Thursday, October 28, 2010

Glowing Spiders

I have to pass along this craft idea because it is so darn easy and cute, and you have just enough time to make one before Halloween on Sunday.

I saw this post on My Little Gems, so Jackson and I headed to the Dollar Tree today. [As an aside: I was at Michael’s yesterday and almost bought styrofoam balls for this craft, but ONE pack of balls was five bucks. I would have to spend ten bucks to get two sizes for the spiders, plus $1 for each pack of glow sticks. No way dude. I knew Dollar Tree had a better deal, so we headed there. Oh, one more tip: Deals does NOT sell craft stuff anymore. The manager explained to me Dollar Tree owns Deals, and decided to move all the crafty stuff to Dollar Tree instead.] Okee dokee. Shopping lesson is over. Back to our craft!IMGP4204a

After bath, Katie and Jackson gathered around the table and stuck glow sticks willy nilly into their styrofoam balls. The placement isn’t what I would have picked and the spiders look really lopsided now, but the kids wanted to make the spiders on their own and didn’t need my adult input. To connect the head to the body, we used a short glow stick that came in a pack of four pairs of glow earrings. Then we opened a tube of glow stick bracelets and poked them all the way through the spiders’ bodies. (I’m cheap that way – why use eight sticks when three will work fine?)IMGP4190

Oooo, the kids were impressed. They immediately tried to attack each other’s spider, then headed to the basement to play with them before bed.IMGP4197 

Jackson put his glow spider on his dresser tonight at bedtime, but Katie ended up moving hers to the hallway outside her door. She says the spider glows too brightly and creates shadows in her room. “And I don’t like shadows, Mommy. Why don’t you and Daddy sleep with my spider tonight? You can put it between you in bed!”IMGP4203

Monster Milk Jug

Thanks to this post by Muffin Tin Mom, I found this adorable craft by Amanda. I had to try it, and here’s my final result:IMGP4076

Here’s my creation last night, with the lights turned off:IMGP4178

That milk jug is the square kind from Costco. I decided not to stick my monster on a broomstick handle, and I’ll just keep it on the ground – either on the front porch or in a window.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fairy Anger

Have you ever planned some cute surprise for your kids, anticipating their reaction? You think they’ll be overjoyed and surprised and charmed with the mystery of life. Yeah, right. That isn’t quite how it worked out on Monday night.

Almost two years ago, I found this blog/website and drooled over the cute fairies who lived at this family’s house. Little fairy doors appear out of nowhere, and the children who live in the house are taken aback and thrilled with the new construction.

So… some sweet little fairy came to our house and built a door so she can enter and exit our house with ease. Katie and Jackson found the door as they were heading to brush their teeth before bed on Monday night. The first reaction was shock, and then questions about where it came from. Then Katie claimed the fairy door wasn’t real because she could see adhesive between it and the wall. Next thing I knew, my two doubting Thomases started banging on the fairy door, demanding that the fairies open the door and LET US IN! They started getting downright angry that the door was sealed shut and there was no way they could open it. They kept exasperating, “Oh, fairies! Ugh!” This photo shows them shouting at the fairy door.IMGP4065

This was NOT what I had expected. I’m sure the fairies didn’t expect it either. The kids – and I presume the fairies, too – are at an impasse. Every now and then, one of the kids will get a tiny bit of interest in the door and go knock on it again, but the magic hasn’t taken hold quite like I hoped. I’m fairly certain our fairy is pretty close to packing her bags and moving out. Shucks.

Baking with Jackson

My friend Emily inspired me with this post. I thought, “Okay. If Asher can cut apples, Jackson should be able to try it.” I saw this recipe for Mini Caramel Apple Pies and it looked so easy. I thought Jackson and I could make them together.


My friend Cindy was coming over for lunch, so Jackson and I were going to make her a nice little dessert. Except I was a little behind schedule and we had barely started when Cindy arrived. Lucky girl – she got to help us. (Ha.)

Jackson helped me measure and spoon the applesauce into the muffin tin, then it was time to chop apples into chunks. I *actually* gave my boy a paring knife and some small apple slices to chop. He sliced about two pieces and I COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. I snatched the knife from him, scrambled to find my Pampered Chef chopper and substituted that for the knife.IMGP4054

Cindy taught Jackson how to whack the heck out of the chopper, and we finally got some chunks. (Emily, you win the award for Brave Mommy. I might be braver if I didn’t have my own irrational fear of knives. That’s for another post.)

