Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Costumes

I love costumes, even when it isn’t Halloween. So when Halloween does roll around, I love helping the kids figure out what their costumes will be. This year, I got to help theirs. Yay!

Now, let’s play the guessing game. What can you make with empty almond cans, a discarded vacuum cleaner box, brass brads, and spray paint?_MDS1661

Katie became a LEGO for Halloween!_MDS2071

It was an easy costume. Just cut head and arm holes in a box. I used empty almond cans (Katie picked out 8 at Leftovers). First I tried a glue gun to keep the cans on the box, but that didn’t work. So I cut slits in the can lids and attached the lids to the box with brass brads. I made sure to insert the brads from the inside of the box so the prongs wouldn’t snag Katie’s body while Trick-or-Treating. Then I attached the cans to the lids, and spray painted the whole thing with high gloss red paint. It really turned out well, with the added bonus of being able to wear warm clothes under it. We toyed with the idea of making her a cool mask or hat, but she like the costume just the way it was._MDS1912

Jackson’s costume started with this silly hat/wig thing we found for $5 at Walmart. This is the photo I took with my phone when we were shopping, right before we decided to buy it and build a costume around it.IMG_1697

Here’s the final product. Jackson already had ripped jeans, black Converse high tops, a white shirt, punk rocker collars (that we doubled up and used as wrist bands), and tattoo arm sleeves. All that was left to buy was the denim vest. I found a denim jacket at Goodwill for $6 and cut the sleeves off before washing it (to fray the seams). He loved being a punk rocker! The best part was hearing him describe his costume as a “pump” rocker, because he couldn’t pronounce “punk” very well._MDS2060

And, of course, I had to get in on the action. I found the cutest spider fascinator (hat) at Walmart, also for $5. I wore it to the kids’ class parties, and also when I handed out candy that night to the 86 kids who stopped by our house._MDS2059

Speaking of the class party, I planned the party for Jackson’s class and found the cutest idea on Pinterest. Like how my Jack-O-Lantern fruit cups turned out?_MDS1991

Hope you all had a happy Halloween!_MDS2085

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall is a Photographer’s Dream

October is a fantastic month for someone who is fascinated with God’s creation. I have felt a little parched in my soul lately, so I made a conscious effort on a few fall days to experience God’s glory.

On the first day of the month, I was rushing out to make it to a class on time and glanced out the car window to see the sun setting over my neighbor’s yard. I braked, reversed, and got out to take this photo with my phone. Superb!IMG_1603

A few days later, I took the kids with me to a nearby park and let them play in the rocky sand on the edge of a lake. They lost themselves in the busyness of digging, shoveling sand into buckets, and throwing rocks into the lake. I sat in a chair a few feet away, and used my camera to capture the moments. Even though I was technically an observer, using my camera is what I imagine blinders are like for a horse: the camera filters out the rest of the world for me, and causes me to stop getting caught up in the meaningless around me. I needed that desperately with my kids, and my trusty camera didn’t fail me that day! Here are some of my favorite images._MDS0806_MDS0883

After watching the kids throw lots of rocks into the lake’s smooth water, I asked Katie if she would throw some for me so I could capture the splashes. The challenge of focusing in the right spot (on a splash that didn’t even exist yet!) and finding the right lighting and shutter speed was really fun for me._MDS0962-2

Later in the month, I was standing with the kids at the bus stop on a Monday morning. It was the day after a big rain, and I noticed the morning sun highlighting the dew and raindrops on the beautiful leaves all around me. Once the bus took the kids to school, I got my camera and knelt down in my neighbors’ yards to study God’s masterpieces._MDS1402_MDS1379

Once I was finished, I decided to take a walk on a nearby trail so I could revel in the fall beauty. I didn’t have my nice camera with me, but used my cell phone so I could remember what a great walk I had with Jesus. At one point, I started singing out loud in worship of Him. I am not very animated in my worship at church (although I’d like to be; I’m just slow at getting out of my comfort zone), but I decided to be active in my worship on that walk, because I was all alone in the woods. I danced and spun around on the trail, singing loudly and – I’m sure – off-key. If I had been watching myself, I’m sure I would have thought I was a nut job. But since I was all alone, I decided it was okay to be undignified. You know where this story is going, don’t you? As I neared the end of the trail, I saw a woman standing near a sign and she was watching me intently. I was in mid spin, with my arms flung out in praise when I realized she saw me. But you know what? I decided I just didn’t care. I kept spinning anyway. This photo reminds me to keep spinning and whirling for Him.IMG_1726

Later that same day, I drove to find a spot for our family photos. I was enraptured by the incredible beauty of the trees and leaves, and my heart soared with each photo I took of this breathtaking land._MDS1489-

