March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
It is hard for me to believe it was five years ago that I gave birth to that beautiful baby girl who looked so perfectly like a doll. It is hard for me to believe it but every day she comes more and more a lady. I love this sweet and special child.
She has become so grown-up this last year. She reads a little and writes a lot. She is in her second year of ballet and loves it more every week. (She says, in fact, she will be a ballet teacher when she is grown…and a mommy.)
We love themes and a fifth birthday is important. In the past we’ve had a pirate party and a star wars party for fifths. Just after Christmas, I pitched an idea to her for her 5th birthday party to be a tea party. Not a pretend tea party, folks, but a real one, complete with china dishes and teacups and treats and TEA! And she loved the idea.
We had a great time going together to several antique stores in our little downtown to search for such special dishes. Combined with those we found and filling in with the china I have, we had plenty of fancy dishes for the beautiful little girls in fancy dresses. We also invited their favorite dolls along to party as Lily received her first ever American Girl for this big 5th Birthday.
Take a look at a sweet little Tea Party:
February 26, 2014 § 4 Comments
I probably should make a rule about blogging when I’m this frustrated at humans. But tonight I just don’t care, darn it.
I am in a twilight zone today:
My Facebook is alite with posts that say gays shouldn’t be allowed a place at a table in restaurants of Christians…that obese women are all so lazy some man can’t even believe they do even one hour of vigorous exercise a year….that all “foreigners” should be forced to leave America….how poor people should be ignored by the government…And I’m thinking, I know these people? What am I doing? I mean, oh my gracious. What year am I in? What is happening on Facebook? And why don’t all these people have too much to do to worry about this??
Let’s set aside beliefs about these issuse for a moment and focus on time. I don’t know about you, friends-who-read-my-blog but I’m too busy for this nonsense. I have four children who need nurturing and instructing, who need to be taught how to be loving people who are others-oriented and Christ-centered. I have four children who are learning at home and I’m their teacher (eek!). I have a new puppy. I have books to read (a big ole’ stack of them) about parenting, marriage, Jesus, history, not to mention a few novels. I have friends to meet for coffee and thank you cards to send. I have tv shows to watch! I am a day behind on the podcasts I’m trying to get through! I have phone dates and skype dates to set. I have birthday parties to plan, gifts to buy, meals to cook. I have grocery shopping to do and notes to write. I have things I need to get around to cleaning out and cleaning up and laundry to fold. I have people in my life who have lost a loved one today, who are suffering from CANCER, folks (and surely you do too) and people who are in my community who don’t even have socks or a home I could be helping. (I have a new hangup about buying socks for the homeless- you should, too- another post for another day.) I have thoughts to think and journals to write and encouragment to give and hugs to share and….I made a cast of a mummy today with my kids for heaven’s sake!! I’m busy. In all the things I want to be busy in, in good things, I’m busy.
And so should you be. Busy. In good things. In life things. And if you have enough time to sit around and “share” or post things on your facebook that hurt, demoralize, judge or are in any way mean or racist or prejudice or discriminiatory then you know what? YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TIME.
Now. With all your extra time, I see your goal. Make yourself feel big. So, you are acting like a 6th grade girl who is insecure and prideful at once, who can’t focus on her life so she looks to the lives of others to put them down in order to put herself up. You are acting like someone who has so little compassion, they can’t even remember that others are hurting for their own boredom.
Get a life.
Thats what I say to you: Get a life.
Quit worrying about whether someone’s love is the right gender, quit worrying about what color someone’s skin is, how much they weigh, or what church they do or don’t go to. Just quit.
