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We Need Each Other…

Being a parent is a tough business. We are raising kids in a hard world, and somehow we need to guide them through it safely. They need to be taught the dangers that are out there without ruining their bubble of innocence. They need to learn how to help those around them without letting others take advantage of them. We want them to be independent, but not hesitate to come to us when they need help. And there are so many things that can go wrong. In light of a few recent events, I have been thinking a lot of our responses to parents who had their worst nightmares realized.

A kid gets snatched by an alligator in Florida, and our response as a nation is to jump the parents’ case. They let their kid go in the water! Who lets their kid do that? Umm, me? Now if I knew there were alligators in the water I probably wouldn’t, but the parents were from Nebraska, maybe they didn’t. It’s easy to see in retrospect how a situation could have been avoided, but let’s be honest- which of us hasn’t at one point had a heart stopping experience that could have ended very differently.

Mine happened this week. In the middle of thinking over all of these things, and how our attitude towards others parents needs to change, I had my own near disaster. Two of my girls were playing in our backyard. One moment they were there, and the next- they were gone. I went out to get them, and the gate was open leading to the front yard. My heart stopped. My palms went clammy. We searched everywhere and had no idea where they might have gone. You never dream of reporting your own child as missing (that only happens to parents who aren’t mindful of their kids), yet that’s exactly where I was. At that moment Daddy found them walking down the sidewalk, hand in hand. They had decided to take a walk, had gone about three houses down and turned around to come back. I honestly still can’t think about it without lurching inside at what might have happened. Our story ended well, but what if it had gone differently? How easily could it have ended much more tragically? And what would we have been? Extra-negligent parents? No. Devastated parents who had made a mistake that would never go away.

This is why we need each other. We need to back each other, support each other, and be there for each other. Parenting is a wild, sometimes scary, ride. Let’s not forget to think of what the parent might be going through the next time a story makes national headlines. Let’s be their village, even if we don’t know them. After all, what would we want the world to look on and say if it was our heart that was breaking? 

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Farewell 20s…

You have treated me well.

You gave me the Love of my life, and seven sweet years of marriage. You taught me to love.

You gave me six pregnancies and four amazing daughters. You taught me joy and loss.

You moved me half way across the country and gave me a new community and some pretty sweet friendships. You taught me to not fear change, or new beginnings.

You gave me the courage to go into business for myself. You taught me to believe in my own potential.

You gave me the confidence to pursue my degree. You taught me it’s never too late to dream big.

Ten years ago I never would have dreamed the decade would pass so fast, or be so full.

Farewell 20s, I won’t be seeing you again. I only hope that my 30s are half as sweet and twice as life-changing.

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10 Great Reads for the Kids this Summer!

Summer is here!! And with it comes a whole new pile of challenges. As a homeschooling mom, I need to keep the kids busy year round, but summertime seems to get especially crazy! Enter: story time! I have begun to implement story time after breakfast. School might be out (or soon, we’re still finishing up the last few lessons), but that doesn’t mean total free-play. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in letting the kids run off their energy and conduct their own learning out-of-doors, but reading has a way of keeping them sharp. Summer reading was always a highlight for me, and I plan on carrying on that tradition. So where do you start?

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Of course, my very favorite is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story of Mary Lennox and how she came to discover a secret and magical garden delights children of all ages. Learn about the beauty of watching the neglected and seemingly dead, come to life under careful tending.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a heartwarming story for young children (also great for early readers). Find out how a two mommies get their babies mixed up while picking blueberries on a hot summer day.

Enter the world of fun and possibilities in Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Suess. This is a book of delightful prose that will bring joy to the young, and inspire you too.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. A whimsical tale of a boy and a tree. Bittersweet perhaps, but a warm and charming story all the same.

Another favorite is Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. The story of Wilbur, Charlotte, and a young girl named Fern. My daughters love this endearing tale and beg for me to read it again and again.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. We haven’t read this one yet, but who doesn’t love an orphan who lives alone and experiences ridiculous adventures?

James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl‘s first novel for children is sure to delight! A bit more nonsense than some of his other works, it will inspire the imagination and stretch the mind of young and old alike.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I’m a bit partial toward Eric Carle. His artwork is fun, and his stories will hold the interest of even the youngest toddler. We’ve worn through a few copies of this classic already, and I doubt we’re on our last.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. Perhaps the most fun and playful alphabet book of all times. Whether you have an early reader, or young toddlers, this book is a must have!

