The Kids

The Kids

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Improvement Of Gifts

Ten years ago, when Nick and I just started dating, this is what he gave me for Christmas:

Nick: "Hey, I have these two CDs that are really good. Listen to them, tell me which one you like the best, and I'll copy it for you."

No joke.

Oh, he gave me some candy as well.

Since then, he has improved a bit. Some Mother's Days I receive gift certificates for the spa. My 30th birthday included a party and a night in a fancy hotel. However, usually for Christmas we are not very romantic. We usually decide what expensive purchase we are both longing for and just buy it together. My personal favorite example of this was our DVR. I was trying to surprise Nick and get it for him and when he found out, he said, "Great! Let's get it for each other and call it even."

I promise, the man is really a wonderful husband who is usually very thoughtful.

This year, I thought it might be another bust. He began by giving me a toaster.

Oh, I'm really not kidding.

I was pleased to see it and gave a good smile, but when he said, "I got this for you because I know we really need it," I knew something was up. He proved me right when he had Abby give me the actual present-a really, really nice hair straightener. I am not usually a fussy woman, but I do have high maintenance hair so this gift was really thoughtful. In my opinion, he totally made up for that first Christmas.

I mean, could it really get worse than "tell me which one and I'll copy it for you?"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

Is this why my children are constantly asking for my attention while I am too busy baking cookies, wrapping presents, sending cards and running errands?

Is this why I always feel I need something more, even though our house is fully decorated in Christmas mode and our tree will be full of presents in a few days?

Is this why my daughter just found one of my receipts and said, "Look, it's from Target!" because she saw the infamous logo?

I love giving gifts to our loved ones and would never feel guilty about money spent on them. I do, however, feel a bit guilty over the random things I have purchased all in the name of the holidays. And I take this a step further, thinking of all the purchases I have made all year on myself.

Every time I think I need something, I eventually get it, then realize something else I "need." 31 years later and I am just now learning that I will never be content with just "one more thing."

Now that I have these two little souls following everything that I do, I am suddenly aware how my priorities become their priorities. My attitude becomes their attitude.

During our advent reading at dinner tonight, Nick asked Abby why Jesus was born and she answered, "to save us." I pray she continues to give that answer as an adult and that it means something to her-more than just the correct answer.

I pray that for all of us.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A True Woman

As Abby sat down to drink her milk, she realized I added chocolate syrup to it and exclaimed, "I love chocolate milk! I love chocolate-it's my favorite kind of milk! I love all things chocolate! I love chocolate dessert! Thank you, thank you, Mommy!"

And so it begins. A woman's obsession with chocolate. All at the age of four.

I would like to point out a story that justifies our passion for chocolate. A dear friend of ours passed away a few years ago from cancer. While he was still going through treatment, one of the medicines he was put on was female hormone pills. Immediately, he began craving chocolate, namely Hershey kisses. Anyone who made a visit knew to bring along these tasty treats to brighten his day.

Ever since, I have come to realize that it is not our fault. We were made this way. Every woman reading this can now feel 100% better about their last chocolate splurge.

Mine was about an hour ago and I feel great.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Love You This Much

Caleb and I have this game where we ask each other "How much do I love you?" Our answer is to stretch our arms open wide, say "This much," and give each other a huge hug. It is always a special moment (particularly when Abby is around and has to get in on the action).

I know both of my children enjoy those moments, but I wonder if they really understand how much I do love them?

Any time I have watched movies or read books about a parent losing their child, I always felt bad, but never really understood the depth of their pain. From the moment I met Abigail, everything changed. My entire view of priorities changed. And it continued to change when Caleb arrived. My life suddenly became not just about me (or Nick), but about taking care of these two little ones that God had blessed us with. My first reaction is to try and take their pain away. If it came to it, I would clearly die for them.

Which leads me to appreciate what God did for us in a whole new realm. He gave up His Son for all of our mistakes. One little moment of my children's pain makes me want to yell out and scream for mercy. Yet, God allowed His Son to suffer and actually die-all for other people. All of my years of knowing His love has been completely magnified since becoming a parent.

My Savior loves me so much that He stretched His arms open wide on the cross. I long for the day when I meet Him face to face and can fall into His arms for that hug.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lessons I Might Want To Teach My Children

Abby was playing soccer in the house the other day, going up against her dad. When Nick managed to score a goal on her (i.e. kicking the ball against our front door), she yelled, "No, I'm supposed to score the goals-not you! I quit!" Then she stomped off into another room to sulk.

Perhaps I should teaching her a little bit about teamwork and patience?

My sister-in-law recently came over to watch the kids and did not receive the usual greeting from her nephew. Caleb walked up to her, reached in his diaper to pull something out, and said, "Look Amy! It's my _____(insert the proper anatomy here)!"

So, maybe, with him, I should be working on manners and what is proper?

I swear-I really do try to be a good parent.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

This Many Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today...
My best guy friend called me at my college dorm and asked to take a walk with me. We walked the streets of Beaver Falls and eventually ended up at the gazebo across the street from Sheetz. Our conversation led to us discussing that we both were interested in becoming "more than friends." He kissed me that night, thus changing our lives forever.

Eight years ago today...
I cooked dinner for this same man while he gave me a beautiful necklace. I then went to my job as a youth director while he snuck back to my parent's house and asked their permission to marry me. (They then sat down and watched Jeopardy together, waiting for me to arrive.) I came home to a dark house, hearing music playing in my room (the music I would one day walk down the aisle to). When entering the room, I was greeted with candles and this man on his knee, ring in hand. He said amazing things that I swore I would remember word for word, but to this day all I remember is "Will you marry me?" I immediately said yes, celebrated the excitement with my family who were hiding down the hall, and called my best friend, Lisa.

Six years and eleven months ago today...
I married my best friend. We celebrated our day with family and friends. A wonderful collaboration of pictures were taken showing all these people from different parts of life, together.

Four years (and exactly two months) ago today...
Our daughter, Abigail Grace, was born.

Two years (and pretty much two months) ago today...
Our son, Caleb Paul, was born.

After months of a wonderful friendship (where I actually used the phrase, "We will never get married-we would kill each other!" to a friend who suggested otherwise), almost seven years of marriage, ups and downs, two states, numerous jobs, and two children-I am very glad I took that walk.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking The Pain

While visiting my family in PA this past week, Caleb had to spend a day at the hospital. He had a high fever with vomiting and would not eat or drink anything. We took him to Urgent Care and because of his age, they decided to run every possible test on him, "just in case."

My two-year old little boy was so exhausted and tramatized after his eight hours of abuse, that I believe he started having flashbacks while visiting his great-grandma in the nursing home a few days later. The poor kid cried anytime he saw someone in scrubs, fearing he would be poked and prodded with needles up his nose, up his backside, in his mouth, and (worst of all) in his most private of areas. I do not blame him. After four catheters, I would be having war-like flashbacks and running for the door.

The entire time our little guy endured the trauma, I kept wishing I could take the pain for him. As he cried during each procedure, I held him and kept telling him I loved him. If only his young mind could understand that the short amount of pain was for his own good and would help him grow stronger.

Does my Heavenly Father look at me like that? While going through (in hindsight) short times of pain, does He try to comfort me and remind me that each trial will help me grow stronger? Am I looking at Him during the entire procedure and pleading for relief, or am I trying to remain strong and in control? Do I let my tears pour down? Do I cling to Him when it is all over? And will I ever mature enough to trust Him more the next time a trial appears?

Eventually, the doctors ruled his sickness to be a small virus/bug. It was good we took him in (I might change my mind if they bill us for the ER instead of Urgent Care) because they gave him fluids and medicine. I know he will not remember the details to that day, even though it caused him so much pain and frustration. But, I will always recall the emotions as his parent, wanting to take the pain away. Although I was seeing the big picture the entire time, my heart was constantly hurting for him.

I ask again: Does my Heavenly Father see me that way? I know He does. I wonder when I will reach the age that I finally accept it?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When Did I Become The Parent?

Every now and then, I get this feeling of "I am actually the parent and in charge of these little ones" and it causes a slight panic in me. I find this feeling occurs when a possible catastrophe breaks out.

An example would be a few months ago when Abby put a bead up her nose. I had a stream of thoughts run through my mind in about a second, with the first being, "I need my mom to fix this." Then I remembered I was the mom and had to fix the problem. After receiving the divinely inspired answer of having her blow her nose, the bead popped out and she was safe.

(This was actually a very helpful experience for the incident of Caleb putting peas up his nose the other day, but I will let Nick share that fun story-what is wrong with our children?)

This feeling of panic happened again the other night. I was on my way to bed around midnight after finishing some laundry and packing for our trip to my parent's house. I heard a cough from Caleb's room, followed by a loud cry. I walked in there and found him covered in vomit.

Oh, it gets better.

He was covered in his dinner all over his face, his pajamas, his pillow, his blanket, his sheet, and (most unfortunately) his lovey. I do not think I can ever eat peas and carrots again (and it is possible he will not, either).

I took one look at him and immediately wished for my mom to take care of it. However, something kicks in when one is a parent. Some magical thing happens that takes away the smell (well, some of the smell-let's be honest-it was pretty bad) and the love for the child overcomes the natural reaction to walk away.