You loud Christians who are demanding your ‘right’ to deny rights to others: You are pushing people away from Jesus. You are telling them that Jesus hates and judges and that grace isn’t real. You don’t actually have to support homosexuality to see that this treatment of anyone is NOT acceptable. You are asking for a right to be removed from another group of people and you aren’t going to like it when that table is flipped on you…when it is then Christians who are being denied rights, you will be angry. You will cry persecution. You will claim the unbelievers are crucifying your Christ again. It’s funny, your Christ doesn’t sound at all like mine, He who hung out with liars and thiefs and prostitutes and loved them deeply. You who claim to be like the lowly He spent time with are actually the new Pharisees. Don’t you see that? It’s you who are crucifying Him again with your hate talk and grappling. Just quit.
You who make comments and jokes about blowing up countries and kicking out all those who aren’t white….We are America: your family isn’t from here either.
You who make comments about ignoring the poor…is that truly what you want? To be one of those countries with the sad commercials shown elsewhere about sponsering kids for $7 a month so they can have shoes and medication? Stop the government from taking care of people so we can all be…what? Self-sufficent? Have you ever actually read how very little of your taxes are used to help the poor? Do some research! Think about if it were you who lost a job, lost the breadwinner, lost your home. Just try a little tiny bit of kindness.
You who are judging people’s weight on facebook. I mean, honestly, did I just have to write this? If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it’s on facebook. Wait. I should make that bold right? If you would not saying something ugly to someone’s actual face, don’t say it on facebook.
Here are some ideas to help you fill up your hate-filled time with better things:
join a club, read a book, call your grandma, journal your thoughts (and then don’t share them on facebook), paint your bedroom or kitchen or both, write a kids’ book, learn to sew, find an old friend, make a mixed cd, paint on a canvas, take someone’s dog for a walk, sing a song, buy socks for the homeless, try out a new recipe, pet a horse, take a bubble bath, play a board game, peruse an antique store, ask a kid what they think being nice means, copy your favorite Scriptures, quotes or song lyrics, kiss someone, write a note to someone who is grieving, pray for someone, eat strawberries or chocolate or both, visit a museum, sit outside in a rocking chair (if it’s cold take hot tea and a blanket), play with Legos, or color in a coloring book with crayons.
Remember to find joy in things.
Remember that our greatest commandments are to love God, and love others. Live out of that.
February 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Usually I save birthday posts for AFTER the party so I can display all my decorations and hard work. (I can’t tell a lie, I enjoy pinning my own birthday parties. Don’t you?) But today is an exception. Because today Miss Lily is five years old.
How was it already five years ago that I gave birth to this precious little girl? It seems like it just happened. It seems like she was just a chubby baby doll in my arms, the daughter I’d always wanted. It can’t be that she just opened her first American Girl doll this morning. It can’t be that she writes and reads (a little) and tells hilarious stories and communicates everything…so well. She is just so sweet.
I love this girl. But, you know, so does every one who knows her. She has a kind spirit, a loving heart and a depth of emotional understanding and empathy that far exceeds her age. Five. Wow.
My life has been better these last five years because of her. I have been made better these last five years because of her.
I pray a lot for all my kids. Today I make a wish for Lily that she will know Love, Joy & Peace all her days.
And the birthday party post will follow soon…a TEA party, of course.
Lily’s favorite baby pictures of herself are the ones with her toe touching her face. She finds that absolutely hilarious. Last night she said she was too big to touch her toe to her face and I proved her wrong. Happy, happy girl on her Happy Day!
January 29, 2014 § 1 Comment
When I was in college/college-aged I lived with a group of like-minded Christian girls. We were all a part of a camp ministry and many of us were also involved in the same campus ministry. I recall those days and both ministries with great fondness. I would not be who I am at my best without those years, those ministries, and the community around those roommates.
This morning as I sat in my king-sized bed with all four of my children, I was reminded of some of those days. Particularly, learning about “quiet time.” I am so grateful for the teaching that led me to a desire for time in God’s Word every day. It was not always taught as a law not to be broken, but with grace that promised goodness in a discipline that has value and matures your heart. I loved “Quiet Time ” especially at camp, sitting in the mountains with only the sound of the river singing in my ears. I’ve loved it many a time at a coffee shop, all hours of the day. And I have it in my house too.
