Monday, April 14, 2014

Advice From a Toddler

Dear Mommy,

We need to talk. I have a lot I need to communicate but it seems like you're just not hearing me. To make things easier for you, I thought I'd compile a list of thoughts that go through my head each day. Perhaps this will help us come to a better understanding and make our days run a little smoother. Enjoy.

Love,
Grace (12.5 months, in case you forgot)

My Thoughts

We're out of the house and you forgot to pack me a change of clothes? This is an opportune time to execute the biggest poop of my life.

I don't know why you bother cooking dinner. This is clearly the time of day when I need to pull your pants off and graft myself to your leg.

Your head is turned! I gotta climb something now, GO GO GO!!!



I see you're on the phone. I GOTTA SCREAM!!! Can't you hear me?! I gotta do it LOUDER!

Did you just change my crib sheet? I want to make sure it's clean before I vomit all over it.

That particular brand of cereal is not at all appetizing unless it is on the floor.

I know you work so hard to keep choking hazards off the floor. Don't worry, let me help you...I'll immediately find all the tiny little pieces you miss. You're welcome.

I don't understand why you are always messing up the house. I am constantly putting my toys and other things away, right in the middle of the floor where they belong, and you keep messing them up by putting them in bins and baskets. Can't you see how hard I work to keep things organized?

Why on God's green earth would I ever willfully go to sleep? Are you crazy?

My older brother has left his carefully crafted masterpiece just within my reach. So clearly it's mine and I'm going to destroy it with glee.

Socks. I just...no. NO. Just so we're clear on this, I'm going to leave one in the corner under my dresser and the other in stuffed into the back of a cabinet. Okay?

Hats. Seriously? They suffocate my three strands of hair. You expect me to keep this on for more than 1/25 of a second? Are you crazy? You seem to like hats, so I'll leave a collection for you under the back seat in the car.

Shoes, on the other hand, are wonderful. I love shoes. They're unmatchable for teething.

Someone left the toilet lid up! GO GO GO!!!

Someone left the baby gate open! GO GO GO!!!

Someone opened the dishwasher! GO GO GO!!! (I have uncanny intuition for these things).

Pick me up, pick me up, pick me up, waaaahhh, pick me up!

Put me down, put me down, put me down, waaaahhh, put me down!

Don't you dare, under any circumstances, rub the bristles on that toothbrush over my precious teeth or I will scream bloody murder. I'm warning you now. I will clamp my mouth shut with the strength of a vise to prove my point.

Don't you dare, under any circumstances, attempt to clip my fingernails. You should know better by now.

Pouring water over my head. Do we even need to discuss this? Are you insane?

What to you mean, I'm a "picky" eater? I think it's pretty clear that I dislike pretty much everything.

Now that we're clear on all of this, I just wanted to let you know that I love you, Mommy. Don't leave me for a second. Not. Ever.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One Thing Almost Every Mom Does Wrong

Well friends, I've made it. Somewhere.

Highlights of the last few months include my baby turning one, surviving bitter cold for weeks on end, annoying chronic back pain, surviving the stomach bug from Hades and writing a lot of things that people pay me for, like what type of underwear to wear with a bridesmaid dress (not kidding).

And here we are, it's spring, and I've arrived. Right here.

Happy birthday, Grace


In the meantime, during my pondering, pontification and philosophizing (usually occurring in the shower or while cleaning), I've come to a place where I simply enjoy where I'm at. I take one day at a time, some good and some extremely tiring, but overall I watch with wonder at these little beings called my children.

I was talking to fellow mom soldiers about a month ago when I noticed a pattern in our conversation. We went back and forth with the same dance, worrying about our worthiness as mothers and trying to console each other to no avail.

Things like:

"I let my kids watch too much TV and play too many video games."
"We don't get out enough."
"We don't have enough down time."
"I don't spend enough quality time with my kids."
"I'm not reading to them enough."
"I'm not disciplining them the right way."
"We don't eat healthy enough. They get too much sugar."
"They don't play outside enough."
"I'm too exhausted to talk things through with them."
"As a parent I am failing at __________."

And so on. In other words:

guilt
worry 
fear

(And then there's my personal favorite: feeling guilty about feeling guilty. O vicious cycle, we hate thee.)

So I'm going to say it, friends: STOP. Let's stop the madness.

Guilt is a joy-sucking evil and you know what? It doesn't work. It might motivate you for a little while, but kids are just too needy and demanding for us to be fueled by guilt and fear and succeed in the long run.

I have a lot to say on the subject, and hopefully I will soon.

For now, I've got this gem for you:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)







Thursday, January 16, 2014

Too Cute Not To Share

Conversing with individuals under five years of age can interesting, to say the least. For all the times my kids or I have felt frustrated or confused by our communication skills, I have to remember these gems...

