Friday, February 28, 2014

Once a Month - February

Every time I walk in to work, I am greeted by a sign that says, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

As a family, that is kind of what we are working on - but, we are more specifically trying to be the change that we want to see in ourselves. We are striving to better follow Jesus' calling of sharing God's love to others through giving and serving more. (See the start of our journey here.)

Last month I blogged about how much we loved feed my starving children. (You can read about it here.)  This month, we had an opportunity to work with this organization again and we just had to take it.

Our boys participated with the over 835 volunteers from our church that joined other churches and raised at least $15,000 and packed 3,009,312 meals that were shipped to Nicaragua and Liberia.

This time my husband took the older boys and I stayed home with our youngest son.  When they came home, I asked my boys how it was.  My middle son shrugged and said, "normal."

Yup, that's our goal. To make this giving and serving seem normal. To be the change we want to see in the world and in ourselves. To love our neighbors as ourselves. To share Jesus' love in a tangible way.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

our weekend

One of our sons decided he needed special, alone time with his grandparents and called his grandma to talk about.  Just as he hung up, our other son picked up the phone to arrange his alone time.  Then, of course, our three-year-old declared he needed special time with his grandparents too.

So after a few phone calls and discussions, it was neatly arranged that our oldest would spend Friday night with his grandparents, our middle would spend Saturday and our youngest would get his turn on Sunday.

My husband and I decided to let the two boys that are left with us be in charge of the family activity.

So, Friday night, with our middle son in charge, we watched Batman cartoons.  Saturday, with our youngest in charge, we went to the zoo.  (Though, he did decide that he wanted to leave the zoo and go to Chuck-e-Cheese, to which we said, "no."  Then he wanted to buy all sorts of souvenirs at the zoo gift shop, to which we also said, "no."  Then he asked to go to Disney World, which is an obvious, "no."  So when we said they were in charge, we meant within reason...and really, who's idea was it to let a three-year-old be in charge?)  On Sunday, our oldest wanted to go out to lunch.  Thankfully, he picked a restaurant we had a gift card to.  (Probably, because we only gave him a choice between two restaurants - we had gift cards to both.)

It was one of those weekends that without much planning, turned out to be really fun.

So now that our unplanned but awesome all-about-our-kids weekend is over, my husband and I need to convince our boys that they need special sibling and grandparents time without us parents....is it too early to start planning our date?


Saturday, February 22, 2014

grandpa

My grandpa recently passed a way and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that he is gone.

What a loss.

He was 94 years old and for many years his mind had been sick with dementia and his body tired.  His slow regression gave me plenty of time to prepare for this moment - it wasn't a surprise.

But it still hit hard.

I felt a unique and special light left this earth.

My emotions bounce back and forth between feeling sad to feeling grumpy. In this mourning process, my grandfather has continually stayed in my thoughts. I hear his voice, see his smile and feel his warm hands envelope mine. When God took my Grandpa home, he left a piece of him in my heart.  My memories of him and my grandmother, who passed away years ago, will always be with me.

I will always remember our road trips to visit my grandparents.  Our car would pull into the thin alley behind their home and park off to the side of the detached garage driveway.  My grandparents always greeted us with big hugs at the back door; I knew they were anxiously watching out the window for us. I would peek my head into each room, greeting their home with as much love as I greeted my grandparents. The living room held their two blue lazy boy chairs, the nine framed pictures of their grandchildren above the couch (which my grandmother called a d'van), and the television cabinet my grandfather had beautifully hand-crafted.  In the office sat my Grandpa's desk peppered with hand written post-it notes that included addresses, phone numbers, passwords and reminders.  In the bedroom, their bed, tall dresser and a vanity were all pushed up against the mint green walls. The kitchen was a rectangle with a sink, dishwasher and short counter space on the left parallel to the stove and refrigerator on the right; the strawberry wallpaper and my grandmother's spoon collection made the small space feel cozy.  A long table surrounded by antique chairs with flowery needlework seats took up most the dining room. Three shelves that held my grandmother's plate collection hung on the wall and behind the table was a door leading to the upstairs.

I was always anxious to check out the big upstairs room where my family would sleep.  There was a divider that split the large room into two sleeping areas.  My parents stayed on the side with the double bed covered by a colorful quilt.  The walls displayed my grandfather's needle work and my grandmother's glass bottles sat daintily on a small shelf.  Three beds formed a rectangle on the other side of the divider.  I always slept in the bed covered with a purple, wool blanket perpendicular and to the other two beds.  My sister slept in the bed underneath the long rectangular shelf my grandfather had made.  I loved to look at all the knick-knacks the shelf held.  My brother claimed the bed parallel to my sisters covered in a warm, brown bedspread.

My siblings and I spent hours upstairs.  We would settle comfortably on our beds and read books or play board games.  We would explore the adjacent walk-in storage closet filled with old keepsakes and treasures, including my grandfather's diaries from WWII. 

