Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Have a New Crush

Some books are such gems, I just have to tell everyone about them, including Lorelei's tennis coach as the kids take their water breaks, and the mom sitting next to me at lessons... and, and, AND... I really can't stop myself.  Last night, my small group became victim to my constant stream of book praise over my latest treasure (Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World, by Jill Rigby) and lending (last week's fave, Simplicity Parenting). This morning, my walking buddy, Leah, got to hear me raving about my new favorite parenting book yet again (the Jill Rigby book).  And here I go again, telling you on my blog about the books stacking up to be my most binding crushes, because I think you (everyone!) ought to know about them.

Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World has been a very convicting read, because sometimes I can be pretty self-absorbed (as if you didn't know).  I think a lot of people in my generation are, and the problem's only getting worse. Way worse. The author speaks to the perils of the self-esteem craze and emphasizes the importance of teaching kids, with faith in God, and enormous love, to be humble, gracious, compassionate and capable human beings. One of my favorite quotes, from pg. 75: "Kids don't need parents who make them happy. They need parents who will make them capable."  She has so many practical suggestions for how to do this that I've literally been copying page after page (it's a library book), building up materials for our everyday lives (like speaking blessings in prayer over my kids from the Bible--she offers a great list of scriptures) and for our family Kumbya nights (using a puzzle to teach kids about the borders God creates in our lives to help orient us to our calling, and then finding our special place as a piece within his master puzzle, which in turn helps others to find their places--beautiful!). She also has month by month suggestions for activities I'll be adopting for our family nights, once we finish dissecting our family motto each week.

The other books pictured above are ones I haven't read, but are next up on my list:
Raising a G-rated Family in an X-rated World
The Price of Privilege
Too Much of a Good Thing
Notice a theme? I think the idea of my kids going to school in Johnson County is stirring up some fears about the materialistic, entitled world around us.

Here are a few other parenting books I love (add Meg Meeker's classic, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Dr. Laura's In Praise of Stay at Home Moms, and Parenting With the End in Mind here, unpictured):
What Every Child Needs is a book I found in a thrift store, written by a leader in MOPs.  It is beautifully written, with loads of ideas and traditions to incorporate into your family life.  The book focuses on the different types of love children need, all separate chapters: security, affirmation, belonging, discipline, guidance, respect, play, independence, hope.  I can't praise this book enough--priceless, and I probably bought it for 25 cents.

God at the Kitchen Table and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families emphasize the importance of family devotions, which is something we've adopted once a week (our Camp Connelly Kumbya nights).  The 7 Habits book is an absolute treasure trove, and I usually have it open on my nightstand--family mission statements and shared visions, traditions that create unity, the sacred stewardship of family, how to push against the forces corroding families and homes. I'm crazy in love with this one!

7 Ways to be a Smarter Mom was written by a very inspirational woman I've become friends with, Kasey Johnson. I love this book because it offers so many practical suggestions for how to become a more efficient parent, and I've used it to create a cleaning schedule (inspired by hers) that has done wonders for the sanctuary and sanctity of our home.  I haven't read Good Night, Sleep Tight in awhile, but I remember it being very helpful when the kids were younger, and I may need to pull this one out again.

