Posts Tagged With: appreciate life

Mom Days

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5:02. Baby cries.
5:04. Get baby. Feed baby. Really, really hope (but highly doubt) he will fall back asleep.
5:30. Diaper explodes. Everywhere. Change diaper, baby clothes, mommy clothes and sheets.
5:45. Relish in the fact that kids are still sleeping. Think of all that can be accomplished in the next hour alone with the baby!
5:46. Kids are awake.
6:00. Eight boxes of cereal on the kitchen table. Three hungry boys. Get three more boxes out because “none of these sound good, Mom!”
6:15. Orange juice spill.
6:16. Clean up sticky mess.
6:18. Cereal spill.
6:19. Clean up crumby mess.
6:30. Try to cram eleven boxes of cereal into the pantry.
8:15. Lunches made, teeth brushed, homework done. “Go get your socks on! The bus will be here any second!”
8:18. “Ahh! No time for Legos right now! Get your socks!”
8:20. “Seriously, you are going to miss the bus!!”
8:21. Two-year-old on the toilet. Leave two-year-old to take older kids to the bus. Instruct two-year-old to “just stay right there. I will be back in two seconds.”
8:22. Bus rounds corner. Hugs and kisses. Bus starts to stop.
8:22:25. Hear two-year-old screaming at top of driveway. Turn and see a completely naked boy racing down driveway swinging footie pjs above his head.
8:23. Smile because neighbors must think we are completely crazy by now.
8:30. Diaper explosion #2. Change diaper, baby clothes and mommy clothes. Again.
8:35. Search for missing two-year-old, find him in bathroom with camera. Check camera and find incriminating evidence (see below).

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8:36. Have a nice little chat about climbing on bathroom counters.
9:35. Grocery store. “I buckle myself, Mom! Don’t help me!”
9:45. Finally convince two-year-old to take some assistance in buckling.
10:22. Dairy isle (furthest section from bathrooms). “I neeeedd to use the baaaathroooommm!”
10:24. Hold stall door shut for singing two-year-old. Smile at other bathroom goer.
10:25. “Mom! I makin’ poopers! Yay, Mom! I made a pooper! Let’s have a party! Oh boy. (Grunt) It’s a big one!”
10:26. Give a slightly embarrassed smile at other bathroom goer going to wash hands who will no long make eye contact (she must not have kids).
12:00. Pick kindergartener up. Baby and two-year-old asleep. Awkwardly carry car seat and sleeping two-year-old across front lawn, up the stairs and to the kindergarten hall. Feel like arms are most certainly going to fall off because together they must weigh 347 pounds.
12:30. Lunch.
12:35. Spit up everywhere. Change baby clothes, mommy clothes, and clean carpet.
12:40. Fold clothes and listen to the kids playing in the living room. Smile and feel very blessed because kids are playing so nicely.
12:45. Comfort two-year-old because brother poured a cup of soapy water on his head.
3:00. Sister calls to confirm weekend plans to get together (four kids plus two equals six. Wonder if we are gluttons for punishment, but put that thought out of our minds because getting together with cousins is the best thing in the world. Bring on the chaos!).
3:10. Hear toilet flush. Five times in a row, really fast. “Mom, water’s comin’ outta the toilet!” Say goodby to sister.
3:11. Find an inch of water covering bathroom floor and an empty toilet paper roll. Clean up water. Start another load of laundry for wet towels.
4:00. 2nd grader home. Sit at top of stairs and wonder if they will ever grow out of tussling.
4:20. Break up the tussling because two-year-old doesn’t appreciate wedgies. Wonder if it’s bedtime yet.
5:00. Start dinner.
5:08. Baby wakes up from nap, needs to eat. Feed baby.
5:15. Send kids out to run around the house 10 times.
5:20. Send kids out to run around the house 10 more times.
6:00. Give up on attempt at a fancy dinner. Make waffles.
6:30. DAD’S HOME!
6:32. Make feeble attempt at some adult conversation.
6:33. After seven times of being interrupted, give up all attempts at adult conversation. Talk about Star Wars instead.
6:50. Wash dishes while dad tussles with the kids. Smile because, no, they will probably never grow out of tussling.
7:30. Bed time. Tooth paste explosion all over counter and walls. Clean up blue sparkly paste. Brush teeth, pjs, books.
8:00. Lights off. Drink of water, 32 stuffed animals, songs and tucked in. Stand in doorway and look at the four beautiful boys that make life so crazy. Wonder I will ever make it through an entire day in the same clothes I put on that morning, wonder if the neighbors will remember my son streaking down our driveway on their drive to work this morning, wonder if we have enough leftover waffles for breakfast in the morning, wonder if I will ever have time to actually make what I plan for dinner. Wonder what we ever did before kids.

