Monday, August 31, 2015

A Perfect Gift for ANYone!


You guys.  Mark turned thirty this year.  THIRTY.

Months before the big day, I was stressing over what to DO for this milestone birthday.  He is not a huge fan of big parties, I knew he wouldn't want a million people involved, and he is so not materialistic.  This makes for difficult celebrating and gift-giving.

...until I remembered the way to a man's heart is through is stomach...

And really, men and women have stomachs and like to EAT and DRINK, so this idea is, in my mind, perfect for anyone you are looking to bless.

Enter, the THIRSTY THIRTY...  (insert other catchy titles for other birthdays...)



Thirty days before his big day, I gifted him with a special drink (and sometimes a snack, too!) each day.  Hardly any drinks or snacks needed special prep time.  Selfish as it may seem, I planned around my own schedule and offered easy drinks on busy days, and drinks/food that took more preparation on slower days.



We used...

  • Different forms of brewed coffee - french press, espresso, americano, his favorite ground coffee in our regular coffee pot, etc.
  • Store-bought coffee drinks - Starbucks Frappuccinos, Iced Coffees, and Doubleshots
  • Homemade shakes and smoothies - from chocolate ice cream shakes to spinach and protein smoothies!
  • Store-bought Arnie Palmers, Arizona teas, and his favorite purple Gatorades
  • Beers! - our local Hy-Vee and Fareway offer a "Pick 6" where you are able to customize your own 6-pack, choosing from a wide variety of seasonal, craft, local and seasonal beers.  
When I was out buying all the drinks, I also threw in some easy snacks - beef jerky, special salsa, guacamole, nutella, Combos, and other munchies he likes!



The verdict?  Mark LOVED it.  Some days, he'd run straight to the fridge after work to see if he had a surprise beer waiting...  Other days, he'd ask if he could have an "advance" - a special coffee and beer and smoothie in one day...  (insert eye roll...)

Now, he is asking if I will forgo regular presents and just do this sort of thing EVERY year...  

...I think our budget will require something else, though, when he gets to be 94.



Regardless, this is a perfect idea for anyone with a stomach, whether they are 30 or 37 or 84.  I am even thinking about how fun it would be to rehash for a kid - juice boxes, smoothies, special snacks!  Just customize the drinks to your liking and gift away!

Hooray!
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Space - The Final Frontier


When we found out we were pregnant with Charlotte, we started making plans to move Will to a "big boy room," leaving the nursery for Baby Sister.

Because I LOVE to decorate and because I LOVE Will and because I was excited for this new chapter, I spent hours and hours on his room - incorporating parts of his personality in every detail.  I designed new artwork, found the perfect curtains, made space for his tractors, created a cozy book nook, found a home for a big and comfy reading/snuggling chair, carefully selected some special "big boy" toys for his baskets...  We bought a new crib/toddler bed...  Mark painted the walls, hung the shelves, designed a changing table in his closet, measured out where the artwork should go...  My mom sewed matching sheets and made an adorable tent to have adventures and camp-outs in...

...and, it was perfect...well-worth the sweat and the investment and the hours.

But then...

A couple of months ago, Will finally figured out how to climb out of his crib.  We knew this was inevitable, so we moved ahead and converted his crib to a toddler bed - a bed he could easily climb in and out of without killing himself in the middle of the night.

And then, bless his heart, we found Will taking FULL advantage of his snazzy room.  He was reading books and skipping naps, playing with tractors until 11 PM, climbing up to the tippy-top of his comfy chair, running laps around his tent, yanking his shelves from the drywall and, not sleeping.

So, I had to do it...  I tore apart my labor of love, dismantled Will's little paradise of fun and stripped the room bare.  Every toy, every book, every tiny thing he could find a way to play with got tossed into big IKEA bags and put in the basement.

And we were back to square one - left with a vacant, boring, ugly room.

Yes, he slept better.  Yes, he napped better, but I was mad at Will.

Not only had he squandered all my hard work, his crazy up-all-night-shenanigans had ruined a welcoming and beautiful place in our house.  Every time I walked into his blank space of a room, I was a little annoyed and a little bummed and a little distracted by its new-found ugliness.

Fast forward a few weeks.

