Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Can I help?

I am one of those people who like things to be a certain way. This is not to say that everything has to be my way, but if it's one of my things then it does. For instance, I am not overly bossy toward Greg in general, but when he's in the kitchen I will give him all kinds of unsolicited "advice" about how things are done best. (So helpful, right?)

I've noticed it with my kids too. An often asked question is, "Can I help?" Which you would think would make a mother's heart leap with joy, but usually makes mine sink. I can let them help in certain scenarios, but when it's one of my things, it's really hard to let go of how I want it done and let them participate with me in it.

Take, for instance, Jonathan's birthday party. Now, Jonathan's birthday party was a small affair. It was just us and my parents celebrating at home. The agenda was: eat pizza, eat cake, open gifts, and play pin the dirt on the dump truck/bulldozer. So, in the afternoon before party time I started drawing a dump truck and bulldozer and getting ready to color them in so that they would be ready for the game. The kids saw me and wanted to help… they wanted to color them. Now, mind you, I am doing this FOR Jonathan. It is HIS birthday, HIS party, and he wants to color the bulldozer. But I don't want to let him, because then it won't look as good. And of course, it looking good is more important than my son participating in getting ready for his party. Hmmm… So I let them paint the bulldozer and the dump truck. They loved it. It was really hard for me to let go, and even as they started painting I found myself giving "helpful" little tips. But it turned out to be one of their favorite parts of the day. And I was so glad I let them do it. And honestly, their pictures turned out kind of cute. In fact, I think Elisa's turned out better than if I had done it myself.

I've thought about this as it pertains to God and us. Have you ever thought about the fact that God lets us participate with Him in His work? He lets us work with Him on things that actually matter. He doesn't set things up for us to do just so that we can feel important. (Sometimes I do that with my kids… you know, make special jobs for them, that aren't really that important but will make them feel important). He's not threatened by our mistakes, He's big enough. We poorly represent Him and even misrepresent Him, and yet He's big enough for that too.

"The gushing pleasure of small children as they help their parents comes from the expansion of the child's little self through the immersion in the life of a larger self to which the child is lovingly abandoned." (Dallas Willard)

God's Kingdom (where what He wants done is done) is all around us. In each moment we are either working to further our own kingdom, or His Kingdom. And let me tell you, my own kingdom, when it comes right down to it, is a pretty pitiful little affair. It's all about my comfort, my happiness, my reputation. How much better it is to find myself part of something larger than me.

His Kingdom is here! Right now!
Can I help?

Nora at 15 months

Two things I had sort of forgotten about 15-month-olds:
1) They are so stinkin' cute!
2) They are so stinkin' messy!

Nora is 15 months old and she is on the go. All day, every day she is about her business, doing the serious work of babies: emptying the recycle bin, emptying the cupboards and drawers, pulling books off the bookshelf, drawing on the walls with markers.

But the cuteness makes up for the messes. Don't you think?

She can be quite outgoing. Tonight we went out to eat, and she made friends with the people in the booth directly across from us, both of the booths kitty-corner from us, and the booth on either side of us. Not an easy feat considering the tall booth backs. But she won them over with her smile, her wave, and in one case some vigorous head nodding.

She hadn't liked reading books at all. I was feeling a little panicky, because how can one of MY children not like reading? But she's turned a corner and all of a sudden will bring me books to read to her and object loudly when the book is closed. Her favorites right now are Goodnight Moon; Bedtime Peekaboo; and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. 

She packs away the food and is not picky at all. I can usually count on her to eat dinner even when the other kids are turning up their noses at it. Even so, she is still a bit of a peanut, small in both height and weight categories. She's still in her infant car seat (and hating it) while we wait for her to hit that 20 pound mark so she can move up to the next one.

She says a few words. Her first word was "uh-oh."
Now she also says:
Mama (though sometimes I'm not quite sure if she's just saying it or if she knows it refers to me),
nose (this may explain why she likes Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes so much),
she also makes a few animal sounds (moo, meow, woof, and the cutest little roar ever).

She can navigate the few stairs we have around our house. But I wouldn't trust her by herself with a full flight of stairs. She walks (started right at a year) and is somewhat enamored with walking backwards, which I find quite funny at times. She is turning into a climber, which I do not find funny at all.

