Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas is coming! My friend, Rachel was asking me yesterday whether I am ready for Christmas. She, evidently is not, having just hosted a large Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends. But I was telling her that I am ready and rolling with the Christmas season already. Having children, especially one like my festive little Anna, makes the season magical all over again for Pat and I, even as adults. The day after Thanksgiving we hauled the family out to the woods- actually Home Depot- to choose our tree for the year. And it's a beauty. Since we have just moved and have taller ceilings than last year, we opted for an 8-9 foot tree...and I love it! Though it does have a Goliath-like, swallow-the-room-whole type of quality to it. And after stringing the lights twice and climbing up and down a chair to do so, I may just revert back to a 6-footer next year...we'll see. Anyway, the kids had a blast hanging and smashing ornaments...I have since initiated a no touch policy for Josh. Here are some pictures of all of us getting ready for the season...we are still not complete. I will unveil the majesty of the completed tree tomorrow. Okay, update. The blogger site is constantly deleting my pictures. I will post them later once I can, or rather, Pat can figure out what to do.

Pat and I are gearing up for a fun evening tonight. Several teams at Cingular are being treated to dinner tonight by IBM- a thanks for some of the work that has been done lately (isn't that the reason, Pat?) Whatever the case, we are going to Brio, an Italian restaurant...and my mother is playing babysitter for the night and part of tomorrow. So, I am hoping to use at least part of Wednesday to get some further Christmas prepartions done- like shopping. Ah, shopping without the double jogger, and the double trouble...sounds heavenly!

Monday, November 28, 2005

After several attempts to post tonight, we are live....finally. The blogger site has been acting up all day, and has deleted my original post, so I am going to keep this short, 'cause it's time for bed now. Here are a few pictures of our Thanksgiving adventures. The day was a raging success. We got a fence built- a split-rail in the woods out back...thanks Dad, Pat and Andrew Ward! We ate and ate and ate great southern food...most of which was graciously prepared by Pat's parents- we smoked the turkey this year instead of baking it. Everyone seemed happy with that arrangement. And we spent time with some of our favorite people in the whole world...so couldn't have been a better day. This Friday, my long-lost, and now found friend, Shannon...my best friend all through high school, is coming to Atlanta with her new husband. They are staying here for about a week, and I could not be more excited. See, Classmates.com does serve a purpose. You don't even have to be a gold member...the bare-bones membership works fine too:). Well, the hour is late. Hope all had a great weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Today is grand old Turkey Day...and so far, has been a good one. The sun is shining brilliantly against a perfectly clear, blue sky- I love the sky in autumn the most of any season- and the weather is warm...probably about 60 degrees or so. Perfect fall setting for Thanksgiving. And like so many people in this country today, I am deeply grateful for so many blessings in my life, all of them undeserved, showered down by a loving God. Thought I would share my "thanks" this afternoon...

1. Christ- Enough said. To know the reality of sins forgiven, guilt nailed to a cross, security bought in Heaven, and joy here on Earth...priceless.
2. My husband - God answered my most heartfelt prayer when He gave me Pat...someone who loves me, is actually good at fighting gently against sin in me, and the source of my two little treasures, Anna and Josh
3. My children- Words cannot even describe the new meaning and joy life takes on with the arrival of children. As I describe to Anna (unoriginal description, but the word pictures work), the love I have for her and Josh is "as big as a mountain and as wide as the sea".
4. My parents - They began the legacy of faith in us kids, coming from unbelieving homes...and as trailblazers, did an incredible job raising us to love the Lord. And the in-laws...Pat's parents rival most in their generosity and are so gracious in their love and hospitality- and are darn good grandparents to boot.
5. My siblings - the best friends I could ever ask for. And the coolest thing is, we keep on adding more to the mix, as dating and marriage happens.
6. Girl-friends - For Jo, Aileen, Susanna, Grace, Mom, Corrin, Alina, Emily, Janelle, Rachel, Faith, Luci, Michelle...and more.
7. The South - as a transplanted Yank, I can't say enough about the blessed south. This place, for all its superficial SUV-ness, has still captured my heart.

And so much more...I could go on for hours, days. All I can say is "for from Him, and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. "

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

We are in full preparation mode around here, as the days wind down to Thanksgiving. As of tomorrow, our first guests will be arriving- Pat's parents...and by Thursday afternoon there should be another 12 people roaming through the house waiting to eat, while I nag everyone to keep their fingers out of the food until dinner time. This year we will have some fun new guests with us for Thanksgiving dinner- my aunt and uncle from Lanark, a small town in Canada; Neil and Mellisa, our closest friends from Cingular; and Andrew Ward, Grace's boyfriend of the past couple of months- a guy she met in Chattanooga, who has become a precious part of the family.

