Kiddie-tober Mom Things

You thought it was a great idea to "hide" the Halloween candy on top of the refrigerator - a place that has come to be the safe zone for confiscated toys.  Only, you found out that instead of preventing your wily two year old from eating the candy, you just encouraged her climbing skills to blossom even further.  As of the time of this post, you have removed her from the top of your fridge not once, not twice, but three times.

While you pulled five bathroom rugs from the dryer in the laundry room in a time span of 45 seconds, max, you emerged to find that your two year old had retrieved a Gogurt from the top shelf of the fridge, secured a pair of scissors from a kitchen drawer, and opened the tip without so much as a half-second's pause to ask your help in opening it.  More proof that independence is part of the genetic make-up.

Your eight year old continues to make astute life observations.  Your favorite one of late came after watching Aladdin with his little sisters.  "Why doesn't Aladdin just get a job instead of stealing from people?"  We're doing a good job with that kid.  I can tell.  Second favorite?  After watching Jurassic Park with his father, "How do they know that T-Rexes can't see you unless you're moving?"  Excellent question, kid.  They don't.

Your five year old laughs hysterically at potty humor.  You're hoping this is just a phase.  Beautiful princesses shouldn't find the words "underwear" and "poop" quite as funny as she does.

Your two year old has followed in the footsteps of the rest of you and your older kids with the love of reading, to the point that she now requires a few minutes with the light on after our standard two books so she can read herself to sleep.  Literally.

You think it's cute that your two year old thinks most fruits are strawberries...watermelon, cherries, actual strawberries.  Especially since she says it "strawbewwy".  It's only fitting that when you spotted a strawberry costume, you had to buy it for her to wear on Halloween.

You send your two year old after her older brother and sister in the other room for bedtime.  She returns to you with no siblings, while eating a chocolate chip cookie.  Typical.

You watched with amusement as your two girls tossed a pink clothes hanger across the room at each other for twenty minutes worth of giggles.  Who needs fancy toys?  The simpler the better.

After developing a mild case of the "wheezes", your five year old asks you not why you are breathing loudly, but "Mommy, why are you breathing?"  I don't know - so I can not die?

You live for Red Ribbon Week/Spirit Week at school so you can dress your kids up for your favorite of all school events....(drumroll please)....Tacky Day!!!!

(Plus one little "Boo-tiful" sister who wouldn't stay out of the picture.)


Way back in the beginning of October...

October 2011 has been about nine bajillion times better than October 2010 was.  October 2010 had its highlights, of course, including the annual Destin trip, Abby's 4th birthday, a trip to the pumpkin patch, and some hard, productive work on the backyard playground.  But this year, I haven't had the looming dark shadow that was The PE Exam.  I haven't had to get up early before work to study.  I haven't freaked myself out daily over the prospect of failing and having to do all of the early morning studying over again.  I haven't subsisted solely on caffeine.

Life has been different this year.  In a good way.  But also just in a different way.

This October started out the same as last in one respect - Abby's birthday.

We surprised the kids with a backyard camp-out for Abby's party...complete with a campfire, roasted hot dogs & marshmallows, and a tent.  The ulterior motive?  It satisfied #81 on The List - Sleep Outside.

The evening can best be summed up with the two Facebook status updates I posted that night and the following morning.  (Because, apparently, I am the type to give real-time, inconsequential updates to everyone I'm friends with...)
If you think backyard camping is only for boys, you are sorely mistaken. Tenting with the two big'uns in celebration of Abby's 5th birthday, after a belly full of hot dogs and marshmallows. It's been dubbed "The Best Birthday Ever" by our fairy-winged, footie-pajama'd princess.

Surprisingly not a zombie this morning. The kids were so tired they *asked* to go to sleep after only 10 mins in the tent. Thank the Lord for small blessings - like a refreshing night of tent sleep, warm blankets on a record setting low temperature evening, and a breakfast of chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme donuts. That. was. awesome.
If you can believe it (and I'm sure you can, considering the source), I completely forgot to take a picture of the tent, the children in the tent, or the amount of blankets/pillows/comfort items we took out into the tent.  Let me just say, it was cold - for Georgia.  We set a record low that night around here, getting down to 32 degrees.  Luckily, we were about 10 steps from our house.  If someone had been watching me set up the sleeping bags and what not, they might have thought I was planning to pull of some sort of Princess and the Pea dramatization, but this pregnant mom was going for comfort.  Thanks to several fleece blankets, one of those egg-carton mattress toppers, three sleeping bags, fleece footie pajamas, and a queen-sized down comforter, Ben, Abby, and I stayed toasty warm in the little tent clear through the morning.

