Monday, December 29, 2008

We survived Christmas and an Indoor Water Park all in one week.

Christmas was wonderful. Loud. Crazy. Joyful. Peaceful, yet hectic!

We worshiped together as a family on Christmas Eve. Celebrated with family on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Finally, on the day after Christmas, had to reorganize kids rooms to fit in all the new stuff. I will say the advantage to bigger kids is that their stuff is smaller (read more expensive for less gifts) and it normally does not require set up of 1000 pieces like the Playmobil Castle our son got on his 6th Christmas.

American Girl Dolls have been busy around here this week now that A has her own. Ruthie has joined our family and found that her best friend Kit already lived here. My husband and I have spent hours watching A play with the dolls, change their clothes, and plan out elaborate things for the "girls" to do together. Its imagination at it's best and so fun to watch in this day of electronic wonder. Of course, another DS has joined our family, too so there has been plenty of gaming happening.

On Saturday, I just about spit out my ice tea when I heard those dreaded words of parents everywhere, "I'm bored." I thought to myself, "Seriously you've got all kinds of new toys, time on your hands, and you are bored!" I wish that there was a way to inject children with a gene that allows them to understand how blessed they are to have all the time in the world to do what they want, toys and games galore to keep them entertained, and no worries about work, schedules, and to do lists keeping them down.

To combat the "boredom," we went to an indoor water park in town. The kids had earned a free pass from the Library by participating in the Summer Reading Program. We figured a cold winter day was the perfect time to use these coupons. They also expired on December 31, not that I was procrastinating.

Let's just say that trip across town was an eyeopener for their mother.

I have never seen so many tattoos, body piercings or small bikinis on not so small women/men in my life. When we arrived this morning at 10am, the place was almost deserted, but, by 12 noon there were 5,000 plus people there. OK, maybe a few less, but it seemed like it. Not one for crowds or tattoos, I was a little uncomfortable as the day went on.

As I walked around the water park today a Little phrase my mother used to say came to mind....

"Foolish names and foolish faces can always be found in foolish places." What does this mean you ask? When we walk around with adornments on our bodies to draw attention to ourselves are we not saying I'm not enough without this stuff? Are we not saying that the gift that God has given me is not good enough, I need to add to it to make it beautiful.

When I left this morning in my swimsuit, I was thinking that I wish I was thinner, I wish I had remembered to shave my legs, I wish that my fabulous summer tan had not faded to winter white. I was taking away from what God has given me. While I might need some work on the outside, I don't need to add to what I am to make it acceptable to God. What I have is enough. Who I am is enough. Just As I Am...

My prayer today is that my children will know they are enough. God and their family love them always. They are more than good enough just as they are. Maybe then they won't feel the need at 18 to get a piercing or a tattoo at all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Surprises Revealed

I've been keeping a secret for the past 12 days. It's been killing me not to share the fun stories behind the secre or not to talk to one of my best friends about this huge project I've been working on for weeks.

Today, the secret can come out. Two groups of friends have been surprising 4 unsuspecting, but well-deserving families with the 12 days of Christmas Surprises. Three of these families are from our public school and one is from my church/scrapbooking family. They are receiving these little surprises because they are going through a rough time or period of grief so as they celebrate Christmas, we wanted to bring a little sunshine to their days.

For our school, this our fourth year of planning this 12 Days surprise program. Each year, the program grows a little more, a few more families and a few more "givers." People now request certain days because they have a great idea so that they can give a particular gift.

These 29 women and their families do an awesome job of being creative, caring, and generous. We pray for the families, include a thoughtful note in each gift, and give them something that has to do with the 12 Days of Christmas Song. Our hope is that, as they receive these fun little gifts each day, the Christmas Spirit in them will brighten and they willl find joy and peace even if just for a little while each day. For those grieving, we are praying that the children in the family will experience true joy in the midst of their sorrow.

The fourth family this year is a good friend of mine who lost her third child inSeptember. Her son Harrison went straight from the comfort of his mother's womb to the arms of Jesus just weeks before his scheduled birth. Our scrapbooking group and some other friends of the family thought that this Christmas could be a little tough and they might need a bright spots in their day. We thought that her two other little children would get a big kick out of this daily surprise.

