Friday, September 28, 2012

Seven Sights of Summer Past

Farewell, sweet summer, fall is really, truly here.  Boy, did it go by fast! Sometimes I find that life is so busy, that we move quickly from one event to the next, forgetting events of the past. This is why I love taking pictures of our family life so much.  Often, I catch the boys sitting down at the computer scrolling through my i-Photo albums conversing happily, "Remember when??...."

For this Quick Takes Friday, here are 7 Sights of Summer Past:

1. Mr. Potato Chips!! This was one of our favorite pics, and favorite posts of the summer.  You can catch all of the details of our little chip thief here.
2. We spent nearly every evening this summer outdoors.  Some may think that the landscape of Kansas is boring and unappealing, but our view of the big sky is the best, especially at sunset!
3.  Bucket calves! Billy, Blaze, Blake and Butter kept us busy all summer long!  Taking them to the fair was an adventure as well.
4. It's every farm boy's dream to be able to drive the equipment on the farm.  Ben and Andrew were a great swather driving team this summer.  They did a great job and had fun being a part of the crew.
5.  Baseball was a big part of our summer.  The oldest three boys played and had great seasons.  
6.  Having good friends and precious family come to visit is always such a treat since we live so far away from everyone.  One of our favorite families from Kansas City came to see us this summer.  They have five boys too, so you ca only imagine how wonderfully crazy it was!!
 7.  A family vacation to Grand Lake, Colorado was a welcome break to a summer of hot days filled with hard work.  We have so much to be thankful for!!

Two Rocks in a Box

This is a copy of a guest post that I did for my friend Cynthia at Finding Great Joy.  She hosts a truly beautiful blog that is inspiring, encouraging and real.  It was a privilege to write for her!

If you are reading this then I know that it is because you cherish and admire Cynthia, and her beautiful blog as much as I do! Well, actually, I might cherish her just a skosh more, because she has been unbelievably patient with me.  This is literally the fifth draft I have sent her! (But who's counting, right?)  The first four drafts were too text-booky, and over the week, they just weren't sitting right with me.  Then, Wednesday afternoon I was sitting outside in the sandbox with my 18 month old picking sand out of my hair when suddenly I felt overcome with a great motivation to shower first and type something real from the gut second.  So, first five drafts scrapped, number 6, here we go!...
After the birth of our second son, I had an opportunity to serve a large family in the Kansas City area for six months while the mom authored and published a book on family life.  I admired this mom very much, and she was always very kind and gracious enough to visit with me for a while during lunch.  One day we were talking about marriage, and she said, "You know, Susan, a man and wife are like two rugged rocks in the box of life.  Marriage will shake them around a lot over time. But, in the end, if they stay together, they will emerged polished and beautiful."

Over the past nine years, I have thought of her words many times.  I couldn't appreciate them then, the way that I do now.  No matter where you are on the time-line of your marriage, I don't ever think that a woman can have too many strengths of support to rely on during the difficult days.  Let's be honest, it's easy to love and support our spouses well when inside we feel lovable and loving in return.  It's also easy to serve our hubbies, to be patient with them, show affection to them and support all that is happening in their lives when we feel like it.  But, what about when you don't feel lovable or loving.....what then??

Marriage is a journey of endurance.  Not, in the sense that you endure the bad, but in the sense that for something wonderful to endure over time, it must possess a strength that is focused and conditioned for the race.  In the case of marriage, the race is for heaven.  Heaven is the supreme goal of marriage, and the couple must desire it for each other and thereby be committed to helping each other get there.  That being said, it is the will that must seek out the most vigorous training.  Because, on those not-so- lovable-days, when we exercise the will to love, to be generous, to be cheerful and supportive of our husbands, great fruit will come....for both of us.

Here are a few very specific examples of opportunities to exercise the will, and some practical, prudent ways to offer ourselves as gift to our spouses, even in the midst of a lack of feeling:

1.  More important than anything, you must remember that your husband's greatest fear is failure.
At the top of their list of fears (even over failure at work or losing at something competitive) husbands fear being seen as a failure in the eyes of their family, especially their spouse.  The following points, therefore, all relate to how we can support, affirm and love our husbands well, alleviating some of that fear.

