Friday, October 31, 2008

Beyond perfection

Someone has gotten much more demanding of my time and attention this week. Crew is 6 weeks old today (and weighs exactly 10 pounds) and for whatever reason, has decided to fuss almost on cue, from about 9 pm until 12 pm every night. Hence, the lack of blogposts around here.
This post is a bit of a recap then- a mix of photos, stories and thoughts.
I have been able to get better photos of Ava lately, and most recently it's been for a reward such as, "You can watch the Tinkerbell dvd as soon as you smile for a picture." I am not above bribes for smiles. =) She also has fallen hard for Crew and continues to just love being my helper and smothering him with kisses and attention. I can't forget to document her saying to me yesterday in the van as we drove home from dropping Wyndham off at therapy, she said, "Mommy...I love you with my whole being". Talk about melting me! I'm not sure where that came from, but it did make me think of how many times I love "just enough". It made me want to love more- even when I'm tired- even when I'm at my wit's end- even when someone doesn't 'deserve' all my love.
I have been thinking over and over about God and His love for me- for us. It doesn't make sense to me at how He could love us- even when we don't love Him back. God sits and waits patiently for us as we mess us, make mistakes, turn our backs on Him, follow our selfish plans and dreams in life, and yet He is always there. He loves us with His "whole self" and I can't even begin to comprehend what that really means. Anyway, awhile back one of our guest speakers at church made this statement and it has stuck with me and for some reason it keeps coming to mind this week and that is this:
"He suffered much too much for our hearts to only be stirred from time to time."
Think about that. Read it again. Do you believe it?
If so, what does that mean?
I have been humbled at how my actions in life should look...what kind of response should I have to God, who sent His Son, Jesus, to suffer and pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus died for me- for you- for everyone- in order that He might make a way for us to be reconciled to God forever.
I'm sorry to say that most of the time in my life I don't act like someone who is eternally grateful for His saving grace and salvation. I mess up. I make mistakes. I don't love others with my "whole self". I know I'm not perfect and I yet I want to live my life with purpose and in response to His great love. I love that God forgives and loves beyond perfection. He only asks that we give Him our hearts and thankfully He fills in the gap and provides the way of righteousness.
I just wanted to pass that on to anyone who feels inadequate or overwhelmed or fearful that you've let God down in your life. He is always there. He is a God of compassion and mercy and I just want to thank Him for that again today. I want my heart to be more than stirred...I want to worship and praise Him and love more. Each and everyday.
I wasn't planning to write all that, but my heart just felt led to do so.
I intended to just share the following bits from my everyday life this week, which included Bella being so excited about a little book she made and brought to school for show & tell. She was so happy to show her daddy her little book and I captured a photo of her as Chip flipped through her book and listened as she described the pictures and notes written inside. Chip smiled and laughed as he turned the pages and Bella couldn't have been happier. In fact she is a little blurry in the photo because of her delight- she couldn't stand still for her joy.
Brock also came home and literally ran to the front door this week waving a piece of paper as I opened the door to greet him after school. "Mom, mom!", he yelled, "wait til you see my spelling test!" I figured he had gotten 100%, but as he held it up, I could see a couple of checkmarks on his page.
"You got a hundred?" I asked.
"No", he replied, "I got two wrong, but I used my own handwriting and look how great I did!".
Now, this has been a big challenge and area of frustration for him and for Chip and me. We have watched him struggle with neatness and have been very hard on him about trying harder and working on his handwriting. He normally types his spelling words for his tests.
This time, he had written slowly and methodically and his teacher noted his beautiful writing- even though he spelled two words wrong.
Chip was there and we both lavished Brock with praise.
(I tried to take a 'nice picture' of Brock and Chip, but as you can see, they only posed 'good' for a silly photo...the 'nice photo' came out all blurry. Still, I think I love the not-so-nice photo and blurry "good" photo equally...they both tell a story I don't want to forget!)
I love moments such as these in life- when we celebrate effort and hard work and personal accomplishment, even when the results are less than perfect.
I know that time and attention and celebrating little stuff is the kind things my kids will remember lfor a long time. They are the kind of things that shape them more than my being a 'perfect mom'. Sure I yell at times and even threatened "no Christmas presents" because of the chaos and clutter the kids had all over their rooms and playroom. Sure I miss opportunities to tell them how much I love and care for them and sometimes I don't make the best meals or I snap at Chip for some little thing in front of them.
I admit it.
I'm not perfect.
But I hope that they will see beyond perfection and appreciate the things that Chip and I do do right, and I hope they will grow up knowing that we demand much- not perfection- but we just want to push them to their full potential.
I think that is how God sees and loves us. He knows we're not perfect, but He will do everything He can to show us He loves us. He will demand much of us, but it's only because He knows we can do it. He will push us to extremes at times, but in the end, He is there waiting to reward us with blessings.
I love that everyday is another day to strive to be better than the day before. I'm humbled that I don't need to 'measure up' or try to earn God's love and devotion. Just as I love my kids with my "whole self" no matter how good they do on their schoolwork or how well they settle down at bedtime, God's love for us is bigger and better than that toward each of us. He is totally perfect and loves us just the way we are. All the while He works to make us more like Him.
Yes, it's so true...
He suffered much too much for our hearts to only be stirred from time to time. He desires us to be more like Him in all we say and do. Even if we're not perfect.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I hope you can handle the cute-ness factor of Crew wearing the fuzzy blanket sleeper and cap that Grandma Karen sent to him. He has no idea how snuggly he is when he's wearing this outfit. He does have issues with the hat and only likes it when he's asleep. Or should I say, when he doesn't realize it's on his head. these cute pictures are for all his Grandmas who love baby pictures.
I also had to take a picture of Bella as she headed to her friend's house for her first sleepover this weekend. She was soooooooo excited and it went really well despite the fact that Bella has a fear of dogs. Her friend had a big Yellow Lab, and we were all concerned about Bella being in the same house as him. She was able to avoid him as much as possible and even mustered up enough courage to pet him once. So she's making progress, but still, if anyone has advice or links to websites or good books about overcoming your fear of dogs, I'd appreciate it!
As if we need to add a dog to our family, right?! Don't worry...we don't have plans for a pet anytime soon. But if we did, it would probably be something small...and snuggly. =)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dedication Sunday~

