Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Strawberries


First off-- Thank you  for your kind words on yesterday's post.  It was an emotional post, and I appreciate the love I felt from all of you.  I also am thankful that you continue to stick with me as I write about my mom.  It is a big help as I am still grieving her loss.

Speaking of my mom, did you know that during her last six months on this earth she could not eat or drink anything?  She could swish water or juice around in her mouth, but had to spit it out.  Her nutrition came in the form of a liquid that was fed through a tube directly into her stomach.  The doctors did not want her to aspirate anything that could exacerbate her pneumonia-damaged lungs.  Because of this, she struggled with extreme dry mouth.  This made it hard to talk sometimes.  And I'm sure it was both uncomfortable and frustrating.  I can't imagine going that long without tasting some of my favorite foods.

She would joke about wishing the nurses could inject Mexican food from her favorite restaurant into her feeding tube, but in all honesty she didn't complain about the situation at all.  She did tell me once, though, that she dreamed about eating strawberries again.  It was a common dream, and she couldn't wait until she could eat them one day.  I was telling a friend about my mom's longing for strawberries, and my sweet friend suggested that while my mom couldn't eat strawberries right now, my kids could be like strawberries to her soul--sweet and satisfying and good.  I told my mom about the analogy and she loved it.  From then on, anything "sweet" in the midst of her physical struggle became a "strawberry" to her.

I've been struggling a bit lately.  Struggling with her loss, missing her deeply, and with change going on in my family.  The best way I've learned to turn a pity-party around is to stop and give thanks.  A thankful heart has no room for ungratefulness.  So here's my list of "strawberries" at the moment.  I know I have enough to fill up an entire basket.
1. Healthy children--all three are happy and healthy and thriving.
2. A wonderful, supportive, hard-working husband who happens to be my best friend.
3. A comfortable, warm home.
4. Friends that never cease to brighten my day.
5. A closet full of clothes-- why do I ever complain?
6. The ability to live and move and exercise this one body I've been given.
7. A bookshelf full of books to both challenge and entertain me.
8. Chocolate chip banana bread.  Made it yesterday-- 'nuff said. :)
9. Hearing Leah read to herself each night.  She is finally picking up books and reading for her own enjoyment!
10. Watching Lucas chase after his sisters, and the excitement on his face when they get off the bus each afternoon.
11. Seeing Hannah spend time drawing and creating and proudly displaying what she has done.
12. Thirty-four years of wonderful memories (almost 35-- on Friday!)
  13. God who loves me unconditionally, and speaks to me through His Word to encourage and comfort and strengthen my inmost being.  

 I could go on, but I'll stop there.  I feel better already!

What are some "strawberries" in your life right now? 

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Heard Her Voice

When I attended a grief class this summer, I was in a small group of women who read and discussed the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman.  I would highly recommend the book for anyone who has experienced mother-loss at any age.  One of the stories I identified with was one the author herself shared.  Her mother passed away after a courageous battle with cancer when Hope was just seventeen years old.  She tells about the time she was helping pack up her mother's clothes.  She writes, "I did it deliberately and mechanically, carefully unfolding and refolding each sweater, waiting for the goodbye note she never wrote to flutter to the floor."  When I read that sentence, I closed the book and took a deep breath.  I had just done that exact thing. As I had gone through my mom's things, I checked each coat pocket or purse looking for a note to fall to the floor.  And in the months since then, I still have longed to hear her say, "I love you" or "I'm proud of the woman you became" or "I'm so glad you are my daughter".  These are the things I wish I could hear one more time.

Then, just last weekend I decided to clean out and organize my closet.  I was ready to really purge myself of some clothes and shoes.  As I worked, I discovered an old Converse shoe box on a top shelf.  The lid was dusty, so I brushed it off and looked inside.  I discovered all kinds of things-- my old green and gold beanie from my freshman year of college, a few old photos, some special notes from friends in high school, a collection of letters my dad wrote to me as he worked away from home, and then there were the cards.  I found a mix of birthday cards and "just because cards"-- about six in all.  Each one was from my mom.  The years ranged from 1988 to 1999.  I hadn't looked at them in a very long time.  In fact I had completely forgotten about them!  I suppose I saved these particular cards because my mom had written extensive notes to me in each one.

I opened the first card and there they were--the words I so wanted to hear.  Only instead of spoken, they were written in her perfect cursive handwriting.


"I love you, Em!"


"I want you to know that I'm very proud of you-- the inside and outside of you."


"I wanted to give you a permanent reminder that I wouldn't trade you for ANYONE!"


"Remember that no matter where you lay your head at night you are much loved at home."


"Just wanted to let you know how important you are to me."


"I pray for you everyday!'


"I love you!"


I read through each card thanking God that I was able to hear her voice once again.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

One Of The Many Reasons I Married Mike

One of the many reasons I married Mike is his ability to remain calm in a stressful situation.  I'll give you an example from today of this very thing.

I was going to meet a friend of mine for lunch at
11:00 at a nearby mall.  As I pulled into the busy mall parking lot, I spotted an open parking space just a few spots back from a main entrance.  The spot was a bit tight as it was flanked on either side by large pick-up trucks.  But I thought I could fit, so I went for it.  Shortly after I turned the wheel and started moving forward I heard a horrible scraping/metal-crunching sound coming from the passenger side door of my mini-van.  Not good.  I panicked and immediately backed out.  Instantly my palms started to sweat and my heart rate sped up considerably.  I quickly looked at the bumper of the white Ford F250 I had hit.  It appeared to be fine, but my fight or flight instinct kicked in and flight won out.  I immediately drove to the other side of the mall, parked, and assessed the damage of my own vehicle.  Unfortunately, our van didn't fare as well as the truck, which had some sort of metal bumper thing sticking out the back of it.  I had decent sized scrape down my passenger side door.  A noticeable scratch.  Ugh.

