Uno & Bread Dough

Dear Child of Mine,

There are some days when I’m reminded of one of reasons God must have created the childhood stage of humankind. Kids bring fun and laughter and true, deep, unabashed love into your life like no jaded grown up can. (Yes, I could list a ton of ways that children are a burden or a frustration, but today, let’s focus on the positive.)

While I’m waiting for you, dear one, I’ve been practicing love on all of the children in my life. And how can you not love a joyful, silly little girl like Madison?

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The best part of children is their innocence and their GIANT LOVE. Kids LOVE BIG. They run and scream your name and jump into your arms…and you don’t even care that your back might be broken. They ask EverySingleSunday if they can pllleeeease come home with you and you wonder why on earth a fun, energetic kid would want to come home with a boring, exhausted, (sometimesgrumpy grown up like me? They gently stroke your arm or brush your hair, and they manage to make you feel beautiful and safe all at the same time. They reach out and hold your hand when you cross the street and they don’t squirm to let go. They wave to you when you’re singing on the worship team as if you’re someone famous and it makes you feel like a million bucks. When you ask them who their best friend is they stop and think for a moment before replying YOU! And even though you know that can’t possibly be true it still gives you the tinglies.

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And so, when Maddie asked if she could come home with your dad and I on Sunday after church, even though I was spent and still had lots to do to prepare for the arrival of your grandparents and Uncle Brian and great-grandparents, I looked at her and said, “Would you like to come to Walmart with us to help pick out our new fish?” I figured it might only take a half hour before dropping her off at home again, but it just might mean the world to her. She eagerly accepted.

But as we waited for the fish associate to help us, we guessed her favorite foods (I was really good at that) and talked and laughed, and my heart made room. I asked her if she’d like to have grilled cheese and tomato soup with us for lunch. “Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking!” she said. So while I cooked lunch, your dad played a few hands of Uno with her and taught her how to shuffle the cards like a “card shark.” I don’t know too many almost-7-year-olds who can shuffle like that, but with your dad around, I imagine you’ll do the same. :)

I had lots to do and so I was ready to take Madison home, but then I thought it might be nice to have her “help” me with the bread dough. I have to admit, Child, I have trouble letting little hands help me to tasks that I know would be faster and easier and accurate if I just did it myself. But again, this time togetherletting the little children come to me like Jesus probably did, was what I felt God wanted from me in that moment.

And so, after setting the dough aside to rise, and talking about what is a good age to get married, and learning that she wants to go to college to learn to be a mom, and watching my adorable husband play Uno with her and make tasty cinnamon-tossed snacks for her, and letting her be the focus of our attention, somehow I was the one who felt better. I felt a little more whole, having given of myself. I felt more loved and affirmed, having let a little one in

I can’t wait to let you into my life, child of mine. I’m sure I’ll have struggles with selfishness because it *is* easier to do it myself, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I hope you’ll keep asking if you can help me in the kitchen. I hope you won’t give up if I say “No” one too many times. I want to love you well. Because I know you’ll LOVE BIG.

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Normally, I like Lemons

Dear Child of Mine,

I need you to know that some days are just bad days. And I’ll be there to hold you and catch your tears. I’ll try to remind you that Jesus says,

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

There may be times when I need you to remind me of those words from our Savior. In the middle of last week, before my piano studio recital, before the hustle of Christmas, before painful conflict, I had one of those bad days.  The car wouldn’t start, again and again and again. My debit card had a hold on it so I had to be that girl who couldn’t buy her groceries at Aldi. It was just  like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

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But then there were many “Grateful Heart Moments” as my own mom reminded me. When I was “stranded” with a dud of a car, I was at a friend’s house, safe and warm. That same friend’s husband came to rescue me again and again, repairing my car free of charge the very next day. I was able to do my laundry. Get most of groceries purchased. And still get home in time. That’s when I made this post on Facebook.

Sometimes life hands you so many lemons you just need to cry from the acidity of it all. But then your friends rescue you, and you realize your lemonade is delicious. (My apologies for the ridiculous metaphor.)

Look for the joy, my child. God is there, offering his grace, even in the pain, the annoyance, the frustration of this world.