2.  Let's just get the awkwardly obvious one out of the way.  Yes, I'm talking' about sex.  Over the course of our marriage, I have struggled with the side effects of Fibromyalgia, low adrenals and hormone imbalance. Do I even have to tell you what that does to a libido?? I'm crazy about my husband, but there have been days where a high-five was the best I could do!  The mercy of my wacko health is that it's opened the doors of communication between Steve and I with this issue.  What he as taught me is this:  Men just want to feel wanted and needed.  When we initiate a communication with our spouses that let's them know that we are thinking about being together intimately, and even looking forward to it, it is a great boost to their confidence and even their attentiveness toward us.  For example, if I call Steve and tell him that we have the green light (that's natural family planning talk for it's on!), and that I'm looking forward to being together, he almost always comes home from work more cheerful, helpful with the kids and takes over the dish duty so that I can go unwind with a bath or a jog.  All because of a phone call! On the red-light days, I try to be more affectionate and tell him that I miss being together.  He always hugs me and tells me how much it means to him to hear those words.

3.  The sneaky separation... If you're feeling a bit distant from your husband in any way, perhaps you need to take some time to consider the reason for this distance.  Is it an unresolved quarrel? Something he said or didn't say that upset you? A mutual preoccupation with "more important" things?  A lack of social time with others, or too little time for exercise/grooming? Remember, in the order of priority, your spouse comes first, not the children.  This is a difficult truth for many of us to accept, especially those of us with small children.  However, when we take care of ourselves, we are more likely to take better care of our husbands.

4.  In light of caring for ourselves... Consider asking a good friend if she would be interested in taking turns watching each other's children for a few hours per week.  During that time, you can rest, catch up on housework, get a hair cut or exercise.  Discuss hiring a baby sitter to come once a week so that you can catch a break and come home more refreshed.  On this note, I have experienced within our marriage that when I take the time to fix my hair, put on a little make-up and wear something besides sweats, I feel better about myself.  Our beauty is a gift to our husbands, and should not be overlooked or slighted.  With regards to emotional care, it is unfair for us to expect our husbands to be the perfect husband and friend, to meet our every emotional need.  Nurturing our friendships with other women is very important, and can help provide an emotional balance in your marriage.

5. Bite your tongue (or have a glass of wine before he comes home). The simplest way to support our husbands is with words of encouragement and praise.  It's the counter-encouraging words that we have to get a hold of.  We women can have a tendency to whine, nit-pick and complain about things in excess.  Remember, when we are joyful, our husbands feel successful, when we are crabby and full of complaints, they feel like a failure. Many days I am overwhelmed with the feeling of frustration toward how small our home is.  It takes a good deal of self-control not to complain about all of the inconveniences to Steve, who works so hard to provide for our family, so that I can stay home with the boys. If possible, withhold complaints or worries from your husband (within reason) if you know that he is overly stressed.  Try to manage your anxiety with prayer, by talking to a trusted friend or through exercise. When you are tempted to complain or to criticize, try instead to praise your spouse or to thank him for something.  Be specific.  For example, "I truly appreciate the way you keep our yard looking so beautiful.  It makes me proud of the home you have provided for us!

6. Spend time doing guy stuff.  Most men feel affirmed when their wives take a genuine interest in the things that they enjoy.  Sit and watch football with him, go fishing, camping, figure out why he likes to hunt, why he loves to study the latest in farm equipment etc., etc. It is a great act of sacrificial love to extend ourselves to learn about and appreciate the interests of others.  He won't complain so much the next time you drag him around the mall!

7.  Debbie Downer... if you are truly feeling sad or depressed, either from the events of the day or something more serious, believe that your husband truly wants to be there to share your burdens with you. However, if you are like me, often times, I know deep down, that there are some things within me that just can't be articulated well enough to be understood by my sweet spouse.  Those things are best pondered in the heart during prayer. When I choose not to discuss those "deep down things", not wanting to burden him unnecessarily, I often pray for supernatural cheerfulness. Grace always comes in those moments.  Our joy is a great gift to our husbands, even more so when it's a sacrificial one.

7.  Support your husband by letting him lead.  Remember in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when Tula wants to go to college, but fears that her father will not grant her his permission? Her mother encourages her, "Remember, Tula, the man may be the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants!"  This is so true in the sense that our husbands were created to lead.  We have a strong supportive and influential role to play along side of him.  Even if you know he may not succeed at his mission, you fear that the diaper may fall off, the pancakes will burn, the car won't start or the vacation may flop - let him lead anyway!

8.  Finally, and most importantly, devote some time every day to praying for your husband.  In the morning before Steve heads out the door, I always ask him, "How can I pray for you today?" This sometimes leads to "How can I help you reach your goals today? or What can I make you for supper tonight?" No matter the question, it all leads back to prayer.  I have known many women whose devotion to prayer have helped their husbands overcome addictions, temptations and weaknesses.  No matter where your husband is at in life, he can always, and will always need your prayers.

