Thursday, March 31, 2011

Because sometimes life feels messy

Beware - you're about to see pictures of what our house looks like at around 9 o'clock in the morning.
None of these pictures are arranged for artistic effect.
You'll notice no fuzzy edging.  
Or crop marks.
Or anything fancy like that.
This is how it is most of the time; other days it's worse :).

It got me to thinking though, how life feels chaotic and messy sometimes. A lot of the time.
Projects are left half-finished. It's hard to know where to start and where to leave it.
There are always tasks to do around here (which I think is quite apparent :P...) - the to-do list is never done.
And you're constantly stepping on little blocks or toy dishes --- thankfully, both Puppy and Wee One have managed to avoid getting stomped on in the day-to-day rhythm of life!

But life is like that as well.
The issues of the heart and soul are tackled in bits and pieces; growth seems to come in fits and starts.
The needs around can be so great, so overwhelming that it is really very difficult to discern what to begin and end and pray.
And, as we learn to love and lean, are we not also constantly navigating our steps, sometimes overstepping the limits, other times getting stepped on ourselves? As Mark Knopfler put it - "Sometimes you're the windshield. Sometimes you're the bug." ;)

Several mornings last week it was hard hard hard to crawl out of bed. The weight of discouragement felt heavy. Colds that seemed to run on and on, decisions that need to be made (or at least attended to!), and fatigue that sometimes runs deeper than I ever dreamed possible. 
Sometimes life is very messy indeed.
There is no easy way through it - only to get through it. 
And wait for the sun to shine again.

That, and call Clutter Busters. I think they might have a hayday at my house ;)!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I just had to laugh

You may recall I mentioned our latest house guest. Good to know that it is still alive and well. Thriving, actually. I think :). At least it's not brown and crispy yet. Yet.

Anyway, I had to laugh the other day when I returned our DEAD neon tetras for a refund.

I am wedded to a man that refunds things whenever possible. It is a mighty good habit and has probably saved us hundreds of dollars.

And the things I DO for this aforementioned husband of mine -- really :). We're bonded, I guess! When I cleaned the fish out of their tank, I actually, yes, put them into a plastic baggy and froze them. I saved a sample of water and froze that too (you need both ... specimens... for a full refund). And then the day of the trek to the city, I took the fish out of the freezer and let them defrost on the counter (but still in the plastic baggy). Ew. Double Ew.

I'm not sure how many people go to such lengths to return their perished fish for a refund. The Petland people thought I was a bit odd. However, I had three kids with me, a no-nonsense attitude (blech, I was just trying to look brave in front of the kids) and they humored me.

So Petland Girl #1 tested my water. "Your water is extremely poisonous. It is totally toxic for fish. I cannot send any more fish home with you until you treat your water properly."

Oh. Uh. Okay. I'm sure glad we DRINK THIS WATER. That makes me feel good.

I also explained that we didn't have a heated tank, but proudly mentioned that our aquarium has a light bulb built into the bottom (didn't mention this particular point, but it casts a cozy glow when the rest of the house is asleep and the aquarium is lazily humming away and I am allll about cozy) and we left that on to keep the water at a constant temperature.

Both gals looked at me from behind their little Petland counter.
At first I wasn't sure if they thought I'd stepped off of planet Mars or if I'd grown horns or something.
They were HORRIFIED.
With a slight gasp, Petland Girl #2 breathed out "You have stressed your fish TO D.E.A.T.H."
Yikes. That sounds.... bad.
I blinked and blinked again.
Little M looked at me, a tad concerned. I put a gentle, reassuring hand on her shoulder, just for good measure.
Petland Girl #1 recovered the moment with a brief explanation: "Fish are creatures. And just like any other creature, they need a DAY and a NIGHT, like dark, and having a light on all the time totally stresses them out. You probably stressed them to death."
Yeah. Like DUH. Any fuddy duddy should've figured that one out!
BAAAA I feel sheepish. Sorry. Can't take credit for that. It's off a movie - Disney's Hercules, I think!

Have you ever found yourself in an AWKward moment and got the giggles, which only makes it a little more awkward which only increases your need to snicker and snort and have a full out gushing tears laugh!?

Yup. That's how I felt.

I swallowed hard to regain my composure.

