Rewards: While we use money as a payout for some household chores, we wanted to reward our children and motivate them to do the mundane things and to reinforce some of the characteristics that we expect of them.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Rewards: While we use money as a payout for some household chores, we wanted to reward our children and motivate them to do the mundane things and to reinforce some of the characteristics that we expect of them.
Friday, December 13, 2013
It’s the time of year that everyone is more jolly and nice, well except in the comments of some Christian blogs and websites. Instead it can become the season when they argue about the man in red and his role in Christmas instead of focusing on the manger. It’s disheartening, really, that we Christians allow the enemy to drive a wedge over something so trivial.
So without further ado, I will admit it here and explain my families convictions and get my say on this topic: Santa comes to our house on Christmas.
There, I said it.
But, Jesus lives here every day of the year.
I was raised in a Christian home, and my parents “played” Santa with us. And I don’t believe that Santa at all clouded my belief in God, I never felt my parents lied to me when I found out the truth in third grade. I always considered the Santa “game” equivalent to throwing a surprise party, you have to fib in order to really surprise someone and I consider Santa in that category. At 33 years old, I still remember that feeling of surprise and magic when you walk in the living room and realize Santa was there and bought you presents, and I wanted that for my kids. I wanted to see their eyes light up at the sight of a tree that was empty when they went to bed now full of gifts. It’s the one time of year that feels magical and special and seeing the tradition that my parents passed to us, passed on to my kids makes me feel all warm and fuzzy Christmas morning.
With that being said, I want to be clear that our Christmas season does not revolve around Santa and the elves, our main focus is the real meaning of Christmas. No, not the giving instead of receiving, it’s the ultimate gift that we all received that first Christmas.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
We want our kids to know that without that gift nothing else would even matter. And that it truly was a gift, not something that we deserved or was due to us. So how do you keep the balance in a world that is quickly heading in an opposite direction? Here’s what works for us:
Although we do tell our children (well the 4 year old, anyway) that Santa brings presents, we don’t allow that to get out of control. We tell her that Santa brings 3 gifts because that’s what the baby Jesus got and well, because I don’t want the big guy getting all the credit for our time, money and efforts. We want our kids to appreciate us as well. We don’t want her worshipping him more than just being thankful for what she did get. We also don’t do the naughty/nice thing, but I’ll explain that later. Our philosophy has always been that when they do ask us outright because they hear the whisperings at school if Santa is real or fake that we would tell them the truth. I don’t want my kids to think that I would mislead them about a topic that was important to them no matter how trivial it seems to me. And that worked for C, I think he was 8 years old when he flat out asked us and we told him the truth. We told him that Santa was a game we played with him because of the tradition in our families and we had fun doing it with him and we hoped he understood why. I know that this means that I only get a few years of fun, and for some kids it drags out longer, but I felt like I had 6 years of fun with it, and frankly we were happy it was over in some ways. We could tell him when we were going shopping and why he couldn’t come and not have to worry about being so sneaky anymore. He never asked us if we lied about Jesus, because well, we worship Him all year long, we play Santa for 6 weeks. We asked him to keep the secret for any of his cousins and friends that still believed and he obliged. I feel like 8 years old was a great age for him to find out.I want to point out, too, that we don’t play the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy so we didn’t have to explain those.
ELF ON THE SHELF:
(breath in, breath out)
Last year we gave in and got an Elf on the Shelf, it has only been popular for a few years and A was 3 last year so a great age to start. I had my doubts about doing it, for a few reasons. If you don’t know, the Elf on the Shelf is an elf doll that comes with a book and the purpose is that Santa sends the elf to watch kids if they’re naughty or nice. In the book, the elves fly to the North Pole every night and report to Santa and when they come back they are hiding in a new location. These days the elves do more than just hide, they are usually doing something funny or naughty when the kids wake up. So, we tried to find a way to balance our beliefs with this silly elf and made it our own. We don’t do the naughty/nice thing. We want our kids to do what’s right because it’s right not because the elf is watching or even because their parents/teachers/friends are watching. We want them to learn integrity and honesty as a habit all year long and the naughty/nice bit doesn’t match up. The gifts that God gives us are not based on what we do or don’t do, so why should my gifts or Santa's gifts be different. I came across this post on Pinterest, and it’s what convinced me to give in and do the elf (well, also the fact that I found it on sale for half off at Barnes and Noble. I mean really,$30 for an elf, ain’t nobody got time for that)
This year we used the letter found in that post, and modified it a bit since A is old enough to understand better. And we use the same concepts found in that post, A believes she is supposed to teach our elf, Sugarplum, how to obey and what grace is. So, when she does something naughty, A helps her clean it up and uses the words we use all year to tell Sugarplum that she forgives her. The other day I heard A telling Sugarplum how to be obedient” “Right away, all the way, with a happy heart”
This morning Sugarplum was rocking baby Jesus. (excuse the poor lighting in our cabinet)
It still feels a little weird, because all year long I’m very clear with my kids about what's real and what's pretend in their favorite TV shows, movies and books. But, it’s Christmastime and I do enjoy the fun of hiding her every night. And even after A finds out about Santa, I think it will be fun hiding the elf after the kids go to bed and make them laugh in the mornings for those few weeks. I feel like it brings the excitement of Christmas morning to our home for a few weeks. Especially since all year long there’s always so much rush and work between work and school schedules. It’s nice to slow down and have a little extra fun.
