Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks

I love Thanksgiving.  The art of giving thanks, of living from a heart overflowing with gratitude, is the most powerful act of the human will.  Gratitude broadens the spirit, magnifies beauty, and glorifies its Creator.
"Gratitude to God becomes the Way in which He is remembered, for Love cannot be far behind a grateful heart and a thankful mind."
 We spent this Thanksgiving with family, hosted by Aunt Tenley and Uncle Art.  Cousin Chelsey flew out from California and joined us.  The food was delicious, and Gryffy couldn't wait to dig his fingers in.
A prayer of thanks before we feasted.
After the blessing, I read the story of our ancestors, William and Mary Brewster, and their journey on the Mayflower. I want to make sure that this story is never lost for generations to come, so this year I wrote it down as an ancestor story to read to the kids, and Lorelei is illustrating it.  We shared it with her class on Long Ago Day.  She was beaming when her teacher read it.  I love how she captures the first Thanksgiving.

We also made our favorite Thanksgiving craft, a chain-link anchor of our ancestors attached to a Mayflower.  Sixteen generations, from William and Mary Brewster down to Lorelei and Gryffy.
Kai grabbed Lorelei's hand.  She insisted on sitting next to her lil' cuzzie at the feast.  So sweet.
 I've got a really good man.  And I'm thankful for him!
I was in charge of the craft, which got me out of cooking (no complaints, here)!  All the kids wrote down what they were grateful for on leaves, and we made a Thankful Tree.  Here Renee is helping Emmy.
 I love how it turned out.  Down to Gryffy being grateful for the "Fs" in his name :)
 Those boys are buds.
 These cousins are so lucky to have each other--the girls and boys are very close in age.
 My family, the greatest joy in my life.
Earlier that morning, we watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade and baubled the tree.  The kids were delighted by the floats this year, especially Clumsy Smurf and Spiderman.
 Our small group is reading the Advent Conspiracy book and trying to focus more on Christ this Christmas.  I wanted to incorporate this into our tree, so I printed photos of Jesus and placed them in clear ornaments.  24 in all, to carry us through Christmas Eve and take us through the life of Jesus, with scripture references on the back.  Lorelei was fascinated by them, and recognized many of the stories she had studied in church.
This one may be my favorite:
 We put our Christmas music on shuffle and got to work!
 Gryffy didn't want to cooperate.  Notice he's not really hanging an ornament here?  (Yep, I stuck Papa Smurf in the tree so he would have to fetch it, making it look like he's hanging an ornament.)
 Lorelei, however, was delighted to do the job.
 Mr. Tubbins took a snuggle with Gryffy.  Look at the love there.
 My attempts at capturing our family photo:

 And before we let the Christmas season begin, a few words of thanks...
I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit's presence and witness in my life.  I've been untethered from Him for a while, blocked by unforgiveness.  And just this week, within minutes of extending mercy, I had another significant encounter with Him (in the form of a stranger who had Rhema words for me--she and I both recognized the gift of our meeting that morning, and neither of us had a dry eye. It was beautiful).  

I'm thankful for my husband, the steady force in my life.  For all the ways he helps out around the house, listens to my thoughts in the middle of the night, wrestles and plays with our kids and always, always gives them attention abundant.

I'm thankful for my Lorelei, the beautiful girl who cares so much about others.  She brings so much creativity to our home, working with her hands, coloring the world in rainbows, making things more lovely with her touch, her look, her toothless grin.

I'm thankful for my Gryffin John, the handsome boy who lives fully in joy, and sprinkles it abundant on everyone around him.  His imagination takes me everywhere, and stretches mine.  And he loves to laugh--it's his magic.  And I love those smiles.

I'm thankful for Mr. Tubbins, the snuggly little bunny who asks for nothing and yet gives so much.

I'm thankful for family, that God has placed us together to learn and grow together in the ups and downs and the all-arounds of life.

I'm thankful for our brave ancestors who birthed this country in freedom, fought in a Revolution and World War, faced accusers in a crucible and pioneered this land.

I'm thankful for America, and for all the amazing opportunities I've had to go beyond its shores.  My wings.


Walls for the wind and a roof for the rain.

Music; for senses that receive beauty and allow me to encounter God's brilliance.

For friends.  For our church family.  For the community here that I love.

For books and an insatiable hunger to learn.  For education.

And for many, many other (countless) blessings.  I breathe a prayer of thanks throughout my days, the constant prayer on my lips.  Thank you, God.  Because in gratitude, I find Him.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Ever since I put two turtle doves in the bird cage decoration, Lorelei has been in love with them.  So I put one in the "mystery bag" for her show-and-tell at school, and sadly it lost a wing.  Tonight, Lorelei repaired its damaged wing with a piece of paper and some tape, and has been carrying it everywhere with her.  And you know what she named it?


A dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.  And unawares, she names it Spirit.  I have goosebumps.

Tonight before bed, when she asked me to tell her a "mix-up story," which is one I make up on the spot, I told her a real story.

