Category Archives: Mom stuff

Life is not fair

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“The coach stacked the team.”

“What do you mean?”  I asked my son.  He was sitting next to me on the bottom step of the bleachers, panting and sipping water from a squeeze bottle.

“The coach picked all his favorite players and put them on the other team.”

“So, you’re saying the teams aren’t fair?”  I was stalling as I contemplated what to say or do next.  I don’t believe that parents should always rush in and fix their kids’ problems for them.  I don’t like it when parents control the outcomes in favor of their kids.

“Yeah, basically.” My son responded with disgust and discouragement.

“So what do we do when life is unfair?”  I asked him.

“Suck it up and work harder,”  He responded immediately.  I smiled at his interpretation of our family values.

“Exactly.  When the teams are unfair, you’ll have to work harder to beat the other guys.  That’s all there is to it.”  And I sent him back to his team.  I wasn’t sure what he would do with that.  But I was proud to see that for the next half of the soccer game, he really stepped it up and gave it his all.  So much so, that he took a direct hit at close range and his ankle swelled up like a golf ball.  (Hopefully it will look better in the morning after ice, elevation and ibuprofen.)

Way to go Boy!  Not only did you give the other team a run for their money that night, but you demonstrated to me that you have absorbed the family values of no whining and no complaining, work hard and make the most of what life gives you.  You’re team didn’t win, but you have a strong character and solid values.  You’re a good sport in both games and in life.  I’m proud of you, Son.

Of Sloths and stuff

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This past weekend was a  holiday weekend in Costa Rica.  Here Columbus Day is called “Day of the Races” or Culture Day.  It was convenient that we have Monday off of school since most of the high school kids were on a retreat with our local youth group.  With the two big kids gone, and only the little one at home with mom and dad, we made spontaneous plans with friends to go to the beach for a night.  The beach is so much more restful when you only have one child to keep an eye on!

Normally packing to go away even for one night is like packing for a trip to the moon.  Not only must I pack for myself… which would only take about 30 minutes if that’s all I had to do… but I must also pack (or check the packing of) 3 kids.  We always bring food to the beach too.  We save money by eating breakfast and lunch picnic style so we can eat dinner at a restaurant… that’s a mother’s luxury.  So food for 5 times however many breakfasts and lunches there will be must be packed.  Then there’s all the swimming gear:  boogie boards, goggles and snorkels, sand toys and diving rings, sun screen, water shoes, beach towels, and inflatables.  Usually it’s all stored in one place between trips, but occasionally someone has taken things out of the stash and we must hunt down a lost pair of goggles or the bottle of SPF 85 that I bought last month.  It’s never as easy as I imagined it would be when we first talked about leaving.

Then because it frequently rains at the beach, we bring things to entertain the kids during rainy afternoons and evenings.  A couple of board games, a bag of Barbies, and our computers to watch a movie or two are the preferred methods of entertainment for the family.  I’m just happy with my Kindle and a chair on the balcony with a jungle view.

Once we get packed into the car, the fun begins.  Just getting out of the city for a while is relaxing.  Seeing the mountains split by the ribbon of highway clinging precariously to cliffs facing deep, cloud filled gorges lined with combed rows of coffee bushes causes me to relax my shoulders and breath in the scenery.  I love where I live.  All the way to the beach there are fruit stands marking the places where little towns touch the high way.  If you need a bite to eat, there are “sodas” or little Mom-and Pop diners accompanying the stands of “Mangas” and “Pipas Frias” all along the way.

crocsEven though we’ve seen them a million times, we always stop at one particular bridge to count the giant salt water crocodiles lounging on the banks of the Tarcoles River.  Then we walk back to the road side restaurant for a plate of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) before continuing on our way to the coast.  As I sit on the wooden benches watching my children sip fresh fruit juice to wash down their rice and beans, I look up to the palm frond roof and think about how much I love this life.  I hear chickens and a rooster outside the door and an iguana climbs up the tree that serves as a wall for the dining area.  The heat is oppressive and I’m sweating through my sarong which only makes the fresh squeezed fruit juice all the more refreshing.  This is the life!

