Monday, 12/15/14

Christmas Tree shopping 2014

We got a tree this past weekend – yay!  This by far has been one of my favorite years for shopping and decorating the tree. But first we went to Natalie’s choir concert on Friday night at school. I couldn’t help but snap a picture of Piper playing with the kids while they waited for the show to start (the performers have to be there early so everyone just stays. If you don’t, then you don’t get a parking space or a seat).

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Natalie’s up on the top riser on the left hand side… you have about as good a view as we had. This was my seat and I arrived at 6:29. No lie. The performance started at 7.

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All wasn’t lost though. I actually could see her a little better than this picture makes out and she saw us and waved. The choir sounded great!

Saturday the kids and I ran some errands and decided to stop and grab a tree on the way home. We supported a local nursery.

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Since Henry was home not feeling well, we were on the lookout for a tree the kids and I could carry on our own.

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I drank in the moments of them running down the aisles looking for that perfect tree.

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My constant sidekick…

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They found the one they loved. We loaded it up (well, really the guys on the lot loaded it up) and took it home.

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The kids got to decorating right away while I fixed a quick supper.

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They really made it a team effort.

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They debated where each ornament should go…

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One of his favorites.

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We had Christmas music going on the tv…. Natalie decided to get her groove on.

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You can see we had a really relaxed and fun time….

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Just right.

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Being a silly 5 year-old boy.

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Oh my lands – - can you see our wreck of a family room/kitchen behind the kids? Seriously. We had decorations coming out our ears and then some…

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Luckily, the kids got everything where it was supposed to be so we could settle in and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. This is the first year the kids really took to the story… Sweet P was in bed already by the time we started, but even Ryan tried to follow along. Really, just a sweet time as a family. I’m enjoying this stage of the kids growing up. Hopefully we have a few good years before Natalie thinks she’s too cool for us.

Thursday, 12/11/14

Happy First Birthday, Piper

Our baby turned 1 last week.

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She’s trying all sorts of new foods and is especially fond of chili and spaghetti. She’s my pickiest eater to date and seems to get bored with the same tastes quickly. She still won’t take anything other than water in a bottle, but now that she’s one I started giving her some yogurt this week. If I could get her to eat yogurt every day and not get bored with it, I’d be one happy mama.

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She still loves the bath and her little bath time dog.

At Thanksgiving I was lementing how she’s still waking up so many times in the night and my sisters with kids were encouraging me to try sleep training her again. I’ve tried SO many times and she’s proven to be my most persistent child yet. (read: crying on and off for hours) The week we got back I was resolved to try again. She and I both need a full night’s sleep to stay healthy. The first night she cried on and off for 2 hours before falling asleep and then cried on and off in the night. I’d go in to soothe her but not allow her to nurse.

The second night she cried for about an hour in the middle of the night.

The third night she cried out at 4 am and then went back to sleep without crying.

And then we slept. And slept. And mostly slept.

She’s been mostly sleeping through the night the last week and a half and I’m so grateful. Just goes to show what I’ve known since Ainsley was born. Each kid is different and as parents we need to make adjustments when necessary.

Despite the sleeping she’s been a tad cranky this month. I think it’s a combination of teething and colds. And who can forget Monday’s stomach issues.

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But she’s so cuddly it’s hard to be mad at her for long.

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She’s getting better on her legs. In fact, on Dec. 4 – her one year birthday – she managed to climb an entire flight of stairs. Scared the livin’ daylights out of me when I found her. We now block the stairway on a permanent basis. Even though she’s very good at going up, she has no clue how to come down and I’d rather not have add falling baby to my list of experiences. She’s very sad about this as she LOVES scaling stairs.  Here she is playing with a train table while her sisters were Christmas shopping the other day.

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She’s understanding more English and experimenting with language. She’s saying “hi”, ”mm-ma” when she wants my attention, “eh” for just about everything else” and “mm, mm” for more. She still only uses one sign for absolutely everything relating to the eating process and waving hi and bye. Oh yeah, she also signs “all done.”

