Friday, November 7, 2014

Elf on the Shelf- A month of ideas!

Last year we had our very first visit from an elf. I had been avoiding the whole "Elf on a Shelf" scenario for a few years.... it just looked like soooooo much work- sooooo much pressure, and just ONE.MORE.THING to add to the craziness of the season.

But I finally decided to try it out after a friend raved (and raved) about what fun they had with it the last couple of years. She made it sound so wonderful!

And wonderful it was. 

I soon discovered that it just brought a little extra Christmas magic to our month. The kids were excited to find him each morning, and I caught them on occasion just talking to him. They would guess where he would be the next day, and it was so awesome to see their reactions each morning. It was also really fun to have our oldest son help with some of the set-ups. 

They have also continued taking about him all year. Seriously. The conversations/memories the kids have of our elf "Candycane" have been so fun. I love that what started out as something that I was pretty reluctant to embrace has become such a wonderful addition to our Christmas. It's not taking away from the true meaning of Christmas for us, it just adds a little more fun and excitement.

Last year, we decided that we wanted the set ups to be cute and funny, so none of our ideas really required any clean-up (except for the sugar angel, but that one was too cute to pass up!)
Some ideas came to us so easily and some were found at 11pm the night before on Pinterest. eek!

So, I thought I'd put up a list of what we did and hopefully it will give some of you some new ideas for this year.... you know, in case you were planning on jumping off the fence into the land of elves too!

Dec 1- First Day, the kids found our elf hanging out on the top of our advent calendar. They named him Candycane.

Dec 2- Candycane brought the kids new Christmas jammies to open and wear all month.

Dec 3- A little (and yummy) reminder to "BE GOOD"

Dec 4- A fun game of dominos

Dec 5- Candycane heard our girls singing "Away in a Manger" the night before. The kids found him playing that song in the morning

Dec 6- Reading a Christmas story to his buddies

Dec 7- A game of hide and seek

Dec 8- Candycane covered himself in Christmas stickers and tried to blend in as a ornament

Dec 9- A fun little surprise for the kids when they went to grab their cereal spoons

Dec 10- Eating from one of the four food groups

Dec 11- A Sugar Angel

Dec 12- He brought new Christmas coloring books

Dec 13- Hanging out in the freezer with a new snowfriend

Dec 14-A new family board game for us to unwrap and play- Jenga!

Dec 15- A little hunt. The note says "I hid 4 Candycanes in the room, can you find them in 4 minutes?"

Dec 16- Hot Chocolate for breakfast

Dec 17- Paper chain countdown. Only 8 sleeps left!

Dec 18- Another game of hide and seek. This time in the cupboard

Dec 19- A marshmallow bath in the barbie house

Dec 20- Let's bake sugar cookies!

Dec 21- Watching his favorite movie "Elf"

Dec 22- Candycane (red and white) balloons in the hallway upstairs (woke up to giggles that morning!)

Dec 23- Sugar cube ice castle building

Dec 24- Time to say goodbye. A note from Candycane to the kids telling them what fun he had all month and promising to be back next year. The note said that Santa would lift the Christmas magic for a few minutes so that the kids could hug and kiss him goodbye. Sweetness.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Out of control

"How's homeschooling?"

It's the question I am asked most often these days.
And to be totally honest it's a hard one to answer.
I usually say something like:

"Oh, you know, some days are good and some are hard."

And it's true.... but I wish I could explain it better. I just have a really hard time putting into words what these last two months have been like. Homeschooling has definitely changed our family. In so many ways.

I think what I love best is that we are experiencing life together. We have had some pretty rocking moments together that I know are God's little gifts to me. Little joys that would not have been mine if we weren't spending our days together in this way.

*The mid afternoon talks while strolling in Fish Creek.
*The many, many baking adventures.
*The quiet giggles as we listen to Ellie's elaborate morning prayers (man, God must have so much fun listening to his children!)
*The way his face lights up when he figures out that hard thing called Math.
*Listening to her reading... and getting it.
*Hearing them making up those imaginary games.
*Taking joy in learning all about God's creation together.
*Watching her breeze through her schoolwork and then desiring more.

