Monday, April 30, 2007

Sand Art

Last week my friend at MomTeacherFriend posted about an art project she and her kids did together, using colored sand. As soon as I read about it I knew it was an activity my kids would love to do, so I e-mailed her and asked, Where can I get some of that sand?
The answer? WalMart, in the arts & crafts section, for less than $5!
So I went out the next day and bought the necessary materials: paper plates, glue, and colored sand. Then the kids and I drew pictures using q-tips and glue and spinkled them with sand. (A great outdoor activity, by the way!)We had so much fun and are all so proud of our creations, I wanted to display them here for you to admire.
Thanks for the idea Mom!

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Christmas in April

Have you ever been given a really great gift and you just can't wait to use it? You know it's going to be fun. It's going to rejuvinate you, allow you to relax, bring some peace into your crazy world. In fact, you'd like to use it right now.
But then life gets busy. You forget you even have that gift waiting to be used. And it sits - for months - while you go about life, rushing here and there, totally oblivious to the gift you have waiting.
Then one day it happens. You're going through the "junk drawer" and you see an envelope. You think, What's this? When you open it and peer inside, you remember and sigh. Ahhh, yes! It's the gift you'd forgotten.
Without further ado, you decide to put it to use. Quick. Call your brother. See if he can take the kids. He can! Now, tell your hubby - it's a date!

That's what has happened here. For Christmas, Brian's mom gave us a gift certificate to a bed and breakfast. My brother gave us a gift certificate for dinner out. And I recently came across them both. Sooooo, guess what, ladies? Brian and I are going out tonight sans kids!

See ya!!!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Random Questions For You

A week ago I answered some random questions Annie had posted. I told you I would eventually be coming up with my own questions for you to answer on your blog. Well, here they are:

1. How is mothering, in reality, different from what you expected it to be?
2. What is something you, as a kid, vowed you would never say to your own kids? Have you kept the vow?
3. If someone stopped in to your house for a surprise visit, would you be glad for the company, or self-concious by the condition of your home? Why?
4. Describe your ideal date with your husband.
5. If you were sitting face to face with God and could ask Him any question, what would it be?

If you would like to play along with this game, copy and answer these questions in your blog. Then ask if anyone else would like to be "randomized" by answering the questions you'll create in a few days. Finally, wait a few days and post your own questions.
And, please, if you answer these questions let me know by leaving me a comment. I want to come over and see what you have to say!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Have Grrrrrreat Kids!

OK, for all the times I complain about my kids and wonder how I'll make it through these days, moments like the one I had today allow me to forget every frustration and cherish my sweet children.

I've mentioned before how my kids like to go to the community center which is just a few blocks away from our house. They play games there, earn points for doing their homework, enjoy friends, sometimes ruin their dinner, and even do chores to help out around the center.
There are three staff members whom my kids adore, and about whom they talk all the time. One of these staff members seems to hold a particularly special place in my kids' hearts, and since his birthday is on the horizon my kids conspired with the other staff to have a surprise party for him today.
For the past two days they've been making decorations. We bought balloons and streamers. I baked a cake, which Elizabeth decorated. Joshua rehearsed how he was going to delay N from coming to the game room, in order to give everyone else time to get ready. They were so excited to see these plans through and I loved watching their enthusiasm in action.

Normally, the kids walk over to the center but today I drove them because they had so many supplies to transport. And because I wanted to be there for the party! I've met N before, but today I wanted to be there not only to wish him a happy birthday, but also to tell him how much I appreciate him and his investment in my kids' lives. So I told him. And his response made my heart swell.
N told me that, at the beginning of the school year, he was ready to quit his work at the center. He told me he was tired of the arguing that took place between some of the kids and the bad attitudes others of them displayed. But then my kids started coming over after school. N spent time with them and enjoyed them. Now he says my kids are the reason he comes to work! He actually thanked me for letting my kids go there to play! Can you believe it? And can you imagine how delighted I was to hear that???
I pray it is the Holy Spirit living in them Who is making the difference here. And delight to think what He will continue to do in and through my kids as they grow in Truth and Love.
Ahhhh! I have great kids!

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By the way, how do you like my new signature? My new friend Annie made it for me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm So Excited!