I can’t believe that I GET to live here.  When I stand on the beach and take in the scope of the bay I fall in love with Costa Rica all over again.   I realize that this is where some people come on vacation, but for me, this is my home.  And I never want to leave.

monkeyOne of our family’s favorite things about the beach is all the animals that we get to see there.  San Jose is closing down it’s zoo sometime this year, because it’s pretty pointless when you can see the same animals in the wild for free.  At the beach we spot howler monkeys, “titi” monkeys and white faced capuchins.  Iguanas the size of dogs sun themselves along the steaming hot pavement of the road.  It pays to keep your eyes on the trees, because sloths are everywhere as well.  This past weekend, we spotted a Momma sloth carrying a baby on her belly.  How cool is that?

slothI feel the stress of the last week melt off my shoulders when I consider all the amazing things about where I live.  I am reminded all over again why I love living here.  A weekend at the beach is just what the doctor ordered.

Necessity is the Mother of… Pintrest

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I shut down my Pintrest account about a year ago (you can read about WHY I did that here.) But I am still crafty and ingenious when it comes to making do with having less.  I don’t need a Pintrest page… I live it!  Let me give you some examples of making do and repurposing items that I’ve had to come up with here in Costa Rica.

Our kitchen is actually very American in size and style.  But one of the things it’s lacking is drawers.   So I had to find a place to put the silverware.  I bought four green glass blocks and a long piece of wood at the hardware store to build a shelf over the back of the sink right under the window.  Then I found some decorative jars to put on the shelf to hold our silverware.  It’s super convenient and now I’m sure I can never go back to putting silverware in drawers.  I also bought several large flowerpots to store spatulas, tongs and large knives right on the counter where they are always handy.

You can see my silverware jars in the background.

You can see my silverware jars in the background.

Another way that I’ve repurposed items is in my bedroom.  I have a lot of necklaces and other jewelry.  At our local discount store I found several cooling racks for baking.  I bought adhesive hooks to hang the racks over my desk.  Then using S-hooks I hang my jewelry on the wall like art!  Pintrest eat your heart out! (This week I asked my daughter to organize my jewelry by color.  She was exceedingly excited for this project.  Girl after my own heart.)

You can see the jewelry, cooling racks on the wall above my desk.

You can see the jewelry, cooling racks on the wall above my desk.

When we first moved to this house I was really bothered that there was no closet or coat rack by the front door.  Shoes and jackets and bags just piled up behind the door.  I drove me crazy.  So I asked my husband to build me something.  He thought it was insane when I first explained that my idea was to use doors to hold coat hooks and a bench that doubled as a shoe rack.  But he indulged me and followed my instructions even though he couldn’t imagine what it was going to look like.  Now he proudly accepts all the credit for building one of the coolest coat racks that anyone has ever seen.  Everyone who sees it wants one too.  (Of course I just let him soak up the praise… because I’m going to need him to build the next thing I dream up.)

My amazing coat rack made of doors and a shoe rack.  Thanks Babe for listening even though you thought I was crazy!

My amazing coat rack made of doors and a shoe rack. Thanks Babe for listening even though you thought I was crazy!

But my most recent (and currently my favorite) Pintrest worthy craft is in my office at school.  Unfortunately it’s so new that I don’t have a photo yet.  However, I found these amazing square, bamboo bowls for about $4 each at our discount store.  The next time we took a family day at the beach, I planned ahead.  I brought home two large cream cheese containers full of black volcanic sand with a stunning gold fleck in it.  I already have buckets full of shells that my kids have collected, so I just combined the sand and some shells in my discount bamboo bowl to make my own zen garden for my desk top.  You would not believe how therapeutic that pretty little sand box has become.  No one can resist sticking their fingers in that fine black softness and scooping around with the dainty shell cups.  I’m pretty proud of that stroke of genius and I didn’t even need Pintrest to show me how.

Thankfulness is to Blessings as Magnet is to Iron

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“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

~Henry Ward Beecher

I was never good at those test questions that ask you to choose one of the logical options based on the logical relationship between other logical objects.  Cup is to Drink as Knife is to… and your options include:

a.) Cut

b.)  Math

c.)  Balloons

d.) Butter

I was the abstract kid who over thought all of those options and could convince myself that all of them could work in various existential situations.  In the long run, after 10 minutes of agonizing internal conflict, would have chosen b)  Math.   My logic would have included the statements, “Math is a killer hard subject” and “I want to stab myself in the eye with a knife when I do Math.”  So logically Cup is to Drink as Knife is to Math.

