The White Flag

SurrenderThis weekend we finally said goodbye to January. Goodbye, and good riddance. Never in my life have I been so glad to see a month end. January 2015 was, hands-down, the most challenging 31 days I’ve ever been dealt. The entire month was just an endless string of one let down after another, one loss after another, one upheaval after another, one tearing apart of my perfect little organized, well-planned, predictable life.

The month started with us saying goodbye (again) to our loved ones as we left our Christmas holidays in Washington and returned to our “normal” life in California. Saying goodbye was rough.

A few days after arriving home we visited the doctor to confirm our recently-discovered pregnancy. What was supposed to be an exciting time of preparing for our new baby quickly turned into unsettling discussions followed by even more disturbing test results as we learned that our baby would never be born. My miscarriage (discussed further here) was, and continues to be, a physical and emotional roller coaster that I was in no way prepared for. The whole thing is R-O-U-G-H, ROUGH. I would have been fine with the life-change stopping right there for the moment, but as they say: when it rains, it pours.

A few days after we found out that we’d lost the baby, we went for a family hike to try and clear our minds a bit. David had brought along Mimi, his stuffed monkey lovey, on the hike. In the moment we didn’t think too much of this because, as David’s lovey, Mimi has gone with our family everywhere we’ve gone for the last 4.5 years (which, by the way, is the same total time that David has gone with us everywhere we’ve gone).

Mimi was at the hospital the day David was born. Mimi snuggled David to sleep when he was a baby. Mimi played endless hours of basketball with David when he was 2 years old. Mimi moved to Ireland with us when David was 3. Mimi traveled the world with us: she went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, rode in the London Tube, and sunbathed on beaches in Spain. Mimi comforted David when he was moved to a new home, new school and new community for the 4th time in his short life. David loved Mimi more than anything, she was his WORLD.

So, here we were, out on our hike with the whole family +Mimi and life was grand. I even got a picture of David and Mimi at the top of our hike so we could remember what good little hikers they were. But, somehow between the top of our hike and bed time, Mimi went missing. She was not in the house. She was not in the car. Mimi. Was. Gone. David was inconsolable at bedtime, so I did what any rational parent would do. I called the restaurant that we stopped at for lunch after the hike–and all of the other restaurants and businesses within a 2-block radius of there. No Mimi. I left voicemails for the security that I knew checked the area where we were hiking. No Mimi. I enlisted my running friends to retrace our steps on the trail (a huge thank you, by the way, to the dozen or so of you who did that!). No Mimi. I put ads on the lost and found section of Craigslist. No Mimi. NO. MIMI.

I don’t know if it was because we were already experiencing another type of loss or just because I really loved Mimi (because, really, she has loved my boy very well), but losing that silly monkey just wrecked me. I lost sleep over it. I’m crying right now just thinking about it.  Losing Mimi was rough. For all of us.

Two days after the Mimi fiasco, I lost something else. The Bible study that I’ve been involved with for the past 10 years, the Bible study that I love and look forward to every week, the Bible study that has been my constant through all of the moves and changes and upheavals, decided they were done with my family. They asked us not to come back…for awhile…but I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea any more. I was shocked and I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing–and I still really do love the group and what they stand for–so we’ll just leave it at that. Another loss, another change, another rough patch.

And then, just to add a little madness to the mayhem, we got word that our landlord here in California had died a week before Christmas. Well, not so much died, as he was murdered in his new home a few miles away from where we now live. Nobody really had a plan for this, so now our agent and the landlord’s brother and some attorneys are scrambling to figure out what to do. I don’t know if we’re going to be kicked out of our house (worst case scenario) or if they’ll decide to *sell us* the house for dirt cheap just to get it off their hands (best case scenario), but it’s just another thing. Another change, another challenge, another confusing and rough experience.

In summary, my January SUCKED. There were moments when I just wanted to push stop or rewind or erase so I could make it all go away. But if I’d done that, I would have missed a lot. Because, despite the pouring down of rough sucky-ness, there were lots of bright spots in my days.

