Skinny Marinky Dinky Dink...Skinny Marinky Doo...More Mom Things for You

After hearing you, once again, mention your not-so-secret disdain for the neighbor's cat, your four year old looks at you and innocently says, "Why don't you like the cat to pee on your decorations?" as if it's the most reasonable, non-obvious question one could ever ask.

During your Easter picture session, you took no less than 500 pictures attempting the perfect picture of your three kids for posterity.  Thanks to gnats, a blazing sun, and stickers in the grass, it proved slightly difficult.  Here are some of the "fruits" of the labor:

You have found a spot in your kitchen, where, if you open the pantry door and stand at the counter, you can eat all the Cheetos you want while going unnoticed by the kids who are playing in the playroom.

Two skinned knees and a goose-egg on the head by 8:30am is par for the course.

As you watched your toddler happily sitting in a rocking chair, eating fruit snacks, you were able to witness her completely unprompted, totally random, face-first tumble off the front.  And you were not at all surprised that she sacrificed the rest of her body to make sure that her fruit snacks didn't spill onto the ground.  This is, apparently, a one year old who has no confidence in the germ-protection of the 5-second rule.

Your first grader has officially read more Harry Potter books than you.

Along with witnessing your girls become best friends on your stint as a stay-at-home mom, you've also had the privilege of watching the beginnings of a very strong mentor-mentee relationship. 

There is not one iota of fear in your toddler's little body.  You know because you saw her do this at the tip-top of your playground:
(Yes, she's standing on the arm of a lawn chair, in an apparent attempt to launch herself over the side.)
The competitor inside of you beamed with pride at the seriousness with which your completely passive first grader participated in his Field Day events.  (Dang, boy!)
In a pinch, your baby's t-shirt and a pair of undies can double as a bathing suit for your four year old.  There is one problem though...

I guess I could show you some of the good pictures too...

Hope you all had a blessed Easter and celebrated our sweet redemption through the grace and resurrection of our Savior.


Earth Day with my favorite Earthlings

In honor of Earth Day and this beautiful planet God has blessed us with, I'll share a fun Earth Day craft that I had the joy of making not once, not twice, but three times this week.

We happened on it totally by accident.  I got a book out of the library called A Year of Crafts for Kids.  It turned out to be crafts related to specific holidays.  Well, we were in luck because not only was Easter coming up, but also Earth Day.  The ideas were really cute across the board.  The easiest, however, being that I had all of the supplies on hand and the effort was minimal, was The Trash Monster.

The benefits of the project were threefold for us:

1.  It served as another "M" craft (you know...Monster), which is where we've stalled for a while in our alphabet lessons.
2.  It's fun.  Who doesn't like monsters?
3.  The added service aspect - which is helping to clean up the neighborhood (or wherever).

Basically you take two paper bags, flip one over and fit inside the other (essentially creating a box), you cut a hole in the top, add on some teeth and eyes, and decorate however else you want.  Then, you take it outside and "feed" the monster with trash you pick up off the ground.

We did a trial run on Tuesday.

Abby and Sarah made sure the outside bag was heavily decorated with orange circles and glue.  But mostly glue.

Trash Monster #1

We went on our adventure to collect trash and beautify the earth, where Abby fell very naturally into a supervisory role.

While Sarah took the direction from her supervisor from a few steps off the road.  She brought the juice box from home.  And despite chugging it in 0.2 seconds flat after leaving the house, she outright refused to feed it to the trash monster.


We filled that joker up.  Despite my suspicions we would find hardly any trash, I was wrong.  Apparently, our neighbors are much more slovenly than I guessed.

Today, on actual Earth Day, we made two more Trash Monsters.  We had three kids, two receptacles, and a lofty goal of cleaning up both our church grounds before the Easter egg hunt and Ben's school the day after Field Day.

We started at church.  I gotta tell you - the place was practically pristine when we arrived.  We did manage to collect a few random cable ties, stickers, and bottle tops, but for the most part the place was beautiful.

Some of the help was a little less willing than the rest...note helpful older sister's death grip on baby sister.

Oh yes.  We did find candy wrappers.  Lots of those.  I guess soccer players get hungry for sweets after games.

Our pretty, pretty church grounds/soccer fields.  We can't take credit.  It looked like this when we got there.