I found my friend and told her I needed to go home and show Mike.  She had some shopping to do, so she stayed at the mall and I drove home crying all the way.  Why did I think I could fit into that parking space!?!
I was beating myself up the whole way there.  When I got home all I wanted to do was go crawl under my covers for awhile, but instead I showed Mike the damage and told him the story.

This is why I love him-- he didn't yell at me or make me feel bad.  He was calm.  He hugged me.  He told me that it would be okay.  Then he turned his concern to the other truck involved.  I told him I couldn't say with 100% certainty that it hadn't received any damage.  I had quickly looked at it and sped away in shame.  I think that is why I felt so bad about the situation.  I was having a bit of guilt about "fleeing the scene of the crime."  So my sweet husband drove back to the mall, found the truck still there, examined it thoroughly, and determined that in fact no damage had occurred.  It made me feel so much better.

Thankfully, I was able to still meet my friend for lunch-- just a little later than planned.  And yes, it stinks that we will have to pay to have the dent fixed some day, but overall I can walk away thankful for a husband who stays calm in a crisis, and who isn't afraid to do the right thing.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seeing Myself In Her Eyes

Hannah in the car

Hannah has been battling a cold.  Her nose has been both stuffy and runny and she has constantly been wiping at it. Because of that the skin between her nose and upper lip is bright red and very chapped. We've been treating the area with aquaphor and encouraging her to "dab not rub", but apparently kids at school noticed her chapped lip this week and have been asking questions about it. She hasn't acted like the questions bothered her too much, but tonight she said it really embarrasses her when people say, "What's wrong with your lip?"  I get it.  I was just like her when I was little.  I was quiet and didn't like any attention focused on me.  This might explain why I cried when I was told I needed glasses at age ten.  I didn't want anyone staring at me or asking me about them. Leah is the complete opposite-- she likes to have attention focused on her.  She shines in the spotlight where Hannah and I avoid it at all costs. Which brings me to a story.....

My seventh grade year was the worst year of my school career.  Starting junior high, acne, braces, bad hair, insecurity, social cliques....need I say more?  Well, things got worse for me in May of my seventh grade year. We were all required to take a speech class.  The class was designed to help us overcome our fears about public speaking and ultimately gain self-confidence.  To me, it was a nightmare.  To stand up in front of others and speak!  I would rather undergo some sort of oral surgery than stand in front of a class of my peers.  They would look at me, judge me, dissect my outfit, my hair and possibly say mean things to me.  Our last class assignment of the year was to memorize and then deliver a monologue in front of the class.  I received my monologue and spent a few weeks practicing, hoping a sinkhole would somehow swallow up my school so I wouldn't have to actually go through with performing it.  Around the same time I was practicing, I noticed a bump on my lower lip.  Over a few days, the bump grew and started to crust over.  My mom thought it was a cold sore, so we treated it with various over-the-counter remedies, but with no success.  In fact, more bumps appeared on my lip and my chin.  They oozed and would crust over and were even painful. Going to school became torturous.  "What is on your lip?  Gross, what is on your chin?"  I was mortified and embarrassed.  Finally my mom took me to a dermatologist who diagnosed it to be impetigo.  I was given a prescription and told it would go away within a week.

But wait....I had to perform my stupid monologue!  In front of the class!  With these horrible sores on my face!  My mom talked to my teacher, but nothing could be done about switching my performance date.  It was the end of the year and grades had to be tallied by a certain date.  I was one of the last to perform, so it was do or die.  The day arrived and I was beyond nervous.  Speech was the last class of the day for me, and I watched the hours tick by with a sick pit in my stomach.  Finally the time came and I found myself standing in front of my class and my teacher telling me to begin.  For a brief moment all I could feel were the sores on my face.  They felt enormous and gross.  But I had no choice.  I began my monologue and did the best I could do.  Thankfully, no one said anything to me about my skin issue and I went home relieved.

The next day my mom allowed me to do something that only happened once in my entire "school career".  She let me stay home for no good reason.  I wasn't running a fever.  I wasn't throwing up. We weren't going out of town.  She just knew I needed a day off from school.  From the embarrassment of my chin.  She knew she was giving me a reprieve from the questions and stares.  And for that I was so very grateful.

I guess I shared that story because I understood Hannah's tears tonight.

