Category Archives: family

A Christmas Campaign that ACTUALLY Matters: GIVE LOVE

It’s a marketing campaign that is simple and understated and red. It’s not flashy, nor fancy, and not overtly “church”-y either. But I’m not referencing coffee cups. I’m not referencing boycotts or hashtags. I am referring to something that actually matters; something that will make a real difference in the lives of others.Give Love

I’m talking about: GIVE LOVE.

While some people are ranting and making noise about things that don’t really add up to a hill of (coffee) beans, there are other people just outside of Sacramento, California, spending this holiday season being generous and doing good. They are looking into their hearts and reaching into their pockets to make this Christmas season very special for an entire county of foster kids. What are they doing, you ask? They are choosing to GIVE LOVE.

The GIVE LOVE campaign got its humble start just last year in Yolo County (yes, folks, it’s really named “Yolo”) when a brand-new church saw a need in their community and met it. While serving as a chaplain with the Woodland Police Department, Matt Van Peursem, the lead pastor of Catalyst-Woodland, became aware of the considerable need for more resources for the county’s Child Protective Services. Nearly every single day, the county adds one new child to the foster care system in Yolo County. Unfortunately, there is generally a gap of approximately 48 hours from the time the child is in CPS care until he or she is placed in a more permanent home. During this time, the resources (think everything from comforts of home to basic hygiene needs) for the kids are incredibly limited. Enter generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness, and everything good in this world… in the form of Catalyst and people who genuinely wanted to make a difference.

The 2014 GIVE LOVE campaign resulted in 425 backpacks filled with overnight clothes and toiletries for all kids entering the foster care system. Bonus: stuffed animals were donated as well and were added to the bags given to the younger kids. Now if that doesn’t warm your heart more than a tall caramel macchiato, I don’t know what will!

Because last year’s generosity was so grand, and the Police Department still has backpacks awaiting their future owners, Catalyst decided to find a new way to GIVE LOVE this year.   Last year, they met needs. This year, they decided to make wishes come true! With a little bit of help, the Church was able to get the Christmas Wish List of every single child in the foster care system. They intend to transform each and every wish into a wrapped present.

GIVE LOVE 2015 was launched just this past Sunday and will culminate on Catalyst’s one-year anniversary, December 6th. In the first hour, the good folks in Yolo County have already picked up 160 GIVE LOVE cards containing the Christmas Wish of a child currently in foster care. Most likely, more than 300 wishes will be turned into reality this Christmas season. These wishes range from grandiose requests for a new bike or a Nintendo DS, to the more unassuming, like a wish from a 17-year-old girl for a $20 gift card to simply get her hair cut.   No matter if someone is granting the smallest of small wishes or making the unimaginable come true, one thing is certain: it matters. To quote Pastor Matt, “We do this because these kids end up in foster care as a result of devastating circumstances that communicate to these kids that nobody loves them, adults can’t be trusted, and promises are made to be broken. Everything we do in the GIVE LOVE campaign is to restore hope in those three things: Love, community and a bright future.”

The act of showing love and kindness, of finding generosity when it’s least expected, of being able to GIVE LOVE is the reason for the season.

It’s easy to get distracted by rants and other irrelevant noise streaming into your various social media feeds. I urge you to take time this holiday season to focus your eyes and heart on people who are doing things that really mean something. This is just one example of people doing good. No doubt, there are many more such examples; look for those examples; highlight them on your feeds. Find the good and GIVE LOVE.

For more information about the GIVE LOVE campaign, click here 

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Motherhood: The Half-Time Report

My daughter turned nine years old yesterday. She is my eldest child. When she was born into this world, I was born into motherhood. Now, this morning, the day after her ninth birthday, I realize she is closer to her eighteenth birthday than she is to the day she was born. With the revelation that I am, essentially, at the halfway point of my parenting career with her, it’s hard not to take a few moments and consider where I stand.

I stand a near-decade away from those interminable nights of lying awake wondering if my brand-new daughter was safely asleep in her crib down the hall. While she slumbered, I wondered if I should swaddle her tighter, use organic bath wash, or pay more attention to “tummy time”. I would gradually drift asleep with one thought remaining, “I guess I will do the best I know how.” My feet are firmly behind the war-zone lines where battles and wars were fought regarding which side of the slice of bread the jelly goes on, why sandals are not appropriate winter footwear, and why toddler hands do not belong near a stove-top. Those battles were sometimes long and drawn-out when the wee toddler showed the determination and stubbornness that had only been seen in the likes of… well, her father. My strides have taken me through emotional storms of postpartum hormones, seemingly insurmountable doubts of my parenting abilities, conflicting desires to hurry-up this tedious job and at the same time beg the clock to just SLOW DOWN FOR MINUTE OR TWO OR THREE!!! I have slipped and fallen; I have tripped and stumbled; and I have skipped and leaped and jumped a time or two. I have stepped along so many milestones cheering her on; first steps, lost teeth, two-wheel bikes, new schools, diving into pools. The moments have been photographed or recorded, but mostly the journey is imprinted on my heart.

