Friday, December 31, 2010

An Interesting Idea


This was an interesting year for the Koeppel Family. For the first time in 10 years, we have had to apply for WIC and Food Stamps. While it has been humbling to say the least - it brought me to an interesting idea about something that would benefit the government.
I think it would be interesting to do a study on how people spend their food stamps. I stumbled on this idea while working on our monthly menu. This is something I've done for a while - albeit on a weekly basis before, now I know that $455 a month sounds like a ton of money to a teenager or a child, but to feed a family of five I need to make every penny count. So as I sat down and worked on my menu and on my grocery list - it looked a lot like this:
BAKING AND COOKING GOODS:
veg. oil; olive oil; flour (white and wheat) and sugars (brown and white); baking soda, garlic salt, bullion (beef and chicken).
DAIRY GOODS:
milk; eggs (6 doz); sour cream (4), cheese (sliced, grated, and block);
This continued on into meats; frozen vegetables; grains and legumes; beverages (TEA obviously, I must have hot tea); cereals, etc . . . All of the things on my list required me to cook them - thus allowing them to stretch further through the month - choosing to use my government assistance wisely. As I worked on this list (several times so I could refine it - even down to the aisles, since I know the commissary pretty well by now) I wondered how many of those on government assistance waste the money on convenience foods? Don't get me wrong I included goodies, like chicken nuggets and fries in my list, but they are a minimum. I realized that if you haven't grown up in a home where cooking was a priority, but you still needed to eat - that as an adult many people if they required government aid, were most likely continuing the trend - purchase convenience food - it doesn't last as long . . . I think you see where I am going here.
So here is my thought, why not do an audit or a study of those on food stamps - find out how they use them. If the study finds they use them for a lot of convenience food then send those to a class that teaches nutrition AND cooking. In doing this wouldn't it enable people to eat better, and make their money stretch further - thus helping in two ways. First, it would help cut down on the processed foods people put in their bodies. The occasional burger isn't going to kill you, it's when it is one of your main staples in your diet then it will cause problems. Processed foods have preservatives in them which we are finding are not helping us, they are higher in sodium, and as a general rule higher in fat and calories. In learning to eat better and implementing this into people's lives it would increase their health and quality of life. Second; it would make better use of the assistance the government is giving to them - saving money also by helping them have better health - thus decreasing the needs for higher medical bills (obviously this doesn't pertain to those who have disabilities or who have health issues that are non-weight related).
While it may not be an excellent idea - it's mine. It is in its infancy and I will continue to refine it and hopefully as time continues, then I might even be able to implement it. This idea also is for those who want to be healthy - who want to make their money stretch farther and who don't mind the work that goes into this idea.
I wish you all a happy 2011. May this year bring you a year of laughter - not tears; joy and only minimal suffering; may it be a great year of God's blessings for you all.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Honesty

I use my blog as a diary of sorts, but also as a way to raise awareness of what is going on in the world - child sex trafficking, those who are in need of help from the body of Christ, etc . . .

I haven't been as prolific in my writing lately for two reasons. Firstly, my laptop got Diet Cherry Pepsi spilled on it, and so I have to order a new keyboard - something that costs money. That is in very short supply with Chris being unemployed and even I have had a difficult time finding any work. Secondly, you know the saying, "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all"? Well I try to live by that and lately, I have been fighting the dulldroms big time.

The year 2010 has seen a lot of changes for our family. February 13, 2010 Chris returned home from deployment, which we all loved! Having him come home safe in body (although somewhat battered in spirit) was wonderful. Shortly after his return though we said goodbye to Ted Swetland - Chris' stepdad in March 2010. The irony of that is, this - the one thing Chris has always wanted. . . Ted told him he was proud of him. Chris had always hoped to hear that from his dad, but he got to hear it from Ted and it meant a lot to him. Sadly, he was there when Ted's heart beat it's last beat and it still haunts him months later, a lot of things about that haunt him, but it's not mine to share. In a burst of inspiration we were able to secure a flight for Chris AND his mom to join us on our family vacation in Orlando, FL. It was tough to convince her, but it was great to give her a small break before she had to head back into the fray of battles to be fought. We drove home and Chris stopped in Georgia and got to see some old friends from his stationing in Ft. Stewart, GA.

The year 2010 has seen more changes than just those mentioned above, it's been filled with goodbyes to those who had been ill for a long time, and goodbye to those who were close to our age - and it took it's toll on Chris and I both. It has been filled with job hunts and sucking up our pride to ask our government for help. While we hated having to do this, it meant our daughter's having health insurance, something that is necessary for children everywhere, but especially for Elizabeth with her asthma and allergies and amblyopia all which require us to keep her under a watchful eye of doctor's. It meant standing outside a government building and praying for the strength to walk through the doors. I understand now how pride buckling it must have been for my mom to have to ask for that kind of help for several years while raising us. And that was before you could get health insurance through the government; that was just for food assistance.

This year meant seeing maturity spurts in Sarah - who was already pretty remarkable, but she is now showing restraint over her tongue, much better than her early teen years. Elizabeth too is showing maturity changes, she can control her emotions a bit better, she is becoming more independent. It means she is able to walk to her bus stop (we can watch from the yard AND the dining room window to be sure she is okay) all by herself. She is discovering hair accessories, using deodorant, and I suspect before the end of next school year a trip to shop for bras.
Rebekah started preschool this year and has become potty trained (waiting until she was ready meant it only took a week or so to happen). She too is learning self control.
We also saw our picky eaters go down by one. The battle still wages on with Beka, but we are making great headway and she is eating burritos and chicken noodle soup with minimal fighting now.

These are my prayer requests for our family this year if you will please put us in your prayers.
1. Pray for Chris' spirits as he works to find a job. And please pray we have a decent tax return so that he can afford to get his A&P license which would make him much more marketable here in the U.S. AND overseas (Europe, Asia, etc . . .).
2. Pray that God continues to provide for our needs - He has been most faithful so far and while it's a little snug, it still meets our needs.
3. Pray that all of our girls continue to grow in Christ and developmentally as they should.
4. Pray for Lizzie as she works hard to learn to read - she struggles in this area a lot and it is taking a lot of hard work on our part, but we are seeing progress - her reading skills are improving.
5. Pray that God helps me as I prepare to go back to college in the Fall 2011. I have several things I need to do to make this happen and I know about them in advance, which will help, but I'd like to finish those last 19 hours and show my girls it's important to finish what you start.

I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year! God Bless you all.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas



It's that time of year again - Christmas is here. For some it will be a day like any other day - due to a poor economy. For many it is a day where we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour.


The girls are home from school for Christmas break and we are enjoying snuggles and hugs and tons of kisses. I think their favorite part this year is that Chris has come home. Last year he got to watch us on the webcam as the girls tore open their presents. Last year was a year of plenty. This year is a year of remembering that Dad is home and that alone is enough to give great thanks to God.


I remember Christmas' with little under the tree, but I was thrilled that year because our cousins were with us to enjoy time with Grandma Taylor. My grandma could make a lot out of very little. She was very creative and talented and smart. She could make the most amazing cakes and cookies. She could take material that no one thought would look good and make amazing dresses or aprons out of it. Some of my favorite clothing were outfits that Grandma Taylor had made for me. Somehow she and Mom always made us feel like we had plenty. At least that is how I remember our childhood. As I got older and realized that we were poor, my mom always managed to give us some gift that was great - a set of tapes, or a pillow that was embroidered. I was 15 yrs old when I realized that while we were at school, Mom was working for her good friend Ginny Schwarz to earn the money she needed to give us a good Christmas. Personally, I think that means Mom should get Mother of the Year Award for several years in a row, but that is just me.


