Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christmas in July?

I think that I've mentioned a few times how we do Christmas presents in our immediate family. And, I always hesitate to mention it at all, because I don't want anyone to think that I feel that every family should adopt this method. That couldn't be further from the truth, and I can't stand the thought of people thinking (even for a minute) that I'm trying to persuade any of my readers (friends) in to doing anything. The only thing that would be worse would be to have people thinking that I'm judging them on what they do or do not do. I'm the last one in the world that could judge anybody. My family doesn't have ANYTHING figured out, so please know that I don't do that.

Ok, with that disclaimer, I can proceed with the reason behind the post. But first, some background:

We give our kids 3 gifts for Christmas, each representing (in a fairly adapted way) the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh that Jesus received at his birth. We got the idea from this article and then we tweaked it to meet our family's specific needs.

The Gold gift represents the thing that they really want or requested; their big item. The Frankincense gift represents something that will foster or further their relationship with God. We adapted the Myrrh gift to represent something our child actually needs. In other words, it is designed to meet a need for our child. Then, we went a step further than the article suggested and decided that we would also include a Family gift, which represents something that we can all do together or enjoy together as a family. This could be a trip or a tent (for family camping) or a box of board games or a new video game or whatever, as long as it is something that fosters family time.

This is a tradition that we've really grown to love. I love the symbolism and the meaning behind it. And, we love explaining it to the kids as they open their 3 presents. And we don't get real legalistic about it. But, it sometimes is a challenge. It does require you to think a little bit (or a lot) about what you purchase.

I try to start thinking about it early, usually around July and August; because, if I can decide on what to get, I can purchase one item for each child in the months of September, October, and November. Doing that makes the rest of the Christmas shopping a breeze!! And, I love more than anything the thought of being able to really focus on the reason for the season and not being overwhelmed with the malls and the traffic and the chaos. However, as much as I love that thought, the down side of thinking ahead is that you don't have the luxury of always knowing what your kids want.

And, now for the real reason behind the post. This is where I need help. Everyone knows that I lack in creativity. Plus, I love gathering information from friends that have kids in all ages. If my kids aren't old enough yet, they will be one day.

So, what is your child's most valued or prized possession. And, I'm speaking of the purely materialistic here. They may love that family heirloom jewelry box passed down from their great grandmother, but that will not serve the purpose I'm looking for. I'm asking, what is their favorite toy/gadget/game/etc. Or, what is that something that you've invested in for your children, that you've thanked-God-a-million-times-that-He-gave-you-the-sense-and-financial ability-to-get-it-because-it-has-singlehandedly-kept-you-sane? Not that it has to be expensive mind you. Do me a favor, and just ask your kids what they love. Tell them that your insanely, high strung, freak of a friend who is already worrying about Christmas, needs them to help her with some research.

No matter what age, no matter what price-both cheap and expensive, no matter what gender (I've got one of both) I would love to hear you chime in on this. I'll take all the ideas I can get. Not to mention, that mine still have birthdays this year. So, if I don't use it for one, I might use it for the other.

Okay, one last thing. I would be remiss if I didn't share this too. Last year, as Christmas was approaching, you know last September (ha ha) I was starting to think about it and talk about it with friends (didn't I Tammy?) and for whatever reason, I decided to start praying about it too. I really think God honored me bringing such a strange and simple request to him. I felt like He provided us with really great ideas, and then followed through with our ability to get them. It really was an extra little Christmas blessing in my heart and mind. I had started blogging by then, so if you want to look back and remember with me, go here and here.

Okay y'all, I'm all ears.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Elusive Nap

Sunday is my favorite day. I see Sunday as both an end and a beginning. Sunday is both the period and the next capital letter. I know it is the first day of the week, but with today's busy lifestyle it also serves as the ending to the previous week. Or, at least I think so.

On Sunday, we have the privilege of going to a church we love with people we love. We get to listen to a wonderful and timely word from the Lord, participate in moving worship, and partake of the Lord's table. Every. Sunday. And, I don't know if that is the grand finale of the week or a great prelude to the upcoming week; but either way, it is good.

After church, we usually go out to get something to eat. Sometimes, friends join us and sometimes my brother will get some extra time with the kids and eat with us. But, regardless, who doesn't enjoy getting your tummy full on a meal you didn't have to prepare served on dishes you don't have to clean up? Yes, my friends, the after church Sunday dinner is a good thing too.

On a perfect Sunday, we would come home and settle down for some quiet time. The kids would happily and quietly entertain themselves, and I would settle in to a good spot and unfold the Sunday paper (yet another aspect of Sunday that I love). I would read the paper or the Parade magazine until my eyes got heavy and then I would peacefully sleep, uninterrupted for about an hour. Brad usually goes straight for the nap and is asleep in about 3.2 seconds, but that is another post......

Anyway, the perfect Sunday would continue by eating a light bite with my family for supper and then spending some family time together. Nothing too involved or strenuous, maybe a quick walk around the neighborhood or, Bryce & Brad throwing the ball while Sara Kate and I play with sidewalk chalk. After a few hours, we would have our devotion time and the kids would go to bed.