I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it. And I know, I know, I know, I know, I like it. I like it!
Surely there are some old Pointer Sisters fans out there who just traveled memory lane with me. Right? I'm So Excited was one of my favorite songs in, uh, junior high I guess. I'm trying to remember their other big hits, but they're escaping me. Oh, I digress.
Er, wait. Is it possible to digress when you haven't even gotten started?
I'm not sure. But if it is possible, that's what I'm doing.
Big time.

Now I'm thinking I'm putting my first cause for excitement in jeopardy! Annie gave me a Thinking Blogger award. She's so kind. But if she comes over and reads this babble I'm writing, what if she renigs? I'll do better next time, Annie. I promise. It's the excitement going through my fingers which is causing this nonesense. Honest!
Seriously, I'm honored to be considered a "thinker." After so many years of preschool, I was beginning to believe my brain was turning to mush. How nice to be called a Thinker!
Part of the honor is that I get nominate some other bloggers who make me think. A few of the ones I would like to nominate have already been given the award, but I'm going to name them anyway because I like them so much. The first is Ann Kroeker. Her's is the first blog I ever started reading, and she always has something good to say. A newer blog friend I want to recognize is Coach J. I've only been reading her blog for a short while, but I love her heart and the way she shares it so beautifully. And then there's Julie Q. She has this wonderful way of mixing art, motherhood, humor and insights. I love whatever she writes.
And now for some new kids on the block...I want to pass the Thinking Blogger award on to Jen at Irrational Love because she really is well thought-out. She shares about the things God is teaching her and she invites us along on the journey. I also wish to recognize Jen at Gracious Homemaking. She is eager to share ideas for moms and homemakers, but it is her Welcome statement that really hooked me!
So there you are, ladies. As soon as I figure out how to put the Thinking Blogger award on my side bar, you can come and get it for yours! In the mean time, think of five other thinking bloggers you'd like to recognize. And thanks for sharing!

So, that's the first thing about which I'm excited tonight. The second is that I now have video on my website! Come on over and you can take a peek at a few clips from the presentation I give to moms' groups.

I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

For Heather

I have recently become aware of an amazing woman and a huge need. Chances are if you've spent any time visiting mommy blogs over the past week you've also read about Heather but, in case you haven't, I wanted to post about her here, too.

Heather is a mother of three and has recently learned she has a brain tumor. She is going to the Mayo Clinic for surgery this week. When I learned about Heather's situation, I visited her blog and was blown away as I got a glimpse of her heart. She has a huge faith in God and only desires to see Him glorified. It is incredible to read her words and realize how God is using her - her trials and her faith - to encourage others and bring glory to Himself.
Last week Boomama spearheaded a love offering to help Heather and her husband with the overwhelming expenses they're going to face through this journey, and it was awesome to see people rally around them with this tangible love and support. As I was following up to see the results of the offering, I found out it's still open and will be at least until April 25. Sooo, if you haven't already done so, and you'd like to join with so many in the blogosphere who are lifting up this dear woman and her family, there's still time. PayPal is managing the love offering, and Boomama has a "Make a Donation" button on this page. Also by visiting Boomama you can link to other background things about Heather her story.

This morning at church, one of the repeated themes was God is on the move. This situation with Heather was fresh on my mind and I thought, Yes. He sure is. So many, many people are hearing about Heather and her God - about her unwavering faith in Him. Many are already believers, and some are not. As we follow Heather's journey, I confidently believe those who already trust in the Lord will see their faith strengthened and I believe those who doubt Him will have cause to re-examine their beliefs. Wouldn't it be wonderful if He used this trial in Heather's life, combined with the community in the blogosphere, to bring people into a saving relationship with Himself???
I started this post saying I've recently become aware of an amazing woman and a huge need. I'll finish by praising an awesome God Who is bigger than that need and Who is definitely on the move.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Random Questions from Annie

OK, I'm joining in on something fun! Annie's friend gave her five random questions to answer in her blog, which she did. Then Annie posted random questions to be answered by anyone "up to the challenge." I'm looking at these and I'm thinking, Uh, this is going to require some brain power. Am I up to it? I think so! Here goes!

1. What is a holiday tradition that you always did growing up that is maybe a little different than how others might celebrate, but means something really special to you? I'm not sure how different this one is, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about holiday traditions from my growing up years. It was my sister and I - somehow the job always came to us - stringing popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree.

Oh, how we hated that job! No matter how careful we were, our fingers received numerous pokes from the needle. The one positive is that I LOVE popcorn, and I might have helped myself to a few handfuls while I was stringing...

