Celebrating New Year’s Eve with children

Since I just found out my husband is working late on New Year’s Eve and I know at least one of my friends has a husband out of town so she’ll be alone with her kids…I was delighted to find a great article on a blog I love with some really fun ideas for making New Year’s Eve a kid-friendly time.  If you are in need of some inspiration for tomorrow nights festivities, hop on over here!

Though our kids are little I’m still going to give the “time capsule” a try and see what we come up with.  And the noise makers for sure, noise is always fun!

Looking back

In 2008 I felt like my life was such a wreck I set not a single goal that New Year’s.

I simply asked (begged) God for one thing.

Hope.

It seemed completely out of reach.  A lofty and unfathomable ideal at the time.

But it came.

It came in the form of healing and restoration in our marriage.

It (strangely) came in my husband being asked to move on from pastoring at the church I grew up in.

It came in the birth of a baby named Audrey who I absolutely believe God gave us to be a tangible reminder of what He could do.

By 2009 I felt able, at year’s end, to make a short list that I deemed aspirations and dreams for the new year.

I wrote out things I wanted to embrace:  Jesus, joy, grace and gratitude.

I also wrote out the things I wanted to let go:  Fretting about what people think of me, impatience with the ones I love most and eating junk.

As the year closes, I’ve done better at some than others but I feel a sense of anticipation and eagerness at another year to forge ahead and learn from my mistakes and try again…and again.

Not Me Monday!

After a long week of entertaining and massive (wonderful) doses of family togetherness, we’re back to quieter (lonelier) days around here.

I am ever so thankful to be feeling better and after over a month am finally off antibiotics for my kidney infection!

I’m also thankful for fresh starts and a clean slate this week, my patience over the past seven days was more than slightly waning (just ask my husband).

Here is the conversation that so did NOT take place in my kitchen an hour ago:

Mama (rounding the corner in the kitchen – trying not to yell but squeaking slightly):  “Holy cow!  What have you done to my cabinet?  I had just organized all the dishes and tupperware exactly where I liked them all to be.  All the ones I use are in the back!  And all the ones I don’t use are in the front!  Why in the world did this seem like a good idea?!  How much time do you think it’s gonna take me to get this all back in order?  I’m so frustrated with you!”

Rylee (conscientious oldest child that she is):  “I was trying to find a baby bottle to feed my kitty some water Mama.  I’m so sorry.”

Mama:  “Go to your room please.”

Rylee: “I feel bad Mama, I’m sorry.”

I fuss and fret around the cabinet, take everything out, piles of dishes everywhere and have myself all upset.

Over what?

Dishes, tupperware?

Mama (to all four sitting on the kitchen floor with me): “Is anyone hurt?”

All: “No.”

Mama: “Is anything broken or lost?”

All (starting to smile again):  “No, no…”

Mama: “It’s just tupperware isn’t it?  They’re just dishes aren’t they?  Do you think mama needed to freak out about it and get all worked up about her cupboards being all mixed up?”

Caleb:  “Probably not Mom.  You can fix it.”

I am brought to my knees literally in front of all my children in my jammies on the dirty kitchen floor.

Mama: “I’m so sorry, will you all forgive me?”

All: “Yes, of course Mama.”

Next time, I resolve, I have got to think clearly enough to ask myself the questions that I sometimes forget until later…

Does this really matter?  Is this at all significant in the spectrum of life?  What am I communicating to my children when I worry about stuff that is so…small?  Why exactly am I freaking out about _________?  Could I laugh about this instead?

Goodness it’s hard work raising children, that’s about all I can say about that today.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but seriously it’s tough some days.

Punishment or incentive?

I was talking with a friend this week about their job.  The work environment is is poor and morale is at an all time low.  Management has created an environment of fear through a variety of methods.

As we talked I honestly had to hold back tears trying to imagine myself in the shoes of the workers who had been hung out to dry especially in this tough economy.  I could not help but draw parallels between this method of leading a team of employees and the leading of a family.  In both situations many things are similarly true.  Sometimes behavior or actions must be changed.

What struck me though was how sometimes I see myself falling into a pattern as I raise my children of implementing a list of punishments and consequences in order to obtain the behavior or compliance of my children.  Sometimes in desperation I yell.  No matter how much I want to get it right and shape the lives that are in my care in a kind-hearted, gently spoken and forgiving way – I fail on a regular basis.

There are moments when instead of seeking to facilitate an environment of grace, I unintentionally facilitate an environment of fear.  While the fear of punishment may produce results, it is so not the home I want to abide in with my family.  I want the love and acceptance our kids feel here to be such a draw that they want to be a part of it.  Fear and punishments really isn’t that appealing for the long haul.  And I constantly hear from veteran parents, “The stakes just get higher with choices as they get older.”  Sigh.

While I don’t need to berate myself for getting it wrong some days, I really believe that I do have the responsibility to keep aiming for something greater.

First on my reading list for the new year is a book that is unlike any parenting book I’ve ever read.  I wrote about it here back in March.  In his book “Loving our Kids on Purpose” Danny Silk lays out a great framework for loving our kids the way God loves us.  If ever there was a model for loving with grace, it’s God’s model.  As I understand more God’s love, I understand more HOW to love the children in my home and every other person who comes across my path.