There were bright spots like eating late-night brownie sundaes with my “comfy” friends (you know, the dear friends who you are so comfy around that you make a pact to wear sweats and messy hair when you hang out). Bright spots like handwritten notes. Bright spots like the neighbor that brought us dinner and a box of doughnuts. Bright spots like David’s teacher telling me how proud she was of his effort in school. Bright spots like the gift of a day out and some pampering (shout out to Val because, seriously, I have the best friends.). Bright spots like Jacob holding my face in his tiny hands and saying in his most earnest toddler voice, “Mommy, I LOVE you. You’re pretty.” Bright spots like Jon doing all the dishes WITHOUT ME EVEN SAYING A WORD ABOUT HELPING WITH THE DISHES.

Through all this, I’ve come to realize that no matter how ridiculous life might get, there are always bright spots. In order to find the bright spots, though, sometimes you have to do more than just look for them. Sometimes, you have to surrender first in order to find them. When you’re at that place of raw vulnerability, that place that I’m at now, you have to acknowledge that you simply can not depend on your plans, your dreams, your expectations. In the now-infamous words of Elsa of Arendelle, you have to “Let It Go” (OK, I may have watched Frozen with my kids a few (dozen) times this month when I couldn’t find the will to move off the couch).

But, seriously, sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and say I can’t do this. Because, really, you can’t. I can’t. We can’t. And we’re not supposed to. We were not created to handle, on our own, all that life throws at us–because, if we were, then there would be no need for God or a Savior. We were not created to carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders, because nobody’s shoulders are sturdy enough to carry that burden. No, we were created to surrender. We were created to need the God who created us, to surrender to the Savior He sent us, and to move confidently forward knowing that He has freed us. You have to acknowledge that there are times when life is tricky and confusing and maddening and rough. And you have to lay it all down at the foot of the cross and LEAVE IT THERE. You have to give it all up and let God take the reigns on your life. It’s not easy to do, but it’s worth it.

I’m at the breaking point, and I have a choice: I can rely on my own strength–and ultimately crumble–or I can surrender to God who will strengthen me. Hiding behind my own comforts and well-thought out plans isn’t going to work right now, because all of that has already been stripped away. I am left with one option: surrender.

Surrendering to God’s will is the only way to truly move forward, so that’s what I’m choosing. I’m surrendering January (praise the Lord!) and letting it all go. I’m surrendering the trauma of the miscarriage and the loss of our beloved Mimi and the questions that remain about my future. Because it’s not worth holding on to all that rough-stuff alone, and I know that I can’t live in the “now”, let alone move forward, if I’m carrying that burden alone. It’s too much. And, since I know the solution to this particular set of problems, I’m going to take it. I’m waving the proverbial white flag like a madwoman. I’m surrendering my life, my circumstances, my very heart to God–and sitting back to watch Him work.

Proverbs 23:26: “Give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

Done and done.

Goodbye January, and hello, February. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s time for a fresh start. Moving forward, now!

Posted in Daily Life, Kids and Parenting, Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Finding Grace In My Miscarriage

daffodilThis post will not be funny. In fact, it will not even be fun. But I need to write it. I need to write this, because writing helps me process my own thoughts–and I have a lot of thoughts racing through my mind right now. I need to write this because some day this moment will only be a memory, and I’ll want to remember the details. I need to write this because I need your prayers right now. I need to write this because I know I am not alone in this struggle–and if I can help any of you to feel hope or peace knowing that you are not alone, then it will be worth it.

Today was supposed to be a fun day–I would have gotten a popup from the baby tracker app on my phone that told me all about my fetus who would turn 8-weeks today. My baby would be the size of a raspberry and have brain cells growing at the rate of 100 cells per minute. But instead of being 8 weeks closer to meeting our new baby, I am saying goodbye to a baby that will never be. I am in the middle of one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever found myself in: a miscarriage. It’s one of those experiences that I’ve witnessed in others and prayed to never have brought upon myself. And yet, here I am.

When Jon and I found out on Christmas Eve that I was pregnant, we were overjoyed. We had been praying for this child for over a year, and it felt like we’d scored the jackpot. It was a Christmas miracle! Since we were in Washington for the holidays, we got to share our happy news with all of our family and closest friends in person.  Looking back, I am so grateful that we had that time to share our joy with the people we love them most. For the moment, it seemed, everything was perfect.