Love,

Mama

Prayer for Mending

Child, 
You’re entering into a broken world, wearing sinful flesh. You will need this Jesus, just as I do, today and always. 

from The Book of Common Prayer

O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power
and come among us,
and with great might succor us;
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness we are grievously hindered in running the race that is set before us,your bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory, now and for ever.

Restore us again, O God our Savior.

Risen Christ,
you claim your own among the nations;
mend what is broken in us, loving Savior;
do not forsake us when we fail,
but in your service grant us daring and love;
for your name’s sake.

Amen.

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Tears are Timeless

Dear Child of Mine, 

Grown ups cry too.

THERE. I said it.

When I was a kid, I had this vague notion that adults just didn’t cry unless they were at a funeral. But that’s just not true.

Exhibit A: Your mom is out in the storage room and boxes are falling and she is getting extremely frustrated. In her mounting frustration, she stands up quickly to take a breather and proceeds to smash the top of her head into the low-hanging, angled ceiling. Tears were everywhere. Your Dad heard the dull THUD of the accident and came to her rescue.

I know that the range of emotion expressed by adults is much more varied than when we were children. Not all grown ups cry when they stub their toe or watch a touching film or see their loved one for the first time in months. But I just want you to know that I cry, and while you don’t need to be privy to every up and down in your mama’s life, I want you to know it’s okay if you see me crying. Don’t be scared or alarmed. Be comforted, knowing I’m human. My feelings still get hurt. My struggle with selfishness and anger still rears its ugly head. And sometimes I just can’t handle the pain (physical or emotional) like you may think a grown up should.

But I’ll cry with you, too. And maybe sometime, having that instinctual sensitivity that only children possess, you’ll crawl up in my tear-filled lap and hold me.

Love,
Mama

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Drinker of Tea.

Dear Child of Mine,

I hope someday we can sit side by side on the couch, cozied up with a few blankets, sipping a cup of our favorite tea and enjoying good conversation. I am a tea lover, and I hope you will be too.

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My mom and dad have always been tea drinkers – Dad with his classic black Lipton, with a long steeping time and lots of cream and sugar, and Mom with her herbal teas and a half packet of Splenda.

Loving tea has developed over time. In high school I developed an affinity for Apple Cinnamon Tea when I would share a cuppa and a conversation with my friend, Maria.

College introduced me to the wonders of lightly sweetened Blueberry Tea. My roommate, Brittney, spoiled me with a cup whenever I asked.

Since then, I’ve expanded my horizons to include an appreciation for most teas. Your dad has a wonderful collection of loose leaf teas; they’re so pretty in their mason jars all lined up on the stove. The Orange Chocolate Black tea is one of my favorites. I enjoy French Vanilla or Winter Spice blend, a good Earl Grey, a mug of Lemon or Peppermint if I’m a bit under the weather, perhaps a fruity herbal teas when the mood strikes, and green or chamomile if I’m feeling particularly docile.

Every morning before sunrise, the first thing I do is plug in my 1985 Hot Pot (a $0.50 rummage sale find!) which works like a charm, and pour myself the first cup of the day. 

I love holding the warm mug in my hand (the mug is key to the tea drinking experience). 
I love the steam rising to my cheeks. 

And, I confess, I am a tea-bag-re-user. As long as there’s flavor left in those leaves, I’ll use the packet again and again. That’s my frugal/practical side coming out.

My cinnamon-clove spiced tea as lost its warmth, telling me it’s probably time for bed.

Goodnight, sweet one.

Mama

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Cooked Butter is Delicious

Dear Child of Mine, 

One thing you’ll learn quickly is your mom likes loves to bake cookies and concoct cakes and create candies. (At least I hope you’ll find this out relatively early in your life…but maybe not, because from what I hear raising kids takes a LOT of time. Baking may take a back burner. pun intended.) The oven was on from 10am to 5pm today, as I was busy making sweets for my piano studio Christmas Concert which is coming up Friday.

I already have multiple batches of Homemade Spritz Cookies and Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies in the freezer, but I today I added Chocolate Covered Butter Toffee sprinkled with sea salt to the list.

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Seriously, child, this candy is like a miracle in your mouth. It’s THAT good. Who knew a pound of butter could turn into something so delicious? (I try not to think about the pound of butter become pounds on my hips. I truly believe indulging in your favorite foods is totally part of living fully. We just have to have the self-control to not cross the line into gluttony. But that’s another sermon for another day.)

