Sunday, March 27, 2011

Goodbye to Three


As I write this, it’s late and I should be in bed. I can hear the clock on the mantel ticking, reminding me of the sleep I’m losing by staying up to blog. But I want to take the last hour of your being three to write down all the things I will remember from this past year.

Tonight before bed, I looked in your eyes and said you won’t remember anything about being three; only Daddy and I will remember these things for you. (Katie piped up and said, “Me too!” Yes, Katie might remember some of it too.) I asked you what you’ll remember about being three, and you said “I can’t remember!” So I reminded you of the good times you’ve had:

Building forts.IMGP9484

Being small enough to squeeze into the end table beside the couch.

Playing and laughing.

Learning to ride a big boy bike and a scooter.IMGP4322a

Those things were enough to jog your memory and you agreed with every one. What other ways did we spend this year? Countless hours spent in the LoveSac reading library books.IMGP7808

A thousand repetitions of, “Stop jumping on the furniture! This isn’t a playground!” And how about, “If you spit at me/say that word/backtalk again, I will put hot sauce on your tongue/soap in your mouth!” Oh, buddy. You like to test the boundaries!IMGP4295 

This has also been the year of the Sqwishy, those silly little toys you adore.IMGP9403

And Legos have finally entered our house (mostly contained to the bathtub, though).IMGP7803

This year marked our first epic road trip as a family, and you were a champ – riding along with your buffalo and watching movies.IMGP9126

Potty training has also *finally!* come and gone. Once I backed off and let you do it on your own schedule, it was a non-issue. (Maybe that’s a good lesson for me as a parent in the years to come?)

What else is to come? As you turn four, there’s so much in store for you: a big boy bed, moving into a booster seat in the car, and learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Milestones that you will fly past and never realize the momentous impact they have on your life – until you have your own child one day who chugs right through these same rites of passage.

And when I see those moments happen for that future child, know that I can’t help but remember the little boy you are tonight: snug in your bed, waiting for your future to greet you tomorrow morning.

My Jack Jack Attack. Buddy Boy. Schmoopie! And my Sugar Boy too. I love you, and I love being your mommy. Happy birthday!

Jackson’s Cupcake Party

A month or so ago, I asked Jackson what he wanted to do for his birthday. His immediate response: “Have a cupcake party!” I am not quite sure what a cupcake party is, so he clarified and said, “I get to invite five friends and have cupcakes!” (And, yes, it was emphatic, with an exclamation! point!) I tried to get more details out of him, but the only other requirements for such a party was: “Play with my toys. And my friends bring presents.” Ah, of course. Can’t forget that!

If you remember from last year’s party, I have a *slight* dislike of birthday parties. (In fact, when I asked Jackson the original question about what to do for his birthday, I was hoping for a response like, “Let’s just stay home and order pizza.” Yeah, right.) The good news is this year, he decided on the guest list himself and gave me lots of wiggle room by specifying only one other thing: cupcakes. So I set out to plan a cupcake party.

SLAM ON THE BRAKES RIGHT HERE! Turns out a cupcake party for BOYS isn’t so easy. Google “cupcake party” and you’ll get lots of pink, frilly ideas. So I just threw together some ideas I like from random web and blog samplings, and called it good. Here’s what our two hour party entailed:

1. Greet each guest and give them a party badge to wear, with Jackson’s photo on it. Why party badges? Because I found them at Leftovers for next-to-nothing cheap! They just seemed like something fun the kids could wear.IMGP9847

2. Playtime, including chaotic balloon chasing. I read on FamilyFun’s website that if you throw tons of balloons onto the floor of any party, it doubles the fun factor. So true!IMGP9855

3. Decorate cupcake carriers. (For the life of me, I can’t find the link to this idea. I saw it at least a year ago on a blog, but can’t remember which one. If anyone ever finds the source, please let me know so I can link it!) I was going to let the kids use glue and glitter and other fun decorations, but if you’ve ever crafted around me or know anything about me, you know I DESPISE glitter. So the kids used only stickers, which turned out to be totally sufficient.IMGP9881 IMGP9901

4. Decorate cupcakes to put in carriers and take home. The idea of sprinkles rolling around my kitchen floor is *almost* as terrifying as the thought of glitter running amuck around my house. So the kids decorated their cupcakes on cookie sheets, which helped to contain the rogue nonpareils. (Now I finally know how to pronounce that!) Then, of course, Jackson got hold of a jar of sprinkles that didn’t have a handy sifting cap on it, and he dumped a huge pile of sprinkles on his cupcake. There ain’t NO cookie sheet that could contain that mound of chaos!IMGP9888