For all the complaining I did about the job as a kid, I do have very fond memories now!

2. In your home, where is your favorite place to be and why? Hmmm, this is a G-rated blog. That'll affect my answer. *wink*

I'd have to say: Sitting in the glider in the corner of our family room between 6:00 and 6:40 most mornings, because that's where and when I have my quiet times with God, and I love my quiet times with Him!!!

3. What is the best gift you ever received, who was it from, and why was it so special? A sweatshirt embroidered Super Mom, from my husband. It was special, not because of what it said, but because of the thought and energy my wonderful husband put into coming up with the idea and having the shirt made.

4. If time and money were not a concern, how would you spend a free weekend? This one is easy. I'd take the family to the Great Wolf Lodge. We went there once, when money was not an object, (It was my mother-in-law's treat.) and we had an absolute BLAST!!! I'd love to go again.

5. Name someone who has inspired you in life and explain why. This one is easy, too. Kathy Troccoli. She has such a passion for God, for living for Him, and for being the woman He has created her to be. God used her (as well as Kay Arthur and Jerry Bridges) significantly in planting in me the desire to become the woman He wants me to be. Besides that, I love her music! .

So there you have it. My answers to Annie's random questions. Thanks, Annie - That was fun!

Now, and I hope I get this right, if you would like to answer five random questions I'm thinking up, leave me a comment (I'll want to know who's participating so I can stop by and read your responses.) and check back in a few days when I'll have them posted for you. OK, next week is going to be very busy for me...It may be more than a few days until I post your questions. P-p-please be patient with me!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Momma Bear

Late this afternoon I was in the kitchen talking with my husband and preparing dinner, when the door flew open and Joshua appeared before us - in tears. He had been at the play ground when some boys who were playing football accidentally tripped over him and they all went down in a heap, with Joshua on the bottom. Joshua's tears weren't from the fall, however.
Apparently, when he fell some other boys came over and began taunting Joshua and wanted to know if he "felt the pain." They were teasing him, saying they wanted to see him cry. The next report is that one boy called Joshua by a disparaging name, and had the same choice words for my husband and I. This boy was tormenting Matthew, too.
I'd like to say my first response to the situation was to remember this young boy is loved by Jesus. I'd like to say I reminded Joshua that we're called to forgive those who wrong us. I'd like to say I immediately began praying for him. I'd like to, but that would be a lie.
What really happened is, when my son came through the door crying and telling his tale of woe, I went into Momma Bear mode. I wanted to go find that boy and beat him up. And I am not a violent person. I wanted to ask him just who he thinks he is, bullying my boys around like that. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. And I wanted to sit on the couch with Joshua and cry with him and tell him this kid is just a no-good-bully, not worth thinking or talking about.

Instead, I hugged my son and gave him a wet paper towel for his elbow. As Joshua calmed down and I got back to making dinner, I did move past Momma Bear. I tried to think about this boy in the first way I wished I'd responded. While I was stuffing pasta shells, I prayed for this boy I do not know. It wasn't easy.
This boy had hurt and threatened my boys. He had sent Joshua home crying. For all I knew, he might be at his own home at that very moment tormenting his sister or torturing his dog. Why would I want to pray for that? I wondered, Is this what it means to pray for your enemies? Several times I had to "start over" in my prayer, as my mind tended to wander away from the good and to dwell on the offense which had been committed.

As the hours have passed and I'm able to think more rationally, my prayer is changing somewhat. I'm moving from away from anger and seeing the need for my heart change. Lord, please help me to see this boy - all people, really - as You do. Please help me to love, even my enemies, as You do. Lord, I want to see like You see, and love like You love. More and more, I want to be like You.
Amazing, isn't it, that God will use each and every situation in our lives to mold us and shape us into the people He wants us to be? When, at first, I was concerned about the wrong committed against my son, (And we are going to continue to work with him on how to deal rightly and wisely with bullies!) in the end, God showed me my heart condition and my need to change. He doesn't waste a thing!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

They Miss Her!!!

