Tuesday, November 29, 2016

December- a month for giving



It's a dilemma I face every year...

How to make the holidays a special time for the family without fostering a consumerist and selfish attitude.

I have been shocked and appalled at how quickly my children  become engrossed with their own Christmas wish list.

My mom has reminded me that this is natural for children and I shouldn't become overly concerned immediately. It's not fair to give them presents and expect them  not to be dancing with excitement as they anticipate what lies hidden under the pretty paper.

I also remind myself that children really are just miniature adults who live uninhibited.  That thought makes my neck and ears burn crimson. What are my children internalizing from me??

In the same breath, it's been a joy to see them labor long in thought over creating or buying just the right present another family member.

This year we are actually forgoing our usual family gift exchange since we're trying to save money for a big family trip that is planned for the spring.

It has been a surprising relief for me to not have to do any Christmas shopping this year. I thought I would miss it more than what I have so far since I love both shopping and gift giving.

A few things that I'm thinking about as December quickly approaches:

1. My ease of life is not the main goal here. Since I am not spending time shopping with the kids I       should be replacing that time with something else of equal or greater importance.

2. I yearn for my family to learn that it is MUCH more blessed to give than to receive.

When I saw  the idea of a month of random acts of kindness for  December,  I knew it was something that I wanted to try with our family this year.

There are a multitude of online printables and ideas. Just search 'random acts of kindness' and you'll get hit with an overload of splendid ideas.

I created my own list just because I had a calendar laying around and because I really wanted to customize it for our family. I gleaned some of my ideas from online sources.

You probably can't read the words on the photo above very well. Here are a few of  the acts of kindness I included on our calendar:

-serve a hot drink to a family member

-make someone laugh

-write a Christmas letter to a far away relative

-offer to do a chore for your sibling

-make a treat for the mail man

-make a card/treat for the bus driver

-bake soft pretzels to give to the neighbors

-go caroling

-compliment someone

-wish someone (besides a family member) a Merry Christmas

-shovel a neighbor's side walk

-let someone go ahead of you in line

-put together a surprise package to put in a vehicle at church

-help mom address Christmas letters

-collect loose change around the house to donate to the Salvation Army kettle

-invite a lonely friend over for dinner

-make a Christmas card for your teacher


I anticipate doing these random acts of kindness with my family in the coming days. I hope to bring my children on board.  I desire to grow in kindness along with my family.  No act of kindness is too small for big things to happen.

In this season when there is much selfish spending of time and money, let us be people who stand up and extend good will and joy to the world around us.

I'll end with the following quote from Ann Voskamp.

The only way to live a remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you,
but to leave noticeable marks of love everywhere you go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We should've named her Maria

I knew this child had PERSONALITY  before I ever met her. Our first days together only confirmed  the fact that she had STRONG OPINIONS  concerning important and not so important matters.

I thought about it from the start that her charming little nickname rhymed with sassy. I hoped that she would be so gentle and mild that no one would even think of using her name and that rhyming word in the same sentence.

That was a cute thought.












Her PERSONALITY and STYLE have only become more peculiar with each passing day.
Recently we have been having clothing disagreements. She is just 3 years old.

Life without Cassie would be incredibly boring.

I truly adore the spice that she brings to our family.








It seems to me that Maria and Cassie would be soulmates.

When I'm with her I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
She's as flighty as a feather
She's a darling! She's a demon! She's a lamb!
She'd outpester any pest
Drive a hornet from its nest
She could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
She is gentle! She is wild!
She's a riddle! She's a child!
She's a headache! She's an angel!
She's a girl!

How do you solve a problem like Maria  Cassie?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria Cassie?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria Cassie?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?






I sense the roller coaster ride is just beginning with this girl.

I'm fastening my seat belt.




Thursday, November 10, 2016

when baby #6 turns one

     
Things change a lot from baby #1 to baby #6.

I think wistfully at times of parenting my first baby.

Most days though I really like the comfortableness of getting to be mom for the 6th time.

What I really wish for is the opportunity to go back and raise baby#1 again with the experience that I've gained in the last 12+ years but without the demands of an 8 person household. Yeah. I'm an idealist.

I think Jesus was so kind in the way he planned this whole parenting game.

It can be truly overwhelming when suddenly you wake up and find yourself 100% responsible for a very tiny human being who is 100% dependent on you for everything. In the middle of all the changes and challenges that come with baby #1 you wonder how in the world you could possibly care for more than one child. I think it is merciful of Jesus to allow us to make the hard adjustments to parenthood with just one little person on whom we get to focus all our time, energy and affection.

