30 September 2012

Of Love

I have a secret to tell.  One this world tries so hard to keep buried.

Love is not a fairy tale.

Love is not butterflies in the stomach, a wedding drenched in sparkly things.  It has nothing to do with white horses, dancing in the moonlight or, even, a magical kiss.

We are surrounded by lies – that without a spark, a special gleam in the eye or a tingle in the spine, our love is dead.

We are often told, to counter the lies, love is a choice.  And, yes, it's true, but love is also a journey, one with a definite beginning point – a series of choices we follow to a certain outcome.

I look at my children and I recognize I love them without question.  They frustrate me at times, yes.  But I don’t love them any less or wonder what life would be like if I had different kids.  I don’t consider leaving them to find myself or to find a better life with better kids.  They are mine.  A part of me.

And the most amazing part of this relationship is that I did not get to choose it.  I did not go through life meeting children along the way, writing down a list of characteristics for the perfect child, take a few to the playground to test them out and then, finally, declare, “This is the child for me!”

These children were given to me by God.  This relationship was created by Him alone.  And it may not always be easy or fun or lead to those magical Kodak moments, but when I work hard to recognize the blessing these children are and make a deliberate effort to mother them well, all I receive back is blessing.  And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What if we approached romantic love with the same heart?

What if we recognized that our choices in the very beginning – going on that first date, indulging in the first kiss, giving a little bit of ourselves (or all of ourselves) – to another being is an act which will lead to conception – the conception of a relationship that cannot be torn apart quickly and painlessly? 

What if we recognized that relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it?  What if we recognized that only God knows our souls to the core and only He knows what we truly need?  What if we acknowledged this person next to us may not be perfect, but he is a part of me now – an action that became complete the day we said, “I do”?

What if we put as much effort into loving our spouses well, to encourage them to be the one God created them to be, as we pour into our children?  What if we recognized that the days we make the deliberate effort to hold them close, tell them we love them and look out for their best interest are the days when it all seems to feel right – even if there is so much going wrong?

What if our culture viewed the permanence of marriage to be just as crucial and unquestionable as the permanence of parenthood?

What if we followed God’s path for the family rather than Disney’s?

What if we stopped perpetuating the lies and showed our children what “true love” means?  What if the love we display for them to our spouse was more enchanting than any fairy tale?  What if we impressed the importance of only starting a relationship they intend to finish?

What if we started in our own hearts – uprooting the dis-satisfied notions, taking our focus off the areas that lack and appreciating what we have been given?  What if I noticed the empty dishwasher, the playful caress and the time sacrificed for me more than I longed for flowers, a sappy card or the perfect date?

What if we woke up every morning determined to love well, rather than demanding to be loved the way we dreamed – the way we saw in fairy tales?

To my wonderful man, who may not be Prince Charming, but is still more than I ever thought to imagine for myself.

27 September 2012

Of Playing in the Rain

One of our daughter's favorite activities is playing in the rain.  I love that about her.  Thus, as we've been entering fall and the rainy days have returned, I have been waiting anxiously for the time when I could let them put on their shoes to run out and scamper in the puddles.

Unfortunately, most of the stormy weather has waited until bedtime.  Don't get me wrong - I love to fall asleep to the sound of patters against the windows and thunder booming through the air, but waking up to a cloudy morning kind of makes me warm and fuzzy inside (sometimes I wonder if I was meant for Seattle).

Which is why, as I kissed Philip and sent him back to work after lunch this afternoon, I was giddy inside to feel raindrops from the porch.  I rushed back inside, had the kids locate appropriate footwear (because, though she loves getting wet, she does NOT love getting dirty) without bothering to change out of pajamas (that, yes, they were still wearing at lunchtime - this is what happens on cloudy, lazy days), and hurried them out the front door.

 Micaiah, of course, was elated to dance, twirl, run, do push-ups (I feel she'll make her living as a personal trainer someday) and find flowers, all in the rain.

Her brother was equally excited to play in the rain.  Until he stepped off the porch, felt the first drop on his head and ran full force back to the door.  Getting his head wet is NOT his favorite activity.

Even so, Emmett most certainly did want to retreat inside - he'd just stay in the dry corner of the porch, satisfied with the idea of playing in the rain - so I sat with him, baby brother in my arms, occasionally joining my little girl in making footprints (her favorite wet-pavement past-time), but mostly just enjoying the sight of her hair curling with moisture as it bounced against her back, dancing in rhythm with her child-like prancing.

Best moment of the day (and it's not even over - that's how precious this time was).

