My Favorite Ever Fall Mantle

My Favorite Ever Fall MantleI think, in the almost three years of my children’s lives, we have collectively done about five crafts.  And I’m okay with that.

It’s not that I don’t see the value in doing crafts with my children.  It’s not that I don’t love the finished product when curious and growing little fingers explore with some paint.  It’s not that I don’t hope for them to appreciate or participate in the arts one day.

I do.

Rather, in all the running around, cooking, feeding, bottom wiping, music class attending, library trips, story times, vacuuming (sometimes), and “no not now sweetie, Mommy is busy” excuses, we just haven’t done too many crafts.

Plus, the thought of getting out all the things for the approximately two minutes that they will be interested and then cleaning up the mess that was made for approximately twenty minutes (during those two minutes of exploration)  just…well, is somehow less than motivating.

I see so many pinable crafts on Pinterest and so many moms on Facebook with their kids and crafts, and I think…”Oh, how awesome.  We need to do more crafts.”  But then, we just don’t do it.

Maybe it’s also due to the fact that I am not what you would call a “crafty” person.  At all.  While I can totally appreciate a good craft,  I cannot actually “do” a good craft.  Yes, I am craft deficient even despite the artistic gene my art major of a mother surely passed down to me.  Maybe someday it will decide to express itself.

Maybe when the twins are 21 I’ll take a painting class.

But I’ve decided that I’m going to let myself off the hook on this one.  I used to feel guilty that we were not finger painting and glitter throwing designing daily.  I think I even blogged about the one or two crafts we actually managed to pull off, as if I had to prove (to myself?) that I could do it all.

But I’ve decided instead to appreciate the fact that I actually cannot do it all and to be thankful for the village that helps me fill in the gaps.

So this is why I appreciate this mantle.

You see, I did not do a single one of these awesome creations with my children.  Instead, we proudly display the montage of art that comes home with them from preschool and Sunday school each week.

So, yes, this is my favorite ever fall mantle.

Because not only does it proudly display the beautiful crafts my little Picassos have created, but it also reminds me how thankful I am for their preschool and Sunday school teachers who do actually do these crafts.  (And they do these crafts not only with my children, but will all the children…two and three-year-olds mind you.)  They deserve a medal.

Simply put, this display is a reminder that I cannot do it all by myself.  And in accepting that fact, my mantle has become as beautiful as it has ever been.

Dear Lord, 

Thank you for the gifts you give each one of us.  Help me to appreciate and nurture the gifts you have given me, to accept that I cannot do it all, and to always appreciate the gifts you have given to others.  Help us to recognize and use our gifts to enrich the lives of one another each day. Amen.

Does my use of my time show what is important to me?

I am a mother of 3: a five-year old, a three-year old, and a four-month old.  Sometimes, I wonder where all my time goes.  I think most of it ends up in the hours of folding and putting away laundry.  As I try to figure out how to manage my time with a semi-new baby in the family, I often feel like I get nothing done.

Even though I feel like I have no time, my husband and I have found some hours in our busy schedules to coordinate Financial Peace University class.  In the class, participants learn about budgeting their money, making smart purchases, and saving for their futures.  This may seem like a whopping subject change, but there is a point.  When you make a budget, Dave Ramsey has you classify your spending to show you where you spend your money.  If you have never done it, I truly encourage you to do it.  It is eye-opening to see how much money you spend on food, eating out, and other frivolous expenses.  Dave talks about where you spend your money shows what your values are.  That is a powerful statement and so true. So I began to wonder: If where I spend my money is a powerful statement of what I value, can the same be said about my time?

Where do I spend my time?  I realized that too often I find myself getting caught in the trap of saying, “I don’t have time for that.” As I thought about it more, I realized that phrase was an excuse.  I have been given a set number of hours in my day. I can fill my day with doing things of value or waste them doing things that don’t matter.  When I said, “I don’t have time for that” what I really meant “That is not a priority to me.” Whether it be at this point in time, today, tomorrow, or ever.

My husband and I recently came up with a Top 5 list to help us think through a tough decision of where to live.  It’s the top 5 areas in our life that are the most important to us.   What were those top five things?  1. Financial Freedom 2. Family  3. Church 4. Friends 5. Cost of Living (A side note:  As a Christian woman, you think I should put God as number one, but part of the reason goes like this.  #3 is more of indication of our role in our church home factors in our life.  If we don’t have financial freedom and aren’t debt free, we will never get to enjoy our family like we want to.  We will never to give to our church like we want to.  We will never get to share in experiences with our friends like we want to.  God definitely has a presence in all of these parts.  God is not ranked as number 3.)

If these are the Top 5 things in my life that are important to me, then I shouldn’t be wasting my time on Facebook or playing Candy crush.  Even though I do admit I love those things and they may have their place in my life, they shouldn’t consume me.  Cleaning isn’t in my top five, although I do spend a lot of time doing it.  But I find myself telling my children, “I can do that after I finish this” or “I can’t do that right now” when they want me to do something for them or play with them.  I need to remember: My children are in my Top 5 not cleaning.  Maybe that revelation should tell me where I should spend my time.

