Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sayonara to Sippy Cups

Just when you least expect it, it hits you: that overwhelming wave of nostalgia.  Just today, as I was changing loads of laundry, I held my third son’s beloved blankie, and instantly remembered the day he was born.

Perhaps the nostalgia comes from the fact that today is my daughter’s first birthday.  One year ago right now, my husband and I were anxiously awaiting her arrival in a hospital room, full of joy.  It doesn’t seem right that it’s been a year already.  I remember holding her tiny little body for the first time, tears streaming down my cheeks as I exhaustedly muttered, “Well, I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you, my little princess!”  I remember handing her to my husband, and watching his proud daddy look melt into a different kind of love.  I remember thinking that he looked different gazing at her than when he first beheld each of our boys.  I remember bringing her home to a house full of love, with little boys begging to hold their sister.  I remember changing her clothes way too often because I wanted to play dress up with a little girl.

And now, that little girl is walking, and talking, and drinking from a cup, and waving bye-bye…and I just am not ready for her to grow up.

Just this past weekend, my husband and I were able to get away for a night…the first time since we became parents!  It was wonderful!  But I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a little bit of sad mixed in there.  Our two oldest boys, 6 and 4, have never slept away from home without us.  And there they were, with their two best friends, hugging our legs and waving us away.  We watched as they ran with their friends, farther and farther away, and I thought to myself, surely, they are still too little to have friends…to have a sleepover…to start making those amazing childhood memories that include others besides ourselves.  They had the time of their lives.  They played in mud, collected rocks, built a tent, and ran around playing soccer. 

But I wasn’t expecting them to grow up this fast.  They are reading, writing, understanding jokes, developing skills and confidently using their talents…and I just was not expecting this to happen so soon.

As I put my two-year-old son’s blankie into the dryer this morning, I got misty eyed.  I remember when he first decided, in his baby mind, that this was his blankie.  It was back in the day when I was still nursing him and rocking him to sleep.  It was when he was my baby, no younger sibling.  It was when he preferred playing with me than to his brothers.  It was before the days when he wrestled with the boys and daddy, before the days when he thought burping was funny, and before the days when he had a pajama preference.  And though I was tired, overwhelmed at times, and genuinely worn out as a mom of three young boys, I cherish those days of innocence. 

Last night, I kissed that little 2-year-old boy as I placed him in a big boy bed.  He has grown up faster than the rest.  He wants to be just like his brothers, and so he’s said goodbye to his crib, his sippy cups, and his baby toys.  I didn’t realize that seasons were changing until they changed.  My baby boy has turned into a walking, talking, cup drinking, big-boy-bed sleeping, soccer ball kicking kid.  And I just wasn’t ready for that.

These days of mothering get hard.  Wait.  That’s an understatement.  There are days when I literally say out loud “Help me Lord!  Or else I might explode!”  In fact, just this morning, I was doing the laundry because my kids are sick…again…and yes, they “sicked” all over their beds in the middle of the night.   Today was particularly challenging, but I realize that these moments are fleeting.  The busyness of young children carry us…no, push us into the very next moment before we are ready for it.  Even in the craziness, even in the busyness, even in the “sicked” laundry, there are beautiful moments that amount to nothing more than gifts.  I get the privilege of watching these little princes and this little princess grow and become who they were intended to be.  The tantrums, the laundry, the diapers, the sleepless nights are par for the course. 

I probably will want to cry again sometime soon…maybe even today!  I probably will get so overwhelmed that I have to stop and pray.  And that’s o.k.  Everything that is worth something requires those moments.  And there is nothing else worth more to me than my family. 

I am so thankful for that little Winnie the Pooh blankie, washed and dried and fresh again.  It is a reminder that though my little guy’s said sayonara to sippy cups, he still has many years to grow.  And though I am not ready, I do love watching the process unfold.  I do love watching my kids make friends and discover who they are.  There is no greater gift than watching God’s hand on your child’s life.  I just pray that I stop in the middle of all the busyness to keep watching.

“Teach me how to number my days that I might gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Candy Crush Saga: a Reminder That God is Fun!

So, I have a guilty pleasure…no, it’s not the Bachelor or American Idol.  It’s not cheese or chips, or gambling.  I don’t smoke, drink, or swear.  But I do like to play online games.  Pretty sad, huh?  Now, I have about a million things to cram in my day, and arguably these are an enormous waste of time.  They really are.  But some days, they are my reward…my way de-stressing after a busy day and calming my brain down (do you hear all that justification!?)