I asked Jackson to help me put chunks in each muffin tin, but he didn’t last long. He hates being dirty (yeah, go figure) and didn’t like having raw apples on his hands. He had the same reaction when I suggested he add other ingredients: “Eeewww, Mommy! I need a wipe!”IMGP4056

Oh, well. My boy isn’t much in the kitchen. (Yet.) Our mini pies were tasty, although they were extremely messy due to the little baker’s lack of aim when sprinkling ingredients around. I need to chip the baked-on toffee off the muffin tins, but still haven’t found the energy to do so. Ugh.IMGP4061

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fourteen Years

And it still sucks.

2004-10-09 MAJS grave

My Fight

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Going Steady with God

It was about two weeks ago. A friend of mine (we’ll call her Sharon) told me she wishes God would draw in close to her. I asked her to elaborate. Sharon said, “I see how you and Jane [a mutual friend - not her real name] seem to be so close to God and I just don’t have that.” I asked Sharon what she’s tried to do to feel closer to God. She said, “I try to pray and go to church, but I just don’t feel like God is there.” That led us into a discussion of what my spiritual life is like.

Now let me stop here and say loudly and clearly: I am in NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM trying to insinuate that I have it all together when it comes to my relationship with Jesus. I struggle – and I hope that has been abundantly clear on this blog when I write about my mistakes and screw ups. However, I thought I’d share the discussion I had with Sharon so you could either chime in on ways you feel close to God or you could use my suggestions yourself.

I told Sharon that my relationship with God is like a courtship or a marriage. I do things with God that I might do if I were dating someone. That’s the best way to get to know someone, right? Date Him, spend time with Him. Here are some things Sharon and I discussed:

1. Talk to Him. I know this may feel weird at first, like you’re just talking to the air. But I promise you, He’s listening. But don’t take my word for it – try it yourself. Just tell Him what you’re thinking. Tell Him how you’ve had a really crappy day and your boss was demanding and your kids won’t ever be quiet and your house is a mess and on and on. Tell Him the secret things you can’t tell anyone else. If it matters to you, it matters to Him. He says it like this: “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.”

Praying in Color2. Read about Him. Find out the kinds of things God likes by reading the love letters that He wrote to you. Wait… first… did you know that? That He wrote you love letters? How about where He says, “I have plans for you… plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Yep. He has plans, even for little ol’ YOU. Or how about when he says he has loved you with an everlasting love? Oh, yeah, baby. He’s wooing you. He’s passionate for you! So go read some more about Him. Download the app so you can take Him with you wherever you go. Seriously! Then go find some other books that might help you learn about Him. Letters from a Skeptic is one of my favorites. And also Praying in Color. Even if it isn’t a “religiousy” type of book, how about just picking a book that He might like too? Not the mindless romance novel you might normally turn to, or the horrific page-turner. Maybe this time you pick a book that is fiction but based on His love for you. Redeeming Love is a good one. Francine Rivers also wrote a fantastic set of novellas that captivated me this summer. It’s called A Lineage of Grace series.

3. Listen to music He likes. “Sing yourselves into His presence!” Think back to your dating days. Remember when you first found out that you and your significant other had the same likes and dislikes? It felt like finding a kindred soul. You even had your own anthem that was special to the two of you. Years later, I’ll bet you can still remember the special song you had, even with those you didn’t end up committing to. Do you have a special love anthem with God? Maybe it’s a classic hymn like Amazing Grace. Or maybe it’s a modern song like one of my favorites, You Alone. Go out and find a song that speaks to you and brings you closer to Him. Need a suggestion? Oh, just say the word and I will COVER YOU UP with a list of songs I’ve found to help me.

4. Worship Him. The obvious way to worship God is to attend church regularly. But like Laurence Peter says, “Going to church doesn’t make you any more a Christian than going to the garage makes you a car.” Worshiping God also means acknowledging Him in your daily, mundane life. And what does it mean to worship? Start with gratitude. When you see the leaves on a beautiful tree change color in the autumn sun, thank Him. When your child speaks words of wisdom beyond His years, share your joy with God. When you see beauty or receive unexpected kindness or hear laughter or taste a divine dessert, praise Him. Bring Him into your daily abundance of blessings. You can worship Him at church or driving in your car or exercising or just by opening your eyes and ears to the world around you. “Praise Him with all your heart, tell of all His wonders.”