At Thanksgiving lunch I put food on her tray and said “hot.” She proceeded to blow on it. I had no idea she understood that phrase… I was shocked and proud all in the same moment.

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She’s working on her fine motor skills. In addition to the getting into every cabinet known to man, she’s now taking things out of a box and putting them back in. Her favorite activity has been taking the feminine products out of their boxes and lining them back up inside the box. She’s been known to do this activity for the entire time it takes me to shower. (It’s actually kindof handy and cleaner than playing in the toilet.) She just spent most of the time it took me to write this post sitting in her high chair with a bowl of mini marshmallows and a spoon…. putting them in and taking them out again.

She’s taken a fancy to dropping things over the side of her high chair tray as well. This is not a fun game for me, but makes snack time rather easy. (said marshmallows are now on the floor)

I saved the best for last – - – she started fully walking on Dec. 5 – one day after turning 1.

Happy Birthday, Piper Diaper! We love you.

Tuesday, 12/9/14

In case you thought we got lost…

I’ll give you three chances to guess whose computer was with Apple Care for almost 2 weeks being fixed.

If you guessed me, you’re right.

I was busy in those weeks baking cookies and icing them for the cookie walk at school.

And celebrating Thanksgiving with family.

And shopping with my sister for a baby doll for my niece. I’d like to know how this one got through the brainstorming sessions.

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I mean, really. Isn’t that the saddest things you’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure they took “big eyes” and “dimpled chin to an extreme that wasn’t necessary. What child in their right mind would want to cuddle with this thing?

And this one?

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Pretty sure someone said, let’s take a sweet baby face with all-knowing eyes and stick it on the body of a sumo wrestler and call it a day. When you’re baby doll needs a manzere you know you’ve got a problem. Just sayin’.

This week’s shaping up to be just as exciting as the last two…. a vomit-covered carseat AND poop in the tub – all in one day. How lucky can one mom get?

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How in the world one pukes in one’s sleep and continues in such peace, I’ll never know.

 

Wednesday, 11/26/14

A tale of Thanksgiving

Nothing is so inconsistent with the life of any Christian as overindulgence. (The Rule of Benedict)

We need to realize that poverty is not just a problem, it is our problem. (Chris Seay, A Place at the Table)

The other day my son received a gift from a guest. After saying “thank you” he added, “did you bring me anything else?”

I was embarrassed at his lack of gratefulness and quickly admonished him quietly.

As I recently thought over this exchange and my frustration that my children often complain about what they have – it’s not the right color, it’s not the right brand, it’s not the right toy…. I was convicted how my heart is the same.

610,042 people are homeless in America.

One sixth of Americans – millions of them working families - don’t know where their next meal will come from. 47 million people rely on food stamps.

50 million people in America live below the poverty line.

Yet here I sit in a warm house, with a nice car, nice clothes, and plenty of food. I hear myself complain – my MASTER bathroom isn’t my preferred color, I have to lift the trunk on my car by hand, my computer is slowing down and my phone camera is fuzzy. Aw, poor me. Poor selfish little ol’ me.

I saw myself this morning as the child who has been given blessing upon blessing yet I ungratefully ask God, “Did you bring me anything else?”

This morning I am resolved to give more prayers of Thanksgiving to the One who truly has blessed me to the point of my cup overflowing. This is one way to combat being Mrs. Ungrateful Pants. The other way is to look around. To open our eyes to the fact that there are many who don’t have enough. Not just a lot, but enough, and then do something about it.

 Today I’m thankful that I don’t worry where my family’s next meal will come from, that I have a warm roof over my head while the snow pours down outside. That all my kids own fluffy coats, scarves, and mittens (even if they don’t match!). That I’m doing laundry in the room right off my kitchen and not lugging it to a laundrymat.

