Wednesday, December 31, 2014

wrapping up quiet

My word for the year was "quiet." This is a hard word for a woman who loves words, who loves sharing her opinion (usually in written form rather than out loud, unless I feel really comfortable with the person/group). I haven't been perfect at being quiet, but having it as my focus has kept me centered. In the times when I have wanted to rant, wanted to write, and wanted to opine, more times than not I have remembered to think before acting. Again, not perfectly. I can think of a couple of specific times when I wasn't quiet and probably should have been both online and in "real life."

Even with a focus on quiet, I found myself still being on social media more than I wanted to be. Liking people's status updates, commenting on pictures, sharing blog posts, quotes, and what my kids' did in school. This is not a bad thing. As a stay at home mom, I do not have a lunch break or a carpool commute or even a dreaded staff meeting in which I interact with other adults on a regular basis. The internet is my water cooler. But as autumn started turning into winter, I found myself being distracted and frustrated by the noise - from other people and from myself. So I spent the last half of December off of Facebook and limiting my time on other places of the internet.

And it was so good.

But it was hard at first. The first few days my fingers still automatically hit the blue and white "F" icon on my phone every time I hit unlock. I shudder to think this is a sign of addiction. Addiction to knowing what is going on with everyone everywhere, and this leads to discontentment.  But I logged on only to respond to a couple of messages that ended up in my email and an event invitation. I hadn't felt intentional quiet like this all year. It has been freeing.

I read books each night. Lots of books. I don't feel as stressed during the day because I am oblivious to a lot of the drama going on around me - or not around me.  It does feel weird to not know who might have announced a pregnancy or a prayer request. It is hard not to post funny Bubby quotes of the day or progress Bug has made this month. But I think I have a better understanding of what quiet is now and why it is so important.

What does this mean for the new year?

I don't want to get legalistic about my time online, but I am definitely cutting back when I return to facebook. I'm not going to be logging on just because I am bored or sad or lonely or frustrated. I am going to invest more in relationships both through modern technology, good old fashioned letter writing, and face to face interaction.  And I'm going to continue to figure out what rhythms of quiet and rest look like in this phase of my life and for my family.

I had a couple of words I thought might be candidates for 2015. But on Sunday, right before service began, a completely different word entered my heart. If I thought "quiet" was a vague word for this year, I have no idea what will happen with my word for the new year.  I'll be sharing about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Treasured Posts of 2014

Here are some of my most treasured posts from the year 2014. I'll be back soon to write about my year of "quiet" and reveal my new word for 2015.
Photo taken by Sarah Bottarel Photography



To Bubby, Who Is Now Five Years Old
 I would sew masks and make a punch-out game and pin the pizza on the turtle all over again each year to see you smile the way that you did.

Oceans -
The great unknown for me isn't a new location or a new calling. The great unknown for me is in my mothering.

You are Not Forgotten
somewhere between the word meaningless
and themes of sovereignty 
the facilitator said,

"You are not forgotten."

What I Want You To Know on CP Awareness Day
It is easy as a mama to get overwhelmed, even when your child fits the textbook description of milestones and development. But there is something I think unique to motherhood when you have a child with unique challenges.  I celebrate the little things

The Marriage Letters - Once Upon A Time
Every piece of baggage I brought with me, you helped me unpack. And even when I feared you would leave or when I threatened to leave - because that is what I knew of marriage - you stayed.

I Like To Be Part of God's Big Family. Puggles! Puggles!
For every disillusionment I have had with "the Church," there are beautiful moments and faithful and kind people that keep pointing me to Jesus.

Me and God:
I need order of service and responsive readings...I need oil on a forehead, not because it is magic, but because it is powerfully symbolic.

To Bug, Who is Four:
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.

A Letter To My Boys at Advent: Peace
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.








Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014

The entire Christmas season seemed to go much more quickly than usual this year. The Hubs was wrapping up his BSN, we celebrated Bug turning four with his first real party, we wondered if we would be in Missouri in the weeks and months after Christmas, and we tried to make time for Advent both on Sunday evenings and in our daily quiet time as a family.  But still, Christmas came and now it is over again for another year.

I have spent the last couple of weeks off of Facebook and limiting other social media time. I have been quieter than usual, and now as I sit to document Christmas 2014, I find myself wanting to share all of the pictures and all of the memories.  I don't want to forget that The Hubs took Bubby to the bookstore so he could buy a present for his brother. (But Bubby was upset that he couldn't get a book, too. "What?! You mean Bug gets ALL the presents?!") Bubby was a wiseman in our school co-op's Christmas program, but I was too far away from the stage to get a decent picture.





We made Christmas cookies with my new-found favorite sugar cookie recipe. Bubby enjoyed cutting and decorating, but Bugaboo did not.  Bug did enjoy the texture of the Christmas garland on the tree this year, and he was fascinated with the Santa ornaments and his Puggles' ornament from his class last year.  We saw Santa at BassPro. Bubby had written him a letter, but was very shy to give it to the jolly old elf. On two different evenings we drove around looking at Christmas lights.






