Tuesday, May 31, 2011

swim.bike.run. discouragement

If there was some way of using the handy cross out tool in the the post title, then the title of the post would have looked like this:

swim.bike.run.  worry.panic.discouragement.

For the past couple of weeks I've had some sort of cold virus that just won't let go. Or maybe it's been more than one virus. At the very least, it's put a huge dent in my training schedule as I'm now on day four of "rest."

Trying to do only half the workout didn't work. And three days of no training hasn't helped. So it's hard not to get frustrated and impatient with my body that won't do what I want it to do...which is get back to 100% healthy.

But I suspect that while I may be trying to follow a certain agenda, God has a different idea in mind. Like maybe breaking me of my habit of calculating my odds of actually finishing this triathlon. And breaking me of trusting in a plan, not His plan. Why do I have these suspicions? Because every time I think about committing more days to rest instead of training, I begin to worry that I just won't make it. And what seems like possibly attainable with following a plan suddenly seems as unattainable as swimming across an ocean.

Which again brings me back to the place of confirming what I felt in the beginning of committing to a triathlon...that God wants to show me what He can do. And to do that, He has to empty me of my strength. How I want Him to show me His mighty strength. I just didn't know it would be that hard to let go...and let God.

Have any of you struggled in this? Maybe it wasn't athletic in scope, but you had to learn what it meant to walk in God's strength. How did you get through it? What encouraged you? What did you gain when you got to the other side?

Friday, May 27, 2011

color my summer creativity

Earlier this month, I entered the Color My Summer Contest hosted by Delia and Kojo Designs. The contest ended earlier this week. Check out the winning entry, the runner ups and some of the other entries. It's amazing what people come up with - so inspiring! This was my entry:

They are flower napkin rings I made for my sister, Hilary's, baby showers a few years ago since I wanted something fun and simple to go with the luau theme. Anyway, I've been debating whether to add flower napkin rings to my etsy shop and wanted some feedback:

Is this something you'd buy? How much would you pay for a set of 6? For a set of 8?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

book ends

One of Ben's favorite books lately has been "Baby Beluga." I enjoy reading it to him because it brings back many happy memories of listening and dancing to Raffi records on our Fisher-Price record player when I was growing up. I enjoy it, except for this:

And this.

Every time I sing-read this book to him, I get creeped out because I keep thinking that what those polar bears are really thinking is they'd really like to eat Baby Beluga. If you know the song, you can picture the bears' little ditty: "We like to eat you." The second picture is especially disturbing because it looks like the momma polar bear is licking her chops (upon studying the picture a little closer, it's actually the baby polar bear's ear).

This is all tongue-in-cheek, of course. But have any of you have had a similar experience when reading a particular book to your child?

In case you haven't been introduced to Raffi, here's a video of the Baby Beluga song (his other songs are great too and I love the simplicity and charm of his albums - I would totally go to a Raffi concert, with or without my kids ;) if he still performed in concert).

my first guest post!

I'm so excited...on June 19 I get to join the (in)courage community as a "Daily Guest!" (In)courage is a Dayspring blog to encourage women and has Christ at its center. I'll share a little more closer to the 19th, but in the meantime, check out this link to go to (in)courage if you haven't encountered it yet or click the button on the right side of my blog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

one big poopy mess

Today is one of those days - the kind when your life feels like one big poopy mess. Maybe it's as of 10 a.m. today, I'd already had to clean up more of it than usual...

photo from Microsoft Clip Gallery
One of our toilets, ancient and averse to flushing properly, got backed up. Since I detest plunging the thing, I resorted to my usual fervent prayer of "Please God, let everything go down the drain, please don't let it back up, please don't let it overfl...." And cue the fall of poopy water and my hasty attempt to turn off the water, while simultaneously grabbing for towels. Ugh. Plunging would have been the wiser choice.

I spend the next 10 minutes thoroughly disinfecting the outside of the toilet and the surrounding floor. (Bonus: I found my husband's missing wedding ring that was tucked in a dark corner next to the cabinet. I felt the woman in Jesus' parable who found her missing coin.)

After hosing myself off and closing the bathroom door, I warned my three older children not to use the bathroom, changed Ben's diaper (more poop!) and then went into my room for a time out.

