Thursday, May 15, 2014

Published Author!

If you don't know me IRL or aren't friends with me on Facebook, then you probably haven't yet heard the news....

I am a published author!

You can follow my Facebook page here.

You can find/follow my website here, where you will also find links to my Author's blog.  There you can follow everything going on in my Leigh Michaels world, which you probably will not see much of here on The Shan Clan blog :-).

OH yeah, and you can find my book for purchase here.  Currently the paperback version is unavailable on Amazon, but should be available again in a couple of days.  (ETA: The paperback version is back in the Amazon store - that was fast!)  You can also purchase the paperback version here

In a few months, the book will also be available in the Nook, Kobo, and iBooks digital stores. 

I hope you all will at least come follow my Facebook page and Author's blog!  I am in the process of working on books 2 and 3 - so keeping very busy with all the writing, in addition to the parenting and the homeschooling and the court stuff, etc.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

To My Daughters' Current and Future Role Models

As their mother, I am the most present adult female in my daughters' lives.  I strive to have a close and trusting relationship with them as young girls, so that as they get older, they continue to see me as the person they can trust the most and be closest to if they so choose.  I therefore also strive to be the very best role model that I can - I dress the same way I allow them to dress (probably more conservatively even); I only use language I would be okay with them repeating; I only listen to music that I wouldn't mind them singing in public; I follow the same house rules that I ask them to follow.  

I am BY NO MEANS perfect.  I screw up.  And when I do, I use the opportunity to teach them about lack of perfection, humility and apologies, and forgiveness.

I have long believed that bringing up girls in this world would be more difficult than bringing up boys.  (Notice I didn't say I thought bringing up boys would be easier.  Bringing up children is difficult, period.)  There is so much more immodesty available to girls.  So much more weight to peer pressure, so many more things to apply peer pressure to.  And girls can be vicious, especially when other girls don't conform.  So I used to worry that my girls would see other girls around the neighborhood, in the grocery store, possibly at public school (though that is not in the foreseeable future), at the park - wherever - and constantly be in a state of "but look what they get to wear" and "but they get to do this" and "but their mom is buying them that."  Or whatever.

But now I'm concerned the hardest part about bringing up my girls to be appropriate and modest doesn't lie with the world.

Don't get me wrong.  The world is a place with many enticing temptations, and I will never stop praying and protecting my girls from certain aspects of it.  But so far, my girls are quick to understand and accept why we dress the way we dress and buy the things we buy and act the way we act.  I think that teaching them that through God's salvation and grace, we are to live differently in order to bring glory to Him, is a powerful truth that they can accept and understand.

It's when I go to church and see adult women - particularly those who work with our children and youth - dressed immodestly, that I realize I'm more concerned about poor examples within the church than outside it.

Let me just say, I am NOT a fan of culottes, and I'm not saying women should be required to wear a skirt that covers their ankles.  I don't think it's at all difficult to dress nicely, look classy, and be modest at the same time.

I'm all for Christian liberty.  I also firmly believe that Christian liberty in private is very different from Christian liberty in public.  In private, it's between you and God.  In public, you set an example for everyone around you.  And sure, you have the liberty to wear whatever you want to church.  But if you are a regular presence in the lives of young girls - whether they are 4 or 14 - you should think very carefully about the kind of example you want to set for them, regardless of what you are "at liberty" to wear. And if you are tugging on your skirt every time you sit or stand or move around, it's probably a good indication that the skirt is too short.

Youth group leaders are such a HUGE influence in the lives of our young people, and maybe if they don't have children, they don't even realize it.  But both my 14 year old son and my 7 year old daughter are very much in awe of the leaders they spend time with on a weekly basis.  And with my daughter already paying close attention to her leaders, I can only imagine how much attention she will be paying them by the time she is youth group age.  Not to mention her two younger sisters, as she in turn sets an example for them of what it means to watch and emulate female role models.  

