Friday, August 31, 2012

Latest Article: Teens Who Volunteer

I had a great assignment for August: spotlight four local teens who volunteer.
 I loved the creativity of these kids putting their talents to use in ways that truly bless others.  
And the idea of volunteering more (outside of just our church) has been nagging at me lately.

Over the summer, I sat with the McKenna family at dinner and listened to them tell exciting tales of volunteering in orphanages in Haiti, a place that has stolen their heart.

Our friends, the Heinauers, have loved bringing their kids along for the past year to volunteer at the Hope Center, and they also took a couple's vacation to volunteer at Castaway summer camp.

This week, as I was on FaceTime with my dear friend, Ian, in England, I got so excited listening to work he's beginning for African orphanages, watching his face light up at the idea of helping kids who had nothing.  He's donating the proceeds of the Brighton Book Festival, which he runs, to this cause.

Yesterday, at Gryffy's preschool, I was talking to a dad & Westside Church pastor, John Huber, who just got back from Haiti and is soon on his way to Thailand and India on missions.  I can't wait to pick their brains about this over dinner next month!

And last night, I came across a picture of a boy I've met who was left, half dead, as a baby on the doorstep of an orphanage in Africa (the orphanage--Energy of Hope--was run by a girl in her twenties--amazing story!)... he now lives with her in the states, where he's thriving.  He (Elton) and his friend, Lucia, are making tie-dye shirts to give to people who donate money for food.  $35 = 80 meals.

And while we can only support causes like this from afar for now (given the age of our kids--someday I'd love to take them on a missions trip), there are some things we can do to engage in our own community.

 For awhile now, Lorelei and I have been talking about an idea we've had for some time: having violin concerts at a nursing home. She puts all this effort into practicing everyday, and has been playing now for two and half years (enough to build up some confidence and know she's pretty darn good).  So today, I called Rose Estates, and we're putting some dates on the calendar.  Maybe Mark will tickle some ivories while we're there, too.  And Gryffy, well, he's the master of hugs.  I'm glad we've cleared some space on our calendar this year, and now have the chance to fill it up with efforts that take us beyond ourselves.  Our faith teaches us to care for orphans and widows and to visit the lonely, so we're going to put it into practice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Queen Bees and Wannabes

The first week and a half of school has been pretty smooth... except for recess.
Every single day, Lorelei came home upset that girls were leaving her out and telling her that she couldn't play with them.  And though I knew better than to interfere, it broke my heart for her.
I realized how much this upset me last night, Parent Night at Gryffy's preschool.  When one of Lorelei's wonderful past teachers asked how she was doing, I began to mention what was going on... 
and then I teared up.  
I started thinking about the things we learned this year in Princess Power Training.
How to deal with bullying (from Miss Teen Kansas, who was mercilessly bullied herself).
That beauty is really spelled be-YOU-ty, and how it radiates from the inside when we are filled with love and kindness.

How we have a safe, welcoming place at Heartland Church and within our home, our sanctuaries...
 ... where we can be goofy and gorgeous all at the same time.
That we are there for each other, mothers and daughters looking out for each other...
 ... because we're all daughters of the King.  And our job is to remember Whose we are...
... letting our lights shine to remind others Whose they are, too.
I'm so grateful for this amazing experience with Lorelei and so many wonderful friends in the spring, and it made me want to gear up and do it all over again (and we will, next spring).  I want to make it as relevant as possible to what these girls, sadly, have to deal with.  
Yes, even in first grade.
Today at the library, I picked up this book.  I'm hoping to learn more about the culture of cliques so that I can equip my daughter with what to do when queen bees sting:
And finally today, a good report. Lorelei came home from school and wanted to draw a picture of recess. It was all smiles. She found two nice girls to play with, along with our neighbors, Jack and Charlie. Here's Lorelei (middle) with her friends, Isa and Lauryn.
I love this.  It makes me want to emphasize to Lorelei how important it is to reach out to others, to stick up for that kid everyone else picks on because she knows how it feels to be left out, too.  How no one can make her feel inferior without her consent (to steal a line from Lady Eleanor herself).
Lulu Belle, I'd like to wish all your problems away, but I know you'd never grow so strong and compassionate without adversity.  Keep shining your sweet light into the darkness.  I'm so proud of you.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friends, Games & Bubbles

Our dear friends, the Anderson family, came to town on their way through Kansas City.  The kids had fun getting caught up at Deanna Rose. Lorelei and Hannah, the oldest of the crew, first met here at Deanna Rose when Lulu was only four months old, and Hannah was a few weeks old.  The beginnings of Totley Crew.

