Tuesday, February 28, 2012

living on the wild side-watching white collar

Brian and I were married for almost five years before we had kids. This wasn't our plan. However, now we have three kids, and we love our family. And, I am so glad we had the adventures that we did before kids. In fact, it's easy to miss those days (or at least the adventures). I have a book that chronicles many of the things that Brian and I did together before we had kids.


Before we had three kids, we went to Gator games. We had season tickets to the Bobcats. We went on ski vacations and weekend getaways to Charleston and Savannah. Heck, we went out to dinner at least once a week. Now? Well, we stay home!

What do we do together now? White Collar. Yes, we watch TV. Judge all you want!


As lame as it sounds, Brian and I love watching shows together, and White Collar is our new favorite. Our kids go to be at 8pm, and we are game on until then. Playing, feeding, holding, dancing, reading, cleaning up. That is how we spend the hours of the evening before our kids go to bed. Once our kids are in bed, not every night, but most, on the couch we sink. Every once in awhile, we get crazy, and we stay up until midnight! I know. DANGEROUS! You know why, because our kids wake up at the same time every morning.

I know. We are living the life, right?! Well, we're not doing weekend getaways much these days. Some of that has to do with being missionaries, but we do live a three hour train ride from Prague. If we were clever, we could find ways to see awesome places for rather cheap. No, our reins come from having three kids ages three and under.

On Sunday night though, as Brian and I lived on the wild side, watching three episodes of White Collar until 11:30pm because we just had to find out what happened next, exchanging knowing glances at each other, jumping off the coach in surprise, and both wanting to watch just one more episode, I realized how lucky I am. Even though I'm not going very many exciting places these days, I'm still having so much fun with Brian! It hit me, in almost a comical way, how much I love sharing life with Brian in every season.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

stuck at home

For two weeks, I was stuck at home. I literally left twice. Both times, taking the boys to the doctor. The boys got sick with bronchitis. Brian was in the states for the Josiah Venture board meeting and missionary training for new JV missionaries. Without going into to all the drama, I'll just say it was a hard two weeks for me. Sick kids, husband gone, below zero degree weather. I must say that I did have a lot of help--someone picked up and brought Cece home from preschool every single day. People came to help me with bedtime several nights and even brought me meals. Truly, I experienced community with those around me that I love so dearly.

I'm not sure about you, but in situations like the past two weeks, the world becomes very small to me. I become just a tad ego-centrical. It's just me and God in the world, and I'm not sure why He's not fixing all my problems. I also really struggle with feeling stuck with my kids while Brian is off "having all the fun serving". Now, I don't think I need to say that I love my kids (check out the last 100 posts), but that's just how I was feeling. Some of that feeling is okay--some of that feeling is skewed. But, that's probably for another post.

Then, I finally broke free. I found some babysitters, and I escaped. I went to up to the Advance conference, which Brian helps to plan and run. Advance is a movement in JV to plant healthy, reproducing churches in Central and Eastern Europe. What I love about the direction that JV and those on the Advance team have decided to go is gospel communities on mission (you can read a blog post I wrote where I interviewed Dan Hash about last year's conference here, and you can read more about gospel communities on mission here).

So, I got to the conference this year, and I started listening to a national pastor speak who is from Slovakia. He has planted several churches in his country. As he shared about the challenges of church planting that he had personally faced, suddenly my world started getting bigger. He talked about how each city in Central and Eastern Europe has a unique history. A history that the church needs to deal with. In one city where he helped plant a church, him and others felt strongly that the city needed to repent when it came to how they had dealt with Jews. They held a special event where they celebrated Jewish history and publicly confessed and asked forgiveness for that city's history.


I also had the privilege of hearing Tim Chester speak, who is a part of the movement in the UK called the Crowded House. Tim spoke about the Holy Spirit and discipleship. Discipleship is an important emphasis for Josiah Venture. Because we firmly believe that simply planting churches isn't enough--people must be discipled. Two things that Tim said really stuck with me. He said, "we do not need a discipleship manual. What can be better than the gospels for knowing how to disciple someone?" He also said, "the Holy Spirit is a better discipler than you are." He went so far to say something like this: (I didn't write this all down, so I don't want to say it's an exact quote) if someone has a relationship with Jesus Christ and has surrendered his/her life to Christ, if that person is walking in the Spirit, submitting oneself to the Word of God, then, that person can do whatever he/she wants. Now, he was careful to explain this in the context of the scripture that he was teaching on (which I also forgot to write down). His point was this--there is freedom in Christ. Discipling people is about helping people know how to live in the Spirit, which is a FREEING experience. Why? Because when you love God and fall more and more in love with him, sin becomes less and less attractive.