I hope my piano students and their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will enjoy my sweet little Christmas gifts to them. Their support is continually an encouragement to me and to my business and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to thank them. 

Are you going to have a sweet tooth, I wonder? 

Will you be playing in a piano recital one day? 

Time will tell.

Love you,

Mama

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Prayers in Anguish

Dear Child of Mine, 

I am certain I’ll want to shield you from the pain of this world, this temporary dwelling place we are born into which offers us the opportunity to seek God, find him, cleave to him. While we wait for his final Advent, his Kingdom come, we pray.

We pray in the peaceful times, thanking him for rest and reprieve.
We pray in the joyous times, honoring him with our excitement.
We pray in the troubled times, asking for our eyes to be open to his hand at work.
We pray out of anguish, sorrow, pain, regret, anger.

God can handle it. He wants you to give him all of you, wherever you are.

I am aching for our friends, Wayne and Lisa, who are enduring very scary times as they seek a diagnosis for the masses in Wayne’s abdomen. I can’t believe my friends, such young, vibrant, wonderful followers of Christ, are facing this trial.

Having read Lisa’s blog post describing the gut wrenching sobs she can’t seem to control, the guttural anguish that hasn’t allowed her to see God’s peace, I sought Scripture for answers. She is not failing or lacking in faith because of the deep emotions that are welling up in her. Neither will you be failing God, dear child, in times of crisis. Cry out to Jesus.

Psalm 55:1-2, 4-5

Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea;
hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.
 

Psalm 6:2-4

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 31:7

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.

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The Harmony-Seeking Idealist

Dear Child of Mine,

I can’t wait to meet you and discover how unique your personality is, while at the same time find the shadows you share with your dad and me.

I am always intrigued by personality tests. Perhaps this shows a deeper need to know myself and become more aware of my strengths and struggles. Maybe it’s because I wonder if and how I am changing over time. Or maybe I am just plain entertained by the results.

Recently, on a recommendation of a few friends, I took a personality test at http://www.ipersonic.com/. The results were quite accurate, and for posterity sake I thought I would share them with you. I am hoping this will give you a bit of insight into my life, helping you understand my quirks and my priorities.

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I thought a photo-in-the-mirror was apropos

Harmony-seeking Idealists are characterized by a complex personality and an abundance of thoughts and feelings (an “abundance” is an understatement). They are warm-hearted persons by nature. They are sympathetic and understanding (Kevin calls me his “little empath”). Harmony-seeking Idealists expect a lot of themselves and of others. They have a strong understanding of human nature and are often very good judges of character (why, thank you). 

But they are mostly reserved and confide their thoughts and feelings to very few people they trust. They are deeply hurt by rejection or criticism (all too true.) Harmony-seeking Idealists find conflict situations unpleasant and prefer harmonious relationships. However, if reaching a certain target is very important to them they can assert themselves with a doggedness bordering on obstinacy (who me? obstinate?! never.).

Harmony-seeking Idealists have a lively fantasy, often an almost clairvoyant intuition and are often very creative. Once they have tackled a project, they do everything in their power to achieve their goals. In everyday life, they often prove to be excellent problem solvers. They like to get to the root of things and have a natural curiosity and a thirst for knowledge (I was the kid reading every word on the cereal box). At the same time, they are practically oriented, well organised and in a position to tackle complex situations in a structured and carefully considered manner (me to a T). When they concentrate on something, they do so one hundred percent – they often become so immersed in a task that they forget everything else around them. That is the secret of their often very large professional success (at first I wrote this off, but I suppose my piano studio is considered a “professional success:” jumping from 0 to 29 students in 2 years in a brand new community). 

As partners, harmony-seeking idealists are loyal and reliable; a permanent relationship is very important to them (very important). They seldom fall in love head over heels nor do they like quick affairs. They sometimes find it very difficult to clearly show their affection although their feelings are deep and sincere. In as far as their circle of friends is concerned, their motto is: less is more! As far as new contacts are concerned, they are approachable to only a limited extent; they prefer to put their energy into just a few, close friendships (This is definitely true. I connect well with many people, but my inner circle is small). Their demands on friends and partners are very high (sorry, friends). As they do not like conflicts, they hesitate for some time before raising unsatisfactory issues and, when they do, they make every effort not to hurt anyone as a result (check, check).