"Every time you pray, Lorelei, Spirit perches on your shoulder here, and listens.  Then, Spirit flies to heaven to carry your words to God, and returns to perch on your shoulder again, waiting for your next prayer."

(And if you're wondering about her nails, we did a manicure over the ledge of the bathtub tonight.  Each letter stands for something: "J" because L jumps so high; "R" because L runs so fast.  Gryffy wanted just the letters of his name, and lots of red.  He was mad I refused to paint all his nails red, so alas I gave the boy a pedicure--thank you, cold weather, for keeping my boy in socks!)

Elf on the Shelf Pajama Party

We came up with a new theme for this year's Santa Tea, an annual girls-only (+ Gryffin) tradition for Lorelei's class.  Instead of frilly dresses and finger sandwiches, we went for a mid-day slumber party to welcome the Elf on the Shelfs' migrations south from the North Pole.
We began with treats--snowman donuts and hot chocolate.
 And ran up and down the stairs playing in just about every room.
 And the girls watched Shrek the Halls, piled together with pillows and blankets like a real slumber party!
 When what to their wandering eyes did appear?  It's Santa Claus!
 They ran to the window and flew like a flash!
 Ho-ho-ho!  (Doesn't BPop make the best Santa Claus?)
 He read "Elf on the Shelf" to the girls, then passed out their own elves to take home. They'll be watching all December to see whether they are naughty or nice, and reporting back to Santa every night.
 I know my kids will always treasure this special tradition.  Lorelei has thrown a Santa party for the girls in her class now for three years in a row.  I can never get over the look in their eyes when Santa makes his surprise appearance!
 Those impish little elves!  There was green pee in the loo, T.P. on the tree (is that elf laughing at me?!)...
 ... and another elf ziplining in the dining room.
I love making special memories for my kids.  Their joy is so contagious.  How blessed I am to be their mom!
Thanks, BPop, for trekking all the way down from the North Pole to visit our humble abode.  The kids could not stop talking about how much fun they had at their party today, and how good they promise to be for their elves!  It definitely put a sugarplum sparkle in their eyes!

Monday, November 14, 2011

All she wants for Christmas?

...Her two front teeth.  (Not really.  She's already written a very long list for Santa.  She also wrote Gryffy's.)
But wow, this girl has lost her two front baby teeth within a week!
 Lorelei was in the bathtub when it happened.  She said Gryffy helped it to fall out when he squirted her with water??  Not sure how it went down (I was just outside the bathroom when it happened), but I think when she cringed at the water in her face, her tongue pushed out her tooth.  She hadn't been trying to loosen it then, so it came as quite a surprise!
 Lorelei puts her teeth in this little ceramic case for the Tooth Fairy, then leaves this beneath her pillow.  It was a gift from her cousins Maura and Sam when she was born, along with a small case for her first curl.
 Flouridina Flossprite was off duty tonight, so Cuspid took over.  Notice the different handwriting in the note?  He's not as graceful and tidy as the last Tooth Fairy, but he left the standard loot: golden coins and marshmallow teeth.
 And I have to record the quote of the day, compliments of Lorelei:
Lorelei: "Mommy, I have a freckle on my hand and it will never go away."
Me: "I know, Honey.  That's how you know it's your left hand.  It's an angel's kiss!  I have lots of freckles, one on my finger, this one here on my face."
Lorelei: "Just like a witch!"
And another record: tonight, Lorelei finished her Awana's book.  And she's retained ALL of the verses, which is the most important thing.  When they announced it to the group, she was beaming!  And what a smile!
As for Gryffy, his Awanas teacher tonight made a point to tell me he was doing very well participating in every part of club.  I was worried because he didn't used to be too cooperative, but that boy is making big strides.  He loves his Awanas Club now, too! 

The Repenting Bench

There's been some bickering in the Connelly household lately.
"Mommy, Gryffin pushed me!"
"Worwelwei took my Jack Sparwow!"
Usually these kids get along great, don't get me wrong.  They love each other to pieces.  But sometimes, I need a strategy to deal with the little rows that disturb the peace. 
 When I read about the Repenting Bench in The Entitlement Trap, I knew we needed one.  So we did a Kumbya Camp Out on what the Repenting Bench is--a place to go to resolve conflict peacefully and avoid punishment.  And then we role played how to use it.
Mommy and Daddy got in a fight over the Puss In Boots toy.  Both fighting parties were benched.  They had to make peace by:
1. Admitting what THEY did to contribute to the fighting.  It takes two to tango, and pointing fingers at the other person is forbidden here.
2. Saying sorry.
3. Hugging.
They aren't dismissed until all three steps are taken.  Even if their butt cheeks are going numb.
 We roasted our s'mores and spent more time with our special new bench.  Gryffy loves it.  He was thrilled today when I painted it red, his favorite color (we bought the bench at HomeGoods).
 S'mores and Reeses=gooey goodness.
 Lorelei thrives on this stuff.  She loves having systems in our home that make our lives easier and are unique to our family.  And I love that my kids are working out their own problems, because it's their responsibility.  And I'm handing it over. :o)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Flouridina Flossprite (a.k.a. the Tooth Fairy)

