Thursday, July 19, 2012

for Robbie, on my 32nd birthday...


I knew the day was coming soon - he'd been testing the waters by asking about the word 'hate', then using it ("I really hate that violent storm that took away our power and scared me!"), and then moved on to telling me he hated my words when I disciplined him.

But he saved the worst for today.

"I HATE YOU, MOM." It came out of his mouth following a morning of disobedience and its resulting punishment.

My mom climbed into the van just minutes after he said it, and he was still angry. His little 4 year old mind was obviously spinning as he tried to articulate big emotions, and the words coming out of his mouth would have been a little funny to someone who didn't know and love him, but they just made my heart sad.

"I don't want to talk to you anymore today. I'm not going to talk to you until Eli's birthday on Saturday." When I asked him how I would know what to order him for lunch as we drove to a restaurant, he said he would tell me what his lunch order was, and that was IT until Saturday.

Ok, then.

I prayed silently in my heart. I never expected this situation with a 4 year old. I sort of thought it was reserved for the likes of 13 year olds, 16 year olds, teenagers with angst. I prayed for the right response, for the wisdom to know what to say and not say that would soften his heart, but mostly that God would give him humility even as a 4 year old to lay down his anger about whatever it was that felt like an injustice. I want my boy to learn early on - earlier than I did - that it doesn't help a heart to fight for what we feel like we are owed. So I reminded him of my love for him, told him I was sorry he was feeling so angry, and I changed the subject to something happy and continued to keep my spirit light.

Robbie was the first one I saw on this morning, as he wandered into our bedroom sleepy-eyed and flushed from sleep. "Happy Birthday, Mom!" he said and then snuggled up with me under my blanket, as is our custom. I asked for a birthday kiss and hug and he happily obliged. I welcomed the day and my 32nd year at peace, not knowing that in a few hours I would hear such angry words from my sweet boy.

He is a gift from God. When he's sweet, when he's vulnerable, when he's angry and impatient. When he surprises me with his tender heart and generosity. Even when he tells me he hates me. He gave me quite a gift on my 32nd birthday yesterday - he reminded me of how deep my love is for him, how nothing he could say or do would keep me from loving him. If anything, it made me love him more!

However, the best part of unpacking the gift of 'him' is that I have learned that my happiness cannot hinge on him, or any of our children. God is teaching me that in order to lead and teach and love them well, I have to be completely satisfied first in Him. I cannot unconditionally love my kids through their ups and downs if I am hostage to their moods, experiences, growth or lack of it.

Since I first held him in my arms, it has been a journey of learning to let him go. So much of this life in Christ is upside-down, isn't it? Lose your life so that you can save it. Let go of the death grip you have on your kids so that you can all truly learn to live. Tell him you love him when he spits at you and denies you his love. Discipline him so that he learns that true freedom is found in obedience to the Lord.

Thank you, sweet Robbie, for the gift you are to me and the gifts you keep on giving me each day as we grow in the Lord together. You are precious and I love you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I am on a mission - to simplify my life one area at a time. The Lord keeps pricking my heart with this theme, and last weekend did me in. He put me in a position where I was around other men and women, discussing this very issue... OUT LOUD. That's what does it for me. 

Not to go into it too much, but I have felt convicted lately of how much we have been given and how much more of what we have can be used for God's glory. My time, our home, the influence we have in our community, the financial resources we've been loaned by God, the spiritual resources we have access to that others either don't have/know about, and the list goes on and on.

I have to start small and make realistic changes that I can sustain over time.

I chose to begin with two areas: products ('stuff') and time/influence. My goal in the area of products is to clean out what I already have, specifically my toiletries and makeup, and look for ways to save money as I need to replace items as they run out. (You know God is changing my heart because I am a Product Girl - I love trying new things and having lots of options! I am doing a 180 and heading towards cheap and simple without giving up effective.) My goal in the area of time/influence is to focus more of my time on others, in big and small ways. There are many times that I do things with the kids or on my own that doesn't serve anyone but myself or ourselves. And although I'm only 32, time is always running out. It's a limited resource! I was challenged recently to think about what my legacy will be, and that starts now with how I use the time we have been given. I want to extend myself more as opportunities present themselves, get to know more young mothers who don't have a relationship with God or know anything about what Jesus has done for us, and serve the poor as well as widows and orphans more. There isn't as clear of a way to go about this, but a few of my friends and I share the same desires and we have already brainstormed what this might look like. I know if we keep our hearts open, God will make it clear what He would have us do.

I decided to write about this on the blog because 1) I want to challenge you to the same things, if God is calling you, too! 2) I find there is accountability once I share something like this with others, and 3) I love sharing about what I am learning and keeping lists of my favorite things. 

