Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Few

As I was uploading pictures of the past few... the last few... days of our 2010, I was struck by the large role that animals have come to play in our lives.  I know, perhaps, I shouldn't be surprised by this; our pet bills for years attest to this already.  But I guess I am still surprised.  I didn't set out to have 5 pets, but that is, indeed what we have.

And, of course, if you count the Sea Monkeys... well, then, I guess we'll (hopefully - she is pretty excited for those eggs to hatch!) have even more...

The animals in our lives are now even beyond our four walls and the critters we feed and enjoy watching in the back yard. We have volunteered now for the last 7 months at a no-kill animal sanctuary.  We are surprised and often saddened at how thoughtless - and even cold - some people can be.

But our hearts are really made glad when they arrive at the sanctuary.  We know all the animals will be well-loved, whether or not they get adopted.  For some, the sanctuary becomes a long-time, sometimes forever, home.  For others, it is a brief stay where the animals will know they are safe.

I have been surprised at the number of pets that are returned a second, third or even more times.  Jewel, the kitty above, that my daughter is giving some furious-rubbing love to is back at our shelter for the third time.  I'm thankful for our return policy and realize that some situations for keeping a pet are too difficult to overcome, but I do wish that people would really think about the time and cost commitment of keeping a pet.

Take Luna, at the top of this post, for example.  After a year and a half of feeding her outside our back step, I finally dove in and had her tested and immunized so that she could come in and be with our family for more socialization.  Perhaps we'll find another home for her or perhaps she'll stay with us.  We have some events coming up in our lives that may make it difficult to add another to our home, but with below-freezings temps the past few days, I feel better having her inside. 

She was someone's pet at some time.  She was already spayed.  Abandoned, she is another victim of the recession I'm sure.  Because she was not completely feral, she allows us to pet her and seems to be adjusting better than if she were truly wild.  She does still seem a bit forlorn at not being able to run outside whenever she wants.  But I'm hoping she will come to enjoy the privledges of indoor living.  I am too concerned about her being hit by a car or other difficulty.  Plus, she was darn expensive!

Can I just say that not only are shelters a better way to find an animal compainion because of  - oh, you know all the reasons: overpopulation, euthanization, abandoned, frightened or abused animals, etc.?  But consider the excellent bargain you will get from adopting.  My "free" stray kitty cost me $263 for her good-health check-up and immunizations. (Thank you, Mom, for the Christmas money!) This same, sweet kitty would have cost me $35 if somehow Nate's Place had found her before I did.  And she would have received the same great medical care too.  I know, because I took her to the same vet the shelter uses.

C'est la vie.

In the meantime, calendars have been updated...

...and today is the day to begin putting our Christmas trimmings away for another year.

We'll chart a mellow path into our new year this evening playing games, exploring our Wii Fit that we've saved until today!  Have a very safe and Happy New Year.  Cheers to 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bless This Mess

It's not always like this.  Not always... but, yes, quite a lot.  At least once-a-week we require the clean-up though.  The floor must be cleared for the vacuum, you know!

So, why in the world would I post something like this?  In the pretty, pretty world of inspirational blogging, of well-lit photographs, and magical-looking surroundings, why would I post this?

Because I have a 14-year-old, folks and I'm trying to choose my battles wisely.  The room is - evidently!- not at the top of my priority list! lol! 

To be fair, though, first of all, my girls are on Christmas break from our homeschooling schedule.  And what's more is that my teen has been working the whole of her break to catch up from falling behind in two online subjects without a complaint.  I'm very proud of her for this!  And little sister has been camping out most night's on big sister's floor, as evidenced by the sleeping bag, the pillow, and the bunny - always the bunny...
So, really, the mess belongs to both of them.

But here's the thing and the reason for this post.

There are many, many beautiful blogs out there (many that I love reading!) that have soft, fuzzy edges around the photos of their cute, little cherub-faced babes.  There are wooden toys, rainbow silks, woolen mats, and toys and decor made by Mother Nature herself. 

Did I ever tell you all the story about how we collected basketsful of acorns for math manipulatives provided by said Mother?  Oh, they were fun and lovely... and then about a week later all the little, fat, yellow wormies hatched out of them and were found crawling across bedroom floors!  Since then, our nature collections have been more carefully inspected and some even remain outside the back door!

Anyway... so there are lots of dreamy blogs for our little ones, but those little ones grow and I have to say that I haven't met one yet who isn't into all the technological bits that we adults love too.  And it could be that I haven't looked around a whole lot... I'm sure that there are blogs about parenting teens out there.  I'm just now starting to stick my toe in the water, despite having one year of teen-parenting under my belt.

All I can say is that so far, these remind me of the toddler years. 

And what do I mean by that?  Well, there is SO much growth and change happening in a brief span of time - especially when you take into consideration the push through puberty.  And like the toddler years, often what worked for you last month, isn't working this month!

Now, lest you think that all is one challenge after another, let me assure you that this is not what our experience has been thus far.  Like our toddlers, our kids provide us with great amounts of joy.  But it can be work.  And I have found myself stuck in some places.  The confidence I felt with little children and even with those childhood years has waned some and I find myself, as in the toddler years, looking for outside assistance. 