26 September 2012

Of Being Prepared

For a long time I have entertained the thought in the far depths of my mind that if anything ever happened to me my husband would be lost.  He would not know how to access our account so he could pay the bills.  He would not know where to find my poor excuse of a budget or even where some of our important documents are kept.  These housekeeping things are my responsibility (because I'm the nerd, according to Dave Ramsey), which I'm okay with and Philip is rather glad to have one (or many) less thing(s) to worry about.  

But then there's the issue of not being guaranteed tomorrow.

Then what?

So, while I'd really intended to break this all down for him a long time ago, I just know his poor memory would be overwhelmed to have to store possibly useless information for an indefinite period of time.  That's why I was so excited when one of my favorite women in the world posted on her blog about the document she'd created for she and her husband in the case of an emergency.  And, then, what was even better, she posted it for download.  

I knew there was a reason we were friends.  She totally takes care of me - just like she did way back in our college days when she not only told me what tests to take when for certification, but she drove me there and even took me to Sonic on the way home (ok, so maybe that was for her, but whatever).  See?  She's the best.

And even though she posted it awhile ago, I just now got around to filling it out (because I didn't have anyone holding my hand to do it).  So now we have all of our information in one place, password protected and sent to those who may need to reference these things in the unlikely event something takes us both out.  

Only now I'm walking around with this irrational fear, the same one that had me rushing to get the e-mails sent before we left for church even, that because I've finally completed the task, something is going to happen.  As if we'll be that tragic story that ends with "and she had JUST created her Legacy document that afternoon!".  

So for now, at least, I'm driving a little more carefully and trying to stay indoors during this lightning storm.  Because you just never know.

926. Lightning storms (when I'm inside, of course)
927. Having enough
928. Peace for the future

25 September 2012

Of Making Healthy Choices

Our children are such fans of food they plan their meals ahead of time.  Okay, to be honest, Emmett probably wouldn't think of it if he had not heard his sister do so.  He's just generally happy to have food in front of him of any sort (such a boy).  His sister on the other hand?  She's planning tomorrow's breakfast while she's eating her eggs today.

"And after we eat our eggs and banana and milk, then we'll have lunch, and then dinner and then the next breakfast, after we wake up, can we have toast?"

or during lunch . . .

"After I finish these next five bites, I'm gonna have dessert and then after I wake up, I'm gonna have snack and then dinner and then can I have a cookie for that dessert?"

Yes, dessert might be her favorite food item to concentrate on, but, then, she's a girl - chocolate is her love language.

I've been so pleased, however, to notice the subtle changes in her suggestions after the Whole 30, where fruits and veggies were a mainstay at every meal.  Today, for example, she asked me (before breakfast), "Today, can I have a peach for snack*?"

"Well, maybe.  But how about I give you some for lunch, instead?" (I made this suggestion knowing snack isn't always a guarantee and we need to eat those peaches spilling over our dining room table.)

[Like she's just won the lottery] "Yeah!  And maybe we can have some for lunch and snack!"

Considering her previous snack requests have been focused on animal crackers and Goldfish, this Mommy is rather relieved to hear her excitement over picking what fruit she'll have in her recycled yogurt cup this afternoon, especially knowing what battles we've fought in the past over seeing some of these very same items on her lunch plate.  

They have both become much more receptive to a variety of produce and we are quietly happy about this (can't let them know we're surprised at their positive reception to our meal offerings).  Of course, we might not have needed the Whole 30 to accomplish this task, but it's what forced us to make more of a deliberate effort to turn away from filling our kids with rolls, mashed potatoes and pasta (their favorites) and toward fresh-from-the-earth good-for-you options.  

We in the parenting biz call this a win.

*Note, snack comes AFTER nap-time, which comes AFTER lunch-time.  She's a little ridiculous.

1,000 Gifts:
919. The internet connecting us all
920. Dust, all glitter in the sun
921. Bubble Gum jelly beans (I'm not a jelly bean fan, but these blew my socks off)
922. Packing other people's things
923. An impromptu gathering and the children scurrying about
924. Soft green grass
925. A cat nestled on the lawn, basking in the afternoon sun

21 September 2012

Of Striking the Educational Balance

Two weeks into this Pre-K at home thing and I keep waiting for her excitement to wane. And, yet, every morning she wakes up and I announce, in response to her daily question, "Where are we going?" - as if we would only get dressed were we going somewhere (okay, maybe that was true for awhile, but I've been working on that) - "We're not going anywhere; we're doing school," her immediate response is, "Yay!"

In fact, this very morning, after breakfast, she rushed to her top basket to grab the first work for the day. Unfortunately, I had to tell her to wait because I like to be with her as she works (and, yes, she definitely prefers this, as well) and her youngest brother was just beginning to stir and be in need of nourishment. "Why don't you play for a little while until I'm done feeding Joseph?"

