On My Own

I’ll be heading to a conference in Seattle this weekend. It’s the child ambassador conference for World Vision. When I signed up a few months ago, it seemed ages away, and I got more and more excited. Now that it is almost upon me, though, I am getting more and more nervous.

I have full confidence that the boys will be absolutely fine. Nathan is a very capable Dad and caretaker. Probably the worst that will happen is that he’ll dress them in the wrong size clothing or something. Maybe I’m just a control freak, but I’m just worrying about being away for a whole weekend.

Maybe it’s just that I don’t know what to do with myself. I haven’t really been alone since Elias was born. I’ve been alone on a quick trip to the grocery store. I’ve taught summer school to a big group of other people’s kids. I’ve been to meetings for the food pantry or MOMS club. But truly alone? Having real time to myself? Not for over four years. It’s a strange concept.

I’m really looking forward to getting a good night sleep, to meeting other people who care as much about child sponsorship as I do, to going out without having to worry if there is snot or something worse on my shirt.

Being a mom is not all of who I am. But it is a huge part of who I am. I’m going to try to enjoy myself, learn a lot, be inspired, and not worry about what is going on at home.

Posted in Child Ambassador, Parenting | 1 Comment

Offerings

Sometimes I get frustrated with how quickly my house gets messy living with three boys. (Well…two boys and one man). What is it about making a mess that is so fun? I’m sure I made messes as a child. In fact, I know I did. But I don’t remember why.

We played puzzles today. The boys each worked on a few different puzzles and had fun. Then somehow it turned in to a game where they were carrying puzzle pieces into the bathroom and depositing them on the floor in front of the toilet until we had a huge pile of puzzle pieces all mixed up and no one could even use the pot as intended. The boys helped me clean it all up, of course, as they do most every evening.

But it always seems that there is leftover cleaning to do after the boys are in bed. A random shoe in the couch cushions. A toy car on its side right in front of the front door. A book laying open on the stairs. A big pile of laundry I never finished folding because I was too busy pitching baseballs and dancing to the music and living life while it happened. Dust! Piles on the counter of things I never quite put away.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about these little messes as offerings instead of nuisances. The pile of rocks moved from the rock pathway in the backyard, and is now sitting in the middle of our deck? An offering. An offering of childhood. It is easy to get annoyed at something else that needs to be cleaned up or taken care of. But if I stop to wonder, it actually brings a smile to my heart. What were they thinking? What were those boys thinking about those rocks that made them important enough to be moved? Those rocks mean life is happening.

Some day there will be no more toy cars. No more rock piles or shoes in the couch. Maybe it will be cleaner. But it will be empty.

So I look around and snap these memories in my mind. Snap pictures of these offerings my children are leaving of childhood. Too soon that will be all that’s left.

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The Work of Our Future

This weekend I wrapped up my five weeks of working outside the home. Every summer for the last eight summers, I have been a teacher for the AASK (Aardvarks Advocate Skills and Knowledge) program which is a partnership between Oregon Episcopal School and the Beaverton School District (particularly Whitford Middle School). This year I taught outgoing fifth and sixth graders. The program is literacy based, and filled primarily with students who speak a language besides English at home, and need extra practice or help over the summer (although there are a couple exceptions). I taught at Whitford in the mornings, and in the afternoons the kids get to go over to OES and have fun “summer camp” like activities.

The special thing about AASK is that although it is literacy based, it is much more broad in its scope than normal school. We get to look at the whole child. When I design curriculum I get to include service learning, incorporate my students’ culture into the classroom, and design more experiential and hands on projects. It  really is a lot of fun!

Even though the rest of my life is an absolute mess when I am working (How do working moms have time to cook and clean? What is a real dinner again? Will I ever see my bedroom floor again? Do I have any clean pants? Oh wait…that bill was due three days ago?) teaching for AASK rejuvenates me in a way that nothing else can.

When I am teaching I feel human again. I feel like a real person, and not just a mom. For five weeks I get to do something bigger than change diapers. I’m not trying to belittle being a stay at home mom. I love staying at home with my boys and I’m so thankful I get to do so. But sometimes I forget who I really am. What am I passionate about? What really matters in this world? If anything, it gives me a better perspective in how to raise my boys the rest of the year. Besides, I love teaching, and it’s nice to feel still connected to the teaching world even if it was only for five weeks.

