Applauding Moms Who “Can’t Afford to Work”

CNN Money recently ran an article entitled ‘Moms:  I can’t afford to work.’ http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/18/pf/moms-work/index.htm?iid=SF_PF_Highlight  The story explains that after subtracting child care and all the other normal expenses associated with working, many moms are finding that it doesn’t pay for them to work. This is true even among college-educated mothers making above average salaries.

Several women were interviewed for the article.  One woman, Sunah Hwang, calculated that after paying child care expenses, she would bring home $18,000 and in her words, “It wasn’t worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son.”  I applaud Ms. Hwang and other mothers like her who are making the choice to give up some extra family income to stay home and raise their children. Ms. Hwang explained that the family has made some sacrifices, including family vacations, to get by on one income. It’s not easy, but they are making it work. 

I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children when they were young and to work part-time in their schools when they were school-aged.  Giving up my job to stay home with my children was a sacrifice I was happy to make, despite the years I had spent in college and graduate school.  And in some ways the sacrifices continue even today.  After being out of the job market for many years, I don’t have as much work experience as most women my age.  I don’t make the salary I would be making if I had been working continuously for the past 30 years.  However, I would not trade a higher salary, a more impressive job title, or all the material possessions in the world for the time I spent at home with my children.

Since I was at home full-time, I was able to take care of many of the family chores while Steve worked.  This allowed him to spend more time with the boys in the evenings.  Steve protected his weekends and evenings to have as much time as possible with our sons.  We will reap those benefits for the rest of our lives.  Our sons have been raised with our Christian beliefs and strong family values.  We have a close relationship with each of them and enjoy spending as much time we can with them.  They, in turn, are devoted to their families and are committed to making the sacrifices to allow their wives to stay home with our grandchildren.

I would encourage parents to consider the joys and blessings of having one parent committed to raising the children, even if it makes sense financially for both to work.  You will give up some income if one of you quits your job, but the benefits you gain will more than make up for it.

My One Word for 2012: Intentional

I have been pondering my One Word for 2012 for two months now and have finally chosen ‘Intentional’ as my word for the year.  When I began considering what my focus for the year should be, I recalled a note a co-worker wrote me upon her retirement a few years ago.  She thanked me for reminding her “to keep the important things the important things.”  I wasn’t aware that I had ever done that, but I appreciated the compliment and have tried to live up to it. Of course, I fail more often than I succeed but I keep trying.

In trying to find a word which would encompass “focusing on the important things,” I considered thoughtful, purposeful, and balanced, before deciding on intentional.  The dictionary definition of intentional is “done with intent or purpose; deliberate.” I want to live my life with purpose and be deliberate in my actions.

My goal for 2012 is to be intentional in focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.  This will require me to set priorities and take actions that will help me to accomplish my priorities.  

This year I want to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I want to intentionally choose activities that will enhance my life and my relationships rather than those that simply fill my time.

Living intentionally this year will mean that I will spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  I’m sure I will fail often–it’s so easy to fall back into old habits–but my hope is that by making a deliberate decision to live intentionally, I will move closer to my goal of focusing my attention on the truly important things in life.  As I do that I will come closer to accomplish my life goal of bringing honor and glory to God in all that I do.

Happy Valentine’s Day to My Favorite Valentines

Wishing a very special Valentine’s Day to two little people who have captured my heart completely.

Grandson DanielFrom the moment we first learned we were to be grandparents, Steve and I were filled with love for our unborn grandchild.  We were so delighted to meet Daniel and have enjoyed every moment of watching him grow from a baby to a toddler.  He is full of energy and discovering new skills daily.

Granddaughter BrooklynWe were overjoyed to learn last spring that a second grandchild–to be Daniel’s cousin–was expected at Christmas time.  Again our hearts filled with love for this child that we did not yet know but whose birth was greatly anticipated.  Brooklyn arrived 6 weeks ago to everyone’s great delight.  She is a good natured baby who loves to be held and cuddled.

Every moment we spend with Daniel and Brooklyn brings love and joy to our hearts.  As Steve and I celebrate our 35th Valentine’s Day together, we are truly very blessed.  God has given us three amazing sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and two very precious grandchildren.  Our hearts are filled with love and gratitude to God for His amazing blessings and His love for us.

Follow Up Visit to the Burn Center

Three weeks ago, our oldest child awakened us with a 4 a.m. phone call to tell us he was in our local emergency room and was about to be transported to the burn center at Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.  That was a scary phone call and one no parent wants to receive.  Fortunately, his burn was relatively minor and he is healing just fine.

