Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Choosing Gratitude

Do you ever get into an ingratitude rut? When it seems like all you can focus on are your trials, hardships and irritations, as small as they might be?

I have been struggling with this. Really struggling.

You wanna hear the rut which my train of thought has lately fallen into? (If not, simply skip this paragraph to avoid the whining) Here we go. I had been looking forward to redoing our deck this spring and it looks like another year will come and go without us being able to do it. We received an explanation of benefits statement recently stating that Premera will not cover the testing we had Noah go through this spring for vision therapy, even though they said they would. Not sure how we will pay for that when the actual bill comes. I continue to be fighting off the cold I got in mid-April, although at this point maybe it's been ten different colds. Money is tight. There is an endless list of house projects that gets additional items added much more quickly than any items get checked off. My lower back continues to be touchy and hurts for a day or two it seems if I so much as sit too long. I have a hangnail. My heels are dry. I need a haircut. Wah wah waaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Jason has listened to more than the usual amount of venting from me lately. On a side note, he really is like the best husband ever. Sorry ladies, but I am married to the winner in this category. As my  mom wrote in his birthday card last weekend, "Rebecca knew what she was doing when she fell for you - You are a fantastic husband and father." Well, I'm not sure if I really knew what I was doing more so than just fell blissfully in love and really scored, but she is completely right about the fantastic husband and father bit.

Anyhoo, making my ingratitude worse has been the guilt. I absolutely, one hundred percent know that we are extraordinarily blessed and feel ashamed of the feelings of ingratitude and of envy I sometimes have of those who have more money than we do. On the day that we received the statement from Premera, I really struggled. I had been working on my attitude and was so angry and frustrated with this new setback. I cried a lot that day and looking for comfort and guidance, I prayed and opened my Bible. This is what I read:
Satan replied to the Lord, "Skin for skin! A man will give up everything to save his life. But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!"

"All right, do with him as you please," the Lord said to Satan. "But spare his life." So Satan left the Lord's presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die."

But Job replied, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" So in all this, Job said nothing was wrong. (Job 2: 4-10)
Umm, I'm sorry, but in the moment, I was not really in a very good place to hear this. In fact, I was a little annoyed. This was not the comfort I was looking for, but really only added to my sense of guilt. I mean, if Job could accept boils all over his body and all of his other trials, what was so wrong with me that I couldn't deal with my small problems more maturely and graciously?

I closed my Bible, prayed some more and opened it again. This is what I read:
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (Colossians : 1-4)
Now that's what I'm talking about! :) There's some serious comfort. This is something I can actually do and really, that I already do. Jenny says I talk about heaven more than anyone she knows. I like that. And now, when I am feeling jealous or envious, not only will I try to think of my blessings, but also of the paradise waiting for me in heaven and of my pursuit to get there so I can enjoy it. If I'm truly being honest, I hope it includes wine, good food, breathtaking scenery, and partying and dancing with all of my loved ones.

In Engaged Encounter, we speak a lot about how love is not just a feeling, but it is a decision. Well, as I have struggled with all of this, I have come to realize that it is the same with gratitude. It's not just a feeling. Sure, I have moments in my life that I am overwhelmingly overcome with a sense of gratitude.

But what about the rest of the time? What about when there are bills to pay, a dinner that I've planned and begun to make but isn't working out because I didn't read the recipe thoroughly enough, diapers to change, an aching back and an argument with my husband? (Yes, although he is the most wonderful husband, we do still argue. But it's usually my fault.) What about then? It's not as though I can simply make a list of my blessings and then feel grateful in a sincere, real way.

But what about this: What about gratitude is a choice. What about making a commitment to gratitude and to God, in good times and in bad?

And if I really, really stretch myself, another thought can form. My hardships make me grow. My hardships bring me closer to God. The growth I experience through my struggles brings me closer to heaven. My problems prepare me for the path that God has laid in front of me.

When I really work on this, really choose gratitude and make a commitment to it, I can even feel grateful for my struggles.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Making Decisions

Sometimes I feel incapable of making the decisions I need to make for our family. Every choice has advantages and disadvantages, and sometimes I can think myself dizzy through all of the options and still not come to an answer.

I am currently trying to make a large decision about homeschooling for our family. I shouldn't say "I." I should say "we." For of course Jason and I will make this decision together. We have been doing a lot of research, reading, discussing and praying. But in the end, although I will have Jason's input, he will basically trust me to make the final decision because I am really the one doing most of the homeschooling. Of course I appreciate his faith in me. But do you ever feel like you just wish someone else would make your decisions for you?

For the past two years, we have been enrolled in the Edmonds Homeschooling Resource Center - Edmonds Heights. It has been wonderful. We have met a lot of other wonderful homeschooling families, which was our main goal when becoming enrolled. Joshua has taken some fabulous classes - Spanish, American Sign Language, Legos, Math and Science. He has enjoyed them all and has made some good friends.

However, one of my main frustrations has been the amount of time this has taken out of our schedule. All of these classes were electives. They're great and all, but after reading The Well-Trained Mind, I began to realize that I need more time to teach the basics and teach them well. ASL and Lego class are fun and all, but they become a hindrance when they are taking up my time to teach math, reading and writing.