As a family, we played cards around the dining room table. We listened to my grandma tell us about the latest book she was reading and what her sewing circle was making.  We ate warm home made dinners and went out to Whitey's ice cream for dessert.  We would watch the Cubs play on TV.  We took walks, often to the HyVee Store to pick up more milk and eggs.  My grandpa would proudly show us what he was making in his woodworking shop in the basement.

We took day trips to the Amana Colonies where my grandpa would whistle as a he measured out the furniture their store displayed using his arms to give rough measurements of the width and his body the height; he mentally stored all these measurements and ideas for possible future carpentry projects.  It was on one of those trips that I pointed out a small nightstand I liked.  He later made a similar nightstand for me as my graduation from high school gift, a coffee table as my graduation from college gift, and various shelves and a tall floor light just because I asked him to.

Just as often as we came to visit them, they would visit us too. My father was military and we lived all over the world.  My grandparents loved to travel and even flew to Keflavik, Iceland where my dad was stationed as a rescue helicopter pilot. My grandparents had a tradition of taking each grandkid on a individual special trip, and we were in Iceland when it was my turn.  We flew down to the Vestmann Islands and explored this small volcanic island for the weekend.

My memories with them are strong and vivid, but what I learn from and what stays in my heart is the characteristics they displayed.

My grandmother was gentle, kind and loyal. She loved to bake Christmas cookies, read, sew and crochet.  She would wrap her arms around me, kiss me on the cheek and tell me she loved me.  My grandfather was courageous, adventurous, outgoing and loved people.  He fully embraced life.  He set an example of living life to the fullest to the very end, when, at the age of 85 and after my grandmother's death, he remarried. He was an artist, a carpenter, a needle worker, a writer and a photographer.  When it came to emotions, my grandpa was the strong-silent-type, so I would take great joy in provoking him by hugging him, kissing him on the cheek and telling him how much I loved him.  He would always reply, "You're a good kid."  There were only a couple of times that he actually said, "I love you, too." But he didn't need to say it - he always showed me how much he loved my by his actions.  My grandparents were honorable, loving and family-oriented.

Their characteristics and hobbies are what I take with me daily as I continue through life, such as my love of reading, writing, photography, travel and being with family.  I draw from the courage they showed to meet life head on and make it into what you want it to be.  Their example of loyalty and the importance of family and good friends stays in my heart.  Just like them, I want to live life to the fullest up until the very end.

It is in these thoughts that I realize, though my grandparents are no longer on this earth, they will always be with me.  Their traits will be passed on to my children and my someday grandchildren, even though they will never know my grandparents. 

The idea that people live forever in our hearts seems less cliché.  It makes me wonder how far back these family characteristics and traits go, which one of my long past relatives passed them on to my grandparents.  I see how each family member stands on the shoulders of the family before, how we are all connected and how each person is important and how, until we meet again in heaven, our hearts are always linked.

Though this doesn't make the ache any less and doesn't decrease the longing for my healthy, strong grandparents to be back on earth, it does provide me with some comfort.

Grandpa and Grandma, if God lets you read my blog while you are in heaven, please know how much you are loved and how deeply you are missed. And, thank you for always loving me.  You will live in my heart forever.

 Grandpa and me
 All of us in Iceland.
 me, my brother and my grandparents
This picture was taken by my grandma of my grandpa and I on our special grandchild trip to the Vestmann Islands in Iceland. 



Thursday, February 20, 2014

made my day

My day started rocky, but ended super sweet. Two things totally made the end of my day:

My blog was featured on parenting.com - you can check it out here.

The sky dumped a whole bunch of warm, wet snow on us.  I left work early and picked up my favorite little people - we just had to play outside.

I am grateful that my day doesn't have to go perfect for me to still feel God's blessings.




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

headshots

I took headshots of some of the cast members of Godspell.  I had never taken headshots before, but it was really fun.  What a lovely group - I am excited to see the show!

        

            

          

          

           

        
    

Friday, February 14, 2014

celebrating valentines day

Earlier this week, I considered surfing Pinterest for some cute Valentine's decoration and gift ideas - that didn't happen.  Instead, I went to the dollar store and picked up cards and small toys for the boys and decided to skip decorations all together.

Last night, my husband and I playfully argued over who was going to pick up our traditional Valentines breakfast of donuts because we both needed to pick up gifts for each other.  My husband proposed that instead of making our evening busy and stressful, we break tradition and skip gifts this year; I quickly agreed. 

I thought about cleaning the house so it sparkled on Valentines day - but I didn't.

This year, we are not celebrating perfect; we are celebrating real love.

The kind of love that doesn't see the messy house, but the small gifts, cards and donuts for the kids on the table.

The kind of love that doesn't see my husband's hands empty of a Valentines gift, but the man that works hard to support our family, whose hobby is making our home more beautiful and who unconditionally loves me and our boys.

The kind of deep love that sees past imperfections.

The kind of love that is real - and lasts forever.

Happy Valentines Day!

Linked to Womanhood with Purpose and The Wiegands.