Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Stellar Read: My Review of Once Upon a Prince

Hey, romance readers. I posted my first book review over at my new site today. Click here  to read my review of Rachel Hauck's Once Upon a Prince.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Change Is Good

We interrupt the irregular programming of this blog to inform you...(drum roll, please)
 I'm now blogging over here  at my new site.
I hope you'll drop by and join the conversation.
Thank you!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Remember

It's Friday once again. How can that be? Come join us as we free write for five minutes on the word of the day...remember

Wanna join? Come on. If I can, you can. Click here for details.

photo courtesy of

It was December, we rode for what seemed like an eternity from Pennsylvania to Florida in my grandparents' sedan. Me stretched out across legs or squished against my sister, fighting with her over our new prized possession: a portable Pac Man game.
I remember the monorail and walking for miles, getting yelled out for spilling my soda. Probably because one little root beer cost $14. And I'd probably spilled my drink before. A lot. 'Cuz I was six and I was good at it.
My favorite ride was It's A Small World but my parents said we had to try other rides, too.
Space Mountain brought a whole new meaning to the word fear. Mom squeezed me so tight I was certain I would break. And the characters. The freaked me out, with their giant heads and perpetually happy expressions. I can still see a giant red headed one in my mind, dressed like she's going on safari. I was terrified and tried to hide somewhere. Anywhere. I've never figured out who she was supposed to be.
It's funny what sticks in your mind from an epic family vacation. We're going again soon to the happiest place on our earth with our little band of brothers and I can't wait to see what they love the most...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

{Almost} Wordless Wednesday

My favorite sign that spring has arrived: the tulip trees are blooming in the neighborhood. 
I love the blooms, the amazing color, the promise of a new season. I raced around taking pictures this morning because its supposed to be 20 degrees tomorrow night and I don't know how these trees will look come Friday morning. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

On The Money: It's All About the Penguins

Since I started thinking about and researching the best way to teach the kiddos about finances, numerous "teachable moments" have presented themselves in our daily lives. Imagine that. While Steve and I thought we would deal in real currency, it seems the boys had something else in mind.
Penguins. Yes, that's right. Penguins. As in their school mascot. They earn perfect penguins for demonstrating good behavior, both individually and each classroom has a collective total, as well. In the upper grades, penguin passes become the currency of the classroom: both good behavior and high achievement can earn a penguin pass. On the other hand, passes are confiscated for incomplete assignments or poor choices.

In our house, paper penguins have become such hot commodities, certain members of the family have taken to swiping the coveted penguin (while one's brother is too sick to notice) and taking the penguin back to one's classroom to add to the collection.
I know. It's wrong on so many levels. But I must admit I secretly applauded his covert operation. And his guilty conscience got the better of him and he 'fessed up. Which led to much venom spewing on the part of the offended. Oy. Like I said, teachable moments are cropping up right and left.

This penguin madness got me thinking: is cold hard cash the currency little kids need in a society that's gone almost cashless? So many parents employ a variety of strategies: tokens, marbles, stickers, on-line money management sites, apps...
What about you? Do you reward your kids with an object they can later exchange for cash? Does it work or do you find that you get bogged down in managing/supervising?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rest

"This is where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here. Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right." -Lisa Jo Baker

The word of the day is: REST

photo by Jeanne Claire Maarbes

Rest. I'm craving it. This spring forward business was definitely not invented by a parent of young children. We can't fall asleep and then we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning. I've never had to wake children up to get to school on time and I must say it isn't at all what I hoped it would be. The late sleeping only adds to the chaos of our mornings. I'm weary from meeting the needs of others and aggravated by a mysterious virus in which the only symptom is a fever that comes and goes. Little boys with viruses are slowed dramatically but the trade off is an increase in bickering. I'm longingly staring at my rocker on the screened in porch and praying there will be time to enjoy it tomorrow, when the weather is supposed to be beautiful. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

{Almost} Wordless Wednesday

Opening day for the sand and water table sans water. 
Because that sunlight is deceiving and it wasn't nearly as warm as I thought when I started this whole endeavor.
And I was too obsessed  focused on taking the picture that I missed that little gem dangling from his nose.
Just keepin' it real. Motherhood is messy, no? 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When You Long For the Easy Button