One of the best resources I have been blessed to receive so far, via my neighbor, a former youth minister, has been the book, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp.  Not only does Tripp knock down the world's expectation that we are to be expecting the worst from our teens and simply try to survive these years, he shines a light on something I think needs to be worked on, but is often overlooked in many parenting books: ourselves.

Tripp writes,

The tumult of the teen years is not only about the attitudes and actions of teens, but the thoughts, desires, attitudes, and actions of parents as well.  The teen years are hard for us because they tend to bring out the worst in us.  It is in these years that parents hear themselves saying things that they never thought they would say.

And imagine my surprise when I got to chapter two, entitled Whose Idols Are in the Way? and it was about idols of parents and not their kids!  There is so much to chew on here.

Ultimately, Tripp points to our teens' behavior and choices as heart issues. While it is often the slower and more tedious route to take, I know it is the right route and worth the effort.  Like learning the tools I used to effectively communicate with my younger daughter in her more tumultuous toddler years, I am intrigued and, quite frankly, fascinated at the continued development happening in my children.  I am inspired by what I am reading about their own brain development and the challenging, yet rewarding techniques I can use in more effectively communicating with and growing into deeper and more mature relationship with my girls.

There is so much growth and expansion happening for our kids at these ages.  And while they change, they are still our kids.  They still have that foundation underneath them that has been laid over the years.  And they are ultimately God's children and not mine.  They are in His hands and I trust Him.

Tripp says,

This world is not always exciting to the teenager.  Sometimes it seems scary and overwhelming.  There are moments when the teen is alive with the joy of discovery, and there are other times when he is shy and avoiding.  Sometimes he enjoys being a teenager, while at other times he seems afraid of the new expectations laid upon him.

There is no stopping the widening of his world.  It is a world of new friends, new locations, new opportunities and responsibilities, new thoughts, new plans, new freedoms, new temptations, new feelings, new experiences, and new discoveries.  All of the joys and insecurities of this widening world provide opportunities to help your teenager really understand and personally internalize fundamental truths.  These include the sovereignty and providence of God, the ever-present help of the Lord, the nature of biblical relationships, spiritual warfare, discipline, self control, contentment, faithfulness, turstworthiness, the nature of the body of Christ, the world, the flesh, the Devil, the principles of responsibility and accountability, biblical priorities, discovery and stewardship of gifts, and many other biblical truths and principles.

Crazy, right?  Is it any wonder that there will be difficulties that we face in these years?  Difficulties, yes, but challenges worth facing, I believe, and as Tripp refers to them, opportunities.

So the bedroom.  Yes, it's something we talk about.  Of course I would like it neater.  But, for me, neatness is not the most important character trait I am concerned about.  It's her space and it has a door, thank goodness, that can shut.  And, to her credit, there are weeks that go by where it is quite neat.  But now she is busy and working hard at adjusting to high-school level work with greater demands - demands that she has placed on herself because she has goals and dreams that she is chasing.  And that, to me, is worth a little laundry and clutter on the floor.

Monday, December 27, 2010

This Morning...

...I am trying to catch up on a few days of morning devotionals.  I have others, but I stick with Oswald Chambers year round and year after year, because he challenges me unlike any other.

... I am wanting to write.  But there is a sleeping girl in the living room that wake upon my arrival. She is surrounded by friends - new and old - a flashlight for reading in case she gets scared in the night and stacks of comics and books. And then the busyness of the day ensues. 

... I am thinking about goals for the new year, taking this last, slower-paced week before our homeschool days begin anew to reflect and look ahead.  It's one of my favorite weeks of the year.  The craziness of the weeks ahead is gone (some of it delightful, some of it not) and this week of pause is left.  I am thankful.

Some ideas for the new year - and I'm trying to keep it simple: more knitted items for me (a.k.a. a sweater that fits me well and doesn't require me to gift it away to someone that it fits better), more writing, and more photography.  I at least want to play around with my camera a bit more.  Drawing and painting may end up on the back burner for a while... for a while.  That may prove hard in a week when my art students return... and inspire me again! :)  But, I'm trying to simplify in order to develop my crafts.

... I am wishing you one more last good week of 2010. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Quiet, New Beginning

It's Christmas Eve Eve... and I'm just quietly making my way back to this space.  A few months ago I wrote my farewell post.  Don't bother looking for it, though, because I deleted it.  I guess I'm not really done here after all.  I've been surprised by my missing it here and the online blogging community and so, I am back.  It's as simple as that. 

I'm hoping that by this point, you will have gotten the last of your holiday crafting or shopping and wrapping done and you will be finally relaxing and be able to enjoy the PEACE of the season.  The full moon is always a peaceful sight to me, so please enjoy these shots I took of our recent, Winter Solstice full moon and lunar eclipse!  The night was clear and cool here on the Florida Gulf coast and made for great viewing!

Merry Christmas, everyone and I hope to be speaking with you more - lots more - in the new year! 
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