Friday, November 30, 2012

be still.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

We've all heard it and taken this little nugget to be sage wisdom.  Life gets hard and throws us a curve ball and only the weak would sit down on the job while there is work to be done.  The tough will get to work and do whatever is necessary to get going through the tough stuff.


When it comes to tough times, we all have a story tucked in our back pocket.  At some point, we all will be hit with financial strain, a health struggle, a heartbreaking loss, or perhaps a crisis of faith.  Nobody gets through this life unscathed. 

I'm going to be very real with you right now and confess that my family is going through a hard time.  I'm not talking about a "we can't decide where to take our vacation" kind of hard time, but the kind that has prompted us to recruit an army of prayer warriors to appeal at the throne of the King on our behalf. 

I can't tell you how many times I have collapsed into bed at night and found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks out of sheer frustration.  Through the sobs I have implored my husband to "just tell me what to do" and help me "figure out how to fix it."  Of course, all he can do is hold me, kiss the top of my head, and remind me to pray. 

Am I alone in feeling like praying just doesn't seem like enough sometimes?

This just in:  I like to be in control.  (shocking, I know.)  In my foolish pride, I fight tooth and nail against God to snatch the steering wheel right out his hands and take over.  Lately, my prayers have resembled something like this:

Father, I am at a loss here.  I have absolutely no clue what to do in this situation and it is breaking my heart as I know it is breaking yours.  I want to move, to plan, to work to solve the problem and make everything ok.  Help me to understand that I simply can't do it.  Give me the strength I need to let it go, to really let it go and give it up to you.  Open my heart so I can be receptive to your will and quench my pride so I can stop trying to do your job.  This is so hard for me.  Please lead me to what you're trying to teach me.  

Now, my train of thought is about to get a little wild here, so stay with me.  On Black Friday, Dayspring had a really great sale where you could get pretty much everything for 30% off so I did something really naughty and bought a gift....for myself.  Before Christmas. 

When my new Lisa Leonard bracelet arrived, I put it on my wrist and I knew God was answering my prayer.

"Be still and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Let's break this down, shall we?

Be still.

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, I have a little trouble with being STILL.  I write a To Do List every single day.  My calendar is color coded.  I live according to a plan.  If something isn't happening right now, I convince myself that it isn't going to, ever.  Heck, you should see me watch Packers games.  I can pace a trench in the living room floor if things go down to the wire.  

The whole time this difficult situation has been materializing, I have been pacing back and forth, brooding over what I should do, what action to take, what wisdom to impart, what magic words to say.  Too terrified to step out in one direction or another, I have toiled away like someone running at a dead sprint on a treadmill, burning out but never getting anywhere.  

And as soon as the bracelet hit my wrist, I heard a soft whisper remind me to still.

Stop.  Stop running.  Stop brooding.  Stop fretting over how I am going to fix this.  Understand that the solution will not and cannot come from me.  Be still.  Be quiet.  

And listen. 

and KNOW.

Don't think.  Don't be pretty sure.  Don't be fairly convinced.  KNOWTrust.  Believe.  Not just a little bit, but with my whole heart.  I need to give it all up and know with all that I am that He is sovereign, that He is King, that he has a plan for this little predicament that involves a resolution with eternal consequences.  His answer might make no sense to me whatsoever, but I still need to know WHO HE IS. 

There is no room for doubt or worry.  No need for uncertainty or fear.  I can just know.

He is GOD.

Who is God?  He is.  Am I God?  Nope.  Was I there when the stars were placed in the sky?  Uh uh.  Did I breathe the earth into existance?  The exact same magnificent power who made the heavens and the earth is the one who hurts when I hurtHe is Lord of the universe, creator of all things, Lord of Lord, and King of Kings.  He is on his throne, He is in control, and He will see us through this.  

And so I will.  I will glance at my beautiful reminder circling my wrist and remember to "be still and know."  He loves me, he loves her, he loves everyone involved in this troubled situation.  He knows what's up and I can know that he's got it all under control.

