Saturday, December 1, 2012

Keep Christ In CHRISTmas- With A Little Help From An Elf

So a few years ago we jumped on the "Elf on the Shelf" bandwagon.  We've had fun seeing what kind of shenanigans this little guy, lovingly named Lincoln gets into while we're all asleep.  

This year though I debated on bringing Lincoln back.  He'd had a good run.  In his time with us he did everything from make snow angels out of sugar on my kitchen counter, to take Barbie for a drive around the playroom in her convertible.  All of this was starting to be a lot of work (for me) and I didn't feel right about "scaring" the kids into behaving just because a little elf was watching.  I want them to want to do the right thing- and not just for 24 days in December.  

So a couple weeks ago when I found something on Pinterest about "Jesus, Santa & the Elf on the Shelf" I got excited.  The blogger talked about how she didn't want Santa to be the only focus of Christmas for her kids.  The more I read the more I agreed.  

I in no way want to take any of the magic of Christmas away from my kids. But I do want to keep Christ in CHRISTmas.  Included in the blog I read was a letter from Santa about the elf that would be joining them.  In the words of Gru from Despicable Me- "Light bulb!"

That's when I knew that Lincoln would be coming back; but this time with an even bigger purpose.  I took the example of the letter from the blog and tailored it to fit us.  Tonight when the door bell rang the kids ran to find a box on the porch.  They knew exactly what it was right away.  Ava even yelled out "It's from Santa!"

As we read through the letter I snuck a few peeks at the kids faces.  It was fun to see them take it all in and try to process it.  

Santa knows about God and Jesus?  

God knows about Santa?


Now I'm excited!  The wheels are spinning and I've got tons of ideas on how we can love big, give big and help others during this Christmas season- and beyond.

Tonight at church our Pastor said something that I had heard him say before but I wrote it down again: We are blessed to be a blessing.  That's just what Brian and I's focus is for  our family. Christmas is not about all the stuff you get but rather what Christ has already given to us.

So you know me, I'm a planner and I've already got lots of ideas going about how to spread God's love through random acts of kindness. I can't wait to get the whole family involved!  

Before we put the kids down for the night I asked them where we should put Lincoln.  They suggested we put him on the shelf by the backpacks.  So that's where he is.  After we tucked them in I walked down the hall and looked up at Lincoln.  There he was sitting next to a mirror and in the reflection of the mirror I saw our cross collection hanging on the wall across  from him.  

It made me smile for sure.  We can and will keep Christ in CHRISTmas, even with a little help from an elf.

Here's the letter we got from Santa for anyone who might be interested:

Dear Brooke, Ava and Parker,

I hope you three kiddos are having a great Christmas season and getting ready to enjoy Grandpa Ron, Grandma Cindy and Grammy when they visit.  I hear they are coming in a few weeks to see you!  I also hear you had a lot of fun having an early Christmas with Grandpa Jim and Grandma Marcia.  What fun!

This package I’m sending you has a very special friend of mine in it – Lincoln, one of my little Elves.

Why am I sending him?

Well, this time of year – this time we call “Christmas” – gets very busy and kind of crazy.  Everyone just focuses on “want, want, want.”  Have you been telling your Mommy and Daddy what you want for Christmas?  It’s ok to want a few things, but I’ve seen people – grown ups and kiddos – get very selfish with all the stuff they want.  They want so many things that they forget the whole reason we even have Christmas….
Jesus – God’s son who was born a long, long, long time ago…
The very first “Christmas present” ever given to the whole big world.

I don’t want you kiddos to forget about Jesus as you prepare for Christmas.  I want you to enjoy all the fun – hot chocolate, singing Christmas songs, candy and presents – but I don’t want you to forget the most important present: God’s love for us and His son, Jesus.  

I don’t want you to forget that it’s still important to love others … to be nice to other people … to help other people (even your Mommy, Daddy, and each other) … to show other people how wonderful Jesus is.So, little Lincoln is here to help you kids (and your Mommy and Daddy) remember these important parts about Christmas: Jesus, God’s love and our job of joyfully sharing that love with others through our gifts, kind words and loving actions (the things we do for one another).

