Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cami Dresses Herself

I love the season of life when little ones learn to dress themselves. The freedom and expression in picking out their own clothes. The creativity and joy in exclaiming, "I did it!" The only thing I have to do is make sure they are warm enough, and they do the rest. I couldn't help myself...I had to take photos of Cami's outfit. She was so proud of herself. And yes, I did take her out in public like this. I don't care what anyone else thinks. She is dressed, happy, and proud and that is all that matters.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Mother Daughter Sleepover

I can't say that I love the fact that my children are growing up. I love to watch them grow and learn and change. But I also grieve the years that will no longer be. I embrace each season and stage of life, but I also look back and remember when they were younger. Kaylynn just turned 10, and I almost cried. She is really growing up. She is still a child, but things are changing. Our time together is different now. Our conversations have a different depth; we hang out and "just talk." We still have lots of silly fun together, though....enter mother/daughter slumber party! (just a side note: we also had a wonderful family party with those that live close enough to share in the festivities. Lots of love from grandparents, auntie, uncle, and cousins who pitched in to get Kaylynn the perfect gift....a kindle so she can read in between trips to the library. We truly are blessed to be surrounded by so many people who want to celebrate the lives of our children).

Back to the sleepover. My kiddos do not spend the night with their friends yet. They have done slumber parties with family, and that is all. I am simply not ready to let them stay away from me overnight. Kaylynn desperately wanted to have a sleepover with her dearest friends; they call each other BFF's (Best Friends cute). So, we decided to do a mother/daughter sleepover. This was a big hit for all the mamas because many of them are of the same mindset or have little darlings that are not ready to sleep over somewhere without them (it helps that I am friends with all of these moms).

So the boys and Cami went to grandma's house for the night while Kaylynn, Kalli, and I stayed home and welcomed all the beautiful guests. We had so much planned, and the girls were beside themselves.

Individual homemade pizzas for dinner, flashlight tag in the dark, silly games in the living room, pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting, Anne of Green Gables, make your own picture frames, make up on the mamas and the girls (which was entertaining), many homemade gifts from friends to the birthday girl, and late night laughter and stories. The morning greeted us earlier than we were ready for, but the waffles, strawberries, and whip cream kept the excitement rolling. We were all exhausted by the end but feeling completely blessed to have so many wonderful gals to share in celebrating Kaylynn's 10th birthday.

Not sure who took this picture, but the girls sure had fun doing all the mama's makeup...
I think the blush and lipstick were favorites.

My heart swells when I think about the opportunity I have with my children. The opportunity for relationship. Sitting in the living room in our pajamas at 11:00pm sharing stories of when the girls were "younger." Moms and girls alike sharing what they remember. A story mingled with laughter and blessing. I looked around, and felt emotion rising in me. Here in our living room was a community. Not just a room full of wonderful little girls but their moms as well. These moms that speak love and blessing into my children. These moms who cheer for one another. These moms who are full of encouragement. And those sweet little girls: when one is sad, they surround her with hugs and love. When one doesn't know some of the others, they embrace her and make her feel welcome. It was such a beautiful thing to be a part of. 

 I think I will always do mother/daughter sleepovers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Day in the Woods

We love our home and its location. Our house was for sale for many months. We finally got a buyer. We were excited, apprehensive, scared, surprised, and uncertain. We began packing and began thinking about all that we would miss living where we do. We were also eager to move on and see what was in store for us. We journeyed on....until the buyer lost her job. Everything was halted. We are now unpacking, settling back in and enjoying all those things that we were going to miss so the acres of woods and hours of imaginative play right out our back door.

 The fort they worked on all morning long.

 Starting a "fire" so they can cook their food.

 The school "slate."

I am thankful to have more time to explore the woods of my own backyard.

Some Things Never Change

Back in October (I know that is way back but it takes me a while to get around to sitting down and writing out a complete blog post) I was blessed to take a trip to visit my grandparents....solo. I stocked my airplane bag with loads of books that I have been eager to read and enjoyed some genuine rest and hang out time with two people who have left a strong imprint on my life (well three because my dear mama flew out to visit too)! This post isn't exactly an "ode" to my grandparents but more of a this is who they are, and this is what I have learned from them.