I am here with nine years of parenting history behind and look out towards nine more years ahead. I just might have an idea about what the future holds for me. I will pace nervously in my bedroom during MORE endless nights wondering if she is safely asleep in her bed down the hall, or at a friend’s house, or in her college dorm. I will wonder if I should sign her up for more extra-curriculars, let her go to the movies with that boy, or insist that she make her bed every morning. I will try to find my sleep with the thought, “I am doing the best that I know how.” I will continue to try to find solid footing on battles over clothes and friends and school-work and tone of voice and curfews and music choices and music volume and cell phones and social media boundaries and car keys and which college to attend and so much more. I hope that while she may not look at me and see a friend, that she will also not look at me and see a foe. I hope our battles will be interspersed with peacetimes at coffee shops and practice fields and laying on her bed talking about whatever comes to her mind. I am confident that I will have to stride through tween/pre-teen/teen hormonal angst like none I have ever imagined. These next nine years will surely make me second-guess my mothering instincts and continue to have a love-hate relationship with the clock… it’s unfailing ability to neither tick faster nor slower. I nervously step up to the milestones that lie in front of me; school dances, wins and losses, driver’s license, first loves and heartbreaks, and so many more “real life” moments that will be so very important to her along the way. I hope I will know how to encourage while giving her space, letting her fall but giving her a place to land, letting her know she will always, always be my baby girl.

So here I stand, closer to embracing my daughter as a young woman than I am to snuggling her new-baby self.   I am not sure if I want to cry for days gone by or smile for adventures to come. For tonight, I will probably just sit down and do both.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…
well today’s blog is worth five doodles:Nine 4

Nine 2

Nine 3

Nine 1

Nine

Today’s quote isn’t famous, but just a reminder:

“I’m going to do the best that I know how.”
– an average mother


Military: 7 Signs You PCS’d This Summer

One month ago today we moved into our home. I’m sure there are many military families out there experiencing some of these moments right along with me….

  1. You can still spy one or two (or fifteen thousand, if you are like me) of those pesky moving stickers that never seem to EVER go away completely!
    PCS Summer 1
  2. While checking out at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (because you need stuff for your new bed, bath, and… beyond) you pause for a good ten seconds when asked what your zip code is. Zip code… right. WHERE exactly am I again?!
    PCS Summer 2
  3. The idea of going school supply shopping is entirely daunting because, didn’t we just get here?! Now I need to be organizing myself and family for a new school year?!
    PCS Summer 3
  4. Your bucket list for the summer is ten miles long. You MUST see all the new sites RIGHT NOW! Because you know, before you blink you will be looking at a new set of orders and your bucket list will still be about nine miles long.
    PCS Summer 4
  5. You assume all your neighbors have lived in the neighborhood for ages, until you remember it’s a military community and it’s summer and almost everyone is new too!
    PCS Summer 5
  6. Signing your kids up for summer camps and after-school activities feels like the ultimate test of your Mom-hood. This dance studio or that one? We missed soccer try-outs but will they still allow my child to play? Where, exactly, does that swim team compete? Wait, what time does school get out anyway?!PCS Summer 6
  7. There is a sense of immense possibility with each new person you meet and each new road you travel.PCS Summer 7

To all my fellow military spouses out there who are settling in and exploring new hometowns… may this new adventure be your best! And in the words of Matsuo Basho, remember:
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”


Schooled in Parenting (By My 8-Year-Old Daughter)

classroomThis morning while I was getting ready for the day, my kids rolled into a very intense, very passionate argument. The likes of which I’m sure haven’t been seen (or heard!) since the days of old. Or maybe last week.  Of course, this argument was about, none other than, Minecraft.  From what I can gather from my unavoidable over-hearing, my 4-year old was continually pushing random buttons on his Xbox controller while my 7 and 8-year olds were trying to build something (apparently it was a very important “something” that could not be delayed by random button pushing). I will set the scene for you: To find out what I learned, click here


No, no, you really shouldn’t have… but thanks for doing it anyway.