My Elf is going to hang out at your house, watching everything that happens … as a reminder for you to:
  • -Love each other
  • -Speak nicely to one another
  • -Help each other
  • -Help your friends and neighbors too
  • -Give to people who don’t have all the stuff you have
    • -Remember that God loves you kiddos so, so, so much.

Take care of Lincoln– he and I will talk every night about you kiddos and how you are doing this Christmas Season.

Looking forward to seeing great things and wonderful love from each of you,


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thanks Mom

26 Years ago today my Guardian Angel saved my life.

I call her: Mom. 

Thank you Mom!  I love you to the Moon and back. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Definition Of Being A Mom: Having Your heart Walking Around Outside of Your Body... Sometimes Your Heart Gets Broken

Today I had a gut check moment as a mother.

Today my heart broke for my first born.

As most of you know Brooke suffers from a sever peanut allergy. And by sever I mean this...

This was her after 6 hours, 2 steroid shots, and two Benadryl shots  because of one bite of a piece of crust off a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the age of 16 months.

That's right, something that you probably feed your child on a daily basis could kill my child within minutes. That's why ever minute since this day we are on constant alert.  5 people a day die of anaphylaxis and 50,000 others end up in ER's around the world yearly because of allergic reactions.  After the sandwich episode and hearing those facts, our lives have never been the same.

  Have you ever tried to avoid peanuts?  They're all around.

They are on the play ground, they are at the movies, they are in restaurants, they're in candy, they're in dog food... they're everywhere.

Her most recent reaction was from food coloring that was processed in a plant where peanuts are also processed.  Yeah, it's that serious.  

I know peanut allergies are a big deal to a lot of my followers because I can tell which posts get the most hits and a lot of times the most popular ones are ones discussing allergies and EpiPens.  So tonight I just want to be completely raw and transparent with the people who came here inquire about that.  The one's who seek out help and support in this area.  

Food allergies SUCK!

There's no other way to say it.  

A few weeks ago we made the choice to move our daughter from the "Peanut Free" table (I'm sure all of you parents of school aged PA kids know what I'm talking about).  She had started to tell us and we had started to see signs that she was having a hard time connecting and making new friends during lunch. Because of that she was having a hard time finding friends that wanted to play with her on the play ground afterward.  She said, and I have observed on the days that I've gone to have lunch with her that most of the kids play with their friends that they sit by at lunch.  Which makes sense.  You sit there and eat your lunch and talk about what you're going to do when you get to the playground.  We've all been kids, we've all been there.

So after speaking to the mom of the only other girl that sits at the peanut free table, the school nurse and her teacher, we decided it would be best to move her with her classmates at their room table in the cafeteria.  As a precaution we made it a rule that she is to sit only on the end and that she would help her teacher check the lunch of whoever sits next to her to ensure there is nothing with peanuts or peanut butter.  It's been about 2 weeks and so far so good.  Brooke is beyond happy that she gets to be just like all the other kids.

The only other stipulation is that I made her promise to wipe down her area before she sits down with a disinfectant wipe, provided by me daily.  Her allergist said the biggest threat was the risk of Brooke sitting down where someone had eaten peanut butter previously and it had not been completely sanitized.  If she were to get even just a tiny amount of peanut protein into her mouth, nose or eyes she will have a reaction.  

Well the first week or so I just grabbed a handful of wipes and shoved them in a plastic bag and told her to throw them away after she used them.  After awhile I went to refill the bag and I noticed there was still quite a bit of wipes still in there.  I questioned her and reminded her how important it was to use them and she assured me she was.  Well this morning when I packed her lunch I only put two wipes in the bag; one for today and one for tomorrow.  

As I was cleaning out her lunch box when she came home I pulled out the usual: half eaten sandwich- bag unzipped so the crumbs and left over jelly can spill out everywhere, half finished bag of gold fish- why do they insist on saving those last three?, stickers from the all important cafeteria sticker machine, and a napkin-unused.

The last thing I pulled out was the bag of disinfectant wipes- contents = 2

At this point I was upset.  Thinking she was being lazy I questioned/drilled her.  "What's worse?" I scolded.  "Taking two seconds to wipe down your table or ending up in the ER?!"

