Thursday, December 18, 2014

In the Bleak Midwinter

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook today and I realized that if I had to pick a favorite Christmas song, this would be it.  I always forget about it, but it is so beautiful!

I am particularly drawn to this song right now because of the occasions of sorrow and injustice that keep swirling around us.  It's so easy to turn on the news and feel nothing but despair.  "In the bleak midwinter..."  That's us, that's now.

And so we wait for our Savior to come.  Every Advent, this is what we long for--the coming of the Christ anew in our lives.  The coming of the Saving One into our wounded world.  When we are surrounded by suffering and pain, it is easy to wonder why God hasn't rushed in to heal all that is broken.  Pakistan, Ferguson, Iraq, cancer, hurting marriages, hungry families...

The wisdom of the Church and God's Word tell us that all things work for his glory and for the good of the Kingdom.  And I'm confident that suffering is one of those mysteries that I will never fully comprehend this side of Heaven.  But in the face of pain, pure theology doesn't always offer the comfort that we wish it could.

The mystery that we long for in Advent, the one that we rejoice over at Christmas is the mystery of the Incarnation--a tiny, helpless baby laid in a manger.  Son of the Most High, made one of us. Perhaps that is where we can find the comfort that we seek.  If we didn't know any better, we might look at that scene and find it ordinary.  Another woman, bringing her child into the world.  And yet we know that birth, humble and un-extraordinary as it may have seemed, changed the world.  And because our God is outside of time, we get to experience that incarnational mystery anew even today.  Not just remember it, but truly experience it: Christ, coming to dwell with us.

So what do we learn from this Christmas story that we know so well?  I don't really think about those familiar stories as much as I should.  But as I was listening to In the Bleak Midwinter, I was thinking about the Christmas story characters.  Shepherds, Wise Men, Mary and Joseph...  If it were me, and I sought and found Jesus, I would probably approach him with a list of things that needed fixing.  But in the Christmas story, everyone comes and gives to Jesus.  Mary and Joseph presumably spend their lives raising and giving to him, as all parents do.  The wise men came with gifts.  And that's what struck me about the last stanza of the song:

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part, 
Yet what can I give him?  Give him my heart. 

I think we all feel a little bleak this Advent.  Our hearts are hardened by the sin and sadness in our world today.  And we want God to come down and fix it.  But just as the world was changed infinitely and almost undetectably in that moment of Christ's birth, so it is when Christ comes to birth in our hearts.  We might not feel it or see it.  And it might be hard to understand God's timing or purpose.  But our inability to see it does not mean it doesn't exist.  Instead of asking and pleading for God to fix it, we could take a lesson from the Christmas story.  We can ask ourselves, "What can I give him?"  Because by asking ourselves that question, that is how God brings about his work on this earth. 

Emmanuel: God with us.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sump Pumps and Advent

This week we got a sump pump installed.  Rain, do your worst!  I can't wait to see how our basement fares in wet weather...I'm looking forward to a carefree spring--one where I won't be tied to my shop vac!  In order for the sump pump to be installed, however, we had to clear out our utility room.  That was feat in and of itself.  We have only lived here for a year and some change, but our utility room is where everything goes.  Toys that are out of "rotation," seasonal decorations, laundry, extra coats, items for donation, trash, empty laundry detergent bottles, old chairs that I keep meaning to fix, maybe some kids that I don't know about...

It is also Advent, which is the liturgical season that I most look forward to.  It always arrives with the hope of renewal and spiritual refreshment.  Even amidst the craziness of the secular season, I still cling to the idea of waiting and preparing our hearts.  But I must admit, I haven't really been "feeling it" lately.  It just sort of seems like I'm on one never-ending train of crazy and this train isn't making any stops.  I think that feeling is inevitable with kids, especially when you have a nursing baby.  There really isn't any time to get away.  The longest I've been away is a mere few hours and usually that ends with me coming home to a screaming little person.  And even at night, he still wakes about every 45 minutes until I just put him in bed with me.  My own faith life hasn't felt refreshing.  Not in Advent or otherwise.  It is the same.  I keep on, plugging away at life as a mom and wife.  Some moments are beautiful and wonderful and some are awful and many are just mundane. 

I had a meeting the other night at church and I was there (by myself!) early so I stole a few moments in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  As per usual when I am in the chapel, I just kind of sit there and wait.  I generally begin with a prayer like "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" and then just kind of wait for God to say something.  If I am patient and really trying to listen, usually I can "hear" him speak to me.  And this time his word to me was "repentance."  He kind of hit me over the head with it a few times, until I actually said out loud, "Ok, ok, I get it."

With that in the back of my mind, today I was reading an online reflection and I started thinking about the often-used Advent phrase, "make space in your heart for the coming of Christ."  I have heard that a ba-million times.  "In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!"  We hear those words from Isaiah read to us in the Sunday readings.  We sing songs about preparing the way.  So then I sat for a moment and asked myself, what does it even mean to make space in my heart for Jesus?  What does it even mean to prepare the way?

And again, God said, "Hey you!  Dummy!  Pay attention--REPENTANCE."

My heart is like our utility room.  It is the place where everything goes.  Every joy and sadness.  Every misunderstanding and inconsideration.  Every un-confessed sin.  It's all just hanging out in there together, waiting for somebody to do something about it.  To sift through and sort out the good from the bad.  And it seems that without that beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation, it is harder for me to make space in there for the One who wants to come in.  I think I forget to make it a priority when there isn't some huge sin hanging over my head.  But the little things pile up junk on a shelf.  I might have forgotten about it for now, but it's still taking up space.  And just like with our utility room, we have to spend time cleaning it out in order for the Worker to get in and work in our lives.  We can't just expect him to muscle his way through all the crap that we leave in the way.

I spend an awful lot of time praying, "Come Lord Jesus."  But it seems that before the arrival comes the preparation.  Lord, help us to prepare.  

Prepare the way of the Lord, 
make straight his paths.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
In recent years, this has become one of my most favorite prayers.  It is lovely, and just one reading of it brings a sense of peace and calm to my soul.  It is a prayer that we can all get behind.
Except when you look a little deeper, it isn't.  These are hard words; convicting.  Of course, I want the world to be full of those things: love, peace, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy.  But do I really want to be the one to bring them about?  Can I do that hard work?  When I look at the second part of the prayer, I can see the real challenge that has been issued.  A prayer to make myself less important in the world around me.  This Prayer of Saint Francis is a sneak attack.  At one glance, it asks us to pray for goodness in our world. Take another look, and it sidles right up next to the Litany of Humility with its brazen challenge to the pray-er.  