What are you thankful for? You can join me in the comments.

Thursday, 11/20/14

Love always fails

Does your heart, like mine, long to be loved?

Sometime last spring I started seeing the theme of “LOVE” pop up in decorating stores on pillows and wall art. Phrases like “all we need is love” or “love never fails.”

When I think of this in terms of romantic love between husband and wife it makes me cringe. Odd response, I know. But you see, I don’t think love is all we need, not our human love for each other anyway. Human love will inevitably fail us.

I think of the times Henry and I have disappointed one another over the last 20 years. Like any normal relationship there have been times where we really hit this love thing out of the park and other times where we’ve fouled out. When I see these phrases I see the lie we feed ourselves that all we need for happiness is another person and the feeling they give us.

The only way for me not to cringe when I see these sayings is to take them back to the original source. “Love never fails” originated from the pen of Paul in his letter to the believers in Corinth (recorded in the Bible). John tells us that “God is Love.” It’s when I put this phrase in its proper meaning that I know that the love that Christ has for us never, ever fails.

That gives me hope.

I Corinthians 13: 8, 1 John 4:8

Wednesday, 11/19/14

What the American Girl doll store taught my daughters

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1.  It’s still fun to be a little girl

In this age where the world tries to oversexualize and mature our girls at a rate faster than this mommy likes, I loved seeing my girls having a TON of fun just being a little girl with their dolls. They weren’t made to feel like a baby for still wanting to play with dolls and not with iPhones. It’s not quite like Disney World in the department of magic and make believe, but it’s pretty darn close.

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They were so excited to eat with their dolls and even gave them little bits of the food from their lunches for their plates.

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2. Prioritizing is a skill 

We’ve been talking about visiting the American Girl doll store for quite some time. I told the girls I’d pay for lunch and they’d have to pay for any other purchases. When Natalie asked if she could get her doll’s hair done in addition to her purchases, I told her I’d be happy to bring her back if she saved up more money. Some people might find this mean. I find it teaches many life skills like being able to delay gratification, set goals, prioritize purchases, value money,  and the art of gratefulness.

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The girls had to really think about what they wanted to buy within their budget. They walked through the store a good three or four times. They went back and forth over if they wanted to combine their money to purchase a larger accessory set or not. They made a list of items they were interested in. From those lists, they paired it down until they chose what they really wanted. After realizing they were prioritizing different interests, they decided to keep their money separate. Each had remaining money which they quickly used on small items (glasses and nail “polish” stickers). We’ll work on the life lesson of walking away from a shopping trip with money still in your pocket next time!

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3. It’s difficult to see others get more than you, and that’s ok.

Ainsley had a particularly hard time watching family after family check out with their arms laden down with purchases. Many of the shoppers were there for their birthdays and I overheard some people who were shopping for groups of friends or for Christmas. It’s hard walking to the register with two little boxes when you feel like everyone else is buying one of everything in the store. You start to feel like you’re missing out.

What a great lesson for our kids to learn early – - keeping up with Joneses can’t be our focus. It steals the joy of our day and our hard work. I’m proud to say that Ainsley did NOT throw a fit or have a melt down, and not too proud to say she’s a normal kid when it comes to envy. There were a few tears of frustration when she couldn’t afford her top 3 choices, but it only lasted a few quiet minutes. We talked about how when you have so many great options before you, it’s hard to be grateful for the things you are able to have (or already have!). How comparing our lives to others only makes us miss out on the great stuff we have going on.

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4. It feels good to earn what you get

The girls saved up for this trip over the last few months. They took mommy’s helper jobs and odd jobs with the neighbors to grow their cash piles. It was difficult for them to limit their purchases to the size of their paycheck, but I know in the end, they were proud of themselves. Every time they play with these items, they will get a surge of confidence knowing they worked hard and it paid off.

