Thursday, December 22, 2011

This and That

ONE.
Lilleigh got a wagon for Christmas from her Grammy. Obviously a wagon would be kinda annoying to transport from Houston to Dallas, so Grammy had it shipped to us. And she even came up to set it up! 

Riding inside was fun. ...Don't mind the photo quality. Bad lighting, iPhone photo, flash, etc.


TWO.
Lilleigh the artist.
This is why we'll never have cable. I'm convinced that Amanda (my artist friend) and Tess (who's just creative in her own way) are uniquely gifted because the lack of cable in their homes forced them to entertain themselves and use the gifts God gave them! :) Oh and did I mention that Amanda has two sisters who are also super artistic? Totally convinced that we need craft projects galore at our house over the next 18 years!


Daddy and Lilleigh's project. I'm pretty sure it's a gift for me. :)
THREE.
Costco is just more fun with friends. How awesome that their carts fit TWO babies!

Maddie and Lilleigh ...Maddie's mom, Katy, has become my Costco buddy!

Speaking of Costco, I bought this rug there. I'm in love with it. $12. Pretty sweet deal, huh?


FOUR.
My friend Katy gave me this super cute owl rice pack for Christmas. She made it. Yep, she's crafty. That's probably why we get along so well. (Well, not the only reason!) Funny thing - see that rice pack on the right? I made that. And I had planned to give it to Katy for Christmas. Great minds think alike. Except when it comes to design... apparently my creative juices weren't flowing quite as quickly or something. Glad I decided to get her something else!!!
Brendon and I laughed so hard when we compared the two side by side. Prior to seeing her owl, I was actually quite proud of myself for my creation. She showed me up. That's what friends are for!



FIVE.
I had a mommy ornament exchange the other night with my moms group! Can I just say it's been such a BLESSING to walk the first year of motherhood with these women! I am so thankful that the Lord led me to Square One, the new mom's ministry at church, where I met these women. 


SIX. 
Yesterday Brendon took off work, and we took Lilleigh to a Christmas party at a local nursing home. Oh my heart just ached for those people there. Though they were delighted to see Lilleigh, the sadness and bitterness in the place just made me sad for them. Still it was great to bring a little life and cheer to such a drab place. I hope we can continue to do this in future years and even throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What to do about Christmas?

Over the past few weeks, even months, Brendon and I have been thinking a lot about the subject of Christmas. Of course, we always knew Christmas should be about Jesus. And now that we have Lilleigh we really want to downplay the Americanization of Christmas and place Jesus center stage, where He belongs. After all, the holiday is His.

I don't really think our desire for this is different from that of other believing parents. (And by "believing," I'm not referring to Santa!) But I know that despite similar desires, what we do with the holiday may look different. In this post, I'm sharing with you some of our thoughts and the parts of Christmas we're wrestling with. This is in not a judgment on you, so please don't take it that way. This is our Christmas dilemma...

Gifts.

I'm not sure what to do here. America prioritizes gift giving. And while I looove gifts (They're my love language!), I want to be careful about what we teach our children. With so many (wonderful, I should add) grandparents, our children are bound to get lots of Christmas gifts already. So Brendon and I will have to watch to make sure this is not overdone - by us or them.

And in the category of gifting is giving. Our society sometimes spins it like this - Christmas should be about giving to those in need and loving others well. While I think these are both noble things, Christmas is about Christ. Caring for those in need is something a follower of Christ should do, but let's not forget that Christmas is not about volunteering and giving, in and of themselves. It's about Jesus. Without Him, those other things don't have a place. If we don't love Him, we can't really love others.

So on the gift front, one thought is to make birthdays a big deal (in the gift sense) and downplay gifts at Christmas. Still do gifts but just smaller things.

And as for giving, we should give and give generously. But we must keep Christ as the center, otherwise our giving is meaningless.

Santa.


I'm not sure where Santa fits in. I am hearing gasps on the other side of the screen. If Christmas is all about Jesus, why do we make it about Santa? And not just about a jolly fat man in a red suit... but a lie. I know many of you would probably say that it's a children's myth and is fun. And I'm there with you. You see I feel very torn on this subject because I did love believing in Santa, but I remember being taken back when I found out my parents had been lying to me for so many years. I don't want to lie to my child.

And not just that, but there's also the argument that Donald Miller makes in Blue Like Jazz - if you tell your kids there's a Santa and then they come to find out Santa isn't real, what are they going to do with God? This is Brendon's thought. Now I realize that both Brendon and I (and many of you) believed in Santa and now believe in God, so I'm going to ask you not to argue with this thought but just to consider it.

