Monday, February 29, 2016

It Takes a Village

Last week I took the trio to Ikea. The plan was to purchase three little potties and eat a snack in the kid's dining area. Nothing went according to plan.

James has expressed interest in using the little potty. He's actually peed in his frog potty several times now. Jesse and I plan is to do the three day naked potty training method over spring break for all three toddlers. We currently have three toddler potties, but I was contemplating buying more so we could have at least two upstairs and two downstairs. I got so overwhelmed just thinking about the logistics; I didn't even buy any! 

Instead, I let the kids play in the kid's display rooms. The bin of baby dolls was no longer there. This fact was not lost on Maddie as she asked, "Where babies?" While she searched for a baby, James and Amelia played peekaboo.

I planned to buy food from the cafeteria using an Ikea gift card, but the gift card couldn't be used for food. For some reason the chip in my debit card doesn't work, so I couldn't use it to buy any food! Then we realized they completely painted over the kids' dining area and removed the play things and tiny furniture. Obviously the kids could still eat in regular chairs, but it was just another strike against our plan. We took the elevator downstairs and I scrounged up $2 in change so we could split two cinnamon rolls.

All was well with the world. The kids played, had a delicious snack, then took turns washing their hands in the family restroom. They were happy, fed, and clean. Yet, for whatever reason, all hell broke loose when I asked them to hold my hand through the parking lot and walk back to the van. We haven't used any kind of stroller or wagon in several weeks, so it was not unreasonable to expect the trio to hold hands and walk through the parking lot. I frequently carry James and hold the girls' hands because James can be a runner sometimes. Chaos ensued when Amelia literally laid down on the ground and started flailing around on the crosswalk. Maddie started crying because it was so windy. She crouched down on all fours and started crawling. I put James down to try and pick up Amelia and Maddie, then he started crying. I can only imagine what kind of judgments the onlookers were making. It was quite the scene. I physically cannot carry all three toddlers so I was demanding, then begging everyone to walk.

We were completely in the middle of the crosswalk, outside the main entrance. A few people passed by making the usual, "You've got your hands full" comments. Some rolled their eyes. Some ignored us. Thankfully no cars approached us. Out of nowhere, a woman came up and immediately said, 'How can I help? Can I carry her for you?" I have a bit of a complex about being independent and avoiding help, but I immediately shook my head yes, then spewed some babble and tried to apologize. The woman simply smiled and said, "It takes a village, right?" She carried Maddie and talked to her so sweetly. As soon as I got in the van I started crying. Crying over not being able to control three toddlers. Crying because the kids were in an unsafe situation and I felt helpless and irresponsible. Crying over feeling judged by others. And crying from the woman's kindness.

Raising triplets has been a very humbling experience. My confidence is often derailed during challenging scenarios and overwhelming predicaments. Indeed, it does take a village. We're blessed to have a community of close friends, church members, and both sides of our families to support our children. And on some days, our village includes kindhearted strangers who escort us to safety.

Sunshine Therapy for Amelia

Words cannot express how insane Amelia can make me. In general, Amelia is very sweet and silly. However, when she's in a bad mood or not feeling well, her tantrums and whining can become quite unbearable. She is intense about everything.

Amelia was still her crazy, screaming self this morning. It has been a literal wrestling match buckling her in the car seat lately. After dropping Jackson off this morning, we headed to a park a few minutes away. Amelia protested  and sat in the adjacent parking space. Thankfully we were the only people in the entire lot. This particular park is always strangely empty.

She still refused to move and became even angrier when I put her in the wagon.

After fifteen minutes of pouting, Amelia finally chose to join her siblings.

Praise God, it seems the sunshine was all she needed to resume her typically sweet demeanor. She tickled James and hugged him until he fell over. The two were intertwined in a fit of laughter.

The trio played in the sand and went for a walk. I skipped my morning Zumba. Everyone was finally content; I didn't want to jinx anything.

After an hour and a half at the park, we headed home for lunch and a bit of downtime. Then it was off to pick up Jackson. The 70 degree sunshine demanded our time outside. I headed to another wooded park. In case I was confused by his actions, Jackson declared, "I'm in a grumpy mood. I'm going to sit in this tunnel and I'm not going to play." The trio and I explored while Jack had downtime.