Tonight, my family delivered two last day presents. Twelve Drummers Drumming. Taking the theme litterally, I found the cutest little red drum boxes at Michaels and placed inside a box of Drumsticks; the ice cream kind. The note inside say that we hoped the family would enjoy this final day gift and that they would have a Blessed Christmas Celebration and a New Year filled with joy and love.

The joy we get from planning, watching and anticipating the 12 Days of Christmas Surprises far outceeds any effort or energy involved. It's simply amazing. Our family gets great joy in this yearly tradition. If you are interested in learning more or getting the information to do this next year for a family let me know and I can send you more information.

I'll leave with this list of the meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas...

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England werenot permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

Wishing You and Yours the Merriest of Christmases. God Bless Us Everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lessons from our Miscarriage

Thirteen years ago when we were walking through the valley of the shadow of death after losing our first child, I didn't really see any redeeming lessons or gifts from this time of sorrow.
Today, I can say that, in many ways, that period of time taught me many lifelong lessons. It impacted not only how I would view my pregnancies, births and children, but how I would look at life in general and grief in particular.

Now, I am nowhere near perfect when it comes to walking through grief, and I have not suffered a life changing death of a close loved one like a parent, sibling or young child. However, I have seen it through other's eyes and tried to learn from them, too. I've witnessed those who have reached out to friends in grief in loving and kind ways and those who have, unknowingly, hurt or wounded their grieving friends by omission or co-mission.

First of all, I would say the best advice is not to ignore the elephant in the room. Talk about the loved one who has died or is dying. Ask questions. Don't expect long answers, but be willing to listen.

Offer to do something specific such as take a child to school, make a meal and drop it off, sit at the home during the funeral, take home some laundry, etc. Then do it!

I love to plan. I offer to plan meals for the upcoming weeks after a death. To have home cooked meals dropped off ready to eat a few times of week lessens the burden. It gives them time to rest and recoup, instead of cook, shop for groceries etc.

Mark down important days on your calendar. For almost a year, I would call a good friend every 15th of the month. She lost her mom to cancer on Jan 15th and I know that each month, she relieved those final days. Call a person or drop them an e-card or letter on those days. Remember the day the baby was to be born, or the child would have graduated from High School, and of course the birthdays.

Milestones and New Adventures Years from now will restart their grief process. A young woman I know, whose mother died 11 years ago, said that high school graduation, college graduation, and her first job were all times she grieved again for her mom and were moments she was missing out on in her life. When her sister gave birth for the first time, I sent a card on her first Mother's Day to say how proud her mother would have been to see what an excellent mother she had become. I will always wonder what my child would have looked like, who they would have been more like, and what things they might be involved in at any given age.

Finally, if you don't know what to say, say that. Tell your friend that you are not that good at dealing with grief. Tell them that you love them and are willing to do whatever, but that you might not always have the right words or do the right things. They will understand. They are struggling through the grief thing, too.

I'm sure all of this you already know. You probably already handle grief of friends and family better than I do. For me, it's good to see that something positive has come out of our loss. Beauty has come from ashes.

My hope is that I too can learn to apply these lessons in my daily life. There are a lot of grieving, wounded souls walking around these days. They have lost jobs, spouses, kids, and their ideal worlds. My prayer is that today they will find comfort in the midst of all of it and see Jesus' open arms ready to offer them that comfort.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thirteen Years

December 18, 1995 is a day I will always remember. The feelings are no longer so raw or painful, but I can in my mind go right back to the weekend leading up to that Monday morning. The frantic phone call to the doctor on Friday night, the fear and gripping realization that the baby we had prayed for, longed for and waited for was not going to make it inside my body any longer.

I was 10 weeks into my first ever pregnancy. We were so excited. We had been to the doctor just 10 days before and had talked about this baby of ours. We'd told friends that we were finally expecting. Our families had been told at Thanksgiving. We knew nothing but joy.