So, how does this blog post remain entitled--stuck at home? Because I realized a few things by simply getting out of my house for four hours. First, I need to get out of the house more. Duh? Right! Also, I need to trust God more, with so many things. I also need some prospective--it's not all about me.

Oh, dear Lord, forgive me for making it about me. I want to be used by you in all seasons of life, but not because it feels good to be important, but because I want to serve you in whatever ways I can! 

Also, I need to rely more on the Holy Spirit. Let me be honest, this is a season of life where I feel a lot of passion for so many different things, but I have limited capacity. That's just my current reality. However, if I rely on the Holy Spirit to disciple those around me that I love, I may be part of what God is wanting to do, but I'm not responsible for it.

(Look, I made the picture--blue shirt, right side.)

(The three faces you can see are Latvian nationals who came down from the conference to have tea with me; I just met them, and I love them.)

(Here is Dan Hash, who is heavily involved in Advance. This is the same face he made at me 10 years ago when he told me to stop flirting with Brian and start doing ministry at an English camp in Poland.)

(Here is my dear friend Jola, from Poland, who came to conference for the day and did some translating.)


I also remembered why I am so glad we are serving here--mostly, how proud I am of Brian. That's not meant to sound trite. When I am at home, it's easy to start thinking that my life would be just a tad easier if I lived say in Charlotte, NC (which is so ironic, because when I lived there, I wanted to live over here. Yes, I continue to be convicted about my "grass-is-greener" mentality). It was so good for me to look around at these leaders and hear about what they are doing in their countries and to feel like Brian and I are a part of that, albeit, a small part, in my case.

Cece learns to ski

One of the parts of living in another country is feeling like there will be things that my kids will miss out on. That is, for sure, a glass half empty way of looking at things, and the truth of how much they will experience is often on the forefront of my mind. However, I would be lying if I said I am never sad when I think about raising my kids far from what I know.

When I was little, I learned how to ski. Granted it was a tiny little ski place called Ski Gull in Northern Minnesota, so we're not talking expert here. Every year from first grade to ninth grade, I would go with my school for the "learn to ski" day (or week, I can't remember). As I got older, I went skiing a few times a year. Then, I met Brian who lived in Denver at the time, and he wanted to take me skiing in the mountains. He kept asking me if I wanted to take lessons. I was like, "No! I know how to ski." He was a little nervous about the Minnesota girl hitting the "real" slopes. I will never forget my first run in the Colorado mountains. It was like heaven. We got to the bottom, and needless to say Brian was a tad impressed. I was like, "this is so easy; I'm used to skiing on ice! This is like skiing on real snow." Anyway, Brian and I took a few skiing/snowboarding vacations in our early years of marriage (are we really at a place where I can say "early years of marriage"?).

Well, this week was a glass full week for me because Cece got to learn how to ski. She went every afternoon with her preschool (normally, she is home napping). Both Brian and I drove up to see her on different days. She's not hitting the black diamonds yet, but she's standing up, learning how to do the pizza, and she's even smiling, sometimes!



(This is Cece's friend Lia!)



The cool part about Cece's experience learning to ski in another country is that she's saying things in Czech. She came home putting her hands on her knees saying some Czech words. So glass overflowing--she's learning to ski and speak Czech!

Friday, February 17, 2012

great shot of the boys


I love this picture for so many reasons! The "pose" is actually how I find these two often. "Don't bother moving; I'll just crawl over you." Then, they just hang out like this chatting with each other! I love it. And, then their smiles. Though, this photo captured a very similar smile, if you look closely, you'll see that Alex's whole face smiles. Gabe smiles too, but with this awesome smirk.

Then, there's the rug burn on Gabe's nose, which he got because he is pulling himself up on everything, and he took a nose dive onto the carpet. I know it's so clique to say that boys are different than girls. I must say though, I love having a girl and two boys and thinking about how Cece did things differently than the boys. Cece was never "dainty". She was shaking her booty before she could even crawl. But, she was not like the boys. They are fearless. They will not "sit" in the bathtub. Like, I cannot physically make them sit. They both squirm like crazy until they are on their bellies, and then, they are all over the place. I have to be very careful that I don't fill the bathtub too full, so they don't take in mouthfuls of water. I have to watch them constantly because they are "swimming" all over the tub, projecting themselves, slamming into the sides without even flinching. I don't let them stay in very long because it's too stressful. Cece is usually in the tub too, and when I take them out, she usually says something like, "thank you, Mommy; that is very nice of you!"

I have a feeling that this will be one of my favorite pictures of the boys! So much in captured in one shot.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

can I tell them apart?

Yes! Yes, of course I can tell my boys apart! (You could too if you just spent five minutes with them. They don't really look alike!)

However, there is a funny thing that does happen to me sometimes that I just have to write about.

