Friday, September 30, 2011

REWIND: Family Day...without Daddy

On the last weekend of September, RRL went to a conference out of town.  It was a busy weekend on the home-front, too, so I wanted to be sure we squeezed in some fun on Friday night.

First stop, a cupcake bakery.
"Mom, do we SERIOUSLY get to have cupcakes before dinner"
Yes! Yes you do.
Welcome, dear ones, to the privileges of having a pregnant Momma who may or may not have a slight compulsion toward junk food.

Next stop:
What great timing that the annual family day for my Company fell on this evening.  It is always such a fun event and a great (free) way to run off some energy, get everyone fed, and play with some friends.
We watched the model trains
 and met some characters from sister companies.
(two of my favorite characters are the ones hiding behind those fans-turned-masks)

But their favorite part was the inflatable obstacle courses.
I'm pretty sure two brothers could have read-set-go-ed themselves ALL.NIGHT.LONG. 

They absolutely LOVED it!

 And a certain baby-sister loved waiting for them at the end, cheering for all of the brave sliders
(one of which she was not)

What a fun night!  We stayed and played until everyone was so sleepy we barely made it back to our car.
We sure missed RRL, but I loved getting to make these fun memories with my kiddos.


Monday, September 26, 2011

MMM (rewind): Apple Orchard

One Monday morning, at the end of September, the weather was finally tolerable (ie you could go outside without melting in your own SWEAT).  I really wanted to GO SOMEWHERE with the kiddos for our Monday activity and enjoy the outdoors.  I did some quick online research and found that a little apple orchard near our house was open for visitors.

OR so I thought.
I knew just driving down the road that lead to the orchard that this day was going to be just magical.  Not too many miles from our home, this was the scene as we were driving along.  Isn't it beautiful? And quiet.

I knew it was going to be a morning full of fun and learning. I was pretty proud of my still-feeling-pretty-lousy self for coming up with the GENIUS plan for our morning. Already blogging about it in my head as we drove down this road (before we even arrived). I KNOW.

I mean, LOOK.  Here is a learning opportunity before we even make it inside. 
Look how intent these three are on "reading" the rules.
Interpreted for my 5, 3, and 2-year-old: We are responsible for our own actions.
Interpreted for the Momma: Keep a close eye on said 5, 3 and 2-year-old. 

OH WAIT.  Maybe the kids weren't all that interested in reviewing the safety sign.
They were actually checking out this new "friend".
Until he hopped/flew his huge self away and sent a certain princess into near hysterics.

So, when we finally made it inside (by walking right through an open gate), we found out that the farm was closed for the day.  (Ok, so maybe I should have wondered why there were not any other cars in the parking lot).  What I didn't read on the website was that this is a "teaching farm" so they really only take school groups, which we might have been able to join except there weren't any scheduled this Monday.  Ah well.  AND since it is really just a "teaching" farm there weren't large bushels of fresh fruits and vegetables to take home with us as I had naively imagined.

BUT there were apples to pick.
One per picker.
The trees were perfect for my three because they were "dwarf" apple trees...lots of low-hanging-fruit that was just the right size for a snack.

my camera battery died. 
The end.

No pictures of Cbug picking his apple
Or of the very cool butterfly garden
or the chicken coop
or of Lou clinging to me for dear life, so she wouldn't be pecked to death by those chickens (which were still inside the coop)

So, even though we had to give ourselves the tour
and even though we didn't leave with a bushel of apples for pie making
and even though I had to adjust my "fun meter" from my expectation
and even though I don't have many pictures to show for it...

It was a great apple-pickin', critter chasing, butterfly watching Monday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

now THAT's a holiday...

This Labor Day weeekend,
we went exploring. 

We were looking for the perfect place to
be in the woods,                 together,                  discovering new and exciting things (like pine needles) 

And maybe a place where we could do a little fishin'.

It didn't even really matter to us if there was water to fish in. 
Just a little open space to practice casting would work just as well.

We needed to find a place where even the relaxing could be so much fun!

And we'd LOVE it if there just happened to be a train ride.
(Although maybe a certain three-year-old should be warned that we might not win the onboard competition for cotton-candy)

It would make the place all the sweeter if there were times to share...
and times you didn't have to share (like when playing king of the mountain).

 But best of all, the place would be a PERFECT holiday get-away if we went there with some of our favorite people.

Beaver's Bend, OK        Labor Day 2011

Now THAT was a perfect holiday adventure!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Family Math

Just a few short weeks ago, I wrote about not knowing what was "next" for us.  I knew that our experience with being a party-of-eight had forever changed us.  But I wasn't sure how that change should be incorporated into our normal-ness.  Only a couple of days after writing that post, we got a little glimpse into some of the "what next?"  We certainly don't claim to see the whole picture yet.  In fact, we are more convinced than ever that His ways are HIGHER than our ways and we only see a bit of the picture right now. 

