Saturday, October 29, 2011

929 Options

There are two things you need to know about me right off the bat: 1) I am cheap. 2) I love Christmas cards.

So here it is, not even Halloween, and I’m already working on our Christmas card. Actually, I started thinking about it last spring, when I *finally* figured out how to fold a fitted sheet. Why? Because in our annual Christmas card, I always include a top ten list of things we’ll remember about the past year. I was SO excited to finally learn how to fold a fitted sheet that I decided I wanted to include that in our top ten list.

Uh, yeah. For reals.

I used to send a Christmas letter and sometimes include a photo. In 2005, I started the Top Ten list and turned it into a photo collage postcard. I liked that because it: 1) was short and sweet (there isn’t much room on a postcard), 2) let me send more than one photo, and 3) was cheaper! (Postcard postage is cheaper than a regular letter.)

Last year, I broke from tradition a bit. I sent half of my cards as postcards, and the rest were Shutterfly photo cards. I’ve written before about Shutterfly photo books, but the cards were something I wasn’t as familiar with. I wasn’t sure how they would turn out, but I ended up loving the Shutterfly cards. I found a folded card like this and went to town adding photos to the front.STATIONERYCARD_FOLDED

Then I opened up the inside editing options, and it was like a whole new world to me! Shutterfly cards have the option to add text and photos inside the card as well, so I found a layout that worked and added my Top Ten with photos to illustrate the list. (If you can’t find a layout you like personally, you might get a visit from the Grinch. I just looked at the card options and there are nine hundred twenty nine options just on the page I surfed.)

I liked last year’s card so much that I’m using Shutterfly again this year. I may have started a new tradition! But I’m still not sure about adding “folded a fitted sheet” to my Top Ten list. People might think I lead a very dull life if I add that to the list!

Want some Shutterfly holiday cards for yourself ? Leave a comment by 11:59pm CST on November 6. In your comment, tell me the top three things that you’ll remember most about 2011. I’ll randomly pick one winner to receive a coupon for 25 free cards! (Open to US residents only.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

It Takes a Village (February 2007)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

February 2007: As I write this Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby have been home for exactly one week. The news of their return – especially Shawn’s – was astounding to me. I remember hearing about Shawn’s disappearance right around the time when I found out I was pregnant with Katie. Think about that: in the amount of time that he has been gone, a new life was started and grown – both mine and Katie’s! And I am sure that the news of his disappearance didn’t affect me then like it does now that I have a child of my own.

I watched Shawn’s interview with Oprah, and there are a few parts that I will remember for the rest of my life. One is that when Shawn was captive, he posted a question on his parents’ website, asking them how long they would keep looking for him. That just breaks my heart! He wanted to know that he was still loved and missed enough that he wouldn’t be forgotten. And isn’t that what all our children want, even you? You want to know that you matter and are loved, and that’s what our kids want too. It’s so simple when you break it down like that.

The other part of the interview that haunts me is that Shawn’s aunt mentioned that when he was held captive as Shawn Devlin, people actually asked him if he was Shawn Hornbeck. The aunt asked why nobody got involved in this kid’s life. What a wake up call! Our society is so quick to “mind your own business” – and I understand that privacy is important – but sometimes we lose sight of what brings us together. I, for one, hope that some other adults take an active role in my children’s lives.

I want our mommy community to care enough about all of our kids that we are willing to be a part of their lives – not just their parents’ lives. I love it when other mommies hug my daughter, and I love getting hugs from your kids too. I want you to help me raise my children, and help me learn how to be a better parent. (I get a lot of my parenting cues by watching other moms in our group.) I want you to be involved in our lives, and I want the feedback and support that our group gives each other. And here’s where the cliché comes in – it truly does take a village to raise a child. By being a member of our group, you are agreeing to take up residence in that village. And I hope you see it as an honor and a duty – and spread some of that influence into the lives of all the children you touch, not just the ones that belong to our group.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

a The moment my brother died fifteen years ago, a new understanding entered my life. I had spent 22 years without this knowledge – and hoped it would be much longer until I acquired it – but it came to me earlier than expected.

On October 26, 1996, I learned what Death is; what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like. I learned how someone can go from “here” to “gone” in a matter of moments. I learned how Death permeates every aspect of Life, and how the two can never be divorced from each other. I found out that Death is sneaky and hateful, but it can also be redeeming and a relief. Death broke my heart and fractured my sense of self. Death is a thief; it took the precious away from me. But Death is also a giver, if you’re willing to accept the gift it has to offer.

