It’s a 2fer! Valentine’s Day & Ash Wednesday!

I love a good celebration. I think it’s super fun to decorate, find coordinating napkins, bake related food treats, and more. But this year – 2 special days for our family fall on the same calendar date! Wednesday is February 14th, both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. A 2fer! I am personally thrilled that this day is being shared by two occasions that our family finds so valuable. If you think about it, these two special days have some very similar qualities – the importance of both love and sacrifice.

I know that Valentine’s Day has a bad reputation – often referred to as the “Hallmark Holiday”. There is history of this holiday of which many are unaware. St. Valentine lived in Rome, Italy in the 200’s. He was a Catholic Priest that secretly married Christians and otherwise helped others that were persecuted in other ways. He was arrested and imprisoned for doing these good deeds. He focused on love and helping those that needed assistance. In my mind, I think it’s important EVERY DAY of the year to focus on the good and open our eyes to the needs around us. Why not designate a special day each year to expressing our love and admiration to those who are important to us? Nope, I don’t believe it’s necessary to purchase a diamond or roses, or big boxes of rich, sweet chocolate – but who am I to turn such gifts down? Not a penny needs to be spent – words are free, written word is even better .  Write down your words of admiration, your thoughts of devotion, your gratefulness –  then it can be read over and over, and enjoyed forever. I have always loved the concept of Valentine’s Day and the Saint himself, I even went so far as to choose him as my Saint for my Confirmation! Every year in our house, we have a “Heart Hunt” for the kids – which I started when they were teenies. I place clues in the shape of hearts around the house and they search for the final clue that leads them to a small gift or gift for each of them. It continues to be a tradition that they enjoy each year. We also have tiny mailboxes that we put out in February each year. Many years ago they were decorated by each child and are used to collect notes from all of us. Notes that remind us why we are loved, admired and appreciated. When a new note is placed in the mailbox, the little flag is raised – creating quite a bit of excitement for the mailbox owner! We store the notes in the mailboxes and re-read them every year, laughing at the hand-writing, spelling and sentiments at times (“You are a good big brother and you always help me with my HARD homework” love his 3rd grade sister). We bought these mailboxes at Target in the dollar section years ago- and they carry them every year – it’s been another fun and relationship building traditions for our family.

Regarding Ash Wednesday, for Catholics, this day begins the Season of Lent for us. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. During this 40 day period of time, our family focuses on preparing our hearts, deepening our faith and showing our love. Sacrifice is a part of Lent – giving something up that may take up too much of your time, thus making more room in our schedule to read a devotional, pray or listen to your favorite worship music. Whatever makes you feel closer to God – do it during Lent… and don’t stop at Easter – keep it up! Sacrificing for others requires love. Love is also the focus of Valentine’s Day – BONUS!!! In the end, if you are religious or not, I hope Wednesday is a special reminder for you to appreciate those that are in your life, and who have shaped you into the person you are today. Much love to you, from me❤️

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Lean in…

masterpiece

Not everyone will allow themselves to cry in public. I have definitely been known to openly shed a tear or two. I’m not talking about a big ugly cry, but tears on the cheeks, yes. Last week at my Bible study, I cried. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, and to be honest, it even surprised me a bit. Now that I hopefully have your attention, I’ll explain.

I’m currently in a new season of life. These birdies that I have been raising are trying out their wings and I am nervously biting my nails as I watch them teeter on the edge of the nest. With one a college freshman and one a high school senior, the milestones come daily and it’s all a bit overwhelming. For the most part, I am able to focus on the positive and enjoy this season of new found independence – I’m doing OK (until I’m not).

accept

This particular day at Bible study, I was commenting on a scripture passage that we had recently looked up. It was Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece – created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While reading this scripture out loud, the words caught in my throat and I had to pause and pull myself together. You see, I have always wanted to be a Mom. Knowing very little what it would actually involve, the idea of raising littles was a tad magical to me.  I felt that God was in agreement, since He blessed us with 4 stinky butt babes. But now, as my children have grown, I tend to wonder a little bit more about these “good works” that are meant for me. They aren’t so obvious anymore. I’m still busy, yes. Feeling productive, yes. But I am lacking that sense of being needed, feeling necessary – and frankly,  this feeling is not the greatest. What else does God have planned for me? To be clear, my concern is less whether or not He does have plans for me, but will I love these new plans as much as  I loved being a Mama to littles?!

acceptance

I read before, that in order to deal with our pain and uncertainties, we need to lean in. What does leaning in look like? For me, it looks like sorting through boxes of outgrown clothing and pouring over scrapbooks containing pictures of years gone by. It’s sitting attentively as your senior debates between colleges , when all you really want to do is pull her onto your lap and read her a Golden book. It’s repainting bedroom walls from bubble gum pink to sophisticated grey. It’s talking with other parents about how to let go, while holding tight at the same time. And it’s tears – sometimes expected, but often an embarrassing surprise. It’s a big messy box of acceptance wrapped with a sloppy bow of denial on top. Even though we experienced these emotions just last year, we are still novices at this whole “watching your child grow up” gig. 