BUT, we are so thankful that the Lord didn't wait a millisecond longer to reveal this "tiny" piece.  Which shall now be revealed to you in the form of a math equation...



*due around April 30th

*and I am hereby entering the stage of most-unattractive picture awards...totally worth it.

Can I just tell you the roller-coaster of emotions I experience just from scrolling through those four pictures?  I mean, I couldn't make this up if I tried.  Just four short days after our nephews and nieces went home, we were still reeling from trying to figure out what our family would look like.  AND BAM...we found out that baby #4 was on his/her way to us.  I still can't believe it.  Yet because of His miraculous goodness to us over and Over and OVER during this season, it actually does not surprise me one bit.  I mean, He has been so good to give us powerful sustainment when we needed it most, amazing community when we couldn't walk alone, and a new and full delight in His will and His word.  So, for Him to go beyond that and just ice the cake for us with this sweetness definitely goes into the "more than we could ask or imagine" category.  I wish I could fully express in blogland words just how miraculous the timing of this little one is.  Maybe that will have to be a whole post in-and-of-itself.  For now, even though this is much "earlier" than we typically take such news to the www this is too crazy cool to keep to ourselves.  We just couldn't wait to share the amazing news with those of you reading along on our adventures. 

"For the Lord is good, and his love endures FOREVER. 
His faithfulness continues to all generations" 
Psalm 100:5


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nehemiah: Taking Deep Breaths

As I have journeyed through the book of Nehemiah, one theme that really stuck out to me is about breathing. It is interesting that this is one that sticks out to me, because it is not really something that is a transparent theme. There are obvious themes about following the will of God, about gaining encouragement from the ways He has blessed you in the past, about how to be a good leader, about community and how to build it, even parenting advice. But God is so good to use his word to meet you where you are, and to let it come alive through the lens of your experiences. And because breathing itself was a struggle for me in the last 6 months, like never before, I know God just knew I needed these nuggets about breathing.
Even now, but especially while there were six small children in my care, there were times during my day when I felt my heart start racing, I would literally have to remind myself to take deep breaths. Like literal, life sustaining breaths. Sometimes it came in a panic about what was coming next for our family or about not knowing how to "help" others. Many times my breath would just be threatened by the pure busy-ness of running from one child or activity to the next. I would get so busy just "doing" that I would forget to do what should be most intrinsic...breathe.

It sounds crazy that something I do not even remember learning to do- taking breaths- could suddenly be challenged. But maybe in the chaos of your life, you’ve faced such moments, too. If so, I would love to share this with you. Not because it is Earth shattering or because it comes from any depth of theological experience. Simply because it was given as a very sweet gift to me when I needed it most, and I’d love to share a piece of it with someone else. It’s the only way I know to repay all He continues to bless me with…pour it out.

1) In Nehemiah Chapter 2, Nehemiah is faced with both an opportunity of a lifetime and also one of the most difficult positions he has ever been in. As cupbearer to the King, he is in a unique position to enjoy the King's attention frequently. When Nehemiah finds out about the great need of his people, he knows it is his calling to go back and lead them. Only one problem, he needs the favor of the King. As he stands before the King, it is actually the King who notices his demeanor has changed and asks Nehemiah "What is it you want?" In that instant Nehemiah says "I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king..." (2:5). I love this because the punctuation of the sentence leads me to read it as only a short pause between the prayer to God and the answer to the king. Nehemiah didn't run off to his room to pray before answering the King, it is like his prayer is simply the inhale before the exhale of his words. Standing right there, in the midst of his personal "chaos" he just breathes prayer. It couldn't have been long, it couldn't have been one in which he was too deliberate about his words, it had to just be like a quick flood of the Spirit. A deep breath- a breath full of life sustaining Spirit.

2) In the prayer of the Israelites in Chapter 9...the whole prayer is amazing, but a favorite part for me is at the beginning...its an often heard theme throughout scripture, but it just struck me differently as I've been re-learning to breathe. "You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you" (chpt 9:6b) Again- because of the way the sentence reads, I really see it as an inhale/exhale sentence.

Lord, as I breathe in the life you provide- the literal oxygen you gave us, using the lungs you created, passing energy through the blood that flows intricately through give me life. And as I result, in the exhale, I'll worship you.