5. Go on a double date. Start seeking out other people who are dating God, and find ways to hang out with them. You know, “iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote here about surrounding yourself with good influences. Here’s the truth: if you want to find God and bring Him deeper into your life, it’s going to be counterproductive to hang out with scoffers who trash His name. Again, think back to your dating days: would you hang out with friends who called your boyfriend names? No. Seek people who you admire for their character and faith. Talk to them about God and how He moves in their lives.

Kircher-Diagram_of_the_names_of_God6. Watch movies He would like. What do most people in our culture do on a date? Dinner and a movie. But you don’t have to spend lots at the theater to go on a date with God. Just open YouTube and find something good to watch that He might like to watch with you. Known and Loved might be a good start. Love Now by Kute Blackson is inspiring. Everything by Lighthouse is a video that still tears me up when I see it. Did y’all know there’s a Christian version of YouTube? It’s called GodTube. Go browse it for some inspiration.

7. Use a term of endearment. I’m not suggesting you start calling God “Cupcake” or “Honey,” but I do think you might look into a new way of addressing Him. Maybe “God” or “Father” is too formal for you. Maybe your earthly father fell short of your expectations and deflated that word for you, so it doesn’t fit when you’re talking to your Creator. How about finding another name that encompasses God’s presence in your life, in a different way? This Names of God video is a good place to start.

8. Be the body. Jesus was a servant and gave us a model to serve others. We live in community with Him by serving others. God tells us, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Find a way to serve outside of your comfort zone. You can do it in big ways by sacrificing a weekend to serve the homeless at a soup kitchen. Or do it in a small way by paying for a stranger’s meal. Put money in an almost-expired parking meter. Make a meal for a new mom. Open the door for someone at the store. Let other drivers merge before you. Buy a coworker a candy bar from the vending machine. Listen when people talk. Smile! When you serve others, you’ll feel God drawing near to you.

Seek Him and you’ll find Him.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hearing Whispers & Feeling Nudges

There are moments in my life when I know for a fact God has spoken to me. One of those moments was yesterday. I didn’t know what was happening while it was happening, but found out the profundity of it later.

I was swimming laps at the gym, which I love for the calm it brings me. I wear ear plugs, so I can’t hear anything besides my own breath and a few distant thuds or splashes. It’s amazing how my mind settles into a meditative mode. I ponder a lot and pray.

Yesterday, I swam and prayed for anyone and everyone that came to mind. As I swam and prayed, I focused on this ray of light that was shining from the windows and shimmering in the pool water. I was in a zone.

At the end of my workout, I rewarded myself with a little ritual I do on the side of the pool. I hooked my legs on the side of the pool and let my body float in the water. Only part of my face was out of the water so I could breathe. I closed my eyes and focused on breathing. I remembered what my pastor has said about ancient Jews never saying the name “God” because it is so holy. They used the word “YHWH” or “Yahweh” instead. It sounds like the noise your breath makes as it enters and leaves your body. “Yah” on the inhale, “weh” on the exhale. Genesis 2:7 says God made man by breathing the breath of life into him, so even our breath can be considered the presence of God in us. I hung on the side of the pool and listened to myself breathe and meditated on God in me.

This feeling carried me through my shower and getting ready for the day. As I was putting on my makeup and still in the zone, I literally heard a voice whisper in my head. “Gina.” My blog-turned-real-life friend. And I knew I should text her, so I did. I wrote, “Just want you to know I’m thinking of you today, for no other reason but you came to my mind during prayer time!” I selected “Send To” and went to find Gina’s number in my address book. And it wasn’t there. How could this be? I almost hit “End” with the thought that I could email her when I got home. Then the thought “Go look in your iTouch” came to mind. I went and found my iTouch and found Gina’s contact info. I went back to my phone, entered her cell number, and sent the text. I really thought she would think I was weird for texting out of the blue.

Gina wrote back, “Thank you… who is this? I lost my contacts and have a new phone.” I later texted that it was me, and she wrote again and said she needed prayers because she was having a rough morning. I thought that was the end of it.

