Tuesday, June 30, 2009
As we hit the completion of half of the year, I find myself amazed that July is right around the corner. Four blog friends and I started the year by each choosing a word that would be our guiding beacon for 2009 and at the end of each month, we have each posted something about how that word is shaping our year. (You can see our collective progression through the year here, here, here, here and here.)
My word for the year has been excellence. When I selected this word, I thought it to be the element that would wind its way through many of the areas in my life in which I seek to grow and improve, in my relationships, homemaking, schooling, writing, photography and walk with the Lord. To pursue excellence has become a lesson in degrees. How does one know when they have achieved 'excellence'? It's not really a destination or accomplishment, but rather an approach and attitude toward the duties and desires in life. And one thing that has emerged as I have pursued excellence this year is that it can be practiced in the smallest things. In my world right now, with so much of my time joyfully captured by the needs of small children, big goals could be frustrating. But to know that I can exercise excellence in making a bed, wiping a nose and reading a book to a child allows me to honor my New Year's goals without creating frustration and overwhelm, which is a very excellent thing indeed.
Here are my bloggy word girlfriends with their thought at mid-year:
6 months, 26 weeks, 181 days, 4,344 hours......four Americans and one Australian united together believing by focusing and reflecting on our tools called words our journey would become clearer.
For me, without a doubt the journey so far has been very rewarding. Who would have thought that by focusing on a few simple words (Balance, Desire, Persistence) they would grant me so much power and freedom.
This month I would like to reflect on finding balance in the midst of life’s ups and downs.
In life there will always be ups and downs. When something negative happens, instead of agonizing over it or trying to oppose it, we should accept it and try to turn it into a positive. Similarly, when positive things happen in our life we need to be prepared for the fact that good things can’t last forever.
Instead of wishing for a life of complete happiness where nothing bad ever happens, these ups and downs should be embraced, because they are what gives life its colour and meaning.
In Taoism it is believed that the entire universe is a balance of opposites, symbolized by yin and yang (day and night, winter and summer, male and female, life and death, etc).
“The Tao is the One. From the One come yin and yang; From these two, creative energy (chi); From energy, ten thousand things; The forms of all creation. All life embodies yin AND yang; Through their union Achieving harmony”.
Tao Te Ching (Dreher translation)
AVT Coach reflects:
I have been blessed to be attending a Yoga class three days per week. Through this class I have also met some amazing women. One of the women, a new friend has added so much to my life in only a few months. We enjoy a nice cup of chai on Sat. morning after our yoga class.
The first weekend in June we went on an overnight trip to a retreat center about 40 miles from our town. We stayed in an old farmhouse. Here is the abundance of this 24 hour time away. A glass of wine on the front porch, talking, watching the sun go down, watching the three new young alpaca's recently adopted by our retreat center owners, sharing again a viewing of the movie Chocalat while of course eating dark chocolate and sharing another glass of wine and talking. Feeling the morning breeze flow through the windows upon awakening in the morning, and taking turns getting a massage by a massage therapist who came to our farmhouse with table in hand..and talking. Enjoy an organic salad then taking a nap just because we can..and talking. It was a gift we gave ourselves and the shared experience was truly abundant. It is not easy to take the time to break away from old habits and do something new. We did it and we are only blessed beyond measure. Thank you Cris for our girl time away.
Abundance is.. sharing new experiences with a trusted friend.
MommyVictory is seeing her word for the year in her daughter:
Discipline is remembering what you want.” David Campbell
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” Roy L Smith
“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.” Buddha
My daughter epitomizes the definitions of discipline described above. She has working since September towards the goal of attending the Showcase National Dance Competition. By setting an achievable and measurable goal, she was able to see that dream come to fruition this past weekend.
Caitlin spent several hours a week attending ballet, tap, jazz and technique classes without complaint. Additionally, her instructors would call weekend rehearsals.
What was the result of all this work?
