Thursday, November 22, 2012

No More Turkey, please (ever).

I still have exactly 31 minutes of Thanksgiving day left before this post becomes obsolete. So here's the skinny: After having over twenty people in my home for Thanksgiving dinner today, I am too wound up to sleep and can only thing about two things - how much I love my Chicago family and how much I hate Thanksgiving food.

Two explanations. The first one is easy. Our families do not live in Chicago, or anywhere near it. I have some relatives in the suburbs, but for numerous reasons I like visiting them separate from holidays. When we settled here and found our church, we quickly adopted a family and community to call home. Therefore, we celebrate holidays together, and I love it. Also explains why I had twenty people in my home today (and it worked out beautifully, I might add!).

Second explanation. Slightly more difficult. I may be the only person in the United States of America who leaves the Thanksgiving dinner table still hungry. And will not be going back for seconds.

I hate traditional midwest Thanksgiving food.

Turkey, no thanks.
Stuffing, gross.
Creamed sides and casseroles, no thanks ever.
Mashed potatoes, yes ok, fine.
Pies. They are good, but I'm pretty much all pumpkin-ed out by now.

Sushi. Yes.

Eric doesn't like Thanksgiving food either, so even though we agreed to cook a small turkey for the benefit of everyone coming, he also grilled baby back ribs, steaks, and steak and bacon wrapped shrimp.

So I should have been plenty full, even with never taking a bite of the turkey.

But with both my girls needing things and being in my lap and all the commotion of twenty people in one room together, I'm pretty sure I didn't get the food coma. Which is a good thing, because who needs it? And while everyone was laying around moaning and groaning about how full they all were, I felt just fine.

Next Thanksgiving, I will not be cooking a turkey. And may not, ever again. Because turkeys are not ever mandatory for a good Thanksgiving. Friends and family, on the other hand, are.

Monday, November 19, 2012


In the spirit of Thanksgiving season, everyone has been talking about being thankful, counting your blessings, and even going the route of counting down on Fb the days until Thanksgiving with things they are thankful for.

I have many things to be thankful for, but often times, choose to not be thankful. Or to dwell on the things that are not going as planned or just feel downright bad. Being thankful is a choice. One that we often may take for granted in our rush of daily life.

But this morning, in spite of being up most of the night for numerous reasons (two little girl reasons, to be specific, among other things), and then struggling to get out the door this morning with four very tired people involved, I found myself choosing to be thankful.

Thankful for my family, as crazy and ridiculous as this particular season in life is.

I am thankful that my girls give me reasons to laugh every day, and sometimes to cry too. In being a part of their very small lives, I am catching glimpses of heaven every day, and am constantly reminded of how incredibly DEEP and unchanging our Father's love is for us.

Thankful for my husband, even when our relationship isn't perfect. We wouldn't be human if we didn't always have some growing to do. And I am thankful we can grow in this together. And that we daily CHOOSE to grow in this together.

I am thankful for my God. Who loves His fallen creation so desperately, that He went so far as to send His own Son to die, in order that our Oneness with our Creator might again be restored.

Thankful for friends to earnestly seek the Lord with, to LOVE Jesus together as we walk through life, to be on mission with, to laugh with.

I am thankful for friends who's hearts are being drawn towards Jesus, and the hope of new Life where there has previously been none.

I am thankful to be called into authentic discipleship. I am thankful that God is redeeming me, making me new, and has called me to love my own life so much LESS than I love my Father.

I am thankful that we are uncomfortable, for it only makes the desire to know and be filled with Christ so much more intense.

I am thankful for new beginnings.
I am thankful for being hopeful.
Thankful that I am alive.
That my spirit is alive.

I am thankful that God is at work here, making all things new in this City, in this world. And I am thankful beyond words that He is at work redeeming us, and is ever calling us to join Him in His renewal here.

So today, choose to be thankful, and as the words of the prophet Hosea say,

Sow righteousness for yourselves,
    reap the fruit of unfailing love,

and break up your unplowed ground;
    for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
    and showers his righteousness on you.

Hosea 10:12

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Babies can make art too.

Art class with Lexi is always an adventure. Each week we walk to the our local park district for arts and crafts. Even though I am capable of doing these projects at home, it is always nice to go to a class and let a teacher (that is not me) take care of all the details! I am with Lexi the entire time, but she has so much fun being in a room full of other kids who are all being creative together (including Lyla, who is always smudged with paint by the end of it!) with a teacher who does an excellent job interacting with each one of them.

The first time I went to this class, I noticed that the other moms and caregivers kept snapping at the kids for doing it "wrong." Painting in the wrong area of the canvas, gluing the eye ball off center, not covering the entire area with paint like you are "supposed" to do. Then the ladies would proceed to do the piece for their child, so that it would be done "right." Now, I don't think I am a snob, and I will be the first one to admit that I am not the perfect parent, but really? And art class for two-year-old kids should be just that - art class for two-year-old kids. NOT art that mom created because she pushed the child aside in her effort to do it "right." 

I went to school to be an art teacher. I would be teaching art right now if I hadn't made the choice to stay home to raise my girls. And this rant is not unfounded. 