Will and Charlotte have become obsessed with opening and shutting doors (Will opens, Charlotte shuts.  They are quite the team).  Every once in a while, I would watch them toddle off, down the hall into Will's room and shut the door.  At first, I was concerned.  Surely they would kill each other behind a closed door, away from my protection.  I would immediately follow them, open the door and confirm they were both still alive and well.

As this scene continued to repeat itself over a few days, though, I started leaving them alone for a few minutes at a time...only to hear, to my surprise, squeals of delight, belly laughs and high-pitched giggles coming from the end of the hall.

"Pay wit Chalee in woom, Mama?" Will would ask.

"You want to play with Charlie in your room?" I'd clarify.

"Okay!!!" he'd yell with a grin, and off he sprinted with Charlie at his heels.

Giggles, more giggles, belly laughs, squeals, and screams of baby talk...

Feeling like I was missing out on something incredibly fun, I started to join them, and this is what I found:

They hide behind the curtains and scream "BOO!" as the other runs away.
They wrestle and tackle and squeal with delight.
They make funny faces at each other and belly laugh until they fall backwards.
They chase and race and jump and yell...

They make their own fun in that ugly room.

Now?  It's not uncommon for the four of us - Mark, myself and the two crazies - to run into that same room after bath time, shut the door, and share the best moments of the entire day.

In that blank room, there are no toys, no decorations, no phones, no books, no clocks, no computers, no knocks at the door, no televisions...

In that big space, there's nothing but the four of us.  Wrestling.  Belly-laughing.  Being together - with nothing in the way.

Maybe an ugly, undecorated, empty room is just what I needed.

Sometimes, I think I can decorate myself into a corner with no room to run free.  We can snuggle into our matching sheets and pile of stuffed animals and forget to cuddle and wrestle with the ones we love most.  We have so many toys laying around on our floors, we can't spin and twirl with abandon.  We read so many books, we forget to have a face-to-face conversation...

Sometimes our stuff becomes clutter and our busyness becomes a stumbling block.

Maybe we need more empty rooms, more space...

Maybe, at least sometimes, we need less...

...to experience more...

...more togetherness, more freedom, more adventures, more joy...

...

And, if nothing else, maybe we need less just so we can sleep better at night...  Right, Will?  (wink, wink...)

PS - This is addendum is for Dad...in regard to space: the final frontier, the title of this post.  I will now write this all by heart, Dad.  Ahem...  Space: The Final Frontier...  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise...its continuing mission is to explore strange, new worlds...to seek out new life and new civilizations...to boldly go where no one has gone before!!
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Charlotte's Ice Cream + Sprinkle Party!



Clear Balloons + Tissue Paper Confetti inside!


The invitation!



Plain Pint Ice Cream Containers + Circus Animal Crackers + Fabric Scraps + Baker's Twine = Party Favors!


Ice Cream chalkboard "table cloth" is a 36''x 48'' engineer print (paper!) - about $7 to print black and white.  File is from The Caravan Shoppe.















The food table was covered in kraft wrapping paper.  I drew quick ice cream cones with chalk marker (to match cones from the chalkboard table cloth - see above!).



Photo backdrop is also an engineer print.  File from The Caravan Shoppe!














Straws are from Target, Dot cups are from Shop Sweet Lulu!





Charlie's first Sundae!  Napkins from Shop Sweet Lulu, plates from Target.






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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mommy Wars : Our Real Enemy


It's been a while, folks.  To catch up, THIS is where I talked about how much Mommy Wars stink.

And, THIS is where we chatted about WHY we Mommy War - we war because we care; we war because we were made to war.

But here's the thing.  When we armor up and draw our weapons, we'd better be dang sure of whose side we're on, and who the real enemy is.  After all, we'd hate to fight against our friends and sisters and loved ones...

And, yet...we do just that.  Our sweet friends and sisters and loved ones are falling casualty to a tragic, misguided war.  Our arrows of unsolicited advice and judgment and comparisons and disrespect and snide remarks are wounding, killing and paralyzing the very ones we should be protecting.

So let's take a minute and clarify something.

Fellow mamas are not your enemy.  We are all on the same team - Co-sleepers and Formula Feeders and Antivaxxers and Public Schoolers and Cloth Diaper-ers alike.  Like it or not, we are all allies.

And, our common enemy?  Satan.  His lies, his demons, the powers of hell, the forces of evil...