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 5. Life is as much about the journey as the destination 

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Because the AG store is 3 hours away, we spent a lot time coming and going in addition to the time we spent eating and shopping. I had so much fun listening to the girls play with their dolls on the drive to Columbus. They made head bands and rings for their dolls with their rainbow looms, they made up stories and complex schemes about their pretend world. They leaned over the seat and made their baby sister giggle with delight.

On the way home they talked about all they had seen and done in the last few hours. We talked about maybe coming back if we had the chance and how fun it would be. They made plans about how they could work hard to be able to make more purchases.

Sometimes we get so focused on where we want to be that we forget to enjoy the time it takes to get there. I’m hoping my girls learned, if we let it, the fun can start long before we reach the destination.

Tuesday, 11/18/14

More words for the soul.

Ever wonder what God’s will is?

These words written by Amanda Williams pierced my heart yesterday.

“Sisters, our circumstances are big, but our God is bigger. As we learn to trust the bigness of our God and the sureness of His sovereignty, we find His will is not as much a path as it is a way of walking. Paul says as much in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, when He reduces all our agonizing life questions to a non-formula so simple it makes the perfectionists among us a little crazy:

Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
THIS is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

No hoops to jump through.
No tests to pass.
No situational tidiness required.
Only actively resting in the goodness of our God.

Why an active resting? Because rejoicing is not a passive pursuit. Thanksgiving is not just an emotion. We are to declare God’s goodness in every circumstance! We are to let the world know what He has done and what He is doing! We are to pray to Him, seek Him, give Him thanks with an expectant, joyful heart. This is God’s will for us in Jesus! Exclamation point!”

Check out the entire study here.

My favorite line: His will is not as much a path as it is a way of walking.

Anyone else reading with me?

Monday, 11/17/14

Never a dull moment…

Pun intended.

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This angle makes it look like the foreign body was in her toes. It was not.

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It was actually behind her toes in the ball of her foot.

The foreign body was a piece of sewing needle that broke in pieces. She stepped on it Tuesday evening. We found the top half of the needle and weren’t sure if it started as a whole needle before she stepped on it.

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She swore the other half was in her foot, that she could FEEL it…. Being the awesome mom and dad we are, we tried to convince her that it probably was just very painful that she stepped on a needle at all and to wait a day before getting an x-ray. #parentingfail

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And yes, we made her hobble to school. We were at the ER Wednesday night where we found out they wouldn’t do a surgery since it wasn’t emergent. SURGERY! The needle was so deep, it required an actual surgery to remove it.

The Giant took her back early Thursday morning to be “fit in,” which ended up being mid-morning. I picked her up and kissed him goodbye (to go to work) by lunchtime. Isn’t she the sweetest?

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I’ll tell you what. These kids keep us on our toes.

Thursday, 11/13/14

Who knew…

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Photo Flickr Creative Commons Arwen Abenstern – KWP

As a mother of four, it’s clear to me people are wired to feel. It’s not something we teach our children. It’s just there. I’ve never purposefully set out to teach my children fear, joy, sadness or anger, yet I’ve seen them display all of them quite convincingly. Children are truly expert when it comes to showing emotion.

My quandary comes when trying to figure out what to do with those emotions. I don’t remember my parents exactly teaching me much about feelings, but I know I struggle with showing mine – - with being transparent with those around me when I’m really hurting. I don’t mean acquaintances and loose friends. I mean allowing those people who know me best to see my innermost craziness – you know, my parents, my siblings, my husband. The people you are apparently supposed to want to connect with when you’re spiraling.

Maybe it was the “suck-it-up” attitude of my childhood… who knows. I’m not casting blame. Children should be taught to suck-it-up a little bit. You can’t have a 10 on the Richter scale without a 1.

But sometimes we do feel like the sky is falling and people are telling me I’m supposed to tell someone my sky is falling instead of creating a bomb shelter in my bed or my head, and sitting there alone for awhile until the sky looks whole again. Even writing this I’m not sure I believe it. I just don’t know what it looks like to be this person, but I’m trying.

