Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Gospel According to LOST

Today is Good Friday. I used to wonder why we called it Good Friday, since we're celebrating Jesus' painful death. What is good about death? Typically, nothing, at least on this earth, but Jesus' death isn't just any death. The truly good part comes on Easter morning, when Jesus rose from the dead in victory over sin!

We are fans of LOST, and what makes watching the show even more fun is that some of Hubby's family are also fans of the show, so after we finish watching, we discuss our theories and observations with them, and see what they think is going to happen next.

Last week's episode (3/23, Ab Aeterno), was a very sad episode. (Spoiler Alert Here: if you haven't seen this episode yet, you might want to stop reading!) We saw the story of Richard/Ricardo, and why he seems to never age. There were many touching moments, most having to do with him losing his wife, seemingly twice, and then of course the emotional moment at the end when Hurley sees Ricardo's wife and translates a message from her to him.

But do you know what the saddest moment of the whole show was for me?

When Ricardo is in prison because he has (accidentally) killed a man, a priest comes to him. Ricardo begs the priest for forgiveness, and the priest says 'no'. He says that Ricardo's sin is too great to be forgiven. He says that Ricardo must 'do penance' in order to obtain God's forgiveness, and that Ricardo doesn't have time to do this, since he'll be hanged the next day.

And my heart broke for Ricardo. Okay, I know it's just fiction, and this is just an actor with a script, but how many people in the real world are in similar, completely hopeless situations?

How many people reach out to a spiritual leader for forgiveness and guidance, and are told, "Your sin is too great. God won't forgive you." or "You have to do something good to make up for the sins you've committed".

I wished that I had been there to share the truth. The truth is that 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23), and, in fact, we all deserve to go to Hell. We can't do anything to get to Heaven on our own (Titus 3:5). Sounds pretty hopeless at this point, right?

But God offers us a free gift. Eternal LIFE. (Romans 6:23) And no sin is too great for God to forgive. In fact, in Luke 7:47, he tells his disciples that those who have been forgiven of greater sins have a greater motivation to love and serve Him. Certainly Paul, who describes himself as the 'chief of sinners' would attest to this grace (1 Tim. 1:15-16)

Many years ago, on Good Friday, Jesus Christ went through horrific pain and humiliating experiences by choice. He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him. He did not HAVE to die for us. But He did. He took up his cross, and he let the soldiers nail his hands and feet to it, and he endured the physical and very real emotional anguish. For you. And for me.

And the greatest part is that although Jesus died and all seemed hopeless again, He did not stay dead. On Easter morning, two women went to his grave, expecting to see his body there, and instead they found the tomb empty. Next, they saw Jesus walking and talking, living again in victory over death! The most amazing part of this whole story, is that all I have to do is believe that I need Jesus' help, and put my faith in Him and nothing else to save me from my sins, and I can also live a joyful eternity in Heaven when this life is over (Romans 10:9-10).

This gift is too great to keep to myself. I need to share it with others, not to force my choices and beliefs onto someone else, but as I would rescue a drowning person, or warn a driver about a dangerous road hazard ahead, I share my faith in order to help others avoid an eternity of hopeless pain.

If you have never read the story of Jesus' crucifixion and all that He went through to bring us to Himself, please take some time this week to check out Matthew chapters 26 through 28, which details exactly what Christ went through, and also how God raised Him from the dead, giving us victory over death just by trusting in His death and resurrection!

And when we know Him as our Savior, Easter is the happiest, most blessed holiday of all!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tot School

We had a full, busy week of Tot School this week! Besides having nice weather, and being able to get out a few days, we also did all kinds of indoor learning activities! First of all, I made this muffin tin letter matching game: I used paper muffin cups, and wrote a lowercase letter of the alphabet in each one: (I made letter a-z and numbers 0-9, which takes up 3 muffin pans exactly). :)


Then we used the uppercase letters from Z's small foam alphabet puzzle, and tossed them into the matching muffin cup.