So in this school-ish intellectual quote by Henry Ward Beecher we have a lovely logic equation:  Thankfulness is to Blessings as Magnet is to Iron Filings.  The reasoning goes like this.    When you are thankful, your heart and mind are attracted to blessings and you will find them all throughout your day without even trying to search for them.  You will appear to others to have an abnormally blessed life.   You will be a Blessings Magnet.  But when you are ungrateful you will only find negativity and trials scattered throughout your day like boulders strewn across a mountainous Costa Rican highway headed towards the sea.  Alright, I told you my logic was unique.  (So Knife = Math.  And I know I’m right about that.)

Thankfulness makes you see how over-the-top generous our Father God is.  Thankfulness helps you find blessings everywhere you turn.  Thankfulness makes you discover how Grace-filled your life is… everyday.

Thank You God for what an amazing, grace-filled week of blessings this has been!  You never cease to pour out blessings on those whom you love and who love you in return.  As we practice thankfulness, make us more and more receptive to your loving kindnesses and abundant blessings- big and little.

It takes a Village

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Recently I was sitting in a serious, important meeting and someone messed up a famous quote.  They said, “It takes a village to raise an idiot.”  Even as I type that, I get the giggles because misquotes just tickle my funny bone!  (I guess that’s one reason why my husband and I get along so well.  He’s a wealth of misquoted movie lines and love them all.)  The real quote is, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  And I really think this is true.

For example, I came home from our first day of school and spent some time decompressing on Facebook.  I sat there reading posts from my Momma friends who were sending their kids off to their first day of school.  They posted pictures of their precious off spring in clean uniforms and new backpacks.  They made a variety of comments about their emotions ranging from proud to sobbing to stunned disbelief that their child could be this old.

It all made me ponder how much work happens on both sides of the school room door to prepare a kid for this first day of school.  Parents have spent weeks stocking up on school supplies, labeling crayon boxes and lunch boxes, wrapping up summer plans with a final day at the State Fair, switching out summer closets for fall wardrobes, visiting school open houses and meeting teachers, etc.  All to prepare their child for their first day of school.

On the other side of the door, teachers have been hard at work for weeks already!  They have been working on lesson plans, browsing Teachers-Pay-Teachers and Scholastic.com for ideas, decorating their rooms, labeling desks and lockers with cute owl name cards, twisting their brains around impossible schedules to make sure they fit in all the required curriculum, taking work home with them over the weekends, etc.  All to prepare to receive your child in their classroom.

Parents naturally think of praying for their kids.  But add in an extra prayer for their teachers too.  They have already been hard at work for your kids.  They are investing their lives in your children.  Ask God to make it a worthy investment.  Especially if your child’s teacher in not a Believer, pray for your teachers.  Ask God to show you how to bless your child’s teacher.  Shine God’s light into their lives in exchange for the hours and hours that he or she will be pouring into your child’s life.

And BTW, I’m still not really blogging.  I’m still taking a break… OK, I’m really just saying this for me at this point.  No one really believes me anymore.

First Day of School Prayer Requests

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Happy Labor Day to all my American Readers.

I’m still on my blogging break for the rest of this week.  But I wanted to announce that today is the first day of school!  After two months of working to get things in order, we are as ready as we will ever be.  Late Friday afternoon we were informed that our Gym teacher has Dengue Fever and will likely be out for a month!  But this time I did not panic.  I knew God could and would get this one.  He had just the week before with the new 2nd grade teacher- so He could do it again.  And he did.

I happen to be married to a sports fanatic who took extra gym classes in his senior year of high school just because he loved gym so much.  I casually mentioned the vacancy to him and wondered out loud if he would be interested in subbing for the sick gym teacher.  He said “let me think about it,” but then immediately started quizing our children about what games they like to play in gym.  The next morning he asked for the schedule and started planning his activities!  (Not every school is lucky enough to be able to say that their Vice Principal is married to their Gym Teacher.)  I think he’s secretly bursting with fruit flavor on the inside at the chance to teach his favorite subject… but he’s going to be tired at the end of the day!  I just know it!

