Monday, January 25, 2010

MMM: Outside the box {Haiti}

The last couple of weeks have been rough for my family and at the lowest point I found myself exhausted, frustruated, emotionally drained and just plain sad....then I started seeing images from the earthquake in Haiti.  It moved me to shift my perspectives in a quick hurry.

I had a rough week at work.  Working way more hours than usual, dealing with stressful people situations and having trouble communicating objectives.  But I have a job that I enjoy.  My place of employment could be a mess of rubble on the ground.

My house is a wreck.  My Christmas tree is still up.  I am overwhelmed at where to start to reorganize after Christmas.  But our home is standing and warm and I never fear for where we will sleep at night.  We are clothed and fed.  I have never given a second thought to to walking to the sink when I am thirsty and getting a clean glass of water.

My children have not slept well.  Two of the three have taken turns being sick and demanding.  One has had me so worried about his health at points that I couldn't function.  I've been at the end of my parenting rope.  But I have not gone to bed a single night wondering where my children were, whether they were safe or hungry or cold or scared or alone.  I am blessed to have accessible and affodable healthcare.  I am blessed to have access to doctors and nurses at a moment's notice.

I lost the last of my grandparents last weekend.  My children will not know any of their great-grandparents from my side of the family.  But each of the four of them lived long and full lives.  Their lives were taken neither suddenly nor tragically.  The each lived long enough to know their grandchildren and to be remembered.

I had the kind of week that left me without words when I prayed.  I didn't even know what to pray.  That said, I cannot imagine the prayers of the Haitian believers who lost their homes, their place of employment, family members. Everything.  The little that they had.  Gone.  How do you even begin to pray again?  And how do you get through it without praying?  How do you grasp an understanding of God as creator amidst that kind of destruction?  But how do you deal with that kind of destruction without faith in God?  Mind-boggling.

Against the backdrop of the suffering in Haiti, I've been left with an amazing sense of thanksgiving and also responsibility.  Thanksgiving and rejoicing for all the ways I have been blessed...beyond measure really.  And responsibility to teach my children from a young age just how blessed they are.  I want them to also feel a sense of responsibility for not only acknowledging their blessings, but sharing them.

So this Monday, I tried to reach outside the box with our MMM activity...way outside the box.  Even outside the country.  Today we have been talking about the earthquake in Haiti.  I know they are young and I had reasonable expectations for how much they could grasp, but I'm praying that we can continue to show them that there is a bigger world around them.

That said, the boys are 3 and 2 so we definitely kept it really simple.

First we talked a little bit about earthquakes.  KJ especially was very curious about this.  I asked what he thought an earthquake was and he said...Maybe like a cat or a dog or something like that.

Not quite.

So  I used this earth-quake simulator online to show them how buildings are effected when the ground trembles.  I tried to choose my words carefully about how blessed we are to live in a strong house made of bricks that has a good chance of survival in bad weather (don't want anyone having nightmares).  Mostly the boys just liked pushing buttons on the computer (a rare treat), and watching the building crumble.

Then we played with blocks.  Made towers and knocked them down.  Luckily the simulation of an earthquake was pretty easy in this activity since we have a live-in-destructor (Cbug).

Next I showed them some of the pictures above of families displaced, homes and businesses destroyed and people running just for hope of some clean water. (I got all of the pictures included on this blog entry from this might need to sensor a bit for young chidren.)

KJ and I talked (Cbug's attention span was D-O-N-E) about children that did not have homes or toys or food or water because there was an earthquake in their town.  He was very concerned and wanted to know if we could send them some of his blocks to help out.  I tried to tenderly explain that they needed much bigger blocks and we could help them buy some. 

But the best thing for him to do was to pray for the children.  He asked if we could pray right then and it was a moment that makes MMM well worth while....and shortly following the Amen both boys were rolling around on the floor again, giggling without a care.  I joined in.  Thankful for perspective and thankful for my children.


MMM is first about spending intentional time with my children, but it is also about blessing others through encouragement and transparency.  Telling the story that we are not perfect and are just looking for ways to get through a sometimes tough beginning of the week.

This week in particular, we would love for you to JOIN US! Take time to remind your children how blessed they are and that they can help other kids experience blessing. Let us know how your family is joining the effort.  We'd love ideas on how to continue this conversation within our family.

I know there are lots of organizations joining the cause, and your local church may even have a program. Our family will be donating through Bread for a Hungry World if you are looking for something.

If you have older children that need more information, I ran across this website with info for kids about earthquakes when I was doing some research on Haiti.  It might be a good resource for you, but was a little above my kids head.

Monday, January 11, 2010

MMM: Friday edition

I am working this Monday, but that didn't stop us from some MMM fun. Friday had all the makings of a Monday. RRL was back to work after being home with the kiddos on Thursday. We were trapped at home thanks to freezing temps and sniffles all around. I was a bit exhausted from a long week and overwhelmed at the thought of trying to recover our house from the holidays. We needed a plan. And the pine cone we brought back with us from TN provided the solution.