Unfortunately, our joy was short-lived. Once we returned to California I made an appointment with my doctor to confirm the pregnancy. But during my first routine blood test, a problem quickly became apparent. My pregnancy hormone levels were raising, but not as much nor as quickly as they should be. Over the course of that week I returned to the doctor for half a dozen blood draws, prescription medication, and two ultrasounds. Then, last Friday, January 16th, I got the very diagnosis I’d been dreading: our pregnancy was coming to a close, and there would be no baby to meet at the end of it.

The doctor explained to me that I was experiencing something called a blighted ovum or an anembyonic pregnancy. What this means is that a fertilized egg attached itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo never developed. Somewhere in those very early stages of development, something went wrong. My body didn’t know this, though, so it kept preparing to host a new life. The pregnancy sac and the placenta developed, and I experienced the normal side-effects of first-trimester pregnancy. There was no way I could have known what was actually happening inside my body, and there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome.

Eventually my body will realize that the baby is no longer developing, and a physical miscarriage is imminent. My doctor gave me the choice of taking medication to initiate this process, or of going in for a medical procedure, or of simply waiting for nature to take its course. I opted to wait for a week to see if things will occur naturally, but when I return to the doctor this Friday we will decide if there are other steps that I want to take. For now, though, I am in that gray area of waiting. Waiting for something I am dreading and mourning. Waiting for the inevitable unhappy ending to my fairytale. It’s horrible, and I am broken.

A few days ago I went for a run to try to clear my mind. And as I was out there, alone on the trail, I came upon something that made me stop in my tracks. Right there on the side of the trail was a clump of daffodils, pushing their way out of the soil and proudly blooming in the sunlight. My first thought when I saw the daffodils was that this just wasn’t right.

Having lived in cold places all my life, the blooming of daffodils has always been a sign for me of triumph and new beginnings. Daffodils come at the end of the darkest season to remind us of the light that is to come. You see, in cold places, there is this season that comes every year called winter. In California we don’t so much get winter as we get a few cool-ish days mixed in with the usual sunshine. Winter in cold places is different. Everything is frozen and dark and bleak. The plants wither away to shriveled twigs and the animals go into hiding. I detest it. And then, just when it seems you’ll never enjoy daylight again, Spring arrives. The sun begins to warm the earth, the animals come out of hibernation, and the plants awaken. The daffodils bloom. I know that the worst is behind us and a new season has begun.

So as I was standing there staring at daffodils blooming in the middle of January, I understood something. These lucky California flowers didn’t have to endure the long winter and fight for survival, yet they were still allowed to blossom and grow. They were experiencing undeserved grace, getting something wonderful even though they’d done nothing to deserve it. And you know what? I am experiencing that same grace, even in the midst of this darkest hour.

Every time I hug and kiss and snuggle the two sons I already have, that is grace. Every time my husband encourages me or lets me cry on his shoulder, that is grace. Every time a friend calls or texts or sends me an email to let me know they are praying for me, that is grace. Every time I find joy in the midst of pain, that is grace. Every time the sun rises on a new day, that is grace. Every time I am reminded of where my hope lies–not in the fleeting conditions of this world, but in my eternal salvation through Jesus–that is grace.

And, even though I so desperately wanted to meet this baby, there is grace in this miscarriage. I don’t know why my baby didn’t grow, but I do know that God knew how this story would end before it even began. He allowed this to happen and, some day, I may even understand why. You see, God never promises to spare us from pain. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Bible promises that life in this broken world will be FULL of hardship and strife. But God has an answer for that pain. He promises to be with us in our struggles, to comfort us and to heal us and to strengthen us. He promises to never leave our side, and to give us hope when we feel hopeless. Despite my great grief, I feel that overpowering peace that I know could only come from Him. I am reminded of God’s promise:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

So that is the grace I am holding close to my heart today. Even though all I see right now is a disaster, God has a plan. He has a plan for me and my family and our baby who He’s already called Home. He has plans to pull me out of my despair and allow me to flourish again. This ordeal is not meant to harm me, but to grow me in new and challenging ways. He reminds me that my hope has simply been deferred, not abandoned–and that my hope in His Truth has been strengthened.  He promises me a future. This is not the end of my story.

