Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday

IMG_1058Dear Jackson,

Oh, my boy! What a difference a year makes. The person who is writing this letter today is in a wholly different mindset than the mother who wrote this letter last year. And, of course, so is the recipient!

In the last few months, your demeanor has undergone a transformation. Somehow, in some way, the things Daddy and I have been drilling in to your head for six years seem to be penetrating somewhat. It’s like a light was switched on, and you are grasping cause and effect in a much deeper sense. You have learned that giving an attitude to your parents results in getting an attitude back. You’ve experimented with that, and it seems you have found (finally!) that everyone is much more agreeable when we start with pleasant instead of grumps. Hallelujah! It finally makes sense for you!

Grasping this one life basic has paid big dividends for our entire family. Since the calendar turned to 2014, I’ve noticed an increased willingness on your part to help without being asked, to go out of your way when you see someone else struggling or having a bad moment, and to take responsibility for yourself. For example, Toy Jail finally makes sense to you. (Clean it up before bed, or you have to do a job the next day to get whatever item was “arrested” out of jail.)

As a mother, I’ve prayed countless times that I would see changes like this in you. And although I know we haven’t “arrived” yet (When does a parent ever “arrive,” anyway?), I can see glimmers of the man you will one day become. Small changes have brought big hope!

While some change has been encouraging and refreshing, other things have stayed the same – and I’m grateful for that, too. You are an incredibly smart kid. (Of course, in my humble opinion!) I mean, look at your classwork I saw at school today!IMG_1062a

And you are still the same sweet-hearted, emotionally open little boy you’ve always been. As a parent, I’ve learned to figure out the currency that matters most to each of my kids and to use that currency as a motivator. While physical currency (money) is a decent motivator for you, the biggest motivator is people. You LOVE people, and being alone is one of the worst punishments you can imagine.

Just last week, we had friends over for dinner – adult friends! To you, it didn’t matter that they weren’t coming to “play” with you. You were thrilled to have people over at all, and you woke up that morning chattering happily about our friends who were coming to dinner. As their arrival time got closer that evening, you set about getting the house ready for them. You asked me if you could put out trays for them to rest their snacks on. You took all the pillows off the couch and made a soft spot on the floor for our friends to sit. (Never mind that they are past the age of floor-sitting, and never mind that I had spent the previous 30 minutes cleaning up the living room and placing those same pillows in certain spots on the couch!) And then you took up a sentinel post by the front window, watching for their arrival. Every two minutes, you came to find me and tell me they had not arrived yet. But the instant they pulled into our driveway, you became a one-man welcome wagon and rushed out to usher our friends into the house. Having people in your life makes you feel like king of the castle, and your soul lights up with glowing joy.

You care about people, sweet boy. You love well. You write letters and draw pictures for people you love. Those pictures are usually dragons or crazy winged bats, but you love to give these pictures away. You’ve also started caring for people by praying for them. Last week, I made you a set of rocks we are calling Prayer Pebbles. I picked seven pebbles for you on our walk, and wrote six names on them for you. Five of the six names are people you love, and the sixth is the name of someone you struggle to love almost every day. It’s a boy on your bus, who is a borderline bully to everyone around him. You and I talked about him and you asked me to write his name on a rock for you. Yesterday you pulled his rock out of the Prayer Pebble container and bowed your head and prayed for the boy you wish would be your friend. My heart melted! [For the record, the seventh rock was left blank so you can pray for whatever person you choose on the day you pull that rock from the container.]IMG_1037

I got a text from our neighbor this morning, wishing you a happy birthday. She told me about a conversation she had with you the other night. Here’s a screen shot of it:IMG_1075a

This epitomizes you at this very moment in time, Jackson. You are so excited to start baseball (your first team!) next week. You get to hang with your buddy this weekend. And you look forward to your future with zealous anticipation, unafraid and jumping in with abandon. I feel the same about your future, too: the best is yet to be, Jackson! I am so glad I get to be your mommy and sit beside you for this crazy ride.

I love you, deeply and dearly!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Facebook: Love and Hate

facebook thumbs downIt’s been getting worse lately: this sense that the balance of my life is off. One of the biggest signs of that is my addiction (strong word, yes, but fitting!) to social media. I have turned to the quick “fix” of Facebook for many reasons. It’s a quick hit of “drugs” to this junkie who thrives on my extroverted nature to make me feel purpose and meaning in this ever-increasing, isolated culture.