Read on to discover why they wear themselves out...


James


"I'm not breaking it, I'm just jumping in it."

Said from Grace's crib. Try that logic again when you jump on her stuff in 13 years.

"Mom, you don't like to talk to me mad when I take things away from other people, do you?"

Well, I don't particularly like being mad at all, but I don't think you're focusing on the real problem here...

"Garbage trucks are really strong. I bet they carry mountains."

Yes, unfortunately, mountains of garbage, son. Mountains of garbage.

"I just have to get a little taller to see God, right?"

Nope, you've got it backwards.

"If it were one thousand, one hundred degrees, our house would melt, and then we would need to eat a lot of popsicles." 

I'll have to remember to stock up on popsicles next summer.

"Doesn't Santa need healthy food?"

That's my boy!!! But no, not tonight. Tonight Santa needs cookies.

"You don't have to tell Mommy what to do. It's not an option." 

Wise words to Jonathan about being demanding. Apparently I say the phrase "it's not an option" a lot.

"Haha! Mom, Grace is playing in my pee!"

This one happened this morning. And now I know we need to work on consistently flushing and putting the toilet seat down.


Jonathan


Me: "Jonathan, get out of Grace's crib. Cribs are for babies. Are you a baby?" Jonathan: "No. I'm a monkey."

I can't argue with him.

"I'm going number three!" 

Said from the bathroom. I have no idea...

"Waaaaaahhhhh!!! I want to ride the train!"

Screamed in the middle of the night. Apparently this is Jonathan's worst nightmare.

Jonathan: "I'm not awake!" Marc: "Oh, you're not?" Jonathan: "No, I sleepin'."

Well, he does talk in his sleep sometimes...

"Uh oh. I missed." 

Said from the bathroom. Is that what number three is, a missed shot? I think it happens more often than I know.

"Owww!!!! I bumped my knee on the ceiling!!!"

I really need to supervise this kid more closely.

"We're going to put candles on them and then put fire and then we'll blow them up."

I like your vision for your birthday cupcakes, but I think you mean blow them "out."

"Are we gonna look for Santa in the window?"

Spoken January 13th. Sorry, kiddo, not for many more days. In the meantime, keep working on your aim and please don't blow anything up.




Thursday, January 9, 2014

Assessing Social Media and Life's Priorities

Hi. Remember me? I used to write here somewhat more frequently than every other month.

We've been really busy. So busy that some of us forget to fully dress.

When you've taken some time away from blogging, it's difficult to know where to start again. I have about a million half-baked ideas but lack the time or interest to write about them.

I'm mostly okay with that. During this time I've done some reevaluation about what I'm trying to accomplish here. And I have about zero ambition to be the Next Great Blogger, work with a bunch of sponsors and attract thousands of followers. When I focus on those things, I quickly lose the joy in the process.

So for those of you still following me -- I'm truly grateful for your interest and I'll do my best to keep up with you on a personal level when you respond to my writing.

It's hard to say what 2014 will bring to this space. I'd like to post at least once a week, but these days when free time is so rare and precious, I only want to post content that is interesting, meaningful and well-written. I also want to read and comment on other social media posts that are interesting and meaningful. I simply can't keep up with everything everyone posts, but I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Social media is a funny thing. It's a great tool -- it has helped me find adult human connection during some of my lonely times. It helps me think; it helps me laugh.

It's also a time-sucking, soul-dulling vortex. Shame on me for the times when I ignored my children or snapped at them because my day's first priority was "me time" on my phone or laptop. "Me time" is certainly important, but its purpose is to help me recharge so that I can focus on what's more important.

So what is my purpose here? I started doing this two years ago and jumped in completely blindly -- primarily out of curiosity and the desire to put some of my work out there. Now, I've gotten a good feel for this whole realm and I think I know what I want.

  • Create.  As I wrote about a few months ago, I need to be in touch with my creative side in order to thrive as a human being. This blog is a great outlet for me, regardless of who reads it, likes it, comments on it or shares it.
  • Connect. Blogging has helped me stay connected with old relationships and forge new ones in ways I never would have imagined. While my first priority is the people I can connect with in the flesh, social media is a tool for connecting with the rest of the world.
  • Encourage. There's a lot of stuff I could write about, but as I said above, I want to post what's interesting, meaningful and well-written. I hope you never feel like I'm wasting your time as a reader. While content will resonate in various ways with different people, my ambition is to make you smile, help you think outside the box and feel connected to me on some level.

I don't have any goals to attract followers or sponsors -- although I will continue to make effort to connect with other websites and creators when I can.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming year. Hopefully I'll have lots to share. We'll be in touch!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Too Close To Home

Yesterday was really weird.

Today's local paper.

We were at church and there was a buzz about a tornado warning. Service was over and most of the congregation quickly dissipated to the safety of nearby homes.