On Monday I told you Elizabeth left for fifth grade camp. Well, when I picked Joshua and Matthew up from school and Elizabeth wasn't riding home with us, they were having a little party in the back seat. The boys were practically singing, Elizabeth is gone! She can't boss us around this week! We are FREE! And then they giggled with excitement. I chuckled, too, because I thought their display was rather cute.
Not more than five minutes had passed since they were singing about their freedom, when I heard them imitating certain things that Elizabeth and her friends say. I looked at them through the rearview mirror and said, "You guys miss her already!" They emphatically denied my playful accusation.
However, as the night wore on, Matthew began to mention her name. He wondered what she might be doing at camp. Joshua jumped at the chance. "You miss her, don't you!" he declared. Of course, Matthew denied it. But Joshua got sing-songy and danced around the room saying, "You miss Elizabeth. You miss Elizabeth."
Today I was at school and one of the staff told me she'd been at the camp last night and saw Elizabeth. She reported that Elizabeth was having a great time, and I shared the report with my family tonight. As the boys' eyes lit up when I mentioned her, I decided tonight was the night to go for the confessions. So at times when I was alone with each of the boys, I asked them, "Do you miss Elizabeth?"
Joshua was quick to admit it. He misses her.
Matthew, on the other hand, was more hesitant. "Um, I don't know...Uh, I'm not sure...Well...Yes. I miss her." Satisfied with his confession, I kissed him and said good-night.

It is so precious to see these boys missing their big sister! Oh, they fight with each other. I'll agree with them that Elizabeth can be quite bossy on occasion. Sometimes you'd think they were all about to kill each other. But separate them for a few days, and you'll find out they really do love each other!
I've told the kids before that Aunt Kimmy and I used to fight all the time, but we love each other now. They say they don't believe the same thing will happen to them. My kids don't think they'll ever love each other. I say, they can think whatever they wish, but after these few days of separation, I know differently. And I love it!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Living in Grace

This article is my submission to the blog challenge sponsored by the devotional team blog, “Laced with Grace.
The challenge states, “Since our faith is based on grace, this challenge is to write a post answering the question, ‘How do you share the grace you receive from God on a day-to-day basis?’”

I am the daughter of a type-A, perfectionist father, and I have taken on many of his tendencies. As a result, more than sharing God’s grace, my bigger challenge has been receiving it on a day-to-day basis. Especially as a mother, I have struggled in this area. So if I may, I’m going to tweak this challenge just a bit to share how I’m learning to live in God’s grace. In so doing, my hope is that other moms who are reading will understand ways they can receive God’s grace on a day-to-day basis.

I started out wanting to be a perfect mother, and thinking I could be if I just read the right books and listened to the right tapes. With all my new-found wisdom in tow, I was sure I would be giving birth to angels. Call it naivete. Call it wishful thinking. Call it perfectionism gone awry. Call it what you will. I wanted to be a perfect mommy.
It didn’t take too long to find out I’m not a perfect mommy. However, knowing it and accepting it are two different things.
For a very long time I spent days beating myself up over my imperfections. I forgot to do something. I did something else wrong. This child was upset over one of my decisions and that child was angry about another. Maybe I made the wrong decision. Maybe not. But I was upset with myself because I didn’t feel like I was getting anything right with the kids.
Finally, as I was lamenting my struggles to my husband one night he came up with a question that transformed my thinking. His question sparked a lengthy conversation between the two of us, and it is a question he asks me whenever I get into one of my “funks.” It was simply this: Where’s the grace?
Brian and I talked about the fact I’m not perfect. He reminded me God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, and I can live and mother in God’s grace.
Being the very practical person I am, I wanted to know, But how do I do that???

The very next day, this is what I read in Ruth Meyers’ book 31 Days of Praise: I give You my pride and self-dependence, which tell me I can do Your will in my own power if I try hard enough. I give You my fears, which tell me I’ll never be able to do Your will in some areas of my life. I consent to let You energize me…to create within me, moment by moment, both the desire and the power to do Your will. (p.152 – emphasis mine)
I thought that statement captured so well the ways I was struggling as a mother. In some respects I was proud and self-dependent, thinking I could be a perfect mother if I just tried hard enough. In other respects I wanted to quit; I was sure I was a failure and would never get it right in some areas. As I read Ruth Meyers’ statement, something clicked within me and I felt I finally “got it.” To live in His grace is to live in total dependence on Him to work in and through you.
Since that day, little by little, I am learning to live in God’s grace. As I share with you the things I’m learning, my hope is to share grace which you can extend to yourself on a day-to-day basis.
First, I have accepted the fact I’m not perfect. I have come to the point in my life where I understand I cannot do this on my own. I need God. I am completely desperate for Him and I fail miserably without Him. The wonderful part of this realization is this: God is fully aware of my imperfection, and He loves me anyway!
Second, I pray all the time. I am constantly asking God to help me love my kids, to lead me in my decisions, to calm my spirit, to help me trust Him. As I pray I am reminded He is in control, and each of the situations in which I find myself is part of His perfect plan. This realization also reminds me nothing is dependent upon me or my performance. It is only God’s goodness and grace at work, not mine.