She looked at me for a minute and then she burst into tears and said "Wiping my table is worse.  Everyone asks me why I do it and when I say 'Because I'm allergic to peanuts' they all say 'Ewwww!  I don't want to sit by you!'

Now I know we cannot and should not protect our kids from every little thing but I'm telling y'all, my heart broke into a million pieces right then and there.  And then Mama Bear kicked in.  I thought of a million reasons why those kids were jerks.  I thought of a million things I wish I could do to shelter her from them.

We'll move to Montana and home school... that'll take care of it.

I'll eat lunch with her every day... that'll do it.

But then it started to all sink in.  Kids are kids.  Most don't know any better.  To be honest, if Brooke didn't have this burden I'm not so certain she would be educated enough about it to not be the one to say those hurtful words to someone else. 

I do however need to mention that Brooke's teacher and school nurse have been amazing through this all and before she ever made the transition from the peanut free table they educated the children on the dangers of food allergies (including pictures) and why it is important for those with these allergies to avoid them.  So it's not like they have never heard of "allergies" before and think it's some scary communicable disease. 

Mostly my heart broke for Brooke.  My heart broke because all she ever wants, all anyone ever wants is to belong.  To feel like your just like everyone else.  And she will never ever be like everyone else and it's beyond her control.  Beyond any ones control.

So, I sucked it up and talked through it with her.  She recovered pretty quickly.  I however did not.  I'm not ashamed to say I excused myself to my bedroom, locked the door and had a good ol' cry.  

This is not the first time this allergy has broken me;  

I cried that day in the ambulance when all I could do was sit back and trust that the medical response team was doing all they could do and pray the swelling would stop.  

I cried the first time I went shopping and tried to read all the labels of ever single thing I put in my shopping cart, realizing this was my new reality.

I cried when a not so kind airline representative told me I was a careless mother for taking my child on an airplane with such a serious allergy.

I cried when we toured at least 8 different preschools to find one that even know about the severity of food allergies and how to handle them.

I cried when I was literally on my way to take her to her new preschool on her very first day (she was beyond excited) and the school called and said that they decided that she was too much of a "risk" and asked me not to bring her.

I cry when I see the anxiety she lives with on a daily basis because of this allergy.

Rest assured I usually wait until I'm alone or at least away from Brooke before I have my melt down.  I don't ever want her to transfers my fears, worries or hurts onto herself.

One thing I have been able to do, the only thing I do have control over is my constant, never wavering prayer of protection over her.  Continually I go to God and cry out about these things above and others and say "God!  You made her.  You gave her this allergy for a purpose.  I am faith believing that you will protect her and guide her steps as she navigates through this.  She is your child Lord.  Please place people in her lives that will walk along side her on this journey, build her up on this journey, protect her on this journey.  Because you know Brian and I can't do it alone."

And let me tell you what, the Lord has been faithful to answer that prayer.  We have been absolutely blessed by the relationships she has made BECAUSE of this allergy.  She has and has had amazing teachers, school directors and nurses that go above and beyond for her.  She has a lot of amazing people in her corner.

So tonight we talked about what the kids have been saying. We discussed ways on how to deal with the things people say and how we should never do anything to make someone else feel bad about themselves.

And most importantly, we move on.  That's all we can do.

Well, this was a long one but I know someone out there needed to hear that they are not alone on this journey.  Food allergies SUCK, plan and simple.  And sometimes a Mama needs to know she's not walking this scary path alone.

And can I just say I adore my little Ava and her loving protective heart towards her older sister.  After Brooke told us about what has been going on Ava said "Well some kids in my class have peanut butter and I try not to sit by them.  I'm always be careful not to touch anything with peanuts because I love you too much Brookie."  Out of the mouths of babes huh?   

There's nothing in this world that can't be fixed with a little impromptu freeze dance party.  These kids are such a sunshine in our lives, even on rough days like this.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Heading Home

Why is it when you are waiting for a vacation it seems to take forever to get there.  But when you finally get to the vacation it flies by in the blink of an eye?  Before we knew it it was time to say goodbye to our family and head for home.

Which meant saying goodbye to our newest little cousin/nephew.  I so miss seeing the smile on these kiddo's faces while playing together.

On our way home we stopped to have lunch with one of my childhood friends.  Lindz and I have know each other for, let's see... forever and a day I think.... 

