Because I Can't Make this Stuff Up!

     I noticed the bathroom door was locked and I was fairly certain I saw my son walk in the room several minutes earlier.  I knocked and asked if he was okay.  He said he was and emerged a few minutes later with a smile on his face and a jar of pistachios in his hand.
     "It took a long time because I was eating these," he said as he held up the jar. 
     "You were eating while going to the bathroom?" I asked a little surprised.  (Though you'd think I'd learn to expect these things by now.)
     "Yes," he answered.
      "That's gross," I told him.
       "Why?" he asked sounding confused.
        I chuckled and shook my head while making a mental note to explain to him why eating in the bathroom is a bad idea.  I'll do that as soon as the incident stops making me laugh.  Kids are so silly!


Celebrating Advent Our Way

     Christmas music softly drifted through the house as we dined by candlelight.  We were beginning our new tradition of an Advent Wreath.  Each Sunday leading up Christmas, we would light a candle and read Bible verses about the real Christmas Story.  We lit the first candle before we all sat down to a hot meal.  I smiled as all five of us began to savor our time together.  It was perfect.
      Yes, that's exactly what I pictured as I made a list of things I'd like to do this special season.  Instead, this first Sunday of Advent, I found myself in the store buying a small pre-lit green foil tree.  I had decided to trade the Advent Wreath for a tree.  I swapped the candles for 24 miniature books that paraphrased the Christmas Story.  Why? Well, honestly it was because I bought the small books a few years ago and we'd yet to use them.  Also, I loved the idea of a small tree in our family room.  The fact that it would eventually be covered with book ornaments only made my decision easier.  You see, I have a bit of an obsession with books.   Perhaps if I was a bit more honest, the real reason was that I was only planning on an Advent Wreath because it seemed like the thing that we should do.  It's taken me a while to learn that should is a tricky word.
      As a mom, there is no end to the things that it seems I should do for my children.  One of the best lessons as a parent is learning what we should do for our families.  As I thought through what an Advent Wreath would look like for my family, I realized there would likely be lots of squabbling over who got to blow out the candles.  Not only that, but my kiddos would likely only be thinking about or actually trying to blow out the candles while we were trying to get them to focus on the verses.  Sure, they might have surprised us and sat like angels, but there was still a greater chance that the wreath would lead to more frustration than the "Book Tree." 
     So, this year we've have our little tree, our big tree,  stockings and a few other simple decorations.  The kids and I are also writing in thankful journals most days to help us stay focused on our blessings during this season when everywhere we look there are messages telling us to buy more and more.  Also, in an effort to shift away from the candy-filled calendars, each of the kids has a small toy advent calendar.  This may seem like a lot to some and perhaps it is, but it works for us this year and that's what matters.  So what if two boxes of decorations stay in the basement waiting to make an appearance another year.  They might be just right the year we do decide to do an Advent Wreath.  Keeping it a tad more simple will help us spend more time with each other and more importantly, spend more time reflecting on the real meaning of Christmas.  Now that sounds like something we should do!


My Big Girl

Here is my sweet girl roller skating for the first time. 

A couple of hours after this, I dropped her off at her first slumber party.  Not surprisingly, she had a wonderful time. 

As I dropped her off, I gave her a quick hug and a kiss.  She sighed and said, "Thanks mom.  I can't get to sleep without a hug and a kiss."  She was serious and my heart melted.

Later that night, I got a call.  She was doing fine, but just wanted to wish me a good night.  I'm sure I went to sleep with a huge smile on my face.  Perhaps she isn't quite as big as she sometimes seems.  That's fine with me. 

I love you, my not-so-big girl!


Six Years!

Our little man's birthday happened in the midst of the end-of-school craziness.  He had a camping themed party, not an actual camp out.  We just weren't quite brave enough to have several six-year-old boys over for an overnight.  Maybe one day.

Perhaps because of how busy the end of the school year can be, I didn't take much time to think about the past six years.  In fact, it didn't really hit me how much he has grown until I sat down to upload pictures to our laptop.  I almost gasped when I looked at the picture I took of him on the morning of his birthday.