...that others may increase and I may decrease...
This beautiful prayer of peace is asking God to make me different.  Not the rest of the world.  Lord, make me to sow love.  Lord, make me to sow pardon.  Lord, make me to sow light.

That is a far cry from what I usually sow.  I don't know about you, but I tend to hyper-focus on sadness, devastation, and injustice for but a few breaths.  I pause, with the rest of the world when crisis happens.  I cry heavenward and rail against the suffering that we all feel.  And then, over the course of a few days or weeks or even minutes, I move on.  And I go through my life sowing the more persistent weed of indifference or selfishness.  Impatience and self-importance. 
Once, I had an experience that seared my own unkindness into my brain.  I was on my way to lead music for a retreat, and I was riding with a friend.  We went through a McDonald's drive-thru and I was floored by her unabashed generosity of spirit.  She chatted up the drive-thru attendant as though they were great friends who had known each other for years.  She didn't even bat an eye when the service was slow.  She showed genuine love and care for this person whom we had never met nor would likely ever see again.  She went out of her way to sow light.  And here I was, about to spend a whole weekend teaching young people about how much Christ loves them.  And I couldn't believe how well she loved this stranger.  
Far too often I am quick to speak and slow to listen.  Far too often I fight to make myself understood, rather than to understand the other.  Far too often I honk at the driver who ticked me off on the highway, rather than just yielding.  Far too often I am unforgiving.  Far too often I think only of myself.  
Our world is fallen and broken.  It is hard to think of the things that make it that way without getting paralyzed by anger.  But our God has given us to each other.  We can do the holy work of sowing peace, justice, truth, love, light, and joy.  But it starts with knees to the ground and eyes to the heavens.  It starts right here, in my own home and my own heart.  

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Friday, November 21, 2014

7QT: Parental Survival

Welcome!  Looking for ways to survive parenthood (and I don't mean the finale of Parenthood on NBC, which I'm not sure how I'll survive)?  You've come to the right place.

Let's get right to the goods, shall we?

7 Quick Takes on Surviving Parenthood

1. Always hide the homemade crap original artwork that you throw away!  I can't tell you how many times I've tossed something in the trash only to have the artist recover it.  They bring it over to me, eyes full of betrayal, paper covered in coffee grounds, and ask, "Why is this in the trash, mommy?!"  They bat their little eyes and I can only stammer in response, "I-I-I don't know!  I guess Daddy must have accidentally gotten it mixed up with the junk mail!  Come here, we'll just wipe this ketchup off and it will be good as new..."

So now I hide it.  Bury the soap carvings of sleeping bags (what even is that?), foil sculptures, paper crowns, and drawings of "T-rex Man" deep into the garbage.  Sometimes I put them in another bag, and then into the trash so they can perish undetected.  Go ahead, say it.  I'm heartless.  And then if they ask about it, I tell them it's "in storage."  Pretty soon they'll be calling me "Mother" and researching nursing homes.  When I'm gone and they tell everyone I'm "in storage" don't believe them!

2. Don't show your hand.  I don't really know if this is a good use of that expression, because I don't know how to play poker.  But I'm gonna go with it.  If I have something exciting lined up for the day, let's say, a play date with a good friend, it is best practice not to share this information with your child until it is actually happening.  The doorbell is ringing, you are in their driveway or the parking lot to Chuck-E-Cheese.  Have you ever met a four year old who is totally pumped for a big day?  Have you ever met one just after you tell them it was all a lie?  Seriously.  I don't want to deal with the aftermath of shattered dreams.

3. Popcorn or cereal night is a real thing.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Unless you are having popcorn or cereal for dinner every night, consider yourself well within your rights to invoke this as a survival mechanism.

4. Get rid of stuff.  Go through your kids' rooms or playroom or what have you and feel free to get rid of as much stuff as possible.  Sometimes you can engage your children in this process, you know, so they can learn something.  Other times things just "disappear" on their own and no one is ever the wiser.  A good way to do this is to move.  Then in 18 months when your child realizes that his penguin Happy Napper (not to be confused with his penguin Pillow Pet) is gone, you can just say it's packed in a box somewhere.  They don't have to know that "box" is a store called "Goodwill."  To quote the previous euphamism, "It's in store-age."  (See what I did there?)

5. Go outside.  Is this Fwinter (as Andrew calls it) stressing you out already?  Me too.  Is it only 2 degrees out with a windchill of negative-what-the-heck-it's-only-November?  Make the kids go outside and run laps around the house.  Not kidding.  This actually happens.

*Sidenote: I realized upon seeing it in print, that Fwinter needs further explanation.  It is not, as you might think, "eff-winter," although it seems fitting.  It is a combination of "fall" and "winter."  Fwinter.  He's 8.  I'm not that bad of a parent.

6. Teach them useful skills.  Lately, my big kids have been wanting to learn to cook things.  So we've been teaching them some stuff.  Andrew cooked eggs for his siblings for breakfast the other weekend...and it was glorious!  And one afternoon I let them make beer bread on their own.  Other things they can cook: bacon, waffles in the toaster, pancakes.  Other skills they are learning: woodworking.  Basically we are training them up to be miniature Ron Swansons. 

Even Luke has to pull his weight around here.

7.  I can't think of I'm taking the easy way out by reminding you about the Daydreams Foundation.  I am a new board member of this organization which seeks to provide funding and eliminate barriers for low income youth to participate in extracurricular activities.  If you are in the Columbia area and like to have a good time (that sounds like I read it off of a gas station bathroom stall door, but never mind that, I'm leaving it), register for our Trivia Night on December 4th!  If you are in Far Far Away then you can contribute online by clicking the "Donate Now" button.  Please consider giving to a great cause! 

Go see Kelly for more 7 Quick Takes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autopilot Parent

Hey there.  Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year, otherwise known as the million months of cold, darkness and despair.  Looking for some cheering up?  You've obviously come to the right place.  I really do love the holidays, just not the subzero temps. 

Cold Air Hurting My Face 


But anyway.  Lately I've been racking my brains about our kids.  It seems like we are constantly putting out minor fires.  Everyone's tempers are running extra hot and we just haven't been enjoying each other like I wish we could.  Reece, in particular, seems to spend most of every day trying to make everyone around him miserable.  And I've been really frustrated about that for multiple reasons, one of which is the fact that this is his last year home with me before Kindergarten.  And I really want that time to be sweet, like it was with Andrew.  

I checked out some books from the library: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and The Highly Sensitive Child.  I was determined that the answers to his behaviors would lie within the pages.  

They didn't.  

