Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Birthday Princess

admiring her princess tutu that she helped design

The princess of our home had her 5th birthday today.    We had a wonderful day filled with presents, yummy food (of her choice), friends and family, and celebration.   My favorite things, too!   I know that I have talked before about how similar we are (my sweet River and I), but today was a day that highlighted many of our similarities, and I loved every minute of it.

From the moment she woke up, she could hardly wait to tear into these...

Then, with her birthday breakfast - her choice was exactly what mine always is - French Toast - complete with powdered sugar, strawberries, and whip cream.

Next we moved into hanging out and watching a movie.    She finally got a Doodlebops DVD so she had to see that.

We began to prepare for the royal ball that she and I had planned.   We had talked extensively about all the activities we wanted to be able to do, and how we wanted our party to be.    She had been as into the planning of the details as I had.   I even had a pad labeled "official party business" - you LOTR fans will appreciate that.   From crown decorating to wand making to polishing nails and painting faces, her party was so fun.     We planned the menu together, and had lots of finger foods to munch on, and then cupcakes and build-your-own ice cream sundays for dessert.    When I asked her what her favorite part of her party was, she said, "the food!"   I laughed.

Her choice of restaurant for dinner was Chick-Fil-A - big surprise!    I probably would have picked differently on that one.   However, I remembered as we were pulling up, how my 5th birthday party was spent at McDonalds.

But my favorite thing about the day, was hearing her answer this question.    When asked, "Were you the prettiest princess there?" about her party, she sincerely replied, 
 "There were soooo many princesses there.    They were all sooo beautiful!!"     I smiled and thought what a princess she truly is.    

I am so proud of what a thoughtful and sweet girl she is.   I know that she won't always want me to be the queen of her party.    She won't always want me to help get her ready and pull on her tights.    She won't always want me to play "magical chairs" (her title for our musical chairs at the party) , and offer to let me have her seat instead of being out, just so that I can keep playing with her.    She won't always ask for me to tuck her in.      She may not  want me to snuggle and say goodnight every night with a hug and a kiss, and butterflies, and saying "sweet dreams, sleep tight..." and so on and so on.   

But no matter what, she will always be my princess.    And I'm so thankful she is who she is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Secrets...Think Daffodils...

From all that I'm seeing and hearing, bright yellow is the hot color for this spring. Pantone(a company that widely influences the fashion industry when it comes to colors and shades) recently named "mimosa" the color of 2009. It's bright, but also has some warm hues to it, so it's not too overwhelming.

Other "in" colors are ones that remind you of citrusy things. Mango, papaya, limes, get it? Now, you don't have to feel like you have to run out and get a wardrobe full of fruit, but if you see a cute new bag or top, instead of going for your usual black, brown or gray, grab the brightly colored one! Next on the list for top colors are the bright pinks and blues, so if the yellow family feels a little too ambitious, go with one of the others that you feel more confident in.

When wearing these fun pops of color, make sure you freshen it up by pairing them with denim or white. Pairing with black is a little too 80s.

You'll look adorable sporting these splashes of color this spring and summer!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Dance or Not To Dance

That is the question.

Every week, I have the honor of working with beautiful girls from our neighborhood in a dance ministry. They love to dance, and they are awesome dancers. But every week, we have to almost fight them to get them to dance. Sometimes at dance, I want to leave before we even begin. They have all the attitude in the world sometimes, and I just want to turn around and walk out the door. But somehow, by the end of dance, I'm impressed, proud, and excited about how they've pushed through and danced.

I've always danced ever since I was a little girl. Even before my first lessons, I was always putting on some crazy outfit and doing my Madonna and Michael Jackson moves. Don't laugh, you know you did it, too. But as I got older, it became harder to let go of my insecurities, and harder to feel free to just dance. I would hold back, even in dance class with my friends, afraid that I would look stupid, or just not as good as the other girls. Something that my Mom would always tell me was to never stop dancing. She knew that in my hard of hearts it was who I was.

There was a period of time when I gave it up. I thought that my dancing days were over, and just a memory from the past. Something that I used to be, but no longer really who I was. I was wrong.

You know that song, "I hope you dance"? I loved that song from the first time I heard it. Sure it's a little cheesy, but the reason why I love it, is because it is hard to be that free. Even when you long to be free. It's hard to let down your guard and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough in front of other people to dance. Or hope. Or wonder. Or believe. Especially when you know how cruel the world can be at times. And these girls know how cruel the world can be.

This past weekend, our girls danced in front of a lot of people, and performed two different pieces that are hard to do. Not just step wise, but emotionally hard. They feel the brokenness of their own lives, and sometimes that scares them. Sometimes they don't want to think about the pain that they have had to overcome. And they sometimes don't want to dance. But deep down, they're dying to. Deep down, what they want is to be so free that they could dance with the world watching, and not have a care in the world. And so they push through, and they dance. And, they amaze me. They stand in the strength of their God, and dance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Secrets...for Spring!

