Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rolling With the Punches...

Yesterday I shared that I've been stressed and it all just seemed to pile up in the past few days. One thing after another after another after another... and those are just SOME of the things that are stressing me. Yeah... life has been eh...

But then my five year old reminded me that God loves me all the time and it really helped me reset my focus. I was looking at my problems and seeing things in my own strength instead of seeing who God is in my life. I decided I needed some Panera time because Panera is my place. God and I meet there. And last night was no disappointment!

I walked into Panera feeling defeated and discouraged but God immediately started flooding my heart with a steady stream of encouragement. I was reading in my Bible and I have no idea what set off the following thoughts but they came straight to my heart and set it right in so many ways.

God reminded me first of the meaning of my name. Crowned with Laurel. I used to be bummed about the meaning of my name because I'm really big on meanings and I didn't think mine meant much. But that's because I didn't understand the purpose of a crown of laurel until I read about it in the Readers Digest a few years ago. Victors are crowned with Laurel!

I am crowned with laurel.

Crowned with laurel. That's what every name card I have ever seen with my name on it has said. Not "will be crowned" as in I will be victor some day. But crowned. I AM crowned with laurel! Already a victor. I need to start living life as someone who is victorious instead of living it as someone who is already defeated.

I came home and looked up the meaning of Laura just to see what else I could find... I absolutely loved what I read on wiki.answers...

Laura means to wear the victorious crown, prize; it also means leader of the group. It comes from Latin roots. It also means a beautiful heroic girl.  

Leaves from the highly valued bay laurel tree were woven into wreaths and were given as prizes such as to the victors in the Olympic games in Ancient Greece.

It Also Means Loved And Crowned But One Of The Strongest Girls Around!

And then God brought scripture after scripture to my attention.

Psalm 34:17-18
The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and
saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 6:5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

I found myself praying throughout the night and God just continued to encourage my heart. Will these next few months continue to be tough? Yes. Will I have more meltdowns? You can count on it. Do I have solid peace about it all in my heart? Not yet. But last night I had no hope. I was defeated and discouraged. This morning I woke up feeling much better about life. I was able to see clearly how several things would all work out. Money isn't stressing me. And while I'm not excited about the hard work and uncertainties ahead of me, I can say that I am looking forward to walking with God, growing in faith and getting to know him in new ways.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons...

My kids are awesome.


I know I say that a lot but I really really believe they are. They touch my heart in so many ways and remind me to turn to God.

This year has been rough for me. A LOT of stress. More than I've had in a long time and there are plenty of days where I just want to crawl in a dark hole and sit there by myself until it all goes away. I recently decided to get all serious on my budget again (like I should have been all along) and make great progress and get that savings built up. Then, in these past two weeks we found out while getting our car inspected that we will likely only get one more year out of it. (Too much rust.) It IS fifteen years old... but it's been doing so well for us. Then I found out that we will have some unexpected medical expenses. (Our insurance sucks. Massive deductible.) And then today we got a letter in the mail from our landlord... rent is being raised $50, effective July 1.


Make it stop!!!

Sometimes when I get completely overwhelmed... like a few moments ago... I end up laying on the floor in my bedroom between the bed and the wall. Don't worry... there is plenty of space there but it's kind of my hiding place. And there I cry.

Liza and Jason found me laying beside my bed today and they both laid down with me and gave me hugs and kisses. Liza said "What's wrong Mommy?" and I told her that I was just really sad. (Defeated and discouraged is more like it.)

Liza's response was so pure and true. She said "But God loves you all the time Mommy. Even when you are really sad. Even when you are surrounded by bad guys."

And she is right. God loves me. He cares about what I am going through. He is my Provider and Healer and Friend and Daddy and my I AM... He is everything I need to have victory over every situation I face. My hope is in HIM and His joy is my strength.

He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Rest for my soul. 

I need some of that.

I'm off to Panera for some quiet time. (Don't worry... I have a gift card!)

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The Weekend...

This past weekend was a lot of fun! Mike was home a lot which is rare in the summer and he usually has to work on Memorial Day but didn't this year! To top it off, the weather was absolutely gorgeous so we got to spend a lot of time outside.

Friday the kids and I were out for a good part of the day. We met some friends at the park and then after they played forever we headed to a quiet spot for a picnic and playing in the creek.