Lorelei's been wiggling and jiggling her baby teeth ever since the dentist told her two were loose last month, and all this week, one of them has been hanging on by a thread.  L was deliriously excited to pluck it out, and ran to our bed late tonight with Gryffy to tell us it was time!  She tried to do it herself--fail.  I got the video camera out and asked her to let me try--fail.  She got really nervous, so I said "Joshua 1:9," to which she said, "Be strong and courageous."  And boy, was she!  Daddy turned off the camera--fail--and no less than a minute later, I gave that front incisor its final yank!
And now the tooth is tucked snugly under her pillow, beckoning the Tooth Fairy's examination...
 Miniature letter in fairy scrawl--check!  Marshmallow teeth--check!  Gold coins--check!  And of course, a smidge of fairy dust under the pillow.
Can't wait to see that girl's toothless grin in the morning!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hallowe'en 2011

It was the eve of the eve of All Hallow's Eve, when witches and warlocks and... smurfs... converged in the woods.  The annual Windham Park neighborhood Halloween parade was about to begin.

 Papa Smurf thinks that when he hides his eyes, others can't see him.
 This little girl was captivated by Lorelei.  Or maybe it was the blue face. 
 The kids had to get a picture with our neighbor, Jack.  They play constantly.  I'm so glad to have great neighbors with kids on our cul-de-sac.
 Here's L with Anna-Banana from up the street.  Lorelei literally thinks that's her name.
 Their proud Daddys.  They're buds.
 It was a beautiful night for some early tricks and treats at the park.
 We had our family Kumbya on the eve of All Hallow's Eve.  While we Skyped with Grandma and Grandpa Connelly, Kayla and Tyler, in Canada, we did our pumpkins.  Gryffy insisted on these Woody and Buzz pumpkin pokers from Target.  He had been rearranging them on his pumpkin all day.  We use these every year before the carving begins.
 The kids are responsible each year for designing the pumpkin on the computer.  
 Mommy draws the design from the screen onto the pumpkin, and carves away!  Daddy always gets scared watching Mommy wield her knife.
 The best part: ooey, gooey pumpkin guts!
Our Kumbya Lesson (thanks, Tasha!): You are like a pumpkin. God lifts you up, takes you in, and washes all the dirt off you. He opens you up, touches you deep inside and scoops out all the yucky stuff--the seeds of doubt, despair, comparison and unforgiveness. Then He carves you a bright new smiling face and puts His light inside you to shine for all the world to see. ~Anonymous 
 Striking a match!
 We spent Halloween morning at Lorelei's school party and parade.  Here are some of the moms that pulled it all together.  I love the half day moms--they're really involved at the school and many stay at home.  Which means lots of extra playdates after school at Deanna Rose park.  And one of these fabulous moms has planned a weekend spa getaway at a lodge this December for the soccer moms from L's old team.  T-shirts, coozies and all.  Can't wait!
 I'm the class photographer, so I lined up the little monsters for some smiles...
 ... and sillies.
 As they paraded classroom to classroom, Lorelei and Gryffin went hand in hand.  Daddy also got to party with us that day.  Lorelei loved having the whole Smurf family at school.
 Best part of the day?  The dance party!
 Halloween night crept up on us (don't mind the mess in the background--Brainy glasses, Awanas guidebook, cooking supplies for a dinner with friends, video camera, treat bags, and a bag of cupcake ingredients for an upcoming article).
All this mess made the family go blue in the face.
 Getting ready to go trick-or-treating at 6 o'clock.  We were the first ones out, but we had an Awana's carnival to get to that night, too!
 Our nice next-doors, Steve and Jo.  They usually have a car wreck in their driveway, but Steve hurt his shoulder this year, which put him in the shop instead of his cool car.
 We mostly neglected our trick-or-treaters.  Notice the porch lights are out?  But since Daddy passed up playing with his band at a Chiefs football game (in which the Chiefs won in overtime, by the way), it was kind of a no-brainer that Brainy Smurf wanted to tag along with his little smurflings.  Brainy had his priorities straight that night--while a lot of other dads were indoors watching the game, and Daddy could have been right there and been paid to do it, he chose his family first.  Touchdown!
 The scariest house on the block goes to the Olm-Shipmans, who are insane about Halloween.  We love it!
 We had to remind the kids to say thank you a few times, so I came up with a strategy.  I told Lorelei that she needed to say thank you, and then tell me the eye color of the person she said it to.  And she looked every last one in the eye.  I'm sure they were wondering why she was yelling "blue" and "brown" as she left with her bag of candy.  Gryffy was getting better at doling out thanks by the end, and had a very adorable "twick-or-tweat!" to offer.
 The rest of the night was spent door-to-door with Anna-Banana.  We loved seeing all the neighbor kids running around, getting spooked.  Because being scared is oh so fun.
Happy Halloween!