 Earlier this year, my grandfather, who is in his 80's, was loading up his 4 wheeler when it tipped and fell on him, pinning him underneath it. His buddy called 911, and when the ambulance arrived, my dear grandfather almost refused to go to the hospital. He thought better of it after he tried walking some more. He had broken his hip. I tell ya, nothing stops him. He is a fighter and always has been. I realized when I received the news that I needed to head out to visit, just me and just be with my grandparents.

Growing up, I always had real relationships with my mom's parents. They invested in me; they listened to me; they showed me how to grow old gracefully. Now we are good friends. I talk to my grandparents on the phone, my children write letters back and forth, my grandmother sends us boxes of books every other month, and the relationship continues to grow.

 Sample of my grandmother's hand-drawn paper dolls.

The arrival was the same as it always is. I landed and the smell of onions instantly filled my nostrils and cows seemed to pop out all over the place. So much had changed, but so much was still so familiar including the pulling into the driveway, halfway running up the front steps to greet those who were waiting. Grandma gives me a kiss on the cheek, and grandpa (as is the custom) picks me up in a HUGE bear hug and says, "Hi Sweety!" This has always been and will always be....some things never change.

There is always good food at grandma's house, there is always sharing of some family heirloom or story, the cupboard above the dishwasher is always open, football is often on the tv, pinochle games are always played, Grdandma's drawings can be found around the house, books are everywhere, grandma is always busy doing a new craft, grandpa is always eager to stay up late and chat about life, and I feel at home, comfortable, and accepted.

My Great Grandmother's dress: she wore this dress in the dance competition that she and my great grandfather won
 (I believe it was for the Charleston)

There is always thrift shopping. My grandmother is the master at finding the best thrift stores and has a usual route that we take. Only she calls it "second handing;" my mom calls it visiting the "used stores;" I call it "thrift shopping." Whatever the name, we are all there to spend time and share in finding some neat treasure.

There is always the learning of something new. For me, I like listening to the old stories. I just found out that my grandparents met on a blind date. My grandfather was told that my grandmother was a female wrestler. He was pretty psyched to meet her. For them, they are always finding ways to keep their minds and bodies active. Grandpa goes shooting with his buddies. Grandma works every morning and thrift shops and does needle point and reads. Oh, she loves to read, and I feel so blessed that my kids can share this with her.

When I look at my grandparents, I look forward to growing older. I look forward to the life that will be. I see how beautifully they have grown, and I delight in it.

Then there is the parting. The goodbye is always the same. Grandma and Grandpa stand on their front steps and wave as I back out of the driveway, they wave until I disappear around the corner. This has always been. We grow up, we grow older, but some things will always be, and I am thankful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Raising World Changers ~Boxes For Bracelets

I have always been a "change the world" kind of person. Do you remember that song by Michael Jackson? "Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race." My favorite line is, "We could really get there if we cared enough for the living." This was one of my theme songs growing up. Many of my conversations with friends and family were brainstorming how to "Change the World." My dad even asked me one day when I was in college, "What do you really want to do?" And I said, "Dad, I want to change the World. I want to change the world with love." I graduated with my degree in education with hopes to change the world one life at a time, although I think at the time I wanted to become the next Mother Theresa (I don't quite fill those shoes).

 I believe in a "whole world" view rather than a "United States" view. I have always grieved for the pain and suffering all over the world. I have always rejoiced with simple joys of anyone. In years past, I felt stuck as a mom....thinking that my years of "changing the world" were even pointless. Boy, did I ever have a limited perspective during those years.

More recently, I have plowed through, teaching my children to be world changers. I don't want my children to think that the world revolves around them and their abilities. I want them to view everyone else as more important than themselves. We use the word HONOR often in our house. We talk about what it means to honor each other...what it means to honor our community...what it means to honor our leaders and our country....and what it means to honor people all across the world. It boils down to one concept, "Consider one another better than ourselves." If we all have this perspective then our reactions to others will be out of love and consideration. I am not talking like, "oh...they are so much better than me; I will never amount to anything." I am talking, "you are so special that I consider all of your needs, hopes, dreams, struggles and want to honor and embrace them. I choose not to fight with you or take anything away from you; I choose to give to you over receiving for myself."

