Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Saturday 7

I don't really feel like writing this week, so prepare yourself for a less than stellar entry.

1. Last Sunday the girls got invited to a gymnastics birthday party for one of their friends. Neither of my girls has ever been to gymnastics, but they're both interested in it, so they were thrilled to go. They loved the gym and all the equipment.

By the time they were done, they were begging to sign up for classes. They don't do sports and I've been wanting them to get involved in something, so we signed them up for a weekly class! I think Lena will love it and be a natural, but I'm a little more concerned about Lucy. She does not like to push herself, and if she doesn't succeed the first time she tries something she immediately gives up. (She might get that from me.) They start in September, so we'll see how it goes!!

2. This week I read The Reluctant Duchess (meh), The Heiress of Winterwood (meh), and Just The Way You Are (yeah!). [Affiliate links . . . you know the drill.] They were all Christian fiction, but the first two were "Regency Romances." I'm getting so sick of the Regency era. It's been done so many times. There's really nothing new or interesting about it anymore. I'd like to read some Christian fiction set somewhere beside America or Great Britain and I'm realizing there's not much out there! I loved the Pepper Basham Book though (Just the Way You Are). She writes with such great humor and heart. In this story, the main character has 3 kids who are close to my kids' ages, and I'm guessing Basham has kids of her own around those ages because she was so spot on with how they act. Sometimes I read books where the 4 year old speaks in baby talk or the 8 year old needs a nap. Lame.

3. I feel like I've been crazy busy lately and I don't even know what I've been doing. Haha. Last week was VBS, this week I was working on a secret project for my mom's birthday (I don't think she'll read this before she gets to open her present), next week is our last week of summer and last minute back-to-school prep, then school starts, we go camping over labor day weekend, and I'm throwing a baby shower the following weekend. Last night we had small group, tonight we went to a birthday party for my 80 year old great-aunt, tomorrow we're going out to breakfast for my mom's 60th, and going to a pool party in the afternoon. I also have a dentist appointment and an eye doctor appointment in the next two weeks. I just feel like it's crazy-town in my head lately!

4. One of the things we talked about at small group last night was resting in our justification. I've struggled all my life with the balance between faith and works. Paul is so adamant that salvation is by faith alone, but James declares with certainty that faith without works is dead. And I've been beat over the head in the past few years with the idea that I can do nothing apart from Christ. That my weaknesses are opportunities for him to work through me. That a vine apart from the branch can't bear fruit, that even a vine in the branch can't conjure fruit by trying hard or praying hard or thinking hard. It's Spirit work. And yet Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to be perfect as he is perfect. And to be totally honest, it makes me a little mad. Why tell us to be perfect when you know we can't? When that's the whole point - to realize that we're wretched sinners, incapable of good, and 100% reliant on you? But last night while I was lying in bed, I started to think about it from a parenting perspective. I expect my kids to strive for perfect obedience. Do I expect them to achieve it? Absolutely not. So why do I want them to strive for it? Because if I didn't, they'd be indulgent, selfish sloths. They have rewards and consequences to remind them why it's worth it, and they're constantly growing and maturing because of it. The same is true for me as a Christian. Jesus knows I can't attain perfect obedience. He did that for me already to ensure my salvation. But now that I'm saved, I rest in the justification - not fearing for my soul or my eternity - but still striving for perfection in order to grow and mature. Because my inclination - even as a child of God, saved by grace - is toward slothful indulgence, which will only serve to ruin my witness and make me an ineffective Christian. #deepthoughts

5. I seriously have nothing else. Levi's fighting some kind of fever, crying in his bed, and likely to be up every hour tonight, so I'm going to throw a couple pictures in here and try to get some sleep. Sorry to disappoint!!

Rainy day fun. (That's Lena getting some serious air jumping in the puddles!)

At the park. Levi enjoys seeing all the trucks on the road more than playing on the playground.