The Going to Bed Book. How can I create a list of books and not include any by Sandra Boynton? This book is hilarious and is bound to incite giggles from your little ones. Who couldn’t use a few bedtime laughs this summer?

There’s my list of summer favorites, what would you add?

 

 

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“Might I have a bit of earth?”

Thus begins the fate of the garden behind the wall, locked up and forgotten by the current generation. A shroud of nervous tension, almost fear, hangs on the place. Here a lonely girl finds solitude, purpose, and new life.

I might be very different from introverted and pinched-faced Mary Lennox, and yet I have always felt a kinship with her and her garden.

I fell in love with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden when I was very young. Perhaps it was the whimsical ‘dreams come to life’ theme with the sense of not fearing to get dirty in the process. When I read the book, it was as if I was there. Warm dirt between my fingers, the sun on my back, breathing life into flowers and trees, watching it all grow and stir with life. Spring has long been my favorite season, and I could spend hours out among the flowers, digging in the earth. I’ve even talked to the robins-but don’t tell anyone. It is still my dream to have a huge garden of a yard, full of roses, delphinium, foxglove, baby’s breath, and lavender. Where the snow melts, and the birds sing. Where the smell of soil mingles with the first scents of crocus and daffodils.  A place of escape, where time stands still and only life and hope survive.

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The Understanding Parent

“You have them from day one; you can teach them and train them to be what you want them to be.”

“I’m sure if you just love them they will always want to do what you ask.”

“I wouldn’t ever tolerate THAT attitude in my kids!”

“Why don’t you just give them what they need? I’d never let my baby cry!”

Yeah right. You do have them from day one, and you do have a very high responsibility to instill in them values and respect. They do flourish in a loving environment, and it does make a huge difference in how they respond to you. You ARE the parent, and being the parent, you are going to be the only factor of personal consequence in their early lives. And nurturing them and meeting their needs is indeed vital to effective parenting, but as you can see, these are all puzzle pieces to balance. And that delicate dance is what makes parenting a daily challenge.

You have nurtured, cared for, comforted, and taught this little angel from day one. She is your heart, your everything. And then one day little Janie is going to throw a fit. That’s right. It might be in the store, at Grandma’s, at home. But it will happen. With my first, she was about a year old. I was cooking dinner, and she wandered into the kitchen. She wanted me, and there wasn’t a thing wrong with that. Except I was frying chicken with hot oil. So I told her, in no uncertain terms, that she couldn’t hang on my legs. She freaked. Full out on her back kicking and screaming. I remember thinking ‘who taught her that?’ Who indeed. No child ever had to be taught. So, the fits will happen. How you guide them from there will impact the rest of their lives, and it’s important to teach them that this isn’t a proper (or safe) response to displeasure. But at the same time recognize where the frustration is coming from, and learn what you can about YOU from the circumstance. I found that spending special time with her between nap time and dinner prep helped her to be able to play happily on her own when it was time to cook.
They won’t always just do the right thing. The first time my child picked up a pair of scissors and snipped off all her hair I had to realize this. And often it isn’t deliberate naughtiness. Sometimes they are impatient and doing something they asked you to do, and you haven’t gotten to it yet. Sometimes it’s that they are spontaneous and independent, and need to learn to control their impulses. Sometimes they don’t know they are being bad and are just letting those creative juices flow. And sometimes they honestly thought their hair would turn brown like ‘Rapunzel’ in Tangled, and they wanted to have hair like Mommy. I didn’t congratulate my daughter when she destroyed 4 yards of fabric that was supposed to be matching outfits for the lot of them-creativity or not. She never got the dress, and hasn’t massacred a piece of fabric since. But I also had to realize that I had been putting her off when she asked me to help her sew them. It wasn’t my fault, but it also wasn’t her being destructive for destructiveness’s sake.