After cleaning him and collecting the vomit covered articles, I began to wonder where his dad went to. I seemed to remember him passing by the room, groaning in agony, and walking away. Fortunately (okay, fortunately for me), Caleb found him in bed, went to snuggle, and immediately threw up again all over his dad.

I was downstairs, starting the washing machine, when I heard my name being called in extreme panic. I thought someone was dying.

After cleaning up the second mess (and finding myself believing in karma), Caleb finally calmed down and went to sleep. As I finally drifted off to sleep, I kept wondering how I got to this part of life. It feels like yesterday that I was the child who was sick and being comforted and cleaned up by my mom. My life is suddenly not my own and my priorities are for things I never dreamed they would be for.

Yet, somehow, I find it all worth it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Polite Talking Back

I have to hand it to my son. At least when the little sinner talks back to me, he says it like this: "No thank you."

"Caleb, pick up your toys."
"No thank you."

"Caleb, come get your coat on."
"No thank you."

"Caleb, finish your dinner before walking away from the table."
"No thank you."

(And my personal favorite)
"Caleb, if you do not stop doing that, you will need to stand in the corner."
"No thank you."

It gets even better when he realizes he is not winning the battle. The "no thank you's" get louder and come out with more force. An occasional hand gesture with accompany the phrase.

Ah, how I love the terrible twos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When I'm 21

While putting Abby to bed last night, she smiled sweetly at me and asked, "Mommy, how old will I be when I get married?"

I fought the urge to respond with "really old" and just said, "someday." I also explained how I was 24 when I got married. She said, "I think I'll be 21 or 20 something." When I nodded and smiled she decided, "I think I'll be 21."

In some ways it is nice to hear her talk about marriage-Nick and I must be doing something right to make it look desirable. In other ways, the thought of her growing up is so strange to me. She has been little for so long that my mind cannot comprehend her being at an age where she could become a wife. I do pray for her future husband, but I guess I have been keeping the image of her actually marrying this unknown man tucked away in my mind for another day.

She is only four-years old, but conversations like this bring the "someday" closer and closer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Few Lines Out Of Their Mouths

I lit a candle on the dinning room table the other day. Caleb immediately yelled, "Birthday Cake!" For some reason, the word "candle" does not come naturally to him, but the sight of a flame makes him think it is someone's birthday. Then he starts singing, "Happy Birthday to Caleb, Happy Birthday to Abby, Happy Birthday to Daddy, Happy Birthday to Grandma..." The list goes on and on.

In this case, while Caleb was singing his song in celebration of a flame, Abby decided to make a wish on the candle (my kids are clearly in need of entertainment). This was her wish: "I wish to go to Heaven." She also mumbled a few more lines so quietly that I could not hear her (between her and God, I suppose), but just that line by itself broke my heart. I asked her why that was her wish and her response was, "I really want to go there because we haven't been there in a long time." Of course I immediately asked her when she had been there before, but she could not remember at the time.

What had me laughing last night was at bedtime. Our routine is to put Caleb in bed first, while we pray as a family and then we take Abby to bed. Usually Abby prays and Caleb tried to copy her. He manages to say every third word in attempting to keep up with his sister, who rattles off her prayer pretty quickly. Last night we were trying to get Caleb to pray on his own, but our stubborn daughter yelled, "No! No! I'm doing it-not Caleb!" As she was finishing this ridiculous rant, Caleb bowed his head and firmly said, "Amen!" Just the timing of it had us in tears with laughter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Example

I know I should be setting an example for my children on what a Christian should be. They follow my actions and attitudes. I hear Abby when she says, "Oh Mommy, it's a red light" in a sad voice while we are driving. I hear Caleb say, "Go, go, go" when we are stuck in traffic. So, clearly, I could be doing a better job.

I have really been trying to work on my patience, particularly when driving. I could blame my bad attitude on growing up in the country where the occasional Amish buggy might get in the way. I could say that I am still getting used to city driving. (And then I could admit that I have lived here for five years now and realize I am full of it.)

Just when I think I have come a long way, today happened. I was driving home from Abby's school, going through a series of lights not too far before our house. The last light before a two mile stretch of nothing brings two lanes down to one. Technically there are two lanes going through the light, but immediately it comes down to one after crossing through.

So, I am sitting at the next to the last light, leading the line (my competitive spirit loves when that happens) when I see this little blue car sneaking out of the line behind me to park himself next to me at the soon to be non-existent lane. There is a chance he wants to turn onto another road or pull into a business, but I know this type. He honestly thinks he is going to pass me, in my really cool mini-van.

This little voice inside of me (I think it is called a conscience) is telling me to relax and just drive normal. But, the sinful part of me (which won today) floored it the second that light turned green. Never mind the cost of gas and how that was really wasteful. Never mind the sounds of my kids in the back, saying "Whoa!" and the stroller in the back crashing against the side of the van. I was determined.

Unfortunately, Mr. Blue Car decided to floor it as well. I had one of two choices-slow down and suck up my pride or keep going.

I kept going.

And I won.

But, did I really? Yes, there was a huge satisfaction to seeing that little blue car get behind me in humiliation. Getting smoked by a mini-van should teach him a lesson. However, what did I really prove? What if that guy was really late for something important? What if he was having a bad day and I just become the icing on the cake? And what if my kids decide to follow my behavior and think of themselves first in every situation?

I need to remember this the next time I am encountered with this situation-which should be around the same time tomorrow when I am driving home again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sacred

If you know me well, you know that one of my favorite bands is Caedmon's Call. On their latest album, they have a song entitled "Sacred" that is an excellent representation of my life right now. Abby and Caleb both love the entire album, particularly this song. Abby sings along every time, which makes the song all the more precious to me.

http://www.last.fm/music/Caedmon%27s+Call/_/Sacred


This house is a good mess
It's the proof of life
No way would I trade jobs
But it don't pay overtime

I'll get to the laundry
I don't know when
I'm saying a prayer tonight
'Cause tomorrow it starts again

Could it be that everything is sacred?
And all this time
Everything I've dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes

The children are sleeping
But they're running through my mind
The sun makes them happy
And the music makes them unwind

My cup runneth over
And I worry about the stain
Teach me to run to You
Like they run to me for every little thing

When I forget to drink from You
I can feel the banks harden
Lord, make me like a stream
To fill the garden

Wake up little sleeper
The Lord God Almighty
Made your mama keeper
So rise and shine, rise and shine
Rise and shine, cause...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our Brilliant Children

Abby came home from school the other day talking about phone numbers. They are learning fire safety this week and wrote down 911 and their home phone number on a paper. While we were asking her about what she learned, I asked her if she knew her phone number (thinking she would run to get the paper and read it). She quickly rattled off our phone number by memory, leaving Nick and I with our jaws dropped!

Our 4-year old daughter, noticing our surprise and loving the attention, immediately said it again, showing off her skill. Caleb, sitting with us and noticing our focus on his sister, promptly lifted his leg and let out a fart.

And that was Caleb's contribution to our conversation.

(I did speak with Abby's teacher, asking for her trick to teaching the students their phone numbers. She said Abby must be a visual learner and had memorized it quickly just from pasting the numbers on a paper once.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Weeks

Johannesburg to Capetown
The plane had barely touched down
She was taking photos for the friends back home
This was always where she felt her heart belonged
And she was finally here
The sky was bright and clear

Two weeks....and we all can feel the calling
Two weeks...to make the world a little smaller
And so a girl got on a plane for two weeks in Africa

Johannesburg to Houston
She came home on a mountain
But school was starting, things kept moving on
Before you knew it, seven years had gone
She found a picture of her standing, smiling arms around the starving kids
She swore to not forget
She swore to not forget

And if we follow our dear sun to where the stars are not familiar…
Faces turn to numbers
Numbers fall like manna from the sky
Why, oh why? Oh Father, why?

One village in Malawi now has water running pure and clean
One church alive in Kenya’s full of truth and love and medicine
We put the walls up, but Jesus keeps them standing
He doesn’t need us, but He lets us put our hands in
So we can see
His love is bigger than you and me

I was listening to this song from the Caedmon's Call's album, Overdressed, while driving the kids around today. The lyrics struck a chord with something I have been feeling, lately.

I have been feeling discontent with my life. Not unhappy or thinking I deserve more, but rather that I need to be doing more. I understand my calling in life right now is to be a wife and mother, but sometimes that truth reinforces why I am so unsettled. I have this fear of my children growing up so content in their American life that they forget we are living for a greater world.

When I am truly honest with myself, I have that desire to keep it simple-raise my children in a nice home, in a good school district so that they can be involved in activities and get into a good college. I want them to be well-liked, yet kind to others. I want our home to be welcoming and roomy. None of these things are bad, yet I feel I am ignoring this deep calling for something more.

Are Nick and I being called to another country? I do not have the answer to that, but if I even think "yes, " I immediately come up with excuses for why that could not happen. Money, wanting to be near family, the ages of our kids. Are we being called to another part of the states? Again, the same answers come to mind. Even the idea of being called back into ministry (as in a job-we as Christians are always "in ministry") makes me hesitant at times. Working the job of ministry often determines where to attend church and, let's be honest, how many people in ministry do you know that stay in the same place for twenty years? I want my children having the same luxury I did of staying in the same school district all through school-ministry does not guarantee this.

