Tag Archives: Family

Counting Up

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Today I begin. I begin to live with an attitude of gratitude. I tell my kids to be thankful all the time.  Then I wonder, do they need to be told …. or do they need to be shown?  Is gratitude something that is taught? ….. or caught?

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily to-do list around the house, running errands, wiping little noses, getting swept up in the scurry of BLESSINGS that are no longer counted as such.

That cluttered countertop? Be thankful. It means you have the blessings of modern appliances, the postal system as a means of communication, the funds to purchase coffee, and yes, toys for the kids.

Take a look around you. What do you see as you are seated in the comfort of your home? What does it tell you …. really, what does it tell you when you start seeing it as a blessing? It tells me I am blessed abundantly, beyond measure.

Today I begin.  May I challenge you, Reader, to start counting your blessings too? There are still 293 days left in 2013. Begin today. Count just three blessings a day and you will amass nearly 1000 blessings before the end of the year!  1000 blessings! So very much to be thankful for. Start.  Today.  Do it.

  1. 3/13/13:  I’m thankful for the blessing of the beautiful, bright sun filling my house with natural light  and warmth.
  2.  3/13/13: I’m thankful for the blessing of friends – near and far – who are there for me and with me as I navigate this wonderful life.  Hope to see you all in the next life!
  3. 3/13/13: OK. The clutter. Yes, I’ll be thankful for the blessing of the clutter too, because it tells me I lead a very FULL life.
  4. 3/13/13: And today I’ll be thankful for the time I’m given to CLEAN the clutter. I am a stay at home mom, afforded this time, and it is a blessing indeed!
  5. Just before the stroke of midnight on 3/14/13:  I am blessed beyond measure with an automobile that navigates well in the MN winters!
  6. 3/14/13:  I am oh-so-thankful for the gift of our 9 month old puppy, Dutch. He is a counter-surfer extraordinaire, but he loves us all, all the time – even when we are unlovable.
  7. 3/14/13: And today I am thankful for effective allergy meds since I’m not sure I’d manage well without them!
  8. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the seasons and the gorgeous flaming fall leaves that dot the landscape.
  9. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for a loving husband who adores me and tries his very best to understand me.
  10. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the ability to homeschool my youngest kiddos this year! We are having so much fun and they are seriously enjoying the learning process.
  11. 10/7/14: I so thankful to be part of a church that is alive, well, and proclaiming the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ!
  12. 10/7/14: I thankful for the unusually warm weather that we have had this fall.  The cold and snow are inevitable, but being able to hold them at bay for a while is absolutely wonderful!
  13. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for good friends in every walk of life!
  14. 10/7/14: I’m really thankful for my new pink and lime green (yes, you read that correctly) Bible! 🙂
  15. 10/7/14: I’m thankful that Halloween candy is not available year round. Those *fun sizes* can get me into so much trouble!
  16. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the life of my littlest man, who actually didn’t make it through the birth process, but was later revived. We celebrate him on his birthday … in just a bit more than a week from now.
  17. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the quiet of the late nights. It gives me time to reflect on and savor all my gifts in this life!
  18. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for my 18yo son and his quick wit. He keeps me in my toes, but in a happy way!
  19. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the academic ability of my 20yo son. At just 18 years of age, he was halfway through his college career, having amassed 72 college credits.
  20. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the caring heart of my 3rd born son. The love he shows others far outshines his quick temper!
  21. 10/7/14: I’m so thankful to have found a martial arts family that our family can embrace. We have received a gift in the new friendships that we have developed over the past three years.
  22. 10/7/14: With the GIFT of a smartphone this year, I am SO thankful that I am now beginning to feel organized! I’m missing fewer appointments … AND I can keep the littles entertained while AT the appointments! A double blessing!
  23. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for the new/used leather sofa that we found on Craigslist for only $20.
  24. 10/7/14: I’m so thankful that we got our tire replaced for free when I drove over a screw in the road two weeks ago.
  25. 10/7/14: I’m thankful that I still have eight healthy fingers after having broken two of them within six weeks at karate.
  26. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for our new homeschool co-op, River of Life in Lindstrom, where our children are establishing healthy friendships with other like-minded kids.
  27. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for my Bonsai Tree bought for me with love by my husband. Maybe this is one I won’t unintentionally kill. He demonstrates his faith in my each time he brings home a live plant!
  28. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for extended family. While I always wish I had more time to spend with them, I know they love me, near or far.
  29. 10/7/14: I’m so thankful for the abundance of books that we have, for it means we will never have to experience a dull moment.
  30. 10/7/14: I’m so very, very thankful for my new Vitamix Blender. We have had so many enjoyable smoothies in the past three months!
  31. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for my membership with our local food buying co-op. Because of that, our family is able to eat mostly organic food at very affordable prices.
  32. 10/7/14: I’m incredibly thankful for my new hobby – knitting – and my knitting friends.
  33. 10/7/14: I’m thankful that I have yarn (MUCH yarn) with which to create wonderful knit projects!
  34. 10/7/14: Did I mention my incredible Addi Turbo Click knitting needles? I’m really thankful for those. They make knitting so very enjoyable!
  35. 10/7/14: I’m thankful for WordPress.com – My avenue to my creative expression!
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The Stepping Stone in the Journey