So, the mad rush continues to get everything together. Because we have only been in the house two months now, there have been many projects we have wanted to take on, but with the two little ones, it is difficult to actually realize many of our home improvement goals. By some miracle, or more likely, through several late nights spent scrambling up and down an aluminum ladder, Pat and I have managed to paint the dining and piano rooms. And the good news...the guest room is officially painted, so any of you readers needing or wanting to make a pit stop here in Atlanta, the doors are open, and your accomodations ready. We would love to see you any time you're passing this way...

I hope you all are looking forward to the weekend.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

These past few days have been a whirlwind. Yesterday, play group was scheduled for a house down the street...it ended up being switched to our house, so combined with all the other happenings of the past few days, this has been a busy week...nonetheless, I want to share some thoughts I have had over the past 48 hours, so bear with me...even if my thoughts are somewhat scattered.

Yesterday afternoon, for a bit of respite from craziness, I toted the kids off to a fabulous new library down the road, set them up on the indoor climb-on train, and sat down to skim "The (New) Strong-Willed Child", by James Dobson, a book I have been needing and meaning to read now for, well, actually, 3 years. For those of you who have happened to mosey on by the Helms house... or even talked with me on the phone since I have become a mother, the fact that I have a strong-willed child is no surprise to you, and something you have doubtless picked up through your own observations of our family. I have known since infancy that my precious three year-old daughter is strong-willed. And when I say strong-willed, I mean will of the iron variety. Unbending, unyielding, tough.

Having experienced raising two little ones now through the first year, the differences between my first-born (strong-willed), and my second-born (easy-going) are quite amazing. At age one, Anna, like any toddler exploring boundaries, would throw things to guage my reactions to her behavior. Often, the object she threw would be her sippy cup. My reaction would be ,"Anna, no, no. Pick it up". And she would refuse. So I would spank her hand and repeat my instruction. And she would again refuse, prompting the spank on her hand again. This cyclical pattern could repeat itself easily 5-10 times before Anna was beat. And then producing a "sorry" could often take as many times of discipline too. Interestingly, the same sceanrio played out with Josh goes like this: Cup is thrown in anger. I say, "Josh. No, no. Pick up your cup". He will shake his head, receive a spank on the hand, cry with big tears streaming down his cheeks, fetch his cup, come back to me for a cuddle, and say 'sow' (sorry)'". The differences in temperament and response boggle my mind- because these are both my children, genetically similar, same parents, etc. I know we are a little wiser and more AWARE with raising Josh, but gosh, inherent personality is some strong stuff.

Anyway, for Pat and I...actually probably for me more...the hardest, most trying part of the journey of raising a strong-willed child has been dealing with and processing the devastatingly hurtful things people have said to us, or worse, have said about us to one another. Raising a sinful child in a sinful world is tricky no matter what the case- but throw an unwieldy temper and irrationally powerful pig-headedness into the mix, and you are looking at some tough years of mommyhood. Dobson had some good things to say to me yesterday, having made his life's work the study of children and families. God knew I needed to hear them.

Number 1: It is very common for Moms and Dads of stong-willed children to feel great guilt and self-condemnation. They are trying so hard to be good parents, but the struggle for control that goes on day after day in the house leaves them worn out and defeated. Their visions of pajama-clad angels reading books by the fireplace have been replaced with realities of battles over which pajamas to wear and which books to read.

Number 2: Parents of compliant children do not understand their friends with defiant youngsters. They intensify guilt and shame by implying "If you would raise your kids the way I raise mine, you wouldn't be having these awful problems".

Both of these numbered points ring so loud and true in my mind, I can hear the sound! Yesterday, was a therapeutic time for me. I have walked through some of my hardest beginning moments in parenting alone (having kids before any of my close friends), and to read that the doubts and anxieties I have had are normal (even statistically proven!) made me feel really comforted and in a large way, supported.

Okay, so my conclusions as I process everything I am learning while parenting my sweet Anna (by God's grace her spirit is slowly becoming sweeter and gentler). At the end of the day, God gave me Anna not only for her good so that I could spend my life loving and nurturing her, but He gave her to me for my good as well...so that I could learn LOVE in its truest most Biblical form- patient, kind, not easily angered, enduring, hoping, never-failing. So that I could learn to pray, the kind of praying that only parents do...the begging, pleading, sneaking in the room in the middle of the night to pray over your child kind of praying. And so that I could glorify God. Because who really stops to bow down and worship God for the things that are natural and easy? But when you witness the seed of the gospel starting to root in your angry child's heart, and when you see the faithfulness of God raining down from the sky, despite your imperfect parenting and your many, many mistakes, then you just glorify God. Because that is all that you can do in a situation so miraculous.