Last week he made his follow visit to the burn center.  As he and his father sat in the waiting room, they were surrounded by patients who had been severely burned.  My son later told me that he felt a bit foolish even being there when his burn was so minor. 

In the waiting room were two men who had been engulfed in flames after a wood chipper they were welding blew up.  The other two men with them were also severely burned and one of them did not survive the ordeal.  After extinguishing the flames, one of the men had to place a 911 call.  When help arrived, the men had to be transported 2 miles on foot to reach the helicopter that would take them to the burn center.  The accident occurred last May and the men are still in considerable pain.  They have had numerous surgeries and face more in the future.

Among the other patients was a child whose face had been burned.  As a parent, it is horrifying to think about a child being severely burned and perhaps disfigured for life.  This experience has made us very grateful that our son’s injury was so minor in comparison.  It also reminds us that horrific accidents happen everyday. We never know when we  or our loved ones will be involved in an accident that can alter their lives. 

Our prayers go out to those who deal daily with the after effects of a severe accident.  And we are grateful to God that He daily watches over and protects our loved ones.  If such a tragedy should befall us, we are confident that God will be faithful to walk through the difficult times with us.

Our Endless Quest for the Perfect House

My husband and I have been house hunting for the past several months. When we decided it was time for a new house, we thought it would be easy.  We knew just what we were looking for and we are so easy to please. 

We simply want a house with a spacious kitchen, an open floor plan, and  a decent size lot with some trees.   That’s all we asked of our realtor. 

 Except…

Well, a  big front porch would be nice.  It would be even better if it has a long porch railing from which to hang Christmas lights.  And a pretty front door is a must.

And…

A sitting area in the master bedroom would be an added bonus.  And we love it to have a vaulted ceiling and a large, walk in closet. 

Also…

A large tub to soak in at the end of the day would be a plus.  With a separate shower, of course.  And double sinks.  And a nice vanity area.  And maybe a separate little room for the toilet.

And, of course…

It really should have a big den.  A great room would be even better.  We need to have a lot of seating when the family comes over to watch football games. 

Did I mention that we’re not overly fond of white houses with black trim or yellow houses?  Brick houses, however, are very nice.

I can’t imagine why we haven’t found what we want after six months of looking.  Our realtor says we need to up our price range, but we’re certain she can find just what we’re looking for within our budget.  I mean, 

4 a.m. Phone Call

My heart always skips a beat when the phone rings at 4 a.m.  No one calls at 4 a.m. with good news.  Fortunately, most such middle-of-the-night phone calls turn out to be wrong numbers.  Unfortunately, the call we received at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning was not a wrong number.  It was our oldest son.

He begins the conversation with “Don’t freak out, but I’m in the emergency room.”  Not a good start.  But it can’t be too bad, can it, since he is able to make the phone call himself?

“I burned my hand on hot grease.”  We breathe a sigh of relief.  A burnt hand isn’t that bad.

“They’re transferring me to the burn unit at MCV.”  Our hearts skip a beat.  There is no way to put a positive spin on being transferred to a burn unit 50 miles away.

We hang up the phone and try to process the information we have just received.  We begin imagining the worst possibilities.   We shed a few tears, hold each other, and pray for our son.

We’ve never been to the university hospital in Richmond, so we call our local emergency room for directions.  We are told that our son is still there and will be for another half hour, so we dress and rush over to see him.  He seems fine except for the large bandage covering his right hand.  “It’s not that bad,” he tells us; however, his nurse disagrees. “It’s pretty bad,” she whispers.

Soon after he arrives at MCV, the burn specialist declares that it really isn’t bad for a grease burn.  He had been prepared to perform skin grafts but realizes that grafts will not be necessary.  Praise God!  However, it is 6 hours before they release him and only after he agrees to having a home health care nurse come to the house to perform wound care for the next couple of days.

The end prognosis is that he should heal fine, if the wound does not become infected.  He is home-bound for the next 2 weeks to minimize the possibility of infection.  We have been assured he will retain full mobility of his hand. We are unsure  whether the hand will be scarred. 

We are grateful to the doctors and nurses who treated our son, and we are thankful that he had the good sense to seek medical attention.  Most of all, we thank God that He protected our son from permanent injury. 

This 4 a.m. was a reminder that we never know what each day (or night) will bring.  Even though our children are grown, they are still our children and we worry about them.  And that will never change.

Reflecting on the Blessings of 2011

As the year draws to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the way our lives changes in 2011 and to thank God for the blessings He bestowed on my family during 2011.

1)     In November my husband was rehired by the employer who had laid him off 2 years and 10 months earlier.  We are grateful that Steve is once again employed and that God sustained us financially during the extended period of unemployment.

2)     In May all three of our sons received a college degree—one earned a Master’s degree, one completed his Bachelor’s degree, and the other received an Associate’s degree.  We are very proud of them for their hard work and perseverance in achieving their goals.

3)     My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a two-week trip to Alaska.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the love we have shared for more than 3 decades.

4)     Our precious grandson turned 1 in July.  It is a joy to watch him grow and learn new skills every day.  He has a wonderful nature and is a delight.

5)     Mother’s Day brought the news that we would have another grandchild.  We were delighted to welcome a baby girl to our family yesterday. It was a special blessing as it has been 118 years since a girl was born into my husband’s family.

6)     All of my sons are employed in jobs.  As an added bonus, they all enjoy their jobs and are doing well at them.

7)     I love my job but I didn’t love the commute.  Althoug only 16 miles, it frequently took me an hour or more to get home.  Two weeks ago our office relocated into town and much closer to home.  The new location is more convenient to shopping and home, plus I have awesome views of our city.

8)     My second novel was published in the fall.  The first novel did not sell many copies, but my publisher believed in the second one enough to redesign the cover of the first novel.  So far, the second one is not selling at all.  However, I have faith that God will bless my writing and that my novels will touch and enrich lives.

9)     We moved my mother-in-law to live in our community.  She is in a nursing home where she gets the round-the-clock care she needs and where she can regularly be visited by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

10) We were able to sell a piece of property that we had been trying to get rid of for the past two years.  We were then able to help our son and daughter-in-law to purchase their first home.

2011 was not all emotional highs and good times; there were some disappointments and sad times as well.  A much beloved aunt passed away with no notice, we endured many months of job searching and wondering if my husband would ever be employed again, and we dealt with my mother-in-law’s declining health.  But through it all, we could see God’s hand of blessing.  He has seen of through many challenging times and we know that He will be with us in whatever situations arise in our lives in 2012.

In what ways did God bless you and your family in 2011?  Please take a moment to reflect and share the ways God blessed you.

May your 2012 be filled with God’s blessings and the love of family and friends.

Knitting a Lavender Christmas Stocking

I’ve knitted dozens of Christmas stockings over the past 37 years since my grandmother turned the duty over to me.  Most of them have featured traditional Christmas figures, such as Santa Claus, snowmen, and gingerbread men, on a red or green background.  I’ve even made a few on blue backgrounds.  Until now, however, I have never knitted a lavender Christmas stocking.

The occasion for this non-traditional stocking is the impending birth of our first granddaughter.  Two years ago, I made a pair of stocking for our son Matt and his wife Kristin for their first Christmas as a married couple.  They both chose a puppy pattern and, rather than having identical stockings, ask me to adapt the colors to look like their two dogs, Jasper and Allie.  With the expected arrival of their first child, a daughter to be named Brooklyn Elise, they wanted me to knit another puppy stocking.  The puppy on Brooklyn’s stocking has dark gray ears and a tan face on a lavender background.

It is coming along nicely, except that Brooklyn is a rather long name to fit on one side of the stocking.  I didn’t consider that when I stitched the name on it.  As it currently is, “KLYN” would show when the stocking is hanging.  Fortunately, I didn’t knit the name into the stocking but embroidered it on in duplicate stitch, so I can easily removed the stitched and rework it with “BROOK” on the front and “LYN” on the back.  My alternative plan is to try to free -hand the name using a back stitch.  I’m going to let the partents-to-be make that decision.

Last Christmas, I knit a stocking for our first grandson, Daniel.  It was a wonderful delight to carry on the family tradition begun by my grandmother and make a stocking for the first member of our family’s next generation. Daniel is too young to understand the family tradition yet, but I believe he will also treasure his special Christmas stocking.  Brooklyn is due January 7th, so unless she makes an early entry into the world, she will not be here to celebrate Christmas with us this year.  We will hang her stocking, however, and thank God for this precious new life and the wonderful blessings He bestows on our family.

