The Rhythm of my Heart

(A little more writing this month, hopefully, as I take a class and stretch my writing muscles.  Here is my response to today’s challenge: Write about three songs that have meaning to you.) 

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Small Bump

It’s on my playlist for the gym, about half way through.  Right about that time when my quads are screaming and my mind is wandering and the sweat is sticking.  Right in the middle where I start to rationalize all the reasons I can quit my workout early and still have reaped some benefit.  Right at the point where I want to be weak and give in.  This song isn’t there by accident.  I put it there on purpose.  To motivate me.  To remind me that there are so many fights much harder than a getting through a workout.  This song is written by Ed Sheeran.  I heard him on the iTunes Festival one year and immediately was sold.  This particular song has a catchy beat which makes it great for pumping up a workout.  But the story is what catches me.  I always love lyrics over melodies and every song I know means more when I know the why behind it’s words.  This song was written for a friend who lost a baby and well, it gets me every time.  You know that saying about walking a mile in another person’s shoes?  I do that on the elliptical every time I hear this song, and I think I’m a better person for it.

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Be Thou My Vision

There are so many things that can distract me in a day.  I really am like the dog from UP,  ‘Squirrel’.  Where was I?  Right, this song.  It reminds me of my focus.  Of the eyes I want to see the world through.  This song was played at our wedding, the first of many choices The Hubster and I would make together.  We wanted to start off on the right foot, heading in the right direction.  Looking to the right source for guidance.  We could spend our married lives looking to each other, how to make each other happy.  That could lead to all kinds of temptation to ‘one up’ each other, or buy things we cannot afford, or spend our lives springing from one source of instant gratification to another.  We could spend our lives comparing ourselves to those around us and try to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ or ‘have it all’.  Or we could focus in on God, make Him the Centre right from the beginning and try to see through His eyes whatever may come our way.  I’m not saying it’s been easy.  I’m not saying we don’t get distracted.  But this song grounds me and reminds me the way I mean to go.

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Adia

This one may be reaching, I tend to be a little abstract at times, so take it with a grain of salt.  From my understanding of interviews and articles I read about the song; it has to do with the breaking and healing of the relationship between Sarah McLachlan and her best friend.  There relationship got rocky when McLachlan started dating her best friend’s boyfriend.  McLachlan ended up marrying that guy- so I can imagine ‘rocky’ is a pretty gentle way to describe how things were between the two friends.  But they patched it up.  The whole ‘sisters before misters’ came in to play and the two remain friends, (and the marriage did not last).  To me Adia is a song about the responsibility we all bear for our decisions.  Sometimes what is right for us hurts another.  Sometimes we make the wrong decision.  We can handle that in two ways:  We can run from it, leaving a path of destruction and hurt; or we can face our decisions and ask for forgiveness where needed, offer explanation where one is due and move forward.  Admitted, her theology is a little mixed up with my personal views, but I don’t think we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, this song will always be one of my favourites.  So much so it’s The Diva’s middle name.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

choose

The recess bell rings.  Tommy brought a brand new soccer ball.  Everyone rushes to the field, and waits for him to choose.

You found the perfect tie.  You spent hours getting your hair to stay that high.  You walk in, find your side and then you wait for someone to make that long walk across the gym.

You missed every recital.  Every little league game.  Every anniversary.  You ate, breathed, and slept that account for 3 long years.  You nailed it.  That promotion is in the bag, right?

Cleaning, cooking, mending.  Nurse, taxi, teacher, playmate, chef, maid, party planner, ATM, shoulder, cheerleader.  You did all that was needed, whenever it was needed, with whatever you had.  Surely they’ll come spend an hour with you at Christmas.

The humanity in us despises waiting to be chosen.  It makes us so vulnerable and unsure.  Regardless of what we are waiting to be chosen for, by 10 seconds in we just want someone to tell us we are enough.

Likewise, not very many people want to do the choosing.  The stress is paramount.  The possibility of damaging relationships is inevitable.  All eyes are on you.  It will be your reputation tied to this decision forever.

We spend far too much time trying to position ourselves to be chosen.  We say yes when we want to say no.  We lose part of our uniqueness in order to fit in.  We measure ourselves by other people’s standards.

I’ll tell you a secret: It’s a lie.

One of the hardest things to wrap our minds around is that we could be chosen simply because we are.  That true love has no conditions, it does not depend on what we’ve done or made ourselves to be.  That all the things about yourself you try so hard to deny- those are what make you the perfect candidate for first pick.