PS-- The sores did clear up quickly once I started the medication, and I've never had impetigo again.  Also, looking back, I should have stayed home because impetigo is highly contagious.  Live and learn.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Butterfly Ball

Tonight was a big night for my girls.  They went to their first ever Father-Daughter dance!  Every winter the girls' elementary school hosts "The Butterfly Ball" which is a school fundraising event, but one that the girls in the school really look forward to.  Last year we didn't go.  Mainly because we were consumed with my mom's illness and the girls were just in kindergarten, so we opted out.  This year, Leah came home and announced, "Mom!  I have something very, very importanent (this is how she says "important") to tell you!  We get to go to a Ball!  A real Ball, like Cinderella!!!"  How could we resist such unbridled joy?  So today, the girls put on their fanciest dresses, and Mike wore a tie, and Daddy and his two beautiful daughters went to a ball.  The girls danced along with their friends and Mike endured small talk with the other dads there.  He even got in a dance with each girl.  I'm sure it will be something they will always remember.  And I hope they always see their dad as their first Prince Charming.
 Hannah ready to go to the ball!
 Leah posing for the camera
Mike sent me this pic of Hannah cutting a rug on the dance floor.
He said they had a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

These Quirky Kids Of Mine

Sometimes the things that come out of my kids' mouths crack me up. Sometimes it is what they do that puts a smile on my face. Daily I am reminded of how wonderful and quirky they are.

Take, for example, this conversation with Leah about her two special pink blankets she sleeps with every night.

Leah: "Mom, can you wash my blankets today? They stink."

Me: "Sure, it is probably time to wash them."

Leah: "Yeah, they smell like an upside down dirty dog."

What?!

And Lucas is even getting in on the quirkiness. Lately he has been obsessed with wearing a pair of pajamas that have basketballs, soccer balls and footballs all over them. He calls them his "ball jammies" and wants to wear them ALL the time. This past weekend, we put them on Friday night before bed, he wore them all day on Saturday, and Sunday morning we convinced him to put jeans on, but the pajama top stayed on for church. We finally got him to take them off for a bath later Sunday night. Like I said, he wants to wear them all the time.

I think it is the quirky things they say and do that make them so very unique and special to me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Easy Dinner

How do you menu plan at your house?  Do you plan meals for a week, then shop for those ingredients?  Are you one of those people who spend an entire Saturday cooking massive quantities of food to freeze and use throughout the month?  Or do you just show up at the store and walk the aisles hoping to find inspiration? 

I have always been a list person.  I like a plan, and I like to check things off.  So for me, on Sunday I make a list of meals to fix for the week ahead.  I look at our calendar and decide which nights are busy and need a quick fix meal and which nights I can do a little more labor intensive cooking.  If Mike and I have a date night planned, I make sure I have something kid friendly on hand so my dad can feed them easily.  Then I make a list of all the ingredients I need plus any staple items we are low on, and head to the store with my list in hand.  

Most week nights I attempt to make something easy and quick and crowd pleasing.  And pleasing this crowd is not easy.  There are a handful of meals that I know I can go to for an easy dinner that everyone will like.  For us, taco salad is one of them.  When I announce that taco salad is for dinner I am met with cheers and shouts of joy.  Sometimes dancing occurs.  That's how much my kids love taco salad.  I think it has something to do with them being able to assemble their own bowl of food.  That and their intense love of guacamole.  They could eat a bowl of that alone.

Here's what we put out for our taco salad assembly:

1. Tortilla chips (what kid doesn't like crushing up their own chips?)
2. Seasoned meat 
3. Beans (pintos or black beans are great)
4. Lettuce
5. Tomato
6. Onions
7. Sour Cream
8. Cheddar Cheese
9. Homemade guacamole (pre-packaged store bought doesn't cut it in our opinion)
10. Taco sauce or salsa

Leah puts everything on her salad.  Hannah just omits the onions.  Lucas likes whatever we give him as long as guacamole is involved.  Our kids ask for seconds and lick their bowls clean.  Everyone leaves the table full and happy with no complaints.  And that makes me pretty darn happy!


Image from here

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Extremely" Good Movie (And Book)

A few years ago, I read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I know I reviewed it here on this blog somewhere, but I can't find that post.  If I do, I'll come back and add a link.  Anyway....I loved the book.  It was deeply moving and yet at times quite funny.  It is written from the perspective of eleven year old Oskar Schell, an intelligent, yet socially awkward boy grieving the loss of his father on 9/11.  The book is written in a quirky way, often going off on tangents to explore Oskar's latest invention (like a suit made out of bird seed, so birds could pick him up allowing him to fly).

Oskar lives in New York City with his mother, while his paternal grandmother lives across the street.  She rents a room in her apartment to an older gentlemen known only as "The Renter."  Nearly a year after his father dies, Oskar finally goes into his dad's closet.  While there, he knocks over a blue vase which shatters on the floor.  As Oskar leans down to pick up the mess, he notices a strange key. It was inside a small envelope labeled "Black".  Oskar decides he must find the lock that fits this key.  He just knows that if he can find the lock, he will be able to make sense of his father's death and will still be able to feel close and connected to him.  He soon devises a plan-- he decides to visit every single person in New York City with the last name "Black" hoping someone will know about the key.  On his journey he meets many interesting people, each with their own story to tell.  Oskar also crosses paths with The Renter, who ends up joining Oskar on his quest.  At this point in the book, The Renter takes over the narration and shares his own story with the reader-- a sad story that shows the connection between Oskar and himself.  In the end, the perspective shifts back to Oskar as he finishes his quest for the lost key, and comes to terms with his father's death knowing it will never make sense.

Yesterday I met up with my friend Jacquelyn (who originally loaned me the book) so we could see how such a complex and unique novel could translate onto the big screen.  Usually, I like the book better, but in this case I can't say that.  I can't say I liked the film better either.  I can only say I liked both equally.  I thought the movie was breathtaking.  The little boy who portrayed Oskar did a phenomenal job with such a difficult character.  And of course Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock did a great job playing Oskar's parents.  The cinematography was also beautiful capturing the different burrows of New York City perfectly as Oskar makes his journey.