There are so many reasons I really love Facebook.

  • Facebook Stories like these
  • Social media connects people in an irreplaceable way. For example, earlier this year when Atlanta was hit with a bad snow storm, I watched my news feed be filled with my friends’ status updates and requests for help. I was amazed that people even ASKED for help and weren’t so independent that they had to do life alone, and also amazed at how other friends answered those requests and went out of their way for strangers.
  • I hate to admit I get a large part of my world news from Facebook, but it’s true. It’s where I first hear of celebrity deaths, natural disasters, and political upheaval.
  • Facebook is also the place I get personal news from my friends: new jobs, engagements, pregnancies, diagnoses, sudden deaths. Two weeks ago, I saw that my childhood best friend’s dad died suddenly. I immediately reached out to her through a private message, and we were speaking on the phone – and crying together – within hours. Without Facebook, I might not have known for months – or at least until I received a Christmas card – or ever! (It’s not something people usually put in a Christmas card, you know.)
  • Facebook put me in contact again with long-lost friends. Dan always jokes with me about how I keep in contact with the most random people, even prior to Facebook. There’s the waiter from our Caribbean cruise and the American woman living in Israel that we met in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. Those are people I kept in contact with through email and Real! Mail! before Facebook was invented. And then Facebook came along, and we can communicate in real time. It’s fantasticly wonderful for Little Miss Extrovert!
  • Since most of my family is now gone, staying in touch with old family friends has been much easier with Facebook. I am included in my brother’s high school and college friends’ lives and events, and my parents’ friends are my friends now too. Something really cool happened earlier this year. A guy who knew my brother in high school (but was between Jackson’s age and my age, so I didn’t know him well) posted a football video and tagged mutual friends in it. I shared the video with my sister, thinking I might have noticed my brother in that video. The guy who posted it contacted me privately and offered to send me a different video of my brother’s high school championship football game. I watched it and got to see Jackson again, and it made me incredibly happy to relive that night.
  • Facebook also keeps me in the pop culture loop. It’s where I go to see video links of stupid human and pet tricks, you-won’t-believe-this! videos, and new music videos. It’s where I post a video of my kiddos doing something amazing or funny or silly (even though this is borderline bragging).

And, yet… there are so many reasons Facebook isn’t all love and joy for me. Those good things above have a flip side too:

  • For every great video link I’ve watched, there are at least ten unfunny/stupid video links. And those stupid captioned cartoons that are so popular right now? For reals, people. Stop posting them!sarcastic card2
  • I have friends who post pictures of Every. Single. Meal. They. Eat. The annoyance I feel is truly unhealthy.
  • Same goes for people’s jerky opinions or dirty laundry they air. I am still shocked and astounded a people who post about a fight with their spouse or post a link to a really offensive political view – or something that’s borderline porn. Ugh! I have to admit I’m also a bit horrified by my friends who have pageant kids (or dance team kids) who post photos of their girls so dolled up that they look like, well… I won’t say, but I know you get the picture. (And, for the record, these are 8- and 10-year old girls.)
  • Really bad photos also get me. I know this one doesn’t bother most people, but the photographer in me shudders sometimes at the techniques out there.
  • People who can’t be real drive me a little nuts on Facebook. There are those who post an inflated version of their reality and can’t be honest. This bothers me so much that I made a pact with one of my best friends to text each other whenever we feel the need to post something “real” but are afraid to. She and I call them True Status Updates and we text the really crappy, bad parts of our lives to each other. It’s partly misery-loves-company, and partly an accountability to each other to be authentic in a SAFE place.
  • One of the biggest traps for me on Facebook is the enhanced feeling of loneliness from reading people’s posts about said inflated reality (see above), which makes me feel inferior. I already feel inferior enough on my own; I don’t need a news feed full of visual reminders of unattainable parenting tips, fashion pinnacles I’ll never reach, or Valentines/date nights/dinners (!!!) I’ll never eat. (Ooooo… now you get the real crux of the matter: Facebook makes me a green little monster!)
  • And while we’re in this jealousy/envy vein, let’s just rip the entire mask off my face: Facebook makes me feel like a loser when I see all the shopping trips/dinners/parties/social events people have attended and I wasn’t included. It feels like 4th grade all over again. And, apparently, I’m barely above the 4th-grade level of maturity! Ick!