Quiet is an absolutely riveting book about personalities and temperaments.  I would recommend it to anyone, but especially introverts or people who love introverts.  It is very brain based and is really so intriguing.  I do think Reece is an introvert, but I don't necessarily think that is the root of his behavior problems necessarily.  And he definitely does not fit the description of a highly sensitive child, like I thought he would.  So then I started considering all manner of other causes: diet, allergies, behavioral disorders.  I think I just wanted to have a reason for all of his grouchiness and mild aggression.  But after some soul searching, what it really comes down to is parenting.  And that is a pretty big bummer of a realization.  

This morning, after his friend, J, was dropped off, they immediately settled into the familiar routine of late: constant quarreling.  I was pretty fed up and so I separated them and made them play by themselves in "centers" for about 30 minutes.  Then we read some books, did a craft, had some free play and went outside.  And they were both basically delightful for most of the morning.  I didn't really have to play with them much...I was just more present, and that little shift made the difference. 

What this little experiment confirms for me is that he is really craving my attention.  And I have basically been on parenting autopilot for a long time.  I am not what you would call a "Helicopter Mom."  I firmly believe that kids need to find ways to occupy themselves and to work through their problems on their own.  But maybe I have been too distant.  We've just been cruising along at the same speed, on the same route for a lot of months.  What I'm coming to realize is that we need some recalibration.  

I typically use my days at home to DO ALL THE THINGS!  Laundry, dishes, cooking, grocery listing, meal planning, diaper washing, bed making.  You know...all the things that make a household go round.  However, I am finding that maybe I need to spend less time on my chores and more time on my kids.  It's a wicked balancing act.  We gotta have food and clean clothes.  And we can't live in squalor.  But they are still little, and they still need their mama for more than just the basic necessities.  And, after all, I don't call myself a stay at home housekeeper. 

Maybe you could pray for me during this crazy season...that we could find a way to come together, to enjoy each other and to keep our heads on straight through all the holiday hustle and bustle.  And I'll pray for you, too!

Also!  On an unrelated but awesome note: The Daydreams Foundation is having a Trivia Night to raise money for their cause!  Daydreams is a new non-profit in Columbia whose mission is to help fund extracurricular activities for youth in our community who couldn't otherwise afford to participate.  It is a great group of people with a great heart for young people and any support you can offer would be put to good use!  Go to their website to register for Trivia Night on December 4th.  Tickets are $25/person or $200 per table.  There are also business sponsorships available, so if you are a business owner who would like to sponsor, please let me know!  You can sponsor a round for $100 or the event for $500.  Do it.  Your mom would want you to.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes--All Nonsense

 7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about co hosting with Lino Rulli, cool book covers, and the best Halloween moments

It's me again.  Here are 7 Quick Takes about my week...I'm really trying to make this quick.  Scout's honor.

#1: Where would you be without a gratuitous Halloween costume pic one week post Halloween?  I don't want you to find out.  So here:

Max and the Wild Things in all their finery. 
Despite the freezing temps, we really layered up under those costumes and were plenty toasty.  And there is candy for miles around here, so parental bribery tactics are in full effect.

#2: Last week I asked for some solutions to our tiny kitchen/dining room situation.  Then we came up with this beauty!

Mike built that in one day!  It still has to be stained and sealed, but one day we're gonna put some bar stools under that sucker and call it a win!  The counter space in my house just doubled with that bad boy.  Also, for the record, we are painting those walls.  They will not be peach/pink forever. 

#3:  Reece-ism Numero Uno-- "I don't want to work on my letters.  I already know how to count."

#4: I took all five kids (my 4 plus 1) to the polls on Tuesday.  Andrew spent the entire day and the days following trying to get me to tell him who I voted for.  He declared that he was going to vote for Chuck B. because he has the most awesome sign.  Reece decided he would vote for Batman.  Raising informed citizens over here.

#5: I did not come up with this, but it was a winner of an activity.  We happen to have a bunch of golf tees, and I bought a lamp that came packed in styrofoam.  Thus, "Pound the Sound" or "Pound the Letter" was born.

Reece knows his letters, so I told him the sound and he would hammer a golf tee into the corresponding letter.  J, who is 3, is still working on letter ID, so it was easily modified for her.  They worked on this for a good 30 minutes with me, then I just let them play on their own. 

**Disclaimer**: Do not let the children try to cut it with toy saws.  Of course I was not paying attention and they were "working" with their tools for quite awhile before I discovered styrofoam all over the basement.  This happened because my children are destructobots.  Perhaps if you just equip the kids with golf tees and toy hammers, there is less room for error. 

#6: Reece-ism Numero Dos: Lately the kids have been finding and looking at lots of old pictures.  Reece always asks where he is in the picture, and then screams and cries when I tell him he wasn't born yet.  Sometimes I just say it's him so I won't have to deal with the aftermath.  "Yeah, of course that's you in that pink dress with a bow in your hair!"  There's probably therapy looming on the horizon because of it. 

#7: I told the kids, Reece (4) and J (3) to finish lunch, wipe their faces, and then go down to the playroom while I got Luke to sleep.  I came out to witness the two of them trying to saw through a beef jerky stick with a pumpkin carver.  Supervision might not be my specialty but at least they were sharing!

Happy Friday!  Go see Jen for more!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Baby Led Weaning

Baby Led Weaning.  It's a thing around here now.  For those of you unfamiliar, read on for the best kept baby secret since Benadryl (kidding...don't hotline me.) 

When the three oldest were babies, I fed them the traditional way.  Puree all the foods and wrestle their tiny arms that seem to have the strength and number of one thousand octopi, somehow managing to stick a spoonful in and then watch them spit it all back out.  Then give them another spoon so they won't try to steal the one you are using and let them chew on that for half of meal-time.  Until they take your spoon, too.  Mutter curse words under your breath while you clean pureed carrots off the wall and eat your cold dinner after everyone else has left the table.

Ok.  Maybe I am using a slight bit of hyperbole here.  But some days, maybe not.

I decided this time around I was going to try the BLW magic.  Basically, you just give the baby soft foods (soft enough to smush with your fingers,)  either whole or in chunks to start.  And let them go for it.  And you don't puree anything!  And you don't put any food in their mouth, other than breastmilk or bottle!  And you can eat with the rest of the family while baby enjoys his dinner, too!  It is such a win for all, in my opinion.

We started Luke just a few weeks after he turned 6 months and, at first, he just got used to the idea of eating.  The concept is that babies learn to chew their food, then swallow from the beginning--instead of swallowing with purees and then learning to chew.  Also, I did my research and got comfortable with the idea that a baby's gag reflex is further forward in their mouth, so they are less likely to choke on food than we think.  Usually he just spits out the pieces that are too big for him.  He has only sort of choked one time in two months of eating solids.  And he just upchucked to get it all out--it wasn't a big deal.  That's actually what's supposed to happen, so he was never in any danger.  Also, I re-educated myself on what to do if a baby actually chokes, just in case. 