See, the thing is, my house is not so quiet. And I am not a morning person.
I remember those days in college feeling a sense of obligation that “Quiet Time”s had to be in the morning. We lamented on each other about the Proverbs 31 woman who ‘rose before her family’ and in my limited maturity at the time, the only time for “Quiet Time” was in the morning. It was a challenge even then to get myself up and thinking in order to read and comprehend the Word. And I can vividly remember, long before marriage and kids, looking ahead at a life of seeking God and dreading the morning quiet times. Deep dread would fill my heart as I considered all the years God would have me get up even earlier than toddlers (goodness gracious!) I tried so many times to convince myself that it was okay to have evening quiet times. Even seeking out older ladies to basically ask permission to have my quiet times at night, when I’m more alive and more alert and more able to digest the Word. If I could just be alone, in the quiet at least that was part of the equation, right?
It’s not that I don’t want to have a ‘quiet time’ and it’s not that I don’t see the value in being the “perfect” wife and mother who wakes up hours before everyone else and gets everything ready. I also know I can learn the discipline of getting up before everyone. It’s not like I’m sleeping all day (Saturdays, Saturdays I sleeeeep, thanks to my awesome husband) and it’s not like I can’t. I get that for some, it’s about that discipline. I know moms that do it now. And even a year or two ago I would have felt jealous of them, felt that they were “better” at this than me, that I was failing in some way. I know many people who truly feel it matters HOW it’s done, not just that it IS done. I remember women I deeply respect and admire telling us, this must be done exactly this way: It needs to be quiet. You need to be alone. It must be in the morning before you start your day.
And you know, I see the value in some of that- I understand that mindset of starting your day in the Word. It’s lovely, it’s great. I also can see the need to be alone, particularly if you’re an easily distracted person.
However. I had four kids in four years. I am not easily distracted by anything. Maybe bleeding. I can read, write and talk while my children live and learn and play and talk around me. I have no trouble with that. I can zone into something and literally have to be dragged back to reality. (This is questioned often when I share how much and how often I read. I can sit on my couch, kids watching the Magic School Bus, yelling at each other and playing the keyboard and guitar at once and be lost in a novel that’s taken me back to 1770′s Scotland. I’m in Scotland, they’re in the playroom. I’m not kidding.)
I also see the value in the lesson of Proverbs 31. I do not mean to dimish those that think this way, feel this way or just prefer this way.
But a couple years ago, I released myself from that rule, that it must be morning and must be quiet and I must be alone. I gave myself grace. I decided that time in God’s Word was my goal and I didn’t care if that happened at 6 am, during lunch, after naptime or right before falling asleep at night. There is a difference in guilt and conviction. When I made this a strict timing issue, I took away from the heart of the issue. When I tried to fit myself into a nice, little Christian-y box, I didn’t fit. When I failed, it took me further from the God I was seeking, by my own doing.
And this morning, I sat here with my Bible and my journal and Streams in the Desert and thought about how, a few years ago, I would have felt guilty that while I had my “quiet time” my kids were watching TV and every single one of them was in the bed with me. I would have even journaled about how bad I felt about that. I would have said something about making some effort to change that, to ‘be better’ at quiet times. Now I realize- that was foolishness. Time in God’s Word is the point, folks. Time to hear him, time to study him, time to wonder at his goodness and mercy, time to seek him. And in my years of sorrow and then having four kids in four years, I’ve simply given myself room to celebrate even finding time for that without stress.
If seeking God’s Word causes stress, we’re doing it wrong, ladies.
Some of you will not like this post. You’ll disagree. You’ll say a lot of “buts” in your mind. And that’s okay. Have your time whenever you feel God desires you to have it.
