Monday, January 28, 2013

Frozen Cons

Chris and I were talking about something the other night and Sam got out of bed and came in to our room.  He heard Chris say, "there are lots of pros and cons to think about."  And Sam said, "frozen cons!"  Then he and Chris came up with an elaborate story of escaped prisoners freezing on the side of the road.  Since then I haven't been able to say "pros and cons" without thinking of Sam's frozen cons!   This little man of mine sure brings a lot of laughter into my life!  I can't even imagine how dull my days will seem once he's in school all day.  Good thing we've got another year at home together.  Today, I'm thankful for these two guys that God has put into my life.  They are my daily entertainment! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The license plate game

We all play it when we travel, right?  Surely we're not the only ones.  Chris is obsessed with the license plate game when we're on the highway.  Obsessed.  Although, in the past he's just yelled out every license plate he's seen.  It gets old.  Fast.  And who knows how many states we actually see. 

So, for a Christmas present to the family this year, we bought this game.

It. Is. Awesome.  On our recent trip to Colorado we got it out.  Whenever someone - mostly Chris - saw a new license plate, we would flip the plate on the game board.  At the end of the trip, we were only missing 9 states.  Pretty impressive.  It helps that we went to a ski town during winter break.  The kids loved it!  On the flip side, the state capitols were listed.  And, if you wanted, it could be competitive.  One side was red, and another blue, so I could have flipped it to blue every time Chris spotted the plate.  But to be fair, he would have dominated.  Though, the kids really got into it and could have at least been competitive! 

If you travel a lot, or just need a lot of tricks in your bag to make the trip more bearable, this would be a great idea.  Yes, I'm a nerd for writing about a game, but as a mom of four, I will do just about anything to make a trip easier on all of us. And the idea that the kids are actually looking outside the van and noticing what's around them instead of just staring at a tiny movie screen - we'll that's just awesome enough to write about! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The day Santa died...confessions from a pastor's wife.

Lovely title for a post, I know.  But, it is what it is.

This was the year we told all of our kiddos about Santa (ages 4, 6, 7, & 9).  It was over a year in the making though.  Last year I felt guilty.  Every time the kids would mention Santa I felt like I was just a big fat liar.  I oversee Children's Ministries at our church and Chris is the Associate Pastor.  And we lie to our children.  Uggghh.  We talk to them all the time about the importance of obeying God and telling the truth.  Then we would spend a month making up some story about a fat man, wearing red, with flying reindeer, who squeezes down every body's chimney on the same night to bring kids toys.  Weird when you really think about it that that is a believable story in itself. 

To be fair, Santa has never played a big role in our Christmases.  We've always spent our time teaching the kids about the true meaning of Christmas.  They've heard it and read it so much that Sophia has the entire story memorized.  Pretty cute to hear actually.  We never argued his existence, but we also didn't bring him up.  If the kids mentioned him then we would talk. Or if we read a book, or someone else brought him up, then we'd talk about him.  But we never played the "Santa knows if you've been naughty or nice" card.  Because, um, sorry God trumps Santa.  And I would rather our kids act appropriately to honor God than to get more toys from Santa.  To be fair, we did always leave Santa cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, but again, I felt guilty last year about this.  Plus, the cookies are barely edible after the kids frost them....but, oh, I digress!

So Chris and I agreed that this year we'd tell the kids the truth.  And it happened the day after Thanksgiving.  Although we agreed to do this and completely agreed on why we wanted to do it - Chris was dreading it.  He kept telling me I was going to kill Santa Claus.  He thought they'd be devastated.  I didn't.  I thought if they knew they were still getting presents, they wouldn't care one bit.  Who do you think was right? 

So, we read the kids the true story of the historical St. Nicholas.  At one point, I read the date when he died and Sophie had a light bulb moment.  She said, "but if he died does Santa still come to our houses?"  Right.  That's what we're talking about tonight. 

So we spent our evening talking about truth vs. tradition.  We talked about the truth of St. Nicholas historically, and the truth of the Christmas story in the Bible.  And we talked about the fun tradition of Santa Claus.  And we reassured the kids that even though Santa doesn't exist, they would still get presents in their stockings because that's fun for us to do.  Ding, ding, ding.  That's all that mattered to them!  