On Saturday I finally got around to getting the little plastic pool out for the kids. They will play in that thing all day long. Mike got home from work early enough to do something in the evening and we headed to the park so the kids could ride their bikes around the parking lot. They are getting a lot better but Liza still falls off a lot (and is actually pretty funny about it.)

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Cutest boy EVER!

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Liza is such a girl.

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Just another time falling off the bike. She screamed each time.

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Sunday was a relaxing day. I did a newborn photo shoot and Mike and the kids stayed home and played.

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Monday was a big day out for us. We went to the parade in the morning and met up with a bunch of friends.

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After the parade we came home for about an hour to eat lunch, pack up and put on the sunscreen because we were going to the lake for the rest of the day. The lake was super crowded but still lots of fun. Liza was a little hesitant at first but it didn't take long until the kids were swimming just as good as they had been at the end of last summer. 

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After a few hours of swimming we went to find a shady spot to have our picnic dinner and watch the boats on the lake.

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It was a really great weekend with my little family and I just have to say that I am soooo incredibly proud of my kids. Not one fight or meltdown or whine in all those times we were out over the weekend. They were amazing and so much fun to be with. I told Mike that I am looking forward to this summer because we are going to have loads of fun. We have put in years of hard work... disciplining and training... and now we will get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I'm not saying that my kids will always be perfect... but the majority of the time they will be such a joy to do things with.


 encouragement for moms

Raising children well doesn’t have to be a mystery.

Sometimes our kids go through stages that just have us so confused and wanting to scream and pull our hair out. We read books and then we try everything that was in the books. Nothing seems to work. I’ve often heard people say “I wish kids came with a manual” but you don’t need a manual because you have something far better! You have access to their creator 24/7.

God has known your children longer than you have! He CREATED your children. He knows what makes them tick, what sets them off, and what will motivate them to change behaviors. God knows what is deep in their hearts and He has the answers we need for training them up. Not only does He have the answers, He wants to share them with us!

How do we get the answers to raising our children? Ask for wisdom.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Don't ever hesitate to ask God for wisdom for any situation you are in... especially when it comes to raising your children. And don't wait until things are out of control before you ask for wisdom. Remember one of my first points, parent with the future in mind. As soon as you spot a behavior that needs some work start asking for that wisdom and applying it.

Wisdom has revolutionized parenting for Mike and I. It has turned disasters into amazing moments of silliness and love. It has helped us find the root of the behaviors and given us direction on how to dig those roots up. Wisdom has saved us over and over again. Wisdom has taken away the mystery of parenting and empowered us to do well and continue on.

Get wisdom!! It makes life so much easier!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Baby Zander!!

Remember Beth and Alan???

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They had their baby!!

Beth and I do a lot of photography together. She lets me use her house a lot because it just works well. (Much better than mine!) And I have the props and stuff. So I told her I would love some more practice when baby was born and we agreed to do a shoot together even though she's good enough that she doesn't need pictures from me because she can get her own.

I got to photograph Zander when he was only 17 days old. I love babies!

This was my third newborn photo shoot. I was hoping it would go better than the other two. My first one.. baby cried and cried and there was no settling him down. We got a few pics but I wasn't happy with what I got so I went back a few days later and we tried again.

My second newborn shoot didn't go any better. Baby cried and cried and I was wondering what I was doing wrong because the pics I see all over the internet of newborns are of peaceful, sleeping, cute, cuddly babies that make you want to have more babies just to get cute pictures of them like the ones you keep seeing. I later found out that baby number 2 just had colic kick in pretty much on the day of the photo shoot.

So this was my third. Things started out ok. Zander was awake because he just ate and if you do Babywise then you know that babywise babies stay awake after they eat. I was ok with that. We got a few shots with his eyes open.

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Eventually Zander peed on my blanket so I had to switch up the backdrop. And then he got sleepy but was having a hard time staying asleep. Just too much going on I guess and I was afraid I was going to have a repeat of the first two newborn sessions I did.

At one point Zander even said "No more pictures Lady!!"

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Just kidding. He was stretching. :)

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Eventually we got Zander zonked out and sleeping like I had hoped to. And once he was out, he was out! And that worked really well for Beth and I!

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And then, since Zander was being so awesome and cute I decided to use him so I could get pictures of my hats that I sell at Wix-Works. He didn't seem to mind. :)

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What a cute little model!!!

Hopefully I'll be taking more pictures of the cutie in the future!!