So many wonderful moments.

The hardest thing though has been figuring out how to make it work for each of the kids in different ways. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and we are still figuring out new ways to both support and challenge them. It has been a lot of trial and error. A lot.  ;)

But even on those hard days I get to spend them with these lucky am I?!

Recently another homeschooling mom told me that the first year of homeschooling is like having your first baby. And I am here to say that that is probably the most accurate comparison.

When I think back to when I first had Evan I remember a messy mix of hard moments and moments where I wondered how on earth I could be so blessed.

My heart was so filled to the brim with unspeakable joy.
I just couldn't grasp the fact that this perfect little guy was mine to love!
I spent hours cuddling, swaying, singing.
I spent hours praying, laughing, loving.

I was also....

exhausted beyond words.
and worried that I was doing everything wrong.
and scattered.... where oh where did I put those car keys?
and stressed that maybe, just maybe I wasn't cut out for this....
and faced (daily!) with the fact that I didn't know what the heck I was doing.

All of this describes that crazy first year of being a Mama......and it also perfectly describes our last 8 weeks.

But God.

He has been gently teaching me that this is a good place to be.... out of control. Because it leaves room for Him. When I have my act together it's easy to go through the day without Him. But Lord have Mercy.... have I needed HIM! Daily. Hourly.

I need him.

And I want my kids to learn the same. That they need Him. That through it all, whether good or wonderful or hard or scary being out of control is the best place to be.... as long as we remember that He is always in control!

As we roll into our third month of homeschooling I feel like we are starting to find our way. 
We are making mistakes but we are picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off.

And just like with parenting, I am holding onto the hope (the promise! the knowledge!).... that this indeed will get easier.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy Day

September 9, 2014
I want to remember this day.

It's the day God showed this (newbie) homeschooling mama that He is IN THIS with me.
The day He truly and perfectly spoke to our son's heart. And Evan listened.
The day I am reminded that God pursues us all and desires to be in relationship with us even more than we could ever hope for.
And the day when I was able to share in the most important decision of Evan's life.

This summer I took some time to make a list of all the things that I wanted the kids to learn this year- ya, I kinda love lists! Among the academic goals I had for each of the kids I began to realize that our focus this year needed to be on the kids ability to hear God. I want them to know, reeeeeeally know him. To run to Him. To desire Him.

We started today, with this book.

It is wonderful! It does an incredible job explaining to kids how God's desire is to speak to them and how they can recognize his voice!

I read about halfway through and then told the kids that we were going to practice listening to His voice. They each found a quiet place and I instructed them to just talk to God like they would talk to a friend and then....... to listen. I put some worship music on and let them each have quiet time with God.

20 minutes later Evan came out drying tears. I asked if God had spoken to him- he nodded and proceeded to show me his journal where he wrote that he had asked Jesus into his heart.

I remember back to when Evan said the same thing to me when he was 3 years old. This sweet, chubby little face telling me that He wanted to be Jesus' friend too. This time, though, it was different. It was completely his choice. Zero input from me. Zero pressure. Just the precious prompting of the Holy Spirit. He said that God used this song to speak to him....

We cried together and spoke about how his life is forever changed.
Emotional wouldn't even begin to describe what this moment was like. I have never seen him like that. He was undeniably different. Crying, he kept saying how happy he was. It was the same joy I felt back when I invited Jesus into my own heart. What an incredible blessing it was to be there with him for this.

We talked about how when someone asks Jesus into their heart that there is the most incredible celebration in Heaven and how the angels must be doing back flips!

God is so cool.
Such an encouragement to me that the time we take in our day to learn about Him is SO worth it and will forever change my babies.

Yes, I need to remember this day.
What a GIFT!