I think this would be so interesting! Putting it here to remind myself later.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. We survived another year of VBS! It was exhausting but fun. The girls loved it. Levi was not a fan. He really struggled with being in nursery for 3.5 hours every day. Poor kid. There's a new-ish family at our church with a boy named Levi who's only a few months older than my Levi. I'm unreasonably upset that he'll always have to be Levi V. at church. It already caused problems this week. I tried to label everything (Levi's bag, cup, even himself) but they got him mixed up with the other Levi - they tried to give my Levi the other Levi's blankie, they couldn't find my Levi's Binky because they were looking in the other Levi's bag, etc. I'm naming my next kid Pepper (after the doctor of course) so it's less likely that there will be anyone else named that in his/her class.

2. I tried something new at VBS this year. Instead of leading the preschool class, as I've done for the past few years, I took on 2nd grade, so I could be with Lucy. I had a nice small group - only 9 kids each day - but it was no walk in the park. Haha. I had 2 runners that had to be watched constantly. And I was amazed by the difference between the boys and girls. The boys were always running, playing tag, wrestling, and attacking each other. If I had a nickel for every time I said, "Keep your hands to yourself" this week, I'd be a gajillionaire. It honestly drives me crazy. Lol. This week is a reminder of why I abandoned my teaching degree well before I finished it. The girls were by no means angels, but they were a lot easier to handle. And they were the only ones interested in learning the verses. I had 3 girls who learned all the verses for the week - 2 homeschoolers and one Christian school kid (Lucy). They've obviously memorized verses before.

We had a lot of fun, though. Kids say the funniest things. And it was interesting to see how some of the un-churched kids view church and God and the Bible.

3. Two different things happened this week that reminded me what a small town we live in. One of my friends from Grand Rapids brought her kids to VBS at our church this week, so we decided to go to the park afterward one day. I gave her directions to the park, then ran to Subway to grab lunch. There was a wicked long line and she wasn't sure she was at the right park, so she asked some people who were there. They weren't sure what the park's name was (we all just call it "The Park" because it's the only one in town), so they asked who she was meeting. She told them my name and they assured her she was at the right place because they knew me and knew that was the park I go to. Haha.

That same day I got this screenshot of a snapchat from my nephew.
The top line is what my nephew wrote. The bottom line is the snapchat story of one of his friends. I'll try to explain this for people who don't do snapchat. Some chick at Subway took this picture of Levi and me unbeknownst to me. She put it on her snapchat story (like a facebook newsfeed) and all her friends could see it. One of her friends was my nephew - who recognized Levi and me! Haha. Small world!

4. Lena conquered another of her potty training fears this week: using a bathroom outside of our house. Until this week, she never used the bathroom if we went anywhere. She apparently has a bladder of steel and can hold it for hours. I was stressing out about what this would mean for school in the fall (she's going 2 full days a week). But this week she had her friend Harper at VBS with her - and the classroom they were in has a bathroom with 2 little kid sized toilets. She and Harper conveniently had to go potty at the same time every day, so somehow having a friend to go with made it easier for Lena. Since then, she's used the big bathroom at church a couple times, which is major progress. Whew!

5. And in a strange twist, Levi (who is 17 months old) has suddenly become very aware of when he pees and grabs his diaper every time. If he poops, he grabs his diaper, gets my attention, then toddles over to the diapers and lays down for me to change him. I just finished potty training my 4 year old! Do I really have to start the next one already?? My sister had her boys potty trained before they were 2, but I can't even fathom a kid this young understanding it. Not to mention that he is so tiny, I'd never find underwear that would stay on him!

6. I feel like Levi's had a word explosion lately. He's started to say no, yeah, ball, and ow in context this week. He also says hi, bye, ready-set-go, uh-oh, and yum. And he'll repeat "mama" and "dada" if I ask him to, but he doesn't call us that.

7. Pictures
Summertime = skinned knees and dirty toes

My dad has honeybees this year and they made us some honey! The girls love it.

Pretty sure VBS is more convicting for me than it is for the kids.

Fully clothed and lounging in the pool.

Backyard campout! (They're pretending to sleep. I don't think much actual sleeping went on.)

