As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2: 4-5

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This past week was a tough one. Everyone in the house had some stage of this nasty cold we've been passing around. My difficult children at school were especially difficult. And for the first time since before Christmas, we had to work a five day week! With the work days, then the snow days, then the MLK holiday, we had eased back into the five day work week.

The highlights
Charlotte experiments with a little color

Hannah had Super Dad's Day at school where all the dads came in for a special lunch and then took their kids with them for the day. The theme, Super Dads, was a play on the Super Bowl, and they were supposed to dress in their team colors. This also gave Daryl an excuse to put off his return to a five day work week until February.
(Sorry for the bad picture...darn auto focus!)

And last night, Family Night at the Stone household. For Christmas, Daryl got me a calendar with a date night pencilled in (and a gift card for each month) and a family night planned too. We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and grilled out, played a game of Guesstures, and then watched a movie together. Fun times. I wish I would have gotten out the camera sooner so I could have caught on film Daryl's rendition of belly dancing and Maranda's quarterback imitation, but I only managed to remember when it was Hannah's turn.
Here she is acting out the oh-so-exciting "freckle."

And jumping up and down after we guessed all of her words correctly!

It may be a blurry picture, but this is exactly how I felt on the inside having all my kids home and together last night. Definitely the best night of the month!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The art of being poor

About 13 years ago, my life as I knew it fell apart. I was married, living in a country club neighborhood, shopping whenver I needed or wanted something, staying at home with my new baby girl. And then I wasn't. Wasn't married. Was living in government subsidized housing. Shopping at a local food pantry. And despite working three jobs, the children and I, we were poor. My parents did an amazingly generous job of making sure that we had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and that we never went hungry. I remember being so humbled, so embarrassed, so ashamed back then when it all happened. I never wanted the children to realize just how bad off we were, and so we made games out of it.

There was the "treasure hunt," where we all searched the couch cushions, the junk drawers, the discarded bags, under the car seats, and yes, even in the parking lot of our apartment complex for coins for gas. There were picnic dinners on the living room floor with pbj sandwiches....again. And coin counting parties where we would count all the coins that we made from our latest yard sale, while slowly but surely selling off our stuff. They were so proud taking our coin box to the bank to trade it in for cash, when I was dying inside.

And then, little by little, things started to get better. I got a better job and we slowly started getting back on our feet. Then I met Daryl, and from our first date, he made sure that the kids never needed anything. But the children still remember. We talk about it and we all agree it was a bittersweet time in our lives. We have some really good memories, and my children really appreciate what they have and know what is important in life. And just for that, I would gladly do it all over again.

Fastforward to now. We are blessed. So so so incredibly blessed. We have five healthy, happy, vibrant children. We both have both our parents with us still, and loving families. We have a great house (an everexpanding one at that!), four cars in our driveway, and the children attend a private school. We both have jobs, and Daryl actually has three (I do believe I married the hardest working man EVER!) We have an amazing church family, and most importantly, we have Jesus.

And still, we find ourselves as we do most January's: too much month left for our money. We both get paid in the middle of December and then not again until the end of January (the plight of any teacher). In those six weeks, we have Christmas and two birthdays. We always find ourselves a bit stretched, but this year for some reason, it was worse. And while it's been humbling and frustrating, it's been a good reminder. A reminder of the generosity of our parents. A reminder of God's provision. A reminder that everything we need, we already have.

I wish I could say that next January will be different. That we will save a little each month for this purpose. That we will manage our money better. But I know the chances of any of that happening are slim to none. But maybe, just maybe, it is a good thing. OK, so maybe that's stretching it. Necessary, maybe. For God knows just what we can handle, and just what we need. And just maybe, a good game or two of "treasure hunt" was just what we needed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The small stuff...

Wouldn't it be nice if you could still find joy in the little things....
Like reading a book with your sister

silky pajama pants
(she must have spent 5 minutes feeling her legs!)

and skipping!

Oh how I wish that I could keep them this small. That I could keep them happy with Barbie princess movies, skipping, cookies, and pajama pants. That I would never have to decide whether being a good parent means protecting them from being hurt or being there to pick up the pieces. Never have to see an eye roll, or watch them walk out of the room, tears in their eyes. Never have to watch them hurt or struggle with self esteem. Never have to watch them make the same mistakes that I did at their age.
I wish I could always keep them like this--joyful, innocent, in love with life--skipping!