Those of you reading, I would appreciate your prayers whenever you think of us, for my children, especially Anna. She is a handful, but if (and I trust, when) her heart changes, she is going to be a darn stubborn little fighter for the Lord. But please pray her into that place. And pray me into a place of grace and daily wisdom as a mom. I appreciate it...and Anna will one day too....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

(The kids dancing to "Barbie Girl" by Aqua- actually stopping dancing because I have the camera- trying to pass the time til mommy feels better):)

It has been a couple of days since I blogged, because for some reason I cannot seem to fight this flu bug going around enough to truly get on my feet. The past couple of days have been those guilt-ridden, "I am the worst mother in the world days"...because yesterday my mother took care of all of us, and today our netflix movies came in and provided the child-care. So, I dozed on the living-room chair when I could, and tried to fit in loads of laundry around the needs of the little ones. I think that so far, going into year four of motherhood, my least favorite part of the journey is sickness. Because when I go down, not only do the kids ususally go down around me, providing lots of bodily messes for me to clean up, but the on-call phone still rings...and there is just half-alive, feverish, stomach-flu me to answer. To do the laundry. To kiss and cuddle. To read the books. To open the door and watch the kids play outside. To fix dinner. To tuck into bed, when I jealously look on, wishing I could be in bed myself.

But, the fact of the matter is...this morning when I was walking on the treadmill- "the calm before the storm", is what my treadmill is to me...I was thinking, "I am so blessed. I have this nasty little virus-bug living inside of me for two weeks now...but I have use of my legs...and I have use of my mind...I have healthy children...my husband is employed. I am on the road to heaven"...And all these thoughts swirled through my head, and I was humbled and appreciative of the relatively small cross I have to bear right now.

Charles Spurgeon, great preacher that he was, actually churned out a vast number of sermons and books from his BED. He was troubled with gout most of his adult life, and was in enormous pain regularly. Yet, he felt that even his sick years should be spent productively, so he continued to organize and oversee an ever-expanding ministry from his bed. Completely inspiring...unfortunately, while I would love to say that I did something marvellous and heroic today in the midst of my sick day, I did not. But my children are alive, my library books returned (late, with a $10.00 fine), my husband had a hot dinner tonight, and the laundry is complete, though piled.

Things should be looking up for tomorrow though. I am feeling more alive tonight than I have in a couple of days. I think I finally have the stomach to start planning out our Thanksgiving menu...hosted by yours truly on Thursday. We should have quite a crowd, so the load will be dispersed, but there is still a lot of coordinating left to do. Happy Thursday loyal readers, and I'll be back tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Yesterday was extremely busy...tomorrow promises to be busier still, so I am going to post quickly.

Sunday, Pat and I decided to strike out and try a church a little closer to our new home. Now that we are a little further north of the city, we find ourselves- especially, I find myself- wanting to plug in to this area, rather than hanging on to church ties back in Marietta. So friends invited us out to Midway Community Church- a Baptist church about 15 minutes away...and I have to say, I loved it. My initial impression was quite strong and positive, because the people were all very friendly and helpful- as far as plugging our kids into classes, etc. And the sermon was so refreshing- a message of hope in the gospel, and a call to holy living. Ever since leaving First Baptist Atlanta, I have missed Dr. Stanley's joy and positive, victorious approach to Christian living. Midway seemed to have the same feel, yet with a deeper scriptural foundation. So, we hope to attend this weekend again, and see whether our initial impressions are proven true.

And the much-anticipated party...well, let's just say the Helms birthday bashes will never, ever come close to the grandeur of Teresea Lee's 5th birthday celebration. The backyard was decked out in streamers...there were two miniature ponies trotting around the property...there was a cage full of baby chicks to pet and hold...there was a pinata (my 17 month-old son was quite dangerous in that game)...and Sue Ann had prepared a gourmet of all gourmet feasts. It was wonderful, and Anna and her little buddies had a blast together. But the neatest part of the afternoon for me was looking around at the faces of these women in my new neighborhood and thinking, "I like and get along with them ALL". We are becoming a closer group of friends, and are working hard to make relationships for ourselves and our kids.