Today with the rain coming down, it reminds me of how ready I am for sunny warm weather. I mean, I'm all about some cute rainboots, but not so much the rain.

To get yourself ready for springtime, find a pair of old jeans that you're not wearing on an everyday basis. I feel like since I was a teenager, I have things that acclamate me to the spring. For example, pulling my flipflops out from under the bed. Painting my awful looking toenails. And, cutting off a pair of jeans and making a "new" pair of capris or shorts.

Apparently the fashion experts are taking to this quite literally this year. The in thing for this spring is to have "boyfriend jeans". Basically these are jeans that have lots of cuts and tears in them, and then are rolled up to have a cute little cuffs on the bottom. I think the best idea is to go get a pair of guys jeans (or snag a pair from your hubby or boyfriend) from Goodwill or your favorite local thrift store, and do the job yourself. Now I know some of you will not feel very confident in doing this, but seriously, you can't go wrong with slashing up a pair of $2 jeans. These are Lucky Jeans, and are each $129. I think you can do better than that!

Pair these cuties with your favorite flops or flats, and you'll be looking so sassy for spring!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Quiet Season

I'm in the midst of feeling kind of quiet inside.    There are times when I feel like I could say so much about so many things, and then there are these other times.   Where I just feel kind of blah, tired, and not much of a conversationalist.   These times don't happen very often, so when they do, I notice them.

I think sometimes it's so easy to go through life without experiencing all the seasons.    I've often told people that I would be happy to live somewhere where it's 70 degrees year-round.   To not have winter?   Sounds great to me!     (except for all the winter food I love!)    The winter feels long, cold, and at times just dead.

I was reminded this past week of some hard things from the past that have very much gone by and by.   It's easy for me to have something difficult, or even tragic, take place, and just push right by it.   To not really feel it.   To not allow it to remake me.   To simply keep going, in spite of it.    I truly believe that this is a weakness of mine, even though in the past I have prided myself on the ability to keep going.   In an effort to survive, I deny myself the right to feel.   The right to be angry or sad.    The right to mourn.

This past Sunday, our pastor taught about forgiveness.   He used the illustration of how unforgiveness is like strapping a person to your back, and carrying them with you everywhere you go.    To not allow them to have forgiveness really only enslaves us.    I thought about some of the girls that I am getting to know.   I thought about how many of them have been raped, abused, neglected, and shamed to no end.     I know when I hear about what has happened to them, I can barely let my hatred go toward the offender.    Much less, how hard it is for them to even think about forgiving those who have sinned against them.    And how, even though it seems the hardest thing to do, to cut that person loose, to no longer carry them with them everywhere they go,  the only way that they are ever free, is to do just that.   Otherwise, it only creates hatred, bitterness, scorn, and malice in them.

As I looked at the bushes outside on Sunday, I was so excited to see the tiniest of life on them once again.   All around, the plant still looks hard and lifeless.   Dead.    But then, the tiniest spot of green coming from the center.     I long to know that out of the deadest places in us, something so delicate and beautiful can still come forth.   To have new life.   It is a quiet reminder to me that there is hope through even the darkest of seasons.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thank God It's Friday

I'm thankful that it's Friday for lots of reasons this week, but more than anything, my sweet husband and I get two dates this weekend!    One tonight with other couples from our church and then one tomorrow all day!!!   We're even being super cutesy by planning half the day each, but keeping it a surprise until tomorrow.   Between schedules, money (or lack thereof), and sickness, there's not been a whole lot of dating going on around here.

However, one fun tradition that we have this time of year is watching the Tarheels play.    Even though we don't get big cable, we love when the games start coming on regular TV.   We take these games seriously.      Our tradition consists of delicious taco dip, chips, salsa, usually drinking a beer with our Tarheel coozies, and lots of yelling and cheering.    Wednesday night made us particularly happy to watch our team beat Duke!     

Here's our usually game day spread 
(minus the random bottle that River was using to play with her babies with)  

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Big Question

There are those specific times in your life when you know a particular decision is on the horizon, and you know that it's only getting closer, but you also know you still don't know the answer.

I remember in high school, waiting and waiting to find out where I was going to go to college, and then having to choose which one.   Just about all you were asked was, 

"So what are you doing after graduation?   Which school are you going to?"

And then again in college, and this time, knowing even less.   The big question came, 

"What are you doing after graduation?"   

I remember almost wanting to run away and hide because I didn't have a clue.  I knew that God would work it all out.   And I knew that I would be fine, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.   But I had no idea what that would be.

We're in that spot again.    Except this time it feels bigger because it's about my almost 5 year old, not just about me.    Everywhere I go, and almost everyone I talk with asks that question that is ever present in my mind, too...

