Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What a busy day for a birthday!

This past weekend, Jake the Snake turned 7.  I joked with him for a week before the day actually came, that I was looking forward to him being 7, because then  maybe I wouldn't get QUITE so many stares when I said he was 6.  He's 4'8 (an inch shorter than his sisters that are 5 years older), and weighs 85 pounds.  He is a GIANT of a boy!  And he is just so sweet and fun!  He loves pizza with ranch, baseball, basketball and football, video games, and sleeping in.  He loves to read and really likes school, too.  He always prays for our dinner for us, and still hates to take a shower!  He is just a WONDERFUL son, and such a great big brother to Finn. He drives Emma and Lara crazy, but then again that's his job!

This past Saturday was his actual birthday, and it was a super busy day!  We started with a very early Upward basketball game.  But, FIRST!  We had him open his present from the family.  Skylanders Giants for Wii U.  He got to play for about 15 minutes before it was time to go to the game.  They played a hard game, and he got the star best offense.



offense - under the basket where he needs to be!

Mom and Finn in the stands!

Then, it was lunch, more video games, a little shopping to spend some birthday money (more Giants for his collection), then PARTY TIME!  We had a bowing party again.  This year's party was a little more low key than last year's party, but it was so fun!  We had all the boys wear their favorite basketball jerseys!  We had Upward, YMCA, Oklahoma State, and of course, OKC Thunder!  We started with 3 home and 1 away Kevin Durant's.  Ended up with FIVE KD's as one of Jake's gifts was a KD jersey!

The Crew
It was supposed to be an all boy party, but one sister slipped in,
and cousin Kayleigh was here from Texas!

After the party, we took the birthday boy out for his traditional birthday dinner.  Only, it wasn't traditional!  He chose a new place!  We have always gone to Texas RoadHouse for his birthday dinner.  This year, it was Rib Crib. He loved the special treatment, and especially the dessert!

I am loving being the mom of a 7 year old boy.  He is so loving and understanding and compassionate.  He is funny, had great timing, and tells amazing jokes.  He is athletic, and loves to be outside with the neighborhood kids shooting baskets, playing football, or riding his scooter.  We've had some mild days (and some horribly, bitter cold days) this winter, so it's been fun watching him take on the world!  I even got an email (below) that said I am entering a rewarding phase of parenting.  YIPPEE!  I can't wait to see what the future holds for my GREAT Jake!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Perfect ... ly Comfortable

"I am perfectly comfortable being an 'average' mom.  My kids ride the bus; they eat school food.  They are encouraged to explore extra-curricular activities - one at a time.  Time (& money) I would spend making lunches, driving around, making chaotic schedules work, buying more 'stuff,' we spend making memories.  House wide Nerf gun fights.  Dinners for 6 around the dinner table opened with prayer.  Movie nights with popcorn.  We may not eat organic and be on trend with the latest fad, but we are happy. And I won't feel guilty about it."

If this sounds a bit familiar, you may read my Facebook updates from time to time.  Or, at least last night about 8:00pm to be exact.  Where did this come from, you might ask?  At least my husband did.  He was in the other room watching the pro-bowl.  I had just put the 2 year old to bed and sent the three bigs to their rooms for winding down hour.  I wasn't ready to start Downton Abbey yet, so I checked Facebook - as I often do...

Sometimes, Facebook is so incredibly useful!  I have found great bargains, learned of impending nuptials and heard about future little ones to join the world.  I can keep in contact with my cousins and friends spread from Oregon to Kansas to Virginia and Boston to New York City.  I have life long friends, brand new friends, Twin Mommy friends, and mommas of babies born in May 2002.  Sorority Sisters, Life Group members, My brother's college buddies, and friends of my parents.  INCREDIBLE.  I can learn about things I never dreamed of - and watch videos that I wish I could un-see.  But a lot of times, I have to admit,  I feel bullied by other moms.  Now, I know some of this is self-induced.  I should be able to pull up my big (and I mean BIG!) girl panties and blow it off.  But a lot of what I see just makes me want to scream.  And log off.  For a long time.  But, I can't.  Not for long anyway.  I have to have my personal account to manage my small business account.  And oh yeah!  My regular paying job is in social media. Yup - can't neglect that! I have to get better at filtering out the stuff that makes me bang my head against the wall.