Minnesotans … We’re a people known for our extended goodbyes. We start saying goodbye in the living room, lumber through the dining room remembering missed conversations, progress slowly to the entryway discussing plans for tomorrow, follow the guests out the the driveway while providing armfuls of hugs and ample driving advice, and then wave unceasingly as the guests drive out of view. Eventually we walk back inside and turn off the lights, resigning ourselves to the fact that our guests have left.

I’m in the process of saying goodbye now and it is tough. Incredibly tough.

I’ve had the same neighbor for over 20 years now. Rob has been a friend, a confident and quite often a role model to my children. For 18 of those 20 years, he has consistently beaten back the cancer monster. He would go into remission time and time again, only to have it rear it’s ugly head in some other form, but Rob was a fighter and no one ever thought that cancer could overcome him.

As I sat inside Rob’s living room, perched on the couch next to his bed, I made light conversation with him, hoping that he was able to hear and process at least some of the things I spoke to him. Occasionally he would open his eyes and I would see him in there, looking at me, wanting to talk but unable.

“The Cowboys won last night. It was a close game, but they pulled it off in the end.”

“You’ve been the best of neighbors. I couldn’t have asked for better.”

“Thanks for always being there when we needed you. We appreciate you.”

“We’ll be here to help JoAnne out. Don’t worry about her at all.”

“It won’t be long now and your body will be restored; healed.”

“I love you. You will be missed.”

While Rob slept on and off, I gently held his hand and talked to his wife seated across the other side of his bed.  We talked about his childhood memories, his kind nature, his football allegiances, his squirrel-shooting hobby, the length of his illness, and his incredibly valiant efforts to survive his odds.

“He didn’t deserve this.” she said.  I nodded in agreement. He so did not deserve this.

“This isn’t what it’s about. Life is just a stepping stone for what follows.” she continued.

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Bird’s Feather Stepping Stone

Amen. I could not have said that better myself. A stepping stone … intricately designed before being carefully set in place, then lovingly positioned into just the right spot, placed to   provide both direction and confidence of footing on the journey. Once established in its given path, it quickly becomes dirty with use and time, yet is easily restored to its initial beauty with one sweeping motion.

A stepping stone … just a small part of a journey along a much longer path. Over time it wears down. Through the hot sun, the brisk winds, and the seasonal storms, it gradually erodes – an unavoidable process that begins at the exact moment it is laid in place. Amid the dirt of life and the inevitable erosion, the One who laid that stone is enthralled with its beauty while understanding its very temporary nature.  Quite often, time itself will cause that stone’s mere existence to cease. Other times, there will be situations that expedite the process.  One day there may even come those that have never known of the stone’s existence.  And yet, fragments will continue to be carried along in the sands, leaving an indelible footprint; proof of its time here on earth.

It looked painfully obvious to me that Rob needed to be moving on from this life. His stepping stone had been well-utilized, but was now wearing so very thin.  Even though Rob wasn’t a Minnesota native, he (not unlike myself) had mastered the long goodbye – both in everyday life and in leaving for the next life. Now, however, was my turn to linger. In my heart, I knew this was probably my very last earthly goodbye to my friend and walking out his door was extremely difficult. I kissed my dear friend on the head, gently hugged his frail body, and told him I loved him one last time.

