Monday, January 31, 2011

How Time Flies

Life is full of change. In fact, it is one of the things you can count on in this life that is will always be changing for you. Beka is good example of this - when we'd given up hope of having another child and rested in the joy of the blessings God had given us. Suddenly, a positive pregnancy test.

The year 2010 brought a lot of change and upheaval. Chris returned from deployment, we have said goodbye to some wonderful people - some who had been ill for a long time and some who their loss was sudden and completely unexpected. Those latter losses left us devastated and asking questions. At 36 years old I found myself facing my own mortality again and suddenly I realized that in the joy of finally finding the man that God had planned for me all along and having a family that for a brief while I'd forgotten that I too am mortal and that death does come when we least expect it.

The past year we've faced a change in income. We suddenly found ourselve eligible for food assistance and health care for the girls courtesy of our government. If you have never had to face that experience. . . it is a pride buckling experience. After years of Chris and I being able to provide for our girls, we had to acknowledge that we needed help. While it was difficult to go to the government and ask for help, it has meant we are able to breath a little easier. I don't worry about how we will take care of our daughters - especially, Elizabeth who needs her medication, Strattera that helps her focus in school and she is now beginning to read at a pretty good rate; or her asthma and allergy medications that allow us and her to breathe easier and it helps pay for her opthamologist bills - because she struggles with amblyopia; an affiction that causes her left eye to see significantly worse than her stronger right eye. We are slowly coming to the end of that road with patching and working on improving her vision - I am thankful that God made it possible for her to continue to receive treatment that we could not afford otherwise w/o health insurance of some kind.

We have learned a lot in 2010 and as 2011 begins. We learned that while we missed the ability to do some things that we were able to enjoy the simple things in life as well. This year has been a year for Chris and Sarah to grow closer. Prior to his deployment, Sarah was angry with Chris. She was angry that her middle school schedule overlapped with his second shift (3-11:30 p.m.) schedule in such a way that they were two ships passing in the night. This past year has been a time for them to bond, grow closer and learn about each other and both of them are the better for it. Chris has begun to learn how Elizabeth works, how to lower his voice and that he is very tall to her very tiny stature. Beka has enjoyed being able to cuddle with him and spend time with him - in fact, tonight I'll probably have to move her back to her bed again since she hasn't felt well lately.

While this year has begun with Chris still unemployed, but still looking, we have both sensed that God has something planned for us. In the month of January, Chris has met with Boeing once and has an interview with them again tomorrow for a different position. We also know that we plan to do what we can so he can go and take his Airframe and PowerPlant License which will increase his marketability a great deal.

This past week I have spent sleeping off and on. What I assumed were allergies at first, turned out to be influenza. Yippee for me. Worse, yet Beka and Chris both became ill with it as well. So I spent a nearly sleepless night last night alternating giving Beka ibuprofen and tylenol when one would wear off until her fever broke this morning sometime. And this morning I spent talking with Beka's preschool teacher, who is very pleased with Beka's progress. However, there are concerns about behavior issues - it is the hazard of growing up with a special needs sibling and being the baby in the family too. So preschool is absolutely a necessity for Rebekah. She needs it to help her learn how to play with other children and how to share her toys and that she cannot always have her own way.

So this is where we are at this point in time. We don't know anything . . . not about a job, not about the future, and not about where we will be in the next year. But oddly, I am okay with that, I am resting in God that His plan for our life is bigger than our hopes for our life.

Have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lessons Learned from Two Deployments

As we begin the process of gearing up for Chris to once again deploy, we also face the looming 1 year anniversary of his return from the last deployment. As a rule they usually have a soldier wait longer, however, with the poor economy he volunteered to go to a unit who would pick him up. I have learned some things during each deployment and after enough time away from them I can look on them and recognize them for what they were - lessons learned the hard way, but necessary nonetheless.

1. I learned that while in theory you should be able to be completely honest with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, not everyone is at the same place you. In learning this, it means I value those fellow siblings in Christ who do understand and are amazing.

2. Maureen during deployment w/o antidepressants or an anti-anxiety drug IS NOT A GOOD THING!!! I have done two deployments - one on medication and one with no medication. Here's the thing, once I got deeply depressed, I didn't realize what was going on, I was too close to it to realize that it wasn't good and I needed help. For the sake of my family and especially my girls, I choose to go on medication of some kind so I can be level and even keeled.

3. I am okay with finances when there is plenty, but Chris is awesome with money period. Since we knew a third deployment was coming, we've been talking about what we want to change with this one - one of them is to set up a special savings account so we will have a good chunk of change saved for a bit.

4. The coming home and vacationing is a good plan. When Chris returned home this last deployment, we'd slowly paid for a full vacation to DisneyWorld. We found a great condo that worked for us very well it was close, but not too close and since the majority of it was paid for, then we were able to really enjoy it. So again I will plan a good vacation for our family (we have once again discussed DisneyWorld. We have all been talking about it for the past year - even the adults).

5. A good support system is key. It really is, the second deployment was easier in some ways because I had a very good system in place of friends and family who were awesome and very helpful.

6. Sometimes it is important to trust your instincts. I know that while taking some college classes is important, so is ensuring that I am here for the girls. So while I am tempted to go back to college, I will have to wait and see how it's going before I try it. A lot will depend on how the girls are faring this time. Chris has been home 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the past year - it means this coming deployment will be very tough.
I also know that sometimes it is best if I stay away from people. It's not because I'm trying to push people away, it's to protect them. Once I hit a certain breaking point, my filter kicks off and I will tell people off. Since this usually means that I am stressed out beyond belief it also means that I will usually misunderstand what they mean. Having said this, I think medication will help curb some of that a bit.

7. The music you listen to really does carry weight in how well you do emotionally. When I hit that point where I sunk into depression - that is when I stopped listening to primarily Christian music and began to listen to secular again. While I do enjoy some stuff, I also think it is important to listen to encouraging and uplifiting music as well - never is this more important than when you are raising your daughters by yourself for a year or so.

8. Don't make snap decisions when it comes to the kids. This holds true during deployment and even when it's not deployment. I find that if I wait a bit before responding it gives me time to think about all the aspects of a situation or a request from the girls.

There will be more in the months to come. I will once again write about how to help a family with a deployed soldier in time as we get closer to deployment.

I hope you all have a very good weekend.


Love in Christ,
Maureen


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Loving Sarah

This is Miss Sarah. She is our oldest daughter and I am sharing these photos to share a bit of her story. When I first met Sarah, she was younger than this photos, but I have to find the younger photos. Who Sarah was when we met and who she is now hasn't changed drastically. She was then and still is to this day a kind hearted girl who hates to hurt any one's feelings. This leaves her open to getting her heart hurt by people who aren't always good friends. She is taller of course, she's taller than me now and loves it. She is loving, compassionate and extremely smart. I'm not just saying that - she really is very bright and works hard to get good grades so she can go to college.
I'm sure older Sarah would tell younger Sarah if she could - to maybe not be so adamant that she wanted a sister. She might get more than she bargained for - she now has two sisters with us and a brother and sister with her mom. When she came to visit the first Christmas that Chris and I were together as a couple, she was crying in the backseat one evening. "
"What's wrong Sarah?"
"Do you know why I'm crying?"
"No, sweetie, why are you crying?"
"I'm crying because I'm lonely. I need a baby sister."
"NO!"
The joke was on us, by the way, I was pregnant and didn't know it yet. We talk about that often in our house - it usually goes along the lines of a lesson in be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. While it would take four years for Sarah to come live with us, I think in some ways that is when her new life began. A life of uncertainty, a life torn between loving me and her mom and trying to be loyal to both sides. A life torn between two families. One family that offered structure, discipline, stability, and the opportunity to get to know her Dad. The other filled with moving, upheaval, and uncertainty. So in 2005, after years of prayer and banging our heads against the wall Sarah came to live with us. You know what they don't tell you when you marry someone with kids is that even when you gain custody of them, it's a tough road. The first year Sarah lived with us, she spent grounded a lot. We worked on not always thinking negatively and trying to not make yourself a victim. It took a lot of work and a lot of love, and wanting to scream and pull my hair out, but it began to happen.