Her whining, frustrated response was quick, "I don't want to play! I want to start my work!" Oh, goodness gracious, we have raised ourselves a nerd in our very own vein. Because when I was her age (and older), my version of play was to pretend to be teacher using discarded workbooks from the local elementary school. I have always loved workbooks. I still love workbooks.

And this girl's workbook (thank you, Dollar Tree) involves Disney Princesses. So you can imagine her dismay at the delay. It is definitely an encouragement as her mother and teacher. But, again, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall.

This fear drives me every week, as I plan, seeking the next thing that will continue to hold her interest, as I learn what she loves, what she hurries through in favor of the next activity, and what makes her cry in frustration.

 Of course, I'm not ditching the latter just yet. It's the challenge that will grow her even as it hurts at times. We just need to remember there's a difference between a challenge and an unrealistic expectation. Just as there is a difference between challenging her and keeping goals within existing parameters.

 Striking the balance - the ongoing struggle.  

1,000 Gifts: 
906. Spilled paint, a beautiful mess sparkling in the sun 
907. Mashed goo, the remains of a reward well-earned 
908. Wonder Box 
909. A self-dressed girl, yellow legwarmers and a matching arm sleeve 
910. A baby boy's pudgy legs peeking from around the corner 
911. The same baby boy's little foot, joining his hands in back-seat play 
912. Unexpected sparkles in the twilit sky 
913. Good car conversation 
914. Learning a new game, his heart's language 
915. An empty dishwasher when I awake 
916. Packing his lunch, fruit snacks, lunchbox and all 
917. Fixing what was broken 
918. Much-needed time away

20 September 2012

Of Learning New Tricks

For my entire life, one odd fact about me - my one card to play during quirky get-to-know-you games - was this: I cannot ride a bicycle.  Twenty-eight years old and I would still have been lost if I ever ended up on the Amazing Race because they almost always end up having to rely on a bicycle for one challenge or another (well, I can't drive stick, either, so I'm still not good to go on that front).

Well, my friends, I can say that no longer.

While Philip had taken me to the end of the cul-de-sac a few times many years ago in an attempt to teach me this valuable skill, I had done little more than cruise about fifteen feet in either direction - being that our street is actually a gentle slope, I would not venture outside of that safe, flat circle at the end of the road.

This evening, however, we packed up Micaiah's helmet, pads, and shiny new bike, the little tricycle that was hers until she had something snazzier to ride (Emmett doesn't care that it's pink and purple, so long as he has a ride), and Daddy's bike, too, and drove the 1.5 miles to our church parking lot.

Micaiah gave up after about ten minutes, because she realized she doesn't know how.  As I spoke to her of the importance in trying because no one knows how to do something until they keep trying, I used myself as an example - Mommy doesn't know how to ride a bike because Mommy didn't try.  I didn't bother mentioning that Mommy's "trying" consisted of piddling around on the street in front of my house, pausing mid-straddle as someone passed, so as to give the illusion I had just been pedaling my little heart out and needed a break.

Then my daughter insisted she couldn't ride a bike until she had a big bike like Daddy's.

I pointed out Mommy doesn't have a big bike because Mommy doesn't know how to ride one.  And she can't get a big bike if she doesn't learn to ride her little one.  Because it breaks my heart, this tendency of hers to quit when things get too hard.  I've been there.  I'm still there.  And I can't let her be that girl, too.

So, she got back on.

And so did I.  And after a few failed attempts, my shoes finally gripped the pedals mid-balance and off I was going, riding a bike.  Making circles, even, which means I was brave enough to turn the handlebars (trust me, that's big).  No training wheels, no safety net, no strong arms nearby to catch my fall.  Just me and the bike.  And a wide open parking lot.

I like to imagine maybe I inspired that little girl today.

I doubt it.

But I like to imagine it anyhow.

1,000 Gifts:
898. Adding another tool to the belt
899. Hoping for a bike for my next birthday
900. Seeing her, all geared up, hopping on that bike
901. Watching her read her story
902. Being friends with my kids
903. Finding potty-training motivators (bananas and M&M's beat marshmallows any day)
904. Helping that littlest to breathe
905. Access to quality healthcare

(I feel the need to mention that I was wearing a white/tan belt in the video above, which may resemble the precise color of my skin, but was, in fact, covering my backside - so, no, you're no looking at crack, you're looking at a belt in a belt loop - promise)

19 September 2012

Of Craving these Moments

Great moments today:

- Micaiah suddenly loves to pray.  It does not matter that her current prayer starts with her singing, "A,B,C,D,E,F,G, Thank you, God, for my ______" - the blank is typically filled with either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or bedtime.  Occasionally she includes add-ons like, "Mommy, Daddy, my brothers, my friends, my teachers and Jack" - Jack is one of her four boyfriends.  Philip is going to have a coronary before this girl hits puberty.