image8:10. Thank God that I get to do it all over again in the morning.

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Categories: Family, little boys | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Unfinished

M came down the stairs this morning in pants that would have been fantastic for some clam digging on the beach. I could have swore that just yesterday I had to roll up those same pants to keep them from dragging on the ground. I used to cringe when sweet ladies at the grocery store would stop me and whisper the old cliché, “Oh, they just grow up so fast!” I’d wonder, does she not realize she is the sixth person to tell me that in this visit to the store??

IMG_20150905_151926_298Then suddenly I blinked and there stood a five-year-old in his clam diggers and over-sized backpack ready for the bus.

In my closet I have boxes and boxes of fabric, each carefully labeled, “Black dress,” “R’s quilt,” “Quiet book,”Giraffe growth chart.” Fabric all cut and waiting, some pieces even sewed together. In the garage sits wood sanded and queued to be built into a shelf, a bench, a frame, a spice rack. Ideas penned in notebooks lay scattered all around the house for a picture book, another blog post, a letter to a friend. Bookmarks keep spots in dozens of started and unfinished books. Clothes fill my closet waiting to fit again, for when I will set aside the time to run and get rid of this lingering baby fat.

Recipes I want to try.
Songs tucked away to be learned on our neglected piano.
A guitar untouched for years.
Pictures waiting to go in scrapbooks.
A list of friends I would love to call and hear their voices again.

Unfinished projects. Sometimes I feel like my life is made up of dozens and dozens of unfinished projects. Skills I would love to learn, chores only halfway accomplished, hobbies and ideas and dreams started and set aside. All waiting. For tomorrow. For the weekend. For when the baby stops fussing, the kids are fed, the spilled cereal is swept, the tickle war is over, the scrape is doctored, the kids are in bed.

IMG_20150909_152418_320And there stands my not-so-little-anymore boy in clam diggers that I’m almost positive fit him just yesterday.

There will come a time when I no longer have the interruptions of spilled cereal to clean. These little ones will eventually brush their teeth without help, and they will no longer beg for the momster to set aside yard work and chase them around the trampoline. Slap Jack will eventually loose its appeal, and scrapes will no longer need mom’s kiss. And when that day comes, when I suddenly have the time for all the projects I’ve started and set aside, I hope I never look back and feel like they, these sweet boys, were yet another unfinished project because I was too busy trying to finish all the others.

IMG_20150921_143823_871They grow up so fast. Their pants seems to shrink from one day to the next. But projects can wait. Someday, moms, the time will be ours. The nights will be longer, the little chatter that fills our homes will come much less often than we wish. And all those unfinished projects will fill our time. But now, now is theirs. Now is about slap jack and monsters and spilled milk. Now is the greatest project, the most amazing adventure we will ever embark on. And I’m sure we will never regret making sure that this one isn’t set aside, put on the back-burner, forgotten and left unfinished. Because, moms, in everything that can wait, this one can’t. Let’s give our today to them.

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Categories: children, Family, Life Lessons, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Those Care-Free Days

20150405_093955I grew up in a house that was a century old. The stairs creaked, it was a little drafty, and when my parents bought it, it needed lots (and lots and lots) of tlc. My parents saw something in that house I’m sure very few could. Their vision of turning that musty, dusty, old house into a home became a reality as they planned, gutted, painted, tore down, built up, and everything in between over the next 25 years. I can’t remember a summer going by without renovations being made.