By the time baby #6 comes along things like sleep deprivation and being responsible 24/7 for small dependent humans are part of life. New challenges come, like getting kids off to school even after a sleepless night with the baby and learning how to juggle the needs of children in 6 different developmental/emotional stages. I think it very kind of Jesus to allow us to become familiar and at least semi comfortable with our role as a parent before giving us a house full.

I find both stages- the new parenting and the experienced parenting- to be full of changes and challenges that are both demanding and thrilling.

How did I get off the subject of my baby's birthday??

Wait! Was I ever even on the subject of my baby's birthday?

Well. Yes. We celebrated our Sweet Elliana's birthday last week.

And yes, the way we celebrated Elliana's birthday was different than how we celebrated Angeline's birthday 12 years ago.

Both celebrations were merry and festive.

But for now I want to talk about celebrating my 6th baby.







       

In the early hours of the morning I gave her some extra snuggles as I remember the details of her coming to us one year ago.

I stroked her silky hair and marveled at the way she has grown and developed physically in the last 12 months.  I thought about the way her personality has been emerging in little bits and pieces over the last 12 months.

 Even though I absolutely ADORE infants I decided that I certainly prefer the curly- haired-sweet-snuggly-gentle-mild-mannered-charming-toothy- Little Elliana over the precious-quiet-little-bundle that was put into my arms early on the morning of November 4.




































The magic of a growing and developing child has not lost its wonder. In fact, I am even more enamored with the wonder of this child and less focused on her developmental milestones. It's probably just me getting older, but every few days I am convinced that I  want to freeze my little girl and keep her my toddling 12 month old whose favorite word is 'mamaaaa'.

Since the siblings were CERTAIN that she could not wait to have her birthday present in the evening we gave it to her quickly before kids headed off to school and dad to work.

Her birthday was mentioned often and lovingly throughout the day by her siblings. Elliana was more than delighted with the extra attention which helped to distract her from her snotty nose and teething woes.

Later in the day, when the house was quieter I sat her down with her present and shot some photos. I love the way these pictures capture some of the little details about Elliana. Her pudgy toes. Her curly hair. Her ability to manipulate small things. The way she sits quietly and concentrates on a task. Her goofy silliness. Her toothy little grin. Her smooth, fair skin. Those brown eyes.







For the first time ever I made a tiny little smash cake just for the birthday girl. She loved it.




 For the first time ever I felt like this birthday cake was really designed for a one year old. The frosting was cream cheese whipped with cool whip. She loved it and I didn't have to cringe about the amount she consumed since it wasn't loaded with sugar. Truth be told, we all RAVED over the cake and the frosting and the fruit. I think the cake will likely be repeated in the future. Angeline created the number one and her name with melted chocolate.

                                             




The other truth is that I took these pictures a few hours before her birthday party. I truly let her poke her finger into the frosting and have some bites. Because. Well. She was just so cute and I really didn't care. That's just one of the awesome parts about being Baby #6.

We gathered around her after dinner and had fun lighting the candles and singing to her. I felt like we all got to enjoy Elliana MORE by not having a big party for her. Lord willing, we will have many more years with Elliana  in which we can celebrate with bigger parties. Party guests are fun, but it's hard to really dote on a one year old and be a good hostess and take pictures all at the same time. 

I have come to understand  that children grow up quickly and have serious expectations about birthday cakes and birthday guests. For this reason, I decided to keep Elliana's first birthday low pressure and fun for all of us. Besides, we really do have a nice sized party with just our immediate family these days.

Here is some raw footage from the real deal:





And this was how we celebrated the first birthday of our 6th sweet baby.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

reflections on my free time

I don't have too much to say for myself these days.

I thought with the coming of autumn and the sending of 4 children back into the classroom I would suddenly find myself swimming in free time.

Free time in which I would update the kid's photo albums and burrow through the box of mending and knit slippers for my children and reflect on the past 5 years of my life and make projections for the next 5 years and organize all the dresser drawers and desk drawers and the filing cabinet and start up a card business and sew a few dresses and write a weekly letter to my grandparents and visit my widow neighbor ladies and of course, stay caught up on my regular work around the house.

The truth of the matter is that I am still running an 8 person, 1 dog household.

And an 8 person, 1 dog household produces mountains of laundry and dirt and scrap paper and dirty dishes and hearty appetites.

The last little line about staying caught up with my regular work around the house ends up being an all consuming task in itself.

 I am just one woman with just two hands and two feet and too little brain to come up with any great  efficient, time saving propositions.