The twins take two naps a day. Their morning nap is always a good nap for them. They both fall asleep almost instantly. In fact, it used to be that when I would bring Alex into his bedroom for this morning nap, his body would go limp, he would insert his thumb in his mouth, and he would go into sleep position before I even put him in his crib. Almost every day, I am waking them up from their morning nap so that I have time to feed them lunch before picking up Cece, or just waking them up so they don't sleep too long in the morning. Why? Well, dear friends, it is because the afternoon nap is more important to me--all three sleep then. Frankly, even the dog sleep in the afternoon!

The afternoon nap is a different story. On varying days, either one of the boys struggles a little to fall asleep (it's probably time to shorten the morning nap, but that's pretty important to me too). Sometimes, just chatting or even crying for awhile. Because of this, I separate them for their afternoon nap. In the morning, they both go down in their bedroom, but in the afternoon, one goes in his crib; the other in a pack n play in our bedroom (I switch which one, if I remember correctly, every other day).

Because the afternoon nap is a little less predictable, I will often hear one (or two) chattering, whining, or crying. In my mind, by the sound, I know who it is. I think to myself, Alex isn't sleeping; I wonder if he pooped? Or, I think, Gabe is sure talkative today; I wonder if he'll eventually go to sleep? Most of the time, they both settle down. However, every once in a while enough time goes by, that I decide to go and check, mostly to see if I need to change the one that I'm hearing.

Two times now this has happened to me. Today, this is how it went:

I think I hear Alex. I decide that he probably pooped, and he can't get himself to sleep. I'm going to go in, change him, hold him for a bit, and then, put him back down. So, I start down the hall, open the door of the room that Alex is in and, he's sound asleep!

The first time it happened (it was reversed--I thought I heard Gabe), I may or may not have said a cuss word aloud! I was just so stinkin' suprised!

The reality is that I probably did hear the one that I thought I was hearing at the beginning, but he probably fell asleep, and then, the other one made noises that I thought were his brothers'.

Anyway . . . I guess, sometimes they fool me!

Monday, February 13, 2012

the limitations of a behavioral management chart

So I'm an educator. That means I know what a behavior management chart is. I have experienced it as a brilliant tool in my classrooms. Then, I became a parent. As of today, I have been soberly reminded of the limitations of a behavior management chart, thanks to my three year old daughter (pictured below).


So here's the story. Cece loves her preschool. In fact, a week ago, when they didn't have school, and I told her that she would get to stay home, she said, "but, Mommy, I love school!" So glad. However, she has been having a lot of accidents at skolka. Like up to three times a morning. Some of it, I figured out, is a matter of just pulling her pants down far enough; however, I think she having so much fun playing with her friends, that she's getting a little distracted. So, how does one solve such a problem? Well, one with my personality, with a love of charts, and a background in education, I elicit the help of my daughter, and we make a behavioral management chart! Sounds fun, right? Well, it was indeed fun for my three year old.

First, we brainstormed things that big girls do. Here is Cece's list (verbatim):
-them don't pee in them's pants
-them get dressed and undressed by themselves
-them watch movies (nice try, Cece)
-them listen to them teacher
-them share with them's friends
-they react appropriately to situations (okay, so that was my addition)

So, then we narrowed down what we (okay, I) really wanted to work on, turned all the statements into positive ones, and this is what we got, a behavior management chart:

Picture 2

So far, today, we have gotten to put a sticker in the "she gets herself undressed" box.

Awesome, right? Until, tonight.

I put Cece to bed, and suddenly, I hear, "Mommy, Mommy . . . Mommy?" That continues for at least two minutes. I don't move. Why? Because this weekend was a five hour hair marathon (me doing Cece's hair--taking out the old style and putting in a new one), both boys have been sick, and Brian was in Phoenix for the JV board meeting. I don't want to move, an inch. I just wait. Soon enough, Cece comes traipsing out of her room still loudly requesting, "Mommy??" I answer as nicely as I can, "What Honey?" Her response, "I want you to get me a kleenex." I'm still using a nice tone, "If you need a kleenex, you can get it yourself." "Why, Mommy?" Still fairly nice tone, "Because you are a big girl, and if you need a kleenex, you can get it yourself."

Cece in a very stern tone, "But Mommy, that is not on the chart, so I want you to get it for me!"

I was stunned, but I acted quickly and gave Cece a little talking to in a not so nice tone, and needless to say, she got her own kleenex. Alas, the limitations of the behavioral management chart!

In an ideal world, these remaining pictures would be in separate blog posts, with other great stories, but I may never get around to that, so . . . .

Here's Cece's new style:


Here is Alex, who continues to make this great face for the camera:


Here's Gabe, who, along with his brother, has been sick, but is still trying to smile:


Kids are amazing! So stinkin' smart.