Also, if you have children, please encourage them to pray for their daddy. Each day offers opportunities for you to praise your husband in front of your children, to speak of him in positive ways (he's their hero!), and to teach the children to serve him by picking up the home, taking good care of their belongings or helping with meal preparation.  It's beautiful gift to a mother's heart to see her children honor and admire their father with love, affection and gratitude!

Need a little more encouragement?? May I suggest:
~ For the passionate/emotional: A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (read it with your spouse!)
~ For the research oriented: A Series of Lectures by Dr. Phillip Mango (these are amazing!)
~ For all of us: 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband (specific, scripture-based prayers)

Thank you, Cynthia, for the invitation to write for you and your readers! I will be offering my work and prayers for all of your gracious readers and their spouses today!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sometimes, You Have to Go Alone

Last night I had a rare opportunity to go and get groceries all by myself.  And, by rare opportunity I really mean that I called Steve at 3:00 p.m. and told him that there was no way in hell I was taking the boys shopping with me after the day I'd had he would be dining alone with the army tonight, because I needed to go to town and get groceries. Truth be told, Monday was one BIG FAT ROTTON SINKY DAY.  To top matters off, there was no food in our messy house, and the boys claimed all their underwear had gone missing.  I couldn't face the laundry room, I couldn't face the empty fridge.  I had to go to town (out here unless you prefer to gather and hunt, or knit your own undies, all shopping is 30 minutes away).

Mother Teresa (God rest her soul) and an army of angels couldn't get me to cross the threshold of the grocery store with a child at my side.  I couldn't punish my fellow shoppers with 5 kids and cart rage.  I just couldn't do it.  Going alone was the only option.  After telling Steve the news he mumbled something about being reasonable to me, and I mumbled something emotional back and that was the end of that.  After I hung up, I remembered the underwear situation.  Target after groceries?? Yes, I think so! And while we're at it, that much necessity hunting will definitely require a glass of wine and a foot rub from the Mr. when I get home.

Lucky for my boys, I just happened to be working on a little food photography that day, so they escaped the deprivation of dads cooking (another P.B. & J, chips and beer), and enjoyed the fruits of mommy's labor ~ San Francisco Pork Chops in the slow-cooker.  I'm not a huge fan of pork.  It makes me feel bloated (T.M.I.?? Sorry,), which makes me sad, because I would eat Oklahoma Joe's BBQ ribs every day if I could. But, every once in a while the pig wins and I have to make something pork-a-licious (besides bacon).  I love this recipe because it is quick and easy, the ingredients are simple, and even though it's a crock-pot recipe, it's sophisticated enough for  guests.
Ladies you must know that if you need to whip up a special dish for your husband, because let's say you...well, I don't something, or need something, or if you just want to serve him a little bit of love on a plate, you should make this. Forget the 27 ingredient meal.  Make this, wear an apron and heels.  The way to a man's heart is right here!!

(Thanks for pinning this recipe!)

6 1" thick pork loin chops (sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and onion powder)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sherry cooking wine (or you may use red wine or chicken broth)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned pork loin chops on both sides, and transfer to a slow cooker set on low.  Reduce the skillet heat to low, and add the garlic to the pan drippings.  Stir for 1 minute or until the garlic is golden.  Add soy sauce, wine or broth, brown sugar and red pepper flakes, and continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the skillet mixture over the pork, coating well.  Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.  (If I'm home, I like to baste the meat a few times during the day to keep the chops moist.)

About 30-45 minutes before you are ready to serve: Remove the chops from the slow cooker and place on a platter, then cover with foil. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water until smooth. At this point, if you like a smooth gravy/sauce, you can strain out the bits of meat in the liquid.  Then, add the cornstarch and water mixture gradually to the liquid, stirring well.  If you plan to serve the gravy separate, keep foil wrapped meat warm in a low temp oven while the sauce thickens in the crock-pot.  Otherwise, place the chops back into the crock-pot and continue to cook for 30-45 minutes until the sauce is thickened.  If it is too thick, don't panic! You can thin it down with a bit of chicken broth or water, until the right consistency is reached.