So, I was a bit fed up with feeling like a bad mom last night for probably having BPA laden plastic-wear in my fridge with last week's left over chili in it.  Chili made with beef.  Beef that I have no idea about where it was grown or what the cattle were fed.  And I probably cleaned my kitchen counter top that it was prepared on with something someone somewhere has labeled as a poison to children everywhere!  But you know what?  That chili was GREAT!  The kids loved it, hubby loved it, I LOVED IT.  Got told it was the "Best Chili Ever" by an 11 year old tween girl.  HIGH PRAISE!  If you have raised the breed, you know...

So, yes.  My girls ride to school (almost) every day on a big, stinky, bumpy yellow school bus.  Both ways.  My oldest son walks 5 blocks.  Both ways.  Unless it's cold.  Or he is slow moving, then he gets a ride from Dad.  I leave for work long before they all go to school, and the 1st grader is just lucky the school is on Dad's way to work.  And they all 3 eat school lunches.  At a reduced price, too.  YUP!  We're that family!  I don't know a Bento box from a window box.  And Idon'tevencare.  They get a good, nutritious lunch.  And a lesson in life.  All paid for by my tax dollars.  Works for us.  And, I'm OK with their public education.  I have several homeschooling friends.  To them I say, "Good on ya!"  I don't have the patience or desire for it.  And my baby?  In my opinion he goes to the best darned Mother's Day Out pre-school in town 2 days a week and has the BEST Nana on the planet for the other 3.  But, I didn't look at all the reports or do extensive interviewing to find out.  I just went with my gut.  And biology.  :)

I am also perfectly OK with my perfectly comfortable kids.  While my girls both made honor roll last semester, I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't happen this time around.  School is harder for some kids than others.  Testing makes some anxious while others take it all in stride.  I read an article someone had posted on Facebook last week about how college isn't meant for everyone.  Some kids will go to trade school.  Or be an apprentice somewhere.  Who will be the next generation's plumbers and hair stylists?  Maybe one or more of my kids.  And I would be so proud.  Or maybe they all go to college.  I want to encourage them, but not push them beyond their abilities - just to compete with the "Joneses."  Same with the extra activities.  While I'm pretty sure I don't have the next piano prodigy or sports superstar, I want them to do what they like and want to offer them the opportunities I can, while keeping them balanced .  Each child can do 1 "extra" thing at a time.  I have a dancer, a volleyball player, and a sports enthusiast that plays each sport in season as long as they don't overlap.  The baby's pass-time is going to doctor appointments.  *sigh* But, at this stage in life, they just need to be kids.  Have time to find out what they like.  Play with the neighbors.  After all, Eli and Peyton didn't play football until 8th or 9th grade...

So, Facebook.  I turn the other cheek.  I am not going to let the mom bullying get to me anymore.  I am a good mom.  My 4 kids have enough.  They get to see my husband and I live, love, fight and make-up.  We are all under the same roof every night, and we eat dinner as a family at least 6 nights a week - at a table with mismatched chairs.  We pray together, laugh together, love together, and hurt together.  WE ALL have been extremely blessed.  We're all in this together.  The kids know they have to look out for each other and help us around the house - without complaining.  And without an allowance or any other payment for that matter.  They have 8 very busy hands.  Dad and I have 4 full time working hands, that do the very best they can at home to keep everyone clean, healthy, fed, educated and entertained.  Our calendar is busy, and we like it that way.  But, we also like knowing down time is coming.  And we can just breathe.  And be a family.  Without trying to out-do anyone, prove anything, or achieve unrealistic goals.  God is our provider, and our judge.  We live our lives in a way that (we pray) is pleasing to Him, and that's all that should matter. And we are HAPPY!