Ten minutes or so into my time out, I heard something that sounded vaguely like a toilet being flushed. It took two seconds for my brain to realize it was the toilet that was being flushed - the still poop-filled one. The one I was waiting to plunge. The one where I only half turned off the water supply.

And I ran down the hall yelling, "Noooooo" as Luke comes running out of the bathroom scared at the overflow of water he couldn't stop (in his rush to get to the nearest bathroom, he had forgotten my warning not to use that toilet). As I stared at an even bigger mess than before I couldn't help but yelling in frustration at the mess I would again need to clean up.

Bring on the towels and the bleach and the apologies to Luke that it was not his fault. It was mine, because I didn't shut off the water supply completely (I did turn it all the way off this time). It was my fault because I didn't plunge the toilet in the first place.

That's why today feels like such a mess. Because maybe it's God's way of calling attention to a few things I've been neglecting lately. Like using prayers as an excuse to avoid taking action He is clearly requiring of me. Actions which seem yucky and hard and might mean I get a little bit splashed back on me. And perhaps looking at things I am not completing. And reminding me that the actions I choose to take or ignore, do have an impact on those around me despite my attempts to convince myself otherwise.

But greater than the pain of realizing there are things which are hindering my walk with Him is the promise that God uses these moments to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace within me. Because He loves me. Because He wants to free me from everything that would hinder me from following after Him with my whole heart. And for that I am grateful. Because without life's poopy messes, how would we ever realize we need to come clean?

Friday, May 20, 2011

earning my stars and stripes

It's official! As of this morning, I am now red, white and blue...an American!

Thinking back, it was kind of a whirlwind - just over three months since I submitted my paperwork, though God told me to do this last year and I put it off until the last minute.Here are some photos from the day:

turning in my permanent resident card with Brie by my side

in my last minutes as a Canadian citizen

keeping Ben busy - it was a long wait!

what the kids were interested in seeing

more fun with the camera (a way to keep the older 3 amused)

registering to vote...my first vote most like will be for my husband!

all ALL American family (Reese was a little worn out from the process ;)

The most moving part of the ceremony was the time the judge allowed for the citizens-to-be to give thanks to anyone who helped them through the naturalization process. Many thanked the USA itself. One man wanted to become a citizen because he was rescued from a war-torn country and he wanted to be able to help rescue others in peril. I about cried at that one. It's so hard to image for many of us, the struggle that people must go through to get here. It's hard for me to imagine since Canada does not oppress its people.

My prayer, going forward, as a newly-minted American, is that I would never forget the privilege of living in a country founded on an idea that people have a right to freedom.Which leads me to the celebration part of this post:

Grab a bowl of ice cream or a cone (we did!)...

 ...and enjoy this song which kind of sums up how I'm feeling right now.

(Disclaimer: I debated whether to put on this song because I struggle with the knowledge that our idea of freedom often clashes with the image of freedom held dear by another people/country/culture and these clashes often result in death.The death of another person is not something I take lightly. What I do hope you will celebrate with me is my joy in joining a country that has dared to dream of its ability to provide freedom to its people and to provide the hope of freedom to those who do not have it. And rejoice that it is for freedom that Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1a)- and He paid the price for the cost of freedom with His life so we would not have to pay for it with our own.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ben the builder

One of my favorite pastimes with Ben lately is playing with the "shapes ball." I remember having this classic toy as a child and love that each of our children have enjoyed playing with it as well. The other night, Ben spent the better part of an hour learning how to put the shapes in the correct hole, but mostly using the shapes to build towers. Here are some snaps of his efforts today:

I love the look of concentration he gets on his face when he's constructing and seeing how carefully and deliberately he places each block. Since he's still learning, there are lots of baubles which frustrate him so I started saying "uh oh spaghetti-o" each time the tower toppled which made him giggle and encourage him to try again. It's something I'm learning to say when I make mistakes too. ;)

a morning at the park

This spring has set some serious rainfall records and I think we're all feeling the effects of it. I kept putting off our spring break thinking there had to be week with a good stretch of warm, sunny weather that would be perfectly suited for some vacation time. Didn't happen. I'm not sure if I'll take the same approach next year - it seems rather futile to wait for the perfect week, especially when that perfect week never arrives. (Sigh)

So when the sun made its appearance today, I decided our vitamin-D deprived bodies needed a refreshment to hold us over until summer vacation begins. We headed to one of our favorite parks and tuned up our gross motor skills as part of our physical education curriculum. ;)

strengthening her arm muscles on the monkey bars

the study of motion and balance

The best part about this subject? Luke and Ben can participate too!