So I'm putting a twist on my 'favorite things' list as far as products go. I'll share my Keep It Simple list with you. I love the challenge of finding good products that are inexpensive, and I've already been encouraged to find that I can save so much money each month just by switching out a few of my everyday products. Plus, my goal is to be able to buy most of what I use from Target or our local grocery store / drug store. I hope that you will help me out as well - share with me what you use that you love, if it's inexpensive or very reasonably priced! 

I will confess that I don't know if I can get here with my make up. It's sort of my indulgence area. Drug store mascara and lip balm is about as far as I get before I head to Ulta or Sephora or Nordstrom for the rest! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE help in this area, because to be able to move to cheaper make up would be great.

Baby steps, right!? :)

Keep It Simple - Summer 2012

I finally tried Dove's facial bar after reading for the 100th time that celebrities and dermatologists use it. It's awesome. I have sensitive, combination skin. I'm not exaggerating when I say that 90% of the face washes I have tried have actually GIVEN me skin problems like pimples b/c of too much oil in the product, or red/itchy skin b/c the cleanser dries my skin out. I also wear make up and some cleansers can't get it all off, especially eyeliner and mascara. 

This little bar works miracles for a little over a dollar at Target. I'm replacing my Dr. Wexler cleanser with the Dove bar, and the difference in cost is $15.

I read in a magazine that this L'Oreal conditioner was what professional hair stylists use on celebrities. It seemed worth a try, and at under $6 I figured I could always throw it in my gym bag to use when I shower away from home if I didn't love it but needed to use it up.

Well it's staying in my shower at home because I love it. It works better than most of the other sulfate-free conditioners I bought at salons and is a fraction of the price. Go get it if you're looking for a new conditioner and you highlight or color your hair, even if you don't care about the $ savings!

I was so impressed by the conditioner that the next time I was out, I bought a shampoo by L'Oreal as well. I chose the most moisturizing one I could find that was also sulfate-free, and I hit the jackpot again! Even the best shampoos I used to use left my hair feeling stripped and dry. This shampoo rinses my hair clean but it also feels soft even before I condition it. It also costs less than $6.

A few other cheapies that are better, in my opinion, than their more expensive alternatives:

*Beach towels - the cheap ones are thinner. This is better because a) they're not as bulky to haul around or wash, and b) when it's hot out you don't really want a thick heavy towel, you just want to wipe extra moisture away or wrap it around you for a few minutes and then you're done. My favorite ones came from Wal-Mart and Target and were $10 or under.

*Hairspray - I love TRESemme hairspray. It holds well without being tacky or sticky, smells good, and costs around $4 for a big can.

*Baby Shampoo - Johnson and Johnson really does make the best tear-free baby shampoo, and at a good price. You can always find it at any store, it's one of the only soaps that truly doesn't sting my kids' eyes, and the smell is totally nostalgic. Works on my 4 year old as well as my 1 year old. I just spread the soap bubbles around once I lather up their hair and use it as their body wash as well. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

After the storm - part 1

After the storm on Sunday July 1st, we were without power for 4 more days until it finally turned on around lunch time on Thursday. It was a very hot week with temperatures in the 80's overnight and up to just over 100 during the days. Bad timing to not have AC! Or a finished basement. :) I knew it would be challenging but you can't get the power to turn back on by whining or complaining, and the situation just was what it was. I was determined to give thanks each day, and have the best attitude that I could - little eyes and ears are watching and listening to me all the time, and this was a big opportunity.

{You can't see my back sweat, that's why I'm smiling}

We slept in a hotel which was an adventure, but it worked out well and of course we were just thankful for a cool space with fresh sheets and warm water. The kids were totally off schedule, a little disturbed by the storm and resulting damage around town, and sad for their beds. But I was determined to enjoy our time together experiencing new things, and to be thankful for everything that came our way. First up, a hotel suite at a killer rate with 2 double beds and space to put up a pack and play, as well as a fridge, microwave, and 2 TVs.

I checked into the hotel on my own with the kids the first day, and it was tricky. And by tricky, I mean that I was asking random hotel staff to keep an eye on my kid or kids while I unloaded the van, then parked the van, then ran Robbie to the bathroom halfway through checking in at the desk... you get the idea. I had not anticipated it to be that difficult to juggle. Usually I over-anticipate. This one wasn't even on my radar, but I was a tad preoccupied. Before they could hand me the room key and send us to the elevators, Robbie was messing around with the rope that separated the lines at the front desk and at one point he was on all 4's on the ground and came up crying that he had hit his face on the floor. I still don't know what he did or how this happened, but he had banged his tooth on the marble/tile floor and his gums bled a little bit at first. The tooth was loose for a few days and I was just waiting for it to turn black or fall out but it's still holding tight to this day and white as a pearl. No biggie.