One thing I wasn't prepared for was how well I identified in the grief process with little Oskar.  I read the book when my mom was still alive, so I didn't have that connection to him when I read the book.  But with the movie, I felt his pain as intensely as my own.  I wanted to reach out and hug him and say, "I get it!"  When Oskar enters his father's closet and sees all his clothes still hanging, he grabs hold of a shirt, leans in and rubs his face on the sleeve, trying to smell his father's scent.  I have stood in my mother's closet and done the same exact thing.  Like I was looking for some way to feel close to her again. Maybe that's one reason why I liked it so much. While some might consider it too sappy or sentimental, I enjoyed it, and would highly recommend seeing the film.

PS-- Check our my friend Sue's blog.  She also reviewed the movie today!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

An Idea

I had an idea early last year.  But after my mom died, the idea got put on the back burner.  The way back burner.  I had to go through a summer of learning how to breathe again, then school started and I was still healing, and that brings me to the beginning of 2012.  I am at a place now in my grief where I am crying less (which means maybe twice a day instead of ten times a day).  A place where I am ready to really try to remember and honor my mom without the stabbing pain of loss in my heart.  It's a minor throbbing now, not quite so acute as it was initially.

So you want to know my idea?  It is still in the formulating process, so I'm not sure what to really call it.  I guess the simple thing to say is I would like to write a book.  Not a novel (I'm totally not ready for that yet).  I'm thinking about writing a book that is part cookbook, part vignettes, part photography, and part grief counseling.  Let me explain.  I was going through my cookbooks one day last year trying to cull down my collection.  In the process I rediscovered my Grandma's old yellow spiral notebook with tons of her handwritten recipes throughout.  This got me thinking about all the special meals I shared with the two most influential women in my life-- my mom and my grandma.  I ended up writing down a list of the most special meals these women made for me.  From my Grandma's famous sweet and sour pork to my mom's pie crust recipe to the birthday meal my mom prepared for me every single year, I discovered that each recipe had a good story behind it.  The idea comes together in that way-- I envision a page with a recipe, a page with a story, a page with photography and then repeat.  The photography might be pictures from the past, but it could also be photos of me as I try to recreate these special meals.  Somehow through cooking and writing and sharing a meal with my own family and friends, these beautiful women's memory can live on.

Well, now the idea is out there.  Out there for all of you to know about.  I guess I just wanted to share what has been on my mind.  I have no deadline for myself, but I've got my feet wet by doing some research and writing a bit to get myself started.  I think this could also help with the healing process.  I'm sure there will be plenty more tears, but maybe by the end of it, I will be able to look at the result and smile.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Monkey See, Monkey Do

We all know that children are master imitators.  I hear my own kids repeating phrases that I say with the inflection that I say it with.  I see my girls doing things around the house that I do, and taking up hobbies that I like.  They obviously are their own individuals and will never be exact replicas of anyone, but of course these kids of ours are going to imitate the adults they are around the most.  This makes us more aware of how we act, what we say, and how we treat others.  With our girls I am constantly hoping I set a good example of what a wife, mother and friend should look like.

This being our first go round with a little boy, however, it has been interesting for me to watch Lucas imitate Mike.  I read once that at age two, a child starts to really identify with the parent of the same sex.  Girls start watching their moms to learn "this is what girls do" and boys start watching their dads to gain clues to how guys act.  Lucas has always been a snuggly mommy's boy (which I love), and he has always loved his daddy.  But recently he has really been following Daddy around, wanting to do whatever Mike is doing.

Tonight, Mike replaced the old faucet in our kitchen sink with a cool new modern one.  This involved tools and water and general grunts and groans from Mike as he wrangled off the old faucet and installed the new one.  Lucas was enthralled.  He sat on the floor by Mike pretending to fix the sink too.  He kept saying, "I'm working, Mom!"  He would pick up a pair of pliers and say to himself, "Now what I gonna do?"  It was really cute.
Lucas "working" next to daddy
He was so sad when bedtime finally came and he had to stop his job to go to sleep.  There were some tears, but he fell asleep quickly after getting to stay up a little later than usual to help Dad.

What was I doing, you ask?  Well since the guys were being so manly, Hannah, Leah and I made a pallet on the floor and watched an American Girl Movie about Molly McIntire.  We oooohed and ahhhhed at all the cute dresses and discussed the dance routine and snuggled up together all cozy by the fire.  

I sure love my girls and my boys.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wolf Head

Tonight we got out yet again!  Two nights in a row out on the town is some sort of record for us.  It's just how things worked out, but we are so glad we were able to go to the Oklahoma City premier of the film Wolf Head.  If you remember back in March, April, May and June of last year, Mike would be out filming for an entire weekend working on this movie.  He gave up countless hours to be a part of a funny and creative team that put this feature film together.  After nearly a year, we were able to see it on the big screen tonight.  400+ people showed up for the premier too!  It was great.  Here's a link to see the official movie trailer.

My friends Beth and Nikki came to support the film

I'm so proud of Mike and all the actors and crew for putting together a great movie!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Addams Family

I just got in late from an interesting night out. My friend Nikki and I went to see the traveling Broadway production of The Addams Family. Of all the musicals I have seen, this was by far the most unusual. I can't say it was my favorite. Here are some facts (and opinions) about what we saw tonight.