Luke still needs to wear his "fist" (his word for the brace) for a few more months

I love the look of concentration on Ben's face

Monday, May 16, 2011

swim.bike.run. with a purpose

Today, my 12-week training plan for the triathlon begins. Yikes! It also marks the beginning of an effort to raise money to bring safe, clean water to people without it...

In this post, I shared about Dave's egging me on to do a triathlon with him and, as I began to dip my toe into the training, thinking it was a way God was going to show me His strength when I ran out of mine. And maybe that is what this will be about.

But when I came across this blog, I believe God used to plant a tiny seed of an idea. Karyn, the owner of Delicate Fortress Creations posted about a campaign to Tread on Trafficking in an effort to stamp out the child sex slave trade by raising money and awareness. Participants in Tread on Trafficking come up with their own exercise goal and then encourage people to sponsor them in their effort. This is going on now through June 30th - check it out. :)

I considered dedicating my triathlon training to raise money for this campaign, but wanted to find something that would more closely tie to completing the triathlon itself. And God answered that prayer.

Just this week I came across Charity:Water through the shop and blog of a fellow etsyian and discovered I could create my own fundraising page. So I dove in and created a page. You can visit it here.

Over the next few months, I'll continue to share updates on my training progress and training tips I learn along the way. (you can click the "triathlon" button underneath the main photo at the top of the page to find all related post). I'll also provide my thoughts and more information and links to articles, website and blogs which talk about the water crisis.

But before I sign off, I had to share one last thing which shows so well that it is God who ordains our days before one of them comes to be (a promise from Psalm 139) and makes me fall in love with His sense of humor. It's the logo I created when I first committed to attempting a tri.

I liked the youthful feel of the pictures for the swim and bike portions but couldn't find a fitting one for "run." The water photo came up as one of the options when I searched for images with the tag "running." (These photos were obtained for free here.) I liked the play on words and the photo, so I added it in. And then I laughed when I looked at the swim.bike.run. logo after deciding to raise money for Charity:Water. Only God could come up with something so fitting. I think I'll add this one to the memorial book. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

He whispers: remember me

I first came across the idea of creating a memorial to the Lord while reading the blog, "A Place Called Simplicity" where Lynn does a weekly, "Memorial Box Monday" feature.

If you read chapter four in the book of Joshua, God instructs Joshua to have a representative from each of the 12 tribes pick up a large stone from the middle of the Jordan river (God had again created a dry path through water so His people could cross safely through to the other side). The context of this story is the Israelites have just completed their 40-year stay in the desert and are on the verge of entering the Promised Land. They are getting ready to take down Jericho - a barrier to their entrance into their inheritance.

Twelve men pick up 12 stones from the riverbed and put them down in their camp. God asks them to do this as a memorial so that when their children ask, "What are those rocks doing there?" they can tell them the story of God's miracles, His faithfulness and His holiness.

Anyway, the idea of creating a memorial of the things God has done in my life has been rattling around my brain for awhile trying to come up with what the memorial would look like. I finally settled on creating a photo book, maybe even one for every year so that through the years, we can look back at the pictures and read the stories and be reminded of what God has done for our family. Though I'd like to think I'll always remember those moments, both large and small, I know I've already forgotten much of what He's done for us.

One of my entries will be for what He did for me yesterday:
I'd been on the hunt for a pair of black sandals for a year and my most recent attempt to find something at the Salvation Army store - one of my favorite places to shop - turned up nothing that would work. (I could just walk into a store and pay for a brand new pair, but I enjoy the challenge of finding like-new items at resale stores and garage sales for a fraction of the cost). Then yesterday, my best friend, stops by on her way out of town to drop off a pair of :

Yep. Black sandals in my size and so comfortable. She told me they had been sitting at her house for a while and every time she looked at them, she felt like she should give them to me. (Amy has a close relationship with the Lord and is a prayer warrior. :) )

Isn't that crazy? That God tells me in His Word not to worry about being clothed because He will clothe me. And then He shows me He is faithful by taking care of my feet and having a pair of perfect-for-me sandals delivered to my door.

