Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Pictures

I love looking back at family pictures to see how the kids have changed over the years. They’ve grown tremendously, broadened their horizons, developed their own personalities, and taken risks.

A picture of the boys playing together when they were just one- and three-years-old takes me back to a time when all that they needed to have fun was a log tunnel through which they’d crawl and scoot in and out of both ends – peeking to make sure that I noticed their latest adventure.

Images of a dual-themed Arthur and Hello Kitty birthday party bring back fond memories of my then 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter excited to bite into their cakes and open presents.

Our once tiny tots have all blossomed into smart, funny, beautiful, and handsome people. The still images of days gone by are vivid reminders of how far they’ve come since the days of toddling around the house, clumsily clinging to a favorite toy as they ventured from one room to another.

Our home server is full of photos that bring to life not only actions from years ago, but memories of our recent past…

Pulling off the highway to pose for that perfect photo op with rolling hills as the backdrop,

Skating and bicycling at our favorite spot near the river,

Pitching in to help with various home improvement projects,

Hiking through a community park and literally stopping to smell the flowers,

Performing at dance recitals and music concerts,

Accepting awards for academic excellence,

Advancing to the next Boy Scout rank,

Exploring new places,

Living life.

I am thankful for pictures and the memories that they help to recall.

Father,

Thank You for blessing me with great kids and for helping them to blossom into beautiful young people.  I cherish every moment that I have with them.  As still photos help to flood memories from yesteryear, I pray that Your Word will serve as a picture that constantly reminds them of your promises, your faithfulness, and your love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

 

 

 

Sing Like Nobody’s Listening

I spend a lot of time in my van, and I pass much of it by listening to my favorite Christian music artists.   K-Love radio and Sirius XM’s “The Message” are the only stations that I tune into on the radio.

When I’m in the mood to control the songs that I hear and create my own playlist, the 30GB hard drive integrated into the van’s entertainment system gives me the ability to listen to music for days without ever repeating a song.  I belt out the words to song after song never tiring of what I’m hearing.  I sing my heart out; don’t want to hold out on songs of praise and worship, you know?

When the kids are riding around town with me, they don’t hold back on their self-imposed Idol judge roles.  Shouts of, “Mom, you’re off key!’ and grumbles of “Oh, there she goes again!” are common. I just laugh and keep singing!

Despite the constant mid-row heckling that I get from two of my very opinionated offspring, I sing out loud as often as the Spirit moves me to do so.   I cannot be shamed into silence.  Now, I could choose to heckle the kids in return as they are singing, but I’ll just let them be and join in on the moment!

Today, I am thankful for being who God made me.  While He’s still encouraging me, shaping me, teaching me, emptying me of myself, and filling me with more of Him, some aspects of who I am are exactly as He wants, and I do believe that He wants me to sing as if no one were listening.

Father,

I praise You for making me comfortable enough to sing out loud songs of praise even when the kids are listening.  Especially, when the kids are listening.  I pray that the time that I spend with the kids is full of moments like the ones that we laugh about now.  I pray that these experiences will become etched in their memories forever.  I ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

 

 

Super Sunday

It’s been a super day.  It began with a moving and emotional pastoral message, followed by an enriching Sunday school class during which my husband volunteered us to perform a skit unbeknownst to me.  The class verdict on our performances is that they were Oscar-worthy.  Who knew we were closet Thespians?  After services, we collected one of our teens who’d returned to church from a weekend retreat, gathered the rest of the crew, including my youngest daughter’s BFF, and went on a family outing to a local skating rink.  What a fun time and sweat-inducing workout!  Hopefully, I burned off enough calories from lunch to feel less guilty about taking the easy way out – pizza for the third time this week!

Today is day five of a month of publicly expressing thankfulness for random things.  Today’s random gift for which I am thankful?  My love for football.  As I sit here now watching Superbowl XLVI, I can’t help but recall memories of countless Sundays in the living room surrounded by the sound of whistles, play-calling, celebrations of victory, and sneers of defeat accompanied a larger than life figure who filled a room with his mere presence – my dad.

My mom is a football fan, but there is just something about watching the game with Dad that brings forth fond memories.  Perhaps it was the range of emotions that he showed.  Or maybe it was the couch coaching for which he was famously heckled by us kids.  Maybe it was the fact that he knew exactly what was going on in a game; I couldn’t have named a play if it hit me in the head.  I don’t quite know the exact moment or reason that I became a fan of football.  All that I remember is that football reminds me of my dad and I am a huge fan of his.  I can’t speak of the sport without thinking of him.  I can’t think of John Madden without picturing my dad yelling at the television as superfluous X’s and O’s covered the screen.