While Lorelei's been in full day school (which so far is going great), Mommy and Gryffindor have been spending oodles of time together in the last days of his summer vacation... more Deanna Rose, park visits, mile long walks hand in hand, Chick-Fil-A lunches, My Gym open gym, multi-generational lunch with Grammy Great and Grammy... it's been fun times.  We ran into G's classmate and soccer mate (and neighbor), Dylan, on one of our morning walks, and he invited us to a park/Funky Mama concert.

 We found a circle of logs, told scary stories and roasted pretend marshmallows.  G's blowing out the fire on his!  We were having so much fun that a bunch of other kids joined our little campfire gathering and roasted s'mores with us.  I love time with my boy... the second one rarely gets this much attention, so it's been great for us!  One of our favorite activities each day is Book Worm time... we get out our library books, munch on a gummy worm, and read together.  We do it again when Lulu gets home from school, for her reading time.
 But our favorite time is when everyone's home.  Tonight was Friday night game night with our new favorite, Yahtzee Jr. Disney Edition.  And the couch is all set up for our weekend (Fri. & Sat.) slumber parties in the living room and a movie (Smurfs).
Yahtzee's a great game because Lorelei practices adding up multiple numbers to total all our scores, and Gryffy is learning graphing and matching skills.
 The kids get serious about shaking dice.
 And with birthday parties coming up, we've been making our favorite gift in bulk: giant (HUMONGOUS!) homemade bubble mix and bubble wands.
We think our friends will love them.  And I'm glad we don't have to scramble around wondering what to buy, because what could be more fun than gigantic bubbles?  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gryffy's Activities

For so long, it seemed like Gryffy had been following Lorelei around from one activity to another.
But now that Gryffy's older, it's his turn to sign up.
And so he began his first lessons: Fencing.
The boy is a natural, and I knew fencing was right up his alley.
After all, he is a pirate.
 And a jedi.
The class was six weeks long. Gryffy got tired a few times and laid down (on the days he naps, it's during this time). But he told me that he likes fencing.  "Mommy, those are good to do sword fighting."
 I wonder if being left-handed gives him an advantage.
Catches the opponent off guard when he's en garde.

 Love the heel toe motion here. It's how they're supposed to engage forward.
 Feet perpendicular.  Looking good, Gryff!

 His last lesson was this week, but he still practices with his light sabers on a daily basis.
I have a feeling this won't be our last round of sword fighting.
The boy's going to be a stunt devil when he grows up--he loves to fall and somersault all over every yard when we go on walks and will find just about anything to use as a sword for battle.  No fear in this little guy, unless there's a monster in his room, of course. (He sleeps in Lorelei's top bunk every night.)
 Now that fencing's over, Gryffy's gearing up for soccer.
That boy's been begging to play.  It was all his idea.
Notice that little net there?  After Mark and I spent a good long hour trying to fold that bugger back up with all its twisty turns and tucks, we took it back to the store.  We looked like such idiots trying to watch the guy on YouTube fold it about a hundred times with effortless ease.  
 We asked Lulu if she wanted to play soccer again.
That girl has zero interest.
I'm honestly glad, because I don't like the idea of running from game to game on Saturdays.
 I love watching Mark teach Gryffy how the game is played. Poor kid's about to do the splits.
 After about five minutes of playing, the kids were ready for the park.
We're going to have to work on that whole endurance thing.
On our family hike this week, we noticed Lorelei had a lot more endurance than the rest of us, which is not usually the case. And then it hit me--she's been riding her bike everyday after school around and around the cul de sac.
Our first soccer game is this weekend, and Gryffy's friend, Dylan, is on the team.
Give it all you've got, Gryff!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Forgiveness--What it is, what it's not.