Right around 4:00 most days she gets extremely fussy (and hungry) and this makes getting dinner ready challenging. But I've gotten good at listening to crying kids, so I can deal with it. :-) Of course, she is probably the loudest of the three, because she has to be to have any chance of attention at all. Ah… the life of the third-born.

She is mostly happy, loves a good adventure, and tries to keep up with the big kids. As you can tell, we're pretty smitten with her.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jonathan the four-year-old

Here, finally, are Jonathan's four year pictures. He is getting to be quite the big guy. I was just noticing the other day how long his legs seem. He is becoming more adult proportional and less toddler like. 

He is silly and fun-loving. When he gets in his head that something would be fun to do, he has to do it. For instance, in Disneyland he got it in his head that he needed to walk through every turnstile without using his hands to push the turnstile. Now the turnstiles come right up to his neck, so that meant that he would walk pushing the turnstile with his neck until it went around. And if someone pushed it for him (out of the kindness of their hearts, to make it easier for him)… oh man… he was not happy!

He still loves trains and cars and trucks and things that go. He watches to see how everything works. And he can tell you afterwards exactly how many wheels something had, or what color the track was, or if it had gears etc. The other day he told me all about bicycle chains and gears. Sometimes I think he understands how things work better than I do.

He is still great friends with Leesi. They play together so well, and love each other so much. It warms my heart to see it. He is amused by Nora and thinks she's cute and funny. But he doesn't like her interfering with what he is doing.  

He is starting to really get into coloring and writing. He holds his pencil with all different sorts of grips, so that makes it a little challenging for him to have the control he needs. But he still will ask me how to write words and then write all the letters down on his paper (not always in order… but they're all there.)

He talks to anyone and everyone and always has a long story to tell. Often with a preamble leading up to the actual information. "I have something to tell you. Do you know what it is? It is…."

He loves his stuffed doggie, Marshmallow or "Marshy." And often in the morning he will pull all his "comftable stuff" out of his bed: Marshy and several other stuffed animals, his quilt, pillow, and blankies; and then take it all to the couch for snuggle time and reading books. 

Jonathan, you are getting so big. I love seeing you grow and learn each day. Thanks for being such a fun boy.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Fall!

Halloween Time!

Just some Halloween pictures for the grandparents. This year the big kids both chose out and helped to make their Halloween costumes. Leesi made her own little butterfly antennae, and Jonathan and I worked long and hard on his train (Leesi helped too).  Nora was Tigger, but she just rode around in the stroller. She wasn't feeling well and had been quite needy and cranky all day. Poor baby, she not only had a fever, but also a nasty burn on her lip from the hot glue gun. And yes, I feel terrible about it. 

Jonathan had tons of fun helping paint his train. Leesi and I helped him with the blue, but then he did all the stripes and windows himself. I think it turned out pretty good.

The train was mostly orange and blue, Jonathan's favorite colors. It was number 33… not Thomas! Don't be confused by the Thomas hat. After all, Thomas doesn't have orange stripes!

Cute trick or treaters...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Playing in the Rain

A catch-up post

Well... if I don't start posting a little more often all my posts will end up being catch-up posts. And that's no fun. So, here's hoping that this is the beginning of my renewed blogging. Ha!

But a little catch up is needed since in the last two months a lot has happened. Greg accepted a position at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon in early August. We moved down to Eugene September 1st. Since our move we've celebrated two birthdays (Nora's and Jonathan's). We've officially entered the realm of school age kids with Elisa going to Kindergarten. And we celebrated my mother-in-law's 60th birthday with a trip to Disneyland. It has been a busy month!

Here are the pictures to prove it:

Nora's Birthday

Beautiful one-year-old
Elisa's 1st day of Kindergarten
Jonathan's 4th Birthday

There's the very abbreviated version of what's been happening. Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jonathan and Mommy in the Story of the Three Little Fish.

Jonathan and Elisa both have animal hooded towels. Jonathan's is a fish and Leesi's is an owl. A few nights ago I was trying to get Jonathan out of the bath and into his fish towel. I started talking in kind of a low voice to try and get his attention. "Little Fishy, come here. Come here little fishy" I said. My low voice reminded Leesi of the voice I do when we read Three Little Pigs. She said, "Hey Mommy, you be the big bad shark and say 'Little fishy, little fishy, let me come in.'" So I repeated what she said. Then she said, "Now Jonathan say, 'Not by the hair on my finny fin fin.'"