Now that I've said I'm not sure I'm comfortable with Santa, you're probably wondering what we'll do with him. Do we just tell our kids he's not real and have them ruin it for everyone else? This is the last thing I'd want to do. At the moment, I see two options:
  1. Allow Santa to be a part of Christmas, but don't ever play him up or make him something to be "believed" in. Even if society is playing it up, if the parents don't, then the kids won't. You can still stand in line to get photos with Santa, hang a stocking with his face on it, and even have Santa wrapping paper. He will have a place at Christmas, in the same way reindeer and Christmas trees do. He'll be fun. But he won't be someone to be believed in. And I wouldn't worry about our kids ruining it for your kids either. We recognize that other families may do things differently and can explain to our children that some kids think differently about Santa and it's up to their parents to tell them about him. (Plus if a kid doesn't have an "aha" moment of Santa not being real, I don't see where they are going to get the motivation to say something to your child anyway.)
  2. Or the other option I see at the moment is from the post Santa Strategically by Jen Wilkin. Jen and her husband let their kids bring up Santa on their own. They never actually brought him up. And when he was finally brought up, they allowed it. But never did they tell their kids he was real or make up stories about his sleigh. Instead from the very beginning they said, “There’s a secret to Santa. If you think you have figured out the secret of Santa, come ask Mom and Dad.” And from there when questions of Santa came up, they'd say, "That's part of the secret of Santa." This option allows for the fun of believing in Santa without ever lying to your kids. But it does allow them to believe which could take the focus off Christ, depending on how you played it. I have a feeling Brendon may not go for this one.
Basically we are still figuring out where we stand on this, but we probably won't be encouraging belief in Santa. This does mean that we will not be doing Elf on a Shelf! No matter how fun that may be. Haha.

Oh and no matter what - no gifts "from Santa." That just seems silly. As Brendon put it, "Why would I put Santa's name on a good present? I want credit for that. If anything, his name can go on a bad gift, like socks or something." No that's not prideful... it's Santa, people.


Traditions.

This is our first year to be at home for Christmas, which means it's also our first year to begin our own traditions. So we've been thinking long and hard about what traditions to implement. Our measuring stick for choosing traditions is Christ. Do our traditions glorify Him?

The Book of Remembrances. Brendon wants to start a book of remembrances. Each year on Christmas we'll sit down as a family and write down all of the ways God has been faithful throughout the year. We are commanded to proclaim God's faithfulness to future generations - how can we do this if don't keep a written record of His faithfulness? Plus, when we are in the midst of trials, it's easy to forget what all He has done for us. I love the idea of being able to look back at His faithfulness in our lives so clearly. 

Once kids can write, they can write as well - or draw. This is a way for the whole family to be involved. And a written testimony of God's faithfulness, as recorded in Malachi 3:16 with the book of remembrances and Joshua 4 with the rocks in the Jordan.


Shepherd's pouches. We can't really do this until Lilleigh is old enough to understand it. But the idea is that you hang a very simple looking "shepherd's pouch" where the stockings would be. Each child has their own pouch. And whenever mom or dad see the kids do something nice for someone else during the month, they put a little money in their pouch. Then on Christmas Eve, the kids get to count up their money and go through the Gospel for Asia (Or Compassion, etc) Christmas gift catalog to pick out a gift for another child or family. On Christmas morning, the pouches are replaced with stockings. But I think this tradition captures giving well. Learn more here.




Advent calendar. I started our own with Advent ornaments this year with the names of Jesus on them. I'm envisioning this being a fun activity each evening after dinner when we have kids old enough to get into it. This is a simple way to keep the season's focus on Christ. 

For a list of other Christ-centered traditions, check out the list from Keeper of the Home.


How do you keep Christmas all about Christ in your home?

Friday, December 16, 2011

GriefShare Recap

I wanted to take a post to write about GriefShare now that I've finished it the first time. {Though I say first time, it'll probably be my last too, as getting out just before Lilleigh's bedtime is taxing on us, but they invite everyone to come back for as many sessions as necessary.}

In case you haven't gotten it by now -- GriefShare is AMAZING. Our last meeting was Tuesday night, so I've taken the last few days to process my experience in the program. Basically, like anything else, you get as much out of GriefShare as you put in it. I did the homework religiously. {I didn't do the journaling at the end though because I didn't see that section until the second to last week - oops. I'll go back to that!} I attended every group meeting possible, and I tried my very hardest to be on time for the video in the beginning. {Hard thing to do around bedtime!}

If you've ever been through GriefShare, you know the videos are cheesy. They were filmed in the early 90's, I'm sure. Southern accents. So much awesomeness in style... big hair, huge cow necks, baggy sweaters, big glasses. Oh wait some of these styles are back in! :) Still these outdated videos were filled with nuggets of wisdom. There are times I found myself nodding my head, Yes, Yes, they get it. I feel that too. And other times where I though, Ooh I have to write that down!

After our video each week, a leader would share their story of loss. Though hearing so many stories is sad, how comforting it is to know we're not alone! Hearing those stories filled me with so much hope and encouragement. Others have walked this path before me and are here to walk beside me.

