Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013


~ Real life mixed with faith ~
How does one write a Christmas letter, without sounding like life is about one step from perfection? It’s difficult these days to be real and yet to still hold on inside to a sense of belief that things are undone. Like the caterpillar who is yet to be the butterfly. 

So, I sit here looking out my window’s that haven’t been cleaned in weeks and I remind myself that all the prints are from kids running to wave good-bye to their daddy each morning as he pulls out the drive, this is his favorite part of the day. Life is good.

But it’s also messy.

So, I write not wanting to sound cliché but wanting to be sure the message is clear; we believe in a God who makes messy messes into beautiful beauty. So here’s our letter for 2013:

Ben loves his job at Rogers. Although he still does not have a continuing contract which keeps us (read: ME) in a spot of anxiety. He was asked this year to be the Defensive Coordinator of the football team and he poured his heart into the team. It is a JOY to watch someone do something that they absolutely LOVE. And it was heartbreaking to watch the Rogers Pirates lose every game. Yet, this messy-mess of losses did result in a beautiful bond between the players, “a brotherhood” they called it, and the coaches clearly adored each athlete. A beautiful mess.




Caleb, our nine-year-old firecracker. He lives up to his name, read Numbers 13 or Joshua 14 if you are curious about the Caleb of the bible. Ours too, is strong and determined. He is a boy of justice and this comes with a small price – big debates. He will fight it out, head to head, with anyone who will go at it with him and he. Does. Not. Back. Down. Bless him. He wanted to play football this fall and we found that his forehead like flint is good for more than just debate – he is not one to be reckoned with. He likes to collect “things” from bugs and rocks to little toys called “trash packs.” A beautiful mess.



Nathan, our nine-year-old sports fanatic. It’s amazing to watch the “sports” part of boy get “flipped on” like a switch. He’s suddenly all about Seahawks, football, sports, competition, winning, sportsmanship, etc. It has been fun to watch and challenging, at times, to parent. He cried when the Seahawks lost to the Colts. He’s learning to have sportsmanship when playing football at recess. He’s surprisingly good at balancing fun and brains, but sometimes not so good at balancing self control with impatience. He likes to throw anything in to the air and (hopefully) catch it before it hits a sibling or something made of glass. Also, Nate got baptized at church this fall, a very big honor for his dad to “dunk” him! A beautiful mess.



Alena, our-six-year-old princess. She loves to dance. She took a dance class this year, but also begs her dad weekly to play music from his computer so she can dance around the front room. Her heart is of gold. She likes to “take care of others” which usually ends up with annoyed brothers and Alena in tears, asking…begging for a little sister. She loves her family though and has a hard time being away from those she loves. School, all day every day this year, hasn’t been a piece of cake, it’s just too much time away. This has been tough for her and I! A beautiful mess.



Titus, our two-year-old tank. Titus wants to, and in most cases can, keep up with the big kids. He has been going to school this fall and has loved it! He likes playing with friends and “big-boy” Legos and trucks. He loves wearing a “good-guy” cape and also likes hats. But he is two. Which means sometimes big-boy-Lego creations get destroyed… And two means tantrums, which he is really good at (maybe better than any of the other kids…combined…or maybe I’m just a tired mama :)) Titus encapsulates a beautiful mess. 



I have had a great year too! Keeping up with the kids keeps me on my toes but this year I have also really enjoyed co-coordinating a local MOPS group! It's been a good way for me to get out into the community and meet people while also being encouraged, in Jesus, by other women. I also still have a love/hate relationship with our life in the country. Although I love the space and all the fun it brings (gardening, privacy and true peace) it has also challenged me with the not-so-fun things it brings (mice, loneliness, and hard work!). A beautiful mess.



We hope you can see that we believe that this little family is being changed daily by grace and love. Each of us has a beautiful story that unfolds minute by minute. Each mess is an opportunity for our Savior to make something beautiful. We pray He is working in each of you to do the same.

Merry Christmas,
The Cochran Clan
Ben, Crystal, Caleb, Nathan, Alena and Titus

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Country Thankfulness



 
When we first talked about moving to the country Ben said, "Let's just try it. I think you'll like it. It will be good for you. Country livin' is good livin'." I had a pretty bad attitude about even thinking about it. I tried find something to like about it; I thought and pondered for days and finally came up with the fact that I would like the space for kids to run around. But that was about all I could come up with because I'm a fairly social person. What I mean by that is that I thrive by being with people. Which means that I become a complete idiot when I'm by myself for long periods of time. I NEED neighbors, if nothing else, just to have someone to spy on someone to borrow an egg from. Ya know?

But I think God likes playing jokes on me, it always goes something like this:
Step 1) I say I will never do something.
Step 2) Ben chuckles.
Step 3) God gets the circumstances all lined up.
Step 4) BAM- I am doing the VERY thing I said that I would never do.
Step 5) Everyone's laughing except me.

So when we decided we would go to the country I chose to embrace it by buying Wrangler's. Just Kidding. I bucked like a bronco and set my forehead like flint against this crazy idea and set out to prove how wrong he/He was! Not my best idea. I don't know how God changes hearts. I don't know how He sets wrong things right. I don't know how He works all things out for our good. But He does.  And over time I have begun to fall in love with where I live! We've been here, in the country, for about 18 months now and it has become a place where I love spending my days and I long to return to every evening.