5. Eat snacks in cupcake tins, a la Muffin Tin Mom. Jackson picked his favorite foods to eat: Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal, marshmallows, animal crackers, cheese cubes, apple slices, grapes, celery and carrots. I don’t have enough six-hole muffin tins, but my friend Beth had the brilliant idea to use the plastic carriers that the store-bought cupcakes are sold in. I cut those in half and let the kids use them and then we threw them away for fast cleanup. Sweet!IMGP9896

I also made some cute cupcake straws like these here, but then I realized the straws wouldn’t fit in the kids’ juice pouches. I made the adults use them instead.IMGP9846

6. Decorate a second cupcake – this one for eating!

7. Cupcake hunt. I printed out ten cupcakes (clip art) per child with each child’s name printed on them. Each child had his own color too. While we ate snacks, Katie slipped into two other rooms and hid the cupcakes in some very sneaky places. After snack, the kids were set loose to find their cupcakes.IMGP9832 IMGP9910

8. Pin the candle on the cupcake. I used a large cardboard cupcake decoration I bought at Deals, and printed candle clip art for the kids to stick on the cupcake blindfolded. Our friend Alex didn’t want to play, so his mom agreed to be his substitute. The kids got a kick out of telling Michelle where to place her cupcake.IMGP9927

9. Presents. This is one of the reasons I dread birthday parties: I can’t stand when the kids smother the birthday child by clamoring to see the present that’s being opened. It really makes me crazy. In my Google search for cupcake parties, I found this link which had the idea to invite the child whose present is being opened to sit beside the birthday boy. Bonus idea: take a photo of the kids together with the gift, to be used for thank you notes later. BRILLIANT! It worked like a charm for us, also because we used the ottoman as a buffer between the gawkers and the gifts.IMGP9941

10. Playtime and head home. Our two hours was almost up by this point, so the kids played for a few more minutes and then we were done. As a party favor, each kid took home his own cupcake carrier with a cupcake inside. (I like edible favors instead of filler toys.)

Even the Grinchy party-hater side of me was pleasantly surprised with how well this party turned out. Most of all, Jackson loved having his friends over to play and eat cupcakes with him. And that’s what counts!IMGP9904

Monday, March 21, 2011

Katie’s Seven-Year Plan

Remember this post last month, when Katie found out her Advent Conspiracy video was one of the contest winners? The prize for winning is a trip with Living Water International, to help dig a water well in another country. Katie knew about that prize and really wanted to win the contest so she could go on that trip.

But there’s a catch: Living Water has a safety policy which requires attendees to be at least 14 years old before they can go on a trip like this. I totally understand (and fully agree) with this policy; I do not want my seven year old going to a village where the inhabitants regularly suffer from water-borne illnesses.

I’ve been in contact with staff at Living Water, discussing alternatives for Katie’s prize. They are graciously agreeing to give Katie an IOU: when she turns 14, she can finally take her trip to dig a well. Woo hoo! I’m so excited about that. I shared the news with Katie, but she was less-than-enthused. It’s hard for a seven-year-old to delay gratification. She said, “I so bad want to go see those kids.” And then her face brightened as she said, “Maybe I can get a pen pal instead!” We talked about using the next seven years to earn enough money to dig a well. She liked that idea a lot and said she could sell more bracelets and have another lemonade stand.

On Saturday night, God worked His magic and our lives intersected with Living Water again. We went to our church at a different location (kind of like a satellite location) and found out one of the guys from Living Water was visiting our main church that weekend. I told Katie about it after worship that night, and she gasped, “Can we go meet him?!” So on Sunday morning, we went to church again to meet Stan from Living Water.IMGP9560

Katie was so nervous about meeting him. She brought her camera to take his picture, and she brainstormed questions to ask him: how many wells has Living Water built? Where do you build them? How much does it cost to dig one well? When she first saw Stan in the lobby, she hid behind a wall because she was so shy to meet a big hero. I finally dragged her over to say hello, and she asked questions. Stan says it costs about $5,000 to dig a new well, and $2,000 to repair one that’s already been dug. Katie and I told him about our idea to save enough money to dig a new well before she turns 14. Stan really liked our idea, and said Katie could earn enough to build a new one every year. Wow!