(Of course, since I am a crazy control freak Type A psychopath, I'm going to have to rest pretty heavily on his grace while I try to really get this truth ingrained on my heart.  Baby steps.)

Do you struggle to just be still?  I find it especially hard to just shut my mind off and listen for God to speak.  How do you find success?  Any one else out there have control issues?  

P.S.  For the sake of privacy, I purposely left the details of the tough stuff pretty vague, but if your prayer list is a little light at the moment, I would be thrilled if you would add us on.  Pray for the strength to be honest, wisdom, reconciliation, health, and healed relationships.  Pray that I would be able to speak truth in love. 

Have a wonderful weekend, friends! 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Recovery Mode

Get this.

Apparently a kid in Isaiah's 4K class was sick on Sunday and starting spewing all over the place like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.  Lest s/he miss out on some kind of monumental educational opportunity, they still came to school on Monday.

By Wednesday, seven kids and two teachers had called in sick, including my Isaiah.

Isaiah vomited eight times Tuesday night and once on Thanksgiving morning.  Thomas has thrown up twice this week.

We had to bail on half of our Thanksgiving festivities so I could come home and worship the porcelain god a total of six times over the span of about 4 hours.  It was terrible.

So, all this to say that our Thanksgiving was a little rough and we're still kind of coming off of a rough few days.  And just a little PSA to please, please, PLEASE keep your kids home from school if they likely have a bug. 

Bear with me while I dig out of the pile of laundry stacked up to my eyeballs and deal with the overwhelming number of emails and the pounding headache that hasn't left my brain since my bouts of vomiting.  I promise to return and get caught up as soon as possible.

As soon as I go buy more coffee.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for a Year of Less

Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, I posed for a photo with the women of my husband's family.  At the time, I had no idea that it would become my "Before" photo.

Thanksgiving 2011 / July 22, 2012
I remember standing between my sister in law and dear Grandma Joyce thinking, "Ugh.  I really do not want to be in front of the camera."  It was uncomfortable and embarrassing.  I had been using the "I just had a baby" excuse since August and I knew it wouldn't hold water a whole lot longer.  Evan's grandmother asked me to also take a couple photos of her grandchildren and I had to get in the photo of one of those as well.

Thanksgiving 2011
Now, I can't with any degree of honesty say that it was seeing the photos of my husband and me together that created the kick in the pants that we needed to get our weight under control.  In fact, we didn't start doing anything about it until January.  But, looking back on these photos from Thanksgiving last year, I am that much more grateful for the year full of blessings we have had.

November 4, 2012  (Just shy of 20% body weight lost!)

Tomorrow, we will gather with these same dear family members, but things will be different.  We will enjoy our meal, but we won't get winded just from the effort of eating it.  We will smile for photos without cringing underneath.  We will say numerous prayers of thanks to the God who never gave up on us, who knew we had it in us all along.

November 12, 2012  (Down to 125 pounds!)

This Thanksgiving, I am forever thankful that 2012 was the year we reclaimed our health and our confidence.  I have reached my goal weight and I now battle to keep it.  Evan's journey with Weight Watchers continues and I am proud to be his biggest cheerleader.  We are so much happier and healthier than we were last Thanksgiving and I can't wait to see what another year brings.

And to Evan, I am so proud of you.  You have worked hard this year and have seen what success you can achieve when you set your mind to it.  I am thankful for your support on my weight loss journey as well and for your decision to take control of your health for the sake of our family.  Keep it up, don't quit and this next year will be even more incredible.

I totally think we need to take a Thanksgiving 2012 photo tomorrow just so we can compare.  :)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!  (Take it easy on the gravy and pecan pie. I'll be at the gym next week, to be sure.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Project Life Tuesday - Week 34

The Mom CreativeWelcome to Project Life Tuesday!  I've been falling behind as of late, but little by little I am digging through the mountains of photos taking up folder after folder on my hard drive and getting them in the book. 

That's what I love about Project Life.  It takes a memory keeping mountain and turns it into a molehill. 

If you're looking for inspiration on what others are doing with their Project Life, you can check out my board on Pinterest and be sure to link up on The Mom Creative!

Here we go with (the slightly incomplete) Week 34!