I have two little girls with me 24/7 who value things like group hugs and stories and walks and swing rides over getting the housework done.



I have been enjoying the opportunity to spend more time doing things with these little girls that makes their eyes twinkle. It's relaxing for me to be able to indulge some of my 3 year old daughter's requests without having to process the competing requests of the 6 and 8 and 10 year old brothers and 12 year old sister.








I have also been soaking up some interaction with ladies from church and my neighborhood which was completely unknown during the summer months.

I have had the freedom to say 'yes' to a few extra curricular assignments/projects. In hindsight,  I would've been better off saying 'no' to a few of them. However, it is a luxury to have the margin to even consider taking on an additional tasks. It makes me very happy to be able to be a 'yes' person.

So while I haven't even really started on my list of things that I hoped to accomplish in my free time this fall, I do recognize that I have been fulfilling some of the deeper longings of my heart in the last 2-3 months.*

I get to make decisions every moment of every day about where I will invest my time, energy and resources.  I pray daily that Jesus would direct me in these decisions.

I look back over the last few months and I am grateful as I sense His presence leading me to the places and the people and the tasks  in which my soul was truly fed and refreshed and stretched.

And that forever long chore list???

It will be around here as long as I don't accidentally throw it out with all the other scrap paper.

I can keep chipping away at over the next year or two.

It's not growing wings.

Not like these fast moving people anyway!!!





*It's helpful for me to process this especially when I'm feeling discouraged about what all I am NOT getting done.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

celebrations

Life is pretty much one great big party for our family from the beginning of August to mid September.

Every year.

We begin with Cassie's birthday.

She was super opinionated about her cake this year. We finally agreed on this castle cake.  Although, if you know Cassie in real life you would know that she does NOT fit the princess mold.

Oh well. Whatever.

We flow with it.





































Cassie had  two of her best friends over to celebrate with her. Unfortunately I cannot post any photos of their cuteness because of legal stipulations.
















 Cassie enjoyed helping throw the confetti on her cake. I was beyond excited to hand the icing bag over to Miss Capable.



Mid month we celebrated our 13th anniversary. We shared a quiet dinner together, which is a rare treat at this stage of our lives. We know by now that it is not wise to try any sort of get a way with a baby in the house. That will have to wait for another year.




End of August is my birthday. Some years my birthday is but a small blip that passes by nearly unnoticed. Other years it's a bigger deal. This year was a big deal year as we celebrated with my twin brother and his family.  My husband and SIL are super at pulling together fun birthday surprises for us.  We spent the weekend together doing fun things like boating, swimming, fishing, eating and talking.

























School year 2016-17 kicked off the same weekend as my birthday. 

The excitement was high in our house. Not only were the oldest 3 excited about getting back to school, but this year we sent off a brand new Scholar.





Faith Builders Christian School never fails to pull off an astounding back to school celebration. The spirit of the day made me want to be a school kid again!






Before I could turn around and touch the ground it was time to flip the calendar page to September and that means it is time to celebrate Christopher's birthday.
















 6 years old is a pretty special age.

Christopher was really anticipating his birthday this year since 6 years old is a party year at this house. He invited 5 of his buddies over for the evening and night. Wow.  For some strange reason we were all tired the next day.
















The only criteria Christopher had when choosing his cake was that it included a heap of candy.  He was beyond thrilled with his treasure chest cake even though he has no special interest in treasure chests. :)  I was happy to send the birthday guests home with brown paper bags of candy.

















I thought the coolest part of his cake was the lid of the treasure chest, which really was just  a piece of cardboard covered in dark brown paper to match the chocolate icing on the rest of the cake.  But the coolest-est part was his name written in cursive with licorice. Thank you, hot glue gun. You're still my hero.



Christopher with his much hoped for fishing rod.


Last, but not least by any measure, Angeline celebrated her 12th birthday on September 17.


I absolutely LOVE that she is now thrilled with a beautiful dessert rather than a sticky, icky decorated cake. 


Angeline invited her BFF over for a sleep over.  

I can't say how much I love celebrating with my 12 year old daughter. I mean, really. I was having the time of my life hanging out with these girls.

We went to Campbell's pottery to watch a glass bead demo and browse the pottery store/gift shop. Basking in all that beauty was refreshment for my soul.

After dinner we headed downtown and did a quick photo shoot, mind you, in the rain.


I couldn't get over how much these two girls are miniature ladies. 


Now I realize why I am breathing a sigh of relief today.

That was just a lot of partying for this 35 year old mama.

There was also a lot of this happening between the parties:




Autumn, I couldn't be happier to welcome you.