Once, when I was throwing a large fit about livin' excluded from the whole world, a wise friend told me, "Well, you can embrace the beauty of where you are and be thankful for it. Or you can stay miserable." I looked out my window in that moment and saw one small bird in our walnut tree. I started there. One miniscule act of thankfulness. And He began to turn my world around. So, in honor of a humorous God, a patient husband, and a country-girl's heart change, here is my list of the top 10 things I love about where I'm livin'....

1. Gardens and their fruit
Summer Harvest
Fall Harvest


2. His Creations
Annoying when they eat my flowers, but really, beautiful!

3. Chickens and Eggs



4. Space


 5. Animals

Love that the kids have a dog!
Mousers



















6. Cowboys
Be still my wildly beating heart... <3

7. Fires
I made this ALL BY MYSELF, I'm getting better ;)


 
8.  Peace

9.  Country schools, buses and the kids that ride them!


 10. Silence
Silence, I didn't think I would enjoy it, but I do!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
~ Ms. Simplicity  






Saturday, November 23, 2013

Competitve

I'll just start out by saying I'm competitive. It's in my blood: I'm 1/4 Italian...(is that enough proof?)... also my dad rode motorcycles and broke both wrists (one, then the other a week later). So it's not really my fault. I have lots and lots of stories about my own competitive nature to share another time....the problem is that Ben is competitive too. His is sports induced. Let's just say that at our first pre-marriage counseling session the pastor told us that competitiveness would ruin our marriage if we weren't very, very careful. So it's not like it was something that we "hid" very well. We've managed for 11.5 years with only some damage.

Anyway, now our kids play sports. That's probably all I have to say and you know where this post is going. It's just that I must admit something...  I think I'm "that" parent. I kinda have a loud, squeaky voice and I don't want to be the coach, but I still have some input to give. Which I give only to my kids, not to others. Well, except, occasionally the refs. OH, the refs. Really, just make sure you know the game before you take the job. That is all.

So poor Ben, while he keeps his closet competition all stuffed into his brain, I'm the one who lets it all out through my loud, squeaky air hole. And 'Closet Boy' keeps asking me if I think that a) the kids can hear me? and b) is what I am saying really helping? I'm not sure I ever have a good answer and it usually just makes me want to yell a little louder. I'm convinced that one day, Alena will jog off the field and tell me, "Mom, I heard you yell, 'GO TOWARDS the ball,' and so I did it, and that's why I scored that goal today! Thanks mom!"

Or perhaps there will be a day that Caleb will be like, "Mom! I'm so proud you yelled at that ref and all my friends heard! Thanks, you really got him on that one and did you see him change the call, right on the spot, because of you? Awesome, thanks mom!"

Or maybe, just maybe, Nathan will one day be like, "Mom, I missed your loud squeaky voice at the game today...and so did all the other parents. They were all asking me where you were. Thanks mom for being so loud."

I was really hoping these things would happen...

But then....

Last week after an indoor soccer game I was doing a little after-game instruction coaching. I was blabbing along, the child politely nodding her sweet/sweaty head at me and trying to visualize what I was talking about, and I turned around to see if she was really 'getting it' and I saw..... her eyes. Oh, her ever-telling, honest, big brown eyes. Her eyes could not lie, they were not understanding the "coaching" at all, in fact, they were.....sad. And my heart broke. Right there in the van. And I realized all she really needed was a biggest fan. Someone who yells, all loud and squeaky, about how hard she worked and how fast she was and how she'll get that goal she's been practicing for soon! She wanted to hear that I love coming to her games and watching her... and perhaps that I was proud she was actually PLAYING soccer at the age of six, something I for sure didn't do and still made the Varsity team in high school (no looking back at old SPHS records ok, you can make the team and not make a goal).

I realized I want to be my kids' BIGGEST, LOUDEST cheerleader. I was getting confused with all that competitive juice flowing through my veins. I'll leave the coaching to practice time with the real coach. And also to my husband (aka 'Closet Boy'), who coaches as a profession. He clearly does a much better job at keeping his own emotion in check. And while he still wants our kids to get better and go for the win, he certainly does not want to crush their little spirits! And neither do I. There's a line on the "parenting field" that I want to learn how to "play fair" - To teach and encourage my kids, not exasperate or spoil. 

So...I was better this week. I still have lots to work on, but this week I sat with the other moms, tried not to pound on the glass at the indoor field, and I only joked about chanting, "Fight, fight, fight" - like at the hockey games - when the one girl elbowed my daughter. After the game sweet girl and I talked about what she wanted to-- which happened to be nothing related to soccer and everything related to the "awesome" snack she got. I still had a lot of fun at the game and my little soccer star was much more relaxed <SURPRISE> . I have two more games to practice my new behavior and then we are on to basketball and wrestling... which I'm sure will be a totally new learning curve!

Still learning how to play this life game of parenting! ~ Ms. Simplicity






Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paleo what???

So, ok, confession, we are trying to go Paleo around here.

Basically how this has been explained to me, by my husband (bless him), is that we are trying to eat like cavemen and cavewomen. Hmmm, ok. He also told me this week that we should try to exercise like the cave people and also sleep like them.** Perfect, I can go to bed when it gets dark, at 4:37pm, and he can exercise by running from danger the kids. This is gonna work for me I think.

No, honestly, we have been thinking about this, talking about this, and test-trialing it for years and we have been practicing it (AT DINNER TIME ONLY) <----- please read that part---> for a few months, ok for a few weeks, ok about 3/7 meals a week. And it's actually been good. Mostly. The hardest part is that some people are SO Paleo. Which is weird. But I pretty much think all diets are kind of odd. I mean who doesn't love egg nog and chocolate and wine every night once in awhile? Not to mention, think about what you eat for breakfast...please tell me you answered with "BISCOTTI-every-single-day"... it's hard to find something good with no gluten.