Shortly after school began in 2006 we discovered we were expecting Beka. Sarah took it rather well actually. We thought for sure, she'd be upset, but she embraced it and went with it. She was a good helper during the first trimester when I was sick in the evenings. Yes, she and Elizabeth ate a lot of Ramen, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese or sandwiches, but they quickly got over it, when I hit that second trimester wind and became a cooking fiend. During the first two years, I did several things. First, I made it a point to talk to her about the fact that I loved her just as much as I loved Elizabeth and later I would love Beka. Yes, it's a little different, but I would take a bullet for her and go to war for her just as I do for the other two girls. I took the time to do the little things, like make her favorite meals, or bake muffins when she would mention that muffins for breakfast would be nice. We encouraged sleepovers, play dates with friends, and joining church activities. As she entered sixth grade she didn't walk slumped over as much and she definitely didn't walk around with an invisible bulls eye on her back encouraging bullies to single her out. Yes, she hid behind her hair, but how many tweens and teens do you know who don't go through the I don't feel comfortable in my own skin phase?



This was a time in which I encouraged Family Game Night and the phone went unanswered because it was a family only time. She grew out her hair, which she still loves to keep long. She began to notice more boys and they began to notice her. She also learned that sometimes it's important to root for the underdog. I was very proud of her when the school counselor called me and told me that Sarah had stood up to a group of kids who were giving a troubled young boy in her school a tough time. He'd made a poor choice and the kids were taunting him about it. Sarah asked them, "Do you ever make a mistake? Do you like it when people hold it against you and don't let you forget it?" YEAH SARAH!!!!!!!!! That became the moment when we knew our work was starting to pay off.



Sarah has gone through some phases. She's gone from a young girl who was uncomfortable in her skin and a target for bullies to a girl who loved all things black (and no we weren't necessarily thrilled about it or that she chose black AND blue hair for a while) and we let her express herself with her clothing and hair - because honestly, we figured if our biggest issue was her mouth, attitude and that she had funky hair then we were doing pretty good. Of course, as I write this, I cringe and wonder if I've just jinxed myself?





Through all of these changes, Sarah has begun to emerge as a leader among her friends. And she has had some things going in her favor. The main one being Chris' mom - Grandma Mary. She's been the one constant in Sarah's life from beginning to end that never really changed a lot. Her love was never ending and she is still a champion of Sarah - even when it means fighting with Chris or I. Sometimes, she's right and sometimes we're right, but in the end we all love Sarah. I am very proud of her and how far she's come. No longer does she walk with her head hung low, she walks with pride and dignity. She is happy, well-adjusted (for the most part), and is a girl who knows what she wants. She may still fight with us and argue, but as far as daughter's go, a mom couldn't ask for a better one than Miss Sarah Irene (a.k.a. IBean) Koeppel.
I hope you all have a good week.
Love and Prayers,
Maureen






I love you Sarah and I am very proud of you.
Love,
Your Bonus Mom.




Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lessons Learned From LIfe

After being married 10 yrs, working still on raising three daughters, and having soon to be 37 years under my belt, I have learned a few lessons. Some the hard way and some through watching others.

1. While not everyone does this, the truth is most people play games when dating. I never understood this concept and I still don't. So as a result, I know I HATE dating. We don't encourage it in our home for multiple reasons - the first being we believe that God can help our daughters find a better husband than the world today. And second, if our daughters are like Chris and I then what you see is what you get and they won't do well with the whole "dating game" either.

2. Every race and culture has people who will make that them proud AND those who will make them shake their heads in shame. It's a fact - no matter what color your skin is, there is always some idiot out there who will ruin it for the rest of us. Sorry.

3. Don't judge others. The mom you see in the grocery store whose child is screaming - if you are young please listen to this one thing I say very hard. If you are the one judging, just remember it could easily be you in a few years. I learned this lesson the hard way. I used to be the college student in the store shaking her head at the mom whose child was misbehaving. Now I have children of my own and it's not as easy as it looks. Sometimes children have meltdowns no matter how hard you work to keep them happy.

4. If you want your spouse to learn how to treat you - try being the example. Don't nag, just love him the way you want him to love you.

5. Children are an investment. You get from them what you choose to put into them. If you want your child to do well in school, work with them and encourage them. We have a wall of fame on our fridge. First, it was all Sarah, but as time has gone on and Elizabeth is improving her stuff has been up there a lot. Rebekah even gets her stuff put up - even though she is three right now.

6. If you want your children to have good manners - set the example and start young.

7. Cleaning your house is important (after all no one wants bugs or mice), however, so are the kids. Remember you get out of your kids the amount you invest in them. I have a girlfriend who grew up with a home cooked meal every night and a super clean house, but she doesn't have any memories of her mom playing with her or her siblings. They all have issues even now with that parent.

9. No matter how much you don't like confrontation when it comes to your kids you will do almost anything.

10. A college education is fine and good, but sometimes life experience is a good teacher too. I have learned a lot from books, but I have also learned from life about people.

11. While taking care of yourself is all well and good, more often than not there are times when you have to take one for the team. This tends to be even more true when you have children by the way. Just be careful that you don't take one for the team so often that when the team moves out you become super selfish. I have seen this happen.

12. As the parent of Elizabeth I gave up on babysitters for a long time, because most people don't know how to handle a child with autism. It stinks, but it's true.

13. When it comes to children with special needs, I have run into three types of people so far.
First, there are those who are overly harsh and judgemental and will make your life as miserable as you let them. Second, those who don't know quite what to make of your child so they keep a distance (I prefer them to the first kind). And finally those who love your child for being your child and think they are great. The last kind are a true God-send and be thankful for them - it's tough to find them. Especially in churches today. Since Elizabeth was born we've attended three different churches. The first two were not a good match for us, because they could not understand Elizabeth except for a few exceptions. Ironically, we've had less issues at First Church in Wichita, and Westside. Those two churches were great with Elizabeth and accepted her; flaws and all. First Church just happened to be too large for us. But we've found a good church home at Westside Church of the Nazarene.

14. I don't have all the answers and that's okay. It doesn't mean I won't research to find out what I don't know, it just means that sometimes you don't have to have all the answers.

15. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and listen to what others have to say. Sometimes it's quite amusing - sometimes you find out how amazing some people are and sometimes they are amazingly ignorant. Tweens and middle schoolers are a good example of this. They want to have all the answers and so they always have to have something to say about everything. Sheesh, the messes I've had to clean up because my child thinks she knows what she is talking about.

16. Figure out what your weaknesses are and own up to them. I am not good at balancing a check book. If you need someone to sing in front of a stadium full of people come see me. What you have a research paper to write and don't know where to begin? Call me, I'm your girl. Wait, what you need your checkbook balanced - Oh sweet wonderful husband of mine - someone needs your assistance. Or better yet, go find a good accountant because I am not your girl.
I know that I love my children, but I don't necessarily love other people's children. It's not all children I don't like - it's the rude, disrespectful, and undisciplined children I have serious issues with.

17. Sometimes there is no happy medium. Sometimes you have draw a line and remain firm - no matter how much it breaks your heart to see your child unhappy. Sometimes you have to love your child enough to be firm and stand your ground.

18. It's important to be able to tell your children you are sorry if you make a mistake. How else with they learn to tell others they are sorry when they make a mistake. It's tough and pride buckling sometimes, but it's a good lesson for everyone involved.

19. Women tend to be better at talking it out than men. But we aren't very good at remember that men don't read our minds. My husband will tell you openly, he flunked ESP 101. So I have to be sure I tell him what I want. And yes, sometimes I have the conversation in my head and forget to have it in real life. Come on ladies, you all know you've done it too. You have a good idea or a plan in your head of what needs to happen but forget to tell your spouse.

20. Sometimes all people need from you is a hug and a listening ear. They don't need answers or advice, they just need you to listen to them so they can get it out of their system.

I've learned a lot more, but for now that's all I have to share. I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, January 24, 2011

Never Been Kissed?