And the best part is, these promises are for everyone who takes Him at His Word. He doesn't always answer "yes," He doesn't always answer when we want Him to, He often doesn't answer in the way we expect. But He does answer, He does provide and He is faithful to His Word.

Can you think of an example of when God has shown Himself faithful in your life? Think about sharing it with someone and writing it down - here in the comment section, in whatever electronic way you communicate, in a journal, in a letter. It can be the start of your memorial to the Lord.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

He fills my mouth with laughter

In this post, I commented on how easily kids remember lines from their favorite movies. "Up" has been the kids' current favorite and the boys have laughed themselves silly in the past couple weeks with their favorite quotes from the film. Last night was no exception...

At Brianna's dance recital Reese and Luke needed to visit the "loo" so I took them to the ladies' bathroom. Luke finished first and stood outside the door to Reese's stall. Out of the blue, he says, "I can smell you." (This is a quote from the movie).

I started cracking up, which made Luke laugh harder and repeat the line. Several times. With other ladies in the bathroom (who I hope found our laughing endearing rather than thinking we revealed in rude humor). It still cracks me up.

The funniest part is that Luke has no idea how perfect the line was for the bathroom (I asked him, and in his child-innocence, he was just quoting another of his favorites from a movie he enjoys) and funny because there was no smell at all.

In case you haven't seen the movie yet, here's a youtube clip of the scene. The line is within the first 45 seconds of the clip. The rest of the movie is worth watching as well and has a great message.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

zoo much fun!

Yesterday, we headed to the zoo for some animal adventures and to check out the new elephant exhibit and visit some old favorites. Ben, confined to a stroller most of the time, was not a happy camper. He wanted to get out and run with his sister and brothers, but until I buy or make a harness for him (I saw several kids with this accessory yesterday), he's going to be tooling around in his stroller...for my sanity. :)

conflicting body language: what does Reese  really think of the Meercat exhibit?
touching a snake - last time these two helped hold a python!
here comes an elephant
My mom with Brie and Tim and Jack (my sister's family)
Ben's first train ride
This next series of photos are my favorite of the day:

"This turtle is...
...really. slippery"...
..."There! I think I got it."
"My brother cracks me up!"

"Now this is how you tame a plastic turtle:"

BTW...Reese chose this wardrobe especially for this trip. He referred to them as his "zoo clothes" (maybe because of the animals printed on them?) An outfit for every occasion.

Monday, May 9, 2011

swim.bike.run. training countdown

Training officially begins a week from today according to the 12-week plan I'm following. Let the countdown begin...

gifting love

One of the things I used to love doing was spending time thinking the perfect gift to give for a birthday or Christmas and creatively packaging it up. I especially went all out at Christmas and would even hold off putting on the gift tags until just before the gifts would be opened to keep the suspense up.

Then as we quickly grew our family to four children in just under six years, suddenly my planning and creating time became drastically reduced. And I hate the scramble that comes with realizing we're days away from the event and I need to find something to give and hope I have a not-too-crumpled or wrong-for-the occasion gift bag and tissue paper. For me, gift giving is about looking into a person's heart and choosing something that is just right for them. When I rush it or don't think the gift and packaging through, I feel a piece is missing from the gift. Perhaps they don't see it. But I do.

So I'm attempting to recommit myself to thoughtful gift-giving. This weekend I was challenged to come up with two gifts - one for a birthday party Luke was going to and the other for Mother's Day (I completely missed the boat on my brother-in-law's gift..grrr).