But, then the hard part.  We talked to the kids about how this was supposed to be just between us - that every parent gets to decide when or if they tell their children the truth.  Because most parents want to wait longer and have so much fun with the tradition side of it. We didn't want our kids to be the ones to tell their friends that Santa's not real.  Though, honestly, the kids have these debates in school every year no matter what.  Every single year the kids have come home having these discussions.  There's an atheist in one of the girls' classes, or a youngest child in another, etc.  The kids talk about this no matter how much the parents or teachers don't want them too.  Still, I didn't want my kids to be the ones doing the talking. 

The girls took all the information in fine.  But you'd be surprised how many random adults actually talk to them about Santa.  They learned to politely nod and smile rather than tell the adults they knew he wasn't real.  They didn't say it outright, but they gave me some panicked looks a few times since they didn't know how to respond.  We then had to have a second conversation about how to respond to the well-meaning adults.  They're quick learners though. 

Sam, well, he's only four.  It was tough to figure out exactly what he understood.  Since he's positive Batman and Spiderman are real.  It seemed like at any given time he thought Santa was real and then a few minutes later knew he wasn't.  I think he was pretty confused because his teachers and other adults kept talking to him about Santa. Now, a few weeks later, he'll tell me Santa isn't real and I know he's got it.  He'll understand it much better next year though I'm sure. 

But, for the sake of being honest.  It didn't go perfectly.  Sam did mention once to his Parents' Day Out class that Santa wasn't real.  But, in a room of 4 year-olds rarely are any of the kids paying attention nor would they believe him even if they were.  And teachers are very good at redirecting kids.  I'm not making excuses, well, maybe I am.  But we had a long talk about that and from that point on he would tell me he knew he wasn't supposed to talk about Santa with others.  I don't think any long term damage was done.  But, still, it did happen. 

In all honesty, if I could redo things, I don't think I would have introduced the kids to the idea that Santa is real at all when they were young.  We never told the kids that the Easter Bunny existed.  They never got presents on Easter.  And they've always known Easter is about Jesus dieing on the cross and rising again.  It's not been an issue.  I think I would just teach the kids the truth from the beginning if I could do it all over again and talk about the fun tradition of Santa Claus. 

In a blog I read a year ago, there's a few lines that just stuck out.  I couldn't forget them once I read them.  It said, "Because honestly? For a five-year-old, how can Jesus compete with Santa? Our children don't have spiritual perspective; when faced with the choice of allegiance, they have a baby in a manger, or they can get a jolly, twinkling, flying character who will bring them presents. This is going to be an easy choice for them."  Source.  I loved this entire column but this one line....well, it just really made an impact on me. 

Do I think we traumatized the children by telling them at a young age the truth.  Not at all.  Did it work perfectly.  No, but I think we expected that with Sam.  Are we glad we did it?  Heck ya!  It was so nice to spend the holiday season not feeling like a huge liar to my children.  They won't look back at me and think, "well, if she lied to me about this....what else was a lie?"  Gosh, the last thing I would want is for them to think anything we've taught them from the Bible was a lie.  And if I expect them to be truthful with me, then I want to be truthful with them. 

But I didn't expect it to be so controversial.  I mentioned it to some people.  They were all surprised.  Some seemed upset with us, like they were somehow invested in the situation.  Like we were ruining our kids' childhoods.  I didn't get it.  But then again, we try not to parent the way the "world" says we should parent.  We make a lot of choice and do things differently at times than most.  But in the end, I think we're doing our best to parent them in a God-honoring way.  Even if we had to kill Santa. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

It's been a year and a half since our family took a real vacation.  (Since my kiddos don't count the week they spent this summer with the church youth group as vacation!!) Ah the life as a pastor's kid!  So last week we dropped everything and headed to Colorado. 