But, lest you think there hasn’t been any progress, I tell you there has been. Lots of progress. And just so you don’t get discouraged and think I’m a lost cause, I’ll share one of my biggest  ah-ha’s of the last few months: I’m not responsible to remove all self-doubt or emotional disappointment from my children’s lives.

Boundaries with Kids taught me I’m supposed to let them learn to handle their own self-doubt and disappointments. Whut?

Some of you are shaking your heads in wonder that I was naive enough to think it was my job as a mom to handle my kids’ disappointments for them. That it was my job to convince them of how wonderful they are or how proud they should be of themselves.

Others of you are dropping your jaw right now because you too just had an ah-ha moment.

And some of you just don’t get it. That’s okay. This message is for parents in group two.

Listen, moms, the idea here isn’t to shield our kids from negative emotions – or talk them out of them. It’s to sit in their discomfort with them. To allow them to feel disappointment in themselves or their behavior or the behavior of others, or the outcome of a pursuit. The point is really just to let them feel it and validate that their feelings are normal. To hug them and kiss them and make them cookies and milk, or hummus and veggies if you’re that mom.

Just changing this aspect of my mothering has lessened the “drama” in our household. Our cat died unexpectedly last week. She was nearing her 17th year. This is a major crisis for our oldest, who was the cat’s Chosen One. I really think a year ago this would have been debilitating for Natalie. Granted she has matured a lot in the last 12 months, but I’m also handling emotions differently, much differently, than I have before. Last year’s conversation would have been:

Natalie: “Mom, I really miss Taurus. I don’t want her to be dead. I’ve never had a day apart from her and I don’t think I can sleep without her.”

Me: “It’s going to be okay. I miss her too, but we’ve been on vacation without her and you were able to sleep. I think you’ll be able to sleep without her now.”

Natalie, wailing: “NOooooooooo, I can’t sleep without her. I’ll never sleep again. Can I sleep with you tonight, mom? I’ll never fall asleep without my best friend and big sister (yes, she called her, her big sister).”

Me: “Natalie, you’re letting your emotions control you right now. Let’s think of all the nice things about Taurus.”

Here’s what I do now…

Natalie: “Mom, I really miss Taurus. I don’t want her to be dead. I’ve never had a day apart from her and I don’t think I can sleep without her.”

Me: “I know what you mean. I miss her too and don’t want her to be dead. I wish I could bring her back. Wouldn’t that be nice?” (all said while pulling her into a mama-bear hug)

Natalie: “Yeah. Let’s bring her back. She was my BFF, mom. I told her everything. I was her Chosen One.”

Me: “She really did love you, didn’t she? And you loved her too. I loved her a lot too and am really going to miss her.”

Seriously, ladies. We have not taken any trips to the pit of despair over the cat (granted it’s only been a few days, there’s still time) There’s been crying. Little fits of it here and there and each time I’ve let her cry, hugged her, and told her how much it sucks to lose a pet that’s been part of the family for over 16 years.

There was only one time where she was lying on the floor wailing (which seemed to be a little forced) where I told her she’d have to go grieve in her room so her siblings could hear the television. Then I left the room. That was it. She stopped the wailing and kindof just went back to sitting with her sibs.

Another quick example and then I’ll let you go…

Natalie: “I don’t have a partner for the science project. No one wants to work with me.”

Me: “Man, that stinks. How does that make you feel?”

Natalie: “Icky. Everyone else has a partner.”

Me: “Yeah. I can see how that would make you feel icky, maybe even a little left out.”

Natalie: “Yeah. But Katie said I could work with her and Sophia if my teacher said it was okay.”

Me: “Oh wow! That was nice of Katie. It must’ve made you feel good for her to include you.”

Natalie: “Yeah. Her and Sophia are BFFs but she’s nice to me too.”

