Friday, January 17, 2014

A Stepmom's Vows


My favorite part of our wedding was reading my vows to the kids.  Tom and I used the standard vows supplied by our church for each other, but we wanted the kids to be included because this was just as big of a change for them.  I found some other people's vows to their step kids on the internet, combined them, and did a little tweaking to make them fit for us.

"Thank you for sharing Daddy with me, loving me, and allowing me to love you with all of my heart.  I was not there when you took your first steps, but I promise that now I will love and support you in every step that you take in your lives.  On this day when I marry your dad, I marry you, and I promise to love and support you as my own.  I promise always to treat you with love and respect.  I promise to foster my relationship with you and always be there for you in any way I can.  I promise to support you in your relationship with both your mother and your father.  I promise to take time to listen.  I promise always to treat your father with love and respect, and model for you a healthy, loving, and supportive marriage relationship.  Please accept these gifts as a symbol of our love and devotion to the three of you."  (We presented the girls with heart necklaces and CJ with a superman watch. Tom put them on the kids while I read my vows.)

CA, I love you, and I am devoted to making your life full of happiness and accomplishments, nurturing your creativity, encouraging your independence, and making sure you always know what a gift you are to this world.

EJ, I love you, and I am devoted to making your life full of happiness and accomplishments, ensuring that you thrive to your fullest potential, and that while you reach for the sky, you remain grounded by the love of our family and our home.

CJ, I love you, and I am devoted to making your life full of happiness and accomplishments, encouraging your playfulness, building your confidence, and supporting you every step of the way as you grow into a man.

When I grow up...

At this point in our lives, my step kids and I spend a lot of time together…in the car…driving between home and school about 45 minutes away.  We're getting to know each other in this dull and confined space.  Sometimes they just fall asleep, but usually this otherwise boring commute is a time for conversation free from distractions.

This week we talked about what they want to be when they grow up.  Their personalities absolutely gleamed as they talked about their dreams…

The oldest wants to live in the country with two cats and a dog.  She thinks she might want to be a veterinarian, but after finding out how long you have to go to school, she's not so sure.  She would ideally like to live in a mansion, but since earning enough money for that takes hard work, she might settle for living in a mobile home by herself with her animals.

The middle child is all ambition.  She used to think she wanted to be a teacher, but decided that they don't make enough money (citing me as an example.)  She wants to be famous and rich.  Maybe an actress or a singer.  Her plan right now is to be a fashion designer and sell dresses in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter.  (Giving some of the money to the poor of course…she's not greedy.)

The youngest wants to be a ninja dog.

I tell them I want to be a treasure hunter when I grow up.  They laugh, but I'll show them.  It will happen…someday...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Rosacea

I don't have great skin.  Actually, my skin is pretty awesome everywhere except the one place where it really seems to matter…my face.  I had acne when I was a teenager, and then during my 20's it developed into something worse.  I was able to deal with it for the most part and accept it until this fall. I think there was sort of a Bermuda Triangle of circumstances (age, genetics, stress) going on that caused my face to explode into a super volcano of humungus, red, pussy cysts.  My mom had long suspected rosacea since she has had to deal with it herself, so her recommendation (combined with my husband's ex-wife's ridicule) led me to seek medical attention.

My dermatologist immediately agreed with my mom's diagnosis…papular rosacea.  He put me on doxycycline hyalite and metronidazole.  According to him, it's supposed to take 3 months to work.  I'm about 2 months into treatment, and have seen a huge improvement.  There have been some negative side effects to the medication (mostly nausea,) but the pros outweigh the cons.  Unfortunately there isn't a cure for rosacea, and the treatment is pretty expensive and mostly not covered by insurance, but hopefully I will eventually be able to ween off of the oral medication as my mom has done.  Here's my very embarrassing before picture (which was actually after my worst outbreak had calmed down a lot) and my most recent no make-up picture from a week or two ago.

Before treatment


2 months of doxycycline and metronidazole

My mom gave me a very good, brief run-down with some excellent advice.  I would add to her list that stress and alcohol are big triggers (at least for me.)

There are a lot of commercial websites out there for rosacea, all trying to sell “the cure.” The hyperlink below appears to give the most information that is non-biased. The recommendations buried within the site are similar to those employed by Dr. Denman in my treatment.