To the Moms, back off! Let your kids create! It is so important for them to feel confidence and freedom in their creative expression and for them to be given heaps of praise for their beautiful work. Because it IS beautiful. Did they try hard? Did they have fun? Is what they created developmentally appropriate for their age? Then, Moms, it is BEAUTIFUL. There are other classes that you can take if you are dying to do some arts and crafts yourself. But seriously, let your kids be kids. And let them create.

When I first began giving Lexi materials to make art, back when she was old enough to not eat the crayon, but draw with it instead, I resolved to always let her be the one to create. 
Being an artist myself, the idea of giving a very small child a canvas and then an entire list of rules of what you can and can't do with it seems rather limiting and also next to impossible (unless, of course, you push the child aside and just do it yourself...which seems to be the common parenting trend here). I don't want my kids to think negatively when it comes to creating. And if I am constantly saying "NO" and limiting their creating process, there is not going to be a very positive association with making art. 

I DO believe that part of coaching the creative process is giving some boundaries as well. But boundaries and parameters that teach skills, new processes, and are age appropriate for the child's development. I am strict in my training when it comes to obedience and the heart issues. I am not so strict when it comes to creating (unless it involves painting or drawing on the walls, table, clothes, or baby sister - that is a strict no-no). 

If Lexi wants to finger paint instead of using the brush, so be it! If she wants to glue things to the canvas that "don't belong" there, then go for it! It is her creation, and she is proud to call it her own!

Here is the final piece, with some finishing details added by the teacher (tree outline, leaf outline, and turkey legs). Except for a teensy-weensy bit of help from me (like with the glue and the order of the letters in her name), Lexi made this piece by herself. And I LOVE that it isn't perfect. I like it better this way. :) And not to be smug (ok, maybe it's a little smug), but the other moms in the class liked it a whole lot too. I received more than a few comments about how great it was that I didn't do the piece for her, and how in ten years this piece will truly be a treasure.

Art never has to be perfect to be beautiful. 
And isn't that the whole point of the creative process anyway?

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Lexi has this little teaspoon set that she plays with in her little kitchen. There are three little measuring spoons, each a different size, attached together on a key ring. For the past two days, Lexi has been pretending that these are her "keys" and has been messing around with all of the old skeleton key holes on the doors, trying to lock them. None of the doors have the ability to lock without the old skeleton keys, which we have, but aren't really necessary since most of the keyholes were filled in a long time ago.

This morning, as she was playing with her "keys," I had a sudden thought that if Lexi happened to lock the one way lock in the bathroom, she would have to unlock it herself in order to get back out. In that second I realized that she might not be quite smart enough to put the two and two together (since she speaks like a five-year-old, but still definitely has two-year-old logic), but I let the thought go.

Literally not two minutes later, Lexi ran into the bathroom, shut the door, and turned the lock. The one-way lock, with the filled in keyhole.

The bathroom window was also locked from the inside, and my cell phone, which has been refusing to make or receive calls all week, of course wasn't working either.

I tried bribes, drawing picture diagrams, step-by-step verbal instructions, I tried EVERYTHING. Lexi cried and cried and due to sheer frustration and confusion, and because she is TWO, would not turn the lock. After a while, every time I even mentioned the word "doorknob" she would burst into a fresh set of tears and back away from the door. Fortunately, Lexi is easily distracted, and in-between crying bouts, she entertained herself with her bath toys and playing in the sink (welcome relief from all the fearful cries).

Suffice to say, an hour and a half later, Lexi was finally out of the bathroom and sobbing in my arms, thanks to our good friend, Nick (who also happens to be our housemate of last year and very handy with a drill). The lock is now removed forever, and all other doors appear to be safe as well.

If you know my daughter, you will understand why I never thought that lock would be a problem (and prior to today, we didn't realize that particular lock had been filled). Lexi is two and a half, but has the verbal capacity and diction of a five-year-old. She always speaks in full sentences, complete with almost perfect grammar, and asks questions, reasons, and even can tell stories as well as recount past events in chronological order. She is able to do things physically that most two-year-old's can't yet because of her coordination, and figures things out on her own on a daily basis. Her memory is impeccable and she is really really smart for a person that small.

But she is still two.

She throws tantrums like there's no tomorrow, will cry if you tell her "No," hits or bites if you take her toy, talks back, and has poor reasoning when it comes to not wanting to go to bed. She is obsessed with play dough, water, Curious George, and construction vehicles, and her favorite thing to do is put all of her toys (including Lyla) down for their "naps."

 And still, she is two. Which means that when she turns a lock, she apparently doesn't understand that you have to turn it the other way in order to get the door open.

We spent the remainder of the morning doing some "art therapy" (which was really just an excuse to paint dry noodles), reading library books, and recounting the story of how "Mister Nick opened the bathroom door and I got out!."

Moral of the story: I should always act on my premonitions. Also, never trust a two-year-old. EVER. I feel like I say this often...

Parenthood is certainly never boring. I'm so glad I have the best teammate and some truly great kids, as well as some invaluable friends. It also got me thinking that sometimes when we get into a situation voluntarily, and then realize how truly stuck we are, it sometimes takes more than a few loving people to get us out again. Even if I was the one who turned the lock in the first place, and like a two-year-old, can't turn it back again. I am so thankful to be the daughter of a persistent, faithful God, and be surrounded by a community of brothers and sisters who really know who to care for one another and practice it daily. We never have to be stuck for long.