Happy Day
Jesus Culture

The greatest day in history, death is beaten
You have rescued me
Sing it out, Jesus is alive
The empty cross, the empty grave
Life eternal, You have won the day
Shout it all, Jesus is alive
He's alive

Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I'll never be the same
Forever I am changed

When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours, Jesus You are mine
Endless joy and perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive
He's alive

Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious name

Saturday, June 14, 2014

We're homeschooling.

Say WHAAAAAT? You're going to homeschool your kids?! All of them?!


I'll let the shock sink in............................................................................. :)

I have always admired and respected homeschooling families (they are superstars!) but I never EVER in a million years thought I would be one of them. Like. Ever.

Well, never say never.

If you know me, you know I process by writing.
So naturally when something big happens to our family I feel the need to write about it.
Plus, by writing about our decision to homeschool I can let everyone know what we are doing without actually having to personally tell everyone.
I'm kinda emotional these days.

Our decision to homeschool was wrestled with, weighed upon, and soaked in over a year of prayer. So many factors went into making this huge decision. And while I know that this is exactly where we are suppose to be for this season, I am still sad.

Change is never easy. Saying goodbye to seeing your best buddies everyday will not be easy. Leaving an amazing school that we have considered family for the past six years will not be easy.

But God.

I know He will meet every need. He will fill our children's hearts. He will guide us and mold us and go before us.

This new season will be exciting and wonderful and stretching and challenging. And we are all going to learn SO much- it's gonna be awesome.
Looking forward to a brand new adventure in the fall!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Keepin' the love lovin'

One day while walking through the grocery store a song came on that I had never heard before. It actually stopped me in my tracks and I let the words sink into my heart. I am a words person. Words are how I express, how I process, how I give and receive love. It always fascinates me when I am reminded that not everyone hears a song the same way I do. Chris listens to the music- the melody, the instruments, the flow of the song.... I listen to the lyrics.

So, I heard this song and immediately wanted to share it with Chris, so I texted him the YouTube video.
(the video is all kinds of crazy.....but again, listen to the lyrics, they are awesome!!)

I should be over all the butterflies
But I'm into you (I'm in to you)
And baby even on our worst nights
I'm into you (I'm into you)
Let em wonder how we got this far
Cause I don't really need to wonder at all
Yeah after all this time
I'm still into you
(Still Into You by Paramore)

Shortly after Chris texted me this song:

And so started a new language for us.
A "youtube love song" language.

Throughout the week (sometimes several times a day) Chris and I will text each other "love song" videos. Sometimes they are oldies, sometimes new ones. My favorites are the ones from the 60s and 70s. Sometimes they are hilarious and have me laughing out loud, and sometimes they make me smile at how sweet they are. No matter the type of song when I get a message like this my heart skips a beat.

I try to guess what he has picked for me to listen to but I am ALWAYS surprised. That's the best part I think. It's impossible to guess which one he has chosen. And picking them is equally as fun. Sometimes I am sitting in the school parking lot waiting for the kids and I'm giggling as I imagine what his response is going to be to the one I picked for him.

Our new language is a reminder in the middle of my busy day that he is thinking of me.
It's a reminder in the middle of his busy day that I am thinking of him.

One day a couple of months ago we got into a big argument over something that I'm sure was epic at the time, but now that I'm trying to recall the details I honestly can't even remember. But that day it was an all-out FIGHT. What I do remember is that I was fuming. A.N.G.R.Y. When I get mad I have a hard time sleeping, so I was also exhausted. And frustrated. And I knew he was too.  Later the next day my cell phone chirped with a link to this video.....


How could I stay angry at him after that? He used our secret love language and it was just another reminder to me that we are in this together. For the long haul.

I've considered for a few months now whether or not I should share this on here, but Chris is the one who asked why I hadn't yet.... I guess I wanted it to be just our thing but then I realized that maybe it would be an encouragement to you and your marriage. An idea to add a little extra lovin' in the mix of the everyday shuffle :)

This is what marriage is. It's trying to out serve the other. It's laughing together. Surprising one another. It's saying sorry. And forgiving. And it's secret love messages in the middle of the day.