"Where is River going to Kindergarten?"

Let me just say, that I really have not known how to answer this question.   Just like the times before, I'm beginning to dread the question itself.    This time, the options feel too many, and not to mention the emotional baggage I'm dragging into it, not even wanting her to be away every day!     This is how my typical answer goes...

"Well, we're thinking about the magnet schools in the area, and have also considered home schooling.   We've looked at the schools in our district but still are very sure about those, either.  We're just trying to look at all the options, and figure it out."

Basically...."I HAVE NO IDEA!"

This past Saturday was the magnet fair, which my husband and I had planned on attending for quite some time.    Of course I came down with the 24 hr. stomach bug that morning.   I forced myself to go, but we only made it to about 4 booths before I was squeezing my husband's arm to signal "If I don't get out of here, I'm gonna die."

So, still no luck in knowing the answer.   And even after we apply to our top 3 magnets, we still don't know for sure.  It's by lottery, so we'll still just have to wait and see.

But the truth, as one of my friends put it this morning, is that it's not THAT big of a deal.   If we put her somewhere that we don't like, we can always take her out and try another choice.   It's not a "forever" decision.    You can tell that this is my first, and I'm probably thinking WAY too hard about this decision.   Wow, just think about how I'll be when she's going to college.   Or getting MARRIED!!   yikes.     

The good news is that the Lord knows the plans He has for her.   Plans to prosper her, and give her a hope and a future.  You better believe I'm trusting in that!!

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Morning Vent

This morning I thought it would be fun to surprise the kids and take them to the museum.  So I got them all ready and we were about to walk out the door when I smelled something really stinky.   At first I though it was just the trash.   But then I knew that it was poop.   

I asked both of my kids if they had to go to the bathroom, to which they both answered, "No."   Then I checked just to make sure my 2 year old hadn't had an accident in his pants.   No.    Then, my daughter, the 4-going-on-14 year old said, "Is it you?"   "NO!"  I said in response, like I would have a hard time making it to the bathroom, and would be blaming someone else if I was making the stench.

I had the thought to look in the laundry room, where our dog sleeps at night, to see if it might be coming from out there.  And sure enough, our 10 year old black lab, had had diarrhea all over his bed, and all over the laundry room.     

Usually, I would have been able to weasel out of clean up duty, and let my sweet husband have that honor.   But lucky for him, he was already at work.    So, I got to do the dirty deed.    And I tell you, I don't really mind my kids poop.     But there is nothing worse to clean up than dog crap.     I almost threw up myself it was so nasty.

Anyway, after all that we ventured out, and picked up Sweet Maddie, before heading to the museum.   I treated myself to a latte on the way as my reward for the nasty morning chore.   Then, after walking hand in hand with the three little ones into the museum, I realized I had left my hot latte on the top of my car.    Oh well.    There's nothing I hate more than splurging on a special drink, and then not getting to drink it.  But I wasn't about to drag all three of them back out through the parking lot just to get my latte.     So, I just had to let it go.   I decided I would be "refrigerated" by the cold, and I would heat it up and enjoy it later.   Which I did.   Hopefully no one poisoned it.     

So, we had a great time playing in the museum.    I even let them each paint a picture.    I specifically said to the girl that we would be back after playing to let the dry.    You can probably guess where this is going.    After having our playtime and eating lunch, we went back to pick up our paintings.    The girl started to look around, and then started asking questions, like "Were their names on them?"   "Yes."  I replied without emotion.    I'm thinking to myself, "Are you kidding me?  I'm the crazy lady who brings 3 kids all under 4 in at once and lets them all paint a picture, and you don't remember us?"   She remembered "River" because who forgets that name, and found hers.     The other two, who belonged to the 1 and 2 year old, and who had worked equally as hard on their masterpieces, but to the art lady probably just looked like scribble scrabble, were gone.   I asked in an agitated voice, "Which trash can would they be in?"   Without apologizing, she began to look in one, and motioned to the other can where they might be.

I found them, balled up, wet, and torn.   I was really sad, and irritated that she had thrown them away, and then not even apologized.    I had been excited for their time working with colors and using good paint strokes, and the lady had even helped them with each of their smocks.   I know she was just cleaning up her area, but I said, "WE'LL BE BACK IN A LITTLE BIT TO LET THEM DRY!"     Can you tell I'm totally over it?    I did not fuss at her, but I was not very kind.    I'm sorry "art girl".     Even though you did not apologize or act remorseful in the least bit, I should still be just as kind and loving to you.

