Thursday, July 28, 2011

Circle of Friends

I am just in heaven right now, after spending a most lovely morning with some amazing women who, after four years of being in a playgroup together, I am honored to call my friends. 

We were few in numbers today, but it was almost all of the "original members", so it made it more intimate.  Finally, we are at a point where our children can really play independent of us Moms for long periods of time.  So, we were able to sit back and share stories as we partook of fresh-made salsa and homemade bread, fresh out of the oven.

Life as we know it is about to change soon, as we'll see our babies off to all-day Kindergarten for the first time this fall (all except Jenn, whose son went last year).  So, it was neat to pause and recognize the moment, to wonder at how we arrived at this point in our lives, and for me, to acknowledge all of the amazing things that I have learned from these friends (some who are not pictured here)...and how they have enriched my life and my experience as a Mother.

I will forever be thankful to my friend Lisa Tranquillo who took the time to notice me at the library one day, and acted on what I'm sure was a prompting, to stop what she was doing, to invite me, a perfect stranger, new to the area, to join this new playgroup that she and others were forming.  She is such an example to me of reaching out to and caring for others.

It has truly been a special pleasure for me to share Thursday mornings with you, and homemade meals after babies were born, and potty-training stories, and embarrassing moments while grocery shopping, and all of those other wonderful experiences that come with being a Mom.

I love each one of you!  
Here's to the next chapter!

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Growing Up

CareCub and the Mousies have been really hogging the blog lately, so I have one last post about our lovies to share with you and introduce you to Scarlett's special companion:  Her White Tiger, who we often refer to as "Ty-gee".  And yes, we have tons of photos of Scarlett with her little friend too!

After posting photos of Care Cub's restuff here on my blog, I noticed how flat-chested the other children's animals had become, so we took the morning to liven them up a bit.

The girls were all too happy to help out...and Guy had to get in on the act as well. He insists that Care Cub could also use another tune-up.

The end result is smiles all around, and joyous celebrating for the recharge of their little friends.

This summer has been all about learning how this whole growing up thing works...discovering what lies ahead of us in this journey of life.  So it is no surprise that this little book found its way into my hands at a used book sale last week.  

The illustrations caught my eye first, but when I brought the book home, it was the story that I fell in love with.

It is the simple story of what it means for children who are about my kids' age to begin to grow up and how to take joy in that experience, because now there are more things they can do, more opportunities to help, new adventures to explore, that couldn't be done when they were smaller.  

And boy have my girls been growing up this summer! Just yesterday, while I was sick, Scarlett took it upon herself to take out the kitchen trash!  Girl, what are you doing?  You are four! But she did an awesome joy and thought of it all on her own.  I expressed to her that her thoughtfulness and willingness to take on a big job like that to help me out was a sign that she was growing up.

I just love a good children's book.  They have been ever-so-helpful to me as I have taught my children these last five years (going on six)!

I've heard that the Kindergarten teacher/class assignment letters are going in the mail tomorrow should be a big day for us.  We'll be camped out by the mailbox all morning!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

a Life Lived for Others

Ever since my first experience in service boot camp, the fortune cookie has become my personal symbol of service to others.

I am always secretly on the lookout for fortune cookies to use as special reminders to myself of what I want to do with my life.  

Our family received these fortunes recently while eating at a local Chinese restaurant.  I liked the fourth fortune so much (which is generally attributed to Albert Einstein) that I asked Erin at Insane Jellyfish Designs to make my own version of it into a bracelet.

I'm so happy with the way that it turned out, and it couldn't have arrived at a better time.  I am not feeling well today (flu-like symptoms), and feeling crummy doesn't really inspire me to be extra pleasant to my children.  As I was trying to photograph the bracelet, Guy hurt his hand when an expandable flashlight he was playing with snapped back and whacked him.

Instead of being annoyed that he wanted my attention--yet again--I just held him and let him cry it out.  See...the bracelet is working already!  :)

Have some magic words that you'd like to have made into a personal reminder?
Erin at Insane Jellyfish Designs is your gal!!!

Thank you, Erin!