That girl cracks me up.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How God gave me something better than a house

Just over three years ago our family made a big move. We moved from Arkansas back to the Northwest. Greg had been working at JBU, a great school that we loved, but we wanted to be closer to our families. So we decided to move, even though Greg did not have a job lined up here.

In my head I envisioned us living in a cute house, in a good neighborhood, in Portland... a house with a fenced yard where the kids would play, 3 bedrooms, and hopefully a big living room for entertaining. When moving day came, Greg didn't really have any job prospects, and I felt a little worried. Nevertheless, I could still imagine our house and yard. I knew it might be down the road a little, but I was sure that we were at least on the road to buying a house. For the first five years of our marriage we rented a house, and then at JBU we lived in the men's residence hall. We had never owned a house and I was ready.

Well, after a summer of ups and downs in the job hunt, Greg was offered a job at Warner Pacific College as (once again) a Residence Director. Which meant that (once again) we would be living in an apartment in the men's residence hall. And this time the apartment was even smaller... with no dishwasher... no washer and dryer... no bathtub. We moved in with mixed emotions. On the one hand we had faced the reality that we might be living with Greg's mom while he worked as a server at a restaurant (not to belittle being a server... just not Greg's chosen career path). So we were very relieved to have a job that he cared about and a place to live. But on the other hand, there was no house (not only no house, but no prospect of a house anytime soon). We were stuck in the dorm until his job changed again. And part of me was bitter.

I tried to put a good face on it. I mean, like I said, we were very relieved to have a place to call home at all. It was so nice to unpack boxes and have our own space.

But the space was small... I mean, really small. The living room was 10x10, there was no dining room... just a space on the wall between the bathroom door and the front door where we put a drop leaf table that we unfolded for each meal. I think the whole house was about 800 square feet... but that doesn't do justice to how small it really was. The living room, kitchen, bathroom, and one bedroom were in 400 of those square feet. Then down a spiral staircase (which took up part of our square footage) was the other half of the apartment... one giant room with a walk-in closet. We used it as our bedroom/catch-all room/storage. At first the walk-in closet was where baby Jonathan slept. Then, when he was sleeping regularly through the night we moved him up to share a room with Elisa.

The "dining room" and kitchen
The dining area from a different angle - shows the front door (right) and bathroom door (left)
The living room
The kids' room
Our bathtub
And there was one other thing: Greg had taken a pay cut and I had stopped working. We already hadn't made a ton of money in Arkansas... but now we made substantially less. And we had just used up our savings moving across the country.

So, on the one hand, I was so relieved and thankful for Greg's job. And on the other hand, I was bitter. I felt like God owed me more than this. It sounds terrible to say it that way, but that's where I was at. I had given God so much. I had done all the right things. Wasn't it His duty to bless me? And shouldn't He bless me in the ways that I wanted? 

One of the things I kept saying during that time was, "The American Dream is not my dream. The American Dream is not my dream." Of course, the American Dream WAS my dream... which is why I needed to say it so much. To remind myself that it shouldn't be my dream. Funny thing about dreams though, it's hard to let go of a dream without something better to grab onto in it's place. 

It was easy to be outwardly thankful for the apartment when people were commiserating with me about how small it was. But whenever someone said something about how it was nice, or not so bad, or how I should be thankful, I bristled inside. And sometimes that bitterness would leak out in my words. Then afterwards I'd think, "Oh, I hope so-and-so didn't think that I'm not a grateful person or that I'm bitter." You see, I didn't quite realize the truth yet. I thought that my problem was what I had said. One day God showed me that the problem wasn't what I said, but my heart. Those words were coming from a bitter heart. And that's what needed to change. 

I realized that if I had to describe me in one word, that word would be "want." That's what I thought about more than anything else: what I wanted. "I just want to be able to decorate this house better." "I want to have a yard with a fence." "I want to be able to have room to have people over." "I want Greg to get a different job so we can move off-campus." And on and on....  All things that I thought would make me happy.

I wasn't happy that my word was "want," but acknowledging the truth of my heart was the first step toward change. I thought, "If there's a word to describe me I want it to be 'peace', or 'joy', or 'contentment'."

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake....
  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

The view out our apartment window
I started taking time to stare out our big window and slow down for a minute during nap time. Instead of getting on Facebook or Pinterest, I'd do my Bible study or read other good books.

