Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bake Sale

We visited the World Bird Sanctuary last week for our Traveling Tuesday event - and to deliver about a dozen bird houses Mr. T and Hubby's Boy Scout den had made for them. We tend to go there quite a bit.

There's a funny story about a trip to the zoo when it was just the twins, a purchase of a couple small paper cups of nectar, and dive-bombing parakeets in a walk-through bird cage that led to Pookie being deathly afraid of birds until our heart friend Benjamin's birthday bash at the World Bird Sanctuary. Somehow, Pookie's love of Benjamin (and letsjustadmit all things party) superceded her total-hyperventilating-shaking-like-a-leaf-screaming-behind-mommy's-knees response that was usually elicited upon visual recognition of a feathered friend. Since that 5th birthday party 3 years ago, however, Birds are now the girl's best friend...


After last week's visit, Pookie and Meiners decided they would like to adopt a bird. I quickly discovered and rectified the idea that adopting a bird meant bringing the highly useful yet very wild animal home. I likened it to the child we sponsor in Iraq. We didn't bring her home, right? (Tho we would if we could...) They seemed to understand a little more clearly the concept of adopt/sponsor.

The kids perused the pamphlet and quickly determined it would take them months to earn enough money under our family financial regime to adopt a bird. So they decided to have a bake sale.

They are selling cupcakes! Gorgeous, delicious, and amazing cupcakes, if I do say so myself (after-all, I am their Head Baker). They are baking red-velvet (just in time for the Fourth!), chocolate-peanut butter, lemon blueberry surprise, and OWL cupcakes. The cost is $10 for a box of 4, or one cupcake for $3. If you live in the StL area and want to assist the World Bird Sanctuary adoption, as well, you can send me a note via my contacts ;) .



Monday, June 28, 2010

considering mid-life crises

I should know by now not to promise in advance any sort of postings. Before I shut my computer down for the night, odds are likely I've already forgotten that I promised to tell about the kids' plans to raise money for the birds (sorry Evy !!!) or my plans to document the never-ending list of ways God has helped me in my life --- to instead write about the more frivolous topic: Mid Life Crises.

Hubby and I sat around the picnic table this weekend while the big kids splashed haphazardly about the pool before us and Little S plunged herself freely into her plastic pool at our feet - discussing Big Stuff. The meaning of life, the wonders of faith and - you guessed it - celebrating middle life. No. Seriously, we really did. All of that.

I'd say about two years ago I began to consider that this all ends. In those days of hiding in the kitchen and praying that God would make the long hours of being a speech therapist end, it never once occurred to me that it actually would. End. One day. And that I might actually look back at those days and pine over their carefree ways. Carefree. The days of my working 12 hours plus, driving from one end of St. Louis to the other to the other and back. Staying up typing reports and planning enriching activities for little people who sat in the stench of their dirty diapers and their parents who could care less as I worried about my car being vandalized on the street and the ice storm looming in the horizon, keeping me from getting home to the safety of my life in the suburbs...Carefree. Yeah. The days before the pressures and absolutely loving with abandon the little people who run about calling me mom and expecting me to feed them and keep them clean and run them places and teach them about the bible and maintaining a budget and waking at all hours of the night to need coffee to put a smile on my face because this is it - this is the life days that are Today. Mhmmm...those other days were carefree indeed.

It never even occurred to me that this would be tougher. You know - the whole parent thing. But about two years ago, I at once saw the crows feet in the corner of my eyes and the increasing depths of the crease between my eyes ... and life stood still. Before it took off head first into the deep end of Oh. My. God. - This is life. - This is it. The What. Am. I. Doing. With. It. Because. This. Ends. Too!!! sort of panic that I saw in my expression in the mirror.

Anyway, as Hubby and I discussed Solomon and his writings in Ecclesiastes that the whole entire purpose of life - from the man who had wisdom and wealth and concubines and crops aplenty - is to worship God, I began to consider that this - the wonder and amazement and fear and realization and the waking and the sleeping and all of it --- this is my mid-life crisis. I don't know that it's a crisis i.e. catastrophe, crazy thing I do as much as it's the reality of the crisis - the wonder, amazement, fear, realization of the waking and the sleeping of it all that eventually crashes into the wall of Done. Finished. Finito. You have been there and you have done that. The critical moments in my life when I realize: Wake Up, Buttercup. Cuz one day you're gonna look back and pine over these days. And they'll be gone. And you'll be old. And you'll realize. This was It.