Oh dear. Whatever should I do to remedy the toxic water situation? Next time I will buy fish that don't require a heated tank and remember to ALWAYS turn the light off.

I walked out of Petland with a full-fish refund, a promise to treat my water for THREE FULL DAYS before attempting to buy any more fish, and some fancy chemicals for my poisonous water. That sustained 1 comet fish for over 5 years, I'll just have you know. And a siamese fighting fish for a long time. He'd have likely lived longer, but alas the feeding routine just wasn't as consistent as it should be. Good thing I didn't mention THAT to the Petland Girls!!

I respect all God's creatures, or try to anyway, and am in no way advocating for careless pet management. We have a lovable little pooch, whom we take very good care of (in fact I spent an entire hour giving him his regular haircut today so now he can see where he's going again!). However, I walked away from this experience with a little more fish-knowledge (more things I never thought I'd know!?) and a really really hearty chuckle!!!

Things I Never Thought I'd See - Part 2

Yes. Whenever one opens oneself up to traveling, you just never know what you might come across.
As I shared a while back, I saw Jesus using hairspray. Odd, but true.

Anyway. While we were in Florida I opened up a private blog, mainly to share random things with family and a few close friends while we were gone. Here is a post of something I never really thought I'd see -- at least, not this "up close and personal" :).


Travels take us outside our everday routines and are full of interesting moments.
Jon & I have shared many as we've ventured out over the years.

Like the time a bear sniffed my knee.

Or the time we were camping in a state park and a highly intoxicated family (yes, heartbreakingly, a family - a "dad" and a "mom" and several kids) were apparently (we didn't dare venture out of the t.e.n.t. to see if this was actually the case or not!!) running around with a GUN and were planning to use the cars on the freeway as target practice (said tent was, unfortunately, between the crazies and the highway!).

Or the time we were driving on the freeway right beside another car when their tire blew up!

Or the time we found ourselves camping by the cows (they weren't in that pasture when we happened to be setting up the tent, so imagine our surprise when we heard moo-ing before the sun was up the next morning!).

On our way down here, we were stopped at a rest station. The girls were burning off some steam and we were waiting for Jon to come  back. A lovely lady stopped by to chat (you also meet some really neat people while on the road as well!) and mentioned that we must be very brave to venture out with 3 kids, a very VERY full van and a pooch! Well, we're either brave or CRAZY, I said. And JUST at that moment, a van pulled into the spot one over from ours.


So far as I could tell, the van had NOT parked 50 feet away from ours and was presently invading our space bubble.

Ohhh, girllllsssss, I called. Time to get into the van. Our van! 

As I loaded everyone in, the passangers of the van got out. 3 inmates. 1 driver. The ratio there seemed a bit concerning to me. Maybe they were "low key" criminals, somewhat sedated, or not considered a huge risk. ANYWAY.

I think it was the first time Little M had ever seen anyone in an orange jump suit and handcuffs. She was a bit concerned! We didn't stick around much longer after that.

You just never know what you'll see on the road!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What I mean when I say life is good

The other day, someone in church asked me how things were going.
It is a casual question, though asked with true sincerity.
I smile.
I answer honestly.
Life is good.
But, please note, when I say life is good, I don't necessarily mean easy. Or rosy. Or that there are no struggles. Because that simply is not the case.
My imperfections are vast and glaring :).
There are relationships that require work.
There are chores that never seem to get done.
And my baking seldom turns out the way I want it to (which is REALLY irksome and another post for another day!!).

Sometimes it's the little things that bring a person down. We've been fighting a cold around here going on five weeks. The amount of Kleenex we've gone through is phenomenal. Should've bought stocks in the company!! It has morphed from sore throats to sinus infections to red yucky eyes that are not quite pink eye, but look pretty freaky nonetheless!! We've kicked it only it have it surface again. And again. And babies with stuffed sinuses do not enjoy eating or sleeping well (and neither does their mommy!). One night I was awake. Simply awake. Between the sore throat, the coughing fits and just waiting for the next "wake up call," I could not sleep. Needless to say, it's been tiring. There've been things we could not do because we don't want to "spread the love" - people we've not been able to visit, plans we've had to cancel. This doesn't help the cabin fever that is setting in right now --- we are SO ready for spring!!!