Two amazing performances and two platinum awards. Which just goes to show that when you have the necssary discipline, you can achieve just about anything.
And sweet FlyGirl has these thoughts on her words:
JOY. Amazing how such a small, simple word can make such a huge impact in your life (when you let it!). Acknowledging the joy in my life has been one of my goals this year. By focusing on the word “joy,” I hoped to leave worrisome thoughts behind as I looked for those proverbial silver linings instead.
For me, finding joy is really about slowing down to enjoy the moments that make up my life. It’s about stopping the thoughts that whirl through my mind long enough to truly enJOY what life has to offer.
As I focused on this word, I began to recognize joy all around me. I saw joy in a baby’s smile at the grocery store, in the words of a student, and in my daughter’s unique way of seeing things. I found joy in a rare March snowfall and in the serenade of cicadas and frogs on a warm summer night. I found joy while cooking meals for my family and when treating myself to a few good books.
I have found that joy is not elusive but awaits me every day if I just look in the right place. Joy, I found, is a simple thing to enJOY.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Missing, I tell you.
Its three wheel, Barbie-licensed pink glory gone.
5 of 8 and 6 of 8 begin a hard target search investigation last evening.
They discuss where she had the scooter last.
They check the outside extremities of the property.
They reconvene in the foyer, plotting new search maps and trying to figure out if ninjas have absconded with a three-wheel fuchsia Barbie scooter.
6 of 8 begins a bit of dramatic hand-wringing.
5 of 8 assures her he will do all he can to locate her missing transportation.
More searching proceeds.
And then we hear it, a triumphant shout from the depths of the house. A shout of victory. A shout of accomplishment.
A shout of treasure found.
"6 of 8," he yells. "6 of 8! I found it! I found it! I found your scooter!!!!"
"It was in the guest bathroom...~"
Don't you ride your Barbie scooter to the bathroom?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Now there's a loaded term.
People of faith. Lack of faith. Faith of our fathers. Ye of little faith. Defenders of the faith. Statements of faith.
Through my growing-up years and through college, I believed the definition of faith was the collection of ethics, rules and philosophies that guided my life. Those with my particular flavor of 'faith' were lucky; we had somehow stumbled into the mother lode of creed, adherents to a system that would ultimately garner us enough favor through good works and rule-following to give us barter for eternity. To lose one's faith was to walk away from that system.
But life has a funny way of exposing our pride and naiveté. And when the realities of life drove me deeper into study of Scripture and in a thirst to seek out God, I was a little startled to see a very different expression of faith chronicled within those parchment pages. It seemed that some of those Bible time people, the ones who didn't seem to follow the same rules as me, the ones who often messed up or were confused or only knew Jesus from those days preceding His sacrifice, they were often heralded for their faith. They were able to conjure deep emotions of belief, it seemed. And things seemed to improve for those folks who could pull it off. Faith seemed to get them places, seemed to smooth bumps in the road. My initial approach to the lives of these people was to analyze the actions and intensity of emotion that I defined as faith.
I needed to get me some of that kind of faith.
My early years were spent having faith in my 'faith'.
And then I spent some years trying to develop very strong faith in...faith.
And both of those expressions of faith seemed to take a lot of work.
Because it seemed that having really strong belief in faith, in becoming someone with super faith, was a very Christian thing to do.
But it didn't occur to me to define what faith was, beyond some sort of strong attachment to rules or a jet-fueled propulsion of emotion.
Faith in God.
When Jesus began to reveal to his disciples the power and authority that come from following God, He began with a simple statement.
"Have faith in God."
Not faith in faith.
Not faith in a system of faith.
Faith in God.
Faith in His plans, His provenance, His provision. Faith in His omniscience. Faith in Him.
It's the core of what Paul told us in the book of Hebrews: faith is being sure of a God in which we place our trust. Faith is certain that there is a God there who we do not yet see. And it was this simple belief in the Creator that led Abel to make a better sacrifice, that let Noah build an ark, that let Abraham walk as a friend of God.