- As Joey was laying on the ground the other day, he spontaneously pulled up his arm to prop his chin in his hand.  By the time I snapped a picture, he was making the hand multi-task by sucking on the fingers.  Such a cool kid.

- Emmett and I played catch today, this was how he put his hands out to catch.  It wasn't very effective.

- Speaking of him, you'll notice this little man is wearing a cloth diaper - because a)it's almost naptime and that's what he wears to bed and b)apparently Philip and I are really good at teaching a child how to use the potty and then, somehow, making them so disinterested in actually using the potty we're pulling our hair out.  Pray for us.

- Joseph got himself stuck under the rocking chair today.  Apparently he can duck his head enough in his army crawl to get under the wooden bars along the bottom, but his inability to scoot backward with his head down left him trapped like a monkey with his fist on the prize.  Crying ensued.  Mommy may have laughed.

- Post-nap today, I got three cups of animal crackers and sat on the kids' bedroom floor while we compared animals.  Micaiah bit the heads off hers to turn them into monsters.  Emmett did whatever she did - because that's how he rolls.

- We went to Cherry Berry after church today due to an unfortunate incident leading me unable to fulfill my promise to my husband of a Fro-Yo treat last night.  Micaiah sprinkled her strawberry yogurt with fruity pebbles, Capn' Crunchberries, Skittles and Chocolate Syrup.  Our children may have flavor issues.

- When we arrived home from our dessert date, Emmett and I went out to the driveway to find the moon (aka his best friend who always follows us everywhere).  We spent some time talking, where I learned his best part of the day was eating sprinkles and M&M's and ice cream (mine, too).  As we headed inside, he told the moon and his new friends, the stars, "Bye, bye."

I might really like these kids.

16 September 2012

Of a Big Weekend (in the Little Things)

On top of turning four this past week (a fact she shares with everyone she meets) and starting pre-school (she loves it!), our little girl hit another new milestone this weekend - playing her first video game.  She has held the Wii remotes in her hands before.  She has pretended to play Sonic the Hedgehog and she has dabbled with Dr. Mario, but this weekend, as the four of us old enough to push buttons with intention gathered in the living room to play Mario Party, this was the first time she was actively involved in playing the game - clicking "Yes" or "No" (after asking Mommy), punching the little dice block and even playing the Mini-Games.  Granted, she played like a four-year-old and won't be schooling Daddy anytime soon, but she's hooked.

Emmett's weekend milestone was his first haircut without screaming and crying (well, his first since he's figured out what a haircut is) - and he did it without even being able to watch Blue's Clues (thanks to a lack of functioning Netflix), though Kermit and his pals seemed a suitable substitute.  It may have required Daddy sitting in front of him and offering one marshmallow at a time so long as he wasn't crying, but the important thing is I was able to clip his hairs as close to his head as possible (so as to extend the time between trims) without him jerking away or endangering his ears (though there was one unfortunate snip along his forehead that leaves him looking "like he got in a fight with a weed-eater," as his Daddy put it).  There were limited tears and few screams.  We all count this as a win.

For his part, Joey has learned to sit up all on his own - from tummy to bottom.  When he performed this task earlier this week, Philip and I just looked at each other asking, "Is this new?"  Because sometimes the milestones pass and we just don't notice.  It's not exactly like little Joseph is announcing, "Hey, world, I can sit up now!"  But we're taking notice as best we can and we're pretty proud.  Of course, he remains on the precipice of being able to crawl on hands and knees (he's SO close), but he's also expressing an interest in walking as he'll take very determined steps if Mommy and Daddy hold him up enough to try.  Again, a marked difference between he and his brother, who simply tucked his feet up under him if ever we tried to hold his hands up - even at the point when he was twice his brother's current age.  That's our Joseph - he's taking this world by storm.

And that's how the cookie crumbles.

1,000 Gifts:
888. Ditching the excess
889. Re-prioritizing
890. Being challenged to use discipline in our Spiritual Gifts
891. Transparency
892. A wealth of resources at my finger-tips
893. Her giving her brother kisses and him all smiles because of it
894. Being the High-Flair Pair and Tomboy Trouble with my girl
895. High-Fives on every turn
896. Her helping Daddy make pancakes
897. Corn popping fresh for movie night

Also, this guy turned seven months old this week!

13 September 2012

Of the Need for Tame

It was 30 days - all it took to change me was 30 days.

Now, my tongue, which longs for the sugar and says it is satisfies, ruins the body, where the sweet turns to sour and I am left anything but satisfied.  If I could only tame that tongue.

