Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jude: What the 2nd Year Brings

It's that time again.  My little boy turns 2 today and I love it!  When he was a few weeks old, I remember saying how much I wanted to know what kind of a person he was going to be. What would he like? What would his nature be?  And now, I love who he is and can't remember when I learned all about him!

This second year has brought horses, more books, basketball, JUMPING, cuddling in mom and dad's bed, and so. much. talking! For me as a mom, this second year has brought yelling - which I never wanted to do, threats - which sound ridiculous as I say them, and punishment - which is hardly consistent.  That being said, I love how he teaches me to grow - when I don't want to, when it's hard and especially, when it's inconvenient. 

We were very blessed with a beautiful (if a little windy) day to celebrate with a few friends.  I'm so very grateful for how much love J sees in his life.  It's natural to desire (even demand on some days) the ideal or the best for your child/life/day/circumstance but ultimately we never really control it.  The lesson I'm slowly, slowly learning is that the love is what matters.  And love just oozes out when I see these guys! Happy 2nd Birthday Jude!

Friday, November 9, 2012

How Useful is Your Library?

I'm the queen of not utilizing things mostly because I'm not in the habit.  Sure it might be life changing, but if I haven't purposefully pushed it into my schedule or lifestyle, it might as well not exist to me.  The library is one of those things for a lot of people.

Loves to read, just like his daddy! They do what they see!

I have always been a reader, but like I said, going to the library was an extra step that I didn't always take advantage of.  Once I met Mr. Butler, who consumes words on a page like water, I was hooked, if only by association!   We are blessed to live seconds from a recently renovated, very awesome library which is part of a huge library system here in Oklahoma City.  So it's easy for us.  Some of you might not be so blessed and of course all libraries don't offer the same services.  If yours doesn't offer something, ask why not or what it would take to get it.  You'd be surprised at how far you can get just by asking.  Still, here are some really cool things about Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Library System.

-Internet Reserves: Doing a research project? Found out your gluten intolerant? Think your husband's cheating on you? You can look up every book on the subject available in their system and request it to be reserved for you.

-Online Renewals: If you want to keep a book as long as they will let you (about 2 months, depending), just renew your books online.  No need to even show up.

-Interlibrary Loan: As a card carrier, you have access to ALL libraries in the system.  That means if your local branch doesn't have a book, the other 17 might! Use their website to find a copy and have it sent to your library for borrowing!

-Books by Mail: If you are homebound, you can qualify to have library books sent to you by mail for free!

-Free Events: There are free events (performances, club meetings, seminars, etc.) scheduled every week throughout the branches.  All are very relevant to families, developing child readers, community opportunities, etc.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.

-Databases: Newspapers, almanacs, phone directories, encyclopedias, the list goes on of all the different kinds of information available and available online! Research (that isn't just internet 'knowledge') at the tip of your fingers 24-7.

-Free Wi-fi & eMedia: Free Wifi and computer access - score! A whole host of books are available for loan on your ereader as well as audiobooks galore!

And yes, I could go on.  But here's the deal: If anybody in your family is in school (public or home) or ever needs to do research of ANY kind, why aren't you using your local library? It's an awesome resource that you're paying for anyway (taxes) whether you utilize it or not, so why not?  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Your Stroll is my Race

Have you ever witnessed somebody breeze through something in a few moments that you struggle for hours to get right?  It's daunting and frustrating.  Have you ever experienced (you or a child) racing through a subject at school with ease and/or not grasping something until months (sometimes years) later than the norm?

We all have a habit of assuming that most people don't struggle with those kind of inequalities.  We assume that it's just us or our kids, not most families.  As a piano teacher, I'm blessed with the opportunity in some cases to teach siblings.  In case you're not accustomed to the differences in family members, they are consistently inconsistent! What's easy as breathing for one, is a foreign language for another.