That kind of love is the answer to a good many problems in life I’m convinced.

It’s beautiful, perfect and unchanging.

Fine dining fun with five small children

As if heading to downtown Seattle the last weekend night before Christmas wasn’t ambitious enough for our little family, as our evening unfolded we found ourselves to be part of quite an adventure.

First, in order to get out of the parking garage, we waited what seemed like an eternity for the elevator that must be older than we are.

Then we walked up a few blocks to watch the fake snow fall in a mall atrium.  We waited for almost a half an hour looking upward.  When the snow came, it was actually some bubble foam sprayed from a few stories up.   It was cool enough for one time, but won’t make the cut next year.

By this time we were pretty hungry.  Kids have been in strollers or on backs.  It was crazy crowded so no running around was in order.

We head back to the other mall for food.  Despite the fact it is the weekend before Christmas, they were closing in 30 minutes.  We learned 3 years ago that when they close, even if you just got your food, they will stand around watching you as they ask you to leave your table and exit the area.  That was fun.

So we set out in a mainly retail area, to secure some food.  We burned through my well stocked snack bag quite quickly.  A pregnant sister, five little troopers whose patience was waning and no sign of a food source.  We were getting desperate.  We kept saying “One more block?”.  Every place we found was a super long wait.

My sister staked out an Italian restaurant that she thought was a low key pasta joint.  She glanced at the menu but only paid mind to the pizza prices.  She noticed that the guests were wearing slacks and dresses.   We were so in need of food at this point that the fact this was a high caliber Italian restaurant with rave reviews was quite impertinent.  We sat.  We ordered.  We waited.

“Would you like some wine with your ravioli?”  our waiter asks me.

My kidneys hate me I remind myself.  They are working overtime still trying to heal.  Alcohol is off limits but somehow I still manage to say “I shouldn’t but….yes, please.”

Sippy cups were thrown.   Bread came.  Bread was devoured.

We noted that this was not exactly family restaurant, a far cry from Red Robin indeed.  We definitely caught some glances at our table for TEN-five kids, five adults.

Audrey filled her diaper.  I went to change her.  I discovered that this kind of establishment does not cater to kids, thus had no changing table.  So I piled up 20 paper towels and laid her on the small bathroom counter.  I turned slightly red as woman after woman came to wash their hands while I was busy wiping a ghastly smelling diaper within arms reach.

We returned from said bathroom adventure to find antsy little people.  We inquired about crayons to do some drawing.

Instead of crayons they were pleased to offer us – SHARPIE permanent markers  “In all sorts of colors!” said the congenial waiter as he handed them to a three year old!

“Why does Audrey have a that-she can’t have that!?” said my curious husband.

“We are on the brink.  I’m not sure if you can feel it over there.  But we’re so close.  We are just trying to hang in till food comes okay?”  I replied.

Our food arrived, Rylee ate her fillet of grilled salmon in 3 minutes and promptly asked for another, I smiled and shook my head.  Caleb’s pizza was twice the size of his head.  My $20 plate of ravioli consisted of two giant pieces of pasta.  They were fantastic, I inhaled them in 5 minutes knowing Audrey was about to lose it.

I stood and grabbed Audrey ready to make a run for it.  I grabbed my glass of wine, quickly finished the glass.  Kyler joins me as we hightail it out of there.  We find wide open spaces and the two littles run free.

They watched a window washer through the beautiful glass window railing.  Then just as I snapped this photo…

…Kyler gets his head stuck on the other side as he peers down 2 stories.  He starts to panic and pull back and scream.  I hope I don’t rip his ears off as I pull him back through.  We find something a bit safer to do after I determine that Audrey’s head AND entire body would certainly fit through the opening.

We then ventured back to the carousel and end the evening riding horses together just as we (and my sister Danielle and her husband Todd) have done for the past 9 years in a row.  This year it was great fun to have our other sister, now graduated from nursing school, back home to join us as well.

Messes and memories

Every once in a while

things work out perfectly

just like you imagined they could

a beloved Mother/Grandmother/Great-Grandmother

a hard working marshmallow-stirrer

a hershey kiss stealer unwrapper

the FIRST time I’ve ever seen my Dad baking in my life

not the first ornament Audrey pulled off their lovely tree

4 different batches of Christmas cookies

making green sticky wreath cookies with Nana

———————————

My parents still live in the house I grew up in.  They recently remodeled their kitchen and it is quite open and spacious.

My parents are also on sabbatical currently.  So they have a lot more time to share with family.

My grandmother is here for almost the whole month of December before she undergoes open heart surgery in early January.

My kidney infection seems to be all done taking over my life (holding my breath on that one).

All these things made for a perfect combination.

Our morning of Christmas cookie baking was one of the best times we’ve ever spent there.

Watching my Grandma watch my own children…

…four generations circled around a counter top.

It was priceless.

