Saturday, January 30, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yesterday...In pictures.

Growing up quickly

I am writing this today because time is flying and I don't want to forget when this happened. Zach has not yet reached the 100 day milestone in kindergarten, but I just keep feeling as if his academic achievements do not reflect that. At all. He's counting change, telling time, doing simple multiplication, reading most anything, writing complete sentences, and carrying on conversations about Martin Luther King, Jr., faith matters, government and all things science and space. At least one thing hasn't changed in the last four years - his love of science. He reads his homework assignments to himself, reads text messages as I type them, and even likes to read the label on the milk jug while he eats cereal. It seems as if he went from being a little boy that we could easily talk in code around, to a miniature grown-up who hears and understands most everything overnight. Why has this time-flying thing caught me by surprise?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two (or more) are better than one

I just came home from a women's event at church... It was a celebration of sisterhood. I cried last night in anticipation of going alone. I cried on Tuesday night when I did go to a church function alone... I don't know the official term for those tears, but I was certainly feeling some anxiety.

I cried through the worship music today... until I felt God's overwhelming comfort arrive as we sang "strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord... He lifts us up on wings like eagles." I adore that song. And I adore my God who gives me strength and lifts me up to soaring heights!

As my friend Gwen started speaking, I had to leave the room. Not to hide in the bathroom, but because I needed something to take notes on!!! She hit the nail on the head for me today.

We need community. I need community.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The truth is, my anxiety comes from the anticipation of this question... "How are you? What's going on in your life?"

A handful of not-so-great things have happened in recent weeks and I'm struggling...

My husband lost his job two weeks ago and it looks to be the longest lay-off we've ever faced. I'm scared.

And our health insurance might run out while he's laid-off. If that happens, it will cost us a lot to cover it ourselves (quarterly). Scared again.

And this morning I read on the front page of the paper that a local car plant has lost another car model, causing more job loss in our area. Now I want to slug whoever got our country into this economic mess. (Because surly it is just one person's fault, right?!)

Bryan and I have talked a few times about my temporarily returning to work. Frankly, that makes me mad. That was never the plan (our plan).

And now that Bryan's my co-stay-at-home-parent, I've been upset with him and a little resentful... Shockingly (tongue in cheek), he does not do things my way.

I have been beating myself up for having such a hard time. Somewhere I got this insane idea that a wife, mother and support group leader is disqualified if she shows weakness. You know, if my life isn't perfectly ordered and under control... And, for whatever twisted reason, this rule applies to me only.

Aside from Bryan, no one knew that I was having a hard time. And I hadn't intended to tell anyone today, but my tears just wouldn't stop.

As I listened to my friend Gwen speak, I heard her say that "going solo will take you farther than you ever wanted to go and cost you more than you ever wanted to pay." In my case, it was taking me into a dark, sad, lonely place. It was costing me genuine time spent with real friends. So, today... A little to my embarrassment (after all, we were standing in the middle of the church lobby) I just let it go. I got real again with my community. My girls. {They helped me cry.}

Oh... How I appreciate everyone who organized today's event that breathed such an awesome breath of life back into me. I do love my community.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I {heart} faces challenge - "We are Family"

Who else is ready to shed the snow bibs and bulky thermolite boots for flip flops? I truly love all the seasons, but I'm looking forward to getting back outside to play and take outdoor pictures till my heart's content.

Between all the "I'm hot." "I'm tired." "Can I go back to the van and watch my movie?" whines, we managed to capture this next-to-last-picture in late August. I love my tripod and triple-picture-taking self timer! We do occasionally capture pictures of our entire crew --- minus the dog, who's never been photographed with us. Poor guy - we'll have to do that someday.

Head on over to I heart faces to see wonderfully inspiring entries in the family photo challenge and enter one yourself!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just jump?

I have daydreamed about doing a certain something for a long time... And now Bryan and I are seriously talking about me actually doing it. It makes me nervous as all get-out every time I think about it, and it's an exciting sort of thing so I think about it a lot. Which means I could just about puke (or wet my pants!) at any given moment. I feel excited. Then insecure and afraid. Excited again... Deep breaths.

This is not something life-altering... Just a slightly risky, creative, passion thing... Why the nerves? Just jump!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Integrity in spite of it all

Zach experienced something not so great today... Someone that he sees regularly and looks up to as a role model sent us notification in early November that she would be leaving around the middle of 2010. She said then that she was committed to seeing her work through to the end, but left unexpectedly only eight weeks later.

We received a note this morning saying that today would be her last day. When we told Zach, he immediately replied with, "I need to go see her and say goodbye and thank you!" I called ahead to see if she would be available today, only to be told that she was already gone.

Zach was disappointed. He asked to draw her a picture and send her a note. He knows that a lot of people were unhappy with her for decisions she'd made in the recent past. He knows that from their point-of-view she'd made a lot of messes and didn't earn their respect or compassion... But he cared for her anyway.

