My Fab Fam

My Fab Fam
Photo by Thousand Hills Photography. Click on photo to visit their site.

Friday, March 30, 2012

I've Joined the Masses

I sent my big girl to preschool decked out in UK blue and white yesterday.  And just in case you think by saying "I've joined the masses" I'm referring to the Big Blue Nation, you are only partially right.

Let me back up to Valentine's day.  Big girl's class was having a party.  She was supposed to take Valentine's cards for each boy and girl in her class.  I, forgetting that my "baby" is now big enough to share in such decisions, grabbed a box of "My Little Pony" cards at Kroger and marked that task off my to-do list.

When baby-turned-big-girl saw the box she protested: "Mommy, we are supposed to make the cards." She then went on to describe how we should apply cotton balls to red heart doilies, which, to my knowledge, she had never seen in her life.  Okay.  Back to the store for red heart doilies.  And after three days of what seemed like non-stop crafting, she had finally created twelve doily valentines that met her standards.

Then Aunt Sissa visited.  Sissa (so nicknamed by one of our nephews) is one of the creative sisters I told you about in a previous post.  She always brings some fun crafty activity, or two, for the girls to do.  This visit was no exception.  She brought lips to stick on blow-pop suckers so that when you are eating the sucker, other people only see these great, big, red lips.  She had also printed little tags that read, "Happy Valentine's Day" which needed to be glued onto the sticks (to hold the lips in place) and signed by big girl.

So, now we have "My Little Pony" cards, a dozen doilies, and more than a dozen blow-pop valentines.  Though I had been perfectly content to send my big girl to preschool with prefab cards to which she simply signed her name, now we suddenly looked like over-achievers with three valentines all sealed up in sandwich-sized zip-locs.

I was thoroughly convinced that she would be the only kid in her class who had over-done preschool valentines.  I worried about how it might make the other kids feel who were only giving little cards when she was giving little goody bags.  I even worried that other parents would think, "Who is this mom?  Why is she trying to be such a show-off?"

I was so very wrong.  Big girl came home from her preschool party with a white paper sack STUFFED FULL of valentines--cards attached to suckers, pencils, stickers, stamps, candy, cookies...I don't even remember what all was in there.  As I realized elaborate valentines were par for the course, some worries evaporated:  (1) the other kids were obviously not made to feel bad by my daughter's valentines and (2) the other parents were not going to be accusing me of showing off since their children's valentines were comparable.  (If anything, our valentines were modest in comparison, but I'm trying to avoid such silly comparisons.)

With those worries gone, a new worry slipped in the tiniest crevice of my brain for the briefest moment:  Is this what will be expected of us for every party or special event?

I quickly dismissed this thought and moved forward.  Until "color" day.  This is the day that the children dress in the focus color of the month.  The first color day that concerned me was green day.  We were out of our normal routine that particular morning so my man helped big girl choose her outfit, and she chose an orange dress.  By the time I saw the reminder on my phone, "Wear green," it was too late.  But...alas!  We were saved!  Her dress had green and yellow flowers on it.  After pointing this out, I shipped her off to preschool with confidence.

That afternoon, she matter-of-factly informed me that she was the only one in her class that did not have green on.  When I reminded her that she had green in her dress, she responded with a look that very clearly said, "That is not the same thing."

The next color day was purple.  Being a Facebooker, I am also friends with some of the mommas of the other kids in my daughter's class.  One posted a picture of her daughter decked out in purple...purple shirt, purple bow, purple necklace, purple nail polish...

My girl wore a purple shirt.

This brings me to the point, finally.  Two days ago, my daughter's teachers sent home a note which said, in essence, "In celebration of the NCAA championship games, please have your child wear a tee shirt in support of their favorite sports team."  Being the sports lover that a I am...not...I somewhat dismissed the letter.  Knowing we didn't own a single piece of clothing that had anything to do with sports, I shrugged and thought we would probably not participate in the "celebration."  We being my big girl and me.

Then Wednesday night rolls around and suddenly I realize this has very little to do with me.  I am about to send my big girl into a setting where she will once again be the "only one in her class that did not have _____ on."  I actually start to panic.  So, I join the masses--the masses of parents that will do anything for their kids to feel accepted and part of the group--and I make a midnight run to Wal-Mart.

Midnight.  I am one of about ten people in the store and I find the only two UK clothing articles that are still available for preschoolers.  I buy them both.

Here she is, sporting her choice of the two little BOY'S shirts I found...

(Please don't tell her this came from the boy's department!)

But what you can't see in the picture is the UK hair bow and the blue sparkle finger nail polish.  (She wanted to paint her toenails too, but since she has to wear tennis shoes to school, I drew the line at finger nails.  After all, I maintain some serious boundaries.  Or perhaps I have some serious issues with boundaries, as this get-up teeters dangerously on the side of an over-achiever.)

I know I am not the only parent that made a last-minute run to Wal-Mart to keep their child from feeling excluded.  The sales associate that helped me locate the last of the UK items said she had just helped another parent the night before; he, too, had told her he was shopping for his child to have something to wear to preschool.

Why do we do it?  We want our kids to feel secure in their God-given uniqueness, happy to stand out as an individual, willing to go against the flow when necessary and yet we (and I mean me) will do anything to keep them from feeling alone in a crowd.

I pray constantly that my girls will be willing to do what is right and good even if they are the last ones left standing.  And, yet, I can not even send them into a very safe preschool environment if I think they are going to be dressed differently!

The up side to this depressing look into my weakness is this:  daddy is happy she has a UK shirt to don during the Final Four.  And she looks awfully darn cute.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

100 Thing Challenge

This is going to be a quickie.  Today was a full, fun day, which left me NO time to blog.  But I did want to throw this out to anyone who might be interested in taking on a crazy challenge.

I probably don't have the name just right, but there is a concept floating around these days about cutting back your personal items to the bare minimum.  And I mean the BARE minimum:  100 personal items, total.

