Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Kids and Their Clothes

One of the things that I love so much about our days at home is the amount of time that the kids have for uninterrupted play time. It is so special when I can go around the house and observe scenes like these:

1)Making Clothes (Mary Alice)

Here Mary Alice is hard at work on her art homework. In art class last week, the kids each created a doll out of who knows what. :) Their homework this week was to clothe their doll any way they wanted. Mary Alice used some scraps from her Halloween costume and crafted her doll into a Medusa. :)

This girl is going to be a WAY better seamstress than her mom. :) She sewed and hot glued this entire costume by herself. I was pretty proud of her results and even more proud of her efforts!

TA DA! The finished product...

2)Removing Clothes (Milla)

In further news, Milla recently discovered the art of removing her diaper, pants, socks, and anything else she has on her person. We find her throughout the house looking like this (minus the crying). Shameful!

We're working on teaching her to keep her drawers on!

Here are a few pics of our lovely Milla playing in Mary Alice's room. She LOVES to be in her sister's room. There are lots of fun things to explore and eat in there. Here she is playing with Mary Alice's dollhouse. She likes to play with Mary Alice's play kitchen. She's a sweetie!

3)Dressing Up in Clothes (Major)

And.. last but not least, this Saturday we got to attend Landon's fabulous fifth birthday party, hosted by my brother and his wife. Landon had a Star Wars themed party. It was AWESOME!!! If anyone has a boy and needs a great idea for a party, check out their blog. This party was by far the best boy party I've ever attended. Complete with an obstacle course, costumes, super-fun games, and this fabulous cake.

Is this not the BEST cake ever? Adam and Alisha made it together. They are a fabulous cake-making team, don't you think?

Here are cousins Jonah Skywalker, Darth Landon, and Storm Trooper Major. :) They look pretty fierce.

Have a great day!

Friday, November 13, 2009

How Could I Ask For More?

I heard this song on the radio this morning. Such a good reminder!

There's nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon
Waking to the sunlight, and being cradled by the moon
Catching fireflies at night
Building castles in the sand
Kissing Mama's face goodnight
Holding Daddy's hand
Thank you Lord, how could I ask for more?

Running barefoot through the grass
A little hide and go seek
Being so in love, that you can hardly eat
Dancing in the dark, when there's no one else around
Being bundled 'neath the covers, watching snow
Fall to the ground
Thank you Lord, how could I ask for more?

So many things I thought would bring me happiness
Some dreams that are realities today
Such an irony the things that mean the most to me
Are the memories that I've made along the way

So if there's anything I've learned
From this journey I am on
Simple truths will keep you going
Simple love will keep you strong
Cause there are questions without answers
Flames that never die
Heartaches we go through are often blessings in disguise
So thank you Lord, oh thank you Lord
How could I ask for more?

(by Cindy Morgan)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Not Becoming An "Amy"...

When I was a little girl I had a friend (I'll call her "Amy.") whose parents were exceedingly strict. Amy's parents had so many rules and regulations, each one of which Amy (who was a people pleaser) sought wholeheartedly to obey. I remember inviting Amy to go on outings with my family. Amy would get a shocked look on her face and say, "Oh no! We don't DO such and such in our family!" or "My mom and dad always say that.....etc." She would then continue on to repeat a line by line account of exactly why the heathen behavior was unacceptable to her and was expressly forbidden in her family.

I liked Amy and enjoyed hanging out with her, but often felt judged and stressed out whenever she was around. I always feared that I was going to say or do the wrong thing or suggest one of the activities that she deemed unacceptable. I remember inviting her over to spend the night once. I pulled out some Amy Grant music and started to play it, thinking that this would certainly be on the "acceptable" list. To my dismay, my music choice was not satisfactory. Amy pointed out that "We don't listen to that type of music in my family."

Clearly confused, I stared at her blankly. She offered me a rehearsed explanation of her parents' theory of how rock music caused your heart to beat irregularly and how listening to it ultimately could lead to some sort of horrible behavior in people. I was saddened to hear this new rule from the house of Amy and quickly turned the music off and hurried to find an alternate activity.

I invited Amy over several more times, but found, that no matter what I did, it seemed as though I would never be able to follow all of the rules they had at Amy's house. Moreover, I always felt judged when I was around her. I stopped wanting to invite her over. I was always her friend, but at a distance. I just couldn't relate to her strange ideas and ways and felt like such a terrible person whenever Amy (and her rules) came around. It became a bit of a joke in our house. Whenever the opportunity arose, perhaps when something was a little questionable, family members would make their voice take on a snooty air and say, "OH no! We simply DON'T do that in our family! That is simply UNACCEPTABLE behavior!"

