Thursday, March 27, 2014

As of late...

We have been busy bees these past few weeks.

I started the new year out with a goal to work through the alphabet and numbers 1-20 in depth with Emory this year. Obviously, we do lots of traveling and sicknesses have taken over our house these past three or four months, so I allowed for some flexibility. Our ultimate goal is to homeschool our children for a while (or however long it works for all parties involved). This week we are working on the letter H and the number 8. So far, he seems to enjoy it! There are off days, but they are few and far between. Emory definitely loves to use paint and to run off energy (yay for kinesthetic learning). I'm trying my best to adapt to teaching a two year old (I thought teenagers were hard)!
I was getting Everhett out of his car seat one afternoon and I heard "YOOK MOMMY! YOOK!" When I turned around this is what he said. I was so happy he was finding letters in nature. Bring on the nice weather and the nature scavenger hunts! (He brought a number 1 in from the driveway this week.)
Each week I pick a theme to go along with the letter and/or number. This has given us lots of crafty things to do. He loves these Do-A-Dot pages that I found on Pinterest and they are great for assisting him in recognizing both the upper and lower case letters we are working on. 
These are a few of the things we did during our "D" week.
I've come to learn that pompoms are a toddler's best friend. Crafts, counting, dusting, you name it, they do it!
The bottom right picture is hard to see, but I have to brag on him. We read about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I thought I'd try to see if he could identify subtle differences in the pictures (not even knowing if he'd grasp the concept of differences). He circled all three correctly by himself and without hesitation!
He also LOVES to cook and bake. It will suit this mama quite fine if one of her sons grows up to be the family chef.
As for our little gingersnap, he has recently taken to walking and talking quite a bit. He won't say "Mama" or "Dada" but you better bet he'll say "Grace!" to call the daggum dog. He's such a strong-willed baby (something about redheads maybe?). I love that he still comes over in the midst of playing and places his head on your lap so you can rub his head. He's at such a fun age. Every day brings something new and exciting (unless we are dealing with separation anxiety, in which case he will scream his bloody little head off until we return and give him a good snuggle). Check out this preciousness so you can fully understand why it's impossible to get upset with him:

It's so funny how different two little guys can be, but they love each other so much. I can't wait for the day they become best friends. Phillip and I look at each other and start smiling while we're listening to the two of them giggling over heavens only knows what throughout the day. We are two blessed parents!

Hope our sweet, little men brought a smile to your face!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Soapbox: Raising Real Men

I'm going to come right out and say it. I have to. The attitude of a large portion of our society today sickens me. According to the current belief system some of these individuals buy into, everyone owes them something and they should have to work for nothing. It's sad to me. There's no pride in standing on your own two feet and enjoying the fruits of your labor. It's easier to accept mediocrity and live off the government. (Obviously this is not the case for everyone, but anyone that's been alive and paying taxes for longer than five years can see a steady decline in societal motivation.) Hear me out when I say this, but I believe parents need to raise stronger men.

Before you go wagging your finger and burning bras, please know that I believe women are more than capable of standing on their own two feet should they choose to do so (but I don't have a daughter, so I can't speak on what it's like to raise them). However, I think there's something to be said for a man (much like my own) that sacrifices to provide for his family. I read a blog post tonight from The MOB (Mothers of Boys) Society entitled Protectors, Providers, and Leaders. I haven't read the book referenced (although now it is on the "to read" list on Goodreads pour moi), but I want to say at the end of this mothering journey that I raised boys that do exactly that in a righteous and godly manner.

I already see the seeds of protection from Emory and it makes my heart leap. He feels everything so intently. From his brother's whines to his friend's hurt knee, concern and care pour out of this child. Sometimes I find myself wishing he didn't "feel" so much because he can react rather strongly. I take heart in the fact that his wife will (hopefully) adore this quality about him. I know his little girl friends already love being helped out of their shoes on the indoor playgrounds! :-)
One day he will give the flowers he picks to some lucky lady that isn't his mama. For now, I will savor these moments.

I can't speak for how our sons will turn out. I can say that their daddy sets the best example in the world for being a provider. Phillip works 60+ hours most weeks without complaint. He gets home at 2/3 AM and without fail he is up with the boys by 11 every day. If I happen to not have a play date or outing scheduled for the morning, he lets me sleep in or run errands without having to pack up two little ones. His selflessness amazes me. THIS is the type of father and husband I pray my sons emulate.
During our trip to Asheville and one of the few days he's taken off.
Leadership isn't a quality that is easily manufactured. I have a two-year-old that is as vivacious as can be at home, but once he's out in unfamiliar territory he clams up like he's never uttered a word. I think our fearless Gingersnap may be a natural leader; he certainly has the tenacity for the job! Either way, both of our sons have to possess the ability to lead. I liked how the blog post pointed out that they can lead companies or just their families, but they need to do so with wisdom and integrity. I hope they choose to be leaders and mentors for more than just their families. There are countless children waiting for someone to care enough to invest in them all throughout our communities. Women are usually the ones still in the picture, but so many times it is a father that is lacking. I pray we develop a country of young men willing to step in and lead! 