We walked back out to the car, and even though my backseat barely seats three, I cram three car seats in somehow.    And I have to pull and push and maneuver and hold my face just right to get all the buckles to go where they're supposed to go.     Today I think it took me taking one of the car seats out 3 times before I got the booster buckled the right way, and the car seat back in the right way.   What the heck?!     Why don't they make retractable bottom clickers, that don't go back under the seat when you're trying to buckle them?    Why don't the seat belts just click in any of the clickers?     I was gritting my teeth, and leaning over one child, and calling the buckle "stupid" when my daughter said, "Mommy, stupid's not a very nice word to say."   I prayed for self control to not lash out and said ridiculous instead of the word 4 letter word I wanted to say.    After 15 minutes, I finally had them all in, and I called my husband and vented about how ridiculous it is that we have such a small car for 3 car seats, and how "I JUST CAN'T KEEP DOING THIS!"    Then we talked about a plan for a van.

In the grand scheme of things, these things are not a big deal.     I realize that.    In Bible Study the other night, we talked about things that make us angry.    We talked about how the things that make us angry are usually the things that upset what we value in life.     A clean poop-free house.   My morning coffee.     My children's artwork.      Car seats that buckle easily.   I value these little things that usually do not make me want to scream and kick and say ugly words.    However, it is in these little things, where I see the places in my heart that need Jesus so desperately.   These little things that take more strength than to move a mountain to get through with the right attitude and loving kindness.      It is these little things that I have to ask the Lord to create in me a clean heart.   And renew a right spirit in me.     

What are the little things that are driving you crazy today?    I'm not the only one, right?  RIGHT??!!   

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Preschool Snow Day

Even though the snow has already melted, it still has been a snow day for us. Yes, school was cancelled. Yes, work started late. I love living in NC. I thought that you stay at home moms might like some fun snow day activities. Especially if you live somewhere where the snow sticks around a few days! My kids are 2 and almost 5, and we have a friend with us during the day who is 20 months, and each of them loved these activities. Here's how our day went.

For starters, I made homemade hot cocoa and big breakfast, which was very nice. I have incorporate food, first!

For circle time, we started with our snow songs. Our first is one that we sing about clothes that we put on when it's cold. We act out putting on the items as we sing,

"I put my hat on my head when it's cold outside, when it's cold outside. I say, BRRRR!"
(and go through with different items for different parts of the body - scarf on my neck, boots on my feet, mittens on my hands, etc.) They love saying "BRRRR!!!" and pretending we're so cold!

Our next song is to the tune London Bridge, and it's called "All the Snow is Falling Down". They don't care that it's sunny and definitely not snowing. They just love singing about the snow!

All the snow is falling down, falling down, falling down,
All the snow is falling down, all around us.

Bend down low and scoop some up, scoop some up, scoop some up.
Bend down low and scoop some up, and make a snow ball.

Toss it up into the sky, to the sky, to the sky.
Toss it up into the sky, and all fall down!

We use that song throughout the year, and change it according to the season (i.e. All the Leaves Are Falling Down, etc.)

Then, we read books about snow and, as always, children's books allow me to more fully enjoy the moment that we're celebrating. On the last snow day we had checked out some books from the library that I would highly recommend - This Place in the Snow by Rebecca Bond, and Snowball Soup by Mercer Mayer. Both were great for preschoolers, and after a few times through, River was able to read Snowball Soup (a my first read book).

This morning we had fun reading The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, which is such a great snow day book. Here's a great resource for a few activities to go with this book and some other snowy stories. Then we finished with Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. I love this version of Stopping by Woods, because the pictures make it enjoyable and understandable for my preschoolers! Both are great books to explore winter time themes.

We started making Snowmen Cookies, but only made the dough. You can learn from my mistake and make the dough the night before. I didn't read through the entire recipe to see that you have to let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 8 hours. So, tomorrow, we'll continue that activity and finish up our snowmen cookies. I'll type up the recipe and put it on with the picture tomorrow.

For our craft time, we made some paper snowflakes. I just took white paper and traced a large cup (or coffee mug will work, too) to get the size of circle I needed. Then, after your circle is cut out (if you have an older preschooler, they can cut their circle to work on cutting.) let the kids help you fold the paper in half, and then in half again, and then again (so that it looks like a tiny pizza slice). Then, using kid scissors, help them cut, or let them cut different patterns into the snowflake. When you open it up, it's a beautiful snowflake! If you want to be fancy, use some silver glitter glue (I had some from Dollar Tree on hand) to decorate flakes, then, loop a piece of yarn or ribbon through the top, and hang from a window for a beautiful window decoration! You can also just put a piece of tape on the back and tape to the window for the same effect. I love reminding my kids how no two snowflakes are alike, just as no two children are alike. We each have differences that make us exactly who we are. We talked about how God made us each differently and how each one of us is a beautiful masterpiece! You can even bring in Ps. 139:14 to tie in a Bible verse to your lesson.

For an extra easy craft, I found this cute website with tons of ideas and free coloring sheets, and printed off the snowman picture they had so that we could color a fun snow day picture.

Here's hoping your snow days are filled with fun!