I love the movie Never Been Kissed. I absolutely understand how Drew Barrymore feels. I was on a first name basis with the librarians. I was a book nerd. If you needed cool advice, go see someone else, but if you needed help writing a paper, come talk to me. However, even to this day I am not really comfortable in a lot of social settings. I never really quite figured out the whole social etiquette thing, so I tend to shy away from them.

As I have been increasing my social networking friends (and deleting a few as needed) I have run into some of the nicer people I knew in middle school and high school. It's been nice, and yet, I have also run into some people who have remained stuck in the past.

Are you who you were in high school? Or have you changed? If you were a popular kid, do you still feel the need to be popular? Or have you discovered that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar? If you were a taunted individual are you still holding on to that pain or have you realized that it's best to move forward and let the past go?

As Sarah navigated middle school and was attempting to navigate high school, we often told her to not let what the other children said get to her. In ten years the things that people think of you now won't matter and often times, you will discover that the things you thought were so important no longer hold weight with you. Fortunately, she is a smart kid and believes us, but it doesn't mean there aren't times that she hasn't come home and cried or Chris hasn't taken her out for a drink and a heart to heart talk.

I have discovered that while some people remain snarky and stuck in the past, that others have grown and have learned from life's lessons. I am happy to become reacquainted with these people and I look forward to getting to know them better.

Have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Older and Wiser?

There are blessings and curses that come with growing older. It's a blessing because people stop acting like you don't know anything -but on the down side of that they like to tell you things like, "Wow, I"m never going to be 36 years old! That is so ancient." Nothing screams, let me smack you quite like a teenager who is still cute, thin and perky telling you how old you are and that she hopes she never grow old. Of course, you realize this will happen - it happens to all of us.

A blessing is that I tend to drive slower - less traffic accidents, speeding tickets, etc . . . and lower car insurance is always a good thing. However, you find that you no longer drool as much over that baby blue Ford Mustang from the 60's you used to want so badly. Instead you find yourself looking at minivans and asking about space for luggage and to keep your children from fighting - so they can survive until you get to your destination. This is especially important if you are the only one driving because your spouse is away for a while.

I can make my hair, almost do what I want now. Of course, now I have to color it to hide the gray that is coming in a little sooner than I would like.

I am very concerned with my health, whereas before when I was younger, I foolishly didn't take good care of my health. I didn't really think I'd live forever, so much as since I was younger, I was also broke more often than not. Now I take a small handfull of vitamins, and minerals each day. Oh and I find myself taking baby aspirin because heart disease runs in my family and asking questions about bone density and mammograms.

I finally realize the importance of warm clothing. Of course, it also means I have hat hair a lot. And I find that ponytails tend to be my staple hair choice somedays - I am a stay at home mom so having my hair constantly in my eyes is not so great.

I actually enjoy date night now. When I was younger, I LOATHED dating. It's not that there aren't nice men out there. . . it's that I never seemed to meet them. Or even better I would meet very nice guys and have great chemistry with them, but there was that thing that told me if I kissed them I'd probably regret it and it would ruin our friendship. That lesson I learned the hard way, but with age comes wisdom. Sometimes it isn't worth losing your friendship for a kiss - no matter how good the chemistry is with a guy.

I have learned that as you get older you get achy joints more often. Things that didn't bother you before begin to ache at the most inconvenient times (Like when you are trying to sleep?! Who forgot to send me the memo about that one?) I find that I listen to my doctor more readily and to the busybodies at church less.

I have learned the art of somewhat ignoring someone and their snide remarks. I still don't tell them off, but I think about it less as well now. Oh and I am a lot better at coming up with zingers as I'm older. Before I was like Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail. Now it isn't so much that I freeze up because I'm shocked as it is, I just don't think it's worth my time to tell them off. It's not worth the energy. But my husband assures me when I do tell people off, he really enjoys watching it?!

I have learned that mothers never quite see their children as adults, but others who aren't your parents are always a little surprised that I listen to the Christian music my older daughter likes and a little of her secular stuff too. I like concerts and I love a good beat, but I didn't love having a parent who refused to listen to our music in the car on road trips. It made for a long trip - because batteries only last so long, then it's back to listening to the Golden Oldies, whether you want to or not.

I have learned that I don't have all the answers. But these things I know for certain.
- I am one of the only people in my house who will change the toilet paper roll when Chris isn't home.
- I will absolutely have to ask a minimum of three times before Chris actually takes out the trash to the dumpster and he usually doesn't take the recycle bin at the same time unless I make it a point to ask.
- My children will always throw up at the worst possible time - like right before a road trip (It's happened with all three).
- My husband loves me and all my stretch marks and scars - he sees them as signs of my love for him.
- Something in the house will always break down at the worst possible time - and this goes for cars as well by the way.
- Life is always going to bring death, taxes and change.
- Leather like spandex is a privelege is not a right - just because you can wear it doesn't necessarily mean that you should. ESPECIALLY if you have a spare tire around your middle.
- Church always goes over when you have something that requires you to be home at a certain time to remove it from the oven.
- People all have opinions. They don't have to agree with you, you just have to learn to let it go and accept them for who they are in the end.
- Mothers never really see their children as adults, so it will be necessary from time to time to have a chat with them - especially when raising ones own children. They mean well and love you dearly, but it's a fact.
- There will always be a few people in church who ruin it for the others. The key is to love them anyway and try not to let them bother you. It's tough to do.
- Sometimes you have to be out of situation before you see something that you needed to know.
- God is faithful and He will provide for your needs. I have seen Him take care of my family as a small child on countless occasions.

I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Faith in the Face of Trials

As we approach one year since Chris has returned home we also come upon a mile marker. As it stands, if Chris is unable to find work by February 13th he will officially have been unemployed for one full year.



This has been a tough year, but also a good year in ways. While financially it means we struggle, it also means that the girls get to see a lot of their dad. Chris and Sarah's relationship was rocky prior to deployment and they have really made some amazing progress. Chris gets to see Elizabeth and Beka off to school each day and has had a good time playing around with them and learning what makes them tick. It has been wonderful to not be the sole person responsible for running the house.



But as we approach this mile marker, it also means that we face unknowns. Our pastor preached a week ago about Mark 4:35-41 and how Jesus calmed the storms and encourages the Disciples. He raises his hands and calms the sea and it reminded me of two songs. One I used to sing in church called, "Peace Be Still" and the other I don't remember all the words, but I remember this poignant phrase in the chorus, "Sometimes he calms the storm and other times he calms his child." Great songs and both promise that God is with us even in the midst of storms. He also touched on James 1 when James rights about how we should rejoice when we go through trials, because without trials and tribulation our faith cannot grow. It was refreshing to hear a pastor admit that he doesn't always rejoice when going through tough times and that he didn't think James meant we rejoice when it's happening, but afterwards we can rejoice, because it was an opportunity to grow.



This is a time of uncertainty and I have to confess I am worried a bit. I worry about what will happen to our family. Are we going to lose our home? What about the girls - what if we lose everything, will they know hunger. I remember reading about the Great Depression and how families were torn apart and sometimes never reunited. There are times when having a very active imagination is not a good thing - and this is one of them. For now we are safe and happy, and I am clinging with every fiber of my being to trust in God and to remember that He promised us in Matthew that he takes care of the flowers of the field and the birds of the air, so how much more will He care for His children.



As I write this, I also know that we both feel a sense that God has something planned. We aren't sure what that plan is at this time, but we sense it coming and we pray and hear, "Wait." So for now we wait in the Lord and trust (albeit it sometimes a tough thing to do) that God's plan is for our good and not for our harm.



Abba,

You give us so many promises in your word. Thank you for providing for our needs even if it isn't always congruent with our wants. Thank you that you promise us in your word that you will take care of us. Help us all as we waiver during these tough economic times. Be with Chris as he struggles with the desire to provide for our family. No matter where you send us, or what you have in store of your children, we choose to place our faith in you and that you are sovereign over us all. Help quiet my worries, my concerns for the girls you've blessed us with. Be with us and guide us so that you may shine and the world will know that You are God and you are worthy of praise.