A final (real) Slim in 6 review

In perusing old posts and comments, I was reminded that I did indeed promise a ‘real’ review of Slim in 6, the spendy infomercial workout program I bought in September.  First let me say that every day I am amused to see that someone finds our blog by searching for these two things:

“I can’t fit my jeans” or “Will my jeans fit after pregnancy?” or “My jeans are too tight” or “Too tight jeans, can’t breathe”

AND

“Slim in 6 review”

I can’t count the times I’ve laughed out loud about the tight jeans comments.  While I have googled many random things I’m pretty sure I’ve never googled about that. 🙂

Anyways, after my oh-so-in-depth review back in October, I vowed to give it a real try and open the package it came in.  And try I did.  The first two weeks I did the DVD maybe 4 days in 7.  The second two weeks maybe 3 days in 7.  By this point you are supposed to be on the much longer, second DVD but I was still figuring out my way through the first one.

And my knees hurt.  There is a lot of squatting and with that for me came a lot of popping.  Not exactly sure what was popping but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t good.   I persevered and it kept happening.  I was as close to flawless in my form as I could get doing all the moves and still there was popping.

I made it to week 6.

I did not blow out a knee.

I did not make it past the first DVD in the series.  I felt grateful to still be alive at the end of the 30 minute DVD every single time.  Gasping at times and laughing often.  My children loved hanging around watching me and giving me ‘encouragement’ every step of the way.

“Mom, you can take it easy, she said so.”

“Mom, why can’t you answer when I’m talking to you.”

“What’s popping mom?”

“Can you feel it?  You should feel it now Mama.”

“I can tell you need a water break.”

“Sit ups! (with glee) My favorite part Mom, these are SO EASY!”

While “slim” is not the word that would best describe be at the end of six weeks, I would honestly say that my body worked better, felt better, moved better having been much more deliberately active.  I rarely sit in my day with the kids.  But I also don’t do much that qualifies as plain old exercise.  And were it not for the knee pain that only ended after I quit doing the DVD’s, this program might be great.

I’ve lost more weight being so sick over the past 3 weeks than I did doing the Slim in 6 workouts.  In fact I had a friend a while back who was always quick to encourage me anytime I got sick…..”At least you’ll lose a couple pounds!”.  I wasn’t sure why this bothered me until one day I realized, she was more concerned about it than I was.

Yes, losing some weight would be good for me.  Yes, I would like to fit my clothes a bit better.  Yes, I’d enjoy a bit more energy to keep up with my brood.

But…

Yes, I love cooking and good food.  I love sitting and reading and homeschooling and organizing and playing and sleeping more than I love working out.  I also love being married to someone who makes me feel beautiful.  I recently told him,

I’ve never been quite this ‘lumpy’ in my life – but never, in the 15 years of knowing you, have I felt this loved and lovely to you – doesn’t that seem strange?”

Maybe strange, maybe just the product of time.

And maybe the old adage “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is actually true.

Either way, I’m really thankful….slim or not.

A 6 year old perspective…

…on homelessness.  Rylee and her Daddy went downtown with our new church family to help provide, prepare and serve a meal at a homeless teen center.  This of course sparked all kinds of questions and curiosity about people’s lives who look quite different from ours.

Rylee is our astute observer.  Taking in every detail of the world around her all the time.  She never wants to miss a word or any nuance in conversation.  She is extremely empathetic and I believe largely due to all her health challenges early on in her life, being at doctors, in hospitals, etc.  She is a generous giver of compassion and care.  I love watching it unfold and I love that in the things that have been most hard in her short little life so far, beauty comes.  Her heart for others and desire to nurture and care is, in my eyes, her best quality.

“Mama, there were a lot of boys with long hair.  And they had pierced ears too.  It was a little hard to tell the difference between girls and boys.”

“I saw someone pick out the brown hat we brought.  They wore it all night.  They were so happy to have it.  It was fuzzy and I’m sure it will keep them warm.”

“I served bread and dessert Mama.  At first, I didn’t say anything.  I was just kind of getting used to it.  Then I started to say ‘Would you like a roll?’ and they would answer or point.  I smiled at some of them.  Some even smiled at me before I did.  Mama, they already know about smiles.  I didn’t know if they would.  But they did.”

“Mama, why do you think some had holes and jewelry through their lips?  If they are homeless then how did they have the money to get all those holes?  Doesn’t it cost money?  And don’t you think they would spend their money on clothes or food or a place to live?”

She takes a breath from talking a mile a minute, like she always does after she’s done something she has found to be amazing.  I think and try to answer in a simple way.

“Do you think they have always been without a place to live?  They probably haven’t.  They probably lived with their mom or dad at one point.  Sometimes people make choices that change their life, or other peoples lives.  For good or for bad.  And sometimes different choices leave people without homes or food.”

Rylee ponders this and then decides “Maybe it was a gift!  Maybe someone gave them holes and jewelry as a gift!”

I smile and decide to simply listen.  There are some things best left open ended.  Maybe it was a gift.  But what’s more important is that I help her see that there’s probably so much more to each story there.  It’s never our place to judge and assume we know how they ended up where they are.

It’s just our place to love.