Friday December 15th was a normal day at the office for me, but right after lunch things changed. I started spotting. The other ladies in the office said, not too worry that this was normal. The Doctor said to go home, rest and get off my feet. By Friday night, we were sacred. It was getting worse, not better. We called on doctor and interrupted her dinner out, we wanted to go to the ER and see what was happening. She gave us wonderful advice. Sit tight, don't go. Let's give this baby every chance to make it. If we went she said, they would probably just hasten up the process. It was a long weekend. We had big plans for Christmas shopping a few parties and just overall excitement. Instead we cried, hugged and I rested. I think God was preparing our hearts for Monday morning and the ultrasound that would tell us that our baby had died sometime in the previous two weeks.

Monday December 18th, we went to the Doctor. I remember the waiting room, the ultrasound tech trying to give us some hope, but the look on her face said it all. No heartbeat. My mother and husband's looks of sadness and despair. The doctors' tears for us. The trusting hand on my shoulder saying these things happen and you did nothing wrong. I'm so sorry.

Seeing two other doctors in the hallway who were family friends. Their looks of sadness when they realized the news we'd just received. I was scheduled for a D & C the next morning at the hospital. By 4 p.m. in the afternoon that was no longer necessary. I miscarried the baby at my parents home. The Sac was complete. A Small Tiny Little Creation from God. A Real Baby was inside. Those feet you see that represent pro-life. I saw them there.

We buried the baby at a family's acreage outside of town. Between three trees. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we thought. Watching over our loss, our dreams our hopes.

We went through the motions of Christmas that year. Sad, brokenhearted and crying. We saw people who wished us well, not knowing the turn of events. It was devastating.

It would not be until the weekend that our baby was due to come that summer that we would find out we were pregnant again. With tears, hopes and lots of prayers, we would bring that baby home healthy and loved in March of 1997.

Tomorrow I'll share the lessons. blessings and gifts that this expereience has given to us as a family.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Carols and Precious Moments Shared.

On Monday I took my daughter's brownie troop to a retirement/nursing home near our school. This is our fourth year of going in December to sing Christmas carols and spread some good cheer.

For some of the 3rd grade girls this is there only exposure to the older generation. They have no grandparents or great grandparents living or living nearby and thus don't get the joy of interacting with these wonderful people very often. We make cards for the residents, and pass them out at the end of our program so that they can see the girls up close and personal. I ask that the girls dress up a little bit for this event; no jeans etc. There is nothing grandmother types like seeing more than little girls in dresses.

I've learned some very valuable lessons through the years I thought I would share..

* Traditional Christmas Carols trump those frosty the snowman songs every time. The faces of the residents light up when we sing "Silent Night " or " Angels We Have Heard on High". They sing along and it's almost as if you can see them go back in time to another place or Christmas memory. I've noticed even the non verbal types mouth the words or hum along.

* If we sing off key or miss a few of the words it's ok. I'm not a singer. I love to sing, but perfect pitch is not something I understand. For the past few years we've sung along with a piano player, this year our location changed in the building and we had no piano to use. Guess who had to start out every song. Good thing many of the residents wear hearing aides and couldn't catch my tone. They thought we sounded like angels.

* Seeing a friendly face and hearing children laugh can brighten any day. These ladies and one gentleman loved every minute of our 35 minute performance. They smiled and giggled and did not want to leave afterward. What took so little time, energy and effort on our part is now one of their highlights of the week.

* It's always ok to say Merry Christmas. In this group it's not Happy Holidays or Spirit of the Season, it's Merry Christmas. They might not all celebrate the season withe Jesus like we do but everyone accepts that December 25th is Christmas. I no longer go along with the politically correct way and alway say we are hear for Christmas and we sing all three verses of "Joy to the World" and "Away in the Manger".

I am blessed to have a 96 year old grandmother still here on earth. She lives in a nursing home across town. While it's hard to carry on a conversation with her as her hearing is bad and her memory is short; I now go just to hold hands with her. To sit up close and rub her back and tell her how blessed I am to have had memories of her and grandpa stored in my head. I remind her of these long ago days and try to fill in the details of today.