Our ginormous tent. This will be our home for labor day weekend. I'm so thrilled. ;-) 

Memorializing a good hair moment and showing my sisters how hip I am with my word usage. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. Someone remind me why I wanted Levi to walk. He is so exhausting. Lol. Did I feel this way with my girls? I feel like I can't keep up with the kid. Maybe I'm just getting old, but he is into everything. I can't take my eye off him for a minute or he's pulling cups off counters or throwing shoes in the trash or pulling things out of the trash or throwing things in the toilet or bathtub (we're learning quickly to keep the toilet lid closed!). I love this age because he's starting to show so much personality and learning so much every day, but I forgot how tiring it is. 

2. On Tuesday, we had a very busy day. The girls have been begging to go school supply shopping, so I finally printed out their lists and headed down to Alpine. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that Lena is going to school. When I first looked up the lists, I went straight to the 2nd Grade page for Lucy. I didn't even think about the Preschool list until later. Haha. The girls loved picking out folders and notebooks and pencils. Then we went to Toys R Us for their "Buy a Backpack, Get a Lunchbox Free" promotion. I'm always surprised by what they choose. Lena chose a Trolls backpack and lunchbox. She's seen that movie once and never talks about it. Haha. Lucy didn't want a character backpack, so went for an Aztec print that is actually really cute. And a lunchbox that has some cheesy saying like "Be You" on it.
Organizing their loot. (Oh, and the lunchbox says "Believe in Love.")

3. Before we even went shopping, I prepped the girls that we were not going out to eat. I even packed a lunch in the cooler so we could stop at a park or something on the way home. But as we were walking out of Toys R Us, Lena's eyes lit up as she caught sight of the building next door. I could read her mind before the words even came out of her mouth. "Mommy!" She exclaimed. "You said if I pooped on the toilet we could go to Chuck E. Cheese!" Kids and their stinkin' steel trap memories. I bribed her with that months ago in a fit of desperation. But she didn't forget. And I'm a big believer in keeping my promises. So we ate our lunch in the car, then filed into Chuck E. Cheese for 2.5 hours of fun. Oy. Toward the end, Levi completely melted down, and ended up like this:

The girls had a blast, though. And even Levi enjoyed running around like a manic chimpanzee until the novelty wore off. Most importantly, I'm pretty sure I've paid all my bribes in full.

4. After living a little recklessly this summer, we're buckling down on the budget again. Having two kids in Christian school is reminding me that we're not made of money and we're going to have to be more careful with our spending. So I've started tracking every dollar we spend. Boy is it depressing. Of course, this was a bad week to start, thanks to school supply shopping and unexpected bribe expenses. And then, to top it off, my sisters wanted to have a girls' night, and I can't say no to that! So we went to Olive Garden where I spent $25 on my meal alone!! I've come to the startling (some may say earth-shattering) realization that Olive Garden is not my favorite restaurant anymore! I know. I'm as shocked as you are. I thought I'd go to my grave with a breadstick clutched in each hand. But it's been disappointing me more and more every time we go. The pasta is always dry, the portions are ridiculous, and now they won't let you order a lunch portion during dinner, so you have to pay full price - and the prices have gotten way too high. My favorite meal there is $18! Ain't nobody got that kind of money for a little pasta and artery-clogging alfredo sauce! I need to be saving my money for the angioplasty and triple bypass that is inevitably in my future.

5. One of my greatest parenting regrets is making little compromises with what my kids watch on TV. I started out so gung-ho about wholesome programming, but slowly started lowering the bar. Don't get me wrong. They're not watching Game of Thrones or anything, but I'm still slightly uncomfortable with the Disney shows they devour on Netflix. So I'm always looking for better alternatives that might capture their attention. I read tons of Christian mom blogs and am constantly pinning books, movies, and CDs that might live up to the task. I randomly ordered CDs of The Brinkman Adventures from the library, not really expecting the girls to give it more than 3 minutes before declaring it boring. So I was shocked when Lucy asked to listen to it, then devoured all 4 CDs in 2 days! She's actually been listening to the same stories over and over. They're a little too scary for Lena, but Lucy asked me today to order the next season. Woohoo! Something wholesome and godly to fill her ears instead of "Hey Jessieeeeeee."