BUT! We have found, what I am calling, The Paleo Book From Heaven. It's actual title is: Against All Grain by Danielle Walker. It is awesome. First of all, google the book or her blog, look at her picture, and clearly she is not Paleo-weirdo. She's just a mom who had some health issues and has taken time to make really good alternatives to all the "bad" stuff with gluten and sugar and all those chemicals. The key to that last sentence is: she has taken the time to make really good alternatives. For example, we have made, and thoroughly enjoyed, her ketchup and her mayonnaise, and might I add right here, that we have tried a lot of recipes for these condiments. Hers are the best.

Also, every dinner we have tried has been so yummy. Even the kids have eaten them! And the kids are always my hold up....I don't want my kids to ever think they are on a diet. This has been my main concern in this debate of switching over (when I say switching what I mean is, we eat Paleo most of the time but there is always room for cheats, which include but are not limited to, egg nog/wine/chocolate/all desserts/and black licorice, these are just the current exceptions, please check back for more added next week). But back to the switch.. the nice thing about her reciepes is that they are pretty kid friendly and if there IS something missing (like the bun on a bacon burger) it's easy to buy the kids some buns and x-nay them for us. That way they have NO CLUE what is happening in their little world! It's awesome.

Lastly, I would add that most of her recipes don't ask for Paleo-weirdo ingredients. Well, at least not the ones I've tried. Which is helpful because really who knows what some of that stuff is? Even if I use google to find out WHAT it is, it's super hard to find out WHERE to buy it. I'm not into traveling all over town to find coconut aminos. Just call it what it is - soy sauce without gluten. And then find it wherever you already shop... ya know? Alright well, I wanted to add a few recipes here but I will blog another time about my love for Danielle and her simple, yummy recipes. For now, just keep me accountable to my 3/7 dinners and I'm working on eliminating the egg nog, ok??

Ms. Simplicity (the not Paleo-weirdo)

**To Ben's defense he is reading Paleo Manifesto by John Durant, so he's a little Paleo-weirdo right now...let's give him time and see if it sticks.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's Been Requested

This post is for the ladies who have requested the Christmas Countdown...

We have been doing this for two years now, but it is SO FUN! The kids love it and look forward to it with great anticipation. We started this tradition when we moved to Spokane, probably mostly because I had time on my hands when we first moved here and thought this would be a fun idea, little did I know it would be enjoyed year to year!

If you want a few pictures of what we've done in the past... I did blog about this briefly last year... but here I will give you the full list of ideas we use and give you a few hints about how we pull it off.

Hint #1: PLAN ahead. Which is why I am posting this now. It's hard to do something every day, even the necessities, like brushing your teeth making your bed... but if you want this to be super FUN, all you have to do is make sure you 1-have a plan and 2-have the supplies.

Hint #2: Be flexible. The first year I planned the whole month and put numbered days on the little tokens they pulled out. DON'T DO THIS. Some ideas are easier than others, so if you've had a crazy day, you might pull off Sparkling Cider night, rather than Making Gingerbread Houses night. Also, I put the "funner" activities on the weekends so we have daddy around to help enjoy. ;)

Hint #3: This follows be flexible, but I also say, keep it a surprise as long as you can.... so you have the ability to change the plan if needed. For example, if we were going to go look at Christmas Lights but a blizzard blows through, we switch to Cocoa and Carols... you get the drift, but I made so many mistakes and had sad kids a few times the first year....

Hint #4: Be creative with how you tell the kids what each day is. This year I am going to try to do it Advent Calendar Style but I don't know how yet...I'll probably Pinterest it. We do have green and red popsicle sticks that say each of the events (written with a Sharpie, nothing fancy)...but I haven't found the best way to have them pick those sticks out. I promise to keep you posted on this part, or if you have ideas, please share! (We have completely eliminated the chocolate advent calendars because there's really no need if you are doing this every night - plus, you'll see, there's more than enough sugar involved with our list - add or subtract the treats as you see fit for your fam!)

Ok, so here's our list.... no need to use all these ideas, make up some of your own, but this will hopefully get you started!


Countdown to Christmas:
1-     Kids decorate rooms with lights/decorations 
*Hint: This often keeps them occupied while I do the main area decorations, it's fun for all!*
2-     Movie Night
a.     Miracle on 34th Street
b.     popcorn
3-     Craft or Sugar cube castle 
*Hint: Last year we made their teachers gifts on this night*
4-     Make Christmas Cards
a.     Make pieces in advance
*Hint: We did this year one and it was CRAZY, but year two they helped me pick out the Christmas card on Costco's photo page and we picked which picture to put on it, simple but still fun*
5-     Sparkling Cider with Dinner
*Hint: We do table cloth and wine glasses for all on this night, really fancy is fun!*
6-     St. Nick Night (which I believe is December 6th, but you'd want them to leave their shoes out on Dec 5th...this is cute and I like the story of St. Nick a lot better than Santa :))
a.     research and other cultures…told story of St. Nick
b.     we did one book for each kid in their shoe and a healthy snack
7-     Snowman Night
a.     white donut snowmen (look on my Pinterest page for picture of this)
b.     decorate table with snowmen napkins, etc.
8-     EGG NOG
9-     Ice Cream Night
*Hint: We do hamburgers on the grill and peppermint milkshakes
10- Game Night
a.     tree brownies (on my Pinterest page)
11- Tell Christmas Story with costumes
*Hint: This was a HUGE HIT!! The kids LOVED it and did so well*
12- Sing Carols and drink cocoa
13- Dollar Store Christmas Shopping w/ the kids
a.     for one another
b.     for relatives
14- Red and Green Night
a.     tablecloth
b.     7-Up w grenadine
c.      pasta (fun shapes) with pesto sauce or red sauce
*Hint: World Market is where I found Christmas-shaped pasta*
15- Birthday Party for Jesus
a.     cupcakes
16- Dinner out and Alena’s Program
a.     OSF
*Hint: Obviously this was specific to us, but you probably will have at least one kids program in your holiday season and can make it into the "special event" for the countdown
17- Gingerbread Houses or Nativity Houses
*Hint: Holly's idea posted to FB
18- Drive around to see Christmas lights
19- Make popcorn balls
20- Wrap Gifts
21- Slumber party by the tree
22- Make sugar cookies
23- PJ Night
a.     new pjs!
*Hint: We're going to change this up since my mom always gets them pj's on Christmas Eve, my idea was getting them a new pillowcase or something like that...but for me, I want it to be something that gets them excited about bedtime....as I know the next few days will be full. 
24- Christmas Eve
25-Christmas


