Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks

So, it's been awhile.  I admit, the craziness of all day school, with half day school, with no school, with extra curriculars and what not...I have taken awhile to adjust.  Not just to the schedule, but the shift in parenting of this new season.  The kids are older and well, we are working on more heart issues than behavior issues.  It feels far more time consuming.
Enter dinner time.  The age old battle over food.  Really, Shawn and I have had it pretty good.  Our kids know you get what you get and half the time they eat it.  In toddler land and kid land, that ain't bad.  However, we have recently dealt with:
1.  An older child who eats his meal and declares he wants more, but "something else...not more of this."  Uh...no sir. 
2.  A middle child who declares the food "not tasty and not my favorite"  sight unseen.  Unless it's a hot dog or a piece of fruit, he's out.  Needless to say, that doesn't fly well at all.
3.  A picky little girl who would prefer to snack her way through life on fruit chewies, has the attention span of a gnat at the table and will only consume more than four bites of a meal if it is "orange pacaroni (macaroni)". 
It's been awesome, to say the least.  Dinner time is frustrating and I dread spending time on a meal only to go into the "war zone" and fight against the ungratefulness at the table.  It's not so much the food, but the attitude in which they approach it.  The entitlement they seem to feel towards being given what they want, when they want it and to turn their noses up at what is offered.
So...we made a plan.  Beans and Rice.  Our friend once mentioned something their family participated in at Thanksgiving.  Three days before Thanksgiving, their family ate plain oatmeal for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch and beans and rice for dinner.  The third day, they added cheese (she said, she'd never been more grateful for cheddar in her life) and then on Thanksgiving, their eyes were opened to the abundance of food and choice they are given. 
It seemed like a good idea.  It was a good idea.  However, I am going to admit, it did not go according to plan.  (Do any of our brilliant parenting ideas?)
We started Sunday night.  Our kids mowed through the rice and beans (except Amanda, who will only eat beans).  They loved it.  Shawn and I thought it wasn't too bad.  In the morning, only Gavin would eat plain oatmeal (and only four bites).  The other two chose to drink milk and forgo cereal.  Lunch was beans and rice.  I will admit to caving and handing out some almonds as a snack.  (At this point Amanda had only eaten beans and some milk...so I decided a little protein was best.  She's only three and I think the gratefulness lesson was over her head, but did figure this a time to work on not snacking her way through life and eating what's provided).    Shawn came home and declared he was eating plain malto meal for dinner and the kids and I went back to beans and rice.
The kids were doing fine.  Gavin was getting a bit out of it and understood what we had been telling him, but ate without complaint.  Brayden sat down to each meal declaring "I love beans and rice" and Mandy just continued her normal behavior of barely eating anything and whining.
Shawn and I?  We were fading.  He could hardly look at the beans and rice and as hungry as I was, even I struggled to down it.  And that's a big deal.  I am someone who can go a day without eating and barely notice.  I am the person who always eats the leftovers, even if I didn't care for it, because I hate to waste food.  I am not a foodie.  I used to think I was pretty easy in this regard.  Until I had beans and rice thrust upon me for 6 meals straight.  Not to mention, I realized, when I enjoy most of my food is after the kids go to bed and I can get what I want and watch a show or something.  Having no food after dinner!  I think my stomach started eating itself each night at 7.  Ugh!
And so...A lesson has been learned.  Shawn and I are thankful.  We are thankful that we have food.  We are thankful we have variety.  We are thankful that we have the opportunity to introduce the variety to our kids, even if it is greeted with resistance.  We are thankful for the ridiculously stocked pantry that we can raid any time we want...especially after 7!  We are thankful.
Now, I don't want to say my kids didn't learn a thing.  I really think they grasped some of it and in the conversations we made a conscience effort to have I did see their hearts starting to grasp gratefulness. Opening the conversation about how to be content, learning to turn to Godfor help...because sometimes it really is so hard or downright impossible on our own! (Especially after 7 o'clock at night)
But really...I think Shawn and I were taught a lesson.  When we would stare at each other at night, desperately wanting to sneak into the pantry and just gorge ourselves on anything with taste!  When we faced down the beans and rice, once again.  When I contemplated the words I said to my kids, "Many people don't even get three meals a day.  Many people eat the same thing for all three meals.  Many people feel hungry in their tummy's all the time."  The most impactful for my kids and me was a fact I found in my research to prepare for our week.  "One in every eight kids deal with hunger or starvation."
It was a wake up call to the extreme fortune I was born into.  And while I was all prepared to change the hearts of my kids, God changed my heart and showed me yet again, that I could afford to listen to my own lecture. 
And so this Thanksgiving, I think my heart is in a far better place to actually give thanks.  I think I will be overwhelmed by the abundance.  I think I will treasure the left overs.  I think I will be thankful when I feel "full" and I will be contemplating what our family can do to provide for those who are feeling the pain of hunger. And I believe I will even be thankful and manage a smile when my kids turn their noses at the yams...because we have yams for them to turn their noses up at! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Embracing the crazy