Amy and I still keep in touch. She is a precious godly person. I care about her very much. Her parents were also very sweet people. They were only trying to do what they thought was best for her by giving her all of those rules to follow. I really respect their efforts to teach their daughter in the ways of God. BUT... I learned something from all of this. I learned that I don't ever want my children to be perceived as an "Amy".

Josh and I want to have guidelines for our kids, but not burden them with the huge baggage of unnecessary rules. We don't want them to have an "Amy" mentality, behaving like an automaton, or worse, possessing a judgemental spirit towards others. We also want to be able to ease up on these rules (on which movies they are allowed to watch, for example) as our children grow older. I would like our kids to slowly transition into making these rules for themselves, just because they want to obey God, not because of what "my mom and dad say..."

This is no easy task, to try to have our children be in the world and not of the world, to strike that balance of training them to run from evil things and yet to embrace people who have different beliefs from our own. I haven't quite found the perfect balance, though I've been searching.

All this to say, Mary Alice is heading to a sleepover soon. I trust the host of this party fully. As soon as I heard the word sleepover though, the thought entered my mind. Uh-oh... MOVIES... :( Josh and I both watched some totally inappropriate movies during our childhood (all while at friends' houses) and totally regret those moments. We have a few family guidelines about the movies that our kids are allowed to watch. I don't feel that our rules are over the top, but, then again, who really does feel that way about their own rules? :)

Not wanting Mary Alice to be an "Amy", I decided to e-mail the hostess of the sleepover beforehand, giving her a heads up about what kind of movies that our kids are allowed to watch. The host responded with grace and kindness saying that she "totally understood" our rules and thanked me for letting her know.

This morning, I spent some time discussing the "Amy" story with Mary Alice, explaining how there was a right and a wrong way to go about declining things with which you don't agree. We practiced being an "Amy" vs. being polite. We discussed how some things aren't necessarily wrong, but just our family rules. We talked about how it is important not to chant our family's mantras around other people's families, as it can make people feel badly and is really, none of our business what they are/aren't allowed to do. We talked about how she should try very hard to be respectful and kind. We went over several scenarios of this and also how it is okay to retreat off to another room to read a book if she isn't comfortable with a movie that is being played, but how she should try to participate pleasantly in any other activities unless she had a moral objection. :)

The last thing that I learned from "Amy", which was reinforced by a phone conversation with my mother, was that there are times to bend rules a little bit to avoid humiliating your child or causing them to become bitter. What I didn't tell you about Amy was that the teenage years of Amy and her siblings was full of turmoil. Several of the Amy's siblings rebelled against the super strict ways of their parents, some of them never to return. I believe there is such a thing as having too many rules or enforcing them too harshly. The too many rules thing is something that is difficult for me because I have perfectly good explanations for each of the reasons that I would prefer my children not do certain things or see certain things. Can you see a bit of a control freak tendency here?

So...If our family rules are not really rules at all, but merely preferences, if they are not matters of right and wrong, we've decided to let it slide a little bit, to avoid embarrassing our children unnecessarily. Sigh...

This parenting stuff sure is hard sometimes! Obviously, there is no guarantee that our children are going to grow up to love God with all of their hearts or that they are not going to spin off in rebellion. So we continue to pray... It is good to know that God is in control of it all. He will give us all the wisdom and grace we need to do our best to raise these precious little arrows He's entrusted to us.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sweet Music To My Soul

An interesting thing happened to us on Thursday. It all began when we saw that it was gorgeous outside and decided that we simply had to toss our plans out the window, pack up a picnic lunch and rush out the door to the local park immediately. I was so glad we did! When we arrived, we heard the faint sound of music coming from one of the pavilions.

As I often do, I was compelled to follow the musical sounds to their location. Any place where there is music is a place I want to be. The kids and I headed toward the pavilion...and we found these guys...

The kids begged, "Oh! Let's have our picnic over here by the music!" I didn't need any convincing. We laid our feast on a picnic table and unwrapped our carefully packed goodies to the tune of some elderly men playing old timey mountain music. It was fascinating to watch them fiddle and strum away. Mary Alice said that it reminded her of Pa in Little House On the Prairie. These guys played their fiddle and guitar with such enthusiasm. It is always so encouraging to see elderly people who are so lively and energetic.

A crowd of people had gathered around to hear them play. Also present for the concert was one of the fattest dachshunds I'd ever seen! (This picture really doesn't do him justice. This seriously obese dog waddled around the pavilion throughout our lunch looking for bits of table scraps.)

Milla couldn't take her eyes off of the musicians for a second, except, of course when she saw us getting out the food.