Back in the day, when our first baby was our only baby and the Mariners were still worth watching,  we would sit around watching television and daydream about his childhood. Because when you only have one baby and he's content to stay in one place and shove toys in his mouth for hours on end, you start to assume that maybe, just maybe you've got this all figured out. 
Well. True confession time: I never anticipated that third grade would be the thing to knock me off my high horse. 
Oh my word. The anxiety this year has brought. The expectations, the homework...FRACTIONS. Let's not even go there.
 A lot of mommy bloggers like to talk about how God uses motherhood for our personal sanctification. Let me just say that I think they might be onto something there. Nothing teaches me about dealing with my own anxieties like helping my firstborn prepare for his first presentation. 
He practices his speech with his notecards, tries on his outfit, rehearses some more, but I that deer-in-the-headlights expression remains on his handsome little face. 
My stomach clenches and I try to conceal my own emotions. 
What if the kids make fun of him? 
I should have driven all over town looking for a Fedora and bow tie. He needs a better costume.
He looks so grown up. How did we get here? 
As I'm making dinner and breaking up squabbles, his anxiety is evident in his body language. Isn't there an easy button, a formula, anything to fast-forward through the hard stuff? Quick. Let's go back to sitting on a blanket and drooling over plastic keys. That was better than this. Easy. Comfortable. The desire to shield and protect, to enable him out of an uncomfortable situation is overwhelming. And I'm embarrassed at how easily I forget God's promises of His faithfulness. A good mom would bust out a verse from memory, probably even kneel and pray. But tonight I'm not that mom. 
There's miles to go before we sleep and can't we just be done with this already? 

 He couldn't fall asleep last night and he woke up with dark circles under his eyes. Even though he looked quite dapper in his quest to impersonate FDR, my heart hurt a little as I dropped him off at school. Is this going to be a total disaster? I'm anxious for the school day to end. The carpool line starts rolling in seventy-three minutes and I can't wait to get there.

Monday, March 4, 2013

On The Money: Parental Supervision Required

Well. It seems our youngest missed the memo on spend, save, share.
I guess he isn't reading the blog.
Or maybe he inherited his mother's "spend" gene because he now owes us a Benjamin and change.
Yes, that's right. Our resident three year old tech genius downloaded more than $100 worth of upgrades to Angry Birds and Bad Piggies apps while playing the Kindle unsupervised. Who needs an $18 sling shot?
Apparently Eli does.
Can you say password protect in-app purchases? 
Good grief. I think we'll file this under epic parenting fail.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On The Money: Where Do We Go From Here?

They trail in my wake, lingering in the toy aisle and launching their incessant requests.
This is why I shop alone. 
Then the eldest calmly asks, "When will I be able to spend my money for myself?"
I don't know. Maybe when you're eighteen and two weeks from leaving for college, when your father and I are in full-on freak out about all the things we haven't taught you yet?
Kidding. I didn't say that. I mumbled something about soon. Avoidance is my default strategy.
Even though we've had this interaction dozens of times, his question stayed with me. I've thought a lot lately about what it means to be mediocre as a parent. I regard mediocre with great disdain.
This is not an area where we want to fall short.
This is our responsibility. They aren't babies anymore. Much like everything else in childhood, the boys need ample opportunity to practice and make mistakes under the umbrella of our guidance and influence. Ron Blue, money management guru, states "more is caught than taught". But demonstrating good choices isn't enough. In this post, Ron says children need to understand three key concepts to successfully manage their money: limited resources, delayed gratification and the benefits of a strong work ethic.
I don't know about you, but everything in our little world rails against those concepts. We are bombarded with images telling us that we deserve to be happy. Now. And acquisition of more stuff equals happy.
So how do we begin training our boys to be good stewards?
Dave Ramsey is a strong advocate for giving kids a commission based on the work they complete. Simply put, if you don't work, you don't get paid. I believe this concept is Biblical and one we are willing to embrace in our family. I grew up in a family business and while I strongly resisted completing my short list of chores, I did learn the importance of doing a job well and earning a paycheck.
I feel like I can't talk about Dave Ramsey without mentioning his give, save, spend strategy of financial management. We want our children to give joyfully, as well as to understand the concept of saving for a significant purchase or a big adventure. At the same time, I have no idea how to go about implementing this in real life. The Mason jars are a popular method but I have some concerns about long-term effectiveness. I perused several virtual options, including three jars where the money management and task completion is tracked online. Once again, I'm overwhelmed by the daunting task of getting started.
How about you? Do you have effective strategies for teaching your children to manage their money wisely?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Big Fat Flakes and Classic Cars

We were at the gym early Saturday morning for Andy's basketball game, and when we came out, huge, fat flakes were falling from the sky. It was pandemonium as thirty kids realized what was happening. We hopped in the car and raced home to dig out our winter clothes and quickly get outside before it disappeared.
As the morning progressed, it became evident that we might actually have some time to enjoy this unexpected storm. Andy made snow angels over and over again. 

Steve helped the boys build a snowman, topped with an old Maple Valley t-ball hat
Most of our limited snow fall this winter has lasted a couple of minutes or not really been fit to play in.
The boys were positively giddy when they realized that was not the case this time. 
We went to play with our neighbors, who were in the early stages of a major snowball fight. Eli did not want to take part in the fighting, but he was all about the snowball. He licked it and said, "Nummy!"
Yesterday, Steve took Andy to the classic car show. This kid absolutely adores cars. Every month I think he's going to move on to a different phase, but he continues to draw, think, read and talk about cars.
Of course, an outing with Andy isn't complete unless refreshments are acquired. His preference this time was a bag of popcorn and a Sprite. A fun adventure for both father and son.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beloved

"On Fridays around these parts we like to write. Not for comments or traffic or anyone else’s agenda. But for pure love of the written word. For joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker.
We love to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not. For five minutes flat."
-Lisa Jo Baker, aka the gypsy mama
Word of the day is beloved
Everyone is clamoring to get a word in, the detrius of Valentines day exploding across the countertops. He is home from a business trip, weary and hacking up a lung. Welcome to my world, I think. But we pause for a minute, shushing the small ones pinging around the kitchen on their sugar highs. We exchange cards and he offers me a gift, one he carefully selected just for this particular day. A box of luscious chocolate stares up at me, 16 bites of scrumptious delight nestled in their little paper beds. He speaks my love language. Then real life swoops back in and he proceeds to fill sippy cups and microwave chicken nuggets. We settle on comfort food for ourselves, Trader Joe's mac and cheese. There won't be any fancy wine or expensive dessert, but there will be us and our family, gathered around the table on Valentine's day. Blessed beyond measure. I am my beloved's and he is mine. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

And Then They Sucked the Fun Right Out

"People are getting just too carried away with their safety rules these days."-Luke, age 8 and 10 months.

This from my son while we sat in the car pool this morning and lamented the fact that the absence of treats on Valentine's day put a bit of a damper on the fun. Now families with food allergies, don't go getting your knickers in a bunch and zing me a nastygram. This post is not about you.
My complaints about public school are few. For now. We're still new to this party and not super involved, so I'm careful about airing my grievances publicly. But this. I can't let it go. Sure it's petty and silly and in the grand scheme of things, who really cares about celebrating Valentine's day at school, anyway?
However. I had to sign a release form for my kindergartener stating that IF we participated in the class celebration of valentines, my signature acknowledged that my son addressed all of the valentines himself and that he possessed a valentine for all twenty-three of his classmates. Oh, and don't include any treats because we aren't going to do that here. And there certainly won't be a party. We ain't got time for that.

A release form? For reals? Preventing what, exactly? And by the way, isn't the packet of fun dip and that stick that comes with the whole point of Valentine's day? (Raise your hand if you chucked the fun dip and only ate that sugary stick of candy goodness?)

So hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with me to rural Alaska, early 80's-ish, when we wrapped our shoe boxes in construction paper slapped on copious amounts of paper hearts, sliced a hole in the top and prayed that the cute boy dropped a valentine inside.  Because he wanted to. Sure the girl who smelled really bad and didn't have running water and was the unfortunate recipient of many a prank didn't get any valentines. And that was mean. I get that. Bullying is real and its awful and it was wrong then and it's still wrong now. Snotty little first graders we were.

But we also had real teeter-totters on the playground and monkey bars so high I still break out in a cold sweat just thinking about them. And get this. We were allowed to run at recess. And the boys shot at each other with imaginary weapons, flipped the swings over the bar purely for our own amusement and ice skated without helmets. Okay, so that last one was stupid and I had the concussion to prove it.

I'm digressing, but my point is this: when we create so many rules and restrictions about even the most trivial events in the school year, just what exactly are we trying to accomplish?

Since my boys had to be content with giving non-edible valentines (or no valentines at all, which is the choice my kindergartener made), I took my disgruntled self to the place where they still know how to do it up big:

That's right. Preschool. Where they feast on strawberries, juice boxes, sugar cookies with sprinkles and it isn't a party until somebody cries over the empty Pringles can. Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ferris Bueller And My One Thousand Gifts

In the words of the great Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." In an effort to express my gratitude for the many blessings God has given me, I've started writing down one thousand things I'm thankful for.
I'm embarrassed to admit, it's harder than I thought. Let's face it, I live a pretty good life. But somehow I've allowed a season of minor illnesses in our family and the mundane tasks of daily living and raising the littles to derail my progress. While my word for the year is 'forward', it seems God intended for me to spend a few minutes looking backward.
Last weekend, I spent a few minutes in a place that was once very familiar to me. As I stopped and marveled at all the ways the riverfront had changed, tears began to fall. Thirteen years ago, my life in this little southern city took an unexpected turn. Some might call it a curve ball. At the time I was devastated because things were not going to turn out like I planned. Sitting in my car, I didn't hear an audible voice, but I definitely sensed a quiet, confident reminder that God did, in fact, know what He was up to after all.

Later that evening, my sister in law and I were checking into a hotel and I saw a familiar face from this same season of life. We hugged and laughed, tried to quickly summarize over a decade of living in three short minutes before rushing off to the evening's events. She joked about how far the Lord had brought her in the many years since we'd been in Bible study together. I knew she was one of the women speaking at the conference and as expected, when she delivered her presentation, she blew us all out of our chairs. Again, the not so subtle reminder that He does work all things for good.

Finally, before we left the conference, we randomly chose a verse from a basket. I gasped when I read my selection: "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." -Jeremiah 29:11.

Clearly I'm a slow learner with a short memory because God reminded me of His sovereignty in many instances throughout the weekend. My self-absorption gets in the way far too often. I think old Ferris might have a great point. If we don't stop and look around, we miss far too much.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Basketball, Thunder Snow and...Jet Packs

 Isn't he the cutest thing? Andy and Luke started Upward basketball this month. Eli insisted on wearing one of Luke's old uniforms. When we go to practice, he's the first one on the court. He never cries when we tell him it isn't his turn. That might be because I bribe him with extra opportunities to play Angry Birds on my phone. Just a thought. Today we had were blessed with the opportunity to watch not one but two games. Eli only complained at the end. When we ran out of snacks and juice boxes.
This one whined and fussed and insisted he never wanted to play this dumb sport. Then he begged to wear his uniform at random times. He played well this morning and with a happy heart. Still working on the difference between offense and defense. And he wanted to wear his uniform to bed. Go figure. 
Andy is learning to read at school and loves to illustrate his drawings. Kindergarten has changed a lot in the last thirty years. Did we even know how to write at the end of Kindergarten? He couldn't wait for Steve to get home from a business trip so they could read Andy's book about shapes. 
This gym and I don't get along in terms of taking a decent picture. But we were extremely proud of Luke today. He totally rocked on defense and took the ball to the hoop twice. A great start to the season.
The weather forecast called for 1 to 3 inches of snow on Thursday night, including a phenomenon known as thunder snow. Whatevs. As you can see, they were off by a smidge. Huge disappointment when it stopped snowing after about three and a half seconds. The boys were glad school was delayed two hours...because those roads were so treacherous when it was sunny and 41 degrees. Eli's preschool actually started first and Luke and Andy found the best snow on his playground. They were very excited. 
Begged, begged, begged for hot chocolate. With marshmallows. Please, please, please. Took one sip and he was done. Good times. 

Steve decided to build the boys jet packs this afternoon, just because he could. What a great dad. Luke was at a birthday party so his is still under construction. Eli and Andy were thrilled. I think they would worn them to bed if they could. Looking forward to hearing all about their imaginary adventures...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Falling Forward

We don't care much for New Year's Eve at our house. We cling stubbornly to the past, turning over memories and analyzing our behavior. Wishing  maybe we'd done things a little bit different. There are some (who will remain nameless) that fear change. We don't like resolutions because we'll probably fail at keeping them. We regard failure with great disdain in this here hive.
But having a child in the hospital at Christmas, regardless of the reason or the duration, has been a game-changer for me. The regrets of 2012 are fading and instead an attitude of gratitude is rising to the top. Seeing the many ways God brought us through the hard is a reminder of His faithfulness. Not just inside the walls of this little house, but in the houses of the people I love the most, He's still at work. He hasn't forgotten us and He won't give up.
I read this post today and I can't stop thinking about it. So I'm taking the joy dare and counting my blessings in 2013, all the way to 1,000. First on my list: these precious, healthy little boys that bring joy to our lives.

"...forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:13-14