Daily I pray to God for wisdom, because I know his promise is to give it generously to those who ask, without finding fault. And God gently has been revealing to me that gaining wisdom is contingent on my ability to forgive, a path that has vexed me for a very long time, especially in the past year. My ego would trick me into thinking I’ve got this baby down, and eagerly state its case: I don’t dredge up past offenses (not openly, but oh how they boil inside of me at every new sting), I don’t speak openly about what happened (but the reel of memory remains fixated on it), and I have extended generous amounts of mercy (yes, ego exchanging cruelty for mercy--he loves to twist things, doesn’t he)?
God, in His infinite illumination, has taught me this: ego and forgiveness can never coexist, because Forgiveness-to-Destroy misses the mark entirely, is deplete of love, and wholly forsakes Christ.
I came across this passage from A Song of Prayer last night before bed:
Forgiveness-to-destroy has many forms, being a weapon of the world of form.  Not all of them are obvious, and some are carefully concealed beneath what seems like charity.  Yet all the forms that it may seem to take have but this single goal; their purpose is to separate… First, there are the forms in which a “better” person deigns to stoop to save a “baser” one from what he truly is.  Forgiveness here rests on an attitude of gracious lordliness so far from love that arrogance could never be dislodged.  Who can forgive and yet despise?  And who can tell another he is steeped in sin, and yet perceive him as the Son of God?  Who makes a slave to teach what freedom is?  There is no union here, but only grief.  This is not really mercy.  This is death.
Wow, Holy Spirit.  Guilty as charged—but then, there is no condemnation in you, because you are the Source of forgiveness!
True forgiveness never separates from the Union of the Spirit and the love of Christ—it’s never arrogant nor self-seeking, but always trusting.  True forgiveness is Communion.  It’s Namaste—the Christ in me recognizes the Christ in others, laying all illusions aside, nailing them to the cross.  Forgiveness is nothing short of Jesus’ call to us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind… you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Christ cannot be revealed in one and missed in another.  Christ cannot be revealed in me if I miss Him in my brother.  Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, for giving and receiving are one in Truth.
Forgiveness-for-salvation has one form, and only one.  It does not ask for proof of innocence, nor pay of any kind.  It does not argue, nor evaluate the errors that it wants to overlook.  It does not offer gifts in treachery, nor promise freedom while it asks for death.  Would God deceive you?  He but asks for trust and willingness to learn how to be free.  He gives His Teacher to whoever asks, and seeks to understand the Will of God… You, child of God, the gifts of God are yours, not by your plans but by His holy Will.  His Voice will teach you what forgiveness is, and how to give it as He wills it be.  Do not, then, seek to understand what is beyond you yet, but let it be a way to draw you up to where the eyes of Christ become the sight you choose.
Oh Lord, be thou my Vision.  And help me to forgive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Holey Molars & Believing God

We had our third fairy visit of the week. Carie Flutterfilling had dusted herself over the debt crisis in the fairy realm brought on by Lorelei's lost teeth.
 I love how she can't pronouce her "th" anymore.  It all comes out as "f".  As in, "I lost another toof!"
 Let's have a dental recap of this week...
Saturday--what a precious gummy grin!
The tooth fairy had to visit Lulu downstairs since the kids have a couch slumber party on weekends, which meant I had to wake her super early. Once she saw the loot, I had to whisk her upstairs and make room for my "Believing God" girls.  It was our last 7am meeting of the summer.
I have absolutely loved spending Saturday mornings with them (Lisa, Tasha, Leah & Jena) for the past ten weeks! It all just started with us standing around at a tailgate, feeling like we all wanted to have some fellowship to bide the summer but not knowing where to find it.  Ten minutes into the conversation, and we had a time picked out and a DVD series (compliments of our Women's Ministry Leader, Lori) in hand. I love spontaneity! We rotate homes and watch DVDs that go along with intensive homework. We've grown so much together through tears and laughter.  I love these ladies so much!
Just so I won't forget, here's our Shield of Faith:
1. God is who He says He is
2. God can do what He says He can do
3. I am who God says I am
4. I can do all things through Christ
5. God's Word (Holy Spirit) is alive and active in me
I'm believing God!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

First Day, First Grade!