While my kindergartener was at school this past week, my three-year old asked me if I would help him make a helicopter show.  I had three huge baskets of laundry staring me in the face with another two large hampers of dirty laundry waiting to be done.  I told him, “I would love to play, but mommy needs to take a shower first.”  (What was I telling him? Playing is not my priority.  Mommy’s cleanliness is.)  After my shower, I let the baby have some time on his play mat, and I focused all my attention on my three-year old.

This was the scene.  I was told we were going to make a helicopter show.  I was completely confused, as I had no clue as to what a helicopter show was or even looked like.  I decided to let go and let his imagination take me away.  I was given a very detailed explanation of where the blocks should go.

As the show started to take place this was the scene.

Does my use of my time show what is important to me?

And by the end, this was our creation.Does my use of my time show what is important to me?

What a blessing to be taken out of my rigidity of cleaning and housework to spend some time just playing. (I admit, though; I still felt guilty.)  I know it is important to play with my kids, but sometimes I get carried away with all the other things bombarding me in life that I forget what is really important.  I forget what means the most for me is where I should spend my time.

~Colleen

So my prayer for this week:

Dear God,

Help me to learn what is truly valuable to me.

Help to me to make time for things that are a priority to me.

Help me to find balance.

Thank you for the moments of imagination, creativity, and play.

Let me be a good steward of time so I can complete your good works.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

The Giving Game

Following the sermon on generosity Sunday, I found myself reflecting quite a bit on how we are called as parents to give.  Without ceasing.  Every day.  How often do we feel drained at the end of the day because we have given and given and given. We often feel that there is not enough to go around.

Anyone else feel like it’s a continuous game of “zone” defense?   You know, when the giver is often outnumbered by the takers?

What…you don’t have little takers running around the house?

Mama, I need milk.
Mama, up?
Mama, need napkin.
Mama, need ‘nuggles? (Ok, so this one doesn’t count as “taking”…am I right?)
Mama….waaaawaawaw!!!!  I got ooowwie!!!
Mama, brother needs time out!
Mama, do puzzles?
Mama, I like watch songs?
Mama, let’s do “Happy Day” again?
Mama, I tired.
Mama…

…and the list goes on.

One morning this week, it felt like an hour from the time I got the boys up, changed their diaper, negotiated clothing options, put on chosen attire, loaded up the cadre of stuffed animal friends and blankies, carried our seriously tough looking posse down the stairs, flipped on Curious George, cut up the bananas, toasted the waffles, chose the correct colored plates and character-themed milk cups, rinsed the blueberries, selected the yogurt flavor of the day, called the crew up to the breakfast table, snapped them in, pushed them in, presented 3 different spoon options…to the time I finally sat down to a quick bite of banana for myself.

Of course, the exact moment my rear hit the seat…

Mama, I need more milk?

Deep breath.

You need more milk _____ ? 

Peees. Definitive nod.

Ok, sweetie. Just a minute.

How often do we give so much of ourselves as parents that we forget to nourish ourselves.  I will be the first to admit I do not always give with joy and gratitude in my heart every.single.minute.  It is hard.  I’m often exhausted.  I often want to throw a pity party for myself.

I remember talking to a dear friend shortly after my boys were born.  She had just had her third child, and I had just gone from exactly zero to two.  I was overwhelmed and trying to pick her brain to see how she managed with three.  She told me something that still resonates with me…

The first child is the hardest.  That is when you learn to become a parent.  You learn to be selfless.  The rest are a piece of cake after that.

Two-and-a-half years later, I think it’s safe to say I’m still working on that selfless thing.

So, I’m grateful for the current sermon series on generosity.  I know I need this reminder of the connection between a parent’s love for a child and God’s love for all of us.  Maybe for some of us, it is when we constantly give of ourselves to our children that we come closest to mirroring God’s love for us.  (Talk about zone defense. I think two-on-one at times is tough!) 

And, while my kids are just toddlers and rarely sit me down to express their most sincere thanks for a perfectly toasted waffle, I imagine that, for most of us, our generosity goes without thanks many days.  Perhaps we, as adults, can do a better job of being grateful for the constant giving we receive.   Maybe that gets us one step closer to that “selfless” thing.  One step at a time.

Dear Lord, Thank you for always giving.  Help us to pass along your Gift to others in our life.  Amen. 

~Holli

For the Love of Candy

My children got a lot of candy this past Easter.

A. lot.

They got candy at the church Easter egg hunt. They got candy from the Easter Bunny. They got candy from their uncle and from loved ones we consider family. They got candy from their grandparents. To be honest, it’s way too much candy.

After the Easter festivities, I caught a glimpse into the secret world of grandmothers. My mother was recalling a telephone conversation she had with a fellow grandmother and friend. The friend asked my mom, “Does Kathy allow you to give your granddaughters candy?” While I inwardly cringed every time my kids came home with more candy, I realized there’s a bigger picture to be seen.