I decided this week after my visit with her that next week I'm bringing a scrapbook. We can look and not need to talk, just enjoy the company. While I sometimes think I'm too busy, or it's too much of a hassle to go I think God enlightened me this week to how much just 15-45 minutes of my time might brighten her day, her week and mine too.

I want for my children to have an appreciation for the older generation. Their grandparents are still young and active in their minds, but a day will come when they no longer are. We are going to soak up the moments now that so that when Nana and Papa are sitting in the rocking chair my kids will have memories to share with them while holding their hands. Precious memories and moments.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm Fabulous: In My Mind

I've been nominated for a blog award. Hard to believe I know ,but I have very kind friends. Jen my sweet soon to be in-law ( if our 4 year olds get married) is the reason I have this beautiful trophy to show you. Thanks Jen I'm not sure I am worthy.

This blog award comes with a catch however. I must reveal to you my listening audience my 5 addictions. Seriously. My addictions listed out for the whole world wide web. Good thing my family already knows them.

I'd say it's in no order but the first one is my biggest by far...and away.
1. Diet Pepsi. Yes DP not Diet Coke. I'm a true Midwesterner; Pepsi products please. Did you know in places like Texas ( my husband's favorite homeland) you have to search high and low for Diet Pepsi. They even ask you at restaurants " do you want a coke, what kind" Favorite way to drink it: Fountain Pop with crushed ice from a convenient store.

2. Lists. Yes Lists and more lists. I make a" to do list" every morning of what I need and want to do that day. When I was in college I would even write things I'd already done just so I could cross it off. That's a problem. I have lists of who to call, long term projects, vacation packing lists, and of course my all time favorites weekly menu lists and grocery lists. Favorite list making tool: I love index cards for lists, they have blank spaces and lined so I can use both sides.

3. Hallmark Channel Movies. Don't laugh if you have not tried them. I love to watch these while I'm knitting in the afternoon during A's rest time. I give myself one hour to watch and knit and can usually almost finish a movie. They can be sappy, but are non offensive, normally have a good moral compass and they just make me happy. My greatest sadness is when the DVR does not record my movie. Favorite Way to Watch; with the fire roaring, diet Pepsi and my knitting project in my lap.

4. Reading Books only one time. I love to read especially Christian Fiction, but don't ask me to read them twice. I remember the characters and settings too much to enjoy the storyline a second time through. Good thing my mother buys a lot of books and shares them with me now that I don't work in a Christian Bookstore and just borrow them for book reviews.
Favorite way to enjoy: I bring a book with me wherever I go and love to read in waiting rooms etc. I've been know to read 4 books on a week long vacation. Good Thing my husband does the driving.

5. Having a Project To Do: I must at all times have something I'm working on. It can be a project for home, volunteer jobs or a craft project but I need to have something occupying my time. Right now it might be a few too many projects: school volunteer job, knitting jobs that must be done for Christmas, a few other Christmas projects (not to be discussed yet) and of course I have self imposed deadlines and expectations for all of them. Favorite project: A Christmas Surprise I'm working on right now. I'll discuss after Christmas.

I have a few other things that I addicted too like my favorite candy that's impossible to find; Chuckles. Traditions at Christmas that I'm not willing to give up: Opening presents on Christmas Day not Eve and of course you must have pecan rolls and cranberry juice to drink that morning too.

I tag the following people who might not all have blogs but can write in the comments their top five.

1. Kim at Mercy Days who encourages me to be a better blogging and mother by her inspiring posts.

2. Wendy who is a fellow Midwesterner and takes the most amazing photos ever.

3. My Friend Kath who reads my ramblings and must laugh like crazy having known me for over 20 years. She's probably waiting for me to grow up but loves me anyway.

4 and 5: The Friends I'm telling this week about this blog. I've not shared the fact that I blog with any real life friends yet (except Kath and Jenn). Not my family, not close friends. I'm thinking of putting it our Christmas Letter which goes out to about 5 people. Or maybe more.
If I do spill the beans and you've found me please play along.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I Don't Know How To Read

Since this has become a way to document event/sayings/ happenings of our family until I have time to get them into our scrapbook, I have a few things I need to get down on paper (PC Monitor?) right away before they escape me.