There you have it. My partial list of why Facebook is so marvelous and so malevolent to me. (Marvelovent?!) I love and hate it at the same time.

Now the question is: what am I gonna do about it? Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, it’s been getting worse lately. It has sucked away my time with God, my family, my marriage, my housekeeping, and my blogging. It has become an idol for me. I realized this a while ago, but thought I could control it. I went through my news feed and deleted a lot of people (not as friends, just in my feed), but that didn’t help. I promised myself at the start of the year I would only log into Facebook once a day and for a limited amount of time. Um… nope. Didn’t work. I toyed with the idea of deactivating my account, but felt like I couldn’t for a few of those “love” reasons listed above, plus there are people who contact me there for work things sometimes. I floundered. I pondered. I prayed.

And then last Wednesday, it happened. It was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Although I’m Protestant and don’t do a full-fledged Lent commitment, I still like to spend the time preparing for Easter and the work God is doing in my heart. During my quiet time, I felt such a conviction to get rid of Facebook that I immediately got out of my seat, walked over to the computer, and spent 30 minutes shutting it down. (It took a little while because I am the admin of a few different groups and had to pass ownership along to other people.) I didn’t talk myself out of it, and didn’t try to analyze the repercussions (which happened pretty quickly right after; I lost information for some social events happening the next day and weekend).

I simply let it go.

And, honestly? I’m really happy about it. Yesterday was a little difficult because I had three people text me within hours of each other to ask why I disappeared on Facebook. They needed to contact me with some information, or tag me in something encouraging. I explained to them my need to step out for a while, and suggested other ways to contact me.

I feel more free, like I am in control of the media, instead of the other way around. That feels really good to know I’m not a passive victim of the Facebook drain. I choose when and how it will affect me, and how I will imbibe of it. (I told you it sounds like I’m an addict!)

I’m pretty sure my absence from social media won’t last forever because I do have two kids who will, one day, request access for their own social media accounts. Plus, I’m still on Instagram (which doesn’t affect me quite as negatively – yet! – as Facebook does) and blogging (it will be so nice to write more!). Elizabeth is not a complete social[media] pariah!

Like other stuff in my life right now, I’m just going to take things as they come. Today is not a Facebook day, and I will make no decisions or judgments today about whether tomorrow will – or won’t – be, either. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Epic Surprises

I turned 40 last week, which I wrote about here. I am happy to report that, so far, 40 is fantastic!

My birthday was one for the record books. I have talked about it in person to a few people, but haven’t really broadcast the extent of epic awesomeness that was my birthday weekend because I felt it would be in poor form. Because the truth is: it was so amazing that to talk about it might sound like I’m bragging.

However, this is MY blog and I want to write about MY birthday. Consider this fair warning: if you have unresolved issues with envy, you should close your web browser and skip this blog post. Come back next week/month/year when I write about struggling as a mother or how much I hate snow days or how I don’t understand why life has to be full of hurt and pain.

This post is NOT about hurt and pain!

My 40th birthday really began at 7:30am. I was getting the kids ready for school when Dan showed up at our house. He had been at his men’s group and was supposed to be heading to work, but he came home instead. I was puzzled until he gave me a gift bag with my birthday gift inside. As he handed me the gift, his chin trembled and he started to tear up. I was alarmed and didn’t understand why he was crying. I said, “What’s wrong?!” He told me he was so excited to give me this present and hoped it means as much to me as it did to him as he put it together. I didn’t understand until I pulled this out.IMG_9398

It is a three-ring binder full of letters he gathered from friends and family. Inside this binder are photos of beauty. Pieces of original artwork. Quotes from long gone ancestors. Poems and pieces of people who love me. Adjectives that have no business being attached to my name, but somehow, a few people think I matter in some small way.IMG_9400

I was completely undone by this binder. I cried at the breakfast table, and lost all focus on getting my kids to school. Dan saw them off while I read and cried some more. He sat beside me and cried with me. (That may be the most profound sentence I’ve ever written about my marriage. Ahem.) I cried off my makeup and laughed a lot too. It was – by far – the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. All those letters are priceless to me, but the most valuable of all is the very first one in the binder – the one written by my husband. Out of all the letters Dan has written me in our lifetimes, this one letter is the most beautiful because He talks about God’s love and provision. For a man who, just a few years ago, would hardly consider Jesus’ gift of grace – this letter is tangible proof of how much God has changed my best friend’s life.