His first try!  "Hello, carrot."
The real "eating" was a slow process...he didn't really ingest a whole lot at first.  But now!  At 8 months old, he eats with the best of them.  And he eats EVERYTHING that is reasonable for a baby to consume.  Today, for example, he had Cheerios and whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter for breakfast, then whole wheat spaghetti and sauce (leftover from dinner) with sauteed chicken and peas for lunch.  And I did not have to do anything other than put it on his tray and make sure it was appropriately sized.

Beets!  So good!  So messy!
He actually cries now if he sees me with an apple and I don't give it to him. 
And BLW has had an added side benefit that I didn't plan on.  It has really made me start to think more seriously about the food habits of our entire family.  We eat really healthy dinners, but the rest of the day is kind of a crap shoot.  And I realized that if I wouldn't give it to the baby for health reasons, I probably shouldn't feed it to the rest of us.  So we are trimming back on the things that used to be staples in our pantry: crackers, sugary yogurt, cereal, etc.  And, hopefully, over time, we will have a more healthy lifestyle and kids who will eat real food really well!  We shall see...

This week I made my own Greek yogurt, which I then turned about half into homemade frozen "gogurts" for the kids.  We're also going to have the kids start taking their lunches to school which we have been really bad about always.  Mostly because I HATE packing lunches.  So much.  I don't know why.  Even if I pack them at night, I still hate it.  But, by golly, I'm gonna try!  I'm Pinteresting 100 Days of Real Food lunches and trying to be creative, so it isn't just a PB&J sandwich every day.  I'll let you know how it goes.

If you see me in the Taco Bell drive-thru within the next few weeks, just look the other way.  I won't tell if you won't...

Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes Halloween Edition

This week...well let's just say it was wild and crazy above the normal wild and crazy that is Halloween week.  So here it is, in 7 Quick Takes...

#1: Not only was it Halloween week, it is also Red Ribbon Week at the big kids' school.  So each day had a theme, in which participation was apparently a life or death situation.  In fact, I think they might have never been allowed to return to school if they chose not to wear sunglasses and a neon shirt.  Tuesday was "Dress Fancy Day."  Even though Reece doesn't go to school, he very much wants to do what the big kids are doing.  So, for Fancy Day he literally wore a three piece suit all day long.   Jacket, tie, vest, velcro-pocket square...the whole nine yards.  Oh, and camo Crocs with socks.  All. Day. Long.  He even slept in the thing.  And did NOT want his picture taken. 

Check out Andrew's awesome suit coat.  So much love.
Finally broke through the baditude.
#2: Reece has been, let's just say "challenging" the past few years (read: his entire lifetime).  When we were naming him we discovered that "Reece" is derived from the Welsh "Rhys," which means "fiery and enthusiastic."  I think we got our money's worth on that one.  We joked that we should pick a middle name that means "well-behaved; subdued."  We chose to go with Kyle as his middle, which I think is Latin for "generic boy name."

Anyway, he is such a lovely little boy when he wants to be (as they all are) and I know that as parents, we see the best and the worst of our kids.  But lately he's being really mean.  I can't figure out if he's an introvert or just a bully.  Anytime that other kids come over who are out of the norm, he is just a jerk!  So this week I instituted the Love Bowl!  How many reward/accountability systems can you have for one kid?  Who knows?!  I say the more, the merrier.  So he already gets beads for behaving (i.e. following directions, having a good attitude, etc.)  If he is naughty he loses them and every bead he has at the end of the day turns into a chocolate chip.  So that is kind of a reverse reward system--he can lose them for misbehavior.  (PBS educators avert your eyes!)  The Love Bowl is just a big fishbowl that I taped stuff on (the front cover of the church bulletin, thank you Joe B.) that focuses on the greatest commandment--love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.  All the kids in the house at any given time can earn Warm Fuzzies to put in the bowl when they do loving things.  It's been helpful in getting them to think of others before themselves.  And we'll just save all the lessons on intrinsic motivation for when they go to college.

#3: We have the tiniest dining room in North America, I am sure of it.  Maybe there is a Guinness record to be won and I should look into that.  We also lack counter space in our kitchen.  So coming up with creative solutions to these first world problems is my full time not-job.  Any suggestions that would make entertaining at our house easier?  I was thinking about some kind of buffet/sideboard/wooden thing that would be super skinny.  I don't know.  Help me.

#4: The baby keeps waking up while I am trying to write this.  Geez.  Don't babies have any consideration for others?!

#5: These pancakes.  Seriously.  If you never do anything else I say, at least do this.  Make and devour these delicious creations.  We have found that it might be best (if you have a big-ish family or a big-ish appetite) to double the pancake recipe but leave the streusel as is.  Serve them with or without real maple syrup, cause these babies are sweet and wonderful. 

#6: Over the summer I had an idea to start an organization for kids who needed financial assistance for participation in extracurricular activities, specifically the arts.  I did a little research, and then I got busy with life and really didn't pursue it any further.  Then my awesome friend had the same idea and he actually started a non-profit!!!  It is called the Day Dreams Foundation and they are working on getting all the paperwork in order to be legit!  I am super excited to tell you more about this as it gets off the ground, but if you would like to financially support this organization, let me know!  They are currently looking for a donor who could contribute $400 to pay for some start up paperwork costs.  And there is a trivia night fundraiser already on the books for December 4th!  Go find them on Facebook and get involved in helping out a great cause!

#7: If we have any more children, I may have to start on Halloween costumes by July 4th. 
And don't even get me started on how many trips to the craft store it took!  My life is so hard.  Here are some pics from our un-official playgroup costume parade at the mall...see if you can guess the theme.  One of mine is in the stroller with the crown on and the other one is in the striped shirt, standing next to Queen Elsa.  And we also have Goldilocks, Baby Bear, and Ewok.  Marty the Zebra and Alex the lion from Madagascar were there as well, but they were camera shy.  

Life can't be all bad when your grandpa works at the carousel!

Happy Halloween, friends! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Much Ado About Nothing

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about South Dakota, The Shoe Song, rap battles, and why I should not ask people if I can pray for them

#1: Yesterday I spent three whole minutes trying to figure out how to put a sleep sack that I found in the closet on Luke.  It was not a sleep sack.  It was a Boppy pillow cover.  Maybe my kids are on to something when they said I'm not smart.