Even as I am writing all of this, I am seeing my selfishness shine through.

Maybe all these thoughts are coming from my recent trip down memory lane. I was scanning old pictures from college and posting them on my facebook page (yes, I am a nerd). I kept seeing myself on mission trips and pretty much fulfilling the second verse of the song above. Anyone who has been on a mission trip knows the feeling-mountain top experience where you think you will never be the same, but eventually falling right back into your routine. I do not believe it is the mountain top experience I am seeking, but the passion that I used to have for other people.

Regardless of where God places our family, I need to find that passion again. Whether across the world or staying in our neighborhood, I need to be about my Father's business and always praying my children will learn to do the same.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Like Mother Like Daughter

Abby is like me in many ways. Some characteristics I would rather not mention because they are not worth bragging about (like being stubborn, competitive, emotional-I could go on). One thing we have noticed recently, though, I am happy about. Her love of God's creation.

She enjoys being outside and notices the littlest things. On our walks on the bike trail, I hear this: "Mommy, look! A squirrel! Mommy, look! A dog! Mommy, look! The water!" Sometimes she looks up at the clouds and describes the shapes she sees. Lately, though, her passion has been for the starry nights.

During one of her many trips out of her room when she is supposed to be sleeping, she will come to the top of the stairs and ask us if we looked outside at the stars. Then she describes how beautiful they are. A few minutes later she will return, checking to see if we looked at how beautiful they are.

Perhaps it is just another stalling method, but it is hard to get mad at a little girl in her pajamas asking us if we took the time to look at God's creation.

I used to be like that. I took the time to just sit and look at the stars. I stopped what I was doing to watch the sunset. I stretched out on a blanket and figured out the shapes in the clouds. Now, I glance at the stars when walking from the car to the house. I see glimpses of a sunset over the houses in our neighborhood, while cleaning up from dinner. And the only time I look for shapes in the clouds is when my four-year old is telling me to.

When did I become too old to appreciate the beautiful creation God has put right in front of me? And why do we adults insist on being so busy that we are missing it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Too Early

This is an example of what I hear from Abby when she wakes up an hour too early in the morning...

Abby-"Mommy, my tiger sometimes smells a mouse in his nose in my room, but don't worry-I don't get mouses in my nose and my tiger is just pretending."

Me: "What?"

Abby-"Oh Mommy-you're silly."

(Thank you Uncle John and Aunt Mary for the stuffed tiger she is referring to-evidently he sleeps her in bed and protects her from "the mouses.")

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Know You're A Mom To Toddlers When...

-Your day begins with any of the following phrases...
"Mommy, it's good morning time!" (sometimes an hour before normal)
"Mommy, I want to get out-now!"
"Mommy, I peed in my bed!"

-Breakfast involves getting everyone their food, in the particular way they desire it made, taking a few seconds to swallow something yourself, sometimes accidently pouring your orange juice over your cereal instead of milk (true story), cleaning everyone up and quickly cleaning up the table before the youngest one dumps the leftover food on the floor.

-You find it a great day when one child is at school so that you can run errands with only one
toddler.

-What used to be cuddle time with a baby now becomes a cross between wrestling and fighting
over who can tackle you the best.

-No matter your degree, you are suddenly a doctor, teacher, pastor, house cleaner, personal
shopper, and chef.

-Noggin and PBS Kids are your favorite channels.

-You laugh when you hear non-parents say they will never let their children watch tv or eat
fast food.

-You use the same laughter when reading parenting books that lecture not to use snacks as a
distraction while shopping.

-Lunch time consists of preparing all of the favorite things they like to eat so that when you sit
down and attempt to eat your meal, you can hear the never-ending question of, "Can I have
that?"

-You know that naptime is a God-given gift and that you are among the truly blessed if more
than one child naps at the same time.

-Your DVR has more episodes of Dora, Diego and Thomas recorded than it does of actual adult
shows.

-You no longer judge other parents when their children are out of control in public.

-You fondly remember the days of doing laundry and putting it away the same day.

-Your heart melts when your child runs from school, arms stretched out, yelling, "Mommy!
Mommy! Mommy!"

-Instead of negotiating important deals or making life-threatening decisions, you are constantly
playing referee to the vital battles over toys.

-You work hard on preparing dinner that will not only taste good, but sustain your family with
the nutrients they need to grow healthly and strong, only to hear "Can we have chicken
fingers or pizza?" every night.

-Your husband wonders why you no longer drop everything to greet him at the door when he
arrives home from work, which is difficult to do while making dinner, changing a poopy
diaper, and answering the phone all at the same time.

-You actually enjoy picking up the toys at the end of the day while your husband gives the kids
their bath because it counts as alone time.

-You can recall the days of college where you were just starting your night at 11 pm, while you
put your pajamas on before the kids are asleep.

-You always check on your kids before going to bed.

-You try to stay up late, watching mindless tv, just so you can feel like your own person, but
eventually give in and go to sleep, because this will all start again tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Question of the Day

While in the car the other day, Abby randomly asked me, "Mommy, is God a boy?"

(She had no explanation for where that question came from. Just wanted to ask me "because.")

Without becoming too theologically in depth for my four-year old, I told her God is God. He is not really a man or woman like us, but if we had to pick one, He is a he. We call Him Father so I guess that makes Him a man. I also tried to explain how Jesus is God, but also man and I think I lost her. I was just not prepared to discuss the trinity at that point-thought I had a few more years until these kind of talks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Loving our Friends

Abby came home from school today, not as excited as she usually is. Normally, she runs out of the building, bursting to tell me about her day. Today, she was quiet and thoughtful. She finally told me what happened...

(Instead of using the classmates names, I will stick with friend #1 and friend #2.)

Apparently friend #1 whispered to her, "You're not friends with friend #2, right?" Abby said, "Yes I am." Friend #1 responded, "You are friends with me, but you can't be friends with her." Abby (thankfully) did not agree. She told me "I should love all of my friends, right?"

Yes, Abby, yes.

She also told me that friend #1 hates friend #2. It saddened my heart that she knows the word "hate." I explained that it is not a nice word to use. Abby replied, "It's not nice that friend #1 hates friend #2. We should all be friends."

This is preschool. Not even grade school, yet, where I expected these kind of stories. What can possibly happen in preschool to cause children to speak this way about each other? And I know as a mother of a girl, it will only get worse. We women start young and just get worse about how we treat each other. Gossip, slander and judging increases with age.

I am thankful that Abby chose not to join her friend in the hatred and I pray it continues to stay that way. I know her little sinful heart will eventually hurt a friend, but I hope she has the compassion to realize it and fix the relationship.

In the meantime, watching four-year olds speak this way about each other is being used as a huge conviction on my own behavior. Why is it so difficult to treat others the way we want to be treated?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Feeling Safe

I decided to turn Caleb's crib into a bed today. He has been close to climbing out of it so I thought it would be best to avoid an injury and remove the side. At first he was very excited about it. He kept thanking me and talking about his "big boy bed." He even practiced a few times, pulling up his covers and saying, "Night, night." I figured he would be okay. After all, he climbs into Abby's bed all of the time and pretends to sleep in it. And, she was in a bed by this age, since he had just been born and needed the crib.

So, I prepared myself for today's naptime, fulling expecting the battle of the wills. With Abby, it was a couple day battle between her wanting to get out of bed and play and me needing her to sleep for my own sanity. At least this time I was mentally prepared to not get rest. However, after a couple of arguments over him staying in his bed, an unexpected thing happened.

I heard him crying at the door and when I walked in, he kept crying, "No more, no more." So, I put the side back on the crib and he immediately curled up and fell asleep in minutes.

Now, he was in no danger of falling out of his bed. If he did roll out, he would have landed on his soft, Elmo couch right next to his bed and (knowing how my son sleeps) probably would not have woken up. But, for some reason, the fear overtook him and he begged for his safety net to be attached.

I believe Caleb's behavior is a great example of human nature. We fight and fight for independence, but when we actually receive it, we can be terrified. Afraid of falling, afraid of failure, afraid our safety net will never return.

Think of the first time of leaving home to start one's life without parental control. And the first time one signs their life away to buy a house. The first time one holds their newborn baby in their arms and realizes they are responsible for this little one's entire life.

Think of Adam and Eve, searching for independence, and feeling they lost everything in one moment.

What a gracious God we know who always remains the same, no matter our decisions of indepence. We can fall and fail, but His love is always constant. Just as little Caleb will realize someday that his "big boy bed" will keep him safe, I pray someday he trusts in the true safety of his savior.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sing Praises to the Lord

I love music. One of the first things I do when getting in the car is turn on the radio and find a good song to start with. Granted, with children I have to limit what I listen to. I may think a good rock song is perfect for my mood, but the lyrics or depressing melody may not be the best thing for Abby and Caleb to hear. But, Nick and I both play a wide variety of music around them and I think they usually enjoy it. I already see them having rhythm and somewhat of a decent tone.