At one point, I had my zoom lens on and saw some movement in the sunshine. It was a tiny spider hanging from a thread of his web, and I tried to capture him hanging and then climbing on a branch. Those photos didn’t turn out, but in focusing on him I saw this diligent ant on a mission. I added some words to this photo because I love the way it turned out.Ants in the Pants - Buechner

I made some more photo art, and love the finished products too.Nothing Gold Can Stay - Robert Frost_MDS1537 copy

So later that day, I asked Dan to meet us at the park after work and I took our yearly family photos. I can’t decide which is my favorite!IMGP2292


I posted those photos on Facebook, and had three friends message me to ask for their own family photo shoot. I planned one with my friend Gina, but our first try got ruined by tornado sirens. Aack! We rescheduled and came out with these gems._MDS1776-3


Oh, how I love fall. It’s a rough time for me emotionally (lots of birthdays and death anniversaries for my family), but God soothes the ache in my heart with glimpses of His glory.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Elastic Laces

Gotta toot my own horn here for a moment, because this may be one of my most brilliant mommy ideas.

Jackson has been wearing some shoes that he apparently outgrew. How did I learn this fact? Because his big toe started bleeding from rubbing against the inside of the front of his shoe. Yep: BIG mommy fail! So I dug through a pile of hand-me-down clothes our neighbors gifted us a while back, and found a pair of high top Chuck Taylors that are a wee bit too big. Uh oh. The other drawback is the boy cannot tie his own shoes yet. And I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I start tying his shoes every single time we leave the house.

Necessity, being the mother of invention, gave me inspiration in the form of ELASTIC. I dug into my sewing stash and found some soft stretch elastic._MDS1195

I added it to his Chucks, and we are happy happy HAPPY!_MDS1194

I tried this with another pair of shoes, and he didn’t like that tying technique so much. I knotted the elastic inside the shoe like this:_MDS1197

But Jackson didn’t like the feel of the knots digging in the top of his feet. So I went with the looped around and knotted-in-a-circle style instead in his Chucks. Yay for healing toes and boo for bloody toes!_MDS1196

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tipping the Balance, or 20/20 for Dan

A while back, I did the math and realized today marks a pretty important stage in my husband’s life. (At least, it’s important to me!)

Today marks the point where he has spent more time with me in his life than without me. He met me on September 26, 1992. He was 20 years and 19 days old. From that point until yesterday, it’s been 20 years and 19 days.

Today makes 20 years and 20 days that he has known me – or 7,325 days, to be exact. I’ve finally tipped the scale in my favor! His “midlife” with me has been reached.

I reached my “midlife” with him two years ago, so I’ve already got Dan’s imprint all over me. When we first met, we were (of course) completely different people and simply admired our differences. Sometimes we laughed about them, and sometimes our differences frustrated the fire out of each other. Today, it’s been fascinating to see how we’ve moved closer to each other on the continuum of “opposites” with which we started. I used to be lots more anal retentive, and Dan was much more laid back. I was the uptight, list keeper baby of the family. He was the mellow middle child, used to letting others have their way. These days? You should just see the Excel spreadsheets the man can create. Dang! And I wouldn’t go as far to say I am mellow, just that I’ve mellowed quite a bit.

God has used us to change each other and draw us closer to Him through our friendship. Dan has sanded off the rough edges of my personality (although I’m pretty sure I’ll never be completely smooth!), and made me a better person. Hopefully we’ll keep sanding each other in the years to come!1993-12-31 New Year's Eve - DRK & EAS

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hoping for a Better Week

This past week knocked me on my fanny, at least figuratively speaking.

