Friday, February 28, 2014

Dear Summertime,

 I'd ask how you're doing but you'd give some "rub it in" answer about how nice the Southern Hemisphere is this time of year. But regardless of your enjoying constant perfection, I do miss you...a ton. On the one hand it seems like you were just here. But on the other you've been gone far too long.
My sundresses and sandals are still right where we left them the last time you were here. The frisbees and baseballs are not as much fun without you around either. They can't be thrown as far indoors and if we take them out, the cold quickly puts an end to the throwing practice.
You've got three little boys who miss you about as much as I do. You should hear the audible groans when I tell them they have to wear coats to go out. They are having a hard time remembering what you look like. I bring out pictures of mud pie making, snake catching, picnics and hikes. But when you are 4, 2, and not yet 1...memory only goes but so far back.
But don't worry, they are saving a ton of energy for when you do get back. My couches, the stair wells, Sunday School teachers, and Target employees would probably all prefer your prompt arrival due to their energy stores.
I'm ready to ditch hoodies and blankets, for flip-flops and t-shirts and watch these little guys get to know you again. But there's another side to your return. It's been 365 days since your last arrival. That means 365 days of little boys growing far too fast. I feel I've barely had time to blink and yet it's been another 365 days.
You will hardly recognize these guys. One is a full head and shoulders taller, 3 times braver...or impulsive, take your pick, they are interchangeable, and about 5 years older in his thinking. The next is stronger, brimming with mischief and I have a feeling you will have a hard time keeping up with him no matter how long your days are. The youngest is not the infant you last remember. He'll be taking his first pudgy toed bare foot steps in your greened fields and this Momma's heart can't compute the equation...
...How can it feel like you were just here, but at the same time like it's been forever? The pictures and memories of 3 mud and melted popsicle covered little boys are all I have from your last visit. And these 3 stair jumping, brother tackling, snowflake and hot chocolate covered little men will be the memories from the time we waited for you. So while I can't wait...it's ok you aren't here yet. I'm not about to wish away the time that already goes by too fast...but that doesn't mean you should take your time either ;)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Mommy Melter

Do you see this little guy right here? Oh I could eat him up and he knows it! The stinker knows every way to push my buttons and make me melt all at the same time.
And it wasn't like he read a manual on "Mommy" he just is way too smart for his own good. He observes and processes and then spits something out later you have no hope of preparing for.
He's the king of conflict. One minute he's smearing oatmeal through his hair and stuffing it down his jammies so I think it's "all gone". Of course I survey the breakfast carnage, quickly becoming upset as he sits there with his baby blues and disarming grin.
His tragically cute head tipped to one side and huge puppy eyes looking up stop me in my tracks. And now he is adding his expanding vocabulary to his arsenal. So as he sits surrounded and covered in his protested breakfast his concern is AWOL as he launches his defense.
"Mommy," I hear in that tiny little non-guilty voice, "my bowl is all empty of oatmeal. It was a little bit too hot. Then a little bit too cold. And then I can't eat it. So it can't be finished. I'm just sayin'." And with that I laugh and he does too and I'm in trouble since he is winning in this game and we've only just begun.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One Thousand

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. I sometimes question that since more often than not pictures leave me speechless. An image forever frozen is a piece of art that conjures up secret memories and leaves me breathless. And now I have 1000 posts filled with images of thousands of seconds of life stopped in a frame and forever cherished.
Like the very first picture I ever posted on my first blog post. The heart stopping image of crossed blue lines. Those terrifyingly precious lines that mean your world will forever change.
And the "1000 words" of pictures and posts roll on through the breakneck pace of life when 2 became 3 and my heart experienced the fierce love and pain of becoming a mother.
The words on these 1000 posts won't let us ever forget when jobs ended and there were none to replace it. When housing was taken away, and new doors were opened.
Or when life ended too soon and our broken hearts were drowning in a sea of  'why'. When we had no idea how to grieve a child we never held and ungracefully waded through letting go, asking God to hold us just as He was holding our child.
Or when life again screamed existence from little blue lines and our nervous hearts groped the ledge of doubt and trust as we counted the weeks between the first heartbeat and viability. And the undamming balm that poured sweet love into ache as we held our precious second gift for the first time.
Or the time that God shook us up and poured us out into a place of complete and total trust in Him. Our lives became a demolition site of anything we ever tried to build ourselves as we spent two years striving, failing, yearning, and falling over ourselves learning to get out of God's way and surrender all to Him.
And the precious oasis of companionship and accountability God hand picked for us in the desert of our stubborn wandering. The moments and days of life with these friends who have become family are captured forever within these 1000 posts and will always be a cherished part of how God used them to grow us beyond the present.
And somewhere in that desert wandering, God laid waste our pitiful plans and passion for diving head first into His will took root. He lavished gifts of travel and celebration, and we experienced what life can be when lived in the freedom of holding onto Him. Within months, death of self gave way to life again in the form of another set of little blue lines and then to the re-birth of a heart's desire gifted from our Father.
The posts written through tears and stubbornness of accepting a greater plan won't ever let me forget the embarrassment that lies in between the lines of fighting God; and I don't want to forget. These 1000 posts have followed through the insane battle of self and sacrifice, documenting the embarrassing, the insecure, the cherished, the treasured, the falling, and the fear.
Our lives are written in these 1000 posts as a testament to show our children the unending ways God chases after us, in our denial, in our doubt, in our loss, in our wins, in our questions, in our joy, in our moments of glory and moments of wonder...God always was. God always is. These 1000 posts are a story of pictures that leave me speechless...
...because 1000 words for every picture would never be enough to shout my praise for all God has done. In death, in life, in the left behind, in the new, in the growing and going on, every breath, every glimpse, everything is in You. For the last 1000, for the next 1000 take us, teach us, use us, all for You.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Dads Are For