As I get older, I realize so many things, Christmas may have become commercialized, but it doesn't have to be this way in our body of Christ. This is the season of giving, and celebration - whether you are struggling or not. There are so many out there who have no Christmas at all. Let me encourage you this year to help those who need it, even if you are in need yourself.
Merry Christmas everyone. I hope your Christmas day is a good one, filled with joy, laughter and family.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dinner and Battles


We have a battle going on in our house right now. It's a battle of wills between my husband and I against our 3 yr old Rebekah.
She's cute and adorable and doesn't kick and scream about not eating (unlike her older sister, Elizabeth), she just sits quietly in protest of whatever I cook.
Sadly I am to blame in this battle. When Chris is deployed we tend to eat out more often, because I don't feel like cooking as much. I might not have gone this route, but when it's only Sarah and I eating after a while, it gets a little old. Now that Elizabeth is eating what is put in front of her (albeit with some complaining involved from time to time) we have moved on to breaking this bad habit of not eating what she doesn't like, even if it means Daddy forcing her to eat.
So dinner time has become an interesting battle of the wills. While I have complete faith that Chris is much more stubborn than Beka and for the time being he is winning the battle, I wonder who exactly will win the war. It isn't that she is crying, screaming and yelling, it's a passive resistance. And for some odd reason she seems to be happy to just go upstairs and play in her room. This is obviously not the right answer, after all, how does she learn anything by playing in her room. And I hate the idea of reheating her food for the next day again and again until she eats, first because it's not so good for her and second, because I am not certain it is always the best idea. Although I have known a few kids who refused to eat for several days until they caved on the idea of only eating the item they were initially offered. I have found that offering a food over and over again does work to some extent. Beka now eats burritos and tacos - but she's going through a picky eating phase. The child who enjoyed eating spaghetti before doesn't want to eat it now. She'll eat burritos but not her former favorite spaghetti?!
I'd like to tell you she comes by that penchant for eating one food over the other on her own or from Chris' DNA. Alas, I must confess it is from me, I find a food I enjoy and I tend to eat it often. Sometimes I am on an italian food kick, sometimes it's mexican food - but I have found I do better if I cook the food myself and don't go out to eat. I tend to cook w/o a lot of processed items and so when I eat it tastes much better and it doesn't make me feel sick.
So here is our battle, and sadly tonight I resorted to bribery. For every bite Beka ate, I let her have one gummy candy. It's sad, but it worked. Does this make me a terrible mom? Do you have a battle you are fighting with your child? We all have some kind of battle, what is yours? Is your child a picky eater? Do they have problems working in school for their teachers? Do you struggle with getting your child to speak nicely to you and others? Whatever your battle know that you are not alone. Every parent and every child has something that they but heads over - whether it is control of the house or food or school. . . we all have something that makes us want to bang our heads against the wall. The trick is finding what is their currency (or what is important to them) and use it to your advantage. For Elizabeth it is TV time. If she is naughty and you take away her TV priveleges it is like death. For Beka it is standing in the corner and knowing that we are disappointed in her. For Sarah, it's her electronics - take away her mp3 player and you would think you have killed her. No matter what you find out about your child and no matter what you battle is, know you aren't alone and you are not the first parent in the world who struggles with helping their children obey.
Also remember it is a parent who loves their child who is willing to tell their child "no". It is easy to be a yes parent or a parent who is liked by their child by giving them what they want. It doesn't mean that your child respects you though and a parent who loves their child is one who is willing to not always be popular or liked and say "No, you may not go out to the party with your friends without parents there." "No you may not have free reign on the internet." I am not advocating only saying no. I think it's important to sometimes explain why you are saying no to your child. I have found that in explaining to Sarah it tends to go over much better even if she doesn't like our decision.
I hope you all have a good week. I hope you continue to look to God and His Word for guidance.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, December 13, 2010

Parenting and ARGGGGHHHHH Moments


I love being a mom. I really do, but there are moments in every parent's life of raising their children when they toy with the thoughts of murdering their children. They don't formulate a plan, they just think, "my child is making me nuts and I may have to kill her".
Every child has those times when they make a choice that makes their parents want to scream at them if they are lucky and murder them at their worst.
Tonight my 3 yr old, the cute one in orange dress decided to squirt my face wash and my good shampoo in the bottom of my bathtub. Now this might not be such a big deal if it were the cheap stuff, okay who am I kidding right now with money so tight it would still be a big deal whether it was the expensive or cheap stuff. Let's just say I was less than enthusiastic about her choice of decoration. Although, on the bright side, at least she didn't decorate the walls with Aim toothpaste and muscle relaxers like Lizzie did at 3 yrs old. That fiasco culminated in a trip to the ER to have her stomach pumped to ensure she hadn't digested any pills.
So there you have it, the annoyance of the day at the Koeppel household. Doesn't this make you want to just run out and have children of your own? I love having children, I also equally love having a moment of peace and quiet. Someday I will have those moments back again, but until then I promise, I will let my children live.
I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas and Monkeys


I know, I know this technically isn't a Christmas photo. But hey, it is close to the holiday when you hit Halloween.
It's that time of year again where the kids are super busy and I am super tired. What is it about winter that makes you so sleepy and tired? And makes me want to bake? It's one of our favorite things to do when it's Christmas - we love to bake goodies for our friends and family.
This year I am attempting homemade - real from scratch banana and pumpkin bread. Although, technically can you call it from scratch when you use canned pumpkin pie filling? Just a questions.
For a while I will have to blog a little less than I normally do, because I am without a laptop. If Chris finds work overseas or if he deploys though I will invest in one as soon as I can so I can be more active.
This year though, Elizabeth has really been wanting to get involved with Christmas. This is the first year she has started talking about giving gifts to other people more than she talks about getting presents herself. It's been a nice shift in her, she's becoming aware of others and their feelings. Beka is all about the Christmas tree and I am pretty sure that Sarah is just happy that Daddy is home (all the girls are of course, but it seems to be more real for Sarah).
Some of the things we love about Christmas is just spending time with family and friends and hanging out. This year, we intend to spend the day in our jammies and eat good food. Last year, we had a good time at Aunt Nina and Uncle Ed's house. It was a nice change of pace for the girls to enjoy time out of the house. I did the meat and they provided other food items. This year, by popular demand, I think I might make a lasagna - it's a tradition that Chris' mom started when he was a kid and I thought it sounded nice and would be a nice change of pace after Thanksgiving gorgeous feast, but filling our tummies with too much food.
What are your hopes for 2011? Do you hope to find work, like so many others? Or would you like to see some positive changes in yourself? Whether it be weight loss, a new job, or trying to pay of debts, etc . . . no matter what I hope you make 2011 a year of seeking God and His blessing for your life. I find that when I seek Christ, everything else seems to fall into place.
I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, December 6, 2010

The joys of after deployment


This past year has been a good year, a long one, but a good one. Chris returned home February 13, 2010 from serving in Iraq and Kuwait. It was awesome, we all have loved having him back even as mentally we prepare for the fact that he will have to return home.
One of the things that isn't so great is that after Chris gets home we all spend the next year getting sick. Even Chris who is normally Mr. Healthy, gets sick. If it's going around, we will catch it; everything from poison ivy to the flu. It's one of the reasons I had both Lizzie and Beka get the flu mist this year and I plan to go to Dillon's and get my flu shot very shortly.
The bad thing and the nice thing about this year is that Chris has been home and unemployed. On one hand this stinks, because it means we are very tight financially. However, him being home has it's perks. First, he gets to spend time with the girls and get to know them and their little idiosyncrasies. Second, kind of goes along the same lines as the first one - but he he's been able to really work on his relationship with Sarah. They had a pretty rocky relationship before and during his deployment. Third, I get some extra help, which is good, because when I'm the only one carrying the load, it gets to me after a while and burns me out. Finally, it means he gets to rest, talk to me about things that are bugging him, spend time working on his relationship with Christ and helping friends and family in need of mechanical services. It also has let him think about what he wants to do.
While we are looking at one more deployment before he is eligible to retire from the Reserves, we are also looking at the possibility of a job overseas. There are a lot of things that can happen right now and with the economy looking down for years to come we have to keep all our avenues open.
My husband was nice enough to set me up with an account on his laptop for now. Hopefully when we get our taxes back I can purchase a new laptop. Diet Pepsi on a laptop is a very bad thing and mine is most likely fried.
I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Worries, Prayers, and Trust