I goofed up a bit and failed to order prints for those two spots in the bottom right corner.  All that's missing are a couple shots of the house emptied out, but I certainly would have liked to get them in there before taking the photos.  Oh well!

The week was really insane with moving out of the house, but I'm so glad that I was able to document it.  Next week will have more to look at, I promise! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Grand Theft Vegetable

Let's pretend for a moment that this blog post is my application for the Mom of the Year Award 'cuz I'm about to tell you a little story that will seal the deal for that baby landing on my mantel.

As part of the big birthday festivities for the Bigs, we scored tickets to take them to Veggie Tales Live since it was coming right to our town, literally just down the street.  It fell right into our laps!  Considering how much our kids love Veggie Tales, it was a no-brainer.

The little guy there stayed home with a babysitter while we brought the big boys to the local church for the concert.  We kept it a secret from them until we got in line to find our seats and then we broke the news that they were going to get to see Bob and Larry.

This reaction shot really epitomizes my older children.  Oy.

So, while we waited in line to be admitted to the auditorium, the kids noticed the merchandise table set up with all the t-shirts, toys, and other Veggie Tales related swag displayed in tantalizing fashion.  I ran interference and was able to corral the boys back to the line without much of an incident and I asked Evan if we were going to get anything for them to commemorate the evening.  Wisely, my husband said we should skip spending the money on the extra stuff.

We settled in and the concert began.  The kids were so excited to see Bob and Larry!

Oh, and Junior Asparagus was there too!

They sang and danced in the aisles.

Then intermission hit and Evan took Micah on a potty break.  While they were gone, Isaiah and I went for a little walk to shake out some of the ants in his pants.  We wandered back to the gymnasium where we had lined up earlier and Isaiah made a beeline for the goody table once again.  It took him all of 12 seconds to focus on the new Veggie Tales DVD, The League of Incredible Vegetables.  I explained that Daddy and I had decided we wouldn't be buying anything tonight.

He proceeded to have. a. fit.  A royal fit.  There was stomping.  Screaming.  Tears.  I grabbed his arm and tried to firmly direct him away from the crowd swarming around us.

And in my horror....I looked down....

.....and saw the DVD in his hand.

Yup.  My kid stole at a Veggie Tales a church.

I've got the perfect spot for that trophy on the left side of the fireplace.  It's going to look awesome.

I marched his little tushy right back up to the table where he had to give the movie back, tell the woman working what he did, and apologize.  He continued to throw a huge tantrum the entire walk back to our seats where I told that boy to plunk his butt right back in his seat and ohmygoodness just you WAIT until your Daddy gets back.  I sent Evan a text reading, "Where are you?" so I could give him a heads up about the firestorm he was about to return to.

Not even 60 seconds later, Evan comes marching back to our seats and with a huge grin on his face, he holds out a brand new League of Incredible Vegetables DVD to his eldest son.  Isaiah jumps up with glee and squeals, "Thank you Daddy!"  My jaw drops and I gape at him like a fish while I hold out my hands palms up.  He looks at me and says....


Mom of the Year.  It's a lock.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Hunt for Me Time

It's easy for me to get jealous when I get home from serving a party of 112 people and walk in to my living room to find my husband doing this:

The fireplace, the glow of the little Christmas tree in the window, a comfy couch, and good book.  Add in a glass of Prairie Fume and you've got my perfect evening right there. 

Our schedules right now don't leave much room for this, so I know Evan was really appreciating his quiet time.  On the days that I have to work, Evan comes in the door and we have approximately 30 seconds to talk to one another about what the plan is for the rest of the evening and discuss anything catastrophic that took place during the day before I have to run out the door and head to work.  Sometimes we even have to discuss the Day's Report over the phone while I drive.  By the time I get back home at night (sometimes after going to work out at the gym), I find myself struggling to stay awake to enjoy any grown-up time with my hubby.  I even fell asleep during The Avengers the other night. 

I started reading a book in August and I'm only on page 201. 