The very way I breathe changes when I recognize and praise where the breath comes from.
So many times over the last months, I've found myself washing dishes, putting clothes in the washing machine, disciplining children, thinking about our family craziness...and just start breathing prayer. I don't stop doing what I'm doing or speaking what I'm speaking, I don't have time to. My INHALE (both literally and figuratively) has to come from the Lord and the exhale is the action of service, the praise of the Lord, the simple daily tasks. I breathe deeper and fuller knowing that the life comes from him and as a result the exhale is full of peace, and is calming. Granted...sometimes it takes a WHOLE LOT of forced breaths before the air becomes more natural to take in. Sometimes the inhales have to happen in a quiet room by myself. Sometimes I wish I had a rewind to redo the "toxic" breathing I let myself slip into. But slowly, I am learning...
Inhale prayer.Exhale action.Inhale life.Exhale praise.Inhale.Exhale.

Its like an exercise, something I have to remind myself to do.
The recognition of "inhale then exhale" makes me pause before exhaling (or acting). It helps me remember to think before I act or speak and also to remember that I can only do one thing at a time, take care of one child at a time, tackle one difficult task at a time. Only one direction/action per exhale. One breath at a time.

If you spent much time with me when my nieces and nephews were with us, you may have physically noticed this in me. I literally found myself having to take forced deep breaths to do simple things like focus or communicate with others. You may have literally been able to see and hear my chest heave huge inhales, my eyes may have squinted a bit as I tried to let the fullness of life in. It was intentional, yet difficult. It should have been natural, yet it was challenged. I believe the stress of life can have very physical implications for our bodies. BUT I also believe that the Lord can take those very same physical strains and out of them bring a deeper reliance and understanding of the fullness of life He provides. I know he communicated deeply with me as I struggled to breathe. And in so doing, taught me to breathe in a way I’ve never experienced.  For each of those deep, visible breaths, there was a prayer, a praise, a basking in the knowledge that HE controlled our craziness.

And so in the craziness I enjoyed the deep breaths.  Full. Deep. Intentional.  Full of His Spirit.

Friday, September 2, 2011

First day of SKOO

Lou has been excited for WEEKS about this day, telling anyone who would ask "In da fah, I go to skoo wid my brufurs."  And "fall" (at a whopping 105 degrees) arrived on Monday, the day she FINALLY got to go to school with her brothers. 

On meet the teacher night, Lou walked in her classroom and basically sized-up the place, glaring at one teacher then the next, eyes darting around the classroom, as if to say "this will do".  The teacher made a comment about children being a little shy at the beginning of the school year.  RRL and I did not really respond, we just looked at each other with a knowing glance, as if to say "oh, I hope they don't mistake THIS for shy."   
And sure enough, there was NO shy about it when it was time for the first day, she hugged us and then just walked herself right into class (even left baby June in her cubby without complaining). Like she had waited her whole life for this. And all week that excitement continued, she tells us about her friends and teachers and her lunch. Everyday. Love it!

Cbug had kind of a rough first week, with struggling through his seasonal asthma issues.  But, I'm telling you, his sweet teachers went WAY above and beyond to make sure he still enjoyed the week.  Usually when he is feeling this way, he just wants to stay home.  This week, though, he LOVED getting to be with Ms R and Ms C.  I am so so so thankful for that.

Cbug came home each day telling us about what they got to do and about the friends he played with.  I love that he is getting to the age where he can really talk about who he played with and what they did.

KJ was pretty much BORN to go to "practice" Kindergarten.  He thinks it pretty much makes him the coolest person A-L-I-V-E.
 If anyone asks KJ whether he likes Kindergarten, 9 times out of 10 he'll simply answer "Of COURSE".  As if to say "who wouldn't?"  A favorite school story about KJ's week, I've actually already posted on FB, but its too funny not share AGAIN.  On Tuesday at dinner time, we were talking about favorite parts of the day.  Our conversation with KJ went something like this:
K: "Today we helped Fid put bones in his dog house"
Me: "Fid?  Like F-i-d, Fid?"
K: "Yes, Fid the dog.  Well, it did have an 'o' on the end, but the 'o' was silent"
Me: "You mean FIDO?"
K: "Yeah." With a smirk and a shrug as if to say "Yeah, if that's how YOU want to say it"
So that pretty well sums up KJ and kindergarten.  He's LOVING IT, but I think he'd prefer to TEACH it.

Mostly, I love to hear about the times during the day that the three amigos got to see each other.  Every.Single.Day, they recount whether they got to see each other outside on the playground or in the hallway.  Its like they are constantly watching out for each other, especially the boys for their baby sister. 

I love how connected they are- and definitely need to remember that on days they seem to be at each others' throats.

So, we're off to a good start.  The first week of our new schedule and all three at one "skoo" has been a bit of a transition, but I can already see how it is going to simplify things around here.  I'm so thankful for that!