With this love of music that my children are developing comes this desire they have to listen to "My favorite songs." Now, it has been so long since we have had this cd that I forget the actual title, but when Abby (and now Caleb) ask to listen to "my favorite songs," I know to insert the blue, hymns for kids cd into the player and give up.

Usually when I hear the request for this cd, I tend to roll my eyes (to myself, of course) and have selfish thoughts about giving up what I'm listening to at that moment. Who wouldn't rather listen to Coldplay, U2 or Caedmon's Call? However, from the second that music starts, their reaction makes it all worth it.

The first song is "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." Abby sings every word so sweetly. And now Caleb sings it as well. Well, his version is "I cided...follow Jesus." A few more songs in and I get to hear "This Little Light of Mine," to which they both faithfully hold their fingers up to show their light. Caleb's favorite verse of that song is the one about hiding it under a bushel because he gets to yell "No!" very loudly. Abby's request is always to sing "Amazing Grace." My mind boggles over the fact that she knows every word to every verse of this song. And one must not forget "I'm in the Lord's Army."

I know that my children do not really understand the words they are singing-at least not Caleb. But, on the other hand, we are to have faith like a child so perhaps they understand more than we give them credit for. All I know is that the sweetest sound in the world to me is hearing their little voices sing praises to God.

(A special thank you to their Grammy for the cd.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

For My Four Year Old


Today Abby turned four years old. In some ways I amazed that she is already so old. In other ways, I feel like she has been this age forever.

Similar to what I wrote about Caleb yesterday, I notice so many attributes in her personality that are similar to us. She can be really stubborn, strong-willed, and opinionated-all of which could describe either Nick or myself, depending on the day. She loves music and books-again, both of our favorites. And she can be really sensitive, getting her feelings hurt easily, which clearly comes from both of us.

I see Nick in her with her passion. Like her daddy, she never invests in things part way-she has many ideas and emotions that just pour out of her. Her mood can change at the drop of a hat. I find myself thinking of how to word things around her so as not to upset the delicate balance in our house (as I do on Sunday game days with Nick). She has a compassion for people and often asks about children who do not have food or toys like she has, which completely comes from Nick. She also is full of creativity and artistic talent.

Abby always likes to be in the know. She strongly dislikes not knowing what is going on and I completely relate. She usually does not miss a thing and never, ever forgets anything. She loves to be outside and can be very dramatic. She values her friendships highly and tries to be a good friend.

I see her react to things or say phrases that I know come right from us and it scares me a little bit. The older she gets, the more I realize the influence we have over her and who she will become. How did we ever earn this great responsibility? The beginning of parenthood is so much about survival-feeding, bathing, and giving the child a routine. And then, out of nowhere, these little ones become people who are going to make a difference in their world. I pray every day that God is using us as good examples for our children of how to show His love.

Happy Birthday to the princess of the house-my love for you grows more and more each day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

For My Two Year Old


Today Caleb turned two years old, which is just amazing to me. He suddenly went from a baby to a walking toddler with strong opinions (shocking, I know, given his parents' personalities). Because he has an older sibling, I often think of him as a baby. But, here he is, telling me stories, sharing jokes, and always trying to prove his point.

It is fascinating to me to watch him and see both of our characteristics represented in him. I am told he looks just like Nick (which I suppose is true-to me he is just Caleb). He certainly likes to follow certain patterns of his daddy, like sleeping in and enjoying his meals. He also has intense mood swings, sometimes that seem irrational to me, but really do stem from something deep inside him. I also see Nick in him when he shows compassion. He often comes up to me and asks, "What's wrong, Ba Ba?" if I show the slightest sad face.

I believe he follows my trait for loving company, but then loving alone time as well. In the midst of his birthday party yesterday, I found him upstairs, playing alone. This is not to say he was not enjoying his party, but just needed a few minutes of quiet. I was secretly wishing I could join him for awhile! He also resembles me that when he puts his mind to something, he sticks with it. I usually see this when he is playing with cars-it is quite an effort to tear him away to move on to something else. Neither one of us likes to rush all day-we prefer a day at home or the park to constantly running around.

My heart hurts to think of him being all grown up and leaving-there is something to that mother/son relationship. But, along with that dread, it also excites me to think what kind of man he will grow up to be. I pray for him daily that he follows the path God has for him and that he becomes a man after God's own heart.

Happy Birthday Caleb! I love you more than you will ever know.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Greater Generation

I have learned that I have a lot to live up to in my daughter's eyes. Within the past couple of days, this is what I have heard from her in comparison to her grandmas.

Abby: "Mommy, I really want this princess cake for my birthday! Can you make it?"
Me: "Well, I have never made one like this before, but I can try."
Abby: "That's okay-Grammy will know how to make it."

Abby: "Mommy, can you throw a grape up in the air and catch it in your mouth?"
Me: (After trying and failing) "No."
Abby: "Well, my Grandma can do it!"

Okay, so I am just not as good as my mom and mother-in-law. I guess I will just have to accept this and do my best. Maybe someday Abby's children will hold me on such a pedestal.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yard Sale

I love yard sales. It does not matter if my garage is overflowing with things I need to get rid of-whenever I see those neon signs pointing to a yard sale, I put my turn signal on and follow the arrows. I pride myself on being able to just glance and not get out of the car if nothing catches my eye-I do not feel the need to buy each time. However, when I do spot something, I will most likely buy it. Then the game becomes about how I can justify the purchase to my husband. I usually begin with how much it was worth and what I got it for, to which he replies, "Sure, whatever."

So, it comes as no surprise that my daughter has already picked up the gift for spotting a yard sale. Sometimes she spots them before I do-"Look Mommy! A yard sale!" My response is either to drive right to it or reply, "No Abby, that's just a messy yard," depending on if I have cash or not.

While pulling into our neighborhood the other day, she spotted one and begged to stop. I got out first to scope it out before letting her decide that she had to get something. In the midst of a variety of items, there it was-the box of Barbie dolls, 25 cents each. It was a gold mine. I let her out, she quickly looked through them and found the mother lode-the one that looked like Cinderella that lit up. In the store, maybe $10-$20 bucks. At the yard sale, in almost perfect condition-25 cents.

I love yard sales.

All this being said, her reaction was what got me thinking a bit deeper than just a great bargain. She was so excited and immediately wanted to introduce her new prize to the others waiting at home. The new doll ate dinner with us, read a bedtime story with us, and slept in Abby's bed. By the end of the day, it dawned on me that Abby never really said, "thank you." However, it did not bother me. Her reaction was good enough. I knew she was thankful because of her response to the gift.

Does our Heavenly Father feel the same way? How many times do I just take a gift and never actually thank Him? When something amazing happens, I would like to think I immediately thank Him. But, what about the little things that He daily blesses me with? I do not remember saying "thank you" for the sunshine, but does being outside with my kids, laughing and playing together, count as appreciation? I may not thank Him for the rain, but when I am enjoying my flowers or eating vegetables that grew from the rain, does that count? And really, do I ever thank Him for the trials? Perhaps watching me grow closer to my husband with each trial we face is reward enough.

All these thoughts from a simple yard sale. I guess I should be thankful for those as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

31st Birthday

So I turned 31 yesterday. It is not one of those exciting birthdays, like the big 3-0. Now I'm just in my 30s. The next one to look forward to is 40, but really-does one really look forward to that age?

I spent the morning with Caleb at the park and library, while Abby was at school. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed our time together. While walking back to the car, I decided to stop at Starbucks and see if they give any kind of deal for birthdays. Turns out, it was worth asking about because I received a free drink! I of course ordered the largest one, a strawberry and cream frapachino, and shared it with Caleb (who thought that was the best thing ever). I thought that pretty much made my day.

I changed my mind within 20 minutes.

While driving home with the kids, Abby told me how they prayed at the flag pole. Being as I am not currently in youth ministry, I completely forgot See You At The Pole was yesterday. She was telling me all about it and when I asked her what she prayed for, she said, "You." I asked her why and she said, "Because I love you." Regardless of what she was after, I took her to be sincere and that officially made my day :)

(And eating dinner at Montgomery Inn for free with gift cards helped it to be a pretty special day as well!)

*Abby's teacher passed on a few pictures from yesterday and this is one of them-little Abby with her head bowed brought tears to my eyes. She's on the side facing the camera, on the end.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Facing Foward

We were taking a walk around the neighborhood the other day in the wagon. I was pulling both kids (except for the few times when Abby would jump out to show me how fast she can run-it's actually a bit faster than I can run these days), when Abby decided to take a turn pulling Caleb. After a few minutes of trying to pull him while facing foward, she realized it was easier to turn around and pull him, walking backwards.

While showing off her skill, she finally said to me, "Mommy, can you keep walking in front of me so I can see where I'm going?" Immediately, my thoughts went to the image of Jesus lighting my path, showing me where to go.

I think I am more like Abby in that I usually am walking backwards, thinking that is the easier way to handle life. I have the faith that I'm protected by Someone greater who will warn me when I am about to fall. This does not stop a tremendous amount of stumbles along the way. And with each stumble, I wonder why I was not warned ahead of time.