One day we'd like to go Ice Skating as a fun event, but we're waiting until everyone's a little older...maybe next year! And we'd like to add a service project too... So, I'm sure you all have lots of things going through your mind now - add them to personalize this countdown to fit your family and age of kids...but this will get you thinking! Enjoy and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Ms. Simplicity



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Moms Need Breaks

The title is true.

But, FYI, bloggers need breaks too. Obviously. Since I have taken about a 5 month hiatus and still call myself a blogger. I know, the good bloggers don't take breaks. But I do. So, follow me or don't, but I just want to warn you - I take vacations from blogging.

But I'm back and that counts. It's the coming back that is hard though. You think, ummm, what do I do? I forgot how to blog. I can't remember what to do. It's too hard. I want another break......and I talk myself in and out of topics and around and around the point of blogging... and yet, I write.

The title is true.

Moms need breaks. I went to a MOPS convention 2 weeks ago. It was a mom break. I went to Kansas City (got on an airplane!!!!!) for 5 whole days. Without kids. Without husband. Without noses (read: snot). Without diapers (read: poop). It was good. It inspired me to come home and potty train my two year old and take away his binky and homeschool everyone again. JUST KIDDING. Actually, what happened was that I was reminded of some essentials, had great times with some new friends, I missed my husband a ton... and as for the kids, well...honestly, I hoped they were alive when I got back.

Moms need breaks. My mom brain works really hard making sure the kids all stay in a state of breathing thriving. So, I welcomed the break and went on to this MOPS convention. MOPS stands for: Mothers of Preschoolers. It's an international organization that most of you probably have heard of. What's their mission you ask?: MOPS exists to encourage, equip and develop every mother of preschoolers to realize their potential as a woman, mother and leader in the name of Jesus Christ. Nice mission. GREAT potential. There were 3,200 mops at the convention. If they average 2 kids each that's 6,400 kids reached and if they average more like 3 kids each the number grows to 9,600. Almost 10,000 kids! The point is to encourage, equip and develop the MOMS but I think the direct result is in the KIDS. Anyway... the moms were there for a break...

Moms need breaks to be reminded of the basics. And they brought in some amazing speakers to do this reminding. Which was Awe.Some! Hearing women like Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Eliza Morgan, Lysa TerKeurst relate to all of us as moms was very encouraging. And it definitely brought me right back to the basics. A speaker like Beth Moore- she points you straight to Jesus and your bible and reminds you that's where you will find life. Jen Hatmaker- she points you straight to Jesus and the bible and reminds you that's where you will find purpose. Eliza Morgan- well she, she points you straight to Jesus and the bible and reminds you when life gets really, really, messy that's where you will find hope. And then that Lysa TerKeurst- she pointed us straight to Jesus and the bible and told us that's where we find the manual to be a good wife and mom. Seriously, it was awesome to be in a room with 3,200 women and every speaker on the stage just kept pointing us to Jesus and the bible. Because, guess what? When I got home, that's exactly what I needed to be pointed to!! Beth and Jen don't live here. Eliza and Lysa aren't next door giving me pep talks when Titus throws himself into a fit because he can't have a Blow Pop at 6:45am. It was so good to be reminded that Jesus is the answer. It was good to remember, He is the ultimate example. That when I do what he did (bring back the WWJD bracelets!!), my kids are affected. HE AFFECTS THEM. But I have to be the body He can work through.

I needed the break to be reminded of this fact. I get so wrapped up in ME. From the moment that little boy stomps into my room and hits my face to wake me - I'm distracted by me- what I want. What I need. How many hours of beauty sleep I need to wake up beautiful. How many cups of coffee I need before I should be asked a question. How many minutes I should get on the computer, undistracted. And it goes on -All. Day. Long. But really, really, I want to be about Jesus and the bible. Deep down it's what I long for. Call me crazy, but I think it's what I was created for. And so the break, to remind me who I am, was good. It reminded me, it's all about Jesus. And I want to be His vessel. So my baby steps are #1- read the bible more daily :) and #2- wake up nice mom not crazy mom. And 3 - (Which is still on the "to do") will be to take a deep breath (listen) before responding.

Thanks to MomCon I think I'll be a better mom. I know it's the coming back that is hard. What do I do? I forgot how to be a mom. I forgot how to love Jesus with my whole heart. I can't remember what to do. It's too hard. I want another break......and I talk myself in and out of my baby steps, and yet, I am mom. And I'm back.