And that leads me to tomorrow and its busyness. Anna and I are hosting a Harvest Party for a dozen little preschool folks, both in our neighborhood and church...so the house which looks beautiful right now, by tomorrow at 10am will not. But we are excited to plan and prepare. And are glad to have the opportunity to be settled in to this house finally...So until tomorrow...take care and I'll be sure and put up some pictures of the party tomorrow evening....

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pat and I have had the best weekend! Our hike on Saturday turned out to be more beautiful than either of us expected, because there are still plenty of leaves hanging on to trees all over North Georgia...we were so thankful. Pat did manage to squeeze in quite a few pictures, but the weather was so beautiful that I didn't mind stopping often, and even snapped a few shots myself.

Our outlet adventure was deemed successful too, for two reasons: Pat found shoes for work, I found jeans...and we didn't spend much money.

Yesterday, I drove back to Cartersville and picked up the kiddos, after making sure I hit Dollar Tree first to pick up some toys to present them with. It turns out they had a fun weekend with my parents and their aunts and uncles, and were well behaved. Anna is growing quite attached to Grace's boyfriend, Andrew...and seems to have mastered the art of flirting. She is this coy, mysterious southern belle- and I am anything but coy, so she has come by her charm through the gene pool somehow.

Anyway, today is off to church- a new church we are visiting...then Anna is invited to a party down the road. There will be a miniature pony for the kids to ride, so she is endlessly excited about that, as you can imagine. I'll try to take some pictures and post them here tomorrow.

Enjoy your Sunday, all!

Friday, November 11, 2005

This morning I woke up to an unusual situation: a perfectly clean, quiet home. I also woke up at 7:30, instead of 6:00. And here it is 8:59 in the morning, and I am still unshowered and unbreakfasted...and it feels great. Because yesterday afternoon, I piled the little mini-me's into the car and drove them to Mimi's house (Mimi is my mom) for the weekend. Every few months, my gracious and thoughtful mother offers to house the Helms kids for a few days so that Pat and I can go have some time to ourselves, to spend however we want.

Last Fall, Pat and I chose to stay at a beautiful bed-and-breakfast in Highlands, North Carolina (the enclosed picture is of the house we could see from our porch). It was tucked way back in the woods, and had a pond that misted over every morning. It was breathtaking. It was also bank-breaking. So this year we decided to stick a little closer to home, and spend less money...

Last night we went out for dinner and Starbucks, then came home and watched episode after episode of The Office, BBC's version of the sitcome series playing in the States right now. In my opinion, BBC does a better job, with intriguing characters and that zany British Monty-Pythonish humor. It was good mental health for Pat and I to laugh, after several weeks and weekends full of his being on call, carrying around the Blackberry (our third child- it's as high maintenance).

This morning, we are heading up into the North Georgia mountains to do some hiking. At least, I hope to hike. Unfortunately, when Pat brings along his camera, we usually fall into a slow, geriatric-like pace with me nagging him to stop taking pictures...and then stopping to take pictures every few leaves and trees along the way. So, just in case the actual hiking part of the hike is a bust, I did my pre-run on the treadmill. After the hike, it's on to the outlet mall to see whether we can find any Christmas gifts for the kids, and then on to dinner with our good friends, the Bruschi's.

So, the weekend is shaping up to be a fun one, and the weather here is gorgeous...with just enough leaves on the trees that the mountains should still be stunning. I'll be sure to post some pictures tomorrow of our weekend adventures. And to those reading, I hope you're enjoying the happenings of the Helms!!!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I have already not met my blogging goal- to post every day. But I am realizing that that is going to be life...at least with my life for now. But interestingly enough, the reason I did not post last night is a good one.

We were just sitting down to dinner when the doorbell rang...and in walked Anna's new little soul mate from down the street- a spunky little three year-old girl name Macenzie who has recently moved into the neighborhood (well, we all have just moved in...). So, dinner instantly became noisier and chattier...and fun. Thirty minutes later, the doorbell ran again...and in walked Macenzie's 8 year-old brother, Josh...who being a boy, wanted a snack and a drink...and stayed to play. And then, another thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang yet again, and James, Josh and Macenzie's thirteen year-old brother James, showed up at the front door, skateboard and all, and asked "Can I come in too?" So, there we were, transported from an evening of quiet and planning to tuck the kids into bed early, to a loud evening of friends and entertainment.