Today Rob’s stepping stone has served its purpose; his earthly journey complete.

A light has gone out indicating that one of earth’s guests has gone home.

God speed, my friend. You will be so very missed.

Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Math Word Problems (Or Forcing a Square Peg in a Round Hole)

My nine year-old has more homework than usual this week. That’s OK. Since I homeschooled my oldest sons, I know all too well how to teach a third grader, but every once in a while the explanation seems to elude me.  His weakest (and therefore most detested) subject is math, so I wasn’t surprised that he balked when we began the two pages of word problems. The conversation that ensued while we worked through the problems was actually quite comical.

Me (reading from the assignment): Write and solve a word problem in which you must find an unknown partner.

Aidan (a little confused): You mean like I have to do in gym?

Me (containing my smile): No, Honey. This is different. The teacher is asking you to create a word problem similar to the nine that we just worked through. Finding an unknown partner means you’re only given a portion of the information and you need to use math to find out the portion that you weren’t given.

Aidan: Does it need to be a subtraction problem?

[He sees no useful reason he should ever have to do subtraction, especially if it involves borrowing from the *neighbor*.  Wait until he opens his first checking account!]

Me: Let’s assume the answer is YES since the previous nine problems all involved subtraction.

Aidan (enthusiastically):  I know! There were 15 kids in costumes. Six kids wore ghost costumes.

Me (excitedly thinking he’d caught on quickly): Good, Aidan! I’ll write that part down for you. Now you need to end the word problem by asking a question. What would your question be?

Aidan (very confidently): The question part is really easy, Mom!  How many kids wore werewolf costumes?

Me (mental face palm): Ummm.  No. How could I answer that, Aidan, since there are still nine kids that I don’t know about?

Aidan: Easy. I could tell you.

Me (growing more confused than HIM!): Tell me what, Aidan?

Aidan: I could tell you that eight of the kids wore werewolf costumes!

Me: But eight werewolves plus six ghosts only equals 14 kids. I thought there were 15 kids in costumes.

Aidan (more than ready to make his word problem work):  OK. So let’s say that the other kid dressed as Darth Maul.

[sigh]

It’s fun to hear how Aidan processes things. He’s not a neuro-typical third grader since he navigates life with high-functioning Autism, but he is very academically adept. That said, our math lesson gave me reason to pause tonight to explain to him that somewhere in our conversation, he went off-course. It wasn’t about werewolves at all when we began the word problem, but once he introduced werewolves into the picture, he was focused on  making it work.

How often do we find ourselves doing the very same thing, whether it be with a school assignment, a work situation, or a life circumstance? After using a half page of paper on one algebra problem, it becomes obvious that the direction in which we are headed is not right. But who wants to rework that entire problem? It seems more time-efficient to chalk it up to a great, albeit failed, attempt and be thankful it was only worth five points while moving on to the following problem. At work, we find that the implementation of  a new product did not provide the company with the long-term benefits we anticipated. Rather than giving voice to this fact, we force the new product to fit into the business while we listen to our peers grumble under their breath. In life we find ourselves accumulating debt. As the interest becomes higher than the principle, we begin to realize that our credit card debt is too high, but it’s so much easier to open a new credit card and start with a zero balance than to reign in our spending habits and pay off the balance on the first card.

As we worked through Aidan’s math word problem that evening, we had to return to the base problem to ascertain how to best address it. Avoiding the problem, or simply adding new factors, was not working – no matter how hard he tried forcing that square peg into the round hole!

What are the square pegs in your life? Are you working through issues where you’ve introduced too many factors? Or are you simply ignoring that the issue exists at all? Unfortunately, the issues that are not dealt with remain, needing correction and seeking closure. Left open and uncorrected, they haunt us unceasingly.  Face the issues in your life; correct them; bring closure. It will feel fa-BOO-lous!

Philippians 3:13-15
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

It CAN Always Get Worse!

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How was your week? Mine felt unbearably long and there were many times I was sure Friday evening would never arrive – or if it did, I would somehow miss it amid the chaos of life. The proverbial nail was driven into the casket this evening as my six year old spilled his milk on the peanuts I had just spent two hours shelling while our four month old puppy pounced excitedly between his rawhide bone and the sweet, dripping kitchen table unsure which way to run in the 1.5 square feet of space available. Admittedly, bedtime could not come soon enough – if not for the young ones, for me.