I'm the mother of an almost 2 year old who has lots of cousins and friends near his age.  Comparing skills is second nature, sometimes out of fun, sometimes out of fear that our child is behind.  But there is a very clear point that we are not getting as a society and often not practicing as parents and teachers.  Everyone - EVERYONE - has their own pace when it comes to learning and developing.  When we treat (panic, rush, demean) each other (especially kids) as though they've missed the boat on something, we miss the point of learning.

My son is not interested in colors and says everything is green (which is a mighty fine color).  In some circles that might be cause for heavy concern.  But I know that my son is developing weekly - more words, more signs (ASL), and more complex concepts.  And he's got a great arm! I trust that he'll get there eventually, so what's the emergency?  It's so easy to get hung up on milestones and skill levels and ignore the full picture of someone's development.

Everyone is going to have weaknesses and strengths.  If you give a child the message that their weakness makes them abnormal or wrong, then that could affect their approach to learning.  We all have to work harder at some things.  Sometimes your stroll (through algebra or public speaking) is my race.  The sooner we accept those realities, the sooner we can focus on how we are developing as a person, not just at a skill level.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ideas for Your November

-Make your own applesauce.  Apples are in season (and cheaper) so take advantage of it now! Here's how I do it.

-Create a thankful jar for an important person in your life.  Fill it throughout the month with all the reasons and examples of why you're thankful for them. What an impact this could make in their life!

-Google a couple of your family's Thanksgiving traditions.  Make a game out of it by having everyone guess before revealing the truth.  More often than not, we have no idea how certain things got started!

-Plan to try one new thing for your Thanksgiving holiday.  Maybe a new craft, new recipe or start a new tradition!  Even if your new thing is an EPIC FAIL, you'll still make a fun memory with your family!

-Clean out your pantry and donate items to a food drive or food bank.  Or even better with your family or friends, hold a fund/food drive to benefit your local food bank.  The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is always accepting donations and makes it easy!  Look for something similar in your area.

-Take some pictures! Document the leaves changing colors and capture where your family is right now, for better or worse.

-Before the holiday chaos ensues, sit down and reflect on the year that is quickly coming to an end.

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Applesauce From Scratch

Why make anything from scratch?  Doesn't it take too long?  Isn't the stuff you buy at the store good enough?  More than anything, the best reason to make anything from scratch is because its better for you.  Take applesauce for instance.  Unless you look for it carefully, most jars have extra sweeteners (sugar) added in.  Sweeteners, that in my experience, are totally unnecessary if you use the right combination of apples.  Usually, making your own is significantly cheaper as well.

Well, here is something that is so easy and doesn't take but a couple of hours for a batch and will taste so good you will turn your nose up at the store bought.

There are several websites discussing details about making your own applesauce and varying recipes, like Pick Your Own, Simply Recipes and Preserving Autumn but here's my take on it.

-Pick out 2 or 3 different types of apples.  The sweeter the apple, the sweeter the sauce.  Why you use tart (granny smith) apples and then sweeten it up with sugar is beyond me!  Varieties like Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, McIntosh, or Cameo.  All of my combinations have resulted in an apple pie filling flavor. WAY better than the store stuff!

-Core and chop apples. If you're in a hurry and don't mind chunky applesauce, don't bother peeling them.  I never do.

-Put into a pot (like a large stock pot, depending on how many apples you have) with cinnamon and cook.  Bring to a boil and simmer.  Stirring occasionally until everything is mashable.

-Mash (or put through a food mill if you're fancy and thorough), mix and stir.

-Pour into jars.  Heat in a water bath.  Set aside for cooling and sealing.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Balance We Bring

You know the bad mood you get sometimes that can take everything about anything and turn it into something bad?  Especially the one that's focused on yourself and how horrendous or UN-special you are?  I lived there for a few decades and still have 'nostalgic' moments from time to time.  I think it began with the realization that I had blond hair, but no other member of my immediate family did.  Suddenly, I thought surely I was adopted, weird and singled out (in a bad way) because I didn't have black or brown hair.  Nevermind that the masses preferred blond hair and I should've considered my self blessed!  Goofy, of course, but that's how irrational fears and uncertainties work.