This is Matthew and I when I was 6 yrs old and he was 2 yrs old in Yukon, OK after Daddy had died.
Christmas is coming and all over the newspapers are tales of people whose unemployment benefits are running out. They are scared of what will happen to them and Christmas is a wishful thought for them.
In reading these, I find it awakens my own fears. My worries that what happened to families in the 1930's and prior to WWII will happen to my girls. We will have to separate our family and send them to live with family while Chris and I try to find work. Logically in my head I know there are programs to help prevent that from happening, but it is a possible reality for my family in a few months and I have to be honest, it terrifies me to think of our girls going hungry or crying because they have empty tummies.
I can easily imagine the heartbreak of those women in the 1930's who had to watch their children slowly dying from hunger and malnutrition or who sent them to family to live in hopes of giving them a better life or putting them in a state orphanage, because it was better than letting them starve. I work hard to not go there in my head and I know that I have friends and family who will help if we come to that, but with a Lt. who is making Chris' life extremely difficult and who refuses to let him deploy because she's a witch on a power trip and she's decided she doesn't like him - it makes those fears hard to allay for now.
In 1997 my family and I spent a summer struggling to make ends meet. Mom would buy groceries and Matt and Meg would eat them faster than she could put them in the refrigerator. I had a hard time finding work that summer, so I spent a lot of that summer hungry and looking for work. I found out a lot of things that summer. I found out I am not a good cashier - it just isn't a good job for me. I found out that years of making sacrifices for Matt and Meg didn't mean anything to them. I am sure that has changed now, but then they were at the peak of being selfish teens then and Matt was struggling with the aftermaths of the car accident that changed all of our lives in 1996. It also gave me an insight into how grateful I should be that in attending Southern Nazarene University it meant I was able to eat three meals a day. I may not always like those meals, but at least I had them there to eat.
Here we are in 2010 and we are fortunate enough to be qualify for food stamps. It istough walking into that building when for ten years you've been able to provide for your children with only a little assistance from parents (you know they buy clothes and fun stuff - and maybe the occassional tank of gas when we were short back in the early years of our marriage). But at least our girls have plenty of food and they have health insurance, we have a roof over our heads and know if push came to shove we have places we can turn to for assistance. I know that if push came to shove we could move to Idaho or other places - but I also know Chris will find the next available unit and deploy so we can keep our home and make sure that the girls and I are taken care of as long as there is breath in him. I also know that the time has come to bite the bullet and go back to college. With only 19 hours remaining, I can do it at a pace that will help the girls and myself remain sane. This would mean being able to find steady work and providing for Chris and the girls so Chris can attend college and get a degree.
These are the times when I remember the Casting Crowns song:
I will praise you in the storm.
I will lift my hands.
I know who you are, no matter where I stand.
I don't remember the rest of it, but these things I know. God has always taken care of my family and provided for us and I know He is faithful. So even when I am afraid, I will trust that God will take care of my girls and will provide our needs.
I hope you all have a good weekend.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Joy!


It took me a while to figure out how to do this one. But this is a video my mom took of Elizabeth performing in last year's Christmas musical.



This may not seem like a huge deal to some of you. Some of you have children who are fine, no disabilities, or torture to deal with for your kids, except the occasional kid stuff. But this was huge for us and for Elizabeth. I wasn't ever sure this day would come for us. And I know that a lot of it was possible because we have a great church who hired an amazing children's pastor - Lana.



Lana realized at practice that I was stressed and Lizzie was stressed out. So she came up with a great plan. She had a teen buddy for Lizzie. This lovely girl sat on the sidelines out of sight and when each song was over, Lizzie would go and sit with her buddy. This enabled Elizabeth to participate and still join the other kids in the music. Sitting during the talking part, was too much for her last year - I don't know if we can do it this year, but we'll give it a shot.


I remember sitting in the front row with Mom while she recorded this and other segments with Lizzie in them and I cried tears of joy. These milestones are incredible for us, and each time she meets one, I weep for joy, because not only is Lizzie meeting our goals, she exceeds them. We raise the bar higher and she goes for it with everything she has in her.


For us early detection was key. Having discovered Elizabeth's special needs allowed us to get her early intervention - it might have been even earlier had I been able to see it sooner. Thankfully, I had a great support system and great resources at my disposal (my mom has Master's Degree in Chapter One Reading and I have several aunts who are teachers - they were valuable information in working with the schools to help Elizabeth - even when it meant butting heads with the school to keep her in a regular class or to wait on medication). In many ways God was there, gently guiding us towards the right people in our lives who knew how to help us, or give us the support we needed. He sent women in my life who have children with either a similar diagnosis or who have a form of special needs, whether it is a physical special need or learning disability. It's amazing how through this journey God has sent just the right people to us at the right times. It is proof that God's grace is sufficient and his strength is perfect. Somehow thank you doesn't seem to be enough.


I hope you all enjoy the video as much as we enjoyed watching it.



Love in Christ,

Maureen

Thorns and Beauty


I have come to a conclusion this evening. I have concluded that children were created by God to see how well we can control ourselves. Well I have failed. In ten years of motherhood, I have sworn more times than I did prior to becoming a mom - and I'm about to turn 37 yrs old. Everyone has a vice/thorn they must contend with, mine is my mouth and the fact that when my kids tick me off, it takes all the self-control I have to not swear.
I love my children, I don't beat my children, I don't drink or do drugs or purposely endanger my children, but no one else on the planet can make me cuss with such vigor as my children.
Are they cute? Yes, I think they are adorable. Do they do funny things? Sure, all kids are cute and funny it's how they survive to see adulthood - they make you laugh at the most opportune times. However, they also can infuriate you to no end with their mouths, picking eating habits, and getting into things they shouldn't or refusing to quiet themselves when you've even pulled the car over several times and told them to be quiet.
And yet with all this infuration and aggravation comes the cool times too. The quiet moments when it's cold outside and you watch some movie, they love and they snuggle under the blankets with you. Or when they come out of the bathtub clean and smelling amazing - I love that beautiful clean baby smell. Or when you've finished nursing and they are sleeping contented and peaceful and smile in their sleep. Those are the things you remember when you are struggling to let your kid live to see another day. Odd I know, but true.
I share this with you because I do share my faith out loud, but I also think that in sharing it is important to be honest that I struggle. Outside, I look like the perfect church girl who has grown up in the church, but inside, I struggle with a need to be in control. I struggle to keep my mouth clean and to use it to glorify God, I too could throttle my child when they do something absolutely, insanely stupid, like keep running their mouth or making a poor choice on the computer. Everyone has a weakness, and the Bible assures us that in our weakness, God's strength is perfect. I love Steven Curtis Chapman's song, that states:
His strength is perfect, when our strength is gone.
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong.
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.
Those moments when our children drive us to want a drink, do drugs, or swear at them - or even want to physically harm them, He is with us and He is there. Those are the times you sometimes put them and you in a time out and go sit somewhere and take a few deep breaths. I know sometimes this is easier said than done. Several times, I have enjoyed sadistically grounding Sarah for a month or longer only later to reduce it because once I am a calm and sane woman whose teen hasn't driven her to the point of yelling and actually being speechless - I see reason and I reduce the sentence. In part, because I think it is important that Sarah realize that no one is a perfect person and that parents are learning as they go and they will make mistakes. It's a part of being human, but also because I know it is important that I show her examples of grace and mercy.
What is your vice? What thorn plagues you? Whatever that thorn is, God knows it. It's no secret to Him. He sees the darkest recesses of your heart, soul and mind and He loves you still. Even if you think whatever it is will make you unloveable in His eyes. There is no sin too great He cannot cleanse it and make you whole.
Stacy Orricco (sp?) sang these words several years ago. I leave you with them.
As I rest against this cold hard wall.
Oh will you pass me by.
Will you criticize me as I sit and cry.
I had fought so hard and thought that all my battles had been won.
Only to find the war has just begun.
Is he not strong enough. Is he not pure enough.
To break me, pour me out, and start again.
Is he not brave enough to take one chance on me.
Please can I have one chance to start again.
Will my weakness for an hour make me suffer for a lifetime.
Is there anyway to be made whole again.
If I'm healed, renewed, and find forgiveness.
Find the strength I never had will my scars forever ruin all God's plans.
Is He not strong enough. Is He not pure enough.
To break me, pour me out and start again.
Is he not brave enough to take one chance on me.
Please can I have one chance to start again.
He took my life into his hands and turned it all around.
In my most desperate circumstance, it's there I finally found.
That you are strong enough, that you are pure enough.
To break me, pour me out and start again.
That you are brave enough to take one chance on me.
Thank you for my chance to start again.
Have a good weekend and God bless.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Joblessness, Christ, and Christmas