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Just 30 Days

You might have noticed that I like to do things in 30 day increments:  30 Days of Service Boot Camp, 30 Days for the Family Proclamation, 30 days of Christmas Crafting, and 30 Days to Read The Book of Mormon.  

30 days just seems like a nice neat way to accomplish a goal. It's long enough to create a habit, and short enough to be able to see an end in sight.  

My husband Steve brought this talk to my attention, about the wisdom of trying new goals out for 30 days.  I totally agree.  Watch the message above.  It's only 3 minutes long.

Then tell me...What would you like to do in the next 30 days?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Be a Bucket Filler

I found the most amazing book at Border's last week.  It is ranking in my top five books for teaching children about life.  Actually, at the moment, I cannot think of another book that lays out how to be happy and get along with other people in simpler terms than this book does.

It is called "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" by Carol McCloud.  Perhaps you've heard of it.

The book teaches kids that everyone has an invisible bucket that they carry around with them.  It holds your good thoughts and feelings about yourself. 

When it is full, you feel happy and good about yourself.  When it is empty, you feel sad.

When we fill someone else's bucket, they feel good, and so do we, because we are filling our own bucket with good feelings at the same time.

The book also mentions being a "bucket dipper".  Anytime that we are mean to or ignore others, we are being a bucket dipper, instead of a bucket filler.  People who are bucket dippers usually have empty buckets themselves and think that by dipping into other's buckets they will be able to feel good about themselves, but that never works.

I am so impressed with this simple analogy.  My kids latched on to it right away.  It's even a great mantra for adults to remember.

There is a whole organization built around this story of kindness to others.  You can see all that they have to offer at BucketFillers101.

Now you guys know that I love children's books...especially Christmas and Easter stories.  Well, I wanted to let you know that right now is an excellent time to order books for those holidays, because it's sort of the "off-season" right now.  Books that I have seen at exorbitant prices are now pretty cheap.  "A Small Miracle" is now ridiculously cheap and coming out in paper back in September.  (Previously, it had been out of print...sorry, Sue!)  And with Border's going out of business, they will have some great liquidation sales!  Just thought I'd let you know!

Now if you are looking for a great summer party idea, involving pirates, shipwrecks, and mayhem, then check out my guest post at Or So She Says today!

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Monday, July 25, 2011

What Is Real?

Last November, this is what Guy's special "Care Cub" looked like.  Blankie, Care Cub, and Guy.  The three are quite the team.  But after four years of love, Care Cub was looking more than a bit deflated.  He'd been hugged around the neck so often by Guy that all he could do was flop around.

Care Cub with "Old Blankie"
So Guy and I opened Care Cub up on a seam where he had already come apart and re-stuffed him.  A process that Guy found very enjoyable.  I have also sewn a new nose on Care Cub over the years and glue-gunned his left eye back on at least twice.

Recently, Guy has stopped me in the middle of reading him a book or watching a show and asked,"Is that real, Mommy?"

Each time I have taken his question seriously.  Is this real?  or Is this true? is a question that many of us ask about life in general.

This weekend, we received news of the death of a friend from high school.  I say friend, because he was everybody's friend.  Everyone loved him and he loved everyone.  He was good and kind with an infectious laugh, gorgeous eyes, and a smile for everyone.  It is no wonder that his classmates elected him Homecoming King 3 out of 4 years.

It has many of us wondering:  What is real?

What is this life all about if someone so beloved can be taken so soon and so abruptly?

I want to tell my friends what is real.

Love is real.

Kindness is real.

Family is real.

True friendship is real.

Life is real.

Death is real.

But death is temporary.  It is a momentary separation.  We do not stop existing when our last breath is taken.  Just as we do not stop caring about the person who has been taken by death from our lives.

Love continues, kindness continues, family and friendship continue...because these things are real.  These things are true.  

For those who are wondering what has become of our dearly departed friend, I say:  The spirits of all men--as soon as they are departed from the mortal body--are taken home to that God who gave them life.

And--when the time is right--each one of us will be resurrected, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We will be healed of the abuses that we suffered in this life.  We will be lovingly "restuffed" by Our Creator who loves us so very much.  Our spirit will be reunited with our physical body, never to be separated again.  And in our flesh, we will see God.