Since there are no pictures of that, here are some of the pre-sleeping festivities.

The family looking very unimpressed by Sam's awesome backyard campfire.

Entranced, I guess.

Abby even opened her presents out by the fire.  These were her new beach toys for...

...the upcoming beach trip that Sam informed her about in this picture.  (And that I already blogged about here.)

Ben's late-night photography skills.

You can just imagine the rest of the story.  Abby is the one sawing logs.  Ben is the one laying perfectly still with a Harry Potter book under his pillow.  And I'm the one having crazy pregnancy dreams about dementors because I'm not as mentally stable as my eight-year-old son. 

#81 - Sleep Outside...you have been checked.


Not So Insignificant

Whenever I hear Alicia Keys sing about New York, I start to have a little anxiety.  If you didn't know before, you will now discover that I'm not a big fan of huge cities.  They're fun to visit, but I cannot imagine living in one day after day.  I suspect this relates to my fear of confined spaces.  (Not that I'm trying to run off to the country either.  Just call me Jennie-in-the-Middle.)

There's a part of the song where she says, "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere."  And, it's a "concrete jungle where dreams are made - Oh, there's nothing you can't do."

It's interesting.  Whenever I'm in a big city the big lights don't inspire me.  I don't start dreaming big dreams with high hopes of achieving them.  In fact, it only takes a couple of hours before I feel completely and totally insignificant as a human being.  In the midst of millions of other people who are hustling and bustling past me without so much as a glance in my direction, I tend to feel lost in the shuffle, unimportant, inconsequential.  Every time. 

I know that not everyone feels this way.  After all millions of people elect to live in this manner.  It's just not for me, obviously.

The thing is, I don't want to feel perpetually insignificant.  I'm working on my insecurities, and this is a big deal to me.

But then I start thinking - what's bigger than New York City?  The earth.  The solar system.  The galaxy.  The universe.  Oh yeah, that's right.  I'm going there. 

In our universe (this never ending expanse full of heavenly bodies), scientists estimate that there are anywhere between 10 sextillion and 3 septillion stars.  That's a pretty big discrepancy, but even at the more conservative estimate, that's more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on every beach, under every ocean, and in every desert on earth.  (Thank you, wikianswers.)

What does that say about my respective significance?  Do you realize how big stars are?  And how small I am, in the grand scheme of something so large as the universe?

Turns out, I have found the answer.  And instead of making me feel insignificant, it gives me security and hope. 
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Psalm 147:4 (NIV)
Even though there's an indeterminate number of stars in the sky (by human comprehension), God knows how many there are...because He put them there.  He even cares about each of the 3 septillion stars (give or take a few sextillion) enough to call them by name.  They were created as individuals.  If I sometimes feel insignificant as one in a world of seven billion people, imagine how a star would feel as one in three septillion?  You know, if stars had feelings...

And yet...
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-30 (NIV)
God knows us so intimately He can enumerate the number of hairs on our head, whether we are one in seven billion or not.  He's talking about each of us.  We are unique in this universe as human beings.  He has given us a soul and the free will to know and love and worship Him.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
This workmanship was celebrated in Psalm 139.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it.   Psalm 139: 13-14 (NLT)
How often I need to remind myself of this!  My feelings of insignificance are as good as gone when I stop to remember that I am, you are, and we are created in Christ's image to do good works through Him.

I have my "good friend", Beth Moore, to thank for her amazing words in my Bible study last week to tie it all together.  For me, at least.  I feel like this post has been one hot, unorganized mess, but I just felt compelled to write it.  So I don't risk butchering her words in a paraphrase, I'm simply going to quote her here:
I am absolutely convinced that humankind exists because of the Trinity's holy passion to draw others into Their fellowship.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desired the existence of humanity for fellowship.  They wanted humans to have a will of their own so that they would choose God without being commanded.  They knew that equipping people with their own will would necessitate a plan for redemption, because they would ultimately make some very poor choices.  Thus, the plan of salvation was already completely intact before the creation of the world. 
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Why does God single out our little planet to so love?  Beloved, absorb this into the marrow, because we are on it.  As despicable as humanity can be, God loves us.  Inconceivably, we are His treasures.  His prized creation.  He just loves us.
Each and every single one of us.  Whether or not we feel significant in our daily lives, we are absolutely significant in the eyes of the One who created us.  The One who loves us so.
We are so small.  Yet the vastness of His love - so high, so wide, so deep, so long - envelops us as the endless universe envelops a crude little planet God called Earth.

