Friday, February 25, 2011

An open letter to my kids' preschools

Dear preschools,

Let me start off by saying how much I appreciate you.  You teach my children with endless patience and creativity.  You help them learn to socialize, to share, and to be fair.  You help teach them the importance of following rules and routine.  Thanks to you, my son could read at age four and my daughter is well on her way at almost 3.  You keep me sane by allowing me time away to work and get things done. 

That being said, I have a few requests:

*Please don't send "homework" for my 2-year-old.  Yes, she's bright and capable, but this is really parent work and after a day of work and 16 years of schooling myself, I'm a little done with it

*While I appreciate the rising costs of childcare (believe me, I know...much of my money goes to you), don't ask for additional money through regular fundraisers.  If you must raise costs, I think that might be preferable to me rushing last minute to the store, two kids in tow, to purchase your required monthly "donation" of wipes, paper towels, crayons, and glue sticks.  I also don't want to scrounge around the recycling bin to find egg cartons for art projects, or labels for education from messy food containers.  I don't want to buy peanut butter balls, wrapping paper, or t-shirts (not even when you require my child to have one for field trips)

*It may be cute to have "crazy week", but don't add to my craziness by sending home a list of theme days in which my child must wear a crazy hat (another last minute store run), purple polka dots, inside out clothing (which is generally the norm in my rushed state, so I won't contest that one), or dress up like who he wants to be when he grows up (which at this point he only says he wants to be "as tall as the ceiling")

Thanks for your help in these matters,
an exhausted mom

Thursday, February 17, 2011


This morning I woke to an unfamiliar sound.  It was not the yelling of children demanding breakfast, nor was it the static of my clock radio alarm.  It took a few minutes of careful listening to discern the notes of a bird's song.  It was the song of hope, that spring is around the corner.  Outside my bedroom window, the crocus bulbs that I patiently planted in the fall are blooming.  It's a great reminder of a truth I often forget: the world is about beauty.  Even when it is hidden in the darkness, it is growing, waiting to surprise us with life.

In the wintry seasons of life, it's hard to remember this truth, and much easier to buy the lie that the world is primarily darkness, death, and pain; that evil has conquered.  But I hold on to the hope that spring will come, that resurrection brings new life, and that the darkness is only marking time until the light dawns.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My lovely Valentines

I'm a big sucker for Valentine's Day.  My mom always made a big production of it growing up, and I loved every minute.  She spent days crafting a unique box for my class valentines every year, and she always made a special card for me.  At school, I would be "surprised" by flowers or balloons.  Now that I have kids of my own, I can understand all the joy in the preparations, and the love that's behind every surprise.  Although I can often get stressed when my vision of how things "should" go doesn't come to fruition, I love the anticipation and finding creative ways to show my affection.  This morning, it was delicious muffins made by John on the kids' special plates, a new book for each, a handmade felt heart pin to wear to preschool, and their favorite candy (M&Ms).  They will discover special heart-shaped snacks in their lunches, along with valentine cards and jokes.  I look forward to hearing how they shared love with their friends today.

A new chapter book for my reader.  I'm excited to share Nate the Great with my boy!
A Ladybug Girl book for my sweet girl (I love the art and the strong female character)
M&Ms for breakfast!
My sweet valentine, who still melts my heart after almost 10 years, with our funny girl.

Each day, my family teaches me more about love.  From my sweet girl who woke up saying, "Mommy, I love you so much" to my boy who regularly gives us "The best present of!" (followed by a big hug), and to my wonderfully patient and loving husband who gently puts up with my quirks, I am surrounded by love and blessings.

Happy Valentine's Day, beloved ones!

Ten Things Christians Don't Need to Believe

I'm often hesitant to disclose to strangers that I'm a minister.  Usually it's met with one of a few responses:
1) shock--I'm a woman, and women can't be ministers
2) affirmation, followed by a litany of assumed beliefs that we must share

These beliefs are usually of the following sort:
1) we're living in the end times
2)the reason we're living in the end times has something to do with the wicked behavior of certain groups (homosexuals, primarily) and God is punishing us for their sin.

Alternately, I may get a response about why someone doesn't believe in God because God has failed to show up and help in the person's life situations.

So I was interested to see an excerpt from Martin's Thielen's book What's the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian in The Thoughtful Christian's catalog.  Now I haven't read the book, but I appreciate Thielen's list "Ten Things Christians Don't Need to Believe":

1.  God causes cancer, car wrecks, and other catastrophes
2.  Good Christians don't doubt
3.  True Christians can't believe in evolution
4.  Women can't be preachers and must submit to men
5.  God cares about saving souls but not about saving trees
6.  Bad people will be "Left Behind" and then fry in hell
7.  Jews won't make it to heaven
8.  Everything in the Bible should be taken literally
9.  God loves straight people but not gay people
10.  It's OK for Christians to be judgmental and obnoxious.

He goes on to discuss the truly important facets of faith (Jesus' identity, priority, grace, work, example, death, resurrection, legacy, promise, and vision).

