December 22: Christmas Spring

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It was warm today and felt like March or April outside.  High 50’s and little to no rain.  We spent a wonderful afternoon at the park playing, running, and enjoying God’s beautiful creation.  I love it when we get outside during the Christmas season.

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Ten years ago…

I think it happens to me late May/early June every year.  I get a little sad.

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Ten years ago,  2004 we were loaded up a U Haul barely fitting everything in (we joked it was like playing Tetris) and left our home in Fruitport, Michigan.  I had a job as a youth director there from May of 2000 until June of 2004.  My husband and I lived in a house next door to the church from May 2001 until we left.  In some ways this move was harder than our move to Oregon in August of 2006. (We lived in Gary, Indiana from June of 2004 until June of 2005, Muskegon, Michigan the summer of 2005, and Grand Rapids, Michigan September 2005 until August of 2006.)

I felt like God was calling me into youth ministry when I was in my teens–“a kid in youth ministry myself.”  Although I went through some difficult years as a pastor’s kid that made me question actually working for a church, God blessed me that first year with an amazing group of kids I loved.  As I went through my first year of ministry, I kept feeling God’s peace.  I expected chaos and conflict, but I was blessed with the opposite.  I am not saying everything that first year or the next three were easy.  There were difficult times, heartbreaking moments, times I made mistakes, and days I questioned my calling.  There were times I was exhausted and felt inadequate.  Yet I cried almost every single night our last week in Fruitport and it was like mourning the death of a friend.

I did not talk it very much until later…it seems like it came out at all the wrong times…but I was not just mourning our church, but youth ministry in general.  I knew it was very unlikely I would do youth ministry as a job for a very long time…if ever…and I would do some new thing for work.  So I searched for that thing.

When we left in 2004 and the years that followed, I quickly tried to fill that hole of missing youth ministry with something else.  I thought I would go into early childhood education. After a brief stint of working in a day care, I felt like a door was closing.  I thought about becoming a veterinary technician because I love animals.  After a couple classes, it just wasn’t me.  I had to move on.  When a friend of mine asked me a couple weeks ago, “If you could do anything for a job, what would you want you to do?”  I honestly don’t know.  I don’t have an answer right now.  In some ways not much has changed in ten years.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve had some good jobs.  Jobs I love.  I love my news writing job.  I love interviewing people.  I love writing.  My world has opened as I see God working in places like inner city Seattle, rural Minnesota and the suburbs in between.  I do enjoy child care.  It has worked absolutely perfect with our schedule, the kids are sweet, I can stay home with my own kids, and I think I need a house with more chaos than serene.  There are always kids here, art projects on the table, toys in the backyard, and laughter–I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have done youth ministry as a volunteer for many years.  I do enjoy it.  I love the kids as much as I loved my Fruitport kids.  But it’s different.  And it was an adjustment to be on staff versus a volunteer.  For one youth ministry is a small compartment of my life and I cannot give it the attention to the degree I wish I could.  I have very little time to read youth ministry books, go to conferences, meet with other youth leaders, visit schools, go to sports games, and take kids out for ice cream.  Those are some of the things I enjoyed  in Fruitport and I can’t do those things here because of my demands as a stay-at-home mom, my kid’s schedules, child care, writing, and other responsibilities.

When the kids are in school all day and a few years has passed–I have a feeling our lives will be different.  I may be doing “that new thing”  even though I have no clue right now what it is.  Maybe it’s paid youth ministry.  Maybe it isn’t  Maybe it’s not much different than what I am doing now.  Maybe it’s something I never dreamed of doing.

But whatever it is, I am grateful for the four years of youth ministry I had.  And I am grateful for the ten years of doing odd jobs, writing, child care and being a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t know tomorrow will bring, but I can know God has a plan for me.

New adventures this fall

Here in Oregon we went from a summery August to a rainy windy September.  It felt like we skipped from summer to winter with no fall in between.  I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal affect disorder, but when the weather changes from one extreme to the next does affect my level of anxiety.  Thankfully it’s October and we’ve had many sunny days.  I am glad fall returned.

A few months ago I envisioned this fall being the start of our family becoming a foster family.  We felt like God was calling us in that direction.  Both my husband and I were blessed by the classes and honestly it has given me new tools and parenting skills with my own children, my child care kids, and even my middle schoolers in youth group.  Due to various reasons, that calling is currently on hold.  The main reasons being my husband is busily working on his doctorate and that means two trips to St. Louis in 2014.

I also felt like God was calling me back to work, but not working outside the home.  You really can be a working mom and stay at home mom at the same time.  I currently watch four kids (ages 6 months, 15 months, 4, and 5).  And I absolutely love it.  I had no idea I would enjoy this much.

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It’s been awesome to see the kids come in from school or dropped off and comfortably find the toys they want to play with or share with me about their day.

I noticed when they first came they wandered aimlessly around the house trying to go into rooms they were not supposed to or struggle to focus on one project.  Now they find the toys they like.  They know the routine.  Our “arts and crafts time” around the kitchen lasts much longer because they are more comfortable and engaged.

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My own kids intentionally share their toys with them.  And we’ve done some very fun projects.  Honestly I don’t know (and it’s sad to admit) if I would be this intentional about doing these activities with my own kids if I didn’t have other kids in the house.  These kids are helping me a better mom in a different sort of way.

My own kids have adjusted well.  My oldest does not see the child care kids for more than a half hour in the morning as she is in school all day.  Although the youngest have their moments of insecurity and conflict, they do enjoy the extra kids around.