A friend of mine pitched the idea my way recently.  Although I am not fully committed to the "100 thing challenge," I have taken the cut-back concept and ran with it.  I started with my closet.  I decided I would at least reduce to 100 items there.  Ironically, I didn't even have 100 items; I counted 98.  So, I decided to cut my entire wardrobe, including closets and drawers, down to 100.  And here is where I got stuck.

Have you ever just counted how many clothing items you have in your undies and sock drawers?  That's nearly my 100 right there.  I was feeling pretty good about getting my closet down to less than 50 items recently (including shoes) until I opened my drawers.  I threw up my hands and walked away.

I'm not suggesting that each of you should go straight away to purge your closets.  But, perhaps taking inventory wouldn't be a bad idea.  Just for fun, count the items on hangers--dresses, shirts, skirts--then head to your drawers.  Count your pants, capris, shorts, tanks, pajamas, and sweaters.  And if you haven't reached infinity, count your undies, socks, shoes, belts, coats, scarves, hats, gloves...

Do you see what I mean?  If you only have one of each of the above, you have about twenty items.  Obviously "Dave" lives in a place that is constantly 70 degrees and sunny.  I'm blaming my extensive wardrobe on the fact that I have to accommodate mid-American temperatures that fluctuate between 0-100.

And don't even ask me to look through my kitchen drawers.  I did, after all, sell Pampered Chef at one point.

When I move to the African bush, where it is always 100, then I will gladly reduce my personal items to a tent, mosquito net, a couple of tanks, shorts, flip flops and my Bible.  Throw in a canteen, pot, and knife and just like Survivor Man...I will survive!

That is, if my boy scout husband will accompany me to start my fires and kill whatever creeps, crawls, or crouches behind the bushes.


I'd love to hear from any of you that actually get a rough count on your total wardrobe.  I plan to work through my drawers soon.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Embrace the Camera"

Here's our recent life in pictures:

My big girl is at preschool this morning.  
After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, baby girl asked me to hold her. 
The sweetest words.

Rewind to this past weekend.
Some serious fun was had at our house!

My man put together a swing set that was given to us.
Okay, so he (and our neighbor who pitched in a ladder, tools, and manpower) 
might not agree that this was serious fun, but...
watching it go up was fun for me!
I never cease to be amazed at how God provides so much beyond our needs.
To say the girls love their new play set is an understatement.
They've always wanted to be outside, 
but now I can hardly even get them to come in to eat, take a bath, or go to bed.
At least I can sit on the deck and blog while they play.

But most of the time they want me right beside them.
That's fun.
I know the time's coming when they won't want me too close too often.

Let's crash!
(Look at that mischievous face!)

Big girl obviously thought this was much more fun than her sister did.

Baby girl wasn't sure the slide would prove to be any more fun than bumping on the swings.
Here she's saying, 
"Hold my finger, mommy!"

Only a few days later and she is not only coming down the slide without help, 
but also she's discovered she can run UP the slide if she's barefoot.

After HOURS of playing in the sun, we finally got them to eat something and take a bath.
(Only because we lured them in with the promise of coloring eggs.)
This was much fun!
Baby girl just liked dipping them in the dyes--over and over and over.
So, we had some really interesting eggs.

Silly faces, please!

Let's eat one...

Blue eggs taste GOOD!

The ones we didn't eat...

One fun day!

P.S.  Yes, we do hang out in our pajama's all. the. time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Lord rEjOicEs oVeR yoU!!!!

I know, I know.  This blog is all about confessions of a real mom, but I can not keep from sharing this:

God is BURSTING with emotion when He looks at you.


I think He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry, so He just rejoices over you with singing.  I mean, is that not the craziest, most exciting thing?  If you are not bursting with emotion right now, seriously, stop and ponder this for a second.

The God of the Universe, the "Mighty Warrior who saves," the Almighty Judge, yes, the very One many of us picture seated on His throne with a scowl, is also the one that "is WITH you, takes great delight in you, quiets you with His love, and REJOICES over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).  Lose the scowl.

I'm smiling and tearing up even now.  He takes great delight in ME!  He takes great delight in YOU!

The realization hit me anew--and personally--Sunday while I was worshiping with my church family.  Occasionally we take our kiddos with us into the worship service.  My big girl has recently admitted to me that she thinks it is boring, which makes me smile because I once shared her sentiments.

I can still remember sitting with my mom in worship services when I was a little girl.  I would draw on the visitor information cards, dig through whatever goodies she may have in her purse, or lay my head in her lap while she rubbed my arm and back.  And listen to her sing.  I always wondered why she didn't sing in the choir; my momma has a beautiful voice.  I finally asked her one time why she didn't, and as always, it had something to do with her babes:  she wanted to sit with us.  I never understood this until I had my own beauties.  Now there is little I love as much as sitting all together as a family and worshiping.

I love to sing and am even a bit jealous of the choir sometimes when they are "singin' and swingin' and gettin' merry like Christmas" (a book worth reading if you haven't), but our music minister expects volunteers to be committed and consistent (understandable), and I'm not willing to give up sitting and worshiping with my entire family, even if just on occasion.  So forgive me if you see me singin' and swingin' and gettin' merry right in the pew when the choir breaks out in a good old gospel song like "Can He, Could He, Would He?"  I'm just rejoicing over my God who can, could, would...and did!

And, if we can't sit still when we hear music in its earthly, less-than-perfect state, why do we imagine that God and His angels stand still when heavenly music is swelling?  God is not boring.  Nor is God bored.  Putting all heavenly activities aside, I believe we here on earth offer Him plenty of entertainment.  I mean, think about it.  We love watching our kids, right?  They make us smile, cry, and even rejoice!

Sunday, as my pastor was sharing about hope, I looked over at my girls squished together on their daddy's lap and...for the first time I understood the saying, "I thought I was going to burst!"  My emotions were so full I thought I might laugh right out loud in the quiet of the sanctuary.  I somehow managed to keep that laughter down but tears filled my eyes and a smile stretched across my face.  I wanted to hug 'em to pieces and smother them in kisses.  And when they crawled back into my lap that's just what I did.