MSN has an article today about those whose 99 day extension of unemployment benefits are expiring this week and reading it, I know how they feel. Right now we are in the same boat. While our unemployment for Chris hasn't stopped yet, next year at this time, it will have been gone since July.
These are the days where we hold tightly to the promise in Jeremiah "I know the plans I have for you." And in Matthew when Jesus tells us that God takes care of the birds of the field and the lilies of the valley, so how much more will he care for his children (That passage is Matthew 6:25-34 if you want to look it up.). And while we are trusting God, we also realize that we in fact, very fortunate. While others are losing their homes right and left, we have a semi-manageable house payment, we don't have credit cards and haven't since 2006, there are a lot of reasons we could be in a lot worse shape than we are in right now. We also know that if it comes to blows, Chris will take a reduction in rank and will go back to Active Duty for the Military. I will finish my Bachelor's Degree next year, I plan to return in the Fall. We know that Chris will be deploying this next year, while it stinks and we hate that he has to consider volunteering for this, we also know that it is necessary to maintain our home.
Papers and new syndicates have finally gotten onboard and are calling this The Great Recession. I have to agree and I also have to wonder why did they wait so long? We have over 9% unemployment in our country right now - considering how many millions of people live in the U.S. legally, that number is staggering. Many families are looking to just keep a roof over their head, forgetting about Christmas all together, because they don't have the money to do anything.
This is my plea for those of you are still doing okay and still have a job. First, Please join us in prayer for our country and our leaders as they face very tough decisions right now. Pray they are able to work together to do what is best for the American people. Second, I urge you to pay off as much of your debt as possible AND DO NOT KEEP CREATING MORE DEBT for yourself.
As a Christian, we are called to be good stewards with our money. Never are we seeing the reasons why than now, when people are losing homes, have collectors searching for them because they owe thousands if not more in debt. Now is not the time to acrew more debt, it is a time to pay off your debts, if you lose your job, it will mean the difference between making ends meet and losing everything. Do you have a large house? Consider opening it up to those who need a home right now. There are families who are literally being moved out of their homes now.
I remember watching Cinderella Man, and reading as well as watching "The Journey of Natty Gann". The scenarios where people are being forcibly removed from their homes is a very real probability today. Your children probably go to school with kids right now who are only eating breakfast and lunch because their parents must choose between paying the rent to keep a roof over their heads or buying food and they may not have food stamps or seeing as it's at the end of the month, they are finding the food is running out. This is a time when we can show Christ's compassion to those in need. It isn't always easy, but in those small acts of kindness, we can show Christ to a hurting world to those who otherwise might not even consider God at all.
For years our country has turned it's back on Christ. For years, we lived in relative prosperity, as in the early 1900's our country enjoyed living above our means and buying extravegantly. As the 1920's ended in 1929 we saw the Stock Market crash in a way no one ever thought it would and the life of the Roaring 20's ended dramatically with people jumping out of windows or killing themselves because they were now paupers. The 1930's saw The Dust Bowl happen in Oklahoma and the midwest part of our country. It saw families moving in together, families seperating, as children went into orphanages because that was preferrable to watching them starve to death. The 1930's saw our country struggling just to put food on a table. Interestingly enough, America joining the fight in World War II saw our country begin to thrive again. Jobs became a possibility again and people were able to find work.
So today let's go to God in Prayer.
Abba,
You know the trials we are all facing. You know many are losing homes, becoming w/o homes, many are hungry and tired and are facing what they never thought would happen - they are losing all their material possession. Help us as we face these tough times to remember You are there and will meet our needs. Be with those who are looking at a sparce Christmas, if a Christmas at all. Watch over us all and help us find You in all of this. Bring our country back to you and help us all work together to be sure we help take care of those less fortunate. Please Lord, in all of this help us remember that You are the Reason we celebrate Christmas at all.
Help our government as they work together to find long term solutions to a problem that is going to continue happening. Help our country to learn from this Great Recession that spending your money isn't always what is best, to be smart with our money. Help our country find You and find that Your Ways are higher ways.
Amen
Have a good week and we are praying for you in our household today.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beginning a Journey



More about our journey with Miss Lizzie Anne.


August 2006 saw a new school year beginning. With this year began several changes. First, Sarah came to live with us, but also Elizabeth began Kindergarten. Even though she wouldn't turn 5 years old until August 29th, the school system insisted she must enter Kindergarten.

I truly know that God's hand was on this situation from the beginning, because when I attended the Choices Fair the year before to choose a magnet school for Lizzie, I had no idea what was going to happen or what to expect (For those who are curious, a magnet school is a school that only accepts a certain number of students each year and is often more focused on one specific area. For example: Lizzie's school is a media magnet, they use video camera's, computers, and other electronic equipment to help their kids learn. The year we started though they were a different type of magnet school - their motto at the time was every child is gifted.). We knew something was wrong and that it was very likely she had special needs, but we weren't certain what her official diagnosis would be. I prayed before going into the fair, and that is where I met, Sherry Silveous. As I share more of Lizzie's journey with you, you will begin to realize that God sent Mrs. Silveous into our lives at the right moment. She has been a true guardian angel for Elizabeth in so many ways at her school Sam S. Spaght. I met her there and then we happened to meet again when we attended the Kindergarten Orientation and met Mrs. Silveous again. She and Elizabeth clicked immediately. Lizzie just seemed to know that Mrs. Silveous was awesome and she took her hand right away. Even now as I write this I get choked up, because none of us could have known how important she would be to us.


August saw Elizabeth starting Kindergarten at a new school. She was the smallest in her class, since she was younger than her classmates and she could speak, but not very well. God bless the parents of those children who took my daughter under their wings and just loved her from the beginning. They showed compassion where previously we'd found very little, they loved on her and hugged on her and protected her from the bigger kids. Somehow they knew Elizabeth and I both needed that, that year. I had requested Mrs. Silveous as Lizzie's teacher and it was approved in short order.

August also introduced us to the news that we were expecting Rebekah. After years of struggling to conceive a second time, a few months after undergoing gastric bypass, I found out I was pregnant. While at the time the timing was a bit of a concern (you aren't supposed to get pregnant for at least 1 yr after gastric bypass), it didn't help me with my hormones and keeping them under check.

This year of Kindergarten had it's share of bumps in the road. We had a lot of ups though, more than downs. Elizabeth seemed to flourish with Mrs. Silveous as her teacher. Mr. George was the main Special Education teacher at the time, and working with Mrs. Silveous and Mrs. Holle - her speech therapist, we saw Lizzie go from barely speaking to talking almost non-stop. She began to grow socially and began to learn how to handle challenges. By the end of that year, we were able to agree that while that first year of Kindergarten was a year to help her grow socially, that we could have her repeat Kindergarten again and this time focus on social skills and academics.
This was a year in which people got to know Elizabeth very well. Sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. She managed to get herself suspended at one point, but I was able to use that to make my point that she needed a little time to adjust to all day Kindergarten. We cut her back to half a day for a few weeks and eased her into a full day over a series of weeks.
She also entertained the students and staff with some of her shenanigans. I'll never forget how hard I had to fight the day I went to pick her from school and Mrs. Silveous called her over to her with "Elizabeth, come here please. Now Miss Monkey, what did we learn today?" As soon as she said that I would probably have difficulty not laughing. I had to turn around so she couldn't see me fighting the desire to laugh until my sides hurt. Only Elizabeth could figure out a way to get from the toilet to the stall door. Imagine Mrs. Silveous' surprise when the kids came out and told her Elizabeth was swinging on the door of her stall in the bathroom. I went home and shared this with Mary and Mom and we all had a good chuckle.
Or the time I was stopped and they told me the office how they loved Elizabeth because she was hilarious. I was a little concerned by this at the time. They explained that during library time Elizabeth had proceeded to climb on the table and do a Tarzan yell. Tarzan was her favorite movie at the time and I was horrified, because as a general rule at home when she would do the Tarzan yell, she stripped down to her underpanties so she was more like Tarzan. They all laughed hysterically when I asked, "But she kept her clothes on, right?" As fortune would have it she did indeed remain clothed that day, however, the next day she got in trouble for trying to strip in class. She'd grown tired of wearing her clothes at naptime and decided she needed to strip to her underpants. On a positive side, they did manage to help us break her of the need to put her hands down her pants and play with her privates in public. Thank you, Miss Rachael! We love you for that reason alone.
This was a year of huge gains for Lizzie - in fact, she made so many gains in her first 9 weeks of school that they nominated her out of all the kids in the school for the "I Earned It!" Award. They had several of these they gave out, but they chose Elizabeth out of ALL the children in the entire school as the most improved. I drove straight to Mom's house and told her and we cried tears of joy together and of course, he had to call Grandma Mary and Daddy so she could tell them all about it. The "I Earned It" gives children and their families free passes to exhibits around town, like Exploration Place (a hands on science museum), the zoo, Cowtown (a historic Wichita museum), and the Art Center. For the entire month of October we were able to entertain the girls for free. They loved it and we put the card in her memory box/baby book to remind us how far we've come from the beginning days when we struggled to understand it ourselves.
By the end of Kindergarten, Lizzie was ready to spend the next year in Kindergarten again, but this time focus more on academics. That year was a good year as well. We saw her make great strides and Mrs. Silveous decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Special Education - so that year Mr. Wade had the privelege of getting to know Elizabeth. She learned to call people by their appropriate names even. At the start of that year in 2007, Mr. Wade was called the wrong name. In fact, she called him SILVEOUS with great vim and vigor. She began to learn how to behave all day long, she learned her ABC's and to count to numbers somewhat higher than 20. It was also the last year she would go without medication, but that is for the next blog.
Both years of Kindergarten were good years, Elizabeth learned how to not cry when she didn't get her own way. Slowly over time, she no longer needed Mrs. Silveous there, constantly watching over her to protect her and others from her. She began learning to express herself in appropriate ways and not hit when annoyed by others. This lesson would continue on and is still a process, but now it's much closer to other children's frustration.
As time goes on, we still face challenges. She is still struggling to learn how to cope and be like other children. Her speak may not be absolutley perfect and she may confuse her pronouns, but she has come so far, I know it will all come together given time.
I hope you all have a good week. God bless you and keep you safe.
Love In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Godly Wives