Until next time,
Ms. Simplicity


Friday, September 6, 2013

Thunderstorms

I used to hate thunderstorms.

Once I was in junior high and I left my family to stay with some second cousins for a week, they had terrible thunderstorms. I was so freaked out. I cried in my bed at night.

Then I was going into high school and I went on a missions trip, we went to Mexico, and there were these major storms and we were staying in huts made of grass with no walls. I was SO scared. I thought the lightening would surely strike me dead.

Then I was home alone one night and a thunderstorm hit Spokane (like the ones we've been having this week)... and I was so extremely frightened that I called my boyfriend's house in the middle of the night and begged his mom to let him come, across town, and get me, and take me to his house to spend the night. I was a wreck (obviously, since she did indeed let him come and get me).

Then I moved to the west side for college where it just rains incessantly without the whole thunder and lightening drama. Oh... and then I moved back.

But I'm older now and more mature and I have an awesome husband who holds me when I'm scared of bigger things than thunder and so I don't feel anxious about storms anymore. In fact, we sleep with our porch door open because I like the sound of the rain and I like the flashes of beautiful lightening and I know the thunder won't hurt me.

So really, I like storms now. But let me tell you more. And this might seem mean and a bit uncompassionate.... but go with me to the end of the story.

I like that my kids are afraid of the thunder.

I enjoy hearing their running feet head straight to my side of the bed and their sweet voices asking if they can sleep with me tonight. I like frantically searching for a flashlight with Ben when the power goes out and finally finding it 15 minutes later under a dirty pile of laundry and laughing together in the middle of the night. I LOVE holding my nine year old boys' hands and listening to their breath, fast and crazy, all close to my ear... and how it calms over time and, when it's rhythmic again, I know they have fallen asleep. It's NOT fun waking up all sweaty because 5 people don't fit really well in a queen bed, but I think it's worth it because some day the nine year old boys will conquer their fear and they won't run to me anymore. It's all good for now because my sweet girl will one day sleep through the storm in her own bed because she's exhausted from after school activities, or whatever keeps her busy all day long when she's 15. Because one day my baby boy won't be a baby and my kids will be grown and they won't need me to hold their hand through silly thunderstorms.

So until then, I will enjoy the storms, in fact, I will invite the thunder so that I can hold my kids' hands and snuggle in the too-small bed and wake up all sweaty -- because it's worth it.

Yours Truly - Ms. Simplicity

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Beautiful Story


I'm not sure that I can summarize all that has been in my heart these last few weeks, but I will try, with simplicity, to explain my thoughts and musings.

A few weeks ago my dad called and told me that my grandma was not doing very well. He had visited her at Thanksgiving and then again in March for her birthday and her body was rapidly declining. THANKFULLY, God knows the timing of all things and last summer Ben and I had decided to take the kids to Idaho for our vacation. I know, a rip-roaring time, in the small town of Weiser, Idaho- known mostly for the fiddle festival, which makes it's showing the third week of every June. But we went down during this spectacular event and spent the week with my grandma and grandpa. I am so thankful that we did this. In hindsight, we had not lived in Spokane for a year yet and we left just two weeks after we had moved into a our new place, so it wasn't the most convenient time, but we went. So thankful for that time. Thankful for the prompting. Thankful to spend time with my gentle grandma when her health was still relatively good. Extremely thankful my big kids got to be with her and sit on her lap and feel her hugs and taste her cooking. Thankful I got to sit in her presence and be loved by her. Thankful I have pictures of Titus with her, even though he will never know her sweet touch and yummy tapioca pudding. Thankful.

My strong and gracious grandpa had been faithfully taking care of her for, well, 63 years of marriage, but the last 5 had been especially taxing when she began having some nerve problems in her feet. These last years were filled with small steps towards an inevitable ending. But he was faithful, faithful to his bride, the true meaning, right before my eyes, of "loving in sickness and in health." A privilege to watch this all take place. Love.

And then that call - the call when my dad said, she's not doing well, we should go see her. And over the week she continued to decline and I prayed. Oh God, please, please let her stay alive so I can see her one more time. Kiss her cheek. Hold her hand. And the whole way there I prayed, please Lord, keep her alive. We arrived and she smiled at my dad (her youngest son) and she looked into my mom's eyes and then, I will never forget, she looked at me and with no words just her eyes and her smile, she said, "I love you." Then my grandma went to sleep. So we kissed her cheeks and I pulled up a chair to sit by her side. I held her hand and my grandpa would stroke her hair and she slept. Her breathing was labored, shallow and sporadic, but she slept. Hope.

It's hard to know exactly how to explain what that time felt like. It's such a specific feeling that happens so rarely. It's like I knew that there was peace but there was also a deep, heart pounding of hope. Words don't always come easy to me (I know, hard to believe) but in those moments all I wanted was music. Music. Music to fill the space between the known and the unknown. So we turned on a tape (yes, some people still have tapes and tape players) and we listened to music and tried to talk about the normal, every day things. And my grandpa told us, that he had told her, she could go, that he would be ok. And my eyes watered. Then he got up and helped swab her dry mouth with water...And all I could think was this: I am looking into a mirror. At the end of my life. What do I want to have next to me? A man who loves me to the very last minute. A son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter who love me and hold my frail hand and ask me to keep breathing just a few more breaths. A God who is beckoning me into His heaven because He can't wait to declare, "Well done." Yes. These things. Desperation.

