Getting the Giggles

If you know me in real life, you know that I have a tendency to giggle.  Okay, fine.  I laugh out loud.  Obnoxiously.   I cannot control it.  I blame my mother.  (Don't we all?)  She has a great laugh.  When she really gets laughing, there's just no way around it, she's going to snort.  It's not quiet.  And she is not ashamed.  She gets the giggles now, in her sixties, and has for as long as I can remember, which would be for nearly 30 years.  (Whoa.)

It's not just a matter of laughing at things that are obviously funny.  She (and I) are inclined to find things humorous in the most serious of settings.  During Sunday School, in the middle of a church service, while our whole family is trying to fall asleep while crammed into a small living space on vacation.  You name it, we've laughed there.

There's a Barenaked Ladies song with the lyrics, "I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral."

That's us.  (But trust me, if it's a funeral, we'll be laughing through tears because, by golly, I inherited the waterworks from her too.)

We don't do it to be irreverent.  Maybe it's a coping mechanism.  Maybe we're just awesome at finding the funny in un-funny situations.  Maybe we just like to laugh.  Perhaps a combo of all of the above.  Whatever the reason, I love "getting the giggles," as my mom so aptly calls it.

I can remember so many times growing up when we got tickled and just couldn't get a hold of it.  I think trying to get a hold of it makes it ten times harder.  I remember an instance when my dad was serving the Lord's Supper at a Christmas Eve service and as he handed a tray to the first man in the pew, the guy dropped it on the floor.  Crackers went everywhere.  He looked up at my dad in sheer terror and began apologizing profusely.  My mom and I took one look at each other and busted out laughing.  That poor man.

Almost every time we would lay down to go to sleep while visiting my grandparents house, my parents on the pull-out sofa, my sister on the other sofa, and me on the loveseat, someone would start giggling, then it was like a domino effect.  All three of us girls were laughing and no one even knew why.  My dad would either shake his head because he had no idea what was going on or continue snoring completely oblivious to the utter nonsense going on around him.

I don't live with my mom anymore, and my kids are not quite as prone to laugh as I was as a child, but I have not stopped getting the giggles. Sam's a good sport about it.  (Sometimes he even giggles with me.)  I'm keeping my fingers crossed Leah will be my giggling cohort.

As always, I don't know what the cause of my riotous, uncontrollable laughter is, but here lately, I have been a laughing fool.  To see if I'm actually just a fool or if any of it is a little bit funny to anyone else, I've recorded some of the things that tickled me for your probably just my reading pleasure.

1.  (While eavesdropping on pretend play going on in the playroom)
Abby:  Dr. Jefferson, this baby has a heartbeat!  What should I do?
Sarah:  'sigh'  Hold on.  I'll be with you in a minute!  (impatiently)  Here. (hands Abby a stethoscope)  Use this.  But give it back

She nailed it!  Bedside manner of a seasoned doctor executed perfectly.  But my favorite part is that Abby called her Dr. Jefferson.  And that, for some reason, it was concerning that her baby had a heartbeat.

2.  I let Sarah taste a little French Vanilla coffee syrup.  She immediately replied, "Yum!"  I asked her what she thought it tasted like expecting her to say something like cupcake or cookie.  She said, "It tastes like...casserole."

Clearly, she has no idea what casserole, of any variety, tastes like.

3.  At Bible time the other night, as a prelude to the story of Jacob getting all of Laban's sheep, Sam told a story about some boys who asked permission to fish in a greedy man's pond.  They asked if they could keep whatever they caught and the haughty man chortled and said, "Sure."  The boys caught every fish in the pond and took them home.  To see if the kids were listening, Sam asked, "What do you think the pond owner said when he realized those boys had gotten all the fish out of his pond?"
Sarah replied, without hesitation, "Praise the Lord."
Sam looked taken aback and said something like, "Uhhh...maybe.  But probably not."  I, of course, died laughing.  But it didn't stop there.  She followed it up with, "Did those boys carry the fish in their necks?"  (We think she meant "nets.")  My active imagination conjured up a vision of two boys shoving a pond full of fish into their necks and walking away with them saying something like, "Why carry them with our hands when we can put them in our necks?" to each other.  I was no good.

4.  The other day as Ben sat at the kitchen table trying to do his math work and Leah made her rounds of terror around the kitchen, Ben stoically started narrating her actions as a series of steps.  By the time he got to "Make weird noises," I was laughing, but he put me over the edge with Step 10 (luckily, that was not live, and he was pulling from memory some of her antics because my laughter was encouraging him).