Amen

Unwritten Rules

I am not an expert, I do not have a degree in counseling or psychology at this time. This is written from my experiences. Not all marriages will fit into this mold - so please note that if you are having issues in your marriage, that while some of these things may help you, you may also benefit from counseling with a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or Psychologist.

As you know, if you read my blog regularly Chris and I just celebrated 10 yrs of marriage on January 19th. I get a lot of questions these days from other married couples. They tend to be couples who are struggling in their own marriage. What is our secret? How is it we still genuinely enjoy spending time together and being married to each other? Why are we still so mushy?

First, I had an advantage of attending a great college with some great friends who were religion majors and I have an uncle who is has a Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling. These friends and family gave me access to a lot of tools - so I knew from the beginning that it was important to talk about money, children, disciplinary styles.

Second, I also knew it was important to not go into marriage with romanticized ideas of what I thought Chris would be as a husband. This is important, because when you go into marriage with romantic ideals, they are often unrealistic and that's setting you up to be disappointed and him to feel like he's can never live up to your expectations.

Third, I think it is VERY, VERY, IMPORTANT to build your spouse up. This is a two way street. It's important to be supportive and nurturing of your marriage and encourage your spouse. It is extremely important to have your spouses best interest at heart when you make decisions together. A good example of this is several years ago, Chris was working with a woman supervisor. Now Chris and I are not game players. We are pretty direct and what you see is what you get with us - we don't do hidden agenda's. So he was not one of her favorites at all and she was doing everything she could to get him fired. Chris had left the National Guard because we thought we had a great business opportunity in South Dakota, but it had fallen through and Chris missed the structure and order of the Army. So when he approached me about going into the Reserves, I had to take a short while to think about it. Chris deploying is not convenient - and it is very stressful, on myself and the girls. However, at a time when Chris was feeling lower than dirt, I knew that the Army recognized his potential to be a great leader and it helped to feel good about himself. So while not ideal for me that he joined the Army Reserves, I told him to go ahead. I do hate deployments because he is gone and I hate the stress, however, I wouldn't reverse my decision ever. Chris' sense of self worth is at a good level now because he has an outlet and a place that see him as I see him - an amazing man with a lot to offer. If you are having trouble finding something to be proud of your spouse for, it's time to hit your knees and ask God to help you with your perspective.

Fourth, Communication is key. I don't mean yelling, I mean talking about things before they build up and almost destroy your marriage. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, tell your spouse before you snap and lose it. It makes for a more peaceful home life for everyone living in your house.

Fifth, It is very important to present a united front as parents. This is important. Children are ruled by the Id - the thing in them that says, "I want what I want, when I want it and I don't care about the consequences." Therefore, they tend to be opportunistic and if they sense you are not working as a team as parents, they will do their best to divide and conquer you and your spouse.

Sixth, Timing is important and waiting is sometimes key in decision making. We've begun to adopt a saying when the girls come to us to ask for permission to go do something - "Let me talk with your dad/mom about it and we will let you know." While this is not always popular among our children, it gives Chris and I time to talk it out before we make a knee-jerk decision. I can't take credit for this one - I actually learned this from watching 7th Heaven. The parents always talked to one another before making big decisions. Little decisions aren't as important sometimes, but it helps you and your spouse feel like you are connected and listening to each other.

Seventh, Try to keep others out of your marriage as much as possible. I'm not saying don't talk to your friends about things. Because it is important to know you aren't the only one struggling to get your husband to take out the garbage, but sometimes people may not always have your best interests at heart. Some of Chris and I's biggest fights occurred because someone thought they saw something and it created strife and stress in our marriage. There is always someone who thinks they've read something in your marriage that isn't there. Of course, sometimes they aren't wrong, but it has to come to a head in its own time and God's time - not someone else's timetable.

Eighth, We make it a point to tell each other that we love each other several times a day. It may sound cheesy and hokey, but it helps us stay connected to each other and we always try to touch as often as possible. Sometimes, it's as simple as holding hands or just a tap on the arm to say, "hey, I love you." Sometimes we have tickle fights even but staying connected is important.

Ninth, We pray for each other. We also pray together as often as possible. This helps us stay connected and in praying for each other it takes the focus off of ourselves and onto someone else.
In a society driven by the motto, "You have to take care of yourself" a lot of marriages are falling apart because people become focused on what have you done for me lately. When is it my turn. I am not saying to become a doormat, but when you place the focus of your marriage on God and not on yourself it helps your marriage a lot. I found that in putting the needs of Chris and the girls ahead of my own that Chris has returned the favor. He knows when I am stressing out and need a break and makes it a point to fill that need for me.

Finally, It is important to realize that most marriages don't start out this way. When we first married, Chris and I had both been single for a while and so it was an adjustment to get used to telling someone what we were doing, where we were going and checking with the person on finances. It has taken 10 years of marriage to work through the kinks and flaws we each brought into our marriage. Also, I had several very good examples of good and bad marriages. I used those examples as a way to figure out what I wanted in a spouse. Having one partner from a good home, helps a lot. Two people from two dysfunctional families, usually means a lot of hard work and it might be best to seek counseling so that you can learn how to have a healthy marriage.

I hope this helps some of you. I hope you find it informative. It might not work for everyone, because people are different and each marriage is different. If you are in an abusive relationship, please let me encourage you to get out and get away from your abuser - especially if children are involved. The best gift you can give to your children is a positive example of a good marriage and abuse happens in cycles. It is difficult to break those cycles, but with work and therapy it can happen.

Have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Anniversary Honey

I tend to lean towards the melancholy at times, but tomorrow will be a happy day. Tomorrow will celebrate 10 years that Chris and I have been married.

Occassionally, I used to watch Sex and the City - I preferred the edited for tv version - for obvious reasons. In the show one character, Charlotte, had two marriages. One went perfect according to plan - it was big and beautiful and it was all amazing. However, she realized early in that there were some serious issues and this marriage ended in divorce. During this divorce, Charlotte met suitor number 2 who she eventually wed. On her wedding day to Harry - her second husband, everything went wrong. So many snafu's occurred and as she was in the restroom crying, because she thought it should all be perfect, Carrie Bradshaw, the heroine and her best friend comes and tells her something poignant. I don't remember the whole speech, but Carrie points out to her friend that while her first wedding went off without a hitch that the marriage stunk. She told her that maybe the worse the wedding the better the marriage.

I share that with you, because I have to hazard, she might have been correct to some degree. On the day we got married, I was still in Oklahoma living with Mom and I went and picked up my last pay check from Williams-Sonoma where I had been working. Mom tried to get me to run errands and had a list of things to finish - but I was supposed to be in Wichita about 3 p.m. and I had to finish loading up Chris' pick up truck because he'd loaned it to me so I could haul my stuff to our home. I seemed to run into one obstacle after the other while attempting to make it to Wichita, I had to fill up, I had to put water in the truck so it wouldn't overheat. I had a terrible time getting the stuff loaded in the car and I was pregnant so I was incredibly nauseated. I finally got on the road, and a few miles outside of Perry, OK the truck began to overheat.

I pulled over and God sent a trucker who had noticed I was losing water behind me. He stopped and gave me a ride to the Sooner Corner cafe where I spent the next hour attempting to get Chris to answer his phone. By the time I reached him, we both realized we were going to be cutting it very close.

Chris tells me that on his way down to Perry, he was so mad at first. He thought I'd broken his truck and had been careless (a few days later when we made it back down there, he realized the water pump had gone out). Fortunately, by the time he made it to where I was, he had calmed down, he found the truck, loaded up the Pontiac LeMans that was mine and had it's own issues coming (it would die a few days later). We raced back to Wichita, and thankfully, Chris had had the foresight to call the judge and ask if we could push the time back to 5:00 o'clock instead.

That gave us enough time to get dressed up and grab some flowers from Dillon's. And find out that Dacia and Ken wouldn't be able to make it because Arissa was at the doctor's office and they couldn't leave. So Chris called Joe and Helen Lane who gladly came to our house (I speak as it is our house now) and they were our witnesses.