I feel it is necessary to point out that I am not an expert. I have 19 hours until I finish a Bachelor's degree in psychology. So while I am not an expert, I am a woman who God has blessed richly with a wonderful husband and some very good examples of good marriages and some not so good marriages.

Growing up I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing some examples of good marriages in my family. My aunts and uncles have offered insight into good marriages, some so so marriages, and some friends of my mom's offered insight into so not stellar marriages that are still going on now. Even now I have friends is similar marriages to my own, some are in the middle of some bumps in the road and some are doing pretty well.
Interestingly enough, Chris and I have found that the tougher the circumstances the closer we seem to become to each other. It makes us lean wholly on God and on each other. As time goes on and as I approach 10 yrs of marriage in January, I also find that those who are new to the marriage game, or even some who have similar lengths we tend to talk a lot about what is a good wife and how do you respect your husband even when the choices they make at the time are not so wonderful.

I thought it was important to find out what the Bible had to say about wives and their roles and the different types of wives out there even today. Proverbs had quite a bit to say about a good wife AND a not so good wife. Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife find what is good and receives favor from God." However, in Proverbs 19: 13-14 ". . .a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. Houses and wealth are inherited from parents but a prudent wife is from God." The last part of Proverbs in chapter 31 says this though when describing the characteristics of a noble wife: "A noble wife is worth far more than rubies; her husband has full confidence in her; brings him good- not harm and takes good care of him and her family (her family with her husband) often rising before the sun to be sure her family has bread and food to eat; she is prudent and her husband is respected at the city gate and is able to take a seat with the elders; she opens her arms to the needy and the poor; she is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come; she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction on her tongue; she isn't idle - watches over the affairs of her household (she knows what is going on in her house) and she fears the Lord" (paraphrased from the Life Application Study Bible). And we are all familiar with Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 which talk about the importance of husband and wives roles in marriage.

Both sections discuss how a wife is to submit to her husband - and while I know there have been many a man who has taken that verse and used it browbeat his wife, I have also seen good examples of men who love their wives as instructed in these verses as well. They are love their wives as Christ loves the church and care for their spiritual health as well as physical and emotional health. So I ask this, if you have a husband who you know only wants the best for you, as God only wants good for you, then how can you not submit to that man? It makes it easy. I think the best summary though for how we should live as husband and wife comes from Jesus and the Golden Rule . . . "treat others the way you want to be treated."

If you are in a marriage where you don't feel you are valued or appreciated, then try valuing and appreciating your partner. If you want your husband to be more loving and affectionate, show him by example: While this might not change things overnight, I have found that if I lead by example after a period of time, Chris begins to show me the same courtesy and respect I ask of him. While Chris is the head of our house, I am the heart. I am also the pragmatist where he is the dreamer. I am the one who allows him the luxury of his dreams, while holding on firmly to his ankle and bringing him gently back to earth and help him see all the different possibilities of what can or cannot be done.

I had a friend who asked me how do you respect your husband when he isn't making good choices? Surely he isn't making all bad choices. I say take it to God in prayer. If need be read The Power of the Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martin. I also ask you to read Ephesians 5:22-33; verse 33 ends with ". . .the wife must respect her husband." Not only is it important for you, but it is also important for him.

In ten years of marriage there are a few things I have learned, some the hard way, some by reading, some from other friends, or Aunt Nina or older women in church and so here are a few things that I think it is important to know about our job as a wife.

1. Be sure you both tell each other you love each other everyday. There are several reasons why this is important. First, it keeps that flame going, even when it is only a small glimmer, because not everyone feels in love every day of every week of every year. We are human and it just doesn't work that way. Second, it reminds you to work on those feelings and on your marriage. Third, It is important to your children to see that you are both working on it. Remember I talked about leading by example, this is often one of those times where you will have to start it and let him slowly follow your lead.

2. Be sure you touch (in a non-sexual way) several times a day. Whether it is as simple as holding hands or sitting next to each other on the couch or putting your hand on an arm, this keeps that connection strong. Intimacy isn't just about sex, it is about connecting with your spouse on a heart level as well as a physical level. I have several friends who notice that they are always touching even at night when they sleep. I thought about it and realized Chris and I are always touching even in our sleep as well. Sometimes, it's our tooshies, sometimes it's as simple as falling asleep holding hands, or spooning, sometimes it is our feet that touch (I have cold feet and he is a lovely furnace that I use to keep my feet warm. :D). It helps that connection - even when you are angry with each other, make sure you touch, although please do not touch in an angry or violent way, be sure it is loving. Because even when you may not like your partner, you still love them and it will help you resolve to work towards a solution more often than not.

3. Tell your spouse how proud you are of him. Don't just say it, have reasons to back it up. Chris comes from an abusive childhood and he works exceptionally hard to break that cycle of violence and to not repeat the mistakes of his dad. I am very proud of him for this. I also try at least once a day to tell him how much I love him, but also how proud of him I am for working so hard to create a relationship with our daughters. I am proud of him for realizing the world doesn't revolve around him. These are just a few examples of things I do, but you will need to find what works for you. I found that as I told him how proud I was of him and bragged about him in public to my friends and fellow believers it made him want to meet that bar and so as he met the goals I would raise the bar a bit higher and he has risen to the challenge very well. The good works God has performed on his heart and soul are nothing short of wonderful and amazing and I am so proud of him as a man who is willing to listen to what God wants for his life.

I know there are some of you who are in situations that are not like my marriage. So please let me encourage you - please go borrow, or purchase (there are second hand bookstores) the book The Power of the Praying Wife. It will change you and it will change him. It won't happen overnight, but when you give your husband and family over to God, it's amazing the things He does.

5. Romance your marriage. I read a great book 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. It is a small book, and it is written for him and her. It talks about ideas of ways you romance your marriage for men and women. This is truly a good example of putting into your marriage what you want out of it. Romance is important. Let me say that again ROMANCE IS IMPORTANT! I cannot stress that enough. It is doing little things, like cooking our husband's favorite meal, or going the extra mile for him that we show him our love. Ideas in this book range from decorating your bedroom to his likes (if you don't do this often) to fulfilling a secret fantasy (one woman dressed up as a Geisha after researching her husband's love of Japanese culture and surprised him). There are countless ideas and wonderful poems in this book to help you out.