Every couple months or so, I meet up with a dear friend from high school back in our hometown and we enjoy super-fattening pizza and beer while we chatter away for hours on end.  I go to a moms group for mothers of small children at my church twice a month.  I beg Evan to let me go to the grocery store or Target by myself. 

You see, I crave the kind of time that Evan is enjoying up there.  He works so hard to provide for our family and on top of it he has to prepare dinner for the boys on the nights that I work.  He is also the official Laundry Folder of our home and Master of Bedtimes.  He does a LOT.  It works out nicely that once the boys are asleep in their beds, he can settle in to the world of Tom Clancy and The Hunt for Red October

But I envy him. 

Is it wrong that part of me is looking forward to when the boys are in school all day and I can reclaim some Me Time?

How do you make alone time a priority?  Is there some kind of magic spell I can order on Amazon to insert another 3 or 4 hours into my day?


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Mega Superhero Party Post

Have you ever clicked your way through Pinterest and ogled all the photos of fancy-pants kids' parties and thought, "Hey, I could totally do that!" and your clicking finger goes all wild as you fantasize about the incredible crafts, games, and favors you're going to execute in the ultimate feat of party planning awesomeness?

Yeah, me neither.

Instead, I look at all those photos and think, "That looks like a lot of work" before I order pizza, buy a birthday cake from the grocery store, and give my kid his present wrapped in a plastic Target bag.

But this time, I wanted it to be different.  We just moved to a brand new city and my boys were making all kinds of new friends.  With the craziness of moving, my middle son's birthday got glossed over, so we opted instead to do one big double birthday party for his 3rd birthday and my oldest son's 5th birthday.  Their request for a theme?


I was very inspired by Jessica Turner from The Mom Creative and the superhero party she threw for her son, so I headed to Pinterest for inspiration, immediately got overwhelmed, had a big glass of wine, and rallied.  In the end, I was able to pull off a pretty wicked cool Superhero Party without any sewing or bleeding and the kids had a blast!

So, without further ado, I give you.....

Before I did any party planning whatsoever, I hired a really great gal on Etsy to design the party invitations.  She had those suckers done within hours and I was able to order prints from Persnickity Prints.  I love, love, love how these turned out!
1.  The Superhero Capes

I used cheap-o plastic tablecloths I bought at Walmart, elastic, and shipping tape to create these super-simple capes that ended up being a huge hit with my kids and their guests.  I found THIS POST that shows a quick video tutorial on how to fold and cut the tablecloths into the right shape.

To print out the superhero emblems, I downloaded the font Hall of Heroes and just used my word processing program to print them on colored cardstock.  I cut them out and taped them on the capes.  Easy peasy!  And that font sure came in handy later too!

To hang the capes, I strung a clothesline between two nails on the wall of my garage and used clothespins.  We ended up with a few extra left over that my son quickly found a use for:

2.  Super Suckers

Step 1 - Download and print this template for the capes.  Use a pen or marker to trace the shape on stiff felt and cut out the capes.  Use a hole punch to punch a hole large enough for the lollipop stick at the tip of the cape.

Step 2 - Download this free printable from Little Bit Funky.  I didn't use the Valentine's Day component, but just printed out a few copies of the emblem pages for my suckers.  Then I used a 2" inch punch to punch out the circles.

Step 3 - Hot glue the emblems on the felt capes and attach to suckers.  Tie some coordinating ribbon below the cape and you've got yourself a Super Sucker!

Step 4 - To display, wrap a shoebox in coordinating wrapping paper and use a nail or screw to poke holes in the top.  It works beautifully for showing off your cool creations!

3.  Superhero Cupcakes

I don't really "bake."  I buy the mixes by one beloved Betty Crocker and call it good.  But, I wanted to take things up a notch for the party, so I made a batch of chocolate cupcakes and a batch of rainbow chip and found some cool star shaped topping at Michaels that were perfect for this little project!

After I baked the cupcakes, I smeared on the pre-made frosting and used these little darlings to jazz 'em up.