But, if you’re like me, maybe you just need some permission. Permission to seek God whenever you get the chance, permission to seek the Word when and where and in whomever’s presence you choose. Permission to have your quiet times in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. Friends, you have permission. And you have grace…allow yourself to accept it.
January 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’ve been doing a parenting book Book Club with a few moms. We just get together once a month and talk about our books… but much of our discussion is around our kids and families and things going on. It’s lovely. We have read several books at this point and my favorite so far is “Growing Grateful Kids” by Susie Larson. http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Grateful-Kids-Appreciate-Extraordinary/dp/0802452825
This book is short, it’s simple, it’s practical and it’s joyful. And I’ve loved it. There are times in any topic, but I think often in parenting, we seek to make the advice very complicated (formulas for discipline, rules and absolutes and don’t say this or do this or always do this or that). Or we do too much of ‘well, what worked for me was….’ without taking into consider how DIFFERENT kids can be. I enjoyed Susie’s examples of her kids’ differing personalities and how certain tactics worked for one and not the other as I have several varying personalities in my household- and a child that reminds me of her little rebel, Luke.
I also absolutely love a book that is practical, especially about parenting. The idea of the book is how to teach your kids to have genuine gratitude. But, like she says “you cannot impart what you do not possess.” At the end of each chapter, Susie lists several ways we can learn to be more grateful and several ways we can help our children learn it to.
Here are a few examples of her ideas (paraphrased) to help you teach your children gratitude:
“Make thankfulness statements in their presence every day”
“Have fun with them”
“Teach them about injustices and share ways they can help others”
“Talk through their anxieties and fears and share God’s faithfulness with them”
“Teach them responsibility”
“Point out their blessings in gratitude”
“Cultivate an appreciation for humility”
“Every day show your child the countless ways you’re truly rich”
“Model forgiveness and ask your child forgiveness when you’re wrong”
“Teach them their hearts are more valuable than their appearances”
“Use your regrets in parenting as conviction not condemnation”
Okay, really, I could keep going but I’ll stop. So many nice little nuggets in there.
I’m going to share two main quotes with you from this book that I’m keeping close to me for a time, to learn from:
“The sin of comparison triggers two kinds of responses from us: pride and/or desire- both of which lead us away from our rightful posture of holy confidence and humble dependence. If we compare ourselves to someone who struggles with an issue that happens to be a strength area for us, we will be tempted toward pride (and we’ll wonder why they can’t just get it together).
And if we compare ourselves to someone who is strong and gifted in an area where we are messy and weak, we’ll be tempted toward despair (and we’ll wonder what is wrong with us! Why can’t we just get it together?)
Whenever we look to the right or to the left and compare ourselves with others, we’ll perceive things through a skewed lens. That’s why Jesus wants us to spend most of our time looking up.” Page 123
I see this as a truth. Christians and non-Christians alike compare themselves to others, women who are mothers and those who are not, and moms on every side of every mommy war do it as well. And it brings about either pride or insecurity in us all. We’re always better than or less than whomever else we’re looking to. Focus on you, your children, your spouse, your heart, your life…there is more in it than you can ever learn or understand. There is enough for you to be doing without comparing yourself to others.
“We are going to blow it from time to time. We are going to say things we don’t mean or wish we didn’t feel. But our words are powerful. They go out from our mouths and into our children’s souls. And if not dealt with, those negative words will embed themselves into our children’s memories and become a part of their belief system. Our kids are like blank canvases. We paint a picture of who they are with the words we speak to them.” Page 196
This reminds me so much of a picture I posted some time ago about how the way we speak to our kids become their inner voice. I think most mothers ultimately want their children to be happy, to be emotionally healthy and have a good life. I think many people forget just what an impact they have in the day to day life on that future life and emotional health. Don’t let life just pass by. Be an intentional parent, an intentional person who recognizes that how you act toward your kids and the things you say to them are helping build who they are and who they WILL be. Don’t let life go by without making this a priority to you.