Then it hit me, that's how God feels about me.  He looks at me and smiles and tears up and sings for joy while He wraps me up in universe-sized hugs!  Like the sun that shines right onto my deck, onto my chair, and into my face each morning, or the rainbow that stretches over my house after a storm, or the baby-blue butterfly that flies all around me before coming to land right on my thumb!

Those are the "hugs and kisses" I can see and feel, but what I can't see is even more amazing.  The King of the Universe, the One we picture seated regally on His throne, is REJOICING over me with JOY.  If your idea of rejoicing with joy only includes smiling, nodding, and generally being glad, you need to shake those thoughts away.  The Hebrew word for rejoice (siys) "is a verb that indicates great rejoicing and jubilant celebration" (see footnote).  The Hebrew word for joy (simhah) "refers to the reality, the experience and manifestation of joy and gladness.  It refers to a celebration of something with joyful and cheerful activities" (see footnote).

Have you ever sang with glee, danced in your seat, raised your hands in excitement, shrieked or laughed with pleasure?  Those are manifestations of joy.  But what do we do when we celebrate?  What are cheerful activities?  I think of dancing, singing, and having a full-blown party.  And I don't think imagining God doing these "cheerful activities" is a stretch at all since we see evidence of a heavenly party in Revelation (the wedding supper of the Lamb, chapter 19).

God is singin' and swingin' and gettin' merry like Christmas when He looks at me.

God is singin' and swingin' and gettin' merry like Christmas when He looks at YOU!

He might be seated on His throne, but He is not sitting still.

I hope that makes you want to rejoice!

"I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God."  (Isaiah 61:10)


Forgive me, for I have forgotten all the MLA citation rules, but I think this will supply all pertinent information for the book I cited above:

The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Warren Baker, D.R.E. and Eugene Carpenter, Ph.D.
AMG Publishers, 2003

Friday, March 23, 2012

Celebrating the Small Victories

Satan worked over-time in my house last night.  By the time my man came home I really just wanted to crawl in bed and have a good cry.  But celebrating a few small victories over the enemy not only allowed me to keep moving forward, but also brought a sweet end to my day.

Satan began his work early.  I had a long list of things to accomplish and I knew the morning offered little promise for productivity.  Between running my big girl to and from preschool and spending an hour at the dentist, I wouldn't have an opportunity to knock out any of the big items on my list; so, I put a lot of stock in my afternoon.

After preschool, we grabbed a quick lunch in hopes of getting the girls down for a nap sooner.  My thoughts:  go to sleep sooner, wake up sooner, get to work sooner.  Um, no.  Three hours later (that is four o'clock) my big girl finally stumbles into the living room.  I can not remember the last time she took a three hour nap.  There are many days she doesn't nap at all.  Why this day?  (And the first feelings of frustration start to bubble up.)

In case any of you are thinking, well, you had three hours right there to be productive.  Um, again, no.  My girls are light sleepers.  I have to find quiet activities while they are sleeping.  While they are going to sleep, I give myself a break.  I check email, Facebook, and play games on my phone.  When they are finally asleep, I head to the living room.  This is my time to read, blog, sort mail, balance the checkbook, fold laundry, and--on occasion--nap.

I did get some of the above done before my little one woke.  Then we played quietly for about an hour (working puzzles and reading books) before her big sis came to join us.  The next hour was spent tickling and giggling on the couch, and serving up strawberry cakes and tea from their play kitchen.  I'm not saying that was wasted time, but I wasn't accomplishing MY goals.  (Frustration tempered with fun and laughter.  Small victory.)

If you're keeping up with the time, you know that it's now five o'clock.  One of the biggies on my to-do list was going to the grocery.  So, now it's time to be eating, or at least fixing supper, and instead we are on our way to the store to buy something to fix!  (Frustration re-surfaces.)

My dinner plans:  chicken salad (made with avocado and strawberries) and spinach salad.  I have been looking forward to it ALL DAY LONG.  We grab the ingredients, along with a few other necessities (like biscotti), and head to the check-out.  Here things fall apart.  I'm not sure how or why.  I guess all the trips back and forth across the store, along with our increasing hunger, has left all three of us with very little energy and patience.  We somehow make it out of the store without any complete meltdowns, but I'm sure the friend we saw in the check-out line now wonders if I am always that frazzled.  (Frustration mounting.)

By the time we get home and get the groceries in the house, I am so hungry that I'm not feeling well.  Before even putting all the cold stuff away, I start peeling an orange.  The girls' stomachs smell it from the other side of the house and they are at my side before I have the first piece in my mouth.  We devour that in a nanosecond and start pilfering through the bags for something else.  Pineapple!  Half of that is gone before we realize our stomachs aren't accepting all the sugar very well.  So, we pull out cheese and crackers.  But, here's another small victory:  I discovered some very yummy, guilt-free crackers recently while visiting with some friends from Canada, and wonder of wonders, found the same brand at Kroger!  So, we celebrate!  By eating them.  (Frustration diffused.)

Now sufficiently full, I have no desire to boil chicken, or dice strawberries, avocado, and onion.  So, I put the groceries away and start to clean out the frig (another big item on my to-do list).  While trying to dump the last piece of chocolate pudding cake from two weeks ago, I fumble and drop it right IN FRONT of the trash can.  Did I mention it has two parts:  cake and PUDDING?  Yeah, well, the cake was also dried out and crumbled into a million different pieces and before I could get it picked up, my big girl walked right through it.  (Yes, frustration has nearly peaked.)

But, God opens my eyes to what really matters as I notice my baby girl is singing, "Holy is God," a sweet song all of her own making.  So, instead of sweating the small stuff as I am prone to do, I turn my big girl nearly up-side-down to clean off her feet, shoo her away from the mess, and pick up the pieces...of the cake.