It took me a second to register that he was indeed holding up six fingers.  It has been a full six years.  He has most certainly kept us on our toes.  I've said so many times that you can never underestimate Chris.  It's true, you really can't.  Just when I think I have him figured out, he surprises me.  He's all boy, yet he has the most tender heart.  He has a soft spot for younger children, well that is if you don't include his younger sister.  He also asks the most interesting questions.  He's determined to figure out how things work.  It's a good thing Tony is an engineer and is so often happy to explain how things work.

Of course, if you combine a tender heart with an inquisitive mind, you get someone who is all too often willing to ask why about everything, especially rules that to him seem arbitrary.  My prayer for him continues to be based upon Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." 

I began to pray that verse for Chris before he'd even celebrated his first birthday.  At the time, I thought my choice was rather typical. and yet I knew it was what I was supposed to pray for him.  As he has grown, I've begun to have no doubt that it was God who led me to pray that verse for him.  Tonight, I'm doing just that.  I'm also thanking God that I get to be the mom to such an amazing boy. 


A Little Bit of Random

We're almost there.  Summer break is just around the corner.  In just two days my little man will be finished with kindergarten.  The next day my sweet oldest daughter will be finished with first grade.  It's been a good year.  My children are ending the year liking school every bit as much, if not more than when they started.  They've both worked so hard and I know they're looking forward to a slower pace this summer.

Our little princess also worked hard this year.  She would have gladly gone to school more than five hours a week.  The only thing she liked more than school was dance class.  If ever a child liked performing, it's our  youngest daughter. Now she tells us she wants to play soccer.  Her siblings remind her that she can't wear a skirt on the field.  She looks at them as if to say, "We'll see about that!"

This past weekend marked the end of Ann's soccer season.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of watching her play.  I surprised both Tony and myself when I found myself jumping up in excitement many times as Ann came close to scoring a goal.  Soccer was my sport so I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that I get a little excited. As Tony laughed at me, I pointed out that I was getting excited about a game our own child was in and I've seen him yell at games on a television screen many, many times.  He still laughed at me, but I like to think he saw my point.

For some reason, I'm having the hardest time believing that my little man will soon be finishing kindergarten.  Perhaps it's the fact that Ann is only one year ahead of him in school.  It hasn't been that long since she finished Kindergarten and here we are watching another one of our children say hello to first grade.  It all makes me want to tell time to slow down already!

 Chris enjoyed taking an art class in April.

Though I can't make a minute or an hour any longer than it is, I can certainly determine to enjoy it.  On that note, I'm looking forward to enjoying as many moments as possible this summer.  I'm also hoping many of those moments are spent by the pool or with a book in hand while reading aloud to my children.  

Happy Summer!


Long Days and Short Years

I was reading a post about just how quickly the time passes with young when it happened. I was nodding my head in agreement as I read the post knowing that in just a matter of weeks another school year will end. Then, I heard a little voice calling for me. Well, she wasn't so much as calling for me as she was shrieking for me.

If you're a parent, you know that accidents happen daily, if not hourly. Unfortunately, many of them happen in the bathroom, especially when preschoolers are too busy to stop their play. So, with the blog reading fresh in my mind, I took a deep breath and headed upstairs already knowing what I would find.

I tried to remember how fleeting this time is. I really, really did. Yet, I just can't fathom that I'll ever miss cleaning accidents off the bathroom floor, or even worse, peeling wet clothes off my children. Yuck! I was frustrated, but I swallowed the worst of my annoyance as I helped my daughter in the bath.

Only moments later I was rewarded with a sweet-smelling and happy four-year-old. As she happily played in the bath, I again believed that it's possible to cherish these parenting years. I was thankful for the reminder that these sometimes long days add up to some very short years. And yet, I was also thankful for children who sometimes make yucky messes. It makes the sweet parts so much sweeter. Not to mention, it somewhat eases the sadness I feel when I think of how quickly they grow. Just when I want to freeze time, my children do something that makes me think I'll let them age another year or two.

So for tonight, I'm savoring holding my preschooler as I smell her freshly washed hair. I'm loving her little hugs and requests for just one more kiss. I'm relishing my son shamelessly giving me a kiss before he heads to school. I'm adoring my oldest daughter reaching for my hand not caring who is watching. And yet, I'm also somewhat foolishly hoping that I might have just cleaned up the last bathroom accident by one of my children. Hey, a girl can dream!


