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Christmas Time is Here!

November 18, 2013

Traditions are very important to me. A long-standing tradition can bring families together in ways that not much else can. It warms my heart to hear my not-so-little children saying things like, “Remember when,” and “Aren’t we doing ________ like we’ve done before?” What I see is that whatever the season, something is made more memorable by a tradition. True, you can be overwhelmed by too many traditions. In fact, it could bog down a perfectly beautiful celebration if every moment had to include a tradition of some sort. But, to have a few special things for your family to look forward to each year can be a precious thing.

The “big holiday season” is coming soon. We are making grocery lists and shopping lists and to do lists and wish lists…oh, so many lists! That is already beginning for me, but the real start of the Christmas season for our home is the annual performance of “The Nutcracker.” When my Emilie was small, I was able to take her to enjoy the ballet. Now, our family goes together to watch Hayden perform.

In our community, “The Nutcracker” is a ballet performed by the Eugene Ballet Company along with quite a few talented locals. The dance students from our area audition in September and spend weekends through October and November rehearsing for the performance, where they join the Eugene company.

Throughout the years, we have watched our daughter dance as an adorable mouse, a beautiful angel, an energetic ladybug, and an excited party guest. Her age and experience have not allowed her to be a part of the flower corps yet.

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Last year, an emergency caused Jerry and me to miss the first part of the performance. Our older children both called (separately) to assure us that they would represent us to their sister, asking if they should buy her flowers. It touched my heart as a mom that they would ask, and also showed me this is important to all of us. It has become a treasured tradition in the Smart home.

Each time we enter Jacoby Auditorium and find our seats to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, excitement builds. Smiles all around, as proud parents and local fine arts supporters wait expectantly for the lights to lower and the music to rise. Little girls, dressed in their very best, waiting to experience the magic for the first time and those of us who have had the pleasure of watching before, gather together to enjoy this community tradition.
It’s different than the everyday things we do. We dress up and sit properly in our seats, applauding where appropriate, holding bouquets to give to our little “stars.” It has become a special family activity for us, a tradition that none wants to part with. And once we leave the auditorium, I (at least) can say the season has started.

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“Change is the Only Constant in Life”

July 30, 2013

The title is a quote from Heraclitus. It sounds true. And I guess it should come as a comfort that while we are all doing this life thing together that everyone deals with change. I don’t deal with change well. It is out of my comfort zone. There’s an element of lost control when things change, at least for me.

Life is changing at the Smart house again. Two and a half years ago I wrote a blog talking about some changes then. Of course, things have been changing all along, but some pretty significant things are going on now. Emilie is well established in college now, with a year under her belt. Having another adult in the house is interesting. We don’t really make plans for her anymore, we just invite her to join us when she can (and she usually does!) Taylor will be starting his SENIOR year in high school. It’s been a wild ride with him, to say the least, but the finish line is in sight and we’re excited. Hayden (my baby!) is starting high school this year. This one is most difficult. She’s growing up and while I am so happy for her, a little bit of me wants to cuddle with that tiny blue-eyed girl who stole all our hearts.

Hayden

Hayden

Most significant (to me) is that I am going back to work. I have been hired at Umpqua Valley Christian as their 3rd grade teacher. With the church still needing to keep a smaller staff, our home budget has taken a hit again. This job will help make up the difference. That is such a blessing and I am so excited to be doing something in a classroom again. To be sure, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. (Have you seen the site teacherspayteachers? Love it, but oh man, there’s a lot of info there!) I had decided to step down from coaching the JV volleyball team this year, with all my new teaching duties. I was going to assist the Varsity coach. Now, she is stepping down and with that decision, I am also. Not really by my choice, but a good decision regardless.

There are some additional decisions I am currently praying about which mean change as well. I’m having a particularly difficult time coming to terms with one of them. In praying through this process, the Lord gave me a picture of myself holding my hands over my eyes while a tornado of things I am doing swirled and whirled around me. I was upset because I couldn’t catch a hold of things I thought should be staying with me, and I looked up to tell Him I didn’t like the changes happening. He said,

I am “the same yesterday, today and forever.” Come stand by me and I will give you what you need for this moment.

He led me to a conveyor belt and showed me how in my life He places things in front of me for a season for me to work on (like in a factory assembly line.) When my part is done, the belt moves that thing to the next person and a new task is in front of me. With Jesus by my side, I can do whatever task He places there. I won’t stay in my comfortable area doing the same thing forever, but He has a better plan for me. And me letting go means He can bless the person taking over as well as me as I start my new assignment.

So, Mr. Heraclitus, I beg to differ. The only constant in my life is Jesus. And there is no fear of change when I’m standing with Him.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

 

Undeserved

June 18, 2013
tags:

I don’t deserve this job as a mother

I think, as I stand at the sink washing

an entire household’s day of dishes

that no one else seems to see.

 

I don’t deserve this job as a mother

I think, as I organize the day,

with it’s challenges of who goes where

at what time and with whom.