Katie spent the entire ride home from church jotting notes about how to earn more money for Living Water. Her favorite idea was to open a fruit stand called “Fruity Fruit Stand” and sell apples, bananas, oranges, lemonade and water. She came home to tell Daddy about it, and they turned it into an even cooler idea: grow their own vegetables in our garden and sell those instead! They’ll call it The Veggie Stand. Katie went back to the drawing board and came up with this inventory list:IMGP9566 Cucumbers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, bracelets

I am participating in Living Water’s H2O Project for Lent right now. At the end of Lent, I was planning to donate the money I saved directly to Living Water. But now that Katie has this seven-year-plan, I will donate it to her water well fund. I told her I’ll be the first to donate, and she said “No you won’t! I will be!” She reminded me of the Living Water jar she’s already been saving her money in.

I am continually amazed at what God can do through our children.

Stay tuned for updates on the Seven-Year Plan as Katie starts saving. Let us know if you’d like a chance to help!

Ode to My Diaper Bag

IMGP9553 Diapers and wipes.
Goldfish galore.
Sunscreen and toys,
You’ve been so much more:
An anchor in rough seas.
Security in Brown.
A purse incognito
To keep me weighed down.
A gift from a friend
And now we part ways.
I can’t say I’ll miss you.
Goodbye diaper days!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Better Than TV

It’s evening, and dinner is done. The dishes are in the dishwasher and the kitchen is closed. The kids have been bathed and pajama-ed, and we’re ready to wind down for the night. Only one problem: there’s still ONE HOUR until bedtime. We’re on the home stretch, but there’s still plenty of time for the train to get off track and a meltdown to ensue. So what do we do?

We resort to the fort! I built it this morning after we woke and found SNOW (three-stupid-inches!) on the ground outside. I was still feeling sluggish after last week’s illness, so I knew it was going to be a long day unless I came up with a good plan. So I pulled our beloved LoveSac away from the wall, then tied a rope from the curtain rod to the computer desk and draped a dirty sheet (it’s laundry day) across it and onto the LoveSac. It made a handy lean-to, which the kids clamored into and started stacking pillows inside. We read books for an hour, until I was on the verge of sleep and had to rouse myself to make lunch.

Tonight, the kids were excited to invite Daddy into the fort for cuddling. Katie wrote a permission slip for him to sign before he could enter it, then they crawled in while I snuck around taking photos of them reading books.IMGP9483

I joined the family inside the fort and we read another book about McDuff the dog and a baby. The baby’s first word was “woof,” which led us into a discussion of the kids’ first words. I told them stories about their first words and they guffawed and squealed with delight when I told them how they mispronounced those words.

We had a staring contest, which Dan and I deemed “unfair” because we’re old and wear contacts and our eyes dry out too fast to win a staring contest with Katie.IMGP9509

Dan taught Jackson how to have a Thumb War.IMGP9506


Then, blessedly, the hour was over and bedtime had arrived. We all had smiles on our faces, and I remarked to Dan that I’d rather spend that time in the fort than plugged in to the TV. Memories are so much better than the boob tube.IMGP9502

The Truth

I saw a commercial for a website called The Truth and just spent the last 30 minutes looking at it. It’s dedicated to telling the truth about tobacco use and tobacco companies.

There are video clips on the website that show people with feeding tubes, stomas, missing jaws, and other ailments related to tobacco diseases. It’s very difficult for me to watch, because it reminds me of my dad’s last few years.

He died when Katie was one year old. Since then, I have not minced words when it comes to discussing smoking with my kids. I started early, pointing out cigarettes to Katie and saying, “Ewww!” I told her that cigarettes are stinky and can cause cancer, and they are the reason her grandfather Steeley died. I started these same discussions with Jackson too. When my kids see someone with a cigarette, they are appropriately appalled and tell me, “Mommy, that lady is smoking!”

Back to today. Katie overheard some of the videos playing on The Truth and asked me if she could watch them with me. I screened them first to make sure there were no inappropriate words or gory photos, then had her sit beside me and watch them. I paused the videos when necessary to answer her questions. She was confused why the woman with a stomach tube couldn’t eat through her mouth, and what exactly IS that stuff she’s pouring into the tube? I told Katie about the woman getting cancer in her jaw and losing it, and how you can’t chew food if you don’t have a jaw. I explained Steeley’s feeding tube and how he wasn’t able to eat anymore before he died, because of the cancer blocking his throat.