 You moms know how exciting it is when you see the fruit of your labor, and I started seeing it in my children right after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The day after, my son (5 at the time) prayed for Haiti, "Dear Jesus, please do not let Haiti fall down again." They wanted to help so they made magnets and sold them, raising over $50 (which was a smaller portion of a larger amount sent by the group they were working with). Then their Auntie and Uncle shared that they would be adopting a little boy from Haiti. Their hearts became infused with Haiti. They want to visit there, they want to send every extra penny they receive; they want to help in any way they can.

We heard about an organization called The ApParent Project through one of the blogs I follow: Sit a Spell. This is one of the best organizations I have seen, and we all wanted to do something to help. The ApParent Project employs the Haitian people to make jewelry, journals, clothing, Christmas ornaments, etc. This is HUGE for the Haitian people because an income helps keep their families together. Many of the orphans in Haiti are not in the orphanages because they have no parents; many of them were placed there by their loving parents because if they stayed at home, they would starve. Those that do not find a place in an orphanage are forced (out of starvation) to eat mud pies. You know the kind you made when you were a child....yes, they really eat them. To fill the hunger pangs in their bellies. Take a moment and try to imagine that.

The ApParent Project offers so much hope to the Haitian families that they employ. Each piece of jewelry is hand made by an artisan, and each piece has a significant story. And guess what? The jewelry is made out of: recycled cereal boxes, the very ones that we take to the recycling center every week. We have purchased many bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and ornaments, and we LOVE reading the stories that go along with each piece. The joy knowing that single mom can keep her 5 children because she has a job to go to everyday is hardly comparable to anything we know here.

Well, my 9 year old daughter asked me what we could do to help more. I glanced over the website and found that they take donations. Rays of Hope for Haiti has a container ministry, and they will receive and ship boxes for the ApParent Project at a fraction of the cost. If you have ever tried to ship something standard mail to Haiti, you know how expensive it is. Kaylynn was thrilled, "We can save our cereal boxes MOM!"

So in April, I helped her create a facebook page; she went to our monthly Homeschool moms connect night and shared what she was doing; she went with her auntie to various presentations in the area and shared what she was doing. She set up easily accessible drop off locations at the local libraries. The cereal boxes started pouring in. After only a month of collecting boxes, she sent over 300. We have another 300 ready to go. I love to see my children pouring their time and lives out for others. We continue to change the world in every way that we can, and sometimes, that is through collecting cereal boxes.

In October, Kaylynn had the opportunity to share her love with an even wider audience: The American Girl company. They ran a contest. Each girl submitted a 60 second video sharing why they feel like an everyday hero. Kaylynn does not brag (although I might just a little....because I am her proud mama) about what she does, nor does she spend time talking about her accomplishments. She helps out of a pure, loving heart. She was excited to share what she was doing with American Girl, and out of 1,700, she was chosen as one of the 6 finalists! Now, you have the opportunity to Vote to choose the grand prize winner (who will receive an all expenses paid trip to Washington DC). You can vote right on the American Girl website. Just follow this link, click to watch "Boxes For Bracelets," then hit the "vote for this one" button. Please only one vote per person/email account. We are so proud of her, not just because her video was chosen as a finalist, but because she has been the driving force behind Boxes For Bracelets (and she also worked very hard writing, acting in, and editing her video...all part of home schooling). We did not begin this journey with a contest in mind, but since she entered, the newspaper wants to interview her, more people are donating boxes, and we are raising awareness. This is such a tremendous blessing. She is a World Changer.