Well if you made it through this one, thanks for reading my little book report.
January 6, 2014 Comments Off
Despite the set backs (my persistent illness+Seth getting a corneal abrasion on his second gift and spending several hours in the ER and three days following with his eyes closed) we had a really great Christmas.
Not The Mama and I are diligent about gifts for Christmas; each kid gets three gifts and Santa brings them one gift as well. It’s not a super spiritual idea or something, but came after our first Christmas with kids. We learned that between us buying and family buying, they get SO MUCH STUFF for Christmas that it just becomes ‘stuff.’ You all know what I mean? There is so many toys that no toy is special, or only one is. And you’ve opened 16 things in a flurry of paper and bows without any real meaning. Especially when they are very little and all they want is “toys” without real specifics or interests.
So after that first year we set a rule for our household- three gifts per child. It actually makes shopping for it more fun. I do much more research and put more thought into those three gifts than I do for birthday gifts (money limit, not number for birthday). I think about how long they will play with it (so, no Furbys, sorry) and how much it will mean to them and I take their requests to heart and try to work out ways to fulfill wants with long-term-this-is-one-Christmas-a-year-guys-pick-something-awesome idea. This is the first year I’ve been super-duper specific with their great-grandmother and grandparents as well, giving detailed lists with plenty to choose from but on one side, educational items to boost our homeschool and the other, Lego sets for ‘The Lego Christmas’…all of which I knew they would really like and really play with. The gifts I chose were very specific as well; a Lego set for each and some Lego men for the big boys, a lovely art kit for Adam who is a budding artist, a violin for Lily because she has been asking for lessons, a kit to make your own mummy for my Egypt-obsessed Noah, a marble maze set for Seth who is completely fascinated by such things, etc. I didn’t just buy what was on sale, I researched and worked on this list for months in order to get things they would really enjoy and really use. To me, thats more meaningful than a long list of “toys” that will be obsolete to them in a few months.
One of the things I want to share most is a gift from their Nanny. She followed my list exactly for several learning games (we can’t wait to play “Into the Forest” during Science next week) and items that will be fun but also eductional in our little home learning enviroment from Hearth Song (http://www.hearthsong.com) and Rainbow Resources (http://www.rainbowresource.com). Our favorite as a family is hands-down Kinetic Sand. If you haven’t seen this stuff, check it out.
Don’t be surprised to walk into the dining room to find me or Greg shirking responsiblity and playing with this, the “magic sand” as the kids call it.
So many of my plans for Christmas and Christmas Homeschool fell apart with my illness. We even missed Christmas at church with my potentially contagious germs keeping us home. But before things got worse and I got sort of quarantined, the kids did get to see The Nutcracker and our local Christmas parade. We made it to the Speedway for the light show and Dollywood to use our passes one last time and that place at Christmas is wonderful (we also saw A Christmas Carol there and it was great). We went to a cookie decorating party at a friends’ and had a great time, we hunted for Christmas lights in our town. We made some crafts, we sang a lot of songs and watched some Christmas videos. We learned about lights, angels, trees, St. Nick and Jesus’ birth (even though that is just a third of our planned lessons). We visited with some of our family and special friends, we laughed and ate and played games and were merry together. My husband’s boss gave us a nice huge ham for Christmas (I love this). Our elf, Peppermint had a nice, long visit (another post) and we had some truly gorgeous pictures taken by my friend Carey Pace http://www.careypace.com/2013/12/christmas-magic-and-tree-tutorial.html. I couldn’t have dreamed they’d be this pretty. What a treasure!
January 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
2012 was our first year of allowing Santa into our Christmas celebrations.
And it was all because of that cute little Elf in the red hat.
If I have read one, I’ve read 10 negative articles about The Elf on the Shelf this year. I mean, what gives? Is it just that we’ve decided that we don’t like something, no one should? Some of the articles ARE funny and I can understand that, really I can. But the motivation behind disliking someone else’s choice to use an Elf on the Shelf is just so…petty…silly…useless. Even before I became an Elf Fan, I would never tell someone else how awful they were for doing it…and certainly not spend time criticizing that they do it too well. Gracious, people!