If you got this far, you deserve a cookie.  Or a brownie.  Or WINE!  Yes, Wine...  And here is my disclaimer... I am not bashing anyone who does any of the things I don't.  Good for you!  Just know every family has to make decisions that are best for them.  And we each have the things we are passionate about.  In this season of my family's journey, the only thing I am passionate about besides shining Jesus' light is SURVIVAL.  Maybe next season I will have a second and I can research a Bento box...

Friday, January 10, 2014

One Year, One Word, One Verse

As the new year approached, the talk of new year’s resolutions came up – as it always does.  My older kids seemed especially enamored of the hope and excitement that these goals can bring.  I was asked numerous times on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day what my resolutions were.  At first I just brushed them off with “I don’t know.”  Then I moved on to “I haven’t made any yet” and “I haven’t really thought about it.”  All the while I am thinking, “I can never stick to them so why bother.”

But on New Year’s Day I was reminded of something I did last year, somewhat passively and without a lot of follow through (Imagine that!).  I read this blog post from youversion and remembered choosing a word and a verse last year, but I couldn't remember what either of them were.  So you see, I hadn't put a whole lot into it. (It was “delight,” BTW…)

But this year was going to be different.  Forget resolutions.  And even the less stressful word “goal setting.”  I was going to pray, listen for God’s response, and choose one word, one verse to focus on for the year.  To get me started, I searched #verse2014 on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I read what people had written, thought about their words, their verses, and prayed for mine.  But, it was New Year ’s Day.  I have four kids.  HGTV had the Tournament of Roses Parade on commercial free! How quickly my focus changed…

Until I was utterly inspired by a commercial I saw!  Not as powerful as the Dodge Ram Trucks  “Thank a Farmer” spot from last year’s Super Bowl, but a great way to start the year nevertheless!  I saw a commercial for the search engine from Microsoft, BING.  With the Sarah Bareilles song “Brave” in the background, here is what I saw:

I believe God can speak to us in many different ways. Sometimes, it is through music and TV commercials.  I left like I had been hit upon the side of my head.  I want to be brave!  I may be a lot of things – loud, opinionated, boisterous – but brave is not a word I would use to describe myself.  I tend towards the non-confrontational, especially with people I don’t know as the outcome may not work out the way I want it to.  I keep things inside just to keep peace.  I don’t go out on many limbs, figuring the safe and known are way better than the scary and unknown.  But this year, I want to be brave!

I prayed, watched the video 10 more times, and downloaded the song.  Set it as my ringtone, even!  Then, I searched for the word “brave” in the Bible.  It’s in there!  About 20 times – depending on the translation. I started reading through the verses, and a lot of them had to do with battle.  While I liked that sentiment, it was exactly what I was looking for to go with the mood of my word and the inspiration I had received.  But then I read this one:

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”
Yes!  That was it!  EXACTLY!  THAT is how I want 2014 to be!  THAT is my #verse2014.  1 Corinthians 16:13 NJKV.  The version matters here because it uses the word BRAVE.  That’s my word!  That’s my charge for 2014.

So, I do the thing I know I am comfortable with, and I got creative.  I made this Flipagram and immediately posted it to my social media accounts.  I made a cover photo for Facebook and a new profile picture.  I want to be reminded of it daily so I can be BRAVE!  I was to see it so I don’t forget that it’s what God wants for me!  Sarah B says she wants to see me be brave!  I want to see me be brave!

As I see other people share their word or their verse I think about how their word might work for me.  I see several that are about listening, or being still, or love.  I see ones that seem to be about correcting an action or an attitude.  I see ones that are simply inspirational.  And it makes me love mine even more.  I see mine as a call to action.  A charge.  A defining moment for my life.  Will you help me?  Will you push me to be brave?  Will you show me when I need to be brave?