Eventually, I had to leave and go to work. I carried that binder with me the rest of the day and gawked at it. I showed it to my coworkers and thanked them for writing a letter to me. The rest of the day was full of work, birthday wishes, and a general sense of joy.

That evening, Jackson had a Scout event and Katie had rehearsal at church. Dan and I split off after a quick family dinner, and I didn’t return home with Katie until 9:00. I pulled into our driveway and saw his mom’s car. My brain went into alert mode, and I started wondering if there was a surprise party inside. I quickly dismissed that thought, since it was 9:00 on a Thursday. I hoped maybe my sister had arrived from out of town to surprise me.

I walked into our house and found the kitchen lights off and a cake lit with candles. Dan, Jackson, Katie, and Dan’s mom were all smiling at me. I looked at them suspiciously, waiting for something to happen. Dan told me to blow out my candles so we could have cake. I did and said, “Why is your mother here?” I smiled at his mom, of course, but she knew I was puzzled and confused and didn’t mean anything rude by this. Dan explained his mom was there to take care of the kids because he and I would be leaving early in the morning. He told me to pack my bags and he would put the kids to bed. I asked where we were going, and he said I would find out in the morning. All he would tell me is our destination was somewhere “warmer than here.”

Immediately, my brain went into overdrive. In between random questions (Are we flying? Do I need a passport? Is it international? Do I need flip flops? Wait! I work weekends! Did you talk to my boss?), I fretted all the small details about Jackson’s dietary restrictions while we would be gone (and packed food for him too), I fretted my own dietary restrictions, and my brain ticked through all the appointments and duties I needed to cancel before we left. Then Dan told me he had already cancelled my appointments. He submitted my vacation request with my boss. And he had already packed the clothes and food the kids would need at Grandma’s. He thought of things I hadn’t thought of yet, even going as far as packing the kids’ lunches for the following Monday. [By this point, he had told me we wouldn’t be returning home until Monday.]

Now, here’s the point where I pause and explain something about myself. It is no surprise to the few of you who read this blog that I am a control freak. I often live under the prideful and false assumption that the world spins because of God and what I do to help Him. (I jest – sort of.) And while I have actually fantasized about my husband taking over the reins and planning a surprise trip for us, I never considered the ramifications of those fantasies becoming reality. Because the truth is taking control away from a control freak is like taking cocaine away from a drug addict. (At least I imagine it is; I’ve never been addicted to drugs.) Worry and fear reared their heads and the unknown shouted louder than the giddy spontaneity. In my anxiety over the loss of control, I panicked when I couldn’t find my swimsuit. I walked up and down the stairs in the house four times, trying to find it. Finally, in desperation, I sat down on a stool in our closet and prayed: “God, I know I shouldn’t be stressing about such a fantastic gift as this. I know in just 12 hours, I’ll be having the time of my life. But right now, I can’t find my swimsuit. And if I can’t find my swimsuit, I will have a very bad time. I know You know where my swimsuit is, so I’m going to let this go for now. I’m going to let You show me where it is when I need to know. Thanks, God.” I breathed and then I let it go. I stood up in my closet and focused on what shirts to pack. About 72 seconds later, I looked straight up at a shelf and saw my swimsuit right. there. “Thank You, God. You always help me!”

After another hour of packing and fretting, Dan and I finally went to bed. We were out the door at 4:00am, with only about four hours of sleep. Ugh. I still had no idea where we were going, but fully trusted my husband to lead me to something awesome. These are the roads at 4am – empty!IMG_9436

We got to the airport and the only people there were those dressed in flip flops, capris, and tank tops. (It’s January in St. Louis, people!) As we got closer to the airline check-in desk, I finally saw the sign that told me where we were going: CANCUN! I smiled, hugged Dan, and told him how excited I was.

When we boarded the plane, the woman beside me asked what resort we were staying at. When I answered, “I don’t know,” her face was shocked. (Later, one of my friends pointed out what a big leap it was for me [control freak] to say to someone “I don’t know” and not have an anxiety attack!) I slept a while on the plane, and woke when all the landing preps started.