Dad has been in Heaven for nearly twenty years, but as I sit here watching the Superbowl, I can vividly imagine him sitting next to me coaching from his heavenly seat.  Today, I am thankful for my love of football, because it means so much more to me than a game.

Father,

Thank you for blessing me with a dad whose love for You was great, whose unconditional love for me still warms my heart, and whose love for football is the reason I enjoy the game so much.  I know that Dad is in Heaven looking down on me and smiling as I recall fond memories of him.  Football brings me as close to Dad as any other memory from my childhood.  I pray that something I do with my children will bring about the same kinds of fond memories when they think of me.   Please keep the players in today’s game physically safe and mentally alert.  I pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Saturdays Mornings Are the Best!

Four days into a month of thankfulness and the list of things from which to choose is still quite lengthy.  My fourth reason for thankfulness is as much a blessing as the others, which means it’s quite a big deal to me.

As a parent of four children, it took quite a few years to get to the point where my husband and I could go out on dates for a couple of hours without the need for a sitter, but we have now arrived at that point!  We can’t do overnights yet, but we’ll take whatever we can get.  We are by no means a wild and crazy couple, so you’ll never find us painting the town red in a club or bar.  You’ll rarely even spot us in a movie theater for a matinee, let alone an evening showing.

Instead, you’ll find us dining at a local restaurant in the early morning hours each Saturday. It’s not about the food as much as it is about spending quality time with one another, in a relaxing setting with no interruptions, well, except the server, but that’s to be expected when you’re dining outside of home.

I am thankful for the opportunity to spend every Saturday morning out on a date with my husband.  I am grateful that our children can take care of themselves for an hour or two before calling one of us about some kind of non-crisis that they’re having.  As each successful date goes by, the length of time that we will spend away from home will expand.  One of these years, we just might be able to go out at night and paint the town until the roosters crow.  ;-)  Until then, Saturday morning is “date night”.

Father,

Thank you for allowing me to have Saturday morning dates with my husband.  I am thankful for the quiet time that we have during which we are able to pray together for our family and friends.  I feel blessed for being able to shut out the busyness of our schedules and just focus on one another in a way that’s difficult to do at home.  I pray that you will continue to bless our family and the friends for whom we pray and help us to sense your presence wherever we spend our Saturday mornings.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Third Day of Thanksgiving

There’s no big buildup to today’s message of thankfulness.  I’ll get right to the point.  I am thankful for the amazing man whom I call best friend, confidant, and husband.

He understands me.  He works hard to maintain a wonderful marriage and to be a great dad.  He works hard to provide for our family.  He is caring.  He is funny.  He is kind.  He is loving.  He is patient. He is my hero!

I love that he frequently shares the Gospel with his clients, plays Christian music in his stores, and invites customers, family, and friends to attend our church.  He takes seriously the command to make disciples of others.  The Great Commission isn’t just a string of words for him; it’s his mission.

Father,

Thank you for blessing me with an amazing husband, best friend, and father to our children.  I pray that you will keep him safe as he travels each day for work and as he spreads Your Gospel.

In love,

CC

 

Arms encircling me

 

Will Handmade Christmas Gifts Make A Comeback?

Decades ago, Christmastime was simple.  Gifts were handmade, families gatherings were much-anticipated, credit cards weren’t a billing option, and Black Friday hadn’t even been conceived.

Fast-forward to today.  In an environment in which the national unemployment rate hovers at 9% (much higher for certain segments of the population), poverty rates are at the highest level since 1993, household debt approaches a staggering $12 trillion (although it did decline slightly), and foreclosure rates of which we’re all vividly aware, I wouldn’t have imagined shoppers spending billions of dollars in discretionary shopping in the past few days.

So exactly how much was spent?  Black Friday 2011 sales hit a record $11.4 billion, a 39% increase over last year.  Add to that the $1.25 billion spent on Cyber Monday (another record-breaker), it’s almost inconceivable that unemployment rates could be so high.

In my mind, I imagined that there would be no time like the present (no pun intended) for a cultural return to homemade gifts for the holiday season.  (Disclaimer: I am a Christian and celebrate Christ’s birth, but do recognize that others celebrate holidays for which they shop during this time of year.  I am in no way referring to this time of year as “the holidays” for purposes of being politically correct.)  However, sales figures prove that my mental picture is wrong. 