Every year around late August, I start to get anxiety.  My heart starts beating, my chest feels tight and it all comes down to the fact that I know there are so many decisions to be made, schedule changes coming and forms to be filled out.  For a complete control freak like me, it's overwhelming.  I borrow trouble and worries about upcoming events and changes and well...go a little crazy.
I do have some legit concerns about open enrollment for health care.  Team, I could write a math book of story problems I have created in order to try and figure out the best route for our family.  I am sure the lady at the district office is ready to tell them to let Shawn go, just so she won't hear from me again.  I also have some forms that you fill out, just to get you more forms (the schools health form, which requires more forms and oops, if those aren't completed, Gav can't go to school...didn't see that line!) And then there is the fact that new commitments have us essentially scheduled Sun, Mon, Tues, and Wed night.
What happens when these legit concerns overlap with other minor decisions and schedule changes is I start to freak out about completely inane things.  My husband and good friends can attest to this.  I try to over control and get overwhelmed by the most basic questions or tasks.  A few humbling examples of my lame freak out moments:
Will I be able to get both kids to their separate soccer practice and manage to feed them dinner?
-(yes of course.  We managed...as long as three meatballs and a smoothie qualify as dinner, this one is a cake walk)
Should Brayden do morning or afternoon preschool?
-(Umm....well if he's gone when Amanda may just nap, why am I even asking this?)
Should I order a casual polo for my Awana leader uniform or the womens cut?
-(Seriously, both are amongst the fashion challenged and I shall impress no one in either, why worry)
Should Amanda sign up for gymnastics or dance class?
-(Uh...who cares?  She's three and lucky she gets to do anything.  She is most likely not Shawn Johnson or a prima ballerina...really, let it go)

Yes.  So silly.  I know this.  I mean, I know this!  But still sometimes I get so close to hyperventilation just trying to get my life in order.  So many little things snack day, show and tell, the pumpkin farm field trip, soccer practice, ballet, insurance, car repairs, drop off, pick up, eye dr., well child checks, asthma forms, release forms, permission slips, homework, and on and on and on.

But this is our life.  And it's good.  And we're fortunate.  And I am learning to take deep breathes and be thankful.  Thankful for healthcare, for a car, for preschool, for the ability to have my kids participate in a sport/class, for education, for a doctor that watches out for the kiddos, for meatballs and smoothies!   I am learning to embrace the crazy in my head and take it to God.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds."  Philippians 4:6-7

In taking it a day at a time, sometimes an activity at a time, and reminding myself to be thankful, God is showing me His faithfulness in new ways.  I am learning to laugh a little more at my decision making inability and I am learning that not every decision/responsibility/situation is as big a deal as I can make it out to be.  (For those that know me well...no comment, I will most likely still be prone to overdramatization still). 

Yet another credit to the Lord, because He has been guarding my heart and mind.  I know he has....and frankly, to do any sort of work on the crazy in mind, truly transcends understanding.  But He's doing it.  I am so grateful.  Thank you Lord and Amen!!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The curse of the Pacific Northwest

Being from the Pacific Northwest, we love our sunny days.  It is beautiful here, there is no doubt.  Water, mountains, hikes....God's creation.