Even though she left without saying good luck or good bye, with little explanation and a completely inaccurate time line, his feelings for her are unchanged. She was always warm and kind. Her position commanded respect, and respect he eagerly gave. And, likely, the biggest factor... She is one of God's children. God would want Zach to love her regardless.

We really do not know why she left. Her November correspondence said something about it being in the best interest of everyone involved, so we're assuming no one is ill or urgently required her time and attention.

As I struggled with her apparent abandonment of all responsibilities, I was upset over the poor example she was setting. However, Zachary was not. He is full of grace and mercy and wishes her only the best. He knows that whatever the reasons, it's not our business and life will go on.

I pray that the pains of this world, the disappointments, hypocrisy, unfulfilled promises, and bad examples will do nothing to deter the character and integrity of my young sons. Zach inspires me to be a better person. As he cared in the face of my fretting, I asked myself... "Who am I when no one is watching? Who am I, truly?" I want to be more like Zach.

Snowballs, a snowman and a snowfort

We hadn't been in our backyard since before Christmas. The snow was so deep and it had been so cold outside, the dog wouldn't even go more than three feet off the deck! Until yesterday... The sun has been out for a couple of days and the temps have risen. It was a great day to get out and build in the snow, but we know our creations won't last long.

The beginning of the boys' first ever snow fort.
The making of "Snowy"... Rolling (fighting over) his head!
Meet "Snowy".
Zach loves him.
Bryan seeks cover behind the fort.
Let the snowballs fly!!
Luke and Daddy aim for the roof!
And now they're gunning for each other.
Luke looks so young in pictures...
But, believe me, he's pretty sure he's SIX!
It was fun to have Dad home to play in the snow again.
Even Apollo had a great time!
Did I mention that he had a playdate? Miles came over to play in the snow. Our kids would like for him to come over everyday!!!

It made my day

After 3 1/2 weeks of winter break (an extra week off compliments of tons of snow, bad roads and frigid temps) - the last week of it partnered with the stress of Bryan's layoff and another matter - plus Luke still waking in the middle of the night (but going back to his own bed), the last thing I wanted to do two days ago was go to kindergarten.

I really wanted to leave the noise (and what I suspected was certain chaos during indoor recess) to Zach's teacher. But, it was my commitment. My day to volunteer in class.

I went to school on Wednesday.

For the first 30 minutes, I enjoyed the quiet of the photocopier. Quiet compared to remaining almost exclusively indoors with 2 kids bouncing off the walls for 3 1/2 weeks.

After my quiet time, I returned to the classroom to help with centers. I enjoyed helping several of the children write a couple of words or practice letter sounds... Many showed me all the detail of the pictures they'd drawn, and I listened in as five children "read to a friend". I really enjoyed listen to Zachary read to two of his classmates! My previously "shy" child, is growing in both knowledge and confidence.

After centers, I took a group of four kids out to play a board game. The game was a challenging one where the kids had to name an item pictured and place it in its family (does the word end in "ing", "ail", "at"or "ock"?). After a couple of rounds, the kids were really beginning to understand and enjoy the game! I love a good "light bulb moment" (as my 8th grade Latin teacher would say), and watching each of those kids get it did not disappoint!

When the kids headed off to Library, I went back to my photocopying... My quiet.

Only to return to indoor recess! Which was not chaos at all. The kids played board games, while Mrs. H. and I did some work at her desk (and chatted).

After recess the kids had calendar time, discussed sentence structure, had math circle and did some work at their desks. I enjoyed just sitting in the room, quietly labeling puzzles while absorbing the different techniques Mrs. H. uses to teach and watching the kids process information.

One thing I really love about Mrs. H. is that she has a wonderful balance of firm, flexible and fun. She knows when and how each child needs to be redirected or corrected. She doesn't wage war over a child needing to sit rather than stand. She allows the kids the freedom and responsibility to take themselves to the restroom (or get a kleenex, marker, etc.) without asking permission first. She has fun little rhymes to get their attention or remind them of their responsibilities. She changes the scenery frequently - sitting on mats in back, circle in front, at their desks, centers, etc. I admire these things greatly... I have been taking notes all year, as these are areas of weakness for me!

I am impressed by how quickly the kids have moved from identifying letter sounds a few months ago to now counting dimes and forming sentences! A lot has been learned this school year. The kids have changed too. They understand Mrs. H., her rules, methods and expectations... I can't tell you how many times I heard her say, "I can't send you on to first grade if we don't..." I get the impression that these kids don't think they're newbie kindergartners anymore, they are preparing for first grade. (cue sinking heart)

Honestly... I asked Bryan a few times if he was sure he didn't want to go to school in my place on Wednesday. I really didn't want to go, but I am so glad I didn't miss it. The kids are amazing. Their teacher is amazing. Their growth and sweetness is amazing. School made my day on Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Character counts!

I am not the least bit surprised that Zach would be awarded a character coupon for caring! Caring would certainly be one of the first words I'd use to describe him. He inspires me.