In the long run, Death saved me. It stripped away the person I thought I was, and I was left with an emptiness I had never known. Death broke me to the core of my soul, and caused me to turn away from the things I loved: my pride, my accomplishments, my history. I also turned away from God, angry at Him because He didn’t save Jackson from cancer. I told Him I didn’t need Him anymore and decided to rely on myself instead.

Fast forward fifteen years, years full of grief and growing and experiencing and trusting. I am ungraciously accepting the “gifts” Death has given me: the impetus to live life with intention, knowing there are no guarantees for tomorrow. Death also gave me a deeper sense of right and wrong, and the drive to live without regrets. Death taught me to say words of love more often. It made my marriage stronger and it gives me more reasons to hug my kids. And after walking through Death’s valley and taking the hand of the only One who can guide me out, I have an unshakable belief in God’s never-ending goodness.

Most of all, Death gives me hope. A hope in the future when God will restore those who follow His Son, and the hope of a glorious reunion with those I so desperately miss and the One who has never left my side.

The hardest part is waiting for that time to come. Reunion sounds pretty awesome on days like today, when I ache with longing to hear Jackson and Mom and Dad’s voices. But I don’t want that reunion quite yet, if it means separation from the loves I am surrounded by in this life.

Hope is what holds me together as I wait for the days to come.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Embroidered Map

Thanks to Pinterest, I saw this really great idea about embroidering a map. I had supplies already on hand and made my first one last week!

I have a friend who went to visit her oldest child at college for the first time since he left home. The morning she drove away, I put this in her mailbox and told her to check it before she left. I used a map of the United States (that I got from Leftovers), two strands of red thread (doubled over to make it four strands thick), and put it in an inexpensive 4x6 frame._MDS9498

Next time, I will try to use a map that isn’t a driving map, because the red thread didn’t stand out as well as I would have liked against the red color of the interstate route.

But all in all, I think it turned out pretty well!_MDS9491

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions (January 2007)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

January 2007: I love to make New Year resolutions. I don’t know that I’ve ever been successful at keeping them for a long-term period of time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like having a chance to try.

Since 2001, I’ve written down most of my resolutions. If nothing else, they’re fun to look back at and see what I thought was important or worth improving in my life. Kind of a little time capsule from the past year. I’ve included such gems as stop cussing, take my vitamins, floss more, and, of course, there is always a mention about my eyelashes! (Those of you who know about my OCD will know how well that has been going for me!)

It’s also nice to look back and see how I’ve been trying to comfort my soul. My 2006 resolution to “light more candles” was obviously a hope for more relaxation and meditation. My 2004 resolution to say grace before meals tells me I was lacking a spiritual connection in 2003. That seems pretty logical, considering I had a six-month-old and was lucky enough to sit down and eat, much less connect spiritually to anything.

The changing calendar has always marked a new beginning for me – another chance to get it right. Yes, I get the same chance every morning that I wake up too, but putting the past year to bed has always helped me mentally forgive my shortcomings, extend grace to myself, and re-energize my passions for a brand new beginning. The new year is a physical reminder to me that days pass into weeks and into months and into years. If you don’t take a moment to look at what you’ve left behind, how can you chart your course for the future?

So whether you use January 1 or, like a friend of mine, use your birthday to mark a new beginning, at least promise yourself that you’ll make the time to count your blessings, take stock of the here and now, and chart some ways to grow in the coming year. And let me know if you need someone to encourage you to floss more. I’m always here to help!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Second Baby Jitters (December 2006)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

December 2006: I have a confession to make. I am terrified to have a second child. Well, the terror is tempered with excitement, but I am kinda scared. Just when things are going so well with Katie, what am I doing upsetting the apple cart?!

I know those of you with more than one kid probably think this is funny. And if you have more than two kids, it’s probably hysterical. But I guess I kind of pride myself on getting things squared away in our household, getting Katie to a manageable level of independence, and kind of getting a feeling of control back in my life. And yet I’m going to go flush it all down the drain! And this time I don’t even have the excuse of blissful ignorance – I know what I’m getting myself in to, which is the one thing I didn’t know when I was pregnant with Katie. That sounds to me like the definition of insanity – you keep repeating the same crazy action, expecting a different outcome. And when I think about reliving the first 4 months of Katie’s life… oh, God! How am I going to do that with an almost-four-year-old?! What was I thinking?

But I also know this time it will be different. Maybe I’ll have a peaceful, quiet baby who sleeps through the night at two weeks. And last time, I didn’t have a group of mommies to really lean on – I was involved in our group, but still too new to feel comfortable asking for help. I didn’t know that breastfeeding doesn’t last forever, that the baby will eventually sleep through the night, and that time does, in fact, move on – even when it feels like it’s moving slower than molasses.

So, if I seem a little scatter-brained these days, it’s because I’m fluctuating between terror and excitement, fear and hope. I know one day I’ll look back at this and laugh, because I won’t even remember what it’s like to have a three-person family. I’ll think back to how naïve I used to be, and feel nostalgic for these oh-so-easy days when parenting was all about zone defense (not man-to-man), there were no sibling fights, no soccer games and ballet classes, and no fighting over who gets to use the phone next. Maybe you’ll join me in raising a toast to our younger selves, and help me appreciate all the wisdom I’ve gained in this terrifically terrifying new world into which I’m about to be born. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday – Leaf Maze


My daughter and her friend raked a maze into the back yard’s leaves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

God’s Creation in a Caterpillar

I was sitting at my kitchen table during Jackson’s nap on September 20. I looked out the patio door and saw this big green thing moving on the cover of our grill. I went outside and saw the BIGGEST caterpillar I have ever seen.

Of course, I ran back inside to grab my camera. I sidled up to that caterpillar and took lots of photos. I couldn’t get over his big squishiness._MDS6970

At the same time, I was repelled by his squirmy bugginess. Ewww._MDS6991-

I decided to get the kids’ bug catcher so I could show him to Katie once she got off the bus. With him in the bug catcher, I got some different views and great photos. This one shows his little sucker feet. You can even see the tiny hairs on his legs. My response, again, is “Ewww. But cool!”_MDS7039

Katie came home from school and I showed the caterpillar to the kids. I kept it on the grill in the back yard overnight, kind of forgetting about him. The next morning, I checked on him and saw he had started throwing silk all over the bug catcher. I realized he was starting to build a cocoon! I kind of panicked, afraid to let him go in case his cocooning process would make him vulnerable to predators. I decided to keep him in the bug catcher in hopes of keeping him safe. I threw in a leaf, thinking he could eat it while he prepared to cocoon. As soon as the leaf was inside, I saw him start to grab it and thought he must be very hungry.

By the next morning, here’s how it all looked:_MDS7106-

The caterpillar hadn’t eaten the leaf, he had used it for his cocoon! I now realized we had a beautiful example of God’s creation in our midst, and decided to research what kind of caterpillar he might be. That was a pretty hard job. I thought maybe he’s a Cecropia Silkmoth or a Luna Moth (Actias Luna), but then I saw a photo of an Antheraea Polyphemus and decided that’s my guy. (Of course, what do I know? I won’t know for sure until he emerges from his cocoon. And then I’m hoping I’ll be able to tell if it’s a HE or a SHE as well!)

Then I read up on how to grow caterpillar and/or cocoon. I found some good links like this one on raising giant silkmoths and this one on the lifecycle of polyphemus moths. It’s been so cool to learn and watch nature firsthand.

One of the websites I read said you should keep the cocoon outside (or at least in your garage) to protect it from animals. Also, keeping it outside will help it adapt so when it’s time to release, it will be acclimated to the weather. I put our bug catcher and cocoon in our garage on top of the refrigerator. I check it every day in case something changes; I thought I’d have to wait until spring to see it hatch. But last week (Oct. 4), I picked up the bug catcher to look at it and heard this rustling sound coming from inside the cocoon. I think maybe he’ll be ready to hatch soon!

I’ll keep you posted on his/her progress.

Monday, October 10, 2011

LEGOs in the Bath Tub

Forgive me as I take a moment to toot my own horn. I have happened upon a brilliant idea and want to share it with you! THIS is one of the best ways I know to keep my kids quiet:_MDS8732

LEGOs in the bath tub.

It wasn’t planned, except for the fact that I knew I didn’t want LEGOs in the living room. I had heard too many horror stories of parents puncturing their feet by walking on LEGOs. Somehow, we ended up with LEGOs in our master bathroom. It has been a sanity saver._MDS8734

Jackson plays quietly while I am in the adjacent shower and then get dressed and ready for the day. On weekends, Katie joins him and they build all kinds of contraptions. When they run out of LEGOs (our collection isn’t huge yet, but I’m hoping Santa will help enhance it this Christmas), I take photos of their creations and then we tear them apart so they kids can start fresh._MDS6960

My friend Beth let us borrow two green LEGO boards. Now I’m wondering why no one sells ceramic LEGO tiles that we can have installed throughout the bathroom!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thanks to Daddies (November 2006)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

November 2006: It’s a little cheesy, but I have to admit I’m in love with my husband. Yes, it comes and goes and ebbs and flows; my marriage can sometimes be as cyclical as the seasons. But for all the venting and griping I may do about him, I truly am in love with him. How could I ever be the person I am without him in my life? There is no way, absolutely no way, that I could be the parent, friend, woman or human being I am without his support and friendship. Simply put, he believes in me, and that sustains me.

Just tonight I was so very tired of hearing Katie grump at me for the umpteenth time today. I tagged out with Dan and went to another room to mentally zone out for a moment before trying to tackle the issue of a three-year-old schizophrenic in my house. As I walked out of the room, I caught myself saying, under my breath, “Thank you, God, for my husband.” I truly meant it as a prayer of thanksgiving.

It reminds me of the first few months after Katie’s birth. As most of you know, I had postpartum depression. There were days I was hanging by a thread, and the one thing that helped me was a ritual I made Dan perform every single night. I made him hold my face in his hands and say, “It’s going to be okay. We’re going to get through this.” It was the one thing that kept me grounded during an awful time. Up until that point, I thought marriage was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Then I became a mommy, and the entire dynamic of our marriage changed. I fell in love with Dan on a daily basis, watching him be tender and sweet. It still makes my heart sing to watch him and Katie.

How do single parents do it? For that matter, I know some of you have husbands who travel constantly, and you are raising your children single-handedly some weeks. My hat is off to you. I know that without my husband by my side, I would be ungrounded and floundering. You think I’m crazy now? Ha!

So, this November, the month of Thanksgiving, as a group of mommies let’s say thank you to the daddies in our lives who make our hearts sing. And if your husband isn’t making your heart sing very often these days, if your cyclical marriage is having a little hiccup like they sometimes do, then I hope you invest some time in each other and find the joy and support in the man you chose as your life partner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lost & Found

I did the most epic good deed* yesterday, at this UPS store.IMG_0267

One of our friends was on an airplane and found a Kindle left by the person who was in the seat before her. My friend took it with her and called Amazon when she got home, trying to find the rightful owner. Amazon gave her the run around, so her husband called back and got someone who promised to send him a package so he could ship the Kindle to Amazon. Then Amazon would get it back to the owner. Our friends never received the package, even after months went by.

In mid-September, my friends brought the Kindle to me and asked if I wanted it. I said YES! That would be fantastic! So I kept the Kindle and couldn’t wait to use it once I finished a novel I had borrowed from the library. Even better? There was a book already on the Kindle that I had been wanting to read. So I finished the paper book and jumped into the Kindle book. But as I read, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this Kindle should NOT be mine. I should at least make the same effort that my friends did in trying to return it. So once I finished the book I was reading on the Kindle (I AM selfish after all, and had to read the book!), I contacted Amazon and they emailed me a pre-paid shipping label so I could send it back to them.

I think I was hoping that when I contacted Amazon, a miracle would occur and they might say I didn’t need to return it. Aw, darn. No such luck.

So yesterday, Jackson and I stopped by the UPS store and shipped the Kindle to Amazon. I put a note for the owner inside the Kindle case, asking him/her to email me when it returns home so I know it is safe and sound. I really hope it gets back to its owner, because sending it away really tested my willpower. What if it doesn’t, and I could have just kept it? Ugh. That would stink! But at least I know I did the right thing and my conscience is clear. One day, I hope my kids read this blog and realize even adults have a hard time doing the right thing.

This story should serve as a good reminder to us all: ALWAYS label your expensive electronic items with your name and address! If the Kindle owner had just kept her business card in the pocket of the carrying case, my friends would have mailed it directly back to her. (And I wouldn’t be torn between my good and evil sides!)

*Now don’t go giving me a pat on the back for my good deed. If I were really deserving of it, I wouldn’t have read an entire book on the Kindle before I returned it. I would have contacted Amazon immediately instead of selfishly reading and telling myself, “Finders, keepers; losers, weepers.” Yuck. Sometimes I amaze even myself with my pettiness!


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