And then I read the words of one wiser than I - the own half-brother of our Savior.  The one who instructs us to be slow to anger and I am reminded of truth - all truth which belongs to God.  Anger, which manifests itself through the tongue, promising these harsh words will satisfy a need, a desire.

And there goes that lying tongue again.  As the anger in which I so readily indulge does nothing but sour the spirit.

If I could only tame that tongue.

Could 30 days deprived of anger likewise turn my soul against the bitterness of wrath?  If only it were so easy.

1,000 Gifts:
882. Nursing the baby, schooling the girl, and watching the little boy run in the grass - a morning well-spent
883. The coolness of fall
884. Refreshing rain
885. The weathered wood promising meals in the sun and lessons in the breeze
886. Sesame Street Band-Aids
887. Her tiny notebook filling with drawings - her favorite things recorded (butterfly, blocks, rain)

Photos of Our Morning:

(I love this look - "Are you seeing what he gave me, Momma?!")

12 September 2012

Of Schoolin'

Philip and I have tossed around the idea of homeschooling since before we had children.  It was always a nice idea.  Until I realized my daughter was about to turn four, the year in which most children enter Pre-School, and I still had no idea how to even begin teaching my little girl the formal learnings of life.

Of course, I understand Pre-K is rather an optional thing and not entirely necessary for success, but as far as I'm concerned from my home-schooling base zero over here, I have an entire year now to figure out how to do this thing before it becomes for real.

Which means establishing routines so she won't be completely freaked out by the idea of a schedule which requires her to do Mommy-orchestrated activities other than her own agenda of playing house or Uno Moo.

It means me putting a system into place for how, where and when work and lessons are completed and learning to multi-task so the as-yet un-schooled children don't feel neglected.

It means figuring out how to lesson plan for someone under the age of thirteen (the youngest age with which I have real-life teaching experience) and how to select and implement a curriculum (even if it's self-designed).

Thus, we started yesterday morning, bright and early, trying to fill two hours with Pre-School activities before her littlest brother's well-baby check-up (he's 18lb 2.5oz and 26 inches long, in case you're wondering).  And for this girl, Tuesday, the day she would start school, has been right there under "Birthday!" since I first mentioned it to her.  Doing school at home?!  This was going to be amazing!

And it was quite wonderful for both of us.  Until I expected her to complete a few activities on her own.  Then suddenly her joy turned to tears and success to frustration and she may have become the first home-schooled pre-schooler to actually get time-out on her very first day (leave it to my girl).

So, we're learning.  Together.

But right now we have tomorrow's work all laid out and ready for action.  And, hopefully, by next year, we'll have this thing down.  And her first day of Kindergarten can maybe not include disciplinary action.

Our work station for now.  It kind of makes me happy to see it all together.  The ice cream cone concept was something Philip remembered from growing up (adapted together with a few other ideas I've found).  As she completes the work in a basket, the scoops go on the cone and when she's done, she chooses a bonus activity as a cherry on top.  I might be kind of proud of that.

1,000 Gifts:
871. A little girl on her first bike
872. New school supplies
873. A work station all decked out and ready
874. Late nights at IHOP
875. Energy to face the day
876. Impromptu naps
877. Princess balloons
878. A little boy in a purple tiara
879. Big Boy pants
880. A memorization partner
881. Voicemail

10 September 2012

Of Turning Four

I would love to give you every exciting detail of celebrating a little girl turning four, but I'm plain worn out - so I'll do my best, but for the most part we'll let the photos do the talking.  What I can tell you is this girl is one heck of a party planner, because I'm not sure I could have imagined a better day for our precious daughter and she planned it all herself.

These were her surprises when she woke up this morning - a crown and a party blower (thank you, Dollar Tree) and the birthday library book we'd read last night - it was just there to hold down . . .

. . . her balloon!  Thank you, again, Dollar Tree!

Thanks to a wonderful friend for watching the boys, she and I had a special Mommy/Daughter Birthday Breakfast at IHOP (also thanks to the free Birthday meals they offer via e-mail).  She was excited to have a knife.  Not sure if we should be concerned yet.

No worries, though, because she's four - she's a big girl, now!

We played Rory's Story Cubes to pass the time while waiting for our food.  I love her stories.  They're pretty basic, but they always end happily ever after.

And when her food came, she put that knife to work.  I was rather impressed.  Mommy did not cut one bite of food for her - and she polished that whole plate.

And the ice cream that followed.  Ice cream for breakfast - what else does a girl need?

And this is pretty much how Emmett spent the morning.  He didn't get ice cream for breakfast, you can tell.

With her self-made party hat (and crown) - and, yep, she's still four.

She woke up early from her nap, which meant she got to help Mommy make the lasagna for dinner.  This photo kind of sums up her feelings on that.  She's a big fan of helping in the kitchen.