He enjoyed this, and we'll definitely do it again, but I think having all three muffin pans out there was too much, and a little overwhelming, so I'll probably put less of them out at a time next time, maybe one muffin pan, so 12 letters/numbers, would be better.
We started a new discipline tool this week as well. I got this idea from Lisa Whelchel's book Creative Correction, which I haven't finished yet, but I am really enjoying, especially the Toddler Tips - so useful, and SO creative! These are our new 'happy' and 'sad' jars - there are 16 blocks total in there, starting with half in each jar - and when Z does something that makes God happy (obeying), we put a block into the happy jar (from the sad jar). When Z does something that makes God sad (disobeying, not listening), we put a block back into the sad jar. When the happy jar is full, he gets a treat. So far, after about ten days of using this, we are two blocks away from a treat. :) But many times he chooses to obey because of the threat of a block going to the sad jar, so that is very nice. :) Really nice for when I'm nursing Natalie & I can't discipline him any other way, too. Also, I should note that Lisa Whelchel recommends using marbles in the jars, but since Z is so young, I am using something bigger so he gets a reward faster, and then we'll graduate to marbles later. :)

One day, I felt SO bad, because I told Z that we could go outside, then I got a phone call, and had to do something else, and by the time we got our shoes on and stepped outside, it started raining. Right then. So I let him dig in some beans with his sand toys instead of in the yard. :)


We did a couple of Easter crafts this week. First of all, we made a Peek-a-Boo egg with a little 'chick' inside - though Z wasn't overly impressed with my chick, and often calls it a worm. Hat tip to No Time for Flashcards for this idea. First off, we colored a white egg made of construction paper with markers.

Then we used glue to stick on several dots of different -colored paper. I cut all the dots myself, so they're rather uneven, but he didn't mind. He loves to use glue. :)


Here is the finished product: (What's your verdict, chick or worm???) :)

Here he is enjoying it - I forgot to say that we cut the egg in half (before we glued the dots on), and then added a brad so it would open & close. :)

Here we are, all bright-eyed and ready to do another fun Easter craft. Yarn eggs. We have our balloons, and our string, and glue/water mixture.


And this craft was an enormous fail. It didn't work great for us, but beyond that, I was getting frustrated, and Z wasn't really able to help, and the whole thing kept falling off of the balloon, and bleah. I would not do this again, unless I did it on my own or with really small eggs or something.

Here is how our egg turned out:

And here is how the string in the bowl turned out - one side was flat and I thought it looked dumb, so I just threw it away.

Here is Z playing with cars on his cool car mat - these actually used to be my sheets when I was a little girl, how fun is that? My mom made a leftover sheet into this play mat for Z for his birthday or Christmas last year. :) He loves it.

And Z's favorite book of the week: "Chancy Meatballs" he calls it. :) He loves the part where Henry has a pancake on his head, and then they eat them all up. And there is a page where a girl is making an 'icky' face, and he loves that part, too.

We also played with our color-matching clothespin game this week, and I was surprised because Z was able to open the clothespins, and match them correctly to the right color of smiley face! It is amazing how fast he is growing and learning!

Here is a fun picture from the week - Z playing with Easter eggs. :)

And he asked me to take a picture of this ladybug. So I did. :)


For more Tot School ideas, hop on over to 1+1+1=1!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Privileges

This morning, at 4:00 am, it was an absolute privilege to be able to get up and nurse my daughter back to sleep.

I used the time to pray for Sophia. Sophia is 8 months old, and she had a CT scan yesterday morning. They found a brain tumor. It's described as 'advanced'. She is having brain surgery this morning at 8:00 am central time. Please, please, pray for Sophia. She is in God's hands, and her parents are resting in this, but I can't imagine the pain they must be feeling. Please pray for them as well. You can find updates at her father's twitter account here.

And know that I am holding my babies a LOT closer today, and counting each moment a privilege and a precious gift from God.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tot School

We've been having a lot of fun with tot school lately! Going outside is a nice bonus, so we've been doing that a lot - I took both kids out for a few walks this week, which was really fun. We also found time to play inside some, too! :)

We'll start off with a great set of lacing cards that I found at a Mr. Salvage discount store last fall - we play with these a lot, and Z loves them, and I think they're really neat. The cards are made of thick cardboard, and they punch out of their surroundings like a puzzle, so you can match them up. Of course, you can lace with them, though Z hasn't gotten the hang of lacing yet, or at least he doesn't stick with it for any length of time. The cards also have the words for the animals on them, so you can read the words together.