Five minutes later, Jackson asked me to take a picture of him posing as Peter Parker. (He clarified that he couldn't be Spiderman since he wasn't in costume.)

We took the long trail back to the parking lot so we could search for treasure, aka pine cones and sticks.

I didn't realize how much I've missed Amelia's smiles and giggles. I hope we're turning a corner back to more relaxed, pleasant days.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mommy-Maddie Date

As I've previously stated, this past week has been a stressful one filled with whiny, clingy children. The kids just had a minor cold, but it was enough to cause extra crankiness and tantrums. Jackson had his share of disruptive behaviors, likely due to some restless nights. Amelia returned to her diva status, throwing her body wildly with one dramatic meltdown after another. Nothing was immune to Amelia's wrath--the parking lot, car seat, mall, kitchen floor, park, etc. James was mostly clingy and needed to snuggle, but he did a lot of hitting and throwing things.

It was Maddie who I felt so terrible about. She had the same runny nose and cough as the others, but she apparently handles sickness much better than her siblings. There were many times where Maddie was happily playing somewhere but we had to leave because her siblings were falling apart. There were times when I was singing or cuddling Maddie, but had to put her down and try to comfort someone else. Maddie came up to me frequently saying, "Amelia crying again." or "Jamie hit me." I felt like she was getting the short end of the stick all week.

I told Jesse that I wanted to take Maddie out for a special date. Jesse and I frequently give Jackson individual attention, but we almost never take James, Amelia, or Maddie on individual outings. I left Jesse alone with three screaming, jealous kids. I know with certainty it was an unpleasant morning for him because I dealt with it all week

Maddie and I sang together in the car. She sits behind Jackson's seat in the van, so I can never see her very well. It was fun to be able to see her, hear her well, and even reach back to tickle her at stop lights. 

Our first stop was A.C. Moore to pick out a craft. She loves coloring and drawing so much; I thought she would enjoy selecting a craft. She picked foam Easter eggs to decorate. The cashier and other customers kept smiling and talking to her.

Maddie was persistent about carrying her bag of crafts, even though the bag was so big she dragged it on the ground. We walked next door to Petco to "see meow meow". There were several dogs up for adoption. Maddie was overwhelmed with the loud barking and crowd of people, so we kept our visit short.

My plan was to eat lunch at Denny's and decorate our foam eggs while we waited for the food to arrive. We parked and walked inside. Maddie proudly carried her package of crafts and smiled and waved at everyone. Unfortunately, there was a 30 minute wait at Denny's. I carried Maddie back to the car, explaining we were going to go somewhere else to eat instead. She said, "Whyyy? I want to eat. I want color." My pitiful, sweet girl! Within a mere five minutes we were seated at the neighboring Steak and Shake, waiting to order.

I was such a proud mom. Maddie is very sweet, cute, and mild mannered. She naturally attracts attention. Strangers around us smiled and waved.

Our final stop was to Walmart for grocery shopping. This was out of necessity rather than entertainment, but Maddie was happy. In fact, she seemed truly elated over putting milk and apple juice in the cart. She clapped and said, "I want milk! I want milk!" (Maddie would drink nothing but milk all day long if I let her.)

I had so much fun with my Maddie Moo. I've been walking around feeling completely defeated lately, but yesterday I had a few hours of carefree, joyful time with my baby girl. It was much needed quality time for both of us. I forgot to take a picture of us yesterday, so I snapped one this afternoon.

Let's hope we have an easier week and each of the kids are given time to feel special!

Love Feast: The Parable of the Long Spoons

I was very active in a campus ministry group during college. I attended dinner, program, and Bible study twice a week, along with national and international mission trips with my beloved campus ministry. Every Valentine's Day, the campus minister hosted a Love Feast where we all fed one another. I wanted to replicate the Love Feast with my current youth group, but I couldn't quite recall the details of the story. After lots of Google searches, I found the Parable of the Long Spoons and gathered everything necessary for our Love Feast. It was a a fun, simple, and hopefully memorable reminder to have compassion and serve one another.