Happy Birthday Maddy!!!

I can't believe that my sweet baby girl--my girl who wore her snoopy bathing suit for two years straight, who could scale any combination of baby gates to get to me, and who has always had a love of fuzzy slippers--is 14. (I also can't believe that it took a week for me to get these pictures up! What can I's been one of those weeks) Without further ado, Maddy on her birthday.

Eating her birthday meal of spaghetti. She is one easy to please teenager. She loves spaghetti--with the cheapest sauce from a can, nothing added.

Maranda joined us.
Opening her gift from Grandma and Grandpa, a shopping spree, which we are taking tomorrow. (And how embarrassed am I that you see that my Christmas decorations were still up!--and how embarrassed would I really be if you could see behind that Christmas tree to see the Thanksgiving picture Hannah made.)

Hannah and Daddy enjoying the festivities.

Her big gift from us was a special devotional book that did not arrive--they say, due to the weather (it's still not here....ahem) Her favorite gift out of the book, the lunch at Olive Garden with a friend, a gift card to Starbucks, and permission to have a Facebook? The free one!

Josh doing the cake honors, as usual.

blowing out the candles

And a little random, non-Maddy, cuteness.

Happy birthday, again, my sweet Maddy Moo!
I love love love you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Things that I've learned in the four days we've been iced in:
1. Four days is way too long to be iced in...anywhere...with 5 children.
2. A playroom is just an excuse to get out every single toy every single time you play.
3. Hannah's throat hurts at the strangest times, coincidentally every time it is time to clean up said toys in the playroom.
4. Charlotte knows how to say Mama, and does so...about 5,638 times a day.
5. The laundry can be conquered.
6. We have so many clothes that when all washed and put away, do not fit in our dressers/closets. And yet I keep buying more, thinking they do not have enough.
7. I need to conquer the laundry more often so I quit thinking this and therefore buying clothes that do not fit.
8. Facebook is like crack.
9. I would be the laziest stay at home mom EVER...and the fattest. After I conquered the laundry, all motivation went out the window.
10. Even when you think you look graceful, there is no way to look graceful while slipping and falling on ice in the Kroger parking lot.
11. One snow day is fun. Two is an unexpected surprise. Three is pushing it.
If I wear my pj's the right side out, sleep with a spoon on top of my pillow, and dance naked in the moonlight, can we please go to school Friday?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random Cuteness

Oh, the first day back to school. Everyone was up and at it this morning, bright and early. Hannah was excited. Maddy and Sarah, they said they weren't, and although they would have rather been in the bed, I think they were ready to get back to their friends. Daryl was reluctantly up, as he had to take Charlotte to KayKay's house, and his usual perky self. And sweet Charlotte? She was miserable. She spent the morning (or at least the first thirty minutes of it) following me around, arms extended upward, whining "Mama, mama." Ugh. Heartbreak for this mommy. I held her as much as I could, but left her screaming in Daryl's arms. Not a great start to my day, and I missed her the whole time I was at school. She was much better this afternoon, and actually ate a great dinner, followed by cake.

As you can tell, cake makes everything better!

Wearing big girl shoes helps too. Now usually I am not a big fan of character clothing, but I set out the three pairs of shoes that were one clearance in her size, and she repeatedly picked these. She looks so so much like a big girl in them (if she just had some hair...ha!)

And what could be cuter than pig tails?

The absolute best part of my day today!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work I go!'s off to work I went...but that doesn't rhyme. After 16 1/2 days off, it was back to work for me--a teacher workday, while everyone else played slug-a-bed. I, of course, as always on the night before going back to work, slept soundly from 10:30-3:30 and then contemplated the worries of the world--how will I fit the new reading program into my schedule? Did I put that last phonics test in the computer? Should I do my book talks on Tuesday or Wednesday? How can I plan my wardrobe so that I can wear my tennis shoes every day (doctor's note...thank you!) without looking like an old lady?