Recognizing my limitations and submitting myself to God’s power has allowed me to experience what it’s like to live in grace. Oh, I have so much growing and trusting left to do! But as I continue on this journey with you, my hope is you will be encouraged by the things I’m learning and will be able to live in grace every day, too!

Monday, April 16, 2007

She's Going to be in Sales

This morning I drove my baby to school and said goodbye for five days. My baby girl, who turned eleven years old last week, left this morning for fifth grade camp.
Oooohhhh ~ I remember fifth grade camp! We rode horses, learned how to shoot guns, played games, and sang songs. We met kids from another school and had tons of fun. I had a major crush on CW. (He is now married with kids, pastors a church, and is a very godly man. I had good taste in men even back then!) I loved my counselors MS and ND. They were high school girls and I soooo admired them.
Now, my baby girl is going to fifth grade camp. Elizabeth wears the same size shoe as I do. She is only a few inches shorter than me. She borrowed my nylons to wear with her new dress last week. (My mother-in-law freaked out. "Look at those legs!!!") In many ways she is still a little girl, but she is maturing into a lovely young lady and I love to see her growing.

Ever since she could talk, Elizabeth has expressed kindness and compassion with her words. In a journal I'm keeping for her, I often note the sweet things she says and does. Like the time I was feeling low and when I went to bed there was a note on my pillow which she'd written. She told me she loved me, God loved me, and she hoped I was feeling better soon. Elizabeth is such a sweetheart!
When it comes to her brothers, however, she can take on a very different attitude. She doesn't like them to get into her stuff. I understand that desire, and support her in it. It has become her standard, though, that they aren't even allowed to set foot in her room uninvited. I understand that desire, too, and agree the boys shouldn't go into her room when she isn't in there. But sometimes she goes a little overboard. Even when she is in her room, Elizabeth will get totally bent out of shape if one of her brothers enters without her invitation. It is because of Elizabeth's rantings and ravings about her brothers' need to stay out of her room that I got a BIG laugh Saturday, and determined I know her future career.

We were getting ready for Elizabeth's birthday party. She had invited several girlfriends over for the afternoon and we were busy putting up decorations, cutting out pictures, blowing up balloons, and sorting out prizes. Elizabeth was sure she had some stuffed animals in her toybox in her bedroom that would add nicely to the decorations, but we were both quite engrossed in our current duties and were a bit pressed for time. Previously, we had tried to solicit help from the boys, but since they weren't going to be participating in the party they weren't particularly interested in helping with preparations. Understandable.
So as I was standing there cutting up pieces of paper, I almost lost a finger when I started laughing at the exchange that took place between my kids. Elizabeth put on her sweetest face. The look itself almost said, "You're the luckiest little boy in the world for what I'm about to offer you!" She then said, "Matthew, how would you like to go rummaging through my room?" He immediately stopped what he was doing (I don't remember what it was. He was probably getting ready to pop a balloon or something.) and looked at her. Just as quickly, Joshua popped out from around the corner and said, "I will!" With that, Elizabeth sent the boys up to her room on a hunt for the animals she was sure were hiding there somewhere.

I stood there marveling at Elizabeth's skill to get these boys to do what she wanted them to do - something they had previously made clear they did not want to do. She didn't ask them again to help get ready for the party. She gave them permission to rummage through her room. By putting a slightly different spin on the activity, Elizabeth got the boys to help. Besides that, she made it fun for them!
And it worked. Within minutes they had returned with the animals in question.

I'm telling you, that girl ought to be in sales. I didn't ask her how she thought about her approach, and I don't know how long she'd been working on it. But she came up with it, and it worked. However, before I turn her loose on some sales force, I'm going to retain her for a while to give me lessons!


Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm Faking It

I hesitate to write a new post because I've been having so much fun reading and interacting with comments from yesterday's post. If you haven't read it yet, please do before you leave this time!