·         Mild facial cleansing, recommendation is Cetaphil facial cleanser (available at Costco). The goal is to keep irritations down and not scrub the living daylights out of your face.
·         Sunscreen and reduction of sun exposure. Dr. Denman would say that you shouldn’t leave the house without a strong sunscreen. I use Neutrogena with helioplex, spf 70 (Costco most of the year)
·         Avoid overheating. The more you get flushed the more it aggravates.
·         I seem to be sensitive to florescent lights. Not the occasional exposure, but more the full day of working under direct florescent.
·         Stress, need I say more?
·         Medications: I didn’t have any luck with topical medications initially. The improvement turning point was taking Doxycycline, 100 mg daily for a couple years. Currently I’m trying to taper off and hopefully in the fall I will move to a topical.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Snowboarding

My husband is amazingly kinesthetically gifted.  He has an innate knowledge of his body and can coordinate his movements fluidly.  He picks up on technique easily and applies it in a broad range of sports.  But, he is also patient.  He is able to explain the mechanics that come so naturally to him.  This has made him an excellent coach with the kids' sports and a wonderful teacher to me. He has challenged me to explore this type of intelligence and the results have generally been good.  He taught me to golf and dance, and through those activities we have become closer.  With his patient guidance and gentle constructive criticism, I thrive and can do things that I never thought I could.  Snowboarding is the exception.

For about a year and a half I have been promising to give snowboarding a try, and fortunately there has always been something to thwart our plans…until yesterday.  I only made it to the kiddie hill…the one that doesn't even have a lift but uses a conveyer belt instead.  On the hill, Tom would tell me to just dig in my heels and stand up, and I found that I didn't even have the core strength or balance to do that.  I felt like I was an elderly person trying to get out of a chair that was too low.  I probably spent half the time we were there just trying to get myself vertical.  I finally figured out that I had more luck doing it toe side.  The worst part was just trying to get out of the way.  I felt like the frog stuck in the well, three jumps up and slide back two.  When an employee told me to please try to move to a different area, I could feel the tears welling up.  "Dude, I am trying…I really am."  When I finally got close to where Tom was, I could see on his face that he saw my distress, but I was just glad to be close to the safety of his encouragement again.  When I was almost there, a woman, who I am sure just meant to be supportive, started giving me a lecture on how I needed to smile.  She said I wasn't going to get it if I didn't have a good attitude.  That if I just have fun, it will be easy.  She was nice in her delivery, but she just kept going, and the tears that I was fighting back started to make it to my cheeks.

For the first time, Tom told me that it was ok to quit.  He was proud of me for trying.  He comforted me.  I struggled a little bit with giving up, but I realized that I really didn't enjoy being there.  I had some small amount of success, but even when I was kinda getting it, I still hated it.  So, with three year olds whizzing past me, I eventually made it to the bottom of the hill and unstrapped my boots.

I told Tom to go on without me and I would grab some coffee and wait for him in the lodge.  I told him I would be fine and happy waiting for him, and he reluctantly went on to enjoy a couple runs.  Even so, he came back much sooner than I expected.  He wanted to spend the day with me.  We went back down the mountain early, returned my rental equipment, had dinner, and visited our new favorite coffee shop.  All the while, Tom told me what a wonderful day he had with me.  And you know what?  It turns out I had a good day too.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Broken

This is a response to a post in a friend's blog, which I could just not leave alone today.

At a recent gathering of evangelical Christians, we sang a song in which one verse focused on God’s desire that we be broken. I say, “We sang,” but I didn’t sing that line. It didn’t make sense. Doesn’t make sense. Why would God want me to be broken?
Am I broken? The lyricist probably intended something like humility. But broken goes farther than that. It’s not just the wrong metaphor. It’s also harmful. It suggests that there’s something wrong with the human condition. And by association, it suggests that there’s something wrong with God.            -http://www.ericmuhr.com/broken-2/

I have learned a lot about brokenness in the past several years.  For me, the songs we sing about brokenness are the most powerful and are my deepest prayers.  What those songs meant to me when I was younger mean something different to me now.  There are many definitions for the verb "to break," and therefore, many ways to be broken.  Brokenness is not a bad thing.

I'm not sure I understand how you came to the conclusion that flaws in the human condition suggest something wrong with God.  While I do believe that we are made in the image of God, we are not God.  In our free will we have all sinned and fallen short.  Not already having been made perfect, pressing on toward the goal to win the prize…in my opinion, brokenness is essential, not for salvation but it is part of the process of sanctification.

It does seem absurd to break something like a bone, especially if it is functioning, but it is not unheard of.  I have known people who have had jaws broken by oral surgeons, not necessarily because they wouldn't work otherwise, but because they could work better.  The doctor doesn't leave it broken though…it's part of the transformation process.

In my former marriage, my spirit was broken by my husband's infidelity.  Packing up the rooms I had prepared for the children I would never meet broke me further.  I was hurt badly.  Then, the shame of my divorce, the distance some people put between me and them, and depression made it worse.  This brokenness did not come from God and it is not something to be longed for.  However, it was a catalyst for some of the brokenness that I needed.  God could have hardened my heart, like Pharaoh's…it would have hurt less.  But, my heart came out more fragile.  In areas where I would have responded with pride or arrogance, I became more compassionate, more empathetic, more forgiving.  The song that says "break my heart for what breaks yours" is this type of brokenness.