A few minutes later, my man walks into yet another disaster.  (That other big item on my list, cleaning the kitchen...yeah, it didn't happen.)  There's no dinner ready and no promising signs that there will be anything ready anytime soon.  I start to apologize, but feeling like that's such an inadequate expression of my guilt and disappointment I just sigh.  My expectations of myself have left me feeling completely defeated.  (And here my frustration peaks.)

Left-overs come to my rescue, and as he eats, I settle down to work yet another puzzle with our babe.  Another very small but sweet victory brings unexpected satisfaction as this little one who has shown no interest in learning surprises me once again.  I watch as she works a 12-piece puzzle almost instinctively.  Amazed.  (Frustration fading.)

We all lounge around for about an hour, with total disregard to our normal bed time, playing and making even more of a mess.  My man has to go BACK to work at nearly ten o'clock and since our girls would usually have been fast asleep for at least an hour before that time, I opt out of doing the normal bedtime routine.  I opt out of ALL of it.  No toothbrushes.  No books.  No Bible stories.  Nothing.  The girls put up a bit of a fuss...

"But we have to brush teeth!"

"No Bible stories????"

The unspoken:  "Mom, have you lost your ever-lovin' mind????"

We potty, put on PJ's, and pile in their bed.  Baby girl is out like a light.  In a few minutes, my big girl looks over at me and says, "Mommy!  We've got to pray!"  (Frustration melts.)

We hold hands, and to prevent waking baby girl, pray silently.

"Thank you, Lord, for my beauties.  Thank you for loving them even more than I love them.  Thank you for letting me borrow them for a while.  Please help me set a good example.  Please help them to grow up to know you and love you.  Amen."  (Frustration gone.)

I'm nearly in tears as I type.  Satan may have won a few victories, but thanks to God, we fought the battles and came out on the other side of this day, still standing.  And what's better is knowing that even though we have a lot more battles to fight, and probably even a few more losses to suffer, as believers in Christ, we've already won the war!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of the evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."  (Eph 6:10-13)


Want to see something beautiful?

Go here...and take special note of the picture of the large group of children near the end of the post.

the anderson crew: that's a lot of children.

I always thought I would adopt.  I'm not saying I won't, but we at least haven't felt God prodding us to make that happen right now.  But I adore families who have heard and answered the call.  And I'm blessed to be friends with a lot of them.  Thanks to you all (you know who you are) for letting me be a small part of your journey, even if just as a spectator.  I hold you in very high esteem.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Laughter is Good Medicine

I've never been the funny one.

I have five siblings and they were always telling jokes when we were younger.  I never got them.

Even that became a joke.

They'd tell a joke then look at me to see how long it would take before I started laughing.  Then they'd hoot, "She finally got it!"  HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!  Now I'm laughing too...but I didn't laugh then!

Even though time and space separates the six of us, we still all connect through group emails and text messages.  Recently one of my siblings went to see Steven Wright perform live.  She emailed one of his jokes to all of us the next day.  This was my reply:

"i didnt' get the joke, but i'm sure that comes as no surprise to anyone.  i'll probably be weeding the garden later, and say, 'oh! now i get it!'"

Only weeding the garden brought no epiphanies.  It took several siblings sending several explanatory emails for me to finally understand.  (At least I think I understand.)

Having said that, I still love a good laugh!  Just keep it simple stupid and we'll have fun all day.  That's why my kids are so good for me.  It doesn't take much to make us laugh, and we do so a lot!  Sometimes we just turn on some music and dance ourselves silly.  Other times we tickle each other.  And, yes, they tickle me too!  Other times we play "Stone Face."  Funny how trying to keep a straight face always makes us laugh.  But most of the time, they can make me laugh without even trying.

Here are a few of the most recent things that have shook some laughter out of me.

The girls were sitting outside at the table while my man and I were running back and forth getting all we needed to sit down and eat.  On one of our trips out the door, my eldest said, "Daddy, I saw three wasps!  There were two boys and one girl.  The boys were fighting over the girl."

Really!  Where did she get that?  My first thought was, "Great!  What else is she learning at preschool?"  So, we asked her, "Where did you learn that boys fight for girls."  Her response:  Bambi.  There's a scene where Bambi is fighting another buck because they want the same doe.  Yep, she learned it in our own house.  (I'm trying to laugh about that.)

But it was my baby girl who made me belly laugh today.  While waiting in the pick-up line at preschool, my little rascal found a used bandage that was all stuck together in her cup holder.  She had just used it for an imaginary boo-boo this morning and decided said boo-boo hurt again and asked me to put the bandage back on.  I said no and explained that we couldn't pull it apart and, even if we did get it apart, it wouldn't stick to her skin anymore.  All her two-year-old mind heard was, "No," which was enough to send her into a tantrum.  She gets her sense of drama from me.  She can make you believe that she has just been abandoned by everyone she loves.  She can turn on the wailing like a faucet and force herself to produce real tears.  But today was different.  Instead of pretending to cry until real tears made their way to the surface, then actually crying until she was gasping for deep breaths (her normal routine), she gave it her best effort for about one minute then apparently decided it was too exhausting.  She abruptly stopped crying, gave a mischievous grin, and asked, "Why's I crying?"  Rotten.  And somehow still insanely sweet.

Hoping you find some laughter in your day!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
(Proverbs 17:22)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To Guilt-Ridden Moms Everywhere

I have felt your guilt...

...when our day was so busy that my girls didn't get naps...

...when a crazy, napless day made them over-tired; then they couldn't go to sleep that night; then their lack of sleep made them cranky, and I didn't deal with them patiently...

...when my own lack of sleep made me tired and I let them watch too much TV while I drank four cups of coffee.  very.  slowly....

...when I opted to stay inside to clean instead of taking them outside in the beautiful weather...

...when we played outside all day and I didn't do any laundry, cleaning, or cooking...

...when both kids were begging for my attention, and I couldn't figure out how to do what they both wanted...

...when our baby fell out of our bed--again (why didn't I learn the first time?)...

...when I over-indulged my girls on their birthdays or Christmas...