CareerAs a Harmony-seeking Idealist you are one of the introverted personality types (I may be talkative and good in front of people, but I seek quiet, not crowds). Therefore you prefer a quiet work environment where you can intensively deal with your responsibilities and are not disturbed by too many people and repeated distractions (uggg, distractions…). You need a lot of time to dwell on your thoughts, to put them into words and let your ideas take shape (a lot of time).

You are grateful for a certain measure of order and structure in order to achieve this, and being able to deal with one project after the other, thus not having a number of responsibilities at one time. You don’t like being overloaded because it is important to you to deal with things thoroughly. Your capability to concentrate is unusually great and very often you become engrossed in something and forget everything around you.

You are one of the feeler types (*cough cough*). This fact is partially the reason that you have a very strong insight into human nature and enjoy dealing with people. You are interested in the people around you and have a real sense for their motivations, needs and abilities. Your talent to see the best in everybody and your keen wish to understand others and somehow contribute to their well-being predestine you to work with people. (This paragraph accurate accounts for my youth ministry passion).

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Due to your propensity to be introverted you are not into holding major speeches for large audiences. Your real strength lies in working individually with people like therapists, physicians or priests (true story). In those professions, when advancing others in their personal development or to help them in any other way is the issue, you are unbeatable (unbeatable, eh? Well, thanks).

You are extremely sensitive, and your social competences are developed above average. As a result you have no problems working with people or being a team member. Still, you should watch out to primarily surround yourself with persons who are similarly profound and eclectic. During the working day you abhor thoughtless, superficial, and insensitive colleagues.

There you have it. Your Mama in a nutshell.

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In Michigan for Thanksgiving 2013

Dear Child of Mine, 

You have a wonderful family – both mine and your dad’s – that will absolutely adore you when you make your way into our lives. We were able to spend time with both the Eccles and the Fishes over Thanksgiving (I never knew how to make my last name Fish plural).

Just hours after disembarking our Carnival Cruise your dad and I met my mom (your GRANDMA!) at Olive Garden in Buffalo. We enjoyed a nice meal together and then mom took me back to Ashtabula where I would spend the next two nights before heading with Kevin to Michigan. I had a great time with Mom and Dad, Grams and Chuck, and Gramma Mary. I baked an apple pie and chocolate chip cookies because it’s what I love to do (and, if I’m completely honest, the raving compliments they gush onto me, don’t hurt.)

Before I knew it, we were back on the road for Southern Michigan! Kevin and I, along with your Uncle Brian and his girlfriend Beth, were busy little bees working alongside Mom E. Just in time for dinner, the rest of the crew began arriving. And what a fun, rowdy, completely new group it was! I had been the only “outsider” in the Eccles/Arvidson family for many years, but now Elise has been married to Matt for 2 years, Marlene is engaged to be married to Daniel in 2014, and Brian is dating a fantastic girl, Beth.

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Left to Right: Beth & Brian, Daniel & Marlene, Elise & Matthew, Melanie* & Kevin

*please note the water bottle/cup at Mel’s feet. She never goes anywhere without it. It might as well be an appendage. 

The 8 of us had a blast together – the additional significant others really adds an entertaining dimension to our group dynamic. “What’s that, new people to get to know? to tease mercilessly? to find topics to debate? to play ridiculous games with? Oh this is going to be good.”

And just think, little one, as each of our generation adds children to the mix, the volume will increase, the entertainment ratings will SPIKE, and the love will multiply. Come quickly, child. You’re delaying the fun!

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The average age around the dinner table was now much lower than ever before! I’m the oldest in our generation, at 28, Beth is 18, and David (Kevin’s youngest cousin) is 13. You should have heard the conversations flying around that beautiful Amish-made dining room table. I sat at Dad E’s left (as I have for the past 9 years), and he, Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa and I couldn’t even carry on a conversation over the volume. (Your dad and your Uncle Brian are both quite loud when then get to telling a good story. It’s quite entertaining, really!)
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Let’s just pause for a moment and admire the spread my mother-in-law put out for all of us. Beautiful heirloom China and a fantastic pot roast dinner (just as delicious as your dad remembers it!) And this was the night before Thanksgiving! AKA Prelude to Thanksgiving as I like to call it.