The next book I'm looking forward to reading is Loving Our Kids on Purpose, which my friend, Jennifer, recommended.  We're digging into this one, with the accompanying DVDs, in the fall when our small group branches out into a smaller small group with two new couples.  I've been skimming through this one, which is about modeling our parenting after our relationship with God, and teaching our kids the principles of being part of the Kingdom.  The book counters the interpretation that 'spare the rod, spoil the child' means we need to hit our kids to raise them properly.  We don't spank our kids (though let me tell you, I've been tempted!), and I'm hoping to learn more strategies for gentle forms of discipline from this book, which is based on the Love and Logic approach.
And my favorite kids' Bible of all time, which reveals how every story in the Bible is a symbolic tie to God's Great Rescue Plan, in the life of Jesus, is called The Jesus Storybook Bible.  I haven't interpreted the Bible as a whole literally or fundamentally ever since I was fairly young (despite having been taught to by most churches I've attended), because I think the books need to be seen for their specific genres, for their places in human history, and for their culmination in telling the BIG story.  I do have a great reverence for the book, but I worship God and Jesus, not the Bible itself--an important distinction.  I'm currently reading the whole Bible through systematically, and I can't ignore that there are some inconsistencies, problems with the origin tales (for instance, read closely the beginning chapters of Genesis, in which two conflicting tales of the creation of Adam are compiled together, preserved side by side--was he created as in Ch. 1, after vegetation, or before the vegatation, as in Ch. 2, and bigger question: does it really matter?), some very jarring stories (perhaps some perspectives of warrior cultures are present here?), and some tales (like Jonah) that are riddled with humorous hyperboles and strong symbolic motifs. That's not to say this applies to the compilation of books as a whole (again, genre is so essential, as well as research into how the books themselves were compiled), and it doesn't discount that I do believe many of the stories did happen, all miracles included.  It's just that all the above issues hinder my own ability to take it all in literally, word for word without error, or even believe that this was the original intent. I think the big, overarching picture--GOD'S RESCUE PLAN through his Son, JESUS CHRIST--is enhanced and made more stunningly clear when the Bible is interpreted as in this children's Bible: a beautiful, multi-dimensional love story of the Redeemer of the World, revealed through many flawed human beings by God over time, whose stories and inspirations are recorded in scripture.  To me, it all makes God and Jesus even more intimate, mysterious, wondrous, and yet accessible, somehow.  Enough about my soapbox views on Biblical interpretations.  All I want to say is that this is the best children's Bible I've ever encountered, and speaks well to the adult audience too--a true paradigm shifter, this beauty:
Just look at the gorgeous illustrations!
So to make a long story even longer, that's what I've been reading lately. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Whiskey Just After Breakfast

Lorelei's joined a Saturday morning music group, Whiskey Just After Breakfast. Gryffy sometimes plays along with egg shakers, or just clogs along with Mommy to the Irish jig tunes.
 We stumbled upon this jam session at Parkside Coffeehouse, and now it's our Saturday morning tradition.  The musicians slowly trickle in around 10:00--violins, mandolins, guitars, banjos, flutes, hammered dulcimers, bodhrans, Irish whistles, accordions, cello, bass, egg shakers. Lorelei plays single notes alongside them for a few songs, trying to keep the rhythm. Gryffy loves to shake and dance along.
 I think it's so great that they let Lorelei and Gryffin join in, because this is such a wonderful way for the kids to be surrounded by music, and to grow to really love it like all these fine folk musicians.
 After several songs, the kids run around the play area and explore with their imaginations for an hour, and then we all converge (with our Saturday morning Parkside Coffeehouse friends) in the gym for riding bikes (we bring the kids' bikes along for practice), kicking around a soccer ball, and playing frisbee.  It's such great family time together after Mommy's writing time (6-9:30 a.m., Panera Bread), and I can't imagine a better way to spend a morning with the people I love!


Our Kumbya theme for the past week has been "LETTUCE love one another." Daddy asked the kids to think of ways that we can show each other love, and they came up with some great ideas, like giving hugs 'n kisses, helping Mommy and Daddy, sharing toys, and writing "I love you" notes to each other.  These Prayer Pots are so much fun!
 We went swimming after our Kumbya, but on the way to the pool, Daddy ran inside the store and came out with beautiful roses, to show us all his love. We love you too, Mark/Daddy! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Little Mermaid

Guess who can swim?
Our little mermaid sprouted fins tonight!
Lorelei's always loved the water. She's just loved her water wings more. Something changed two nights ago, however, when we had our friends, the St. Peter family, over for dinner and a swim. When Lorelei saw Grace, also five, doing fancy, wingless tricks in the water, she mustered up some courage that we'd been trying to find all summer long. Two days later (tonight), during her first swim lesson with a neighbor girl named Maddy, Lorelei took the plunge! The movements aren't entirely graceful yet, and she tends to plug her nose and kick like crazy, but alas, Lorelei's getting around the pool! My heart's swimming for her.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Daddy Says He''ll Get Me Bunk Beds"