For the birthday gift, Luke selected a Care Bears coloring book, and I found this waterbottle craft (practical and fun!). Instead of traditional gift bag...I jazzed up a straw bag ($2.50 at Target):

To put the finishing touches on it I used the wallflower (to replace using tissue paper) and ruffle steamers tutorials from Dana's blog and painted a simple gift tag. Here's how it looked all put together:

Gifting time/special things to do together is one of my favorite things to give - it doesn't wear out or break and it's one of those things we always want more of but never have enough of. For my mom, I gifted a mother/daughter/granddaughter hike followed by high tea. Here's how I packaged the gift card:

Note: I also used the ruffle streamers technique to create the ruffle flowers for these gifts.

What are your favorite types of gifts to give? Do you have a special or favorite ways of packaging the gifts? Please feel free to share in the comments section. And happy gifting!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

finds: lemon verbena candle

I found this candle in Target yesterday, on sale (!). I love the freshness of the lemon scent and the extra bonus of environmentally friendliness of the soy wax. They have other scents and sizes too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


...I piled the kids into a shopping cart at Target and wheeled around gathering items for some party decorations, things to tuck in a birthday gift and loaded up on a few essentials

...we headed to the Nature Center to beat the rainy weather blues

....I laughed at the goodness of God when He helped us find our way to the Nature Center after a "road closed" sign (and no posted detour signs!) caused us to alter our route and guess our way there. I just "happened" to turn onto the one other road that goes right past the Center...Shepherd's Hill Lane!

...we enjoyed finding turtles, snakes, fish and crickets, pressed buttons on a light up map, crawled through a tunnel and into a kid-sized tortoise shell (the kids did these things :)), watched the river run under the lookout deck, savored maple sugar candies, played with puzzles, ran along the trails outside the center

...I laughed as I turned around to discover Ben sitting in a mud puddle because it looked like he deliberately chose to sit there

...the kids made new friends with children who are moving next door to us

...rejoiced at the return of the sun - it seems like ages since we've seen blue sky

from milk to real food

One of the greatest takeaways from my reading of Beth Moore's books and her Bible studies is the importance of memorizing scripture and declaring it  -out loud. I'm still working on the out loud part.

The memorization part is something I've been doing for a while and it's a discipline I've wanted to grow in our children. Ever notice how easily children can memorize their lines of their favorite books or movies and how they delight themselves in doing so? That's what I want for our children when it comes to the Living Word.

Two years ago, Beth Moore started a year-long Scripture Memorization Team on her blog. When she re-introduced it this year, I knew I wanted to involved my children somehow. This is what I came up with:

Inside this decorated infant formula can are 24 pieces of index cards (Beth has the SMT memorize two verses per month). Most cards have verses I selected from the Bible that I felt would be helpful to memorize. A few verses are from Brie's Missionettes class and a few are blank - awaiting new verses from Brie's class or my own additions.

Each day, our kids rotate who gets to choose the Bible verse for that day (I love this part since Ben, who's almost two, can participate and understands the thrill of getting to pick a verse). Then we read the verse at each meal of the day. If it's a new verse or kind of long, I sometimes read it twice.

And that's it. I figure if we do this (almost) every day for a year, then we should have a good number of those verses memorized, if not all of them. The best part is that the kids look forward to choosing the verse and often remind me that we need to pick one on the days that I've forgotten. :)

Making the container was simple, too. I used plain brown wrapping paper to cover the side of the formula can and cut a circle to tape on the inset of the can's lid (glue wouldn't stick to the plastic). I printed out the words on a label and then added a trim of 1/4" red rickrack.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

maxing out the memory

Maybe it's getting older, having several young children, juggling more than one thing in a day, or all these things combined, but whatever it is, I think I'm maxing out the short-term memory compartment of my brain most days. Yesterday was a prime example...

I decided to go to the gym in the morning to work out. Since the kids would be in the child watch room, I figured I would shower there instead of at home. Which, of course, means packing a few extra items.

After dropping off the kids, I headed to the locker room to store my things and take out my discman - only to discover I had left it at home but somehow managed to bring two locks with me. "No big deal," I think. I also realized I left my flip flops at home (those I prefer to use in the shower but also could do without).

Post-workout, I head for the locker room, grab my bag and head to the shower. Only to realize I hadn't thought to bring a towel or shampoo. And then I began to laugh at my total lack of preparedness and how I managed to leave home without the most essential piece of the shower-at-the-gym plan.

Anyone else have a moment or two like this?