Belated Birthday Treat

Yes, it took a painful amount of time.

Yes, I had to spell EVERY word for her out loud. Slowly. Except for “Daddy” “love” and “Annalise Joy.”

Yes, I had to calm 3 near fits after she didn’t form the perfect “G” “K” and “5”.

Yes, I had to give her a time-out for banging the table and snapping “No! I DIDN’T!” when I said she had made a good letter R.

Yes, I got “in trouble” at various moments for: 1) Spelling too quickly. 2) Spelling too slowly. 3) Offering help. 4) Not helping enough. 5) Suggesting that yes, in fact, she can do it. 6) Suggesting where to put it when she was done.

And yes, she’s doing this on Mother’s Day. And she’s using my coffee card that I got for Teacher Appreciation week.

But seriously? MELT.

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Stuff like this. It’s why I love being a mom. So really? It’s a Happy Mother’s Day to ME! Because I got myself such an awesome kid. (TWO awesome kids!)

And P.S. My favorite? The Es with lots of bars. Bless her.

Oh yes, and sorry, future Kindergarten teacher. I’ve tried to work on the lower case letters. But honestly? I don’t get paid enough. (Although, neither do you. But she’ll be nicer when you teach her.)

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The words he reads

He held up the game from the cupboard to show me. An old Mastermind game I used to school Matt at while we laid in bed on winter evenings a few years back. “Look, Mommy!” he said, pointing to the top of the game, excitement and surprise on his face. “Look what it says!” I read the word to myself, Mastermind.

“Yes, Jacob. I see. That’s a game Mommy and Daddy used to play.”

“But Mommy! LOOK! Look at what it says!” His big brown eyes were open even wider, eyebrows raised. A broad smile pushed his chubby cheeks up, revealing his beautifully straight teeth. His expression was one of delightful surprise. Oh, how I love the perfectly expressive faces that boy makes.

“What’s it say, Bud?” From where I stood, I could see it. But I didn’t think he knew what it said.

“It says, ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ See?” He pointed to the game name and cocked his head towards me with a pleased look. Then he put the game away and continued playing with the cars he had previously lined up for an important meeting.

I sat there, contemplating our brief conversation. Sweet boy, I thought. My sweet boy, always stopping to pray when someone says they don’t feel well, or anytime I say,  “Ouch!” Always remembering to pray for our pastor, his family, and anyone we’ve encountered that day, and reminding us to do the same. Reminding me now that Jesus loves me by pretending he read those words on the top of a silly game. …And yet he looked so convinced that’s what they said. Like he wasn’t pretending at all.

Conversation now tucked away in my mind somewhere, all but forgotten, I continued with my own task of folding the mound of laundry while watching the kids work on puzzles and host car meetings.

It wasn’t until the next day when I thought of that conversation again. The sun streamed through the blinds and landed on the same spot the kids had been playing the day before. This time, he sat stacking blocks. I said something to him – although I don’t remember what – causing him to look up my direction.

I was greeted with another look of surprise. “Mommy! Look! I never saw dat before!” He hopped up and ran to the piano, a huge grin spreading across his face.

“What’s that, Buddy?” I tried to see what he was pointing to. All I saw was the piano.

“Wight dere, Mommy! Look! Look what it says!” He pointed just above Middle C, at the word across the front of the blonde spinet, Kimball. “Mommy! I can’t believe I never saw it before! It says, ‘Jesus loves me!’ Do you see it?”

I smiled. “I see it, Buddy. I see it. You’re right, Jacob. Jesus loves you. Very much.

Pleased with his new discovery, he headed back to his tower of blocks mumbling to himself with a smile, “I can’t believe I never saw dat before. It’s wight dere.

And it got me thinking…

Where am I missing the signs. The signs that are right there all along. The places Jesus is telling me that HE loves ME, but I never stop to notice?

Then last night. The evening of Palm Sunday. The start of Holy Week. He said it again.

We were in his bedroom getting on his PJs. He looked up at the sign that hangs above where his crib used to be. “The Prince Sleeps Here.” And on his wall, J-A-C-O-B. “Mommy! See dat? It says it everywhere, Mommy! Jesus Loves Me. Jesus Loves Me. It’s everywhere!” He said it twice, first pointing to the letters of his own name, then to the oval sign.

I stood there, lost in thought as the kids argued about what the sign said. In the distance – although she was right next to me – I could hear Annalise’s voice, “No, Jacob. That says your name. Your name is spelled J-A-C-O-B. It does not say Jesus Loves Me... NO it DOESN’T… NO! NO, Jacob, it DOESN’T… Mah-aaaahhhhhmm! Tell Jacob what it says! He doesn’t believe me!”  I could hear it. And I saw Jacob insisting that Yes, that is exactly what it says. But I was focused on something else.

What he had said just before the argument broke out. It was just a sentence or two…

“It says it everywhere, Mommy! Jesus Loves Me. It’s everywhere!”