After asking James if he wanted a sandwich (he did, of course), I smiled to myself and thought "This is what I have been praying for"...a home with neighbors free to drop in...and a place where they feel safe enough to do so. As James and I sat chatting about school, I tried to ignore the peanut butter and jelly sticking to the floor I had just washed a couple of hours before...and closed my eyes to the bubble bath trailing after Macenzie and Anna as they practiced turning the jets on in the overflowing tub. And I praised God because I watched the kids reading the Bible verses taped on to the fridge, and I was able to tell Macenzie why we pray before eating our dinner, and I was truly loving and enjoying our quiet -turned- loud evening.

After I closed the door and the kids had gone home, Mom called and she reminded me that hospitality is opening yourself up to people WHEN they arrive, not when you might plan to have them arrive...big difference. And so hopefully, God will continue to bring our neighbors around unexpectedly so that I am forced to mellow out and appreciate the opportunities He gives me...and not just the ones I orchestrate.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Two weeks ago was one of those periods in my life when I thought that God had made a large mistake in entrusting two small children to a creature like myself...and definitely thinking that perhaps there was also a mistake in the selection of children he placed with Pat and I. It was one of those times that I was reminded of Pat's fatherhood mantra: some genes are never intended to cross one another because of what they produce. This is something he says jokingly at times, when the tension in the Helms house is rising, and the tone is not so, well, happy.

Anyway, I was living through such a week and recalling the Scripture verse that instructs parents not to frustrate their children, and the other Scripture verse instructing children to obey their parents, and wondering why theory is easy and reality is tough....and tormenting myself with how I have failed and how I am the most beastly mother, and why can't I pick on someone my own size and be above fighting with three year-olds?

And through a series of events- really boring to discuss- God made me aware that what we are lacking in our home during the day-time hours, is structure. Because we are pre pre-school home, and a very energetic one at that,the three of us have been getting on one another's nerves, and conflicting often. So, out with the old, in with the new.

For the past couple of weeks now, little old uncertified teacher me, has been responsible to prepare lessons for a three year old, and a deperately-wanting-to-grow-up one year-old. And get this...I love it. We are having a blast learning about the mating habits of woodland ducks- Anna's choice, and discussing the history of Thanksgiving- my choice. Josh sits in a chair and generally eats, or draws with and chews on crayons. He doesn't have a choice in lessons yet. But for Anna and I especially, structured time in the morning is a great opportunity to systematically pursue spiritual learning (Bible stories, memorizing the catechism, and prayer). And for Josh, the time is beneficial in teaching him to sit still at the table, and learn how to play quietly without my help.

So, praise God for small breakthroughs- actually, in this case, for big breakthroughs, as I learn very slowly but surely what it looks like to grow up and be a more responsible, involved parent.

Monday, November 07, 2005

My blogging goal is long overdue. Ever since Tim began obsessively blogging, followed by Susanna's and Amy Claire's equally valiant blogging habits, I have thought countless times- well, every day for months really...I need to give this blogging thing a try. So, here goes. I am sending info out to those of you I know in the thought that your voyeuristic side might need to be satiated now and again. And with the hope that I can provide an expression for that voyeurism,outside of peering in windows of your neighbors at night when you are out walking with your husband, and he is telling you to look straight ahead and to please stop it. ( A side note: that is one of the main reasons...no let's be real, the only reason I love walking at night). So, now you are welcome to peer into the Helms home regularly, and check out what's happening with us.

I realize having begun this journal however, that following online blogs is not for everyone. After all, the fact that I changed diapers a whole lot today, and made the same lunch as every day, and cleaned the house since it was Monday, and made chicken curry for dinner since it was something I was craving yesterday....may just be too darn tedious for some of you. But, for others, the awesome fact that Anna learned that God lives in the clouds and at church- and we discussed the theological intricacies of God's omnipresence, or the fun fact that Josh starting naming and identifying shapes, and I see my hard work paying off, or the inspiring fact that I came to terms with my frustrated writer side and decided to tackle one simple goal in a busy, often chaotic life, may interest and entertain some of you.

So, for the bored...just keep on surfing. There are plenty of sites that promise more adventure than mine.

But for those of you still reading, keep on for one more sentence. And stop by every day. You don't want to miss the events of the Happy Helms :).

p.s. I have to credit my husband with the title for our blog. Our choice unfolded like this:

Me: Hey honey, what should I call my blog?
Pat: (lounging in the new arm chair, about to spill Irish breakfast tea all over the as-yet un-stain-treated arm), How about The Happy Helms?
Me: (laughing at how intentionally unoriginal Pat is, and glad that God gave me a husband with humor as bad as mine), That would be funny!

Voila, the brief history of a blog in infancy.
Until tomorrow then, sit tight and be happy!