Meeting your child’s needs is about so much more than filling their belly, or giving them what they want at the moment. It’s about showing them character through the good times and the bad times. Being an example of Christ in all things, being there for them, and communicating that they are worth your time. It’s about guiding them, and equipping them to be their best person. It’s helping them realize they mean the world to you, but they aren’t the center of the universe. You would lay down your life for them, but the world owes them nothing. They can be whoever they want to be, but will get out of life exactly what they are willing to put into it. Making their childhood a beautiful, but character building experience. Maintaining their innocence, but not raising them in naivety.

It’s the dance of an understanding parent.

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Trust, Love, and Human Decency

I’ve been weighing a lot on my mind in light of current events and social standards. Many messages are blasting across our screens, newspapers, and radio waves every moment of every day. Here are a few of the main thoughts:

“Love, and acceptance- you need to open your hearts to the world. Everyone is hurting, be there for them.”

“Fear is hate. Fear is hate. Fear is hate…”

“Love everyone- unless they hurt you. Then cut that poison out of your life.”

So, how am I supposed to know who to love, who to trust, who to fear; and how is hate defined again? I’m going to try to step into this massive pile of confusion and put it out there the way I have come to understand my relationships.

Human Decency. Yes, there is a standard. A simple standard of human decency. I don’t have to trust you, confide in you, love you, or even know you, to express this. It’s called being human. I’m human, and I acknowledge you are human too. This decency is a standard that prevents rape, murder, kidnapping, etc. It is a nod at the grocery store, a smile when you wave, a recognition that we’re spinning past each other in this vast, wide world, and we’re on an equal plain. I’m not higher than you; you’re not higher than me. Carry on!

Love. The definition I’ll be referring to here: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the benefit of another. This love is our calling as representations of Christ. It’s a higher calling. A deeper care. It’s the ‘clothe the naked, feed the hungry’ kind of love. It’s a deeper understanding that we all have screwed up sometimes, and we all need forgiveness. It’s knowing that the pain someone is inflicting on those around them is often coming from their personal pain. It’s being able to extend genuine care towards a person that has hurt you, and people group that has wronged your people. It’s holding nothing against any man, regardless of race, religion, or background.

Trust. Trust is committing my life to you. Trust is: “Here is my hand, let’s go through this craziness together”. Trust is, by definition: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Trust is something that isn’t pressed on us to give to anyone. Trust can’t be forced, it can’t be demanded. Trust can only be given, and only out of a heart of complete love and mutual care. I don’t ‘owe’ it to anyone. It’s something that is a rare gift, and an incredible one to receive. It isn’t a ‘fundamental human right’, and it isn’t something anyone of us gives quickly to strangers or people who have proven themselves unworthy of our trust.

Hate. So, which of these emotions is the opposite of fear? And can you, by definition, call fear hate? I don’t think so. I can treat someone I fear with human decency and even love. The definition of fear is simply to be afraid of something/someone. It’s a reaction that comes, not from a lack of love- but a lack of trust. Maybe when we stop confusing love with trust, we can begin to understand the love of Christ, and the love we each should carry towards every man. In closing, the definition of hate: an intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury. This attitude does breach human decency, and this is something we shouldn’t allow towards any one- not because it will ruin them, but because it will eat out our very own heart. It’s not the fear response that equals hate; it isn’t the hurt that we feel from the pain someone inflicts; those responses are natural, normal, and even healthy. No, fear isn’t hatred, but what you allow your heart to do with that broken trust, that pain, or that fear might be.

 

*I do just want to say, these are my personal thoughts specifically in regard to current events (though I had my rough draft typed up before the bombings last night). This is in no way extensive, and everyone needs to find their personal way down their own path and through their individual circumstances and pain. I also want to say that I believe the individuals role in society is different from the governments. The government has a completely separate call, and their duty is primarily towards their own citizens. They are obviously held to human decency, but I think it’s lunacy to hold them to anything further. They simply can’t afford to extend trust to others, and they aren’t really compelled to love either. But that is another topic for another time.

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Changing Sails

“When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

The wind is cold and sharp as it whips strands of hair into my face. I strain against the strange fog, trying to see the horizon. I see nothing. I taste the salty spray and try to remember where I am. Where I am going. I can’t let fear win, or I will not survive. I peer up the mast and know my only hope is to work with the wind. Use this storm to my advantage. I can still captain my vessel and guide it to safety. I wake.