Then we all decided to go to bed. My grandpa on a mat next to her bed. And I slept. And I awoke to the sound of a grandpa crying. A grandpa crying will break the grand daughter's heart. Because she will know what it means. And then, my grandma was gone. Sadness.

All the events after this are not necessary. Because this is the Beautiful Story. She lived a beautiful life. She made beautiful children. She raised her kids to know her beautiful Jesus. She prayed fervently for her beautiful grandchildren and their children. She loved. She was loved. She passed beautifully in her sleep. She is with her beautiful Savior, in a mansion made for her! Joy.

Thankfulness. Love. Hope. Desperation. Sadness. Joy.

I love you grandma. Thank you for being a beautiful legacy for me. ~Your Crystal


Monday, May 6, 2013

School + Fish

Oh kindergarten, first and second grade how wonderful you are...
You love to encourage kids to bring show and tell.
Oh K, 1 and 2... you push kids to stand in front of classes and tell their crazy stories,
You, oh you, bring mothers to their knees.
(I know this doesn't rhyme - I'm not a poet and I know it)

Taking a fish to school seems not so hard.
But it is.
It is hard to take a fish, that needs water to live, to school.
BUT when your dog is too crazy, your cat is too shy and your chickens are just too much. You want to bring your fish to school. And you convince your mother that it is the best pet to bring to school and that it won't be hard to do at all. And then you realize in an instant that you ride the bus. And then you beg your mom to bring your pet fish, Bruce, to school because it would be a little tricky on the bus.

And then your mom agrees. Because your brown eyes are so big. And your voice is so sweet. And you won't stop bugging her. But most of all because show n tell doesn't last forever.

Luckily, the boy with big brown eyes, sweet voice and determined little spirit has a very nice, careful and wonderful sister.

Fish holder
And so Bruce took his longest trip yet and went all the way to Freeman Elementary School.

Where he had his big break on the TV screen!!

You have to look close, but so cool to see it this way!!
And the boy was happy.



Do they do show n tell in third grade??!?

Caleb, I love you so much, I would bring Bruce to school, again, if you really wanted.
~Ms. Simplicity


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Our Father In Heaven

Sometimes I like one of my kids more than the others. It's true. I'm being honest. The good thing is that it always changes. So one week it's one kid and the next week it's another. Probably over my life time they will all be my favorite equal amounts of time. ... I hope.

Anyway, the point is that right now it's Nathan.

He's just so dang likeable right now. He empties the dishwasher without a fit. He folds his clothes without having a shouting match with me first about whether or not he should have to fold clothes before stuffing them into his dresser. He takes showers without arguing. He asked recently if he could start wearing deodorant (aka; he doesn't stink). He likes getting his hair cut occasionally.

He is also super compassionate and kind. He puts on Titus shoes for me when we are trying to get out the door. He plays with Titus outside without pushing him, yelling at him, or getting frustrated with him (well once last week Nate did stomp into the house and said, "Mom, none of my bribes are working on Titus, he will not come in the house."). He reads books to Titus and Alena. He doesn't hog the whole couch to himself.

Tonight I heard him say, "Good-night KB, I love you," after they finished their ritual nighttime talking sesh. It melt my heart. And that's why I remembered this picture I took the other day and I just had to blog about my boy.

Nathan has been reading through his Bible recently. We have The Action Bible and it's pretty cool with kid-language and awesome animations. He's been working on getting through the whole thing and he is so excited to tell us about each thing he reads. It's amazing when your kids love Jesus, on their own. Anyway he came upstairs a few weeks back and said, "Mom! Did you know that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray! He did, and I have to memorize what He said. I want to pray like Jesus taught them." So we started brainstorming how he could remember the prayer. Finally he decided he would write it down and carry it in his pocket so he could say it whenever he needed to pray. ..... Have your kids ever challenged you to be a better follower of Jesus? ... Obviously mine have. Wowzers. Well, I was just awed every time he'd pull out that little piece of paper and read it. So I had to, of course, snap a quick picture of the piece of paper so that it will forever be a reminder of how precious his sweet little heart is. Plus, I will have something to look back on the next time he freaks out because he actually has to pick up all his Legos.

If you need a refresher on the Lord's Prayer, or just a reminder of the simplicity of it, check out the picture below.

Love my boy Nathan forever ~ Ms. Simplicity








Sunday, April 28, 2013

Screen Time... Or Lack Thereof


This week we did a little screen time "fast". Fast, as in, abstain or refrain. Not, hurry up and watch the screen. Ha! It was good, for all of us. See my friends and I are doing a little challenge (more on this later) and this week I decided my kids should join in on the challenge.

Let me be honest with you. We don't have cable. We have an antennae in our window that picks up some channels for us. Let's say, maybe, 12 channels. And we love chanel 7 (PBS kids!) and channel 34 (qubo). Qubo, is a 24-hour cartoon channel and I'd say there is probably only one show on it that we don't let our kids watch and it's on at like 2am. It's He-man. And honestly I'm not sure exactly why we wouldn't let our kids watch it since Ben and I grew up watching it and we turned out ok...but it's on at an unordinary time anyway so mostly our kids could watch Qubo any hour of the DAY and be ok. Therefore... sometimes they watch it a little too much. What's too much you ask? Well, one of Titus' first words was "show" - I think that might indicate the amount of watching. So, yeah, during the winter I pretty much forget the whole rule about screen time that webmd.com and healthykids.com suggest. But with spring just popping it's head into our neck of the woods, I thought to myself, "Self, this is a great time to do a family screen time challenge."