I was lost in thought again. Am I missing the signs? Do I see it everywhere? My too-wise-two-year-old sees it. Every word he sees reminds him – reminds me – of the love of Jesus.

Today was a family day. Beautiful sunshine, spring warmth. Jacob got to plan our day. We spent it at the park. Along the water. On a trail walk. Together. I loved every minute. And when we got home, we headed back out for a bike ride, wanting to soak up every last bit of warm sun.

But first, on the porch, something caught my eye. I called my boy over and knelt down next to him. “Look, Bud! Look right there! Do you know what that says?”

Jacob looked at where I pointed, to the Easter garden we planted a few weeks back. The cross we made from the sticks we gathered and the tomb from a little peat pot. There was a sign, too, with a verse, but that isn’t where I pointed. I touched the cross and the tomb and looked in my boy’s big brown eyes. “Do you know what that says, Jacob?”

He looked puzzled at first, there were no words to read.

But then he smiled his big broad smile, and he looked up at me proudly. “Yep! I know what it says. It says, Jesus Loves ME!”

“You’re right, Buddy. That’s exactly what it says.”

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On this Holy Week, this week we remember the last days of Jesus The Messiah, will you too remember what he says?

He whispers it all around us. In the blessings poured out. In the thoughtfulness of a neighbor. In the surprise snow on the first day of spring, then in the spring sun peaking through the blinds, landing on one boy with two big brown eyes and a broad smile. It’s just right there, but sometimes it’s so easy to miss.

A million daily whispers.

And he shouts it from the past. In a life lived divine. In a sacrifice so great. On a cross and in an empty tomb. He says to you still today, “I love YOU.

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” ~ Psalm 86:15

Spring Fever

Lovin’ this sunshine. After a frustrating morning of multiple time-outs and tantrums, laundry and changing bedding, I had enough.

It’s amazing how quickly the sun can melt away 3 very bad attitudes. 

The kids and I enjoyed a nice walk to the library then continued our walk on two quick errands. Then, just one more stop to take a “break”:

photo(53)We just couldn’t wait until we got home to dive into our books. Plus, the scent of coffee and sun shining on the outdoor tables was too enticing to pass up.

On our way home, we gathered rocks and sticks so we could make this:

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We decided to add a few finishing touches to improve on our last year’s version.

photo(56)Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews in Latin, “Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum”

photo(58)Now we just wait for the grass to sprout.

And like last year, with our leftover peat pots and soil, we planted some herbs, veggies, and flower seeds:

photo(54)Bring on the peppers, zucchini, and cilantro!

Other improvements from last year: All this was done outside. No dirt on the table or dining room floor. No one cried due to mud in their eyes. No tantrums, and no arguing. I’m telling ya, that sun produces miracles.

So when we were finished, we headed inside only long enough to clean up our dirty hands, then back outside for another bike ride. It’s just hard to stay indoors with this kind of weather. Plus, all this walking and riding was a great way to tucker out the kids for an hour early bedtime… (Which means I actually got them to bed at the time I dream of doing so – the time I claim is their actual bedtime, despite the fact that they’ve been in bed at that time exactly never. Except tonight, that is.)

And next on the Spring to-do list: SPRING CLEANING.

Spring is in the air… sort of.

I know it’s February, but it feels like spring. Maybe not so much today with all the cold rain and feeling like I needed to wear gloves in the car and wanting to bundle up in a sweatshirt and sweats with a blanket and coffee and candles going. But earlier this week, it felt a bit like spring. Sunshine. Walks with no jacket. Flowers on the front porch. The kids and I even made it out for a few bike rides. Here is what I have learned so far on these pre-spring biking adventures:

  • The kiddos have grown since the summer. I know this because pulling them in the bike trailer hurts lots more than I remember.
  • Pulling 2 kids in a bike trailer is hard, but it can be fun. (This I knew.) Pulling 2 fighting kids in a bike trailer is also hard, but about as much fun as plucking out nose-hairs and getting your toenails ripped off while listening to endless sounds of nails on a chalkboard. Not that I’ve ever done that. But I might, if I had to choose between that and pulling fighting kids trapped in a small bike trailer just behind my tired body.
  • I was made to have kids. I was not made to teach kids to ride bikes. NO siree.
  • If I ride, I have to pull them. If they ride, I’m still pulling. Jacob, at least… While I walk and he refuses to pedal and Annalise is too far ahead. We’ve made friends with the church parking lot nearby. They can now ride at their own pace.
  • “Let’s go for a bike ride” is not the fun invitation it used to be when I was younger. I’m hoping someday, when I’m not having to pull the kiddos, not arguing about pedaling, and when they’re old enough to ride with me, it will be fun again.