I don’t think anyone should ever have to explain themselves when they are leaning in. It takes a lot of extra effort and is very important. It looks differently for everyone, but is crucial for all of us. Don’t think you can skip over tough things and hope it won’t catch up with you. It will. I’ve tried to ignore things, it doesn’t end well. 

So what about you? Are you avoiding a tough situation right now? Or are you leaning in? Please know that I’m here – online if nothing else – if you’d also like to lean on me!

 

 

“Are we there yet?!”

7d140009b992a90519ce9efca0f73413Quite often, when people discover that we truly enjoy traveling with our 4 kids, they respond with a small gasp, shake of the head and “Better you than me!” comment. Since they have been babies, we have included traveling into our families adventures,  including small road trips and bigger excursions such as yearly trips in the car to Florida – about 40 hours round trip from our home in Michigan. Now – before you think that it’s all been magical and Kodak- moments perfect, let me share some of our most memorable traveling scenarios. We somehow managed to lose ALL of the pacifiers during one particular  trip and subsequently had a crying baby in the car for hours as we drove in the pouring rain. Good times. We got the kids ice cream cones at a rest stop during one trip and our oldest child balanced his in the CUP HOLDER as he put on his seat belt ….. it quickly found it’s way to the floor as we merged back onto the highway for the next part of the drive. More tears. Yet another time, after 5 hours of expressway driving, our pre schooler exclaimed “WHAT?! I never buckled my seat belt ?!?!?!?!?” Sigh. And none of us will ever forget when our youngest had the biggest diaper explosion of her LIFE – and we had to strip that stinky, poop up to her shoulders baby in a random parking lot and line her car seat with newspapers before we could finish the drive. SEE?!?!? Doesn’t family travel sound like a “hootin, hollerin’ good time”?!?!? Makes you want to pack your bags, right ?!

We have taken 4 kids and a double stroller on buses, trains and cabs, and stayed in hotels, cabins and condos along the way.  We’ve visited beaches, museums, aquariums, hot air balloon festivals,  family friends and water parks. We have experienced flat tires, tornadoes and kids with strep throat while on our vacations. We’ve also had sunshine, belly aches from laughing and a lifetime of memory making events. Traveling with kids is much like daily life with kids – hit or miss. The better prepared you are , the better the experience. Keeping your expectations low is also essential. These babes are out of their element: different nap times- if any nap at all- not their bed, sippy cups or toys. Kids thrive on schedules and familiarity, which are both thrown out the window when you travel. Remembering this is helpful, otherwise, it’s way too easy to cry along with them on the expressway (which may or may not have actually happened to us).

Giving your children the opportunity to travel is a big gift. It doesn’t have to be Jamaica. Traveling 40 minutes to a local festival is a huge change of scenery for a child. New sites, sounds, smells and tastes are fascinating to young ones – and teens too !  Introducing different people, history, food and traditions to your kids is crucial in helping them to realize that it truly isn’t all about them. Opening their eyes to experiences that are not like those in their reality will grow them in a way you never thought possible – they will talk about these trips for years to come. I have fantastic memories of traveling with my own family as a child. Remembering times spent in the car with my sister playing cards and interviewing each other on our tape recorder always makes me smile. Taking turns being the “navigator” and sitting in the front seat holding the map in our hands was a special treat. Yes. An actual paper map. I am old.

It’s not for everyone – but how will you know if you never give it a try ?

Now – here are just a few memories, discoveries and realizations made on our last trip less than a few months ago…

  • Mary, happily munching on a bag of goldfish, says “People always say airplane food is gross – I LOVE it!”
  • I am told that a certain child’s toothbrush has been missing since Sunday. It’s WEDNESDAY when I find this out.
  • Unlimited food and drinks will catch up to you sooner or later.
  • Stink increases and patience decreases when 4 siblings share one room.
  • When a stranger in Mexico braids your child’s hair, she sits and smiles.  When you brush the same child’s hair at home, she screams.

After watching an amazing Cirque de Sole & witnessing some incredible street performers in Key West, we felt required to attempt similar stunts in the pool. Much. Less. Impressive.

HAPPY TRAVELING !!!