Another type of breaking that we need is from bad habits, addictions, sin--the things that put a wedge between us and God.  Things that destroy us.  While not all the worship songs use the word "broken," themes of refining or pruning are part of the painful yet necessary process of which breaking is also a part.

Finally, there is another definition that means "to train to obey" as in "breaking-in a horse" or "housebreaking a dog."  I like to think of it with shoes.  There is nothing wrong with a new pair of shoes.  You love them, you chose them, you have a purpose for them.  But you still need to break them in.  To mold them to the contours of your feet so they are better able to function.  Without breaking, the shoes are not entirely useless, but they aren't as good as they could be.  They could be so much better.

With this understanding of brokenness, this is my prayer:

God, Brokenness is what I long for.  Brokenness is what I need.  Brokenness is what I believe you want for me.  Take my heart and form it.  Take my mind and transform it.  Take my life and conform it to yours.  Not my will, but yours be done.  Amen.

Friday, January 3, 2014

To Make the World More Beautiful...

The other day, I was reminded of a writing/art project I did with my kindergarteners last year inspired by the book, Miss Rumphius.  I dug through my old emails and found the email I sent out to parents about it last year.  I'm hoping it will inspire me as I set goals for this year.


From: Rachel Miller
Sent: ‎4/‎12/‎2013 8:06 AM
Subject: To make the world more beautiful...

After reading the book, Miss Rumphius, the kids came up with ideas for how they would make the world more beautiful.  You can take a look at what they wrote in the hall, but I thought their ideas were so sweet that I would send them to you as well…

"If the world is ugly, you should paint it."  --N

To make the world more beautiful, I will paint the walls pink in Mom and Dad's room.
                                                                            -Z
To make the world more beautiful, I will paint murals on the walls using all the colors of the rainbow.
                                                                           -T
To make the world more beautiful, I will make a home for the animals.  The home that looks like a star.
                                                                           -S
To make the world more beautiful, I will pick up litter.  I will have help from my three friends:  Michal, Noa, and Kiki.
                                                                            -P
To make the world more beautiful, I will plant flowers, paint buildings, and use kind manners.
                                                                           -N
To make the world more beautiful, I will plant trees.  I will plant trees in the forest.
                                                                           -M
To make the world more beautiful, I will plant flowers.  I will plant lupines.
                                                                           -K
To make the world more beautiful, I will plant flowers.
                                                                           -N
To make the world more beautiful, I will say please and thank you.  To make the world more beautiful, I will help people.
                                                                                  -A
To make the world more beautiful, I will take care of the animals.  I will feed the animals.
                                                                                  -A


Thursday, January 2, 2014

The House of Aichele

The addition of 2 pets this Christmas inspired me to write the following poem…


This is the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in the The House of Aichele
This is the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele
This is the boy with the golden hair
That wrestled the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele
This is the kitten who needs extra care
That snuck past the boy with the golden hair
That wrestled the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele
This is the girl all graceful and fair
That cuddled the kitten who needs extra care
That snuck past the boy with the golden hair
That wrestled the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele
This is the man with a beard like a bear
That twirled the girl all graceful and fair
That cuddled the kitten who needs extra care
That snuck past the boy with the golden hair
That wrestled the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele
This is the woman with the graying hair
That kissed the man with a beard like a bear
That twirled the girl all graceful and fair
That cuddled the kitten who needs extra care
That snuck past the boy with the golden hair
That wrestled the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele
This is the girl with a dramatic flair
That stole the show and helped the woman with the graying hair
That kissed the man with a beard like a bear
That twirled the girl all graceful and fair
That cuddled the kitten who needs extra care
That snuck past the boy with the golden hair
That wrestled the dog
That stared at the hamster that spun the wheel
That lived in The House of Aichele 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas Stockings

One of the wonderful things about growing up in my home was that my mom made beautiful handmade decorations.  Each of our Christmas stockings were cross-stitched and personalized.  Mom was always doing about 10 things at once, and I think she felt guilty if there was any down-time.  So, while watching TV, chatting with friends, and sitting in church, my mom had her bag of handwork and kept going at it.  Unfortunately, though my mom taught me many things, I don't have the patience for that kind of work…at least to the extent that she does.

My Childhood Stocking
When I got married this year, I wanted to give my step-kids the type of homemade love my mom gave us, but I didn't have a year to make each stocking, so I found this amazing tutorial and made my own version of family stockings.  Not as personal, but they looked good, and the kids loved them.

Our Family's Christmas Stockings
Each stocking uses 1 fat quarter for the stocking and 1/2 a fat quarter for the cuff.  I found a coordinated bundle so that we could all match, but be different, then got a couple of yards of the blue for the cuffs and linings.  One more fat quarter and some heat-n-bond for the letters and that was it.  Perfect one-day project.  Step-by-step instructions and pattern are from sewlikemymom.com.