Monday, December 15, 2014

A Letter To My Boys At Advent - Joy

Dear C and G,

You are both excited about Christmas or Christmas things. Bug, every day you delight over a particular Santa ornament. "Santa's on the tree!" you say with glee. I've overheard you singing bits of jingle bells, and I wonder when and where you picked that up so easily.  Bubby, you are excited about presents and Santa and Christmas lights and making cookies and lighting candles and... the season brings you joy. Tonight in the co-op Christmas program I watched you sing with enthusiasm and a big smile on your face. (So much enthusiasm that you decided it was your job to tell the boy next to you to sing louder. But that is another story for another time.)

Somehow in adulthood most people lose their childlike excitement and enthusiasm for life. We get wrapped up in the stresses of the day, our obligations, expectations and worries, and our selfishness. As we lit the "joy" candle last night, I realized how much I miss the opportunities to embrace and express joy on a regular basis. Joy should not be defined as happiness. Joy is an act of trust, a step of faith.  I love how Kay Warren defined joy, " Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation."

Advent reminds us to look for joy. Not in our own strength and in our circumstances, but in Jesus.  He came to earth not to give us everything we wanted, but to be everything we need. Because He is my salvation, by faith I can have joy. I know that this is something I need to be a better example of to you both. Joy is not easy for me, but it is necessary. I pray that as you get older and wiser, you do not lose the childlike joy you have these days in both the silly and the sacred aspects of life. I hope that in the years ahead you sing and pray and question with the same faith-filled joy as I hear you doing now each day.

Love,
Mommy

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
       my heart trusts in Him.
My heart leaps for joy,
      and with my song I praise Him." 
Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

This Week In (smartphone) Pictures - Week 6

This week went by so quickly. I cannot believe we are halfway through December already! Here is a look at our week in (smartphone) pictures:



Bugaboo has a sweet runner who puts in miles and races for him since he has a disability and is unable to run.  Miss Kristen sent him this adorable Olaf hat. If you squeeze on the puffy things at the bottom his stick arms go up! How cute is that?

Here is Batman plugging in the Christmas lights for the evening.  One of the best things about being a "boy mom" is all of the superhero stuff.

It has been awhile since I had taken a picture of Scout snuggled up to Bug at night.  You can't really tell but their legs and backsides are pushed up against each other. Scout sleeps with one of the boys every night - usually Bug.  She is a furry, stinky mess who sometimes catches birds, squirrels and opossums in our yard (yuck!), but I can't imagine life without her. She is a great family dog.

Bubby likes to create things with paper, scissors, glue, tape and any cardboard he can find around the house.  One day this week he decided this paper towel roll creation needed to be taped on his bedroom wall. There are other paper art projects displayed around our house, mostly on the fridge. My favorite ones are the ones with "MOM" written on them.


This reader finished the first year of phonics curriculum already! He is ready to move on to level two.

The boys had their flu mist this week. Late the next morning Bug crashed on the couch and slept for over three hours. My boys don't nap - so when they do I know they do not feel well.

This was the same day. Bug still didn't have any energy and Bubby hopped over and said we should take a picture. So we did.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Favorite Books Read In 2014

The other day on Facebook, I asked for book recommendations for the upcoming year. I love that I have friends who read. Last year I posted my favorite books for 2013.  Here are my favorites from 2014. (I read a lot of memoirs this year, and the fiction I read was easy but enjoyable. I needed easy and enjoyable in my life this year in any way I could get it!)

Favorite Reads of 2014


Fiction

  • Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell - I still think about the characters in this book from time to time, wondering what they are doing now. Enjoyable YA literature.
  • Divergent - Insurgent - Allegiant - all by Veronica Roth - I liked this series as much as The Hunger Games. It's the only other dystopian series I've made my way through without getting bored. I think I may actually like this main character more than Katniss.
  • (I did read other fiction this year - but none of it stood out as really worthy to recommend. Some had great characters but the writing was subpar or the plot annoyed me. I branched out this year and read the Gillian Flynn books, which are completely out of my normal read. I enjoyed them even though they were creepy and dark, so I hesitate to recommend them because they aren't for everyone. And I don't know that they are favorite worthy.)