As for now, I must admit - I'm faking it. "It" being "watching the movie."
Every Friday at our house is movie night. On the way home from school Friday afternoons we make a stop at the video store and the kids (on a rotation of their own monitoring) pick out a movie to watch before bed. After dinner they play for a bit while I do the dishes. Then they do a quick clean up of toys, don their PJs, and start the movie. I usually sit and watch it with them.
So tonight, I'm sitting in the family room with them, but obviously I'm not really watching the movie. I'm blogging.
If the kids weren't on this Pokemon kick, I'd be happy to watch with them. But I just can't get into this show. When my daughter showed me the two Pokemon DVDs between which she was choosing and asked me, "Which one do you think sounds more interesting?" I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying what I really thought. I taught them a long time ago that it isn't nice to call things stupid...
I must admit I get a charge out of listening to them talk about their Pokemon trading cards. They talk about the names of the characters, point out their "HP," talk about whether they are holographic, crystal guardians, "ex," star-star-seven, or world champions, and on and on. It is as though they're speaking a completely different language. My husband and I grin at each other when the kids get so animated with their card trading. But I have no interest in watching a Pokemon movie.

Just a couple of shelves up at the video store was something I could have gotten into. There were DVDs containing three episodes per DVD of the original Muppet Show!
I loved The Muppet Show. All night I've been singing, Bum, bum, bum. It's time to put on make-up. It's time to dress up right. It's time to meet the muppets on The Muppet Show tonight! I don't remember if The Muppet Show was on every night when I was a kid, or only once a week, but I remember I loved watching it.
I tried talking my kids into getting it tonight. The Swedish Chef was on the cover of one of the DVDs and I did my best immitation of him, describing how he was always throwing food around while he sang. They weren't impressed.
One of my favorite parts was when various muppets were dancing in a ballroom setting and told jokes. I thought Miss Piggy was pretty and I wished I could have her long blonde hair and lavender satin gloves. I always thought those old guys in the balcony should be a little nicer, though. And I usually felt sorry for Gonzo when he would make something blow up in his own face and get all dirty. That's it! Explosions! I'll tell the boys about the explosions next time. Maybe that will interest them.

Seriously. I enjoyed The Muppet Show so much as a kid, and I would love to share it with my kids. Maybe I'll see if I can get in on the movie selection rotation. Or I'll bring up the explosives and try to do a better sales job. It's Joshua's turn to choose next week. He might go for that. One way or another, I'll do my best to share this memory of mine with my kids.

How about you? What fond childhood memory have you wanted to re-live with your kids?

Edited to add: For how I just downplayed Pokemon, I have to share this precious moment. At the end of the show one character (Ashe) was leaving another (Pikachu) behind because Ashe thought Pikachu would be happier in this other place. This situation made Matthew sad and he started crying and climbed up on my lap for comfort. I hugged him and told him it was OK, that Ashe and Pikachu were back together and everyone was happy in the end. Matthew just said it made him sad and he wanted to be with me.
OK. The movie didn't interest me, but I loved my little guy on my lap!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When Did That Happen?

Remember when your children were all babies? (Maybe they still are!) You could say anything you wanted to anyone, and the kids were none the wiser. Then they began talking and understanding the things you said, so you moved on to something new. S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G-E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G-Y-O-U-D-I-D-N-T-W-A-N-T-T-H-E-K-I-D-S-T-O-U-N-D-E-R-S-T-A-N-D.
You know, "Honey, is there anymore C-A-K-E?"
Or, "Let's make B-E-D-T-I-M-E-E-A-R-L-Y-T-O-N-I-G-H-T!"
Then the kids go to school and start spelling, and a perfectly good tool for communicating with your spouse gets thrown out the window. So, what's next? A different language?
The only other language I can speak semi-fluently is pig-latin, and my husband doesn't get it. But the kids do! So that's out.
For a time I figured my husband and I would just have to be extra careful with keeping our private comments, uh, private. But "extra careful" doesn't always work for us...We were being extra careful when I got pregnant the third time! I know, it's ultimately up to God, but...

Oh, where was I? Right - communicating secretively.
With the spelling-things-out option gone, I relied on the fact that I could at least still write in cursive. They aren't reading that yet. Well, Elizabeth is, but I figured I could be selective about the hands that hold the note. Oh, silly me!

