Money can’t buy this

 

For Thanksgiving this year, my family and I decided to make a book for my grandparents about why we are all thankful for them.  I had the opportunity of putting it together and I noticed some themes within each individual’s note of appreciation that I believe we all should pay attention to.  This book was compiled by children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.  Check out what we all have valued during our time with them.

  1. Hospitality: My grandparents are fantastic at this without even knowing it. They treat anyone who walks into their door as if they were a part of our family forever. Even great granddaughters mentioned “You always ask if we want snacks.” That’s something so simple but I love that they have the art of making you feel welcome and treating you like a guest at the same time down pat. If they had one apple to their name, my grandma would slice it up and give it to you in a heartbeat. (After she washed it THOROUGHLY 😉 )
  2. Fishing: Oh how I love going fishing. My husband and I spent a lot of time doing this when we started dating. We’d pick up some breadsticks and pizza from Monicals and take them to fish all night. It’s so peaceful and exciting at the same time. My grandparents had 5 children and ventured out with all of them on fishing and camping trips. To this day, if we are taking our family fishing they gladly join us to make memories.
  3. Games: If you were at any family function you would undoubtedly see a group gathered around the table playing cards. But this wasn’t the memory mentioned the most. It was all the time we grandkids spent playing Aggravation, Scrabble and anything else they had. They put a lot of themselves into helping raise us and wouldn’t hesitate to watch their great grandbabies either if it was a necessity. What I value most about this is that my grandparents didn’t let us play, they played with us. I remember them babysitting me many times and looking words up in the dictionary to make sure they were correct on the Scrabble board. Then without realizing what we were doing, we would work on our math skills when adding up the scores.
  4. Road trips: I have heard many stories about all my aunts and uncles loading into the station wagon for a road trip. When you hear them talk about it you can tell these are cherished times that gave them self-worth and tied together their family unit. However, I distinctly remember my grandpa seeing our DVD player in the van and telling me, “Jami those are the best invention ever.” Ha! So I believe that even though he loved driving his children around, it may have raised his blood pressure a tad! This tradition continued with their grandchildren, I traveled with them to Pittsburg and Tucson, Arizona. As much fun as it was to reach the destination, the trip was always the best, I still feel that way today.
  5. Work ethic: Several of the notes alluded to a sense of not giving up and working hard for what you want. I would say that all of my aunts and uncles have been successful but they have all  had hiccups on the way (as does everyone). Their willingness to endure is something they all appreciate my grandparents instilling in them.

 

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I love this list because none of these top 5 memories are expensive.  None of them require you have a doctoral degree to give to your children.  This is what a loving, happy family should make sure you have the time to do.  We hear all the time that it’s the little things that matter but we’re often too busy to actually do them.  We might be so busy preparing for Christmas that we don’t stop to read our children the Christmas story, play a game with them, or watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” (my fave) while snuggling on the couch with hot chocolate and popcorn.  Try your best this holiday season to be mindful of your time and reflect on what really matters.  What legacy do you want to leave behind that your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be thankful for?

 

Find the joy!

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.  Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 8:15

 

I thought it was important to dedicate the entire month of November to being thankful for homeschool with my kiddos.  An important goal I have for my children is for them to be appreciative of the life they have and not feel entitled.  With Veterans Day and Thanksgiving packed in together, thankfulness is an obvious theme for the month.  In our home, we talk a lot about being thankful in every situation.  My husband is especially passionate about this as he has seen children during deployments who are full of joy and living with SO much less than ours.  When we hear him say “There are children starving in Africa!” it’s not just a phrase, it’s because he has seen those children and seen them perfectly content with their lives.

When Maia came home from church with a page on Joseph, it fit in perfectly with our unit.  We talked about how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and that God had big plans for him.  I ensured them that we need to find the joy in every situation we are in.  No matter what, there is someone who is in a worse situation than us.  Wouldn’t you know that this very week God would give me an event where I needed to show up in this area as a mommy.

On Mondays my oldest daughter has gymnastics.  Back when it was warm out this was one of my favorite times of the week.  I took her on the half hour drive to her gym, went for an hour run and picked her up.  I always left feeling refreshed and loved starting my week that way.  Now that we have had the chilly weather and it’s hunting season in our home, Mondays have turned into me taking all 3 of my children in the car and praying the little man doesn’t scream the whole way.  This past Monday, my husband had told our girls we would go check out Toyland after gymnastics.  As any child would be, they were super excited!  During gymnastics, the hubby, myself and our 2 youngest sat in the van watching a movie. (I laughed at people looking at us as they drove by, this family sitting in a van with the lights on watching tv for an hour)