When I was five years old my dad decided to dig out a basement. On one particular summer evening, I remember slipping inside our back door with my mom and sister to take a break from playing and get a drink. My dad was working below. As We stood in the kitchen we noticed the wall start to move. My mom rushed us out of the house and screamed at my dad from the back yard. There are few things I remember well from five years old, but the image of my dad running up the hill and the house caving in behind him I can play in my mind clear as day. I remember watching the pink sunset that night and the dust settling as my sister and I sat in our yard terrified and my parents rushed around to assess the damage and make calls. Our kitchen and part of the upstairs has fallen in where my dad had been working.

That disaster was the start of the most memorable summer of my childhood. Dirt piles everywhere, tractors coming and going, huge pipes to crawl through. Countless English papers were written about those particular three months of my life for the next two decades. Forget the trips to Disneyland, the vacations to sandy beaches and amusement parks. THAT summer is what I look back on with the fondest of memories.

If you were to ask my parents to honestly recall the events that took place that evening and the months that followed, you would likely get a much different story. While we were romping around playing Peter Pan on dirt piles and unearthing century-old artifacts, my parents were battling insurance companies. I’m sure many nights were spent stressing over architecture plans and building permits while we slept soundly after a full day in the sun. On top of all the stress they were facing, my dad broke his ankle while working on the project. Their adult reality was night-and-day different from ours as kids.

Earlier this spring my husband and I embarked on our own project of rather large proportions. We knew when we moved into our old home in the country we would have to fix the septic system at some point. That point came sooner than anticipated, and, as most projects go, everything that could go wrong, well, did. In a very big way.

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Before it all was destroyed…

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Piles and piles of dirt and sand, tractors coming and going, trees being torn out. Fighting county regulations and praying the inspectors would be flexible, reasonable and kind. I almost cried as I looked out the window the first day to see a muddy hole where our giant, beautiful pine trees once stood.

But among all the chaos comes an entirely different story. Our three boys wouldn’t tell you about the phone calls and the plans, the permits and the worry. Their story begins with the coolest tractors that currently line our driveway and Mr. P, who drives them that let them climb inside and check them out. It’s about mounds and mounds of sand and dirt, running from one to the other and getting so dirty their bath water turns to an icky, brown, thick consistency. I would imagine it would include eating frozen pizza (a time of two more than once, I’m embarrassed to admit) while the water was turned off and mom couldn’t do dishes. THEIRS is a story of a spring worth remembering.

IMG_20150409_144157_614 IMG_20150409_144429_678 IMG_20150409_144343_146Sometimes as adults we long for those care-free days when troubles were simply an adventure. We remember the “good old days” and forget that we are remembering with a child-like view. I have certainly had flash-backs this month as my boys have dug in the dirt and shouted with glee while my husband and I stress and wished I was back on that side of life.

Then I think about my parents. When they tell the story from those many years ago, they tell of the adventure, the little miracles along the way, and the FUN the kids had as we experienced the excitement. As we face adulthood and all the challenges that come with it, I hope we can live vicariously, even if only a little, through the lives of our children. We will undoubtedly have to face the bills, the paperwork, the phone calls and the frustrations, but they don’t. I hope I can look back and remember the joy on my boys’ faces and see moments like this through those innocent, child eyes. As adults, let’s remember to stress the stress, carry the burdens, and pay the expenses. But when all is said and done, let’s let our kids be kids, and let’s remember to try to see the world even if only a little through their child eyes. Because theirs is the story worth sharing.

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Categories: children, House projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beauty in EVERY Moment

My husband’s Grandma Jane made the BEST cinnamon rolls in the world. years ago on one particular visit I decided I was determined to learn her sticky bun magic. Pen and paper out, I jotted down everything, from the type of spoon she used to the number of times she stirred the dough. How she sprinkled on the sugar and cinnamon and the color of the pan she cooked them in. With my careful calculations and particular care I took in writing everything down I just knew I would be pulling out the most golden, soft, moist cinnamon rolls when we got home.