The only Reason for the Season, we celebrate Jesus all year long. But during Christmas we make an extra effort to make sure that the scales are unbalanced in His favor. We do a nightly devotional during the Advent season that’s specifically written to turn our hearts on Jesus and giving.
This year we are doing a devotional from Focus on the Family, it’s actually from last years Christmas magazine. The focus is on the names of Jesus and there is an activity and a reading every night. I made these cards to go with it and we have been taping them to our pantry door in the shape of a Christmas tree.
It’s a daily reminder of all the things Jesus was sent to be to us. We also choose to listen to more of the Christ themed Christmas carols, not that we don’t listen to secular music, but again the scales are tipped always more to the other side. A knows every word to Silent Night, Joy to the World and O Little Town of Bethlehem and very few of the traditional kids Christmas songs. She goes to a Christian preschool that shares these same values and that is a blessing to my soul. On Christmas morning we first read the story of the first Christmas out of the book of Luke and pray before opening gifts. When I was a kid my dad always made us brush our teeth and hair before we could open gifts and it would make us so antsy, but it's a sweet memory for me. So I know someday my kids will probably say the same thing about our reading, what a testimony to share with their kids about how Jesus was the first focus of our Christmas morning!
I know this post is extremely long, but it’s a topic that’s close to my heart. And I want to be clear that this may not be the best way to handle Christmas, but this is what works for our family. It's a combination of the convictions and traditions of two parents raised in different homes with different backgrounds. I don’t take issue with those that do it differently and have different convictions, whether you choose to play Santa or not. But, let’s not be divided on what Christmas is truly about and let’s show a lot more of that love and grace that we were so freely given.
Love and Blessings and Merry CHRISTmas!
Thursday, September 26, 2013
I signed up to be an usher, because, well, I thought I could do my job by myself, talk to very few people and still be refreshed and filled by what the speakers had to say. But God. He had other plans, and I feel like I need to share the testimony of how He worked in and through me this weekend. How he showed me that although what the speakers had to say would be uplifting, challenging and beneficial that only HE can truly refresh and fill me.
Two of my girl friends had gotten chosen as volunteers as well but had to back out for various reasons and I honestly considered not going at all, but my husband encouraged me to take the weekend for myself and I did. I arrived on Friday afternoon for volunteer training and once everyone was checked in we started with a prayer. I was excited to be there but nervous with the big group that assembled, if you know me you know social settings stress me out when I don’t know anyone. And I was already starting to feel anxious until we got down to the group of ushers, about 15 women total. As we waited, some of the staff spoke quietly and a group of 6 of us were taken to the side. We were told that they were short on product sales people and asked us if we were willing to switch and do sales. My first thought: Oh please no, not me, I’m not in the mood. But I felt a tugging from God saying, “stay put”. Two other women said no and when it got to me I obeyed that tugging and said yes.
We were taken around the arena and one by one the other women were left at the booths where they would be working and I was dropped off last at a booth with two other volunteers and one WOF staffer. We were trained and had some down time until the doors were opened. I was feeling a bit emotional and overwhelmed by the flow of people once we got started but I carried through, little did I know that God was softening my heart for what was to come. The group of women that I worked with were exactly who God planned me to spend my weekend with, and they were each in their own way an encouragement to me and I feel so blessed to have met them and spent the weekend with them.
The rest of the evening was a real treat for me, a Christian comedian who through his humor challenged me to be a better mom, Sheila Walsh who spoke from her heart and encouraged me in my walk, a CeCe Winans concert that lifted my spirit and blessed me in so many ways, and working in our booth on breaks and at the end of the night. Before we went home we all four held hands and prayed together. I was exhausted, yet refreshed and excited for Day 2.