Today we joined a few other families in our church in dedicating our children to God. It is a special time for us to publicly say that we acknowledge the need for God's guidance and wisdom as we seek to raise our children according to His will. We have always seen children as a blessing and a gift in our life. This Sunday we just had the opportunity to say , "Thank you God for blessing us with Crew and now we want to commit ourselves as parents/family to be the best we can for him."
Our prayer for Crew was this:
We, as parents, have many hopes and dreams for our children, including Crew at this young age. Our greatest desire is that he will have a heart bent toward God and always seek to follow His will and call in life. We ask for God to not necessarily give Crew "a comfortable, easy life", but rather we ask that God will always be merciful to Crew and be His Source of strength and guide all along life's journey.
We hope that Crew will be a reflection of God's love, grace and mercy now and always.
As I have stated here before, it is no easy task to be a parent, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. I thank God for trusting us with so many kids and I know I am better for having them in my life. Even as humbling as it can be at times.
It was a special day for our family and we topped it off with homemade pumpkin cheesecake {made by Chip} and whipped cream. That's the perfect way to end almost anyday, if you ask me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My scrap friends are so good to me.

Click here to see pictures of Crew with the chicken he got at the baby shower my friends held for me this summer. Those little jeans in the picture above came from my friend in Canada. It's definitely jean's weather here in Michigan right now.
my dear friend, Jo-Anne, made me tear up over a page she scrapped for me. You can see her beautiful page by clicking here. Our hearts and souls have connected between Michigan and Holland. I only wish we didn't have so many miles keeping us apart in "real life". I would have her over for French Toast and Lemon bars if I could.
I just want to tell my 'scrap friends' how much I love and appreciate them in my life. They are all so genuine and creative and sarcastic and fun and most of all, they love me just the way I am. Now that's the kind of friends that are normally so hard to find, but I guarantee you that by joining in the message boards at SIStv, you will find some friends of your own. I'm so thankful for a place to be able to share ideas, recipes, prayer requests, and so much more.
Today I am thankful for all the friendships I have made as a result of scrapping. If you're among them, consider yourself hugged from me today. xoxo