Rest in peace, my friend.  Until we meet again...

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

"The courage to live my dream..."

Scarlett and Me enjoying some Penn State Creamery ice cream after the conference.
The writing workshop that I taught at Youth Conference on Friday was a neat experience for me.  I think the next time around, I'll have a much better idea of how to formulate my thoughts and how to present to teenagers.  I'm so used to talking to other women that I take for granted that we have all of these shared Mommy experiences.  It wasn't that long ago that I was where they are now, so I think it worked out.  They did love my streaking story though.  That sure livened them up!

One of the most memorable aspects of the conference was meeting a woman who was familiar with my blog and receiving this message from her afterward.  She said:

"At youth conference this week you mentioned your blog. I rushed home and found that I was already a follower. As I listened to you on Friday and read your blog today, I feel inspired to share my own story and conversion to being a stay at home mom back in 1988. It will never get published, it will not be professionally written, but it will hopefully be passed on to my descendants. 

"I want them to know that, as a convert of 3 months, I followed the counsel of Pres. Ezra T. Benson to stay at home if at all possible. After 12 years of working in the corporate world, I found the courage to live my dream and be a stay-at-home mom.

Thank you, Jocelyn, for being an inspiration to me and for reminding me why I had the courage to live the dream that I had dreamed."

I thought her comments were so inspiring, that I just had to share them.

Thank you, Debbie!  Thank you for inspiring all of us!
I can't wait to read what you write!

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What Does France Have That We Don't?

My husband is handy.  I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that before...

I went to the store yesterday to make ID tags for Autumn's Mousies and when I returned, Steve had sewn this cycling hat for Guy.  Looks pretty sweet!  He made this cap out of the fabric from a broken umbrella that we used to have on our back deck.  (Hello, MacGyver!)

Steve and I have been watching the Tour de France for the last three weeks.  He's sort of a cycle-head.  I enjoyed the very green scenery of the French countryside and the huge bike display that farmers made out of moving tractors.  (It's been dubbed the "tractor ballet".  You've really got to see it in action.)

Tractor Ballet:  Source
Last week, on the way to church, Steve and I were noticing the beauty around us and he mused, "I mean, what does France have that we don't?"  

And he was dead serious.  I laughed out loud and then offered up, "Uh, really good cheese, amazing chefs, high fashion, and famous mountain ranges..."  (So I've heard...)  Ok, fine--I conceded.  Aside from all of that, our valley looks a lot like the areas where they race the Tour de France.  Who needs expensive cheese and world-class shopping, anyway? 

We've got everything that we need right here.

The Mousies...all tagged up.  The heart-shaped id tags tuck into their front pockets!

Kate Sherwood gave me the idea to name their story:  If You Give A Mouse Your Heart.  
Another view of the cycling hat a la Steve.
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Mousies

Autumn and Mousie-girl, July 2010
You might have noticed the stuffed mice that Autumn carries around with her in many of the photos on my blog.  I almost bought her this Mouse (from the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie) while strolling through Kohl's two Christmases ago.  I even let Autumn carry it around in the store while I shopped, but at the last minute I decided not to buy it since it was so close to Christmas and it wasn't in our budget.  

About a week later, my mother-in-law Christie who knew nothing of our trip to Kohl's, sent the kids a package.  When we opened it, we were surprised to find not one, but TWO mice.  They were the exact ones that Autumn fell in love with at the store, except Christie had carefully sewn lace on the cuffs of one of the mice and added a sweet flower to her "hair" to make one mouse a boy and one a girl.  Autumn was smitten.


Everyone who knows us, knows Autumn's Mousies too.  Since there are two of them, we sometimes leave one behind when we visit friends, because if we see one, then we assume that the other must be in the car...or at home.  Autumn takes great care of her Mousies, but they always find a way to run off on adventures of their own, as Mice are prone to do.

So far, thanks to the kindness and thoughtfulness of friends and strangers, Autumn's Mousies always find their way home again.