It is just a dream, but like most dreams it holds power. I have experienced this terror before. My heart freezes, my thoughts are empty, my body goes numb. I know I can’t change the circumstances I find myself caught in, and fear taking hold. I like being in control, I find comfort in knowing what’s next. But now I see that while I’m not, yet I am. While I can’t always control what surrounds me, I can always control who I am. I am responsible for my destination; my circumstances are not. I choose to focus on what can be changed, and utilize what can’t. I will arrive.

And I will wake, the storm will pass, the light will dawn, and I will arrive. Life is little more than a dream, after all.

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Run After Your Goals

I’ve been contemplating this quite a bit the last couple weeks. What are my goals? Where do I want to be in 10 years? And I’m working on applying that in baby steps to my life. Guess what? I’m still not there (this week was evidence of that!), but I might be closer than I would be otherwise. And here is why I say that:

You need to focus on your goal.

That’s right. When you don’t focus on what you do want, the tendency is to focus on what you don’t want, and you know what? That doesn’t drive  you towards your goal. This current election has proven that. Almost everyone is caught up in who or what they DON’T want, and that is clouding their judgement in the vote.  Looking in the rear view mirror eventually lands you in the ditch, and you’ll never hit the target.

It takes proactive steps to reach a goal.

It’s not going to ‘just happen’. Think of the kid saving for college. Every spare dollar, every penny in change, goes in the box. He is determined to reach his potential, even if it requires sacrifice. If he wasn’t, would that spare dollar end up under his bed, or at the soda fountain? It’s the little daily decisions that propel you forward. It’s the conscious awareness that ‘What I choose to do today will affect my future potential.’

It’s never too late to change.

“If I had been more goal oriented in grade school, I could have graduated college by now.” And yes, I could have. But that isn’t the issue now, is it? What I could have done is obsolete. I will never be that person. No, the real deal is what I choose to do. That is in my hands. Today.

And sometimes that next step looks mediocre. Sometimes getting to the goal isn’t all that glamorous. Sometimes it is as simple as choosing to do that thing you’ve been putting off because you are pretty sure you won’t succeed the way someone else might. But it’s up to YOU, your life, your goal, your choice.

So go after your own goals, and while you’re going- Enjoy it!

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When the Dust Sets In…

July 25, 2014… that was the date on my last blog post. It wasn’t that I meant to stop, it just happened. I had begun another business endeavor, my husband lost his job, and life swept me on. Sometimes changes come, not when we deliberately stop something, but rather when we stop deliberately doing it. And where there isn’t a determination and effort, nothing much is accomplished.  Six months went by, then a year… and somehow I never found time to write. Not once.

In the last months I have spent a lot of time thinking about life, where it’s taking me, and who I want to become. I don’t have all those answers yet, but I know I don’t want to be sitting here in two more years wondering when I will write again, or what happened that I didn’t. I don’t want to continue wishing I could do something that is actually in my power to do. And so, I am determining to get out this sad, dusty blog, shine it up, and see where it leads.

Maybe it will be a lifestyle blog, perhaps a mommy blog, an artsy blog… or a bit of it all thrown together. But in these past years I have learned that the letter that is never sent, is never received. The book that is never written, is never read. The life that is never used just grows stale over time. So here I am, stepping out to see what I might accomplish, and determined to learn whatever I can in the meantime.

 

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare
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There’s Happiness, …and then there’s cheesecake!

I love cheesecake, even more than I love coffee. There is something about the velvety, creamy sweetness that I find completely irresistible! Some people say it takes too much effort, but honestly, if it were any less I would be in BIG trouble!

This last week I was wanting to create something fun for my husband, Jeff to shoot. I have this adorable mini cheesecake pan, that makes a dozen teeny tiny morsels of delectable goodness. I decided it would be perfect for creating some stunning food photography (ok, maybe I just wanted cheesecake). I poked around over mini cheesecake recipes and decided on this one. They turned out delicious! No matter that the recipe called for a muffin tin, and I had enough leftover to make a second batch of cakes- who says ‘no’ to extra cheesecake? 🙂

I was right, Jeff turned out some amazing work! I was delighted with the images he produced.

…and with the cheesecake, of course.

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(PS One of the BIGGEST perks of mini cheesecakes, is they only take 20 minutes to bake, and 2 hrs to cool! …again, this may be more of a danger than a perk…)

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