My prayer today is that we will stop and appreciate the value we hold in the eye of our Creator.  When we start to feel insignificant, that we can remember we were uniquely and wonderfully made.  That we will never feel lost in a world of so many others because of the reminder that God knows us so intimately he can report the number of hairs on our head. 
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
      the moon and the stars you set in place—
 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
      human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
      and crowned them with glory and honor.
 You gave them charge of everything you made,
      putting all things under their authority—
 the flocks and the herds
      and all the wild animals,
 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
      and everything that swims the ocean currents.   ~Psalm 8:3-8

Thursday 13 on Thursday the 13th: Life's Beachin'

We got back from the beach late Monday evening (and by late, I mean 8pm - because we're old fogeys like that).  With perfect weather in the low to mid-80's all week with bright sunshine, a few clouds, and a light-to-moderate beach breeze, we could not have asked for a better time on the Florida panhandle in October.  As we packed up to leave on Monday afternoon, the skies clouded up and the rain began to fall softly on our van as we headed north.  It rained almost the whole trip home.  It was the perfect farewell because it made it slightly easier to say goodbye.   It's been three days, and while I still have the piles of laundry and other random items that haven't found their way from the suitcases to their proper home in our house to remind me that we went on vacation, my tan is already fading and I've forgotten at least half of the the hilarity that comes with spending 6 days in a hotel room in a different time zone.  

Before it gets any worse, here I am with Thirteen of my Vacation Favorites for you, courtesy of my crazy kids (of course).

1.  Sarah commanding me, not so gently, to go "fwim", no more than 15 seconds after we picked our spot on the beach.  Other demands with similar immediacy were, "Jump, Mommy, PLEASE!" (as in, "Let's get in the water and jump over waves") and "I need a snack!" (even though we just ate breakfast about three minutes ago).

2.  Yes.  Snacks.  Sandy snacks in a little red cooler.  My kids apparently love these.  (Friendly suggestion to other parents, do not anticipate sharing snacks with your toddler or 5 year old.  Pack separate baggies for you.  Just take my word for it.)

3.  We're pretty simple people, I realize, but I had no idea how much joy my kids could find by buying a snack at the dolphin cruise snack bar with their own money.  I do believe those were the tastiest Fritos and Doritos they'd ever eaten.  And I love them even more after discovering this.  My simple little offspring.

4.  I guess two hours is kind of long for a two year old to hang out on a boat, but it's a good thing that gate was padlocked because Sarah was determined to abandon ship somewhere out in the Choctawhatchee Bay.

5.  Family night at the Melting Pot was a far greater success than I ever imagined.  Again, 90-120 minutes for a meal is a long time for a two year old, but because it was family night a magician visited our table and made each kid a balloon puppy.  Jackpot.  (The key to successful outings like this, also, is to go in with very low expectations.  Most of the time, you'll come out pleasantly surprised.)  Plus, the dessert is so worth the wait.

6.  So Ben's sporting a goofy grin - oh well.  We had to take this picture because every year for the past  however-many-years, we've taken a picture of the kids in this very boat on this very playground.  And I love stuff like that.

7.  ^This very playground^ might well have been the very highlight of the trip for all three of my kids.  Right behind the playground, there are fountains that shoot up from the sidewalk.  I've always loved them.  Some day I'll lose my inhibitions and run through them with the kids, but this time, I just took their pictures. 
(Aren't you glad I did?  I just love these babies.)

I have a photo just like this with Ben leading Abby by the hand into the water.  They're growing up SO fast!  *sniffle*

Look at that face!!!

8.  The hooded towels are my favorite "Mommy's helper", if you will.  They don't drop off or fall into puddles.  And they're so darn cute.  Look at the princess and bunny if you don't believe me.  (Ben was a monster...and reaching the age where he's a little embarrassed to wear it.  It happens.)


 9.  The hot tub at the hotel was no less than 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sign assured us the max water temp was 104.  It lied.  Even so, Abby declared the hot tub "more fun than the pool".  Even if we only let the girls sit on the top step.  (And that says a lot because both of these girls loved the pool.)  Sarah's face says it all in this picture:  "Ouch."

10.  Building sandcastles is fun.  But moving in on the sandcastle the dude next to us started after he packed up and left for the day is even more fun.

11.  Each year it proves more and more difficult to catch a picture of Ben on the beach because he spends 95% of his time on the boogie board, jumping over and riding the waves.  He's come a long way from when he used to cry every time we put him in the tub and got a little bit of water in his eyes.  (Not that I miss those daily bath struggles or anything, but, man, it feels like yesterday.)

12.  At some point during the day, my girls find a way to headbutt/roll in the sand and come home with more sand in their hair and scalp than they left on the beach.  I'm not complaining.  This is just proof that they enjoyed it to the max.  For sure.