I grew up celebrating a Santa-heavy Christmas. And I won’t go into all those details right now. I’ll simply say that my feelings about that led me to be very anti-Santa for many, many years. I feared allowing Santa into our Christmas would make it all about Santa. I feared my own ability to continue to make Christmas about the birth of Christ and celebrating the aspects of it important to me; giving, family and God’s love if I involved Santa.
Last year I watched so many of my friends introduce (for some, reintroduce, as it was their second or third year) the Elf on the Shelf to their kids. At first, I saw some of the things I don’t like about Santa in it: the Elf “tattles” on you to Santa…he watches you and then runs home to tell Santa if you’re “naughty.” I’m a big un-fan of that, people. Are we sharing God’s grace with our kids? Are we giving them Jesus as a FREE gift, where their only obligation is to accept him and believe him? Or are we giving them a list of goods and bads and dos and don’ts to live by? Santa giving gifts only for those who are good smacks of God only loving those who do everything right. And that’s no one.
Not only that but how many people actually withhold Christmas gifts for the days their kids are naughty? I’m going to guess none. This is a big parenting no-no….either follow through or don’t threaten it, else you lose your credibility. So does Santa. And by default and association, so can God Almighty. And what you’ve got here is a big deal, all wrapped up in Santa and presents and behavior and suddenly the fact that this day was chosen as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth is lost.
But I saw some people using the Elf differently. I started to watch them and read their elf letters and noticed that their Elves didn’t pass judgement or tattle. Instead their Elves did funny things, they caused mischief and mayham. They made the kids believe in magic and laugh. A lot. They became an outlet for creativity. They added to the fun part of Christmas without taking away from it’s real meaning. In fact, many of them used the Elf as a way to constantly remind their kids TO focus on Jesus and on God’s word about His redemption and birth.
So last year, after Adam had written several letters to Santa (who we then had never included in our Christmas) asking for an Elf, we gave in about a week or so before Christmas. We got an Elf. Peppermint. He did some silly things last year, which I didn’t plan or document well. But they loved him. They met Santa at the mall like tons of their peers. Santa brought the kids a swing set, already set up in the backyard, for Christmas 2012. They were a little confused about it to be honest, having never seen Santa movies or heard Santa songs. But we gave it a shot. And Christmas was great. I didn’t feel like they lost out on the real meaning of Christmas.
This year, Peppermint came just after Thanksgiving. His visit was very well planned and prepared for, having followed some good advice and made a calendar and list of needed items (which were bought and/or organized before his first day back). There were a couple days with the craziness of the month that I couldn’t follow through with Pepp but on those days, Greg came through and figured things out. And I’m just going to say it: be an Elf naysayer if you want to…but the darn Elf on the Shelf is fun. He is pure, silly, exciting FUN.
This year, Santa brought the kids each a gift in the house and filled their stockings (and our’s). Fortunately they had told every Santa they saw this year the same gift, over and over. So they each got that one thing they asked him for, over and over. That worked out nicely. Santa left their gifts on top of their new Lego table I made them which worked out nicely too. They understood a bit better, having watched some Christmas movies this year that gave explainations of Santa (including some of my favorites, The Santa Clause & it’s sequel). Santa, once again, didn’t subtract from our Christmas but added to it. I’m still very careful about my wording and we will take each year as it comes and adjust with ages as needed. But for now, I’m so glad we have Pepp and I’m glad for the way he changed our minds and our Christmas spirit.
Here’s our a few of our favorite Peppermint adventures this year:
Noah’s Favorite is the picture above AND below: Peppermint painted Rudolph noses on them while they slept. They wore their noses all the next day, even out and about, until bedtime.