With a look of horror on her face, Katie turned to me and emphatically said, “I am NOT going to smoke.” Despite the horrific look, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard her say. The best part? I didn’t even have to tell her NOT to smoke. She saw the results of it and decided on her own that it’s not a good thing.

I pray she sticks to that vow and, one day, she’ll be alive to see her grandchildren – something her grandfather missed.

Saving Birthday Memories

Two weeks until my little boy turns four. Whew! Part of me is doing a jig, singing “We made it!” loud and clear. The other part of me wants to break all the clocks in the house so time will stop. Yeah, I know that won’t help and time (thankfully) marches on no matter what.
There are some things I do to mark the passage of time and to save birthday memories. I’m sharing one of those ideas at JC’s Loft today. Click this link to read more, and let me know what you think!
{Update: The JC's Loft blog was closed and the link no longer works. If you would like instructions, leave a comment and your email address and I'll be in contact. I'm sorry for any confusion!}

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On the Other Side

I am taking a moment to acknowledge the beauty of life after being down in the depths. Life is good, y’all.

I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.*

Here’s what I remember from Wednesday night when I was so sick: I was hugging the porcelain throne and my body was rejecting every atom of foreign material and I could hardly breathe before another wave hit me. My soul took over and, between gasps, I kept choking out the words “God made this.” What I meant was this: God made my body such a perfect machine that it has a built-in reboot function when danger approaches. When a virus invades, my body knows what to do and does it in a beautifully vehement way. I collapsed in bed, with tears soaking my pillow, and still found the breath to praise God. I whispered over and over, “Thank you, God.” And I meant it with every part of my sick being.

Thank you, God, for never leaving me. Thank you for giving me sleep so my body can repair itself. Thank you for making bodies in such an intricate way. Thank you for always giving us a way out.

Thursday and Friday were an improvement compared to Wednesday, but I still felt off and pretty gross. Then I woke this morning and felt like the sun had risen just for me. Dan felt it too; this is the first day in almost a week that he’s been able to move his body without searing pain.

In the grand scheme of things, a back ache and a stomach virus aren’t huge life changers. I know that. I don’t mean to compare our little ailments to some of the devastation going on in the world (tsunamis, cancers, divorces, grief). But I do know this: when you go through darkness and then come back into the light, it isn’t just the brightness that has changed. Your soul feels cleaner and stronger and more appreciative of all the blessings that you do have. You are compelled to stop in your tracks, gaze at the world, and thank your Maker for the gifts of darkness AND light.

*Not my words! Paul wrote this while he was in prison around 62 A.D. Yes, prison! In darkness, he acknowledged the Light and never stopped doing so. May we never stop, either. (The verse is from The Message, Philippians 4:12-13.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quick Takes

Lots going on, and it would take at least five posts for me to feel caught up! So I’m going to give the Reader’s Digest version of life in our house.

1. I am back in the land of the living. Starting around 12:30 yesterday, I was feeling queasy and blah. Then there was some rumbling in my tummy two hours later, with full-blown barfs at 3:30. I barely got the kids home safely before things went south and I passed out on the couch waiting for Dan to get home from his own medical maladies (see #2). I floated in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night, between trips to the bathroom and hugging our lovely barf bucket. I slept for almost 13 hours straight, and woke feeling a little better this morning. The kids and I stayed home and I refereed lots of fights, but we made it through the day in one piece (barely). I haven’t been this violently ill in about seven years, and I hope it’s a long time until this happens again!

2. Dan’s been fighting some major back pain since before Christmas. It got better for a little while, but this week it’s gotten pretty bad. He went for an x-ray and MRI yesterday, and has seen two doctors already this week. His third is scheduled for tomorrow. Please pray for relief!

3. I hope I don’t jinx it, but here’s big news in our house: today was day nine of underwear for Jackson! It appears our boy is potty trained. WOO HOO! He’s still wearing diapers at bedtime, but undies for the rest of the day. He’s had a few accidents, but not in the last four days. It’s been relatively easy, mostly because I waited for him to decide when he was ready. He’s doing really well and I can hardly believe we are *mostly* finished with diapers for the first time in almost eight years.

4. Fantastic news for lupus patients: the FDA approved the first new lupus drug in 56 years. I don’t know that this drug will be beneficial to me, but I’m glad there is some movement forward in the treatment of lupus. At my last checkup with my rheumatologist, she decided to keep me on my current regimen of Plaquenil. If my disease progresses and the Plaquenil can’t control it, we will consider other options. Basically, for now, if it ain’t broke we won’t fix it.