I think we all can write a list of attributes that we hate and would trade with someone, if given the chance.  Truth be told is that most of those hated aspects are probably bringing balance to one of your communities and several relationships.  What we experience as weird or different is often an opportunity to help others find an equilibrium somehow.

Though the little can complain of not knowing how, the big's heart grows bigger in the showing how.

-You might hate the grammar police, but they're a great resource when you need that resume proofread.

-Maybe you can't stand that 'soandso' is always late, but they remind you to grow in mercy and patience.  Or maybe you bristle up at the 15 minutes early crowd.  They are usually the ones who provide extra help and preparation.

-Spenders help us remember that life is short and to enjoy our days.  Savers prepare for our future and give many good gifts in time.  Both are necessary for a healthy life.

We can grow so overwhelmed by disgust - for ourself or someone else - that we completely miss value and balance that everyone brings.  I struggle a lot with not focusing on all of my ugly attributes (inside and out).  It's hard when I'm looking to be this perfect person that everyone loves, that I love and that is never wrong, but all I come up with is me.  What I overlook, though, is how much value even my ugly faults can bring the world around me.

Confessing a weakness to a friend usually increases your bond.  Asking for help gives others an opportunity to serve.  Even experiencing sickness or tragedy can bring others closer to God through prayer.  We all bring balance to others, if only we would look up and appreciate it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Chaos in Change

Dear change,
You know we've never had a good relationship. And while I still think you could be easier on me if you just tried, I'll be the bigger person this time and accept you as you are. But just remember, you owe me now. That means the future had better pan out well. Otherwise, I'm comin' to getcha!

A cautious and yet-to-be-satisfied customer

Sometimes I think we define and view ourselves by the attributes we like or would like to have.  I pretend that I'm easygoing, open to new things, especially when I tell myself I want new things.  In reality, I don't handle change well.  Emotionally, I thrash about resisting and arguing with it, looking for the easiest solution to make me feel better.  That usually results in a rash decision that doesn't help me long term.  Thankfully, Mr. Butler's middle name is rational.  

So, have a good day and here's to chaos!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Getting Your Hair Caught in the Vacuum

My hair is long enough that it reaches past my waistline.  It's more convenient to put it up in a bun when I'm exercising or doing housework, but sometimes I just forget to.  Yesterday, I forgot to.  Vacuuming is best done when J is awake, but that means he wants to be involved, which I love but can get complicated.  So, the faster I finish the task the better.  As I entered J's room, the vacuum started to sound different and like the careful household item owner that I am (or Mr. Butler has trained me to be) I stopped to make sure everything was okay.  In one quick motion of concern, I leaned down to look underneath and suddenly my hair fell in the same direction.  Before I knew what was happening my head was jerked toward the ground and my hair was being sucked into oblivion!

I recovered without a problem, but it was ridiculous and alarming all at the same time.  And life application came pouring into my brain.   Of course, there is the don't let your hair near the bottom of a vacuum lesson. Beyond that, perhaps this is how some people wind up in the proverbial ditch on the side of the road.  No bad intentions, no ill will.  Just low attention to detail, low caution and suddenly they are getting sucked up into something they never dreamed of.

How to keep your vacuum from sucking you up:

1) Remember the power it holds.  Because something is common to us, it's easy to forget the power it has to affect our lives.  Anything that we allow ourselves to get dependent on or familiar with can and will influence us.  Technology, friendships, even habits like diet and exercise.  Make sure we treat it with the respect it deserves.  It will change your life, just make sure that's a good thing.

2) For intended use only.  When we don't have what we want (companionship, confidence, motivation, etc.), it's easy to pretend to get it from somewhere else (food, spending $$, facebook, etc.).  Food is for health and sustainment.  Money allows the purchase of goods, not happiness! Make sure you are utilizing elements of your life for what they were intended.