6. As a wife and mother we are the emotional barometer for our house. We've all heard the saying, "When Momma ain't happy, then no body's happy." This is very true. My friends and I have noticed when we have a bad day our families tend to have a bad day either that same day or the day after. We have many roles we play. We are often a cheerleader, a therapist, a support system and many other things for our families. While I have friends who need to work to be better mom's, for me, the most important job I have is to be home and provide a calm, stable environment for our daughters - especially for Sarah whose life was filled with turmoil and upheaval while living with her mom. This is also important for Elizabeth whose Autism Spectrum Disorder requires that I be available if everything goes nuts at school for her. I am not saying a working mom isn't a good mom, I only know what I need for me. My friend, Lisa though - she needs to work so she can be a good mom, she requires a mental challenge of going to work to help her feel satisfied, thus enabling her to be a good mom when she is at home.

7. You need to be supportive and uplifting to your husband. Just as a woman needs a good bra (okay some of us need a good bra), a man needs a woman who is supportive and her lifts him up. When Chris was thinking about going into the Reserves, he had some terrible issues occurring at work for him. It was severely eroding his sense of self-worth. I hated the idea of raising Elizabeth alone (Sarah still lived with her mom at the time), but I also knew the Army saw his leadership skills and knew how valuable he could be to them. So after prayer and thinking it over, I told him I would back him in signing up for the Reserves.

8. You must love your husband with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter - it actually covers several things, but the one it is most known for is its description of what Love is and what it means. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast; it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 The Life Application Study Bible). I know it is difficult, and while I assure you I think men should love their wives the same way I am speaking to wives and women everywhere today. This love is the love that comes from Christ himself. Just as God's love for us comes without conditions, without strings attached - He doesn't promise to love us if we do what he wants us. He loves us even when we make poor choices and sees us through it all.

There are some of you reading this, who did not have a good example of a Father's love. Maybe your dad was abusive or absent. God is not abusive and he is not absent and he knows that you struggle to understand the idea of God as a Loving Father. I also know you struggle with the idea of unconditional love or love that comes with no strings. Love keeps no records of wrongs, it does not rejoice when evil happens. Love and loving someone means you want what is best for the person you love, even if it hurts you at the time. In today's world, I realize that idea is foreign and strange, but true love does not hurt you. It protects you, it wants what is best for you, and it perseveres.

7. Sometimes you just have to dig your heels in and refuse to quit. Every marriage has rough spots. Even my aunts and uncles have had rough patches (Dad died 10 yrs into marriage with my mom, so aunts and uncles are my main examples and older married couples in church). There comes a point in every marriage where you have to decide whether this is something you want to fight for. Several years ago we had something happen in our marriage. A woman we thought was a friend developed feelings for Chris and I naively thought I was imagining it, until I walked into a restaurant to meet Chris and found her making a play for him. It was completely one sided, but it also opened our eyes to how much we needed to safeguard our marriage. It also caused me to wonder if being married was what I wanted. I spent several days in prayer about what to do. I would love to tell you that my choice was completely because I was following God's will for our marriage, but there was a part of me that decided I wouldn't leave because I wasn't about to give this person what they wanted, even though Chris would never have wanted her that way. What can I say, I'm incredibly stubborn at times. However, making that choice also meant we had to sit down and have a talk about the dynamics of our marriages and what I didn't like and would like to see change.

8. Prioritize: You need to realize that when it comes to multitasking, we are better at it than men. There are of course, men who are the exception to this rule, Chris is one of them. He can clean the house AND take excellent care of the girls - honestly, he does it better than I do. I can take awesome care of our children, but the house falls to the side. I had to choose a few years ago, what was more important, happy, healthy, well adjusted children, or a very clean house. I decided I can always clean the house when they go to bed, but I couldn't always enjoy the age my children were at a later time. So unless I have company coming, my girls come first. As they get older, we have a tidy up game we play to teach them how to pick up. I think the major point of number eight is to pick and choose your battles. Some battles are important (making sure you get needed girl time so you can recharge your batteries - this is important but also reciprocate that favor), worrying that your children don't match if Dad dresses them - not so important. In this one I also need to stress that communication is key. Men do not have ESP - so you have to tell them what you want, if you don't, then don't expect them to read your mind and give it to you.

9. This is last, but absolutely the most important part of this blog. Give your family to God! When you give them to God and place them in His hands, the rest just sort of falls into place. As a child who lost her father at a young age I used to constantly worry about Chris and the girls. I still struggle with this one of course, but I also know that God has only loaned them to me. They aren't really mine, they are his and once I give them to Him, I am able to remain calm and cool and leave them where they belong - with God. Trusting God isn't always easy, but when you make him the true Head of your house, then you will find it becomes much easier to let the little things go.

Finally I would like to share with you some books that Chris and I have found helpful as well as a movie and a the marriage work kit that helped us a lot. We found the movie Fireproof very good and helpful as well as the book and work kit that you can buy The Love Dare and Fireproof Your Marriage - it comes with a dvd and books for each of you. We each have a copy of The Power of the Praying Husband/Wife. Each is written by a different author for the gender it represents. We also found 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage helpful as well. However, if you are in desperate need of help and you don't think any of these will help your marriage, let me encourage you to seek the aid of a Christian counselor. There are usually (note I said usually) several licenses Marriage and Family Therapy counselors in each city or near your small town. I also would like to encourage you to find a good church family and pastor if you do not currently have one. Not all pastors, but quite a few of them are able to offer marriage counseling or can lead you to a colleage who can help you.

I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Forgotten Women

I was reading an article on AOL Seed by Mollee Harper. She is a woman who is unemployed after spending her life working herself up to the point of CEO/CFO of a construction company who has found herself a social pariah.



After reading about her plight, this is my plea to all who are in ministry. Even those who have no children need our love and support. A woman who foolishly believed her friends would be there for her, has found herself not only w/o friends and very few family, but even the churches don't help her?!



How is this possible? I know we were commissioned to aid the widow and the orphans - but why can't that extend to those who are single, unemployed women? In some ways, they need more than those with children - they are completely alone and isolated and most of them are discovering that those they thought were their friends and even when family turns their back on them, isn't this the time to reach out and offer them the love and support that Christ would give them. Mary of Magdalen (from what history has told us) was single woman and yet, she was a follower of Christ and apart of the inner circle or Dorcas? This also extends to single men who are unemployed - they too are in need of the body of Christ's love and support just as much as a single woman, or a widow, or even a single dad with children.



Sadly, even tonight while working on dinner I had a talk with my girls that somewhere in Elizabeth's school are children who only get to eat when at school. Their parents are in the place of choosing between paying the rent or putting food on the table. Food stamps help sure, but you only get so much a month, and if you make over a certain amount you are penalized.



What has this country come to? We have a system that encourages you to go on it's assistance, but if you make over a certain amount, then you lose that assistance? Or worse, yet, if you are a single mother trying to take care of her children (or even a special needs child), but you receive child support it is used against you, so cannot work over a certain number of hours? How does this help people? How can crippling a woman or man and their family into remaining on government assistance possibly help them in the long run?



It doesn't. It cripples them and leaves them in a place where they must watch each and every penny and sometimes even doing that doesn't cover the bills. Is this the ideal that Jesus had when he told us to go and spread the good news? NO! It isn't. It wasn't his plan for us to harass, harangue and penalize those less fortunate. It was not his plan for us to leave people so crippled they cannot get out from under the government's thumb. This is how socialism starts - reliance on the government.



So tonight, my appeal to you is to pray. Pray for those less fortunate. Pray for the parents of children who are going to bed with empty tummies -here in America as well as the world. Pray that God opens the eyes, minds, and hearts of our leaders in government but also in our churches. If we are the body of Christ, what must he think of us these days? I don't know about you, but I am afraid to know the answer to that question.



Maureen Koeppel

Friday, November 26, 2010

A HUGE TRIUMPH & THANKS TO GOD!