Humor me.  What would Christmas look like if we turned a cultural corner and went back to the simple days of gift-giving and celebrating? 

  • Batches of baked goods would be exchanged
  • Families would gather to dine and sing carols
  • Scarves and mittens would be knitted with care
  • Stress level would decline
  • Toys would be built by the hands of loved ones

But who am I kidding?  Based on recent consumer spending, despite household debt figures, I don’t think we’ll make a return to simpler Christmas celebrations of old.  I’m not even convinced that consumer spending could go any lower without the proverbial bottom falling out of this already-dismal economy. 

Let’s face it.  Deal-seekers who camp out in front of electronic stores days before Black Friday, clickers who load and submit shopping carts on Cyber Monday, and a culture in which we want it all and we want it now, are both curses and blessings.  They are curses because they lead to rising household debt, but they are blessings in that without them, the unemployment rates would be much higher.

So, no, I don’t think handmade gifts will make a comeback anytime soon.  I still plan to bake a few batches of goodies though. ;-)

Merry Christmas!

CC

 

Stress-free Thanksgiving Vacation and Dinner…Almost

My first attempt at going solo cooking a Thanksgiving feast was nothing less than a total disaster in every sense of the word.  Who knew that frozen turkeys required days to thaw?  Who knew that there was a bag of innards that needed to be removed before cooking?  Who knew that my parents didn’t wake up to begin cooking a lavish feast soon after midnight just because it seemed like a fun thing to do?

Well, apparently, the whole world knew except me.  Draw your own conclusions as to how my first Thanksgiving attempt really went down; it’s too nightmarish for me to recount.

Fast forward almost 15 years to Thanksgiving 2010.  Two words: Boston Market.  Yes, they have become my festive meal savior.  The new tradition in my household is to log onto BM’s site, order a holiday meal complete with two pies, and choose a pick-up date and time.  That’s exactly what I’ve done each Thanksgiving and Christmas since last year.  So this year, pairing a vacation with the promise of having a stress-free, Thanksgiving feast seemed like the right thing to do.   Those plans hit a snag and were in serious jeopardy just days before the big road trip.

You see, for the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, I’d been terribly sick and was praying for a sign as to whether we should cancel our vacation plans, or stay at home while I nursed myself back to good health.  The answer to that prayer?  I awakened on Wednesday morning feeling much better than I had in a week.

I spent the morning taking care of a few chores, we left home just 10 minutes past our self-imposed deadline, and after running a few essential errands (including a stop at Boston Market), finally hit the road a mere 1.5 hours behind schedule.  Success!  This was going to be a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation.

Although the drive out of town was harrowing at times, we arrived at our destination unscathed, but you wouldn’t have known it if you’d seen the horror on my face as we drove up to the hotel.  How could it be?  I’d booked rooms at a townhouse-style hotel without knowing it!  What’s the big deal?  Well, the two rooms were in different buildings…a no-no as we were traveling with four children.  Not to mention, breakfast was in a separate building and the only pool on location was an outdoor pool – a no-go in 50-60-degree weather.

Sigh!  So I walked inside, inquired about a penthouse suite, learned that they were all booked, and ultimately handed over my form of payment – for two rooms – in separate buildings.  Not one to be defeated, I headed out to the van to call the hotel company’s reservations center and found an alternative hotel that suited our needs.  Just as I was giving the agent a credit card number, the call was disconnected.

Had I misinterpreted “the sign” about whether or not we should stay home?  If so, how many more roadblocks would be in our way over the next few days?

Still not discouraged, I called the reservations center again, gave the agent very specific information about where we wanted to stay and skipped ahead to the good part where I heard the magic words, “Your reservation number is…” Yes!  “Kids, buckle your seat belts!  We have a new destination!”  :-)

There we were, back on the road again, but this time, we needed only cover about 15 miles to reach our destination.  As we sighted the new hotel, the word “Hallelujah” came to mind.

As we checked in, we found that although the new hotel had interior room entrances (not separate townhouse-style buildings), no adjoining rooms were to be had.  Not a big deal, because the desk clerk said she’d give us rooms next to each other.  Well, it turned out that the rooms weren’t next to each other as the room numbers would imply, they were across the hall and diagonal.  Good enough!

After settling into our rooms, we headed out to pick up a few last-minute items from the grocery store and set out to find dinner as well.  Panera was nearby according to our navigation system, so we headed over for dinner!  The parking was metered, but payment wasn’t required this time of night.  Another good sign.