13.  Even though Ben appears to be asleep, I treasure the opportunity for rare family photos like this one.  Being able to hem up all three kids in one spot and snap a picture.


I'm not going to lie, I will miss the unlimited fresh, free coffee in the hotel lobby (decaf, don't worry) and coming back from the beach to a hotel room with clean linens and a neatly made bed.  But I also know that if I had that every day, I wouldn't appreciate it.  That's what makes it vacation.  That, and the thirteen things I mentioned, plus oh-so-many more that I didn't.  My soul has been refreshed.

But just like always, it's good to be Home.


Flashback Friday: Cruisin' Together

Sam and I (and then Sam and I plus a few little critters) have been coming to Destin, Florida at least annually for nine years now.  It's a tradition, if you will, that we absolutely adore and look forward to every year.  Some years we've been blessed with company including Sam's mom, aunt, cousin and newlywed wife, and grandmother.  Other years, it's just been our nuclear family.  No matter what though, it's a joy.  And not a privilege that we take for granted.

Inside of the yearly beach-trip tradition, we've begun another tradition, that being the Southern Star Dolphin Cruise.  Regardless of the month of the year, the temperature of the air, or the number of kids in tow, if it's at all possible, we make reservations to go on a two-hour boat cruise of the Destin Harbor, Gulf of Mexico, and Choctawhatchee Bay in search of dolphins.  As an added bonus, the cruise is out during sunset and we get to watch the gorgeous orange fireball set along the horizon of the water.  You may know by now that sunsets are one of my things.  I think there are very few physical phenomenons in this world that point to our Creator in such a way as the brilliant colors of the sunset (the other obvious one being the birth of a child).  Sunsets are a piece of artwork that are undeniably unique and brand new each and every day.

Tonight, we went on this cruise.  And each year, the kids get to line up and take a turn at the wheel of the big boat once we get out into the relatively calmer waters of the Gulf.  Each year, they sit in the captain's chair and put on the captain's hat, and hesitantly smile at the camera as they "navigate" the waters for a minute or so.

And while you thought this post was going to be about sunsets...you were wrong.  Instead, it's about captain's hats.  And creatures of habit. 

Without further ado, and because these are all of the photos I have access to here on vacation, I give you - Captain Ben, Captain Abby, and the newest addition to the seafaring gang, Captain Sarah.

It's amazing the difference a single year can make, let alone five or six.  I count my plentiful blessings that I've had the opportunity to share this time with these precious children.  Speaking of the differences a year can make - remember this time last year?  I was settling down with my Civil Engineering Reference Manual, a heaping pile of unsolved practice exam questions, intravenous coffee, and a healthy dose of anxiety...while sitting right here - along the beautiful scenery of the beach my family loves so dearly.  Never in a million years could I have imagined that my life would take such a dramatic change of direction in just a single year's time....

....but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

For now, the Captains are asleep, and I'm thinking it's a good time for me to turn in too.  Next year, we'll have another one.

I can't wait.

Much love, from a Herd of Sheps



I'll probably be pretty scarce this week.  We've taken our annual beach trip to the sunny shores and emerald waters of Destin, Florida.  It's fall break for the kids, and it's off-season so we love the sparser crowds and lower prices.  But, we also did this so we'd have an excuse not to go to the Georgia National Fair.  What we failed to remember is that we'd drive right past it on the way to and from the beach, thereby reminding the kids about it.  (I should mention that Sam and I are not big fair-going people.)

But we are fair people.  And by that, I mean, we are pale.  Almost as pale as a particularly dear family of "pasty-white redheads" that I know.  (I use quotations on that because it's their self-given title, not one that I've assigned to them.) 

Needless to say, we're on Day 1 of our family beach-going vacation and after 4 hours of perfect sunny, 80-degree, and breezy weather, each of us has a random sunburn spot (or a dozen) to show for our time on the sand.

My oldest son was kind enough to pose for a picture just to prove that I'm not making this up.  (I mean, he "posed" after he told me he didn't want me to take a picture of him and ran into the bathroom to hide for a couple of minutes.)

 Poor little raccoon eyes.  Or sad clown eyes.  Your choice.  I do that to at least one kid every year.

At any rate, like I said, I'll be scarce this week because I'll be off being a bad mom and failing to apply complete coverage to my kids' bodies while they baste and bake in the always-blazin' sun of the Florida panhandle.

Of course, my eternally-optimistic husband reminded me that if I were really a bad mom their whole bodies would be red like that.

This is true.

Hope you all are having a blessed week, and that some of you, somewhere in this country, are enjoying some fall weather and colors on my behalf.

See you when I decide I can't not write any longer.

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