ELIZABETH IS READING!!! ELIZABETH IS READING!!!!
Imagine a woman saying this over and over again in a sing-song voice and you are still not even close the elation I am feeling right now.
Four and one half years ago we put Elizabeth into the loving and amazing hands of Sherry Silveous at Sam S. Spaght Elementary. In the beginning Mrs. Silveous would literally peel Elizabeth off of me and take her screaming and crying down the hall to her Kindgergarten class.
At the time, we were still learning to adjust to the idea that Elizabeth was special needs and we didn't know what to expect. In one year she went from barely speaking to talking non-stop. It actually got to the point where Sarah finally said something, "You guys used to make me play the quiet game. How come you don't do that with Elizabeth?" So I explained to her that she could always talk and Elizabeth was quiet for so long, I was just thrilled to pieces she was speaking at all.
Time went on and Elizabeth began to make progress in areas of social development, her echolalia is mainly a thing of the past, and she is sitting at the dinner table as I write this reading a book out loud. It's a 1st grade primer book, but by golly I will take it. I think it's time to break out the Fancy Nancy books and let her start going to town and read those and practice with some harder stuff. The little girl who started this year barely knowing the sight words for Kindergarten much less her own grade level, only moments ago just breezed through the entire stack of sight words I bought last year and only missed two words: saw and these. I knew she was making some progress, so I already have 1st and 2nd grade sight words put onto index cards to tackle and learn.
I was worried at the beginning of the year -we finally had to concede and allow her to take her tests and do assignments orally, which I will fight to maintain for a while as she catches up and gains more ground. Years of banging my head against the wall with worry and frustration. So pardon me if I sob tears of relief and joy like a pansy, I don't care. Judge me, hate me, call me a pansy I'll tell you to go jump in the lake, my baby is reading!!!!! Something I wasn't sure would ever happen, is coming together.
So excuse me while I go and dance a jig for joy and I take my little girl out for a much deserved lunch with Mommy and Daddy and ice cream tonight as a reward.
Elizabeth is reading, Elizabeth is reading, Elizabeth is reading!!!!!!!!
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Primping



I woke up early this Thanksgiving morning with a craving for some cereal and started watching 18 Kids and Counting from TLC on Instant Play (we don't have cable - it's too expensive and there never seems to be anything on there we want our kids watching). As I am watching this, I watch as Michelle Duggar is ready to go and trying to help her husband pack for a trip they plan to take - and he proceeds to spend what I would consider an excessive amount of hairspray and time getting ready to fly to California.


As luck would have it, my friend Beth also posted on her Facebook that they were ready to go, but guess what, they were waiting on her husband to show and get ready to go. So this makes me query - why is it that a man who only has to get himself ready to go still takes longer to get ready than a woman who gets herself and three children ready to go to church? Granted at this point in time, I no longer have to get Sarah ready - she's got herself taken care of, but when Beka was an infant, and Elizabeth was still in the process of learning certain skills to get ready, I took care of me and BOTH children and yet we usually ended up waiting on Chris?


So here is my question. Since women change physically and emotionally after having children, is this a sympathetic symptom for men? Is there some unwritten cosmic rule that we aren't aware of that states: Once you have children, it will always take a man longer than a woman to get dressed and ready to leave? Even when Chris and I were both in college, I had to get both little girls ready to leave for the sitter and I had to get ready to go to classes, but we almost always ended up hollering at Chris to hurry up?!


Now in fairness to Chris. Once I brought it to his attention he sped up his toiletry process quite a bit, so we are usually both ready to go a little bit apart now - as opposed to us sitting twiddling our thumbs waiting for him.


I might not have asked this, except reading Facebook and watching that episode got me thinking.


I hope you all have had a good Thanksgiving and have a good weekend.


Love in Christ,

Maureen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving, the holiday that celebrates the fact that the Pilgrims actually survived after plagues, water depravation, and Indian attacks. I am taking a few days off. I will be back next week with more blog entries for your amusement and enlightment (said tongue in cheek).

Happy Thanksgiving America!
Maureen Koeppel

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Five years ago July 2, 2010 Sarah came to live with us. We didn't know it at the time, but that was the day she would come into our home and never leave to live with her mom again. Please let me preface this all by saying this: Sarah's mom loves her very much. But sometimes even people who love us hurt us.

Before Sarah came to live with us, Chris and I spent four years waiting and praying for God to open the doors for her to come to our home. We knew that living with her mom was not good. When she lived with her mom, she was a pawn, free childcare and often the brunt of her mom's wraths. Without divulging a lot of details - that's as far as I can go.

For four years, Chris and I banged our heads against the wall and had our hearts broken repeatedly as she was used as leverage against Chris and his family. For four years, we took turns being discouraged to the point of wanting to give up, but we knew we couldn't.

The year Chris was deployed I didn't even get to see Sarah. Her mom would never have let her come visit me and I didn't ask. Fortunately, she spent the entire summer with Grandma Mary - one of her most favorite people in the world. Chris returned and summer loomed and I began praying. I remember telling God that I could not watch Sarah get into the car and drive off with her mom again knowing it wasn't a good situation for her. That was when He began opening doors and ideas for us to help Kate move down to Wichita. We were able to persuade her to move here and as a result she let Sarah live in our house. Kate found a job and a small apartment up the street from us. We even did Thanksgiving together with her, Tristan, Summer and my family and some church friends that year. Sarah loved it, she got to have Mom and Dad together for that one holiday. It helped that at that point in time Kate had a new person to focus her displeasure on - she was getting a divorce.

Sadly, January 2006 Kate sent Summer to visit Carl (her dad and Kate's soon to be ex-husband) and he kidnapped her into Iowa. Kate was left with no choice but to return to Iowa, but she allowed Sarah to remain with us.

In March we went to a lawyer and began the paperwork to gain custody of Sarah. In Kansas, Sarah had to live in our home for six months - we hit that point in January 2006. We waited and waited until the papers came in and Kate was served and then we let Sarah go visit her. We needed all of that in place for Iowa to recognize that we had temporary custody of Sarah.

Our initial goal was to share custody of Sarah, but after coming home crying because they made her feel awful for wanting to live with her Dad, we had some decisions to make. It took, time and prayer to decide, what did we want to do to protect Sarah. As I said before, Sarah's mom loves her, but even those who love us sometimes hurt us. After some prayer and talking we gave the lawyers the instructions she needed and told her what we wanted to have happen.

September 2006 we received papers in the mail. They were the papers giving us custody of Sarah - sole custody. There is visitation for her mom and we try to make sure Sarah talks to her mom weekly if not everyother week. When money permits (which it did until this past year when Chris lost his job) we made it a point to send Sarah to visit her mom. Even when she was angry with her mom and didn't want to go visit or want to talk to her. But that day - that wonderful day when we got those papers - they marked a new chapter for us and for Sarah. No more could she be used as leverage, no more spending most of the year either calling the cops to find her, or banging our heads against the wall because we couldn't find her. No more would Sarah be used as free childcare (she still babysits, but we try to keep it at once a week and when possible I try to pay her so she can earn her own money), no more worries that stepdad's might or might not be harming her or alcoholic grandfathers might take their anger and alcohol fueled rage out on her. No more worries about garbage being fed to her about me, or Chris and the type of man he was.

That all happened five years ago and the child who walked with a bullseye on her forehead and back now walks with her head up high. She is smart, funny, and can give as good as she gets. She had several years where she struggled and she is so a drama queen, but we wouldn't have her any other way. We are so proud of how far she has come - and her relationship with her mom is on the mend. They are talking and working on having a solid relationship and her mom is working to make sure she lets Sarah know how much she means to her and that she misses her -even when life is crazy. With the help of a therapist for a while, Sarah worked on letting go of her anger and is moving into the process of forgiveness towards a lot of things and towards a lot of people. She has come to know Christ - something that might not have happened had she not come to live in our home. She is happy and for the most part pretty well adjusted.

Yes, from time to time we butt heads and she can make me crazy at times, but I wouldn't trade her for all the tea in China or the money in the world. Today she turns 16 yrs old. It's hard to believe when it seems like only yesterday she was braving the icy walk to come into the house and hug me and tell me she loved me. The little girl who used to be small enough to sit on my lap now towers over me and can see eye to eye with Chris. It's insane how quickly they grow up.

I love you Sarah. Happy Birthday Sweetie.

Love Always,
Maureen a.k.a. The Bonus Mom



Monday, November 22, 2010

Co-Sleeping with Your Monkeys

This is not a blog for or against co-sleeping. So do not write to me arguing your point. It's just some observations from one mom to other moms and dads. So please do not make a mountain out of a mole-hill. It will not be appreciated.

This is Beka - obviously from other photos in other blogs you realize this is an older photo. However, as infants, our girls inevitably ended up in our beds at some point in time.