5. Lastly, during my recovery today, I tried to entertain the kids by letting them paint muffin boxes. We used toilet paper tubes we got from Leftovers, and they fit perfectly in the boxes. Katie is using hers to organize her desk supplies. Jackson turned his into a Sqwishy Hotel. He loves these little Sqwishy characters that we first got in a gumball machine (they’re now sold at Walgreens and Target). I helped him put his collection in the box, but then he spent a few minutes rearranging them. He didn’t like them sitting upright and preferred them to be laying down or even upside down. So odd!IMGP9400 IMGP9401 IMGP9406

Friday, March 4, 2011

Communicating with My Husband

Life is hectic, right? There are some weeks when Dan and I pass each other on the driveway for three nights in a row, with only a quick kiss hello and goodbye. I’ve found a great way to keep us in touch and on schedule with each other, even when our face time is limited. I thought I’d pass it along in hopes of helping other couples with their communication.

Every Friday morning, I send an email to Dan with the upcoming week’s schedule. I also include the plans for the weekend and any other notes or items on our To Do List. He replies with additions or questions. It’s important to note the email is sent to him at WORK, where he has a better chance of concentrating without two kids clamoring for his attention.

Here’s an example of the schedule I sent him on Friday, January 14:


This little procedure has really helped us keep our family’s activities in line and it has reduced confusion. I don’t wonder anymore whether I forgot to tell him about a Girl Scout meeting, and he doesn’t have to sit idly by and watch as the family scurries around in busy-ness. Now he knows what to expect and can add his own activities to the mix.

What helps your family’s schedule stay on track?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Godson

Remember my best friend Beth, and the twins that were born three months early? They are almost seven months old now, and thriving! I was given the high honor of becoming Finn’s Godmother this past Sunday. It was pretty special to me!IMGP9229-100

I have never witnessed a Catholic baptism, nor have I been a Godmother before. This is all new to me, so I admit I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I was fascinated by the baptismal ritual, including all the anointing oils and prayers and symbolism. I really wanted to pull the priest aside afterwards and ask him all kinds of how and why questions, but I restrained myself. I didn’t want to embarrass my friends or my Godson, you know! Instead, I satisfied myself with taking lots of photos after the ceremony, then Googling as much as I could.

I am blessed to be a special part of Finn’s life, and honored to help him on his spiritual journey. I think it’s going to be pretty fantastic!


Katie came home from school yesterday and dropped a bombshell. She confessed to falsifying her behavior report from school.

Her class has a discipline procedure similar to other schools: the kids start the day on green and then advance to blue for their first infraction, then yellow and then red. Katie has been marking her days green when she has been getting on blue and yellow. She can’t remember how many times she’s done it this year, but says she was on blue at least five times and yellow at least three times.

Let me stop here to shine a little light on how God has changed me in the recent past. Just a short while ago, I would have gone ballistic and gotten pretty angry at Katie. Thankfully, God intervened yesterday and my heart was softened to understand the shame Katie felt in confessing, and the disappointment she already felt. Immediately, I knew I didn’t have to add much horror to the situation because she was contrite and apologetic and flat out ASHAMED. Thank you, God, for keeping your hand over my mouth AND for putting a conscience in my little girl’s body!

I’ve discussed the issue with Dan, my sister (who is a second grade teacher and can give me some real-world guidance), Katie’s teacher, and some close friends. (Oh, how I’d love to call Mom and Dad to get some advice!) Dan and I discussed appropriate consequences and gave the bad news to Katie tonight. She got tears in her eyes, but she seemed to understand the severity and repercussions of her lies. Her penance includes missing recess, a written and verbal apology to her teacher at tomorrow night’s parent-teacher conferences, a required signature on her future behavior reports, plus a fun little addition that’s a blend of my friend and sister’s advice: instead of taking away a privilege, we added a daily task to help her earn trust back. For the next eight days, she has to go out of her way to do something nice/kind/helpful/considerate to someone else THEN she has to write about it.

My friends who have older kids say this is just the beginning of the rocky road they faced with their daughters. They didn’t give me much hope. I guess it’s naive for me to think Katie might be different, but I’m going to believe that anyway. I believe in her ability to make good choices MOST of the time. And I believe in her desire to live honestly. Mostly, I believe that God is working in her heart just as much as He’s working in mine!


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