This year, our theme was “Be Legendary.” We talked a lot about what it means to be legendary, and really empowered the kids to feel legendary themselves. We also focused on how nature is legendary, and how we as humans are connected with it. What does nature provide for us? In what ways is nature legendary? How can we give back?

On the final day, we had a parent night, where a lot of the students’ work was displayed in the woods at OES. The display was very moving, so I thought I’d share just a bit of it here. I am so proud of my students. They are just such amazing kids!

For one of our projects, my students wrote a poem entitled “Where I Am From” It is one way for them to feel validated in their culture (which is often ignored during the school year), it helped us get to know each other, and it helped the students think about where they came from and what is important to them. Not to mention all the work we did with poetry, vocabulary and word choice.

Then, I taught them how to make paper. Elias helped me make a video, and my students loved it! (On a side note…attempting to make paper with 80 kids all at the same time may be a bit ambitious…but it turned out alright). Each of my students made their own paper out of recycled and natural materials from the Whitford campus. Then, I had them choose their favorite line from their poem to write on the paper and display in the woods.

This project was just so moving I had tears in my eyes as I walked through the exhibit. I wanted to take pictures of them all, but here are just a few of the 80 that were displayed:

Another project we displayed in the woods was an art reflection. We had studied four animals of the northwest, and talked about why those animals are legendary: the salmon, the eagle, the beaver, and the frog. Then, the kids chose which animal they identified most with, created a piece of native american art, and wrote how they are similar to that animal. The pictures don’t do these justice at all. They were quite beautiful with the light streaming through.

Here is a close up of two different ones.

“I am free and independent like the eagle.”

“I am like the eagle because I am proud, loud and social. I like to soar above boundaries and over obstacles. I also sometimes like to show off like the eagle catches its prey.”

The final project we had displayed with a leaf spiral. A lot of the kids didn’t know the difference between adjectives, verbs, and nouns, so we had them write a diamante poem about how they are legendary. This was after a lot of work with words, discussions, vocabulary charts, and thesauruses!

Here are two out of the many beautiful poems:

Although I am a little relieved that life will settle down for me a bit, I am sad to be finished with summer school. I am very proud of my students and of myself and my team. This is the work of our future. It makes me feel hopeful. I am leaving with my heart full.

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The Power of a Hand Written Letter

A few weeks ago, we had a feline visitor in our backyard. At first he was pretty skittish, and was hiding in our bushes. Then he got a bit more brave and came up to our back sliding door a couple of times. I got a good look at him, and just knew that he was an indoor kitty. I could just tell that he belonged to someone and had accidentally gotten outside. Since I was working and was super busy, and we have a lot of kitty visitors, I didn’t do anything about it at first.

However, when the kitty showed up for about the fourth day in a row, and stayed all day curled up next to our window, I decided something had to be done. Despite the fact that Nathan instructed me not to feed the cat, I did so anyway. He kept trying to come inside, but I never let him in. For the next two days I was never home when the shelter was open so I couldn’t take him in to see if he was micro-chipped. I fed the kitty, and he pretty much never left our back deck.

Finally, I got home with just a few minutes to spare, and raced the kitty to the shelter. He, of course, did not have a micro-chip, but I left him there anyway just in case his owner was looking for him. He was such a sweet little guy that I had a lot of anxiety leaving him there.

Over the next couple of weeks I often wondered about the kitty. Especially when we drove past the shelter. I even thought of stopping by to see if he was still there.

A few days ago, I got this little gem in the mail:

I couldn’t believe it when I opened this card. I was so excited to see that the kitty had found his home. The fact that someone had taken just a few minutes to write a note of thanks meant so much to me. It wasn’t that I felt I needed to be thanked. It was just the time they took to let me know he had found his home. It really made my day!

I’m going to try to write more hand written notes of thanks or encouragement or….just because. It means a lot!

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Our Bit of Earth

I never imagined how relaxing working in the yard could be. I pulled a lot of weeds this evening after dinner. I did get a little tired of squatting by the end. But for the most part it was just so relaxing. I listened to my husband and sons playing together, and just got to work.