What beliefs are NOT a part of your Christian faith?  What is essential to your faith?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thank God for grandparents

At the risk of sounding like a bad mother, I feel that I can't fully breathe until my kids are away, out of the house, occupied for at least a weekend in someone else's care.  Just now, 15 hours after they've left for a weekend at the grandparents, do I feel the ever-present tension easing from my shoulders.  For the first time in months, I woke up naturally at the right time and not grudgingly because some little LOUD demanding voice (or hysterical crying for juice) woke me up.  I had a quiet breakfast in front of the "Today Show" without scrambling to pack lunches, get backpacks and coats, corral two kids, break up fights, force them to eat and clean up, then clean up the mess of their clean up attempts.  I didn't have to do hair or teeth (other than my own), find show and share items or pack the valentines I so painstakingly made for their preschool friends (i.e. all 40 kids in the various classes they're a part of) during my "free time" yesterday.  I have scheduled my day my way, which includes lunch with my sweetheart, a full day at work catching up on all the tasks I've missed from a week of kids' sick days, and a workout later.  I've cleaned up the mess and the clutter of unfinished craft projects and neglected toys, and now my mind feels less cluttered, too. 

I've had the time and space to plan Valentines surprises for their return...and surprisingly (or not), time to miss them a little.  I wonder what my little monkeys are up to.  Ah, the bittersweet victory of having a break...I just wish they were here to see the relaxed non-screaming version of Mommy!  :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reasons why I'm glad I have two children...

...a reminder for the times when I forget!

-The way they play so well together and understand each other

-the way they advocate for one another (Maryn fusses at me for putting Brady in time out and making him sad; Brady reminds me when Maryn needs a snack)

-they stick together even when we go where there are other kids.  This provides comfort for Maryn, who is a little shy and introverted at times, just as her brother used to be.

-Brady stuck up for Maryn when someone at his preschool tried to take her toy away.  "That's my sister's," he said, returning it to her, even though I doubt he would have stood up for himself if someone had taken it from him.

-When Brady was said over losing his balloon, Maryn offered, "It's okay, Brady, we can share mine."  This from the girl who does not like to share.

-the times when they collapse on each other, giggling

-their inside jokes and shared made-up words

-Brady reading books to Maryn

-praying for each other

-Maryn cries when she is kept from playing with him, and he is usually the first one she talks to in the morning

-one of Brady's first full sentences was "Baby May May come pay (play) utstairs (upstairs)?" when she was a newborn and he was 2.  He wanted her to come and play with him in his room.

-Maryn's 3rd word (after "Dada" and "Mama") was "Bady" (for Brady)

-the time when Brady went for a visit to the grandparents' because we thought he needed some extra individual attention, but he came back early as he was homesick for Maryn

-making up games together

-the ways in which they are alike

-the ways in which they are different

-the ways in which they complement each other

-the completeness I feel as a family

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mommy and me

When I was a mom of one child, I was big on enrichment and bonding activities.  I read to him in utero, and after his birth, I enrolled us in all sorts of classes.  There was baby gymnastics, and mommy and me music and dance, and a variety of playgroups.  I believe the last class was around the 9 months pregnant mark with baby #2 when I dropped us both from a My Gym class that I had begun dreading as moving my large body was an exhausting endeavor. 

I've had good intentions with my sweet girl, but our enrichment activities have turned into Mommy and Me clean the house, run errands, and her personal favorite, go to the grocery "snore" (her word).  I hope she's enjoying our Wednesday mornings together and can feel all the attention I want to lavish on her as we go through the routine of daily maintenance.  I hope she sees the joy in my life instead of the drudgery I sometimes feel.  I find it's a good sign that she has stopped asking me, "Are you happy, Mommy?" regularly.

As she'll be going to preschool full-time in the fall, I wanted to find a special way to mark our time together.  She is definitely a mommy's girl, and so I signed us up for a Mommy and Me dance class.  I hope to make special memories and be better about carving out this sacred time for the two of us.

Here's a picture of my little ballerina on her first birthday:

Now, my goal will be to take an updated picture in this tutu!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I have the best family ever

So yesterday I had one of those days.  I had committed to being patient and loving with my kids and had even planned a special outing to one of those indoor play areas.  Everything was going well...until it was time to go (the big kids and their accompanying chaos had taken over).  Much screaming and wailing ensued, and after climbing up into the play structure and literally dragging my kids out by the ankles, all bets were off.  There was crying and yelling in the car and the refrain "you hurt my feelings" was the emphatic refrain.  A while later, back at home, we were able to calm down, learn the lesson "never run away from mommy, particularly in one of those insane climbing structures" , and make up.  But I was still a little grumpy as I thrust the kids upon my husband and headed out for a late meeting at church.  I was shocked to come home to surprises from my love and babies.  John had taken them to the store to pick out treats for me.  Maryn picked out a celebrity gossip magazine, Brady picked out gingerbread men, and John got me a fantastic chocolate candy bouquet (the guy gets me).  He also wrote the notes, dictating the kids' responses below: