Éclair to the Rescue

download march 2015 067

Toys abound in our home. Dolls, trucks, stuffed animals, games, DVDs and every possible contraption that makes noise came with the kids. But stories are what bring solace to Katrena, particularly books. They provide her with an avenue of escape and feed her imagination.

feb 2016 020One book series in particular has become to Katrena what Piggy is to her brother.  The main character, Éclair, comes alive as a precocious seven-year-old girl. She and her two-year-old sister, Meggie must go to live with their eccentric grandmother, Stella, while their mother is getting treatment for an illness and their father travels for work.

The books were written by Michelle Weidenbenner, feb 2016 021a talented author who was raised two of her grandchildren for a while. She sent the first two books in the series, Éclair Meets Stella and Éclair Meets a Gypsy, to Katrena in time for Christmas last year. Katrena opened the book, began to read and was instantly captivated. She ignored her other Christmas presents while she drank in the story. The similarities in their stories are remarkable. Éclair and Meggie were the same age as Katrena and Isaac when they were displaced. Éclair’s persistent attempts to fix her parent’s problems and reunite the family echoesEaster 2015 040 the desire of Katrena’s heart. The books, like Isaac’s piggy, are getting worn and dog-eared. I’ve found Katrena awake and reading them at four in the morning because, “I fell asleep while I was reading and now I just need to get to the end of the chapter.”

These books have been a blessing to me as well because it helps me get inside Katrena’s and Isaac’s head and understand what they may be feeling. Although I don’t have maroon-colored hair and I haven’t painted our barn pink, like Stella, I can identify with her.

At the end of this past year, Michelle published feb 2016 022the third book in the series, Éclair Goes Geocaching. Katrena and I had the honor of pre-reading it and sending Michelle a critique of the book. We both absolutely loved it and a bit of Katrena’s critique was printed on the back cover. eclair 007

She was so excited to see her name in print shefeb 2016 002 announced to our houseful of guests at the time, “I’m famous. I want everybody’s autograph.” She passed around the paper, and received many “autographs” with words of encouragement.

Now she wants to write a book of her own. She certainly has many life experiences and lots to say. We’ll let you know when it goes to print. In the meantime, she is enjoying these books and looking forward to book four, Éclair in the Show Ring.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for Michelle and the many other talented writers willingly share their hearts and experiences–whose words encourage and give solace to the wounded and those caring for them.

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Isaac’s Piggy

Sometimes life gets very hard. We all are wired to seek comfort. So when your life turns upside down, what do you use for comfort? Do you turn to family and friends or your faith for consolation? Maybe you run for chocolate, alcohol or “comfort foods.” Perhaps you find consolation using entertainment for distraction.

Isaac and Katrena look for solace in different ways. Both, however, seek the security of our arms. While Katrena asks to be “snuggled,” Isaac says, “I need to hold you” as he crawls into our arms.

He also holds his best friend, Piggy. Once his mother’s, this little pig has almost become an appendage.

Isaac carries Piggy with him wherever he goes, usually wedged in the crook of his arm. It’s amazing how much mischief his two little hands can create while still holding on to Piggy.
Although Piggy started out as a fluffy, purple pig with shiny black eyes, he has morphed into a pale purple, floppy pig that needs frequent “baths” in the washer. Once again he only has one eye. Initially he lost an eye when Isaac swung him by his little tail and banged it on the floor. For weeks Isaac showed everyone the hole where “Piggy’s eye is gone.” Finally he allowed his aunt to sew on a button eye. He took a long time to pick out just the right one. He chose a small, pink, round button. Isaac fingered the new “eye” constantly- when he wasn’t showing everyone that “Piggy’s got a new eye.” But worrying that button with his little fingers made the button fall off. My efforts to sew it back on were not well received. Isaac pulled the eye right off. His little pig is back to one eye and an eye socket.
Isaac is not affected by Piggy’s disfigurement. He lavishes Piggy with kisses. At bedtime I am required to follow Isaac’s kiss with one for Piggy. When Isaac is scared he is quick to reassure Piggy and he is careful to explain to Piggy where we are going, what we are doing and why sometimes he has to stay in the car.

Isaac’s attention turned to a rather odd new friend last week. A small pumpkin. For some reason the pumpkin received the Piggy treatment. Isaac carried the pumpkin all over the house, slept with his arms wrapped around it and held it on his lap so it could watch Curious George with him. He especially liked that he was able to bounce his new friend down the stairs and across the room. “Punkin” rolled better than Piggy. As the pumpkin softens, I’m thankful Isaac’s attention is once again fully focused on Piggy.

I can’t help but smile as I listen to Isaac talk to his best friend, especially when he snorts Piggy’s answers.

I envy the simplicity of his faith in Piggy. Then I realize if my dependency on God mirrors Isaac’s dependency on Piggy, I won’t need to run to anything else for comfort.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone,  O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8.

My prayer: Father God, Thank you for teaching me the importance of relying on You alone through Isaac and his piggy.

Blessed Mourning


I learned Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief in nursing school. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After all, it would be on the test. But as an eighteen-year-old kid with a blessed life, I had just learned the facts. I had little experience with loss and grief and I certainly didn’t understand that other life events can produce a loss as devastating as death. Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve had many life experiences which has caused me to understand these facts.

When Katrena was three and a half years old, her baby sister Sophia died in her sleep. Although Sophia was only three weeks old, Katrena had already developed a strong bond with her. She hovered around her all day, wanting to share her toys and sing to her. Katrena, like the rest of us, was devastated by Sophia’s death. She was angry with the police and paramedics for taking away her sister and wanted them to bring her back. We explained that Sophia was in heaven but her inability to understand such a concept was apparent one day when she was disciplined for bad behavior.
“That’s it. I’m going to heaven and live with my sister” she decreed. Although we told her that was not something she was allowed to repeat, we understood she was grieving and was looking for a way to cope with her loss.

Now she has sustained another loss. One whose magnitude we were not so quick to recognize. When our grandchildren came to live with us last May, the decision was not made by Katrena. It didn’t seem to affect Isaac, as he had already spent so much time with us, but Katrena lost her seven year “norm” in one day.

Bill and I struggled as well. At first our thoughts and efforts were spent on the logistics of caring for the children. We were concerned about their physical needs and wanted to make them feel loved, wanted and safe. It was difficult to explain to Katrena why she was unable to live with her parents without sharing too much information. At seven, she felt she needed go back home and try to fix their marriage and emotional problems.
As days grew into months, Bill and I realized how much life was going to change for us as well. We had lost our dream of traveling as a couple, being able to sit and have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation, and enjoy the freedoms that comes with having no kids and no pets at home. One day as we stood in the kitchen whispering what we missed of our former life, Katrena came into the room and wrapped her arms around my waist.

“I miss my life,” she sobbed. “I miss my family, my mommy and my daddy. I miss my home and my swing set. I miss my friends from church and my friends from school and the girls across the street. I’ll never sleep in my room again and in my bed.”
We cried with her and felt the first stage of grief return- anger.

We all continue to work through the stages of grief over what we’ve lost. It impacts each one of us differently so we’re all at different stages in the process. It concerns our family and friends at times when they can tell we have not totally reached the acceptance phase.

Katrena still hopes a miracle will happen. It may.

Bill and I worry our minds and/or bodies will give out before the children reach adulthood. They may.
But beneath it all is a firm belief that God is in control. He knows the situation. He knows our hearts. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us.
That is our level of acceptance for now.

It is enough.

My prayer: I thank you God for being my constant in this ever-changing world. I take comfort that nothing happens without your permission. Help me stay faithful to this task.

Pure Joy

Head thrown back, face heavenward, Isaac shrieked in delight as he soared upward.
“I ‘winging, I ‘winging,” my grandson’s words filled the air.
His belly-laughs and squeals of delight drowned out the traffic rumbling past the park.
Soon his sister climbed on a nearby swing.    

A few minutes later a teenage girl joined the two.
Laughter, accompanied by high-pitched “wees,” became a cacophony of noise which was probably heard several blocks away.
“I can almost touch that cloud,” Katrena said. She stretched her legs and pointed her toes towards the sky.
The teenager caught the vision. “I’m going to touch the one shaped like cotton candy.”