6. Along those lines, I read an amazing article this week. Go read it (and the follow-up she links to at the end) and then come back here and read my thoughts on it. In part two, the author wonders why this article of all that she's written went viral and got so much attention. Here's my opinion: This is a new concept for so many of us - one that we're hearing more and more of, but is still very new. It's totally the opposite of how we were parented, so we can't quite grasp how to do it. Growing up, it was very clear to me that obedience was not optional. My parents and the parenting figures in my life used the A+B=C approach. If the child doesn't obey, he gets consequences. As long as you're consistent with that, they will eventually learn to submit and obey. If kids aren't being obedient, it's because their parents don't effectively discipline them.

As a parent myself, I totally have the idols the author of that blog was talking about. My idols are my reputation and expectations. I expect my kids to follow that A+B=C approach. When it doesn't work, I feel like a failure and feel that others are judging me for being unable to keep my kids under control. Lena's ridiculous battle with potty training was kind of pivotal for me. It humbled me like nothing else in my parenting journey so far.

But what resonates with me (and apparently a lot of other people) about that blog post is that we want something different. We don't want to be Pharisees. We don't want our kids to obey for the sake of obedience (or to avoid consequences). We want to reach their hearts. But we also don't want to teach them to abuse grace. We understand the necessity of discipline, but want to weave it in with the gospel. And we don't know how. We don't understand how to parent with grace because we didn't grow up seeing that modeled. [Quick sidenote: this is not a judgment of my parents or any of the parents who were influential in my life. Their methods worked great on me. Fear is an excellent motivator in my case. But I've seen firsthand that it was not effective for a lot of my generation. And no "method" is foolproof. That's exactly what the author's point is.] So we're grasping at articles like this that give us hope there is another way.

7. Pictures
Levi got his first haircut this week! I was super nervous, but he did great, and still looks like himself, so I'm happy.
The stroller fell out of my trunk onto my foot this week. This is my war wound. 

Roasting marshmallows at the library.
I got the girls a glittery, sequined dance dress at Once Upon a Child and made the mistake of washing it with their other laundry. Sparkles for days. Everywhere. And Levi's sticky little feet picked them all up.
Pool and popsicles. (This was before the haircut - can you tell? Haha)
These two . . .
And then there's this little fashionista. Lol.
And finally, a rare picture of Lucy legitimately laughing. She's all about posing, lately. I love catching these candid moments. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The "Saturday" 7

1. We're home from our fabulous anniversary getaway so the Saturday 7 shall henceforth be penned. Although I make no promises that I'll actually make it to 7, since not much happened last week worth writing about. Hence the reason I used up a whole point to tell you that.

2. We made cookies, had a playdate with a couple long-lost friends, and survived a trip with all 3 kids to the beach. It was Lucy's reward for completing the summer AR program at school. She got 30 AR points between June and last week, largely in part to the American Girl books she's started reading. They're worth a lot of points. Last year, I took all 3 to the beach for the AR party immediately following a busy day of VBS and was beyond frazzled. I was thrilled that it didn't fall during VBS week this year, but I was still pretty frazzled . . . Levi is at a hard age for the beach. He loves the water and wants to be in it, but is unsteady on his feet and has zero fear. So I can't take my eyes off him for a second. Lucy is overly confident about her swimming abilities, and Lena wears a life jacket, but can't really swim in it, so if she gets in a situation where she can't touch, she's just going to tip forward on her face. I felt like I had to be constantly watching all 3 of them.

3. Before we even got to the beach part of the party, we had lunch in the gazebo with a bunch of other kids from school. We were seated at the end of a picnic table with Levi in the stroller right next to me. All of a sudden, this girl - who couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 - came out of no where and started pushing on Levi's head until she tipped the whole stroller over! I was so taken aback, it took me a second to respond. And before I even got the stroller fully righted, she did it again! No other adult seemed to notice, and she finally ran away, but my kids and I were all really rattled.

4. I only truly read one book last week - Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. It was something very different for me, but I actually really liked it. I think you can read my Goodreads review here even if you're not a Goodreads member.