OK. It can always get worse. When I’m tempted to feel tapped, I try to remind myself of that fact. For example, Rasputin, the iconic Russian religious advisor to the Romanov family, definitely dealt with greater grievances. Hated by many in a country where he held significant influence and power (not an unusual feat in and of itself), he experienced trials and tribulations beyond what I’d wish on my worst enemy. Rasputin was stabbed, poisoned, shot three times, clubbed, and drowned – and with the exception of the stabbing, it all happened in one evening!

I can’t top that. More importantly I don’t even want to try! Incomplete homework assignments, piles of laundry, sticky floors, dinner dishes, spilled milk, and puppy poo all plague my week, but I can tackle those consistent challenges that attempt to derail my days. And much like Rasputin, I don’t go down without a good fight. But his life, and subsequent death, serve as a stark reminder that it can always get worse!

So how did you say your week went?

Thinking Outside the (Crayon) Box

Owen, my sweet-as-pie six year-old, loves to be creative so it never surprisesme to find him sitting on the floor surrounded by crayons and paper, sometimes adding scissors and glue to the mix. Recently he invited me to join him as he conceptualized his next great feat of artistic expression. Quite often I look for an out, deferring him to one of his older brothers as a potentially better partner in craft. On this particular day, however, I decided to color with him, elbow to elbow.

Owen: Mommy, want to color with me?

Me: Sure, Honey. Could you bring the paper and crayons to the table please?

[He arrived at the table with the paper and immediately left the room in search of the crayons. It took him longer than usual to return and I will admit, I was growing a bit impatient as I sat there pondering what to make for dinner, thinking about the homework I needed to tackle with his brother, and feeling somewhat dismayed at the depth of debris stuck to my sock from the unswept kitchen floor. After quite some time Owen returned to the table with the crayons and a proclamation.]

Owen: Here are the crayons, Mommy! I broke them all in half so we wouldn’t have to fight over them!

(Sigh. We each took our half-set and began to color, him a bit more contently than me.)

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The first thought to cross my mind as we bumped elbows and noses while we colored was that I would probably only fight to the death over the yellow and pink crayons, at least one color of which he would likely have no interest in using anyway!  The second thought to cross my mind was that we would soon be buying a new box of crayons. Fortunately this was just a small set that needed replacing.

Looking at Owen’s actions in hindsight, a few thoughts pop out beyond the fact that I happen to be bugged by the chaos created by broken crayons. Owen thinks much differently than I do. Given that there is a vast age difference, that doesn’t entirely shock me – but I also see a difference in how he thinks in comparison to how I thought at his age. Growing up in a small town in a one-income household, possessions were both few and treasured. To break something of value intentionally would have been far beyond my comprehension of sanity and respect for personal property!

In that regard, many children today show a lack of appreciation for the items they own. Elaborate gifts for birthdays and Christmas have become the new normal, the expectation rather than the exceptional blessing they should be. Because they happen to be part of the modern day culture, for example, many teens feel that iPhones, game consoles, and cars are inherent to who they are, essential for their happiness, and indispensable in their daily activities. As a result, the value of the expensive toys, iPhones, and game consoles is lost, as broken items are typically tossed rather than repaired. Even those broken crayons have value though. They just await an art project of new proportion and different dimension.

On the other hand, I absolutely applaud my six year-old for his ability to both anticipate a problem and create a solution before coming to the table! Owen saw his limited resources and realized immediately that product distribution might pose a challenge. That showed ingenuity beyond the capability of many adults who are no longer able to think outside the crayon box.

I held my tongue that day deciding instead to instill in his being a sense of harmony as we colored shades of scarlet and tints of teal, creating a masterpiece previously unparalleled in his short history.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/weekly-writing-challenge-a-splash-of-color/

Everybody Shut Up …. Please!

ImageUndoubtedly there’s nothing like a conversation with a young one to completely change your outlook on something, whether of substance or not!  I am blessed daily with comical conversations with my nearly-nine year-old, Aidan, and my soon-to-be-six year-old (tomorrow!), Owen. Today, however, we added to that mix with Owen’s best friend, Alex, as we drove him to our house for a play date. As usual, the backseat conversations did not disappoint.  Need to brighten your day?  Read on!