This is my mid-life crisis.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

this li'l piggy

I've been asked how we teach the kids about money. I don't know that there's a right way to do this - but I suppose there is a wrong way...that being, NOT teaching the kids about money.

This year, we began paying allowances consistently - meaning, we've paid them previously, but it never lasted. Eventually, I would forget or the kids would not work, but always it ended. Only to be begun again under some other structure. This time is different. This time I simply pay them when I get paid - from my bi-monthly envelope for miscellaneous expenses and groceries budget. But I've increased my expectations of the children and their chores - cuz I don't just hand out money willy-nilly. To get paid, you have to work.

We continue to have 'helpers.' You may be the bathroom helper this week, or the vacuum helper, or kitchen helper. {We've phased out dog helper - if I ask you to feed the dog, you feed the dog. Mostly, I feed him.} Kitchen helper has evolved this summer, too: Everyone is required to help in the kitchen. This is an entirely different post all on its own, but in an effort to improve family eating habits, I'm employing the help of all the kids in the kitchen.

In addition, this week I taught the kids how to sort and fold the clothes. I'm a little Type A when it comes to laundry -- so much so that Hubby is not required to assist whatsoever in laundry - I hate bumpy piles. And don't knock down my folded piles, or ... geesh, don't get me started! This week, however, I decided it would be better to teach the right way than to go the 8 loads alone yet we vacuumed all the dog hair off the floor and made 6 piles. Then, one by one, we chanted over t-shirts, over shorts, over other belongings - "make it flat, fold it like that, make it flat, and fold it in half!" (OK, so my poetry chants are little fowl. They got the idea, nevertheless! I was so completely thrilled with their flat, nonwrinkly piles that I actually teared up!)

But, back to teaching the kids about money. We pay based on your age. So, Meiners just enjoyed a healthy 20% pay increase as he celebrated his 6th birthday ($6 for 6 years-old). The kids are encouraged to give at least 10% to church in the weekly offering. They are told to save half of whatever they bring in (including birthday money, extra cash they earn...). Whatever is left, they can spend with CFO veto privileges (I am the CFO - Chief Financial Officer, in this case).

And just so I don't win any Money Mommy of the Year Awards, let me assure you - I have no problem not actually paying out the cash per agreement...for instance: Pookie hasn't made her bed in three weeks. Making your bed is first on the list. You don't make your bed, I decide not to pay you. Meiners folded his clothes like a champ. Scored an A+++ in folding. He just failed to put the folded clothes away, so now they are in a lump on his bedroom floor. NO $ FOR YOU! (Ha - total Soup Nazi reference...) OK, I exaggerate. The boy received his allowance. Just a wee bit less than he'd planned. Seriously - I feel awful about not giving the kids their allowance. But I don't pay Lazy. Oh. And if you leave your money sitting on the counter and I find it? Consider it mine. ... Just ask Mr. T. {That'll be 2 Icee Mochas for me...}

That's the crux of how we run the children's treasury around here. Do they have a clue, yet, as to the value of money? I don't think so. But, I do love to watch them save up their money for the next Bakugan toy rather than asking me to purchase it for them. And I especially love, after visiting the World Bird Sanctuary yesterday, how Pookie and Meiners brainstormed ways to bring in extra cash so that they could adopt a bird...Of course, they thought that meant adopt in the traditional sense - i.e. the American Kestrel comes to live with you and your family - but we nipped that misconception in the bud. Nonetheless, tomorrow I'll share with you their fabulous idea. Consider owls, cupcakes, and a fundraiser. {And if you live in St. Louis and have an email address, you've been warned!}

See you soon!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lord Give Me Strength

Our engagement picture

Before we married, and for several years immediately following (pre-kids), I worked as a pediatric speech-language pathologist. Right out of graduate school, I enjoyed a dream job, working in a clinic with kids who didn't qualify for services through their local school district but still really needed a bit of therapy to boost their speech and language skills. The pay was minimal - perhaps because the work was not difficult, the job was sort of cushy, and it was a non-profit. I decided I needed to earn more money, anyway, so I followed my good friend into the world of home health.

Home health pediatric services paid well. I worked for two different companies, some hours in clients' homes, some hours in a classroom clinic setting. The money flowed in. But every night, every night, I hid on the old burber carpet in my 70's-esque kitchen behind the cabinets, and prayed that God would help me get through the next day of work. The pay was great - but the hours and the demands were tough. Some homes were so dirty, you hated to sit on the floor...and the kids were filthier than the floor. And yet they needed me. And their parents probably did too. More than I realized at the time, but more than I could give, considering my age and lack of wisdom. But the perfectionist in me - and the program I worked for itself - demanded progress, even when parents didn't follow through. And some parents followed through so intensely that I was intimidated beyond my experience and abilities...I was in over my head. And I needed strength. Every day.

God provided.

A few years later, I prepared to give birth to my own two children. I didn't know it then, but I do truly believe those years of struggle as a speech language pathologist - and the strength God delivered to me, that I literally begged for, would prove vital. Beyond measure or even what I can express. It paved the way for me to know how to pray daily for strength. Most certainly in different ways now versus then.

God continues to provide.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peace I Give to You

Today I am writing about what God has done for me. So that I might share with my children the miracles God has done in my life.

To tell you the truth, the first time I remember calling out to God on a real level and feeling Him surround me was in college. I was a perfectionist...was? In many ways I still am, I guess. But that doesn't include housekeeping...

Regardless, I have a friend who remembers to this day that my mother used to offer to buy me a Coke if I would allow myself some breathing room of sorts - a bad grade. I never got one --- the soda or the bad grade, I don't think. I would stay up and study and fret and wring my hands and worry and take the test with knots in my stomach. Always.

One day, I recall sitting at the small desk, waiting for the test to be handed to me, and I prayed. "God, I feel like I have done all I can to prepare for this. Will you just help me finish?" I remember feeling a sudden surge of peace. Instead of the typical anxiety and worry and fear, trying to fly the plane solo, I let God pilot and I felt utter peace.

From that day forward, I began to pray before every test. Sure - I still prepared to the best of my ability. But when it came time to take the test, I prayed God would be there to help me finish ~ and the anxiety was washed away.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tell Me What God Has Done

This summer, I am privileged to be a part of a group of women who've purposed to study a Bible passage daily and to share the verse and its impact via email. We meet during the school year face to face, but know that it's more difficult to do so over the summer. Our daily 'meetings' - email threads - have already been encouraging, uplifting, honest, hopeful and helpful. I am loving it. Our daily devotionals have also helped us be more accountable to daily Bible study.

My personal study has been driven by a devotional by Lysa TerKeurst titled Am I Messing Up My Kids (...and Other Questions Every Mom Asks). This book is wonderful! Today's chapter 'What Is the Secret to Not Freaking Out' led me to Deuteronomy 4:9, which states:
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things you eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Do you do this? Do you share with your children about the miracles God has done for you - or how He has helped you? For us, the obvious one is helping us get through the trials of health issues for our kids. But it's not as though those days, weeks, months - years ago - were it. Like, God showed up for a few surgeries and now He's in the backseat. I read a billboard recently that said, "If God is your copilot, change seats."

No, in fact, He's there every moment. So, when given the task of recalling what God has done for me - why do I have to sit, focus, and ponder. It should just Be. A brag vest wrapped around my shoulders with vivid felt and miriad patches where I point and say, "Here's where God ____ ."

So - here's to a blog series of sorts. Where I sit and write to my children what God has done. So that I can sit at the table and drive in the van and brush hair and lounge on the couch - and tell them story upon story at the ready about what God has done for Us.

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Conversation with Dad.

Dad: If you were stranded on a desert island with just one girl - who would you want it to be?
Meiners: Mommy.

Dad: If you could eat only one food forever - what would it be?
Meiners: Doritos.

Dad: If you could do only one thing - what would it be?
Meiners: play baseball with you.

Dad: If you could only play one sport ever again - what would it be?
Meiners: Baseball.

Dad: If you could only talk to one person - who would it be?
Meiners: Jesus.

Mommy melts.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I've been highly anticipating the birth of my newest nephew. The excitement of witnessing new life is one thing. Being granted permission to photograph that new life is another.

As our family awaited BabI's birth, I avidly browsed professional photography websites. I mentally catalogued ideas. I requested special headware be knitted, purchased baskets, washed up old blankets. I bought new gear. I reviewed my Photography for Dummies books. And I waited.

On Sunday, BabI came to visit me in my basement studio (I laugh). I positioned and fretted and arranged and breathed a big sigh when we bid our farewells. It seems that capturing those first few days of life can be a little stressful. I looked through the results and analyzed and critiqued and wished I'd had a few more minutes. Or hours. Or days. Maybe I need another baby of my own ... ? (I laugh.)

Last night I googled local professional photographers. I've begun quite a list of artists in my sidebar that I admire - and one thing I notice is that oftentimes their by-lines say: City/State Child insert the city. So, for instance, St. Louis Child Photographer.

Well, I happened upon one who shared quite a bit of information on her personal blog about pricing and getting the shot, etc. And one post was entirely aimed at me. Or, more specifically, what she called the 'Mommy Photographer Wannabes.' I read her blog and began to wonder at my own self. The nerve of me to think that I have the right to take precious pictures of someone else's child - all because someone else once told me I take nice pictures.

Anyway, it's silly, really, how I let the comments of others so highly affect my own self image. And completely anonymous comments, considering I don't know this woman from Adam. There was truth to what she said in some ways. To capture a good picture is not necessarily a talent. But to capture a good picture and make it art may well be.

Anyway, I spent half the night tonite browsing through photos. That I took. And adding special touches via photo editing (because, in my humble opinion and no offense to my professional photography buddy - sometimes the only difference between my shot and hers is the editing software...). Hopefully my 'customers' will like what they see (you know - my family).

And anyway, it's just fun to try.
Thanks, Mother Earth & BabI Daddy for the opportunity.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I've Got Plans...

...Big Plans, I say!

It's a quote from a children's book we borrowed from the library some time ago and I say it all the time. "I've got Plans! Big Plans, I say!"

The book is about a little boy with dreams bigger than he is and how he's knocked down and discouraged every where he turns, but he refuses to give up.

I've got Plans! Big Plans, I say!

When discussing all my summer goals recently, Hubby encouraged me to consider the '3 balls in your pocket' approach ~ meaning, focus on just 3 things at a time to be successful.

I've got Plans! Big Plans, I say!

But I pared them down into 3 major categories. So here's my bucket list, at least in a nutshell:

I. Schedule

A. Smart Start Mondays: Each Monday morning, the kids have an allotted time to complete homework geared towards preparing them for the upcoming year in school. For the twins, we bought several Kumon workbooks related to higher level addition and subtraction, multiplication, beginning division, and decimals. For Meiners, I gave him the packets the kids' second grade teacher sent home for them. It's a sad truth. My going-to-be-first grader can do the math the teachers sent home for practice for my going-to-be-third graders. I don't need busy work. I want them to learn something new. So the kindergartner (sorry, the first-grader-to-be) is going to be doing second grade math. Because he can.

By the way, last year we tried to do 'Smart Starts' - or a li'l bit of homework each morning. We failed. I've found expecting them to do school work in one intense 30-minute or-so session and then periodically as they desire it through the week far outweiged the success of a li'l bit each day. But that's just us.

B. Traveling Tuesdays - we're in for a St. Louis StayCay again this summer, so we're researching places to go within a day's travel from home. Like the Abe Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL. We brought home two books from the store today - Who Was Abe Lincoln, and You Wouldn't Want to be a Civil War Soldier to prepare for that upcoming trip. Other trips are the now-annual ferry ride (re-visited from a successful travel day last summer), to the arch, and possibly Chuck E. Cheese.

C. Friends on Friday. It's an all day swim party. They invite the friends.

II. Nutrition ~ This one's going to be tough because I'm the only one on board.
A. Increase our intake of water as a whole.
B. The new fruit and vegetable per week club.
C. Meatless Meals ~ at least twice per week.
D. And, for myself, cut waaaaaaaaaaaay back on the Bread Co.

III. Exercise
A. Get Out.
B. Get Fast
C. Tone Flabby Arms through weight-lifting.

Other items not previously listed for myself include daily Bible study with my Good Morning Girls group and improving my photo editing/photography skills in general.

The kids each made their own bucket lists this morning, including their much-anticipated-We're NOT-Moving Party!! And they will be watching faaaaar less TV and reading waaaaaay more books. We brought home about 40 new ones from the library this morning.

It's going to be a great summer!
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