The batches that followed never quite measured up. Rock hard. Too crunchy, too doughy, not sweet enough. Even when following the directions I so carefully jotted down that day I have yet to master her perfect rolls.

Every spring I make a Little Shutterfly book for the previous year. Last July Grandma Jane passed away quickly and unexpectedly. While I looked through pictures to create our annual book and tried to decide what to say for the summer months, I thought about all that I wished I had learned from her before she left. If I could have watched her make those cinnamon rolls one more time I just might have discovered her magic. Just maybe.

IMG_0414But as amazing as her cinnamon rolls were, they dimmed in comparison to the other life lessons I wish I could have learned. In her funeral program is something she wrote.

“Every moment is beautiful and captures the attention.”

Right after our third son was born I remember feeling exhausted, exasperated, and at the end of my rope. Our then four-year-old and two-year-old had demanded one too many things and made far too many messes. I took the baby and locked myself in the bedroom. I could hear the two little criminal master minds contemplating how to break in as I sat with the baby in the rocking chair and cried. Whoever came up with the saying not to cry over spilled milk must have understood mother-dom well. That cup of spilled milk has reduced me to tears far more often than I would like to admit.

THAT moment was not my prettiest, nor what I would have called beautiful.

For months we fought a whitey tighty war against our middle son. Every time he woke up, every time he used the bathroom, every time he escaped my view I had to ask him, “M, are you wearing underwear?” and that was always, always followed by, “Please go get your underwear on.” Sometimes my response was anything but beautiful. Sometimes I was so tired of the constant questioning that it was downright mean. One day M came running down the stairs. “DAD! DAD! Guess what?? I remembered underwear! Wanna see?” With that he pulled down his pants, revealing a naked little bottom. His shocked face was priceless as he yanked up his pants and scampered back up the stairs.

As a mom I can’t say that I find every moment beautiful. Sure, it often captures the attention, but all-too-often in a “You spilled your milk AGAIN?!” sort of way. The scraped knees, the toddler tantrums, the cleaning up after every single messy meal. The legos that I always manage to step on and the beds that never get made. Frankly, motherhood often leaves me a grumpy old witch.

But Grandma Jane didn’t just write that every moment was beautiful. They were so much more than words. I have no doubt that she felt it. She really and truly believed it. Every moment DID seem beautiful to her and did capture her attention. She had an incredible way of finding the best in even the most rotten person or crummy situation. Grandma Jane left behind a legacy of finding beauty.

HPIM0657Some moments might not seem beautiful as a mom. Some moments are downright dirty. But I am sure that with effort we can, like Grandma Jane, find beauty in even the ugliest moment.

Maybe it will take a healthy dose of humor.
I’m sure we will have to seek for a good measure of forgiveness.
We occasionally will have to throw common sense to the wind, forget we’re adults and jump in the mud with the kids.
Sometimes it might mean taking a step back and just being thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was. We might have to be grateful for those that help us through those particularly hard days.

Beauty is there for the finding. We often just might have to look extra hard. And eventually I hope it will get easier and easier for the beauty to capture the attention instead of the mess.

Someday I will master her cinnamon roll recipe. It might take years to achieve the ooy-gooy Grandma Jane-y goodness, but someday I’m determined to serve up a plate of the best rolls you have ever tasted. And today, today I’m going to try to look on life with such Grandma Jane optimism, such happiness, such joy. And I will try to find beauty in every moment.

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Categories: Happiness, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Little More

The hostess slipped two menus off the desk. “Right this way, please.” I smiled to myself as we passed by the high chairs. That’s right, two. No high chairs for us. No crayons, no kiddie menus no over-priced macaroni, no bibs. Just a table for two. I could count on one hand the times in the last three years my husband and I had been out on a true, blue, honest-to-goodness date. You know, not the ones that involve doing dishes together after the kids are asleep then watching the much-anticipated episode of Downton Abbey. An actual date!