Perhaps, like Abby, I should face forward and deal with the hard work it takes to pull the wagon. I should be walking side by side with Jesus and not just rely on Him to keep me from getting hurt. Even facing forward, there will be stumbles, but at least I will be looking ahead, focused on the same destination as my Savior.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quite a Memory

While driving home tonight, Abby informed us that she remembered living in my belly. This is the conversation that followed from that statement:

Nick: "What was it like in Mommy's belly?"
Abby: "It was warm!"
Nick: "What was it like when you came out?"
Abby: "I didn't like it and I wanted to go back in."
Nick: "Why didn't you like it?"
Abby: "Because I was crying."

I always wondered for how long kids remembered the whole birthing experience. Who knows if Abby really remembers this or not, but it's certainly an entertaining view that had us in tears laughing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Hurricane of Cincinnati

I never thought I would see the day that the news reports a hurricane hitting Cincinnati. That is one of the advantages to living in such a random, middle of land kind of place. One does not expect strong winds coming in and destroying everything.

However, it happened this past Sunday. Nick was at the Bengals game (not enjoying himself), the kids were napping, and I was enjoying having the tv all to myself. Thanks to the magic of the DVR and a free movie channel weekend, I was catching up on one of the numerous movies we saved. I kept getting annoyed because the Direct TV would randomly go out. I heard a little wind and figured that had something to do with it. A few hours later, I would gladly have that be my biggest problem.

Eventually the winds picked up, sending everything in our backyard to the front of our neighbor's house. Almost half of the houses in our neighborhood lost siding and I kept hearing the continual sound of nearby sirens. We lost all power and I thought, "It won't be too long until it comes back on." This foolish thought came from experience of losing power with any bit of wind and it usually being returned in a timely manner.

Well, that was Sunday afternoon. We received our power on Wednesday afternoon.

I really cannot complain about this. First of all, just losing power is not really that big of a deal. Many people suffered house damage, injuries and even a few deaths. Secondly, we have family nearby so we were able to store and save our food at their house. Also, the weather was absolutely perfect. Not too hot and not too cold-just keeping the windows open at night was lovely.

What is ironic is that I found more contentment this week during the outage than when the power came back on. True, it is a bit of a challenge not having power with two children. I never realized until this week how much I take advantage of the Noggin channel to keep sanity in our house. And it does become a challenge coming up with healthy lunches that are not from the fridge. However, we did play many (and I stress the word many) games of Candyland, Pretty Pretty Princess, soccer, hide and seek, and my personal favorite, Flash.

(Flash is a game that Abby made up. She runs as fast as she can across the house and we are instructed to say, "What was that flash? I didn't even see anyone, they were so fast!" Caleb is also a fan. We, of course, are fans because it requires us to sit in one place while they wear themselves out.)

This blackout also gave us fun times with our neighbors. If you live in a neighborhood, you know what a bonding experience events like these can be. Gone are the judgments of loud cars, odd lawn cutting hours, and age differences. A blackout brings people together. We were all bonded together in unity against the wind who dared to take away our luxuries. Instead of watching football on the new HDTV that sits in our living room, Nick had a better time watching it on a tiny, tiny tv our neighbors had hooked up to their car. And in place of watching mindless tv, I had a great talk with all the women about the most random things that would never come up in our usual "Hi, how are you's?"

My personal favorite thing of this week was reading by candlelight/flashlight while the wind blew gently through our house. The sound of the wind in the trees always reminds me of being at camp, which is about the closest thing to Heaven I have found.

All this being said, my thoughts are with those who are still without power and who have suffered much worse. And my thoughts are also with those who have never gone without electricity-it's a lesson worth experiencing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Simple Answer

I have always considered Abby to be a pretty smart girl for her age. Many people tell me how impressed they are with her memory and skills and I tend to believe them. Which is why I was confused on the ridiculous thing she did this evening.

She had been in bed for about an hour, still reading and changing her clothes numerous times. I usually do not mind this ritual-as long as she is in her room and I am enjoying the freedom of both kids in bed, I'm fine. Tonight, however, I heard a slight whimper, quickly turned into a strong cry. I ran upstairs and found her crying, saying something about a bee in her nose? Then she clarified, "I have a bead in my nose!"

My mind flashed to the movie "One Fine Day, " where George Clooney has to take the boy to the emergency room to remove an object from his nose. As I was home alone, with Caleb sleeping, I was really trying to avoid that scenario. She told me she could reach it with her finger, but not get it out. I thought about tweezers, but even that made me nervous. Finally, (and I swear this thought must have been God-inspired) I told her to pretend to blow her nose. After a couple of messy tries, the bead popped out.

So, here is a lesson for anyone who finds themselves in this situation-the simple solution is usually the best.

(And never assume your child is too old to do something stupid.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Offering

My in-laws watched the kids tonight while I was cleaning a house (I do that for income, which is a whole other post in itself) and Abby decided to pick leaves for her daddy. I knew nothing about it, but as soon as we were about to drive away she frantically yelled, "No! My leaves! My leaves!" Thankfully her grandma understood the request and retrieved them for us.

As we were driving home, she told me, "My dad is going to be so excited and happy when he sees the leaves I picked for him!" In the midst of my daughter's innocent excitement, I was suddenly struck by the image of what we present to God. Even our greatest sacrifices are still so small in comparison to how holy He is. We come as children, so excited about what we think we can offer, even though He does not need any of it. Yet, our Father loves us so much that He delights in these offerings because they are from our hearts for Him.

Nick's reaction to the leaves was perfect. He heard the excitement in her voice and praised her for such a wonderful present. His reaction made her smile with pride and love for the daddy she worships.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Abby's Prayer

One of Abby's favorite times of the school day is saying hello to her friend, Caleb. They are not in the same class, but attend school at the same time. So, we usually see them while entering the building and try to say good-bye on our way out.

Today she looked for him, but never found him. She was so concerned that she insisted we find out what happened. So, very stalker-like, I called Mrs. Theisens to get to the bottom of this mystery. She explained that he was sick all night, that the family did not get very much sleep, but that he was okay at the moment. I passed this information on to Abby and she was calmed by the fact that he would be at school on Wednesday.

Tonight, while saying her prayers in her brother's room, she said her usual thank yous to God and then threw in a little "And help my friend Caleb feel better" before saying "Amen." What I love about this simple sentence is that no one told her to say it. We had not talked about Caleb since this morning, yet she was still concerned for her friend at the end of the day.

I take comfort in the fact that she is confident in asking God for help, even if she does not completely understand the concept (do any of us?). It leads me to wonder if she sees her parents modeling the same faith.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Things We Hear At The Dinning Room Table

In the midst of eating with family and talking about random things...
Caleb (who is 23 months old): "I need to go potty."
Silence from all of us and then laughter.
Me: "Do you want to come with me and use the potty?"
Caleb: "No thank you."

Abby: "Mommy, I ate my lunch so I think I should get some M&Ms."
Caleb: "Me too! I want some MMs."
The next morning at breakfast, after Caleb finishes his cereal...
Caleb: "Ba Ba, MMs please!"
Me: "No, Caleb. We do not eat M&Ms in the morning."
Caleb: "Puh-lease?!"
*How does every child learn to say "please" this way?

Abby, after coming back from the bathroom: "I pooped!"
Me: "That's great, Abby. We shouldn't talk about bathroom stuff while eating at the table."
Abby, clearly not listening: "Wouldn't it be funny if napkins pooped? Or my plate? Wouldn't that be funny, Mommy?"
Caleb: "That's funny, Ba Ba!"

I suppose my children need to learn table manners.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Caleb's Perspective


September 3rd, 2008

I decided to sleep in this morning, which normally Mommy loves, but today she seemed rushed. Instead of sitting in my chair and eating breakfast, she threw my cereal in a bag and made me eat it in the car. It was a strange way to start the day.

While we were getting ready to leave, she started taking pictures of Abby. I do not know why since she was just wearing clothes and carrying her backpack. I just thought she was playing school like she usually does. I kept looking for Daddy who usually pretends to be the teacher. Anyway, since Mommy had the camera out, I knew I had to stand next to Abby and smile-that is what she always wants me to do. So, I did my best to get in the picture and make my Mommy and sister laugh.

I was so excited when we arrived at our destination. It was the building with all the fun toys outside and lots of exciting things to do inside. Last time we were here, I got to color and build things with other kids, who all seemed about the same size as my sister. So, you can imagine my frustration when my Mommy held me the entire time and did not let me get into anything. I watched Abby hang up her backpack and talk to other kids and then, suddenly, we were leaving. I struggled to get down and join my sister, but Mommy would not let me.

We got into the car, I looked at Abby's empty seat and asked where she was. Mommy explained that she was at school and we would pick her up soon. I listened, but then quickly asked where she was over and over again, hoping for a different answer.

The nice thing about this day was that we went to the park-I always enjoy these trips! And this time it was even more fun because Mommy gave me all her attention! When I went down the slide by myself and ran to her to tell her what I did, she actually listened and wasn't distracted by someone else. I could get used to this attention!