I think that has to be one of my very favourite things about being a Christian.  The fact that God chose me before I even knew me.  Before I had a chance to stand in front of a mirror and wish away my ‘flaws’; before I had a chance to feel un-worthy; before I ever wanted to be like someone else- I was already chosen.

So much freedom comes with knowing I did not earn my keys to the kingdom, they are a gift.  I could not earn them.  I cannot lose them.  I was chosen to receive them before I even began.

So That Happened!

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In June we decided to face the summer head on and bravely step where we had not gone before:  Summer Fun.  We had some pint-sized inspiration which I talked about on my first post in this series and we followed it through 10 Dares of Summer Fun.  You may have already caught up on some of our fun like the time we saw one of the Wonders of the World, the time I put on my big girl pants and left the city,  or when I tried to share about the Dares I didn’t directly participate in.  I’m back today with a final wrap up on our Summer Dare Chart; what it taught me, how it needs to be tweaked, and why we will do it again.

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Summer vacation here starts off on a good note because it begins with a holiday.  We got ourselves up in some crazy heat and headed down to the local Canada Day Celebrations.  Our hit list was simple: parade and face painting.  We got there at a great time, little to no wait for the face paint, and slowly made our way to where we would watch the parade.

DSC_0294But then things stopped being so smooth.  The kids had to visit at a home with no toys or video games.  It was hot. They had no idea what to do with themselves and they got a little cranky.  It was hot. Then we had to walk for, like, ever as we found, first, a toilet and then a spot to sit and watch the fireworks.  It was hot.  And it poured on us.  Cats and Dogs poured, for about 5 minutes.

Our first dare taught me two things.  One: We are not a heat-loving people.  So much so that I am sure a trip to Florida in August would make DisneyWorld a torture chamber as opposed to the Happiest Place on Earth.  Two: Temper tantrums and upsets do not hang around in the minds of our kids the way they hang around in ours.  After a mere 10 seconds of fireworks the mouths that had been spouting negativity in every form where now Ooohhhhing and Aaahhhing in amazement and delight.  Sure they were upset about all that walking, but as soon as the walking stopped- so did the upset.

Next up was the two weeks the kids spent at local half-day VBS programs.  They enjoyed singing, games, crafts, snacks, and friends.  I enjoyed some time to myself- er with just one child, which feels like time alone when you have five kids.  From these two dares I learned that it is important for our family to have space.  It is important for us to have our own interests and experiences and it is important for us to come together on purpose to learn from each other and share our worlds with each other.  I also learned how easily tempted I can be to simply drop my kids off.  Serving does not end in the summer, it is important for me to invest year round.

Then we went swimming.  At a friend’s pool and we invited other friends along.  It was an awesome time.  Just a couple of hours, no big preparations or production.  Gratefully the weather cooperated.  Summer is fun with friends.

DSC_0127DSC_0188The things I learned from this dare:  Don’t become isolated in the summer.  I easily assume that everyone else is away at camp, or the cottage, or an amazing adventure.  Truth is, most families are at home doing what they do the other 10 months of the year.  Call people, invite them into your fun.  No one is an island, not even in tropical weather.  I also learned that water play totally wears kids out.  I swear the only days they slept in were the ones right after we went swimming.

Next we went camping, which I already overloaded you with words and pictures about.

Then we went to the Drive In.  It’s another thing I’m learning to love.  Unfortunately I forgot my camera and so I don’t have any pictures, (if there aren’t any pictures did it really happen!?!).  The only bummer thing about the Drive-In was the lack of child friendly movies.  We were at the screen with no bathroom and had to walk through another lot to get to the bathroom.  Just my luck that the movie playing on that screen was Sex Tape and, well, I avoided a lot of questions on that short walk.  Aw-kward.

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The kids had a blast at Sports Camp, some more of that space we needed in our summers and did not previously have.  I really learned the importance of balance- I do not need to spend 67 days on 24/7 mom duty, and I do not need to feel guilty for saying that.  The day after Sports Camp ended The Hubster left for the Dominican Republic on a missions trip and I braved a Dare solo.  We went to the local Sand Dunes.  It was a dare that went a little awry.  It was cool when we left, but the temperature jumped about 10 degrees in a 5 minute span.  It was a very short trip as we had already learned we are not a heat-loving people.

I also learned a lesson about perspective.  All I saw was how close the highway was.  All I heard was the parents constantly reminding their children not to play because they would get dirty.  All I thought was, why did I think this was going to be a day trip?  But the kids ran around in a maze of hills.  They were in awe of how big the dunes are.  The L’il Man would have run around at full speed for hours if I let him.  We stayed for an hour.  We left with dirty bums.  They loved sliding down the slopes and walking on the ridges.  They all want to come back with Daddy.  Perspective changes everything.