The first night - oh the novelty at this point!

The next morning - looking and feeling hung over. Daddy was back at work. We missed him.

During the daytime we would drive around, sometimes aimlessly. The AC in the van felt glorious, and since we were eating all of our meals out except for breakfast (which I would have at the hotel - fruit and scones or something like that), we would drive someplace for a little bit of time and enjoy an indoor activity (Miss Kate's shop, the library, etc.) and then stop for food. 

We saw a lot of trees along the road that looked like this!

There were crews of city and electric company workers on every block, it seemed. Repairing a stoplight in this picture, or fixing power lines and cutting trees down.

Our backyard...

A neighbor's backyard that had more branches down than any other yard we saw...

I think this was watermelon-and-pizza-dinner night at the hotel.

Killing some time at Miss Kate's resale shop - Maddie was all tuckered out!
This girl will put her head down anywhere if she's tired and has something snuggly in her hands, like her little lovey here.

I was going to make a donation drop-off and couldn't get to the back of the building...

Another neighbor's side yard...

I love kids. They are resilient and we made some fun memories together during our power outage, as evidenced by this picture in the van (which we affectionately called our mobile home for the week).

Another home in our neighborhood whose tree was ripped out of the ground by the roots!

She still fits in the Ergo Carrier and I am still a sucker for anything that will make her laugh.

My parents had us out to their house several times, and the AC felt so good! (It was a theme.) We had fun playing with their toys, napping in their beds, and eating their food. My mom always runs out and gets groceries when we come and she fed us so well. She also usually cons me into laying on the couch and covers me with a throw blanket and before I can protest, I'm out like a light and she's playing legos or trains in the basement with the kids and my dad is chasing them around playing hide and seek while I catch up on rest.

{Maddie found her tupperware cabinet - best toy chest ever!}

A few days after the storm and this is the enormous pile of branches Rob had cleared from our property and piled by the curb. It was about 4 feet tall and maybe 15 feet wide? I have no idea... 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baby steps all the way to lake geneva

My friend Kacey makes me brave. I am not sure I have ever had a friend like her. She invited the kids and I to her family's lake house on a Wednesday a few weeks ago for an overnight stay. I took her up on it, and made my first ever roadtrip with just the kids. For an overnight stay in a place that I knew would be wonderful but that I had never been to. Oh, and our husbands were obviously working so it was 2 mamas and 5 kids under 4 years old.

Can I be honest and just say I was nervous? Nervous that my kids would behave awfully. That I would not be able to be the kind of considerate houseguest I desire to be, for the 3 kids I have that equal 1 huge tornado. Mostly I was worried that something would happen and Kacey would regret having invited us, or worse, not enjoy us as much after spending that kind of concentrated time together. This kind of nervousness translates to overpacking, if you're like me. I tried to think of every worst case scenario and was prepared for it, had 3 changes of clothes for it, had batteries for it, a few creams for it, you name it.

The 1 1/2 hour trip went perfectly well. The 24 hours or so that we spent together at Lake Geneva was so much fun. It was also full of typical things like whining, temper tantrums, refusals to eat, and meltdowns when we tried to get the kids to walk up a very steep hill. But we are 2 girls in the same boat - and we love each other's kids like we love our own. And once we finally got all of our kids to bed, we had the best time talking until way past our own bedtimes. Even if we hadn't had a bit of fun (but we did!) or the kids had been awful (they weren't) or we decided never to do it again (I was invited back the day we left! woo hoo!), that one conversation late into the night was worth all the effort we made to take the trip.

I get a little excited to do ridiculous things like put the kids in matching pj's... Kacey thinks it's fun too, or just puts up with me. Either way, it works and then we get pictures like these!

Fal-Fal and Elle-Belle

So you can't even tell Kacey is in her 3rd trimester by this picture, can you!? What a lucky, tiny gal. ;)

The littlest ones' pj's said "sassy like mom". We got a good laugh out of that since we could only read the "mom" part when we purchased them.

No idea...

This picture is just before starting a rousing rendition of "We're Goin' To Kentucky", and each time through Kacey would name a different child to "shake it shake it shake it, shake it if you can!". The kids went crazy for this little game. And my kids still want to sing it every day - even Maddie claps along and shakes it. Kacey is a really fun mom. I was just going to throw my kids in bed and she was all, "How about a game before bedtime!?"

We started to push it with Maddie's bedtime. She let us know by trying to put herself to sleep on the hardwoods.