As I stood in front of the judge saying my vows to Chris, it seemed so surreal. I'd wanted to find the right man for so long and I had given up. I'd become quite cynical about love actually, people would tell me they just knew and I smile politely but in my head I was rolling my eyes and thinking, Like you know when you have food poisoning or have eaten a bad mushroom? It was a wonderful moment, and yet so surreal, my only response after kissing Chris was to start laughing and say, "This is so messed up." I didn't mean it was bad that I was married, but it was just so unreal that "Wow" just didn't quite cover it. As it would turn out I didn't really feel married until a month later when we had a small private ceremony for my family and my Uncle Ed officiated. It was nice, small and perfect for what we'd been planning.

I look back on 10 years and it's been filled with laughter, tears of grief, but we have stood by each other and fought for our marriage as a team. His strong points are usually where I am weaker and vice versa. He was a good husband after I married him, but as time has passed, he has allowed God to mold him into the man, that He showed me Chris could be when I prayed about whether it was God's will for me to marry Chris. I am so proud of him - he's an amazing man and I wouldn't trade him for anything else in the world (not even Twinings tea ;)).

Chris is God's promise to me fulfilled. I spent several years wondering if I would ever find him and I have to say, he really is all I ever wanted and more. I hope you all have a good week and enjoy some time with your husband/wife/loved ones.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lessons in 2011

Dear Lord,

As my wise and wonderful husband written today on Facebook - sometimes a peak at the map would be nice so we know we are going in the right direction that YOU want us to go in (paraphrased Chris Koeppel, by me).

Sometimes we face decisions that are tough. As you get older it doesn't really get any easier, and the questions and decisions you have to ask are tougher than when you were young. You find yourself as an adult and especially as a parent asking yourself and God, "Is this choice going to negatively affect my children?" "Am I setting things up so my kid will be in therapy as an adult crying that I didn't love them?" "Why does it seem the attitude starts so young in our children?"

There are of course simple questions to each day as well - "Do these shoes go with my outfit?" "What should I fix for supper tonight?" These are routine questions that as a woman I face each day. Then there are the tough choices I must make. We are currently praying that God will lead us in our choice with what to do for Elizabeth as she prepares to navigate middle school in a few years. While it would be much easier in some ways to choose homeschooling as an option - there are also issues that might arise in choosing that path. Will Switched on Schoolhouse be a good fit for her? Or do I need to find less challenging curriculum? While I realize we have two more years of elementary education to go through before we face this challenge; I also know that it is coming nevertheless.

As a planner by nature, I like to look ahead and try to come up with plans. More often than not though as I work to make these plans, I find myself asking God what He wants me to do. Sometimes of course, the answer is "wait". I'm not good at sitting and waiting. I am a woman of action, I like to get in there and get the job done or at least started as soon as possible. And yet as I grow older I have begun to realize that sometimes I need to step back and allow God work in His time and not in my time. I have found that when I wait for God's timing these things work out to His glory and praise.

While in theory, I would have loved for Sarah to come and live with us sooner. I had to wait for God to open the doors and the right opportunities so it could happen. Don't get me wrong - it was tough - we spent four years struggling with the idea that Sarah wasn't in a very good environment. There were times when Chris or I would contemplate giving up altogether, but we never could do it, because we felt God urging us to wait. In Spring 2005, I remember thinking a great deal about the fact that Sarah was coming and praying to God. I just didn't think I had the heart to have her come and spend four to six weeks with us and then have to send her back into an unstable and unhealthy environment. I remember praying and telling God I just couldn't stand to do it anymore. Slowly the doors began opening shortly after that and on July 2, 2005 Sarah came to our house and she hasn't left since except for visits with her mom. While Sarah and I may butt heads at times and we may make each other crazy, there isn't anything I wouldn't do for that girl.

In hindsight, had we gotten pregnant right away with Rebekah, it would not have been good timing. Elizabeth began having issues at age 2 yrs and I would have been left with a toddler with special needs AND a newborn while Chris was deployed in 2004. Dealing with Elizabeth and her issues at that time in the face of a sudden deployment that left us realing would have been even tougher if I'd had a baby with me at the time. When Rebekah came, Elizabeth was a little jealous, but she and Beka are buddies and playmates now. One of our favorite things is to listen to the little girls play nicely upstairs, as they use their imaginations and dolls to play together. Sure they fight like all children do, but what's even more fun is when Sarah joins them and they are all three doing so well. They have some hilarious conversations together sometimes.

So now we are waiting on God to open the doors He wants open for our family. Maybe at this time next year we will be living somewhere else whether that be Washington state because Chris works for Boeing or somewhere else because he is working for the Army in an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) slot, we will see. We may still be here, but either way, we will wait and see what God has in store for us. He's met our needs to this point so far, I don't see that ending anytime soon.

Have a good Sunday, tomorrow and I hope you enjoy your time of worship and fellowship.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, January 14, 2011

Freedom?????

As my daughter, Sarah gets older and draws closer and closer to the age when she will get married and someday become sexually active (hopefully not until AFTER she is married), I find myself thinking about the 1960's and the sexual revolution.

The 1950's saw a huge change in the American mentality - people were tired of going without after two world wars and the Great Depression -they wanted to live a little bit. We also began to see the roles women played shift, more and more women were becoming increasingly unhappy with the idea of only staying at home and raising their children while their husbands went to work and had an identity outside of the home - we see how strongly this colored our country when the Feminist Movement began to grow in numbers. From this time until present, roles for women have changed drastically. We also saw the Hippies come forward and adopt an attitude of make love not war and free love. Even now in the 2010's we see people engaging in unprotected sex at alarming rates. While I will not tell you how to live your life, I do have to ask some questions.

Prior to this World War I we saw the Victorian era - it stifled women and birth control was almost completely unheard of at this time. When a woman felt she no longer wanted children, she simply moved into another room and her husband had to tend his needs. While many women began seeking doctor's who diagnosed them as suffering from hysteria and often used methods that may seem a little unorthodox to some to "cure" them. It brought to light a problem.

So now instead of women believing that making love with their husband's is something to be born instead of enjoyed, we see the reverse opposite. We see movie stars and television shows encouraging women to go out and enjoy sex, just as men had for ages. But here is my question.

Is it really a sexual freedom when you not only worry about unwanted pregnancy, but Venereal Diseases, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, AIDS, PID (which can turn into Cervical Cancer if undetected) and the awkwardness of meeting someone who now knows what we look like naked? Is this really a fair trade?

With unplanned pregnancies come the stress of making a decision about how to handle this new development. Now thanks to the Supreme Court (said sarcastically) women now get to enjoy the idea of aborting their children. Here's the thing about abortion - yes you are doped up when it happens, but at the end of it, it leaves you with a bigger whole in you than most people realize. Women seek out counseling even now to figure out how to forgive themselves for making this choice. Choosing to terminate a child is a heavy burden. One too heavy for any person to make - whether with your spouse or partner or alone. It leaves you the ability to play God and somehow when we make this decision it leaves us haunted and burdened with the could've's and should've. But the ProChoice movement doesn't want us to know about that. They want us to believe you walk in and walk out and it's easy. They don't bother to tell you that it leaves you feeling like you've ripped out half of your heart and body to terminate the life inside of you.

With unplanned pregnancies come tough choices - adoption while a wonderful choice, also leaves most adoptive mothers yearning. Thankfully, over time we now have open adoptions so this does not have to be the case.

Then there are the STD's, VD's, AIDS, and other complications that occur with having sex. First, there is PID which is given to women by men - who usually don't have any idea they are infected. A woman often doesn't realize she has it until it's had time to take hold and can more often than not turn into cervical cancer. Never mind that it doesn't have many health ramifications for men, but for women it is deadly.

AIDS has grown at an alarming rate. Thankfully, we have made some medical breakthroughs allowing those infected with the ability to still live long and somewhat healthy lives. And yet, in the end, AIDS still leads to people's demise often sooner rather than later. And yet we still choose to have unprotected sex with multiple partners?