Today, just this afternoon, in the midst of my guilty pleasure, God spoke loud and clear…and made me and my kids laugh out loud.

Anyways, one of my new favorite games is called Candy Crush Saga on facebook, or as it is known in our house, “The Saga.”  Each board has a different task to complete either in a predetermined amount of moves or time.  You complete the tasks by swapping the colored candy-looking objects around making a row of three, four, or five alike.  It sounds so simplistic, and really it is, but the challenges get more and more difficult as you go, and well, it gets quite addicting.

Now, my hubby used to play video games a lot, and loves role playing games.  I grew up with the original Nintendo and fell in love with puzzle-type games, like Dr. Mario.  Our poor children were predisposed to video game fascination, so we have to be very careful about how much screen time we all have!  I generally only indulge in my guilty pleasure once the wee little ones are asleep at night and the two older ones are on their way to be tucked in.  Of course, the bright colored candy screen objects caught their attention one night, and my husband and two older boys were sucked in right along with me.

And so, the next few nights, sandwiched between teeth brushing and story time, my boys would cheer me on in the ever-so-important game of Candy Crush Saga.  It became a fun 10 minute little ritual…until I got stuck on board 65.  With only 5 lives allotted at a time, I stayed at board 65 for weeks.  Every night, we gathered to see mommy quickly lose all of her lives, time and time again.  It was impossible.  I didn’t even get close.  Still, faithfully, we log on to Candy Crush Saga thinking maybe, just maybe, I can beat the board.

This morning, we finished our chores and our school work early.  This could be due to the fact that a new early riser in the house who has enjoyed waking up her mama at 5:30 a.m. all week.  We had so much extra time that I even retold some extra Bible stories in my own words, which my kids love because I try to make them a little funny to keep their attention.  One of my 4-year-olds favorites is the parable of the persistent widow, or the sistent widder, as he calls it.  He told me this morning that the sistent widder was on his heart, so we talked through that one in addition to Joseph, Job, and Abraham.

Being a creature of schedule, I wasn’t sure what to do with the hour of extra time between school and lunch.  I started searching for craft material, seeing as Miss Rooster was snoozing, when my boys asked “Could you play the Saga?”  Even my two year old excitedly hopped in my lap, hoping to catch a glimpse of this fabled game he hears about.  I figured I would lose my 5 lives in 10 minutes or less and then we could move on to our craft. 

Faster than usual, I blew through 4 of my 5 lives. It was then that my 4 year old informed me that he started praying that I beat this board a few days ago.  My 6 year old excitedly said, “That’s a great idea!  Let’s pray!”  Me, being the wonderful, spiritual mother that I am, shamefully replied “Well, go ahead, but I’m thinking Jesus probably doesn’t care much if we ever beat this board on this silly game.”  This is one of those times when I am actually glad that they ignored me.  They said a quick prayer and I pressed start.  Wouldn’t you know it?  I beat the board…with 10 moves to spare.  They both got so excited, my oldest started to cry, and immediately they thanked God. 

I could so easily explain this away.  I had been playing this darn thing for weeks, I should have been able to beat it.  I could easily call this a coincidence.  But what I’m choosing to call it was a huge lesson for my kids…and me.  God does care about the little things.  We spend so much time in our family talking about children around the world who don’t have mommies or daddies, or clean water, or food.  We serve in places where people need compassion and care.  We are trying so hard to open our kids’ eyes to see the world around them through God’s eyes.  But what I have failed to do as a mom is tell my kids how limitless, awesome, caring, detail-oriented and fun God is.  I still look at life this way:  why would God answer a prayer about a dumb game while someone somewhere is dying from starvation?  My six year old said this, just as this thought was going through my brain:  we can pray as many prayers as we want.  There’s no limit.  And He can answer any ones He wants, because He’s God.

They immediately wanted to call daddy and tell them that we aren’t stuck on that board in the Saga…but they told him that I didn’t beat it, but God did.  It made me laugh.  God really gave me a good laugh.  He reminded me that He is much bigger than I daily think him to be, and He reminded me by playing a game with me.  He showed my kids and I that while we are sitting here wasting time, entertaining our brains for a few minutes, He is sitting here with us, enjoying watching us having fun.

The icing on the cake was hearing my boys tell my husband “God is so fun…and funny.”  You know what?  He is.  We are made in his image…and we are fun and funny sometimes.  The Bible refers to the fact that God laughs, dances, and sings over us.  I too often forget that! 

Who knew that a midday game of Candy Crush Saga could bring such breakthrough and renew a heart of joy?  I sure didn’t expect that one, but I’m glad He chose to speak to us in such a fun way today!