In Hebrews 11:6, faith's definition becomes so clear: Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
So that's become my creed. That's become my statement of faith.
I have faith there is a God. I believe He rewards those who seek Him.
And now my faith rests in her rightful home. Nestled in the hands of God.
Friday, June 26, 2009
What would start as a routine session to pick up my Pee Chee folders off the floor and put away my Shaun Cassidy records would turn into a full-out room redo, dragging my Sear's French Provincial Collection furniture across the cream shag carpet of my bedroom.
(photo credit from ths.gardenweb.com)
And I got worse after I got married.
Mike has not been a big fan of my late-night estrogen-rush room makeovers.
I've reformed a bit. I still have to drag huge pieces of furniture around on ocassion just to make me feel like a woman. But I have to say, all the relocation activities in my life over the last five years have kinda sorta cured me of furniture manipulation issues.
And besides, that's what a blog layout is for.
You don't throw your back out and your husband doesn't get frustrated when you want to put it all back the way you had it before.
I've found it quite fulfilling to repaint and paper my blog depending on my mood and on the season. Let's take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?
Here's one of my early attempts at a blog header incorporating some of my photography...
Here's one from last fall...I think this is one of my favorites. But then, fall is my favorite season.
Of course I had to put together a little something special for Christmas...
Ringing in 2009 seemed to need its own special header...
And then there are these little designs...
So I'm feeling that itch to do a little blog rearranging and I thought I'd check in with you, see if you wanted to drag around a little blog Sears French Provincial with me, as it were.
Beyond the decor and wallpaper, what kind of features do you like to see on a blog? What makes things easy to find, what widgets, gidgets and gadgets command your attention and respect and which ones just make you a little crazy? What are some things you would like to see here at Octamom.com to enhance your experience? Share, share.
And when we're done rearranging, maybe we can listen to some of my Shaun Cassidy records...
Da Do Ron Ron Ron, Da Do Ron Ron....
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Because I live with children who defy simple labels.
This one started innocently enough. 5 of 8 likes the idea of making our own 'show'. So I told him that we could take the video camera with us to Costco while we shopped for Michael's birthday dinner ingredients and for a gift.
That would have been a simple label for the video.
"Summer 2009. Mike Bday Preparation."
But, then we wouldn't have gotten this on tape.
Let's see. So the title options are....Costco...or Look at My Shoe....or.....
Unless you have a better idea.
Which I would love to entertain.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I love my digital scrapbooking.
I really do.
But there is still something so magical about sitting down with a heavy photo album laid across your lap, slowly flipping the thick pages of pictures and memories.
I used to avidly paper scrapbook, back in the day when I was Triomom and Quatromom. I had a spot where all my supplies were in easy reach for me and protected from little creative hands. I have several volumes completed from the Trio and Quatro eras…and they continue to be perennial favorites with all the kids.
Though it does tend to make the younger kids ask where the albums of their early lives are.
To which I respond, “Somewhere under the laundry pile.”
Which is subtle code for, “My consuming hobby is now laundry, and no, I’m not being a martyr. Mostly.”
3 and 7 of 8 have been looking through some of the albums as of late. They particularly like the one recording the months immediately preceding 3 of 8’s birth up to his arrival and the first precious weeks of his infanthood.
7 of 8 is enchanted with the pictures of ‘Baby’.
And it is so fascinating to hear 3 of 8 tell her of his history, the stories we have passed down to him of the events leading up to his birth, of his older sisters’ excitement, of who they were as children, of the transition from a family of two children to three.
The oral tradition of storytelling continues.
And one day, when the laundry is somewhat caught up, I will again pull out the paper scrapbooking supplies. And I will print these pictures. And I will create a scrapbook spread about 3 and 7 of 8 looking at scrapbooks.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My Artiste Extroidinaire, the Jewelry Designer to the Stars (and the wanna-be's). Well, when I went to Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago, I got to spend a little time with the Amazing T herself.