* All the performers did a really good job of embracing their characters.

* At any given moment we thought Morticia was going to have a wardrobe malfunction.

* Uncle Fester sang a really odd song about how much he loved the moon. Like he was "in love" with the moon and appreciated their long distance relationship.

* Wednesday Addams married a normal guy named Lucas.

* The storyline was a bit weak.

* Grandma Addams smokes weed.

* The couple sitting in front of us left at intermission and never returned.

* There was a song that made reference to Charlie Sheen.

* Lurch, the butler, breaks out into song and dance at the end.

* It was still fun to have a night out!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saying Sorry

Saying the words "I'm sorry" is hard.  Well, actually the words are not so hard as the actual feeling that goes behind the words.  If it is hard for an adult to admit a fault and ask forgiveness, how much harder for a seven year old or a two year old!  Training a child to be humble and repentant and quick to forgive can be a tough job.  My girls are finally "getting it" most of the time.  They know that saying "I'm sorry" is not a magic phrase that can be yelled nonchalantly.  They know that they have to look someone in the eye and really mean it and hug it out. Sometimes Hannah will be honest and tell me, "I can't say I'm sorry because I don't feel it yet."  In that case, I send her to her room to cool off. She always comes around though and can honestly ask for forgiveness.  I want my kids to know that we expect everyone to treat fellow family members with the utmost respect.  In fact, we should really love others better than we love our own selves (I'm still working on this one!).  I have read that the best preparation for marriage is having successful relationships with your siblings.  You have to learn to work things out, share, compromise, and forgive.  I pray that we are starting our kids off on the right track!

All this talk about your saying sorry reminds me of a video I took yesterday.  A few minutes prior to shooting it, Lucas had hit Hannah over the head.  I told him to tell Hannah he was sorry, but he's still not quite sure how to handle that. He's learning. Shortly after that incident, I shot this video and captured his spontaneous "I'm sorry" moment.  

video

I will transcribe the video for you.

Me:  Will you tell Hannah you're sorry?
Lucas:  dramatic pause......Nope
Me: Why not?
Lucas:  I catch! I run! I throw!  I telephone (?)
*Silly noises*
*Exploding noise*
I'm sorry.
*Hugs Hannah*
Hannah:  It's okay.
Leah:  There you go!  He finally said sorry!
BYE!



Monday, January 16, 2012

Adjusting

The kids and I met Mike for lunch today near his office.  He works on the top floor of the tall building in the background.  He has a pretty great view of the city from up there!

It has been three months since Mike went back to work, and our adjusting period is just about over.  I use the word adjusting because he had previously been working from home.  Working from home comes with its own set of challenges, both financially and personally, but overall it was a great experience; one we would not change.  The best thing about working from home was by far Mike's flexible schedule.  He could take off whenever he wanted.  This came in very handy when we wanted to spontaneously take the kids to the zoo for the day.  If I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon, Mike was available to watch Lucas so I didn't have to arrange for a babysitter.  And we even took a ten day road trip this summer without the worry of him rushing back into the rat race of work.

But as time went on, we knew it was time to move on.  Mike started working at an advertising agency on November 14th and after three months has finally settled in and really loves what he is doing.  The adjustment at home hit a few rocky patches, but I think we are finally used to his new 9 to 6 schedule.  Lucas and the girls are so excited to see their Dad when he walks through the door, and most nights we are able to all sit down at the table and eat dinner together, discussing our day.  I guess you could say this time has been like breaking in new shoes.  At first they are a little uncomfortable, but eventually they soften and give and become comfortable.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Big Boy Bed

About a week ago, Lucas learned how to crawl out of his crib-- a skill his sisters learned at about 18 months old, so I am glad he waited until age 2 1/2!  After the girls crawled out, nap time and bedtime became the hardest parts of my day.  And they stayed that way until the girls were 6.  Well, the girls stopped napping at age 3, but bedtime has been a challenge for sure.  I'm telling myself it was because there were two of them.  It's more fun to whisper and giggle and jump off your beds when you have a partner in crime.  I'm hoping that because Lucas will be alone in his room, he'll still fall asleep easily.  In general, he's been a much better sleeper than either of my girls.  Like his mama, he enjoys sleep and understands how wonderful it is. :)

I think I would have kept Lucas in his crib until kindergarten if he hadn't learned how to crawl out though.  I liked knowing he was safe and "stuck" in there.   But alas, he has decided to grow up.  Funny how kids do that! So this weekend's project has been all about turning his baby room into a big boy's room.  This of course began with taking down his crib and putting up his "big boy bed".  My dad had an extra twin bed at his house, so we used that and just bought a simple dark blue quilt at Target.  We still have some furniture rearranging to do as well as curtains and new artwork to hang.  But tonight, the bed is up, and he is sound asleep under the covers in his new grown up bed.  It's a bittersweet night for me-- letting go of the past and embracing the future.
His crib before we took it down today.  
We used this crib with the girls too (we had two, but we gave one away).
Ready to go to sleep!
Leah was excited for him!
Sound asleep
Sweet dreams, my big boy!