Emotionally - you give a part of yourself to a person when you choose to have sex with them. But people try not to talk about that. You entrust your body and emotional well-being with someone who you may know extremely well (like a spouse or fiance) or who is nothing more than a fling. How do you know if the person you are having sex with has your best interests at heart? And yet, women and men do this everyday. They play Russian Roulette with their heart and soul by engaging in sexual activity with virtual strangers by entrusting them to protect them. As a result, we see many young men and women who come from single parent families and often with an absentee father. Men and women left with yearning and questions that leave them scarred and damaged.

On that vein we have young girls growing up without fathers. Studies have proven that young girls who grow up without their fathers or an active and positive role model choose to have sex at much younger ages. And the sooner a teen is allowed to start dating the sooner they tend to become sexually active. If the brain doesn't reach full maturity until the age of 25 how can a young girl or boy know that having sex is the right choice for them? More often than not, a young girl is pressured - not just by the boy but also by her friends who have become sexually active already. I remember a young woman I know talking about being at a party where two girls were telling one of her friends that she should have sex with a young man she hadn't been dating for very long. Fortunately, the young woman telling the story had her friend's best interest at heart more than the other two girls did. She encouraged her friend to hold off until she was certain he was the one she wanted to marry - and she also told her friends that the only reason the other two girls were encouraging her to be sexually active is because they had already begun having sex and they wanted her to be like them. This is true. I remember being in high school and from 9th grade until 12th grade, I had girls who made fun of me for choosing to wait for my husband. Interestingly, enough those same girls would later tell me they wished they had made a different choice and admired my choice to wait and would not make the same choice if given the chance.

Is it really freedom if it leaves you feeling regret? How can something that is supposed to be a good thing carry so many ramifications? How can we have fallen for so many lies? When did we become a nation that had to do what everyone else was doing? In a twist of irony, a country that supposedly wants young people to be their own person - and yet what they mean is they want you to be your own person and be just like them.

I remember my sophmore year of college in chapel at Southern Nazarene University when Dr. Roger Hahn preached a series based on Peter's teaching and his call to be what Dr. Hahn called "residential aliens". He encouraged us to be in the world, but not of the world. While those decisions are not always popular, I still find that sermon stuck in my brain to this day. When I feel myself tempted to cave in and join the ranks of the worldly, I remember the call to be a "residential alien".

So for those who have made choices to have sex already, let me leave you with this thought. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that those who believe in him will not die, but have eternal life." Jesus goes on to tell us he didn't come to condemn the world, but to save it. We all make mistakes or poor choices, the truth is, all is not lost. The wonderful thing about God's grace is that you don't have to be perfect to receive it.

Find freedom in truth - God's truth. It will indeed set you free.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daddy's and Their Girls

Chris and Sarah at I-Hop in Orlando, Florida on our family vacation.
Chris and Beka together at the Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

Chris with Sarah (the witch), Elizabeth (Daphne from Scooby-Doo), and Bekaboo (the blue haired bootterfly) on Halloween 2010.
There are different types of Daddy's. There are tall ones, short one, skinny one, fat ones, good one and not so great ones and there are even horrible daddy's who hurt their children. I'm fortunate, I have a great husband who happens to be a very good Daddy to our girls. I am good with crying, blood, and all that lovely stuff, but Chris excels at cleaning up puke and soothing feverish girls and snuggling with them all the time (even Sarah).
There are some men who think they are super macho and that being a man means you don't do certain things (like let your daughters paint your toenails), but I argue the opposite point. While Chris may not be a perfect person - how many men can say they allow their little girls to practice painting their toenails on Daddy? Not many. But even as I write this, my husband has lilac colored toenails. It's true, and they are growing out - they've been lilac for a while now. So this weekend he will let Lizzie and Sarah take the old polish off and let them repaint his toes.
In the beginning it was only on vacation - Chris had come home from deployment and we went to Florida for vacation and he allowed Elizabeth to paint his toenails - or would have if she could have found the toenail polish (Sarah had hidden it pretty well from everyone including me). So after we returned home I bought Elizabeth her nail polish and she made Daddy's toes very pretty. Although, I think it's safe to say she got a little carried away - she painted his one of his toes green. He was joking this morning that he'd heard of a green thumb, but never a green toe. So he's had florescent polka dotted toe nails, pink toenails (it clashes with his skin) and currently he has lilac colored toenails. Elizabeth loves it, the guys in the Army tease him, and even some of the women at church have ribbed him a little. However, when he walks in the door he has three girls who screech with joy and delight "Daddy's home, Daddy's home."
So say what you will, but when a man is loved that much by his daughter's it says something. It says he's not too proud to allow himself to look like a fool for his kids. He will do anything for them and listen to their needs and heart hurts. As we face a possible third deployment, I know this time around all three girls will be bawling because Daddy's gone. I'll be joining them as we eagerly await Daddy's return home hopefully safe and sound in mind and body.
Have a good weekend and be safe.
Love in Christ,
Maureen


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

High Prices


An acquaintance of mine on Facebook (FB) put a video on by Puddle of Mud called "Blurry". It's a good song, but the video is interesting since it shows a father and son on his weekend of visitation. It shows them laughing and playing together and spending time together including taking a nap. It also shows when the little boy must go back to his mom and leave the dad.

People fall in and out of love quickly these days. Let's be honest, we've fallen into the trap of believing the garbage we get fed on television. Love is supposed to always be exciting and euphoric. They often forget to show you that love and marriage are work. With movies and television selling us a load of bunk like this, is it any wonder why there is such a high divorce rate.

I read an article lately where Jenny McCarthy said that after a while her relationship with Jim Carrey wasn't fun anymore. This is my response to that - who said love is always fun. Chris and I don't always laugh and carry on. Don't get me wrong we have plenty of times when we laugh and have a good time together, but it isn't at the top of our concerns at this moment. Yes, when I miss the thrill of falling for someone - but not that much. First, it would mean I would have to date again and that alone is enough to scare me silly. I hate dating, I hate how everyone is always putting on their fake face to present the best of themselves until about three months in when suddenly you realize the niceness is gone and what you see is what you get. Second, I love that Chris knows all of my flaws and insecurities and he loves me still because of them, not in spite of them. He knows all of my scars (and I have several of them thanks to several surgeries) and he loves my stretch marks, because they are symbols of my giving him two little monkeys who make us laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time) and who are amazing and we have Sarah who is a great girl who works hard and is beginning the road to being an adult.

Here is the thing about love - it should always be a I Corinthians 13 love. It should be patient, kind, not be envious, easily angered, it is supposed to protect and stand beside you. It is fun when it's the beginning - don't get me wrong, but what is equally nice is loving someone and knowing they love you in return. Knowing that their love comes with no strings attached and is unconditional. There is something so nurturing and amazing in a love like that - why would someone choose to throw that away?

Here is the thing about the video I saw - it showed the high price of divorce or even having sex with someone who you don't love enough to marry. In these situations the person who pays the highest price of them all is an innocent child. With our sexual revolution we have created entire generations of men and women who go into adulthood severely wounded and often with a convoluted idea of what a marriage and love are supposed to be. We see perfect examples of this in Sex in the City - Carrie Bradshaw is a woman who lives a "liberated" sex life, but who never knew her own father. While Ms. Bradshaw isn't as promiscuous as two other characters, Miranda or Samantha it still takes a toll on her life and her relationships. In the middle of all of this liberation we have said goodbye to the idea of caring for others and how our actions (or lack thereof at times) can affect other people. We have become a society of act first and worry about the consequences later. Sexual liberation? How can losing a piece of yourself that you can never reclaim possibly set you free.

BarlowGirl has a song called "Porcelain Heart" that has these lyrics:
"Broken heart, one more time.
Pick yourself up, why even cry?
Broken pieces in your hands.
Wonder how you'll make it whole again.

You know you pray, 'This can't be the way.'
You cry, you say 'Something's gotta change and
mend this porcelain heart of mine.'