Not only just all those things.
We also share the experience of boy/girl twins.
...or should I say, the way we record our worlds.
And that would be that Thea has now joined the ranks of deliriously happy Canon 40D owners.
And that, my friends, is a very serious bond...
Monday, June 22, 2009
She generally treats us to a stand-up comedy routine once a day. She commands the stage in front of her daddy and me and starts the gig, throwing jokes and observations our way that generally leave us rolling. She sometimes throws in a few dance steps for good measure. But she also leaves me little treasure humors where I least expect them.
I just never know when I'm going to find a piece of 1 of 8 humor secreted for my discovery and subsequently snort my iced tea into my sinuses.
Several nights ago, I was staying up too late reading a book. I was honing in on the last few pages of the book, a commitment that had taken me 700 pages to reach. The story was reaching its dramatic conclusion when I flipped to the last page, the realization on the parts of the main characters that they were meant to be together.
And there, on the last page, written in 1 of 8 bubbly longhand, at the end of the last sentence, was the inscription, "And then they all died."
I laughed so hard I started shaking the bed and woke up Michael.
I sometimes find little comedic jewels left by 1 of 8 on my cell phone. She'll steal my phone, turn the camera on herself, and give a little click.
And there in the memory is a jocund gem of a jpeg, waiting for me to discover it.
Usually in a waiting room.
With other people around.
Who are trying to figure out why the crazy lady with the gaggle of kids is giggling hysterically to herself.
But what am I supposed to do when I find things like this?
Sunday, June 21, 2009
When I fell in love with Michael while in college, I would often find myself during long, boring lectures doodling his initials into the margins of my spiral notebooks. Alongside my notes on abnormal psychology and Victorian poets are curling letters wound around each other, a cursive blend of his given names. I was enchanted when ordering the invitations for our wedding with the monogrammed thank-you notes that came with them, the first letter of Michael's name, the first letter of my name surrounding the letter that would become our shared last name. The rune of our romance. The unical portrait of our unity.
Mono, single. Gram, letter. His monogram, meaning his name alone. My monogram, meaning my name alone. And now a monogram to symbolize us, a calligraphic seal showing the combining of our lives.
I gave Mike a signet ring with those letters many years ago, a few months before we were married. And later, on the door of our home, I painted a decorative monogram of our initials. Our children's names all start with either the first letter of Michael's name or the first letter of mine. And so, the monogram that was created when we married is now the monogram that fits each member of our family.
But there is a monogram on the door of my heart, even more precious, even more telling.
In the history of the early church, it was called a Christogram.
For the Greeks, it was the use of the first and last letters contained within the name Jesus Christ, ICXC. These letters can often be seen in the symbol of the ichthys, the fish symbol so familiar to us today, the silver outline of the fish pasted on the to back of the car in front of us, assuring us of the faith of the occupants of that car. Because ICXC was so close to the word for 'fish' in Greek, early Christians adopted the symbol as a hidden emblem for the letters of Jesus's name.
In Latin, IHS or IHC became the monogram of His name, a Latin-ized tranliteration of the Greek letters that make up the first three letters of Jesus. In modern times, we often think of these letters as meaning In His Service or I Have Suffered. And we sometimes see the letters INRI above depictions of the crucifix, symbolized the the first letter of each word of the Latin phrase, Jesus Nazarene, King of the Jews.
ICXC. IHS. INRI.
The monogram on the door of my heart isn't as defined as these letters but the mark of its seal is no less clear. The blade of His Word has made quick work in exposing this heart of stone, in cutting away and in circumcising the sin. And there are so many words written there, all proclaiming the One who now owns that heart. Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. The Lion of Judah. The Lamb. The Bridegroom.
But the monogram for all those letters, the interplay of Hebrew and Greek and Latin and English symbols, is a simple one.