 Around here, a mom can tie a shoe, wipe a nose, crank out a batch of warm cookies, kiss away tears, and even attempt sword fights.
 But there are some things that just need Dad. With three little men in the training it only makes sense.
 Dads have a way of laying out the fine points, going over technique, and after a quick review, kicking the bird out of the nest, so to speak.
 Lately "lessons with Dad" have included everything from changing light bulbs and batteries, refilling engine fluids and jump starting batteries, to sledding and snow flake catching.
 Yes, who knew snow flake catching was a must-have course with Dad, but according to Harrison and his perfectionism drive, he wanted only the best to instruct him in the wintertime art.
 And my first born, who is entirely too hard on himself if he fails after a first attempt, did indeed fail after his first lesson...according to him, since he didn't catch a "huge one like Daddy did."
 And then Harrison got a lesson he didn't know he signed up for; the art of "getting back on the horse." Dads are great at teaching this since they don't operate on the "emotion" like moms do.
And so Matt lovingly told this little man to get over himself and pick his head up. And that's exactly what he needed. Harrison thought he was getting a snowflake catching lesson, but ended up a better man with the lesson his wise Daddy ultimately taught him, the value of hard work, practice, and never giving up.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Two for the Price of One

Check-ups are done in batches around here. If we didn't double up we'd be living in the doctor's office due to the insane number of check-ups they claim kids need to make sure you're not feeding them too much sugar and they can track a flashlight around the room....I kid. 
Doubling up has it's advantages. The brother not being checked gets iPad time and a free sucker from the nurse feeling sorry for him having to sit in the corner of the exam room. But it's still a celebration for all involved as we cheer boys packing on pounds and shooting up inches overnight.
And I'm not really exaggerating that last point. Mr Wils is an official 18 month old stuck in a 9 month old body weighing in at 22lbs and almost 30 inches long, otherwise known as the "best arm workout in the world". I found myself strangely sad packing away all the last remnant of baby clothes and pulling out all the toddler sizes.
And J-man here is weighing in at 30lbs and 36"...he's aiming for an NBA career. I can literally see his jean hems getting shorter on a daily basis. He and Harrison now wear the same size clothes, which on the one hand is great for laundry purposes and not having to separate all their clothes. But on the other hand, I have no idea where my Jeff baby went. Which makes me reconsider this doubling up on the check-ups...or just check-ups in general. I mean, do I really want to be reminded so often how fast these guys are growing? :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tips For Boy Moms