  • The kids were on fall break all week. The routine was out of whack, which meant little to no time for myself.
  • Last weekend was jam-packed. Our kids ministry at church/work hosted a big blowout party (we call it Frenzy, because that’s what it is!) for the 3rd-5th grade students, and I worked some long hours. The weekend rolled on with a late night out celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday, then my usual Sunday morning work shift followed by a day at the pumpkin patch and celebrating with old friends. We were exhausted by Sunday night. And, unfortunately, that night was the start of a lupus flare for me. It hung around for three days. Every time I have a flare, I rejoice and wail: I celebrate because I don’t have flares very often but I bemoan the fact that they suck – and they also bring a yucky reminder of my parents, because they shared the disease with me too.
  • Monday was my day off, so I filled it with a park play date with a friend and then a class at church that night.
  • Tuesday was a work day, and the kids stayed home with a babysitter all day long. She’s a fantastic sitter, but rules are more loosey-goosey with a babysitter. Which means Mom has lots of backtracking to do afterwards! But there wasn’t time, because Katie had a dreaded dentist appointment to *finally* get those two pesky teeth pulled. She was much calmer this go round, but there was still screaming and tears. Ugh.
  • Wednesday was my long work day, then the roofing contractor came by and we signed away lots of money so we can get a new roof. (That’s always fun. Yeah, right.) Wednesday night was a bright spot in the week, though. The kids were at Grandma’s so Dan and I had a date and went to the shooting range. It was fun to practice shooting and there’s nothing like having a deadly weapon in your hands to make you focus on the moment you’re living right now.
  • Thursday morning was a class at church followed by a jam-packed work day. I didn’t get as much done as I hoped I would, which left this filmy “undone” feeling hanging over me the whole day. Ick.
  • I already knew Friday would be hard, because it was my brother’s birthday. He would have been 42. I had that hanging over my head all day, and I missed him. I called my sister with slim hopes that we could plan a Christmas visit this year (it’s time to start planning, you know), but found out that isn’t going to work. Ugh. I miss her lots lately! But I was determined to make it a good day, so I took the kids (and the babysitter, who’s fun to hang out with) to a different pumpkin patch. Friday night was the second Frenzy event with church, so I worked late again.
  • Saturday was a solo Mommy day, while Dan served at church with the Outreach team. He helped love on a nearby foster family, which is really great. But I was soooo glad to have him back with us on Saturday evening. Our night started with a conversation we had with Katie, in which she found out the truth about the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter bunny. That was followed by church and then we hoped to go out for dinner with friends afterwards. But Jackson threw a really big temper tantrum at dinner (before we even ordered), so we pulled the plug and evacuated to head home.
  • Today is Sunday, and five hours of nonstop ministry at work. We followed it up with an orientation class afterwards, which means I didn’t leave work until 2:30pm. Whew!
  • This weekend was my brother’s 2oth college reunion. His kind classmates invited my sister and I to the party, since we are his last surviving relatives. I really really tried hard to attend the reunion, because seeing his friends and visiting his college would help me feel close to him again. But I couldn’t swing the cost and time off for the trip, so I didn’t go. One of his best friends sent me and my sister a message about how much he was missed this weekend. He described some of the conversations the classmates had about Jackson, and told us a story of Jackson changing a friend’s life in college. It was a story I had never heard before, and it was bittersweet to hear something new about my brother 16 years after he died. But after the week I’ve had, there was no internal fortitude left and I crumbled over the sharp grief that snuck up to stab me.

My heart is heavy tonight. I’m crawling in to Jesus’ arms, asking Him lots of whys. He’s so good to me, and lets me have a pity party once in a while. He holds me, shushes me, and lets me whine a bit. And then, He wipes my tears and reminds me there is so much beauty in our broken lives. His grace covers the cracks, and gives me hope that next week will be better. I’m grateful for new starts, second chances, and Mondays when school is in session.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Favorite Picture Books

_MDS0746We were at the library and there was a book display with the School Library Journal’s 100 Best Picture Books. The kids and I took a copy of the list and marked off the ones we’ve read. Then we found some books on the list we haven’t read, and brought them home with us.

After studying the list, I realized a lot of our personal favorites aren’t even on it! So the kids compiled their own list and they ranked them in their preferred order. The list is limited to the books we actually own, instead of the infinite amount of books available to them at the library. I wanted to publish their lists here so one day they can see what they used to spend their time reading.

Jackson’s Favorite Books:

  1. Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
  2. Someday by Alison McGhee & Peter H. Reynolds
  3. Tails by Matthew Van Fleet
  4. Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton
  5. Please Try to Remember the First of Octember by Theo. LeSieg
  6. Dinosaur Roar! by Paul & Henrietta Strickland
  7. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
  8. When I Get Bigger by Mercer Mayer
  9. I Love You When… by John Edward Hasse
  10. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  11. Parts by Tedd Arnold
  12. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
  13. The Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz
  14. The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  15. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Katie’s Favorite Books:

  1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  2. The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  3. Can You See What I See? Seymour Makes New Friends by Walter Wick
  4. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
  5. Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
  6. The Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz
  7. Parts by Tedd Arnold
  8. Off to Kindergarten by Tony Johnston
  9. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  10. Petunia Pepper’s Picture Day by Cathy Breisacher
  11. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
  12. Please Try to Remember the First of Octember by Theo. LeSieg
  13. When I Get Bigger by Mercer Mayer
  14. I Love You When… by John Edward Hasse
  15. Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

My Life’s Blurb

LifeVerse devotionalLast year, I read a devotional called The One Year LifeVerse Devotional (compiled by Jay K. Payleitner). It was a really neat devotional. Each day’s devotion started with a verse of scripture, followed with a few paragraphs written by someone to explain what that verse means to them. The devotion ended with a small blurb about who that person is. For example, one says: “Cindy Hinkle, author of Star of Wonder and other published works, is wife to Andrew and mother to Michael, Peter, and Jessica.” Another one says: “Anna DeRosa, a native of Guatemala who has been a United States resident for more than forty years, was saved on June 14, 1998.” One simply says: “Duane Truman lives in Davenport, Iowa.”