Today the water table, but tomorrow he'll conquer the playground!

I have to admit that respecting the leadership position of my husband was not my go-to response when we first got married. Fortunately, Phillip isn't the type of man to "demand" this is me and God was more than willing to work on my not-so-submissive spirit, but I will say that Phillip made it very easy to follow his leadership because he truly is always concerned with what is best for our family. Learning to be the ezer he needs is my responsibility!

If you happen to parent a little guy (or more), check out The MOB Society blog. If you happen to parent a little lady, maybe talk to her about these qualities in men and how she can help encourage her brother, friend, or even her own father!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cold, Snowy Winter

Winters around here are much like every other time of year: mild (except for July and August when it's hotter and more humid than hell itself...maybe). I have to admit that I love that about living here. Spring and autumn are gorgeous and there are many days in winter where playing outside with the kids isn't impossible.

This year was a different story. It seems to happen about every ten years that the Charlotte area get hit by a pretty decent amount of snow. It happened to be coupled with crazy low temperatures as well this year. 

As far as the snow is concerned, Phillip and I are fans. While others boarded cruises or planes for warmer, sunnier honeymoons, we drove 24 hours through a blizzard to Mont Tremblant, Quebec. After this year, however, the novelty of snow is wearing off. I lost count of the days we were stuck inside because it was too cold or too snowy or some combination of both. We were able to play a little before it all became one frozen mess, so I thought I'd post some of those pictures. (Disclaimer: There is no rhyme or reason to the order of any of these photos.)
Emory perfected the art of throwing snowballs, but you best not retaliate or someone's in for a toddler-sized meltdown. Lesson learned.
The only part of this whole snow business Master Everhett cared a thing about was the warm milk he received after returning indoors.

This has become one of my favorite pictures of these two.
We actually got around 8 inches of snow and maybe a .5 to an inch of ice on top of that. Emory loves snow but hates ice!

Snow, freezing rain, ponds in January in freezing temps, Mason is not a hard pup to please.
"I warm up by the fiiiiire, Mama!" (Seriously, this kid's Southern accent is T-H-I-C-K!


Daddy ingenuity.
Today's rainy weather reminds me of our cabin fever, so what better way to commemorate a winter full of being cooped up? Fortunately, we have had several days of beautiful Spring weather already. Our boys are loving it. Bring on the sunshine!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Our Sweet Damatou

Several months ago I joined this Bible study for young mothers. I really wanted to connect with people in a similar place in life that shared my convictions and were experiencing on a daily basis the same things I awoke to each morning. Let's face it, once we bring little ones into the world it becomes painstakingly obvious that there are a LOT of differences in parenting styles even amongst our closest friends. 

I got so much more than just a community of friends from this study. My heart really started to break for the things that broke God's heart. I have never been blind to the plight of those that struggle, but in all honesty I don't live in the midst of it so it wasn't pervasively on my mind...UNTIL I started Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break by Kelly Minter. Obviously, Nehemiah's heart broke for his people and their need for a safe home with protected boundaries in Jerusalem, but through this study God revealed so many opportunities, both big and small, for my own heart to be shaped and molded.

Throughout the study I really felt pulled to sponsor a child through this phenomenal organization called Compassion International. There was one little five-year-old that kept speaking to me. I prayed. Maybe $38 a month doesn't seem like a lot, but when you are a one-income household with two small children and a slew of bills, it adds up fast. I am the type of person that needs to know something will work out before I make a commitment, especially this kind. This sweet girl had been waiting over a year for a sponsor and I didn't want to be the one to commit and let her down. 

Phillip kept asking what I wanted for my birthday (the big 3-0). Let's face it, I spend my days covered in various forms of food and bodily fluids. If I transfer from pjs to yoga pants before the kids go down for naps, it's a screaming success of a day. So, I did it. I asked for her. Being the amazing husband that he is, Phillip agreed. Granted, we aren't big gift givers for birthdays or holidays and I realize that sponsorship for another 13 years is a commitment, but the Bible says in Matthews 16:24-26, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?'"
Tell me she's not the most gorgeous little thing ever!