The school, however, not so pretty.  You can't so much tell from the photo, as I had hoped, but the entire field was littered with water bottles and Gatorade bottles.  It was as if someone had a party out there, and just flipped the lights off and sent everyone home.  We had our work cut out for us.

It was a field that just the day before hosted Field Day to hundreds of Pre-K through 2nd Grade students and their families.  Hundreds of little Gatorade-covered kids sharing popcorn with their trash-throwing baby sisters.


Ben and I had our work cut out for us, anyway.  Sarah found a bench to sit on with her baby.

And Abby?  Well she's a speck over there on the right side of the photo, somewhere.  Probably chasing a butterfly.

We got a wagon full of recyclables and two trash monsters full of Popsicle wrappers and bottle caps.

 But I didn't get a picture...because the playground was calling our names.

So that's that.  Trash Monsters.  Earth Day.

The end.

(It's nearing 1am, and that's the best I can do for a salutation.  
P.S. - Since it took longer than I thought it would and I didn't get this posted on actual Earth Day, would you be so kind as to mentally change all of the today's to yesterday's while you're reading?  Thanks.)


Guilty McGuilterson

I thought the guilt would go away when I became a stay-at-home mom, whether I chose to stay home or not.

I thought that only work-out-of-the-home moms suffered from guilt.  Because it's ingrained in them that they should feel guilty. 

Well now I've been both places.  I've filled both roles.  And, therefore, I feel qualified to say this, whether it applies only to me and I need to deal with it, or it's something others struggle with too...

It's really easy to find things to feel guilty about, regardless of your day job.

When I was working, I felt guilty because:

~Society told me I was letting someone else raise my children.
~My kids caught more colds and viruses than their non-school-going playmates.
~I didn't give my job 100% because there was always a portion of my thoughts and heart that were on my family.
~There seemed to only be time to do the things I had to do instead of the things I wanted to do, whether with the kids or around the house.
~I wasn't interested in making play dates for my kids because I was downright exhausted by the time nights and weekends rolled around, and I wanted them all to myself.

Now that I'm home, I feel guilty because:

~The TV is on too much.
~Our time on the playground is limited because I'm a nervous wreck with Sarah's bloody history.
~I feel like it's indulgent to treat myself to a Sonic Happy Hour drink or DD coffee.
~Instead of being happy to spend time with my kids, at the end of the day, I just want them to go to sleep.  (This one is the worst.)
~I attend school activities for my oldest with two little sisters in tow, instead of being able to give him my undivided attention.
~I'm no longer contributing, financially, to the family pot.
~I feel like I get to do things I want to do, while my husband is at work doing things he has to do.
~I'm still not a good cook, and I feel like if I get to stay home and play all day, I should at least come up with a decent meal for our bread-winner.
~I'm still downright exhausted by the time nights and weekends roll around.  Probably even more so than when I was working.

And here I thought having an experience at home would make it crystal clear as to which was right for me, and what God was calling me to do.

I was wrong.

What I do know is that this kind of guilt, the kind that doesn't come from immoral actions on my part, just needs to go on.  It's a mindset, and I'm letting the guilt win.

Any tips on that?  I'd be so very grateful.

There are things I miss about working - like the lunchtime workouts, unencumbered by an audience of little girls, the adult conversation, the chance to advance my career and use my college degree, the opportunity to become a competent engineer, and the freedom to buy a cup of coffee without feeling bad about it.  (Yeah, I guess I'm superficial.)

But now that I've tasted the fruit of stay-at-home mom-dom, there are things I will miss if I should go back to work - like the freedom to go to the library on a whim, being able to take a shower and immediately put comfy clothes (aka pj's) right back on, the squeeze-your-guts-out bear hugs I get all throughout the day, and the moments that I can't describe with words, but that melt my heart.

So there you have it.  What "it" is, I'm not sure.  I guess it's just transparency.  It's a confession that I don't know what I'm doing, and I don't know where I'm going, but I know this is part of my plan, and one day that will be obvious.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Field Day for my precious first grader accompanied by two rambunctious girls.  But I'm going to pause for a few more minutes while Abby gives me a spontaneous back-scratch with a Mr. Potato Head arm, which she has clever dubbed "The Handy Helper".  That I could get used to...
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5
P.S. - I'm going to do Mom Things this week (for my own personal benefit), just obviously not on Wednesday...and probably not on Thursday either.  Just to keep you interested  - here's a little preview of what's to come.