We got off the plane, through customs, and onto the shuttle for our resort. We finally pulled up in front of this beautiful, open-air resort lobby and walked inside to check in. I could see the ocean from the lobby, and literally felt my heart exhale. It was like relief was flooding my soul. One of the hotel staff walked up and presented us with a fruity cocktail, and Dan turned and told me to go sit down. I obliged.IMG_9451

We couldn’t check into our room yet, so we left our bag with the bellman after I changed into capris (I was still wearing jeans and a  long-sleeved shirt). We went to find something to eat, since we hadn’t had breakfast yet. Over breakfast/lunch, I smiled like a goon at my husband because he went to allthiswork for me. He took some time to explain how he arranged all the plans and when he started this whole charade, and also told me the details about gathering the letters for my binder.

I was so happy with the thought of spending a long weekend with my love, with nothing to do besides eat, sleep, and sit at the beach. So after we ate, Dan parked me at the beach (with our carry-on luggage), and went back up to find the bellman and get some shorts to change in to. I sat on the beach and let the wind blow over me.IMG_9445

I turned on some music from my iPod, then pulled out my mirror and tweezers. (Yes, I packed them! Remember, I’m a planner and I didn’t have time to tweeze before I left home?!) I enjoyed my fruity drink, and simply relaxed.IMG_9447

I sat there for a while, singing and praying and tweezing (ha!), and then noticed some movement behind me in my mirror. I turned and OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! MY SISTER IS HERE! MY SISTER IS HERE! I was so completely shocked that an expletive fell out of my mouth, and I ran to her and hugged her with my full body. (I shrieked so much that I saw another person down the beach staring at me the whole time.) And then I hugged her husband, Wally, who was standing beside her. And I think I hugged him like 4 times, because I haven’t seen him since last summer – before he was deployed on a dangerous mission. I hugged my sister some more and hugged Wally some more, then hugged my spectacular husband.

A few days later, a friend of mine asked how the trip was. As I told her about the arrival of my sister on the beach, I explained it by saying it was the best reunion and it’s how I imagine heaven will be: I arrive in paradise with the Love of my life (I know Dan isn’t Jesus, y’all – it’s a broken analogy – but just go with it here), and He feeds me and sustains me and shows me around. And then I get to be reunited with those I love most, and I fly into their arms and finally feel at home again. I do all this with the Person beside me who planned this great trip FOR me, knowing that He hand-selected the details for me. What more joy could you imagine than standing beside the Giver and enjoying all the gifts He created for you?

From that point on, our surprise vacation flew by. We went to lunch together, talked over all the details from the last months of planning (and how they kept me from finding out), and I’m pretty sure I had this stupid grin on my face for the next five hours (at least).IMG_9462

We lounged at the beach and the pool, had some tropical drinks, checked into our rooms, and had dinner at the resort’s Japanese steak house.IMG_9489

After dinner, we had drinks on the lobby balcony, and Dan headed back to the room early (he had not slept on the plane like I did). I got to talk and laugh with Mary and Wally, and then we all headed to bed too.

Saturday morning, I woke to a beautiful view from our room.IMG_9507

Dan and I went to breakfast, and I’m telling you: simply sitting at breakfast with this man, eating good food (that I didn’t cook myself!), and drinking a lovely mimosa brought such bliss to my heart. Mary and Wally found us near the end of breakfast, and we stayed to eat with them and visit before heading to the beach.IMG_9509

Toes in the sand.IMG_9513

Sitting in the shade with the wind blowing off the ocean.IMG_9771

Enjoying the cocktail of the day (called Ocean Water).IMG_9519

After a few hours of being spoiled, Dan, Mary and I hauled ourselves up to the spa for a soak and a massage. This was the spa’s indoor pool.IMG_9531

Dan and I had a couple’s massage, and I fell asleep twice during it. It was that kind of relaxation that was so deep, I only woke myself up because I actually snored twice! Afterwards, we lounged by the pool on those breezy bed-sized couches that are popular at resorts these days.IMG_9542

We had a nice evening drink.IMG_9558

We walked around a little to explore the property.IMG_9561

IMG_9567And then it was time to shower and get ready for dinner. Dan headed down to dinner first, to get a spot for us (the reservation system at this resort wasn’t so great). When I came down to join him, the sunset was over but there was still enough light to see these awesome clouds over the pool and ocean.IMG_9596

We had dinner at what we called the “romantic” restaurant, and it was such great food. We laughed a lot and enjoyed ourselves. After dinner, the boys bought cigars from a vendor and we sat by the pool so they could enjoy their cigars. A band came to play, and we sang along. Oh, happy!IMG_9609