It is a wound. A ragged, blessed hole, a puncture of promise. A symbol comprised of sacrifice. The consummate monogram. The strength of His name folded over the sin that threatened to obliterate mine. The requirement He met to make me His.
When He came for me, He wrote His monogram on my heart.
And then He wrote mine in the palms of His hands.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
So several of you good folks threw you name in the hat to win a free three month membership to the JumpStart site.
And all you had to do was watch this little video and tell me how cute my kid was...
And so now, drum roll please....
the winner is, according to www.random.org, Number #17....
...which would be McMGrad89, Mommy Victory! Congrats, congrats!
And for the rest of you, never fear. I have chance for you to win a thousand points if you can guess the location of the architecture in the following photos...
On your mark, get set.....GUESS!!!!!!
(Points are purely an arbitrary system of creating competiveness and a reward system that is completely psychological and not material in nature. Awarding points is at the behest of the blog author and will be awarding at the completion of the correct answer. Points may be used for good feelings, a sense of accomplishment and a right to declare oneself the winner. Points may also be transferred to others if the winner should desire to spread that feeling of achievement. Points do not have an expiration date and may be consumed at any time.)
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Maybe it was a wish.
Maybe it was a statement.
For whatever reason, as the months clicked by and 7 of 8 still wasn't walking, I started buying her shoes.
Little pink boots with bouncy pink pom-poms. Chocolate brown Mary Janes with pink flowers embroidered on them. Fushia crocs, tie-dyed in pattern, hot pink fleece lining the inside.
Because I wanted to believe that one day she would overcome the effects of the stroke.
She loved wearing her wardrobe of shoes. We would strap them on her little feet. She would admire them. And then she would resume walking on her knees.
The toes of her little shoes became worn and smudged as she scurried around patella-ped.
I began to wonder if I needed to find her pink knee pads rather than shoes.
She's a tease, my 7 of 8. She has taken steps from time to time, filling my heart with hope. We had an amazing day a couple of months ago when she took ten steps all on her own. She's thrown us all a little on this walking issue. We were initially much more concerned about her left arm, how weak it seemed, how tightly clinched she held her fist. Her leg didn't seem to have as much impact from the stroke. But as she passed through being 18 months old, and then 19 months old and is now over 2 years old, she still prefers her zippy little knee walk over rising to her feet.
Hence my toddler shoe shopping therapy.
I'm ready for her to wear down the heels of her shoes rather than the tops.
I came home yesterday with a new pair. She's outgrown the winter shoe wardrobe. I longed to get her little sandals, strappy little glitter pink numbers. But her little left foot is rebelling at the idea of resting on the natural pads along the bottom of the foot. She holds it in a severe pronated position, her instep flattened to the ground. So I found some Disney Princess sneakers, a dazzling concoction of glitter and pink, licensed Disney princess characters emblazoned on the sides. And LED lights sparkle from the heels and sides every time she takes a step.
And steps she is taking.
She has walked several times in her new shoes, criss-crossing the living room in an uneven gait. She holds her right arm out in front of her, the fulcrum of her unsure balance. She fixes her eyes on the floor ahead of her, her face a study of concentration and goal. And when she reaches her destination, she looks up into all of our faces, looking for approval and encouragement.
And then she checks out those new princess sneakers again.
I think I may get her another pair of princess shoes, a pair to keep in the box, to put up on the high shelf of my closet. That shoe box will hold another fragment of dream for her, another prayer. They'll probably be pink. They'll probably have some glitter. And I think they will have a little heel to them, maybe a strap or two. I want them to be her first 'grown-up' shoes, her first pair of heels, her first pair to go with a dressy dress.
Because I don't just want to see her walk in those shoes.
I want to see her dance.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
They are the most unusual mix of color I've ever seen.
And I'm not just saying that because I was at his birth and got to witness his emergence into this ol' world.
Although that was a pretty incredible moment and would understandably make me a little biased toward him.
But check out these baby blue/yellow irises. They are amazing, a kaleidescope of hue and sparkle.