Last night, Gina explained the situation by email to me. She also blogged more details here, and I can’t tell you how big the smile on my face was after I read that.

Do y’all understand the big picture here? GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS. It might not be the kind of answer you expect, but He hears you! How else can you explain the randomness of what happened between me and Gina yesterday? Oh, sure. Chalk it up to coincidence. Whatever. I know for a FACT that God hears me. And you. And, sometimes, He uses a tiny little text to upend your world and let you know He’s got your back.

Thank you, God, for nudging me and using me to show others how much you love them!

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What We Do Right

Some days, it seems all I can do is screw up. I’m sure you know what those days are like: you wake with an overcast soul and no amount of sunshine can break the clouds apart. Since I became a mom, these types of days are extra hard because of the two little lives I am trying to guide. There are days when I feel like I keep piling mistake upon mistake and I wonder how my children are EVER going to become productive adults with someone like me showing them the ropes.

I had a day like that recently. As usual, I started to mentally beat myself up over it. The list began: I yell too much. I feed them junk. I don’t play on the floor with them enough. I’m not a good mom like other moms I know. I don’t listen to every thing my kids say. I don’t know how to make them be nice to each other. We don’t laugh enough. I lost my patience over homework and yelled again. I’m tired. And crabby. And if anyone says, “Mommy!” again, I might scream! And that’s just the beginning, y’all.

And then I heard a small voice suggest that maybe, just maybe, I do a few things right. I stopped right there and decided to erase the negative recording that was vomiting sewage all over brain, listing all the things I mess up. Instead, I made a list of the things I do right. Or at least try to do right for my babies.

I want to share these things with you. No, not to toot my own horn. And not to fish for compliments, in hopes that you’ll leave me a nice comment saying what a “wonderful mom” I am. STOP. THAT. I want to share these things because I think it takes a determined mental shift to pull yourself out of negative and into positive. I believe in silver linings, no matter how thin and frail they are. You’ll see that in this list, because sometimes I have to grasp at straws. I hope you read this list and it helps you reframe your mind to see the good even in some really dark and dreary days. And if you want to leave a comment? Please do – but make it about what YOU do well too!

1. When I enter a room to see my kids, I smile. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or after nap, I try to show them genuine joy in seeing their faces. Years ago, I read this in a book or magazine and decided to try it too. It helps them (and me!) know they are cherished.

2. On school days, I spend 10 or 15 minutes cuddling and laying beside Katie quietly. I believe the simple act of holding her in my arms gives her encouragement for the day. It helps focus my day too, and I get to hear random thoughts that float through her dozing mind.

3. After the kids are dressed, we sit at the top of the stairs and Start Our Day. We start with this prayer: “Dear Jesus, please come into my heart today. Thank you for loving me. Amen.” The prayer is important for inviting Jesus to do life with us each day. And then we look at each other and say, “Good morning. I love you. We’re going to have a GREAT day!” I heard that in a devotional at our former church. A bunch of women and I scoffed at it, but then I decided to start each day with that phrase and it has benefited us.

4. At our house, we stick to a routine. Yes, I get lots of grief over this and sometimes I wish my kids weren’t so routine-oriented because changing the routine (for example, at holiday time) can throw them into a tizzy. But keeping them in a routine (wake-dress-breakfast-activity-lunch-nap-play-dinner-bath-books-teeth-bed) keeps them calmer.

5. We limit TV viewing for the kids. They get a 30 minute show at night after their bath, if we have time.

6. We listen to music. Years ago, I remember seeing my friend Mary and her toddler singing Bob Marley. I thought that was cool and wondered how I could get my daughter to like mainstream music (that I like too!). So I just started to play “regular” music in the car and, behold! It worked! Jackson’s favorite song is Juke Box Hero. Katie’s favorite used to be a song by Josh Gracin. Now it’s whatever Taylor Swift is singing. The point is this: I love music, and my kids do too. I’ve also learned a sneaky trick: when I want the kids to learn something (the books of the Bible or the states, etc.), I find a song on iTunes and we listen to it and learn. Imagine that?!

7. We play outside. A LOT. If the weather is above 45 degrees, the kids are riding bikes down the street or playing in the back yard. I owe this all to Sheryl because she used to take her twin toddlers outside each evening back in the days when Katie was just learning to walk. I brought Katie outside to play, and we haven’t gone inside since. (Ha.)