...when I worried that I didn't do enough for their birthdays or Christmas...

...when I was too harsh in my punishment...

...when I should have enforced more consequences...

...when I didn't read to them...

...when I didn't get down on the floor to play with them...

...when I didn't offer more occasions for socialization...

...when I missed the sign-ups for preschool and my big girl didn't get to go in the fall...

...when I sent my big girl to preschool (after Christmas) and people said she was too young...

...when I laid my baby down and let her cry so I could help my big girl...

...when I didn't lay my baby down and my big girl looked at me with hurt in her eyes...

...when people said I was starving my baby, that breast milk wasn't enough...

...when I quit nursing my babies (at fourteen months) because I was tired, but wondered if I should have plugged on a bit longer as a nutrition martyr...

...when I over-spent my budget on organic, whole foods...

...when I stayed within my budget and fed my kids processed foods...

...when I was pregnant and sick and laid on the couch for three months while my two-year-old brought me crackers each morning...

...while I was pregnant and sick and my two-year-old ate crackers for breakfast...for three months...

...when I decided I was a horrible pregnant person and had my tubes tied and wondered what possible blessings I might be refusing...

...when I took a nap instead of catching up on housework or having some much-needed quiet time...

...when I didn't get the amount of quiet time I wanted...

...when I didn't have any particular reason to feel guilty but the enemy convinced me I was an over-all rotten mother, wife, friend, daughter, and person.

You may ask how I am still moving forward after all this guilt.  At each turn, I've had to remind myself to do my best and let God take care of the rest.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, I shared my insecurities and fears with a sweet lady (and mother of three grown children) who reminded me of this:  love covers a multitude of mistakes.  Scriptures say, "Love covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8) but isn't it all pretty much the same?  If there is love, we overlook each other's sins and mistakes. If my girls know I love them, won't they be able to forgive me?  But, even beyond that, God is Love.  So, if I ask God (Love) to help me, He will cover my sins and mistakes.  He will work all things for good in my life and in my girls' lives, if we love and trust Him.  So, here's to moving forward!  In Love.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lovin' This Weather

We are having unusually warm weather for March.  
Here's a bit of what we've been up to...

Eating outside... 
(nearly every meal for three days)

The girls picked out their own play clothes.  Pretty cute.
And, yes, that is a "Lunchable."
Since I am here to be open and honest, let me assure you, never, 
NEVER, have we had one of those in our house before.
She has been asking to buy one for years, literally.
I gave in once and snapped a picture.
Really, I'm just smiling.

Still going to preschool...

She asked me to take this picture before we left this morning.


And, of course, gardening...

Wish I had thought to take a picture of baby girl while she was digging in the dirt with me.  
She said, more than once, "I haf so much fun pway outside!"
Here's the finished product.  
Grasses, some dianthus, a rose bush, and strawberry plants--already blooming!  
Ready for some veggies to go in the ground!

And playing with the neighbors as I type...
(no pictures yet)

I'll say it again:
Life is good.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sweet Sleep, Sweet Saturday

Here's the confession:

I need 10 hours of sleep to feel good.

It is true.  Sad, but true.

My girls spent the night with their Nana Friday so me and my man could have some time together.  (Ahhhhh.)  We went to bed at 11:30 and I woke up energized and ready to tackle my over-grown garden...ten hours later.  Yes, my friends, I slept until 9:30.  What adult does that?

I now know the reason life finds me less than enthusiastic in the mornings is because I am only getting about 7 hours of sleep when I need 10!  So, two (or three) hours after limping out of bed, I finally wake up.  Which means that I've been sleep-walking through
making breakfast,
doing dishes,
taking big girl to preschool (which is scary since this involves driving),
doing laundry,
and even constructing towers

and hosting tea parties (good thing the guest list consists of only animals and dolls).

Saturday, however, I gulped down two cups of coffee, pulled on my work clothes, and hit the dirt.  Literally.  Two hours later, I was covered in black (why is that, when the dirt is brown?), I was hungry, thirsty, and shaky, but I felt good!  I accomplished more in those two hours than I usually do in a whole day.  It probably helped that I was able to give my flower beds and veggie-less garden undivided attention; Nana still had the girls.

After weeding, mulching, and watering, we grabbed sub sandwiches and picked up the girls.  Baby girl napped while my man and big girl piddled outside and I did laundry.  Later, we all had big fun getting wet and washing the truck, the car, and two trikes.  We spent so much time outside, we were barely able to get baths and make supper before UK faced Iowa in the NCAA tourney.  Supper was served up in front of the TV (rare, very rare, treat).

After UK grabbed another win and we grabbed ice cream sandwiches, I put the girls to bed and folded a few loads of laundry.  What a day!

I know I've said that Saturdays are lazy, no-work kind of days at our house, but that was before gardening weather blew in.  So long, Lazy No-work Saturdays.  Hello, Spring Gardening!  Working in the garden is one of my all-time favorite things to do; so, it never feels like work.  (Well, never might be an exaggeration; my opinion usually changes when the mid-summer temps start hovering at or above 90.)  I can't say washing cars is one of my favorite pastimes; that's why my car is usually dirty.  But, doing it all together, and watching the girls happily scrub their little tricycles was sweet--took the work right out of it.  (Wish I had taken a picture!)

Maybe Nana will keep the girls every Friday night.  Then at least I'll get one sweet night of rest and one sweet day of energy and joy.  (You know--it's the craziest thing--I'm not crabby when I get sleep.)

My man must have appreciated the effect the extra sleep had on me too, because he echoed my sentiments with, "Maybe we should give Mom weekend visitation rights."

Just kidding, of course.


(P.S.  If you are one of those persons that only sleeps 5 or 6 hours a night, please don't tell me.  I'm trying to avoid the comparison games, but's hard to not feel bad when I know there are people who only need half as much sleep as me.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One Silly, Two Serene, Three Sweeties

Just "Embracing the Camera" tonight.

