Day 6: Stockings

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The first week of December has notoriously been a crazy “run around” week.  I went back and read archives of my blog to remember why.  Annual congregational meeting, youth groups, basketball starts, and the annual church auction.  Throw child care training in there too this year.  It is no wonder someone always seemed to be sick the first week of December–yes I fought a bad cold most of the week as well.

Can I just say I am glad it is over.  I could turn on the lights of my tree tonight, take a deep breath, and look at the kid’s stockings they hung by the chimney with great care.  I am thankful my kids navigated through this crazy week and I am grateful this is not our family’s normal pace of life.

Day 5: Tree Trimming

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Continuing our family tradition of trimming the tree together.  We always get a real tree (you HAVE to if you live in Oregon) and we always put up ornaments as we listen to John Denver and the Muppets Christmas.  This is the same music I listened on a record player when I was a kid trimming the tree with my siblings.  Some traditions you have to keep alive.

Day 2: Kindergarten Trees

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She is my artist.  She is in kindergarten this year–the last of my three kids to be in kindergarten.  I am grateful she gets to be in the same school with the same teacher her brother and sister had.  We can enjoy some of the “kindergarten traditions” like this one.  They have to decorate a tree using any craft materials they can find.  I remember my oldest used a lot of candy, my middle child used actual greens from the yard, and she used lots of glitter and sequins.  Each tree is completely unique and different.  Just like they are.

Thanksgiving!

I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  When my child care business grew two years ago, I knew my time to write would be limited. I also have been limiting my time on social networking sites. I don’t read as many blogs as I used to.

As my kids have grown older, their need for privacy has increased.  I am not one of these moms who wants to share on Facebook about every single activity my kids are doing or what emotions they are experiencing or our daily schedule.  In the past couple months I have felt this need for living life outside of Facebook posts.  Sometimes I feel like we might over post because we are looking for attention and/or validation we are not getting elsewhere.  I have to embrace the relationships and real live friendships in front of me to find the joy of living life’s moments.

With that being said, the holidays is a time I like to blog.  I have done the December photo project the last three years (one year I did not complete it) because it helps me focus on the day to day joys of Advent and Christmas.

This Christmas is unique as we will be seeing the husband’s parents here in Oregon a week before Christmas.  Then we will be spending a good part of the holiday break on the Atlantic coast in Virginia with my family. There have been many Christmases since we moved to Oregon when we have seen no extended family.  So this is a real treat for all of us. There will be plenty of Christmas programs, holiday parties, gift wrapping, baking and Christmas crafting sessions.

For now I want to focus on Thanksgiving weekend.

For the past three years I have run in the Keizer Turkey Dash 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  This year my eight year old and I ran it together.  We began training shortly after school started.  Due to my full schedule I could only run with him about one to two times a week. I figured with PE at school and the fact he is active when he plays in the backyard–that would be enough.  I was impressed when he could run two miles without stopping and then three!

His final time was 35:56 which is about ten minutes fast than last year.  Although last year he was sick and insisted on running it anyway.  And he had not trained as much.  Still ten whole minutes!  I wish I could shave ten minutes off my marathon time–I might be able to qualify for Boston.

We had perfect weather.  No rain in sight.  It was a little colder than normal, but we bundled up.

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He says he is going to miss our weekly runs and wants to do another race soon.  We’re looking at a Christmas or MLK King Day run. The problem with Oregon is we can get very nasty rain that time of year.  I ran a 1/2 marathon last year in December and nasty, windy, pouring rain.  It took hours for my body temperature to get back to normal.

IMG_4178.JPGEvery Thanksgiving since we moved to Oregon, we have celebrated with friends.  This year we celebrated with the same friends we celebrated with last year.  It was fun to have an established tradition of a big meal, game, and dessert.  It was a nice relaxing day spent with people we enjoy.

IMG_4174The kids even got to play outside for a bit in my friend’s big front yard.

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They can see the best sunsets from their front porch as well as the coastal range mountains.

IMG_4180 In the early evening we noticed black smoke in the distance and heard fire trucks.  My husband has an app on his phone that has all the police and fire calls for our city.  There was a house on fire only a few streets over that quickly escalated into a three alarm fire.  The smoke got thick and black and we could start to see the orange glow of flames.  As we left to go home there were fire trucks lining up and down the road and we saw how bad the fire was.  It made our news and the house was a total loss.  Thankfully no one was killed or hurt.