Someone said, 'A broken heart stings at first then
makes you stronger.'
You wonder why this pain remains.
Were hearts made whole just to break?

You know, you pray, 'This can't be the way.'
You cry, you say 'Something's gotta change and
mend this porcelain heart of mine.'

Creator, only you take brokenness
and create it
into beauty once again.

The song goes into the chorus again, but it makes a good point. Did God make our hearts to be broken repeatedly? No I don't believe he did. I believe his will for our lives is to wait until He sends the right man or woman into our lives.

After praying and discussing this at length, it's one of the reasons why Chris and I don't allow dating. We both know what can happen and Sarah lives with the ramification of her parents choices everyday. She spent a considerable amount of time in therapy working through her anger with her mother about some of her choices and words.

We have people in church who think we are crazy and unrealistic, but I say, "raise the bar of expectations." Expect great things from your children and help them along the way as they learn to navigate their lives and while they may not always like the idea of Mom and Dad hovering, we choose to put the responsibility back on our shoulders where it belongs. This choice isn't for every parent - some of you will read this and think we are crazy, that's fine. However, for some of you this will ring true. Encourage your children to seek God's will for their lives, in every aspect - including their love life. After all, he promises us that he knows the plans he has for us, plans for our good and not for our harm. Granted he said it to the children of Israel, but we have been adopted by the King. Shouldn't we trust him with this choice.

Have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Days

They have once again cancelled school. Monday we kept Elizabeth home, because she had been sick with a tummy bug Saturday night and the majority of Sunday (she began to perk up around 4 p.m. Sunday evening). We kept Beka home, because they'd cancelled Word of Life classes for Sarah - which Chris discovered only after braving the icy roads to drive her there and discovered there was no school. He might have taken Rebekah to school, but after almost getting into an accident with some crazy woman who couldn't drive, he opted instead to let her remain home. So last night we get a phone call about 10 p.m. that Wichita was closing their school for Tuesday. Guess what they've decided to close for Wednesday too.

At this point, I am going to need to come up with some at home, good old fashioned fun. I think it might be time to pull out the Operation Game and Spelling Bee Game that Lizzie got for Christmas so they will have plenty to do. Because as much as I love my girls, I do not love it when they bicker constantly. Nor do I love it when they are crying and screaming at each other at intervals that seem shorter than every five seconds.

What do you do on snow days? Do you have snow day kits you have stashed quietly away to pull out for those days when the kids are home and bored out of their minds? I do a bit. I save my good baking supplies for snow days - and then I wait and if they have too many then I pull out the baking. Elizabeth is at the age where she loves to help - she's great at helping me do laundry, folding and putting it away and helping me bake a little bit so she can learn how to cook. We keep crayons and coloring books handy and paper to make snowflakes to decorate the house with and I hate to say it, but I think it's time to invest in playdoh. I hate playdoh - okay let me clarify this statement. I actually like playdoh itself - what I don't like is cleaning it out of my low pile carpet. It's kind like trying to get the gum out of your carpet that someone conveniently forgot to tell you they'd dropped.

So here we go on towards day 3 of no school for our girls. They are going a little stir crazy, except for Sarah who went sledding and discovered that snow is not always soft while sledding with friends. Elizabeth will be happy learning new things and I have work books with Preschool lessons in them for Rebekah - so here's hoping that tomorrow is a saner day and I'm a saner woman.


Lord,
Thank you for the snow that gives the ground the moisture it needs. Thank you for days of no school so our children can spend time relaxing and letting their brains have a break from learning. Thank you for the patience I know you will give us so we don't duct tape them together or their mouths shut. Thank you for giving someone the idea to invent duct tape so we can joke about using it. But more importantly thank you for creating something so beautiful and how it makes everything seem so pure and new when it falls on the ground.

Amen.

Have a good week, stay inside and stay safe. Please be careful and God bless you all.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, January 10, 2011

Food Wars

We currently have a battle waging in our house. It is a battle of wills. If you are a parent you understand - you have a child who absolutely refuses to eat or do what you tell them. It's up to you to stand firm and make sure your child accomplishes the task that either nourishes their tummys or their souls (even if it is in the long run).

Right now our war is a war of wills over. . . drum roll please - food. It all began when Chris deployed the first time around and it was only Elizabeth and myself. It was easy to slip into a routine of not cooking and just eating out. Not conducive to a pocket book or my tush for that matter. When Chris came home he worked second shift and even after Sarah came home - there were many nights when Elizabeth wouldn't eat - this was compounded by my pregnancy with Beka and the first trimester. This meant my girls ate a lot of hot dogs with macaroni and cheese or Ramen noodles - all cooked by Sarah. It just became easier to fix a sandwich or fix Sarah and I something instead of fightin Elizabeth. But then Beka came along and another deployment came and so it was only Sarah and I at home eating what I fixed (this excludes spaghetti, chicken and french fries, hot dogs, mac and cheese and similar food items).

When Chris came home and the jobs weren't coming, it came time to bite the bullet and fight the food battle. It is much easier to fight when you have another adult fighting with you. Before I was fighting it on my own and had Sarah trying her best to back me upS arah was a trooper and did a good job, but she's the sister it isn't quite the same as having Mommy AND Daddy working together. So Elizabeth tried to fight with Chris, but she lost and I backed him up all the way. She now will eat whatever is put in front of her - she may not like it, but by golly she eats it. By the way Elizabeth is our daughter with an Autism Spectrum Disorder - so parents with children who have similar problems, take heart - your picky eater can learn to eat anything. Now we are down to only Beka who fights, but she is slowly losing the war. Chris or I sit with her and make her eat at least two bites, but we tend to insist on more than that now. For example: both girls are sitting at the table and realize that they won't be leaving until after they've eaten everything in their bowls.

So there you have it, our battle. I hope it encourages you if you have picky eaters - they can be conquered. However, on that note I should add, my aunt and uncle backed each other up at mealtime and my cousin still won't eat vegetables - except for mashed potatoes. So while it may not always work, it is possible to conquer a picky eater.

I hope everyone has a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen






Sunday, January 9, 2011

Misery & Company

Several years ago I read a study that found out something interesting. This has colored my life a great deal. In this study they assigned non-depressed people to spend time either in person or on the phone with a person (assigned by the study) who was suffering from depression. What they found out was interesting. They discovered that most of the non-depressed people didn't stick with it, because they didn't like spending time talking to those who were chronically depressed.

I found this interesting for two reasons. First, I think we've all met people who are continually negative and after a while it feels as if they are sucking the life out of you. You know what I am talking about - it seems that the more you give to them, the more they take from you and often that relationship doesn't work both ways - they take but don't give a lot in return. Second, I found it interesting to see how depression doesn't just affect the depressed person, but also the people who are in their lives - sometimes even in relationships with them. These people often become depressed as well - it absorbs your personal life and it means you suffer with the person who is struggling as well.

I have discovered in 36 years of living that when people are unhappy they become more irritable, they are easily angered and often they feel the need to take others down with them. I have ended relationships for these reasons, because at some point in my life I came to the conclusion that while I may understand why are person is upset or unhappy that I will no longer people a whipping post for other people. I am not mean in ending the relationship, and I am probably a lot nicer than I should be - I issue a few warnings even. If at some point though, they keep going and taking their frustrations out on me, I put my foot down. While in the Bible Jesus says to turn the other cheek, I don't think that means he wanted us to be a doormat or to allow people to use us and abuse us. It's crazy the things people tell you that they should be allowed to do to you in the name of "being a good Christian."

I wonder how often God shakes his head at us and the awful things we do to each other. This is what I know. I know that there are some extremely unhappy people. I know that there are people who do not have a filter so they speak whatever comes into their heads - sometimes with the sole purpose of hurting other people. I also know this is not what God wants for us to take from others nor is it his plan for people to hurt each other this way. Don't you just love free will? I know that God can help tame the tongue. I know he writes about it in James Chapter 1.