The second hour is small group time. We were broken up into groups by gender. Other than that, there were a multitude of losses and ages in each group. There wasn't a specific agenda each week. We could talk about the homework, video, grieving in general, pertinent events from the week, anything goes. I was always careful not to dominate conversation {like anyone is in such a setting} so it struck me as odd that I'd leave there feeling so relieved and insightful, as if I had just left a session with my counselor where I talked the entire time. Funny thing.

I think this is what really struck me the most during these last three months. And I've come to realize that grieving with others, in community is a very healing thing. Grief is grief. Whether I was talking to someone who lost a sister, a mom, a dad, etc, I felt very connected to them because as it turns out, grief is a universal concept. Who knew! Since I went to school for counseling, I feel funny saying this next part - Counseling has been great and has been a life line for me this past year and a half, {And no, I don't plan to stop anytime soon}, but there is power in community. Jesus was constantly surrounded by His disciples. And though sometimes He would go off alone, many times He'd go off with His small inner circle of just three disciples. He lived life with others. And look at the trinity - three in one. Relational. Communal. We were made to live life with others. And this includes the trials. I don't think we were ever meant to go through the trials of this life alone. No one can lose Austen for me. Even my siblings and parents who lost him - he meant something different to each of us. In the same way, I can't go through cancer for my sweet friend. But I can be intentional about letting others share my burden and letting them into my grief, just as my dear friend can let us walk this trying road with her.

GriefShare was an easy way to do grieve communally. Everyone there had experienced loss. They all got it. And they all realized that it's not something you "get over." Truthfully, I think this was something I just realized. I didn't know what it'd look like years from now, as more time passes from his death. But seeing others grieve well has shown me that healing looks like pain in the midst of joy. It's not pushing back the pain or ignoring. That pain will always be very real, though it will certainly lessen. Instead, it's embracing pain in the midst of joy. Feeling both together is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Parties!

We've been Christmas partying it up! Okay not really. But we have been to a couple.

Last Saturday morning we went to a Christmas brunch for young families at church. There was, of course, food, hence the "brunch." Then we sang songs with the kids. So sweet and fun!

Brief interruption: Apparently I never mentioned that we found a new church home. Several of you have reminded me. Sorry about that. We are now at Watermark. I'll hopefully share more about that later. You can always remind me. Back to this post...

Daddy daughter photo op! Left to right: Mike and Maddie, Matt and McKinley, Brendon and Lilleigh
Lilleigh with her friends Maddie and McKinley
Notice how they are all in matching Christmas tree shirts! Katy and I made them!
Then yesterday Katy hosted a fun mommy-baby party. We saw Santa and got photo, ate yummy food, crafted some cute little reindeer, swapped cookies, and played! It was a fun {and chaotic!} time had by all!

Sadly, Santa did not make this photo.
Trying to get Lil to touch his beard.
Wiping tears because Santa is scary.
And an extra large group photo, so you can see everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crying, crying, crying...

It's been one of those days. Crying. Non-stop. Or so it seems. This afternoon Lilleigh didn't want to nap. So she cried, as usual, when I put her down. It's not that it wasn't tired. She was. In fact she was a bit late for nap (which has never been an issue). I think she sometimes gets worked up because she knows fun toys are in the living room, and she's missing out. Typical. Anyway, it began with that. Then she slept for maybe 15 minutes and woke up crying again. I let her play for a bit, but she was clingy, whiney, and rubbing her eyes. I tried to lay her down again. Still no rest. And so our afternoon went.

And then tonight... again, not so smooth. Typically she gets a bath and changed into her PJs. Then I nurse her for 20 minutes, followed by story time. Song. Prayer. Bed. But like I said, tonight wasn't as smooth. And it hasn't been for the last few nights. She hasn't nursed longer than 10 minutes. Tonight she nursed 10, which was a victory. Past nights it's been 5, maybe. I try and try to get her to eat. The room is dark. Just us. But no. So we continue on with the routine, and after we leave her in her room to sleep, she starts wailing until finally I come in and nurse her for the remaining time.

I've heard that often for non-bottle-fed babies, weaning happens easier because they can't carry Mom around with them, and they want to be mobile. I'm wondering if that's what's happening... It's frustrating. I wish I could get her to nurse the full 20 all up front. It's also sad because as much as I'd love to be able to leave her for more than a few hours {did I say that??}, I know I'll miss nursing her. Those precious quiet moments at the end of our day can somehow redeem a day like today that seems full of whining and crying.


Have any of you experienced this? Advice?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Now that Lilleigh is on the movie, silence is not a good thing. This afternoon Lilleigh was playing in the living room while I was fixing lunch in the kitchen. Then I realized I didn't hear anything... So I peeked into the living room to make sure she hadn't crawled off to some other part of the house. This is what I saw.