Today is Brian's birthday and he opened his card from me during breakfast, with the kids all standing around. His "present" is coming later, and I told him about it in the card. Because I didn't think Joshua could read cursive, I didn't care when he snatched the card out of Brian's hand. That is, until he proceeded to read aloud, "Chuck is taking the kids overnight and we have reservations at the Inn! Ooo la la!"
I stared with wide eyes. When did he learn to read cursive - my cursive? Fortunately the kids were so interested in the prospect of spending the night at Uncle Chuck's house that no one bothered to ask what I meant when I wrote, "Ooo la la!" That'll come later, I guess.

So what now? Spelling's out. Cursive writing is no longer safe. Do we sign up for French classes at the community college? Hmmm...Taking a romance class together - Ooo la la!


Monday, April 09, 2007

I'm Not Scary

Many of you know that I love music. I play CDs or the radio as often as I can, and I love to sing along. Because my husband knows how much I like my CDs, a few years ago he bought a CD player that mounts under the kitchen cupboards. Now I can enjoy my favorite music whenever I'm in the kitchen. (Which is a lot of my time!)
This afternoon Matthew and his friend were going through the stack of CDs in the family room and found The Phantom of the Opera. By the look of the cover, the boys determined it must be a scary CD and they were excited to listen to it. As the organ music pounded during the introduction of the theme song, the boys squealed with delight. They ran around the room making scary noises and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
I was in the kitchen working on dinner and listening to my new Selah CD. As I sang along with one of my favorite songs, I was only mildly aware of the boys. That's one of the things I love about music - I can sometimes get to the point where it's almost like I'm standing alone in the presence of God, pouring out my heart to Him as I sing.
As my song ended, Matthew called out to me. He had his charming, I-hope-what-I'm-about-to-say-doesn't-hurt-your-feelings-look on his face. "Mom, I don't want to be mean or anything, but when you're singing those happy songs, it isn't very scary."
I tried not to laugh. He was so precious and so sincere, I didn't want to hurt his feelings by laughing at him. Instead I went back into the kitchen and sang quietly, chuckling to myself at the thought Matthew was concerned I'd be upset by him saying I'm not scary when I sing "happy songs." Oh, I'm sure there are times he'd call me scary (like when I'm PMSing) but I'm glad I'm not scary when I'm singing!


Friday, April 06, 2007

My Favorite Memory

Overall, our trip to Washington, D.C. was a good experience and I’m glad we went. However, there were several moments during the first couple of days when I was seriously second-guessing whether we should have taken the kids on this trip, or not.

Picture kids fussing about the long car ride and trying to agree on where to eat lunch. Imagine two young boys running around the subway station platform – in spite of their mother’s continual reminders to walk. Imagine the same two boys getting way too close to the edge of the platform – again, in spite of their mother’s pleas that they stand back. Consider these boys playing on the escalators, even though their mother told them these stairs are not toys, and even though other patrons are giving them dirty looks. Don’t forget the train ride itself – the bouncing between seats and twirling around the poles.
I truly was trying to stay calm; to remember they’re kids, excited with the newness of their surroundings; to speak kindly and gently to them. I reminded myself they were tired at the end of the day from all our walking, and tried to extend more grace to them because of that knowledge. I prayed a lot, asking God to help me love them and be patient with them. Still, I was feeling irritable. More often than I wished, I got uptight with the kids and I was disappointed with myself.