Beka slept on Chris' chest through most of the first few months of her life. This gave me instant access to her so I could nurse her while dozing until I had to turn to the other side. Chris would then either put her on his chest or return her to the bassinet at the foot of the bed. When she was first born she was tiny enough that this was possible. As she grew longer though, it became necessary to put her in the portable crib we purchased and put in the corner of our bedroom.

Each of the girls had their turns sleeping on Daddy's chest. Chris loved to tell me about Sarah falling asleep on his chest and he woke up with hickeys because she woke up hungry and was rooting around for his nipples thinking he might have what she wanted. When Lizzie was little, one of her favorite places to fall asleep as an infant was on Chris' chest or mine. And during Chris' first deployment in 2004-2005 every morning Lizzie would crawl into bed with me and yes, I let her stay there so I could gain an extra hour or so of sleep. Otherwise, I had to get up and play. This might not have been a problem, but I was struggling with insomnia then so anything that got me a little more sleep seemed like a good idea to me.

Beka still enjoys sleeping with us from time to time. I am not against or for co-sleeping. But listening to friends and reading some of their Facebook posts it did make me ask myself a few questions. You know that you wonder these things too. Like how can a child so small take up so much of the bed? It never fails, when your child comes into your bed, they proceed to sleep across the bed with the pillows and you either find them in your bed this way or they join you in the dark hours of the morning. Or how is it that they always plaster themselves to you or sleep with their head in your armpit? How can someone so small wrap themselves around your head? Or come and find the worst possible spot to sleep so you wake up with cricks in your back or knees? Worse is if you are pregnant and they come into the bed at night and you can't get out to go to the bathroom. This might not be problematic if you aren't at the end of the pregnancy when getting your shoes on, much less shaving your legs is a thing you've almost forget you used to do because you can't put your shoes on, much less reach your ankle with a razor. How can someone so small like Beka create so much heat? She crawls into bed with me and not only does she plaster herself to me (even if I move her) but her little body generates so much heat that I wake up in the dead of winter sweating and feeling as if I might die from heat exhaustion? It's nuts the things you discover as a parent.

For example: A child can in fact shove a cheese puff up their nose - no matter how large it is, if they want to do it, they will find a way. How can a kid fit a macaroni noodle up their nose without you realizing they've done it until they sneeze it out of said nose? How is it that they always pick the worst time to have philosophical discussions about God and life at night when your brain has turned to mush and that is not in the cards? Granted it's usually a ploy to stay awake, but still, 8 p.m. at night is not the time to come to me to discuss grave matters about life, death and Jesus. At least not for me. For Lizzie or Beka, they always discover a bug or worse, a spider in their room at the same time each night? Really? Do they really think we are that dumb that we don't notice? And why is it they don't understand why we get so upset when they do a half-done job on the kitchen or bathroom? I actually had to defend myself to Sarah's therapist, because Sarah thought I was too much of a perfectionist and I was picking on her about the kitchen. Excuse me, but leaving the kitchen filthy is not okay - especially when you live in an old house that gets mice easily.

As many of these questions come to you, whether you are a brand new parent or a seasoned parent, I hope they give you a laugh. If you are a grandparent, I know you are probably laughing. . . at my wonderful mother-in-law, Mary is right now. She loves these questions and having a good chuckle over them.

I hope you all have a good week and a great Thanksgiving. If you are out of country - enjoy the week, I hope you get a holiday soon.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sarah, Music, and Barlowgirl

Sarah loves the group Barlowgirl - a group of three sisters who have dedicated their lives to God and who have also decided to not date, but allow God to bring them their future husband. The neatest part about all of this is that they are young women who I can encourage my daughter to like and admire. They dress modestly and their main focus is to glorify God and follow His will for their lives.

I discoverd the love of Barlowgirl music during Chris' deployment in 2004-2005 and their song Never Alone had come out on the radio - and Wayfm was brand new to Wichita. That song spoke to me very deeply since being a single parent while Chris was gone was very lonely and sometimes it felt that I was alone. When Sarah came to live with us, I introduced her to Barlowgirl music and Wayfm. It was a wonderful way to also open a door to Sarah's heart for God.

In 2005 & 2006 they came for a concert and of course, we had to go, so in 2005 we went to the concert with Sheri and she loved it. But in 2006 when they came I had just discovered I was pregnant with Beka and so instead of going with Sarah down front, I gave her my cell phone and let her go herself. She was already very excited to be going to her second Barlowgirl concert and having dinner with me, and getting to buy some Barlowgirl stuff was very exciting. We were able to enjoy a great concert and I was able to share Sarah's story with the girl's mom and tell her thank you for raising her daughters to love God with such unwaivering devotion. But nothing could prepare me to see the look on Sarah's face as she came running back to me with a water bottle.

During the concert Lauren Barlow was talking to the crowd and had a water bottle. She tossed it out to the crowd and I heard her tell the person who caught it, "Make sure you wash that." I didn't realize it at the time, but Sarah was the one who caught the water bottle. She was supersonic with excitement as she was waving the water bottle in the air with glee, "I caught Lauren's water bottle!" I knew looking at how excited she was, that sleep was going to be next to impossible that night for Sarah. She got to sing with Alyssa and Matthew West when he was onstage. All of these things were exciting and she still has those memories and talks about them. But that water bottle was the icing on a great birthday cake for her that night.

In case you are wondering - she did empty the water out of the water bottle and she still has it in a plastic ziplock bag labeled "Lauren Barlow's water bottle 2006". It is in her memory box safely tucked away for posterity. She still listens to their albums and has most of the words to every song memorized - she even sang Porcelain Heart for church a few years ago.

So to all Christian artists, who are struggling to sing and glorify God - thank you from a mom who was able to use your music to show her daughter God's heart and that He isn't stupid.

I hope you all have a good Sunday.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Illness and Good Husbands

This week we have a pretty and sick little Rebekahboo. I hate this part of parenting, when your monkey is sick and you can't do anything except let their immune system fight it. You push the liquids, give Tylenol/Ibuprofen if needed, and give lots of hugs, kisses and cool baths if needed.

While I am good at doing that part and kissing the owies and booboo's and making them go away. Chris though is amazing at the staying up into the wee hours of the mornings as well as doing all the other stuff. He never loses his temper when they get sick and throw up on him. He soothes, rubs upset tummies, gives tons of hugs, kisses, and snuggles and gets the medicine down with minimal spillage. He's firm but kind, soothing and yet he knows when it's necessary to fight them for their own good. He realizes that I am a morning person and so around midnight I stop functioning. He on the other hand, is good at staying up into the late hours and giving the tlc during this time, letting me get the sleep I need to do it in the morning and during the day.

He is good at having those deep philosophical talks with Sarah at night. Sarah is a night person too and I start shutting down the brain around seven or eight at night. Because he is not like Sarah too much (I am - both oldest, both of us want to run the show, and it makes me nuts that she constantly has to have the last word) he can talk to her in ways I can't - and sometimes I can talk to her from a point of view that she needs. On the other hand, I am better with Elizabeth when she becomes agitated and over-stimulated. I can calm her down and not lose my cool - he struggles with that because he and Lizzie are a lot alike. Beka is in the middle somewhere for now - she's only three years old, so the personality conflicts haven't begun yet. Although, I do think she is going to give him a run for his money as she gets older, she is stubborn and likes to do things her own way - something that will not fly with her Daddy.

No matter the dynamic between you and your husband, I hope you are able to work together and he is as much support for you as Chris is for me. He has grown so much in the ten years we have been married. The man who started off as a pretty good husband has grown into a stellar and amazing husband and dad. So like a wine, he keeps getting better with time and age.
I love you honey and I look forward to the rest of our time together. May it be at least another 50 years or so.

Let me encourage you. If you are reading this and wishing your husband was that kind of man - lift him in prayer. Not in a please, God change my husband kind of way. I mean in a way that you share his trials and struggles to God. I also recommend reading The Power of the Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martin. It's a good book and has some very good wisdom from a woman who has been married for a number of years. Also read 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage I don't
remember who wrote it, but it is excellent and amusing. You get from your marriage what you are willing to put into it. I mean that for men and women both.

Have a good weekend. It's time to snuggle a Snickerroo and help her feel better.
Love in Christ,
Maureen