And just like the daffodils, I will bloom again some day. But first, I have to get through the long, dark days of winter. I will survive, and I will live to see the light of a new beginning.

By God’s grace, I will triumph.

 

Posted in Kids and Parenting, Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My #OOTD “Fashion” Blog

These last few weeks have been marvelous. Over Christmas break I got to spend two whole weeks at my parents’ house relaxing and enjoying the holiday festivities. I got to spend two whole weeks eating other peoples’ food that other people cooked and that other people cleaned up after. Two whole weeks of allowing others to do the vacuuming and the toilet scrubbing and the taking-out-the-garbage. It was…extraordinary.

Between not-cooking and not-cleaning I found myself with a rare gift: down time. And, since I was on vacation, I decided to use my new-found downtime in the most productive way I could think of: mindlessly perusing the internet.

I visited all of my favorite time-kill sites–Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And as I was clicking through the cat memes and the how-to-be-a-better-parent articles I discovered a new (to me) phenomenon: #ootd. Now, for those of you who might be new to the intricacies of the hashtag, #ootd stands for “outfit of the day”. It’s used by fashion bloggers and budding fashionistas to show the world what cute outfit they are wearing that day. In other words, this is how the fashion world says I should look. If you search online for #ootd you’ll come up with thousands of results like this (titled: “Ring in the year with style”):
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Well, wouldn’t you know it! I was thinking of buying that exact same strapless sequined number to wear for preschool drop off! That sparkly clutch would probably hold a credit card AND a diaper! And those shoes! They’d be perfect for Costco runs and trips to the pediatrician! OK, not really.

While my clothing will probably never grace to pages of Glamour Magazine (heck, I don’t think my clothes even know what Glamour Magazine is), I’ve still got style. My style. The style of a busy stay-at-home mom who chooses comfort over fashion. And yet, the #ootd phenomenon has inspired me. I think I will join the ranks of fashion bloggers and give you, dear friends, a highly anticipated glance into my wardrobe. I now present to you: Allison’s #ootd.

Day 1
Since this outfit is representative of 90% of the outfits I wear during a given week, I thought I would present it first. Notice the comfy (read: stretchy) yoga pants and technical t-shirt, perfect for chasing after toddlers and wrestling a preschooler. The necklace is from the last half-marathon I completed, to remind me that before the Christmas slump I used to be active–it’s a medal of inspiration, really. Flip flops because…flip flops.IMG_1604 Day 2
Sometimes I change out of my yoga pants so I can interact with other humans who don’t wear yoga pants every day. I put on a dress and some leggings (glorified yoga pants) to wear to my mid-week Bible study. The watch really goes better with my yoga-pants wardrobe, but I still like to know what time it is when I’m wearing a dress. Boots complete the look, wouldn’t you say?IMG_1597 Day 3
My other go-to outfit: jeans, a t-shirt, a scarf, and some comfy shoes. I got the scarf at Penny’s (an Irish clothing chain that I really do hope will find its way to America soon!) and the shoes are knock-off Chucks. I think the total cost of this outfit was about the same price as a dinner at Red Robin.IMG_1625 Day 4
I know you’re getting jealous of my unique sense of style and incredible eye for fashion, but I have just a few more gems for you. Outfit deets: tank–Tesco (an Irish grocery store. Yes, the grocery stores there sell clothes.); cardi–Target (basically an American grocery store that sells clothes); shoes–Toms (because I like giving shoes to people in need). This outfit is awesome because it’s layered (a practice that is apparently quite en vogue). If I get too warm, I can do the oh-so-fashionable tie-the-sweater-around-my-waist trick.
IMG_1624 Day 5
Yes, I wore this. For an entire day. And, yes, it is as comfortable as it looks. The hoodie is circa 2003 from The INN (the college group where I met Jon–he probably fell in love with me because I was wearing this sweatshirt). The yoga pants (yes, I know, more yoga pants) are Lululemon (that’s fashionable, right?). A messy bun and slippers complete the look.IMG_1612 Day 6
I didn’t even wear this outfit this week, but I just wanted to show you that I do own clothes that are not yoga pants and jeans. Outfit deets: dress–Old Navy; belt–Debenham’s (Irish Macy’s); necklace–LivingSocial deal (I have no idea what company actually made it, but I love it. Unfortuantely the beads have started to come loose and I keep reattaching them to the necklace haphazardly. I guess the interesting shape just gives it more character); shoes–H&M.IMG_1605 Day 7–A Super Boy Bonus Feature!
David saw me modeling my wardrobe and he wanted to show off his duds, too. Here he is in his #ootd: an outfit he put on while he was playing at the neighbors house. Since all of the clothes belong to another child, I’m not sure where you might find these incredible pieces. If you do borrow clothing from the neighbor girl, however, I suggest you borrow a skin-tight midriff-exposing shirt and pants that you wear low enough on your waist to expose a band of blue undies. Suuuuuper cute.IMG_1631I hope I’ve offered you some wardrobe inspiration with my outfit of the day picks. And, when in doubt, just put on yoga pants. Comfort will never lead you wrong!