During this time I started reading the book, "One Thousand Gifts". In it Ann Voskamp challenged me to do a simple exercise: start writing down things I'm thankful for every day. Think of the gifts God gives me, and take the time to write them down. Slowly as I started doing this, my thoughts started to shift.

One rainy day as I was parking our car in the lot after a trip to the grocery store, I found myself cursing in my head. Cursing the rain, the puddles, the slow one-year-old and three-year-old who would be sure to find the puddles and dawdle, the car that took the closest spot, the muddy hillside I'd have to climb, the heavy grocery bags... etc. Then I remembered thankfulness, and just as quickly I started counting gifts. The fact that my kids would have a chance to be outside: a gift. The groceries: a gift. A let-up in the rain: a gift. The biggest gift that I realized right then though, was that God was changing me. Slowly but surely I was becoming a different person. A person of joy instead of bitter cursing. With a smile on my face and my arms full of groceries I urged my one and three-year-old up that muddy hillside. And I felt happy. Or maybe, I was joyful.

I'm still in process. I still fall into thinking that happiness is about fulfilling my list of wants. And I still want to own a house... someday... maybe. But I no longer obsessively get online to look at home listings in our area. I no longer drive down the streets looking for for-sale signs. Not that those things are intrinsically bad, they were just bad for my soul at that time. And they were a sign of my soul at that time. I wanted to buy a house so badly because the American dream was my dream. I had forgotten that what I truly wanted and needed was God himself.

A year ago, right in time for Nora to be born, we moved into a house. Not our own house... a campus house. God continues to provide for us and bless us, not always in exactly the way I have pictured. But always in exactly the way I need.
And it is kind of cute, isn't it?

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

Now, three years later, I see how that little apartment was a good and perfect gift. It helped me realize my sense of entitlement. It showed me the depths of my wanting... depths that would never be filled... and helped me realize that what I truly wanted could not be bought with money.

"True joy, as it turns out, comes only to those who have devoted their lives to something greater than personal happiness." (From The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's been awhile

The other day my mom said, "I can tell that those three kids are keeping you busy. You rarely blog anymore."

Yes, it's true. Three kids are keeping me busy. But now that Nora is out of the newborn stage, I do find that I have a little more breathing room. And I do want to keep blogging.... so here we go again.

So, to start with, let's do a brief catch-up.

Nora is now 9 months old. We call her fuzz-head because her hair is growing in all nice and fuzzy. She just started crawling and cruising along furniture. At first when she figured out how to crawl, she would crawl around laughing the whole time. Like, "This is the best! Do you see this? I can crawl!" She has a sweet disposition, but when she's unhappy and fussy sometimes she'll trill while she cries. I caught it on video the other day.

Elisa is 5 and just finished preschool. She'll start kindergarten in the fall. She is always busy with new ideas and schemes. Most of all she loves doing art projects.

Jonathan is 3 and loves playing with cars and trucks. He is a little engineer, always trying to figure out how things work.

Greg is off of work for June and July. We went to the beach last week. This week we're all involved with Kid's Day Camp at our church. And next week we are going up to visit my family. Also, Greg and I (and Nora) will go to a Bed and Breakfast for a couple nights for our 12th Anniversary. So, we have a busy June. July should be a little more low key.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Craft for Spring

Lately one of our favorite crafts is these homemade suncatchers. This craft is great for different ages and can be easily adapted for different seasons/themes. We've made jack'o'lanterns, snowmen, butterflies, and crosses this way. First I tape down a piece of contact paper sticky side up, I put the hollow shape on it and then let the kids go to town sticking on pieces of cut-up tissue paper. (For an added step I let the kids choose out and cut, or rip up their own tissue paper). 

There are different techniques: Jonathan likes to grab great big handfuls of tissue paper and mash it onto his; Leesi likes to carefully place her papers one by one. 
After they are done we lay another piece of contact paper on top and then cut around the edges.

The finished product. 

So much fun to "flutter" them around...
 and they look so pretty in the windows with the sun shining through.

Here's a picture of our jack'o'lanterns. I let the kids tell me what kind of shape they wanted for each of the facial features and cut them out for them, then let them place the facial features on the contact paper before doing the tissue paper. Jonathan's are on the left, Leesi's are on the right. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Jonathan on names...

"We saw a guy with blue hair in the grocery store. Daddy said his name was Buzz Are."