Step 1:  Eat muddy shoes.
Step 2:  Wrap yourself up in a blanket.
Step 3:  Cry.
Step 4:  Poop.
Step 5:  Tear magnets off the refrigerator.
Step 6:  Dump out the cookie cutters.
Step 7:  Make weird noises.
Step 8:  Destroy everything you see.
Step 9:  Get into everything.
Step 10: Suck on your fingers covered in toilet water.
Step 11:  Smash your fingers in the door trying to close it.
Step 12:  Eat something you're not supposed to, and poop it out.
Step 13:  Take Mommy's underwear out of the clean clothes pile and carry it around the house.
Step 14:  Throw the rocks out of the fireplace.

I have to guard myself sometimes because my kids can be sensitive to being laughed at.  They don't understand that this girl cannot control herself sometimes.  It's a good exercise in restraint because there is a time for everything.  And it is not always appropriate to laugh.  Just most of the time.

Wouldn't you rather be laughing than crying?

We all get in dark places sometimes, and I think it's because we let our thoughts of dark things consume us. We should be holding our thoughts captive. We don't have to deny that there are troubles in this life, but we shouldn't be dwelling on them. I've got a challenge for us all today.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8
Let's concentrate on the noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy things. Even if it feels like we have to look hard and start small, let's do this. Today.

Let's, maybe even, try laughing. I think nine times out of ten, it's not delirium or a coping mechanism, it's just joy.
Out of the overflow of the mouth, the heart speaks. Matthew 12:34

Today is one of those days.

When we decided to pull our kids from public school, we did so for primarily academic reasons.  It wasn't because of an arrogance that I thought I could do a better job teaching my children.  We just felt that we could better manage our childrens' time, making each moment count a little more effectively.  Ben would come home from second grade halfway through a Harry Potter he started that morning.  It blew my mind that he had that much down time at school.  How much of the day was being spent on actual instruction? 

We are about seven months into this grand experiment, and while I am absolutely confident in our decision to homeschool, the reasons couldn't be farther from what we originally based our decision on. 

Sam and I are pretty "academic" people.  So, I think it is natural for us to go to the academics first.  Our hearts have changed.  Education is important, but it's become more about our kids' hearts than their minds.  I have absolutely no doubt that my children are intelligent, in many, diverse ways, but it has been placed on our hearts as parents to make sure that we do everything within our power to make sure they have the opportunity to become the best people that they can be.

Our hardest days have not been because of subject matter - a difficult Latin lesson, an arduous math lesson, a particularly cumbersome reading assignment.  Our hardest days have been matters of the heart.  Someone digging their heels in and saying "No," siblings fighting, disobedience, impatience, short tempers, feelings of entitlement. 

As it turns out, these are the reasons we will continue to homeschool our kids.  That might seem counter-intuitive.  Those are probably a lot of the reasons that cause people to elect not to homeschool.  It's daily sanctification.  Plus, when a hard day is over, we can look back and say, "Phew.  By the grace of God we got through it." 

We (the Sheppard parents) are not in the business of hyper-education or behavior-modification, but we are in the business of training our kids.  I hope, I pray we can do the best with every minute we have. 

Our family is reaping the benefit of time together.  It was something I noticed when I lost my job and brought Abby and Sarah home together.  They went from bickering like cats and dogs to becoming the very best of friends.  I don't expect that all four of them with their very distinct personalities will be this way just from being home together, but I can see improvements.  They don't have to be best friends, but I will spend my days doing the best I can to strengthen their bond as brother and sisters. 

Some days, they just nail it. 

And on days like those, on a day like today, I can't help but put school on the back burner and just cherish these precious moments where my eclectic crew, replete with a professorial nine-year-old boy, whimsical six-year-old girl, wide-open three-year-old girl, and inquisitive 11-month old girl, play together. Just the way it was meant to be.

What a blessing my family is to me.

 (stealing a peek into the playroom during break time...)

 (not entirely sure why lil' Leah is in the basket)

My cup runneth over.  Beyond measure.  Surely, I do not deserve this.
Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 2 Samuel 7:18
DisclaimerLest this come off as a brag, let me just clear that up right now.  We are so far from perfect it makes these moments even that much more precious.  Now we can all carry on.


Not a photographer.

I decided to jump into a photo project at the start of the new year.  Instead of a 365-day project, it is formatted over 52 weeks.  This was a lot more palatable for me.  Hey, things happen.  I knew in advance that there was no way I could commit to a photo every day.  I figured surely I could handle taking a single picture (within the theme) once a week.  We are supposed to get them "posted" by Sunday evening.  Guess when I usually do it. 

Oops.  There's that procrastination thing again.

This takes place within a private group on Facebook, but my photos aren't anything top secret, so I'm going to post them here.  Obviously, it's been going on for a little while (ahem, eight weeks).  So, I have a few photos to back-post.  But since I feel like we are supposed to post just one official photo for each week, I'm allowing myself to use this blog to show you some of the outtakes, if you will, in future weeks. 

Also, I feel more open to caption my photos on this blog than I do amidst real photographers whose work  speaks for itself.  I am not a photographer.  I'm a mom.  With a camera.  Who really, really likes to caption my pictures. 