Posted in Daily Life, Humor, Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2014 in review: The Blog Edition

2014 has been busy–here are some stats from the blog this year. Writing has been one of my great joys this year–thanks for reading, friends!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 42,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Kids and Parenting | Leave a comment

Allison’s Favorite Things

Last week I went to a “favorite things” gift exchange. It was brilliant. Everyone brought a wrapped gift–one of their favorite things–then we exchanged them “white elephant” style so everyone could see and experience some new favorites together. The only problem with this little game was that I struggled for weeks to narrow down just one favorite thing to wrap up and bring to the party. There are so many products and services that I love–so many things that I could write a whole blog post about them.

So, because I know you’ve all been dying to know, here are a few front-runners for the 2014 edition of: Allison’s Favorite Things.

Flat ShotsOrla Kiely
I fell in love with Orla Kiely last year when we were living in Ireland, where everyone who was anyone sported her styles like they were…um…going out of style.  Orla Kiely is an Irish contemporary designer with the boldest, most beautiful prints you’ve ever seen. She designs all sorts of home and fashion accessories: purses, wallets, dishes, blankets, gardening tools, notebooks, clothing. Unfortunately, it usually costs you an arm and a leg to get into the world of Orla Kiely. That is, until TARGET stepped in (I should write a whole post on how much I love Target. Maybe next time.). That’s right, Target now sells Orla Kiely, and for a piddly fraction of the cost. Peruse the selection here or in store, but just make sure you have a hanky handy to wipe your drool off the floor.

sandalsRainbow Sandals
I know that I’m a bit late to the game here, but I’m new to this whole California-living thing. Rainbow sandals are the best–they’re made with real leather and, for a flip-flop, are incredibly supportive. From what I hear, they also last forever. And, now that I can actually wear flip-flops year-round, I’m getting a ton of use out of them.

 

Herbs_de_Provence_1024x1024Herbes de Provence
Really? An herb on your favorite things list? Yes, and don’t knock it til you try it. A friend introduced me to this stuff and now I put it in just about everything I cook: roasted veggies, marinades, mashed potatoes. I just hope my family loves it as much as I do! And, for the love, if you ever have to buy herbs/seasonings/pantry staples of any kind, please visit the bulk foods section at WinCo. You’ll thank me later.

amazonprime

Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime has changed my life. Seriously. I am yet to find a single product in this whole vast world that I can not order on Amazon–and, with Prime, I get it all shipped in two days to my door. For FREE. Now, you do have to pay upfront for your Prime membership ($99 for a year), but it the benefits far outweigh the costs (plus, you can always do a free trial of Prime for up to 6 months depending on when you sign up). We get items shipped to our house via Prime almost every day–everything from diapers to clothing, to pantry staples, to our new BBQ (the same item shipped to our house from Home Depot was going to have a $50 shipping fee added on). Not having to leave my house to do my shopping is reason enough for me to order Prime. But wait! There’s more! In addition to free shipping, Prime Members enjoy a number of benefits: online access to Instant Video (similar to Netflix, but with much less selection), Prime Music (similar to iTunes Radio), Prime Photos (free unlimited photo storage online), and access to the Kindle Users’ Lending Library. I could go on and on about the amazingness that is Amazon Prime, but I’ll try to restrain myself. If you don’t already have Prime, sign up here. Now.