We had pizza take-out on Christmas Eve before heading to a candlelight service.  We took communion, which I think was a first for me on Christmas Eve, but what better time to remember? Bubby was able to hold his own candle this year, which was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Bug slept through the entire service.

We had a slow morning of breakfast and presents and then a late lunch. Bubby pretty much got Legos and Bug got an assortment of things raging from Veggie Tales to occupational therapy items to a new Christ Haughton book. We had dessert with some family that now live in town and/or that are in town this week, and Bubby stayed up much too late on Christmas night watching The Grinch on television.



The sacredness of Christmas as well as the magical, fun, child-filled-wonder of Christmas fills my heart even now tonight. It was a good year with my little family.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

This Week in (smartphone) Pictures - Week 7 & 8

With trying to end the year with a focus on "quiet," amid the business of the holidays, I missed posting pictures last week. So I am combining two weeks' worth of smartphone pictures (yikes!) from my little world. "Real" pictures of many of our activities have not even been uploaded from my camera to the computer yet. I hope to do that soon. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Here's Bugaboo, building a little bit with the blocks he got for his birthday. This is a huge deal for his fine motor skills (and his attitude - he doesn't usually cooperate/like to try to build.)

Time for the first hot chocolate of the season!

We took this right before heading to The Hubs' graduation. (The only picture of the four of us from that night.) He finished his BSN! And now he is done with school...for at least a semester!

These next two pictures go together. This is a book I ruined/wrote in probably around 1985 or 1986. And then not quite three decades later, my dog ruined it even more by chewing up the spine. She didn't chew up the newer copy that is in both English and Spanish, Nope, she preferred the vintage copy.

No words, Just cuteness.

Decorating Christmas cookies. I made the best sugar cookie recipe this year, in my not-so-humble opinion.

 Bug did not enjoy the cookie-creating process, but he did enjoy finally getting to eat a cookie. This one was a letter "G" made with some of the extra dough.

Pecan pie for The Hubs.

The year of the Lego, for Bubby. "I got a lot of Legos for Christmas because I'm a Lego-Man!"

The Veggie Tales book that Bug got from his California aunt and uncle. He has spent hours "reading" it these last two days.

Mimi is in town for a few days. Bubby enjoyed playing Don't Spill The Beans and Trouble with her.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Letter To My Boys At Advent- Love

Dear C and G,

As we sat at the kitchen table tonight with four candles lit, we focused on the word love. I read John 3:16 and on a bit, and then a few verses from 1 Corinthians 13. These are some of the most famous words on love in the Bible. Love is the most difficult thing to really describe and yet also the easiest thing for me to understand. 

I understand love more today than I did six years ago because of both of you.





Nothing has helped me to understand God as much as motherhood has. I understand the joyous and the sacrificial aspects of love because almost every day of being a mommy contains both components of love. I look at you both, and I know that I would give everything I have, even my very life, to help you, to bless you, to save you.  And I fail and fall short each day. Sometimes I am cranky. Sometimes I inadvertently make the wrong decision. Sometimes I am impulsive. Sometimes I am tired. My love for you guys, no matter how enormous and wonderful it is, is still imperfect.

When I think of how much I love you, my sons, and then when I think of how much God loves you - and me - I am overwhelmed.  So often in the Bible God is described as a Father. That is a tricky one for me, though through the years God has healed many of my hurts associated with that word.  But when I think of the love of God, one of my favorite verses is from Zephaniah 3:17. Tonight I read it in The Living Bible.

"For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you. Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song."

I love this verse because it is the Gospel. God with us - Jesus - Emmanuel. He didn't come just to be with us, but to save us from ourselves, from our sin. And not only that, He rejoices over us with great gladness. He loves us and does not accuse us. Because He has bought our salvation with his perfect sacrificial love for us, we are no longer accused. We are his children.  I know what it is like to love my children, and He loves us like that - but magnified.

And the part at the end, where the Lord is singing over us with a happy song, is such a picture of motherly love to me because how often have I sang over you? We sing in the car, we sing to be silly, we sing many mornings, and I sing to you when you are sad. But my favorite memories of singing as a mother have been when you were both small, and I would hold you and sing to you as you fell asleep. During those moments, I felt like my heart would burst with love for you.

And our God - He sings over us not out of obligation or ritual - but out of His great love for us. As a mother loves her helpless baby, so God loves us.

I pray that each Christmas you will understand more and more the love of Christ, the gift He was by coming to earth to give us salvation, and the blessing it is to belong to Him. I pray that you will know His love and His truth and that you will each understand that they are so connected that they can't be separated. I pray the love you receive from Him will fill you with all hope, joy, and peace each day of your life.

Love,
Mom

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are." (1 John 3:1 - NIV)



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