To host your own Love Feast, you need a variety of bite size foods. (I served halved strawberries, cheese cubes, small brownies, tiny sugar cookies, chips and salsa, and pretzels.)
You also need something that will straighten the participants' arms so they cannot bend. The guy at Lowe's said I could take as many paint stirrers as I wanted, so I grabbed several dozen. I used duct tape and packaging tape to secure the paint stirrers, simply because we already had a few rolls. You could also use rubber bands or twine.

I texted the youth ahead of time, requesting they wear long sleeve shirts or a thin jacket to youth group. (I didn't want them to rip out arm hair when removing the tape.) When we were ready to begin the activity, I asked them to help one another tape a paint stirrer to each arm. Of course, this provoked lots of laughter and curiosity. While they did that, I set up a table with food.

We gathered around the table of food while I read the following parable to the group. (There are many versions on the web.)

One day a man said to God, "God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like." 
God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large table filled with fruit, cheese, pastries, and a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man's mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. All the diners' arms were tied to slots of wood that kept their arms extended. In this position, the poor souls were unable to bend the spoons to their mouths. Hell was filled with the hungry, tortured by the fact that they were so close to the most amazing food imaginable and yet could not eat it. 
The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, "You have seen Hell." 
Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. The man saw Heaven was exactly the same: long tables, hungry souls, strapped arms, unable to bend their hands to their mouths to eat. Yet the people were well nourished and plump. The room was filled with laughter, talking, and music. 
The man said, "I don't understand, God." 
God smile and said, "It is simple. Love only requires one skill." The souls in heaven sat across from each other, not struggling to feed themselves, but merrily feeding the person sitting across from them. These people learned to share and feed one another, while the greedy only think of themselves.

The teens laughed, talked, and fed one another. The Love Feast will remain one of my favorite activities that show the importance of living in community, sharing our resources, and caring for our neighbors.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Going Around in Circles

Warning: This post is painfully detailed with school related thing. You'll probably be too bored to finish reading it. I'm only publishing it so that next year when I'm happily teaching and the kids are happily in school, I can look back and remember the ridiculous process it took to get us there. 

Instead of blogging, I have been drowning in online forms. So much needs to be completed to prepare for next school year. I swear, every item I think I can easily do requires multiple steps, many of which must be completed by other people or adhere to different timelines.

Here are a few of the tasks I am struggling to complete:

Register Jackson for kindergarten
Regardless of what school Jackson attends next year, I have to register him at his home school first, then potentially request a transfer to another school. This could be tricky if it's a magnet school with spots already filled, or across county lines. 
Just to register him at his home school I need:
  • enrollment form
  • birth certificate
  • proof of residency
  • immunization record
  • health assessment (completed by physician)
I'm also trying to get his 5 year well check scheduled, but we had to get insurance straightened out first because his card didn't list the correct Primary Care Physician. Again, the simplest things seem to be unnecessarily complicated!

Update resume and references
The resume is now complete, but it took a lot of effort. I actually updated my resume last year and saved it on my notebook. When I was struggling to finish my 100 page photo book a few weeks ago, I transferred all of my photos and documents onto the external hard drive to try and clear up disc space on my notebook. Unfortunately, this was the same hard drive that crashed and cannot be recovered. Ugh! So I started over. I probably forgot some things, but if I don't remember it enough to include on my resume, it probably didn't impact my teaching that much.

The other challenge with my resume was avoiding a three year gap. I considered going with a skills based resume rather than a chronological work experience resume. I decided to list my involvement with the church. Technically, I do everything the previous Director of Christian Education did, I just don't get paid for it.

I have yet to complete my references page. As far as the church experience, our former pastor left nine months ago. The interim pastor has only been here for six months. I decided to ask the Clerk of Session. Both of my principals at my previous two schools have retired since I stopped teaching, so it's been harder tracking down current contact information. Once again, nothing was easy about my resume or references.

Apply to local schools/ districts
So far I have completed and submitted ONE application--to a charter school. It was the 5 page application with 20 short essay questions. (The one that I completed, saved incorrectly, accidentally emailed a blank copy to the administration, then had to start completely over!)