When it is not Easter, Christmas, or their birthdays, I monitor how much candy my children eat. Before they get dessert, they know they have to finish the vegetables and protein on their plate. They get plenty of exercise and drink water or milk. I’m trying to teach and model for the kids about balance, moderation, and being strong and healthy.

But in those special moments when my girls get boat loads of candy from family and friends, I remember that this is how they show my kids that they are loved. It’s not that candy = love. It’s in the giving of the candy that my girls are being shown that they are loved.

In fact, eating is the first way a baby learns to be loved, nurtured, and cared for. Feeding a child is the first way the parents show their love. The baby learns to trust from the simple act of being fed. Gayle Felton writes, “For [a baby], the connection between being loved and being given food and drink is real.”[1]

We, too, experience that connection between being loved and being given food and drink when we take communion. We participate in a sacred tradition in which we remember Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. We experience God’s grace and forgiveness. We are nourished by the bread and wine and sent out into the world to share God’s transforming love with our neighbors. In the United Methodist tradition we celebrate an open communion table. ALL are invited and that includes children! They might not understand what communion is all about, and to be honest, I don’t exactly either; it is a holy mystery! But what children can understand is the connection between the breaking of the bread, the drinking of the wine, and the experience of love.

So back to my mom’s friend’s question: “Does Kathy allow you to give your granddaughters candy?” My answer is a big, loud YES because I know that is how our extended family and loved ones show their love to my two biggest blessings. And I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of that.

Sing like {Your Kids} are Listening

We all know the expression, “Dance like nobody’s watching…”  I image if singing were included in that call to confidence, we’d all sing like we were in the shower, right?

Well, here is the problem.  I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Now, I’m not saying I’d make the highlights of American Idol (you know, as one who is reeeaaally, really bad), but I have a range of about 3 notes.  And that’s pushing it.

Even Twinkle Twinkle Little Star spans 5 notes, (6 if you want to hit the “high” note) so you see what we’re dealing with here.

Thankfully, each week, the boys and I load up and head off to toddler music class.  While I’m not sure that I can be helped, the wonder and amazement on their faces each week tells me that they are soaking those melodies right up…and loving it.  I’m just grateful that they can hear the songs the way the are supposed to sound.

Don’t get me wrong, I sing too.  Usually loud and proud.

You see, one of the greatest things that I have learned from music class is that, to my kids, my voice is golden.  Maybe that’s just what our beloved music teacher tells all the parents to help boost our confidence, but I believe it.  I believe my 3 notes are music to their ears, at least.

So, when my boys sweetly beg for me to “Sing? Sing?” while reading our favorite Somewhere Over the Rainbow book, I do.  It’s not pretty.  (Is it just me, or is that song a little more challenging than my range can handle?)  But, I do it.  I do it because I love the way they look at me when I do.  And, I do it because I really love the sound of their voices when they chime in with me.

In my dreams, I sound like Katharine McPhee when I sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Ms. Becky when I sing This Little Light of Mine, or Pastor Sherry when I sing Jesus Loves Me or Oh, Happy Day!.

And, maybe…just maybe…to my kids’ ears, I do.

Dear God, thank you for the reminder that our children’s gifts may not be our own.  Help us to let them soar regardless of our own inhibitions in life.  Amen.

Family Prayer

Family PrayerLately, my 5 year old has gotten quite creative with our dinner prayer time.  She has led us in rousing renditions of Vacation Bible School songs complete with hand motions (and don’t even think about skipping a verse, missy!) and has even relayed a very long list of blessings that her favorite stuffed animal apparently whispered in her ear.  We, of course, encourage her to give thanks for all that we have in whatever way appeals to her in the moment, since I think it’s *pretty* safe to say God doesn’t care what form our prayers take.  But saying grace before meals hasn’t always been so…um, eclectic.

We started saying a prayer before dinner with our older daughter when she was about 3 years old.  We decided to use the kid-friendly prayer that my husband’s family said when he was young:

I thank the Lord for this bright day,

Parents, food, sleep and play.

Thanks for blessings large and small.

We could never count them all.  Amen.

I like this prayer because it encompasses all the important things in a young child’s life:  wake up, eat, play, spend time with family, repeat!  I also like that it introduces the idea that blessings come in all shapes and sizes and that we truly have so much for which to be thankful.  Another plus:  it was very easy for her to learn since it has a nice, bouncy beat and rhyming words.

Flash forward a couple years, and we now have our one year old participating in prayer time as well.  Right now, she only clasps her hands together and doesn’t always make it to the end of her older sister’s sometimes lengthy blessings without starting in on her food, but I look forward to the day not far down the road when she’ll join her sweet voice in the above prayer…and let us know what her stuffed animals are thankful for as well!

Note:  The prayer above was handed down orally in my husband’s family.  After a quick Google search, I was unable to find a source to site.  If anyone knows where this prayer originated, please let us know and we’ll include that information here!