So here is what I propose. If you are one of those people who cannot seem to stop speaking and hurting people, I ask that you pray and give this to Christ. Count to three, take a deep breath and pray first before speaking to others harshly. It isn't always easy, I know it, I still have to give it to God in prayer on a regular basis so I don't hurt others. I encourage you, if you are deeply unhappy - seek counseling, seek Christ, but please learn to keep your tongue in your head. Hurting others to make you feel better doesn't make you cute or clever, it makes you mean spirited and bitter. And when you lash out at people it brings you closer to the point of losing another relationship. I tell my daughters this often "Misery may love company, but company does not always love misery." They sigh and nod to shut me up, but I have a study that proves my point, so I'll continue to say it. It works along the same principal of "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." Not always an easy task, but one worth striving for. Maybe if we all practiced this (myself included) we could avoid a lot of heartache and avoid the need to say "I'm sorry." After all, it's much easier to say nothing than to have to eat humble pie later and tell someone that you are sorry for having been mean and hurtful later. AND after a while, no one will believe you if you continue to act in this manner. It also ensures you will spend the rest of your life alone and isolated, because few people will want to be your friend.

So please if you are struggling with depression, or are so deeply unhappy you lash out, then find a therapist, a psychology, a psychiatrist even, but get help. Because the truth is in the end, you are only hurting yourself.

Have a good week. Enjoy the snow if it is coming your way.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, January 7, 2011

Struggles and Growing Pains

Forgive my shameless sharing of photos, but I love our girls. These pictures are of Rebekah our youngest daughter, who also happened to be a very big surprise. After having Elizabeth, Chris and I waited a year and used standard birth control pills as a form of contraception. After Lizzie turned a year old, we started trying.

It was four years before we would finally be able to rejoice because I was pregnant. Four years of negative pregnancy tests, tears, longing, and yearning for Elizabeth to have a sibling who would be there for her in case something should ever happen to Chris and I. Of course, when we first started trying for this, Sarah lived with her mom and we barely saw her. Worrying that Kate wouldn't let Sarah see Lizzie is something happened to us, was a valid concern. Chris could barely find Sarah to talk to her on the phone, much less get his visitation like he should have.







So finally on July 2, 2005 Sarah came to our house and hasn't left since except to visit her mom or for sleepovers, you know normal kid stuff. We still wanted another baby, but after trying and failing and making a decision to have gastric bypass, I decided we needed to just give it up. After all, if we couldn't get pregnant, there must be a reason. So I went forward with my plans to have gastric bypass and at first opted to allow them to tie my tubes. But as I thought about it, I realized I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to my fertility (or in this case, lack thereof) and so I told them before going into surgery to not tie my tubes, because after a year or so we might try to have a baby. April 15, 2006 I was wheeled into surgery. I had the Open Roux NY - it is the older version of gastric bypass in which they cut your stomach open from your sternum to past your belly button. I spent five days in the hospital and it hurt a lot. I wasn't completely up to snuff until after a good four months. I could walk around and sleep in my own bed, but if I was too active w/o the belt they gave me to wrap around my abdomen, then I would start to hurt. The weight came off and life moved on and in August 2006, I realized I was a little late on my period.
I told Chris that Sunday night before I took a test that I didn't want him to get excited, but I was late and I felt kind of like I did when I was pregnant with Elizabeth. He was smiling, but I told him to not go there, it was probably just stress from getting the girls ready to start school. Elizabeth had just started Kindergarten, we had her diagnosis in writing from Dr. Kerschon and she was struggling to adjust to an all day classroom setting. Besides, after years of it being negative, I wasn't fully ready to admit that I could be pregnant. After all, I had been praying the week before and told God that He had brought Sarah into our home and she had emotional baggage from living with her mom and Elizabeth had issues and that as long as our girls were healthy and happy that we were happy with what He had blessed us with. Famous last words, huh!
August 28, 2006 I took a pregnancy test. I went to Sheri's house and we agreed, put the test on the table, no holding it up to the light, just leave it alone and see what happens. Sheri went to one side of the kitchen and I stood near the table, but not to near and we just chatted for a few moments and I looked down. WHAT!!!!!! TWO LINES!!!!! Wait, those are bold lines! I looked at Sheri and she looked at me and I started crying. I'd heard stories about women or men who weep for joy, but I'd never felt that before until that moment. I started weeping. Obviously, my first phone call was to the doctor - I had only had my gastric bypass 4 1/2 months prior to this happening. We hadn't planned on getting pregnant, for the most part we'd been very, very careful. One night though before Chris picked up Sarah from her visit with her mom I decided we'd tried for year with no luck, so what were the odds I'd get pregnant. Apparently they were pretty good. So I called the OB/GYN and changed the appointment I'd set up to discuss fertility problems to a prenatal and question time. I was worried. I had read articles about women who had died after getting pregnant too soon.
I called my surgeon right away and told him the news and got chewed out for not being cautious. So I made phone calls and called Chris at home and told him I had a very positive pregnancy test and we would be having another baby. He tells me when he got off the phone that he was wide awake and danced a jig. I called my family. I called Mary and Ted and asked her if she'd like to drive to Wichita and go out for Chinese food (inside joke in the family and another story).
I was scared, but happy. And it's true - each pregnancy is different. With Elizabeth I was sick from morning until night and couldn't even think about food. I lived in bed or on the couch except one day a month when I would be ravenous. With Beka, I was good most of the day until 4 p.m when the nausea would hit and I'd sit in the recliner and not move so I wouldn't throw up or in this case, dry heave. Sarah and Elizabeth ate a lot of hot dogs with macaroni and cheese or sandwiches and Ramen noodles for the first few months. Then I hit that lovely second trimester and food never smelled or tasted so good. Sheri and I were pregnant at the same time and two pregnant women on the phone at night is not a good thing. I would call Chris before he would leave and request a Taco Bell Burrito Supreme with tons of sour cream and pickles. I couldn't stand pickles when I was pregnant with Elizabeth, but I LOVED then this time around. It was great. We ate food like it was going out of style - and since I'd had gastric bypass, I was still losing the weight and I was breaking my pouch rules so Beka could get plenty of food. She was growing and the doctor was watching and making sure she was thriving in the belly and life was good. The last few weeks though my blood pressure began to climb. Dr. Breit had been monitoring it carefully, since Mom had lost one baby to toxemia (pre-eclampsya they call it now) and had almost died with Matt because of the same problem. April 30, 2007 I went into my appointment. I was tired (I'd reached the uncomfortable phase so sleep wasn't so great) and I was starving and I went in and my blood pressure was very high (150/120) and so Dr. Breit insisted we go straight to the hospital. She said for observation - because I had the girls with me, but I stayed, they induced and Beka was born four hours after they started.
Each birth is different. Elizabeth's birth was all day and it was terribly long, I was horribly sick and annoyed and there were tons of people in the room (all family). Chris and I opted for a quite delivery with just him, myself, the doctor and the nurses. I also knew that I didn't want anyone who was perky or cheerful and that I didn't want visitors until after the baby was born. Some people can calmly and quietly labor on with a lot of people around them. I am not one of them, I need quiet and low lights, and only a few people around or I get very, very cranky. I'm terse and annoyed easily - so the second birth was by far a better a experience than the first time around. It helped that I knew what to expect - that I had no control over my body and to just let it happen. It also helped that instead of pushing for an hour like I did with Elizabeth; Rebekah was born after only four pushes. And suddenly, there she was, this amazingly tiny, little blue eyed girl who is still a light in our house.
Each child brings something into your life. Sarah brings questions and lots of joking. Elizabeth brings compassion for those who struggle in life for whatever reason. Rebekah brings a lot smiles and laughter. Each girl is snuggly and cuddly and loves reading books. They all have gone through the princess phase and the scared phase. Each one has different things they loved or don't love. Sarah is all about music, poetry and books. Elizabeth is about drawing, art, reading, and she is discovering music. Rebekah is all about dolls, snuggles, tickling and playing with Mommy and Daddy. As each girl grows each of them develops into their own person - Sarah was our "what if" girl. Elizabeth is into Math and Science and Art. For now Beka is just happy to be happy and play with her dolls.
I hope you all have a good weekend.
Love in Christ,
Maureen