Serve over mashed potatoes with a side of green beans or asparagus.  Delish!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I am (Football) Mommy, Hear Me Roar

I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle victorious.  - Vince Lombardi
Ben, whippin' out the stiff-arm.  He's had a lot of practice on his brothers.  A lot.
Three years ago our oldest three boys crossed the threshold between everyone-gets-a-ribbon and lets just have a snack sports into let's put on our game face, grunt and keep score sports.  By far, football is their most favorite of all athletics.  I love it too.  Ben and Andrew are playing tackle, and George flag (with an occasional accidental tackle here and there.)
I'm not gonna lie - they hate playing with girls.  I'm sure he's bossing her right now.  I'm also sure that she's totally ignoring him.
At the start of every game, I suffer from a case of the mommy nerves.  It's hard not to be a little nervous for them.  The first thing I assess at the beginning of each game is the size of the other players.  When there are BIG boys out there on the field, I freak out a little inside with worry that they are going to flatten my boys like pancakes. They have no idea how hard I pray for them throughout the game!

While I love being the official family photographer, taking pictures can be a bit difficult, because I tend to scream a lot and do super uncoordinated celebratory moves on the sideline.  I'm sure it's really attractive, especially with a toddler in a pack on my back, but who cares, right??
The boy is fast.  I'm just gonna say it.  His mamma used to be fast.  Coincidence? I think not!
Speaking of pictures, I'm so thankful for the ginormous camera lens that Steve bought me just to help capture those far-away action shots.  I love it for the priceless moments it helps me capture, but also because I can hide behind it when I'm crying after one of them makes a touchdown or a sack.  Even if there is no action on the field I hide behind it, pretending to take pictures of trees or other people's adorable kids. Because once the flood gates open it's a bit difficult to close them up. Very large sunglasses also help, but make the picture taking a little difficult.
Andrew is a bit of a Mr. Tackle. He doesn't take defense lightly.  I like it!!
The best part of football is watching your kids enjoy the adventure of it.  Okay, seriously, all you moms out there who, like me, tell your kids to focus on having fun, don't be nervous, and to just their best - well we know that's really code for, this is war, the opponent is the enemy, now get out there and make 'em cry uncle!  You know I'm talking to you.  I'm good at code.
Boys in Black.  Ben is #9, always in the middle of the huddle pumping the team up.
Our kids have great coaches this year, and I'm so thankful for that. Unfortunately, many coaches think the only way to teach kids to play well is to scream and rant at their players.  Throw in an occasional tough guy tattoo and some colorful language and you've go a real winner out there with your kids. Uuugh, makes me want to find their mamma and have a little chat with her. Thankfully, that's not the case with our coaches this year.  The atmosphere is positive and the boys come away from practices and games with a smile on their faces.
George is a flag-football die-hard.  He likes to run the ball and the show.  My apologies parents, I'm not sure where he gets it. A-hem.
Last Saturday's fun was topped off with a stellar performance from our beloved K-State Wildcats, who beat OU 24-19.  Big win. Big, big, big, big, big, big, big.
My favorite picture of Coach Snyder ever.  He's a legend with wispy hair and I want to hug him.
After the game, I could hear the boys chatting from their bunk-beds about how they are going to play for K-State one day, what positions they will try to earn, and who will be coaching them since Bil Snyder will probably be retired by then.  Dream big, boys!! You never know what can happen!!  But, for now let's just focus on having fun (well, you know what I mean!!).
 That's my boy, not too cool or too proud to wave at his mamma....who was hiding her tears behind the camera.

My Favorite Guide Books (so far) for Raising Kids

Most of us can probably say that our parents did there very best when it came to raising their children. More than likely, they parented they way that their parents parented.  Parents today either aren't as confident in their responsibilities or aren't sure about the way that they were brought up is the path they want to take with their own kids.  The age of information has brought about a plethora of resources for the modern-day parent.  I have my own personal list of books that have helped Steve and I along the road of parenting, and I thought I would share my list with you:
1.  Boys Should Be Boys, 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker.  Chocked full of eye-opening statistics, Dr. Meeker offers great encouragement on how to raise healthy, happy boys in today's culture.

2.  Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime by Dr. Ray Guarendi.  His audio version, which included stories from his book, is not only helpful but it's hilarious! I highly recommend it to every parent.

3.  Compass by Jim Stenson.  His book,  Lifeline, has also been a great resource for us.

4.  The Optimistic Child, A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience, by Martin E. P. Seligman. If you are interested in research and psychology, this one is for you.

5. Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson.  A classic on the parenting shelf, Dr. Dobson's insights have really helped me as a mom to understand my boys.

6.  Character Building, by Dr. David Isaacs. This is a wonderful guide for parents and teachers.  I have gone back to it several times over the past few years.