Being from the Pacific Northwest, on sunny days over 75 and my kids melt.  They get "sooooo hot".  They "can't walk another step".  They get "tiiiiiied" (tired), as Amanda would say.  It really is kinda pathetic, but there are days I understand where they are coming from.

It is a strange dichotomy, because I feel as though being a good mom requires me being outside on a sunny day in the Northwest, no matter the protest on my kids lips.  On the other hand....it is summer, we are tired from running around, staying up late and doing all the summer stuff.  And well, some days I do want to lay inside, in front of the fan, on the floor, doing nothing.  To not be at a park, in the water, on a bike ride, picking berries and not be drying my hands out with the never ending sunscreen application process (my kids are whiter than white).   Today a good friend of mine told me she told her kids they could watch a show on her computer, "but only if you do it outside" and I'm thinking..."you're brilliant."  This is what the Pacific Northwest does to you.  I see the sunshine and I am pushing my kids out the door. 

Now, I am relatively sure the mom who was in front of the fan loving on her kids was a better one than the mom yelling about water squirter rules and confiscating toys left and right from the kids who were forced outside.  But staying inside seems somehow wrong.  Guilt.  Indoor remorse.   It could be a curse of the Pacific Northwest, but I am more inclined to believe it's me trying to be who I am not and trying to make my kids into something they are not. 

We need rest.  Sometimes, the fan is good.  A good book on a cool couch, with the sun coming through the window is okay.  A picnic inside on a blanket, with the light of the day shining on our indoor teacups is lovely.  A little break from sunscreen is healthy (I could do a whole post on my pure hatred of sunscreen application, but I have chosen to not fuel the hatred in writing about it). 

I never really thought much about being from Washington, other than I love it here.  I haven't thought it affected me, but in this, I have noticed I have distinct PNW issues.  However, I am breaking the bondage and I am reconciling myself that I need not take advantage of every sunny day.  Traitorous, though it feels, I believe I will actually be more like the "good mom" I want to be. 


Sunday, August 4, 2013


It's been awhile....
This summer has been running from one adventure to another.  Brief summaries:

Yellowstone road trip highlights include:
the boys becoming Jr. Rangers (Brayden took this very seriously), Amanda's amazing fit at the painted pots being caught on film (seriously, this is the kind of thing you stand in awe of and later say you wish you had caught it...super embarrassing, yes.  However, I think we will laugh at this in years to come - dad's still not there yet) , following a buffalo who wouldn't get off the road for over 45 minutes (apparently "traffic" looks different in Wyoming), visiting Missoula (visiting the ER there, not so much, but the city itself was fine), watching my boys play "chest" as Gavin calls it (chess), the small town parade and fireworks from our balcony, the 15 hour car drive home...though not a highlight, definitely something I am proud the family survived.

Camping at Lake Wenatchee:  with our friends the Eicherts and my family up the road a ways, it was perfect weather, great company and we got to use our brand new tent.  It really was one of the smoothest and relaxing camping trips we've had yet as a family of five.

Bellingham trip to celebrate the 10 year anniversary:  3 nights no kids!  Wahoo!!!!  We ate, we slept and we got to hang out together, just us!!!  So fun.  Great news is that we still have fun together and love to laugh.  Ten years of practicing awesome.

Trip to Seabrook with the family:  My parents rented a house for my sister's and our family.  SO great!  One of those trips that the kids talk about over and over and you look at just knowing they will remember the time...the hammock, the beach, the pool, the putt putt golf, the ice cream, the bumper boats, the smores, the bike rides and the super cool beds built into the walls for each of the kids.  Not to mention, good food, good wine and an amazing family.

And...we're back.  I feel a tad overwhelmed with the e-vites, "back to school" stuff and various projects that seem to be lurking around every corner, but I am ever thankful for the time as a family and the privileges it is to have had so many opportunities this July. 

It has been a challenge to try and remind the kids that they are beyond blessed to have had these chances.  That this isn't a normal summer and they need to be grateful instead of entitled.  I am looking for ways to instill and build this in them.  WOW!  It is hard. 