My husband and I strolled hand-in-hand down the walkway toward a much-anticipated bowl of broccoli and cheese soup.  It sure seemed dark inside, but Panera does tend to have tinted windows.  We tugged at the door handles, but the doors were locked.  Now what?  It was getting late on Thanksgiving Eve and our dining options were dwindling by the minute.

Back to the car we went – no merry stroll this time.  After using the GPS to search for other restaurants, we managed to find food.  Finally, went back to the hotel to eat, my husband and kids swam, and I enjoyed the hot tub.  A great night was had by all!  Things were going our way.

As I looked through our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchen, I realized that there wasn’t a pot big enough for something that I needed to make the next day.  So we spent a portion of Thanksgiving morning hunting for a large pot in which to boil the pasta that was needed for the homemade mac & cheese.  Sorry, but the mac & cheese and cornbread stuffing are dishes that I don’t think Boston Market does well.  After just two stores, we found a suitable pot.

Let’s get this minimal cooking underway!  Gosh!  What was that horrid smell?  The pasta!  No!  The pot was cheap, therefore, the pasta burned after just a few minutes – and it was still undercooked.  After that part of this slowly-unfolding disaster was taken care of, I had to deal with the fact that neither or our rooms had ovens.

The hotel company decided that the extended-stay rooms no longer needed ovens, so all of the newly-built and newly-renovated locations that had granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and flat-screen televisions have…no…ovens.

What happened to “all the comforts of home?”  Utensils…check!  Full-sized refrigerator and freezer…check!  Cloth dinner napkins…check!  Dishes…check!  Dishwasher…check!  Mixing bowls, pitchers, pots and pans…check, check, check!

Oven…Houston, we have a problem.  My home, as do most others, surely has an oven!  But no ovens were located in our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchens.  Luckily, the front desk clerk offered to let us use the ovens in the main kitchen that the hotel’s chef uses.

Final crisis averted.

We enjoyed our almost-stress-free feast and relaxed before heading back to the pool and hot tub.

Our Black Friday plans didn’t involve going to stores that would be the scenes of pushing and shoving, so we slept in late (7 AM), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and headed out at 9:30 AM to pick up a new blazer for my husband and camera lens for me.  We conquered Black Friday sales in under an hour and ended up having the rest of the day to do whatever our hearts desired.

Speaking of which, we haven’t decided what to do for the rest of the day.  The kids are enjoying a low-tech game of Monopoly, my husband has awakened from a nap, and I’m bidding farewell for now to you.

I hope that a Happy Thanksgiving was had by all!

Feeling truly blessed,

CC

Let’s Eat!

 

Guys, come eat!”  Those are the words that my family eagerly awaits to hear each evening at dinnertime.  The patter of nearly a dozen feet can be heard on every floor of the house as everyone makes their way to get cleaned up for our last meal of the day.

One of my teens is usually in, or near, the house with two friends.  Routinely, I invite them to stay for dinner.  Inevitably, both teen boys decline.  I began to wonder if my cooking abilities could have been the reason for the repeated rejection.  So, to my surprise, when I offered to have them join us for take-out, the invitation was once again declined.

How could this be?!  Teen boys…love…food! 

Question: What could be the reason teen boys would turn down an offer to eat – even if they’d already had dinner at home? 

Answer: Family habits.

Let me explain.  I later learned that neither boy’s family enjoys mealtime together.  Everyone eats at different times and not always at a table.  One friend admitted to my son that he eats dinner in front of the television every night – alone.  Why?  The table in their dining room has a glass top and has been deemed too fragile for use.  It’s just there to fill space and no one can use it.

That story made me sad.  I can’t imagine not regularly having dinner with my family.  Sure, we have nights when one or two of us are absent from the dinner table due to a class or some kind of practice, but we still dine together nearly every evening. 

I love hearing about what’s on everyone’s mind.  I love seeing their faces.  I love the silliness that’s expressed in every prank, comment, or joke.  I love taking turns praying over our meals.  Simply put, I love the time that we spend together. 

In a household with one tween and three teens, we are well aware that our days together as a nuclear family are numbered.  Soon, our oldest will be leaving for college.  Two years later, two more will also leave for higher education.  And two years after that, we will become empty-nesters.

Time is not on our side, so for us, dinnertime is a sacred gathering where stories are shared, questions about life are asked and answered, manners are taught, jokes are played, and silly faces are made.  Families bond are tightened and memories are made at the dinner table.