Monday, here's how things started:

Me - Hey kids, we are going to do a challenge. We are not going to have any screen time for a whole week.
Kids - (silence, looking at me like I'm an alien)
Me - Yeah, it'll be so good for us! We'll get fresh air, play lots of games and yeah, woo hoo!
Kids - Like video games?
Me - No, like board games and stuff. This is going to be great!
Kids - Ok, so can we play our DS's?
Me - Nope
Kids - Hmmmm, do we get to watch cartoons in the morning?
Me - Nope
Kids - Are you and dad doing it too? No computers or phones for you guys too?
Me - Yep
Kids - Ok, we are in!! (high-fives around the table)
Me - (silence, looking at them like they have just told me a truth about myself that is not so pretty)
Kids - Maybe we could celebrate at the end of the week with family movie night.
Me - Totally, that would be so fun.
Kids - With popcorn and candy and ice cream?
Me - Yep, let's do this.
Titus - Show?

So reality slapped me hard in the face. And here I am reflecting on it. We do so much on our electronics, it's just crazy! For me my grocery list, to-do list, procrastination tools games, work schedules, email, calendar, weather report, news, music, running log, coupons...all these things are on my PHONE. So I am constantly looking at it. Luckily, a month ago I clued into taking facebook OFF my phone, at least then it's not as easily accessible to, once again, take my eyes off of the kids and onto my phone. But there is still so much to look at on my phone. It's becoming ridiculous.

My kids have noticed.

Thus the fast. The abstaining. The refrain.

I still had to use my phone this week. But it's been much less. And honestly Titus and Alena did watch 40 minutes of Sound of Music so I could run on the treadmill (at someone else's house, so really it was my only choice of entertainment)... but Ben and I have not been on the computer nearly as much and none of us have watched any TV or played any games on the Wii or DS. Amazing. (I found out on Friday night that someone did cheat BEN! and played a half of a game once this week.... geez what do I have to do to get some loyalty around here....kidding babe)

Below is a list of things that we DID do. SOME of the things would have happened with or without 'the fast', but most of them happened when we would have normally been watching TV, a movie, or I would have been doing FB or some other non-necessary thing on my phone/computer. I love this list and will treasure it for a long time. We just might do this fast thing monthly....or maybe quarterly :)

Read books
Pet the dog
Went to bed early
Made actual phone calls (instead of texts)
Watched soccer practice
Took bubble baths (the kids and me too!)
Looked in real cookbooks
Cleaned the boys' nasty bathroom
Pet the cat
Made cookies
Got caught up on laundry and organized the laundry room (!!)
Wrote actual emails (instead of texts)
Said "no" to Titus a bazillion times when he said "show?"
Read the news
Looked at a magazine (this was FOR work, not necessarily enjoyment)
Played board games
Pulled "weeds" out of the flower garden (I couldn't use the internet to find out if they were weeds or not so I just pulled out all the ugly stuff)
Made earrings and bracelets with Alena

On Saturday night we took the kids to an actual movie at a theater. Don't mind doing the math for how much it costs to take 6 people to the movie, we recognize we probably could have paid off all our college debt, but we spoiled our kids instead and it was SO fun! We even took them out to dinner afterward! It was such a great family time - and get this.... No one wanted to watch cartoons this morning! Well, except Titus. But we'll work on that.

Try a media fast, it's good for the brain and for the soul.

~Ms. Simplicity






 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nines!

The boys turned 9 about 2 months ago.

I forgot to blog about it.

I'm not a bad mom, just a little....slow.

I do have to say that I realized this is the last year before they turn double digits. So it could be one of the last times I can actually blog about their birthday and post all the pictures online without them being slightly embarrassed. They still let me kiss their cheeks at school for now too.

 We went to Tacoma for their birthday and then did a small dinner here with two of their friends.

The boys soooo enjoyed seeing their old friends:

Boy Power!

Get food fast...

eat food...

with friends...

awesome time!
Alena also got friend time:

Jubilee is teaching Alena how to read
I only lost Titus once while we were in Tacoma. I won't tell you exactly how and where because you might turn me in to CPS, but thank goodness for Jakey-bee saving the day!

Ruby and Titus always get along
And I got a dose of this cutie pa-tootie:

Hailey

All in all, the boys so enjoyed playing baseball with their friends and turning nine with just a few presents and a lot of driving :) Somehow old friends AND new friends bring comfort -- that is a wonderful thing. And, it is worth celebrating.

Life moves on, quickly, and yet, there are some things that stay seared in our minds always ~ Friendship is one of them. ~Ms. Simplicity

Nate and Reed (Spokane dinner)

Adam and Caleb (Spokane dinner)

Happy Birthday my big boys! Your mama loves you from your hearts, to the moon, and back.





Friday, April 12, 2013

Being Real


If you haven't read Heart Challenge, maybe do that first before reading this blog post.

I just want to be real.

Loving the poor is hard work. I think in my last post I made it sound like it was going to be easy. And yet, I have been scared, worried, and frankly sorrowful this month. It's SUPER EASY to buy the granola bars. But it is scary and anxiety-producing and hard to actually give them away. It is a little easier when it's just me. It becomes a bit harder to do WITH the kids. Why?

Example : Alena sees the man on the corner of the street. I ask her if we should give him a granola bar. She says yes. We pull over into a parking lot. She doesn't want to get out of the car. I am nervous. She is scared. I wonder if I should make her get out. Or do I, again, go hand the granola bar to the man by myself. See, it's a little easier to walk over and do it on my own. It's a bit harder to take a child who is scared.