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We switched up one of the dares on our list.  We decided to hit up the CNE in Toronto.  The weather was cooperating.  Grandma and Grandpa had come to visit so there were extra hands.  We had free admission coupons.  We are the kind of people that do things like the CNE frugally.  We took in the free shows, walked about the free exhibits.  The kids spent their paper route money on the only souvenir we left with.  I brought snacks and lunch.  We were home in time for dinner.  This dare reminded me of the importance of planning.  When you plan ahead you can have fun without the stress of your bank account, and that makes a world of difference.  Doing your homework on an event may take some time, but time equals money.  Spend the time or spend the money.  Plus, there is so much fun stuff at the CNE for free, you don’t leave feeling like you missed a thing.

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Like stinkin cool exhibits.  (This is a sand castle folks.)

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Shows and interactive experiences.

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And things you’ll never see anywhere else.  (Yup, Optimus Prime, hello fandom!)

We wrapped up our summer with a day trip to my Grampa’s trailer, that would be my kids Great-Grampa.  It’s so cool to me that we have these three-generation days, not everyone gets to experience that and I know we are blessed, not once but twice over as my children have met and spent time with all my grandparents.  We spend some time catching up, we eat a meal together, we sit and watch some wildlife, and (the highlight), we go on a boat ride around the lake seeing how it has changed over the 40+ years my grandparents have called this their home away from home.  When we tallied up our Dare points for the day everyone gave this day of simple fun top scores.  There were a few 9s out of 10s, but all points were deducted because we missed spending the day with Nana, who passed away earlier this year.

DSC_0142Hearing stories about the lake.

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Having fun at every age.

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Daydreaming.

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Recognizing that no daydream compares to the present moment.

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As you can see from the photo, our Summer was totally Un-Bummer, (and you may notice math is not my forte).  It was a great summer and we will repeat this idea again next year.  Having dates on the calendar just like during the school year gave our summer a momentum that saved me from counting down to Labor Day.  Having activities for both family fun and times the kids were away from us was a nice balance and kept me from burning out.  Doing things we have always loved and new things let everyone have a new experience and no one felt like we were catering to the ‘baby’.  And because we had planned our summer in advance, all our money went to the right place.  There was no last minute pizza-ordering to save an awful day or trips to the mall to try and retail therapy ourselves through the summer, (all things we’ve done in the past).  I’m trying to live by this motto:

experience

Our summer experiment will need to be tweaked a bit for next year though.  We had our Dare days, and then the other days were just laying at home doing nothing.  We watched copious amounts of TV.  The kids ran around the neighbourhood unsupervised and, quite honestly, bored more often than I wish they had.  We need to add in some routine like regular library days and a flow to our days at home that involves more than couch surfing.  I also noticed that the Eldest had a totally negative attitude about all things simple fun; like walking in the woods, or movie nights at home, playing in the sprinkler, or even Lego on sunny days.  I want my kids to know the simple joy in the small things and so while I am already tempted to fill next year’s Dare Chart with Wonderland, First Live Concert, Sleep-Away Camp and the like, I need to remember not to rob my kids of simple pleasures.

All in all, it was a great summer.  Summer is still my least favourite season, but my hatred level has been downgraded to dislike, and that’s a leap for me.   Now onto the fall; Autumn I love you.

fall

Picture Overload

I did literally take a thousand pictures of our camping trip here are some of the highlights. 

S is for Selfless

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that we’re trying out a Summer Dare Chart inspired by Judy Moody.  If you read the first post in this series you know that I hate summer.  This summer has been better than most.  July flew by in a blur, full of fun and having our calendar marked up in advance has been wonderful.  The heat wasn’t too bad, actually chilly for July in Ontario, and the kids have been relatively well behaved.  Don’t get too excited, summer is still my least favourite season.

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We are half-way through summer and half-way through our dares!  When it comes to this particular dare, you should know something else about me:  I am a city girl.  I like the bright lights and the clash of architecture.  I like having the ability to be alone in a crowd.  I like background noise.  I like entertainment and bustle.  I like the sound of high heels on pavement.  I like the cacophony of smells filling up your senses down in the big city.

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I also like running water, air conditioning, conventional ovens, hair dryers, television, computers, internet, fridges, microwaves, and especially flush toilets.

You can imagine that camping is not for me.

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But, again I am outnumbered 6 to 1.  My kids and The Hubster love dirt in their toes, and swimming in frigid waters.  People watching and making friends for a day.  Sleeping on the ground and constantly zipping/ unzipping tents.  Walking to the outhouse all by themselves.  Being awake and outdoors when it’s dark.  Fire.  They like trying new things and honestly, all The Hubster or I have to do is tell them it’s fun and they are on board.