8. We read. A LOT. We visit the library often and pick out books. We read those books before naps and bedtime. The kids bring books with them on almost every car ride. And just like the music tip, I’ve learned to make books like these that help the kids learn something specific (like the Lord’s Prayer or road signs or the makes and models of cars).

9. Just like we Start Our Day, we also end our day. There’s a bedtime story, one song from a mix CD of favorites, a prayer, then, like my sister and her children, we finish with this quote from the book Love You Forever: “I love you forever. I like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” The last word we say is “mizpah.” It’s also the last word we say when we part from each other for school or work.

10. Food: oh, this is an area with LOTS of negatives, but here are a few small positives: my kids can eat their body weight in fruit. When we go to McDonald’s, I bribe Jackson to eat chicken before I’ll allow apples. At the grocery store, he begs for watermelon and cantaloupe. They also beg for what I call “old people cereal.” You know, the bran kind? They would rather eat Cracklin’ Oat Bran or Oatmeal Squares than some more kid-friendly cereals. Another positive? My kids don’t like soda. They’ve rarely had it and when they did, they spit it out. So, there’s a great positive for you: my kids could live on watermelon, bran and milk. Yay for me.

11. We work really hard to protect our kids’ innocence. I research most movies prior to viewing. Even if it’s something I think Katie could handle developmentally, I will put my foot down if I think it’s not something she should be seeing at her age. I figure she has YEARS of being jaded and grown up, and only a few years of innocence when the world’s heartaches haven’t broken her yet. I want those years to last.

12. I’m hard-nosed about sleep schedules. We don’t skip naps unless we’re a) at Camp Grandma or b) uh… we just don’t. Bedtime is a strict 8:00. That’s partly because I need to be OFF the clock by then, but also because I read lots of books and attended a multitude of sleep classes when the kids were babies and heard from numerous experts that sleep deprivation is damaging. Kids’ bodies need sleep and deprivation of it can lead to slower learning skills, bad eating habits, emotional outbursts, etc. Honestly? I think sleep is so important that I’d rather feed my kids cake for breakfast than put them to bed after 8:00. But that’s just me.

13. Our kids have a lot of grandparental interaction. Thankfully, they have two surviving blood-related grandparents in town, and a few surrogates who have stepped up to the plate to represent my parents. And, thankfully, those in-town and out-of-town grandparents lovingly agree to spend their time and energy with our kids. (Not all grandparents do, you know.) Our in-town grandparents show up at school functions. They invite the kids to sleepovers at their house almost weekly. They take the kids to movies. And feed them junk food. And let them get away with things I won’t. I am grateful to them for the relief they give me and Dan, and also for their simple presence in Katie and Jackson’s lives. My grandparents weren’t like that, and I envy Katie and Jackson a little because of the great bond they have with their elders.

14. This is a heavy topic and hard to pinpoint, but modeling a healthy marriage is on my list of positives. This doesn’t mean Dan and I never fight. Or huff at each other. Or get snippy. But it does mean that we greet each other with joy when Dan gets home from work. And we talk to each other respectfully. And we remind our kids what a great parent the other parent is. We show our kids how to support someone. That wasn’t modeled for me as a child, and it has taken me YEARS (and a patient spouse) to reprogram my brain so I can relate to Dan respectfully and lovingly.

15. I’m trying to give my kids a spiritual life and education. Sometimes, this positive is borne out of a negative: they see me mess up and humbly ask forgiveness – from God and whomever I have wronged. Other times, this positive is brought about more intentionally with things like regular worship at church, saying grace, listening to Christian music in the car, watching me read my Bible and pray. I’d love for my kids to be blind to my faults, but I know if they can see God redeem brokenness and imperfection, they’ll be able to see His love for them too.

So, there you go. Again, please don’t think I’m tooting my own horn. Far from it, my friends! I am my own worst critic and – trust me – the list of negatives and I-shoulds and not enoughs is much longer than this list of positives. My mom used to have this quote posted in her kitchen: “Nothing is all wrong. Even a clock that has stopped is right twice a day.” I’m hoping that my list will give you all the courage to extend grace to yourselves, like I’m trying to do too.