Those of you who know our little family are aware that A, the 4 year old, is actually a 40 year old in a very small package. She spends so much of her time with me and other adults that her vocabulary, mannerism and thoughts are often very grown up. In fact, she told me just yesterday that I was not going to be her best friend anymore if I didn't take her to Burger King for lunch. I wasn't aware we were best friends!

If you recall, she is working on writing her name, but leaves out all the e's because she doesn't like them. Too bad! There are two in her first name and two more in her last. Guess we should have consulted her first on naming rights.

She made a card the other day for her "boyfriend" G. It was made during preschool art time and she handed it to him right after school. She beamed with excitement when she handed it over to him and his cute little family

G's mom is my friend Jenn who has a great blog: was so kind to act impressed with the words. To me it looked a lot like this.

a a att annatttt atatat tt aaa.

But bigger and not in a row, but you get my gist.

On the way home in the car, I asked A what she wrote.

She said "a word."

I said, "What Word?"

She said, "Hello, I can't read, I don't know."

Stunned silence from the mother.

"What do you mean?" I said

"I don't know how to read so how do I know what the word is? Don't his parents know how to read?" A said in utter disgust for her mother's inability to understand.

"Well you are right they do" I said.

The next day G invited A over to play. She told me obviously his parents must be able to read cause he knew to have her over!

I must, in defense of A, say that there are other children in my family who think and act in such a way. They do things that leave their parents in stunned silence. Unfortunately, often the things they say or do might embarrass them later so I'm trying to respect their privacy.

Like, I would never share how my 11 yr old son wore his swimsuit, swim towel and running pants home today from his Boy Scout Swim Test and told me it felt like he had wet his pants. That's too private!

Or, when he told me that while swimming, he was to pretend to drown and someone was to throw him a rope. Guess the guy missed by about 2 feet. C had to kick under water to the side of the pool. What cracked me up was when he said; "If I was a real person, I would have died."

Or, I would never comment on my 8 yr old daughter and how yesterday while hanging the outside Christmas lights, she asked if they needed to be plugged in first to light up. Not sure if she thought they were solar lights or was more worried that we needed to get inside and get the hot chocolate going.

I, of course, never think first; that's why I have this blog. Of course, I have my husband ready to read before I post just in case I would embarrass myself. Either that or I have no idea how to use a comma.

Monday, December 1, 2008

With Grateful Hearts

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. There was great feasting, plenty of rest, time spent with family, carrying on of traditions, and creating memories to store up for the winter. We've officially entered that crazy month of December, but first I wanted to reflect on a great November.

At the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at our local History Museum.

We were thrilled that once again that my in laws made the trek to visit us from Chicago. It wasn't just the great Norwegian Christmas Cookies that Bestemor made that made my kids smile. They were just thrilled to have them here for a few days. Snuggling, craft time, looking at scrapbooks, and a few loud games of Apples to Apples made for a wonderful long weekend. Tears were evident Saturday night before bed when we said good-bye to the grands knowing we would not see them again until springtime. What a blessing it is to have two sets of grandparents involved in our lives passing on traditions and memories. One of the highlights for the kids was our trex to the local Scandinavian Shop. How thrilled they are with their Norwegian Heritage and the fact they are just the second generation of their family to be born in the United States.

Their mother needs to do a better job of passing on some German and English traditions, too!

Bestefar and the kids looking over the Birthday Calendar we made with photos of our Minnesota Vacation this past summer. It was great to relive the fun we had on that trip.

Things I want to remember:
* The smile on all three kids faces when the Grandparents arrived on Wednesday.

* The thrill when they realized that cookies had arrived too.

* C teaching Bestefar how to play football on the Play Station

* M and A coloring and making crafts at the kitchen table with Bestemor

* Laughs and Giggles in the family room when A played judge for Apples to Apples. Her knowledge of history and people is really lacking. What do you expect from a 4 year old!

* Christmas Tree Lighting at the Train Station and driving through the lights downtown. The oohs and ahas from all were well worth the fighting in the backseat.

Thank you God for a wonderful time this Thanksgiving. Time is a wonderful gift and I'm grateful that we were able to share this time with all of our family.