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Camping will never be “my thing”.  We will probably go on too many camping trips to count by the time our kids leave home.  I can say that with confidence because “my thing” includes putting my kids and The Hubster first.  Because it makes them happy I will put on my big girl pants and learn to do new things like cook food over a campfire.  I will not suck their joy by being a Debbie Downer.  I will take thousands of pictures, and applaud their sand castle creations.  I will let them pee, naked in the woods and chug straight from the milk container so we don’t have to take it home.  I will enthusiastically participate in the Park Ranger’s educational experiences.  I will learn to set up and tear down camp in any weather condition, with the pride of a Girl Scout.  I’ll do it all with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, because camping isn’t “my thing”, but my family is.

DSC_0361  (I will literally take thousands of pictures.  See some more here.)

CamPINing

This past weekend I put on my big girl pants and went camping with the family.  I tried to write a post on Monday right after we got back to recap for our Summer Dare series, but this is all I could get:  “We were outside.  We did a lot of nothing.  It was BORING.”  I am a city girl at heart, I love to be in crowds and be part of the collective whole.  I like malls, and entertainment, and all that background noise.  My kids and husband LOVED our first camping adventure, it didn’t bore them at all, and while I may never love it, I will definitely have to learn to like it as there is sure to be lots of camping in my future.  (That being said, there will be a post on Monday about our adventures.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder after all.) 

Today, I am going to share with you the pins I was inspired by to feed us.  First up I recalled an old favourite.  I used this the first time for an Oscars’ Soiree and the kids loved all the leftovers.  I jumped off of this pin here, Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips.  I always forget to put in the preserves, but it holds together just fine.  

Here’s the online-staged-by-a-foodie pic:

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And here is the kids chowing down on our version pic:

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It takes a bit of time to chop up all the fruit, but the chips are so easy.  Cleanup note: Line your baking sheets to make for easier cleanup, and to keep the bottoms from burning where the sugar has lumped up. 

Since this was one of our first camping experiences I wanted to try some campfire cooking.  (We also borrowed a Coleman Stove and it totally saved us).  Unfortunately, we had some fire troubles.  The wood was soaked, making for great smoke signals, not so much for cooking.  

First we tired some hobo packets.  I had seen these on several websites, pretty much any Camping Top 10 list had them.  Basically, your meat, potatoes, veg, and cheese in tinfoil.  Then place it on the grill over the fire.  The pin I was jumping off of was just a picture:

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In this one they potato is shredded, and in retrospect I can see how key that is.  We kinda rushed through our dinner so it wasn’t fully cooked, (party due to fire issues), and I think shredding the potato would have helped a lot.  I chopped up all the pieces before we left town, and then let each child pick how much they wanted of each part. 

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Even the L’il Man made his own. 

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Then for dessert we tried these S’mores Cones.  

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It was dark when we made ours so I don’t have any pictures, but the reviews were not outstanding.  Part of that was our lack of fire, the marshmallows didn’t melt which made the s’more effect absent. Part of it was that the kids were exhausted, I was actually talking the boys into staying awake while the cones were on the fire so they could try them.  

Whether these were true Pinterest fails, (except the Fruit Salsa- Pinterest win), I am undecided.  I think we will try them all again next time and then decide.

 

Diggin Deeper {Summer Dares #2 & 3}

The first week of summer we had no plans.  We lounged around, we ate when we felt like it, we may or may not have been wearing clothes… (well the kids, the grown-ups always have clothes on).  Then we spent 2 weeks getting out the door before 9:00 am heading to our second and third dares…. VBS!  

Say y-y-y-y-YES to v-v-v-VBS.  Gonna say Y-E-S to V-B-S.  

D3 for blog

Our church did Lifeway’s Agency D3 curriculum.  It was fun.  I got to get dressed up and act on stage, which was nerve-racking in a fun way.  I also told a few Bible Stories and I’m not sure I did a very good job.  I left the week feeling very unsure and unsteady, I just could not get a read on the kids.  Every day my own kids came home totally stoked about what they had done.  The food was fun, the games rocked, the crafts were right up their alley.  One neat thing about this curriculum is that it has a CD to listen to on the way home that communicates the main point of the day to the parents and gives you a topic of conversation so you can hear what your kids grasped.  I learned a lot about what my kids are learning and it was neat.  On Friday we drove home and the CD asked us to pause it and pray for “whatever was in your heart,”  I had told the Bible Story that day and really felt like I did a poor job communicating so I wasn’t feeling it.  But my lil Buddy offered to pray right away without any prompting and he thanked Jesus for being in his heart.  So awesome when God works in spite of me.  (And added bonus:  I get to light things on fire.) 