It was only a few weeks ago I lead a devotional for our seniors group.  I shared about storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth.  Our true treasure is the hope of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who paid the price for our sins.  This treasure brings us peace in times of trial like house fires, floods, terrorist attacks, ill health, depression, family dysfunction, etc.  Nothing or no one can take away that treasure from us.  I was reminded again as we saw this family’s dream home dissipate into flames.

When I was seven years old we had a small fire in our house that only destroyed a lamp, part of the couch, and part of the wall.  By God’s grace, my parents discovered it the moment the lamp sparked and put it out before the fire department arrived.  When I was a sophomore in college, my floor in my dormitory caught on fire from a cigarette thrown in the trash can.  When I exited my room flames were shooting up to the ceiling in the hallway.  In both those situations you don’t think about grabbing everything you own.  You just go and get out of there.  You remember what is most important in your life.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my faith in Jesus Christ and how God has led me on this incredible journey with its own twists and turns.  I am thankful for my family, my extended family, my church family, my friends, my jobs, and this beautiful part of the country we call home.  I pray that throughout this conclusion of Thanksgiving as we move into Advent, I will continue to focus on that true treasure of Christ’s coming into the world.

How do you stay motivated?

“How do you stay motivated?”

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When it comes to exercise, I get asked this a lot.  If I had “a A + B = C” answer, it may only work for a certain few and not pertain to your situation.  Honestly my motivation waxes and wanes.  Since I have been running off and on for fifteen years and dabbling in triathlon for three, I feel like I am at liberty to share a few things.

1) I need rewards:  I was reading this spring that we make our decisions based on rewards.  We may do something that is not always pleasant and maybe not fun because we reap the reward it provides.  For instance I hate cleaning but I love looking at my sparkly organized kitchen.  Running is the same.  In the very beginning and for many years afterwards it was unpleasant and I didn’t enjoy it.  But I loved the accomplishment afterward.  That reward motivated me for many years and still does during tougher weeks.

2)  I need more tangible rewards:  I was trying to incorporate track runs into my marathon training and I hated the anticipation of doing them.  Often I would skip them all together.  Because Jamba Juice and Dutch Brothers coffee are both close to the track, I would reward myself with a juice or coffee after a track run.

3)  I need to be running with others:  It took many years to find people to run with mostly because of my unpredictable schedule with babies and toddlers.  Now I love the fact I have to get up and meet my friend for a run.  It is a waste of her time to leave her on a street corner waiting for me.  I’m a bit of a people pleaser and in this situation it works in my favor.

4)  I believe our bodies were made to move:  Our ancestors had to endure physical labor or they would starve or freeze to death.  No one had to go for a run because they worked their bodies all day long.  Now with many desk jobs and work from home positions, we spend a lot of time sitting.  I don’t believe God created everyone of us to be an athlete, but I do believe we are to honor Him with our physical bodies.  Part of taking care of our bodies is getting out and moving.

5)  I need activities too…not just my kids:  The kids sporting world is overwhelming to me this day in age.  There are many options and so much pressure to be a star.  I honestly think some moms should have their children take a season off from sports and they as moms should pursue their own activity or sport.  Many moms I have spoken to share how running or going to the gym helps them be better moms because they are getting their exercise time in.

6)  I want to set an example for my kids:  My kids see me run and do triathlons and support me in my endeavors.  I don’t know if any of them will be runners or triathletes, but I am exposing them to it.  As a kid I remember my dad going to the gym or taking me on bikes.  If exercise is part of our normal lives, it makes it much easier for them to incorporate it in their lives as adults.

7)  I believe it is more than image and weight loss: I do not agree with weight loss companies that heavily focus on image and pounds lost.  That rarely motivates me.  I do not weigh myself on a regular basis.  I have found that when I do, I get too obsessed with the scale.  I get overly discouraged and I am more likely to quit and start eating whatever I want.

8)  I need healthier ways to cope with my anxiety:  I’ve struggled with anxiety pretty much my whole life.  Soon after I picked up running, I was working for a church as a youth director.  I was on the phone with someone I was trying to plan an event with and we were not seeing eye to eye on an issue.  I told this person he/she was not treating others fairly.  I have a difficult time standing up for myself.  I also tend to communicate with too much emotion.  I managed to hold it together but it was exhausting.  I hung up the phone fuming with anger.  I went for a run and pounded out four miles at a fast pace.  I felt amazing afterwards.  I remember telling my friend, “I had no idea running could do that.”  It really clears your mind and in some ways brings you back to reality.  So often anxiety clogs our brains making us only see anxious thoughts.

9)  I need to be outside:  I have appreciated the seasons, God’s creation, my own neighborhood, weather in general, and quiet mornings since I took up running.

10)  I am out there and trying and sometimes that is enough:  I’ve heard some moms don’t want to run outside or go to the gym because they fear everyone is watching them.  You may not believe me, but people aren’t watching you. Even if they are–who cares?  You’re out there and you are trying.  Some moms don’t want to enter races because they don’t want to be dead last.  Even if you are dead last, you are still faster than the person who is sitting on the couch doing nothing.  Focus on your own goals and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.  Really they aren’t watching you!  If anything they are cheering for you.  The running community is a pretty friendly one.

So there you go.  10 motivators.  Go tackle that run!

 

OK do you trust me?

Blessed.  Beyond Blessed. This exact term was resonating through my head this spring.  I was asking myself, “Do I feel beyond blessed only when everything comes together?”

Because what happens when things fall apart?  Can you still look up to the Lord your God and say you are beyond blessed?

This spring, I was reminded in the tinier plans that if things go according to what I really want or the contrary what I fear, God IS.  God is good.

I realize I did not go through any major crisis moments this spring so my heart is humbled when I look to my friends who did.  But we are reminded in the minor inconveniences as well as the intense struggles that God IS.

We had four trips in two months (three to the Midwest) which seems just plain crazy.  One was unexpected–my sweet grandmother passed away on April 1st.

One thing I feared in all this…I am talking about an anxious reaction…is people getting sick.  Stomach bugs and bad colds always thwart plans. Yet we have no control over them.  It has been a horrible year for sickness.  Our kids have all been sick multiple times.  It started the last week of September and was off and on until the second to the last week of school.  It has not just been us–many of our friends have dealt with it too and some much worse.

We went to St. Louis in mid May for my husband’s graduation ceremony.  He earned his Doctorate of Ministry from Covenant Seminary.  Before we left we had plans to leave our kids with Friend #1’s house (btw–for the sake of this blog post I am referring to friends with numbers but it does not imply their ranking as friends).  Only days before we left, Friends #1 lost a loved one and had to travel to the Midwest for the funeral.  Thankfully Friends #2 offered to take our kids.  The day we were supposed to leave Friend #2 came down with a stomach bug and we had to leave our kids with Friends #3 who graciously offered to take our kids last minute.  I remember through the whole ordeal God saying to me, “OK do you trust me?”

We have no family remotely close to where we live.  We have to rely on our friends in these situations.  I am extremely grateful for “our village” who came through for us last minute and reassured us our kids would be fine.  I cannot imagine how lonely and frustrating life would be if we did not have “a village.”

Our kids eating breakfast with Friends #2 while we were away

Our kids eating breakfast with Friends #2 while we were away

My fear is I would be sick in St. Louis since I was exposed to all this crud.  That became reality as I went to bed the first night in our hotel feeling a little queasy and an hour later sick in the bathroom.  I was frustrated, angry, and anxious.  I felt like God was saying, “OK but do you trust me?”

I recovered quickly.  I did not miss his graduation lunch or the ceremony or the Cardinal games the next day.

Cardinals game with the husband and his brothers...

Cardinals game with the husband and his brothers…

I did miss some things, but overall I made it to all the important things. It was a tremendous honor to see my husband earn his D Min after hours and hours of work on his dissertation, multiple trips to St. Louis, and countless amount of time interviewing and reading.

Graduation Day!

Graduation Day!

We came home from St. Louis exhausted on a Sunday afternoon.  The youngest child was going to a birthday party which Friends #4 who graciously agreed to pick her. The middle child was going to a different party about a half hour away.  I made plans in advance to have him ride with Friends #5 since I knew we would be exhausted from our flight.  We had to get up at 3 AM central time.  As we arrived home Friend #5 texted me and said their daughter got the dreaded stomach bug and they weren’t going.  How do you tell your son you are not going to take him to a birthday party a half hour away because you are functioning off three hours of sleep especially when you have not seen him in four days?  My plan was to take him and set up a sleeping bag in the van.  I would sleep while he was at the party.  I was grumpy about the whole thing but again I felt like God said, “OK do you trust me?”

I texted Friend #6 last minute who was on her way to the party and agreed to pick up my son and take him along.  With our younger two gone all afternoon we could take long naps and get caught up on the sleep we lost.

That was Sunday.  On Friday we got ready for our annual church retreat at a camp about 1 hour away.  We left Saturday morning and had a full day of activities that first day.  Sunday morning the husband woke up and said, “I don’t feel great.  Kind of yucky.  But I don’t think I am sick.”  Anxiety began to run rampant again. I knew he was getting sick.  My kids don’t need to be constantly watched anymore, but I cannot let them run off alone.  Especially when there is a lake, a large woods, and unfamiliar parts of the camp.  My kids were excited to be at camp but a little out of control the first night.  I felt like I NEEDED my husband’s help.  Again I felt like God said, “OK do you trust me?”

The husband got sicker as I feared and had to go home.  However, the kids were amazing.  I don’t think I had to break up a single fight the rest of the weekend.  They always told me where they were going.  They stayed out of trouble. They had a wonderful time!  So did I!

Three kids at our church retreat

Three kids at our church retreat

I had a great hike around the lake with them at the conclusion of the weekend and we saw a bald eagle perched in a tree.  Another reminder of God as we see the handiwork of his creation.

Coming home on Monday, my youngest got the dreaded stomach bug.  The following day my oldest woke up with it. My anxiety escalated because I knew I was running the Minneapolis Marathon the following weekend.  I had invested months of training, bought a plane ticket, motel room & rental car.  Plus it was the first time I would run a marathon with my sister.  I did NOT want to be sick.  I hoped my husband and daughters caught what I already had, but I had no way of knowing.  Our symptoms were all a little different.

Again I felt like God was saying, “OK do you trust me?”  I was so paranoid about getting sick I hardly had time to be nervous about the actual marathon.  The end of this story was I did travel to Minneapolis, I did run in the marathon 100% healthy, my sister ran it too, and it was an amazing weekend.

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Me running in my fourth marathon

I know had I got sick and missed it, that I would STILL be beyond blessed.  Because whatever happens God IS.

It’s a bit harder to wrap my finger around this idea of “beyond blessed” when I think about some old friends God put on my heart recently. During our time in St. Louis old friends of ours lost a child.  On my way to Minneapolis to run a marathon with my sister, an old friend lost her sister unexpectedly.  While I was talking to my mom about her trip recently to visit old friends she mentioned her friend’s son is dying of cancer.  I’ve seen evidence in all three of these situations via Facebook and social networking that all three of these people are clinging to the hope that God IS.  Despite all the feelings of anger, frustration, depression, pain, despair, and loss–God IS.  Because they know if we don’t have the hope of God’s love through Christ, then what we do have?

Will you stand on the hope of God promises?  And will you pray for those in your life today who may not “feel beyond blessed” for whatever reason?

 

My Child Care Journey…

DSC09085If there is anything I have learned in life, it is that you should not say, “I will never do that.”  OK maybe if it is something crazy like bungee jumping off a bridge…but don’t put that one past me.  I am the type who might actually do that.

We make our plans, of course.  God often has a better one that leads us through twists and turns, mountain and valleys, and to places we swore we would never go to.  Child care was one of those for me.

I was a child care sub in a public school district in 2002.  It was a second job and “my real job” was youth director at a local church.  Child care was secondary in my life.  So when I lost control of a group of 20 preschoolers, I knew this was job was temporary.  The following year I took a job as an after school care leader in a small Christian school.  This job was a better fit and I worked it for two years.  However, my passions were with the youth in my church and it was always a “second job” to supplement my part time income.

The following year we moved to Indiana and I had a brief stint of working in an actual day care center located in a business park.  I felt claustrophobic in the small classrooms with twenty four year olds.  The playground was a quarter of the size of the school playground where I worked previously.  When I lost control of a group of four year olds, I knew I could go longer work there.

I was a little too preachy about child care after that year, yet I was also confused about my calling.  I took on some traditional values even though I am not your typical stay-at-home mom.  I was never one of these college girls who wanted a “Mrs. Degree” and be a stay at home mom.  I wanted a career of some type and wanted to work outside of the home.  My desires and my values were all conflicted with one another and it is something I struggled with for years.

I stayed home for several years after having children.  I felt like it never came naturally to me, but I found my style eventually.  Two years ago a friend of mine wanted to send her daughter to our little Christian school we send our kids to.  Kindergarten dismissed an hour and a half before the time she finished work.  With no after care program at the time, I offered to watch her daughter until she finished work.  I only did child care about six hours a week, but I learned quickly that 1)  I loved having extra children in the house.  2)  I grew up on a neighborhood where there were always children to play with.  My kids do not.  This would be a way for them to develop friendships.  3)  God does not call everyone to be a  full time stay-at-home mom.  My friend was doing amazing work in God’s kingdom.  God was using me to help her do her work.