The outdoor decor.  She personally requested each of these decorations (though I would have used them anyway).  And that furniture set, in case you're wondering, was a $10 steal from our neighbors' future garage sale (you guys rock!).

Daddy and Dia used their lung power to fill the birthday tent with balloons.

 Birthday dinner outside.  The weather was beautiful!  Told you she couldn't have planned it better.

Presents in the tent, per her request.  And, yes, she really did alternate - present, card, present, card - as she planned - she didn't really care if the card went with the present, either, just as long as she had one between each gift.  And, somehow, the numbers worked perfectly.  Whew.

Joey liked this part, too.

I think the cake met her high standards.

I only lit two of the candles because after the first lighting left it's mark on Belle's arm, we were afraid to get the flame too close.

She didn't seem to notice.

All decked out in her bike gear.  Such a big girl!

Unfortunately, the training wheels she received didn't cooperate with my $10 thrift store find of a bicycle, so we made an impromptu trip to Wal-Mart for her to choose her brand new, shiny, pink and purple bike (and, fortunately for us, she happened to favor the cheapest one in the store - she's her Momma's daughter!).

And Daddy helped her ride it out of the store.

So, she got decked out again and went for a ride on the patio.

And even asked if she could share with her brother, who may have been less skilled than she but still loved feeling like a big kid.

And that was that.

Every moment of this day was a gift, as has been every moment of the past four years.  It seems to have gone by so quickly and, yet, just slow enough to savor.  I love this girl so much and am looking forward to continuing to watch her (and, hopefully, mold her) as she grows.

09 September 2012

Of Her Cake

Our little girl turns four tomorrow.  Four years old.  On the one hand it's hard to believe it's been four years already.  On the other, I've been mentally (and sometimes physically) referring to her as a four-year-old for a couple of months now, so it almost feels like we're past this point already.

Either way, the point is now that she's finally old enough to remember her birthdays, at least a little (who am I kidding, she's been detailing all of her trip to the zoo on her third birthday for months - I think this girl remembers the moment she was born, really), I've been all aflutter trying to make it something worth remembering, at least a little.

I want her birthday to be done her way, within reason.  Fortunately, for a four-year-old who hasn't watched "My Super-Sweet-Fourth-Birthday-Party", her way is rather simple - a trip to the dollar store for some balloons and party blowers was pretty much all it took.

Well, that and the afternoon of creating a strawberry birthday cake in the form of Belle.

The cake in the beginning process - isn't that a beautiful color?

Batter all ready - it makes me happy.

Home-made whipped cream filling.

Putting the layers together - I may have gotten a little fancy for the parts that would be hidden.

All ready to get dressed.

Her Daddy undertook the task of decorating this one (which is nice because I can't create a beautiful baked good to save my life), but my faulty engineering created quite the challenge.

Also creating quite the challenge - this is maybe the fourth cake either of us has ever decorated.  We're not working with much experience here - we're all about hands-on experimenting.

Going to town.  The icing wasn't exactly a sculptor's dream, but we went with the original recipe that was included with the cake.

Almost done - personally, I think she's pretty darn good considering all that was working against us. 

She's not winning any contests, but she sure does look nice in her party dress.

His work of art.  Micaiah's daddy sure does love her.

In the end, I had to remind both of us that she's four.  And the fact that she has a cake with a brunette doll sticking out the top wearing a bright yellow icing dress is still pretty much the most exciting thing in the world.  So what if it looks like it's melting off her or we're avoiding looking at the back?

Four-year-olds, we remember, are extremely easy to please.  And if all else fails, we'll distract her with the shiny pink Disney Princess balloon.  That'll do the trick.

1,000 Gifts:
861. Bright pink cake batter
862. Cake tasting like Fruity Pebbles
863. Fruit dipped in Chocolate-Peanut-Butter Yogurt
864. Quality time with those to whom we live closest
865. The awaited text
866. Buying birthday surprises
867. Her petting a cow
868. A morning at the fair with my precious little ones
869. Her building a sand castle
870. A mellow mood

08 September 2012

Of the Whole 30 (the Aftermath)

The first thing I noticed this morning (after the desire to shout for the neighborhood to hear, "FREEDOM!!!") was that I, surprisingly, had no longing to switch out my Whole 30 breakfast habits for the old stand-in of a nice bowl of cereal.  An omelet and apple sounded pretty good as a matter of fact.  Sure, we added a little cheese (gracious, yes!), but otherwise we kind of like making breakfast in the morning with a side of fruit.