 If you are a young woman working with young girls, think of the chain reaction you set off every time you spend time with these girls.  It can be a positive one, or a less than positive one.  You can teach these girls how to be modest, and in turn teach each girl who comes behind her how to be modest.  Or you can teach them all otherwise.

I would sooner keep my girls out of a youth group where they have poor role models, than allow them to think that "anything goes as long as you're a Christian."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Even When It's True?

"Never say 'never' and 'always.'"

My mom drilled this into our heads from the time we were young.  We'd fight, and argue, and inevitably accuse each other of things - whether true or untrue - and nine times out of ten, someone would end up spitting out a phrase containing one - or both - of those words.

"You always take that plate when you know it's my favorite!"
"You never let me pick out the movie we're going to watch!"
"You always pick that movie when you know I hate it!"
"You never let me play video games with you!"

As adults, it's way too easy to let the words creep back into our vocabulary, especially when we're angry or frustrated.  The shell words change, but the implications do not.

In parenting...

"You never pick up after yourself."
"Why is it that you never do your chores completely?"
"You always leave your toys out!"
"You always leave your dirty clothes on the bathroom floor."

"You never listen to me!!"

And in marriage...

"You always leave your dirty socks on the floor."
"You never put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher."
"You always turn on the brightest light in the morning, even when I'm still sleeping."
"You never throw your dirty Kleenexes in the garbage."

"You never listen to me!!!"

"You never practice what you preach!"

The reason my mom drilled it into us as kids not to use these words when arguing, is because such absolutes are almost never true - do my kids REALLY leave their toys out every single time they play with them? or does my husband REALLY leave every single pair of dirty socks on the floor?


But what if they really DO do something the same "wrong" way every single time??  I have a memory, as my dad used to say, like a steel trap.  It is rare that I forget something (a lot less rare now that I'm a mom! HA!)  Let me rephrase - it's not rare that I forget to do something, but it IS rare that I forget details related to any given incident.  In other words, if one of my kids truly does forget to put the washcloth in the laundry every single time, I will remember it.  And it will not be an exaggeration.

I say this not to brag.  It's actually kind of a curse.  Here's why.

Even if it's true that my husband or one of my kids always does this or never does that, I should still NEVER use the unacceptable words.  And for someone with an excellent memory, who is by nature black-and-white, detailed, straight-forward, and perfectionistic about being accurate, it is VERY HARD for me not to say always and never, when they truly do apply.

Why shouldn't I use them if they are true, you say?  My husband NEEDS to know he ALWAYS leaves his wet towel on the floor, you say?  My kids NEED to know they NEVER do that chore the right way, you say?

No they don't.

1.  Absolutes create defensiveness.  Think about it.  When someone tells you that you "always" or "never," isn't your first response to deny the accusation?  

2.  Absolutes create extremes in confidence.  In cases such as the examples given above, negative extremes.  If someone feels like they never do anything right, eventually they will stop believing they CAN do it right, and they will stop trying.

3.  Absolutes leave no room for grace.  I can't tell my kids they NEVER do such and such, and follow it with a way to help them change the behavior, and expect them to believe me.  I can't teach my children grace or be a helpmate to my husband while sending the message that they don't do anything right. Absolutes and grace mix even less well than oil and water, and mixed messages never achieve positive ends.

Ultimately I want to show God's grace and mercy to my family, more than I want to be "right."  And in the end, I can't do that if I use "always" and "never" or any other similar words.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A New Tradition

If you've known me awhile, you know I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.  (I don't think that you should wait until a new year to make a change that needs to be made in your life, and I also think that a change made for a "hype" is less likely to stick.  But that's just me.)

However, I do like to use the first month of each year as a time to think about where I need to start fresh, goals I need to set, traditions I would like to begin if I didn't begin them some other time during the year.

One tradition we started a couple of weeks ago actually just happened to occur at this time of year.  But I found it an opportune time to start something new and exciting and fun with our three oldest kiddos.

So Sunday nights have turned into "Watch something educational and try something new" night.  :-)

(We haven't ruled out the possibility of occasionally mixing it up and just watching something fun, but for now, this is how it goes.)