So come that spring I had a few families ask if I wanted to watch their kids the following school year.  I knew it was from the Lord.  Last year I had four regular child care kids.  This year I doubled that to eight.

Yes, now I am your typical stay-at-home mom.  I hang up my laundry on the clothesline outside.  I do crafts with my kids.  I bake muffins.  I sweep the floor at least four times a day.  I am OK with it.  Because I am supporting some amazing moms out there doing kingdom work.

I don’t think in terms of “real job,” “real career,” etc.  anymore.  And by the way I still do lots of youth ministry…mostly volunteer.

But this is me right now.  I love owning my own business.  I love having a loud chaotic house full of kids.  I love having a baby in the house.  I love watching my three kids love on these babies and toddlers.  So it’s a win win for everyone.

So my friends, never say “never.”  Your “never” might be your next adventure.

Second week of summer

Week #2 of summer.  The unfortunate thing about this week was my seasonal allergies got so bad that I had a pulsing sinus headache that knocked me out most of Tuesday.  The fortunate thing was the kids are old enough that I could sleep while they played on their own. Especially because I took a Sudafed PM on accident instead of AM…so that pretty knocked me out all afternoon. The kids can work the TV (and they know only 1 hour in the morning), make their own snacks, get their bikes out of the shed, etc.  The husband works next door to our house so he could check in on them every hour and was home for a full hour during lunch. The oldest knows how to use the phone. It was a little anxiety ridden for me at first–“They’re unattended!”  Yet they are 8,6, and 4 now…it’s not like the days of laying on the couch sick letting toddlers run around and hoping nothing gets destroyed.

But that was only one day…one day of an overall pretty good week.

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It is the week before VBS and I am directing again this year.  What seems to be a daunting stressful job for many has become doable…and even fun…for myself.  It took many years of trial and error to get to this point.  While I know I won’t direct forever (I already warned my church this is not a permanent thing!) it has been a great volunteer position for me this year.  Lots of people stepped up.  Because my oldest is doing odd jobs to earn money for her mission trip to Philadelphia this month, she helped me sort volunteer t-shirts, name tags, and helped my friend set up decorations.

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After being sick on Tuesday, I was itching to get out of the house.  The weather was beautiful!  My head still was not quite right in the morning.  By 3 PM I decided to bite the bullet and take the kids biking.  I knew they would go slow and we could take breaks as needed.  It was our first bike ride together on a trail.  My youngest’s bike is not in the greatest condition and the training wheels don’t stay in place so that created a few falls…and stops.  But overall everyone had a great time.

ImageIt is difficult for me to bike with all three of them because I have a racing road bike.  I bike in clips (though I am still a rookie and learning how to do this).  I am too nervous about biking slowly behind them especially when they stop suddenly…not sure I could clip out that fast.  So I wear my 90’s style roller blades…and I still get a good workout too.

ImageBecause I was feeling so much better, I decided to play street hockey Wednesday night.  Some guys from our church started a Wednesday night hockey night in our church parking lot.  I don’t like to play volleyball or basketball–but I won’t turn down a game of hockey…even I have not played since junior high intramurals…and we’re talking over 20 years ago!

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I took the kids to the Public Works Day at the local park.  It is when the Public Works department comes with all their big trucks and educate the children about what they do.  There is also some bike safety education, games, face painting, and free lunch.  My kids went last year and loved it…so we had to go again.

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We have been trying to teach the children about other cultures.  One of the best ways to do that is with food.  The husband made a Korean barbecue and then we had the kids read a website about the country.  We quizzed them about what they learned.

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I am not sure what country we will do next.  Ethiopia?  Indonesia?  Greece?  The kids want to do Mexico, but I would rather do one that is going to be more of a challenge…and different.

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We ended the week by going to Eugene for part of the day.  My friend Linda who was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan was playing in an ultimate frisbee tournament there.  I visited her over Spring Break in May in LA where she currently lives.  This time she got to see the husband again and meet the kids.  We were able to watch her game and go out for pizza…this is a picture from when were in LA together.  I was a dork and left the camera memory card pack home in the PC yet again.

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Now on to VBS week–where our week will be pretty much be VBS and not much more!

Sun to rain

IMG_0216This is how we spent yesterday afternoon.  It was wonderful.  I cannot begin to tell you how good natural light and springy air feels to cooped up moms and stir crazy kids.

Unfortunately this is the forecast for the next few days:

cloudy with rain, periods of rain, breezy with rain, cloudy with a chance of rain, and occasional rain and drizzle, oh and colder temperatures too. Thank you, Oregon, for reminding us spring has not fully sprung yet.