Mr. Monkey Pants

This post is for my sister, Stephanie and her kids, Aly and Luke. We love Crew's new monkey pants- thank you! =) We had to roll them up a bit, but they are just too cute and he'll grow out of them so quickly, that's why we're letting him wear them now. And that irresistible shirt?! Adorable as well, plus it makes for great practice for the kids learning their letters.
I think thw world would be a happier place if we all sewed a little toy to our pockets and had the option of "pulling out some fun" whenever our days called for it. It almost makes me want to be a kid all over again.
Almost. =)
Speaking of kids...I am bombarded with cute kid sayings and "drama" every day and don't document it near enough. So I'll cover just a few from the past week that I can recall.
Ava picked out Barbie cereal at the store and was trying to figure out what one of the marshmallow shapes was in her bowl the other morning. {Really now, did you even know they made Barbie cereal??!! I don't think it has any nutritional value, but it does make your milk change color.} Anyway, she said, "Is this supposed to be the butterfly marshmallow?", to which Brock responds, "No. It doesn't have an exoskeleton so it's definitely not a butterfly."
I just smiled and was pleased to think that our money for tuition is paying off in 4th grade science class at this point in time!
Then there was Bella's observation, "Why do babies love their mommies so much...Crew loves you the best." Uh...I didn't get too far into that except to say that after growing inside a mommy so long they just feel more safe and clam around their mommies. I have to admit though, he is a little momma's boy right now, and I am totally okay with that.
Even Wyndham makes us smile at some of her antics and dances and choices she makes these days. She is loving our little Flip video and I just may have to post her "live" here if I can figure out how to link a video to the blog.
All in all I really am amazed that kids can add so much fun and joy to life in such small and simple ways. I love that I know about stuff like "Horton's Whoberry Shampoo" and how loud kids can sing to a Camp Rock soundtrack. I love that they think store-bought pumpkin sugar cookies are reason to proclaim their love for me, even though all I do is preheat an oven, break the dough apart and bake for 10 minutes. I love that I was thrust into motherhood "against my will" but that my heart has forever been changed as a result and I am a better person for having my "will broken".
I am just grateful today for little things like monkeys sewn into pockets and Johnson's baby wash. I may be sleep-deprived but I'm still able to see the simple blessings in our days. Here's to doing that in our makes it so much more fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More thoughts on the game...

Here are more pictures of Crew. If you're related to him and live out-of-state, these are for you. Click on the top photo to enlarge it and see the little bubbles he made with his mouth as he slept. I love tiny baby bubbles and probably spent too much time watching him make them yesterday. But it was one of my "big plays" in the game we call life.
I was thinking more about the idea of making big plays and being ready for the snap in reference to my post yesterday and I have come to another conclusion. I felt more on top of things as I ran a couple of errands and got a quick haircut and picked the kids up from school and topped off the day by making tacos for dinner. It felt good to "get things done", but what I found out was when I left Crew and Ava with Chip for a couple of hours and came home to a baby sleeping with a pacifier in his mouth (he has only used it about 4 times and usually only for a few minutes at a stretch) and he was content and Ava was happily playing, and I noticed how much I missed just being home with them.
Just being home with them.
It's no small thing.
It's a "big play" in the game of life. It's the season of life for our family right now and I realized that my main focus and challenge is to be a good mom and wife and to soak up the moments that connect the hours of our days. Like the bubbles that Crew made as he slept...I could miss them or ignore them altogether and maybe I could have used that time to make Jell-o, but instead I soaked up time. Time that I will never get a chance to take back. Time that slips away all too quickly. Time that I will, sometime in the future, wish for as I look back on these {way too many} photos that I take.
Yes, there's something to be said about being on top of our game. But I think what's also so important is knowing what "position you are playing" and recognizing the importance of that, and then making the most of how it all matters in the scheme of things.
Today I made another "big play".
I took a nap. =)
Or should I say, Chip allowed me to sleep while Crew slept- through the dinner hour and even longer- and it felt so good. I can't thank him enough for stepping it up and letting me get that rest. Not only that, but he also made dinner for the family, and I awoke to the smell of brownies baking in the kitchen and I heard kids' happy voices. Now that's a big play! I think that's what I'm trying to say. Maybe making dinner and letting someone sleep doesn't seem like a big deal, but it made a big difference for me today and that's what life is about.
Showing people how much you care and giving of yourself and being in the moment so that it makes a difference in the lives of others around you. I have to admit, I love blogging and praying for many of you and sending emails to encourage others and laughing and crying as I "share life" with many of you- friends, family and 'strangers'. I may not get all the clutter picked up around our house each day, but I am glad when I take time to answer notes and stay in touch and care about what happens to you and those you love too. Thanks for letting me make plays in your lives and reminding me that this- this season of life- is so important to savor and just be in it as it unfolds. I strive to live with purpose and intention, and that, I believe, is what makes all the difference in "the game".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life lessons from the locker room...