While Mike is still working on my new blog header, I am going to play with a few new ones.  Just so you know, this one is just temporary! :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Playtime With Play-Doh

Yesterday Lucas and I had played with just about everything-- Cars, trains, blocks, Legos, dinosaurs, and superheroes. What else could we do? I was out of ideas. But then I remembered a pack of Play-Doh Lucas had received for Christmas. So we opened a few jars and got to work. We had such a good time together, just me and my boy, playing with something as simple as Play-Doh. We made snakes, and basketballs, and ice cream sundaes. He smashed colors together and smiled the whole time. It is in these simple playtimes that I am reminded just how grateful I am to be able to stay home with these kids of mine. I don't want to miss a single precious grin.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Ram Story



My girls LOVE to hear a good story.  On a daily basis we hear, "Tell me a story when you were a little girl!"  And I usually oblige.  I understand their love of storytelling because I was the same way when I was young.  I loved hearing stories of my parents' childhoods.  Like my mom's story about making "toothpaste" in the bathroom sink using everything from peanut butter to mouthwash.  Or my dad's story about his beloved horse, RIP.  I'll save those two for another blog post.  Today, I am going to tell you another one of my favorite stories, and a favorite of my girls' too.  We call it "The Ram Story".  And it goes like this....

When I was about six years old, my mom and dad and I went on an overnight camping trip on the Brazos River near Graham, Texas.  We lived in Graham at the time, and the Brazos is a popular river to camp near, canoe or float down, go fishing in,etc. For this trip, we decided to go canoeing.  We packed light, just a tent, some sleeping bags, and a few food essentials.  Soon we headed out on our adventure.  My dad and mom sat at the ends of the canoe guiding our journey, while I relaxed in the middle. I remember that it was warm and humid, the sky overcast and cloudy, and brilliantly colored dragonflies kept landing on the canoe's edge.

Eventually we found a small island in the middle of the river just the right size for us to set up camp.  Dinner was cooked up on our small stove, and we spent the night snuggled together in our tent, listening to the summer sounds around us.  I felt so safe sleeping between my mom and dad, warm and cozy in my sleeping bag.

The next day, we packed up and set out int the canoe once again.  Shortly after we were cruising down the river, we heard a strange noise.  Thankfully, the current was not too strong, and we slowed down, straining our ears to hear the noise again.  There it was!  We heard it again!  It sounded like an injured animal, so we listened again, our eyes straining to see the shoreline.  We paddled over to the side where the noise was coming from and discovered a large ram stuck in a barbed wire fence.  My dad paddled us close enough so that the front of the canoe came to rest on the dry ground.  He stepped out and moved carefully toward the scared animal.  We didn't know how long the poor thing had been there. A few days maybe.  He had to be hungry and fearful and on edge.  My dad has a way with animals, though, and after a few "Shhh...Shhhh..." noises, the ram settled down and allowed my dad to help free him from the wire fence.  I imagine there was a moment where the ram looked my dad in the eyes and they mentally shared an exchange of words.

Ram, "Thank you for saving my life, Sir.  I am eternally grateful."
Dad, "It was my pleasure, noble creature.  Go live in peace."

My parents named the ram "Abraham" and the story has lived on for years as we tell it over and over to my girls.  We imagine that Old Abe had a long and wonderful life.  Perhaps even now, if you were to take a trip to Texas, you might see one of his offspring proudly standing on the banks of the Brazos River.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Love and Faithfulness

I read a verse the other day and it has really stuck with me.  It might just be my verse for the year.
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck
write them on the tablet of your heart."
--Proverbs 3:3

I love the imagery of this verse. To bind something around your neck and write it on your heart is pretty strong language! I like how the verse doesn't say "let love and faithfulness be around you sometimes".  Or display "love and faithfulness only when you feel like it".  Or only when someone deserves it.  Or only when it benefits you to do so.  Nope.  It says to let love and faithfulness NEVER leave you.  That means when it is easy to love someone or when it is difficult.  And then to put an exclamation mark on that thought, it goes on to say BIND them around your neck and WRITE them on the tablet of your heart.  

Since my mom passed away, the fact that you can't take your things with you when you go has come into sharp focus for me.  It has also become crystal clear that what really matters-- what really, really, really matters after you die is the legacy you leave behind.  When my time on earth is over, I hope the legacy I have left to my children and grandchildren is a legacy of love and faithfulness.  Oh Lord, help me to bind these two traits around my neck so that I will always be aware of them.  And carve them deep into the tablet of my heart so that they become as natural to me as breathing.  

Do you have a verse or a word for the year?  Do share!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Organization

Yesterday I mentioned that it was a busy day.  I also mentioned that I organized my pantry shelves.  I have a slight obsession with organization. In a perfect world, every drawer and closet and basket in my house would be perfectly sorted and put away.  Things would not be thrown willy-nilly into a drawer, but rather they would rest peacefully in their designated space. If someone asked for scissors, I could mosey over to a drawer and whip them out in no time.  A nail file?  Well, right here. Salad tongs?  So glad you asked.  Unfortunately, I do not live in a perfect world.  Things do get shoved and tossed into places at the last minute.  And then when someone does actually ask for salad tongs I have a slight moment of panic when I think, "Where did I stash those things?" I want to be organized, but then life gets in the way and well....I guess I have no excuse.

I think part of my problem is that when I find myself with a few hours to actually work, I feel the need to organize my entire house. This isn't realistic at all, so then I don't do anything and avoid the situation all together.  I hate to start a project and not be able to finish it.  Yesterday, I had just had it with my pantry.  The nail in the coffin was when I grabbed a cookbook off of a shelf which caused all the other cookbooks to fall which pushed a box of vanilla wafers on the ground which tipped over and spilled the remaining cookies and crumbs all over the floor.  In addition, a jug of maple syrup had leaked all over causing a sticky mess.  I had had enough!