Here is Z playing with the cards:

And here he is playing with the animals - this week, he just wanted to make the animal noises & then we matched them with their cards at the end, but no lacing. :(

We drew on black construction paper with chalk this week, and Z thought this was really fun. He kept telling me that we used the chalk outside (last fall!) - I am amazed at the things he remembers!!!

concentrating hard on drawing:
Here is some of what we drew:

We did an Easter craft this week - we made Jesus' cross, and during this gluing craft (Z loves glue), I was able to talk to him about Jesus dying on the cross. First, we used brown chalk to draw dark clouds in the sky, and we talked about why it was a sad day when Jesus died. Then we drew green grass on the hill, and I talked about Jesus carrying his cross up the hill and how it hurt Him. Then we glued the crosses on, and I talked about Jesus dying on the cross and how much it must have hurt. Then we wrote Jesus' name on His cross. And he listened intently the whole time. It was so cool to get to share these things with my son!
I didn't know if he really got it at all, because when we were done, I asked him if it hurt Jesus to die on the cross, and he said no. But then a couple of days later, he was singing a song while playing his little-boy-sized guitar, and he sang, "Jesus....cryyyyy...", so when he finished I asked him what he was singing about, and he said, "Jesus cwying". I said, "Why did Jesus cry?" and he said, "From da nails on da cwoss". So I guess he did get some of it. :)
Z also decided to do his own experiment this week. In case you've ever wondered what a half a box of Splenda poured out on the counter looks like, well, here you go: (also, I am so cheap that I put most of the Splenda back in the box, except for the bottom layer, because seriously, that stuff is like five dollars a box!!!)The weather was so beautiful this week that it worked really hard on melting our snow -a couple of days were in the 60s! Here is Zachary, shoveling the snow still on our porch, in short sleeves. :)

And here is Zachary's hilarious new trick - this makes his daddy laugh SO hard every time - he will kiss the bottom of his own feet. It is so funny. :)

I'm looking forward to a couple more Easter crafts this next week, and I'm working on a letter matching game that I hope to have done soon.

For more ideas on Tot School, head over to 1+1+1=1!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Love...

...when her little fingers grab mine as she eats

...the way he mispronounces words and how it makes me sad when he learns to say them right

...watching him comfort her when she wakes from a nap

...the way her arms pop up out of her swaddle the instant I undo it

...watching him run with his arms out to the sides, waving up and down, making airplane noises

...when he wakes up from his nap and runs immediately out to the living room to find me, hair disheveled, eyes still bleary, and completely out of it

...how much he loves music and many songs make him stop in his tracks and dance

...that she smiles the most for me, and second-most for her Daddy and her brother

...how he would stay at the park and go down the curly slide for hours if only I had the time

...how every little noise makes him run to the door, exclaiming, "Daddy!"

...that she sleeps through the night sometimes, and when she doesn't, she eats and goes right back to sleep

...overhearing him singing all kinds of songs as he goes about his day - especially the ones he makes up himself

...hearing her sweet little voice cooing and 'gluggg'-ing away as she smiles at herself in her mirror

...when I can understand what song he's asking me to sing just from the couple of words he remembers (bonus points if you can name this hymn: "what God has done...the counting song...")

...watching her fall asleep in the wrap, head resting on my chest, sucking on her little fists

...the way he over-dramatically says, "ohhhhhh" when he's trying to explain something to me and really wants me to 'ohh' in understanding (Over-dramatic? Where could he have gotten that? Ohhhh...) :)

...that he asks constantly to 'say good morning to Natalie' when she's taking a nap

...that she's so happy when she wakes up, even at 4 am, though she's starving, she's cooing and gurgling and grinning from ear to ear

...being a mommy. Period.