It feels like an honor, I guess, to care for God’s creation. Look at the beauty:

These flowers (and many more) have come up in my yard and I feel responsible for them. I want to care for something so beautiful. I hope I can do a good job.

 

 

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My Gardening “Illiteracy”

Many people told us before we moved into a house that the yard is nice for the kids, but the downside is that you have to care for it. Nathan had nightmare flashbacks about mowing the lawn from when he was a kid. I have always had the antithesis of a green thumb. I have more like a black thumb…the black thumb of death. Not on purpose, mind you, but it is the case nevertheless. So we both had worries.

But since we have moved in I have felt nothing but joy about our yard, even with all the work. It doesn’t feel like work because it’s fun. But that still doesn’t change the fact that I am pretty much yard illiterate. I know nothing. Zilch. Zero. I know that we have hydrangeas. Someone told me we have rhododendrons. There is grass and some trees…but that is about it. There is so much growing in our yard, and now that it is spring things are starting to look alive.

It’s such a magical time. Such an exciting time. Each day the shoots grow a little farther out of the ground. We are starting to get buds and leaves and blossoms. The anticipation is killing me! I love watching these plants grow.

I’ve been watching these hyacinths for a couple weeks now. They are so close!

What amazes me even more is that these plants are growing all by themselves. I am not doing anything. (Maybe that’s the secret) Last month there was just dead stuff, and now there are plants that actually look…healthy. It’s a new thing for me!

But it is frustrating too. I don’t know what any of the plants are so I don’t know if I should be doing something to care for them. So…can anyone help me out? I’m sure it would be easier if they were fully grown, but does anyone know what these are?

And this….I’m tempted to think it’s a weed but I don’t know so I haven’t taken it out. There are a couple of them growing right next to the clematis vine.

Someone told me this might be an herb. Does anyone know what it is?

It will be a fun and amazing adventure learning about our yard. Some of our neighbors are helping us out too! One of them offered us two large planter boxes for growing vegetables, and he also gave us some strawberry starts. What fun!

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Hand Made Advent Calendar #2

Last year I made an advent calendar for Elias out of felt. While I was finishing it, I was massively pregnant with our second son. It was during that time about a year ago that I came up with the design for Simon’s advent calendar. Simon is a little young for an advent calendar this year, but I wanted to make it just so that it would be done.

This design was actually inspired by the advent altar frontal at our church. The frontal just has the star. I added the silhouette of Bethlehem underneath with my imagination.

The calendar is made entirely of felt (and thread). I embroidered the numbers on the pockets by hand. I also drew and sewed the star and the Bethlehem by hand. The pockets were stitched on by machine.

The boys’ two advent calendars on the wall next to each other.

I thought a lot about my boys as I stitched for hours and hours after their bedtime the last two weeks or so. I hope they use these even after they are grown. But at the very least, for now the calendars will help my boys focus on the true reason for Christmas.

If you are curious about why there are 28 pockets, you can read my post from last year’s calendar here. In short, advent is not just about the month of December! It has anywhere between 22 and 28 days depending on what day of the week Christmas falls. This year, advent begins on December first so  it doesn’t matter anyway, but sometimes we’ll need those extra days!

I filled Elias’ calendar with a small chocolate for each day along with a slip of card stock that tells him an activity we will do to prepare for Christmas. They range from getting a Christmas tree to celebrating St. Nicholas’ feast day to participating in the Christmas pageant at church to baking Christmas fudge for our neighbors.

Each pocket of Simon’s calendar is filled with a slip of card stock with one of the names of Jesus, and the verse where it can be found in the Bible. We’ll read the verse together as a family each day, and then make a poster with all the names on the wall for us to see as the days count down. We’ll look at names such as “Alpha and Omega” “Light of the World” and “Immanuel” There are 24 different names for 24 days in advent.

I’m even ready a day early this year! I hope the boys are excited when they come out and see the calendars tomorrow morning. Maybe it will build up some excitement before advent even begins!

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There’s Laughter In These Walls

I haven’t talked about it much outside of my family and a few friends, but we’re moving. We’re not moving far. Just a few miles down the road.