Non-fiction


  • Let's All Be Brave - Annie Downs - I didn't think I would like this book, but I checked it out from the library. I wish I had my own copy to mark up. I cried several times reading this book, though I'm not sure why. I just felt understood.
  • Found - Micha Boyett - Beautiful writing on doubt and hope.
  • Girl At the End of the World - Elizabeth Esther - This helped me understand some people in my life who were raised in a fundamentalist culture. 
  • Life Animated: A story of sidekicks, heroes and autism - Ron Suskind - I loved this book for so many reasons. Primarily because of the family's journey to help their son on his journey. Additionally it made me wonder about Bugaboo and his connection with his own favorite DVDs (Veggie Tales and the Sesame Street puppets)
  • Surprised by Oxford - Carolyn Weber - This book made me wish that I had studied literature, and that I had studied abroad. A lovely memoir of Carolyn's journey towards faith during her year at Oxford.
  • Carry on Warrior - Glennon Doyle Melton - Glennon is in most ways my opposite, but I laughed and cried while reading this book. It is one I will read again.
  • Jesus Feminist - Sarah Bessey - My good blogger friend  sent me a copy of this. So refreshing to read at this phase of my life where, honestly, I am not surrounded by many Jesus Feminists. Sarah is one of my favorite writers, and even though I don't agree with every single thing of her theology on her blog, I agree with this book. I was encouraged by this book. The commissioning chapter is probably the most moving thing I read this year. It stayed with me.

Kids

  • Little Owl Lost - Chris Haughton - The boys loved this almost as much as they have loved Haughton's other book, Oh No, George!
  •  Charlie and The Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - We listened to this in the car as an audiobook, and it was so enjoyable, It was one of the Roald Dahl books I didn't read (completely) as a kid.
  • Grandfather Buffalo - Jim Arnosky - Just a beautiful story about age.
  • My Father's Dragon - Ruth Stiles Gannett - A fun introduction to chapter books for Bubby. I hope to read the others in the series to him this year.
  • Make Way For Ducklings - Robert McCloskey - The boys and I really enjoyed reading this classic this year for school. Everything we read by McCloskey is very good. 



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This Week In (Smartphone) Pictures - Week 5

With birthday party/birthday, Advent, and today's out of town neurology appointment, I am a bit behind, but better late than never.

Last year I started a tradition of letting the boys paint an ornament.  Last year it was a standard circle shape, this year I picked out snowmen.  Bubby had painted a lovely snowman with buttons and a carrot nose and a scarf... and then he kept painting and painting. And I was not a control-freak, but I did ask why he chose to decorate it the way he did. "Well, you told me to paint it," was his reply.


Here is Bug deciding to get into big brother's toys while Bubby is at his once-a-week school. He has never really done this before, and he seemed to be excited to dump out the box containing the Batmobile and the Ninja Turtles.


Bubby "wrote" a song ("It's a hymn," he told us.) Then he played it on piano. He wants to know when he can sing with us on stage at church. Considering his parents don't sing on stage at church, we told him it would be awhile.

This is Bugaboo - sitting on his knees all on his own choosing and ability.  And I have seen him do this a few more times over the last several days. Mini-milestone!

Cowboy/cowgirl night at Awana last week. We don't have cowboy hats, but we did wear plaid shirts, bandanas, and jeans. (And I wore the cowboy boot pin my grandpa made many years ago.)

For Bug's birthday party, I made a pin-the-tooth on Larry the Cucumber game. Veggie Tales provided a fun theme for us for Bug's birthday. It is still hanging on my front door - only with teeth this time. Bug is happy to still see Larry on the door, so I need to move it to his room instead of throwing it away.

Bubby had his first basketball game this Saturday. He gets so excited when his teammates make a basket. He won the sportsmanship award this first week. He may not have arm strength or a lot of coordination yet, but he has heart!




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Letter To My Boys At Advent - Peace



Dear C and G,

We lit the second candle on Sunday evening.  I read from John 14 and something from the psalms on the idea of peace. It's the most elusive of the Advent words for me, and so I didn't feel ready to write about it until tonight. Until we read Ann Voskamp's words:


"Some days, when you feel brave, you can give yourself a gift and tell someone what has broken your heart. Some days, when you feel brave, it's almost like you can reach through the pieces where your heart feels torn and touch the gentle peace of God. ... 'What someone else meant to for bad, God means to make it good.' No matter what tries to tear you apart, God holds your heart." 
(from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift p. 55-56)

My heart has pieces that have been broken in ways that I pray neither of you will ever experience. And yet I am not naive enough to think that someday, somehow, your hearts will not also break. There are words that will shatter you, experiences that will devastate you, and pain that will pierce so deep you will wonder if this faith thing is even real, even worth it. I pray that when those times come, you will know His peace.

For every pain I have ever experienced, God has been right there. I may not have realized it at the time, though most of the time I sensed it at least in a small way. When there has been nowhere else to turn with my grief and shame, my confusion and frustration, my disappointment and disillusionment, He has been my refuge, my peace. He can be your peace.

It will not mean your sadness disappears or that every wrong is righted at that very moment - or even in your lifetime. But it is exactly as Ann described. Your heart is held. Somehow in the tumultuous times in my life, my heart has been cradled by the same hands that formed the world. It really is indescribable, this peace which passes all understanding, but it is real.