It's here. As in, the big one.  Full day, first grade.
And I'm so excited for this girl!
 On Tuesday, we arrived promptly at four o'clock to steal a peek at the class list. Beforehand, I had asked Lulu, "If you could pick any five kids from last year to be in this year's class with you, who would they be?" She got three out of five! Seeing as how there are three first grade classrooms, that's not too shabby. There are also four kids from Heartland Church in L's Heartland Elementary class, and she sits next to one of them, a super nice boy named Ty.
Thanks, Mrs. Lien!  I think Lorelei and Mrs. Brahl will be very pleased with this year's mix. :o)
Here are Lulu with sisters Hannah and Chloe (their mom, Stacey, is a friend of mine from a writer's conference I attended three years ago... after being a critique partner and a fellow writer for KC Parent, she's now a neighbor, too).  Lorelei and Hannah still aren't in the same class, but we're holding out hope for next year!
 Lulu and Bree.
 Lulu about to meet her first grade teacher, Mrs. Brahl!  We've heard wonderful things about this teacher, and this year is particularly special because, according to the lady next to me at this morning's PTO muffins for moms meeting, next year Mrs. Brahl is retiring.  So I hope this year will be every bit as magical for Mrs. Brahl as it will be for Lorelei.
 On ice cream social night, Lorelei was thrilled to see her babysitter from across the street, Katherine, serving up ice cream! The kids beg for us to go on dates just so they can see Katherine.
 The mermaid costume was a gift from Grammy. Lorelei wouldn't take it off, so she went to ice cream social night dressed like a fish. We pick our battles.
 Lulu's two front teeth were super loose this week.
 And on the morning before school began, she was eating a fruit roll-up when I noticed something funny about her smile... she was toothless!
Ginger Vitis was last night's tooth fairy.

But Ginger wasn't the only fairy to visit last night!  The Frizzle Fairy (a.k.a. Backpack Fairy, who last year finally revealed her true identity as the beloved Miss Frizzle) had stuffed Lulu's backpack with the usual trinkets and a note.
"Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" - Frizzle
 Lulu especially loved the tattoos, and requested one on her arm after this morning's hot pink & glitter manicure.
As usual, photos by the Who-Ville Tree.  I love the poses.

While we sometimes go a teensy bit overboard on all our traditions (which, by the way, the kids look forward to religiously--they can't wait for special days), we don't go so overboard on back to school shopping. I ordered L's supplies through the school, because I'm all about keeping it simple. And the backpack's from last year. As for clothes, she got two new t-shirts, and Grammy bought her a few new leggings. As we sorted through her closet, we realized she had more than enough. So why get more? 
Gryffy wasn't in the mood for photos before school, hence the face.
 But someone was wildly excited! It's like the picture of us pulling up to Disney World this month!
 My sweet girl. She is such a joy.
 Here's Mrs. Brahl. You can just tell by looking at her that she loves teaching and that she's wonderful at her job.
 Oops. The teacher caught me!
 Saying the pledge to our nation's flag. I love this tradition.
 I got to spend the day with this handsome man.

 We played at the park...
 ...and visited Deanna Rose...

 ...and the library (yeah, check out the title of that book--hilarious!)...
 ...and had Gryffin School, which included Bookworm Time (reading with a gummy worm snack) and coloring time. "Zoda", G's favorite from Star Wars.
 Let's hope she's still whistling a happy tune at pick-up time! It's 2:30, and Little Buddy and Mommy are sure missing this sweet girl!  One hour to go until our after school tradition--cookies!  No-bakes, as we listen to our smart cookie tell us all about her big girl day!
Update: Lulu loves first grade! The details were a bit hazy, but I got something about coloring, taking a picture with a sign with a 1 and stars on it, and that tomorrow's classroom will be covered in clouds and glitter. Yeah, cloudy with a chance of glitter. About as accurate as the weatherman, but so far, things are looking sunny!