I had to stay a little later, as I had been teaching in the kids' ministry and had to close up shop. We meet inside of a mall with no immediate outdoor access -- thus, no windows. No view of the storm.

We walked to the exit and were faced with one of those crucial decisions: stay or go. Others around us were looking at their phones, listening to the radio and trying to figure out what to do. The storm was to the west of us. It was hard to know how much immediate danger we were in because a tornado warning for the whole huge county could leave certain areas untouched.

Home was a five-minute drive.

A break in the rain translated into "go-time." We piled into the minivan and I fought Jonathan into his carseat, despite his protests to do it himself (stubborn independent stinker!). We started driving with tears flowing inside the car and rain slamming the outside. My mom followed nervously behind in her car.

It wasn't pretty out. The clouds were dark and low and glowed somewhat eerily. My heart quickened as we pulled onto the main street and the rain came harder.

The streets had little traffic but the going was slow as more and more water came crashing on all sides. I had never seen flash flooding in my life but it was suddenly apparent how it happens. I said a quick prayer and then was at a loss for words. Because what else can you say beyond a simple "help"?

The rain was pounding loudly and I heard an alarm. "Are the sirens going off???" I panicked, regretting our decision to leave. Marc stayed calm and gripped the wheel, though we could hardly see more than a few feet in any direction. 

It wasn't the tornado sirens after all; it was my emergency weather app, which was angrily shouting at us to find cover. It went off several times and I wanted to smash my phone on the dash. As long as the real tornado sirens didn't go off I had at least a little sense of security in my head.

"Where's my mom?!!! Is she still behind us?" I couldn't see her but Marc assured me she was okay. I felt terrible that we convinced her to drive instead of ride with us. Every decision seemed bad, very bad.

Marc held steady and the kids quietly commented on the rain. He had us all sing "Jesus loves me" while I continued my subdued panic attack. And then...the eternal stoplight. We were so close, only a few blocks from home! I stared down that traffic signal with my best death look but it didn't turn. I was relieved to see the blurry outline of my mom's car pull up behind us. I hadn't given her a death sentence after all.

I strained to hear the sirens -- would we be able to hear them with the howling wind and the rain pounding so hard?

Green light! And we turned down our street, pulled into our driveway in one piece. Hurry kids, hurry! Inside! Inside!

Getting kids to hurry is like herding cats.

But just like that we were inside...soaking wet but presumably safe. I hugged my mom and thank God I hadn't killed her -- or any of us.

I was shaking from the adrenaline. And then, minutes later, the sun came out. It almost made me angry. Really, after all of that? We should have just stayed a few more minutes?!!

After some serious relaxing I sat by window and looked out at the leaves, which were still blowing around furiously.


I tried not to think too hard about what this scene would have looked like under different circumstances.

Over the course of the afternoon, the power flickered and we heard about the stories from around town. Hail the size of baseballs. Trees and branches down everywhere. Tens of thousands without power for most of the day.

And then...Washington. F4. Only forty miles away. Complete devastation.

I'm shaken up but grateful. Feeling stupid but grateful. And eager to help. Eager to build up my community.

If there's a silver lining, it's that. Community. 

Everyone in Bloomington, Normal and the surrounding areas has a story from yesterday. And we're all waiting to see what's next, wanting to help our neighbors. 

Post by Illinois Tornado Recovery.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Baked Oatmeal - It's That Good

A few days ago I woke up to James tripping all over himself and crying as he came into my room. Yeah, good morning to you too, buddy.

This isn't all that typical of an occurrence anymore now that he's four, so we had a serious issue on our hands.

He would not reveal what the problem was. After repeated prodding it finally came out...we were not having baked oatmeal for breakfast. If we were, it would already be baking in the oven.

That's right. I have a nutritious breakfast food that my son cries about if he can't have it.

Don't you want to know what it is and how to make this miraculous food? Would it totally blow your mind if I told you it was very easy? And that there are multiple ways you can moderate it to your liking?

Apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. And coffee (highly recommended but not required).

Baked Oatmeal Recipe
(adapted from Money Saving Mom)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup melted butter or applesauce, or combo (I usually do half of each)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of sweetener (sugar, brown sugar, stevia, maple syrup, whatever you like)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups oats (regular or quick)
  • 1 - 2 cups of cut up fruit and/or other toppings

  • *I've played around with the sugar and I think the recipe is still good with only half a cup. But do what you like.

    Preparation

    One of the great things about this recipe is that I recommend preparing it the night before! It takes five to ten minutes, depending on what fruit or toppings you put in.

    1. Mix butter/applesauce, eggs and sweetener
    2. Add baking powered, vanilla, cinnamon and salt
    3. Stir in milk and oatmeal
    4. Stir in desired toppings

    Store it in the refrigerator overnight! You can also freeze it for later and then thaw it overnight when you're ready for it (I don't know about you, but if I make something yummy I pretty much want to eat it as soon as possible).