This is the time when Sunday converts to the beginning of a new week. At some point on a Sunday evening (I imagine especially when school starts) I try to look at the calendar and see what my week looks like. In a perfect utopia kind of world, this would be the time when I thought about what Bryce would wear to school this week and try to think (only think) about dinner possibilities for the coming week. As far as I know, we don't live in a utopia, so I don't usually get that far, but I do try to just make a mental note of what my week holds. After that, I would head to bed and watch the food network or the nightly news until I drifted off to la la land.

That my friends, would be the most absolutely supreme and perfect Sunday. It has all the elements. Spiritual feeding, physical feeding, alone time, together time, down time and a time to prepare for the upcoming week.

Sunday is still my favorite day, but just ask me how many perfect Sunday's I've had the last 3 years. Go ahead, ask! At best my friends, a pitiful handful. I'd say less than 5. And, you want to know where it all goes wrong? Because rest assured, I know exactly where we detour. It's the nap. The all elusive nap. And I've decided the reason is two fold. I came to this conclusion when I was laying in the floor in my son's bedroom in an attempt to find a quiet place in my house. Trust me, I had plenty of time to mull it over.

The two reasons are: 1) My kids don't enjoy naps and they couldn't be quiet if their life depended on it (trust me, it has and they can't) 2) the hardwood or tile floors and open floor plan of my house make it more difficult to find a quiet place than finding a needle in a haystack.

I am one of those cursed people who has to have it quiet to be able to sleep. Yet again, this is another area where my extroverted personality comes back to bite me in the tail. If I hear stuff, I think there must be something going on that I need to be a part of. I can't even fall asleep with the radio on because I have this annoying need to sing along with every song. As far as I know, you can't sing & sleep at the same time. Trust me, if you could, I would probably have it figured out by now. And, never fear, if this is something that could be done Sara Kate would've have mastered it months ago.

It's not that I mind that the kids don't take a nap. It's the fact that whatever they happen to be doing at any given moment can be heard in the next, I mean room and/or floor. We've tried movies upstairs in the play room, but Bryce doesn't sit when he watches movies, he jumps and twists and kicks things and goodness only know what else. That normally wouldn't matter, except that our bedroom is just below the playroom, so all I hear is thud, bang, thud. We've tried letting them play on the computer. But again, the computer is in the kitchen (right off from our bedroom) and all the sounds from video games makes me twitch. And, I haven't even mentioned Sara Kate yet, who literally walks around as if she is starring in her own little musical all. the. time. Today, I was trying to catch some winks on the couch (the first place I started out) and she "flitters" up to my feet to give them a little tickle. Ticklish or not, when you're about to nod off into the land of peacefulness it is NEVER funny to get a tickle. What is funny however, is that Brad was asleep (he never has issues with sleeping) in our bedroom and she kept intermittenly doing the same thing to him (sweet justice, I say). But, where did she learn these sinister torture tactics?

Oh well y'all, a girl can dream can't she? But, then again, aren't you usually asleep when you're dreaming? I can't even dream..............maybe I'll wish.

Here's wishing for the absolute, supremely perfect week.

Enjoy your week everybody!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Prayer Request

Hello Friends,

Can I pass along a prayer need to y'all? My parents best friend was just diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He is only 62. They were meeting with a neurologist or neurosurgeon today (actually right now at 12:00) for a consult as to what can or can not be done. There is some talk that it might be possible to go in and remove some of the mass to alleviate pressure that is causing headaches. But, hopefully, they will be able to do even more. Please, please be in prayer for this family.

I won't give his name, just to protect his privacy. But, his initials are ALB and I know they would covet your prayers.

Thanks so much!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fun in the Sun & Sand

We've been having a fabulous time at the beach. It has been great to get that much needed R&R, and it has been a blast watching the kids have fun at the ocean.........even if they do manage to throw sand on me at least every 10 minutes. Here are some pictures to document our fun in the sun & the sand.Bryce: Buried Alive

Aunt Amy, Coops, & SK playing in the ocean.

Look what we found.......Brad caught it in the net and the kids "observed" for a few minutes. But, we're catch & release kind of folks, so he's back out in the sand somewhere.

Cooper and Sara Kate are having a blast. It's so much more fun when there is someone else your size running around.

Coops waste deep

Suzy enjoying the sand & the surf

Brad playing the Tim Conway skit from yesteryear. It took him 3 tries before he could actually stand up. I guess sandals are not the best shoe choice. Bryce had fun piling on the sand.

Bryce had bucket brigade during sandcastle construction

SK hard at work/play

Here, we are trying to show off our matching temp tattoos. I'm thinking it will be the closest that all of us will ever get to the real thing, but we sure had fun with them. We did them in honor of our Malley girl, who we miss so much. Malley: you are surely with us in spirit wherever we go. You are very much a part of our lives, even now.
You can't see it well, but all four of us have them. Our tattoo is the Mandarin (Chinese) symbol for special. We chose special because that pretty much sums us & Malley up........Don't you think? nice!! (ha ha)

I'll try to post again soon, I have tons of pictures to share. But for now, bye from the beach.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fun Fact Friday: My claim to fame......sort of?