It had been life as usual before this outing to the nearby park.
Dishes, laundry, picking up toys and paying bill created a lengthy “to do” list.
A simple run to the bank led us to the park.

“Only for a few minutes,” I warned before we got out of the car. I had only crossed a few tasks off my list. “I have so much to do at home.”

Their game caused me to look up. As my eyes followed their feet, I noticed for the first time billowing large, fluffy clouds.
Back-lit by the sun, they glistened snowy white, painted on a canvas of bright blue.
My spirits soared like the swings.
My heart lightened by the children’s pure joy.
I shared their game, finding clouds shaped like a bunny, a horse, an ice cream cone and a face.

Later that evening I joined my husband on the deck swing.
Our two little ones tucked into bed, asleep as soon as their heads made contact with their pillow.
Memories of the day brought back my smile as I shared the day’s events.
“I saw joy today,” I began. “Pure joy. And I almost missed it.”

How many times have I missed it? How often, in my quest to have the toys picked up, and the house clean, have I missed the simple joys in life? Why do put so much emphasis on tasks that mean very little in the scope of their lives? I know they will never look back with fond memories of how clean the bathroom was and how neat their toys were lined up. But they will remember the trips to the park and the times I spent playing with them.

That day did not stay sunny and full of joy. As a matter of fact, their giggles quickly changed to tears and whines when it was time to go home. The supper table received a lemonade bath and World War III broke out during bath time.

I am so glad I did not miss out on this bit of pure joy, the highlight of my day.

My prayer: Heaven Father, I have a habit of placing so much emphasis on accomplishing household tasks that I become too busy to enjoy my life. Thank you for bringing these dear little ones into my life. They are teaching me to experience and see pure joy, even in the daily grind of life.

I Found A Nugget on The Deadliest Catch

storm on the ocean

It’s surprising where God places nuggets of wisdom. I found one in a “mine” called The Deadliest Catch, a TV show I enjoy watching.

On this particular episode, the seas were extremely turbulent and the fishing perilous due to an epic Arctic storm. A rookie captain was struggling to keep the boat afloat amid the fifty foot swells when a hydraulic motor burned out. He wrestled with the decision of whether to try and fix the problem on the high seas or listen to his crew who wanted to pack up and head back to port.

A veteran captain who was serving as co-pilot gave the newbie a bit of advice. “Do not worry about what they want. Do worry about what they need.”

Sometimes, as I parent my grandchildren, I find myself in a situation much like that rookie captain. Thankfully, not everyday has an epic storm. Some have only a minor squall, and a few turn out to be gloriously sunny. However, much like the new captain, my role has changed. Although he was a veteran Arctic fisherman, he was functioning in a different capacity. Now all the decisions are on him. I am a veteran grandma and now I have to be the mom. The decisions and rule enforcement falls on me.

I struggle with this role because I want to be “fun grandma.” Not only do I want to s)mother them with love but I want to give them what they want-sugary cereal, extended bedtime, and less discipline-instead of what they need- healthy snacks, structure and consistent boundaries. Katrena has noticed the difference. She has shared her observation more than once. Usually it’s something like, “I remember when I came here on the weekends and you let me stay up late,” or “You used to let me have cookies and ice cream for snack.” Maybe that makes me more of a bad grandma than a fun grandma.

I thought of this fisherman’s words of wisdom when I read this verse in Philippians 4:19.  My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

It is a promise that God will meet our needs. Obviously, needs are more important than desires. If this is how God parents his children, I can trust this is the best way to raise my grandchildren. Hopefully, if I place my emphasis on meeting their needs, fulfilling their desires on special occasions will again feel like they have gone to grandma’s house.

My prayer: Father God, I am so thankful I can rely on You to meet all my needs. Help me keep focused on meeting Katrena and Isaac’s needs. Don’t allow me to be distracted by all their wants. Amen.

I’d love to hear from you: I never had the fun of staying overnight and being spoiled at either of my grandmas. Did you? If so, what favorite memories of visiting grandma do you have?