#2: Speaking of baby sleep products, I was suckered again.  Have you seen that show, Shark Tank, on ABC?  If you haven't, it is great!  But watch with caution.  It is basically a cleverly disguised infomercial...a wolf in shark's clothing.  (I know that analogy doesn't work, but humor me mm-kay?)  So we bought this baby sleep sack thing, called a Zipadee-zip, that we saw on the show.  I was hopeful that it might improve our sleep situation, which right now, is really not all that bad.  It did not.  He hates it.  Like thrashes around until you take it off hates it.  I think he might be too old for it.  It's kind of supposed to be a transition from the baby straitjacket swaddle that we all know and love.  But he's been unswaddled and fancy free for many moons now.  If any of you want to look it up and give it a go, I'd be happy to pass it along. We bought size medium.

#3: Amendment 3 (see what I did there?)  I don't like to get political very often and we are all entitled to our opinions and let's just play nice, okay?  But...Missouri Amendment 3 which will be on the ballot this November is very very bad for teachers and students.  I urge you to educate yourself on the issue and please vote no.  Both Missouri teacher's associations, MSTA and MNEA, are very strongly opposed and so are all the teachers I know.  As a family of current and former teachers, please support what is best for kids and vote no!  You can go here and here to get more information.

#4: Lately I've been convicted about our family's eating habits.  They are pretty good, but not great.  I cook almost all of our dinners from scratch using real food ingredients.  We eat fruits and veggies.  But lunch and snacks are not always the best.  My kids could hold off on eating healthy food because sooner or later, snack time will roll around and they can fill up on crackers, yogurt raisins, or what have you.  So I'm trying to do better about only stocking the house with good food "from the nature."  This week I tried my hand at making apple chips (So easy!  So delicious!  Make you some!) and currently I am snacking/lunching on some roasted chick peas that are pretty good and satisfy my need for salt and crunch.  So if you have any great ideas on the food front, send them my way!  Hurry.  Before I go out and buy all the ice cream.

#5: Some mom friends and I took all of our tiny humans hiking at Rock Bridge State Park yesterday.  The weather was gorgeous and the company was great!  One thing we didn't plan out so well was the fact that we took 11 kids ages 4 and under, 5 of whom can't really be trusted to walk on their own.  Geez, kids.  Make yourselves useful.  Now if you've ever been to RBSP you know that there are a great many stairs on the wooden walkways.  Not so conducive to strollering.  All of us are babywearing mamas, but still, you can only wear so many babies at a time.  Or can you?

Meet my awesome friend, Jenny.  She's a bad mutha'...shut yo mouth!

We decided to take this other trail that was a "wide rock path."  That picture was taken after she pushed those two in a jogging stroller through what was basically a rocky creek-bed turned into a "trail."  While wearing her two year old on her back.  Who also refused to walk for what seemed like 18 miles. 

This was the best picture I got of all of the "big kids."  There are 6 of them.  That means that we are wearing the other 5!  The crazies insisted on lying down on all the rocks.  They also insisted on running through the rocks and falling over, every last one of them.  The two year olds also insisted on holding hands with each other and no one else.  It was like the blind leading the blind, I tell you.  When it was all said and done, no one died or had to be helicoptered to safety and we brought lunch so everyone left happy. 

Perhaps this should read, "Pets must be leashed, children must be abandoned."

"I was there, too!"

#6: If you're my friend on Facebook, you were probably already treated to this exchange but I'm posting it anyway.  Emma and Andrew were playing a "trivia" game on the way home from church one night.  Andrew asks, "Who was the first Native American born in the USA?"  The correct answer?  Stevie Wonder.  So many things wrong here.

#7: Also that night when we got into the garage I said, "Something smells like pee and poop."  Emma: "It might be me..."  What?!  (For the record, it was the dog area.)

Have a great weekend!  Go Tigers, beat Vandy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

World Youth Day

Twelve years ago, I met a Saint.  Ok, to be honest, I didn't meet him in person, but I did come close to him.  He did pass me by, encased in his glass "Popemobile," and I saw him up close with my own two eyes.  If I had shouted to him, absent of the roar of the rest of the crowd, he could have heard me!  Maybe he even saw me, or waved to me.  Yesterday, October 22, 2014, was the first official feast day for St. John Paul II.  And it was yesterday that I realized that I was once in the presence of a Saint.  

I don't tell the story of World Youth Day 2002 very often.  Probably because my long term memories of the experience are kind of fuzzy.  And probably because it was such an unbelievable experience that to describe it well is virtually impossible.  In July of that year, over 850,000 young people descended upon Toronto for a week of events that culminated with an overnight vigil and Papal Mass.  It was Pope John Paul II's last World Youth Day and my first.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."  

There were two separate groups that went from our Diocese, one of college students, and the other for high schoolers.  I went as a chaperone (at the ripe old age of 21) with the high school group.  We took two charter buses from Missouri to Toronto, Canada.  I remember that we stayed outside of the main part of the city.  Each day we would drive into the area of Toronto where the events were held, and each night we would drive back to the hotel.  While many of the WYD participants slept on floors of churches in sleeping bags, we had much more comfortable accommodations.  I think we all wish, in retrospect, that we hadn't.  

One night, as our bus traveled the dark streets of the Toronto area, a pedestrian walked out into the road.  Our driver had a green light, the person was wearing dark clothing, and there was never a chance that we would see him.  After the initial impact, and the rumbling through the bus that we had just hit someone, I remember immediately curling up in a ball in my seat, trying not to throw up and cry.  And just as quickly as I curled into myself, I remember thinking, "I am one of the leaders here!"  So I took a deep breath and forced myself up out of my seat, hurrying to check that the teens on the bus were okay.  I remember all of us praying the rosary on the side of the road as we waited for emergency personnel.  I remember how scary and sad and heavy that night and the next day felt for us all.  I don't think that we ever officially got word about what happened to the pedestrian.  We all assumed the worst, and it was probably a fair assumption to make.  One thing is for certain, he had a lot of people praying for him.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."

I remember the crowds! The throngs of Catholics from all over the globe!  Flags were flying over our heads as far as the eye could see.  People were chanting and singing in their own languages, and dancing to the songs of others.  I think that we even flew a Mizzou flag!

I remember that we went to a concert and danced to Matt Maher singing "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" and "Your Grace is Enough," not knowing that a member of our group would later go on to actually play in his band! 

I remember walking the Stations of the Cross through the streets of Toronto and kneeling on the hard sidewalks as we remembered Christ's passion and death.  

I remember standing in line one evening, holding the hand of my teenage friend who was going to reconciliation for the first time in a long time.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."