Alex (to me):  What is your name again?

Me (pretty relaxed with kiddos): You can call me Amy.

Alex: Amy, my family goes out for lunch after church every Sunday.

Me (sensing a HUGE hint in that statement): Oh! Wow! We don’t do that, Alex.

Alex (not skipping a beat):  You could START today!!

Aidan (changing the subject while proudly announcing):  Guess what, Alex? I’m half Hispanic!

[I’m not entirely sure where this came from since his roots hail largely from Germany, Poland, Norway, and Sweden!]

Alex (not to be outdone by Aidan):  Oh yeah? Well I have a friend that is half crazy APE!

[OK. I’m not even going to TRY to top that one!]

Since they were now on a descent-oriented conversation, this followed …

Alex:  Konnichiwa, Owen!

Owen (scratching his cute little head): Wha …. ?

Alex (taking on an air of higher education): It means “shut up”.

Me (trying desperately not to laugh): Ummm …. I don’t think that’s right, Alex. I’m pretty certain that it means “hello” or “good afternoon”.

[Suddenly raucous laughter erupts in the back seat as they all ignore me and start yelling out this newly discovered *command*, Konnichiwa! After a seemingly endless stretch of time, Alex declared that the decibel levels were decidedly deafening!]

Alex (commanding): Everybody … Konnichiwa!!  Please.

[Everybody shut up, please?  Well, at least he was polite about what he THOUGHT he was saying.]

Alex and Owen both attend Kindergarten in the same school district but are in different schools. They share the same crazy Kindergarten schedule …. All-day every other day and alternating Fridays. Believe me, there are days that I’M not sure if he should be attending or not!  Alex, much like our own family, comes from a home where some of the kids have been or are currently being home educated. When the conversation in the car came into more subdued volumes, he began to share more with us.

Alex:  Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I’ll be going to SCHOOL …. REAL school, NOT home school.

[HA!  My 17 year-old, sitting in the front passenger seat, shot me a look from the corner of his eye with a slight smile gracing his face. OK, I’m going to let that one go. After all, it came from a five year-old, right?]

The conversation turned to age when Owen announced that he’d be celebrating his birthday in one day. This often provides for good humor anytime an early elementary child and someone over the ripe age of 20 are involved. Today’s comical conversation was not an exception!

Owen (happily): I’m having a birthday tomorrow, Alex! I’ll be SIX!

Alex (about 5″ taller than Owen): Wow! Tomorrow I will still be FIVE and I think I’ll still be BIGGER than you, Owen!  (continuing on)  My brother is SEVEN already!!

Me: Wow! That’s really OLD!

Aidan (to no one in particular): Well, I’m going to be NINE in a MONTH!

Me (to Alex): And how old is your sister, Hannah, Alex? Is she 12?

Alex (with a slight sound of exasperation in his young voice): No! She’s a TEENAGER!  Isaac, are YOU a teenager yet?

[Evidently all ages from 13-19 are lumped together in one enormously scary category?]

Aidan (nearly nine but still trying to gain ground with Alex): I’m actually 19. I’m just small.

Alex (surprised): Wow! I didn’t know that!

Me (trying to encourage Aidan to come clean with the truth): You’re not 19, Aidan. Please don’t lie.

Aidan (calculatingly):  I’m NOT lying …. I’m tricking.

[Uh huh]

These entertaining exchanges brought us almost all the way home, covering matters at a five year-old level concerning tradition, descent, age, and language! Alas, the entertainment did not stop upon reaching our abode, however. After lunch, Alex was exploring a cheap, and thus broken, airsoft pistol when Isaac told him he could take it home.

Alex (to Isaac, sweetly):  I wish I had a brother like you at home.

[Isaac was momentarily thinking that Alex was a really great kid when Alex interrupted that stream of consciousness with the continuation of his declaration.]

Alex: Because then he would give me all his stuff.

Kids’ voiced-thoughts and conversations can be so awesome. Quite often, we are moving too quickly to actually hear them, however. As busy adults, we just need to slow down to catch the comedy, allowing them to both entertain us with their exchanges and imbue us with their innocence.  Everybody, shut up … please.

Owen

Owen

“Can I have a cookie?” he asks with a gleaming ice-cream grin!

[I’m guessing he doesn’t need more sugar!]