We don't really homeschool; after all, Zach went to Christian preschool and now public elementary school... but we do a ton of worksheets at home for fun! And my kids will always refer to it as homeschool.
Luke learning to write the number 7.
Zach following written instructions and coloring by number.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A new (old) season

After a very busy 2009, Bryan was laid off on Friday. We welcome the time we'll get to spend together as a family, but not so much the hard times I suspect lie ahead. There have never been so many electricians laid-off during one of our past lay-offs, so I'm not optimistic that this will be a short one.

If I were to be completely honest with you, I'd say.... I've considered going back to work while Bryan waits on a call. This was never our plan, so I'm not exactly thrilled about it just yet. I do think it would be fun for the kids to get to have a stay-at-home-daddy for a while, but I am not confident that I would handle being the bread winner very well. Bryan has been so very good to me. He has absolutely no expectations of me as a stay-at-home-mom, so long as the kids are well cared for, happy and loved. They are, so the frequent messes, dirty laundry, no dinner plan and an empty pantry have never, ever, been a bother to Bryan. I am quite certain that I have higher standards...which I think can also be called a double standard. While it's been okay for me to let the house fall down around us while we play and lounge in jammies all day, I think I'd be a harsher critic if it were Bryan. Ack!!! I am sooo not happy with this realization and I hope that it will encourage me to be a better, more gracious, less selfish homemaker. More appreciative of how hard Bryan works. He was only laid off on Friday afternoon, but I have already learned a couple of lessons.... I don't appreciate my husband as much as I should (funny how that happened the moment I considered turning the tables and going to work), I often fail to be a good steward of our money, and much of our spending is wasteful.

As we process what our plan should be, I've decided to do my best to cut costs immediately. I even sprinted out to the curb to get discarded (not even looked at!) coupons out of our recycle bin in frigid temps and falling snow. I found a great local money saving blogger who provides the coupon matching run-downs for our grocery stores. That should make things easier. I'm so grateful to the gals who write those blogs! I'm counting on them to take the guess work out of buying $200 worth of groceries for a quarter.

Tonight I put my coupons and the Walgreens ad to good use. I bought only products that we use faithfully, that were on sale, combined them with mfg coupons and even two Walgreens coupons on top! I bought 2 Aveeno face scrubs (reg. $7.29/ea), 2 Lubriderm body lotions (reg. $7.99/ea), 2 Clean & Clear cleansers (reg. $6.99 ea). All of those items were buy 1 get 1 half price, plus $2-3 off coupons for each item. The mfgr is running a rebate special, so I will get $10 back in the mail.... 2 cans Lysol wipes (reg. 3.49/ea) - they were buy 1 get 1 free, plus $1 off coupon. 3 L'Oreal lip gloss (reg. 10/ea) on sale for $7/each plus $1 off coupon for each. Earned a $5 L'Oreal coupon with my $20 value purchase (pre-coupons)... Will go back tomorrow to use that coupon and get another lip gloss for just $2 (could have done it tonight -- rookie mistake).

My total value before sale prices and coupons was $98.60. After my rebate (and going back for one more lip gloss) my total is $35.35.

Thank you to Money Saving Mom for the Walgreens heads-up. I hope to do as well at the grocery store!!!

So... Here we go - into another season. While I've been distracted and a little upset today, I know that God's got a plan and I want to do my best to embrace it. I absolutely know that everything will turn out just fine. It always does. God has always been, and always will be, tremendously good to us. Far better than we deserve.

Take my picture!

Luke is a total ham these days... He loves to pose for pictures - over, and over, and over again. Here's a recent photo shoot with my favorite supermodel.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Crazy... I think not!

Bryan thought it was a crazy idea.

I mean... Four inches of new snow blowing around on a very windy day. A high of 5 degrees. Slick streets, many not even plowed once! A parking lot that was not plowed. And... Adding to his reasons of crazy -- we arrived only to find that their furnace was broken!

Still.. Why not go ice skating?! By the time we found out about the furnace, we were already there and at least two of us thought it was an excellent idea.

I'll let you guess who.

Luke's first time on the ice.
All done. I wonder what he's saying with that one finger... "I'm number one!" "Mom, your idea was tops!" "I will only skate once. In my life!!"
While I helped Luke, Bryan stayed close to Zach. He was prepared to catch him if needed.
And then it was Mom's turn to skate with Zach...
I tried to keep him up, but just couldn't catch him this time. He doesn't look like he thinks it's as funny as I do.
But he got up and went right back to it...
Zach prefers ice skating to roller skating and wishes they'd have school parties here.
He also thinks that more teachers should come. "That would be awesome!!"
He thinks that if we practiced 100 times, we'd be as good as this lady who was there that has her own skates and can spin and jump. The competitor in me (there's a tiny one) combined with the little girl who grew up on ice totally thinks this might be doable!
Adoring fans.
I think he's happy to be getting those skates off.