We have a generation that we can encourage to be world changers. Children LOVE to love people. They want to help others, they want to give of themselves. It is not until we are older that we decide that we want more for ourselves than for others. I can take a few minutes on my soap box because this is something that I am so passionate about. Take the time to teach your children how to encourage one another. Take the time to show them how to do it. Because we can really do it, "if we care enough for the living." (I cannot believe that I am quoting Michael Jackson). And when you are shopping for this Christmas (as it is coming), please consider neglecting Walmart and Target. Take the time to find a gift that will give directly back to someone who needs it. The ApParent Project has beautiful gifts, and you can read the story of the family that you are helping. Or even consider this, instead of giving gifts, give to purchase clean water or maybe even a goat for a family. Last year, my kids really wanted to buy two pigs and chickens for a couple of families so we did. Then, take that heart of giving, and transfer it to all year long. Send a donation of some beads or boxes or something else to an entirely different organization. Instead of buying that dollar item, put the dollar into a jar intended to help someone else. Let's be World Changers together and teach our children that it doesn't have to be difficult. Please share with me how you teach your children to love others. I would also love it if you would share info on any organizations that are committed to loving others. If you live in Maine and would like to start donating your cereal boxes, please let me know, and I can give you the address for a drop off location near you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Visit From A Loved One

Family (including extended family) has always been very important to me, and I ache to see them when we are not together. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of cash to get together with my side of the family because they live over 3,000 miles away. The more kids we have, and the more the airlines raise the prices, the less often we get to see them. It has been nearly 2 years since I have seen most of my family, with the exception of one. My dear sister. She blessed us just last week by flying out to see us. My sister, who is full of life and excitement, loves to bless me and my family.

Of course, the first stop on the agenda was Boston. Last time my sister visited (7 years ago), we took a late night trip to Boston and missed visiting all the old historical sites. And this time, Kaylynn joined us. She eats this stuff up. Oh, Boston, a city of culture, history, diversity, and entertainment. I am not a city girl, but I do enjoy visiting the city.

 Kaylynn took our picture in front of the Paul Revere House

On to Concord and Lexington where we stayed in a cute little bed and breakfast and made our most favorite tourist stop: the Louisa May Alcott House. Kaylynn just finished reading Little Women for the first time, and I had just finished reading it again. What a delight to see the desk where she penned Little Women, and the house that inspired her. What a surprise to see her sister's drawings all over the walls of the house and to learn that Little Women was actually written about her life with her sisters. She intertwined real life events with imagination and created a beautiful story that has been loved by so many.

A photo taken by Kaylynn of our room at the bed and breakfast.

 Our last stop before heading up to Maine was Salem. I had given Kaylynn a mini lesson on the Salem witch trials, and we were ready to see some historical sites. We were extremely dissappointed by this little town as it has taken its history and created a village full of witchcraft, haunted houses, and every nature of these things. The town felt more like an amusement park (without the rides) than a historical place. We did enjoy one house that was directly linked to the late 1600's. A house that belonged to one of the judges. We were fascinated by this place. We learned the hard way that much of the part of our nation's history is found in Danvers, Mass which used to be Salem Village. Salem lacked beauty and originality (which is why there is a lack of photos).

On to Maine where we explored some of our local hang out spots and Fort Knox. We spent some days just hanging out at home, playing board games or running around outside.  It is always so hard to say goodbye and return to normal life, but we do it all while remembering our time together and waiting expectantly for the next time we will see one another. We miss you already, dear Auntie Angie!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spontaneous ~ A Pig Story

Such a long lag between posts....I am still here and still living a full life. We have gone from extreme illness (laid up in bed for days with eyes swollen shut and more) to our first days of homeschooling to my sister coming for a visit so life has not exactly been conducive to writing. But, I am here again to chronicle some of what has happened in the last few weeks.

I have always thought of myself as adventurous and spontaneous. It's no wonder that my children are the same way. We took a trip to the local fair in mid September to watch the demolition derby. There is something about watching those cars smash into one another that brings out the redneck in me. Not sure why it is so entertaining, but hundreds of people swarm the stands and the surrounding area just to get a peek at people driving their cars around in the mud, smashing into one another. We arrived early so we could enjoy looking at the animals. Then we heard it, over the loud speaker, "The pig scramble for ages 8 and 9 will start in 30 minutes. Sign up at the pavilion if you want to catch you own pig." Yes, my dear 9 year old daughter, in her spontaneous, adventurous spirit exclaims, "Can I do it?! Can I catch a pig?!"