We had such a fun day, and not a great night of sleep. I didn't think any of my 3 kids would be ok sleeping in a room without me in it, and since Rob wasn't with us, I decided to sleep us all in one room even though there was more space for us to use. (In retrospect, I would do this differently.) Robbie and Ellie kept each other from falling asleep, and once they finally gave in to sleep, Maddie's random waking through the night would wake the other 2 up as well. I clocked about 2 hours of sleep that night between all 3 of them taking turns being awake, and then we called it a night and got up for the day around 5:30 or 6am looking like this...

I brought Cheerios down for them to munch on so that we wouldn't wake up the Lake girls, but soon enough everyone was awake. We had an easy breakfast and I decided that it would be best to head out with my kids before lunch time so that I could nap them all at home and catch up on sleep myself at the same time. We had to leave behind fun plans to go to the beach for another trip, and the kids were all bummed to part ways.

Luckily we live 4 blocks from each other back home!

So now you see a little bit of why Kacey makes me brave. Sometimes, as moms, we can find within ourselves enough courage to try new things we think might be hard or even disastrous with our small children. Other times, a friend creates a safe space when we don't have enough courage on our own, so that we are free to try something new without fear of failure or judgement, but with support and encouragement. I used to think that strength and courage only came from within myself.

Thanks, Kacey, for teaching me that it can be found in friendship, and is something we can actually share with others.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Great Wheaton Storm of July 1, 2012!

On Sunday July 1st, we had a terrible storm. We had come home from church, eaten lunch, and were getting ready for an epic family nap. Maddie was asleep in her crib, Robbie was in his room, and I was settling Ellie into our bed for a nap with me. It started raining, and the sky was an eerie shade of grey/green for 2:30 in the afternoon. At first I thought, perfect! I love napping during a rainstorm. 

Then I realized the winds had suddenly picked up and the rain was blowing sideways. The power was knocked out. I went to Robbie's room to see if he was upset by the storm and could see out his windows that the very big tree next door was bent over in front of our house. I brought him into my bedroom and gathered Ellie just as Rob was coming upstairs. We both had the same thought at the same idea - get in the basement! We started grabbing kids, I scooped Maddie up from her crib while she slept, and I had the awful thought that we hadn't made this decision quickly enough. I was afraid that we were in the path of a tornado and any second something horrible was about to happen. 

We got to the basement just as the hail started. Robbie was scared, and curled up in the papasan chair that Maddie used to use as a baby. I snuggled him up in a towel from a box nearby (our basement is unfinished and has lots of random boxes from the move) and he didn't move the entire time we were down there, just whimpered. We lit candles and I told the kids that anytime we are afraid we should pray to God, so we said a prayer asking for protection and courage.

The day before, Saturday, we had purchased a really cheap refrigerator to keep in our garage. Just before the storm started, the delivery truck had pulled up to deliver the refrigerator. After we got to the basement, Rob was concerned for the two men out in the truck, and so we decided he should go upstairs and tell them to come inside to our basement. Actually, Rob wanted to stop on our way down to the basement and I wouldn't let him because I was so convinced that a tornado was above our house and wanted all of my family in the basement. So anyways, he went out to the truck and the men said they were fine in the truck, so Rob came back inside. 

A few minutes later the storm was over - it blew over as fast as it had come. I was so nervous to look around, and afraid that the men in the truck would not be ok. Our block looked like a scene from the movie Twister. We didn't have any damage to our house that we could see, but trees were down everywhere, including one that fell just in front of our house, and there was a pile of hail in the corner the porch.

The sky cleared up and actually started to turn blue again, and so we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. We didn't have power so there wasn't much to do in the house, and I wanted to check on our friends' house a few blocks away since they were out of town, and let them know if there was any damage.

We all put on our rain boots and rain coats in case the rain started again, and I made water cups and packed mini blueberry scones and we headed out. I wanted to try and make it fun for the kids since they were all very scared by what had happened. They were so tired since naptime had been interrupted, and Ellie ended up falling asleep before we returned home.

Neighbor's tree

Down the street, a tree had been uprooted and knocked over. 

This one was crazy to me - it looks like someone just came by, snapped the tree in half and tossed the top piece into the yard.

Our friend's house was fine, but their neighbor had 2 trees down on their roof. 

A branch that had snapped off dangled from a power line (lots of this around our neighborhood)

As we walked around, we realized it probably was not a tornado but a microburst or just a bad storm with very high winds (90-100 mph, we would later learn). We also realized that there were so many trees down and power lines that had branches pulling on them at best, and some that were actually dangling down in the street, that our power was not going to be on for a while. But we were so thankful that we were safe and that is all that mattered.