So there are two things for you to pray about today, maybe three.  First off, pray for our kids who go back to school today.  The girls are giddy with excitement, the boy is resigned but unenthusiastic.  It’s his Senior year and there’s only one other kid in his grade.  I want him to have  great last year where he really challenges himself and feels the reward of accomplishment.  (That’s what you get when your mother is a teacher by nature, motivational speeches on the first day of school.)

Second prayer request is of course for our sick teacher.  Dengue is terribly painful, I know!  The Doctor once thought I had Dengue, but it wasn’t that.  It was just the worst flu I’ve had in… forever.  But not Dengue.

Finally, my husband has already started making phone calls to pastors back in the United States to book church services for our upcoming year of furrlough in the summer of 2014.  With him teaching at the school this month, the calls won’t be made.  Yet our Miracle Working God knows what we need even before we ask for it.  He can provide a way for the calendar to get filled with services.  He can inspire pastors to contact us as we keep our shoulder to the grind stone here in Costa Rica.  He can do this.  So pray with us that miraculously we would still get services booked this month.

So I’m off to school with my whole family in tow today.  Pray for us and for our needs.  And may God bless you as well.

P.S. I’m still on my blogging break.  You didn’t really see anything here.  I’m not really blogging.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Mothers’ Day

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Today is Mothers’ Day in Costa Rica.  Since we have lived in the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica, I think I should get three Mothers’ Days a year.  There are two times of the year when it’s best to make big purchases in Costa Rica.  One is Mothers’ Day and the other is Black Friday… which is neither on a Friday nor are sale prices to be expected, but sometimes you get lucky.  (That idea still catching on down here.)  But Mothers’ Day is the day to make big purchases here.

Though I’m not expecting a car or a refrigerator or even a blender, I would like a coffee date with my husband or maybe, as my 6-year-old says, “a pack of flowers”.  The fresh-cut flowers are one of my favorite things about Costa Rica.  They are cheap and exotic, beautiful and fresh.  Sometimes I buy myself flowers just for the sheer pleasure of having beautiful things in my house.  Nothing makes me “mushy” like getting a bunch of flowers for no reason at all.  I just love that!

So today on Mothers’ Day I will feel sorry for all of you Mothers back in the States who only get one Mothers’ Day per year and who just get ordinary roses or carnations which your husbands pay outrageous prices for.  I will gaze lovingly at my “pack” of lilies, bird-of-paradise, daisies and hibiscus and think about how lucky I am to get three Mothers’ Days per year.

Birthday Girl

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Emma and her friends

This is my Emma (in black) and her friends.  Today she turns 12.  She is the reason I never went back to home schooling after language school.  She is such a social butterfly that it would kill her to stay home day after day.  She absolutely loves school, everything about it.  The Lord has given Emma a large circle of missionary friends here in CR.

Right around this age girls normally divide into two camps, the little girls and the big girls.  The little girls still play with their dolls, still draw and write, still say they love their teachers.  The big girls are moving more towards the teen years.  They bop around with ear buds plugging music into their heads.  They stare vacantly at their texting device of choice.  And they spend longer and longer amounts of time preening in the mirror before they go anywhere.

Maybe because she’s a middle child, Emma is successfully straddling both worlds.  She’s making her metamorphosis gradually, and I’m happy about that.  (I’m not ready to pack up the dolls yet.)  She had a “Cup Cake Wars” themed birthday party.  At the party, we gave her make up for the first time.  All the girls ran screaming and squealing up stairs to give each other make overs.  They came back down all sparkly and jazzed up, ready to curl up with their pillow pets and watch “Little Women”.

Happy Birthday to my Emma Daisy, my very own American Girl Dolly.  I hope you love your new iPod.  <3

“No one in the world likes you”

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Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

When my best friend from high school was a little girl, her mother used to rock her in her arms and tell her, “Hana, there’s no one in the world like you.  There’s no one in the world like you.”  One day her mother over heard little Hana speaking to her baby brother in a sad tone of voice.  Listening carefully she heard little Hana tell the baby, “Franky, no one in the world likes me.”