I started by pulling every single thing out of the pantry.  I used the hose attachment on my vacuum cleaner to suck up any crumbs, then used a damp rag to wipe off all the shelves.  I went through my food items, throwing away anything expired or questionable looking.  Then I carefully rethought where everything was placed.  I moved my spices to a lazy-susan at eye-level. I decided to keep my cookbooks somewhere else.  I put all my baking items together on one shelf.  I used some plastic containers to group things like pasta and spice packets together.  And in the end, I was pleased with the result!
Ta-da!  It may not look like much, but it is a big deal to me.

After reflecting on my work, I came to this conclusion-- choose one thing to work on at a time.  Yesterday it was the pantry.  Today I plan on tackling my closet.  Tomorrow it could be the pesky "junk drawer" in the kitchen.  You know-- the one with scissors, tape, pens, pencils, and an assortment of random receipts and papers? Yes, that one.  We all have one.  Trying to organize everything in one day is just too overwhelming, and frankly not possible.  Have you ever heard the saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."  I think I get it. I guess I took one small bite yesterday.

** Side note-- I would never advocate eating an actual elephant.  That's just not right. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Manic Monday

Whoever thinks being a stay-at-home mom is all about living the life of luxury is seriously misinformed. Here's a run down of my manic Monday.

6:45- Wake up, shower, feed the cats, get dressed, make breakfast, pack lunches, get kids dressed, teeth brushed, and shoes and backpacks on before walking out the door

8:40-Drop girls off at school

9:15- Drop Lucas off at school

9:40- Arrive at grocery store, ready to shop, cruise the aisles in a mission!

11:00- Arrive at home, unload groceries, clean out refrigerator, put groceries away, change the sheets in Lukey's bed, start a load of laundry

12:30-- Take a break to meet Mike at Whole Foods for lunch and a moment to slow down a bit.

1:30- Swing by parents' house to work on organizing and going through a few of my mom's things

2:30- Pick Lucas up from school, go home, feed him a snack, play and snuggle, start an episode of Little Bear (his current fave), start to organize the kitchen pantry

4:00- Girls walk in the door after riding the bus home, go through backpacks, start homework, feed snacks, send them off to play so I can finish organizing the pantry

5:00- Start dinner (tonight's menu was spaghetti with homemade sauce, salad, and garlic bread), my dad comes by for dinner

6:15- Mike arrives at home,plays with kids a bit, we all sit down and eat

6:45- Start kitchen clean up while kids eat dessert and play with Papa

7:30- Kids put on pajamas, brush teeth, read stories, and finish homework

8:30- Kids go to bed, finish up last few chores like picking up toys, wiping down kitchen counters, putting laundry in the dryer, and taking care of the cat box (gross)

9:30- wash my face, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed where I plan to read, work on my Acts Bible study and
write this blog!

I am tired, folks!

Eventually around 11:00 I will fall asleep, but before I do I will leave you with one photo from my busy day. It is from lunch, when I was able to sit still and have a short amount of down time.
And I might add that lunch was darn tasty. Especially the tomato-zucchini soup. So good, I tell you!

What was your Monday like?




Saturday, January 7, 2012

Scope For The Imagination

Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about?
It just makes me feel glad to be alive--
it's such an interesting world.
It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it?
There'd be no scope for the imagination then, would there?
-- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


Friday, January 6, 2012

Spring in January?

We are confused here.  Did we skip winter and head straight into spring?  My calendar says January, but it feels more like mid-March outside.  I think the high for today was near 70 degrees.  It was a bit windy (always), but the sun was out and jackets were shed.  We couldn't resist being outside today.  Lucas and I played at a playground near my gym this morning, then when the girls got home from school this afternoon, we rode our bikes to our neighborhood park for more fun in the sun.  The girls instantly went into "imaginative play mode" by pretending they were pirates on a ship.  I kept hearing them say things like, "Drop the anchor!" and "Ahoy!"  This drama was unfolding while Lucas spent his time doing the following things:

 Climbing
 Running 
(Hannah was pretending to be an injured pirate by the way)
And watching

Tomorrow we plan to spend more time outside before a cold front moves in mid-week bringing us back to the reality of January.  Perhaps we'll make it through winter without a major ice storm this year?  Knock on wood? 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Putting Up And A Taking Down

Today as I (finally) took down the ornaments from our Christmas tree, I was reminded of this passage from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 (if you know The Byrds version, sing along!).

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Now how in the world did a pile of Christmas ornaments remind me of this passage, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  As I looked at this pile of colorful ornaments, I had the thought,  Didn't I just do this? Didn't I just put these away? A whole year has gone by? Really?!  And it hit me just how much of our years follow a certain rhythm.  You could say..."There is a time to put up Christmas decorations and a time to take them down.  Followed by a time for a groundhog to see his shadow and a time for him to proclaim spring is coming early.  A time to enjoy spring break and a time to return back to school.  A time for swimming in the summer sun and a time for for wearing jackets.  A time for a Thanksgiving meal and a time to regret eating so much.  Then it's time for the Christmas decorations again!"  

I like that our years have a certain predictability to them.  There is comfort in the familiar and traditional things of our lives.  But then I also love that each year throws in enough surprises and curve balls to keep us on our toes.  I don't know how looking at a pile of ornaments inspired such deep thoughts today, but for some reason it did.  I'm excited for both the comfortable rhythms and the surprises God has in store for our family this year!