3) It can happen to you! No one is immune to being careless and getting sucked up into a whirlwind of some kind.  Know your weakness and put in fences.  If you know you are a time waster and just got a new iPad, set time limits for yourself.  Do you eat when you get bored? Every time that tummy growls, drink a glass of water and do something on your to-do list first before taking a bite.

Nobody (that I know of or would claim to know) plans on getting their hair sucked up a vacuum.  Nobody plans to lose precious time and relationships over foolish choices.  But it happens to us all, all the time.  Take a little inventory today.  "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!" That pretty much applies to most everything else.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Balance in Cycling

I don't know how the rest of the world functions, but this girl goes through cycles (not just 'that' cycle). Cycles of precision, cycles of rejuvenation, cycles of not hanging up a single item of clothing for a week because I just don't feel like it.  And as much as I'd like to will myself to stop cycling, I haven't discovered the secret combination.  What I am learning is that at the end of said cycles, I usually come out with new observations and better perspectives.  Here's what I've learned this week:

-I naturally try to make every choice or decision into a moral right and wrong.  And that's not healthy.  Making someone or something 'wrong', when it is not necessarily so is something to be feared more.

-Just because something is a good thing to do doesn't not necessarily mean it's something good for me in this season of life.  There's an organization that I support and feel compelled to be an active member of.  And I've tried, but I found myself dreading it and resenting much to do with it.  Why? Because I knew that if I didn't participate I could spend some down time with my son or get a day off where I could be more productive at home.  I tried really hard to fit it in, but it finally hit me.  There are plenty of members of the organization to support it and only one wife and mom in my household.  That trumps everything right now.

-Stress, lack of sleep and lack of exercise has the power to ruin my life.  Good, solid habits and God's merciful strength is the only thing that keeps it from doing so.  Without the habits I've been working on lately (better eating, exercising daily, early meditation time, etc.), I would accomplish nothing and spiral downward.  When I do spiral downward, it's only by God's mercy that I start over again.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Joyful Habit

Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction.  Break the habit.  Talk about your joys.  

-Rita Schiano

Joy in its purest form

Everyone needs a safe place to talk through problems.  No question.  But I usually try to make every place a safe place and every moment an emergency counseling session.  Sit back and listen today to how many conversations consist of complaints and woe-is-me talk.  I was convicted by what I heard - especially by what was coming out of me.

So, I'd like to start practicing a new habit and share with you a few of my joys today!

Separations and Homecomings My husband was gone for almost a week and I didn't handle life well.  Now that he is home, I'm a much better wife than when he left.  Being apart, dealing with circumstances I disliked has made me so much more grateful and joyful for a run of the mill Thursday!

Learning and Discovery In teaching piano and in raising my son, I get to witness learning and new discoveries every day! It is so fun to witness the look of pride on a person's face when something clicks.  And I pray that everyone takes their opportunities to learn and explore.  It's definitely worth the time and effort!

Exercise and Real Food I've been blessed with excess weight after J was born that has been a thorn in my side, literally.  It has been a blessing because I couldn't just will or wish the fat away and time didn't simply take care of it either.  To lose weight I have had to exercise hard and often.  To lose weight I've had to cut out sugar, junk food and limit my eating out choices.  I'm thankful for all of this because I'm slowly learning how much power we have over our bodies and lives if we learn how to treat them right.  I'm so happy that I have options that help change ME!

What are you joyful about today?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Politics, Sports and Other Things I Care Very Little For

It's Thursday and here's what's going on: The kick-off of football season, two political conventions just about in the books, and even with the holiday on Monday, I feel like I haven't seen my husband all week!  I'm not a sports fan.  I'm certainly not a political activist.  And I get cranky when my routine gets messed up!  So, maybe I'm a little cranky, but I have a couple of opinions about some of the hypocrisy we allow when sports and politics are involved.