Not a big fan of posing for my own pics.  
But we actually had much fun (or I did, I'll let hubby speak for himself) getting this one picture.  Remember, I am not a photographer, so it took several tries to get even one fuzzy shot with a strange angle.

Bear with me long enough and I'll get the hang of this.

We are silly.

And here are a few oldies of me with my beauties.  
Love them.

They are sweet.
(And silly.)

And the point of all this is?
To introduce you to one of the blogs I have begun reading daily:

By a momma of 6, all under the age of 8--five biological, one adopted.
Hope you enjoy!

See ya's next week!

To Each His Own Patmos

In preparation for leading a study on Revelation (yes, I am crazy), I have been reading Ann Graham Lotz's book, The Vision of His Glory: Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  In chapter two, she discusses John's patience during suffering and solitude, then goes on to explain the various forms of suffering he might have endured while living in solitude, exiled on the island of Patmos.  Then she asks...

"What is your Patmos?  Is it a hospital bed?  Is it a workplace where you are the only Christian?  Is it a small house with small children?  Is it a rest home for the elderly?  Is it a new city or new job?  Being fired from your job or going through a divorce or death of a spouse can put you on Patmos.  In what way have you been cut off, exiled, and placed in solitude?

"...Perhaps it is because God wants to reveal Himself to you in a new, fresh way."

Which reminds me of something Beth Moore said in her Revelation study; she likened a desert to a sanctuary.  At what times can we feel God's Presence more than when we are in the desert?  And as one of the ladies in my class pointed out, deserts offer no water; so, we have to run to Jesus, the Living Water, if we aren't going to thirst to death.

Are we allowing our Patmos to lead us to Jesus?

I have certainly felt like I'm living on Patmos sometimes.  So thankful that God puts me there on occasion to remind me that He fulfills my every need.

"Jehovah, Jireh, my provider,
His grace is sufficient for me!"

Hear the song.

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."  (Phlp 4:19)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

His Expectations or Mine?

This story begins four days ago, on Saturday.  Saturdays are lazy, no-work days at my house.  Toys come out to stay out, laundry piles up, and dishes fill the sink.

Then Sunday morning rolls around.  The sink is already full, so breakfast dishes remain on the table.  After breakfast, pajamas land on kitchen chairs, beds, floors, and the couch.  Same thing for towels.  Multiple changes of church clothes means that we've now added clean pants, dresses, and tights to the dirty pajamas and wet towels.  A blow-dryer, brush, comb, toothbrushes, and assorted barrettes and bows complete the Sunday morning destruction.

Sunday afternoon brings its own tornado.  As we walk in the door, Bibles and coloring sheets are dropped on the island.  Saturday's left-overs are re-heated for lunch, and the dirty breakfast dishes get transferred from table to counter.  (Remember, the sink is full.)  Church clothes come off, PJ's go on, and there's a mad rush to feed two sleepy girls before nap.  Because we sit with the girls as they go to sleep, the lunch dishes remain on the table.

UK is playing in the SEC championship game Sunday afternoon, so the house neglect continues.  Then we go back to church for Bible study.  Afterwards, lunch dishes are pushed aside and Arby's provides supper.

Monday morning finds me holding an unusually cranky toddler.  Even sans fever, I know something is wrong and that afternoon we're off to the pediatrician.  And since our pediatrician's office is near a Panera and a Target (and we're not contagious), we make a day out of the trip.

On Tuesday my big girl goes to preschool, and I head to the grocery with my baby.  This day brings a lot of sunshine and a minor disappointment, so we head outdoors to soothe our souls.  We come in for naps then head right back out into the Sonshine again.

Which brings me to last night.  My husband walks into a house of chaos.  (Okay, so maybe I've picked up a little over the last four days, but still...there are three-day-old dishes in my sink!  Ugh.)  I apologize for the mess, feeling terribly guilty that I've let things spiral out of control, and start to explain, "It was just so nice out today..."

He looks around at the piles of dishes and replies, "I love it."

Even typing it makes me smile.  My expectations (keep a clean house) were not his expectations (enjoy our girls).

Thinking about it this morning, as I finally gave the kitchen its long-overdue cleaning, triggered thoughts of God.  I wonder how many times I project my own expectations onto God, thinking if I am disappointed in myself He must be disappointed in me too.  I wonder how many times I go to Him with, "Lord, I'm sorry I didn't do such-and-such," and His reply is, "You did exactly what you should have done.  I love it.  And I love you."  I wonder.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men I would not be a servant of Christ" (Gal 1:10).  I think "men" includes myself.

Lord, help me let go of any unnecessary expectations of myself and help me to see myself the way you see me.  Show me only what I must do to please You.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Learning to be the Light"

Today's admission is simple:  
I'm learning to be the light.

A hurdle was thrown in my path today.  
And I wanted to sulk. girls deserve better.  
(Not to mention this unusual spring weather begged for jubilation.)
We tossed some dried fruit and cheese in a back pack, pulled on our sunglasses, 
and headed out for a picnic.
A blanket, a tree, and some flowers set the stage for fun in the sun.
After a few minutes in the sunlight, I realized the disappointment that could have sent me into a pit of self-pity was actually an opportunity to enjoy a few precious minutes with my beauties.  

So glad I didn't miss that one!
(Because I've missed too many.)

The world is full of hurts, hurdles, disappointments, and darkness.  
I want my girls to know how to find joy amid the sorrow.  
Knowing life lessons are caught, not taught, means I have to set the example.

Lord, remind me to seek the light when my mood is dark 
and to be the light when life wounds my babies' hearts.
I don't always do this.
But, thanks to Your grace, I'm learning.
Learning to be the light.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Eternity in Our Hearts

"He has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecc. 3:11).

When I'm rising out of my bed, saying, "This is the day that the Lord has made...Um, Lord, help me rejoice and be glad in it."  (I'm not really a morning person.  Understatement.)

When I'm staring in the refrigerator, wondering, "What in the world can I fix for breakfast that is quick, easy, and healthy?"