Do you see Lilleigh? I had to do a double take at first.

She's nestled between Sammy and the couch, cuddling with sweet Sammy dog! 




What a sweet baby girl for wanting to cuddle with her puppy! And what a sweet dog for letting Lilleigh cuddle and crawl all over her - even when Momma isn't watching!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 Months!

Oh my goodness, I think I fall more in love with this little pumpkin every day! Is she not just the cutest thing you've ever seen? Many of my friends see new babies and swoon, remembering the days their babes were that little. I can't relate. Really. Of course, when Lilleigh was a new baby, I adored her. But I've really enjoyed her more and more each day. New baby snuggles are great, but nothing beats the mimicking of Mommy's faces, the crawling after Sammy, and laughter.

So here are some photos of Lilleigh at 10 months. I know these aren't awesome. My apologies. I think I'm over this monthly sticker thing, but I have to finish out the year... And not to mention that getting this child to sit still or pose is near impossible!

She learned to wave. I tried to get an action shot.

Crawling after the lens cap.

Sweet thang! Trying to put on her headband! Making Momma proud!
Lilleigh at 10 months...
  • CRAWLING! And PULLING UP! Yikes! Time to find a new home for lots of things around this house! I feel like our place is in utter chaos as I try to move things off the coffee table, fire place ledge, etc. Meanwhile, toys are being pulled out left and right. Oh to be mobile! {I wouldn't have it any other way though!}
  • Lil has decided she loves fruit! She's been a great eater overall, but recently she's decided fruit is a delicious treat. So it may have to become dessert.
  • Speaking of eating, she still refuses to let me feed her - unless I'm giving her a sweet treat, like say apple sauce! Otherwise, she will find a way to feed herself! This does make finding nutritious food a challenge. I won't say difficult. But we have a lot of fruit cut up, shredded chicken, beans, rice, cooked carrots {yuck!}, and peas.
  • Beginning stages of weaning. I am trying to go down to 3 feedings - well, nursings - a day. {Keep in mind that she still wakes up for an early morning feed between 4 and 6ish, so I'm not counting that.} I didn't set out to do this, but since she's more active and loving solids, she just hasn't been as antsy for it. So one day I just let her dictate it, and three feedings is what happened. So I'm trying to go with it! Though I don't plan to completely wean for a looong time {We'll prob do one feeding at night for another 6 months at least} I have been a little worried about what weaning down to that one feeding would look like, given that she never took a bottle. But this gives me hope.
  • She tries to whistle, like Mommy and Daddy. That's always been Sammy's call to "come" - the whistle. And when Lil hears us doing it, she starts to blow and sometimes even spit. I can't wait till she figures it out!
I'm sure there's so much more, but I'm exhausted. So off to bed! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Mat Room

Our play group has started to meet in the mat room at Watermark twice a month. The mat room is essentially a big room with a large gymnastics mat floor and tons of fun mat wedges, tubes, blocks etc. So fun for mobile babies and toddlers! And now that Lilleigh is army scooting and crawling, she can enjoy it! Yes, CRAWLING, like all fours! That started TODAY, just in time for her 10 month birthday! Here are some photos from today of Lilleigh and our neighbor Jensen.








That's Sylvia (Jensen's mommy and our awesome next door neighbor!) in the photo. She'd kill me if she knew I posted that photo :) but I think it gives you a good idea of what the mat room is!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Never Once... Did We Ever Walk Alone

My friend Destiny, whom I've recently come to know, shared her story at GriefShare the other night. It wasn't the first time I'd heard her story. But that didn't keep the tears from coming. Destiny lost her brother Derek seven years ago. Coming from a rough upbringing, she describes him as her life witness. I love this label. Though I thankfully had a wonderful upbringing, I relate to this term. The phrase I've so often used is "my other half." I realize this usually describes a spouse, but growing up I think it describes siblings close in age. Austen was there for most everything important in my life, and I, in his. Sometimes when I'm frustrated or laughing at the situation I find myself in, I just want to call him because I know he's the only one that would truly get it. Though I have lots of younger siblings, the age gap is so great that sometimes it seems like we were raised in two totally different families, and to an extent, we have.

The beautiful thing about Destiny's story is that after years of stuffing her grief and making terrible decisions as a result, she confronted her grief face to face in GriefShare. And she came to realize that though Derek may have been her "life witness," she's come to realize that it was never just she and Derek. God was there too. Destiny's story is beautiful. And the only reason for this is because she allowed God to work in her life and breathe hope into what seemed like a hopeless situation.

Destiny followed her testimony with this beautiful song by Matt Redman, called Never Once. They played this song at church on Sunday, and it brought tears to my eyes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Tree Photos and Her Mommy-Made Dress




She loves that red salt and pepper shaker ornament. And she really loves the Christmas tree!

See how I made this dress here.