I tried to apply to Cabarrus County Schools, but it seems that you have to apply to specific positions in order to complete an application. The only current openings are for the end of the current school year, so I don't want to apply to those. I keep checking, but I assume I need to wait until positions are posted for the 2016-2017 school year. I was hoping I could just have my application on file so I could begin emailing principals.

I'm in the process of reapplying for CMS, the school district where I previously taught before resigning. CMS applications are open, which mean I can complete an application without selecting a specific job. All of the information on file is from 2010, when I applied for the transfer fair. I have to upload copies of everything possibly related since then (Praxis scores, current teaching license, grad school transcripts, National Boards, etc). The challenge is that you can only complete one section at a time before moving to the next section. I keep thinking I've got everything I need, only to realize the next section has me back in the attic or filing cabinet searching for another required item.

Renew my teaching license
It just so happens that my teaching license expires in June this year. If I were currently teaching, my school system would automatically take care of the renewal forms. Since I am not, I had to create an online account and find out the requirements on my own. You used to be able to use your National Boards to automatically renew, but the new renewal requirements omit National Boards. I feel confident that I have over 8 CEU's, but I no longer have access to the professional development transcripts since I'm not teaching. According to the website, you can't renew until late April/early May. In the mean time, I can't seem to figure out how to confirm I have enough credits in the right areas (3 content, 3 literacy, 2 general). If I don't have enough credits (which I truly can't imagine is the case), I might be screwed. So far, I haven't made any progress in this task.

Enroll trio in full time childcare for 2016-2017 school year
This task has involved lots of emails, pros and cons lists, and maps.
A nanny was immediately ruled out. I don't like the idea of relying on one person (i.e. I don't want to be late or take a day off if she has car trouble, a sick kid, vacation, etc). There were too many logistics with a nanny that I refuse to consider (providing transportation with three car seats, benefits, taxes, paid leave, interviewing and finding a person I trust that does not lose her patience in high stress situations). Also, I would really like to enroll the trio in preschool but there is no way we could afford preschool and a nanny.

Here are some of the things we took into consideration, in order of importance:

  • Time--We needed a full day program. I looked at a lot of preschools with extended hours, but most all of them started at 9 a.m. 
  • Cost--I could not justify going back to work if childcare exceeded $2k a month. 
  • Location--This is tricky since we don't know where I'll be working yet. We tried to look at places closest to Jesse's school.
  • Educationally based--I really wanted something with a legit preschool program, not a random in-home daycare or babysitting service.

The trio would likely qualify for Head Start, but the locations were very inconvenient and none of the teachers are licensed. I priced some daycares, but they were way out of the budget, even with sibling discounts.

We are hoping to continue with our original plan to enroll the trio in the child development center for CCS employees. The price is right (or at least under $2k). All staff members are licensed birth-preK. The hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 5 pm. And the tuition includes lunch as well as a morning and afternoon snack. The only problem is the location. It is 30 minutes from the house, and 15 minutes further out from Jesse's school. This will add an extra hour of driving to his day. Granted, I spend an hour of driving every day I take Jackson to/from school. While the drive time is not ideal, everything else is a pro on our list. We are currently on the wait list and just waiting for enrollment period to open so we can secure three spots.

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After I complete the above tasks, I need to actually secure a job. Hopefully it will be a job I like and a school where Jackson can attend. If it is a K-5 school I'll complete transfer forms so he can hopefully attend the school. If it is not a K-5 school, we'll figure out before and/or after school care.

Have I mentioned how much I hate change? Unknowns? Things out of my control?

The kids have been a handful this week. We've all had colds. Tensions are high, tantrums are frequent, and I'm feeling overwhelmed to say the least. I can't wait until we have answers. I know I just need to breathe and rest assured that everything will work out as they should. I'm just so tired of spending more time thinking about the future than enjoying the present. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Things That Make Me Want to Scream

1. The fact that it's been 18 years since my dad died. Eighteen years is a long time and I'm angry he's not been a part of it!