Every now and then I missed my sister. I would see a girl who looked like her and call her name and was sad when I realized it was not her. Then I heard a little girl laugh and immediately called to her, but again, realized it was someone else. So, when Mommy finally said it was time to get Abby, I ran to the car, excited to see her again.

This time, Abby came out to us and hugged us. I was so happy when she got in the car and came home with us. It sounded like she had fun at this place called school, but I prefer it when she is home. I hope she doesn't have to leave again.

But, if she does, it is rather nice to have Mommy's full attention and all the toys to myself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

School

We just returned from a weekend in PA, visiting family and friends. I am full of little stories that were inspired by the kids during this trip, which I will share soon. For now, though, I just want to comment on how I cannot believe how time flies.

My little girl, Abigail Grace, is starting pre-school tomorrow.

Okay, so it is not kindergarden or even first grade. But, to me, this is a huge deal. I am actually going to drop her off at school for an entire 2 1/2 hours, leaving her with another adult who will be responsible for her. I do this almost every Sunday at church, but I am still in the same building. This will be odd to actually drive away and let someone else teach her things.

It never really hit me until last week, while attending the pre-school Open House. The teacher was showing us where to pick up our children. Everything was fine until she said this sentence: "You can pick up your kids at this door, where they will be waiting in a line with their backpacks on." Just that simple image struck me in a way that I cannot competely explain. My baby girl is going to be standing in a line with other kids with a backpack? She is not that old!

Thankfully, Abby is not in the same shock as I am. She is very excited and very matter of fact about it. She tells everyone she sees (including cashiers and strangers in the store) that she is starting school. When we were at the Open House, she joined right in and told me all about the friends she made.

I pray this excitement and innocence stays with her as long as possible. I do not look forward to the days of hurt feelings, lack of energy, and feelings of being left out. I long for her attitude in my own life...to be excited about the next thing, even though it might not be familiar.

My thoughts are with all the other parents who are starting this new adventure with their own children!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oh, The Things He Is Saying Now

I have heard the second child often does not talk as much as the first child. This is usually because the first one talks for him/her. I thought this might happen with Caleb, especially since his sister never stops talking-ever.

But, no, I am blessed with two children who feel the need to express every thought, hurt, and exciting moment in their lives. Here are a few phrases I had the joy of hearing from Caleb this week...

Me: "Caleb, are you a big boy?"
Caleb: "No, Ba Ba, I'm a baby!"

Me (after hearing a little sound from his diaper): "Caleb, did you fart?"
Caleb: "No."
(Insert fluff sound from his diaper here)
Caleb (laughing): "I pooped, Ba Ba."

Anytime he is hugged, tickled, or has his diaper changed, I hear, "That tickles!"

Thankfully, instead of crossing his arms and yelling, "Nope!" to anything he does not want to do, he now gives a polite, "No thank you" and continues on his way. (Of course, once he is made to do something he does not want to do, then he yells-true testament to human nature.)

And finally, my favorite phrase of the week..."I love you." When you hear those words from your child for the first time, all is right in the world. It does not matter that he most likely doesn't understand the meaning-it still melts my heart.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Named This Cat?

This morning Abby was coloring in her Cinderella coloring book. She asked Caleb if he wanted to join her and said he could color the cat. What caught my attention was this question from Abby:

"Caleb, can you say 'Lucifer?'"

After I nearly dropped the high chair tray I was carrying to the sink, it finally dawned on me she was referring to the cat in the story.

Who names these characters?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friendship According to Abby

The other day, Abby looked out our backdoor window and saw her friend, Trinity, playing in her backyard with two other neighborhood girls. Of course, she immediately begged to go play (this happen almost daily) and I let her go over. I kept checking on her every few minutes while I made dinner and after about 15 minutes I saw her standing at the fence in tears.

Now, if you know my daughter, she does get a bit emotional at the drop of a hat (no idea where she gets it-it's not like her parents are sensitive or anything). I just assumed she was upset over a minor thing.

I ran over and heard the scoop. Abby's version (while sobbing) was, "Trinity said I have to go home!" The two friends spoke up and said that Trinity was being mean and saying Abby had to leave just because they decided they were going home. Trinity's version was, "I'm just done playing outside now."

Seriously? I thought I would have to deal with this girl drama when Abby became a teenager.

I took Abby home, we played in the front yard with Caleb (who was thrilled with this arrangement, seeing as he cried for her when she left him an entire 20 minutes earlier), and she calmed down. Eventually the kids moved toward the backyard and guess who was playing in her yard? Yes-Trinity. I thought I was in for more tears from Abby, but her reaction? She smiled and said, "Look! It's Trinity! Can I go play with her?"

What? Doesn't this girl understand that when a friend hurts you, you stay mad for awhile? Give her the cold shoulder, maybe talk about her to other friends? What is this about moving on and forgiving so quickly?

I walked Abby over (much to Caleb's dismay) and she played with Trinity again. At one point I heard her asking Trinity, "Are you sorry?" and Trinity replied, "Yes." Then they moved on and it was never brought up again.

At what point during our growing up do we decide to take longer on our forgiveness? My guess is after so many years of getting hurt, we become guarded and almost expect the hurt to come. Instead of running to a friend who has hurt us and not even waiting on the apology to come first, it becomes easier to stay mad and ignore the person.

Ironically, as I am typing this, Caleb is playing with the toy ipod that is currently playing "Make New Friends." The lyrics are: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. A circle is round-it has no end. That's how long I'll be your friend.

Okay, okay. I'm starting to get the point, kids.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Conversations This Past Week

Me (casually speaking to Caleb): "What's up, bud?"
Caleb: "I pooped."

Me: "Abby, why did you lie to me and say you ate your chicken, but you really did not eat it?"
Abby: "Because I wanted a marshmallow."

Abby (looking at the Disney on Ice ad in the mail pile): "Is that the Lion King?"
Me: "Yes, when he was a baby lion."
Abby: "Is he smiling?"
Me: "Yes."
Abby: "Does he still smile when he becomes a big lion?"
Me: "Yes."
Abby: "Does he talk like he smiles?"
Me: "What?"
Abby: "You know-he is nice when he is older?"

In the car while being stuck behind someone who was going too slow, then decided to speed through a yellow light while I was forced to stop...
Me: "What is wrong with you?"
Caleb: "What's wrong, Ba Ba?"
Me: "Nothing, Caleb. Just a crazy person in front of me who cannot drive."
Caleb: "It's okay, Ba Ba."
Me: "You're right, Caleb, you are very right."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Guilty

I made a chocolate cake for Nick's birthday the other day. Abby helped me and kept checking on it throughout the day, just to make sure it was still on the kitchen counter. Shortly after waking from her afternoon nap, she checked on it again. Nick and I were in the living room, not really paying attention. I just happened to look over at her and she was just standing in the kitchen, staring straight ahead and looked like she was in pain. The following is our dialogue:

Me: "Abby, do you need to go to the potty?"
Abby: "No."
Me: "Does your belly hurt?"
Abby: "No."
Me: "Is that a little piece of chocolate on your face?"
Abby (nodding in tears): "Yes."

Once I figured out that she had stuck her finger in the cake to sneak a taste, I was about to discipline her, but she took care of that herself. She started crying, hard, and looked like her entire body hurt. She came to me and said, "I'm so sorry I sneaked, Mommy." At this point, I was almost laughing and trying to make her feel better, but she just kept sobbing.

She went over to Nick and said, "I hurt my own feelings." (How does one not laugh at this point?)

Where does this strong feeling of guilt come from? Sometimes she says she is sorry out of fear of punishment or even out of habit. But, in this case, she actually felt pain over her guilt.

I cannot remember the last time I actually felt this convicted of my sin. When was the last time I cried over my impatience, my attitude or my laziness? When have I wept over how I have treated others? How long has it been since I have fell on my knees in awe of the forgiveness that God has granted me?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

29 Reasons

Today my husband turned 29 years old. Not a milestone or anything, but just one step closer to the big 3-0. He keeps worrying about it, but I just laugh since I'm approaching 31 next month. It's only a number and life goes on (quickly).

I thought I would use this post to describe 29 reasons why I love Nick. Totally cheesy, I know, but even if it's only for Nick to read, so be it.

(These are in no particular order of importance)
29. He loves Jesus Christ.
28. He understands the importance of changing the radio station to good music and not just
listening to whatever is on.
27. He is an excellent teacher (not just in the classroom).
26. He loves his children.
25. He makes me laugh.
24. From the first time we met, we could immediately talk for hours.
23. He is well rounded-loves music, sports, reading, art...and really appreciates each thing for what it is.
22. He is who he is and will not change for anyone else.
21. He pretends to be the prince for his daughter while acting out the Cinderella story.
20. He has a passion for people.
19. We never played the dating game with each other-we were always ourselves from the beginning.
18. He is honest.
17. He really knows me and still chooses to be around me.
16. He challenges me to think past my first reaction to things.
15. He works hard to provide for our family.
14. Money is not the most important thing to him.
13. He loves spending time with friends.
12. He is a city boy who loves to attend Camp Lambec.
11. He is good to his family.
10. He thinks about things and does not just follow what everyone else says.
9. He can still be like a little kid on Christmas day when opening things like his Bengals tickets and the new tv.
8. He plays guitar (may sound random, but I always hoped for a husband who played guitar).
7. He happily drives whatever car we have paid off that is falling apart while I get the good vehicle.
6. He will spend time, money or whatever is needed to help a friend.
5. He is so knowledgeable about so many things.
4. He knows how to admit when he is wrong and apologizes quickly.
3. He makes me feel like a good wife and mom.
2. He knows he is a sinner and needs God's grace.
1. He is the one God blessed me with.