To make the toppers, I bought a bag of lollipop sticks and had my husband cut a dozen of them in half to create 24 short sticks.  I used my 2" punch to create 24 yellow cardstock circles.  Then, I printed out this sheet of superhero emblems, cut them out, and glued them on to the cardstock circles.  My hubby then was kind enough to hot glue the finished circles to the sticks and voila! 

Oh, and to use up the extras, I just stapled them to the red lunch bags I used as favor bags!

4.  The Decorations

I did NOT go overboard on decorating for this shin-dig.  This photo garland was really the only thing I did that required any level of effort and it was a breeze.

I went back through my photo archives and found as many photos of my boys in superhero gear as I could and I chose my favorites to display at the party.  I cropped them to 4x4 and had them printed at Walgreens.  After I had trimmed them, I tied some clothesline to some mini 3M hooks I had attached to my fireplace mantel and used clothespins to secure the photos.

You could adapt this for any party for any kid!  Just choose your favorite photos and print!  As for the 8x10 on top of the mantel, that was a shot of my kids just before going trick or treating on Halloween that happened to work perfectly for the party, so I just couldn't resist displaying it. 

5.  The Food

Feel free to download the FREE PRINTABLE for the starburst labels you see above as well as the Wonder Dogs labels below.  These are a great way to jazz up regular fruits, veggies, and hot dogs!

Just print 'em and 'punch 'em out with a 2" punch and attach them to some lollipop sticks.

Speaking of giving very regular food a very "super" boost, I also made kid-friendly PB&J sandwiches and turkey sandwiches for the party that I wanted to make a little special.  I used a star shaped cookie cutter....

....and individual sandwich baggies to present the kids with Superstar Sandwiches!  The bi-fold cards I assembled let the the kids know what kinds of sandwiches were available and looked great on the table.

You can also download this free printable for your use!  Just print it out on cardstock and cut it down to 8x6 and fold it in half to stand as you see in the photo.

And this was just cool.  I went to Target a couple days after Halloween and found this Spiderman bucket on clearance for 70% off.  Score one for the absolutely perfect fork basket for a mere $2!

6.  The Games

Kryptonite Kapture -
  • Form several balls out of aluminum foil.  (I made 40.)  
  • Use an acrylic paint to paint them a neon green and allow to dry overnight.
  • Hide the Kryptonite balls around your backyard or in the living room, or wherever you are holding the party.  I put mine out in pretty plain sight since most of the guests at my party were in the 3-6 years old range.
  • Divide the kids into two teams and put a bowl or bucket by each team.  Explain that a super-villain has planted Kryptonite all over and it's up to them to find all the Kryptonite balls and save Superman from certain destruction!  
  • One player at a time from each time goes out and finds a ball and brings it back to the bowl as quick as they can.  They tag their next teammate in and they keep searching until all the balls are found.
  • The team with the most Kryptonite balls in their bucket when all the Kryptonite has been found WINS! 

Superhero Bingo - 
  • Download and Print this FREE printable of the Bingo cards I created and save yourself the hours of tinkering in Photoshop that I endured.
  • Buy a big bag of M&Ms for Bingo markers.
  • Play Bingo.  Eat M&Ms.  Happy dance!

7.  Odds and Ends

We invited the guests to wear superhero gear, so we had kids showing up in everything from Superman t-shirts to full Batman costumes.  As for our birthday boys, they were rocking these shirts to get the party started.

And I declared that if I survived this party in one piece then I could legitimately claim to be Wonder Woman.

We bought a cake from the grocery store and found some cute Thank You notes at Target.

I'm going to be perfectly honest and tell you that it was a good deal of work and I was exhausted when it was over.  There's no way I would want to do a party of this magnitude every year for all three of my kids or even for just one of them each year.  This is really a once every few years kind of thing for me. was really, really cool.  I enjoyed planned it, prepping for it, and getting to entertain the kids that came to celebrate with my boys.

The cleaning up, however....that was a bit scary.

Happy party planning!

Have you ever attempted a "big" birthday party?  Success or failure?  Do you have some amazing Superhero Party tips to share?  Questions about mine?  Leave a comment!

P.S.  Would you please consider pinning this post on Pinterest?  There are several great topics to share with your friends!  Thanks!

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