On Saturday I arrived bright and early and ready for a full day. There were many speakers, and praise and worship music and a Third Day concert. But there were three moments that stood out for me:
Sheila Walsh, Holly Wagner and Lisa Harper sat on stage talking about various trials in their lives and how they got through them while trusting God. It was very powerful, but the real moment for me came when Sheila Walsh talked about her difficult relationship with her Mother in Law. (If you know me well, you can pick your jaw up now). I, too, have a difficult relationship with my Mother in Law. She’s a difficult person and I often use that as my justification to be difficult towards her. We have a strained relationship to say the least, and I choose to keep it that way. But, hearing Sheila talk about how she chose to love her Mother in Law through it, and even care for her at the end of her life hit me like a dagger. I typically go out of my way to avoid contact with mine, and here Sheila cared for a women who was so difficult towards her. She chose to see her the way God see her. Here I was in the company of thousands of other women struggling with many different obstacles, and this message seemed catered to me! That hit me so hard that as soon as the talk was over I went straight to the nearest restroom and literally sobbed in the stall. It was there, all by myself, sobbing, that my heart continued to be softened and molded.
A little later in the program, Holly Wagner spoke about her battle with cancer and how God used it to mold her. She spoke about how we often as Christians want to stay on the pretty side of life, on the shore instead of getting into the stormy waters. And again, I cried. So often I play Christian, but avoid any bumps in the road because of my fears. I stay away from what seems difficult and hope that no hardships come my way. I would even say that in some ways I distance myself from the Lord so that my faith won’t be tested. Holly’s talk helped me to realize that trials are a part of life and we should use them as opportunities to draw nearer to the Lord, to grow in our strength and to encourage those around us when they have trials. We can use our trials as tools to share our faith, instead of seeing them as punishments. What a lesson to learn!
After Holly’s talk I was feeling emotionally drained so much so that I didn't feel like I could handle any more for that day. I was asked to work in another booth for that break, and I was happy to be alone for a little while to continue to process what I took in that day. We did not end up going back into the auditorium for the rest of the day, we helped work the booth and talked for a little while. But, I felt an unsettling feeling in my heart, I felt God nudging me from the inside. I felt God telling me to ask the women that he had me working with to pray with me and for me: And these are the excuses I gave Him:
Um, no. I don’t do that, I don’t ask for help, I’m FINE!
But what if they have a bigger need than me?
Seriously, I already stretched myself enough by doing sales, and talking to all these women all weekend. I’m tired, I’m emotionally drained and I just need to be alone.
I will pray for myself when I get in the car.
These wonderful ladies that I enjoyed spending time with are going to think there is something wrong with me. And I can’t let that happen.
And then I felt this voice tell me, “If you don’t do it, you’ll regret it”
At that moment I just knew I had to be obedient again. With tears in my eyes and a shaky voice I asked Mary (the staff person from Women of Faith) if we could pray together as a group, and we did. But, before we did, I had to share with the ladies how God had stretched me, how he asked me to do things out of my comfort zone and used my vulnerabilities to make me uncomfortable so that I had to rely on Him and how that allowed me to hear the messages that I needed to hear that day.
I type this with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart. For the first time in my life I felt God speaking specifically to me, moving mountains so that I could be right where he wanted me to be and with a group of ladies who will be in my heart always.
It was an incredible weekend, and I couldn't wait to share my testimony with my husband and my family and girl friends. There were many other moments, some awesome praise and worship, and I didn't even mention Max Lucado and what a blessing his words were to me, but these were the moments that felt life changing for me.
God is real, ladies, and real good, too.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I can’t believe we are entering the 2013-2014 school year! We had an awesome summer and I am just so sad that it’s ending. In some ways I’m happy to get back to a more structured routine, but I am not ready for the homework and projects that I will have to stay on C’s case about.
With C starting 7th grade, I’m feeling a bit emotional about where all the time has gone. Here he is on the First day of school from PreK3 through this year, not quite sure what happened to his 2nd grade picture, but this is a great look back.
The first day back went rather smoothly and we transitioned right back into our routine as usual. Because I was a little nervous about getting back into the routine of homework, early bed times and cooking dinner I worked a half day so that I could come home and prep some meals for the week.