Happy Birthday, Nicholas Paul-my life was blessed when I met you ten years ago.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pretty Abby

Caleb has heard everyone say, "You look so pretty, Abby" every time she wears a dress. He even said it to her yesterday, while getting ready for church. He smiled at her and said, "Petty Abby!"

So, I should not be surprised at what he just said to me while reading a book together. It was a picture book, where he points to various items and tells me what they are. He looked at a ball and called it a ball. He pointed to a ladybug and called it an "adybug." Then, he pointed to a dress and called it a "petty Abby."

I cannot wait to share this with him when he is older.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Good Day for Abby


One of Abby's favorite books is called, "A Good Day for Abbey." It is a story about a cat named Abbey who finds new friends and has a great day playing with them. The book was a gift from Miss Jessica (who is actually our friend Jessica Wesseler, but Abby always thinks she is visiting just for her, the princess of the house). I was thinking of that title today because it truly was a good day for her.

It started with our arrival at church this morning. While walking in, she saw her friend Lucy and not only did Lucy smile and run to her, but they held hands all the way into the building and continued to play together in their class.

At the end of worship, she got to see Mrs. Woods and Mike (as they are called since Abby could talk) and received lots of hugs from them.

After taking a decent nap, I took her to our park for some bike riding and playing. I biked for about an hour, pulling her behind me (once again, like a princess) on the Loveland bike trail, which is basically like biking through the woods (which makes a delightful day for me as well). After this bike ride, she was allowed to have chocolate ice cream with sprinkles and then played at the playground, making a couple of new friends along the way.

For dinner, I scrambled together "breakfast for dinner," which happens to be one of her favorite meals (who doesn't like pancakes for dinner?).

I think my favorite part of watching her enjoy this day is that none of it was planned. It was great timing running into people she loves at church, it was the absolutely beautiful weather that inspired me to go to the park, it was her brother sleeping longer that made the afternoon all about her, and it was my lack of preparing dinner ahead of time that resulted in her beloved pancakes.

I think as parents in this culture we tend to try and plan way too many things for our kids to have good days and good lives. But, when I look back on my kid's experiences so far, they seem to remember the simple things a lot more than the big things. The fact that Abby had my full attention all afternoon just made her day more than any event or tv show could do.

And honestly, it was a good day for me, too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Immaturity

It has been a rough week. Not only have I been overwhelmed with housework, annoyed with traffic, bothered by my children's unending chatter, crazed by unhelpful employees in stores, and recovering from an eye infection-I have also been humbled by my selfish thoughts.

I am glad I am married to an honest man who tells me when my thoughts are selfish. He has been so challenged in his own walk and immaturity that he has been seeing the big picture and pointing it out to me as well. A few things have happened recently and my first reaction is anger or revenge, but he stops me and reminds me that we need to move on. It is not that he is perfect and beyond these feelings-he is simply growing up and trying to drag me along.

When I am really honest with myself, I feel no more mature in my faith than when I was a naive college student. I know I have learned new things and God has been leading me, but so often I find myself acting as though I have lost hope. I get more frustrated and easily angered over things that I have no control over. I can blame this on my surroundings and the tiredness that comes with being a mom. I can also claim that my reactions are the result of not being in the workforce and being around other adults for conversation. But, honestly, it is my sinful nature. I can blame no one else but myself.

I have been given little reminders of how ridiculous I am when I see others doing the same things I would normally do. When I see a driver getting mad at a red light because they now have to wait an extra 30 seconds to reach their destination. When I see my children arguing over a toy that they will forget about within the minute. When I see grown men get angry over a softball game when what they are mad about does not affect the end result of the game. When I see people getting angry waiting in line.

In all of these cases, the anger is not worth it. Life goes on and honestly-do we really remember these moments? Does that driver really think about the red light later that day? Do my children really remember the toy they fought for by the time they go to bed? Do the angry athletes really look back on their season and only think of that one moment in one game and base their happiness and friendships on it? Do people really go home from the store and cry about waiting in line for the items they purchased?

I pray that God tugs at my heart every time I find myself falling into the temptation of self (which means He will be tugging all day long!). I need to concentrate on the big picture.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Buts, Justs, and In a Minutes

One of my annoyances with my children is their tendency to say, "But I...," "Just..." and "In a minute." Okay, so really Abby says these phrases. Caleb prefers to stand and scream in protest if he does not want to obey. Funny how he has learned so many words, copies everything his sister says, but still has to throw baby fits when he is really mad.

I know it's not really true, but deep down I kept thinking they would grow out of this phase. I was reminded of my ignorance when I taught Sunday School this morning.

My job was to tell the story of Joseph and then have the 4th grade students act out the scenes. Overall they were pretty good, but there are always those few that stand out. If you have ever attempted to teach a class, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The few I am thinking of today are the ones who had to answer every question (even if I did not call on them), volunteer to act every part, and then ad lib to every scene, usually with physical punching and running around to add to the fun.

What sticks in my mind from this morning is that I actually heard the phrases, "But, Just and In a minute" come out of their mouths when given instructions they did not want to follow. They always had an excuse for why they were disobeying and they really thought they knew better.

My experience is usually working with teenagers and now I am remembering they say the same excuses and really think they know better. It is as if we are all sinful, thinking we know better than our elders, until we become them and have to deal with the next generation.

I know my parents are laughing at me (and any person who ever attempted to instruct me) because revenge is theirs. Just like I will smile with sympathy, yet laugh inside, when my children discover this truth in 20 years.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Slow Down

In June, I had the wonderful treat of having an eye infection known as Recurrent Corneal Erosion. Sounds fun, doesn't it? I got to wear a heavily taped patch on my eye for a day, then had twice the fun of taking it off myself. (As I was tearing the tape from my eyebrows, I was questioning why I even bothered to pay for an eyebrow wax the week before.) The pain that comes with this infection is so bad that I would rather go through childbirth.

Yes, I really just said that.

So, imagine my delight when the infection came back again this week. I thought it might be returning but kept in denial for the first day. I had followed the doctor's instructions, used all the meds and was still applying the gel at night like I was told to. But, the pain finally got bad enough that I had to return to the doctor. I now sit here with the beloved patch on my eye, counting the hours until I can remove it, and have an appointment with the specialist on Tuesday. Because it came back again, this means some sort of surgerical thing has to happen, which does not sound fun to me.

I do not know why these things happens-what is the point? I suppose in this case it was a great chance to slow down. I was in the middle of leading music for our church's VBS and basically had to give that up on the final day and just let go. I have a messy house that has random things around it thanks to the installation of the new tv and HD hook-up (totally Nick's desire to have this, but since my doctor's instructions are to just sit and watch tv, I'm not minding it so much this week). I just keep sitting here, looking at the millions of things I have to accomplish and yet I am helpless.

I am so thankful for a wonderful husband who just steps up and takes over everything so that I do not have to feel guilty for resting. And even though this came at a busy week, it could have worse if it came during camp.

In the meantime, I need to follow doctor's orders and not look at the computer screen (had to cheat for a few minutes and get my thoughts out) and try and enjoy the unexpected rest.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Never say Never

While driving home the other day, I noticed a mini-van parked on the side of the highway, with a mom standing in the grass, trying hard to go unnoticed. After looking closer, I realized she was standing in front of her child and saw a stream of liquid coming from him. Clearly her son could not wait to stop at a rest stop. If I was not a parent of a toddler, I would most likely be judging her. However, I have some experience in traveling with this age and have actually done this with Abby before. Granted, I try to find a place a little more private (not right before an exit, as in the case of this family), but when a child has to go, they have to go. That is actually how I find out if Abby really has to go or if she is just looking for an excuse to get out of the car. If she thinks she has to go on the side of the road, suddenly she can hold it for a little while longer.

This got me to thinking of all the things I swore I would never do as a parent before actually having kids. I'll list a few now and to all the other parents reading this, feel free to add on!

I will never feed my children fast food.
I will not allow my kids to have a temper tantrum in a public place.
My kids will never have sugar before dinner.
I will always have patience and not lose my temper with my kids.
I will not allow my children to disrupt a church service.
My kids will always be well groomed in public.
I will not use food as a way to distract my kids while shopping.
I will not bargain with my children to get them to do something.

Any other humbling thoughts?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Random, Silly Sentences in our House

Abby: "Feel my body!"
(Seriously, no story with this-just a comment out of her mouth)

Abby: "It's silly to put your underwear on your head!"
(While she was putting her underwear on her head)

Abby: "Daddy, look at my butt!"
(While bending over and spreading her legs to show him it was a little red)

I think we need to have a little talk with our daughter about modesty.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Joy in the House


When I first went into youth ministry, I was a little hesitant. I thought I might not be going into the right field since I'm not typically one of those crazy youth pastor types. By that I mean, the ones who are always doing something zany and putting themselves out there in a loud way. It took a couple of years of volunteering with a staff of youth workers to realize not every youth director has to be that way.