Sometimes it is the shock of an unexpected comment. A few weeks ago I was meeting with one of Sweet K's therapists - probably my favorite out of the whole bunch. She's wise, extremely practical and helpful and EVEN helped me with some of my (completely unrelated to our OT session!!) baking questions. I respect her advice and observations.
That is why it took me completely aback when she said to me (we were discussing some long term possibilities and goals at the time) - "I see no reason why K wouldn't thrive really really well in a group home when she is older."
I felt like the wind had been totally knocked out of me.
Group home. Different. An unrequested journey.
Just how different will different be?
Don't panic. I told myself. Stay cool.
Reality is - given what we've been told and the wee bit that we've been able to read - Sweet K will probably have an increasingly hard time learning as she gets older. And, except by miraculous intervention, she will likely require supervised living. We embrace this. We've already started to plan financially for her should this be the case. However, we do not claim to know her future, and leave it open to God. We simply ask Him for His best, and stand in awe as He responds.
So, "good" does not mean easy, without questions or heartache. Those who've wrestled with "different" understand that "different" doesn't have to be very big in order to feel big sometimes.

And other times memories surface that are hard to cope with, and again I find myself back in a moment that is painful, shameful or scary. And I have to resist the urge to react accordingly and instead choose a new way of living. It can be tough and it requires intentionality.

But even in all this, life is still good. It is not good because it is easy or care-free. It is good because God is here. As a wise, dear, lovely friend of mine says, "we gotta just keep turning it all into intercession." She is sweet and she is right ;).

And Light is never more welcome than when it is seen in a dark place.

Sunday morning I was reminded of this little scripture snippet, a gift of words from Paul to Timothy, regarding present struggles... "Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day." 2 Tim. 1:12b.

What have I entrusted to Him? I ask myself. 
What do I believe He will guard?
There are many things that come to mind - kids, husband, future, etc. - but really, at the crunch of it ---
My heart. I have the honor of increasingly giving Him my heart.
And I know that He is trustworthy with that.
And that is what makes life good.

We are reading the Chronicles of Narnia series around here. A bit old yet, for Little M, but there are so many classics I haven't read, that I'm starting to read them together with her so that I can!!! And I am drawn to this comment about Aslan: "Of course he is not safe, but He is good."

And because of that, life is good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Three Wishes

The girls and I often have odd, and highly humorous conversations around the dinner table.
Yesterday was no exception.
Little M had seen a picture of a genie and a bottle and wondered what it was. I explained that there is a story called Aladdin, with a character named Genie. He lives in a bottle and if a person rubs the bottle, he pops out and grants the person three wishes.

"What would you wish for?" I asked Little M.
Hmmmm. "That there would always be summer and never any snow!" I think most people feel that way right about now!!!
What else? You have two more.... I prompted.
Hmmmmm. "That we would have meat and macaroni & cheese EVERY DAY." She's easy to please ;).
"That we would have ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-EIGHT BABIES." WHOA!! We laughed. That's a lot of babies. We brainstormed ways that we would take care of 148 babies at one time. Many aunties, the grandmas and some cousins would be required for live-in help :). Little M said that I would require octopus arms to make sure everyone could get fed - I wonder where she's heard that line before!

What about you - would three things would you wish for :)?

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Season For Everything

A conversation around here went something like this:

Jon: You want a henna tattoo?
Me: Yes.
Jon: Why on earth would you want a henna tattoo?
Me: Because.
Because I think they're kinda fun AND they're not permanent. Like nail polish, only it lasts longer :).

I've wanted a henna tattoo for YEARS. But, because I am thrifty and can't stand the thought of paying $25+ for a little doodad that will last MAYBE 6 weeks (probably not) --- I got to thinking --- I can probably do this myself. How hard can it be :)?

Turns out, NOT THAT HARD AT ALL!! The hardest part is finding henna paste. At first I thought I'd have to order it online, but actually found it in a Bangladesh-ian store. I bought henna paste, as opposed to henna powder, because it's already made for you and much easier than getting it right. Since I am a total rookie at this, I thought I'd go all out and spend the extra $1 for the paste. Did I mention that you can get a significant amount of henna paste for FOUR DOLLARS!? Yes. Four dollars, some creativity and approximately 20 minutes gets you exactly what you'd spend $25-30 on for a "professional" tattoo.