During the morning of our first two days on vacation my husband attended a seminar in the District. I would drive him to the Metro station and drop him off, go back to the hotel and have breakfast with my mother-in-law and kids, and then we went into the District and met up with Brian when he was finished.
The second day I drove him to the station, I was feeling particularly touchy. We were at a red light and no one was around (It was Sunday morning.) so I turned toward the station. Brian casually commented there was a “No Turn on Red” sign. Ugh. Guess I missed that one. At the Metro there are a few different entrances for parking and dropping off (Don’t think I ever used the same one twice!) and on this day I turned in where it said “Do Not Enter.” Yes, I can read…And Brian casually commented about it. I sighed heavily and made some self-condemning comment. He tried to make light of the situation as he got out of the van and I drove off.
Turning out of the parking lot (on a green light, thank you!) I thought about my little driving errors and started crying. Then I thought, What’s up with this? Why am I crying over traffic signs? Wait a minute…What day is it? Awww, I’m going to start my period! Suddenly the weepiness and the extreme sensitivity to the kids over the previous two days was making sense. Realizing I didn’t have “anything” with me, I decided I ought to stop at the drug store and get what I needed.
I was relieved to at least be able to make this stop by myself – without the kids in tow. But as I pulled into the parking lot, it looked way too empty. Pulling up to the door I saw the store wouldn’t open for another half hour so I left the parking lot, resigning myself to the fact I’d need to take the kids to the store with me later, and shedding a few more tears.
But, alas, as I drove over the hill I saw a Target store. I thought, Target has to be open! So I pulled into the parking lot, with a little bit of hope. Looking up, I whispered, Thank You. I got what I needed and as I approached the cashier, she gave me a friendly smile and complimented my hair cut. She said some other things that made me smile and I told her briefly what I’d just been through, assuring her that her friendly remarks were much needed and appreciated. We chatted briefly and she sent me on my way with wishes for a nice day. I felt refreshed by that kind woman.
As I left the store I had a huge smile on my face. I felt as though God had just hugged me through the cashier. Literally moments earlier I’d been in tears, feeling crummy and crabby, and now I was smiling because God had been so sweet to me. I got into the van and I asked Him, Why? Why are You so kind to me? I have been moody and irritable. I’m an emotional mess. Why do You love me???
Then I remembered the Truth about God’s love. It is unconditional. He doesn’t take cues from me to decide whether or not He’s going to love me on any particular day. God doesn’t hold back on His love when I’m PMSing, and He doesn’t pour it out more richly when I’m a sweet little angel. Jerry Bridges says in Growing Your Faith, “Nothing you ever do will cause [God] to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus.” (p. 25) Can you wrap your mind around that Truth? Nothing you ever do will change God’s love for you!

He used that Sunday morning incident and the Target cashier to remind me His love is unconditional. His answer to my Why? Simply because it’s His choice.
God loves me – even when I’m PMSing - and that, my friends, is my favorite memory from our trip to Washington, D.C.!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spring Break Overview

At the moment I am sitting by the pool enjoying the hotel's wireless internet, while my kids are enjoying the fact that no one else is swimming. They have the whole pool to themselves. And that treat, my friends, is almost as good as the access they've had to Cartoon Network while we've been on our vacation. (At home the extent of channel options comes down to an antennea on top of the television, so hotel TV has been fun for them over the past week.) I swam with them this morning and am opting for "dry" right now.

After driving through the night to Washington, D.C. last Thursday, we arrived in the District and got started on our tour. We were all tired that first day so after lunch we took a nap in the mall (Maybe we looked like bums, but I didn't care - I needed sleep!) and then we took a bike tour around the monuments and memorials. Here are a couple of pictures of the World War II and Jefferson Memorials.
We were in Washington, D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival. One of the highlights for us (especially the kids) was that on Saturday hundreds of people gathered throughout the mall, between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, to fly kites. It was so fun to watch the different kites - some simple and others fancy - and to see some very skilled people maneuver their kites through the sky. Of course some of them ended up in the trees.

After the weekend festivities, park personnel went to work setting the kites free. We happened to be in the mall at just the right time and my kids, being the charming children they are, asked for and were given these liberated toys. We spent the rest of that afternoon flying kites and playing catch in the mall. (Technically, Joshua and I really played "throw," since neither one of us did much catching at all!)

And for my new friend at IrrationalLove, who said she misses the cherry blossoms, here's a picture of my family under one of those gorgeous trees. They really are beautiful to see, and they're everywhere! Toward the end of our trip, on a breezy day, we enjoyed the way it was "snowing" cherry blossom petals. You can see them on the ground in this picture. When a good gust of wind came along it really did look like it was snowing. Except for the fact that so many other people had the same idea, this was a great time to visit Washington, D.C.
We kept busy - riding the Metro; visiting monuments, museums, memorials and special places of interest; touring the Capitol Building; explaining to the kids why it was OK for people to protest in front of the White House (and taking the opportunity to talk about respectfully disagreeing); and taking a long walk to and through the Zoo. D.C. was fun and now we're relaxing at a hotel (with a pool!) half-way-to-home.
Once we're back and settled, I'll post about my best memory from the trip - which had nothing to do with Washington, D.C. in particular, but everything to do with God's unconditional love!