Monday, March 4, 2013

Lessons Learned On Our Crazy Monday

Things I learned today:
  1. If you fail to turn on the dishwasher before bed with 4 little kids, there will be no clean plates or forks for breakfast.
  2. When emptying the canister on the bagless vacuum, it would be wise to do so away from the crawling baby and curious toddler.
  3. If wisdom eludes you regarding item #2, you can actually vacuum a crawling baby and curious toddler.
  4. If you are able to teach kindergarten phonics and first grade math without an interruption from said baby and toddler, you are not enjoying peace, but rather something is wrong, and baby and toddler will have to be cleaned up….again.
  5. Toddlers who have kidney issues still must give urine samples…they tape a bag to his “region” and tell him to pee.
  6. A toddler with said bag does not like the way it feels and will refuse to pee.
  7. While waiting for a bagged toddler to urinate in a small dr.’s office with 4 small children, it is wise to have plenty of diaper wipes handy for the baby, in case of explosion, books for older children, and candy to bribe the toddler with.
  8. If wisdom has eluded you regarding item #7, a 4 year old is able-bodied to wet paper towels and hand them to you in a pinch for a diaper explosion, thereby also occupying him, and cough drops are good stand-ins for candy bribes.
  9. McDonald’s Hi-C will not make a toddler pee any faster.
  10. After 2 ½ hours of effort, ¼ tank of gas, and two crying children, a toddler will wait until you return home, take off your shoes and coats, and put the baby down for a nap to finally relieve himself.
  11. If you, in the middle of all the morning’s chaos, failed to turn the dishwasher on in the morning, there will still be no clean plates or forks.
We have to laugh to get us through this Monday!!  Happy Monday-hope yours is less eventful!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Celebrating Ten Years of Being Joined to My Best Friend

I haven’t had much time to write these days, much to my dismay.  I may get 5 minutes here or there, but no real down time when I can concentrate.  However, I had planned a post for today.  You see, today is my and my husband’s ten year wedding anniversary.  I had written how we met and how God worked in both of us at the same time and eventually brought us together…it actually was a pretty good post, if I do say so myself!  It was a little long, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.  However, no post of mine has ever taken that long and, honestly, has ever been proof read!  I scratched it, and well, here is what is on my heart today…right now…un-edited.

As my head hit the pillow last night, I started realizing the deeper work that God has done in my heart and in our little family over here in the last 10, well even 15 years!  This morning, I woke up to my boys’ smiling faces, just oozing with excitement to wish us a “Happy Versary,” as my 4-year-old would say it.  All day, they have been talking about how wonderful it is that we are married, and how one day they want to marry their best friend.  I even took them on an impromptu trip to the Children’s Museum this morning, where they proudly told all the new friends they had made, “My mommy and daddy love each other so much and today they’ve been married for 10 whole years!” 

Their excitement really has caught me off guard.  We are not the ooshy-gooshy, touchy-feely couple.  We haven’t even talked much about this day, other than to say that it is, in fact, our anniversary.  Heck, we don’t even have anything special planned tonight!  (Don’t worry…we have a date night scheduled next weekend!)

After lunch, I asked my boys why they were so excited.  My oldest said, “Well, you can tell that you really love each other.  No one makes daddy laugh like you and you smile all the time when he’s home. We’re just so happy for you!”  That made my heart melt…and remember.  Those things that are so evident to our kids are what made us realize we were made for each other.  My husband and I have known each other since we were teenagers, serving alongside each other at our youth group.  But, many years passed before God merged our paths into one.  Many things had to happen in each of our hearts, and both of us separately pursued God and His plans for us, not knowing what that would include.

When I was younger, I was hurt and broken.  Having lost his mother unexpectedly, my husband was sad, lonely, and a little lost.  We both told the Lord at a young age that if we were to marry, we had to be sure it was forever.  We both had so much fear, so much anger, so much to heal.  Admittedly, I never wanted to marry anyone.  I thought I’d graduate from law school, land a job in Manhattan, and live my life alone, in an overpriced apartment, with a closet full of suits, surrounded by quiet.  Sounds kinda stuffy, huh?  I left about an ounce of my heart open for the possibility that maybe God had something else up His sleeve.  But I told him that if He did, I needed to know this person inside and out.

Unbeknownst to me, my husband was saying the same thing.  He wanted to be joined with someone that had the same vision and values.  He wanted to also know his wife for a long time, and have her be his best friend.

We got everything we prayed for, and so much more.