Packing A Life in Rubbermaid Tubs

I spent Saturday packing my mother-in-law’s belongings in twenty Rubbermaid tubs. Last week her three sons came to the sad realization that Mom needs to live in a facility where she can get constant care and supervision.  The decision was made to move her to live near Steve and me.

It felt strange to pack up her belongings without consulting her as to what to keep.  Steve and I made decisions as to what would be kept, what would be given away, and what would be thrown away.  We couldn’t transport everything to our home and she won’t have a need for much in her residence.  Her days of cooking are behind her, so her dishes and cookware were given away.  She doesn’t read much, so most of her books were donated.  We did our best to determine what items were valuable to her and to pack those items in the twenty tubs that would fit in our van.

As I packed her sweaters, letters, photo albums, and keepsakes, John 21:18 ran through my mind. “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 

Although her body is frail and she is often confused, she does not suffer from Alzheimer’s.  We are grateful that she recognizes her family members.  She knows that she is coming to Virginia where she will get to see little Daniel, her first great-grandchild, and that she will be here when her first great-granddaughter is born in January.  We are not sure, however, that she comprehends she is moving here permanently. 

Steve’s mom has lived a long, full life.  Her body has weakened and her mind isn’t as sharp as it once was.  The important decisions that affect her are made by her children.  She is fortunate to have raised three loving, caring sons who are committed to ensuring that she has the best possible care. 

Our oldest son is fond of saying, “I’m the one who will choose your nursing home.”  He’s teasing, yet there is truth in his words.  One day I may find myself in need of supervised care and my children will be the ones making the decisions regarding my care.  We, too, are blessed with loving, caring sons. I can rest assured that they will put the same thought and consideration into their decisions as Steve and his brothers are now doing for their mother.

Favorite Children’s Books I Plan to Share with My Grandson

My grandson Daniel celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago.  He is a delightful, energetic child.  Steve and I savor each minute we spend with him. 

Daniel enjoying his first birthday cake.
He enjoys playing with his toys and he learns new skills as he presses buttons, twists knobs, and pushes his riding toys around his living room.  His parents “read” picture books to him, but Daniel isn’t ready yet for story books.  In anticipation of the day when he is old enough to sit and listen to a story,  I am compiling a list of my favorite  books from my childhood that I plan to share with Daniel.  Using the Internet, I was able to find photos of the book covers I remember from my childhood.

1)  Frog and Toad Books by Arnold Lobel.  This four-book series teaches young readers the true meaning of friendship through the daily interactions of these two different but steadfast friends. My mother discovered theses books when I was in college. I enjoyed reading the stories to my much younger siblings and later to my own children.  “The Surprise” from Frog and Toad All Year is one of my favorite depictions of true friendship.

2) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  I received this book soon after moving to Virginia when I was 6.  I was experiencing snow for the first time that I could remember.  Like Peter, I was thrilled to wake up and see snow and couldn’t wait to get outside to build snowmen and make snow angels.

3) The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.  Amazon lists this as the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club Edition from 1965.  I can still remember the excitement of receiving my monthly package from the book club and eagerly opening it to see what book had arrived.  This one became a family favorite.  As a teenager, I read it to my younger siblings whenever they were sick.  This copy is still in the family and read often.

4) The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum.  The  first time I read the book was to my own children when Chris was 6 and the twins were 5.  In the movie, the wicked witch uses poppies to put Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion to sleep; Glenda causes it to snow and awakens them.  In the book, they are rescued by mice who build rafts and float the sleeping pair down the river.  Much cooler! When we read this scene, Chris announced that “books are better than movies”.  That’s my boy!

5)  Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.  I read this book over and over when I was about 6.  I guess I thought maybe one time, Mike and the Steam Shovel would get out of the basement.  I am delighted to say that Daniel already owns a  chunky toddler-friendly version of it.

6) Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater.  One of our all time favorites.  My sisters and I loved for mom read this book to us.  Now that Jim Cary has made it into a movie, I’m sure more children will be exposed to this delightful tale.  I can’t wait until Daniel is old enough to watch the movie with his grandma and grandpa.

7) Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.  When Mr. Willowby’s christmas tree arrives, it is much to large to fit into his house.  He cuts off a portion which is rescued and become someone else’s tree.  But, alas, it is too large and the top is lobbed off again.  The cycle repeats itself several times.

 8) The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.  I loved reading this imaginative poem about two creatures madly in love sailing off in a “beautiful pea green boat” with “some honey and plenty of money.”