Then came lunch.  And while I was definitely not messing around with my salad - I was having real dressing and having it NOW - I didn't really want anything other than some lettuce and a rotisserie chicken (which is definitely a new thing for me - we'd never bought one before the Whole 30 but I think I'm addicted to the convenience factor on that one).  And while the thought crossed my mind we could have some dessert (animal crackers, anyone?), my body told me it was full and, crazy enough, the rest of me agreed.

Here's where I realized I was really broken, though.  It was when I needed to try out a new Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe before I made a few dozen for an event next week.  I ate half a muffin.  And felt sick to my stomach for about an hour.

What is this?!

I tried another one again later with the same effect.  And then ice cream.  Two bites.  Same thing.

Apparently sugar is bad for me.  When did this happen?  And when did my body learn to recognize that?!

The Whole 30 has ruined me.

Now, all those recipes I stocked up on Pinterest?  Snickerdoodle Brownies?  Cake Batter Blondies?  The Oreo and Flourless Chocolate cakes I had ripped from magazines?  Don't even sound appetizing.  Just the thought makes my stomach turn.

Ruined, I tell you.  Ruined.

But on the plus side, I am now slightly under what my dream weight goal has been for over a decade.  Now that I can live with.  And considering my new feelings toward desserts, I might even get used to it.

1,000 Gifts:
855. Daddy praying over son's nightmares
856. Painting the wall around an open window while watching the storm roll in
857. Rain pattering the chimney
858. Storm cuddles while watching Woody Woodpecker and eating muffins (even if they do make me feel sick)
859. God's provision even at a garage sale
860. A project completed.

06 September 2012

Of Reaching the Finish Line

Well, my dear readers, we have arrived.  Day 30 of the Whole 30.  Which means we've survived.  The Whole 30.

Who would have ever thought we'd be standing here (or sitting here or barely here because my mind is so on chocolate chip cookies right now I can't think straight, which may or may not entirely scoff in the face of the entire past 30 days)?

We celebrated our final meal of Whole-30-ness with Shrimp Scampi and Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes (minus the cheeses and Ghee rather than butter in both) - a meal that was a hit with everyone (especially our little boy who cried, "It's not enoooooouuugh!" when he received his tiny third helping).  It almost made me sad to say good-bye.  Until I remembered I still couldn't have dessert.  And then I was ready to kick the Whole 30 to the curb with it's bags behind it.

Which brings me to the rough part of this entire journey.  I'm so glad we did this and I really do feel like I appreciate real foods more - I love meat and I love vegetables (what?!) and while I'm ready to sprinkle cheese on my omelet, a bowl of cereal for breakfast just feels like a bit much.  There are some habits I feel might actually be gone (yay!) - but there are others that I just can't seem to kick.  Like that one that's been browsing Pinterest like an addict and itching to get back in the kitchen and just put something filled with flour, sugar and chocolate into that oven.

I'm trying to tame the beast.  But it so desperately wants out.

So have we accomplished anything in these thirty days?  Anything at all toward approaching food with a healthy mindset?  Time will tell, I suppose.  But all I know is, for now, my kids haven't asked for a cookie in at least three weeks and, while our precious girl was begging for McDonald's this evening (that was before she tasted dinner - and I'm still wondering where the plea came from, because it's not like we eat there more than once every three months anyway), I can tell they haven't been too terribly concerned about the lack of rolls at the dinner table.

Do I really want to mess with that?  I honestly don't think so.

1,000 Gifts:
846. Aroma of garlic filling the kitchen
847. Cauliflower masquerading as potatoes
848. My husband rushing me out the door to see the sunrise
849. Waking early enough to see a sunrise
850. Finally feeling like I have a grasp on the goal ahead
851. Duck, Duck, Goose
852. The big grin on his face as he hides under his towel
853. Face to face with my oldest son
854. The pride in his voice as he learns to be a big boy

Photos of the Day:
When I asked Micaiah for some quiet time so I could plan for her starting school at home next week, this is what she spent about 20 minutes doing.  Just reading the paper.

This is Joey's new trick.  He just loves flipping his tongue upside down, which baffles his Daddy and I because neither of us can do this.

Also, he's still just really cute.

Whole 30 - Day 30!!!
Breakfast - Egg, Sausage and Salsa Omelet, Bacon
Lunch - Leftover Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
Dinner - Shrimp Scampi, Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

05 September 2012

Of a Confident Little Man

I would just like to announce that it has taken Emmett five days to get to the same point it took Micaiah two years to reach.  Now, I'm not comparing children.  I know they are both equally intelligent and capable, but one of them had an older sibling going potty and is now awfully proud to be "big like 'Caiah"!

This new status, that of a potty trained boy, has added a little swagger to his step.  I kid you not that he is noticeably more confident now that he knows how to stay clean and dry.  And we had an accident-free day, even after going to church twice.  He didn't go while we were out, but he went immediately after getting home and has only needed a diaper to sleep (but I'm not too worried about that, yet).