I read Beth Moore's (of Living Proof Ministries) blog a good bit. And by a good bit, I mean, I check it every day. I've always loved her studies and the way she writes, so it was a natural choice for my "link list." A couple of months ago, she did a post offering to facilitate a bible study, that we, all the blog readers could participate in. The concept was sort of experimental, as she said that she had never facilitated a study for her blog readers. Plus, it is not a Beth Moore study, it is No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. But, it was presented as a slower pace, (read not as much homework as a Beth Moore) lighter study; and Beth herself had done the study and thought it had merit.

Anyway, kind of on a whim, I sent an email out to my Sunday school class mates to see if there was any interest. So,when the sign up post went up, the Living Proof blog received 1634 comments from folks that had formed groups and wanted to participate; and mine was one of them. Much to my surprise, we originally had 17 ladies from our sunday school class signed up.

That is when I began to panic. I never dreamed that that many of us would want to participate, and I suddenly began to feel a lot of pressure. What if they don't like the study? What if I end up having to talk, you know, IN FRONT OF PEOPLE? Etc. etc.

I had no idea how Beth was going to facilitate the study, and that didn't dawn on me until after I had a group of girls signed up. So, I anxiously awaited the post from Beth about what our first assignment was and when I read it, I promptly passed out (just kidding, but I sure wanted to.) I literally thought , after reading the assignment to our group of gathered girls, that they were all going to stare at me as if I had grown a third leg......out of my head.

What was the assignment, you ask? Well, here it is:

Spend most of your gathering time thinking of ways as a small group to memorize it (Jude 1:24-25). Get creative! You can make up hand motions or actions to go with it - anything fun, clever, or meaningful to make it easier to memorize. If you think you did a really great or funny job with it, here’s what you do! Fine tune it over the next four or five days then video tape it with all your siestas in mind

She went on to say that a winner would be chosen from all of the submitted videos.

To make a long story short, I had no reason to worry (haven't I learned yet). The girls jumped on board without a moment's hesitation. We laughed our heads off trying to come up with something to enter......and somehow we ended up doing a rap. That in an of itself is quite hilarious, and it makes me giggle every time I think about it.......especially considering that there are only a couple of us that are blessed with the gift of rhythm. (And I am not one of them) But, we honestly had so much fun with it.

My brother, Scott, hooked us up with a beat and he kindly created an actually good video out of the footage that we taped.....even though he thought we were crazy.

Well, we didn't win the contest, but we did get honorable mention. As a matter of fact, it is posted on her blog right now as I type. So head on over there and check out our rendition of Jude 1:24-25. Go ahead, have a laugh on us, and learn some scripture too.

On a more serious note, the actual study is very good and very thought provoking. I would recommend it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Family Tradition

Ever since I can remember my parents have always had a big celebration for the Fourth of July. There is just something about celebrating freedom isn't there? As kids, we always loved having friends (the children of my parents best friends) over to play with, eating homemade ice cream, swimming, and watching fireworks. It is such a blessing to me to be able to continue keeping that same tradition in the same place (my parents house) that I grew up in, and to see my children making the very same memories that I am so fond of.

By my estimation, it has only gotten better. The food seems to multiply each year. And we've fallen head over heels in love with the "piece de resistance" of every fourth of July meal: the homemade yoohoo icecream (thanks for the recipe Randall-even though I never can remember it). My word in heaven y'all, that ice cream will make your lips draw right up and smack your eyeballs! It is sooo, and I do mean sooo, good!

The food is great, but my favorite part is always the fireworks. Now, don't get me wrong, it's certainly not "Pops in the Park" or anything, but there is just something about sitting on the hill at the top of Mom & Dad's driveway and watching your own fireworks display. The fireworks have certainly improved over the years as well. When I was a kid it was just sparklers, bottle rockets, and firecrackers (and Scott got most of those to blow up frogs or half kill somebody). Nowadays, the kids still get the sparklers, and the big kids (Brad/Scott) still get the bottle rockets, but we've added some of the fancy stuff too. We're certainly amateurs, but for amateurs, I'd say we hold our own. This is the only time I really justify letting hard earned money go up in smoke (literally). To me, it's worth it.

My whole family is always there. But we always share the evening with friends too. Our close friends, Eric & Tammy and their girls along with Tammy's parents and sister always come. And this year, Scott's college roommate, Bruce and his family got to come up from Florida. Again, this kind of just continues the tradition that mom & dad started. It just wouldn't be the same without friends.

So, in case you didn't pick up on everything. Let me just say it this way:

Family + Friends + Food + Fireworks + Freedom = A FULL HEART and a lot of FUN!

As always, enjoy the pictures.
Here are all the kids

and here is what they are watching.

This was, by no means, the finale; but as you can imagine taking a picture of fireworks with a digital camera that has a slight delay is a little tricky, so I switched to video. I especially like this one because you can hear laughing in the background. The laughing you hear is my sister. She was behind her digital camera and daddy was trying to time the fireworks to her "pushing the button". Apparently, from the laughing and her blog posts, it worked. So, at the end, I was saying I wanted to try it next. I ended up just giving him the camera. All he got was pictures of a black night.