So, with the help of my handsome assistants. Here are instructions for making your very own pinecone birdfeeders
(Ok, you got me. Its just an excuse to show you pictures, because you really don't need instructions- its basically rocket science).

Find a pinecone.
Can't really help you here. We didn't find our found us. Literally. It attached itself to the roof of our van while we were visiting my parents and scared me to death. We (being me) thought an animal was clawing its way through the roof. RRL (my knight in shining armor) was brave enough to check and found what he thought to be a useless pinecone. As he was about to toss it to the wayside, I exclaimed "NO! DON'T! I NEEEEEDDDDDD that". And I did. For this. We were meant to have it.

Step B:
Tie a string to the pinecone and tape said string to the work surface (see tips below).

Step C:
Use a plastic knife to liberally apply peanut butter to all the cracks and branches and judging from the faces of the is quite necessary to taste test the peanut butter along the way.
(do pinecones have branches? What are those things called that stick off?)

Step D:
Pour, pinch, drizzle, cake, clump, dump and roll birdseed onto the peanut-butter-coated pinecone branch thingies.

Step E:
Bundle up in your warmest clothes (or at least put a sweatshirt on over your PJs) to go outside and find a branch on which to hang the feeder. One website I found suggested a low hanging branch so the squirrels can't get to it as easily.
(yeah, you know that part about this not being rocket science...even so, I research everything. its part of the fun.)

Step F:
Go back inside quickly, to avoid hypothermia, and watch for birds to flock to your feeder.
Funny thing about that part (the bird watching part)... apparently the person in charge of this project who knows EVERYTHING about birds (like that they fly) didn't know that
there wouldn't be any around when the temps are low. In his/her mind, they'd all be looking for food and be so happy with us for putting this out for them. I (um, I mean he or she) was wrong. We were all disappointed. I told KJ that I was sorry that our feeder didn't attract any birds. He said "That's ok. Maybe we should have just put it in a house... like in the picture" (referring to the flock of birds on the birdfeeder in the picture on the bag of birdseed). Which kept Momma from getting a big head about her wonderful projects and how much my children love them.

If you are going to try this at home, here are a few tips (I mean, besides the obvious one of trying to find a time when there are actually birds around to enjoy the feeder you made):
1) Tie the string to the pinecone before you start. Then tape the string to the surface you are working. This keeps it from slipping off the table while little hands are applying peanut butter.
2) If I had known how much peanut butter would be required to cover the whole pine cone (including snack breaks) I would have bought some generic just for the project instead of using the good stuff.

3) Might have been a good idea to do this project when the temperatures were at least about freezing. Maybe.

4) Repeat the mantra..."I can sweep the floors, the floors can be swept, I can sweep the floors, the floors can be swept".

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Can you relate?

At the risk of sounding too sarcastic, and really just meaning this to be a way for us moms to have a good laugh together, here are a few of my thoughts on the things strangers say to you when you are out and about with small children.
(which is not the same as saying "I don't want to be rude, but..." 'cuz I hate it when I say that)

Anyone else feel like a circus act when you take your children in public?

Do you feel like people stare as if you must be the only woman in the world to go out in public with several small children (2, 3, more)?

Does it take you 30 minutes to get milk from the grocery store because of the questions/comments from strangers?

- Are they twins?
or better yet, don't even ask if the boys are twins and just tell me they can relate to me because their uncle's neighbor's second-cousins' babysitter also has twins

- How far apart are they?

- Where do they get their blond hair?

While I don't blame ANYONE for wanting to stop and admire my children (they are completely irresistible you know) sometimes I just want to find a way to politely remind these strangers...they may be children, but THEY CAN HEAR YOU. A couple of my favorite somewhat insensitive remarks are

- "Are you so glad you finally got a girl?"
Because we were so sad that we got stuck with the first two not-girls... and the fact that we didn't have a girl yet was definitely the sole reason we got pregnant for a THIRD time in three years.

- "Wow, don't you have your hands full?"
(While there are some days that I want to answer "yes, i most certainly do, would you mind taking one of them for the afternoon"...I also never want my children to know that those thoughts cross my mind. At least until they have children of their own and can understand.)

- "Don't you KNOW what causes this?"
(Um, yes, apparently we do...but they don't. and i'm not ready to have that conversation with them quite yet. and why are you referring to my children as a "this" like they are a flat tire or something else that I should have avoided.)

Pause for disclaimer...In each of these instances I totally understand the well-meaning gesture. And I'm well aware (and ashamed) that I have said some equally insensitive things (or worse) in my time.

But my favorite are the conversations where you KNOW the person walks away and thinks to themselves "WOW, did I really just say that out-loud?" and I feel at liberty to put those words in their mouths because I have personally been on that end of the conversation more times than I can count.

1) RRL was at the dry cleaner with all of the children in the car. He drove through to pick up clothes and the attendant loaded them in the back of the van. Noticing the boys, the conversation went something like this:
Attendant: "Oh they are so cute. How old are they?"
RRL: "3 1/2 and 2"
Attendant: "Awwww. Are they twins?"
seriously? yes, they are twins. and 19 months apart. both.