Teach Them How to Have a Relationship with God

encouragement for moms

John 10:1-5
"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."

We will be faced with all kinds of decisions as our kids grow up. What movies are ok to watch? What kind of music is acceptable? What friends should they be spending lots of time with? And eventually the decisions will become more and more important.

We can either dictate these things completely and just say “I know they don’t understand but it’s best for them.” Or we can teach them to learn to sort some of these things out for themselves by teaching them to go to God and get their answers from Him.

Example: Music
Years ago, before kids were even a thought in my life, I heard a pastor share about how he deals with his kids when they want to buy some new music. He explained how they were out in the schools and they heard the songs that other kids were listening to. They would come home asking if they could buy the song, so he would print out the lyrics and they would go over them together. Then he would tell his child to go pray about it and see what God says. I thought it was genius and I was determined to store that information away for a later day! He was teaching his children that God is the authority... not the parent, and they needed to obey God and live for Him.

Another Example: Movies
Growing up I wasn't allowed to watch most movies that other kids my age were allowed to watch. I did understand that it was because of our beliefs and that some things just aren't good for us. (Today I am thankful for how my parents raised me.) Most times though it was said "You can't go to that movie." But what if my parents had applied the same thing that Pastor did and taught me how to make those decisions for myself? We could have found a Christian movie review and read it over together before being sent off to my room to pray about it? To hear from God about it? It's just one way that a parent can begin to teach a child to hear from God and make decisions based on what God wants.

There are a lot of great Christian resources today. will let you know all kinds of things about a movie. Have your kids read the review for the movie they want to see and then go pray about it. Let them get their answers from God. They will need to learn how to do this later in life anyways. Start when they are young!

We need to teach our children to have a relationship to God, to answer to Him. They need to learn how to make decisions when we aren't there anymore to make decisions for them. Our children need to learn that the Bible is absolute truth and it is one way to hear from God. We need to teach them to spend time with God praying and listening. We need to guide them down a path where they learn to hear God in their hearts and follow after Him.

Because some day the decisions they make will greatly affect their life. Who do date. Who to marry. What degree to pursue and where to pursue it. And on and on. But even still... it's good for them to learn to go to God for EVERYTHING... every decision that needs to be made. 

We are their teachers and this is an important job! Take it seriously!!

How are you teaching your children to have a relationship with God and hear His voice and obey?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beautiful View

I have a wonderful friend who every once in a while sends me an email saying something along the lines of "I want to watch your kids so you and Mike can go on a date." Seriously! WONDERFUL!! So last night Karen watched the kids and Mike and I got to go out.

On Mother's Day we ate at Garfield's and they gave me a coupon to come back in the next month to get a free entree. Then we got coupons for a free appetizer because we signed up for their email list. Sooo... Garfield's is where we went last night and got an appetizer and two entrees for only $10.50. Hard deal to beat!

After dinner we headed to Moraine State Park where we found some shade to relax in. This was our view...

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In the shade with our lovely view Mike and I played Farkel... and I beat him all three games. :)

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When he got tired of losing we decided to take a nice stroll along the lake. It was just such a beautiful day. It had cooled off to just perfect and I am so glad that we stayed outside for the evening! At one point I decided I wanted to see the sunset and was determined to find a good place to watch it. It's really hard to find a good place to see a sunset in our town and the park was no different. But we drove around and ended up with a spot that I will go back to again.

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Of course, as soon as it should have got really gorgeous the clouds got too thick.

Either way it was still a gorgeous night!

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I think that next time we might have to take the kids and get a canoe and watch the sun set that way. It just seems like a great way to do it!

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We had a really great night out! It was wonderful to get to do something a little different than we usually get to do. The sunshine and nice weather has been so refreshing and I am looking forward to many more memories that will be made at Moraine this summer!

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tutorial: How to Make a Hooded Towel for a Big Kid

We love hooded towels!! I had seen some tutorials on Pinterest a while back and gave one a try. Just a step or two into it I decided it wasn't quite what I wanted. Someone had given us hooded towels for the kids probably two years ago now so I decided to pull those out and see if I could figure out how they were made... and I DID figure it out!

I love these hooded towels because the hood is BIG! My four and five year old love them and the towels will work for several more years. I actually might make a set for our swimming days at the lake this year... the kids are asking for them!

Anyways... it is REALLY simple to make an awesome hooded towel.