There are only so many hours in a day and I am continuing to realize and become more adamant in my need to be very selective in what we do with our time. I simply cannot justify spending hours a week on electives when I don't have time for the basics.

Last week I became aware of another program. It is another A.L.E (Alternative Learning Experience) that supports homeschooling families called Meridian Parent Partnership Program or MP3. It provides much of the same support that Edmonds Heights does, except that it also has an extension program, meaning that we do not have to take classes on campus. We can have their support and do all of our learning at home, supplementing with outside lessons and tutors just when we think it's necessary.

We will still have an advisor who will help us to create a Student Learning Plan. We will still have a lot of support from Washington State and will have assistance in understanding homeschooling laws and with student assessment.

We would also have more freedom and more time. But we won't have the community that we have at Edmonds Heights. Joshua has made friendships with many of the children he has had several classes with. I can see the advantages of both scenarios. Edmonds Heights gives us more of a community, but it takes away from our time to be teaching important subjects. MP3 doesn't offer the community, but gives us more freedom and time.

What's more important? How do I decide between the two?

Well, right now I am just buying myself some time. Both Joshua and Noah are enrolled in Edmonds Heights for the fall. And tomorrow I am mailing in the registration forms for MP3.

I have also talked with the boys a lot about it and asked for their opinions. I've let them know what we are considering, how things would change and how we would make it work. They seem to be accepting of the idea of change.

If I had to decide right now, I would choose MP3. I feel like it will be easier to make up for the disadvantages of MP3's program than it has been for me to make up for the disadvantages of Edmonds Heights' program. I can more easily create and work on friendships and community for my children than I can create more time. If we decide to go with MP3, I will make a large effort to stay in touch and continue to nurture the friendships that Joshua (and Noah and I) have made at Edmonds Heights.

When it comes to decisions like this, I am comforted when I remember that nothing is permanent. If we make the switch and don't like it, we can always switch back and that's okay.

It's just too bad that homeschooling and life do not come with instruction manuals :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Darling Photos

Happy Friday! A few new favorite pics to share :)

Playing with my apron strings as I prepare Jason's birthday dinner.

So precious

Lots of new teeth coming in. Such an adorable smile.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mamma's No Recipe Cookin' - Enchiladas!

Yes, it's been a while. Most of my computer time lately has been taken up by one thing - creating Joshua's Washington State Learning Plan for the next school year. I feel very on top of it because it's not actually due until September. But after reading The Well-Trained Mind, which gave me a scope for the upcoming year as well as the next twelve or so, it made sense to just get started now. This will also give me a chance to go over it with Joshua's adviser in June. And furthermore, I'll be able to relax more this summer because this won't be hanging over my head.

So blogging comes second. Weird, huh?

But right now, I have an opportunity. The house is empty. Beethoven is playing. I have poured a glass of wine. It's like some alternative universe that I occasionally get a glimpse of.

And it is all due to my fabulous husband who has gone to the Y to work out and taken all three children.

Speaking of which, when this is published bright and early on Thursday morning, it will be my darling Jason's birthday. So, in the middle of cyberspace, I would like to yell very loudly with all of my might . . .

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASON! I love you so much!

Please excuse the interlude, but it just would not do to have a blog and not use it to embarrass my husband on his birthday.

Moving on, Saturday is Cinqo de Mayo, so it seemed that a Mexican themed No Recipe Cookin' post would be appropriate. What's on the menu?

Enchiladas! Enchiladas are simple. And they are so accommodating - you can practically use whatever's in your fridge!

Here are the essentials:

Tortillas, some type of protein (Meat or tofu - we used ground chicken this night. But really - any kind of meat will do. Leftover chicken, pork, steak or pot roast, leftover taco meat, any kind of ground meat. You could even cut up leftover meatloaf into small pieces and season it with chili powder!), tomato sauce, cream cheese (or some other yummy creaminess to mix with the meat - sour cream or cream of chicken soup would also do), corn tortillas, seasoning to add Mexican flavor (any combination of chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cilantro, taco seasoning, etc.).

Optionals - Just look in your fridge! Any of the following could be added to the mixture: green chiles, corn, black beans, refried beans, rice, cilantro, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, cheese or anything else you can think of!

 Simmer your tomato sauce and add some of your chosen Mexican seasoning.
 Prepare your protein choice by browning the meat, sauteeing the tofu or cutting the cooked meat or the tofu into small pieces. Mix the meat with the cream cheese or other creaminess choice and any other additions you would like in the filling. Season well.
 I did not list garlic in the list of essentials. I shouldn't have to. This is a given. I would be more likely to tell you about the rare occasion when you shouldn't add garlic then all of the times you should. If I say season well, this almost always includes 2-3 cloves of pressed, fresh garlic.
 Make an assembly line. Tortillas, sauce, pan coated with cooking spray, filling.
 Dip a tortilla into the warm sauce, covering both sides.
 Place into the pan.
 Top with a spoonful of filling.
 Roll the tortilla around the filling, then place in pan seam side down.

 Keep rolling.

Some tortillas may tear. That's okay. Cover them up with the remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake at about 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or till heated through. Cover with cheese and bake five minutes more. Let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream, green onions and/or cilantro.


PS - If you mock my pots and pans or any of my other very well worn kitchen equipment, you are then obligated to buy me new ones ;)