Marriage Retreat: Part 2

So, I was cleaning out my purse (which is, I admit, the extent of my spring cleaning motivation), and wouldn't you know it?  I found a piece of paper with my additional notes on it from the marriage conference.  So timely.  A day late.  As usual.  I should have put "Be more organized" and "Stop procrastinating" on the list.  Maybe next time.


It seemed to me that some of this was worth sharing.  Consider this an addendum to yesterday's post.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:16-20
I pray that Sam and I may know the reaches of Christ's love in and through our marriage.

Steve and Debbie, the speakers at the conference, started the day off with a metaphor.  When we get married, we have a picture [in our minds] that we hang on the wall, and we expect our relationship to bend to accommodate what we see in that picture.  There is a problem with this.  It comes with a lot of expectations, most of which partners fail to even share with their spouse. 

#1 - Unspoken expectations lead to discouragement. 

When our partner fails to live up to our unvoiced expectations, we start doubting - is this really who I married?  Why aren't they fitting into my picture of marriage?

#2 - Unmet expectations lead to disappointment.

They hinted at the fact that our spouses are not our mother/father.  And you should never tell your wife, "Well, my mom did it this way..."  (Helpful hint out there for you guys.)

#3 - Unrealistic expectations lead to defeat.

When we expect perfection, guess what?  We won't get it.  No matter how great our spouse is.

They assured us that all marriages hit a wall.  Most first marriages hit the wall within four to ten years of that blissful wedding day.  What they said next was even more startling, for subsequent marriages the timeline is shorter.  For second marriages, expect to hit the wall with two to seven years, and for third marriages, it will likely occur in the first twelve months. 

At the wall, they offered three choices -
1.  Forget that divorce is an option.  You're in it for life, so you work through it.
2.  Consider and utilize the option of divorce.
3.  Back up to the path of least resistance and coast.  (Most couples in the church fall into this category.)

If you choose Option 1 - it's a long and hard road, but when you make it through your endurance will have paid off and Christ will have matured you.  The outcome of Option 2 is obvious.  Option 3 results in becoming a bitter old person at the age of between 25 and 40 years old.

Well...I don't want to be a bitter old person!

And that seems like a fitting place to stop today.  Ha!  Hate to leave you in a lurch, but I wanted to put this out there to supplement yesterday's post.  If I get my non-spring cleaning act together this afternoon, I will be back with some Mom Things (or something of the like)...


#38 - Attend a couple's retreat with Sam.

Sam and I decided a looonnnggg time ago not to buy cards for each other (on any holiday) because we just can't justify spending $3+ for something we glance at then throw in the trash a day or two later. (Does anyone recall the Seinfeld episode where Jerry fought with his girlfriend about this?) We're practical people - not so much sentimentalists. Though, I do think we both have it in us, if we'd dig a little deeper. After all, we wrote hundreds of letters to each other that first summer we spent apart in college.  If I didn't think he'd kill me for it, I'd share a snippet or two here.  He was Ovid and I was...hmm...it's a lot harder to think of a female poet who wasn't either incredibly depressing or didn't gas herself in an oven.  I'll get back to you on that...

I think the overwhelming point is that over the years, Sam and I don't feel the need to "woo" each other with a greeting card or fancy language.  I think the important thing to remember is that maybe every once in a while, we still should - just probably not on Valentine's Day out of principle.  The day after, with 50% off V-Day items, would be just fine.  We aren't just practical.  We're cheap.  And we're comfortable with that.

With that said, just the other day, Sam demonstrated his love for me by U-turning on Watson Boulevard just to buy me a coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.  And I know how much he loves me because he got me an Xtra Large.  (Have you ever seen those cups?  I think it's about a gallon of coffee.) 

And with all of that randomness off my chest, I am happy to announce that I have completed another 101 list item. 

#38 - Attend a couple's retreat with Sam.

In a word - it was awesome.(But maybe you had to be there...?)