Britt chose a word, too.  His word is trust.  And his verse is Proverbs 11:28.  He shared it with me in several translations: 

Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring. New Living Translation
He who trusts in his riches will wither but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. Revised Standard Version
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall : but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. King James Version
Whoso is confident in his wealth he falleth, And as a leaf, the righteous flourish. Young’s Literal Translation
A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree. The Message
Those who depend on their wealth will fall like the leaves of autumn, but the righteous will prosper like the leaves of summer. Good News Translation 
I loved what our pastor, Craig Groeschel, said about the word God has for you.  It might not be what you thought it was.  He said his was Rest.  He said he doesn’t want to rest!  He wanted it to be something like conquer, or some other strong word.  Really, ANY word but rest!  Britt said he wanted his to be warrior!  But God gave him trust.  I thought mine would be something softer, like pray, or believe.  God gave me BRAVE.

So, what about you?  Do you have a word for 2014?  What is it?  We would love to hear about it!  And we would love to pray for you and help you live out your word for 2014. Share it with us!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Time Flies... and Stands Still

8 years that feel like 80.  8 days that feel like 800!  Time passes so strangely as a wife and mother.  Days seem to drag on and on, but the weeks and years fly by without a second glance!  Everyday is so full, yet the weeks are long as we wait for some special or specific date to come.  Momma told me there'd be days like this, but it has taken a long time to heed her words.

8 years ago today, I was a bride.  God had brought me my #2 a mere 4 months previous to this date.  I am sure my family thought I was being reckless.  I know outsiders looked at this as a union doomed for failure.  But, I serve a BIG God, whose plans I don't always understand, but he has proven to me over and over again how faithful he is.  I not only married my soul mate, I married the gift God had brought to me.  A man who put my daughters first, who would become the father to two amazing little boys, my best friend, my love.  We have been through bad.  We have been through very sad.  We've done hard.  We've endured painful.  But most of all, we have LOVED!  I love him more today than I did on that warm winter day 8 years ago.  More than on the night of a December basketball game in the beloved Gallagher-Iba area when he proposed to me at halftime.  More than on that fateful day that he told me he loved me for the first time.  Even more that the first "take my breath away" kiss.  All of those moments, while still precious and honored memories, pale in comparison to the love he has shown me as we do life together.  Lucky doesn't even begin to cover it.  Blessed.

And with that thought of time getting away from us..  The last few weeks passed in a blur!  School concerts, class parties, snow days, adjusting to a new job and schedule, office parties, Christmas vacation, Christmas, New Year, rest of the break, frigid cold, and today, FINALLY back so school!  We had a really nice, low-key Christmas.  That's what happens when your whole family lives less than an hour away.  The kids got lots of fun new stuff, and have enjoyed their break - for the most part.  Of course, 17 days with no school or other distractions is a LONG time!  Even with Emma and Lara gone for 6 of those days with their "Other Dad."  We got to spend some good, simple family time together.  Not a while lot to show for it.  I didn't even get a picture of the kids all together. Mainly because at some point during the chaos of Christmas morning, Finn stole my camera.  Then hid it.  And my iPhone pictures are just not very good.  BUT!  When I found the camera and unloaded it, I was pleasantly surprised with these little jewels:

Finn's selfies from Christmas day
Today was everybody's first day back at school.  Emma and Lara (who both got straight A's last semester!  WOOT!) are back to 6th grade, Jake back in 1st grade, and Finn to his pre-school class.  We are so ready to get back into our routine.  Basketball practice started last night for Jake; dance for Lara tonight.  Baseball and volleyball sign ups are soon.  Time to get busy again!  And to just LOVE my family!

In the meantime, our little man celebrated what should have been his 2nd birthday yesterday.  What a wild ride the last couple of years have been.  We've come so far.  So many ups and downs - more than the rest of the 8 years combined.  But oh so worth it.  Such an education!  And so many life lessons learned.  Still many more to come.

Finn's "should be" 2nd birthday

We are so thankful for our brave little man.  And his supremely patient older siblings.  We feel like we don't get enough time with the big kids sometimes due to the responsibility of taking care of our preemie.  But they take it all in stride.  And are such great helpers.  Finn is so lucky to have such loving, caring, patient siblings.We are all lucky he came along to complete our Dream Weaver Family. A family that started 8 years ago  today...