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That day I had spent crunching numbers. My husband had spent the day attempting to do his work while making dozens of phone calls to the county. Our septic system has been on the fritz since we moved in, and that week’s batch of laundry seemed to have done it in. Like all unexpected expenses, I can’t say we were any too thrilled about this rather large project, nor the amount it would cost. Financially we would be just fine, but it certainly wouldn’t be convenient. I could think of dozens of ways I’d prefer to spend our savings, but so goes life.

We dropped the boys off at our friends’ house for a fun pizza and movie night and continued our conversation of worries in the car. Spending money on dinner seemed a little silly considering our newest rather large expense looming in the near future, but we had planned it all week, and this was an outing that we rarely had a chance to take.

We settled in the booth and vowed to not talk any more about that blasted septic system and just enjoy our night away. Instead, our conversation turned to our kids (what else?) and then to the kindness people have shown us and how we want to be more like them. From our friends offering to watch our kids for the night, to grandparents and aunts and uncles who do so much, to the small acts of service we’ve witnessed over the years. As we were getting ready to leave, the waitress came to our table. “Would you like any dessert?” We shook our heads and thanked her. “Well, you are all set to go. That couple over there paid for your tab. Yes, all of it. You can just go when you are ready.” I turned away hoping the waitress didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The two generous people were slipping their jackets on and briskly walking to the door before we could catch them. I had read about things like that in the paper, but to actually be the recipient touched me to the core.

Out of all the couples sitting in that restaurant, why had they chosen us? They didn’t know about our unexpected septic system expense or that we rarely got a chance to go out as a couple. They didn’t hear our conversation about selfless kindness, but they gave us yet another example of goodness to add to our list.

A little more. It’s amazing what a difference a small act of kindness can make. It doesn’t have to be money. Share a little more smiles, be a little more patient, say a little more kind words, listen a little more closely. Give a little more love, offer a little more help, be a little more conscientious. A little more. That’s all it would take, just a little more every day. We have no idea what story is hidden in each person. We don’t know what they are experiencing. Why not show them, give them, just a little more? I’m grateful for wonderful examples of kindness I have so often witnessed. To that kind couple who slipped away at the restaurant on Friday night before we could offer our thanks, your kindness warmed my heart.

This is one of my favorite little clips on kindness. I hope you can take a second and watch it!

Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Love Through the Coughs and Wheezes

It’s 2am and my head rests on your stuffed giraffe. I shift uncomfortably on the floor next to your bed and listen to your breathing.

Steady.

Finally steady.

The coughs and wheezes have subsided. I breath a sigh of relief. Your poor little body just needs to rest, and I pray that your tired eyes will stay shut until the sun rises through your window. I rest my hand on your forehead and stare at the ceiling. I’m not going anywhere.

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Remember that night your little tummy couldn’t hold anything down? I know, it would be hard to forget. I changed your sheets twice and made sure the water was warm before I lifted you in the tub to rinse off. The clock said 1:20am, but it didn’t matter. My mind said I had a little boy…an exhausted, sick little boy who needed his mother. It didn’t matter that my tummy was anything but settled that night too, or that a dentist checkup and playing with friends filled our calendar the next morning. It didn’t matter. That night YOU mattered, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

We sat in the waiting room for what felt like hours, You cuddled into my lap, holding my neck and never letting go. The fever just hung on, and your limp body had taken enough of the heat. You didn’t know I was hanging on to you too, never wanting to let go. I needed you, your warm body, your gentle hug.

My son, this is motherhood. When your heart belongs no longer to you…but to little boys that carry it everywhere they go. At 2am my heart is still yours, my eyes locked on your tiny frame shaking with another cough. It’s yours as I change your sheets when I feel like I can barely move, it’s yours in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Always yours. Because motherhood doesn’t stop when the sunny days are over. It doesn’t end when you clock out. It’s the late nights, the early mornings. The four loads of unexpected sick night laundry, the rescheduled day with friends to go to the doctor. And it’s love through it all.