Um…. yeah. So I never used to get to this level with Natalie because after her intro I would’ve been trying to teach her how to be a good friend and buck up to the system of getting partners and actually try to solve the problem for her (darn me being so task oriented!)  The new me validates how she feels and asks leading questions letting her solve it. I’m happy to say it’s working out quite well.

The part that’s so crazy is by allowing myself NOT to take on the disappointments of my kids and letting them have it, has not only freed them, but has freed me! A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. HUGE. And it seems my kids are better at handling the disappointments. I’ll tell you what. Those professionals sure know what they’re talking about.

Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I highly recommend it (it’s about way more than emotions…. that just happens to be one area that really hit me hard.)

Wednesday, 11/12/14

Our cat, Taurus

We had to put our cat, Taurus, down last week. She was 16 1/2 years old. We are all sad…. it was very unexpected. In fact, Henry and I joked on a regular basis that she would live forever due to the fact that she NEVER STRESSED HERSELF OUT OVER ANYTHING. Stressed us out, but never herself.

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This is not the only picture I have of her (I don’t think!) but it’s the only one I can find right now. And it’s appropriate because it makes her look kindof loud and psycho, and for those who knew her, she was crazy and neurotic.

My sister, Katie, liked to refer to her as Bertha. Those who’ve read Jane Eyre are chuckling right now. Those who haven’t are a little lost… It’s okay. No more 19th century lit references, I promise.

It’s so hard to give everyone a full picture of what our cat was like, but we felt we should eulogize her here for the many who met her over the years and loved/hated her. It’s okay, we loved/hated her too. She was one sick cat on multiple levels.

First of all, around a year old she started vomiting every day. I took her to the vet and switched her food…. it went to a 3 wks off, 1 wk on cycle of vomiting. During the week she was vomiting she would eat plastic bags, panty hose, photographs, the shower curtain… I just realized I’m so used to hiding these things that I forgot I was hiding them anymore.

There’s nothing that can get me out of bed faster than a cat gagging somewhere in the house in the middle of the night. Okay, I lie. I jump up even faster when the cat is gagging right next to my head ON my pillow. Which happened often because Taurus liked to sleep with us. As independent and snobby as she was with strangers, she loved being with us. In recent years she’d choose to fall asleep with Natalie and then wander into Henry and my bed when we came up a few hours later. In the summer she slept on my pillow next to my head. In the winter, she’d come under the covers and sleep curled up in the circle of space my legs created when I slept on my side. She really was very loving.

True story – she used to watch Henry and I loving on each other. It was weird and funny at the same time. We’d joke about it. And I plan to keep joking about it. Makes me laugh out loud as I type. Like I said, she was a sicko.

She was a tiny cat – often mistaken for a kitten. Probably due to her cyclical vomiting (or bulimia as one friend joked) she was just around 5 pounds. In her last few days she lost about a pound and looked so forlorn and sad. But she still curled up beside us the night before she died and slept under our covers.

She was a very, very vocal cat. I remember when she was young and we didn’t have any kids. I’d come home from work and she’d yell at me for about 15 minutes telling me that the cleaners had been to the house that day. Seriously. I know she was trying to tell me someone had been in the house while I was gone. She was that intense.

When we travelled – - especially if we were gone a week or more – - she yelled at us when we came home. She’d been known to yell at us for up to 2 hours. Not sure if she was letting us know someone was coming in to feed her, or she was mad she wasn’t able to come along. Either way, it was annoying. Especially when you’ve been traveling a long distance, get in around midnight, and have to wake up early the next day. She spent a few nights in the garage because of it.

The vet thinks there was a blockage in her intestine and because of her age didn’t think Taurus could survive a surgery, let alone a recovery. The kids were able to say good-bye at an ad-hoc funeral on our hill and of course, a tombstone has gone up as a memorial that they can visit. Natalie visited it every day for the first few days.

Overall though, Taurus was a sweet kitty and we miss her greatly.