Oh. My. Gosh.  Did we need it!  With both of us working for our church we had to line up lots of substitutes just so we could leave town.  We also had to pull the kiddos out of a few days of school.  But it was so worth it!  SO worth it!!  You see, when you both work for the church, you never actually leave work.  Whether or not you're in the church building, you're thinking about or talking about church. It doesn't matter if we're eating dinner, doing laundry, or watching our daughters' swim practice, we still seem to be talking about church stuff. So this vacation was all about focusing on some much needed family time.  Nine straight days of family time to be exact!!  Wowzer! 

We first headed to Buena Vista where Chris' family has a cabin.  We finally found real snow!   Plus, it snowed all day after we arrived.  We played in the snow.  Went swimming.  Played lots of games together.  Read a lot.  And found a nearby hill (honestly, it was the side of a mountain, but I'm sure in the pictures it looks like a hill) and spent 2 days sledding our hearts out.  Chris and I were sore!  But we had so much fun. 


Sorry, not really appropriate, but I thought it was funny! 

Next we headed to Breckenridge where some wonderful friends from church let us stay in their timeshare condo.  Oh. My.  It was so nice!  It had an amazing view of all of Breckenridge!  We found a free sledding/tubing park in town instead of paying $25 p/person p/hour at the nearby tubing venue.  We also rode the free gondola up into the ski base and watched skiers and snowboarders do some amazing jumps and tricks.  Chris and I could have sat their all day since it was sunny and beautiful.  But, once their hot chocolates were gone, the kids were eager to ride the gondola back into town.  We mastered the free parking lots and rode the bus all around town and even did a little shopping (ie. dragged the kids all the way down main street exhausted after sledding so they could pick out their souvenir stuffed animal with their leftover Christmas money).  And we played in the incredibly deep snow around the condo.  You just don't get to do that in Kansas very often! 

I was so excited to take the kids on a sleigh ride.  I remember doing it as a child and knew they would love it too.  But seriously, it's not cheap.  At all.  Like, crazy expensive actually.  So before we left we talked to the kids about it and had a family vote.  They agreed to use their Christmas money from their grandparents and aunt to pay for their ticket on the sleigh ride.  How awesome is that?  They had to all agree or we wouldn't do it.  It was such a great experience they're going to remember for a long time, and they didn't come home from Wal-mart with more toys to fill up the basement.  Love that!  We've got some pretty amazing kids!  But, my oh my, it was cold!  We learned our lesson though.  At night - when it's crazy cold out and the kiddos are exhausted -  it would be better to pay $15 to park nearby than have to catch two buses to make it back to our van!  Lesson learned.  We were frozen!  As soon as we got back to the condo the kids all hopped in hot showers to thaw out. 

The best part is we spent the entire week focusing on family time.  We did everything together.  Laughed so hard.  Smiled so much.  And just plain wore ourselves out every single day.  And never once spoke about work.  It was perfect!!  I'm thinking we need to find a way to get away more often! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The annual Christmas card

Every year it seems as if fewer and fewer people send out Christmas cards and letters.  It's expensive.  It's time consuming.  And some years it seems like there's nothing new to say.  No new babies, job changes, or moves.  What in the world will we write about? 

I am determined not to stop sending ours.  I have a copy of every Moon Tribune we've ever sent out in a binder in our living room.  It all started with Chris' groom's cake.  He was just starting out as a reporter, so we thought a cake that looked like a newspaper would be perfect.  Cute isn't it?

Then, a couple of years later we published the next Moon Tribune inviting everyone to Sophia's first birthday party.  From that point on, we sent it out as our annual Christmas letter and used it to announce our pregnancies and births and major life changes.  The binder with our Moon Tribunes in it tells the history of our family.  And our kids love to get it out and look at it. 

I know its easier not to send out Christmas cards and letters, but I am so thankful for those of you who still send them!  I love seeing the pictures, reading what's going on in people's lives, and just knowing that someone cared enough to snail mail a card to us!  I'm not going to lie, if you e-mailed me your Christmas card/letter, I totally printed it and hung it up with the rest of them. 

In fact, this year we received 49 Christmas cards!  Don't they look nice hanging up?  So, thank you so much for remembering us this year!  We loved checking the mailbox every day and opening up your cards!  Wouldn't it be nice if more people mailed cards the other 11 months of the year?