This Week: Faith

Bedtime Bible reading, circa 9/08

Antonella: You started a quiet time journal, and on the first page you explain that in the journal you will write about your day, what Bible passage you read, and your prayer. After the brief explanation it says, “If you are reading this, enjoy!” I was caught off guard by this statement because journals are usually private and sometimes secretive. I had never thought about “faith like a child” being open, without secrets, without shame. I’m not sure how much longer I will be welcomed to read your journals, but I have a feeling that I will learn a lot in the time that I am.

Jeremiah and Samuel: We were in the car the other day, and out of the blue, Jeremiah, you said, “Mama, I’m not sure if Jesus lives in my heart or not… I asked Him to come into my heart, but I don’t feel anything.” Samuel, you have been discussing salvation with us quite a bit, and your quick response was, “No, Jeremiah, you don’t ask Him IN your heart, you have to ask Him for a NEW heart!” What followed was a conversation that I will always remember. Explaining the gospel to you boys was like giving you water when you are so thirsty. You both listened and asked and prayed. I wondered if I was planting a seed or watching a sprout grow.

August: You shrug your shoulders and declare, “God loves me. Jesus loves me. Mama and Dada love me.”  So simple and sure. The joy of knowing that you know without a doubt that you are loved helps me understand the heart of God toward His children a little better.

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Excuses, excuses

I am struggling to find time to post for several reasons, friends. We began a small kitchen “make over” that, as is the case with all such things, is taking more time than anticipated. We went to a few antique stores around town to look for light fixtures and the one I picked was was deemed “the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen” by the shop owner. Hm. You’ll have to decide when I post pictures when we are done.

Also, the kids have been passing around a little virus, one by one. Thankfully it only lasts for about a day, and we seem to be on the tail end of it. All that to say, I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule soon, and hopefully show you guys the kitchen!

The kids eating breakfast in the living room while the kitchen and dining room are upside down!

Valentine’s Day Tea

When Antonella was three years old, we hosted a small tea party for Valentine’s Day. It really had nothing to do with Valentine’s Day apart for the decorations, but any excuse for a tea party, right? It has become a tradition for us, increasingly important over the years as I realized two things.

I want to make sure that I am intentional in discipling Antonella in the way she views love from a young age. The tea parties started as an excuse to have a play date, but the last couple of years, as she has gotten older, we have used the time to talk about the love of God, and how she will be able to really celebrate Valentine’s Day when she is married. We don’t make a big deal about the actual meaning of the holiday, but as she grows it will be increasingly important to be able to talk about cultural expectations, feelings, and courtship.

The other realization I had was that over the years, boys were added to our family and no more girls. So anything to balance out the guns and tools and trucks is welcomed in our household!

This is the first tea party! Antonella was three and a half- the girls decorated cookies and played dress up after the tea party while the moms chatted. I had to dig through our harddrive to find these pictures and oh my, could I have spent some time down memory lane! Unfortunately I could not find 2007 or 2008- we moved three times in those years and who knows where those files are stashed.

In 2009 I made her a little flower shop out of an old table, a Japanese umbrella and some buckets. I filled the buckets with fake flowers and stocked it with twine, wrapping paper, pots and scissors. The girls played flower shop all afternoon, making bouquets and arranging centerpieces. They also planted flowers outside!

In 2010 we had all the girls in our family gather at grandma’s for tea. I’m sure there was a reason why I could not pull off a friend party, but I don’t remember!

This year, the tea party was very last minute- thankfully most of our guests live across the street! We served store bought cupcakes, popcorn, and peach tea. The girls brought over their dolls and had fun playing with each other’s dolls.

I was so impressed by their conversations. All the heart decorations led to a discussion about our words, and how they are the overflow of our hearts! Then they took turns encouraging each other one by one. The girls were so cute with reactions like, “I was hoping you’d say that!” and “Really?? Thanks!”

Every year we buy an antique tea cup and write the year on the bottom. We haven’t bought this year’s yet, but I hope that the tradition continues. And I hope that as the collection grows and she matures, Valentine’s Day will be filled with fun memories.