I'm not an expert, I'm not experienced, but I'm learning. I'm a boy mom in training.
As my tiny baby boys grow into knee scraping, tree climbing, sword wielding testosterone bundles I've been praying for wisdom as to how I can be used by God to help mold them into men. So far, here's my list of boy mom insider tips...
1. Get physical. Seriously, get bruised, scraped, tired, stung, and poked as you wrestle, hike, play catch, build, hammer, jump in puddles, throw snow balls, and build forts. Be a part of their world. Put down your phone, computer, book etc. when they are watching and as much as you can, say "yes" when they beg you to play with them. When they get to rescue their "Mommy princess" from the villain again you will have won their hearts.
2. Encourage, praise, and celebrate every accomplishment. Boys love to know they are a hero, even in the small areas. Look for every opportunity to reinforce the positive.
3. Don't yell. Studies have shown that a raised voice, particularly when used on males, will actually hinder comprehension as their "fight or flight" reaction takes over. Take a minute to calm down and think/pray through your words when they need correction.
4. There's a difference between responding and reacting. Wether grown or little, guys don't do well with hysterics. So skip the "reactions" when something gets broken, someone gets hurt, or he confides something shocking. Respond in a way that conveys a solid place for him to land when everything else seems unsure.
5. There are going to be those moments when you know you can help him accomplish something faster, better, and the right way. But if he says he doesn't need help, don't take it personally. Back off, give him space to grow in his independence and problem solving skills.
6. And when he comes to you later saying he needs your help because he just can't figure it out do NOT hint at any kind of, "I told you so" responses. Gladly come alongside him and point out the great effort he made so far.

7. There will be times when you will have to be stern, discipline, and correct, but being scornful does not have a place. Boys are visual and when they see excessive scowling and displeasure they will be distracted from focusing on the training you are trying to instill in their hearts.
8. Boys have a pride and an ego. These are designed by God and in place to grow leaders, protectors, conquerors, and heroes. Do not break your little man by damaging that fragile part of his being. Nurture it by asking him to "lead" during a hike or to "fix" a broken appliance. These serve to nurture a pride in their acts of service and abilities to achieve.
9. Be on their level. When I need to convey instructions, discuss a needed behavior change, or just to listen to a story one of my guys are excitedly telling me, I get down on their level. No male does well with someone towering over them, especially if it involves a directive or a critique. I get down on eye level to calmly instruct, respond, or just to listen.
10. Listen, don't interrupt. Boys think linearly. Their minds can't jump around and multitask. Interrupting with a request or thought, even if you think it will enhanced what he's saying, will only serve to confuse and frustrate your little guy. Hear him out, show your interest, give visual responses like raised eyebrows and hand over mouth in surprise etc. He feels validated and the small conversations that you display honest interest in now will only grow his knowledge that you will always be there to listen to him as he grows older and the conversations grow deeper. 
11. Boys don't like a lot of words, so use moments and actions to show and prove what you say. If you have to correct and train, keep it short and simple or they drift away mentally.
12. Teach them unconditional love. It's not hard to tell cute little guys, "I love you so much," as you tuck them into bed. But in moments of bad behavior, foolish decisions, and direct disobedience, they need to know your love is unconditional. So especially after discipline and correction, get down on their level (#8), and say, "There is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you." Little men need to know that your love isn't based on performance. This erases a fear based relationship and grows one of desire to love and protect their relationship with you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sneaky Snacks

I'll admit it, my boys do not eat a perfectly well rounded nutritionally balanced diet...at all! So when I can sneak in what they turn down, I will...and totally guilt free.
This innocent looking soft biscuit type snack food is perfect for little fingers, growling tummies, both at home and on the run since they are mess free while being inhaled by ravenous toddlers.
I made these with Bob's gluten free oat flour and the flavor and texture was great. But it only served as a spring board and I'll be experimenting with other flours to see what I can create...coconut, almond etc.
I also used sweet potato and apple as my fruit and veggie base, but I wanted to play it safe as I attempted a first run at these.
Once I knew the flavor test passed the ultra picky judges I quickly began listing all the other combinations I'm going to be trying in the future...spinach and berry, mango and butternut squash, roasted beets and peaches...I'll keep you updated.
I found the original recipe on Pinterest as a "sweet potato cracker" for toddlers. But I can never just follow a recipe and started tweaking right away to create my own. They were a hit with all the boys, except for Harrison.
I think he had his mind made up cookies were being served fresh from the oven and went into shock as his taste buds alerted him to the severe lack of sugar. But after he worked through his cookie let down, even he warmed up to "those little star things." And I'll admit I've been caught snacking on them too..guilt free, remember? ;)
Secret Stars:

1 sweet potato, diced, slow simmered in small amount (about 1-2") of water or apple juice until soft
1 apple diced, simmered along with sweet potato until soft
2 Cups gluten free flour ( I used Bob's Red Mill whole grain gluten free oat flour)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder (if doing strict gluten free use a brand that's corn free)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Puree sweet potato and apple (along with remaining water, or juice, from simmering), until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead with generous amounts of flour until dough is soft and not too sticky. Using a small floured cookie cutter, punch out shapes and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes. Then flip them over and back for another five minutes longer. Store in a sealed container for a week.