Moving comes with a lot of stress. We’ll be renting out our current home, and are in the process of buying a different one. So we’ve got a lot on our plate. But this post isn’t about our to-do list.

I’ve wanted to move for a couple years now, but we weren’t able to for one reason or another. So when the opportunity very suddenly presented itself to us, I was very excited. But in the past few days I’ve been feeling a bit of sadness over leaving this home.

This has been our home for six years. We’ve brought two babies home here. There is laughter in the walls. Tickle fights and silly songs and made up words. This is where we lived. Not just where we resided. This is where first steps where taken. Where first words were spoken. Where babies clapped their hands for the first time. It’s where we’ve gotten to know good friends over a homemade meal and had holiday celebrations. It’s where we’ve run around with children on our backs yelling “Wheeeeeee!”

There are tears in the carpet. It’s where we lost our first baby. It’s where we’ve nursed sick toddlers. It’s where we’ve hugged each other so tight because that is the only thing that makes the world better.

As much as I’ve wanted to move on from this house, I’ve loved this home. I love the wetlands and the birds. I love how bright and light it is. I love the kitchen and the bathrooms. I love that it is ours, and that we’ve lived here.

So why move?

Well I guess I had to hike the 100 yards from the car to the front door one too many times with a toddler and a baby and a purse and a diaper bag and four grocery bags all in the pouring rain. Or maybe I am just tired of having to choose between a cement porch, a dog pooped common area, or a hike to the park to let my sons play outside. Maybe there were one too many sirens blaring on the nearby busy street. Maybe I just need a bit more space to think. To live.

A bigger house with yard and a garage won’t solve all of our problems. Believe me, I realize how “first world” they are. But we’ve decided that we have the means to get these things, and we’re ready to do it. I can’t wait to see Elias playing baseball in his own yard. I can’t wait to unload groceries from a garage. I can’t wait to have neighbors who I don’t share a wall with.

But as I contemplate the move I just want to be sure that the most important things won’t change. I keep thinking of this song by my favorite band (Switchfoot):

“American Dream”

When success is equated with excess
The ambition for excess wrecks us
As top of the mind becomes the bottom line
When success is equated with excess

If your time ain’t been nothing for money
I start to feel really bad for you, honey
Maybe honey, put your money where your mouth’s been running
If your time ain’t been nothing but money

I want out of this machine
It doesn’t feel like freedom

This ain’t my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I’m tired of fighting for just me
This ain’t my American dream

When success is equated with excess
When we’re fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus
As the heart and soul breath in the company goals
Where success is equated with excess

‘Cause baby’s always talkin’ ’bout a ring
And talk has always been the cheapest thing
Is it true would you do what I want you to
If I show up with the right amount of bling?

Like a puppet on a monetary string
Maybe we’ve been caught singing
Red, white, blue, and green
But that ain’t my America,
That ain’t my American dream

I’m afraid. I’m afraid that this will happen to me. I’m afraid of getting the bigger house and forgetting what’s really important.

Maybe it’s guilt. Maybe I feel a bit of guilt for securing my own comfort. For getting myself a bigger house rather than helping more people than I already am. There is so much need in this world.

Maybe it’s just stress from the idea of moving.

I don’t know. But I do know I want to live and die for the truly important things. It is my hope that living in a larger house will not prevent that. God, help it be so.

 

Posted in Events, Every Day Life | 1 Comment

What’s It Like Having Kids?

Every time one of our boys does something incredibly cute or a bit crazy, my husband turns to me and says, “What’s it like having kids?” It’s just one of those sayings that doesn’t really mean what it means, and just sort of says that life is good.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about what it’s like having kids lately. Because it’s changed me drastically. So here you go:

What’s it like having kids? It’s like starting the getting ready to get out the door process 45 minutes before you have to leave, and still having to change two poopy diapers five minutes after you should have been out the door. It’s like thinking you’ll never be early again, and being on time is lucky these days. It’s like everything taking three times as long as it would have before kids.

What’s it like having kids? It’s feeling like a complete bozo while feeding your 8 month old child with a very large tablespoon in a restaurant. Because you forgot his baby spoon and it was the smallest the restaurant had. Oh…and the food you brought for him was a delicious raspberry/blackberry mix which is wonderful except for the fact that you forgot a bib too so it is getting berry juice all over his clothing. (But really inside you are just patting yourself on the back for remembering to bring his food at all).