Yep that sounds about right.  Seriously, I can't remember when we met, she's just always been there.  Love ya girl!

Annnnnd, my cousin Abe met us too!  I was soooo excited to see him.  I told my Dad where we were stopping for lunch and he said "Why aren't you meeting Abe?"  For some reason I had forgotten that he lived in that area too.  How horrible of me!  But luckily I got ahold of him and he cruised right over.  

I know he was excited to see me too.  Right Abe? 

Abe?!?!  You know you love me!

I sent the above picture to my other cousin Chelsea and said "Look what I got."    

About two seconds later she sent this picture and said "Look what I got!" 

WhaaaaaaaT? Tim Tight White Jeans McGraw!  No fair!  

About the only other notable thing that happned on our way home was this horrible poster.


Luckily it was Saturday so we missed it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Children's Museum of Illinois

Back in July when we were in Illinois visiting Brian's family we went to the Children's Museum of Illinois in Decatur.

It was so much fun!

Even for us big kids.  Remember pin cushion things?  They're still fun!

There was SOOOOO much for the kids to do:


James loved them.


This cool mirror thingy.  You sit on one side and someone else sits on the other and it meshes your faces together.  This was Brian and his brother Chris.

The kids loved this grocery store.

Puppet shows

 Parker rotating tires and making his Daddy proud.

He's going to be on a NASCAR pit crew one day.

 He loved this part.  He could have stayed there all day.  

Ava telling Grandma that she owed her $80.00 per cupcake.

Seriously this is not even half of what there was in this place.  There was sooooo much more.  Airplanes, hospitals, a news room, post office and tons more.  My kids could have spent all day there if we would have let them.  They are already asking when they can go back.  If you live in the area I highly recommend it.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The past couple weeks we've had a lot of firsts in our house:

 Currently... The night before her first day of first grade Brooke lost her first tooth!

First day of school!  And guess what?  She lost her second tooth on the first day of first grade!  She was very excited because she is the first one that gets to go on the "tooth chart" in her class.

So that night when she went to put the tooth in her little tooth pillow - she dropped it!  We searched everywhere but could not find it.  She wrote a note for the Tooth Fairy saying she was sorry and luckily the Tooth Fairy took pity on her and gave her money anyway.  She even left some fairy dust behind!

Don't worry though, we've since found the tooth and little Miss TF swung by and made a pick up. 

Currently... the girls started soccer.  But what is extra exciting is this is Ava's first year on a actual team!

Go Comets!

Currently... we converted Parker's toddler bed into a big boy bed.  Yikes.  I'm not going to lie, there were some tears shed when we were taking it down.  It made me a little sad that our "baby" is no longer a baby anymore.  Don't get me wrong; I don't want another one.  I just wish the ones we have would slow down a little bit.  

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was a slightly insane Mother of three children under the age of three?  How did I make it out alive?

Currently... Parker and Ava started school.  Ava is going Monday through Friday and Parker is going Tuesdays and Thursdays.  

I so miss those faces during the day but I know they are having so much fun.  Ava has been looking forward to this for so long and her excitement is so fun to watch.  

Currently... I have Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-2 to myself!  I have not had a kid free day like this in over six years.  This is a big deal people!  I am loving the break right now but it's only been two days so far.  I know it'll get harder the more it goes on.  The count down is on for when they are all in school full time and I'm fully aware of it.  I am cherishing every minute I get with these blessings.  

Speaking of blessings, our first born- Chester is excited to get some more one on one time.  On our first day home together he requested a nice long walk.

We are both going to work on getting back in shape while the kids are at school.  He had good results this Summer and doesn't want to backslide.  I'm pretty sure Chester's the only one who goes to the Skellenger Family Doins' and looses weight!

Above is Chester's amazing results from California Chris' Fat Camp for Pups.  And yes my dog is giving me a high five.  He's just that awesome.  


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On Being Human: This Is The Stuff

Today has surely been "one of those days" and I just need a minute to be human for a second.  Since this afternoon I've had this song on repeat in my mind.  I had to just to make it through.  

I had a hint that it was going to be "one of those days" when I woke up in a puddle of urine...

Don't worry, it wasn't mine..  Although I'm not sure which would be worse?  