The weekend was lead by Steve and Debbie Wilson who were so incredibly open and transparent about the daily struggles and battles within their own marriage that it made us all feel a little more normal.  Or at least made us all realize how messed up we all are.  It's not just Sam and me.  PHEW.

We were blessed enough to get to hear them for a two-part marriage conference on Friday night and Saturday morning, then again on Sunday morning as special guests in our most-awesome of Sunday School classes.

The marriage conference message came from their book The Six Mosquitoes, a look at six of the most common pests (if you will) that attack and suck the blood out of our marriages. I'm going to share these six mosquitoes with you now.  (Of course I am - it's a list!)

1.  Busyness
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
They iterated the importance of saying no and simplifying life.  They told us to ask ourselves the question, "Am I planning my day or is my day being planned for me?"  The biggest, most lasting thing I took away from this mosquito was this:  Say no to good so that we can have great.  Good is the enemy of great.

2.  Irritability
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns.  See if there is anyh offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.  Psalm 138:23-24
Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children, a reward.  Psalm 127:3
Steve and Debbie went out on a limb to say that in every couple, there is one partner with a temper.   They said, lacking no candor, if you are the one with the temper...Grow up!  Jesus is tired of the behavior.  He speaks to us with a still, small voice.  How will we hear if we are kicking, screaming, and pitching a fit?  I know, for me, this was a "2x4 to the forehead".  I am the irritable one.  And I am the one with the temper.  Convicted!

3.  Thought Life
I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners.  I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you.  Do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you:  I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:9-10
While men and women speak at very different rates per day, we think at about the same speed.  They gave us a statistic - that 70% of our 1700 words per minute of thought are negative.  And some of us (cough, cough), probably have a higher percentage.  We are to hold our thoughts captive as we are our words.  We can't do it alone.  We need to enlist the help of the Holy Spirit.

4.  Drifting
Consider it a joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
It happens slowly, then all of the sudden, years down the line, you realize that instead of two people becoming one flesh, you're back to being two people, roommates sharing a house.

5.  Financial Debt
Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens:  They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn:  yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luke 12:23-24
They encouraged couples to pray for 48 hours before making a big financial decision.  They also said, if you are ever in doubt about an expenditure, don't.  As for tithing, they reminded us that God doesn't want our money, he wants our obedience.

6.  Inability to Forgive
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times."  Matthew 18:21-22
A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.  ~Ruth Graham  (Isn't that the truth?)

What a blessing it was to hear the truth, even when it stung.  I love that.  I know that marriages were blessed that weekend.  I know that it was no mistake that each of the couples were there.  And even though it has literally been months since this happened, it is on my heart daily.  To anyone who was there, you know I am not doing justice to the guidance they gave us.  Steve and Debbie Wilson are most definitely God's marriage workers.  I don't know what the fall will bring, but I hope to be able to attend the Fall Festival of Marriage.  Even the healthiest marriages shouldn't turn down regular maintenance.

So that's that - #38...you've been checked (for months and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it.)


Oh, oh, It's Magic...You Know...

So I'm a procrastinator.  And what happens when I get inspired to write about things is that I don't prioritize and then enough time passes that it becomes a chore instead of a hobby. 

I'm rapidly approaching that with the Disney trip.

I'm going to get this down before dementia sets in fully and I can't remember a darn thing about it.  Even if blogging is the second lamest thing to do on a Friday night surpassed only by watching approaching thunderstorms on the Doppler radar.  (Oh wait, did that too.)

Now that I got all of ^^^that^^^ out of the way....

The Magic Kingdom

Our first day was the no camera day, and it was, in a word, amazing.  I mentioned the Main Street parade as we walked in.  I know they did that just for us.  That's how Disney operates, right?  I didn't mention that as we stopped by the gate on the way in to pay for parking the cheerful attendant waved us through and said, "It's on Mickey.  The machine is down right now.  Have a magical night!"  That friends, was awesome.  And pretty much set the stage for the rest of the evening.  We opted for the ferry ride from the parking lot and I think we could have ended the night right then and there and it would have been a great night for the kids. 

But it was just the beginning.