This Week : Eyes

I’ve mentioned before that people often ask me if my kids are all mine. I have to admit that they all look different, with only a couple resembling each other. One of the ways that they are all different is their eyes. I was noticing this week that they vary and are unique, each in their own way.

Antonella: When I got glasses when I was your age, my dad told me that it was because my eyes were so pretty they had to be put in display windows. And I think he said the same thing to you!

Jeremiah: Your eyes are green, or “camouflage green” as you like to say. However, it was hard to find a picture that shows the color because they disappear when you smile. Another way that you are like your daddy!

Samuel: You have the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. And they smile before your lips do.

August: You are starting to pick up on the fact that your eyes are two different colors. While standing in line at a store the other day, someone said, “His eyes are two different colors!” and you responded, “Yup, one blue and one orange!”

Worker man

 

I do not want to assume that the characteristics that my children display at such a young age define who they will be as adults. However, my first born son has certain qualities that I would be surprised if he didn’t carry them into his adult years. He has always loved to work with his hands. He got his first tool set when he turned three, and we hesitated because they were real tools, just miniature. By the time he was five he was using Neil’s tools, never mind the miniatures. Neighbors walk by and see our boy in the garage with a power drill and they slowly offer, “Your son… has a… drill…” We know. Yes, we let him.

I wonder sometimes if we ruined him for toys. He doesn’t play with toys much. Who would want to build a Lego castle when you can build one out of wood in the garage? Don’t get me wrong, he does play and build things indoors with his brothers, but he is always thinking and planning his next project. I found a notebook labeled “My Invention Book.” The first drawing was a machine, complete with remote control, that makes your bed.  I could use that.

His number one frustration is not having the parts he needs to make the things that are floating in his head, so this week we let him take a part a few things in order to accumulate motors and gears and whatnot. And also because he is entertained for hours on end with a screwdriver in his hand. He took apart an old remote control car, the game “Operation”, an old blender, and a television.

I am not sure what he is learning or how it benefits him exactly to see the insides of electronic gadgets. What I am sure about is how absolutely happy he is while doing so. And how quiet the house is.

Tonight Neil and I were working on a project in the garage, and I asked him if he thought home renovation would be part of new creation. He told me that he thought that art and carpentry and design would be. And I thought of Jeremiah, who moments earlier had exclaimed, “Isn’t it wonderful to wake up in the morning and have a clean workshop!?” And I thought that for such a young boy, to have this joy, this gift, running through his veins… yes, I would be very surprised if he didn’t carry it into adulthood. Or maybe it will carry him.

Dress Rescue

I bought Antonella a dress a few months back, and the first time she wore it she got pizza grease on it. Grease stains on a grey dress are impossible to remove and impossible to ignore. After we tried all kinds of  stain removals, store bought and homemade, the dress sat in our laundry room for weeks. I thought about turning it into a shirt, but my inexperience with sewing knit fabric kept me from attempting the task. Really, I thought, I can come up with something. I thought about embroidering flowers all over it to hide the stains, but again, the knit fabric. Oh, and I don’t know how to embroider.

Looks like the dress is no longer available, but here it is on eBay.

A couple of weeks ago I found some felted flowers at Hobby Lobby and they were on sale for 50% off! I glued them on her dress to cover the stains…

 

 

Good enough to wear until she grows out of it. Which, by the way, is happening way too fast.

 

This Week: Quotes

Antonella: Your best friend came over to do school with us one day, and as she sat down you ran to your room and returned with something in your hand. “Because, you know, you said you wanted to go to Paris!” You said as you handed her a miniature Eiffel Tower. You have always done that–given away your toys to friends that visit you. I hope you never change.

Jeremiah: You got really frustrated with school at one point this week, struggling with concepts you know you know very well. “It’s just that my brain isn’t working today!” You exclaimed and crossed your arms. We talked through it and after a few sets of jumping jacks you finished your work. Later that day, you wanted to build a castle with a mote. I suggested you use the wooden blocks. You built the castle inside one of our cloth bins, and when I looked up from whatever I was doing you were pouring water into the bin… the mote. “Jeremiah! What are you doing?” I exclaimed, equally surprised and upset. You paused, looked at the castle, then at me, and with your bottom lip quivering said, “I told you my brain isn’t working today!”