Looking back, there were little hints.  When I was 15, I watched him get baptized.  I had maybe said two words to him before that day.  I was the farthest thing from boy crazy, and honestly had no feelings toward him or anyone else at the time.  But, boy oh boy, once that guy hit the water, my waterworks started.  I wept, and then was embarrassed and confused at my seemingly uncontrollable emotions.

We laugh at old pictures.  There are so many of us, way before we had even started becoming friends, when we are side by side.  We have so many pictures of us on mission trips together, playing with little kids.  There are a few of us serving at soup kitchens side by side.  But the funny thing was, we really didn’t speak to each other in those days…yet, we now have a pictorial history book of those days when God was healing our hearts and crossing our paths before we knew it.


The summer after my senior year of high school, we went on a mission trip to Guadalajara, Mexico.  We found ourselves walking side by side down a street one afternoon as men started to taunt me.  I could tell he didn’t know what to do.  Before long, our guide had run over to us and informed us that when one is trying to “sell” a woman, he walks her down the street with her on the outside.  Whoops!  We laughed so hard, and I wouldn’t let him forget it!  The rest of the trip we found ourselves cracking jokes, and making each other laugh.  Now, we had been around each other for years at this point.  I knew generally who this guy was, but all of the sudden, I saw so much more.

The next few months we talked more and more.  But my radar was up.  I had been hurt so much in the past and still was not ready for where I thought this was going.  I wrote him a long letter telling him that I really appreciated this new friendship, but I wanted to keep it just that:  a friendship. I was a “no physical contact” girl.  I still really am.  I don’t hug much, and I was uncomfortable being too close to someone…this little fact also made it’s way into the letter because I realized that Dan was a hugger.  If I were to maintain my emotions and trust my new friend, I really needed it to be on my terms.  I think this would officially have scared most people off, but his reply was patient and gentle:  of course we can remain friends, hands-off.  He said that this friendship was much too important to ruin by not being honest with each other.

The next year and a half (got that? Year and a half of no contact) was spent hanging out at young adult events, sometimes with a group of our friends, but mostly letter writing.  At first, we wrote about silly things.  After some time, we shared about what God was doing in our hearts.  Eventually, we opened up and talked about our past, about our hurt, and about how much we had overcome.  One day I woke up and realized that all those feelings that I swore I would never feel were already there.  I had taken all of the precautions, I had people who kept me accountable, I had distanced myself, but still…I was head over heels in love with this man.  

On January 1st, 2001, he wrote me another letter.  This one asked me whether I would consider letting him pursue me for marriage.  We had never once been on a date.  We had never once held hands.  We had never once even confessed to one another that there were feelings between us.  We didn’t have to.

The next 10 months were even more wonderful than before.  Friends were commenting on how happy I looked and how much Dan laughed.  He continued to write to me almost every day, and I wrote him back.  A little over two years after he tried selling me on the streets of Mexico, Dan asked me to marry him.  The rest is history. 

Here’s what I realized, though, when writing down a much longer version of our story.  Dan’s love language is touch.  He wrestles with our kids, always hugs his family, and loves to sit next to me on the couch and hold my hand.  The two years that I had fallen in love with him was such a sacrifice to him.  Looking back, I realize that he had loved me so much, he didn’t need my love in return.  He was patient, gentle, and selfless.  The other thing that I learned, very soon after we were married, was that Dan considers writing an actual form of torture.  Even making a grocery list can bring tears to his eyes.  Yet, I have probably a thousand letters, emails, and cards that he wrote me.  He pursued me on my own terms, despite his feelings.  What else says love like that? 

Even on our worst day, I have never questioned that we were made for each other.  We truly fell in love, side by side, while looking forward.  My absolute favorite thing to do is make him laugh, and I consider it a challenge to do so before he takes his shoes off every day when he gets home from work.  And yes, from about 5 p.m. until I lay my head on the pillow, I am normally smiling.  If I’m not, he is sure to remedy the situation.  I’m so glad that my kids see the years and years of our friendship still showing through us.  I’m so glad that they want what we have.

So today, instead of celebrating love or commitment, faithfulness or romance, we are celebrating friendship.  Our feelings have come and gone.  There have been good days, bad days, great days, and horrible days.  But each and every day, I look into those clear, blue eyes and remember that he is the same friend that waited for me, pursued me, waited some more, and then took me in his arms. 

Ten years is a long time.  But if we look back even further from when we first met, we are two completely different people.  What was once broken and full of pain is now, by God’s grace, whole and full of joy.  Marriage is a mystery.  It is hard.  It is work.  But, like they say, it truly is the best kind of work when you’re doing it with a friend.