I read three other books while on vacation this weekend, though. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich, and Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones.  Maybe Someday was a little too worldly for me. Lots of swearing and too much sex. But the story itself was intriguing. There's a plot twist at the beginning that I didn't expect and made the story interesting. Love in a Nutshell was fun and sweet. But my favorite was Save the Date. The cover was pretty bad, and I'd never heard of the author (Jenny B. Jones - tell me you don't immediately think of Junie B. Jones when you hear that name), but I actually really enjoyed it! It's Christian fiction without being syrupy or over the top. The humor was awesome and the characters all developed and grew, struggling with something more than "will we fall in love?" throughout the story. I've already ordered a couple more books by Jones from the library. (Those were all affiliate links. So buy those books and make me a few pennies. ;-) )

5. On to our anniversary getaway. We never do much for our anniversary because we're poor and hotels are expensive. So this year we decided to try something different. All we really wanted to do was get away from our usual life, sleep to our heart's content, read books (me), and go fishing (Justin). So I did some sleuthing and found a cottage rental on Craigslist that would rent to us for the weekend during peak season. (Word to the wise - don't get married during peak tourist season in Michigan and expect to stay anywhere on your actual anniversary that doesn't cost big bucks.) I was admittedly nervous about mailing a cashier's check sight unseen, and slightly concerned about being murdered when we arrived, but everything was on the up and up. I'm a terrible traveler, so I knew we didn't want to go too far from home. We ended up about an hour away on a quiet little lake in a quaint little cottage. It was clean and quiet and had cable TV, so it was perfect! I think part of the house was added on later, because some of it was cool-vintage, and some of it was dated-vintage. Haha.
Cool old ceilings, walls, and windows.

Date living area and couch

Awesome vintage floors. An attempt to be awesome with vintage couches and tablecloth?

Back porch.

Cool French doors

Brand new, modern kitchen
The lake from the back window. (And Justin fishing 10 minutes after we arrived.)
Pretty, peaceful lake

We had gorgeous weather all weekend
6. When I wasn't watching Fixer Upper marathons on HGTV, this is what I was what I did all weekend:
Reading lake-side while Justin fished off the dock. (I was wearing shorts. Relax.)

Reading on the back porch with my morning coffee . . . at noon. The room we slept in was so dark that we literally didn't wake up until 11:40 am! Lol. Sleep deprived, much?

Reading while sunning on the dock. I got fried because I'm old now and don't tan like I used to.
We ate at a couple of hole in the wall restaurants, stayed up late just because we could, chatted without interruptions, and even did a little star gazing. It was glorious. But I missed my babies by today.

We are so very fortunate to have an army of family willing to watch our brood. My parents had Levi all weekend and the girls on Friday night. My brother Luke and his wife Esther took the girls Saturday night and spoiled them beyond reason. They went swimming, got ice cream, went to the park, did hair and make-up, slept in a blanket fort, and had donuts for breakfast. Lena was the happiest to see us when we got home. Lucy played it cool, but I could tell she was relieved. And Levi was happy to see me at first - he got excited, waved his hands, and laid his head right down on my shoulder. But then he wanted grandma the rest of the night. Those two are pretty much inseparable. Mostly because she spoils him like crazy. That kid is going to be a butterball if she keeps sneaking him cookies and marshmallows. But I love that he loves her and I never have to worry about him while we're gone.

7. A couple more pictures from this week:
Levi found Grandpa's hat on the floor, put it on by himself, and thought he was pretty hot stuff.

Dress up with Aunt Esther
Ok, these last pictures are from the Inventory List the cottage had in the kitchen. I was dying reading through some of the items. The very first one seems to have been written by the Chinese woman from Mandarin Wok in Sparta:
"You want folk?"
The second one had me cackling . . .
Is that slang for "spatulas?" 
But the third one practically had me rolling on the floor . . .
Hahahahahahaha. Maybe I'm an immature Junior High boy, but seriously. This is why you should double check your work before printing it off and posting it in a public place. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. Levi took off walking this week. He's been slowly gaining confidence and moving between pieces of furniture with no hands, but on Monday I noticed that he was walking everywhere! And he's progressed all week. He definitely walks more than he scoots now! If I see him scooting, I'll stand him up and he'll usually take off walking.