Everyone gave VBS #1 a 10/10 except for lil Buddy who gave it an 11.  (Then everyone wanted to change theirs to 11 and I had to have a quick Executive Meeting with myself wherein I decided that only one person can give a number over 10 per dare, and only if they say it spontaneously without hearing everyone else’s numbers thus wanting to be the highest and forgetting the point.  I need to own a gavel.) 

We took a weekend to rest, and rest is all we did as a nasty stomach bug thingy attacked the Hubster and I.  I honestly do not even remember much of the weekend, or the following week, hazy and not good.  The other kiddos were all a bit over tired and so we ate a lot of popsicles, watched copious amounts of Netflix, and hardly ever wore pants.  (Again, the kids not the adults.) 

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During that hazy week our kids went to a church in town that we have never visited before and attended their VBS camp.  They did Gospel Light’s SonTreasure Island curriculum.  I always enjoy learning from the way that other church approach VBS.  We walked into a main sanctuary with a stage full of props and decorations to really set the mood.  Adults were decked out in Bible time costumes, lots of youth helpers.  Their check-in/out system was organized and efficient, and totally old school (as in no computers anywhere).  

At first I wasn’t sure our kids would enjoy the second VBS.  Their advertising wasn’t flashy.  There weren’t any new T-shirts to identify with.  No one handed me a flyer for a production/celebration party at the end,  It just felt smaller and like less of a production than some of the VBS programs I’ve been involved in lately and so I wasn’t sure that my tech-obsessed, entertain-me-or-lose-me, constantly-claiming-to-be-bored, go-big-or-go-home kids were going to be positive contributors to the program. 

They loved it.  Again everyone gave it a 10/10 on our Dare Chart.  Now 3 out of 4 of them chose to go somewhere different on Friday, somewhere they deemed more exciting, but each day they came home eager to tell me about the crafts, stories, helpers, and friends they were spending time with.  Their craft projects were made out of mostly recycled things and probably won’t last through the summer- but each child was so proud of their creation.  They are still singing the songs they learned, many of which are worship songs they will sing again and again at church.  And I even caught them doing a pretend story time wherein they mixed the skit from Week 1 VBS with the story from Week 2 VBS, which is enough to make this momma’s heart sing. 

Our VBS dares reminded me of the heart of making summer great.  There are a lot of days where I want to do nothing more than lay on my couch in the summer.  Days where we eat waffles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Days when I put the kids to bed and beat myself up for turning their brains to mush with Nanny TV and hours of unsupervised play.  The kids will remember those days with the same fondness as our big production days- as long as I am investing in them, not letting pressures of perfection beat out just being, and laughing more than yelling.  Summer memories are made of random moments that give us that feel good feeling, whether planned out or organic.  

We’re heading into 3 full weeks of 24/7 Momma led summer, and we are not off to a great start.  Hopefully reflecting on our VBS experience and lessons learned will gain me the right perspective to keep summering successfully, with a little less counting down the sleeps and little more looking forward to the mornings.  

Anyone else have a review of a VBS their children have attended so far this summer?

iCreate

So, I’m trying to get into a more regular rhythm of writing and posting here on the blog and I’m trying to pick a few “themes” to write on different days of the week.  Summer Updates on Mondays, something with a little more weight on Wednesdays, and of course my Pinterest fails and fabulousness on Fridays… that’s as far as I’ve decided.  Today I’m trying on a creative feature to showcase some things I’ve created, both by myself and with the kiddos.  

My Diva had one sad spot on the end of her wonderful school year, a good friend from her class will be moving away over the holidays.  My Diva wanted to make sure she made every effort to stay in touch with her friend and so we made a little gift to take to their last playdate.  

I’ve had this box since Christmas and it struck me as just the right thing to use to create a letter writing set so that My Diva could stay in touch with her pal. 

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Then we gathered up some supplies to transform it.

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We used the patterned paper to cover up the parts of the box that had pictures/words on it and we just used Mod Podge to adhere the paper to the box. 

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I let My Diva do it, which is hard for me as it turns out I like to do the projects not direct, but silver lining, it’s so much easier to take pictures when I’m not also doing the work!   It was a bit tricky, a great lesson in patience because the paper slid around a little bit.  But she got the hang of it.  (Side note: I’m not sure we used the right Mod Podge.  The edges started to bubble a bit, but we were doing the project totally last minute and so we hoped for the best.)

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Because it was a last minute project I gathered up some things from around the house to include.  I usually have some dollar store sticker packs around, and luckily we had some unsharpened pencils and new erasers in our supply drawer.  To make the note paper we found some images that My Diva liked and cut and pasted them into a word document, printed, and cut the sheets in half so they would fit in the box.  Originally My Diva was going to colour them, but we ran out of time.  

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Lastly, My Diva wrote a note to her friend letting her know how special she is and that she will be missed along with our address.  We tied it all up in a bow and My Diva was pleased as punch to take this gift to her pal, and hopefully get some correspondence in the mail! 

Now Casting

Do you ever go through times of re-learning things you have already learned, or should I say things you thought you learned, or things you learned in your head but not in your heart?  I’m having a week like that. 

I have really been struggling with where I am, in all my places.  Discontent, disillusioned, and disquieted.  I want to be better, to do better, to have better, to change, to impact more, to matter more.  It’s a place I have been before and a place I am sure I will visit again, for every time I go there I learn something anew.  I have learned lessons about trust in this place.  Lessons about hope in this place.  Lessons about perseverance in this place.  I learn one lesson over and over again in this place:  the lesson of acceptance.  

It seems that right when I am at the height of my discontentedness God starts bringing into my peripheral stories of people who did big things.  Like Noah or Esther. Those people who were called and used by God to alter human history, to really leave their mark, and I want that.  It’s just human nature.  I mean which of us doesn’t want to be known like a Carrie Underwood, Ann Voskamp, or Beth Moore?  What Christian doesn’t daydream of being a faith champion like Tim Tebow, Kirk Cameron, or Billy Graham?  We all want to create a stir, to leave behind a legacy, to be the change the world needs in a very public way.  

As someone who believes we are all created to be and do something important and unique, (Ephesians 2:10), I get caught up in figuring out what my contribution will be.  What is it I am called to do for the Kingdom? As I primp and preen and await my cue to enter stage left for my debut to the world, I get a copy of the script.  Where none of the lines are mine.  Where all the names are listed under Supporting Cast, except His.  

God reminds me that He has called me to be invisible. 

Dear friends please put down the phone and tuck away your trusty list of Christian cliches to leave in the comment section.  I don’t mean that statement in any sort of self-deprecating way.  I am called to be invisible and I am learning again to be accepting of that. 

I think that one of those lies we are led to believe is that if we aren’t sought after then we are not enough.  It is true that we all know that it is God doing the things, but we would stand in casting lines for hours to be the hand models.  We all want to be seen. 

We forget that being invisible doesn’t mean we stop being.  

Public speakers would not have the confidence to say one word without the encouragement and prayer of their silent partners.  Folks facing persecution for their beliefs would not have the courage required without the safe places to call home; the support systems no one sees because they are behind closed doors. Individuals leading the charge against the status quo would become exhausted without their friends and supporters on the front lines holding up their arms.

Being called to be invisible is a high calling because it goes against everything we want.  It goes against the striving-attaining-perfecting mindset of our culture wherein we measure our success by how many people can put our name and face together.  

So many of us with invisible assignments are stuck in a holding pattern unsure that we have received the right marching orders.    

Sometimes you know what you’re supposed to do and you don’t want to. (See: Jonah)  Sometimes you know what you’re supposed to do, are willing to do it even, but you know that the actual doing of it is going to totally suck.  (See: Jesus).  Sometimes you are already doing what you are called to do but you doubt.  (See: Humanity).

There isn’t a cheer squad for the cheerleaders.  We use applause to gauge our performance and endorsements to determine our worth.  Those things don’t often come to the invisible.  More readily enter doubts.  Little voices that compare and contrast and the invisible are never on top.  The invisible must be cloaked in humility and tuned into Heaven sent feedback.  

I think everyone called to be invisible wants to be seen sometimes.  Likewise, everyone called to a public pursuit wants to be invisible sometimes.  The Enemy will use that to keep us all from doing, to keep us searching and looking instead of being what we are created to be.  

To shine the spotlight on Him and not on ourselves- the occupation He calls us all to. 

Whether you feel invisible today, or are searching for an invisibility cloak, take some time to shine the light on the right Main Man, to give praise where praise is due, and step out in your role knowing that as we do the Audience of One sees and that’s all the adoration we need. 

I Dare You {Summer Dare #1}

 We are so lucky to live just a short car ride from one of the Wonders of the World: Niagara Falls. 