2. Our external hard drive crashed. It had monthly folders filled with tens of thousands of photos dating back from 2006. I gave it to a knowledgeable computer guy and even used a data recovery program. Nothing can be found. Nothing! Y'all know how obsessed I am with photos!

3. I spent dozens of hours working on a five page teaching application with TWENTY short essay questions. It took me over a week to complete it. I emailed the director with the attachment, only to just now realize the copy was BLANK. Not only do I look like an idiot, I now have to start completely over.

4. Jesse called me on the way home from work yesterday to ask if I needed anything from the store. I was in a sappy, pissy mood (see #1) and requested fudge rounds. He did not come home with fudge rounds or even anything edible.

5. The trio and I all have a bad cold. I've literally spent nearly every hour with at least one child cuddled next to me or crying. Not having any personal or emotional space is wearisome.

6. I had to go to the grocery store yesterday to buy butter. I was cooking a friend dinner and pound cake last night and I apparently didn't buy butter. I walked all four kids through the parking lot, then down the grocery store aisle to get butter. Jackson (yes, Jackson, not one of the toddlers!) threw a fit at check out because I wouldn't let him buy some junk food. He threw the butter across the store where customers were bagging their groceries. I had to carry him out. Then Maddie started crying because it had started raining and she hates getting wet, so I had to pick her up, too. Then I couldn't hold James or Amelia's hand in the parking lot. It was a total shit show.

Each of these things occurred in the last 36 hours. It is taking everything in me to not start screaming bloody murder and throwing things!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Preschool Peer Pressure

After the cold, wet weather last week, playing in the warm (50+ degrees) sunshine has been therapeutic. A mom of one of Jackson's friends texted me yesterday to ask if we wanted to meet at the park after school. I consider myself to be a pretty laid back parent, but this particular mom makes me look uptight. I am in no way a helicopter parent, but this woman appears so relaxed about everything.

Jackson was excited to play with his friend, even after spending four hours at school together.
I have no idea why his friend had an umbrella
Between the two of us, we have six kids under five. The six kids played on the playground and in the wet sand. The older boys wanted to go exploring, so we set out for the trails. Thankfully I keep the wagon in the back of the van at all times, even though I only use it once a month. The kids chose to walk almost the entire time, but it was a relief to have it as back up.

The kids collected large sticks and went "fishing" for leaves in a creek. I trust the trio more now, but it still made me nervous that they could so easily tip over if they leaned too far over the boardwalk.

We continued walking the trails. Jackson and his friend would walk farther ahead, then stop and wait for their younger siblings to catch up. This repeated for a few times, until they got so far ahead they were completely out of eyesight. There are a few intersections on the trails where you could turn left, right, or go straight. We were yelling for the boys but could no longer hear them. I've taken the kids to this park dozens of times and Jackson tends to be a cautious kid. I wasn't in panic mode, but I was definitely getting anxious. I made the kids sit in the wagon so I could walk faster. The other mom and I split up. I found Jackson and his friend by the lake.

As soon as we were within eyesight, Jackson ran towards me talking a mile a minute! He said something along the lines of "I told him we needed to wait on our family but he kept walking and then we didn't know which way to turn so I said we needed to stop or we would get lost but he said to keep going that he knew where to go and then we were in the woods and I couldn't find you so we got to the lake and I stopped because I knew we should have stopped when we had kept going." And then he took a breath.

I initially wanted to scold Jackson and his friend but clearly Jackson was just as worried and knew he should not have left us. This was likely Jackson's first experience with peer pressure. It turned out to be a good lesson in trusting your instinct and not following someone if you feel like it's wrong. In addition to teaching about peer pressure, I was able to discuss the importance of staying within eye sight. We all stayed together the final leg of the trail. First, we played by the lake.

It is important to me that the kids have opportunities to explore outdoors on their own, but not at 4 years old in a 37 acre park. (Yes, I did just look up the acreage.) Most of childhood memories revolved around exploring the vast woods we were fortunate enough to grow up on. I try to follow the kids' lead and let them walk ahead a bit, giving them space to climb rocks, pick flowers, and collect sticks. I'm already finding it tough to balance giving the kids independence and protecting them from bumps, bruises, and now getting lost in the woods.