Some things just,
Some things just make sense
And one of those is you and I
Some things just,
Some things just make sense
And even after all this time
I'm into You
Baby not a day goes by that
I'm not into you
(Still Into You by Paramore)

What do you in your marriage to keep your love lovin'?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Turning Six

My Sweet Selah,

Last night I told you that I'd like you to stay 5 for another year. "Five was a fun year, why don't you just stay little awhile longer?" You giggled and sang out "Noooo, I need to keep groooooowing!"

While I wish I could bottle up your innocence and stop time my prayer for you is that you would keep growing..... in kindness, compassion, joy and in your faith.

As I sit here thanking God for the precious gift you are to me I smile and am reminded of how unique and beautiful you are. What a wonderful blessing you are to our family!

You are so very silly and sweet. When you find something especially funny you laugh this deep belly laugh.  I adore that laugh. And when you start.... well, the room quickly follows.

You are kind and sensitive. You notice when someone needs a friend. When someone needs a hug. You care. You show this all the time in the way you treat your brother and sisters, and the way you serve our family. You are always the first to pull up a chair and offer to help cook dinner.  Often I'll find myself sitting on the couch deep in thought about something and you'll curl up beside me and lay your head on my shoulder.
Simply put- you love being with people. I love that about you.

You are the one who I find making up songs and dancing around the house. I love that you worship Jesus with your heart all day long. You are a quiet preformer....I see you practicing your songs and skits with your sisters and then when it's time to preform you giggle and wiggle and that deep belly laugh comes out.

You are also so creative. You are gifted in working with your hands and I am so impressed by the artwork you create. You are truly a lovely artist. I can't wait to watch you develop your skills as you grow!

I think one of the qualities I most admire in you is that you don't give up. Even when something is difficult and doesn't come naturally to you, you always try your best. I love that about you. You teach me to do the same.

Happy 6th birthday my sweet little lady!
I love you a bushel and a peck.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Love at Daybreak

We sit together on the couch and she starts playing with my hair. Stroking it with her tiny fingers. She leans in close and whispers how beautiful I am.

Laughing I shoot and miss. Again. With a black controller in my hand I tell him how good he is at this game. He beams and patiently shows me once again- 'A' is to pass. 'X' is to slide. 'B' is to shoot. 

She comes alongside me as I prepare dinner. She asks to help and smiles wide when I tell her to pull up a chair. Together we put this and that into the pot. Together we serve.

She waits for me in her bed with a book in her hand. I curl up beside her and she starts to read. Some words come easily, others she takes her time to sound out. With each one her confidence grows and I get to share in her joy.

Tiny everyday miracles. Moments I try hard not to take for granted.

His hair falling wild across his forehead.
Her sweet giggles as I sing her our bedtime song.
The way her socks are always mismatched.
How she'll hug my waist and rest her head against me.
His love for his baby sister.
The bracelets they make me.
The bubbles in the bath.
The wind blown hair.
The silly songs.
The laughter.
The tears.

As a mom, I am given these tiny miracles.
They are my gift.
Every. Single. Day.
Even on hard days....

Tomorrow will be one of those hard days. April 13th will mark 22 years since I lost my mom to cancer.
This day is always hard.... and yet for the past few years it has also been a day that God has used to awakened my mama heart.
It it like a beautiful messy day of grief and thanksgiving.  

Tonight, as I think about my mom and the great joy it is BE a mom, this is my prayer:

"Surprise us with love at daybreak;
    then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
    we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
    the ways you rule and bless your children. 
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us"
   Psalm 90:14-17 (The Message) 

Oh God, may it be so.... Surprise my family with love at daybreak. Make up for the bad times with some good times. Let us see what you are best at. The way you rule and bless your children.

I am going to spend the day with my eyes wide open. I am going to hug tighter. Laugh longer. Listen harder. Love deeper.

And one day,  I will share these tiny miracles with her too.


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