Mary Alice eating one of her world famous deviled eggs. :)

"This is very entertaining." Major remarked during lunch. "These guys are sort of like those minstrels who played during feasts back in castle times." (We are learning about knights and castles in history. I had no idea this little outing to the park would tie in so nicely with our schooling. :)

We listened to the men play for about twenty or thirty minutes. They paused briefly and the kids and I jumped in with questions. "Where did you learn to play?" "How long have you played?" "Do you come here often?" etc... The men were good natured and friendly, as you might expect from men who were wearing matching monogrammed I LOVE JESUS hats. They continued on to explain that they did this as a ministry as a way to share the gospel with others. The man with the fiddle (on the right) then asked Major if he had any special requests. Major asked if they would play a gospel song.

"Any particular gospel song?" the man asked.

Major thought for a moment, then said, "How about Thy Word?" Both men got out of their chairs, and made their way to the center of the pavilion where we were sitting. They asked Major if he would sing along with them. Major is usually fairly comfortable singing in front of people, but was a little apprehensive at being asked so abruptly.

Major looked over at me, a little unsure of what to do. "Sis and I will sing with you." I told him. So...these musical ministers strummed away on their guitar and fiddle and sang "Thy Word" with us in the middle of the park. Then, the kids and I continued on to sing "Amazing Grace", "Just A Little Talk With Jesus", and other such hymns along with these musicians. It was such a neat experience to be singing gospel songs together with my kids amidst a crowd of onlookers. It seemed like a wonderful way to show to whom we belong. It was a beautiful day, in so many ways. The specialness of the moment continued for about five or six songs, until a lady in the crowd shouted, "Hey, you guys know Cotton Eyed Joe?" :)

After listening to a few more songs, we headed off to the playground.

I LOVE these guys!

Before they left the park, the fiddler and guitarist shook our hands and said that they hoped they would see us again on another sunny day. The fiddler pointed a finger at my precious kiddoes and added, "You're a truly blessed woman." He patted Major on the head. "God has really blessed you." he told me.

Yes...He most definitely has.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thoughts on Halloween

Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday. This is for several reasons...

1)Halloween doesn't involve traveling, unless you count the trip around the block. The only packing and unpacking is the packing of your trick or treat bag and unpacking of the candy that fills it! (FUN!)

2)There is no stress involved, unless, that is, you don't finish making the kids' costumes until the night before, but WHO would be that much of a procrastinator? :)

3)It involves dressing up and being creative. I LOVE a good costume effort.

4) Also to be considered are the abundance of delicious treats like caramel apples and snack size candy bars. Who WOULDN'T love this beautiful holiday? Not I.

As a bonus to this year's festivities, we were able to spend the weekend with my brother, Adam, his lovely wife Alisha, and their three buddy boys. The weather was spectacular this Halloween, which made for a delightful night of trick-or-treating and church festival celebrating. Josh and I even fulfilled Mary Alice's yearly request for us to "PLEASE PLEASE dress up!"

Grumpy and Nonnie (Josh's parents) were able to come down and go trick-or-treating with us too. It was wonderful to have them along to join in the excitement of my favorite holiday. I was a bit surprised that Grumpy didn't come with blue hair. He's done it before. Oh well... Maybe next year?

The first pic of Halloween evening... (Notice that Major has his blanket in hand while trying to play the part of a spooky skeleton.)

My brother, Adam, and his wife went as Burger King and Queen. This is one of the funniest Halloween costumes I've seen. People kept staring at him at our church festival, wondering who the masked man was. A few people assumed that it was Josh, until they saw Josh in his costume. Adam heard quite a few lame jokes about burgers along with each jokester laughing at his comedic effort for telling such a funny joke. I should also add how VERY hard it was to take Adam seriously while he was wearing this thing. Hilarious!

The kids and their cousins ready for trick-or-treating...

Josh and I grabbed a few things and some discounted wigs and created these costumed characters.

More trick-or-treating...

Both of our families...

Adam and the kids on the train at our church festival...

Our Mary Alice girl...Isn't she pretty?

Josh and our Milla

Here are a few pics that my sister, Taylor, took before we went trick-or-treating.

Mary Alice as "Medusa" (After studying a little Greek Mythology last year and seeing a similar costume in a catalog a few months ago, Mary Alice knew that this was what she wanted to be...) Snakes,glitter,and tulle...an unlikely combination...

Major as a skeleton... His cousins really wanted him to be a Musketeer with them, but Major was set on this silly skeleton costume. Whatever.

Milla the hula girl

Cousins in costume (The Three Musketeers) Aren't they precious?

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween! The year is flying by! Next up, Thanksgiving!