Dear moms. This job is not always pretty. It isn’t always fun, it isn’t always relaxing. But could you imagine it any other way? Could you fathom not giving your heart to these little ones that need us so much? This job, this chance, it’s messy. It’s stinky, it’s busy, it’s gross. It’s anything but glamorous. And it is truly amazing to have your heart taken so far beyond yourself that none of that matters.

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I hope your family is making it through this winter in good health. If not, hang in there, Moms! You are amazing. Soon the sun will shine and the ice will melt, the colds will go away. And that love will be all the sweeter, when we hear laughter instead of wheezes!

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

My Happy Place

I’m typing this one-fingered on my iPad (something that drives my husband crazy!) from the rocking chair. My left leg bounces up and down and my fingers run through a two-year-old’s blonde hair. His blue eyes hidden under heavy eyelids and long lashes. A rare moment I seldom get to enjoy, but today…today I will. The dishes wait, the toys strung from one room to the next sit. This. Nothing in the world could compare to this.

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about “my happy place,” thanks to my dear friend Marla who writes a beautiful blog, Pendulum World. After being challenged by another blogger and writing about hers, she challenged me along with a few others to write about mine. Let me first tell you about Marla. I’ve never met her in person, but she has a way of making you feel like an old friend. She writes words of encouragement and often reminds me of what this life is really all about. I’m so thankful for her friendship and how she has touched my life.

Last year for the 100th day of school our son was asked to bring in 100 of something. For days I proposed ideas as we sat around the dinner table and watched as my husband’s face twisted in mocking smirks.

“How about we make a treasure box and paint it, then fill it with 100 gold coins? You could wear a pirate costume when it’s your turn to present. Eh?” Brilliant.

Now, here’s just a simple example of how my dear husband and I are complete polar opposites (for what it’s worth, we are living proof that opposites really can attract!).

My husband smirks. “R, Mom is crazy. Here’s a $1 bill. Take it in and say it’s 100 cents. Easy. Done.”

“So typical!” I’d think. “Sure, take the easy, straight-forward route. So engineery.”

Our proposals went back-and-forth for days. Finally a decision was made. R put together a cute little photo album with a title on the front, “100 People, Places, and Things I Love.” Each photo protector held a picture of someone or something near and dear to him with a label of what it was. I was a proud mama, and even my “this project is way too frilly and time consuming” husband thought it turned out pretty darn cute.

I won’t put 100, but I thought I’d share my happy place(s) with you through pictures. Like Marla said in her post, being with people I love is where I find joy. They are what makes life full and happy, and I’m so thankful for those who have shared their lives with me. So, without further ado, here are my “people, places and things I love,” or “my happy place.”

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Being with my family

...and more family

…and more family (thanks, katiejanephotos.blogspot.com 🙂 )

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Sailing on our boat

Hiking

Hiking

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Places that bring back special memories

Here, one of the most beautiful places on earth

Here, one of the most beautiful places on earth

Here, because of all the peace, joy, and completeness it represents in my life

Here, because of all the peace, joy, and completeness it represents in my life

Running (and being) with friends

Running (and being) with friends

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Being with my kids

I’m so glad Marla challenged me to think about what brings me happiness. With the start of a new year, I hope we can all look back and remember those people, those moments, those places that we find joy. And this year I hope we can all share our joy with others.

As these traveling posts go, I have thought about some bloggers to pass the “happy place” challenge to. Of course, I don’t want to make anyone feel obligated to do it, but if you would like, I’d love to read yours.

Shape Up Cupcake— Kristen and I go way back to volleyball freshman year of high school, guitar class, soccer, and sleep overs. She is amazing! I feel honored to call her my friend after all these years. She is such a inspiration to me and so many others.

A prompt reply— Torrie has quickly become a good friend. Being in different walks of life, I love to hear her view from where she stands, with adult and teenage boys. Her advice and words of wisdom is always something I appreciate.

Sensitive and Extraordinary— Leila is such a kind person. I have loved getting to know her through her blog and reading her thoughts on raising children. She has been a huge help to me as a beginner in the self-publishing adventure, always answering my questions and sharing her experience and knowledge.