I'm sure you really care about any of ^that^.  Haha.  That's what you get for reading my blog.

Without any more senseless babble, here are the photos I've posted thus far.

Week 1: Something New or Selfie

Week 2: Toys

Week 3: Favorite Time of Day

Week 4: Windows

Week 5: Rule of Thirds
(For those who don't know what that is, here's a really good description.)

I actually did post two pictures that week, because I was attempting a play-on-rule-of-thirds with my third child wearing a crown.  Get it? It was an unofficial submission because I didn't nail framing the thirds, but by golly, I tried.

Week 6:  Red

Just yesterday, I snapped this one...male and female.  Too bad it was a week late.  Ha!  (It's never too late on my blog.)

Got this one too.

Week 7: Heart

Week 8: Diversity
Those are four of seven sister puppies that my father-in-law saved from the side of the road.  Turns out puppies are even harder subjects than kids.

Sweet girl.  It's just like when Jacob used the rock for a pillow, hahaha.

That's it for tonight.  A quick post of mostly pictures.  Some day I'm going to wake up before my kids for quiet time and blogging time, but so far I haven't been able to make that happen.  Maybe tomorrow?  After all, tomorrow is a new day. 


Hope for the Weary Mom

It's February 9th.  Less than a week until Valentine's Day.  This means that moms across the country are getting themselves into a tizzy over handcrafting all sorts of cutesy things they saw on Pinterest so that their children won't be the only ones who show up with perforated Valentines from the Dollar Tree. (Hey, I'm not knocking it...I love that place.)

Why though?  Why do we do this to ourselves?

Ladies, I don't know why we torture ourselves by worrying over what everyone else is doing better than we are.  Perhaps it's because we're inundated with the notion that we have to do it better than all of them.  Maybe we've been so convinced that our worth is relative that we completely forget that our worth comes from the One who passes out all worth to begin with.  And you know what?  He thinks you are lovely.

I just finished a book called Hope for the Weary Mom:  Where God Meets You in Your Mess.  I wasn't paid to read it.  I wasn't paid to review it.  And I don't get paid if you follow the link right there and buy it.  I just want to share it with you because it touched me.  Profoundly.  Maybe it's because they said a lot of the things I wish to say on this blog, boldly but with a tenderness that I tend to lack at times. 

At the end of the book there is a Q&A with the authors and the question was posed to them - "As weary moms (and women in general), how do we encourage each other to quit pretending everything is OK, and just get real with each other?"

The answer resonated with me.
I think we all need to quit pretending that the last 50 years of women's lib haven't affected how we think about ourselves.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to vote, and share my opinions as much as the next woman, but in spite of everything freedom for women got right, I think we also got some things wrong.  After years of being told that we can have it all, we feel guilty, or like there's something wrong with us, if we're not doing a good job of it.  So we don't talk about it.
What do you think?  Can we really have it all?  Without guilt?  Without constantly feeling like we aren't measuring up?

The author continues on with an idea of what might help -
I've found that by laying my mess out for all the world to see, other women have been freed up to do the same.  And the effects are far-reaching!  When we admit our weaknesses, we give God permission to be strong for us.  The best way you can encourage other moms to get real about their messes is by getting real about yours.  Gently and humbly come alongside one or two moms to start with, and watch what God does as you let it all out.
Friends, if there's one thing I intend to communicate to you through this blog, it's that I am a mess.  Truth is, I know you are a mess too...even if you don't talk about it.  I don't get any joy out of knowing that.  I don't relish in other people's messes.  I've got enough of my own.  The point is, we're in this together, even if our selective, happy-go-lucky Facebook posts don't tell the full story.

Being a mom is blue-collar work.  It's in the trenches.  It's dirty.  The hours stink.  There is someone who is sticky every moment of the day.  Often times that's you.  The good hair days are few and far between.  Judging by the crumbs on your floor, it's obvious that the kids clearly miss their mouth with more food than they manage to get in.  You simply cannot catch up on housework because in the ten minutes it took you to wash a few windows, two hours worth of work was undone in another room.  And really, your kids are good kids.  They're just that, though.  Kids.  And it's not exactly easy raising them up. 

There is nothing wrong with working hard to be a good parent.  In fact, that's kind of a job requirement. 

If you are tired and weary, moms, you are not alone.  It's just one of the side-effects, if you will, of being a mom.  You've been entrusted with a lot of responsibility, therefore, a lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders.  In fact, I'm quite certain I've read that somewhere before.

Beneath the mess, there is always hope.  The book includes this prayer -
Lord, today, I want to honestly admit where I am.  I am tired beyond the normal.  I am a weary mom who needs a fresh encounter with You.

Please work in my messy heart.  Make it a place where you love to reside.  Fill it with Your presence and begin working on the inside who you want me to be on the outside.  I believe You want to do more than I can possibly imagine.  I invite you to start right now.