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I grew up on a street with seven houses.  Almost every single house had  young families.  There was always someone to play with and some game going on.  During the summer months we were outside all day long until the sun set.  We don’t live in that type of neighborhood and the times have changed.  My husband is forever reminding to let our kids create their own childhood and not expect them to have the same childhood as me.

Yet I always envisioned my home being a place with kids going in and out.  I have had to create that with play dates, child care, sleep overs, friends over etc.  I do love calm, serenity, and quiet.  This is why our living room aka my husband’s sanctuary is off limits to younger children.  But I do love a house with energy, noise, and activities.

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Great toddler sensory activity: fun with foam

I am in Week #2 of in home child care and it has been going fantastic. I try to plan one morning activity for the toddler/baby and my three and a half year old and then an afternoon activity for the older kids (preschool & kindergarten).

The activity ideas I love right from the start and get overly excited about are usually the ones that flop. And the ones I think are not going to go over as well end up holding their attention the longest…and they ask when we can do it again.

Today we did an sensory activity called Dish Soap Foam.  All you do is put a few squirts of dish washing soap in your food processor.  Add water (I added about a coffee mug full).  Turn on the processor and let your kids watch the foam form.  Then pour the foam in a bowl and let them play in it on the kitchen floor (I put up stools and chairs so the toddler could not leave the kitchen area).  I laid out towels and put different bowls and cups for them to pour it into.

The clean-up was so easy.  It’s soap and water after all.  It can’t stain clothes.  My three year old loved it!  It probably kept her busy for well over a half hour.

 

First day of fall

Last night just after I fell asleep I had a dream I was being suffocated by an intruder and my husband was screaming at me to kick the guy off and I couldn’t.  My husband is a brown belt in karate…I don’t know why he didn’t use it in my dream.  Then later on in the night I had a dream I wrecked the car and all that was left of it was the front half.

Anxiety, anyone?  Is this not a time of year with butterflies fluttering through your stomach?

Then I read in the book of Job this afternoon:  

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. – Job 12:13

New jobs, new classrooms, kids going off to school, trying to keep the house clean, trying to squeeze that three mile run in, new ministries at church, friends and family struggling…if there is something to worry about…I am pretty much able to find it without much effort.Image

Don’t you crave the wisdom and understanding only God can give?  My wisdom only goes so far. 

God’s power is stronger than all the anxiety that races through us.  

 

End of Summer

ImageThe last official day of the summer has almost come to a close.  We spent Labor Day morning completing a mission to have the whole house cleaned before school starts. Then we spent the afternoon at a minor league baseball game–our first as a family.

Tomorrow my “unofficial” child care I don’t have a name for other than The House With a Revolving Door starts.   I was thinking of a revolving door because we live in a parsonage next door to our church, we love having people over, and we often have friends or our kid’s friends visiting.  And contrary to parsonage stereotypes, we don’t get people stopping by unannounced or overstepping boundaries.  

It’s been a wonderful summer.  It felt way too short.  I am ready to see what this fall holds for us.   

 

A New Era Begins

The fall is upon us.  I saw leaves turning red already while I went for a run earlier this week.

This fall is going to be quite different.  I am opening my home to not one but four child care kids this year.  Their ages are four months, fifteen months, four, and five.  None are siblings.  Most of the kids are here on an average of 9 hours a week, but one is here about 20 hours.  I am basically going back to work, but I can stay in my home and be with my own kids.

Before you say, “Wow you’re totally crazy,” consider this:  The majority of the kids I’m watching are teacher’s kids.  Which means we all have the same days off and I am done by 3:30 everyday (4:30 on Fridays).  Teachers work long hours and are underpaid.  Some of these teachers are from my children’s school.  I see it as us supporting one another.  I also have a heart for young moms (even though technically I still am one).

I remember those days of having a baby, toddler, and preschooler in the house.  Those long never ending days.  I can’t imagine trying to juggle a job on top of that.  God has really opened my heart to working moms over the last year or so.

Also I love having extra kids in the home.  For many, many years I considered being a preschool teacher.  After a terrible experience working in a day care for four awful weeks, I walked away from it.

Being in a preschool co-op the past couple of years, being involved with VBS, teaching Moppets once a month, and watching friend’s children–I truly see how God paved the way for this.  Also the fact I never advertised myself or went looking for children to watch next year–it literally fell in my lap.

I feel like this whole endeavor is from the Lord.  I don’t know if he is calling me to be a preschool teacher or home caregiver or something related to all this.  I stopped planning out my future beyond next year let alone a few months from now.  I know I can be a great caregiver for the school year and then I will take it from there.  God has a way of revealing His plan at the right time.

In the state of Oregon I can watch up to three kids beside my own without needing a license.  I will only have two here at a time except for about 3 1/2 hours on Fridays when I will have three.  Because I am not starting a business, I don’t want to have a name for my child care in writing.  But since many home school families name their “home schools” I wanted to think of some sort of name in reference to my child care.  Common child care names like Tender Loving Child Care or Little Angels is just so not me.   I’m a little stumped on that one.

I am getting baby items out of the attic, cleaning toddler trucks that have not been in use for several years, planning crafts and learning activities, and creating little cubby space for each child.

I am excited to see what this year will hold.  I will probably post about some of our activities.  Or how God is using this new endeavor to teach me and shape me into I what refer to myself as “a professional mom.”  I’d rather use that title instead of day care worker.