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We usually head out to see the falls in the winter.  They do an amazing display of Christmas lights that you can drive through, or park and walk around, or both.  They also light up the falls and there are fireworks on the weekends.  

This year our standing date for Canada Day had to be postponed and so we were left looking for another way to spend the day.  Enter the Dare Chart and the perfect opportunity for some major thrill points! 

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We are also so lucky that Poppy, (my maternal grandfather), lives out that way.  I do not take for granted the blessing that it is for my children to know their Great-Grandfather.  It’s true that there is a bit of an age gap, and a short visit from our “spicy” family is enough to wear out anyone over the age of 12, but it’s an important connection that we are so lucky to be making.  

DSC_0272July 1st was a hot, hot, hot day and by the time we had finished quietly visiting and politely eating dinner with Poppy, (and an unexpected guest- one of my Aunts!), the kids were ready for some thrill.  We drove right down to the falls pretty easily and paid for parking as we hoped to have a more organized time leaving at the end of the night.  Then we found the crowds.  And immediately we needed the bathroom.  And I forgot our just-for-this-trip Kool-Aid Jammers in the van. 

Now the story my kids will probably tell you about our trip to Niagara Falls is that I got lost.  The reality is that I just went a different direction and so took some extra time to rendez-vous with them after quickly running to the car for the necessities, (aka Jammers).  Luckily we got to the Falls in plenty of time for some misadventure to not ruin our evening, and I got in some much needed cardio trying to stay upright on the steep inclines that are the streets near the falls.

And then we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  It was hot.  The sun was never going to set.  The fireworks were never going to start.  This whole day was stupid.  

Things I do not miss about being 8.  

We found a spot to watch the fireworks, spread our blankets and tried to think of a way to spend the final 20 minute wait getting the kids jazzed for the upcoming light show.  

“So, how many thrill points do you think we’re earning today guys?”

“Zero.”  “Negative zero.”  “Infinity zero.”  “Poop.”  (Thank-you 4-year-old peanut gallery.)

The Hubster quickly ended the conversation by suggesting we wait until after the fireworks to dole out our points and literally seconds later they fired off a single firework to let the crowds know where the show was going to be. 

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Turns out this amazing momma had sat us right behind a tree.  Oh. My. Word.  

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Turns out trees can’t get in the way of high-in-the-sky fireworks. 

DSC_0294Or dampen the spirits of a 2-year-old who truly teaches you to live in the moment.  

The day was saved.  For about 5 minutes.  And then IT STARTED TO POUR.  Not just a sprinkle to break the heat, but an all out drench-you-to-your-underwear soaking.

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I love the rain, and my only concern was that my camera was getting wet.  My kids are probably grateful I was so concerned about said camera because it gave me the genius idea to take the blankets out from under our butts and put them over our heads.  We embraced our Canadian side and just let the weather wash over us, (literally and figuratively).  It turned out to be a fabulous show, probably about 20 minutes full of colour and light and it was spectacular.  

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Rain had been in the forecast for the afternoon and so I had a change of dry clothes for everyone in the van and once we were drier, cooler, and no longer waiting everyone agreed it was a great day.  The kids quickly passed out, I think L’il Man was asleep before we made it out of the parking lot, and by the time we pulled into our driveway at 1:45 am everyone was sawing logs- except the Hubster cuz that would have been dangerous. 

We decided that after every Dare each person would start with 10 points and have to name a reason to take a point off.  So for me, I started with 10 and took off 1 point for the heat, (I’m still trying to like summer after all), and another 1 point was lost for the bomb Lukas dropped in his last pull-up seconds after we tried to make him use the toilet.  (Boo potty training!) 

Here’s how Dare #1 measured up:

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Not a bad start to our summer I’d say. Stay tuned for our next adventure!

 

 

 

 

This PIN is on fire!!

It’s true that sometimes I spend my time on my iPhone taking a brain break, pinning random things that pop up on those pinterest.com pages.  There are also times when I go searching the internet for something specific, and then pin the perfect thing when I find it.  This week’s pin was one I searched for and used right away!

We just finished VBS at our church.  This week the kids were Secret Agents discovering the truth in the bible, learning the evidence in the stories to defend it and then deciding what to do with their new, (or re-emphasized) knowledge.  One of my tasks was the wrap up lesson where I reviewed everything we learned about Jesus, his death, and his resurrection throughout the week.  I was so stoked when I found this object lesson.  Lighting things on fire is one of my fave perks of being involved in kids ministry.

Have you ever looked at a tea bag like this?

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The object lesson did warn readers that not all tea bags will work.  I had this one, and it worked great.  I also tried it on a Twinning type tea and it did not work.  So test your tea bag before you do this in real time.