The next morning (Sunday), it was the same thing: sleep in, breakfast, chill on the beach. Dan and I decided to walk down to the nearest town, Puerto Morelos. Someone had told us it was a 30 minute walk, and someone else said it was about 45 minutes. WRONG. It took an hour to get there. I had only a swimsuit and cover up, because I didn’t think it would require shorts and walking shoes!IMGP0655

When we arrived at the town, I was a little bummed to find out it was very small and not very intriguing. There were a few sidewalk stores, but most of the store owners were pretty pushy (which I expected) and I was already dreading the hour walk back to the resort.IMGP0670

Dan and I found a sidewalk restaurant and had a Coke (it’s made with real sugar and not high fructose corn syrup in Mexico!), then decided to hire a taxi to drive us back to the hotel. We lucked out on finding another couple going to our same resort, so we shared the taxi and cut our costs.IMG_9611

We got back to the resort and immediately went to the beach to find Mary and Wally. We grabbed some lunch and ended up at the pool, where I promptly took an hour-long nap with this as my view.IMG_9619

I woke up to the palm leaves rustling over my head. Aaaahhh…IMG_9624

It was Super Bowl Sunday, so we all showered and met back up to enjoy a huge outdoor tailgating party.IMG_9653

We watched the game on a big screen, and gorged on some really great food.IMG_9654

After the game, we had drinks in the lobby and got to enjoy karaoke. Wally started the party off with “Sweet Caroline,” and I laughed continually for about 3 hours straight. (And I would LOVE to post a video of Wally singing, but will protect his privacy and opt out.)IMG_9664

The next morning was our departure day. I was sad, but this morning sunrise helped ease my sadness.IMG_9685

We had breakfast with Mary and Wally, then said our goodbyes before catching a shuttle to the airport.IMG_9772

I watched Mexico pass beneath the airplane, dreading the cold weather awaiting us back home.IMG_9773

And even though freezing cold WAS waiting for us, those three days in Mexico kept me from being bothered by it.

Mexico thawed my heart. It reminded this little control freak that the world DOES spin without me. My kids got fed, educated, and loved well when I stepped out and someone else stepped in. I survived just fine without the “perfect” sundress I forgot to pack and actually learned to surrender when the packing went astray. Mexico reminded me to let go of all the details in life that I allow to excessively weigh me down. Mexico helped me reunite with the sister I love dearly, the brother-in-law who makes me laugh more than anyone I know, and the husband who loves me in ways I don’t understand. And Mexico reminded me there is a Giver who loves to lavish me with grace and beauty, if I will slow down long enough to open my eyes. The Giver gave me the best gift of all: Rescue.

At one point over the weekend, I turned to Dan and said, “I love that you surprised me and all, but I miss the planning part of taking vacations. It would have been nice in November and December [two VERY hard months for me personally] to know I had this trip coming. On the hard days, I would have consoled myself by saying, ‘Rescue is coming’ because I would have known this trip was on the way.” Dan replied, “But that’s the thing: you just have to trust that Rescue is always coming. Even when we don’t know it, we have to trust that God has surprises in store and Rescue is on the way. Just because you don’t know exactly what it is doesn’t make the Rescue any less real.”

To hear those words come out of my husband’s heart? God, you are too good to me. You are so so so good!

Friday, January 31, 2014

January 2014 Review

Oh, January. Oh, January! It wasn’t the prettiest month for me, but it did end on a BANG! (Click here to read about the highlight of our January: my birthday surprise!)IMG_8682

January had – count ‘em! – SIX SNOW DAYS for my kids. The first four snow days came on the tail end of Christmas break, which meant we had some craziness going on ‘round here. My church/office is closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so I had a lot of catching up to do and couldn’t take a snow day off to do it. The kids spent a lot of time with me at work, and at home while I worked, and at home some more. I’m thankful my job is flexible when we are in dire straits! There was lots of movie watching, even at work (this is in the church lobby).IMG_8650

We got crafty on those snow days, too. I had to get some creative energy out, and bartered some homemade non-slip headbands in exchange for one of Gina’s awesome custom canvases. Here are the headbands I made.IMG_8661

Being snowed in meant our family got to celebrate a milestone together: for the first time, Jackson saw ALL of the Star Wars movies (episodes 4, 5 & 6). He loved them! And, oh… he was in shock when he saw Darth Vader’s real face for the first time!IMG_8829