With respect to the season of Lent, I decided to add this to my wrist - a daily reminder of Who I am striving to live for (which, incidentally, is not myself, though that is what happens all-too-often):

Now this being my first time and all, you can still see the ink marks I used as a guide. And, a few days later it is already quite faded, so I'll have to reapply the henna. The longer you leave it on, the longer it lasts. As I was experimenting I didn't leave it on long enough. More practice :).

A few things about henna tattoos - be careful - not all products are safe. I did a bit of net research, and you can get some serious chemical burns from "fake" henna. Which really defeats the purpose of using a "natural" product. Also, keeping it in the fridge makes the paste consistency easier to apply. Beware of dirt clumps in the applicator tube - it took me a while to get mine completely clear - but after that, it was super easy to apply. And really really mess free. Note to self - don't wear long sleeves while applying henna to your wrist. It's really annoying and you can wreck a really nice shirt!!!

During this Lenten season, this will be the only henna tattoo I will wear.
After that, I'll experiment a little bit more.
Should be fun :)!


I just CANNOT listen to this song and stay in a grumpy mood.
Not that I'm EVER grumpy, mind you.
But if I was. I would listen to this song.
And be instantly cheery again :).

Whattcha think.
Time for a hoe-down :)?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words words words words words words

I love words.
A lot.
I'm full of 'em.
That means I talk a lot for those who didn't quite catch that :).

I love having words around my house.
In fact, I'd have just as many framed "words" as pictures.
This little note sits on top of the piano in the living room.
A daily reminder.

This also sits in the living room.
A reason for our hope.

Hmmm. Can't really tell, but it says RELAX.
Yes. Another great reminder.

This was a project I did for the church prayer room.
Lots of words. A LOT of painting :).
Took a bit .... longer than I thought!

Recently I acquired some "wall words" from Dollarama. Now, I have a bit of an issue with Dollarama. In fact, I was going to do a whole post on Dollarama. A dilemma. Like how we seem to acquire a lot of trinkets from Dollarama and sometimes it drives me crazy. And I have envisioned getting in a small little motorized scooper to drive around to scoop it all up and dump it in a corner. BUT THAT WOULDN'T BE VERY PRACTICAL. AND you can get cheap gel pens and markers, craft supplies, cards, stationary, picture frames, various household items like a cheap but useful microcloth duster and all sorts of other things. So. I guess, in the end, it's okay.

Anyway. Yesterday I got to put up my two dollar Dollarama project.

I have a blank sheet of wall --- what to do what to do --- we've only lived here for 10.5 years --- and I finally found a way of filling space without getting too overwhelming:

And they are STICKERS. So, if I ever want 'em off they are apparently easy to peel off.
I also have a beautiful christmas quilt wall hanging that I can hang up seasonly, should I ever get it done. It's beautiful, really. Just haven't had a lot of time to sit and quilt these days :).
I want to turn the bottom part of this wall into a picture frame collage - however I need to go find some black frames to help round out the assorted collection of frames we've acquired from our holidays. I'll keep you posted :).

Friday, March 4, 2011

Welcome Our Newest Addition!

No, we haven't quickly gone off and had another baby.
I am fairly confident that we are finished with that season of life.
So confident I am stating it publicly.
We are not going to run off and have another baby.
Got that off my chest.

Prior to leaving for Florida (and by prior I mean the day before leaving as we are madly scrambling to pack and sort and pack some more) our fish of many years (five, I think) just up and died.
Just like that. Belly up.
This fish had been a part of our family for a long time - and had probably been the most affected "family member" as we started having babies. The babies take first priority. Then the dog. Then what? We have a fish? It still needs clean water and food?
Yes, he was a bit neglected.

I had to clean his (his? her? how can one really tell!?) tank prior to leaving. I had made "fish sitting" arrangements with my sister. Everything was lined up to go. Suddenly I hear HOWLING coming from the kitchen area. Folks, it is the end of the day. I was tired a long LONG time ago. In typical sensitive Leah fashion I holler out - OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE WHAT IS IT NOW!?!?
The fish. Is dead. Like Little M finding it floating on the top of the water dead. (It was in a container on the counter while I cleaned the tank.)
Oh. Sorry 'bout that. So we have a little conversation about life and death and the finite nature of it all. Which is exactly what you want to be talking about right before bed time. Right :P? Little M recovered pretty quickly and soon we had a conversation about the excitement of picking out NEW FISH for our aquarium.