What’s it like having kids? It’s like waking up at 5:00 a.m. and feeling ecstatic. Because it’s not 11:54 or 12:35 or 1:27 or 3:43 or even 4:16. You slept all the way to 5:00 without waking up…and so did the baby. Oh wait. Now you are nervous and go check on him.

What’s it like having kids? It’s like packing three different jackets in the diaper bag, but still not having the one that you need. (The rain coat).

What’s it like having kids? It’s like cutting grapes in half and peanut butter sandwiches in quarters. It’s like a guessing game because sometimes they only want what you don’t, but sometimes they are as agreeable as anything.

What’s it like having kids? It’s hearing your son sing along with Jon Foreman and Dan Haseltine. Belting out “Your love is strong” from the back seat. And that place inside of you…that place that is your very core…. is filled with love and pride and contentment.

What’s it like having kids? It’s the feel of his arms around my neck when I am trying to change his diaper. And he says, “Mommy come down here and hug me. Come closer Mommy.”

What’s it like having kids? It’s wanting nothing more than a few minutes to myself. Then the baby actually goes down for a nap and the toddler is in quiet time, and first I stand there looking around manically, wondering what to do with my precious minutes. Then I start to feel a bit guilty for locking my toddler up in quiet time just so I can do something crafty or clean the bathroom or check my email. Then I get over it because he does need some down time after all. I finally decide what to do with my time, and the baby wakes up. Or the toddler comes out and says he had an accident.

What’s it like having kids? It’s when one of your favorite moments of the day was hearing baby giggles after you play wrestled your two boys and Daddy too.

What’s it like having kids? It’s when nothing is better than planting a big ‘ol smooch on those chubby cheeks.

What’s it like having kids? It’s like being forgiven every day. Like having a new start because they love you even though you lost patience and snapped when the toddler asked what cd was in the car about 37 times. (To your credit, you did answer “I don’t know” about 29 of those times before you lost patience).

What’s it like having kids? It’s discovering a whole new level of love. And it grows each time a child is added to your family.

What’s it like having kids? It’s realizing how wonderful my spouse is. It’s being so thankful that he’s there to share this with me.

What’s it like having kids? It’s the baby squealing and banging on something and the toddler shouting for me to answer his questions and I wonder if the noise is bothering the neighbors, but also soak in the craziness and wouldn’t want it any other way. (At least as long as it only lasts another minute or so).

What’s it like having kids? It’s big splashes in the bath. It’s back floats and rubber ducks. It’s brothers giggling together.

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12 Years Together!

This morning we were running late (as usual) on our way to church. We’re not late every week, but we are running late most Sunday mornings. Usually I am just disappointed if we are late, but this morning something about it really set me on edge. I was quite frustrated. We were driving through the fog and I dropped something under my seat and could not reach it no matter how I contorted myself. I let out an audible sigh of frustration, and Elias from the back seat chimed “It’s ok Mommy. It’s a beautiful chilly morning.”

It immediately stopped me in my tracks when I heard those words in my sweet three year old’s voice. It was just the breath of fresh air I needed to see things from a better perspective. He was right. Everything really was ok. (And we even made it to Sunday School on time). Elias doesn’t concern himself with being late or being in a rush. He takes the time to appreciate a beautiful morning. As soon as I stopped to realize this, it changed my whole attitude. It changed my whole day.

I started counting my blessings rather than focusing on running late. And there were a lot of blessings to count.

The best one for today, though, is that it is the twelfth anniversary of my first date with Nathan. October 20th, 2001 we went out the the spaghetti factory for dinner and it all started….well the “official” part anyway. Now we are married with two beautiful boys.

Just for fun, I decided to get some pictures together. The first is a picture of us somewhere on or around October 26th, 2001 on the ferris wheel in Disney’s california adventure. We didn’t take a picture of ourselves on our first date, but a few days later we both went on a school trip to California and we have lots of pictures from that! (I didn’t have any digital pictures so I had to be lame and take a picture of a picture…sorry) The second picture is of us this evening after 12 years together. I love you, Nathan!

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