2) In line to checkout at Target
Nice man behind us: "She is adorable. How old is she?"
ABL: "6 months"
nmbu: "How sweet. Is this her first Christmas?"
um, yes. it is. well except for that other Christmas we have had in the last 6 months.

And those are just a few of the ones they say to my face. There are lots of nods, "knowing" looks, even giggles from strangers as we pass by. Glad Team L could provide your entertainment for the day. Now the ringmaster would like to continue her grocery shopping. K? Thanks!


Friday, January 8, 2010

So very shy...

In her 6th month, you should definitely feel so sad for princess Lou.

For starters, people keep putting cameras in her face and she just can't figure out what to do. Poor thing is so camera shy. She would NEVER strain to be seen from behind her sibling when she hears the word "cheese".

She has nothing to play with and no one entertain her. She is just stuck in a world of trucks and balls and not enjoying it one bit.

As you can see, this poor princess is not a bit girly and hates to be dressed up! And please please please...don't point a camera her direction. She's so shy she just doesn't know what to do.

Oh, its just so TOUGH to be the baby-sister-princess!
Our 6-month-old would love to fool you into thinking you should feel sorry for her because things like her 6-month birthday pass with nary a blog mention. After all, she is the baby of the family. But don't fall for it. She'd love you to think she is just STARVING for attention. But don't be fooled. I'm afraid we've created a monster...but how could we help it. JUST LOOK AT THOSE EYES!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Birthday confusion

And boy howdy, he’s funny these days. Between the things that come out of his mouth and the funny expressions he makes with his face, he has me constantly cracking up. The day before his birthday, the conversation went something like this:
A: “Guess what, buddy? Tomorrow is your birthday!”
C: insert dramatic surprised/excited gasp and raised eyebrow expression
A: “What would you like to do in the morning? Maybe we could go get muffins and you could blow out candles? Does that sound like fun?”
C: “NO. Eat cake”.
And there you have it. You just never really have to guess what Cbug is thinking. He’ll let you know. Short. Sweet. To the point.

I really can not believe that my sweet boy is 2. Funny thing about, though…he is convinced he is three. KJ turned three on his birthday, so why wouldn’t C turn 3 on his? Every time I ask him how old he is, the conversation goes something like this…
A: “Cbug, How old are you?”
C: “I FREEEEE” (3)
A: “No, silly. You are two.”
C: “No, you two”
A: “No, mommy’s not two. You are two”
C: “No, you two. I free. Dat funny.” (erupting in fake laughter)
And then I walk away.

That wasn’t the only drama on Cbug’s birthday, though. We also had to convince big brother that we actually did NOT celebrate without him. When KJ woke up on January 3rd we told him. "GUESS WHAT? Cbug is not 1 anymore, he is two now." And KJ, with lip quivering and tears welling in his eyes asked “He turned two while I was asleep? Did he blow out the candles? Did he eat cake? Did he open presents?” So then we had to explain that on the day of your birthday, you change ages…even if there hasn’t been a party yet. A tough concept for a 3-year-old who is already planning his 4th birthday party (in May). His party isn’t for another couple of weeks, but we had a great morning celebrating our Cbug with donuts, presents and even candles (then finally big brother was satisfied that C was officially two).

I can’t believe another year has passed. I’m so thankful for this sweet boy!
*side note (in the last picture above, KJ has an, um...pained....expression. He was really just telling C to "pull harder" on the paper. His face cracks me up.
What a joy you are at 2 (or “free”)! You can captivate an entire room of people with your funny facial expressions, joy at the smallest delights or deep hearty laugh. You are such a busy boy yet very intentional. You move from one game to the next in your world of imagination and play. I love that I can walk around our house and tell where you have been by the perfectly straight row of toys you have organized or the puzzle you put back together. I also love that I can tell where you have been by the mess of crumbs or the tower you enjoyed building and knocking down. You can wrestle HARD with your brother then turn and run to your sister to give her kisses and tender snuggles. That just shows how you can be a completely crazy full of energy 2-year-old boy and also one of the sweetest, snuggliest and tender-hearted toddlers I’ve ever seen. I’ve never known anyone that could be so much of both! You love your siblings FIERCELY and that makes your Momma and Daddy so proud. We love that you help take care of Lou, bringing her toys, reading her books, speaking sweetly when she is upset. And we love that you look up to your brother, watching him play and trying to copy everything he does. In the same breath, you march to your own drum, blazing your own trail and creating new and different ways to do everything. You are creative and full of life. You are talking more and more these days and surprise us all the time with what you come up with to contribute to the family conversations! Most of all, though, we love that you are starting to participate in bed-time prayers and bible verses. Sweet Cbug, you are blessing to all of 4 of us and to so many others. We are so proud of the little boy that you are becoming and look forward to getting to continue this journey with you. When we pray for you we ask the Lord to grow in you these characteristics in a way that they will be used for His glory!

I love you so much, my sweet Snugglebug!