I know it will not happen overnight.  I might take two steps forward and two steps back.  Thank you for walking with me Jesus and being patient with me.

Thank you for making me a mom in the first place.  My prayer is that my family will be the first to see hope at work in me.
Amen, right?  Ladies, we don't have to pretend.  I don't expect you to be perfect, and I sure hope you don't expect the same of me.  There is power in vulnerability.  God himself promises to be our strength when we are weak.  I sincerely implore you, as soon as possible, to find a friend and share your deep, "dark" secrets with them.  Tell them that you only own two pairs of jeans that fit because 90% of your life you spend in pajama pants.  Tell them that you are so pressed for time that you paid your six year old a crisp $1 bill to sit next to the highchair and keep the Goldfish coming to your 11-month-old so you could take a five minute shower in peace.  Tell them that sometimes you don't like being a mom...but then you snap out of it and count it as the blessing from God that it truly is.  It's okay, friends.  It's okay.  You can stop pretending.  Let's do it together. 

This week's challenge is to make a coffee date with another mom and just be real.  Even if it's messy. Especially even.

Speaking of mess, I'll close with this...

That would be evidence of my youngest ingesting the contents of a teabag.  
Don't worry - it was decaf.

P.S. - I'll save my rant about Pinterest for another day.  Believe me, it's inside just dying to get out. 


Making the Rules Up as I Go

I hate it when I have a draft in my post list with a title and a blank body.  That means I was really going somewhere.  Then I get distracted by life, only to return a couple of days later, and have absolutely no clue what I was going to write about.

It's going to be alright.  Because I'm making the rules up as I go.

There are some things in this life that are pretty cut and dried, like those ten rules written on a stone tablet a few thousand years ago.  Then there are some things that are open for interpretation, like whether or not you should let your baby cry sometimes, allow your children to fail, or feed your family frozen pizza.  I'll let you guess which ones of those I do.  I don't tell everything to strangers on the internet. 

Since I'm making it up as I go, it's okay that...

...at 3pm or whenever we finish school that day, I'm just settling my three year old into my bed for her afternoon nap, and that I have to lay down with her because after three years of fighting her at naptime, I have finally grown weary of fighting.  And I scratch her back, and snuggle with her in my big warm bed, and we share that special time together.  Pick your battles, they say.  Maybe they were right.

...my eleven month old terrorizes the house while school is going on.  I mean, terrorizes it.  She's happy as a lark and learning how to keep herself content.  I think that's pretty unprecedented in a not-quite-one-year-old.

(Yes, you read that right.  Those would be 101 cookie cutters spread across the kitchen floor.)

(That would be where she pulled the DVDs and books off the shelves in my bedroom.)

...we let our nine year old drop our baby down a slide on the playground [into the safe, strong arms of her daddy].  That is pure joy on that child's face.

...our girls prefer to wear skirts and/or dresses with optional glitter shoes when throwing a football or kicking a soccer ball. 

 (What's actually happening in this picture is that Abby was sacrificing her own body to stop oblivious Sarah from dribbling the ball straight into the pond.)

...our three year old likes the walker better than the actual baby.

...we don't immediately fix the tire on Ben's bike when it goes flat.  Let him use his old one for a couple of weeks so he can appreciate the one that fits him.  (That's not actually what's happening here, but we were on a bike-fixing strike for a while because he was popping tires every week.  In this picture, he just felt like terrorizing Abby.)

...part of our school day consists of hula-hooping time trials in the garage.  A little familial competition never hurt anyone. 

 Until it moved to hula-hooping around the neck.  That's not comfortable.

...our model of Olympus Mons on Mars has green lava.  No one actually knows what color the lava would be in an eruption on Mars...so we weren't necessarily taking too many liberties on this one.

....we use our Geoboards to make funny faces.  'Nuff said.

...we let Sarah try out her own ways of going down the slide.  (Really, Sarah?)

...we let our eleven month old explore.  At her own risk.  (By the way, anyone seen the picture of the camel eating the kid's head?
I cannot tell you how many people have told me that picture reminded them of me.  I have no idea why.  Maybe I should put the disclaimer "No Leahs were injured during the taking of these photographs.")

Just in the pantry...eating onion.

"Ugh.  How am I supposed to get out from under here?"

Maybe it's making up my own rules as I go or simply deciding not to have so many in some cases.  I think though, I might finally be learning to "let it go"...just a little.

My challenge to everyone reading this - whether you're in the throes of Type-A-ness, a recovering Type-A (like me), or you are the queen/king of letting it go - is this:

Find a way to bend your own rules this week.  Do something different.  Out of character.  Look at things from a different angle

Then, after you do it, Smile. 

(Just stay legal, please.  It's not that type of advice, I'm giving. *wink*)

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