I now present: 

A Tale of Two Mousies

At the beginning of June, three weeks before Guy lost his blankie, I took the kids to the doctor for a check-up.  

Unbeknownst to us, Autumn left one of her Mousies in the waiting room.  

Later that morning, our friend Amy Jo went to the same doctor's office for an appointment with her kids.  Her 18-month-old daughter Lillian, spotted Mousie immediately and made a b-line for the beloved mouse that she and Autumn often compete for at our house.

Amy Jo immediately recognized it as Autumn's mouse, so she rescued Mousie from the waiting room with plans to return it to us. 

But first, they did some shopping at Walmart.  

Lillian hugged and loved on Mousie during the entire trip.  Then she dropped it somewhere in the store.  

Mousie was once again left to the mercy of strangers.

A cashier spotted the mouse, heavily-laden with signs of affection, scooped it up and placed it on the check-out lane, thinking that surely the owner of this mouse would return for it.

A few minutes later, my friend Jacquie showed up at Walmart.  She walked right past Mousie sitting on top of the bagging rounder and said, "That's Autumn's Mouse!"

After they finished their shopping, Jacquie showed up at my door.  She was just beaming as she held out Mousie to me.  And we beamed back.

Life is pretty incredible sometimes, isn't it?  

And so are good friends and guardian angels of children's special companions!

(My goal for today is to brand Mousie-boy and Mousie-girl 
with some identifying information, before their luck runs out!
I think their front over-all pockets will be a good place for some ID tags!)

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Heart of the Home

I just received a care package in the mail from my sister Dawn. She's too good to me.  She said that she saw this stamp and thought of she made a bunch of cards and then sent me this stamp set too.  It's just lovely, Dawn.  Thank you!  

I like that title: The heart of the home.  

Of all of the titles that I have had in my life this one is my favorite.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear God: "Thank you for the dart gun."

Guy doing his morning job.
This summer, my kids have had six jobs to do EVERY DAY.

Scarlett doing her morning job.
AM Job 1:  Make bed, tidy room, put clean clothes away, brush teeth, get dressed

AM Job 2:  (Rotates Daily) Either clean windows, scrub bathroom, or tidy playroom

AM Job 3:  Behave (i.e. read or sleep) during "Quiet Time" 
(This actually happens after lunch.)

Guy and Scarlett:  On Dinner Duty
PM Job 1:  (Rotates Daily) Set table, Dinner Duty, or Toy Patrol (Pick up toys from living room before Daddy gets home.)

PM Job 2:  Kids choice (a.k.a. The Extra Mile Job)...They can figure out something that needs to be cleaned/done and do it for an extra mile job.  They can also help a sibling with their job for an extra mile job.

PM Job 3:  Get themselves ready for bed, lay-out clothes for next day, brush teeth, go to bed.

If they complete all of their jobs by 5pm, they can watch PBS while I make dinner.

If they do all of their "Jobs" every day (except Saturday and Sunday), they earn 25 cents.

If they ALL DO ALL OF THEIR JOBS...including the "extra mile job" then they each get an extra 50 cents for a total of 75 cents per week.  I think they've only earned the full 75 cents three times so far.

This little job schedule has made this summer a lot of fun for us.  We do our morning jobs first thing and then head out for adventures after that.

I probably would not have thought to do this in such an orderly way, except that during Guy's Parent/Teacher conference in preschool, his teacher was emphatic about how Guy thrives on order.  I thought, yeah, yeah, we have order.  We eat dinner together every night and read scriptures together every morning.  

But as I thought about it, I realized that we did not follow a strict schedule.  Our days are fairly free and unpredictable, and my kids are good at rolling with the punches.  But now the children are getting to a point where they want to anticipate and prepare for what is coming next.  So this was my way of giving them that.  

And doing jobs all summer has also been a great way to get them ready for the schedule and responsibility of going to Kindergarten:  getting themselves ready, keeping their rooms clean, taking the initiative to recognize a need and fill it.  They are young, but capable of a lot.

The kids love checking to see what their assigned job is for the day, and they take pride in the fact that they can do "grown-up" jobs around the house.