Categories: Happiness | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Greatest Gift of All

Baby Sparkles. My little 4-year-old self had been mesmerized with her commercials for months. Those big, blue eyes. Those curly, blond locks. That crown that lit up when her head was tipped back. My heart almost ached with hopes that she’d be under the tree that Christmas morning.

The picture was shaky as the cameraman, my grandpa, tried to follow the dancing four-year-old on the screen darting from one corner of the room to the next. Christmas music filled the background muffling the adult conversations scattered around the room. A blonde six-year-old sat next to the tree admiring the lights and little glass ornaments. My sister. Soon presents were passed around the room. The four-year-old settled down next to her sister and brightly colored wrapping paper flew through the air.

“Baby Sparkles!! Grandma! I love her so much! Thank you grandma! Every inch of that wiggly four-year-old overflowed with delight. Grandpa’s camera scanned the room for the older sister only to find her sulking in the corner.
“And what did you get?” Grandpa cleared his throat.
“Baby Sparkles.” Disappointment oozed from every syllable.
“But don’t you like your baby sparkles?”
Suddenly the six-year-old bursts into tears. “NO. I wanted a DOG, not baby sparkles!”

Baby Sparkles. I can still picture her in my mind. I’d asked for her every day that fall, and holding her was like magic. My sister, well, not so much. Now that the anguish of not getting that puppy has subsided, we both can laugh as we watch our smaller selves so enveloped in the Christmas magic.

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Today as I pick up the Christmas paper strewn across our family room floor and admire the twinkling tree lights one last time before they are hidden under the stairs for the next eleven months, I smile. Baby sparkles is long gone. The Legos that scatter the floor will someday loose their shine. And that’s ok. Somewhere between baby sparkles and lego knights for my boys the magic changed…or maybe just became more clear. The best gift of all has always been the gift of being together with those I love, creating memories that won’t get old or loose their shine. With my parents in Malaysia this holiday season and the passing of loved ones, the gift of memories has been even more magical.

I hope your Christmas was filled with the magical gift of being with those you love and remembering Christmases past. That, for me, has been the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas memories from our family to yours!

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Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

By Small and Simple Things

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One of my favorite Christmas traditions every year (and possibly one of yours too!) is curling up on the couch with family and watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart in pure 1946 black-and-white splendor. At the end of the movie when the credits are rolling, tears are being wiped away from every eye in the room, I always wonder what it would be like to have George Bailey’s wish…to see what the world would be like without me. What difference has my simple, small life really made?

George Bailey: [George hears a train whistle] There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?

Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…

George Bailey: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

No doubt about it, It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic, a beloved movie in many, many homes. And maybe that’s because we all have a bit of George Bailey in us. We all want to do BIG things. We want to explore the world, make our mark, leave it for the better. We want to be good at something, known for something, have people remember our names after we have gone. And so often we feel like the whistle blows, the plane starts up it’s motor, the anchor is hoisted, and we’re left watching from the station. But I wonder if we realize, just as George Bailey had the opportunity to find out, no matter how insignificant, how small and simple our lives feel at times, we are making differences. Our lives are intertwined into so many others. We make ripples, and even the smallest ones touch more than we could ever imagine.

Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

I wonder if we could all see, if only we could know what we have done. If only we knew…

I think who I have become is ultimately a collection of small moments I have shared with others.

I think who I have become is ultimately a collection of small moments I have shared with others.

If only Mrs. Chamberlain knew. An awkward tom-boy with a hideous bowl cut and no self-esteem was completely changed in her third-grade class. If only she knew how many elementary ed professors read about how every child deserves to have a teacher like her, who gives them a chance, believes in them, and loves them.

If only Regina, the owner and boss of the best family-owned burger joint around, knew. Those who have worked for her over the years would all agree she taught us far more than how to make a killer Ladybug shake or count back change. She taught us about being kind, giving people a chance, and serving others with a smile. Always. She taught us to truly care about others and think more of them than of ourselves.

