Him with all her heart, not leaning on her own understanding, and striving to do His will.




Although we were all very sad to say good-bye to my sweet Grandpap, it was such a joy to be around my dad's family. I don't even remember the last time I saw all of the brothers together in one place. They're such a handsome bunch. (Daddy is second from the left.)




Our Christmas preparation and celebration were such a special time, especially since we were all together under one roof again. We had a marvelous time baking, decorating, and hosting guests.




On one occasion, the four older children went Christmas shopping while Gabriela and I baked cookies and tried our hardest not to cheat too much.




Craig's parents spent the night on Christmas Eve and were able to join us for Christmas morning breakfast. My parents joined all of us for dinner.




What a privilege it has been for us to live close enough to family to have them visit regularly & join us during the holidays, after so many years living away.




Craig thought that we should try something new this Christmas.




This is my new reality. I went from wearing sundresses & camis every day in Moçambique, to having to dig our way out of the driveway. I'm grateful for my boys, who do this regularly so that it's a novelty for me.


Now that we've entered a new year, I've been working toward some semblance of "normal", with a new schedule, new chore list, and big plans for more organization. (Isn't January wonderful?) My hiatus has ended, and I'm ready to make some good progress. Perhaps I'll mention it from time to time.