Love,
Mom

sought the Lord, and He answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

(Psalm 34:4-5)

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you." (John 14:27)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

To Bug, who is four now

Dear Bug,

This morning I asked you, "How old are you?" You replied, "Four. Two." And when people at church asked you, you told them "Three." For a year now you have faithfully answered the age question with three, and so of course a change is a bit confusing. I say this every year, that I can't believe you are ____, and every year it is still true. I can't believe you are four.
(picture by Sarah Bottarel Photography)

On the nights when Bubby is at basketball practice until past your bedtime, you fall asleep on my shoulder. The sound of your breathing into sleep and the comforting feeling of you right next to me is so similar to the days I held as a newborn. You have the same crazy hair and the same desire to snuggle. These things are distinctly you.


This year you have had many milestones. You stood on stage with your Puggles class and said your name into the microphone at church. We all cheered. You started preschool, and you returned home and we started a much better speech therapy.  Thanks to Mr. D. you are now learning how to give bumps with your fist. You sing songs and memorize verses and say, "Here you go, Scout. Eat your dinner!" when it's your turn to feed her. You are climbing up the playground equipment more easily and learning to balance on a big boy swing. You can list every person in your Cubbies class and all of your teachers, too. You pray for Veggie Tales characters and Sesame Street puppets most nights. You know where we are probably going just be the streets we turn down, and you know all the basic sounds of your letters, the names of the capitals and many lowercase ones, too. You can count to twenty if you don't think we are listening, and you can sort by color and shape as long as it isn't a stranger doing a formal assessment.





You had your own first birthday party with your friends. We kept it small, and as each friend left you repeated, "Thank you for coming, ______!" You enjoyed the singing and the cake, but only really liked one of the games I planned. My favorite part of the day is when your friend, L, gave you a hug right after you opened your present from him. You are loved by our circle of friends, our church,and  our family, and that is the gift that keeps on giving.


You have gifted us, Bugaboo. You have taught us to pray and to have faith. You are teaching us to accept things that may not change. You teach us that all anyone really wants is to be included, to have a group of people who will always say hi and greet us with a smile.  You have shown us what hard work really looks like, as each week you go to various therapy appointments and try, try, try. You have taught us to be grateful for the small things. We rejoiced when you climbed on the kitchen chair (and then I told you to get down because it wasn't safe - ha!), when you started using your spoon, when the braces came out of your shoes.


You have taught me to fight, little boy. To push what needs to be pushed and not accept what doesn't need to be accepted. You have shown me my passion for advocacy, but more importantly my passion for being your mommy. Nothing would make me walk away from that privilege, that blessing to be part of your life. I am proud of you, Bug, and I'm so thankful to get to be a part of your life!


Happy birthday, Bugaboo!

Love,
Mommy

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A letter to my boys at Advent - Hope

Dear C & G,

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. My heart is full of all of the things I want to tell you about this time of year.  Your father and I have been a part of many different styles and denominations in our lifetimes, and one of the things I miss most about some of the churches I have attended is their recognition of Advent.  There were no candles this morning at our church. No poetic reading on an Advent word. This is not wrong, it is only different. However, I want more for you. Or maybe it is that I want more for me, too.

Tonight we will light a candle in a make-shift way of doing Advent at home. We will read from a new book given just for this season, and I hope that we will sing and pray. I hope that our hearts will make room for faith this season.



Advent means "the arrival of a notable person, thing or event." It is also defined as "the coming of Christ at Incarnation" or even "the second coming of Christ." We wait with anticipation of Christmas Day as a reminder of the waiting that happened thousands of years ago and of the waiting we have as we wait for heaven.

Today is the Sunday for the word "hope." To be filled with hope is to be waiting for something that hasn't happened yet. Bubby, you "hope" to get some new Legos this Christmas, Bugaboo you "hope" to watch a movie in your free time. You are waiting, believing and anticipating something good will be given or will happen.

As a family we pray with hope for answers to our requests. We hope for healing. We hope for provision. We hope to be blessed in beautiful and tangible ways. Some of these things may come to be. Some may never be accomplished in this lifetime.  When you don't get what you are praying for boys, and this will happen many times over the years, I pray you do not lose your hope. I pray that the spark of faith we already see in your young lives will carry you through all of your days.

I pray that when you feel like giving up, that you will persevere, that you will ask for help, that you will acknowledge your needs, and that you will be held by the Savior.  I pray that you will always have boldness and confidence in praying with hope and faith, but that you will also in humility understand that everything we have been given is a gift.  I pray that you see hope on display in our home, even in the hard times, especially in the hard times. I pray that when the world seems unfair, you will remember Jesus, Who came and endured the ultimate unfairness in order to bring us eternal hope. Remember that beautiful hope, boys.

Love,
Mom