Yeah, we lost almost every game. We weren’t the best in the league, but we loved soccer. We loved it because we had amazing coaches. Their pep talks when the score board read 5-0 might have seemed to fall on deaf ears, but their encouragement went far. To this day we are all changed because they taught us to love the game, to be a team, to have fun and be good sports…even if we could never seem to get the ball in the net.

If only friends from long ago knew. If only they could feel the way their simple messages, phone calls, letters, have made me feel on a bad day. If only they realized how much their friendship has meant to me over these many, many years.

If only the kind lady at the grocery store realized how far-reaching the effects of her simple gesture of allowing us to go ahead of her at the checkout counter meant. Not just to the hungry, crying baby and the exhausted mother, but countless others who I have shared her story with. I want to be her someday when I don’t have the anxious kids in tow.

If only…if only Mrs. M knew how scared my son was to start the first grade. How he didn’t like to read, how he despised writing. How he has blossomed and reads every night, writes stories on the bus, and talks about her at every meal. She is his hero. She is MY hero.

He’s only the custodian, but Mr. Mike creates ripples. The kids love him. The way he teases them in the lunch room making each one giggle with delight. He makes a difference. Every single day. They will remember that forever. If only he knew.

If only each one of us could know.

Each day, each moment, our small actions touch others. Sometimes in very big ways when we don’t even know it. We may never do really big, grand things. We may never have an audience of millions, have stadiums or buildings named after us, or have our photo on the cover of magazines or in books. We may never be the best. But life really is wonderful, and you and me, all of us, even in our small and simple ways, make a difference.

Clarence: You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?

Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Terrible/Wonderful Twos–Loving Whatever Life Throws Our Way

Our youngest son recently turned two. TWO! Every time I’ve had a two-year-old I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Could I possibly love this kid any more?? If I could only freeze time, I’d freeze him at this age, right here, right now.” I LOVE two. It is my favorite, favorite, favorite age.

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Yesterday was a moment I would have froze if I could. We were putting Christmas decorations up, and N (that cute little two-year-old), enthusiastic about all the festiveness in a way only a two-year-old can be, grabbed the angel from a Melissa and Doug nativity set and ran to my husband. “See, Daddy? See? This Mommy! Mommy a angel.”

My heart turned to mush.

Obviously he’d totally forgot about how I was the meanest mom on the planet an hour before for not letting him try a bite of the uncooked chicken I was cutting up for dinner…

While I would freeze each of my children at the age of two for eternity if I could, There’s no doubt in my mind that the “terrible twos” are real. Oh, so very real. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” It was the age of pure joy, it was the age of temper tantrums. It was the season of laughter and squeals, it was the season of never-ending potty training. It was the time of ‘do it myself’ (hooray!), it was the time of ‘do it myself’ (ahh! No!!). Two is, without a doubt, a paradox. It’s a year thick and thin with inconsistency.

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But, the more I’ve thought about it, maybe that’s just life. We live in a world of ups and downs. Mountains and valleys are ever present in all of our lives, wether we are in the thick of raising a child in the terrible/wonderful twos, or if our children are states away with families of their own. Some mountains in our lives may seem so incredible they touch the skies, some valleys may seem so deep we feel we may never rise again. Regardless of where we find ourselves, a lesson I learned years ago from a talk has stuck with me.

“Come what may and love it.

“…every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don’t sing and bells don’t ring. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result.” —Joseph B. Wirthlin

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Having a two-year-old around again has reminded me of that advice. Most days are the absolute best. My mountain seem higher than the clouds. Others, well, I’ve simply had to remind myself to laugh…

“The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.”

…and “seek for the eternal.”

“Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, He understands our suffering. He understands our grief. We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others.” –Wirthlin

Whatever our lives bring, I hope we can tell ourselves, “Come what may, and love it.” I hope we can laugh at our blunders, at the little frustrations, at the uncomfortable situations. And when our valleys are deep and we are too far down to laugh, may we look up and seek for His help. Only through Him can we be made whole.

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Categories: children, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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