Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pinch the Sleeve First

Earlier this week, on the third day of spring, my youngest daughter (a child who balked at wearing anything but short sleeves all frigid winter long) said, "I don't think long sleeves aren't that bad anymore."

The child finally yields.  It's never too late.

Just yesterday I watched as she tried to pull a winter jacket over her long sleeved dress.  The sleeves of the dress kept riding up.  No matter how she struggled underneath the jacket, she simply couldn't tug the ends of the dress' sleeves down to her wrists.  Frustration mounted in that desperate I-knew-long-sleeves-wouldn't-be-worth-it way, leaving her in tears.

I sat on the linoleum beside her as she sniffed.  "Let me show you something."

She wiped her nose and looked at me.  I showed her how to pinch her sleeve with her thumb and index finger, hold the pinch tightly while slipping her arm into the jacket, and then release the pinched fabric when her hand emerged. 

She practiced with her other arm, talking herself through the steps, until her jacket was on and -- most importantly -- her dress sleeves were perfectly un-bunched underneath.

A small victory, really, but last night I went to bed with the satisfaction that I had taught her something valuable.

If only it would always be this easy to help them with their problems.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Carry On, Weary One. Carry On.

Last night I tossed in bed well past a respectable time to fall asleep, unable to quiet my darting thoughts.  Those same thoughts replayed the moment I woke this morning, lodging themselves into my early morning consciousness.  Later in the afternoon when I squeezed in a run before dinner, it hits me that I'm weary.  Runs normally invigorate me, body and soul, but with each step I felt increasingly worn out.

As I ran, my eyes were drawn upward to a mountain ridge ahead.  That's when new words cut through the weighty soundtrack of my cares and concerns.  I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

The strength that I need daily -- the strength to parent, to teach, to maintain our home, to handle challenges and disruptions and disappointments, to live in a manner that's pleasing to God -- never was meant to originate from within me, as if I can just do more or try harder.

No, grace isn't like that.  Grace is a God who takes our weaknesses and junk -- our mistakes and doubts, our frailties and imperfections, our dysfunction and sin -- bears it on himself, and in turn, gives us his righteousness so we can stand before him confidently. 

It's a remarkable exchange.

I'm always turning my head to look for mountains, to lift my eyes to the hills, to remind myself that my help comes from the Lord, no matter my circumstances.

So, carry on, weary one.  Carry on.  Our help comes from the Lord.  When we measure a day according to our strength, we get it wrong.  It's not the degree of our strength that matters when we're upheld by God's.

Image compliments of Ian Turton.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring Break Felt Like Summer

This is an obligatory picture of my sandy feet on a beach to show you that last week, after driving from Pennsylvania to Florida where my parents are snowbirding, my family reached our Spring Break destination.


At four years old, my youngest daughter struggled to grasp how we jumped from winter into summer when we haven't yet experienced spring.  And there's the magic: you can (and we did) experience a 70 degree temperature shift in two days.

We just had to drive south for a mere nineteen hours to achieve it.

Florida is a different world than Pennsylvania.  When my husband and I went out on our morning runs, I was on the lookout for alligators instead of black ice on the running path.  When my children played, they made forts by shoveling sand instead of shoveling snow.


We breathed the scents of salty ocean air and coconut sunscreen.  We saw actual grass.  We tasted fresh mango and remembered what sunshine feels like on exposed skin.

Regardless of the many differences between the two locations, I should note that even while in Florida, my family retains its characteristic inability to capture a picture with everyone looking at the camera, just like when we're in Pennsylvania.


Some things cannot be changed.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Because Memories Might Be Even Better Than the Thing Itself

My most vivid childhood birthday memories involve Jiffy cake.  Every year my mom baked the same version: golden yellow cake with fudge frosting.  My brother and I would lick the frosting from the mixer beaters as my mom iced the cake and wrote Happy Birthday! in cursive with Cake Mate gel.  We'd store leftovers in a old metal cake box that had a picture of a bowl of fruit on its side.

As a child, Jiffy cake was a delicacy.  It tasted even better the next day when the frosting had slightly hardened.


Jiffy cake hasn't been the easiest product to find in grocery stores, but after several Jiffy-less years, I recently discovered the blue boxes on the lowest shelf in the baking aisle. 

The afternoon that I frosted the cake, my girls licked the beater mixers until they were clean.  As we ate, my husband remarked, not unkindly, that the cake's consistency reminded him of cornbread.  I had to admit that the frosting, which is formed by mixing powder with two tablespoons of boiling water, has a distinct, if subtle, grittiness.

After eating Jiffy cake as an adult, I'm pretty sure that my memory of it is better than the cake itself.  And that's okay. 

Jiffy cake tastes like childhood, and nobody can argue with that. 

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Glass Gems + Nail Polish = Kid-Friendly Refrigerator Magnets

If I were to chronicle this winter season in a journal, this would be today's brief entry: Day 75 of winter. I forget what grass looks like.

We're worn thin with indoor activities; my girls have colored, painted, Play-Dohed, puzzled, and board-gamed themselves into the ground.  Still, winter hasn't let up, and we need fresh activities to keep ourselves occupied during the long hours indoors.  If you're in a similar situation, let me share a craft that should occupy your kids for an hour.

First, buy a pack of mosaic glass gems at a craft store.

 
Second, sort through your old nail polishes.  Consider this a fabulous opportunity to purge any polish that's on the verge of clumping.


Third, lay down paper to protect your work surface and let your children paint the flat side of the gems.  Be creative with your approaches -- layer sparkly shades underneath opaque colors.  Use a Sharpie marker to draw designs before covering the gems with paint.


Finally, let your gems dry and then glue a magnet to the back.  (As you can see, we've made just a few recently.)


My children call them "dragon eyes."  I use them to hang copious amounts of kid's artwork on our refrigerator because, as I've mentioned, this winter hasn't released us from its clutches yet.  These kids of mine have cranked out coloring pages like it's their job.

If you're feeling stuck inside, give these kid-friendly refrigerator magnets a shot.  Enjoy!

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