*Sewing machine and the typical stuff that goes with it (thread, straight pins, etc.)
*Large bath towel
*Hand towel

1. Fold the hand towel in half.

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That's it! Hooded towels!!

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Go make some!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Control vs Self-Control

 encouragement for moms

It's just so much simpler to be the absolute authority and tell our kids what to do all the time and control them right?

Because I said so!
Do this or else!
You listen to me right now or your grounded for life!

Yes, parents should have authority in their home. But controlling our children? What will that accomplish? We might end up with kids who act perfectly when they are around us (their controller) but what about when we are no longer there?

We need to teach our kids to be in control of themselves... and they can start learning that at a very young age.

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Our goal should never be to be in control of our children. It should be to teach them self-control. If we simply try to control our children we will constantly be caught in power struggles with them and it’s likely they will only NOT do things because they fear the punishment... or worse, the parent. The problem with this is that someday they will fly from the cozy little home we created and they will be out on their own. (Or go to Kindergarten! That's us next year.) They will have choices to make but the threat of consequences from the parents will no longer be there. Will being in control of them as children teach them to be in control of themselves as adults? Probably not. Will they learn to make good choices when we aren't around to tell them how they should be acting in every situation? Probably not.

The better approach is to teach them to be in control of themselves. You can do his by using reality discipline and giving them choices. (For more on reality discipline I recommend Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman.)

It's important to teach children about what is right and what is wrong and then teach them about being in control and making good choices.

We are always talking about good and bad choices. It would be so simple to just send Liza and Jason to time out every time they were misbehaving but that's not going to help them change them and learn self-control. 

I realized that they both like to "be boss". They understand being the boss so I use it. I've taught them that they get to be the boss of certain things... like their attitude. We actually do something quite silly when they start to get an attitude. I calmly ask them to go to their room and get that attitude under control (be the boss of it). They do this by closing their doors and dancing it out of their toes. They know that once the attitude is out and under control that they can come back out... they don't need to ask because they know when they've bossed that attitude and turned it around. They can tell the difference and they know when they gain control of it.

We also do a lot of pep talks. I'm sure if someone sat in on one of these that they would think we are silly and ridiculous but it works and it drills things into their mind so that when a situation comes up and I'm not there to tell them what to do they already know the right thing... but the choice is still theirs. These pep talks often happen in the car while we are on our way to things and sound something like this... lots of yelling, fist pumping and repeating after me...

I'm a listener!
I do what's right!
All the time!
Even when other kids don't!
Even when it's hard!
I do what's right!
All the time!
I'm a listener!

And we talk about what's right... listening to the teacher, being quiet when we are supposed to be quiet, not touching the other kids even if they touch us first. That was a problem for Jason for a while and his teacher told me about it when I asked what we should work on with him to make her job easier. We didn't just talk about not touching back but we talked about how to respond should one of the other kids touch him first. We need to teach our kids HOW to be in control and HOW to do what's right.

Another way we teach the kids to think about "the right thing to do" is by constantly discussing good and bad choices. If they get in a fight over something I usually run through lots of questions and let them answer.

Was fighting a good choice or a bad choice?
Why was it a bad choice?
What would have been a better choice?
Hey, that's a great idea! Let's role play that and see what it looks like!

I have found that role playing has been really helpful in their learning how to act in situations. If we don't teach our kids the right thing to do we can't really expect them to do the right thing. We need to constantly be training our kids about what is right and they need to know that they always have choice and those choices have consequences.

To learn self-control as a child will be a great thing! If you've been controlling your children start making the shift now to training them to be self-controlled!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Time Fishing!!

I don't know what started the obsession but Liza and Jason were hooked on the idea of going fishing... for real. They play fishing at home by tying strings around all their stuffed animals. Then they build boats (laundry baskets or random boxes) and sit in the middle of a room holding their strings with their "fish" on them. But they decided it was time to do the real thing and Papa Mike was the one to take them.

We went to a park with a small pond. Liza started fishing with Papa and Jason went with Uncle Matt. As soon as my dad put bait on the hook and cast the line something was biting. Oh the excitement! Liza was really into it. Jason was a little more reserved. But they both loved it! And they caught lots of fish during their hour of fishing!

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First Catch!
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Jason caught one!
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My brother Dave and his kids met up with us.
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We had a really great time fishing and my dad was the perfect person for Liza and Jason's first fishing experience! It couldn't have gone better!

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