The top two photos here are basically the way you would see me if you were to stop by my house at any given point in the day. No wonder moms carry their babies to term for 9's preparation for carrying them around for the next several weeks after birth! I'm learning how to do lots of things one-handed. Like open cheese sticks and put toothpaste on the kids' brushes. I feel very talented at times, and totally inept at others. Such is parenthood... isn't it?!
Lest you think I only take photos of Crew, I am sharing these pictures I took of Brock. I rarely order school photos because I feel like they never capture the personality of the child very well. These photos of Brock took me several minutes to 'work out of him' and even then, you can see the progression of his personality come through. He went from rolling his eyes at me, to finally looking at me with a smirk, and then I started making jokes about Hannah Montana and that's when I got the results I was hoping for. It's also one of the reasons I have thousands of digital photos piling up on my laptop...I should just tell the jokes upfront and save myself some trouble, huh?!
As for the lesson from the locker room, well, it's basically for me. But if you can take something away from it, help yourself. =)
I happened to be rocking a restless newborn as Chip flipped through the channels on tv the other night. He stopped at one point {I have no idea what channel or show it was}, and watched a few minutes of a pep talk given by the Minnesota Gopher's football coach just before the start of a game. He [the coach] was really pumping up the team and laying it all out there- his expectations and their ability and basically just was firing up the team to "go get 'em". One of the statements he made struck me and I have been thinking about it off and on for a few days now. He basically said go out there and play at the top of your game- not just some of the plays, but at every snap...every play demands your best effort.
I can't help but think about that in terms of everyday life. Maybe because I feel like I haven't been at the top of my game lately. Some of that is to be expected. Some of it is due to other circumstances- like the mild infection I got and the antibiotics I've been on for a week. That sort of stuff happens. But I really have been thinking about what a great message and statement that is to aspire to- and I wonder how things would be different if I actually put that into practice.
There are lots of implications and I guess I sometimes feel like I don't need to put my 'game face' on when I'm just home with my family doing routine "stuff". But if I think about my life as a big game, and really it IS bigger than any football game ever could be- even the ordinary days, well then I have a lot of big plays to make and catch up on.
I find I am good about being IN the moment...but I need to work on making the MOST of every moment. And being my best in those moments. Not just when I feel good or when something seems important, but as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as one who believes in Heaven and eternity, and as one who only gets one shot in life. I need reminding to stay on top of my game. The more I remind myself of these lessons, the better player I think I will be. Easier said than done...

Friday, October 17, 2008

He's taken over...

Four weeks ago at this point in time I was having a discussion with Chip between contractions and replays of tee shots from the Ryder Cup, about whether or not I should get an epidural. [I did.] But more than that I had no idea how much I would be grateful to have Chip in my life. He has taken over so much of my 'duties' around the home and with our family this past month, that I feel a simple thank you wouldn't be enough.
So I am going public today and saying, Thank You, Chip for being an amazing husband, dad and tolerator of me for the past month and beyond. I really DO appreciate everything you do. Even though I am operating around 60% and so I forget to thank you 40% or more of the time. Please forgive me and just know that I love having you in my life- every minute of every day. Especially those moments that you let me lay on the couch with Crew sleeping in my arms and you head downstairs to throw the laundry into the dryer. Or when you pick up Wyndham from therapy and then grab some take-out for the kids for dinner so I can still keep laying on the couch. =)
You make my life better.
So do you, Crew.
And Ava and Bella and Wyndham and Brock.
And you too, Teagan, because of you I want to be the best for all your siblings.
The past four weeks have been transition and adjustment time for all of us.
I wouldn't want it any other way.
Love, Mom