Golly, do I LOVE Lorelei's room! Everytime I step inside, I feel like I'm tiptoeing through a flowerbed and being bathed in sprinkles of spring rain. Do I ever LOVE this room!
 Lorelei, however, does not love her room. She thinks it's pretty enough, but she always wants to sleep in Gryffy's pirate bed. She doesn't like her bed. It's too ordinary. Gryffin's, you see, is a pull-out trundle, which is super fun for jumping on (which isn't strictly allowed) and for slumber parties. Lorelei wanted a special bed too, and confessed this to me yesterday while we were in the car:
"Mommy, I want a bunk bed. Daddy said he'd get me one, but if you ask him me might lie that he didn't say that."
Oh, really, thought I. So cunning you are, Lorelei.
But then I asked Mark, and apparently he had told her something of the sort, a very long time ago. He'd just thought she'd forgotten about it. Apparently, she'd thought he'd forgotten about the bunk bed conversation, too.
Now we're not at all about letting our kids have everything their little hearts desire, and in fact, we rarely buy them stuff. Most of what they have, clothes and toys, comes from grandparents. However, I've secretly been wanting a bit more space to be cleared in L's room, which a bunk bed would allow for beautifully, and Mark's been wanting Lorelei to start sleeping in her own bed. A promise is a promise--he did tell her she could one day have bunk beds, and the idea's actually growing on me...
Which leads me to the sad reality that this lovely room will soon be pushing up daisies... new bed, new walls to go with (more on that below), complete extreme room makeover.
Goodnight, Room.
 We're selling the bed, and sending a photograph of the prototype bunk we'd like Santa's Elves to reproduce with a letter to the North Pole. It should arrive predictably on Christmas. Meanwhile, Lorelei and Mommy will be completely redoing the beautiful walls (insert weeping) with the Claire Keane-inspired artistry from the interior of Rapunzel's tower in Tangled. LORELEI HERSELF WILL BE PAINTING many of the animals, plants, objects and floating lanterns on HER WALLS, with just a bit of help from Mommy. I know this is SO GREAT for her to be able to EXPRESS HER OWN ARTISTIC TALENTS in her room, which was something my parents let me do and something I've always wanted to allow my children the pleasure of as well, and so I just have to do it... I have to LET GO of the old to make room for the new room makeover.
But before we spend the next several months painting murals together on Lorelei's walls in preparation for Santa's delivery (assuming the elves find Lorelei's behavior satisfactory over the next several months--oh, how I love those little helpers' magical spying eyes), I have to give one last blog tribute to the room I love so passionately, and the poem I wrote for my girl that inspired it:

 Goodnight, Room.  Anyone need some barely used Pottery Barn bedding, a full mattress, or a white convertible crib/bed?

Mark's Band @ Park Place

Mark's band is really impressive: they've been rated the #1 band in Kansas City for many years running  (hey, I can brag--it's MY blog). But they usually only play for really upscale private events, which means we never get to see them... until tonight!
 Park Place in Leawood shut down its street for the K.C. All Stars block party with free face painting, balloon-making, bouncing fun. BPop, Grammy and Meg came, too. Gryffy's on BPop's shoulders, waiting for his face to be painted.
 The kids with their Grammy.
 This guy's incredible. He made Lorelei the pink bunny she'd requested, and Gryffin a Spiderman.
 The weather was stifling hot, so the kids spent lots of time splashing in the fountains while the grown-ups held their places in line.

 Lorelei wanted to be a cheetah.
 To go with his balloon, Gryffy chose Spiderman again.
 I had to do a double-take--they had me fooled for a real Spiderman and cheetah. That face painter is very talented.
 The kids loved dancing together to Daddy's music.
 Some of our friends came from small group to watch, but we never rounded up the troops for a photo. We did get a family one, though, which is a rare enough occurrence (as I'm always behind the camera).
The band made Mark get a portable keyboard to rock it out. He loves it. They had a major groupie--in diapers. So stinkin' cute. This little tot can dance.
 I think they're playing Lady Gaga Pokerface here. The kids missed this song, Lorelei's favorite! But I'm so glad we got to finally see them doing their thing. K.C. All Stars rock!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hometown Nazareth @ the Heartland CC