My Comeback Post (Maybe)

As I sat in Bible Study today, a woman I respect very much talked about how beneficial it is to her to journal her prayers. We all sat around either nodding in agreement because we also found it beneficial or thinking that we should really give it a try. Then she commented that she recently sat down to write in her prayer journal and noticed her last entry was from 2004. We all had a great laugh at that. You can also bet that we greatly appreciated her honestly and could very well relate to it!

That's how I feel as I sit down to write. For the past month or so, I've wanted to get back at this old blog of mine, yet I talk myself out of it. After all, I've had more than one post saying I want to get back at writing more often and then I didn't follow through. Then there's the fact that when one hasn't blogged in months, it's seems necessary to start back with a bang. I know they're ridiculous, these thoughts that run around in my brain.

So, rather than do some catch-up-with-my-life post containing cute pictures of my kids, I'm just going to write a blog as though I'd been writing most days. (Don't worry, Mom, I'll post pictures soon!) And a side note, have you ever noticed how grandparents simply can't get enough pictures!? Between facebook, texts and emails, my mom gets her fair share, but yet she and others who shall remain nameless are always begging for more! Okay, I act like I'm complaining, but really I love that they want to see my kids so often. What mom doesn't like that?!

Would you look at that, I'm rambling just like I used to when I was a faithful blogger. Awesome.

Okay, so if I was a faithful blogger, my attempt at a humorous post would be something like this....

I'm having a hard time typing this thanks to the bandage on my finger. I've sliced myself not once, but twice this week. How? Let's just say that some store-brand aluminum foil is now dead to me. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes that place with a red target fails me like it did today and the other day I cut my finger. Sure, I'll continue to risk my life until the roll is finished, but then we're done.

Yeah, that was much funnier in my head. Sigh. Maybe I'm a bit rustier at blogging than I thought. I'll just redeem myself with a picture!

Just look how big they are! I know I'll one day look back at my 7, 5, and 4 year-old and think just how small they were, but for now, they seem so big! I've thought often about how I should rename this blog. I mean my hands do seem a bit less full than they were four years ago. Then I look at pictures like this one and I think the name still fits.

Don't you?


Sometimes We Need Them More

At the prompting of a dear friend, I'm going to write about a lesson I've recently learned. It seems I've had my thinking a bit backwards...

You see, I have a child who has rocked my world. Unlike some children with different needs, you might not know at first glance which kiddo has rocked my world. In fact, unlike many more children, depending on the day, you might not even know which child after spending an afternoon with us. But believe me, I know.

I know because I often plan my life around this child. Of course, if you've never had such a child, that will sound crazy to you. If you have been blessed with such a child, you know exactly what I mean. From canceling plans at the last minute to letting go of a job, I've done a lot to ensure that I can give me children what they need.

Not long ago, a friend sent me an email that I'll never forget. In it, she reminded me that I'm exactly the mama God had in mind for my three children. As I read her words, I was humbled. She challenged me to view as an honor what I'd once seen as a burden. That was the first shift in my attitude change.

The second change has come over the recent months. If I'm honest, I could tell you that if my difficult child had a different personality, this parenting thing would almost be a breeze. Though I've truly never wished for life without this child, I have often desired that my child had a more flexible and easygoing personality. That dream is typically followed with thinking of all I could do if that child was just, well...easier. Life would likely be simpler and dare I say more enjoyable. And yet, I've come to realize that my life wouldn't be better. In fact, it would be worse. This child has made me who I am. This child has made me more fully understand grace. This child has made me know what it's like to empty myself until I feel there is nothing more to give. This child has made me realize that there is always something more to give. There's always something more to give because of grace.

If it weren't for grace, I don't think most of us would still be taking care of our children. Surely a parent's love is a decent example of grace. These children come to us unable to do anything for us. If anything, they do nothing but disrupt our lives and ignore our needs and yet we love them. We love them so deeply that we would die for them without a second thought. Remind you of anything?

I believe parenting in general teaches us much of God's love. Parenting my challenging child has taught me even more. It didn't take much to help me to understand that my child needs me. Of course a child needs someone who won't give up on him or her. It blessed me tremendously to think of the fact that maybe God had looked around and decided that I could do it. I could parent the kiddo that many others might give up on. Yes, that was humbling.