As the movie came to a close, Clint went in to get Maia and she pranced out of gymnastics ready for Toyland.  Kealy sat in the van pretty much bouncing with enthusiasm, her daddy got in, turned the key and ….nothing. The battery had died from the movie (we’re assuming) and now we had a night full of uncertainty ahead of us.  It was cold, rainy and suppertime.  I sat in the van with my kids knowing full well that Clint would not be up for Toyland after this and I could tell my girls sensed that as well.  And then it came to me, I remembered what I had been reinforcing all week in school and I said it… “Girls let’s find some joy!” So we did. Although it was raining, it wasn’t cold out so we were grateful for the temperature.  We had eaten a snack before we came so nobody was hungry (at least not too much!) There was an Auto Zone less than a block away from our van so Clint was able to walk there and purchase a new battery.  We had money for a new battery.  I have a friend who lived in town and thankfully she sent her hubby to come help Clint since I was useless trying to entertain 3 children. I am nursing our little boy so we had food for him readily available. My husband is an excellent mechanic so we knew he could repair whatever we needed. And finally…we looked it up and Toyland was open, until 9:00! I explained to the girls that after working all day then fixing the van, daddy may not feel up to Toyland and we had to be okay with that.

After about an hour, Clint got back into the car and he wasn’t that frustrated. I’m sure the fact that he sat down in a van that wasn’t occupied by 3 grouchy ladies and a crying baby helped.  It was really cool to see how finding the joy could change the course of our night.  I can’t help but think if we had sat in there, mulling over in our minds how unfortunate we were, our night would have continued with that attitude.  We probably would have went straight home, grouchy and hungry and thought about that stinkin van until we laid our heads down to sleep.

Looking back, I’m grateful God provided this opportunity and that I was able to identify the situation as a teachable moment. (If I learned one thing in my education to become a teacher it was do not pass up a teachable moment!) I want my children to be able to find joy no matter their circumstances.  This is an important life lesson and I’m hoping they’ll be able to be content no matter where they are.  And they can spread joy just by being in control of their attitudes during any situation, which is powerful. If they can’t do this, they are in for a lifetime of disappointment because these silly little problems will happen, and they’ll happen often. That’s just life. Hopefully, Monday night my girls saw a glimpse of what it’s like to choose joy.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

 

Thank you

The military is a pretty big part of my life and has been for over 10 years now. I have a box of letters my husband wrote me while he was in basic training and AIT back before cell phones were readily available.  I would run down each day from my dorm room at NIU and check that teeny tiny mailbox with my key for a letter.  I remember one time he got leave for the weekend and I drove alone 16 hours straight to South Carolina just to see him for 24 hours.

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We have absolutely learned how valuable time together is and to not take that for granted. During our first 3 years of dating he was gone for about 2 of them, between basic, AIT and a deployment.  The military changed us both forever, we became stronger, more patient, appreciative, learned we needed to depend on God and that He was faithful, and decided we weren’t going to let go of what we had together.  Needless to say, Veterans Day is a big deal to me.  There are men in my family who have served in the military and now of course countless friends.  So if you have served…

-Thank you for giving up time with your family and friends in order to protect mine.

-Thank you for all the effort you put into training so that you are ready at a moment’s notice.

-Thank you for working as a team, supporting one another.

-Thank you for your focus during a mission.

-Thank you for those who have given their lives for our freedom in this amazing country.

-Thank you to all the families who keep it together for their soldiers, children, families…

-Thank you for being men and women that have values my children can look up to.

-Thank you for the respect you seem to have for anyone you encounter.

-Thank you for wearing that uniform with pride.

-Thank you, that because of all you do, I’m able to play outside with my children with no fear. I’m convinced we are incredibly spoiled in this country. I realize this is the only life I’ve known but I can’t imagine it any other way, and I thank you for that. 

So there’s this girl…

So there’s this girl…

The first time I met little R, she was at the home of one of my closest friends. We were there for a birthday party and little R and her sister went to daycare with my girls but I didn’t really know either of them.  My oldest daughter Maia had bought a stuffed puppy that day with her own money.  It was a big deal since we had started chores and she was super proud to have it.  Needless to say, that puppy ventured to the birthday party with us.  Halfway through the night my Maia (hyper sensitive, complete opposite personality of her sparkler sister) came up to me crying saying that R took her puppy.  So, I went to chat with her and her new little buddy. (who I hadn’t ever met) The rest of the night they played together with that puppy.  R instantly struck me as the kind of girl who knows what she wants, and I love that trait in little ladies!

Little did I know how much she would become infused in my life. She became very sick with leukemia and spent a lot of the next few years at St. Jude. She was strong, fiesty and the sweetest child, who from my perspective never seemed sick.  Of course, I was not there day in and day out, but when I spent time with her she was full of joy, running, playing, laughing and lighting up the lives of all of those around her.