Happy Birthday to My Brother

1974-10 MMS, MAJS, EAS in front of stone wall Jackson would have been 40 years old today. And that’s one of the hardest things about death – being robbed of what could have been and SHOULD have been. I’ll never get to make fun of him for being Over the Hill. I don’t get to rub his balding head and laugh at him. Or pinch his love handles and tease him for getting thicker over the years. What’s a little sister to do? There’s no one to pick on now!

Dear Jackson,
I try to keep your memory alive by talking about you and thinking of you every day. Today, I told the little boy who was named after you that it is a special day: Uncle Jackson’s birthday! He said, “Uncle Jackson’s a soldier. He shoots bad guys with laser guns!” You’re such a legend that little boys still think of you as a superhero. Hmmm… maybe, although I remember lots of times when you beat me up or we teamed up to play jokes on our sister. Ahhh, good memories!
Happy birthday, my brother. I am so grateful to be your sister. It’s still an honor, even after 14 years without you. You packed a lifetime into the 26 years you lived, and I miss knowing who you’d be today. Yes, I feel shortchanged but the balance sheet shows I’m rich beyond measure.
I love you, still!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sewing Projects

Even though I’ve owned a sewing machine for more than ten years and I’ve taken one tiny little class (where I learned to make a pair of pajama pants that would be oversized even for an elephant), I still consider myself a beginner compared to other “real” sewers I know. (I guess that would be “seamstresses” and not “sew-ers,” right? Don’t want y’all thinking of the waste water types of sewers!)

My mother-in-law bought me a sewing machine when we still lived in Kansas City. My friend Susan taught me the practical things of sewing: how to buy fabric at a store (I was that clueless, y’all!), how to thread the machine, and how to attempt sewing in a straight line (still not good at that). Our first project was to recover a comforter for my daybed. That daybed is now in my daughter’s room, and she is STILL using the comforter and dust ruffle that I Susan made.

After that comforter project, I didn’t use my sewing machine for a while. I thought that once I learned it, I was good to go. I didn’t realize that I needed to keep sewing to keep my memory sharp. Consequently, I forgot every little thing that Susan taught me. We had moved away from Kansas City by that point, so Susan came to visit me and taught me how to sew. AGAIN. This time, it stuck. I’m proficient in using my machine, but that’s about it.

A few months back, a friend from church told me she got a sewing machine and wanted to try some projects. I told her maybe I’d blog about projects that I have liked or easy beginner ones I have come across. Now, four months later, I’m getting around to doing that for her. (Sorry to take so long, Emily!) Here’s a list of projects I’d like to attempt or ones I’ve tried that turned out to be sort of decent. If any of my readers have other easy ideas, leave me a link in the comments. I’d appreciate any feedback you have!

*A pair of Katie’s jeans made into a pillow (2006)

*A skirt made from a pillowcase (2006)

*A craft apron made from a dishtowel (2006)2006-10-18 DSC09039 2006-10-21 DSC09052

*A Santa Claus Halloween costume made from a child’s sweatsuit (2006)2006-10-23 DSC09109

*Felt chair covers with interchangeable felt decorations (2006)2006-10-21 DSC090512006-11-07 DSC09343

*Pillows made from a child’s favorite baby outfit, given as gifts for first birthdays (2007)2007-08-04

*Theater kits made from red sheets and a cafe curtain rod (2007)2007-12-25

*Placemat purses (2008)2008-03-01 Placemat Purse for Beth1 2008-03-01

*Taggie blankets (2008)2008-04

*Curtain valance made from bandanas (2006)IMGP2576 (2)

*Drawstring bags for wrapping birthday and Christmas presents. I don’t have photos of mine (they’re in Christmas storage right now), but here’s a link to a long list of some.

*Hooded towel made from a towel and two washcloths – again, I don’t have photos of mine and searched for examples online but didn’t find any like the ones I made. If you’re interested in seeing mine, leave me a comment and I’ll add it later.