Yet, even more humbling than being chosen to parent a challenging kiddo (and really, aren't they all somewhat challenging?) was the realization that as much as this child needs me, I need this child. I shudder to think of the person I might be if I hadn't had this child. I'd be full of pride, not grace. Grace is so much better.

One of the most important lessons I've learned in my life is that the right thing is hardly ever the easy thing. Being the mama to a challenging child is never the easy thing, yet I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's the right thing. I know I'm better for it and it's my prayer that my child is as well.


Cute Bed Head

Actually, the pictures don't do this mane justice. Her bed head was impressive. I wish I looked so stinking cute when my hair is a mess. Love, love, love this girl. I plan on soaking up every bit of the next year and a half until she goes to kindergarten!


The Beast

Last year we said goodbye to our dog. Buck was the sweetest dog. In fact, he even managed to win over a few self-proclaimed dog haters. Well, maybe "win them over" is a stretch, but they did both tolerate and trust him.

Saying goodbye to him was hard. I mean hard. As much as I missed him, my husband and oldest daughter missed him more. Eventually, we stopped expecting to see him when we looked at his favorite spots on the floor, and I grew used to actually having to use a broom under the table.

Yet, even though we missed our dog, we remained firm about not getting a new dog for at least two years. We didn't even last a year.

One day my husband sent me an email about two Boxer-mix dogs who needed a home. The pics were cute, but no way were we getting two dogs!

A couple of weeks later, he sent the email again. The dogs still needed a home. My attitude had changed. I said I thought maybe we were supposed to take them. He said he didn't want two dogs.

While we were visiting my mom in Colorado, Tony got a call from the dogs' owners saying they were willing to split the two dogs up to different homes. That's when Tony got serious about considering a dog.

A few days later he went to "meet" Bear. I think we both knew that by "meet" he meant "go take one look and declare him mine." And that's what happened.

After the kids were in bed, he brought Bear home for me to meet. Despite the fact that he peed on me, I agreed to make him ours. We made arrangements for him to stay with Tony's friend who took the other dog. Tony would pick Bear up on Christmas Eve after the kids were in bed.

We planned for the kids to meet him Christmas morning. Of course, we expected the sun to be up. The sun is definitely not up at 2:30 in the morning, but that's when the girls met their new dog. Ann, 7, sat up with a goofy grin on her face. I wish I had a picture, but who thinks to grab a camera after being awoken at 2:30 a.m? Not me. Chris had the decency to wait until 5:30 Christmas morning to be coherent enough to realize there was a dog in the house. That's when I finally got video of the kids and their new dog!

Bear has adjusted quite well. He continues to prove my theory that our house is just happier with a dog in it. Dirtier, but much happier. I'd say the dirt and the dog hair is a small price to pay for the memories. (Well, most days anyways.)

So, I guess 2011 was the year of the dog for us. A sweet, sad and surprising year of dogs.

If my daughter had her way, 2012 would be the year of another dog or cat. Just today she told me to put a small live dog on the shopping list. I looked at her and told her that children who own both a dog and a cat do NOT get to request more pets. I don't yet know what 2012 will bring, but I'm certain it will not be our year of the dog, cat, hamster, guinea pig or anything other living thing!


If They Twist my Arm, I'll Post a Picture

Alright, alright. I'll do it!

They've hinted and hinted some more. They've called, emailed and sent me texts. So, to my two biggest blog readers, this is for you!

I took this Christmas morning. It wasn't the first time the children had been downstairs. Oh no, they had first ventured down for a peak at 2 a.m. We didn't cave until 5:30 when we finally decided we might as well join them (and brew a big pot of coffee)!

Of course, you probably notice something new in that picture. Bear (formerly known as Bull) was our big Christmas surprise for the kids. Sure, we said we wouldn't get a dog for a couple more years, but it's been nine months since we had to put Buck down and we were ready for the fun a dog brings to a house. And let's face it, there's never a good time for the messes, shedding and smell that a dog brings. If I was going to wait until I was ready for that, well we'd never have a dog!

Mom and Little Brother, you're welcome. Wait, this wasn't enough? Well, I suppose it was just a bit of a tease. I'll post more soon.

Happy New Year!