Biking adventures somewhat excluded, I have enjoyed the springish weather. It got me in a springy mood. You know, spring cleaning, brightening things up, etc etc. The blog was the latest spring-cleaning victim. Out with the dark brown, in with the bright and light. Got rid of the excess in favor of simplified. (You can still find links to other posts if you scroll to the bottom.) What do you think? Be honest. I already know mom doesn’t like it. She misses the warm and cozy brown/green. I think someone isn’t feeling the spring just yet…

And spring got me thinking… Easter is just around the corner. Time to get out some supplies and make the Easter garden we did last year! It was super fun (if you like mud masks) and a great way to talk to the kids about the miracle of The Resurrection and the Gift of LIFE. Our garden step-by-step directions can be found here. You’ll want to get started on it soon! Easter is in March this year. That always throws me off.

HAPPY SPRING, Y’ALL!

Loves.

Love-with-a-capital-L

Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.

Maybe it’s the commercialism… buying gifts to say “I love you” on a day you’re supposed to just doesn’t say “I love you” as much as it says “I’d like to keep myself out of trouble, so I will follow the rules and get you cheap chocolate and expensive flowers.” I’m not saying that’s what every person thinks when they’re buying their significant other a gift. I just find it much more thoughtful on a day when it’s not expected. Plus, I don’t know about your kids, but MY kids certainly don’t need another excuse to get presents.

Or maybe it’s because I’m a teacher… if you also work with kids, there is no need for me to explain further. If you don’t, let me summarize: 27 (or more) 8- and 9- year olds (or some other age) full of too much sugar and emotion and excited bouncing off the walls about the thought of more. Anxious to read cards and savor Sponge Bob’s pre-printed words of love from the current “love of their life.” Hurt feelings. Hyperactivity. Lack of focus. Excess of drama.

Or maybe, just maybe, I get a little irritated about A day to force love and kindness. When shouldn’t we be full of love and kindness EVERY day? Shouldn’t we take time as often as possible to tell those we care how much we care?

Maybe I’m just cynical. If so, then I married the right man. He’s never been a fan of cupid, either. He shows me in a thousand ways that he loves me, and I don’t need a stuffed bear holding a heart on this day to remember. I am reminded daily.

Our typical Valentine’s Day is pretty much like any other day. Except at dinner, we try to do something special with the kids. Last year, we had all pink and red food. Breakfast for dinner: Ham, pink biscuits with raspberry jam, jell-0 and strawberries. This year, we upped the class on our dinner and had a nice meal out with Matt’s family to celebrate his brother’s birthday. Delicious food with people we love. Much better than cheap chocolates.

Yes, definitely cynical. But on this particular Valentine’s Day, there were a few things that cured me of my bad attitude about this day of love-with-a-lower-case-l, and made me remember to keep it a day of Love-with-a-capital-L. Lower-case-l-love is bought in gift shops teeming with pink and red and hearts and stuffed animals. It is the too much sugar and the costlier-than-usual flowers. It’s spending $4.99 on a card that will be thrown away tomorrow and not buying another card until next year, same time. Upper-case-L-Love is 1 Corinthians 13* Love. It’s the Love we need to be celebrating, and not just this day, but every day. It’s not the $4.99 card, but the message it holds that is demonstrated in action.

So… those things I mentioned. The ones that reminded me to keep this day a day of Love, capital L.a

  1. Seeing my kids walk by the fridge where this hangs: photo(40)And each time they do, they say in a deep voice, as though they were Jesus, “Will YOU be MINE?” Followed by an immediate response from themselves (in their own voices), “YES! I’m YOURS!” Annalise made this in her Bible Class, and the conversation was their homework. She does her homework daily and has taught her brother to do the same. I pray that all their lives they will feel the Love of Jesus. Feel him saying to them, “Will you be mine?” And I pray their answer will remain what it is today. May we always answer to Jesus, “YES! I’m YOURS!”  Love. Capital L.
  2. I came home to this: photo(41)Aww. Sweet. (We’ve been boycotting $4.99 cards – or any card – that will just be thrown out, for years now. It’s the message that counts, right?) So I read the message: photo(39)                             That message. Handwritten. Lived out. 1 Corinthians 13 Love. Love-with-a-capital-L.
  3. You might remember this post where I posted the flowers Matt got me “just because.” I died laughing: flowersWell, you may not remember. But he did. So today, next to my bouquet of flowers and beautiful note, there was another note:photo(38)How I Love that man. With the capital L kind of Love.
  4. A friend posted a quote from her 6-year-old daughter about Valentine’s Day. Maybe it is exactly my point. I had to share. (I haven’t asked her permission yet, so no names included):

“Gammy says that Valentines Day has nothing to do with God but Valentines Day is about love and sharing and God is love and sharing and so I think Valentines Day is everything about God.”

Is it just me, or are 6-year-olds full of wisdom? I think we could learn a lot from them. This girl gets it. It’s all about the Love-with-a-capital-L.

A Godly Love, because God is Love. A Love that is humble, patient, and gentle. A Love that Loves at all times. The kind of Love that serves one another.

And sometimes, it might also give really good chocolate. Just because.

*1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.