Parker woke up again last night with a fever.  And by fever I mean 104.5 burning hot lava fever.  Needless to say I wasn't sending him back to bed when he was that sick so we let him sleep with us.  I had been pumping him full of ice water trying to bring the fever down and keep him hydrated. Well, this morning it back fired on me... literally! 

Long story short here's the summary of my day:

*Two kids with fevers

*Two kids with Strep Throat

*One kid that had to get two shots today and literally had her first ever  full blown, knock down, drag out fit right in the Doctors office because she was so scared.  I've never seen her like that. 

*One kid pooped in the bathtub

*One kid "accidentally peed" in her sisters bed because she was too busy to stop playing

*I accidentally pulled out the stitches in my mouth from my surgery last Monday

*I lost the paperwork for the kids school so I had to run around town and get those all filled out- again

But none of that, not even all of that together was as rough as having to say good bye to a cherished friend this morning.  

Friday a Pastor at our church, passed away unexpectedly.  This man and his family have truly been a blessing to me and our family since we've moved here.   I often joked with him that since his grand babies live far away and my kids grandparents live so far that he was our honorary PawPaw.  And that's what we called him, the "PawPaw Pastor."  That's what everyone called him.  

My kids are forever trying to talk me into going to their frozen yogurt shop by sweetly saying "Mom, can we go visit PawPaw Wayne and Mrs. Margret?!"  I'm pretty sure they love Wayne and Margret as much as the yogurt.  I know I do.

It's moments like today when you really have to stop and put things into prospective.  Yes- I am exhausted: physically, mentally and emotionally after today.  But even now, as I'm getting ready to end this crazy day with swollen eyes from crying and a pounding headache I am going to bed with a smile and a humble heart. 

*I smile because I had the privilege to know Wayne.  For him to be my mentor in children's ministry.  To call him my friend.

*I smile because there was not a dry eye or an empty chair in that huge church today and I know he meant as much to them as he did to me.  He truly was a legend and he left a great legacy to prove it.

*I smile because God trusts me to take care of these, His children when they are sick.  

*I smile because we have the resources and the ability to take care of our children when they are sick.

*I smile because I have an amazing support system that allows me to take a day or two and be real about the hurt/anger/sadness I feel towards losing my friend.  But they also rejoice with me knowing that he is surely in Heaven with our precious Lord.

*I smile because somehow through it all I was somehow able to get 4 loads of laundry done; including both sets of pee soaked sheets!  

I'm not going to lie.  I did my fair share of crying today.  I cried over spilled water cups, I cried over having to clean up pee for what felt like the hundredth time today.  But you know what?  This is the stuff that He is using to show me that this "stuff" doesn't matter.  As much as it feels like it in the moment- in the end, it doesn't really matter.  (Quick!  Name that song.)  Does that make sense?  

Our Pastor said it best today during the service, "When it comes down to it, the things that matter the most are:  Who you love and who loves you.  That's what you should live your life for.  That's what Wayne lived his life for."  

"Live Simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly and leave the rest to God."

That was Wayne's favorite saying and he sure lived every bit of it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Family Picture Day

I forgot to add these two pictures on my last post.  Krekles is the local burger joint in Brian's home town.  I began my love affair with it on my first trip back there years ago and it was love at first bite.  The burgers are juicy and the ice cream is divine.  

Grandma and Ava waiting on our order.

We spent lots of time playing in the water in Grandpa and Grandma's back yard.  It was hot!

One evening while we where there my Mother In Love had arranged for us to have some family pictures taken.  We got to the spot a little early so I had to sneak a few pictures of my own while everyone was all dolled up.  This doesn't happen everyday so I had to get proof of it!


Brian's cousin Amy was our photographer.  I so wish we lived closer so a) our kids could play together more and b) so Amy and I could play together more!  I wish she could teach me everything she knows because she is an amazing photographer.

One more little tid-bit that we learned that evening.  The kids pointed it our actually. Matt and Amy's three kids and our three kids all have the same eyes.  All three of my kids have different colored eyes; brown, blue and hazel.  So do hers!  How crazy is that?!

It was good to see you and the kiddos Amy!  Can't wait to see the pictures you got.  I know they'll be amazing!