Airbnb-2AirBnB
2014 was the year of travel for our family, and it was all made possible by AirBnB. Traveling with two young children can be challenging, and finding the right lodging made all the difference for us. AirBnB.com allows you to rent a space directly from the owner, so you can find many more options for temporary or travel housing than your standard hotel: a single room in a house, a bed and breakfast, a full apartment, an entire house or even something more eclectic (think windmills in Holland and houseboats in Seattle). And, since you’re renting directly from the owner, the prices are usually very reasonable. When we were in London, for instance, we had a 3-bedroom apartment with our own kitchen and laundry facilities, a few blocks from the tube, for half the price of the cheapest hotel room I could find in the same area. I heart AirBnB <3

nivea lip balmNivea Lip Balm
My sister in law got me hooked on this stuff a couple of years ago, and I just can’t stop. This is, hands down, the best lip balm I’ve ever used. My lips have never been smoother or balm-ier. Thank you, Nivea. Some of the balms come tinted, too, thus eliminating my need for extensive lip-makeup routines (let’s be honest here: If I manage to swipe some tinted lip balm on in the morning, I call it “putting on my make up”). Find your new favorite balm at any drug store or online here.

61yhxs1BiUL._SL1500_Double Walled Starbucks Cold Cup
If you have seen me in the last few months, then you’ve probably seen me holding this: a reusable double-walled Venti Starbucks cold cup (the name of the cup is just about as complicated as the names of their drinks).
I love this cup for the following reasons:

1. It’s big. I drink lots of water and I don’t want to be running to the faucet every two seconds to refill an insufficient cup.
2. It has a straw. I drink far more liquids when I am drinking through a straw and, since we’re all supposed to drink more water, this just makes sense. Plus it wouldn’t mess up my lipstick…if I ever wore lipstick.
3.My hands never get cold when I’m holding it. Since it’s double-walled, the cold stays inside the first wall and my hands only touch the insulated outer wall. Bring on the ice!
4. It doesn’t “sweat”. Again, since the cup is double-walled, you don’t get any condensation on the outside of the cup. And, since I hate using coasters, this is a hand feature.
5. It fits in the cup holders in my car and stroller (my favorite water bottle does NOT. Boo.)

Buy your own fancy cup at the ‘Bucks or online here.

PumpkinCupcakes
Alright, so my obsession with cupcakes is not new to 2014.  What has changed, though, is my close proximity to some of the best cupcake shops in the world. Within minutes I can be at no less than a dozen cupcake bakeries that have been featured on Food Network or the pages of foodie magazines. If you ever find yourself in the Bay Area, check out some of my (new) favorites: Kara’s Cupcakes, Sprinkles, Icing on The Cake, Frost Cupcake Factory, and Minicakes.

61N-ivATQYL._SY355_UnderArmour Gold Gear Jacket
This is the most versatile jacket I’ve ever owned and I wear it almost every day. It’s warm, but not too warm. It keeps the wind and rain (at least, California “rain”) off you. It’s the perfect weight for wearing pre- or post-workout…or just lounging around the house…or running the kiddie carpool. It has tons of zippered pockets so you don’t lose your keys or your phone or your mind. As an added bonus mine is neon pink, so I’m sure to always stand out in a crowd! Get yours here.