There was so much snow and it was SO cold that the kids didn’t even get much time to play in the snow. Dan took them out one day for about 20 minutes, and they dug a tunnel in the snow.DSC_0017

We got creative with indoor activities and even pulled out the trusty old bean box we used to play with when the kids were toddlers. Note to self: it’s STILL fun!IMG_8801

On one of those snow days when I took the kids to my office, we put them to work. Katie took down all the Christmas decorations in the kids’ classrooms and was a mighty vacuumer!IMG_8836

They also helped make binders for one of the classes at church, along with our pastor’s kids.IMG_8852

Finally, Christmas break ended and school was back in session. You can’t imagine the giddiness I felt when the bus pulled up. And it wasn’t just me: the kids were thrilled too!IMG_8863a

I got to host a special gathering of women from my church, and we practiced Holy Yoga together. It was a beautiful evening that started as the sun was setting. When we finished with meditation that night, all we could see when we opened our eyes was flickering candles. It was breathtaking!IMG_8910

I came across this and had to take a photo of it. It’s the collection of nametags Katie has saved from the Saturdays she has spent with Dan on our church Outreach team. The team uses duct tape for nametags, and Katie enjoys each serving day so much that she keeps these mementos stuck to her dresser. It makes me incredibly happy to see her enjoy serving others so much!IMG_8901

Dan and Jackson spent some of the quiet January days working on his Cub Scouts pinewood derby car. Jackson did 99% of the work himself (except for one small part of sawing the wood when the curve was too tight). The day of the race, he didn’t win – and actually got last place in each heat. But he ended up winning a medal for the “Simplest Design” and was so proud anyway!IMG_9068

Katie loves to draw. I found this Post-It note in her school folder, and it cracks me up.IMG_8956

Katie also loves canned beans, especially green beans and lima beans. I’m kind of disgusted by how much she loves them, straight from the can.IMG_8955

I think I mentioned in December’s monthly review that this winter has brought some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. This one was pretty spectacular too. I think it *sort of* makes up for the snow overload.IMG_8979

One day, I was volunteering at the kids’ school and saw a wall full of new year’s resolutions outside Jackson’s classroom. The resolutions ranged from “help my mom more” to “be nice to my sister” to “clean my room.” And then I saw Jackson’s, which says he resolves to be an international skateboarder this year. Um… okay… ???!!IMG_9071

And, then… MLK, Jr. Day came and the kids were off and we had big plans to go skateboarding. We ended up at the emergency room instead.IMG_9146

I smashed Jackson’s hand in the car door as we were trying to leave. Mommy guilt is a harsh thing, and my heart hurt so bad every time I looked at his poor finger. The good news is nothing was broken, but the doctors couldn’t decide how to treat it. They ended up using skin glue to seal the shattered fingernail back together, and he wore a splint for a week. (It will take much longer for the mommy guilt to stop chirping!)IMG_9133

Now, to recap January so far: there was snow. And more snow. And really cold temps. Oh, and some more snow. Then a smashed finger, which means we had to stay inside a lot (not hard to do, with frigid temps!) and not be overly active for a while, at least until the finger healed a bit. Cabin fever was NOT our friend. I had to get creative, and FAST! One of the desperate creative ideas I pulled out was to hang a mosquito net in our living room for the kids to make a reading fort. It went over well, and stayed up for a long time too!IMG_9214

We were lucky enough to go rock wall climbing with Katie’s Girl Scout troop, too, which helped get some of the kids’ wiggles out. Jackson was given the green light to take off his finger split, so both kids climbed like monkeys up and down those walls!IMG_9320

The kids had a hat day at school (yes, she has a roasted turkey hat on her head).IMG_9336

A trip to the dentist…IMG_9370

…and January ended with my birthday surprise. It was a great end to a VERY cold and snowy and cabin-fevery month. But before I go, I have to mention one last highlight of January. At the start of the year, I downloaded a new app to my phone. It is called 1 Second Everyday, and it is so darn cool! You take a video every day, then you use the app to snip one second from that video to add to the calendar in the app. Those snips are compiled in to one long video, so there’s 1 second everyday (get it?) in the video. We have so enjoyed this app, and I love using it to soothe my compulsion to document every single day. Here’s a screen shot of the month of January. Our month-long video is so cool!IMG_9384


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