When I'm pulling clean clothes out of the dryer, putting wet clothes in the dryer, tossing dirty clothes in the washer, then folding wrinkled clothes that have sat in a basket all weekend...

When I'm staring in the refrigerator, wondering, "What in the world can I fix for lunch that is quick, easy, and healthy?"

When I'm unloading the dishwasher, putting clean dishes in the cabinets, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, then hand-washing pots and pants...

When I'm staring in the refrigerator, wondering, "What in the world can I fix for supper that is quick, easy, and healthy?"

When I'm putting dirty girls in the tub, pulling clean girls out, blow-drying wiggling girls, struggling to dress giggling girls, putting lotion on (goose) bumpy skin, brushing chattering teeth, and kissing sleepy girls...

When I'm falling onto the couch, opening a book, then realizing I'm too tired to read...

When I'm finally crawling into bed, knowing I will have to do it all again tomorrow, and thinking...

"There's got to be more than this."

May I remember THERE IS MORE.  It's eternity...

When I am no longer torn between the cares of this world and the Beauty of my Savior...

When I'm in the presence of the One that--every time I see Him--makes my heart skip a beat...

When I no longer just feel it in my spirit, but I audibly hear the Voice that sounds like rushing waters saying to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me."  (Sigh of longing.)

This life is good.  This life is beautiful.  It can be fun, exciting, surprising, sweet, and, when lived with Christ at the center, even the most mundane and menial aspects of this life can be meaningful.

But, let's be honest, this life leaves us a little unsatisfied.  Have you ever wondered why?  Because this world is not our home.  We are away, on a mission for our King, serving as ambassadors in a foreign country, and we are longing for our native land.

Ever been to foreign land?  The people know you are a foreigner, and you aren't always well-received.  They speak a different language, and you long to understand and be understood.  The food is different, and even if it's really good, you long for the tastes of your native land.  You miss your friends and family; you may get to hear their voices by phone, but you long to see them face to face.  You may physically be half-way around the globe, but your heart is always at home.

As Christians, we have two feet on earth while our hearts are firmly planted in heaven.  We are longing for home.  We are longing for more.  We may hear our Savior's voice, but we long to see Him face to face.  "Eternity in our hearts."

So, today, instead of despairing, "There must be more," may I rejoice, "Hallelujah!  There is more!  So much more than I can imagine!  And, praise You, Jesus, I will experience it, soon and very soon!"  May the "more" I'm longing for inspire me to live on purpose, remind me that I am an ambassador to people who are longing for more, and motivate me to share the Love of the One that offers more.  May my desire for more lead me daily to His feet, knowing one day I'll see more--the fullness of His glory, face to face!

Thanks to Beth Moore for being "real" and allowing God to speak through her.  It is her study on Revelation that helped me understand my longing for more.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Insecurity: A Tale of Three Sisters

Where is that God-confidence when I need it?!?!

I have five siblings--three brothers, two sisters.  Today's post is (in part) about my sisters.  Both are wonderful women.  Loving sisters and good friends.  They give selflessly to their families.  One stays busy teaching a room-full of children their ABC's and 123's nine months of the year, while selflessly caring for five kids of her own year-round--not to mention the things she does for her husband, church, and home.  The other is part-time Mom to all her nieces and nephews, part-time dental hygienist, part-time clinical instructor, and full-time wife and creative home-maker.

Both are beautiful.  Both are smart and witty.  Both are excellent writers, creative artists, fantastic cooks/bakers.

They are peaceful, patient, kind, compassionate, encouraging...shall I go on?

One of my sisters is a blog-follower.  In a recent email, she was encouraging me in my blogging adventure.  Amid the encouragement, she gave one piece of advice:

"Pictures make a great blog even greater.  (Wink)"

In a follow-up email, she sent me a link to one of the blogs she reads daily and I decided to check it out this morning.  Remember in my very first post that I told you I've never even read blogs?  Well, let it suffice to say that it was a very good thing that I started blogging before realizing many blogs look like a professional scrapbook page.  I would never have jumped into these waters if I knew how deep they could run.  I love to write and I thought blogs were all about the posts.  Wrong!  Photography.  Design.  Music.  Sponsors?!

What is this world that I have stepped into?  Why isn't one of my sisters (the great writers, creative thinkers, and Holley Homemakers) writing this blog?  They know about blogging.  Their creativity would produce an attractive and unique site with lots of pictures and ideas about all things crafty.  Their home-making skills would produce mouth-watering reads about casseroles and desserts.  And, their wit and vocabulary would make for a great read even if they were discussing the process of digesting peas.

I started relating all my insecurities to my really fabulous husband, but he wouldn't stand for it.  "Don't let your insecurities stand in the way of your creativity."  So, here I am again on the brink of insecurity, reaching up for a little more God-confidence as I push forward into some daunting waters.  Sink or swim, I'm continuing on in this very humbling journey of laying my heart out for all the world to see.  Forgive me if it takes me a while to make the scenery for this trip attractive, but I promise to try!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Good: A Good Morning!

I know this blog is about being transparent, confessions of a real mom.  However, if I only post all the ways I fall short of my goals, others' expectations, and God's standards, it won't be long before we all fall into depression.  So, amid the bad and really ugly, here's some good!

I had to run a short errand this morning and began getting the girls ready to go out the door.  My sweet hubby had no idea he was being used by God to supply salve to my soul when he offered to watch them while I ran out alone.

I don't often get to listen to music in the car.  Even when I try, I am constantly having to turn it up and down, up and down, so the girls can tell me stories about their pretend horse, Honey, or ask questions like, "Is this song about baby Jesus?" or, "Mommy! My milk!"  (Which is really a question, interpreted as, "Mommy, I dropped my milk.  Will you get it please?"  We're working on it.)

All alone, I turned K-Love up as loud as I dared--without risking blowing a speaker--and started my day with a little soul dancing.  The sun was shining right on my face, as God sang "Good Morning" to me.  Okay, so I didn't hear His voice, but thanks to Mandisa and TobyMac, I felt His presence!  And by the time I pulled back into our driveway, tears of gratitude were streaming down my face.