And then there was the "pilgrimage."  We walked and talked and sang along the way to the site of the Papal vigil.  I think it was an old airfield, or something like that.  Picture a wide open space, large enough for almost a million people to gather.  I remember waiting in lines that were too long for food that was not enough.  We found a spot for our group to camp out for the night, but we hadn't brought tents.  We were to sleep under the open skies!  And that night, the weather almost got the best of us.  Torrential rain and winds set in across the area.  I remember building makeshift shelters out of barricades set up for traffic flow and tarps that someone in our group had.  We were freezing and wet and the water still dripped/poured in through our poorly constructed lean-tos.  And then there were tornado warnings!  I'm not even kidding.  I think at one point we may have evacuated to somewhere, but I can't say for sure if that is a false memory or if it really happened.  

And then, in the morning, the sun rose.  And Pope JPII arrived!  And he was driven through the crowds and we were so close to him!  And we celebrated Mass together, receiving communion consecrated by the Holy Father himself.  And I remember the stillness of the crowd and the holiness of the time that we spent, thousands of us joined together in prayer and in awe of the wonders of God's love for us.  It still feels like it happened in a dream.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."

Saint John Paul II was just that.  He was salt and light.  His fire for Christ lit the flames of so many others along the way, and we Catholics shine so much more brightly because of his wisdom and guidance.  As completely insane as our World Youth Day experience was, I think it could be a good metaphor for our faith lives.  They are tumultuous--we are alternately filled with joy, and weighed down by such heavy burdens and sadness.  There are hard roads to walk that leave our bodies aching and our hearts gasping, and beautiful moments that take our breath away.  And one day, when we are reunited with God in Heaven, we will be able to look back at our lives and say, "What a crazy ride! I'm so glad I came!"

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Intelligent women of the world, I have failed us.

It all started with a case of head lice.  Yes, you read that correctly, head lice.  We managed five, glorious, lice-free years with kids in public school before the head bug apocalypse hit us yesterday.  Emma was hollering about wanting me to lice-shampoo her hair and not Dad--she makes it a high priority to maintain her "worst patient" status any time she is sick or ailing in any way.

And then it happened.  Andrew loudly whispered, "Well, what if Mom messes up?"  My ears pricked up.  "What?!  Why would I mess up and Dad wouldn't?!"  And then began the downward spiral in which I discovered that my kids think I am basically a warm body who occasionally brings them pizza.

"Well, Dad's smart."
"And I'm not?!"
"How is Dad smarter than me?  In what ways?"

He went through the list of things Dad can do which basically included fixing stuff.  And I pushed, "What are ways that I am smart?"

"Hmm...let's're smart at laundry, doing dishes, making babies, driving, cooking."

And then I died.  Apparently my children think the only thing I am good at is reading Harold and the Purple Crayon and writing my name backwards with purple crayon.  I cannot even manage the task of combing tiny bugs out of someone's hair.  EVEN MONKEYS CAN DO THAT!!!!!  And he said I am smart at cooking, which is a total lie because he doesn't even like anything I make!  I wanted to holler about my two college degrees and my ACT score, but let's be honest, that'll probably make him think I'm even dumber because I had to go to college twice!  And who even cares about your ACT score after you graduate high school?!  NO ONE!  You know who cares even less?!  An 8 year old boy who doesn't even know what that is.  I wanted to protest that I know big words like "inveigle" and "obfuscate" (Does it matter that I learned them from an episode of the X-Files?  I think not.)

So we talked about how there are lots of different kinds of smart, and how Dad is mechanically smart and good with technology and math.  And we talked about how I am good with words and writing, music, and people-smart.  I think I was so stunned and flabbergasted that I couldn't formulate a proper rebuttal.  And I'm not sure that I know how even now.  Since becoming a stay at home mom, what do I have to show for prove it to them?  How can I explain to them that even though I choose to make mothering my full time job, I really do have the brains to accompany the baking?  Maybe I need to spend my free time (wait, what?) doing the NY Times crossword and beating them in chess.

Maybe I should rethink my Halloween costume to something more along these lines:

Or, perhaps I will have to hire a trained monkey to homeschool them since I am obviously unqualified.  It'll be okay though, because then the monkey can take care of the lice, too.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

My First Ever 7 Quick Takes

Well, I'm joining up with Jen at Conversion Diary and a bunch of other, more real bloggers, for 7 Quick Takes.  Firstly because I love Jen, and secondly because I have a bunch of random stuff that you don't want to hear about that I want to blog about.  So without further ado...I hope I do this right...

#1: My kids are totally ridiculous.  But you knew that already.  Yesterday Andrew proclaimed that he was "dark and brooding."  I am questioning if he even knows what that means.  I mean, look at the kid.  He's the whitest, gingeriest 8 year old there is...sorry kid.  "Dark" will never be used to describe you.

#2: Luke has finally started to make his return to the land of the regular nurslings.  For the past few months he has only consented to nurse whilst lying down (whilst...because of his fancy demands.)  But!  Yesterday he decided he would eat with the commoners while I sat in the living room.  And today, also!  Maybe he'll make a habit of it and I can return to properly supervising the 4 and under crowd that has been writing on the unattended furniture. 

#3: I have gotten a lot of questions about Luke's necklace lately.  No, it's not a gold chain and we  aren't really into baby bling.  It happens to be an amber teething necklace.  For those unfamiliar with this sorcery, supposedly the amber releases succinic acid, which is said to have pain relieving properties, into the baby's skin.  I'm thinking of buying a bunch of them and wrapping them around him like baby chain mail just so we can get through teething. 

#4: Speaking of baby things no one cares about...In Luke's 8 months of old age he is finally starting to maybe perhaps toy with the idea of getting on a loose "schedule."  I won't hold my breath.  But just this week I actually made it through one and a half Jazzercise classes.  Maybe he just hates all the Pit Bull that we dance to or thinks that mothers should not shake their booties that much.  I don't see how that's possible, though.

#5: We have this CD that came from the kids' Vacation Bible School and one of the songs is called "Kids for Jesus" or something like that.  It came on the in the car the other day and Andrew said, "Yeah, that's my jam!"  Lest you think that we are raising super holy kids, Emma told her class at school that her favorite song is "Fireball" by Pit Bull and Reece brags gleefully every time he manages to hear "the big fat butt song" on the radio in the basement.

#6: On that note, we need to up our barely existent game of family devotion.  Any ideas?  Resources?  Tips and tricks for not making it the second worst time of the day (trumped only by bedtime, the most worst time of the day)?

#7: We have a statue of Mary in our living room and a little friend was looking at it the other day.  She patted the Blessed Mother and said, "She's beautiful!  Is that Elsa?"

Not the worst comparison, really.