Sam: You suddenly love to dance. Love to dance. We have been dancing a lot at Mamu and Tata’s house, your uncles taking turns playing everything from Vanilla Ice to Alan Jackson. We have all been impressed with your concentration and dedication to robot-like dance moves, and your grandpa has encouraged your gift. You paused long enough to lean over and whisper to me, “I might be famous!”

Augustine: You love to play chase, and this week we were running all through the house. “I’m going to get you, mister!” I shouted over and over while you laughed and ran up and down the hall. Suddenly you stopped, turned around, and yelled, “I’m going to get you, Big Girl!” I’m not sure how to take that.

School and Play

One of the things that I love about our house is the play/school room- not necessarily because of what we’ve done with it, but because it is spacious and bright. We spend a lot of time in here, all five of us, learning, playing, working, creating. I sat at the table the other day, watching the kids just wreck it. They were playing, mind you, but there was a lot of dumping and stacking and rearranging of furniture to accommodate wars and trenches. My anxiety started to rise, scanning the room and estimating when to pull the plug to begin the clean up process. But then I really saw what was going on. All my kids were there, with me. For hours on end. And yes, it is frustrating and chaotic at times, but I am so thankful for the space to be able to be together. They forget I am there and I evesdrop on their conversations, their imaginations, their creativity, and I am so glad they are home. With me.

This is my usual view- I sit in the chair that is visible at the bottom of the picture. Light fixture is from Ikea, banner from The Land of Nod, letters from Anthropologie, pillow from Target. I don’t have any information about the picture above the couch, we picked it up here.

We store the majority of our toys in these bins. Each bin (is supposed to but they are rarely super organized)  has a different toy in it: Big Legos, Little Legos, Playmobiles, Zoobs, Tinkertoys, cars, animals, small wooden blocks, alphabet blocks, people, trains, magnet rods and balls, and some miscellaneous items. I rotate them with various things from time to time.

Reading corner… August spends a lot of time on this little chair.

This painting used to hang in our living room, but the colors are so perfect for this space!

These are the boys’ desks. The orange basket holds their backpacks. Because we go back and forth from home to school I have them keep everything in their backpacks to make sure all their work returns to school. The cubbies under their chairs hold coloring books.

This is the business center. The bookshelf holds all my teacher manuals, a shelf for each child. The kids put all their work from school in the blue basket and I look at it and sort it into bins as time allows. The little plastic bins hold flash cards. I spray painted an old bookshelf and the basket is from The Land of Nod. I painted and covered a bulletin board with this fabric.

Antonella and I sit at the table. I  had the binding cut off on all her workbooks and put them in this binder. This has helped our days so much by eliminating all the digging in her backpack and finding the right page. She has everything in front of her and keeps her place bookmarked.

Neil’s parents bought this table when they were first married from an antique store. They brought it up to Chicago for us when we bought our first house and Neil re-finished it. It is one of my favorite pieces of furniture we own!

You can see the huge whiteboard that Neil salvaged from his previous school’s garbage. He cleaned it and adjusted it good as new… unfortunately some permanent markers got confused for for dry-erase…

And now for some glimpses of color around the room…

Family Pictures

 

I have a very talented best friend. She lives far away from me and although it makes me sad, our frequent phone calls and our little blogs keep us connected. When she visits, it is really like she never left.

She is an amazing friend, everything that the word means- she is.

We have shared our lives for fifteen years, mostly through long distance phone calls that last hours interrupted by short visits across the country.

She met Neil before I did and told me I would marry him.

She was there when I found out my first born would be a girl.

She loves her family passionately.

She makes time to drive to my house every time she is in Texas.

She reminded me through pain, “This is God’s mercy on you.”

She tried to dig my minivan, that had hydroplaned and hit the median wall, out of the snow with a Lego box lid.

She makes me laugh.

We will write a book together one day, and you will laugh.

When she visits, she brings her camera. She is a photographer, skilled and gifted, and this past Friday my family put those skills to the test.

 

As the wind blew and my kids shrieked, Jen and I just looked at each other knowingly and laughed… no surprise, just another chapter for our book. Click through to read about it and see the rest of the pictures.

I love you Jen, and I am forever grateful for your friendship.