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The first thing we learned at VBS this week is that one of the ‘labels’ for Jesus is Son of God.

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Then we learned about one of the miracles Jesus did, taking 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5,000 people.  We talked bout how everything Jesus did on earth was to show us that he was attached to God and God’s plan for his life, which would ultimately lead him to die on the cross.  The staple in the tea bag reminded us of Jesus’ pierced hands and feet, (but didn’t really show up in the picture.)

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Next we poured the tea leaves into some hot water and talked about how the dirty water reminds us of our sins.  Jesus was sent to take all that dirtiness and pay the consequence for our sins, leaving us….

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White as snow, just like the empty tea bag tube.  Now it’s important that your tea bag did not get wet, or set down on a wet surface, because if it did the fun part will not work.

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Now comes the fun part, lighting it on fire!! I explained to the kids that as we continue to discover more about Jesus, defend the truth of his life and actions, and decide every day to live in the hope of that truth we will be a light for him. And at the end of our days our light doesn’t just disappear, it rises up to join Jesus at the Father’s right hand in heaven.

(I hope the video works!)  I did this lesson three times, with 3 different age groups.  Everyone loved it and wanted me to do it again.  For the kindergarten class I just relit it.  The Grade 1-2 class told me which stories went with which parts first and the Grades 3-5 retold me the steps and I ended up lighting them on fire.  I did several at once so more kids could see.

It was neat.  And hopefully serves the purpose of helping truth stick, sometimes it gets lost when us grown-ups are just talking heads.

Come back next week to see some more Pinterest wins and flops from my house to yours.

Summer {UN}Bummer

If you know me in real life you know that I hate summer.  As in capital H-A-T-E, hate summer.  When it’s -30 and everyone is talking about hibernating and vacays to warm destinations, I am on Cloud 9.  Conversely when it’s +30 and everyone is uber excited about catching some rays, lazing by the poolside, and grilling all their foods- I want to find a root cellar and settle in for a long summer’s nap.  I hate summer.

My children do not share my feelings.

So I try to like summer. Last year we went for a year-end dinner at East Side Mario’s and made one of those trendy bucket lists.

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It didn’t really work for us.  A few of the ideas were put on the list by me and the Hubster cuz we already knew our vacation plans.  But most of the unique ideas never happened.  A few of them required some moola we didn’t have, but more it was because I was just annoyed and in my dark summer place and who wants to create spontaneous fun when you feel like that?  (Having trouble relating? Think January. Think -30.  Yeah, there you go.)

Summer brings selflessness to a whole new level for me, and last year taught me I needed a new plan. Enter the spunky redhead, whom I met several months before I realized she would inspire our summer plans.

We watched this movie on Netflix a handful of times and enjoyed it.  Heather Graham will definitely not be nominated for an Oscar for her appearance, but there’s BigFoot and innocent kid-style antics, and Steve Erkel as a grown-up, so it gets a few stars.

Then one day the kids were tearing apart the house looking for their ‘special’ notebooks and asking if they could borrow the highlighters from my bedside table, er I mean if there are highlighters there because we never snoop around mom’s room while she thinks we’re sweetly playing together in our room.…. but I digress.

They were making dare charts like in the movie.  At first they asked to watch the movie so they could copy Judy’s dares and then I explained that the dares are local attractions she can go to and so they could make their own with things we actually have around here.

Our Summer Saver was born.

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For us, this is going to work better than a Bucket List because the Hubster and I have it all planned in advanced.  After the kids made their original charts we sat down and chose the dates for the activities around Nick’s work schedule and had time to research, for example, will there be any drive-in movies for the under 10 crowd this summer?  We also spread the events over the entire summer instead of cramming all our fun into a 10 day vacation slot.  And because I know we have some BIG summer plans happening for sure I’m turning my focus to the little things, like homemade play dough, and keeping up with our pen pal letters, and maybe even some water fun.

I really wanted to put my best foot forward this summer and so we kicked off the 2-month long event with a Dare Chart unveiling.  It was all ready and hung on the wall when they came home the last day of school and we had family movie night with the Lego Movie.

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 First we coloured some lego men.

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 Then we went to this website, and each child chose a challenge while dinner was being made.  Brooklyn chose the Monochromatic model challenge- building something all one colour.

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 Of course, we ate tacos, (with a side of awesome sauce maybe?)

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And enjoyed the movie..

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 And cake.

So here’s to all those surrounded by children, struggling to make it though, to not just survive but to thrive this year, I wish you a

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How do you make it through summer?  Lovers and haters alike, share in the comments!