Also on my bedside table (but not completely finished)...

7. How Do You Tuck in a Super Hero, by Rachel Balducci.  Rachel also has an insightful and hilarious blog, Testosterhome, that is well worth checking out!

Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday: Wine and Febreze Weekend

To wrap up the week, I am borrowing the very popular and very handy 7 Quick Takes model. This week's theme: Takin' it Easy.  Most of us continue the business of the week into the weekend, but if it's up to me, life has to take on a more relaxed pace.  Here are a few things that help me slow it down:
  - 1 -
When I saw this beautiful Purple wrap sweater on PInterest , I started looking for quarters under the couch.  First, because it's purple, one of my favorite colors.  It's the color of K-State Wildcat pride (we bleed purple during football season), and because it looks amazingly cozy.  One little problem - the photo is the beautiful result of a pattern.  That's right, it has to be knitted (or crocheted, I always get the two mixed up.). Naughty Pinterest, how could you be so cruel??  Anyone want to whip it up for me? 

- 2 -

Well, if the sweater isn't going to comfort me this winter, then I pick this lovely little Hoodie and Pant Set from Athleta. (Don't you love the length?? Bum coverage can be a good thing!) When it really starts to get cold outside, I like to slide out of my flannel sheets to something equallly soft and cozy. I would call them my fancy sweats (keepin' it classy here) - nice enough to wear to town for errands, too nice to wear for major chores, like cleaning, but NOT too nice for wine and Febreze. HUH???...

- 3 -
I shared this hilarious little clip on my Sole Searching Facebook Page, and it went bananas - lots of sharing and great responses.  Laughter is one of the greatest comforts in life - it instantly makes you feel better.  Spread the love, spread the laughter!

- 4 -
Febreze bottle in what hand, glass of wine in the other (that's some skill!)!! I'm loving the Bonterra Chardonnay right now.  I've never been a big white wine fan, but this is really delish.  Not too sweet, not too tart, not to dry, it's just right! I'm excited to try their other varieties. Another bonus: their wines are made from organic grapes, but their prices won't break the bank.  The chardonnay was $13.

- 5 -
If you're like me, any adult beverage leaves me hankering for a snack (you should know by now how my heart beats for beer and chips!)  My snackage is a bit limited given this new diet plan that I'm trying to help ease my joint pain .  But, I found these babies and don't feel deprived at all: 
Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips.  (If you can't find them in your area, you can order them from

- 6 -
Classy sweats, fresh scents, wine, chips and what else???  That's right - music!  The hubby and I have been tackling the dinner dishes at night with a little help from Pandora Radio.  Our two favorite picks right now are Eve Cassidy and The Wailin' Jenny's. Both have a laid-back, romantic vibe.

- 7 -
"Bear Buns."  Need I say more??

When it comes to creature comforts, nothing can compare to the morning warmth of our little Charlie waiting patiently for us to scoop him up in our arms each morning.  
This time of littleness speeds by much too quickly, so we are truly enjoying every minute of it!  I only wish I could look so so chipper in the morning!!

Whatever your plans are for the weekend, I hope that you have a moment to relax and enjoy the simple things!! 
(Or at least have a glass of wine!!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Very Real (Unpolitical) Moment

Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon playing outside with the boys.  One reason was because the weather was unbelievably beautiful and another reason was that there was no good chemistry between any of the ruffians. Let me tell you, they had ruthlessly peeled back every last layer of my patience, right down to the last crazy nerve.  By 2:37 p.m. the nerve was exposed and it was hot.  Going outside was the possible salvation of what little sanity I had left.
To top it all off I was in a bit of a carb-deprivation state.  I had to get away from the pantry.  "Come back, my beloved, come back!" I swear I heard those words, loud and clear calling out from the granola and cracker shelf.  It's this new diet thing I'm trying - no grains, no gluten (no fun, no comfort, no 2:00 p.m snack party with the chillins.) for 14 days. More like 14 eternities.
On a brighter note, I praise the Lord for my in-law's totally sweet conveniently close mega-yard. It really is a mini-park of sorts.  Playground equipment, huge swing set, plush green grass, scenic fountain, shaded's totally lovely.  And, it makes our homeschool recess time more legit.
During our afternoon recess, I had a moment (it may have been a carb-withdrawal moment, but still...).  All of the boys were playing together, the sun was shining playfully through their blonde locks, their wild energy channeled into reaching high on the swings until their toes touched the tree-tops, only to bail out and onto another stunt somewhere else on the playground.  That's when it happened. I know you have experienced this too, it comes randomly, unexpectedly.  I felt overcome with a complete and total sense of peace and joy followed by a flooding of fear and panic all baptized in tears and worry.
I saw my oldest son Benedict, pushing his little brother Charlie playfully in the same swing that I pushed him in when he was a babe.  And in that glimpsing I absorbed, with great recollection, the sum of Ben's life, a life that has passed so quickly before me.  Slow down, son, slow down.  Don't grow.  Don't go.
I gazed into the souls of each of my boys, so precious, so beautiful, so special, so perfect - imperfections and all, and begged the hands of time to take a rest, to let me enjoy and remember each and every moment I get to share with these gifts.
Within this brief experience there was also a fragment of time when the past 11 years of motherhood very quickly came into focus. I could see it all - the good, the bad, the ugly. Just like that, every exhausting day tainted with sour moods and selfish behaviors faded into the fuzzy recesses of my memory. Only the goodness was left to be contemplated. The inexpressible beauty of the miracle of my children was now seated firmly inside of me, anchoring me to the truth that their lives are indeed precious.
This rose tinted moment that I share with you is not meant to paint an illusion of scripted perfection of my life. I speak with honesty when I say that there are days when I don't want to be a mom.  That caring for five boys every day is not only mind-boggling, but its waring and worrisome. There are days when I bear quietly the lonely feeling that can come from being the only girl out here on this farm.  I don't want to change another exploded diaper, break up another fight, figure out how to feed the crowd, scrub floors caked with their messes, say "no" for the hundredth time or pray for the thousandth time that one son will be healed of his heart condition and the other of his temper.
Despite these few (there are many more) light confessions, being a mother has never, ever felt like a punishment.  A punishment? Isn't that a little harsh? Weren't those the words of our president just before he began his term in office?? According to the one who is "for all of us" the inconvenience of an unplanned, unexpected pregnancy is a punishment. Aren't you blessed, Mr. President, to know that whomever gave birth to you never considered you to be a punishment? Now, maybe an inconvenience, but not a punishment. The way Mrs. Obama slights you right and left, the whole world knows you're an inconvenience, at least to her, you and your bad habits, Mr. Snorer.  What about all of the orphans out there who are unwanted, are they little punishments too?? You might be interested to know sir (you and everyone else who has ever made a snide remark about the size of my family) that most moms - yes, even those who once considered aborting their babies - do not, and have not ever considered their babies to be a punishment. Perhaps their only regret (if they have one) was that they even considered having an abortion in the first place.

Now, hold your horses, calm down.  This post isn't meant to be a political rant on abortion issues, nor the statement made by our president nearly four years ago (to people who hate children, sorry, you don't get a pass on this one). It's meant to be a personal rant on how in so many ways we have reduced human life to something that we can label and manipulate to suit our own needs, wants an desires, and how children most often bear the brunt of our selfishness.
Do you think I enjoy the fact that five pregnancies has left me with saggy ta-tas, thin hair and worn tooth enamel not to mention an unchecked bucket list that will most likely remain only a bucket and a host of Facebook friends who just happen work at liquor stores?? NO (except maybe the FB friends part).  But, despite all of those minor challenges, the reality is that I CHOSE it all from the possibility of conception to present.  My children didn't choose.  Therefore, I cannot, and will not ever perceive them to be my punishment.  On the contrary, they're my privilege.
Of course raising a child comes with it's inconveniences. That's to be expected.  I even consider those to be a MERCY.  How is that possible? Because every single one of those inconveniences has made me a better person than before I had children.  But, who needs the hassle, right? Why not just take the inconvenience and ask, or expect, someone else to fix it or remove it from your life, because you don't deserve such discomfort.  You don't deserve to have to work that hard, to die to yourself in order to feed the hunger or nurse the wounds, teach the mind, console the heart or God-forbid GIVE SOMETHING UP. What a deprivation of the human spirit, the human grit, the human purpose - to be made to believe that we cannot or should not be satisfied with a life devoted to self-sacrificial love of another, especially a child.
The real mercy of the inconveniences, then, is when you can take them all in, and wrestle with them until you come out of that fury of discomfort and find that you have more grit, more goodness, more generosity, more courage more love than you ever knew possible... and dare I even say it - more joy, more happiness than before?? Yes, it's possible.  I know it first-hand, and I hope that you do too.

The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow.

The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care.
The opportunity of life is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend.
The beauty of life is to give. The joy of life is to love. ~William Arthur Ward