But still I wouldn't trade it.  I am definitely grateful for the time.  So very blessed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Gavin is a bit of a wimp when it comes to scrapes, owies or boo boos.  I know it's not nice to say this about your child, but there is just no way around it.  At the sign of a scrape, he melts down.  He is so incredibley over dramatic about any potential scrape, when he actually gets one it's as though amputation is on the horizon.  It is hard to actually determine the true degree of "ouch" because everything is a near death experience for him. 
I try to be sympathetic, but after a half hour of crying over nothing...literally no sign of anything, my patience is stretched thin and my empathy has flown out the window.  Honestly, my two year old girl handles things better.  And so when the elbow injury, that actually invovled blood, occured last week, I was already starting deep breathing and self talk to try and muster up the patience and mother love I'd need to get through it.  It took awhile, but we did in fact move on.  Until bed time.
At bedtime, Gavin was rustling around and finally I see the tears start pooling in the bottom of his eyes.  When I asked him what's wrong he says, "How am I going to sleep with a scrape on my elbow?"
My thoughts?  What in the world kid!  That happened about 6 hours ago!  What I really said, "Gav, think about it, it's already healing, don't you think you'll be fine?"
"Noooooo," tears getting closer to falling, "I can't lie on it...it touches things."
Oh geez.  At the end of a long day, long week, I had so little left and yes, this is in fact what I said, umm sang, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...stand a little taller"
Gav, probably wondering what is wrong with me, looks taken aback and says, "that's Amanda's song." (Well, yes, my daughter does happen to love this song.  So, we refer to it as Amanda's song.  I know, I know, she should probably be singing things like itsy bitsy spider, but  I just can't handle that stuff.  So, Kelly Clarkson it is.  Things could be worse.)  "Mom, what does that mean?" 
Even though I was just singing, so as not to scream in frustration, I decided to go with it
"Well,  the that's like this scrape.  It didn't kill you, but it's making you stronger.  Every owy makes you a little bit stronger, cuz you know you can get through it.  So, we don't whine and cry, but we try to remember that we are getting tougher by healing."
I flipped Gav over onto his other arm and laid his scraped one ontop of the covers. And he dramatically declares, while gently placing the scrape away from any sheet, "Oh, this is great Mom.  So I am gonna get stronger, now?"
"Yes Gavin.  Good-night."

Next day:  We have a little boy over who I watch three days a week.  He happens to have scrapes on his arm and is declaring that they hurt.  I mention that so does Gavin, but we are working on not whining while we let things heal.  (Sidenote here:  When things are truly painful and they really do have an injury, I do allow for tears and a bit of complaining.  But if you could see these scratches, you would be on my side...trust me.)  Anyway, Gav shows his friend his scrape and declares,
"It's making me stronger.  We don't complain, but we learn to get stronger after each boo boo"

I had to laugh.  My moment of parental survival.  Singing so as not to heave a huge sigh of frustration over my drama king...and he takes my words to heart.  I am glad at least there is a lesson here.  He will get stronger by learning from mistakes, hurts and boo boos.  I looked it up and the original credit for the quote goes to  Frederich Nietzsche, a german philosopher.  But who are we kidding?  I am ever so humbled to admit the truth...my best parenting moment of the week was brought to you by Kelly Clarkson.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rearview mirror