Scarlett even learned to unclog the toilet.

So the KICKER of this story is that after half a summer of this (and adding some $2 bills from his uncle), Guy had saved enough to buy something that he has really wanted for a long time:  a Nerf dart gun.  

We were at the grocery store waiting forever while the women ahead of us did a price check on a Nerf gun she was buying.  When we realized they were 50% off I said that Guy could use his money to buy himself a Nerf gun. The sale price was $4.99.

BUT when we went through the line again to purchase Guy's well-earned toy, the price rang up incorrectly--just as it had done for the woman in front of us the first time around.  So, we called the manager over and she promptly handed Guy the toy...FOR FREE...because they have a store policy--If something doesn't ring up right the first time, you get it for free.

Now what was I JUST saying about living in a material world?

As we walked out of the store with our groceries, I commented incredulously to Guy, "Wow, that was really lucky that you got that gun for free.  What a blessing...You should say a prayer thanking Heavenly Father."

The next thing I knew, Guy had dropped to his knees right there in the parking lot and said this simple prayer:  "Dear Heavenly Father: Thank you for the dart gun."

I just had to laugh at his perfect faith and immediate expression of gratitude.

I guess the lesson is that our children can learn what they need to regardless of what our particular circumstances are in this life.  There will be times that we will have everything, and times when it seems we have nothing, but both times are equal in their potential for demonstrating faith and values to our precious children.

Try as I might to orchestrate the perfect learning situations for my kids, the Lord always has a better I am happy to defer to him.

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Living In a Material World

Guy with the free items we acquired today.
We're nearing the last half of July and the second half of the year, and not a single one of you (except for Jenn and Gantrie) have kept me accountable for my 2011 goal???  Your mercy astounds me!  Remember this post in which I said:

"I have pledged to myself that, with the exclusion of some essential items, I will do everything within my power to not purchase a single new item in 2011."

Well...I stuck with that goal pretty well for the first three months of the year, but when I realized that I was hauling home lots more stuff from my Goodwill trips than I was depositing, I decided to give thrifting a rest.  We did save a good deal of money though, which helped when we suddenly had to buy a new (used) car and a new washing machine.

I found that getting lots of items free or cheap was counter-productive to my efforts to teach my children that they can't have everything.  But the truth is that they live in a material world, and they can, in fact, have just about every thing ever made, even if it's second-hand.

During one particular trip to the Goodwill, I found the most amazing toys for my kids for just a few bucks.  I had to stop myself when we found two barbies for 50 cents each.  I recalled that my mother had to scrimp and save her money in order to buy me ONE barbie doll.  I made my kids do five big jobs that day in order to earn their toys so that they would understand that nothing comes without work.

Even our amazing find today: two bats, three baseball gloves (including a lefty mitt), a batting helmet, and a huge bag of baseballs--all for FREE--is both a blessing and also just another obstacle to my goal of making sure my children value time, value work, and understand the sacrifice it takes to get STUFF.  

Conscientious Moms out there...It is an uphill battle!

I guess this reality check helps me to renew my resolve to make the gifts that I give my children, because now that I have witnessed how ridiculously easy it is to get any mass-produced toy out there, I realize how precious, priceless, and rare a handmade gift really is.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This Place of Silence and Solitude

"We've lost our solitude too.  We walk around with electronic leashes clipped to our handbags, backpacks, and belts.  As soon as we get a moment of silence, a moment to think, our hips vibrate or our pockets ring, and the thought is chased away.  I know people who always take the stairs because they're afraid that their pagers or cell phones won't get reception in an elevator.  And while this may be good for the heart, it's terrible for the soul.

"There is a way to fight back--with your pen.  Every sentence you write is a sign of defiance against the undertow of time.  When you write, you aren't just leaking ink onto the page; you are leaving a piece of yourself permanently behind.  And by writing, you carve a small space out of the frenzied, intrusive world and you say, "Hands off!  Not here.  This place is for me."

And it's in this place, of silence and solitude and peace, that you are free to form your own thoughts without anybody else butting in."

-from The Pen Commandments: A Guide for the Beginning Writer by Steven Frank

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