Have a happy weekend!  Go Tigers!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mom, You Got This

Being a mom of both young children (4 and infant) and older children (10 and 8), I feel like I have a foot in two different worlds of parenting.  And really, I am thankful for that perspective.  I know things now that I wouldn't have been able to articulate ten years ago.  But the funny thing about having kids so early is that now I find the rest of my friends catching up.  And I see my younger parenting self in the struggles and joys of my friends who are now finding their way as parents of tiny people.

Halloween 2008...they were two and four.  How did they get so big now?!

Don't misunderstand me...I do not think that I have this parenting thing in the bag.  I have no idea what it will be like to parent teenagers, or college students, or even my two tiny ones as they get older.  I really have no idea what it will be like to parent any one of my children even later today.  But I am able now to take the long view.  When the baby is up all night and the preschooler flies off the handle because his socks are bumpy or his water tastes funny, I can at least take some comfort in the fact that this, too, shall pass. 

The early years of motherhood are so intense.  I can't even find a word to describe it.  You have to be on all the time...there is virtually never a quiet moment to yourself.  They are in your bed when you sleep and when you wake up.  They are there when you pee.  They are sitting on your lap or on your hip while you eat your lunch.  And sometimes that marathon of mothering leaves you gasping for breath at the end of the day, wondering how you can even take another step.

But the good news is, it isn't all for naught!  Being a mom stretches us in ways we didn't know we needed to stretch.  No pain, no gain, right?  I think of it as building our parenting muscles.  The little annoyances, the struggle against our own selfishness or anger or worry, the sheer exhaustion...all of these help to rebuild, reshape, and strengthen us so that we can do the really big work that comes with raising kids.  Teaching them our values and our faith.  Teaching them to love other people and to serve the world around them.  Teaching them about sexuality and love and all of the other wonderful and complex things that kids and young adults need to know.  Guiding them through crisis and heartache and poor choices and wrong decisions.  The labor pains of mothering don't stop after birth! And the intensity of those first few years really do help to strengthen us in the ways that matter most for our children.  They help us bring to birth all of the things we want for our children as they grow and go out into the world. 

So, to all my friends who are wondering how they will even make it to the end of today: take heart!  You can do it!  And when you can't, God's grace will be there to pick you up, dust you off, and set you back on your feet for tomorrow.

Some unsolicited cuteness.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Homeschooling and Holiness and the Giveaway

I was doing the dishes and wearing the baby and making eggs for the other kids and thinking about holiness.  About what it would take to become a saint and how I'm not sure that I'm interested in all that.  In my head it sounds nice, but I'm not sure that my heart is really there.  You know that quote by St. Augustine that goes, "Lord make me pure, but not yet"?  That...except sub the word holy.  Lord make me holy, but not yet.  

I saw on Facebook recently that someone else said something like, "The only thing stopping you from becoming a saint is you."  I don't know who said it but the phrase has been clanging around in my head today.  I'm sure that it's true.  And I'm growing in my awareness that maybe I am too fixed and focused on the things of this world.  Like maybe I just really want to be successful here on Earth and eek my way into heaven.  I give a lot of lip service to Christ, but in the depths of my heart do I give him all that I can?  Nope.  Not even close.

Why not?  Sometimes it's hard and usually I'm lazy and I'd rather just be comfortable doing what I do.  But maybe God is asking more of me?  Probably.

This all came about because we are actively thinking about homeschooling.  AAAAAHHHH!  That is how I feel about it.  I alternate between thinking it is best for us and being afraid we will ruin our kids.  Not that I think homeschooling will make us saints, by any means.  But I was just considering how sometimes I think God might be asking something of me and I'm unwilling to take the leap because I think it will be hard.  So we're praying for wisdom about it right now.  And doing a lot of Googling.  And I actually said the words, "I don't want to homeschool them because I'm afraid they'll turn out weird."  News flash: they are already weird!  So that's how discernment goes in my house--I think about all the bad things that could happen, and then I Google things and take my search results as a sign from God.  Perhaps I should improve my method.


Anyhoo...if you have any experience with homeschooling, chime in here and let me know!  How did you make the decision?  What methods/curricula do you use?  Do you love it?  Hate it?  Are your kids weird?  (Ha!)  Who is the patron saint of homeschoolers?  Were his/her kids weird?  I should find out.

**Don't forget to enter to win the Anchor Inn on the Lake giveaway!  You have until the end of Tuesday to enter and you don't have to attend a Marriage Encounter to be eligible, in case you were confused.  Although you should consider attending, in case you didn't catch my drift in the last post. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Marriage Encounter and a Giveaway!

Alright. I'm gonna get a little personal with you on the ol' blog today...hope you don't mind.  And stick with me, because it might be what you need to hear and also there's a super fantastic giveaway at the end!  

If I had to sum up my adult life with a timeline, this is what it would look like so far:


When I turned 22, I graduated college, got married, and 9 months later we had a sweet baby to call our own. Over the course of the next two years, my husband finished school and graduated, we both got real jobs, we bought a house, and we had our second baby.  We were 25 and 24.  Since then, we have changed jobs and homes, and have added two more little ginger spices to the mix. All this to say that our first years of marriage were full to the brim in more ways than one.

Our wedding photo...we were approximately 12 years old.

Maybe you can relate?  Even if you don't have kids, the first few years of marriage are full.  Full of getting to know your spouse in a new way, full of learning how to share a life, full of careers, full of family.  And sometimes after all of that fullness, it can be easy to forget what you wanted out of your marriage in the first place.  Sometimes you are just trying to get through the day, and by the time you finally get the kids to sleep and the dishes done (or not), you can muster just enough energy to flop onto the couch.  This is where we found ourselves after 9 years of marriage.  Nothing traumatic had happened.  We still loved each other, for sure.  But we were passing like ships in the night, not really seeing each other or feeling connected.

Enter the Marriage Encounter weekend. 

We had seen church bulletin announcements about the weekends for several years, but in 2013 the stars aligned and we were able to work it into our schedules.  We arrived Saturday morning, not knowing what to expect.  I remember sitting in the event room thinking, "I don't think I'm gonna like this."  As someone who led retreats for a living, I found it ironic that I was now on the other side with a bit of a sour attitude.  But as the day unfolded, so did the blessings.  Our Encounter weekend was not fancy or flashy.  The speakers delivered a carefully prepared message from the heart, but they weren't trained "motivational speakers," per se.  Just a group of married couples, speaking the words that I wished someone would have said to me before.  You see, marriage is hard.  Obviously, we are all told that over and over.  But no one really explains what that means.  It is difficult to open your life up to someone and share your struggles.  We are pretty good at pulling the wool over each others' eyes.  We are good pretenders.  And while our pretending might protect us, it also disillusions.  No more illusions here.  What I saw were real people with real struggles and real love for one another. 