 

29823-spicy-chai-mixTrader Joe’s Chai Tea Powder
I’m not a coffee drinker, so I have to get my fix from other sources. And, as we’ve already established with my cupcake entry here, I have quite the sweet tooth. Chai tea is my favorite sweet, warm beverage to cozy up with on a cold winter’s night. As a chai tea connoisseur, I have sampled many different varieties. TJ’s powdered mix is my new favorite and it comes in a variety of enticing seasonal flavors (try the pumpkin spice chai in the fall and salted caramel in the winter). At less than $5 per container, the price point is also pretty sweet. Find yours in the Trader Joe’s beverage aisle next to the coffee.

article-1250992-083E2A01000005DC-544_468x324Sleep
For the first time in half a decade I have two children who consistently sleep through the night–which means I am back to a regular schedule of sleeping (in my own bed, until a humanly-sane hour in the morning). It’s pure bliss, and I can not recommend it enough. Find your own good night of sleep with a weekend getaway or having older children who literally run around ALL day to the point of pure exhaustion. And, if you are lucky enough to find sleep, it’s priceless.

So, there you have it! Some oldies, some newbies and, always, some goodies. Hope you enjoyed a little peek into some of my favorite things. What’s going on your “favorite things” list this year?

 

Posted in Holidays and Traditions, Musings, Product Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Jesus Is The Better Santa

santa_kneeling_lg

Childhood is such a magical stage of life, and Christmas has to be the most magical time in childhood. For a few short weeks every year the whole world transforms in anticipation for the most magical of all days: Christmas. Of course I loved Christmas when I was growing up, but nothing compares to seeing Christmas anew through my childrens’ eyes. The wonder, the excitement, the joy– everything is magnified with young children, and I can’t get enough of it.

I have to confess: when I think of the “magic of Christmas”, though, one of the first images that pops into my mind is of a jolly old man in a red suit with eight flying reindeer. I mean, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa.

Or would it?

Five years ago when we celebrated our first Christmas with our first baby, Jon and I had several discussions about what to do about Santa. We wanted to keep the Christmas-focus on Jesus–and all of the hype around Santa kind of gets in the way of that.

After much thought and prayer, we ultimately decided to put Santa on the back-burner (this article does a great job expressing our thoughts on this subject). We still have fun with Santa– we tell our kids about the real St. Nicholas who loved Jesus and served the poor in His name, we read books and sing songs featuring Santa, and we get our annual photo with the big guy–but we just don’t make him the center of our celebrations. Santa doesn’t visit our house on Christmas Eve, and there’s no man at the North Pole putting our kids on the nice or naughty list.  We acknowledge Santa without prioritizing him.

What it all boiled down to is that we didn’t want Santa to compete with Jesus for a place in our boys’ hearts or minds. And why should he? Everything that Santa “can” do, Jesus CAN do better.

In fact, if you think about it, Jesus really is the better “Santa”.

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings gifts once a year, but Jesus gives us the free gift of eternal salvation.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings fleeting happiness, but Jesus brings forever-joy.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa condemns those who are naughty, but Jesus redeems our sin.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa comes just for kids, but Jesus came for all people.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa wears a tacky red suit, but Jesus is clothed in righteousness.
“He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.” Isaiah 59:17

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings coal for those who are naughty, but Christ brings forgiveness for all who sin.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa only comes once a year, but Jesus never leaves us.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa tries to complete our wish list once a year, but Jesus answers every request we bring to Him.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa lives in the North Pole, but Jesus lives in Heaven.
“But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” Luke 22:69

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa keeps a list of “naughty or nice”, but Jesus composes the Book of Life.
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Revelation 13:8

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings gifts that offer temporary pleasure, but Jesus brings the timeless gift of grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Jesus is the better Santa because your belief in Santa ends in disappointment, but your faith in Jesus ends in fulfillment.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

I am so grateful that God didn’t just send us any old gift at Christmas, he sent us the best gift–the perfect gift. The only gift that is guaranteed to never disappoint or break or fade with time. God became man to show his great love for all people–naughty or nice; today, tomorrow and forever.

This Christmas, may you experience the great joy that comes from this love! Merry Christmas!