I felt very accomplished when, by the time L got home, I was posting this on Instagram:
I’m very excited about this school year and praying it will be a successful one. Very soon I will be writing some posts about our school year routines and how I meal prep. Those are the most common questions I get asked and I love to help when and where I can.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
But, I’m a mom and there are certain things that I am responsible for. I have an amazing husband who takes more than a fair share of the chores including all laundry and ironing (Hello, I’m spoiled, I know!) So preparing lunches and dinner is something that I have taken on as my sole responsibility. And the people in my house want to eat everyday, weirdos, I know! And this is pretty much how I feel about that:
Now that summer is over and everyone has a strict bed time I knew I had to get my act together and figure out how I could feed my family the laziest but yet healthiest way possible, and freezer prepping has proven to be successful for me in the past so, I got some motivation and put together a plan. Last year sometime I purchased this cookbook, from one of my favorite bloggers, Stephanie at Mama and Baby Love. The cookbook is filled with freezer to crock-pot meals, and every recipe is doubled. So basically it’s just chopping vegetables, adding seasonings and the raw meat and placing it in the freezer until cooking day. I have done these before and I just knew I had to get back to it. It’s the easiest way to get a hot meal on the table on nights when both kids need help with homework, there’s a Boy Scout meeting for C or AWANA for A. And every recipe is not only healthy but limited on grains, free of GMOs, and clean eating. I have learned so much about clean eating from Stephanie so I know every recipe is the healthiest, tastiest way to feed my crew.
So, enough chatting and lets get into the details about how I made this work for me.
Earlier in the week I wrote down all the recipes that I knew I wanted to do and checked my pantry for what I had on hand. Afterwards I made a shopping list so that I would be well prepared. On Friday I dragged my tired behind in the rain to Costco and picked up all the meat and bulk produce and on Saturday morning I headed out to get the produce while L got the kids out of the house to a baseball game with our church.
|My shopping cart of produce|
|Made a stop on the way home and used my free Gold drink to get a Trenta Iced Coffee to fuel this project.|
(This is the freezer in my kitchen, we have a large stand up freezer in our pantry for all of our extras that is not nearly as organized and pretty as this)
I can’t believe Summer is officially over and I did not blog all summer long. I really need to be writing a Back to School post but I just can’t do it without first writing a summer “summary” so to speak.
This is how you know you’ve reached the end of summer, I found this guy on my bedroom door after another long day of having 3 tweens home alone. After 6 weeks of being home alone together, these cousins got a little bored and a little silly.
This summer was one of the best that I can remember and I know my kids feel the same. Because of what I do for a living, last summer was not very relaxing at all. It was a Presidential Election year and from the last day of school 2012 until Thanksgiving 2012 my work life was stressful and we did not get to enjoy a typical summer.
Now that things have slowed down at the office I was able to take every Friday off over the summer so that I could spend an extra day with the kids. We did all sorts of things during our fun Fridays, and besides those days it was just a slower more flexible pace of life than it is during the school year. Two of our nieces spent almost the whole summer with us and we would stay up late playing cards or dominoes, watching Duck Dynasty, and laughing about all the silliness that our days consisted of.
The day before the girls went home the kids got to make collages with all of the pictures that we took.
Here they are showing off their work, excuse the poor lighting we were up until way too late finishing the collages and laughing about all of our memories and antics all summer.
Now that the girls have gone home, we miss them more than ever because we got to spend so much time with them. I just can’t wait until the next school break when we will get to spend lots of time together again.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.
1 Samuel 1:27 NIV
I can’t believe it’s been four years since A was born. I’m going to split her birthday post into 2 different posts because we really did celebrate her birthday for the whole week.
She turned 4 on August the 3rd and her party was still a week away so we decided to spend the day at a place that has quickly become one of our favorite spots this summer: Kelly Park. I had been there a few times as a kid, when we would come down to Orlando to visit family. But since we moved here 17 years ago I don’t think I’ve been. And when we went a few months ago at the beginning of summer we realized what a hidden treasure it is. Abby loves it, too, so she wanted to spend her birthday there with the family.
Before she woke up that morning I decorated the kitchen and living room for her and we gave her one of her gifts.
After that we all loaded up and headed to Kelly Park to be there before they opened. It’s a very popular spot so we made sure to get there early and there was still quite a line ahead of us. Once the gates were opened we got it and found a perfect spot next to the volleyball court.
We spent most of the day going down the springs, grilling, eating and spending time with family. Until around 3 when the Florida skies opened up and we were rained out.
A opening her gifts from family
A and her cousins at Kelly Park
We spent the rest of the day at home relaxing and I made this cake for after dinner that night.
Once the day was over and my sweet girl was in bed, I couldn’t help myself but to go stare at her sleeping and remember how special that day was four years ago. For so many years it was just C and I still can’t believe that God blessed us with this amazing little girl who fills our hearts and completes our family.