I know that in some churches (ours in particular) it is common practice for engaged couples to attend an Engaged Encounter weekend as part of marriage preparation.  And I also know that it doesn't have the best reputation, according to some.  I remember back to our own engagement, hearing that the Engaged Encounter was a "waste of time."  So we chose the other option, which was a six week "course" on marriage.  I thought it sounded more in depth, more serious, more mature.  While I can't speak personally to the Engaged Encounter experience, I know some of you may have attended and felt underwhelmed.  Maybe that is keeping you from thinking more seriously about a Marriage Encounter weekend.  Don't let it!   Engagement and marriage are totally different.  I was naive and immature in my understanding of marriage.  I'm positive that's the norm.  Because how can you understand what it will be like?  How can you foresee the trials, hardships, and beauty that come out of married life until you are in the thick of it?  And your struggles now?  Most likely they are different from when you were engaged.   

For us, Marriage Encounter was where the rubber met the road.  It gave us the tools and the time to reconnect, and to really work on our relationship without distraction.  When do you get that kind of time in the real world?  And nearly two years later, I can say that we are a more whole and holy couple because of it.  Marriage Encounter does not claim to save troubled marriages, although I know couples who will say that it has done that for them. But what it does is offer help when you are a little in over your head. And doesn't that happen to most of us from time to time?  For us, when the waters were swirling and we couldn't quite tell which way was up, Marriage Encounter gave us a foothold. From there, we could pull ourselves to the surface, take a deep breath, and find each other again.
The whole crew after Andrew's First Communion

Us on our 11 year anniversary breakfast date!

So...all this to ask that you consider attending an M.E. weekend.  If you are in the Central Missouri area or even within a reasonable driving distance there is an M.E. weekend scheduled for November 1-2.  If you are in the far reaches of the universe, I can promise you that there is a weekend near you sometime reasonably soon.  You can go here to get more info or to register for the Jeff City weekend and here to find a weekend in your area.  Consider this your official invitation!

And now for the giveaway!  Jefferson City Marriage Encounter is partnering with the Anchor Inn on the Lake in Branson, MO to offer one lucky winner a $400 gift certificate!  This will provide the winner and their spouse with a two-night stay in any of their accommodations!  My husband and I were privileged to stay at Anchor Inn a few years back and it was a lovely and refreshing getaway for us!  The owners, Mike and Dee, were wonderful, the room was fantastic (we stayed in the Mediterranean Lighthouse Room), and the breakfasts were delightful and relaxing on the screened-in porch.  And it was close enough to all the Branson action, without being directly in the hustle and bustle.  Make sure you check out their website, even if you don't win.  You will not be disappointed!

You can enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter below.  This is my first time ever doing a giveaway, so hopefully it will go off without a hitch.  The Rafflecopter gives you several different ways to earn entries, so follow the directions! 

**UPDATE** The first Rafflecopter entry asks you to tell us how long you've been married.  Please leave that answer here in the comments!

Here's the Rafflecopter.  May the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Classin' Up the Joint

I did a little craft with the minions yesterday and it was a big hit with everyone, myself included!  After I posted some pics of the fancy online I had some folks asking for the specifics.  I aim to please, so here is the link to the original post where I discovered the craft-tastic activity.  (Did you think I came up with that on my own?  Never.  Googling should be my job.)

And the pics...

The original post says to tape the leaves to the windows, but I had some twine from another craft explosion so I used that and I think the garland is definitely classier (if you can call coffee filter decorations classy, which I do.)  

My little craft drones, laboring away in their crafty sweat shop.  If you are going to do this activity, I recommend covering your table with newspaper or butcher paper or something.  As you can see, I did not do this and they are painting directly off of the table.  This is why we can't have nice things.  (Kidding, sort of.  I told them it was okay, and the magic eraser just took that right off!) 

It was pretty excellent.  Next week I think I'm going to have them paint my living room. 

Also, stay tuned here for an exciting giveaway later this week!  I am seriously pumped about this!

Keep it classy, Columbia (or wherever you are.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Guilt Trip

I wish I was a better mother.

Don't we all think that to ourselves sometimes?  Unless of course you're a dad.  But the same sentiment holds...I wish I was a better father.

We are a new generation of parents.  The internet is our guidebook for all things: pediatrics, behavior modification, potty training, birthday partying, training up our children in the way that they should go.  Or the fifty ways that they could go.  Or the hundred.  Because that's just it, for every one so-called expert, you can find another that contradicts the first.  And if there's one thing I've learned from reading all the blogs that I do, it's that every family is just a little bit different.  And isn't that the beauty in the body of Christ? 

I was just reading a blog post by one of my favorite writers and she was talking about her family's "catch phrases."  And I thought to myself, "We should have some of those."  And I am currently reading a book on the Kindle app in which the authors were sharing some of their practices of faith in their home.  And I thought to myself, "We should be better about that."  And I also got on Pinterest while I was nursing this morning (why do I do that to myself?) and I pinned 20 different kids' activities that I will likely never do.

The point of all this is to talk about the guilt we feel as parents.  I think that one of the really positive things about having been a mom for ten years is that I finally (just finally) feel like I am coming into my own.  Like I am figuring out who I am as a mom and who I am not.  And I am learning to be okay with that.  It's still a process, and I don't imagine that will change anytime soon.  But there's a difference between feeling guilty and being guilty.  And how often are we really guilty, as opposed to just feeling bad about our inability to create a seasonally appropriate, on-trend preschool learning activity with accompanying gluten-free, sugar-free, designer snack.  All before 8am, while still showering and fixing our hair.  And it can be especially hard to discern that difference with all the voices on social media, parenting magazines, Pinterest boards, and blogs telling us who we should be.

The reality is that there is only one voice we should listen to.  God gave us our children because he knew that we were the specific parents that our specific children needed.  This doesn't mean that we are perfect, or that we should never feel convicted to grow or change.  But maybe this is one of those times when we should be listening to the still, small voice instead of the guilt-infused cacophony of the internet.  And we can trust that the One who gave us the gift of being parents will, in time, give us every tool and skill that we need to raise our children to be whole and healthy people.  Do I need to think more seriously about our family spirituality?  Probably.  Do we need to have family catch phrases?  Maybe not.  The trick is in the discerning.  And also in the ability to recognize that there is a season for everything, and as my children grow, so will my ability to parent them.

And now, all the crazies are acting crazy.  So that's enough waxing philosophical for me for one day.  Here's some pictures of the kids.  Only Emma and Luke because I love them the most.  JK. 

Who needs a pack n play?