The Future + Reality Check = Freak Out

While new mothers may scour child-rearing books for words of wisdom in facing their new challenges, Ecclesiastes is my go-to book. I especially like King Solomon’s words of wisdom in chapter 3:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

Those words came to mind the other day as my husband and I were the Future+ Reality Check = Freak Out“forward planning.” As we talked about the future, our conversation morphed into the discussion of how fast time was passing and how quickly our grandchildren were growing up.

“Just think, in a little over seven years I’ll be teaching another of our girls how to drive,” I said. He gave a little shutter.

“What’s the big deal? I’ve taught four others.”The Future + reality Check = Freak Out

Bill’s response brought the reality check. “But you weren’t sixty-six years old.”

Yikes!

“By the time Isaac becomes a teenager, we’ll be seventy years old,” he said. “That makes us close to eighty when he graduates high school.”

His math began to freak me out. Even now as I ponder these facts, the overall picture of the future is too over whelming. I can’t fathom how we will handle all the responsibilities and challenges that will arise while raising two children at this stage of our life. There are just too many unknowns in the equations.

So I choose to focus on the present and the constants.

Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Peter reminds me to “Cast all your anxiety on him (Jesus) for he cares for you. 1Peter 5:7

Consequently, my forward-planning is changing. It’s shrinking. Last year our focus was to get through the school year. That’s when physical custody was to be reevaluated. It was. Nothing had changed. Although we have no idea what the future holds for us, it’s apparent we will be caring for the children for many years.

I have to be honest. I didn’t think it would be so hard. I was wrong. It is.

My plan to cope is two-pronged. One—narrow my focus. I will make vague plans for the distant future but my largest time span to plan out is one to two months. I have many good days but some days it takes all my efforts to just make it through the day and I plan by the hour. I used to wake up and calculate the hours ‘til nap time. Isaac doesn’t nap any more, so now the question of the day is, “How many hours ‘til bedtime?”

Two—find joy in everyday life. More than once we’ve joked, “It’s a good thing you’re cute.” And they are. They are talented and funny and love bear hugs, tickles and kisses. When I look at them as the treasure then are, the future is not so scary.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets freaked out by the reality of the future. What it that reality for you? What is your plan and method to cope?

My prayer: Father God, thank you for your promise to never leave us or forsake us. It is the stabilizing constant in my life. Help me to focus on the joys of raising our grandchildren and leave the future in your loving hands.

Its A Boy

working with grandpa

Solomon declares in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “ What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

The first part of that verse surely applies to our life. We have been blessed with three daughters. We also had two other girls in our care. One for only a year, and one for six years. At times my husband complained he was drowning in estrogen. He survived thirty four years of a female majority and now there is something new in our home.

A boy to raise.

Yes Isaac brought his sister, but we now have the unfamiliar joy and challenge of raising a son.

Our first adventure—potty training.

I did the initial leg of the journey. Same as the girls. Sit and do your business. Our grandson, who shadows Grandpa, has discovered there is another way to complete the task. The “big boy” way. He is very impressed by his accomplishment. Now we  teach him to perfect his aim.

Our home has always been filled with dolls, dress-up clothes and drama. However, we’ve discovered boys play much differently than girls. Every car or truck is crashed and smashed. Loudly. Repeatedly. And they all morph into monster trucks that roll or climb on top of each other. Play doh is fun, sand is nice, dirt is better but mud is best. Isaac loves to run and swing and slide, but soon after his cousins arrives, its full-on wrestling, imitating their monster trucks.

Grandpa is enjoying his tag-along. A little boy who can’t wait to jump intoGrandpa and Isaac his boots, put on one of Grandpa’s hats and “go to work” in the sawmill, or around the farm. He “helps” cut firewood with his toy chainsaw and stacks small pieces of wood in the sawmill. Every tool he finds is a hammer in his hand.

When Grandpa goes to the music room to play his guitar and bass, Isaac accompanies him and plays the drums and sings. Loudly. Actually he has great musically ability with pitch and timing. Mostly likely he’ll be a drummer.

We cherish our something new under the sun, just as we cherished the girls. But we always prayed for a son. God finally said yes. A late in life son whose name means laughter.

 Our prayer:  Dear God, we are so blessed by this son and daughter you have brought into our lives. We recognize the responsibility you have entrusted to us. Please grant us the wisdom to do this task in a way that pleases You.