 

 

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A Month of “Dinovember”/Elf On The Shelf Inspirations

Last year I heard about this new–what shall we call it…a movement?–called Dinovemer. During Dinovember (a combination of the word parts “dino” for dinosaur and “November” for the month these escapades occur during) children awake each morning to find that their toy dinosaurs have caused mischief the previous night while the family was sleeping. Dinovember is similar to the profoundly popular Elf On The Shelf movement that has picked up steam over the last few years. I like the idea of the elf, but we already have several advent activities that we focus on during December so I just can’t with the elf. With two little boys at home, I knew that I just had to participate in the Dinovember festivities. So, I marked my calendar and when November rolled around this year I was ready!

And, I have to say, our first Dinovember was epic. I had fun thinking up antics for our dinosaurs to get into (er..I mean, the dinosaurs had fun getting into mischief all on their own…) but, even more, I loved hearing my boys’ squeals of delight and screams of astonishment each morning when they discovered their dino friends.

Dinovember helped our family play together and use our imaginations. As an added bonus, my boys also diverted some of their attention that is usually reserved solely for Toy Story and cars to a new topic of interest: dinosaurs. We checked out dinosaur books from the library, watched a dinosaur movie, and looked up the names of dinosaurs together on the computer. Dinovember was such a hit this year that we have already decided to make it an annual tradition.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own family fun–whether it’s Dinovember or Elf on the Shelf or whatever other creature you feature during this festive season–I’ve got you covered. Here are the highlights of our first–but certainly not our last!–Dinovember:

Our Dinosaurs arrived on November 1st, the day after Halloween. They brought with them a cute little rhyming note that explained their presence and what they’d be up to this month. They also, conveniently, got into the boys’ Halloween candy and ate most of it up (“But, Dad, why is there chocolate on the corner of your mouth…?”).
IMG_0367The dinos left their mark on the bathroom mirror with dry erase markers. They wrote clever phrases like “Dinos rock!” and “Rawr!”:
IMG_0568They built intricate towers with blocks:
IMG_0579 ..and even made themselves a midnight snack (dino nuggets, of course):IMG_0594Our dinosaur friends made a mess out of TP:
photo (27)The dinos had a late night story time with all of their favorite dinosaur books:IMG_0613 ..and, knowing how important oral hygiene is (because, you know, they have all those sharp teeth), they even took the time to brush up:IMG_0629The dinosaurs got into some old-school mischief printing off pictures of themselves on our office copy machine:
IMG_0641 They got out some favorite board games for a night of good clean fun:IMG_0658 And, if that wasn’t enough fun, the magnadoodles were certainly entertaining! Our little dinosaur friends did some baking (poor little Stegasaurus even got trapped under a bowl!):IMG_0716 They must have wanted to go for a walk because the dinos tried on all of our shoes:IMG_0723 Then they decided to primp themselves up with some of Mom’s jewelry:IMG_0736 As everyone knows, art is a dinosaur’s favorite subject:IMG_0746 Some of the other toys retaliated against the dinos’ mischief-making tendencies:IMG_0561But, in the end, the dinosaurs were so very thoughtful. They even put their own ideas onto our family “Thankful Tree” (even if their ideas of “sharp teeth”, “loud roars”, and “sharks” were a bit unconventional):IMG_0749Hunger must have struck in the middle of the night, because one morning we found them outside grilling up a hamburger and reading our “King of the Grill” cookbook:
IMG_0763 Even dinosaurs get tired sometimes (can you find them in there?):IMG_0766 The dinos wanted to be just like Daddy and shave off their wiskers:IMG_0771 Occasionally the dinosaurs were downright helpful. Here they are starting a load of laundry:IMG_0783Our dino friends built impressive book towers with a bit of prehistoric ingenuity:
IMG_0819 Going back to their animal roots, the dinosaurs decided to go fishing…from the top of a doorframe:IMG_0825 After watching countless hours of our boys playing cars, the dinos wanted their own turn at the race track:IMG_0853 …And what visit to a little boys’ room would be complete without trying some undies on your head?photo (26)

Then, as one final goodbye, the dinosaurs left us with some lasting memories from their “professional” photo shoot:

photo (28)

Dinovember has been a blast but, like all good things, it must come to an end. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and our dinosaurs will eat enough turkey to go into hibernation until next November. We will miss our little dino friends, but we can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!

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