Oh man.  And they said boys were harder.  Psht on them (whoever they are).

1,000 Gifts:
839. Spaghetti Squash tried again (not sprouted)
840. Allowing me to say her prayer (even after a tooth-brushing fiasco)
841. Her snuggled up while I read 
842. "Who's a big boy?" "Me!" - confidence is hard to beat
843. Real conversations with real women
844. A reminder to make the days count
845. Having these moments while they last
846. Setting out clothes for that coming baby nephew

Whole 30 - Day 29!
Breakfast - Salsa & Egg Omelet, Banana
Lunch - Salsa, Sausage & Egg Omelet (we were kind of out of any other options - but this was a great one!), Clementine
Dinner - Spaghetti (Squash) and Meatballs

Worst Part of Today: Stocking up on cereal (hey, it was on sale and we're getting grains back SOON) and not being able to sneak even just a little.

Best Part of Today: Giving Spaghetti Squash another fair shot and realizing everyone is right - it's pretty good, especially as a healthier option to spaghetti.  Even Micaiah (who I think still connected it to the previous fiasco even though I hoped she wouldn't notice) admitted it's really good with sauce.  Whew!  

04 September 2012

Of Giving a Mouse a Cookie

It all started because my lower back was not enjoying our sinking couch cushions.

Ok, that's not the truth.  Truth is, it started a long time ago.  When we first bought a house and I knew it needed to be painted something other than the renter's white which currently coated the walls.  We made the mistake, however, of moving in before we painted.  And then, well, it just became work to think of moving furniture to paint.  Not to mention I had no idea what color I wanted or even how to paint a room.

I felt as though a light blue would brighten the space, but no one paints their living space blue.  That hue is reserved for bedrooms and bathrooms, or maybe your little boy's room (like ours currently is), but certainly not the living room.  Living rooms are varying shades of brown or sage green, and, for the trendy, gray.  I thought, then, that gray would work for us.  But my heart wasn't in it and we went five years with nothing.  Nothing but indecision.

And then my back started hurting, and I knew we needed a way to fit a more supportive seating option into our living room, like that Guatemalan rocking chair in our bedroom that we never sit in.  To do this, we would need to re-arrange things.  And if we were going to be moving the furniture anyway, we might as well paint the entertainment center white (another item long on the to-do list) while we were at it.  And since we were painting that and moving all the other things about, we might as well paint the walls (because a white entertainment center can't sit against a cream-colored wall).

And the next day, I noticed on Better Homes and Gardens a photo of a blue living room.  It felt like permission.  And that was all I needed.  So, since we were finally going to be painting the walls, we were going to paint them blue.  And we were finally going to make this the living space I've desired.

For five years.

For a little perspective, these are vague views of the living room before (since I always get in a hurry and forget "before" photos, these pictures of us dancing back in May will just have to do).

This was "during" - we spent a lot of time outside and watching movies in Mommy and Daddy's room, as there was no space in the living room for about a week.

Two weeks after we took the first bite (pictured above), the walls are still a work in progress (painting one wall every two days, during nap-time and after the kids are in bed makes for a slow process), but it's all coming together.  Five years of dreaming coming into fruition.  What a joy!

This is how things look now.  Of course, there's still more to add to the wall over the sofa and possibly a rug someday, but I'm kind of happy.  (Also, I artfully left out the parts that are unfinished - to be done in the next week or so, let's hope.)

 (And that white dresser in the corner next to the sofa, now holding video games and VHS and blankets to keep us warm?  That's this dresser below that I got for $10 at a garage sale.  Love great finds.)

1,000 Gifts:
831. A lunch time guest
832. My big brother turning 30.  When did we get this old?
833. Her, with a giant slice of watermelon, pink running sticky sweet down her chin
834. A little boy running to the potty
835. Another little boy on the verge of crawling
836. Tomato, sliced bright red, fresh from Gram's garden
837. Smiles in the dark
838. Her curly hair, damp with sweat, in my face as she whispers, "I forgive you." - Mommies need to hear it, too.

Whole 30
Day 27 - 
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Banana
Lunch: Watermelon (I should have eaten more, but the afternoon got away from me)
Dinner: Chicken Fajita Salad

Day 28 - 
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice
Lunch: Leftover Mexi Salad
Dinner: Shashlik, Green Bean Bacon Bundles, Sliced Tomato

Worst Part of these Days: Not eating enough for lunch on Monday.  My body needs its protein.  Yet, somehow it survived without making me double over in discomfort.

Best Part of these Days: Feeling like I can finally veer from the meal plan - having the knowledge of what to eat enough to throw things together last minute and still have them fit the "program."  We're learning.