There are so many life lessons I need to learn as a mom and teach to my children. This mothering business is not to be taken lightly!

A Week of Indoor Fun

Instead of blogging every night after the kids go to bed, I've been working on my resume, starting job applications, and researching various schools. Nothing is wrong, but I know every time I go a few days without post something people tend to think I'm spiraling into some depressed state. So...

Last week was very cold (freezing temperatures most days) and rainy. Monday was a "snow day" aka "the superintendent chose to err on the side of caution but the weather was just a cold rain".  We spent most of our days last week playing around the house or seeking indoor entertainment.

Play-Doh occupied a fair amount of time since I just replenished our stock. I typically buy 4 containers at a time. They last a few weeks until they dry out or collect cat hair from being rolled all over the rug, furniture, and cat. Then the play dough is trashed. It takes me a few months to remember to buy more. By that point, play dough has once again become the greatest play medium throughout history.

Play food has been the best loved toy for all four kids. They play with them daily. The girls especially like to feed their baby dolls play food. (Notice that clothing is optional, for both the kids and dolls.)

James' finger was especially gross last week after the door slamming-turned-staph infection debacle. To try and keep it clean, I let him play in a sink full of soapy water a lot last week. The nail completely fell off the other day and he's been taking antibiotics for nearly a week. His finger looks (and likely feels) SO much better!

On the days Jackson had school, the trio and I dressed warmly and found indoor fun. The toddlers are finally able to walk most everywhere safely. They stay on sidewalks, hold hands in parking lots, and listen when I tell them to stop.

We went to the library a few times, once for story time and once just to color and read.

Jackson wasn't allowed to play outside at school because of the cold, so I took the kids to the recreation center after school one day last week to burn off energy. Jackson led James and Amelia up to the highest play structures and slide. There is a maze of tunnels close to the ceiling. Maddie attempted to follow her siblings but she came back down crying. After some snuggles Maddie happily played closer to the floor.

The trio and I met friends for a play date at a local mall. We go to this particular mall because the kids love playing in the very large Looney Tunes themed play area. I parked at the entrance closest to the play area. This is what I saw when we walked inside:

I had to find a customer service kiosk to be redirected to the newer, much smaller play area. (The Looney Tunes equipment is permanently gone!) It has less variety of structures, but the kids enjoyed the change of scenery for 45 minutes.

I think they preferred walking around the actual mall more than the play area. We always joke that Amelia is the diva of the group. She stopped at specific store fronts that caught her eye and would say, "I looove it!" or "Pretty boots!" She'll probably be teaching me about fashion in ten years.

The weather is much warmer and drier this week. We spent two hours at the park yesterday, which deserves its own post. I wouldn't mind another decent snowfall that we could actually play in, but I'm also content if spring has decided to arrive.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Teaching Compassion

I have made every effort to participate in a service project every month for the past ten years. Jesse and I were fortunate to participate in multiple mission trips and service projects where we saw firsthand the needs of others around the world. We then taught in challenging schools where the unequal distribution of resources was once again evident. Serving others has always been a passion of mine.

One of the most important things I can do for my children is to teach them to love and care for everyone. I want them to realize that it is pure luck that they were born into a stable, wealthy (compared to the rest of the world), safe home. They did nothing to deserve this, and they are no better than anyone else. No matter how much or how little we have, we are called to share our time, talent, and money to honor God and love our neighbor.

Some months I've been able to donate a lot more time and money, other months have been as simple as baking cookies for the local fire department. Working with the youth group has motivated me to seek a variety of service projects. During the winter months I like to cook a meal for Room in the Inn, a local homeless ministry. I normally sign the youth group up for any dinner slots, and I lead the teens in cooking dinner. Yesterday the coordinator shared a last minute need for dinner. There are a lot of things I cannot do because of timing and childcare restraints, but I can cook dinner. I quickly volunteered. Within a few hours I had planned a meal and purchased the groceries.