Housework

Housework. I don't know how other people do it, especially people who have a lot of little kids. I divide up my housework into certain things for certain days - every day is laundry and dishes, and I sweep my kitchen floor pretty much every time Zachary eats, and the entry way every time someone enters the house...especially in mud season. Other than that, I do everything else (vacuuming, dusting, etc.) about once a week...or less... :)

Anyhow, a couple weeks ago, when I vacuumed, I happened to clean out the dust cup of my vacuum beforehand, and then I checked it out again after I was done, and was rather appalled at how much dirt I had accumulated around my house in ONE WEEK between vacuuming! (and we don't have a lot of carpet either, mostly painted wood-ish floors, but...here it is...one week's worth of dirt in my vacuum:
Here is the empty dust cup for reference: (isn't that gross???)

You may now go about your day, feeling much better about the state of your own house. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On Wanting and Waiting and Finally Having

Earlier this week, Z had a bad cough, and one night he woke up several times with it, calling for Mommy to come help him go back to sleep. At one point, in the middle of the night, as I sat on his bed, helping him to calm down, singing to him and rubbing his back, willing him to go back to sleep and basically wishing that I could sleep instead of cherishing the sweet moment, a far-off memory came back to me.

I have always wanted children, for as long as I can remember. I've been ready to have a baby since I was twelve years old. Okay, well, maybe not READY for that long...but you get the picture. After about a year and a half of marriage, I began to seriously, deeply long for God to bless us with a child - I just wanted to be a mother SO badly.

We had been married for almost two years when I began working at a daycare. During naptime, my job was to go around to each child as they were going to sleep and pat their backs to help them fall asleep. Some of them preferred their backs rubbed instead of patted, and one particularly high-strung little preschooler needed his face stroked, down from forehead to cheek, down the nose, down forehead to cheek again.

One day as I sat by his cot, stroking his face, willing the sandman to come, and smiling gently at him when his not-quite-sleepy-yet eyes would open, I was choked with tears, and I asked God, "How long, Lord? How long until it's my turn? When will I sit by my own child, and stroke their face as they fall asleep?"

And God smiled, because He knew. He had a perfect plan for me, and I couldn't see it, but He could.

Another long-forgotten memory came to my mind today. As Hubby and I were visiting the church we now attend one Sunday morning, another young couple was also visiting. At this time, we had been married almost three years, and the 'itch' was a full-blown aching desire, always present. Mother's Days were torture. Anyhow, the young couple sat down in front of us, with their preciously adorable baby boy (who will be FIVE this summer). They held him in their laps, and he looked over their shoulders. They gazed oh-so-sweetly at him, exchanged smiling looks with each other, and traded him back and forth during the service. I remember my now-friend looked so sweet, and I really wanted to talk to her after the service, but I was so envious of her gorgeous baby that I could not. Instead I had to retreat to the bathroom.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this today. It just came to my mind, and I haven't shared a lot about our journey to parenting that seemed so long and difficult at the time. But maybe my waiting and wanting, and the finally having, being blessed in God's perfect timing nearly five years after we were married, will encourage someone who is waiting and wanting today.

And if you're not waiting or wanting, but you know someone who is, or a young childless couple who might be, what can you do to encourage them? First of all, pray for them. Ask God to bless them in His perfect time, and to give them peace and faith in the waiting. And second, there are certain things that are better left unsaid, just in case, such as "When are YOU guys going to have kids, huh?" or "You guys are so lucky that you don't have kids to tie you down - I wish we were kidless again!" These things may be said only out of jest, or in love, but they still hurt.

And remember, as I am trying to, what God-given blessings our little ones truly are. There are so many who wish they were up nights with a screaming baby or pray that God will bless them with a contrary toddler to discipline.