Dinnertime togetherness is one of the most blessed gifts we can give to our children.  I pray that the values we’re passing along to them will be passed down by them to our grandchildren and that the tradition of family togetherness doesn’t become lost in conflicting schedules or the simple awkwardness of needing to be alone.

What’s dinnertime like in your house?  Is the dinner table a place for laughter and sharing?  Do conflicting work or activity schedules keep everyone from dining together?  Does a museum-like status of your furniture trump use of your family’s dining area?  

Share with us!

CC

Weekend Plans

 

The first full weekend of fall will be busy in my castle.  I don’t need an excuse to make changes to my lovely abode, but a new season always seems like a great time to do so.

What’s on the weekend warrior agenda?  Something old.  Something new. Nothing borrowed, and certainly something blue.

Painting, painting, and more painting.  Touchup painting to a few areas in the kitchen, first floor bathroom, and the staircase leading from the foyer to the second floor is a high priority, since the current weather permits leaving windows open for prolonged periods of time.  If the mood strikes me, one of my lucky children will get their room painted!

After I finish wielding an array of paint brushes and rollers and splashing colors here and there, I’ll finally get around to finishing the kick-plates that were never stained and sealed from our kitchen makeover nearly 18 months ago.  I stained them last week, but just couldn’t seem to find the time to seal them.  I’m sure I HAD the time, but who knows what I actually did with it.

Grout will finally make it to a few places in the backsplash that never received it.  We were so ready to be able to use our kitchen after it was out of commission for 5 weeks, little things like this fell by the wayside.  Now is the time to get started on finishing.

My husband will take care of replacing the baseboards in the first floor bathroom.  I’ll try to talk him into getting crown molding for the family room.  We’ve taken on many projects with no prior experience, but mistakes in crown molding installation could be costly, so we will proceed with caution if this is a project that we decide to undertake.

The laundry/storage room is in dire need of a deep cleaning and purging.  Our typical schedule is twice a year or so and we may be overdue.  All hands are always on deck for this particular task!  Luckily, for my 13-year-old son, he’ll be away at a teen retreat with fellow churchgoers.  Maybe we’ll save some of the load for him.  Surprise!  :)

I started placing fall decorations in various rooms last weekend and imagine that I’ll continue working on that project until everything is in place.  I think I’ll peruse a few decorating web sites and stop by a few home decor stores to get some ideas – and a few treats that are on sale.

Grocery shopping is another item on my to-do list.  Completing the shopping list, checking out the sales papers, and trying to find a few coupons will take a bit of time.  Friday-night activity if I want to hit the stores by 8 AM on Saturday.  Never mind that I my youngest one has a Funky Friday event (it’s a church thing) at the bowling alley tonight.  Somehow, I’ll make everything happen.  I love a challenge!

Sunday’s agenda always includes going to church, and sometimes it involves experimenting in the kitchen.  Let us not forget about one of my favorite Sunday activities in fall – football!

Yep!  It seems like I’ll have a busy weekend, but I love taking care of my family and our house, so I wouldn’t change a thing about my weekend plans!

What’s on your agenda this weekend?

CC

Dinnertime Chaos

Most of my family and friends know that dinner is one of the most frequent gripes that I post about on Facebook.  Whether I’ve forgotten to defrost meat for the evening, misjudged (again) how much time I would need to prepare it, ruined it while cooking, or just plain ran out of time, dinnertime is stressful in my house. 

Thank goodness I have a favorite go-to for help - Bob Evans!  Their online ordering tool and family-sized meals are lifesavers, indeed!

Bob’s came to my rescue again tonight.  I misjudged how much time I had to cook dinner and get everyone fed before taking my youngest to dance class.  Having just 45 minutes to spare between finishing my work day and needing to leave for the dance studio, my only option was to log onto www.BobEvans.com.  Since I already have a profile, I just logged in, made a few selections, and showed up at their doorstep less than 30 minutes later.

Now while Bob’s staff are good, they can’t make miracles happen.  Miracles like eating and getting to the studio in the span of 10 minutes.  I was on my own for this one.  My clever solution?  Pack dinner for my daughter and me. She ate in the car during the drive and I ate while sitting in the van waiting for class to end.  My dear husband took care of feeding everyone else at home.

All is well.  Thanks, Bob, for all that you do to make my life a little easier.

What are some of your solutions for solving dinnertime chaos?

CC