    In the morning, heat the oven to 350. Pour the mixture into a greased pan (the bigger the pan the faster it cooks). Heat for 25 to 35 minutes, until the top starts to get a little crispy.

    Half-devoured pan of goodness.
    Serve it up in bowls while it's hot! My kids like it as is, but I like to pour milk over it.

    Mmmm. I think I might make some tonight....

    Variations

    As I mentioned, you can change this up a lot. Here are some of the variations I do:
    • Butter, oil, applesauce...use what you prefer or some sort of combination.
    • Use whatever sweetener you like, in the amount you like.  I typically do half sugar and half Stevia in the Raw (trying to cut back our sugar intake  - have you tried stevia??? It's great). I'd like to try it with maple syrup too.
    • You can mix in practically anything: fruit, nuts...I've even heard of somebody mixing in zucchini bread! Some of our favorites are blueberry/peach, blueberry/rhubarb, plain blueberry, plain peach and just apples. When I'm feeling lazy I put in raisins. It's also tasty just plain, but not as fun.
    • For kid fun, put the oatmeal mixture into muffin tins. This is the way I convinced mine to try it initially...I disguised it as muffins. Fool-proof.
    • You don't have to prep it the night before. On the particular morning when James was flipping out, I caved and decided to make it. 
    • You can double the recipe for a crowd. It was a big hit when family was in town for my sister's wedding a couple months ago.
    That's it! I hope you enjoy this very useful recipe!



    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Throw Your Good Intentions In The Trash

    The other night, in a stroke of homemaker over-ambition, I decided to make some homemade chicken stock. To my shame, I can't remember the last time I did this (in spite of cheerily blogging about it quite some time ago).

    So I dug the chicken bones that had been in my freezer for God-knows-how-long. I then:
    1. Put them in a pot to soak for an hour, after which I planned to
    2. Skim some of the scum off the top,
    3. Bring to a boil, and then
    4. Simmer overnight in the slow cooker.

    I woke up the next morning and realized I had forgotten steps 2-4. Because I was doing important things like watching TV. Meaning there was a pot of cold chicken scum juice sitting on the counter.

    While I was tempted to pretend like this would be no problem and I should just boil away whatever bacteria had spawned overnight, my fear of certain death convinced me otherwise.

    So I threw away these chicken bones that I had saved for months. It was like they were symbolic of all my life's good intentions. The debacle put a grand stink on my morning. I got over it and laughed about it, but the way it made me so angry at myself got me thinking...

    I don't know about you during this time of year, but I have been battling. I've been sick, the kids have been sick, I don't get enough sleep, my house isn't clean enough, I don't get enough time with my husband, I don't pray enough, blah blah blah, insert your complaint here:___________. And in spite of my last post (seriously, a month ago?), I was seriously just not in the mood to write. Not here anyway.

    Have you ever felt like there's just not enough of you to go around? Like...you try to do everything, and in doing so, you just scrape by, survive -- and you excel at nothing.

    someecards.com - Good thing they don't know I'm so tired I can sleep with my eyes open.


    I'm extremely jealous of Olympic athletes. Even if their sport is really obscure, they have the ability to say that they are among the best in the world at something. 

    Wouldn't it be great if I were something like the best chicken stock-maker in the world? I bet I wouldn't have cold chicken scum juice for breakfast.

    As a recovering perfectionist, I've been struggling with this concept for years. My whole life. Why can't I just be amazing? No matter how hard I try, I can always do more.

    Now don't go stroking my misguided ego. I was praying one morning about this recently -- seriously praying. I don't get to do this as often as I need/should/want to because I have small humans clinging to me for almost every waking moment and they're a bit of a distraction. But on this particular morning I dragged myself out of bed early and was really lamenting my perception of myself as an all-around sub-par being.

    I can't wrap my mind around the ways God works or how he speaks to people. But just at the moment when my frustration with my "I shoulds" reached full crescendo, a thought popped into my head:

    Says who? 

    Who says you have to be the best at anything?

    Ummm...I don't know. I do? But why can't I be the best?

    I argued with myself for a little while, but I fell quickly to the sheer logic of it.  No one ever said I had to be the best or perfect or even great at anything.

    This is such a profound thought to me. I mean, even just writing it out here blows my mind.

    A scripture also came to mind, an old standard for me:


    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
    2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

    A fairly stressful time of year is coming up with the busy-ness of the holidays. How do you handle "it all?" If you're anything like me, then let's be intentional about breaking the cycle of self-deprecation. As a matter of fact, let's go ahead and throw those good intentions in the trash on purpose. 

    Let's embrace those so-called weaknesses; delight in them. They are the only places we will truly find perfection.





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