So I kind of took it as a commandment. After all, "whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Sure enough, we stepped out and every month every single penny (and often times much more to send for birthday celebrations and Christmas) has come rolling through the door. We were even able to bless her whole family with a monetary contribution at Christmas. Do you want to know the highlight of it all? My first letter from her! Her favorite "toys" are a box and dirt (as it turns out she's not that different from my own children). Her only prayer request was that her family would be happy together somehow.
Sweet Damatou's picture hangs on our fridge and every night Emory struggles through pronouncing her name as he prays for her, but he does it. He prays for someone he doesn't know, whose circumstances he doesn't understand, and whose life he can significantly impact through sacrificing a few trips to McAlister's and SweetFrog on Sundays after church. :-)

*I included a link to Compassion International's website. There are always more children waiting. It's such a great opportunity to directly share God's love with another person, their family, and even their community. Pray about it. Maybe God's opening a similar door for you and your family!*


Refocus and Redirect

Have you ever had those moments (or extended periods of time, as my case happens to be) in life when everything for whatever reason is shifting to some degree? From deep, personal relationships to the needs of your children to your very growth as an individual. Ecclesiastes 3 sings for fifteen verses about God's perfect, provisional timing and seasons for everything. I'm learning in this season of change to trust in His guidance. Seldom does He let me see past the very next step I'm about to take, but I know that my footing is firm and planted as long as it is in line with His will. 

I took a bit of a "break" from blogging. Aside from becoming another task to complete in the midst of wrangling two little ones, play dates, personal commitments, chasing runny noses, attempting a preschool curriculum, managing the ins and outs of our daily household chaos, and a barrage of illnesses, it just became a chore (and what mom needs another one of those?). So instead of blogging, I hope to start posting a little more about the boys, especially Everhett since most of Emory's milestones were documented and Everhett's life is currently sitting on my iCloud in hopes that I remember some of the details to write down. I also want to start focusing on ways to give back and get involved in truly being God's hands and feet.

I recently read several books that really caused me to pause and reevaluate a lot of decisions Phillip and I were making as a couple and some of the ways we were approaching ministry in our comfy, cozy Americanized style. I don't agree 100% with everything these authors wrote or continue to write, but I do know that I was convicted about our consumption, our naivety of the world around us, and our apathy towards the very people God COMMANDED us to love and minister to with abandon. So if you're interested in watching God potentially move you to action, I would highly suggest picking up 7 by Jen Hatmaker and Radical by David Platt. If not, you might want to stop reading because you're going to grow tired of my harping quickly.

As far as our family is concerned, we officially have a one-year-old. The feistiest, most vivacious, and definitely the most cheerful little redhead in the world, he's pure joy at this age. Everyone says time flies with the second one...and they aren't kidding! I catch myself trying to find a pause button on a daily basis. Even more shocking (at least to me), is that Emory will be hitting three in a a little more than a month. I have no idea how and it makes me want to cry thinking about it. It's so funny to watch them and how different they are, but their love and delight in each other is so incredibly pure. Everhett definitely has more of his Daddy's daredevil in him. He's scared of nothing and is largely the most enthusiastic baby in the world so long as he's attached to my hip or perched on Phillip's shoulders. I can't lie, Emory is my emotional child, but in this I praise God because he truly has a heart that MOVES for other people. There are challenging moments (but he's a toddler and I don't know of any parent that will sing the praises of learning boundaries as a two-year-old), but I can turn around and he will be kissing his brother on the head, or helping his sweet little girlfriends out of their shoes on the playground, or whispering in Gracie's ear as he's hugging her. Emory FEELS everything. I'm sure it's overwhelming, but I can't wait to see where God takes this strong characteristic. I'm so blessed to be able to watch these days firsthand.

Phillip and I are trying to enjoy our time together as a couple while balancing it with the demands of parenthood. I hate to admit it, but he's exponentially better at this than I am proving to be. This past weekend we took our first trip away. I only lasted a night, but it was great to get away in the midst of a lot of illness and stress. I pray we stay the course and this becomes more of a habit. (Shout out to Grammie for watching our buddies!)

I'll post in the next few days about a few organizations I've learned about over the past few months that we've become involved with. As for now, I'll post this from Everhett's one year session (My sweet friend, Erika Melson Palmer, ran her precious little preggo belly around for over two hours capturing tons of images of our boys. She's amazing! Check her out! :
This is life. This is what it's all about. It has nothing to do with status, looks, the size of our house, the money lying in your accounts, etc. All that matters at the end of the day is the love that binds us all together. We're not perfect, but we get up, dust ourselves off, hug it out, and start out anew. I believe God blesses our attempts to please Him and trust Him.

Check back soon to see how Emory is learning all about giving back!