Our first couple of Sundays, we found documentaries on Netflix, which all three of the kids were actually able to pay attention to without getting too bored.  On K3's part, this continues to surprise me a bit, but in a good way. 

The first week we watched a documentary about the ocean and ocean life.  We tried a couple of new kinds of cheeses, kicking off the new tradition without too much craziness.  Limburger was the most exciting thing on our plates LOL.

The second week, we watched a behind-the-scenes documentary about the filming of The Lord of the Rings.  In addition to a couple more new kinds of cheese, we tried sardines, liver sausage, and eclairs (none of them new to Randy to me). 

Last week, I found the entire Planet Earth (British version) series for a good price on DVD, so last night we started that.  The new items on our plates were a couple more new cheeses - brie and herbed goat cheese (being in Wisconsin, this will probably continue to be a theme) - smoked oysters, kumquats, and red bananas, as well as chocolate covered potato chips. 

Each week, our main "meal" consists of snacks that everyone already likes, such as summer sausage, cheddar and colby jack cheeses, crackers, popcorn, etc.  Everyone is required to try at least one bite of each new item, and then can choose to have more or not. 

So far, I think the kids are really enjoying it.  I know I am.  Coming up with new ideas of things for them to try has become a bit of a game for Randy and me.  (We are open to trying new things for ourselves as well - and already have! - but this has proven to be a bit more of a challenge for us.)

I am really loving our new tradition, and looking forward to continuing it throughout the year.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Well, I have updates on both K3 and K4's cases.  They are long overdue, but I have been frustrated by both situations and daily fighting anxiety over the fates of my girls, and the thought of writing about it has been too overwhelming.

None of that has changed, but as dates are drawing closer, I need to update those who already knew those dates and will soon begin asking about them.

There is a TPR trial scheduled for K3.  It was set much later in time than we expected - or than it should have been, based on the court calendar.  It could have been scheduled much sooner, but the attorneys know how to play time-dragging games.  It's very frustrating.  Still, the amount of time  between the last hearing and the trial is short compared to the amount of time she has spent in foster care.  If you have been in prayer for our little girl and our family, please pray with us that this relatively short amount of time will not, in the judge's determination, outweigh the amount of time she has been in permanency limbo.  Please pray that the judge will see that she desperately needs permanence, and that dragging out permanence would be more devastating for her than beneficial.

Secondly, as some of you know, we had an adoption scheduled for K4.  We found out right before Christmas that an appeal had been filed on her TPR; the appeal would have been filed in August or early September, yet no one in the DAs office informed anyone in the agency about the appeal.  So the adoption will not happen in February, and we will not have a new date until the appeal is dealt with.  The date that was supposed to be the adoption will now be a status hearing on the appeal, so again if you are praying with us, please pray that everything will be resolved (or brought near to resolution) at this hearing.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and prayers.  God has really given me peace over these situations, and helps me daily in overcoming the worry and anxiety that come so easily when your child's future is so tangibly unknown.  (I know, none of our children's futures are known.)  But prayers for continued peace would also be appreciated.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

God's Will and free will

I'm struggling right now to figure out how my faith relates to... things that happen.

I believe this statement: "God has a plan."

I do not believe this statement:  "Whatever happens is God's will."

I believe this statement:  "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

I do not believe this statement:  "God will protect you/him/her/them."

And there are two simple words to explain why I believe this:  Free.  Will.

Don't get me wrong.  I believe that God eventually sees His will done for those who truly wish to see His will done, despite the fact that things happen that are OUT of His will.  But not everything that happens in the world is His will, and not everything that happens in our lives is His will.

And I believe that God is always with His children, but that doesn't mean He prevents anything "bad" or negative from happening to them.

Because He created man with a free will.  So even IF we as Christians were perfect (really, we're not!), we are still surrounded by people who are not Christians.  So even though we as Christians (I hope) truly desire to see God's will done and His children protected, we are still surrounded by people who, not knowing Him, have no such desire.