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Investments and securities-

These pictures of Ava and Crew were taken by me as I sat in the big chair in my living room two afternoons ago. I have a great view from my lap, don't I?!
What I can't help but love about these photos, also makes me stop and pause and think, and that is about the contentment, peace and happiness that I see in these images. Crew couldn't be any more peaceful when he sleeps in my lap or when he's all wrapped up like a little burrito in his blankets. Ava couldn't be more happy and silly and she not only knows how much she's loved, but she also knows that she can be herself and she certainly was pulling that off in her butterfly tee and pink glasses here. It made me feel good and I think it's one of the things I feel very strongly about as a mom of young children, and that is that they are comfortable and secure. Nothing makes me ache more than when my kids are hurt- physically or emotionally- or when they are fearful of something- real or imagined. As a mom, I feel so responsible for how they are feeling and even though I know life isn't all just a bed of roses, I do my best to make everyone around me feel loved and secure.
I then turned my thoughts toward some of the big issues and events going on in my life around me and in the world too and thought of how little security there is at this point in time. I'm not talking about airport check stations, but the reality of a scary economic crisis that continues to swirl, the ongoing war and terrorism threats that our nation faces and all the stuff we hear in the news media that makes some of us want to turn off the tv forever and just tune it all out. There's a lot of pain and negativity and hopelessness 'out there'.
Closer to home, I have a neighbor who is left with a little girl after her husband killed himself last week. She is young and I'm sure she is scared about her future. Our 3rd grade teacher at school had a bicycle accident last week...she fell off and hit her head and lies in a coma at this time. These sort of random incidents, added to the news we already hear and worry about, can make life feel a little overwhelming. Surely I'm not the only one that feels this way.
Thankfully, I do not live in fear of the future and the unknown. I do not worry about the value of a dollar or get upset that some of our savings have vanished, nor do I worry about our nation's political future- even as the election grows near.
I will vote and I care about issues...don't get me wrong. I like to be informed and pray about and make wish decisions, but I don't let my feelings get worked up even when I sense a growing concern about the way things are headed.
I like to thank God for the feeling of peace He gives me and many of you- time and time again- even when things seem to be spinning out of control. It's this solid foundation and promises from the Bible that I can turn to when things are going good or bad. I love that faith reminds me to believe in what I cannot see or feel. I know that God has all things in His control and that He can be trusted. My securities lie not in things of this world, but in the Hope of Heaven and the promises of God. Nothing gives me more assurance than reading Truth and resting in fact that there is more to this life than just what we see.
I just wanted to remind myself and maybe some of you today, that when you trust fully in the One who holds the future, there is no reason to be afraid. One of my favorite passages that speaks to this is found in the book of Psalms...I'm happy to share it and hope that it gives some of you reassurance and Hope today. We can laugh and live free and be ourselves- without worry- if we personally entrust our hearts to God. He is my only Hope and security.
Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

He's got her eyes. =)

I still feel like I'm only on top of things in my life about 20% of the time. But that also means that if I only get one shower every 5 days I am still on top of things 20% of the time. =) So goes life with a newborn and lots of other activity in the house.
I snapped a picture of Bella with her "big eyes", along with one of Crew to compare their looks. Bella can have the biggest puppy-dog droopy eyes and when she was a little younger I would say, "Look at me with your big eyes!" and then she would open her eyes wider for a picture. When I told her to stop making faces for the camera and just smile nice, she said to me, "how about big eyes?!" and then this is the photo I got. Funny girl.
But there is a striking resemblence to Crew- even at 3 weeks of age.
I am finding out that Ava is very good at entertaining herself for long periods of time- as long as the activity includes making a huge mess. Here she is making playdough cookies for about 2 hours. I still have dried bits of colored dough smashed in my carpet 5 days later. But she sure was quiet and happy making those could I stop her!
Speaking of dough...Crew is starting to get little "rolls" on his legs. I think they are so sweet. He weighs 8 lbs. 11 oz. as of yesterday afternoon. He's by far our biggest baby. And to answer one person who left a comment on the previous post, no, it wasn't a typo. Wyndham was born weighing 4 lbs. 6 oz. and full-term...and then weighed about 9 lbs. at 7-months of age. She is now 7 years old, has been taking growth hormone shots every night for over 5 years as a result of her head injury, and she weighs about 55 pounds.
Then there is the self-portrait of Crew and me. I find myself sitting in a chair snuggling him for long periods of time. I think I am more spoiled than he is at this point in time. But I figure if I get one load of laundry done and one meal made a day, I am exceeding my 20% approval rating for getting things done.
And that's higher than I hope for at this point in the game of life. By next week I'll be in the mid-30's and practically ready to run for president. =)
I also have to clarify and say that I really do shower more frequently than once every five days. I figure I have to put that in writing so that nobody gets really concerned about my well-being. Or that of my family around me. My bed also gets made each day {even if I have to make it before I climb into it}, the dishwasher gets loaded, washed and emptied- many times a week by Chip, and the kids wear clean undies everday. So I guess if I were to put a number on my overall approval rating, it'd be more like 60% of my normal. Not bad, I guess...but there's still room for improvement!
Here's something fun...if you were to rate how well you're doing in life today, what rating would you give yourself? I'd love to know...just for fun.