This year's VBS theme was Hometown Nazareth. I made the kids' no-sew costumes, and was so thrilled (and surprised) that they actually wore them! They were the only kids dressed up, but with all the volunteer Nazarenes, they thought dressing in character was pretty peachy.
 Mommy was on the performing arts team and got to sing & dance at the opening celebration every night. What a blast! The kids were so enthusiastic and even the parents had gone wild. Mommy probably got in about a month's worth of cardio every night between practicing and performing (and REALLY hamming it up, because I roll like that). Can you see how sweaty I am? Here are the kids on stage.
 After singing/dancing and a small skit, all the families huddled up in small tribes. Lorelei and Gryffy picked up the cards L's holding during one of these huddle ups with one of those little sticky gummy hands. The cards have directions for the kids to do something to serve:
"Set the table."
"Pour a glass of juice for your mom."
"Tell someone younger than you what they're really good at."
Brilliant ideas, all. Only I'm wondering where the "Clean your room" card is just now...
 After the "Hometown Huddle," everyone filed into the atrium to visit Nazareth for Fun & Games and to explore the Ancient Marketplace. The best part was that we could do everything at our own pace.
The church was transformed with stations set up in tents: Synagogue School, Food Market, Dye Shop, Bead Bazaar, Carpentry Shop, Farmer's Field, Olive Oil Shop, Rock Query, Woolery, etc. We would have had just enough time to explore them all during the week, but the kids had so much fun at the ones they did at the beginning that they just kept coming back.
All the volunteers were in character. Some had heard rumors of a man named Jesus, others had met Him. Some believed, others doubted. One little girl Lorelei's age told a Nazarene who'd never heard of Jesus, "But, you've got to learn about Him! He really loves you! You've just got to know Him!" How amazing is that?!
 Lorelei's making a skin cream with olive oil, peppermint oil, brown sugar, crushed sweet basil and rosemary. It smelled amazing, and the kids loved concocting their unique beauty blends.
 The kids even got to crush their own olives for oil.
 If you're wondering, Gryffy didn't break his nose. Lorelei said he had a bloody nose this morning, and so stuck a Spiderman band-aid on him to make it better. There was no such nosebleed, but I had to say I was amused by her creative story (LIE!) and at my boy's stubborn refusal to remove Spiderman. Maybe some of that olive oil will unstick it... Oops, didn't mean to spill that stuff on your face, Buddy... (Kidding-surely it'll fall off by the end of the week??)
 We could not get enough of the Food Market: honey, matzah, figs, raisins, grapes, pickles. Yummo!

Someone's got the munchies.
 My little Pooh Bear.
 The kids were like flies to the honey.
 This was definitely a favorite. Both the kids made necklaces.
 Lorelei insisted on only the smallest, most decorative beads. Daddy spent a good fifteen minutes trying to string them on the thread. Thankfully, Gryffy was happy with the big beads. Good picks, Buddy.
 Lorelei is fascinated with little things and collects them to the point of near-obsession. She's always had this little quirk, which drives me crazy sometimes (cleaning) but is also very adorable. She can find the smallest sequin in the middle of a grassy field (how ever does she spot it?!) and will be absolutely convinced she's stumbled upon long-lost treasure. Funny how the quirks that drive us batty can be among the very things we love most about our kids.
 These two cannot get enough of beads and pipe cleaners.

 Gryffy sticks out his tongue when he's deep in concentration. He's so stinkin' cute.
Here he is at the carpentry shop, tongue out again.
And again. Cutest little guy ever. That boy mushes up my heart. I love watching Mark work with him on their little wooden rolling sheep toy.
And our shining star, Lorelei, just has a way putting the twinkling in my eyes. She gets really intense, just like I did when I was her age. I love how she can focus and become swept away in the flow of what she's doing.
 This picture captures the joy on Lorelei's face--she is a truly creative spirit and loves working with her hands. 
I wanted to make one of these bags, but the kids were so swept away by other things that we never made it to the Dye Shop. I love that the church is giving these away with supplies to kids that need them.
 The kids never got around to the games until the very end--we're an artsy-fartsy family--but they loved picking pearls (marbles) out of the sea with their toes. Their friend, Katherine, joined them in the pool.
 It's been a really hot week here. VBS always falls on the most stifling week of the year, I swear it.
After the marketplace and games, the kids went to Mary's House for storytime and more songs while the parents heard a speaker and got to discuss how to build our families in faith. On the last night, the kids came in and surprised us by singing "This Little Light of Mine." Yeah, Gryffy's not too happy about being on stage again after his summer drama camp drama.
 Big Sister and Little Brother ended their last night of VBS at Orange Leaf. It's one of our favorite summer haunts. Buy stock.
 Looking cool with that band-aid, Buddy. Looking cool...