"The funny guy in Thomas said To-MAH-toes. ToMAHto is the nickname for Tomato."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Elisa is Five!

Well, it's been over a month since Leesi's birthday. But I still just had to write about my big five-year-old, and her birthday. 

Grandma and Grandpa took Leesi out on her actual birthday (Dec. 13th) to Build a Bear. And wow, what a hit that was! "Rainbow girl", who plays a peppy rendition of Happy Birthday when you squeeze her arm, was Elisa's favorite birthday gift for sure. We heard that song over and over and over again for a good week. Now, Elisa still plays with Rainbow Bear, but thankfully the song doesn't get played as often. 

A few days later we had a "Pinkalicious Party" for Leesi. We had 6 friends over (it was the first friends only party we've done). And it was so much fun. We made beaded bracelets, played a game or two, and then sent the kids upstairs to play while we made lunch. Over lunch I read the kids the story of Pinkalicious. It was a simple lunch: pizza and green smoothies. Green because in the story, she has to eat green things to get back to normal after she turns pink from eating too many pink cupcakes. So of course, for dessert: pink cupcakes. The kids were all so great at the party and had so much fun. I heard several kids planning their next birthday party with a "color-licious" theme.

Elisa, my big five-year-old, I love you so much. 
You are a great big sister: very responsible and motherly. 
You always have a plan, an idea, or a new project in mind. "Mommy, will you get out the art box?" "Mommy, can we make something out of our cookbook?" "Mommy, I'm making valentines for everyone." "Mommy, will you read me my magazine?"
You are silly and fun. You love running around and giggling with your brother and friends. And no one can make Nora laugh the way that you can. 
You love doing artwork. You are constantly coloring and drawing with your markers, and you are always up for a craft project. 

I'm so glad to be your mommy, and am looking forward to this next year!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nora at four months

Weight: 12 lbs. 8 oz. (24%)
Length: 24 3/4 inches (68%)

So, I realized that the last time I posted something about Nora, it was mainly about what a fussy baby she was. Well, time has mellowed her out. Now, at four months she is an absolute pleasure. Smiley, happy, inquisitive, talkative, and fun. She loves being around people, especially Mom, Dad, and big sister. She likes Jonathan too, but he rarely stops long enough to interact with her. She reaches for toys and is getting better and better at holding them. She laughs every once in awhile, and smiles constantly. She is falling into a nap routine of a morning, afternoon, and late afternoon nap. We had been holding/rocking/bouncing her until she fell asleep before we laid her down. Now we are getting her to fall asleep on her own in her crib and she's doing really great with that. She sleeps okay at night: always at least one 5 hour block, sometimes 8 hours, and once even 10! Hopefully soon 8 hours will be the norm.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Prayer for the New Year

God, in this year…

Help me to create margin in my life, so that I have silence in which to hear You, and space for You to move in. 

Let me remember that You have transferred me into Your Kingdom and that is where I now live, not someday, but now. Help me to value the things that You value, and to see things with Your eyes.

I pray that I will find purpose and significance in the things You have called me to do, especially when I’m feeling that these things are boring, mundane, or trivial.

I pray for contentment: that You will continue to transform me, changing my word from “want” to “thanks”.  

I pray for holiness: that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be acceptable in Your sight.

I pray that you will help me to parent with kindness and wisdom. Help me to speak grace and truth into the lives of my children. Help me to rely on You moment by moment in this task of parenting, and to remember that though I often mess up, You never do, and You will work even through my weaknesses. I trust You with my children. 

I pray for patience: that I will dare to accept this present moment as THE moment, and live there, instead of continually yearning to get to something better.

I thank You for the community of people that You have placed around me. I acknowledge that I need their encouragement, love, and insight in my life. Help me to humbly and graciously receive it. Help me to invest in this community, and give myself sacrificially, and vulnerably in love to them.

I pray for humility. That as Your Holy Spirit works in me and through me, I won’t puff up with pride as if I had done it. But that I will give You the glory that is due to You. Help me to be able to encourage others with what You’ve done, without stealing Your glory for myself.

Lastly, I pray that you will help me to enjoy... not just get through… but enjoy my days, my children, my husband, my friends, my food, the weather, etc… all Your good gifts.

I love you God. I thank You ahead of time for accomplishing Your good work in me this year.  Amen.