Good morning, indeed!

And, thanks to a good friend for supplying the best-tasting home-made wheat bread in the world, breakfast was a success!

Here's the song that "woke me up singing!"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Self-confidence or God-confidence?

After posting the pictures of my princesses' hands, I thought I should offer a short explanation.

I used to have some major reservations about calling little girls princesses, fearing it would only encourage egocentricity.  Although I want my girls to be confident, I certainly don't want them to be self-confident. Even though self-confidence is considered a positive attribute in today's society, I think it's a dangerous concept and yet another one of the enemy's subtle paths to his most visited trap: pride.

I want my beauties to grow up with the confidence that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), knowing they can do ALL THINGS...not by their own power, but...THROUGH CHRIST JESUS Who gives them strength (Php 4:13).  I want them to know they have an Almighty Father that is King of all kings and Lord of all lords.  I want them to know that the Creator of the Universe chose to create them for the sole purpose of lavishing His love on them.  I want them to think of themselves not as athletic, academic, skinny, heavy, or even as my daughter or each other's sister, but as children of the Most High, daughters of the King, co-heirs with Christ...princesses!  Princesses who have been blessed with every spiritual blessing if they choose to claim them by faith in Jesus Christ.  Princesses who are loved by One Who will ride in on His white horse one day, take revenge on their worst enemy, and wear the victor's crown!  Princesses loved by One that whispers sweet nothings, like, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me" (SS 2:10).  I mean, what women can't feel adored when a man speaks to her like that?  And who of us can feel insecure when we really truly accept that God loves us in this way?

And that, my friends, is God-confidence, the kind of confidence that I long for my girls to have.

And since I've promised to be transparent, I must make my second admission.  I know all of this and STILL have moments, even whole days, of doubt and insecurity.  But I'm memorizing these Scriptures and saying them and praying them and letting them seep into my soul.  And, as the rains come down from heaven and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so shall these Words that come from God accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent them (Isaiah 55, paraphrased).

My eldest drawing a princess crown

P.S.  The foods we've consumed today have certainly improved from yesterday's.  However, I have five or six loads of laundry waiting to be folded, one in the washer, one in the dryer, and one more to be washed!  And a pile of mail and papers to be sorted.  And I need a nap.  But my girls are up from their nap now and are requesting a playmate; so, I'm pretty sure most of the laundry and papers will still be there tomorrow.  Life is good, going to live it...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Admission #1

So yesterday over coffee, I talked of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, buying organic and staying as far away as possible from those overly processed foods, like Pop-tarts.  Then today.  

I stayed up too late last night watching "Downton Abbey" episodes and therefore lacked the energy to be the mom I wanted to be today.  So, for breakfast, the girls had a Clif bar, a banana, and milk, while I sneaked a rainbow chip cupcake between cups of coffee.  

Lunch was probably going to be cheese, processed crackers, and some token raisins and strawberries to make me feel like I was providing a nutritious meal.  Instead, my hubby called minutes before I would have whipped up the delicious home-made meal described above, and said he was bringing us the left-overs from the lunch he provided for his volunteers.  YAH!  But, he lives in the world of fast-food lunches.  So, we had pepperoni and sausage pizza, bread sticks, cinnamon sticks, and a bowl of strawberries was set on the table.  The girls had to have some strong encouragement to eat even one strawberry:  "You have to eat your strawberry before you can get down."  

Supper holds little hope since we only have one hour to fix food, eat, get dressed and get to church.  There's always tomorrow!

Why "Real Mom?"

I had a conversation yesterday that prompted my spontaneous decision to set up a blog.  What?!  I just declared in that same conversation that I didn't have time to even read a blog, and now I'm writing one.  (Yet another reminder to be careful of what I say.)

So, I'm involved in a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group and several of us were meeting for coffee.  We were discussing food, gardening, discipline, breastfeeding--some of the usual topics of this particular group--when I realized that what I was saying didn't reflect the reality of what I am living.  It wasn't that I was intentionally lying.  We were all simply discussing the great things we strive for as moms and wives, women and friends.  And I noticed that I was happily sharing my lofty goals but withholding how often I fall short of them.  Why?  Pride.

When I got home yesterday, I couldn't stop thinking about the need to be real.  To be honest.  And the humility that is required to be so.  The enemy whispers, "Show them how good you are.  Don't let them know how you fail."  (Pride.)  Scriptures say, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment" (Rom 12:3).  (Humility.)

So, to my enemy's dismay, I am here to admit that I'm a living, walking, talking, breathing mess that is in great need of daily mercy and grace!  But lest you think I am discouraged, rest assured that I know this:  God knows I am dust (Ps 103:14) and STILL He takes great delight in me and rejoices over me with singing (Zeph 3:17)!  We who are His are holy and blameless in His sight (Eph 1)!  His only expectation of us is for us to seek Him, and if we remain in Him we can do great and lofty things--all things as a matter of fact--through Him who gives us strength (Jn 15, Php 4:13).

The enemy would love nothing more than for me to live in a world of comparisons, weighing others' comments against my own to see if I measure up as a Christian, wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.  But the pride and comparisons breed horrid insecurity.  And the truth is I don't have to measure up to others; I only have to please the King of the universe.  Yikes!  But blessed day!  He says of me, "How beautiful you are my darling!  Oh, how beautiful" (SS 1:15).  He reassures me that I am more than an overcomer (Rom 8:37).

So, "Do not gloat over me, my enemy!  Though I have fallen, I will rise.  Then you will see it and will be covered with shame.  I will see your downfall!  You will be trampled underfoot!"  (Micah 7, paraphrased)

As I speak the truth, my enemy will be covered with shame.  And as I speak the truth, the truth will set me free!  So, hang on sister, because you are about to read the truth--the good, the bad, and the really ugly--of this hopeful transparent, real mom.