Poor girl.  Can you imagine?  She thought her mother was telling her over and over again that no one loved her.  Apparently her mother was able to correct the misunderstanding and she seems to have turned out just fine.  But it’s funny and sad at the same time.

We get these messages mixed up from Father God too, you know.  God says, “Here are 10 rules about how to live your life and the rest of the Universe is one big YES!”  But what we hear is, “Christianity is just a bunch of rules and things I can’t do.  I never get to have any fun!”

God says to us, “I have good things planned for you.  I am not planning to hurt you but to prosper you.”  And we hear, “Bad things happen to you because God is punishing you.”

God says to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  And we hear only silence.

Just like there was nothing wrong with what my friend’s mother was gently and lovingly whispering to her daughter, the break down in communication happened in HER young mind.  So it is with God.  There is nothing wrong or fickle or petty or petulent in what God tells us about Himself and about life, but we often experience a break down in understanding on our end of the line.  That’s not God’s fault, that’s our fault.  We have been listening to some lie from the Devil and not the pure truth from God.

So the next time you find yourself “hearing” something that causes your accusing finger to wave in the face of God, stop and ask yourself if there is a chance that you are once again listening to a message that is twisted and false instead of the pure truth from the Word of God.  The problem is likely with your “hearing” and not with God at all.

Hallucinating in Spanish

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Last week a flu bug passed through our family.  Normally we get sick at the most inconvenient times.  But this time we were in between teams, so it was an OK time to be sick.  Is that weird?  It was a total body aching, pounding head ache, thing.  I am thankful that it wasn’t a stomach flu though, because there is nothing in the world that I hate more than throwing up.  Seriously.

But the weird thing about having a fever is that sometimes I hallucinate in Spanish.  I can’t even describe how strange that is.  I do crazy things like trying to conjugate proper names.  It’s just wacky.  This time around I didn’t actually hallucinate in Spanish, but I did translate my own thoughts into Spanish all night long.  It was like my brain got stuck in Spanish mode and I couldn’t shut it off.  I woke up feeling like I had worked all night long instead of slept.  it was awful!  I can now say that I have been sick in Spanish.  (OK that little play on words is lame-o).

Photo credit: ckaiserca / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: ckaiserca / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Here in Costa Rica you can get a lot of medicines over the counter at the pharmacy that would require a prescription in the States.  The Pharmacist can actually do some doctory type things too like giving vaccinations and checking for ear infections.  They aren’t supposed to dispense antibiotics without a prescription, but sometimes they do.  However, they NEVER give you any instructions sheet or cross medications warning or ANYTHING informative with the meds.  If you are lucky, they might write the recommended dose on the box, but nothing more.  I now have a collection of dosing cups and droppers that I brought from America because they don’t usually come with the medications here!

In Mexico it was worse.  You could get anything without a prescription.  (The government once considered giving free Viagra to men over 60 to improve their quality of life!)  I remember once when Lucy was a baby I thought she probably had an ear infection.  So I called her pediatrician to make an appointment and was told, “Just go to the pharmacy and get some antibiotics!”  Oh, silly me.  So I went to talk to the pharmacist.  He asked how old she was and how much she weighed.  Then he handed me a bottle 1/4 full of a white powder with absolutely no instructions.  I was lucky there was a label with the name of the antibiotic on it.

I took my bottle of powder home and called Walgreen’s in my home city in Minnesota.  I explained that I was in Mexico and they had given me this with no dosing instructions.  What would they recommend I give a 6 month old baby.  I read all the numbers off the label to the American Pharmacist.  She told me, “Wow, we don’t even sell that strength here in America!  I would dilute it up to the top of the bottle and give her no more than a teaspoon twice a day.”  She also said to discontinue use if she started acting differently.  Oh great.  Now I feel better.

I know it sounds scary and complicated, but when I’m in the States sometimes I miss the ease of just walking into a pharmacy and buying some high-powered drugs without the hassle and expense of seeing a doctor first.  I just have to remember to NOT go to the drug store when I’m hallucinating in Spanish or else I might come home with a dose of Viagra instead of cough syrup.