 

I don’t deserve this job as mother

I think (early in the morning), as I stumble from my bed

to wake the masses

in time to complete forgotten chores before their days begin.

 

I don’t deserve this job as a mother

I think, as I sit with my baby

and cry over the disappointment

the day brought upon her.

 

I don’t deserve this job as a mother

I think (late at night), as I lay in my bed

agonizing over decisions I’ve made that day.

Did I handle everything correctly?

 

I don’t deserve this job as a mother

I think, as I receive forgiveness

for lashing out in frustration,

at the end of my rope.

 

The unexpected hug, the kiss,

the moment when I look into beautiful eyes

that understand what I am doing

and I hear “thank you” “I love you” “you are the best, mom”

No, I don’t deserve this job as a mother.

Goodnight Kiss

May 24, 2013

There is an old song by Steve and Annie Chapman called “Goodnight Kiss.” Some of the lyrics include:

“I count it as a privilege
I count it cause for praise
to kiss my children goodnight
at the close of everyday
for I know too soon they’re off and gone
and walkin’ out the door
and I’ll never have a child to kiss
goodnight anymore

tell the story read a book
wipe a nose or tie a shoe
they never ask me to rub their back
the way they used to do
once it was a bother
just a troublesome kind of chore
now I would give anything
to do it just once more”

When each of my babies was born, I heard over and over, “Savor each moment. They grow so fast.”

I’ve even said it to a few new mommies. It’s true. They do grow so quickly. And when they are young, you spend so much time with them, it’s difficult to imagine a life without little ones. You are making dinners, kissing hurts away, answering questions… the list of parenting duties is endless.

Emilie (6), Hayden (1), Taylor (5)

Emilie (6), Hayden (1), Taylor (5)

I remember being called to my son’s bedside at 2 in the morning when his little legs were cramping. I rescued my oldest (more than once) when she climbed something and couldn’t get down. My youngest hid… everywhere… Code Adam was used at WalMart…

As the kids grow up, they still need us as parents. They do not need us in the same way. We won’t be kissing a boo boo or reading a book at night. We will be having a date night and going on special shopping trips.

All these are precious stories to my husband and me now. Then, it was just doing the “parenting thing.”

There are lots of fun memory-making times, too. We purposefully made plans to do activities together. Granted, many had to be done together because of their ages and abilities. It was time spent together, though, and I treasure it now.

At present, we all tend to be going in different directions. School, work, dance and band practice (that’s just the kids!) expend most of the minutes we have in each day. It’s difficult to work in times of planned family activities. Having dinner together at the table is hard enough!

Taylor (17), Emilie (19), Hayden (13)

Taylor (17), Emilie (19), Hayden (13)

The point to be made, though, is that it is still important. As the kids grow up, they still need us as parents. They do not need us in the same way. We won’t be kissing a boo boo or reading a book at night. We will be having a date night and going on special shopping trips.

So remember, your kids are growing up fast. Make an effort to connect with them, whatever age they are. Keep making memories for yourself and them.

“Savor each moment. They grow so fast.”

Too soon, they will be out of your nest and building their own.

I think I’ll go hug someone special now.

He Said/She Said – What’s For Dinner?

May 22, 2013

Just for fun, Jerry and I are sharing our sides on different topics. The topics are chosen, we both write our own opinion (without reading the other’s first) and then post them to our respective blogs. You can visit Jerry’s blog here to read his side of the story.

She Said:

I think my cooking style has changed over the years. As a newlywed, I only had a couple of recipes up my sleeve to pull out for my husband. I liked to “experiment,” which usually meant adding corn to Hamburger Helper.

…I was not very inspired…

After all the years we’ve been together, I wouldn’t say I am a particularly adventurous chef, but I have some family favorites. (Hamburger Helper has not been purchased for years!) My family loves the “Simple Bolognese” (taken from Giada De Laurentiis) and I make a couple of slow cooker meals which are popular. Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of complaints. I’ve learned the basics of what my family will and will not eat and when I try to new recipes, I can tailor them to those particulars.

I have, however, always been one to want to cook what sounds good today. I don’t mind making a weekly menu, but I use that more to know what to buy. Usually I just make a list of the dishes I intend to make during that particular week and choose each day what I want to serve. I have never really been interested in the idea of structured menu planning…i.e. Meatloaf Monday, Spaghetti Sunday, etc.

All this is out of Jerry’s comfort zone. He really wants to wake up each morning knowing exactly what is happening in regards to the kitchen table. I laugh because, I’m sorry Honey, it ain’t happening! The idea that you would have a total of seven dinners and every week eat the same thing on the same day…yawn. That seems so boring!

I like the freedom to change things up. I also like to find new recipes and throw them in the mix as well. I mean, how would we know about that wonderful “Crock Pot Indonesian Chicken” that we have decided is a new family favorite? Yes, there have been some recipes that we won’t try again, but how fun to switch it up a little and try new things.

So, I choose to live a free life, not dictated by the day of the week. Jerry, you can do it your way when I go out of town!

Check out Jerry’s side here.  Any topics you would like to suggest?