Luckily, it was a work day. Now it used to be that ELCA defined work day as follows: a day you work on school stuff--where you work on it, and what you work on...up to you. Then my little private school went all big and SACS accredited and stuff, and so now we have work days just like everyone else. The first inservice training was all about differentiated instruction. Decent speaker, but as usual, I left the meeting with great ideas that I had neither the time nor space to implement. The second training was the requisite technology meeting, where I learned the oh so essential skill of creating my own podcast. That's what I can do in all myspare time...create a podcast. After the catered lunch from Chick Fil tomorrow, I'll start my diet....-we settled in for what was the most productive hour of the day, the grade level meeting. Good to be back with my teacher friends, and good to be starting fresh.

Tomorrow the kiddos come back. I'd be lying if I said I was excited about it. But I'd be lying if I said I was dreading it too. I'm looking forward to getting back to routine. Looking forward to seeing my kids and hearing all about their Christmas breaks and seeing how much they've grown (yes...they really do seem like they grow over the break!). Looking forward to my first workout session in two weeks. And most of all, looking forward being home again, hearing all about everyone's first day back, snuggling with Charlotte, and getting ready to do it all over again...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Ahhh...the new year. A time for reflecting on the year past and making plans for the year ahead. This is generally the time when I make all of these grand resolutions about getting organized, losing weight, becoming more fiscally responsible, reading my Bible more. And I do well for about....two months. (Some of them less than that...remember "One Year to Becoming Organized?" Epic Fail) So this year...I've got one. Just one. To become healthier.

Now compared to last year at this time, I am much healthier, but there is still room for improvement. An online friend gave me the idea to only make a goal for one month at a time, and that way it is easier to achieve and not give up. So, for the month of January, these are my get healthy goals:

Physically: Only one diet coke a week. Exercise at least 3 times per week. Lose 5 pounds.

Financially: Save my tutoring checks and open a Christmas account.

Spiritually: Have my quiet time every day--or shall I say, stay awake through my quiet time. Morning just doesn't work for me. I end up with my mind racing through the things I need to do, or Charlotte or Hannah wake up, or the lure of the bed is just too strong. So I've been doing it at night, which works for me because it also puts me in the right frame of mind to sleep instead of worry. But many times, I find myself falling asleep, Bible open, pen in hand.

So that's it for January. a bit more than the one goal, but not grand by any stretch of the imagination, and I think, totally do-able. We'll see.

Sweet Sixteen

How is it possible that this sweet little girl....
has grown up so fast?
Yesterday, on New Year's Eve, my first baby girl turned 16. Bless her heart, she has been saddled with a birthday that is 6 days after Christmas all of her life. Consequently, her birthday just hasn't gotten the attention that it deserves due to the after Christmas rush and after Christmas bank account. My parents had given me a surprise luncheon at the country club for my sweet sixteen. I thought I was going for a nice lunch with my mom and when I walked in, there were all of my friends sitting around the table. Such a sweet surprise and so like my mother--she made every birthday special.

I wanted to make this birthday special for Sarah, but got started too late for a party. So she invited some of her friends to O'Charleys for lunch and then to a movie. Ellie and Natlie were out of town, but Leah and Rachel made it! I really managed to embarrass them all by insisting I get a picture. Ha!

Little sister (who had to come along because Daryl was working) wanted in on the picture action too!
We even got a free dessert and we sand to her.

When we got home we celebrated again with burgers on the grill, the Liberty Bowl (Daryl's contribution to the celebration!), and cake, ice cream, and presents.
Hannah really wanted to decorate the cake, so I let her put the candles on (also practicing her letter skills--I'd just call out a letter and she would find it)

Charlotte had gotten shots the day before and was uncharacteristically grumpy the whole day (what fun that was!)
Sarah waiting patiently for her presents

Josh lit the candles and brought the cake to the table while we sang.

Blowing out the candles with a little help from Hannah.

The one thing that made Charlotte stop whining and crying....chocolate. Yes, she is her mother's child!

Sarah has just repainted her room to go with her new comforter set she got for Christmas, so we got her some things to go in her new room. The mirror was a big hit...for the little girls!

Yes...whining really is more fun when you are looking at yourself in the mirror!
After everyone (Josh and Maranda) had left, she did come and thank me for making her feel special on her birthday.
Love her!