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Matthew and Elise (Arvidson) Schnaars
Daniel Globig and Marlene Arvidson (soon to be Globig)
Larry and Ruth (Ruiz) Arvidson
David Arvidson
Gordon and Linda (Arvidson) Eccles
Kevin and Melanie (Fish) Eccles
Brian Eccles
Mert Arvidson and Wanda (Walton) Arvidson
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Thursday, November 28th, we all indulged in a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, took some family portraits, played a rousing rendition of Quelf, watched the Lions beat the Packers, pieced together a puzzle, took turns napping, and shot a few gourds with a 9mm handgun. All in all, exactly what Thanksgiving should be.

Yes, that *IS* your mother shooting a gun.
Yes, she was a pretty good shot, if she does say so herself.

The day AFTER Thanksgiving was significantly more quiet and subdued, aside from this little gem:
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Ok, that wasn’t the only “rowdy” moment of the day. You can’t me quiet during a game of bowling after all. The first round would have made my dad hang his head in shame, but the second game was decent. A few strikes, spares, and *almost* the top score. My darn husband *would* beat me in the last frame. Of course that *may* have had something to do with the fact that I took down ONE pin. (Did you know, dear one, that your Papa Fish and Great Grandpa Nick were extremely talented bowlers? There may or may not be trophies and plaques and Hall of Fames involved.)

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The 6 of us, Mom & Dad, Kevin & Mel, Brian & Beth, went to Kohl’s around 10am, waited in a crazy long line, ate an awesome lunch at Bone Island Grill, shopped at one of our favorite stores (SAM’S CLUB. woot!), and retired for an evening of Hallmark movies.

We love spending time with family and only wish we weren’t quite so far away. In a perfect world, you’ll get to see your grandparents and aunts and uncles every week or two, because we’ll live just down the street. :) But even if our world isn’t perfect we’ll be sure to give you lots of time with this great family of yours!

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Finding Humor in our Conception Struggles

Dear Child of Mine,
I have to be honest with you. While the issue of infertility is very painful, and our desire to have you is very real, sometimes I switch things up and lighten the mood. I’m sure I throw people off by the things I am able to joke about. But I figure laughter really is good for the heart, and I shouldn’t take myself (or my problems) too seriously. 
Our friends, Randy and Sheryl, have a quilt on their couch that was made for them years ago (four kids ago) by a lady who described it as a “fertility quilt.” (Obviously the quilt worked for them!) This concept has always struck me as funny, but every once and a while when we’re visiting together, I really get the giggles about this quilt. When Sheryl asked me if I’d like a blanket, I looked at Kevin and said, “BRING ON THE FERTILITY QUILT!” Yes, we were all laughing!
Then, the other night I gathered in the church library with 5 other church leaders, including your dad, in a meeting to discuss plans for the Christmas Eve services and holiday decorating strategies. I arrived at the meeting 10 minutes late because I had to speed walk (literally) from my piano studio after 4 hours of lessons, and then I would be heading straight from this meeting to my Wednesday night vespers gathering. All good things, but bam, bam, bam, one right after the other.
By the end of the meeting I was getting a little slap happy. (This happens to your mother when she’s low on energy, sleep, and/or patience. I figure it’s better alternative grumpiness.) After we closed in prayer (as every good church meeting does), I happened to catch a glance of this book on the shelf behind me:

Without thinking, I blurted out for the whole group to hear –

“This book is titled Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, but I TOTALLY thought it said Making Children Without Losing Your Mind.”

Everyone erupted in laughter, with expressions of slight shock and a teeny bit of embarrassment thrown in. Had the title of the book really been Making Children Without Losing Your Mind it would have been incredibly appropriate for your dad and I. Oh the satire was just too rich!

I share this story so that you know I’m not always uptight. I’m not always super spiritual. I’m not always thinking critically. Sometimes I’m just plain ridiculous.

I hope you’ll appreciate my oddities as much as your dad does (most of the time.)

Love,
Your Mama

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