Humans, Christian or not, are selfish and self-centered.  We want what WE want, and our choices and actions, more often than not, reflect that.

And because none of us is an island nor lives in a bubble, our actions affect those around us.  And since God created man with a free will, He does not put up His big hand and "block" the decisions that we as selfish, self-centered humans make; and as a result, a LOT of things happen that aren't in God's perfect will.

Therefore, the more of these kinds of people you are surrounded by - whether by choice or not - the more likely you are to have things happen in your life that are not God's will, and that you ultimately have absolutely no control over.

So somehow, you - and by "you" I mean "I" - have to figure out how to trust God when you know that there is a very strong possibility that His will may not be done.

And then there's prayer.  Do you pray that His will WILL be done?  Does praying for His will change things?  Make a difference?  Somehow prevent those who would seek after selfishness regardless of the people it hurts, from actually making those decisions with such vast-reaching harmfulness?

I don't know.  I don't have answers.

I do have God, and I have prayers for trust and peace, and I have a strong faith in Him that I need to hold on to, even - no especially - when it seems like the hardest thing to do.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stuff and Things

SO much has happened since my last post.  (I know, I know - you're tired of hearing that EVERY time I write.)

We had an AWESOME start to the school year.  We have, for the most part, stuck with a good routine and daily schedule, switching it up here and there when necessary.  These last week and a half have been a bit too relaxed for my liking, but next week is our Fall 9-week Break, which is sorely needed; and I fully expect us to start strong again after that. 

Part of the reason we've had a relaxed couple of weeks is because I made and canned 18 quarts of apple sauce and about 2 dozen quarts of apple cider.  Then my dad "surprised" me with two HUGE boxes of grapes from his buddy's vineyard; so last week, with the kids' help, I got about half of them done and canned into grape juice.  I have 6 dozen quarts so far, which means there are another 6-8 dozen quarts' worth of grapes left to can.  Oh, and I'm down to a dozen jars, AFTER buying another 2 dozen last week.  So this should be interesting.

K3's TPR was FINALLY filed with the court, and the initial appearance hearing was Monday.  It was adjourned.  It will likely be adjourned again.  If you remember from Liam's case, this is the norm.  But I'm more frustrated about this case than I was with his, because she shouldn't even have to be worrying about permanence.  This should have been over and done a long time ago.  I continue to pray for a miracle, but it's hard not to be discouraged some days.

Liam turned TWO a couple of weeks ago!  It's pretty ridiculous; I still can't really believe he's 2 already.  It still seems like it was just yesterday that we brought him home from the hospital.  Soon my K4 will also be 2; not sure how I feel about having two 2 year olds!  

Speaking of K4, we have, after much discussion and mind-changing and negotiating, come up with her new name.  :-D

Friday is November 1st, which means the beginning of National Novel Writing Month.  For the past three years, Hunter has joined me in the novel-writing adventure.  This year, Kaleigh will also participate!  For those who are not familiar with the Young Writer's Program branch of NaNoWriMo, the coolest part about it is that participants choose their own word count.  The kids and I discussed and agreed upon their word counts for this year; but I can't tell you what they are juuuuuuust yet.  Don't worry; you'll find out soon enough ;-).

Randy and I took the kids out to the county park for their annual "school" pics this past Sunday afternoon.  I SO wish I could share them here, but I can't.  Well, I can actually share pictures of three of them, but since I can't share them all, I don't really want to share any.  It doesn't feel right.

I guess those are the highlights.  

The day-to-day feels like a grind many days.  Liam and K4 take turns (or sometimes not) being whiny and clingy.  K2 and K3 take turns being deliberately disobedient.  Hunter can't quite figure out how to get to the maturity level of a 13 year old.  But Liam and K4 also take turns wanting kisses and hugs.  K2 and K3 are doing amazingly better at getting along with each other than they were several months ago.  Hunter is learning, even though slowly, and sometimes I am somewhat taken aback by his thoughtfulness and kind-heartedness.  So just as many days are fun and exciting and enjoyable.

Time to go think about dinner for tonight.