*Infinity dress (scroll down a bit in this post – you’ll see photos of mine from 2009)

Here’s are a few of projects I want to try:

*Skant (a skirt made from a pair of jeans)

*T-shirt shopping bag

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Three is a Magic Number

I finished up my third half marathon today and beat my time from the last two. Go me!IMGP2953

I feel pretty well this evening. My legs are a little tight, and my left toes are still cramping a bit because of some issues I’ve been having with my extremities for the last few months. I expected a big blister on my right foot, which barely formed due to a wonderful moleskin patch. All in all, I’m faring well. Dan has been my hero this afternoon, taking the kids off my hands and letting me nap and get a pedicure. He rocks!IMGP2978- (2)

Back in May when I started training for this race, I planned to do a full marathon. I started following a run/walk training plan, but realized in July that I was going to have to commit LARGE chunks of time to make the full marathon a reality. I decided to drop the idea and do just the half. And today? I am soooo thankful I did. I realize I am just not full marathon capable. A half marathon is about all I feel motivated to do, and I’m really okay with never checking “full marathon” off my Bucket List. My aspirations lie elsewhere.IMGP2970

This was the ninth and final Lewis & Clark marathon. I’m a little bummed about that, because it was such a great course for “hobbyists” like me. Next year, the L&C will become one of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons in downtown St. Louis instead. After my St. Louis half marathon this past April, I have sworn off the downtown races. I’ll wait and see if some other half marathon (or similar race) catches my fancy in the future. But, for now, three IS a magic number!IMGP2982-

Friday, October 1, 2010

Glowing Eyes

The October issue of FamilyFun magazine arrived in our mailbox, and I marked quite a few ideas to try during craft time with Katie. I showed them all to her, and she chose three projects. I had to buy a few items at the store, then we set to work on them.

These glowing eyes are – honestly – one of the easiest (and coolest) crafts we’ve done in a while. It cost me $2.50 for a pack of six battery powered tea lights at Deals, then $1.47 for six ping pong balls at Target. (I already had permanent markers on hand.) That comes out to about 66 cents for each finished craft.IMGP2860-

First, cut an X in the bottom of the ping pong ball. (I cut on top of the logo so it would be hidden.)IMGP2851

Then poke the candle’s flame into the X and the ball will stay on top of the candle.IMGP2852

Lastly, decorate the ball to look like an eye.IMGP2853

Katie had the brilliant idea to color two of the balls to look like a Jack-o-lantern and a witch. We added a pipe cleaner stem to the Jack-o-lantern, and a paper hat to the witch. Aren’t these adorable? I can’t wait to decorate for Halloween and line them up on our windowsills. Dan’s thinking of using them inside his carved pumpkin too. I’ll post photos if he decides to do that!IMGP2865-

From Fun to Friction

Let me set up the story first. I’ve mentioned here and here and here that our school district is on a year-round calendar, which includes three three-week breaks during the school year. Katie has been on the first of those Cycle Breaks for the last two weeks. I’ve already admitted I am selfish about Jackson’s nap times and enjoy the solitude I get while he naps. While Katie is on Cycle Break, I lose those hours of quiet time because Katie favors stimulation over solitude. After a few days of this, I lose my patience as my gas tank starts running on empty. There isn’t much solitude to refill my tank.

This past Tuesday, I decided to refill both Katie and my tanks by having some craft time. I neglected the laundry and dinner preps in favor of making these glowing eyes. It was really a lot of fun to craft together. So much fun that we started a second project before Jackson woke from his nap. This project was fun, but Katie sulked a bit because she didn’t want to paint a frame before she glued it together. I told her she had to, which induced the sulking. Then we didn’t have time to finish the project before Jackson’s grumpy cries fractured our creative flow. I quickly packed our supplies up, then decided to fold the laundry before rescuing Jackson from his crib. And since I spent two hours crafting with Katie, I figured it would be no big deal for her to help me fold laundry – or at least sort the darn socks.

Well, I was wrong. Sulking began again, and she back talked about having to fold laundry. I explained (nicely at first) how I had neglected my chores to craft with her and I’d appreciate her help. That didn’t work to change her attitude, so I raised my voice a bit and tried reasoning with her again. Still didn’t work. At that point, I had one kid crying in his crib and the other just watching me fold laundry while she was sulking. Aargh. That’s when I lost it.

Yes, I wish I could go back to this one moment in time and put a zipper on my mouth and lock it down tight. But… but. Instead, I channeled my parents’ voices in my head and turned to Katie and actually hissed, “I hope you have kids JUST LIKE YOU when you grow up.” And then I muttered a prayer under my breath: Dear Lord, please PLEASE let me live long enough to see that. Just now, rereading that, it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it was that day. I mean, there was a LOT of anger coming out of me at that moment. The words on this page don’t convey it very well.

So, where did I get such venom and anger? Oh, yes, I know. It had been building up for more than a week as I battled two fighting siblings and a lack of alone time and activities and crafts and boredom (theirs, not mine of course). It was bound to happen, right? Right. I know that. Truly, I do. And I give myself enough grace to know there are going to be lots of imperfect times in this marathon known as motherhood. I just wish I could walk away more often, instead of spewing my anger at my kids.

I’ve been reading a book lately called The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith. The fourth chapter is entitled “Learning to Live without Anger.” I’ve read that chapter three times over now. Half of it is underlined or highlighted, and I’m still having trouble with it sinking in. Smith says anger comes from from unmet expectations and fear. False narratives in our lives have caused us to feel anger, frustration and stress. Narratives like “I am alone,” or “Things always have to go as I want them,” or “I need to be perfect all of the time.” He says, “Our problem is fear and we think control is the solution.”

Smith says the need to control leads us to turn to our own resources, which means we are walking in the flesh rather than being led by the Spirit. My understanding of Smith’s proposed solution is to live life with God and let him live through you. Knowing God is “with us, protecting us and fighting for our well-being” will help diminish our anger. “Jesus’ narrative is that God permits nothing to happen to us that he cannot redeem or use for good. … God is always near. We are never alone and never need to be afraid. When I live with this reality deep in my mind and heart, anger cannot get a grip on me.”

I’ve been trying to live in that reality. More importantly, I’ve been trying to let Jesus live IN me, instead of me trying to live IN Jesus or make myself be Jesus. There’s a difference, you know. One is focused on what I do, the other is focused on what He does.

When anger bubbled up again the next day (Wednesday), I walked away from the situation. I sat in a chair and prayed and told God how frustrated I was. The words “I’m trying…” came out of my mouth, then I stopped short. I felt God nudging me and saying, “Yes. YOU’RE trying.” And I realized I’m trying to live from my own power again. I exhaled, felt humility, and asked God for His grace. My prayer turned into two tiny words: “You try.” You try, God. You try for ME. Because I can’t anymore. All of My Tries have gotten me right back to the same place. So now, I’m living in the You Trys instead.

Today, I’m doing (…See? Right there? I started with what I’M DOING and not what God’s doing! Let’s try that again.) Today, God’s been standing in between me and my anger. He’s interceding for me. The kids are up to their usual antics: Jackson pokes Katie’s buttons, and she responds with whining and “Mo-o-o-o-mmmm…!!!” My response? God has been fighting for my well-being (and my kids’!) by keeping my voice calm and helping me disengage when the anger level rises. I had the calm and the strength to remove my kids from the park when their bickering escalated. I brought them home, where they ate lunch in separate rooms and played alone afterwards. They are playing alone again right now, not allowed to be near each other and push each other’s buttons.

I know it isn’t a long-term solution, but I feel like it’s a better alternative to the venomous hiss that erupted on Tuesday.

 Thank you, Jesus, for inviting me to do life with you! Keep protecting me, and my babies too.

Lemonade for Living Water

Last week, we had our annual lemonade stand to benefit Living Water International. The kids on our street set up their stand on the corner of our road and the main neighborhood road. They waved signs, screamed at passing cars, and mobbed any poor soul who stopped to buy a glass of lemonade. Don’t they look angelic?IMGP2750-

The kids told each customer that the money was going to Living Water, which “helps people get water.” It’s funny to me that the kids are so eager to help others. They care less about the details and more about just helping.IMGP2715

This time, we also sold cookies and water bottles with the flavor packets. Katie sold some of the bracelets she made earlier in the week.IMGP2781

You know, lemonade stands sound all idyllic and American as apple pie, right? The truth is, they are a lot of work – mostly for the adults. (But then again, what part of childhood isn’t?) I’m glad the kids got to make a cool memory together and our neighbors got to hang out and chat for a while too. The best news? The kids raised $22 to donate to Living Water to save lives. That’s worth all the effort, wouldn’t you say?

(That’s my gratuitous shot of the 5 month old neighbor, when I caught her making a funny expression. So cute!)


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