.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Flowers, Just Because

When Mike and I met back in the fall of 1996, one of the first things I noticed and immediately loved about him was his thoughtful nature.  He is one of those guys that makes homemade cards and puts a lot of effort and creativity into gifts that he gives.  I remember the first flowers her ever gave me.  At the time I was a sophomore in college and living in a small basement room in one of the girls' dorms.  Mike was a junior, also living on campus in the one men's dorm.  He called me in my room one night to say he was in the lobby of my dorm.  I headed upstairs excited to see him.  And there he was holding a simple arrangement of red and yellow carnations in a vintage 7up bottle.  We were poor college students, so carnations fit the budget, but they were bright and cheerful, and would instantly brighten up my dorm room.  Mike also knew that I had a small collection of old soda bottles (they were something I always looked at when we went to antique stores).  He picked it out knowing that I would appreciate this "vase" more than a traditional vase. I loved it.  I remember I went down to my dorm room later and had my roommate take a picture of me holding my first flowers.

Tonight as Mike came in the door from a long day of work, he had in his hands three bouquets of flowers.  One for Hannah.  One for Leah.  And one for me. He said they were "just because".  Today isn't our anniversary or a birthday or any special reason to celebrate.  It's just an average Wednesday.  But somehow he always manages to take something ordinary and turn it into something special.
My flowers
Hannah and Leah's bright bouquets together in one vase

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Need To Be Held

This is a picture of Hannah when we stopped for lunch in New York City almost two weeks ago.  I posted it the day I took it, but I'm posting it again because I love it.  I love the sweet, yet somewhat grown-up expression on her face.  I love the way the light falls across her face, and I love the city in the background.  I imagine her as a young college student stopping by for a quick by to eat with some of her friends. I have so many hopes and dreams for my little girl. She is thoughtful, careful and precise.  She loves to draw, write, read and create.  In a crowd, she is quiet and reserved, but she smiles easily and loves to join in on a game or competition.  In some ways, she is wise beyond her years, and I forget that she is only seven.

But then there are days like yesterday.  Let's just say that her attitude was less than stellar.  She was whining, bossy with her sister, and emotionally breaking down at every little turn in our day.  It was clear by late afternoon that she needed some time alone in her room to calm down.  She tearfully stormed off and flopped down on her bed sobbing.  I gave her a good ten minutes by herself, then took a deep breath and went in to have a little heart to heart with my fragile girl.  By then she was ready to listen, and we ended up having a good conversation.  She apologized for her attitude and I said I forgave her and kissed her little forehead.  Then she hit me with this...."Mom, can you just hold me for awhile?  Sometimes kids just need their moms to hold them."  

Be still my heart.  Yes, sweetheart, I will hold you.  I will always hold you.

And so she crawled in my lap, wrapped her arms around me and put her head on my chest.  And there we sat.  The late afternoon sun was shining through the blinds in the window; the only sound was the tick of the clock on the wall of her room.  I could feel her breathing.  After a few minutes, she was ready to move on, and our evening went along smoothly.  Sometimes we just need our moms to hold us.

I sure love that little girl.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I'm Saying The Word "Resolution"

I know, I know....the word "resolutions" is controversial at this time of year.  Do we call them  resolutions?  Goals?  Aspirations?  Dreams?  Whatever you want to call them, I think they are important.  It's important to have something to work toward, to strive to attain.  I always go into making this list with a lot of grace.  I will probably not meet all of these resolutions/goals.  And I'm okay with that.  In general, I don't beat myself up for things.  And looking over last year's resolution post, I am happy to say that I achieved quite a few of them (yay!), while others completely by the wayside.  No biggie.  Let's keep on keeping on this year and see where that leads. Sounds good to me!

So, in no particular order, here are twelve of my resolutions for 2012:

1. Continue to maintain a consistent time in God's Word
2. Get in bed earlier
3. Read more
4. Continue to work on cookbook/writing project
5. Not worry about what other people think about me
6. Have monthly date nights with Mike
7. Add variety to date nights-- i.e. go to plays, try new restaurants, check out a museum, see a concert etc.
8. Continue to exercise twice weekly (three would be a bonus!)
9. Write hand written notes to others (stealing this one from Jacquelyn because I love it!)
10. Incorporate healthier meals into our weekly meal plan
11. Begin reading the Little House on the Prairie book series with Hannah and Leah
12. Meet monthly for lunch with my mentor

In addition, I am happy to say that I plan to continue to blog daily this year, with one exception.  Sunday.  I plan on taking Sundays off for this year to really try to take one thing (however small) off my plate that day.  Also, Mike is working on a new blog header for me, so look for that soon.  I've been using the good old free templates from Blogger for almost four years now.  It's time for a more updated look, I do believe.  Looking forward to that!

More importantly, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU as I begin a new year.  Last year was so full of ups and downs for me.  It truly was the most difficult year of my life thus far.  So thank you to all my readers who faithfully encouraged and prayed for me last year. I am incredibly humbled and grateful for each of you.  It has been very therapeutic to write, and I appreciate you coming with me on my journey.  Love to you all!

OK, 2012....bring it on!!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

"Be always at war with your vices, 
at peace with your neighbors,
and let each New Year find you a better person."
-- Benjamin Franklin

Cheers to a wonderful 2012!