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Miss R passed away this past weekend and I can’t help but feel this incredible sense of peace and thankfulness that she was in my life and the lives of my family and friends. In her 6 years, she encouraged people to take better care of themselves, cherish their family members, raise money for St. Jude, be selfless, pray, give their finances, time and heart for something bigger than all of us. She didn’t just change the world while she was here, her life changed PEOPLE forever, which is making our world a better place.  Her mother (an incredible woman…words can’t describe her strength and wisdom in this situation) has a tattoo that says “Tomorrow is never promised”.  I just love that she gave her daughter that life, every opportunity to live life to the fullest and in the midst of all their trials, change the world.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

Can we go to heaven today?

Yesterday was one of those days where I just woke up wanting to relax for the day; no school, no cleaning, no cooking, just sit around and watch TV (I can’t remember the last time I did that).  I had been battling this nasty sinus/cough whatever it is for a few weeks and I was exhausted, I even contemplated taking the day off from school, but I was prepared for the day and we had a test that I didn’t want to put off until Monday.  So, I decided we would start school a bit later.  I had been feeling rushed in the mornings as I was letting myself sleep in to try and heal from this cold, which led each day to begin a bit more frantically than I like it to.  I enjoy my peaceful morning time before the house is awake, and that just wasn’t my reality this week. I slowly made breakfast, had my morning coffee, put some serenity oil in my diffuser and read my Bible.  I tried to implement that peaceful time for a bit since my girls were playing wonderfully together and my little man was content cuddling me.  After I finished reading, I chatted on the phone with one of my very best friends for awhile which was well overdue.

Finally around 10:00am, we began school for the day, an hour and a half late.  We started working on a page my oldest daughter had from church that  focused on the new heaven.  The specific Bible verse this page referred to was Revelation 21:4.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Rev. 21:4

As we read this, my sweet girls thought of several people in our life right now that this would be wonderful for.  I thought of how silly this little cold I had was in the grand scheme of things. We discussed family and friends who are currently struggling with illness or sadness. And in the midst of our conversation, one of my girls said something that shocked me.  She looked right at me, with excitement in her eyes and said “Mom, can I go to heaven today?!” What innocence….if there is a place better than this, why wouldn’t we go there? Duh.  After I explained to her that she would have to pass away for that to happen (which would break Mommy’s heart) unless Jesus returned today, I thought about the hope she had and how simple she made Christianity.  To her, there is a heaven, it’s better than Earth, therefore our desire should be to make that home.  If only we all lived every day like that, going about our lives in a way that would ensure we were in heaven and all those around us were as well when the time came.  I love how this verse gives hope no matter what situation you are in, if you believe in your Creator and live the way He designed you to, all of your struggles, frustrations, heart breaks, will be over one day and you will be somewhere better.

Fall fun

One of my favorite things to do as a public school teacher was to celebrate holidays with my students.  I loved seeing their faces light up as we held a Thanksgiving Feast, had Veterans into the classroom and of course carved pumpkins.  Fall is full of holidays that are so much fun and important for children.  So of course we had to have some fun with homeschool.  We called over some of our fave ladies and had a blast!

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We started with a fun experiment using food coloring, baking soda and vinegar.  My little Kealy and I had pre-made the bags (excellent time for her to practice her shape recognition) so that we could just add the ingredients when the ladies came over.  At first the bags weren’t too exciting as we threw them in the yard, but as soon as we added more baking soda and vinegar one popped when we were least expecting it and I know the girls loved watching their mommies be as surprised as they were!

Next, pumpkin carving time! I really wanted to be sure that my Maia got some science and math activities out of this as well, so we weighed the pumpkin, measured it and discussed it a lot the next day.  I always love watching little ones’ faces when they dig into a pumpkin! We spent the rest of the afternoon preparing Halloween costumes, roasting pumpkin seeds, cuddling and laughing. It was one of those days that I knew was filled with great memories.

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Saturday morning we woke up and made some yummy jack-o-lantern pancakes.  My girls love anytime they get to use food coloring to see something change so that alone was exciting. Anytime I’m cooking my little Kealy isn’t far from me, which I love.  Cooking is something I’ve really grown fond of and I enjoy the conversations that develop when you are cooking together.  Plus, it’s awesome to work together towards a common goal and to see (and taste!) the finished product.  We made a yummy frosting with heavy whipping cream and orange zest but of course the little ladies weren’t patient enough to let it thicken which is why our jack-o-lantern’s stripes are a little runny 😉

We spent the rest of the day cleaning and decorating for our yearly Halloween get together with family.  The girls really enjoyed doing make-up as I don’t normally let them wear it so they wanted to go all out! Miss Kealy did hers almost all on her own! Pretty much what followed for the next 8 hours was candy, laughing, candy, face painting again, candy, candy, candy…..