Word to the Wise

May 17, 2013

It’s amazing to think how much time and energy goes into raising a family.

I had a rough few years after my oldest was born. Trying to figure out how best to handle each new step of her life was a challenge to me. I judged myself based on what I thought others thought of my child-rearing and there were some pretty miserable years in there.

I learned a few things along the way. Some by trial and error on my part, some from observing others. Some worked well for child number one but were totally ineffective for number three.

You are the mom. It is valuable to listen to others’ advice, but use your own judgement to make decisions for your children.

Yet, there are a few lessons that have always been constant in our home. So, humbly, here are my Top Six Parenting Tips:

1. You are the mom. It is valuable to listen to others’ advice, but use your own judgement to make decisions for your children. Don’t be bullied by friends or relatives into doing things their way. Some of the things spoken will be well worth the time you’ve taken to listen and some just won’t work. It’s your right to decide for your family. (Even if that means disregarding the rest of what I say here!)

2. Every child adds something to your home. The personality of the whole family changes. There are things you will not be able to do the same way with each child, maybe not even equally. And that’s OK.

3. Let your children navigate their friendships. It’s great to help them make wise decisions, but if you involve yourself in every conflict that arises, they will not learn to deal with what life throws at them.

4. Make your children responsible for their own actions. It is very easy to brush away a small complaint by someone who “ doesn’t know my child well enough to speak into her life,” but be honest with yourself about what your child should own up to.

5. Don’t be afraid to let your children try things. I’ve seen parents not letting their children run because they might fall or play in the mud because their clothes will get dirty. Let them explore and have those growing, learning experiences. Grab a box of Band-aids and some wet wipes!

6. Be yourself to your kids. Don’t hide your failures, but include them in your life. Show your children how to learn from mistakes. Be real, apologize and love big.

I am still learning with each step my children take. I make mistakes and have to rethink strategies, but I am confident of my love and commitment to my children. We’ll all make it through.

He Said/She Said – Laundry

April 13, 2012

Just for fun, and also to get our creative juices flowing, my husband and I have decided to begin a new venture. Taking a topic, we will both write our own opinion (without reading the other’s first) and then post them to our respective blogs. You can find a link to Jerry’s blog here to read his side of the story.

She Said:

Once upon a time, many years ago, a good-hearted (newly-wedded) husband decided to help his wife by doing her laundry…

At this point, many of you (probably mostly women) are giggling a little, am I right? Said husband used bleach with a load of whites, and then did a load of darks. The bleach drips left on the washing machine were neatly wiped away by the wife’s brand new black stirrup pants. (Hey! I said this was many years ago!) We all know how the story ends…gray spots on the black pants, a wife asking why, a husband saying, “I’m sorry, I was only trying to help!”, and the forced promise of not washing anything that people wear…ever again.

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate help with laundry. I loathe doing laundry. Actually, I loathe folding laundry, but if I didn’t have to do laundry, I would be ok with that. I tend to put the laundry off because of that and Jerry is not pleased when he runs low on the unmentionables. So, the ban on washing was lifted and hubby gets to share the chore again. Although I know I should be doing much more of it!

Besides the bleach incident, I used to have to hide the dry clean only garments until I could deal with them because he would try to wash it all – in hot – with every color together! You can see the trouble I was having, right? I asked him to separate colors once, and then had a good laugh when I pulled a load out of the dryer and everything was blue. He had washed only blue clothes!

We settled those minor issues. Nowadays, the big frustration with him is what is ok to put in the dryer. I don’t dry most of our nicer shirts. This is out of a desire to prevent shrinking and to discourage color fading. Jerry can’t get in his head which things should be hung. With much frustration, he will hang the entire load out of the washer because he doesn’t want to get in trouble for drying it. I have learned to bite my tongue because it makes him mad when I ask why he hung something that I would have dried.

I know Jerry’s biggest frustration is with me getting the laundry done. I am horrible at it! We have very differing viewpoints on how it should be done, too. He would wash a load a day, maybe going as far as to say every Monday, we wash ________, Tuesday, _________. I am not that organized. I want to wash how Mom did it. Wash Day! But, you know what? That only works when you stay on top of it all day long. Which I don’t…because I loathe doing laundry, remember?

I see the good in Jerry’s idea, but in my mind, if I have to separate everything to find the things to wash on Monday, and then separate again on Tuesday for that load… you get the idea. It seems like a waste of time and energy. I tried using separate laundry baskets for the loads. Seemed like a fairly simple thing to ask the family to put items of clothing in certain baskets. Most moms will probably agree with me, easier said than done. It did not work very well.

We did recently attempt and accomplish one of my Pinterest pins. After researching and talking with friends, we made a batch of laundry detergent that, according to the pinned website, should last a whole year! It seems to be cleaning well and I like the smell, so that’s good. Maybe it will help me with my laundry procrastination?

I think the only solution to laundry is to do it. However you can, whenever you can, by any means necessary. And by that, I mean pay your kids to do it!

Check out Jerry’s side here.  Any topics you would like to suggest?

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