Here it is: my cute little bubble gum aquarium:

What you cannot see are the three teeny tiny neon tetras we purchased for this NON HEATED tank. They warned us, oh yes they did, that the fish might not live long without heated water. But they were so pretty we went with them rather than your average orange comet fish. Truthfully, I love having fish and I had many when I was a teenager. In a non heated tank (this non heated tank, actually!) and I do not recall having to flush them away very often! Well, these fish never really ... adapted ... that well, and one night all three of them up and died. Just like that. Belly up.

So, we ended up having ANOTHER conversation about life and death. But Little M had been forewarned. Presently the tank is clean, but empty. And waiting for some hardier comet fish. To continue buying lovely little neon tetras every week would be costly (and rather unkind to the fish, too!).

SO. We're moving on to plant life.
Somewhere around Little M's first birthday I chucked all my indoor plants. They were straggly, ugly; very ugly. I couldn't stand them any more. Adjusting to life with children,  I neglected plants and fish.

But now I'm turning over a new leaf (pardon the pun) and am ready to try again!

TADA. A new hibiscus plant. It's in a sunny spot and I've been told it likes frequent waterings (that could be an issue!).
I am hoping that it will thrive.
I hope I've learned something in these last five parenting years - nurturing is an important skill.
Practice often.

And just this week I ordered seeds for my garden. Spring is on the horizon (or so I'm told by the farmers almanac) and I can't wait to dig in and get started. This year I'll have an extra helper (but it might be much easier than trying to garden while 8 3/4 months pregnant. That was an adventure.) but I am sure she'll be out of morning naps by then and we'll have mornings outside together.

Nothing fancy grows in my garden. And I'm trying to develop the maturity that tackles HARVEST with the same zest and enthusiasm as PLANTING (why do I run out of steam when all that preserving work needs to be done :P?). But that is another post for a different day!

Things I Never Thought I'd See

One of the things I never thought I'd see in my earthly life was Jesus using hairspray.
Yes. You read that right.

Jesus uses aerosol hairspray.

Before you wonder if I managed to have an out-of-body experience, let me explain :).
Never did I see a bright light (though I did wonder if I would perish from laughing so hard!!).

One of the activities we did while in Florida was visit the Holy Land Experience. Think living biblical museum. It was interesting. The park itself is not very big, and so it is easy to find your way around. The sketches were actually very funny and well done, I thought. And I enjoyed the singing.


It was close to lunch time. There was a very realistic reenactment of the passion story happening. (Which was quite graphic so we did not take the girls to see it - Little M was already wondering why people were beating up "Jesus" and why the soldiers were so mean and why there was red on the ground - lots of fuel for great questions and conversations though!) We decided to go find a suitable lunching area while there were very few people wandering around. We sat down at some picnic tables - which happened to provide a back-stage viewing area for the aforementioned passion story.

I was busy trying to keep the girls entertained while waiting.
And then I looked up.
And I burst out laughing.

There was Jesus, behind the scenes...
shaking out and fluffing his hair...
going through a significant amount of aerosol hairspray!!

And when I say Jesus was fluffing his hair, I don't mean just a little scrunch scrunch.
I mean head upside down, flinging his dark curly locks all over the place, eightys-head-banging, hairsprayed to the max fluffing.
It was hilarious!!!

I have no idea what "scene" came next in the passion story. Perhaps Jesus was about to break out of the tomb and needed a quick fix-up.
I'm not exactly sure.
I just know that the scene is forever branded in my memory and I will never look at a can of aerosol hairspray in the same way again.
Sometimes you need a little finesse, sometimes you need a lot!


It reminded me of how, as believers, sometimes it is hard to find the right words to describe the wonder of Jesus. It can be a challenge to explain the essence of gospel; to share of our spiritual experiences. We stumble in our explanations, grapple for the right analogy, and even with other believers we can encounter this challenge.
Indeed, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

I think that is why well-written spiritual books and songs are so vital to our christian life. They help put into words the things we experience and help describe the wonder of knowing God and enhance our understandings of things that are hard to explain.

And however we try - we must keep trying.

This group of people spend their days trying to communicate the love of God through story, song and narration. God uses that to bless people and to turn hearts toward Him. It is good.

Even if "Jesus" does have a bit of an obsession with hairspray :).


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