A weird quirk to remember: it's been hot this week, so he's been going shirtless a lot. When he walks he doesn't know what to do with his hands, so he honestly pinches his nipples half the time. Lol. I have yet to get a picture, but trust me - it's hilarious.

2. We had an appointment with Early On on Monday. She was impressed by the strides (literally - ha) that Levi's taken with his gross motor skills. He crawls, climbs stairs, can stand up in the middle of the room, and walks, so he's essentially "passed." She's mildly concerned about his verbal development, but I am most assuredly not. He communicates very effectively, even if he has few legitimate words. Although I do want to record here that he now says "ready, set, go" - or at least his version of it. Haha. I told the Early On lady that she doesn't need to come back (in a nice way! haha), so we're done with that for now unless his verbal skills don't kick in over the next 6 months or so.

3. Speaking of developmental delays . . .a quick potty training update. Lena is finally making some progress. She's super shy about it and has forbidden me from talking about it, so suffice it to say, she's making leaps and bounds and I'm feeling much better about school in the fall.

4. I read 4 books this week: Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich (I read it in 3 hours and loved it), A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren, Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz (good, but not as good as the first in the series), and Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble. I love Christian fiction because it's clean and redemptive, but I'm getting a little burned out by the same ole same ole. Justin and I are going away for our anniversary next weekend and I'm stocking up on a bunch of different-for-me books. We'll see if any of them are winners . . . (And those were all affiliate links, which you should know by now, but I think I'm legally required to remind you.)

5. This week was one of my favorite events of the summer: Town and Country Days in Sparta. Friday is Kids' Day when carnival tickets are discounted and there are free events throughout town for kids. We met up with some friends and watched a clown show, ran through the new splash pad, rode ponies, and hit up the carnival. Unfortunately, it was one of the hottest days of the year (isn't it always for Town and Country Days??). I don't handle heat well, and neither do my kids. Lucy was done after about an hour. She wouldn't even ride the ponies. She managed a few carnival rides, but after a while she was pretty sure she was dying. I do think she legitimately gets heat exhaustion. Her face gets all red and blotchy, she complained of a headache, and she can hardly function. It's just crazy that it doesn't affect anyone else that way. The other girls were hot, but fine. Kelly and I were uncomfortable, but not dying. Poor Lucy.
Lena was a little bit nervous, but as long as I walked next to her, she enjoyed it.

Levi in his cute new swimsuit.

First carnival ride. All smiles!
Second ride. Not as thrilled . . . Lucy hated this one. (Presley loved it - despite that face. Haha.)
The other girls loved it too.

Annual carou-selfie attempt! Lucy is next to me on the bench pouting. Lena is behind me in the polka-dots on the patriotic horse. 
Many thanks to Kelly for assisting me with my herd and to my mom and Niki for taking Levi off my hands while we did the carnival rides. He enjoyed pizza at BC in the air conditioning much more than he would've appreciated baking in the stroller.

6. Last night was the much awaited "Girls' Sleepover." My wonderful sister, Niki, has my girls and a couple others that she used to babysit over for a night of pizza, makeovers, nail-painting, movies, giggles, and staying up way too late. Lucy and Lena wait all year for the big event and have been counting down the hours ever since Niki set a date. They had so much fun last night and came home with fancy nails, belly-aches (Lena) and extreme grumpiness due to lack of sleep (Lucy). Justin and I celebrated our night with only one kid by going to Logan's for dinner. Said one kid broke his sippy cup by throwing it on the floor, refused to eat the amazing rolls, loudly exclaimed "hi!" to everyone in the restaurant, and ate fries for dinner. He was also strangely enamored with the overhead lights:
7. A few more pictures:
Lucy has a sparkly sequined pillow that was catching the light just right one night. Levi loved seeing the reflection on himself in my rear-facing camera. (Also of note in this picture: man-bun. :D) 
Friends at the parade today.

Levi hated the loud trucks at the parade (despite his usual love of trucks), but warmed up when the candy started getting thrown. ;-) 
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