For the past many years, my husband and I have agreed to not exchange gifts for Christmas. Usually as the holiday approached, one of us (most usually me) would succumb to the commercialized holiday cheer and ask, “No, seriously, what do you want for Christmas?” A discussion, a suggestion or two, a not-so-vague hint and on Christmas morning there would be shiny wrapped presents for both of us under the tree. With a few… maybe one or two… exceptions, the shiny wrapped presents were exactly what had been discussed, suggested, hinted. Don’t get me wrong, the opening of the presents and the thank you’s after were sweet and genuine and appreciated.

I’m not trying to throw my hubby under the bus at all… there is no bus to throw him under really. But those Christmas present exchanges were basically a compromise – a merging of our two very different gift-giving selves. I would love to give gigantic, over-the-top, super-surprise gifts every year! (!!!) I would probably, easily, bankrupt us by my gift-giving tendency. My husband, on the other hand, likes to give practical, logical, budget-conscious gifts. (…) He keeps our budget in line. I love this trait of his, I do. Perhaps, though, it took me a Christmas holiday, birthday, and another Christmas to fully appreciate his gift-giving tendency. (“ooooooh… an… external hard drive… for me.”)

Well, this year. Christmas of 2014… something happened. We barely talked about what we wanted. I suggested an arm band for my phone. Practical, logical, budget-conscious. I was looking forward to it! And I got it. But it was from my son. And this is the shiny wrapped present from my husband this year…..
Continue reading to see the shiny wrapped present AND what I learned…


The Risk of Raising Independent Children

We recently moved to a very family-friendly neighborhood, which also happens to be a military housing neighborhood. This move has given us the opportunity to live in an ideal setting to take the risk of raising independent children. My kids are ages 8, 6 ¾ (it’s important to him to remember the ¾), and 4, which to me are ideal ages to risk the lessons of becoming an independent child.

My kids are learning the importance of being accountable for themselves. No one else can answer for the choices they make. This accountability is teaching them to think through their choices first, act second. They are testing their nerve and finding out how far they are willing to push themselves, whether it’s the speed they ride their bikes or how high they climb a tree. With that test of nerve I believe they will gain self-confidence as they realize they can do new things because they pushed themselves, not because Mom or Dad told them to try it. They are building a frame of reference on rights and wrongs. They are getting better acquainted with their morals and listening to their own conscience instead of Mom and Dad’s voice. Continue reading about the challenges of raising independent kiddos…


Minecraft: smelting by day, crafting by night

minecraft

Earlier this summer, while we were still living on the West Coast, a friend convinced me to download Minecraft for my kids. Since then, we’ve had an obsession in our house. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Can I play Minecraft?” I would be… many nickels richer. I could probably buy my very own crafting table, in real life! My son admitted the other day that sometimes when he looks outside everything looks like squares to him. On occasion I hear “Stampy’s” voice in my head when the kids aren’t even watching him. Friends don’t let friends download Minecraft.

That’s probably a little harsh. In fact, Minecraft afforded my husband and I sanity during our cross-country drive from California to Rhode Island. We were, in fact, that family. The two bigger kids each had a new Kindle Fire, and the littlest had our old iPad (decorated with dinosaur stickers to make it seem fancy and cool even though it wasn’t new). Our Odyssey was decked out with an extension cord, a multi-media plug-in thing that has a WHOLE BUNCH of outlets…. And…. the piece de resistance… a Hot Spot. Boom. The kids were set. More Minecraft goodness here…


Writing 101: Lost and Found (Part One)

Daily prompt: Write about something/someone that was part of your life and isn’t any more.

Twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-part series.

Continue to my story…


Motherhood: Happy Mother’s Day to the many different mothers out there

Infant Grasping Mother's FingerHappy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there! Happy Mother’s Day to all the soon-to-be Mommies and waiting-to-be Mommies and new Mommies and veteran Mommies. Today is a day of flowers and breakfasts in bed and long, uninterrupted showers. Today is also a day of tears and heartache and arms that long to hold another. On a day with such a variety of emotions, here are my wishes for each of you…

For the mothers-waiting-to-be, I wish you a day filled with hope and faith. May today’s celebration not be a constant reminder for the family you are hoping and waiting to build. I hope you will see the impact you have had on so many others in your life – a niece or nephew, a neighborhood child, a friend – where you have filled the role of mother… comforter, caretaker, encourager, rock. I will not pretend that today is an easy day for you as you wait and wonder what the future holds for you. But I do hope you are able to see all the ways you have already begun your motherhood journey and have made a difference in the lives around you. May your next Mother’s Day see your arms filled with your very own Little One… and if that is not the case, I pray your heart will be filled with love, faith, and hope beyond your wildest dreams.