I think we are all smart enough to realize this.  We know our time and energy could be better spent warring against the devil instead of each other...but it is still very difficult to unite with people we, even superficially, disagree with.

How can we find it in our sinful, stubborn hearts to protect and support and even like mamas who CO-SLEEP?!  Or feed their babies "poisonous" FORMULA?!  Or let their babies CRY IT OUT?!  Or who WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME?!  Or who DON'T VACCINATE?!  (Insert other "horrible" things you may disagree with...)

Let me share a couple of stories...

ONE - When Mark and I lived in Sioux Falls, we worked for a ministry called Young Life.  Our mission was to equip teams of adults to invest in the lives of kids, build relationships, share life, and ultimately, share Jesus.  These adults - our Young Life Leaders - were a motley crew.  Some were fresh out of high school, others were young dads, others were grandparents.  Some of us were jocks, others band geeks and math nerds.  Our team consisted of introverts and extroverts, loud and funny, quiet and serious.  Some of us dressed in black, had obsessions with snakes and Batman...  Others wore dresses and cardigans and did Geometry problems for fun (I love you, Jess).  Some of us grew up in The Church, others were virtually unchurched.  Overall, we were all over the place.  Very few of us would have picked each other out of a crowd to befriend or hang out with.  And, yet...  Yet, we would have done anything for each other.  We loved each other deeply.  We looked forward to gathering.  We had each others' backs.  We fought and sacrificed and supported each other through thick and thin.

TWO - Years ago, when I was working at a church, I was weathering a rough patch in life.  Through a series of events, I stumbled into a group of people who were gathering for weekly prayer meetings - again, a random bunch!  We were from different denominations, different backgrounds, shared different views on some theological points.  We were wives and college students and farmers and moms and grandpas and missionaries and ninety year-olds.  We rarely hung out, other than to meet for prayer.  We were not on each other's list of people to call on a Friday night to get together.  We had very little in common.  We didn't know what each other's favorite colors were or what each of us did last weekend or how we met our spouses.  And, yet...  Yet, we experienced a supernatural kind of unity I can't begin to fully explain.  We laughed and cried and intercessed and stood in the gap for each other, and our churches, as hours would fly by.  We, too, loved each other deeply.  Even to this day, I am not exaggerating in saying we'd die for one another.

In both situations, these groups of people had much to disagree about.  We had plenty to divide over, and even more to become annoyed with.  So, why were these groups so tight, so full of love, so united?  Why were we so willing to protect and defend and sacrifice for each other?

Despite our differences, we were united in a greater mission - fighting for the purposes of the Lord and warring against Satan.

Though the group of Young Life leaders wouldn't normally befriend each other, we were united in reaching kids for Jesus.  We warred against the powers of hell to spread the gospel.  

Though my prayer meeting friends wouldn't normally hang out with each other, we were united in praying for our community.  We warred against the enemy in calling forth the Lord's fullness for our area.

In these groups, the importance of the mission superseded our differences.

The things we did not have in common, and the things we could have disagreed upon, seemed smaller, compared to the weight and gravity of our common, overarching objectives.

So.  Back to Mommy Wars...

The truth is, Satan hates our children.  He hates families.  He hates moms and dads.  As we sit and obliviously bicker about organic baby food, demons are on targeted missions to attack and destroy our most precious treasures and callings.  The enemy will stop at nothing to tear apart our marriages, desecrate the sanctity of our children's lives, cause us to believe we will never measure up as a mother, and reduce our families to brokenness.

This is not cause for fear - this is a call to action.

When we stop and realize this and embrace this truth, we should feel compelled, all the more, to unite with fellow mothers around a mission that is much greater than ourselves.

Instead of wasting time judging and disrespecting and comparing breast milk over Enfamil, war against Satan!

You were made to war.  

The battle lines have been drawn, and it's time for us to take our rightful place in the Lord's army, and stand our ground.

Put on the full armor of God, and war for Truth!

War to share the gospel in your community!  War to care for the orphan!  War to raise up the next generation of worshippers!  War to disciple younger women!  War to care for the sick and elderly!    War to enfold minority families!  War to raise up a generation of young people who are sold out for Jesus!  War to further the kingdom of God, here, as it is in heaven!
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