It was a good day, a long, but good day.  We went to the park this afternoon for 3 hours with some of my highschool friends and their kids.  The kids are finally old enough to remember each other and play together and they so enjoyed running around in the sunshine (yes...sunshine!).  I got to actually catch up a little with my friends (well, except when Amanda and her little friend Aven took off and I found them around the restrooms washing their hands in the drinking fountain...moment of panic). 
We then headed out to dinner with Mimi and Papa to finish off what I have entitled "Birthday Palooza".  April is Shawn's brother's birthday, SHawn's birthday, Shawn's mom's birthday, my neices, birthday, Brayden's birthday and my mom's birthday.  Yeah.  Craziness.  But today was the last, with Mimi turning 60!  So, we had our "dillas" at the local mexican joint and headed home. 
The kids were tired.  This always makes for a relaxing car ride.  Less screaming, less questions, less kicking chair backs, less song requests. 
I glanced back in the review mirror and witnessed Amanda's eyes flutter and shut as she drifted off.  Her little cheeks were rosy, her hair was in a messy bun, with wisps across her face, her head tilted to the side.  So sweet, still slightly baby faced.  In the background, Gavin was quietly reading a book to Brayden, who was asking questions and listening intently.  I wanted to capture the moment.
But...I had to look forward. 
It struck me that this is so similar to life.  We look in the rearview mirror and see the sweet treasures we have.  I see the 6.5 year old who just learned to read and is cruising along a book.  Who is thoughtfully showing the pictures to his brother, who catches my eyes in the mirror and smiles. 
I see the just turned 5 year old leaning his head in to listen to his big brother.  Taking a swig of his newly acquired "rescue canteen" and responsibly placing it next to him with a solid pat. 
I see the cherubed face, sleeping contently after a long day of play.  Her silky fine hair falling down and creating an overall picture that melts your heart.
I do not see the chaos it was to pack for the park, I don't see the 10 minutes it took to reteach tying shoes, I don't see the argument that ensued over who got the booster.  I don't see any of that in the rearview mirror. 
I want to stop and stay focused on the sweetness behind me...however, that would probably ensue in a relatively large car crash.  If I live in the rearview mirror, my kids will not be prepared for the future.  I don't want them to be in a crash...and so, I must look forward.
Somedays, I don't want to look forward.  I don't want to leave my babies behind.  But I must.  I must let them grow up, must teach new lessons, must tackle new problems, must let them tie their own shoes.  Sometimes, I think I am ready...especially with the shoe tying.  But I can just see myself a few years down the road, when they want some expensive shoe that I want to roll my eyes at thinking, "I wish my biggest concern was just tying these darn shoes!" 
In the rearview mirror, you can see the hard times and exclaim..."I made it!"  Which, in turn, I believe allows you to focus on the sweetness and all that was good.  Looking forward, I don't have the ability to know that I'll make it.  To be certain.  I like certainty.
I think I know in my heart of hearts, I'll make it.  God is too big a God.  He is able to do all things.  It just sometimes feels like I won't.  These are the moments where I just want to stare into that rearview mirror....relish the goodness I see there. 
But I really am starting to think, God set up life like a big roadtrip.  You must look forward.  You will travel in sunshine and blue skies, you will drive through whiteouts and storms, you will have moments where you pull over to soak it in and moments where you floor it to get the heck out of dodge.  You will see barren lands and you will encounter majestic, heartstopping views that will scream the greatness of their Creator.  And all the while, you will have those times where you glance back to remind yourself of the road traveled...to check on things.  And you will see memories of sweet faces, small voices and all the goodness that you made it through...in your rearview mirror.

Monday, April 15, 2013

To be like Gavin

Gavin is a large fan of money.  He likes to save money, he doesn't like to tithe (we make him give 10 percent of any money he's earned to the tithing jar), and he loves to talk about what he's going to get himself with his money.  It's hard to reason with a six year old, explain money, the pitfalls and the fact that it isn't everything...especially, when I struggle with the same issues.  (I would like to believe I am not quite as vocal about them).
Anyway...on Easter, our kids got some money in their Easter eggs and we collected it and put it into baggies for him.  As I was going to clean up, I handed Gav his bag and told him to go put it in his wallet.  He trotted back to his room and came out with the money still in hand.
(Before I go further, I need to mention, our family has signed up for Beat the Bridge, a walk to help cure diabetes.  We have been fundraising and explaining to the kids that the money will help to doctors, so they can cure four year old cousin Jamie.)
Gavin comes out, hands me the bag and says, "Mom, I want you to give this to the doctors so cousin Jamie can get better."
My heart swelled.  It's still swelling.  It was a few weeks ago now, but everytime I think about it, I am just so proud of my son and his heart.  This is a big deal for Gav and he was so gracious about it. 
Topping it off, was his trust that cousin Jamie would get better....that we have been praying, we're raising money and it will happen!  I love that! 
Lord, thank you for my sweet son Gavin...I hope I can learn to pray and believe and give like like him!