While working with my first youth group during college, our volunteer staff had many of the crazy types I just described, which was great for most of the students. But, I also noticed a few of them preferred time spent with me because I listened more than talked. Both personalities are important and none better than the other-both are reaching different students on the level they desire.

I am always reminded of how we work together as the body of Christ while at camp. Our entire volunteer staff is full of different personalities that all come together for a greater purpose. Some are quiet and gentle, some are loud and crazy, and others fall somewhere in the middle. Some are gifted at planning activities, some at Bible studies, and others with one-on-one time with campers. We have leaders and followers. Athletic and observant. Yet, in all these ways, we are making up the body of Christ.

It makes me laugh to think of everyone on earth having the same personality-how obnoxious would that be? Or if everyone wanted to be in charge of the same type of job-who would take care of the rest of the tasks? If everyone is preaching, who is spending time in the "real world," witnessing to the non-churched?

What an amazing place Heaven will be-all of the different people that God has created with a purpose, all worshiping Him together. Each person bringing something to offer that no one else can. I cannot wait to hear the joy in His house for eternity.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's a Good Thing

One of the songs from our musical at camp was titled "Good Thing." It spoke of how it is a good thing to sing praises to Jesus' name, that the earth is full of His glory, and that we tell of His love. That pretty much sums up what music camp is all about. No matter the staff, the campers, the weather, or choice of songs, it always comes down to praising God and sharing His love.

This year felt a little different for some of us veteran counselors. We were missing more than a few regular staff members, including our volunteer director. I was also disappointed to arrive at camp right as a huge downpour hit the area. Instead of casually unpacking the van, playing a little cornhole and relaxing on our porches, we were rushing to avoid getting our supplies wet and stayed inside for the rest of the afternoon. Losing our electricity right as it was nearing evening was a bonus as well. (I still laugh thinking of Cheryl attempting a shower in the dark, creepy bathhouse!)

In the midst of these unexpected changes, I saw God working. To cover the loss of those counselors, the staff (both old and new) stepped it up and filled in where we were lacking. I never heard one complaint from anyone who had to take on a new role or do the random jobs that never get noticed. Not being able to be active outside that first day let the counselors have more intimate conversations. And losing the power Saturday evening kept us up at the campfire longer, enjoying only the stars for light (and the ridiculous sized flashlights of some of the guys).

Just to note, the power came back on in the middle of the night, the rain paused during our campfire, and completely stopped about an hour before the campers began arriving. We never had another drop the rest of the week. The storm from Saturday brought us the perfect temperature for most of the week.

This all has me thinking about change and how it is a good thing. Ideally, I always thought I would like the same staff each year because we work well together and they are my friends. But, that would mean that most of the people we were blessed with this past week never would have been there, including my husband. And the campers would be stuck with a bunch of pushing 30 year-olds (and those of us who are already there and beyond), who might not have as much energy as the newbies. In my mind, I love arriving at camp on a beautiful day, walking down to Lake Erie and taking in God's creation. This year, I was reminded His creation is not only in the great lake, but in the thunderstorms and in the clouds.

Each year that I go back, something is always slightly different. However, the one constant always remains-we are there to praise our Lord and spread His love.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back Home

We returned from music camp last night and my mind is still racing with all the memories of the week. It is hard to adjust to being back in the real world and out of the "Lambec Bubble." In the next few posts, I will most likely be sharing thoughts of the week and the ways that I saw God working in the lives of other people's children.

For now, I will keep it simple and just share a few thoughts on Abby and Caleb and their big adventure being away for the week. They stayed at my parent's house while Nick and I were volunteer camp counselors. I do not know if they will ever realize how much we appreciated them taking both kids at the same time-not an easy task. And as my mom pointed out, much more difficult for grandparents than for young parents. Thankfully both kids were fairly good and healthy (with the exception of Abby having a fever by the end of the week). They loved their time with Papa, Grammy, Uncle Bill (who was teaching Abby how to juggle-that's all she can tell me about the week), and the cows.

Now that we are home, here are a few lines from their mouths that remind me I'm officially home and back into my role as a mom...

Abby: "Mommy, we need to stop soon so I can poop and Daddy can drive the rest of the way."
(Said while driving home and Nick was still in the car ahead of us with our friend, Mark, who lives in Columbus)
Caleb: "Ba Ba-I'm up!"
(Over and over again this morning while I stayed in bed, ignoring him for awhile)
Abby: "I really missed you guys this week, but I was okay without you guys."
Caleb: "Ba Ba-I pooped!"
And many Uh-ohs, whining, hugs and kisses from both.

How good it is to sing praises to our Lord. And how good it is to be home with these little blessings.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Quote by Lisa in 2001


Do you remember...

How about the sounds of the refrigerator doors slamming shut after stealing a piece of cake or the cooler shutting after sneaking apples?
The sounds of pebbles crunching under your feet as you walk on the path near the dining hall? The door of McLaren shutting and the thud of someone stepping in the living room?
The cabin doors slamming shut?
The hobart running and the ice spilling over into the salad bar?
How about the grass hopper cutting the grass or the sound of the tractor hauling branches?
The benches in the dining hall being knocked around and the squeek of the mop bucket?
The sounds of the thunder and the rain hitting the hot dirt road?
The fire crackling?
How about the sounds of the frogs croaking at the pond or the birds chirping?
The waves lapping on the shore?
The noise of the water from the shower hitting the concrete walls?
The sound of the camp truck speeding past on the dirt road as it squeaked at every bump?
The pianos playing?
The echo of kids playing in the field till it was just about dark out?
The noise of the fans coming from the kitchen?
Guitars playing?
Singing across the field?
Tennis balls bouncing off of the cement walls in the evening?
The sound of God's voice whispering through the breeze?
The squeaking of the chains from the swings in the playground?
How about the crunching of leaves under our feet walking between the cabins or the wind blowing through the trees?
I miss our home!
Do you have a happy thought?
I sure do.

My Favorite Place



When I was ten years old, my parents sent me to Music Camp at Camp Lambec. It is a Christian camp that our church helped to sponsor. We picked the music week because, at that point, I had an entire year of clarinet experience.

That summer, even though the camp was only for one week, was a huge part of shaping who I am today. I continued attending each summer and that week became a refuge where I could be myself and speak of Christ openly. Many of those friends I made my first few years are still close friends today. It is hard to explain how that works-we saw each other once a year in our pre-driving days and not even too often after that. We all attended different colleges and settled in various areas. Yet, when we are together at the annual New Years parties, weddings, and random get-togethers, we fall into our respective roles like family.

This explains why many of us are still volunteer counselors for the same music week. I always thought someday we would move on, yet we still keep coming. Some of us are now married, some have kids, some have moved states away for jobs-yet, we still keep making that trip to Lambec.

It is not just a nostalgic thing, because Nick understands it, too. My city-boy husband went as a counselor one year and after the first day, he looked at me and said, "So, this is why you all keep coming back."

We leave tomorrow morning for this wonderful place and I know I will have lots of stories to tell when I get back. There will be funny incidents, never-ending inside jokes, but most importantly, there will be stories of God's provision over the entire week. He is the One who makes the week come together the way it does. I will try and journal on paper the specific ways I see this happen and will be sharing this with you all when we return.

I also want to post something my best friend, Lisa, wrote to me in 2001. We worked on staff together for two summers and I will post her memories for all of you who know Lambec. You will know exactly what she is writing about, so enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Our Shadows

There is a chain reaction in our home. Whatever Nick and I say gets repeated by Abby, who in turn is teaching Caleb to say it. Usually, I find this helpful because our kids are learning quickly and I enjoy being able to communicate with them. Somedays, it is exhausting.

Because this is a family friendly blog, I won't repeat the exact words that have come out of their mouths, but trust me that any little swear word, even in a joking manner to other adults, can and will be used by toddlers. Enough said on that matter.

My favorite line of the week was when Abby yelled from the bathroom, "Mommy, I pooped!" and Caleb quickly followed up with, "Ba Ba, Abby pooped!" I love how he thinks he is helping, just in case I (and the rest of the neighborhood for that matter) did not hear his sister the first time.

Not only are words repeated, but so are actions. Once again, I love this in many ways. Nick and I have books in every room and both of the kids are huge readers. I often find them in their rooms, just sitting in a big pile of books, content as can be. Abby memorizes everything and reads it almost word for word, while Caleb points out everything he sees.

However, I also see the downside to this shadowing. I have to see my own sin thrown back at me every day. When I see Abby react to something in anger or frustration, I know she sees that in me. When I ask her to do something and she gives me the line, "Just a minute" or "I just have to do this thing first," I hear my own voice. It is quite humbling.

Sometimes I think one of the hidden gifts of having children is a way for God to make us aware of our deep need for Him. Just when we think we are doing okay, He has one of those little blessings say and do things to make us stop and have an amazing appreciation of grace.