We relent, because really....what are the odds that her name will even get drawn. We sign her up and head over to the scrambling arena (not sure what it was really called but scrambling arena sounds good). We take our seats just as the gal starts announcing the rules. Then she tells us that there are 70 kids and only 15 get drawn. There are only 10 pigs so only 10 out the 15 kids gets to keep a pig. Sigh of relief as Alan and I look at each other. With so many kids, there is no way her name will be drawn.
First name, some kid from who knows where.
Second name, yup, you guessed it....our daughter.
She runs down to the arena laughing with delight.
I look at Alan and say, "Maybe she won't catch one."
He says, "She is going to catch one."
And I know it....because she is the one who is the first to catch a frog or a snake or to get a chipmunk to eat out of her hand.
What are we going to do with a pig?

I must insert some history here: I LOVE pigs. Since my first year of college, I have wanted a pig (for a pet). I know they get big and fat and smelly, but for some reason, I just love that about them. I guess I like it that they can feel completely comfortable rolling around in the mud, eating just about everything, and snorting (and they always go to the bathroom in the same place).
So, I am hopeful because I want this pig too.

Back the scramble, it begins...pigs and children are running wildly everywhere. They crash into each other, and again, I wonder "why do we do this?" Then it happens; she catches a pig; she is the third child to catch one. She holds it by the legs then puts it into the burlap sack. She is covered in mud and whatever else may have been in that arena.
When it is all over, we rush down to meet her. She holds her sack proudly, while talking to the little piggy to calm it down. A buyer approaches us and offers us $50 for the pig. Alan is thinking, "yes!" I am thinking, "I want to keep the pig!" We both look at Kaylynn and say, "It is your pig, what do you want to do?" She says, "I want to keep it!"
So, we put it into the holding shed while we finish our time at the fair. While driving home, it hits us.....

Jeremie says, "Let's put it in the chicken coop." It is still small enough so this is possible. What a great idea!
The pig stays the night in the chicken coop. She gets used to us; she eats out of the kids' hands; she lets us pet her. We fall in love with her.
Reality sets in: We have no place to keep this darling piggy because she is going to grow up. We make phone calls to try to find her a new home: no success.
We break the news to Kaylynn, "We have to take her back the fair and sell her."
They are all sad; I am sad. Alan is thankful. We make it back to the fair just in time for the 6-7 year old pig scramble. I wait in the car with the pig. Alan and the kids go to find a buyer. Alan starts talking to parents, and Kaylynn....She looks for the kids who are crying. The ones who are so disappointed that they did not catch a pig. She finds a little boy whose face is covered in tears (her description) and asks if he would like to have a pig. Grammy and Grampa were with him, and they approved. They wanted to know how much. Kaylynn says, "How about $25?" Grampa thinks that is reasonable but he only has a $20 and a $10 so he gives her $30. Kaylynn, being the generous, kind person that she is gives the $10 back to him. She said later, "$30 is way too much for a pig, and I didn't want him to have to pay that much." It was a done deal. The boy was happy;

Kaylynn was happy because,
"Mom, it felt good to give the pig to someone who really wanted it and could love it just as much as we did."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thankful Thursdays ~ A Best Friend

My dearest friend is my husband, and this week I have had a heart overflowing with thanks for him. He has taught me so much and loved me through even more.

He is humble (the first to apologize in any situation)
He is creative
He lights up when he gets home
He is compassionate
He is thankful
He is encouraging
He loves to have fun

He is spontaneous
He is a servant
He offers me love without judgment
He is wise
He plays
He works hard
He is forgiving
He is a comfort
He allows me the freedom to be myself

He supports my big (and little) dreams
He likes to make movies
He doesn't complain when I leave paint drips on the wall
He is involved in everything around the home
He loves me even after a disagreement
He is patient
He listens and takes the time to understand
He does not accuse
He likes to take pictures of himself
He is an amazing father

He offers grace
He likes to dress up in costumes
He dances with me
He stays up late just to do the dishes
I have a lot to be thankful for.