We headed for Adventureland first, where we hopped on the Pirates of the Caribbean for the first ride.  I suppose it was risky, considering the spooky nature, but it was a success and Abby got over the spookiness once we told her it was all pretend.  That worked to defuse her fears of most everything at the parks.  And so it began.  We hit every ride in the Magic Kingdom over three days time.  Once we got Abby on Splash Mountain, her question as we stood in line for every single ride thereafter was, "Does this one have slides or is there a splash?"

On Sunday, we went back to the park for a day of fun in the sun...and longer rides and more-Florida-like temperatures.  The pictures are few from the most magical of the Disney parks, but take my word for it, the lack of pictures is inversely proportional to the amount of fun we had.

Even my big boy, Ben, enjoyed the tamer rides - like the carousel.

We caught a fabulous show on the front steps of the castle, so Abby could drink up every bit of princess that she could.

 But she did avert her eyes when the evil Maleficent came out.  Who can blame her?

While the boys were riding Space Mountain, the girls snapped a shot in front of Cinderella's castle.
Just look at my princess.

Then we ran over grabbed a couple of fastpasses for Splash Mountain, rode the train to the front entrance, and happened upon the chance to meet Pluto.  I did mention Abby's love for character greetings, right?

After a dip in the pool and a dinner at the hotel, we returned to the park that evening.  Would you believe as I stood in line with my ticket to enter, I heard someone call my name?  Usually I disregard it because, you know, chances are it's some other "Jenny/Jennie" that they're calling.  But this time, it was my whole name.  I knew my sweet friends would be there, but we hadn't coordinated a rendezvous yet.  Turns out we didn't have to.  It was awesome to meet up with friends at Disney - almost spontaneously!
Thanks for taking this picture, Derek!

Our kids hangin' out before riding Aladdin's Magic Carpets while Sam ran and got us all Fastpasses for Thunder Mountain.  (What's his problem?  Who skips out on the Magic Carpets???)

The girls even rode together.  *sniff*  Look how mature they look!

While Ben and I were off riding Thunder Mountain (for the 3rd time that night), Sam took Abby to meet Mickey & Minnie.  I do believe she stole their hearts, if I say so myself.  She was just Abby.  No autograph book.  Just her and her smile.  And I think Mickey and Minnie drank that up.

They danced together.

Shoot, they even posed together.  (Check out Abby's & Minnie's feet.)

And before we headed out for the evening, we stopped and watched what was, without a doubt, Abby's favorite part of the trip.

We watched it in its entirety 3 times.  Ben was less than thrilled.  Abby, on the other hand...

I'm surprised her little arm didn't fall off from waving so hard and that her cheeks didn't freeze in position from smiling so big.

It might not be the best picture ever.  But it's everything this trip was to me.  

Worth it.

We endured a deluge at the Magic Kingdom on Thursday.  And when I say deluge, I mean it.  It was a monsoon, an almost-hurricane, a super-soaker.  There were tornado watches, unceasing rains, and crazy winds.  Did that stop us from going to the park?  No sirree.  But it did stop me from taking the camera.  You know what else it meant?  Short lines.  The shortest of lines.  I'm talking the Buzz Lightyear ride two times in a row with no wait.  Sweet.

We rode every ride in the park that day.  We took a break to have dinner at the hotel and grabbed a quick nap afterward.  We got back to the park around 8pm, just as the rain ended.  And the place was desolate.  Double sweet.  (Sweet, sweet?)  We rode Space Mountain twice in a row with no wait.  Abby & Sam rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin SIX times in a row without even getting off.  Perhaps most impressive of all was the princess meet-and-greet whose line was out the door on previous days, but that night was so empty we thought it was closed.  We were wrong.  And those princesses were oh-so-glad to see our princess.

Despite being promised (by me) that he wouldn't have to meet the princesses (and/or prince), Prince Navarre didn't take no for an answer.  So here's Mr. Baked Beans shirt with the characters of the Princess & the Frog.

We stayed until 1am that night.  We enjoyed every single minute.  Our family culminated our trip to the Magic Kingdom with a shortcut through the Confectionery on the way out.  Abby batted her eyelashes and smiled at the candy maker and she scored a free chocolate dipped marshmallow on a stick.  Divine.

I don't remember when they said it, and it doesn't matter, but separately, both kids thanked us and officially declared the Disney trip "the most awesome vacation ever".

I love my kids.  And Disney World's not too shabby either.
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