I'll just tell you up front, every time the subject (whether in person or in social media) of politics or sports comes up, I cringe.  I cringe and I pray people will behave.  Because about 70% of the time, people don't behave.  People aren't respectful, humble, kind or honest.  We get prideful, boasting, rude, mean and grow into big fat liars.  Liars to ourselves about how good our team/political party is and how bad the other is.  Liars to each other, making claims about what (or who) will fix things in the country/conference/team.  We also get demanding and ungrateful.  The ability to vote in an election and watch a football game on a beautiful Saturday alike are awesome gifts and blessings.  Many times, we behave as though we are in charge of everything to do with them and are personally paying each politician and player.

Now, living in Oklahoma, you can't get away from sports fans because these days, if it's not football it's basketball.  And I also live in a free, relatively democratic society so getting away from others exercising their political freedoms would mean moving and potentially giving up my own freedoms.  So, I am in no way suggesting that we try to get away or that all involvement and support of sports and politics is bad, wrong or offensive to me.  I love a good basketball or football game, snuggled up to Mr. Butler - especially with my ipod handy to distract me when I lose interest! I know one day J will be on some field or court and I'll desperately pray to God that his team win!  And, I get fearful and overwhelmed at the thought of one day losing my freedoms - freedom of religion, the safety and luxuries we are provided in this country! I'm even thankful there are at least two major political parties, where one party or ideal can't dominate completely for ever and ever.

What I am begging for is good, well-thought out, reasonable behavior.  Just because a party did something profitable once doesn't mean it is infallible and is the only solution to everything.  But just because you disagree with certain ideals of a party doesn't mean it can't accomplish beneficial things for everyone.  Politically, I'm probably half republican and half democrat because I support some of both sides.  In sports and politics, every last player and coach are human, subject to mistakes, circumstances and game-changing events.  Everybody has a bad day and deserves mercy just as much as you do.  If you can't enjoy the ride and appreciate the process without being rude and stirring up strife with others then maybe you should re-evaluate why you feel so strongly that you can't behave in an honorable way.  And yes, I may feel so strongly about all of this because I'm cranky, so maybe we'll all behave better next week! :)

It's a balance, I tell ya!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This Old House

This morning, as I was making my bed, I realized how much I would miss my little house.  No, I'm not moving anytime soon, but we have some goals over the next couple of years with moving being one of them.  And you know how it is.  The (cheap) carpet is definitely showing its true colors and the ancient wiring in the bathroom keeps the light from staying on consistently and everything else like it.  All screaming at me, "Your new house won't be like this!"

So, moving has been on my mind, but for some reason I thought of actually walking out the front door and never coming back to call it home.  I'd already done that once in my life and it was traumatic.  Sure, its just a house and I know some people live in 15 different places throughout their lifetime.  But, not me and my entire marriage was housed here.  My beautiful son was born in the living room! And on it goes, all the sentimental things that I'll miss.

I turn to Randy, who is in the bathroom putting in his contacts, and officially inform him that although I most definitely want to move (and ASAP!), know that I will deeply mourn this house.  As you would expect he chuckled and said ok, with that 'you're crazy but I'm getting used to it' kind of look.  When I was much younger and my family moved out of my childhood home, I was so excited that I didn't look back.  Full speed ahead!!  And I crashed and burned (emotionally) really hard.

My point is this: Change - even when its the healthiest, most beneficial, most RIGHT change - is hard and requires a little bit of mourning.  A new car, a new school, new friends, new routines even! Sometimes we ignore our need for mourning because a change is normal, necessary or something that happens really fast.  But acknowledging somehow what the old represents or meant to our life is healing and nourishing somehow.  As babies turn into men and structures decay, life will not be the same.  And while that's okay, to maintain our balance we have to honor all that those babies and once new entities were and meant before we can embrace the bright future.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy 28th Birthday, Mr. Butler

My young (22 year old) groom turns 28 today.  I'm so thankful for the man that he is, but even more the man he is striving to be.  He continues to teach me so much and demonstrates such a fierce love, especially when it comes to Jude.  I love that! Here are a few of my favorite moments with Mr. Butler over the past few years.

His great aunt Ouida

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes

Austin, TX

Austin, TX