There are many details involved when cooking dinner for 30 people. Since I was going to be alone (i.e. without youth group) I knew I needed a recipe that would be easy to multiply and require little prep work. I decided on a huge batch of taco soup with corn chips, cheese, Cesar salad, and pound cake and strawberries for dessert. I managed to purchase everything for less than $2 per person. This morning I cooked 5 lbs of ground beef and baked a pound cake.

I was surprised, nervous, and excited when Jackson asked if he could accompany me to church and cook dinner. I was hesitant, but he won me over when he said, "I care about the people, too." We headed out in freezing rain and made it safely to the church. Keep in mind, Jackson has never been to this church. (Our church cannot host because we don't have showers. We partner with another church that has better facilities.) Jackson helped as best he could by emptying cans of beans into a large stock pot, opening bags of salad, putting cheese in a bowl, etc.
The only picture I took the entire evening
Jackson held hands and prayed with the large group. When it came time to serve the food, he stood right beside me and talked to dozens of strangers. I warned him before hand that we would be the last people to eat. Jackson was initially upset by this but I explained that guests are always served first. By the time everyone had been served, there was only one space at a table left. Jackson sat without me at a table with a homeless family and one other volunteer. This was HUGE for my little introvert. Thankfully he was at a table with two older boys (elementary aged) and they talked about super heroes the whole time.

All was going so well. I was so very proud of Jackson for stepping outside of his comfort zone and interacting with people he doesn't normally have the opportunity to interact with. People commented about how cute he was, asked him questions, etc. I was a proud mom. 

Then, someone flipped the crazy switch. A volunteer asked to take Jackson's picture for something do with grant funding. He agreed to do so and we followed her into the other room. I guess he got nervous and changed his mind. Instead of saying no, he literally took off running in the opposite direction through the double doors. He yelled, "I hate this place. I hate these people. I want to go home. Give me my toy. I wanted to eat cake." So much for my grateful, compassionate, patient son! I had to carry him out to the car while he cried hysterically.

I recognize that everything was too much for him and he reached his breaking point. We talked through our feelings and he calmed down. I'm disappointed in how the evening ended, but thankful that he took initiative and wanted to make a difference. 

Tonight was a baby step towards teaching compassion and showing love for others. I don't know when I'll take Jackson with me to another volunteer event, but he'll have plenty more opportunities when he's ready.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentines Weekend

I kept Valentine's Day festivities pretty low key this year. In previous years, I've turned to Pinterest for photo shoot ideas, clever valentines, and craft projects. I've hosted cookie decorating parties and organized service projects. None of those things happened this year. The closest I got was this cheesy brainchild I had when I discovered Moon Pies were buy one, get one free at Food Lion last week.

I waited until the last minute for Jackson to assemble his classmates' treat bags. As late as it was, Jackson was excited and energetic about stuffing his bags with tattoos, stickers, play dough, and a Moon Pie. Of course a single card would have sufficed, but my mother was the queen of treat bags and I know how much fun they were to give out when I was a child. Jackson was elated after his Valentine's party at school!

The kids and I made cookies yesterday. This isn't necessarily a special thing as we just like making cookies. I'm always impressed with how much the kids are learning about baking. It has become routine. They know where to sit, how to help, what utensils to use, etc.

They understand mixing dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls.

None of the kids are effective at rolling out dough, but I let each of them practice for fun.

They all know how to use cookie cutters because we use them so often with Play Doh.

Jackson wanted to add sprinkles to the raw dough. It was an easy, festive way to decorate our cookies.

Jackson and I painted the last few cookies with a quick icing made of powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla.

We hosted an impromptu dinner with all of Jesse's family last night. MiMi and PaPa delivered bags of goodies for each of their grandkids. We consumed lots of cookies and candy.

I awoke to flower shaped pancakes for myself, 

and heart shaped pancakes for the kids--courtesy of a thoughtful husband. I'm thankful he stopped trying to buy me flowers!

I may not have felt as creative this Valentine's Day, but I was surrounded by loved ones the entire weekend. I made my family feel loved, and they went did special little things to reciprocate. Tomorrow we will continue to share God's love by cooking dinner for homeless guests at a local church. I think that's probably the best way I can celebrate Valentine's Day.