For the soon-to-be mothers, I wish you a day of long naps and a chance to put your swollen feet up.  You are undoubtedly filled with excitement and anxiety for all that is to come in the next few months.  I hope today you will be filled with confidence in your abilities to be Mom.  I wish you calm and peace and joy about the life that is growing inside you.  I wish you calm and peace and joy about the many different kinds of bottles, pacifiers, baby swings, blankets, diapers, formula, etc. May you realize that the only thing you really need is a heart full of love for your baby and your best intentions… and a carseat, so you can bring Baby home.  I wish you find a few moments today to realize what a gift and privilege it is to have a chance to sculpt and nurture a brand new human being.  More Mother’s Day wishes…


Motherhood: A Chapter at a Time

ChaptersMotherhood is hard.  We joke about it, we moan about it, we (I) write about it, we sometimes can’t get over it.  The fact that motherhood is messier, stickier, and smellier than you ever imagined is no hidden secret.  We have all heard or told stories about spit-up on clothes, boogers wiped on walls, trips to the ER, milkshakes dumped in laps, diapers removed during nap time, carpooling to activities, chaperoning field trips, and so much more.  Those moments are tough.  They can beat us down until we are searching the house for a clean white rag to wave in surrender.  But maybe those aren’t really the hardest moments of motherhood.  Maybe the hardest moments are camouflaged as our most triumphant; the moments we eagerly anticipate and countdown the days for, until at the last moment we realize the chapter is closing and we can not – will not – be able to open it again.

I spent so many moments throughout the night feeding my little ones.  The house was quiet, my body was exhausted, but my little one and me awake and sharing a quiet moment.  I knew I would be tired in the morning and maybe begrudge this little alarm clock that I snuggle in my arms for the missed moments of sleep. I would complain and tell my husband how many times I was up throughout the night.  I would wish for a full night’s sleep and  wonder if I would ever feel well-rested again.  And then… after months of waiting, I woke up a full 8 hours after I fell asleep.  My little one no longer needed to eat in the middle of the night and no longer needed to snuggle into my arms while we both drifted between sleep and wakefulness.  Just a few weeks later I realized that the little one not only had grown past our night feedings but also my body had grown past nourishing my little one.  The secret quiet moments we had shared came to a quick end.  My little one had tickled me under my arm during a nursing session, he had cooed me to sleep, he had smiled the sweetest smile for my eyes only in the middle of the night. We spent so much time so closely wrapped into each other that distinguishing where one of us ended and the other began was nearly impossible.  The moment came when I realized that this chapter was finished for us.  The moment was a triumph for my sleepy self but so hard for my mommy-self.

Then the little ones grew and became “slightly-bigger” little ones.  We would play together and work together.  I would sing the ABC’s under my breath while I cleaned up magnetic letters off the kitchen floor only to realize there were no “slightly-bigger” little ones around to hear this lesson of literacy.   I would count in English and count in Spanish. I would sing songs about cleaning up and not biting our friends.  I would make sticker charts to encourage good behavior choices and try to use my kind words at all times.  I would be in full teacher mode and many times feel like I was more in I-want-to-poke-my-eyeballs-out-if-I-have-to-repeat-myself-one-more-time mode.  Life as mommy to a pre-schooler is hard.  My patience stretched and my nerves frayed. I worked hard to teach the little ones smart things and kind things, but all the while I wondered if my brain would ever function in grown-up mode again.  And then… after weeks of registrations, doctor check-ups, and school supply shopping, I walked out of his Kindergarten classroom and knew while my days of teaching him will never truly end, the days of me being his teacher were finished.  Another adult will help shape him, his mind and his character.  He would not look only to me for answers to his many questions, for encouragement when he doubts himself, for guidance on how to handle a difficult situation with his friends.  His world was expanding and my role in it was shrinking.  The moment came when I realized yet another chapter was finished for us.  The moment was a triumph for my college-educated self, but it was oh-so-hard for my mommy self.

Motherhood is hard.  The beginnings and the middles of each phase and each chapter have their challenges.  My “slightly-bigger” little ones have only grown into “quite-bigger” little ones… but still, they are little ones… so I haven’t had too many chapters to close behind us and for that I am grateful.  During the messy, sticky, and smelly days that seem to be one long chapter with a very dry, rather pointless, and completely redundant storyline that I would prefer to skim through and get it over with… I will know deep down that the end of the chapter won’t be easy either. Maybe, just maybe, if I remind myself that the triumphant end of each chapter will most likely come before I am truly ready for it, I will be able to slow down and appreciate each chapter for what it is…. another piece of my little ones’ great and unique stories.


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