And the debate becomes, do I help her heart break through and DO it? Or do I let the Lord bring her to a place of that in His timing? .... I don't know the right answer. But I made her get out and walk with me. She saw him, she wanted him to have a granola bar, so I made her come. ... Have we passed the people on the corner one too many times in her 6 years of life? I don't know, but we held hands and did not pass him up this time. We were both nervous and scared but we did it. Oh Lord, give me the strength and boldness to always proclaim your love, and not miss opportunities, open my eyes!

In other news, the boys' penny drive was a HUGE success! Their class got second place in the whole school!!! They get a Krispy Kreme party this Friday to celebrate! So amazing!! And yet, I do have this ache in my heart, that kids get cancer, and we can pray that those pennies do all they can to further what is needed to help kids not get cancer. But kids get cancer. Help us to raise kids who want to help other kids. Always. Even when they don't win donuts.

So life - it proves difficult, when I want it to be easy. And sometimes this is because we have to choose to break through and sometimes it is our own trials that become a block. But trials, they are tricky things. They mold us into who God wants us to be. I am learning we must embrace the trial. Embrace the circumstances and ASK God what He is trying to do in our life. I don't want trial, I don't want pain, but I believe the biblical equation goes something like this:

Suffering = Perseverance, Character and Hope

And Romans 8:18 says "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

So Lord, help me reach into other people's sufferings and not be afraid of what I might see, be exposed to, or how I might be affected. Give me wisdom to allow my kids to reach in too and help pull people out of their fires. Allow me to see that perseverance, character and hope come from suffering and that there is an eternal glory to be revealed that compares to NOTHING ON THIS EARTH. And let me show others this eternal glory and hope that there is in Christ alone.

On this journey together ~~~ Ms. Simplicity

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Heart Challenge

Have you ever been stuck? I'm talking stuck in the snow, stuck in a ditch, stuck in a small space, stuck inside a sleeping bag and someone is sitting on the opening and won't move?? (That happened to me once by my brother an unnamed source, it was scary.) Anyway, what do you do when you are actually stuck? I'm of the type to panic. Freak out. Get all crazy in the head and start to reverse, drive, reverse, drive, shift to 2nd gear, reverse, drive, reverse. Sometimes I get out of the stuck spot and sometimes I get myself deeper... Sometimes I just need someone to help me GET OUT, and sometimes I just need to calm down. 

Once, I was stuck on the side of the road. I had decided to go grocery shopping late at night and I was driving to the Winco in Federal Way, and my tire blew. Ben had to come and save me. And guess what? I went on to Winco and he went home. We must have really needed those groceries. Or maybe, if I remember correctly, Caleb and Nathan were 3 and I needed some "time."

Anyway, on to the real reason for this post. Since moving to Spokane, settling in, moving to the country, settling in, raising chickens, raising kids, making new friends and helping the kids make some too, I was getting a little stuck. I didn't really know that my heart was slowly slipping into the ditch of snow (read: complacency) but it was. And I'm not upset that it was going there, because all it meant was that God was going to have to do something to wake me up and help me GET OUT.

It's amazing how God gets us unstuck. His usual ways are: parting seas, floods/arks, knocking over giants, whale tummies, closing the mouths of lions, making the sun stop in it's place, healing when someone simply touches his clothes. Buuuuuut, I must be a really simple person, because for me it was none of the above. It was a text from a friend (read: Mrs. Bee) and a blog challenge. So here it comes....

HEART CHALLENGE--- What if Jesus was serious when He said... "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Here's how the Message Bible puts it:

"I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.....
Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me---you did it to me."

What if! What if...and my heart starts beating. Like, a wild crazy beating, like, oh man, I've been stuck and I see it now and what do I want to do about it? So for a few days I went drive, reverse, drive, reverse, 2nd gear (what IS this gear when you drive an automatic anyway??), and then I just decided to calm down and let Him GET ME OUT. But one thing I had decided was this--- when I get out, I'm bringing my kids with me. I want their hearts to beat with compassion for the least. I want their eyes to see and their souls to act. I want to see and to act with them.

So, readers, if you want, you can come on this journey with us! It'll be simple because my kids are involved and they make me keep it real. Simplicity with Power.

Here's how we are going to start. This is how Jesus is leading us out of the stuck place:

#1- Granola bars.
#2- Pennies.

Simple plan #1: Buy granola bars at Costco. Give them to the homeless people we see. Easy. The homeless are on all the street corners we drive by. And the kids always want me to read the signs to them, or give them the snack (sometimes half eaten) that we have in the car. Now, we will drive around with granola bars and give them away. I like this plan because it's who my kids and I see day to day, and we're building a heart of compassion! Awesome.

Simple plan #2: At the boys' school they are doing a penny drive for the Washington Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They came home with passion comparable to when they did the rubber ducky cookie dough fundraiser. So we are collecting all the spare change around the house. And, get this, they began by emptying their own piggy banks first! I love that they want to help and they want to know how they are helping and they ask questions about cancer and why the kids don't have hair. And although I see the tears well up in my boys' eyes when we talk about it, I rejoice in the compassion that is evident in those wet eyes.

So this month we might not be feeding the homeless under the bridge or praying for kids at the hospital, but we are taking baby steps to get there! Join us if you'd like and please, post in the comments what you do to take your kids on a journey to serve the least. I need ideas because I can't afford to get stuck again. Heart. Beat.

With urgency ~ Ms. Simplicity

Check out my friends' response to this blog/heart challenge! Here and Here