These blurbs are kind of overly simplified resumes, with maybe a hint of an obituary. They’re a list of a person’s life’s work in the smallest amount of space possible. They got me thinking: what would my blurb say? I could go the fact route, like this:

Elizabeth is married to Dan and the mother of Katie and Jackson. She grew up in Georgia before being transplanted to Missouri. She works in ministry through the local church.

It’s true, right? The facts are facts and they tell about life. But they don’t speak much about living. What if I wrote about the first time God spoke directly into my heart? What if I wrote about the heartbreak and healing I’ve endured? Or what if I laid out the worst of myself, and let it all hang out? Here’s what I’d really like to say:

Elizabeth is, first and foremost, a messed up, broken person: a lonely orphan, a faulty wife, an impatient mother, and a demanding friend. Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. God wooed her into a life of unity with Him and gave her a second chance. She has become a disciple of grace, and a lifelong learner of His ways. She struggles daily to use her passion for His glory.

Is that too real? Is it too in-your-face? And, really, who’s going to be calling my number and asking me to write a devotion anyway? But it is something I ponder, wondering what my life’s work will amount to in the end. I hope it points to growing and living, and not just a resume. Mostly, I hope it points to Him.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September in Review

To celebrate Dan’s 40th birthday, we joined his family and went to a minor league baseball game. The moments following the end of the game was one of the most fun times I’ve had in a long while. We didn’t know it was a team tradition until after we arrived at the ballpark, so it was a complete surprise to us. But it was a hoot: the crowd got to toilet-paper the stadium! I especially loved beaning my in-laws and my children with rolls of toilet paper. (Don’t worry, they got me back!)IMGP1690

At our neighborhood’s annual pool party, Jackson won a prize for best costume. But I have to say it wasn’t necessarily the costume that won: it was his awesome hula dance that he performed. (I will refrain from posting that online so I have something to surprise him with at his wedding, you know!)IMG_1462

My boss, John, makes me laugh. On a daily basis, I thank God that He paired me up with someone who has such a good heart, lots of wisdom, and the ability to make me laugh. His latest gig is taking “my” parking spot at church, or trying to block me in with his car. On this day, he parked as close as possible so I couldn’t get in my door. (A week later, my volunteers ganged up on him and tried to block his in with their cars.)IMG_1466

We also celebrated Dan’s birthday with some old friends. These are the guys Dan has known since grade school, and we have done lots of celebrating this year for everyone’s 40th. (But not mine, of course. I’m the baby of the group. Ha!)IMGP1732

Quiet time with videogames in the tree house while Dan mowed and I was working late one day._MDS0716

Oh, there was also THIS. Dan and I got to be Larry and Bob (respectively) at a VeggieTales Live! event. “Dress up in a mascot suit” has been on Dan’s Bucket List for a long time. He got to be the Easter bunny a few years back, which he really liked doing. So being Larry was extra fun. I would post photos of us being dressed in the costumes (as proof that it really is us in there), but I was asked not to ruin the “Larry and Bob magic.” So you’ll just have to trust me.IMG_1532

Jackson used chalk to write a love letter to his sister on our driveway. It made my heart melt.IMG_1540

Twenty years ago, I met my best friend and the father of my children. This is how our life looks now, and I love the “ordinary miracle” of the moments we spend together.IMG_1587

The inevitable finally happened: Jackson got on yellow at school. He was jumping off the risers in music class. But then it got worse when he colored over his teacher’s note and made it look like he was on green that day. Uh oh. He lost some marbles from his jar, had to write the broken rules ten times on a piece of paper (“I will obey my teacher” and “I will tell the truth.”) and then skip playing outside after school.IMG_1592

The last weekend of September, I had a high school friend stay with us while she attended a seminar. My neighbor’s kids offered to help my kids clean the house before my friend arrived, and I loved it. The boys did the windows, dusted, and cleaned the bathroom. The girls vacuumed upstairs and downstairs, cleaned the kitchen, and washed every single knob and handle in the house. Jackpot!IMG_1594

One last September photo to share: me and my girl being silly. Happy fall, y’all!IMG_1600


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