Thank you, Lord, so much, for my babies. Thank you for answering my heart's cry in Your perfect time, and for the way you grew our faith in the waiting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tot School

We have been having lots of fun with Tot School lately - we've been doing some kind of activity each day - this week we did puzzles, wrote in our wipe-off books, colored, played with blocks and cars, and all kinds of other activities. I am not great at taking pictures of all of our Tot School activities like others are, so here are a few things we did throughout the week. :)

Our weather was gorgeous this week, so I was finally able to wear Natalie and bring her along on one of our walks! We got outside several times, and enjoyed the still-melting snow (there are still 3-foot snowpiles out there from the plowing), and also the mud and thawing creeks. Z loves to throw rocks in the creeks and splash in the puddles. :)
Z usually falls down at least once or twice per walk - this day, I turned around and he had fallen over, hit his knees, and then fell flat on his face in the mud! It was sad, but also kind of hilarious! :) He was upset right away, but he calmed down. He doesn't seem upset at all in this picture, as you can see. :)

We did our first Easter craft this week- a set of wearable bunny ears! I cut out some ears & a construction paper headband (I had to tape it together because my stapler broke). Then we added glue to the ears...
and then glued on some cotton balls...I tore them up, so they wouldn't be so heavy, but you could just stick on whole cotton balls. :)
And here is Z, modeling the ears:
The cuteness is rather overwhelming. :)
I got this foam alphabet & number puzzle set for $1 at Walmart, we were both excited about it!
Here Z is coloring hair on a man (a Kumon coloring workbook page):

Here he is showing off his work:

And, of course, there's been LOTS of brother/sister time. We have discovered that Natalie likes to lay on the floor on a blanket or her hippo mat, and Z loves to interact with her while she plays on the floor. He is SO sweet with her, and I LOVE to watch them together! When she wakes up from her nap, he goes into her room, turns off her fan & womb sounds CD, and climbs up on the side of her crib. When she sees him, she stops crying and breaks out a big smile - it is so great! :) I love when she watches him and smiles at him, it is so fun. :)

In closing, I have one matter to ask advice about. How have you taught your children to use God's name respectfully? Z loves to hear Bible reading, and listen to CD's of Christian music, so he's surrounded by talking & singing about God, which I think is great. And I want him to be able to talk to and about God whenever he wants. But sometimes the ways he uses God's name are not respectful (like singing the name game song with God's name in it) or come across as swearing (though of course he doesn't mean to), like when he shouts JUST God's name. I pray daily for God to forgive his accidental blasphemies, and I don't believe God will hold them to his 2-year-old account, but really - has anyone else dealt with this problem? How do you teach your children to use God's name respectfully?

To see what other people are doing for Tot School, head over to 1+1+1=1!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Kids

You know, it's really hard...

to get anything done...


when you have a face like this...


and, of course, this face, too...


to look at all day long.

Of course, she's not ALWAYS happy...

but when she calms down...

she's still totally adorable.

and so is he, even though he's two.


I haven't blogged about Natalie a lot, well, because I've been busy, and also because, I don't want anyone to be jealous! :) She is such an easy, sweet baby, and now she's getting to be so smiley and fun. She smiles at me and Zachary and Daddy and even other people sometimes, and she wants to be with us when we're doing things in the kitchen. She doesn't sleep through the night quite yet, but she usually only eats once, and it's between 4 and 5:30 typically, so that is a pretty good night's rest, and if Z cooperates, sometimes I even get to go back to bed afterwards. :) I am really enjoying her, and she is definitely an easy baby, so that makes my adjustment to having two children easier for sure.

Zachary and Natalie usually interact really well, and watching them play together is one of the greatest joys of my life up to this point! I know it will only get more fun (and probably more challenging) as they can interact more and Natalie can respond more.

One more thing: if you could pray for us right now, Z is having some digestive/dietary issues - nothing too serious, just some mild but persistent digestive symptoms (no details, I'm sure you'll thank me later), and he is not sleeping well, and seems tired a lot of the time most every day. We are trying different dietary tweaks to see if we can eliminate the problem that way, and trying not to worry about him, and we have an appointment with a specialist coming up in less than two weeks. I just want my little boy to feel well, so please pray that the doctors will be able to figure out the problem quickly and without painful tests. :(

Other than that, our family is doing well, and enjoying the springtime mud which is slowly emerging from our tall snowdrifts.