Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Break Bliss

It truly is heartwarming to see all four of my kiddos playing the same activity (Batman)...working together (nicely)...and having fun. Pure bliss.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Polar Express party...and a streaker

I am a terrible blogger this year. As I look through the archives and see every month in the single digits for number of posts published, I am ashamed. I really need to start doing a better job of documenting our lives. The kids are only little once, and with four little ones, you know I don't lack blogging material. 

Take this morning for example. Chloe has a Polar Express party at preschool, so she got to wear her pajamas. I was taking her photo before school...

...when Gavin got a bit upset hearing the talk of this 'pajama party,' as Chloe called it. Gavin started yelling, "Party! Yeah, party!" and began to take of his clothes. I asked him nicely to leave his clothes on, but he was insistent on changing into pajamas just like big sis. I thought, why not! So I followed him downstairs so that we could get his pajamas and this is what I see as he walks towards his room...

Oh, the excitement and laughter is never ending with these four kids. I am so blessed to be called their mama.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God's plan is perfect, even in the midst of struggles

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but felt it was too fresh to click that 'publish post' button until now. Very few people know this even happened, and it could easily stay that way. Yet, I feel compelled to share my story. I hope it is able to somehow minster to or comfort someone out there who may be reading it. Or, at the very least, cause you to be extra thankful tonight for your blessings and to hold them close, hug them tight, whisper some extra 'I love you's' and thank the Lord for them.

It's been a trying past month, not only in reference to my last blog post regarding Gabe's struggles at school. There's been heartache, and hopes seemingly crushed, and loss. And there's been sadness. Yet, there's also been great joy and thankfulness. And there's been a renewed sense of gratefulness for the four beautiful, healthy children the Lord has so graciously blessed me with that I fear I cannot accurately put into words. But with this post, I will try.

You see, I was recently pregnant. I found out at about 5 weeks that I was indeed pregnant with my fifth child. The Lord had done it to me again. I had thought I was probably done having kids at four, but as He softened my heart, I realized I was not ready to be done. That I yearned for more. More kids to love and to raise up in His leading. More kids to share joys and triumphs with. More kids to have and hold with my husband, who we all know ALWAYS wants more kids.

And so, we tried. And as it has in the past, it happened very quickly. At 8 weeks, I went in for my first appointment with the history nurse, where she updates my charts and the lab does the routine bloodwork. Everything looked well and good.

In the past we had shared the news of our pregnancies fairly early on. I've never had any problems with conceiving and no issues during my pregnancies, so never really felt a need to keep it quiet. Yet this time, for some reason, we chose to wait. Maybe it was partially the fear that others would not share in or understand our joy to be pregnant once again. Although four kids isn't that many, some seem to think us crazy to want more. Other than a friend who asked me point blank if I was pregnant and I didn't want to lie to her, we told no one. A choice that soon makes sense in our minds.

I had been experiencing some morning sickness, but not as severe as with my other pregnancies, so I felt blessed.

And was I ever happy to be pregnant. I can't quite describe the happiness, but I was possibly more happy than ever before to be pregnant. The idea that it wasn't 'over' for me. That that stage in my life was not closed. That I would once again hold my own newborn baby in my arms and smell that sweet newborn smell. I was happy because I have so much more love to give and I was going to have the opportunity to give that love to yet another addition to our family.

At ten weeks, which was this past Wednesday (actually Nov. 2nd), I went in for my first OB appointment. My doctor for the past two pregnancies congratulated Jason and I on our pregnancy. We talked about our four kids at home and how much they've grown. We talked about starting all over with yet another and how excited we were. How excited the kids would be to find out. (We were waiting to tell them until after this appointment.)

And then, came time to hear the heartbeat. The doctor moved the monitor around my stomach, but nothing. My heart sank. I looked at Jason and he tried to give me a reassuring smile that things would be ok. But, I had that sinking feeling that something was wrong. The doctor told us it was probably because it was so early on in the pregnancy, but he wanted to get an ultrasound done just in case. He pulled an old ultrasound into the room on a mobile cart. He found the baby on the screen, but because it was such an old machine, he couldn't zoom in enough to see detail. So, he sent us to ultrasound. There were no ultrasound appointments available at our hospital, so we were sent directly to another hospital a few blocks away. And we waited.

The time we waited in the waiting room seemed like an eternity. I tried to disway the worries racing through my mind. We prayed. But, I couldn't shake that feeling in the pit of my stomach that things were not right. Then, my name was called.

As we were led back to the room and I changed into a gown, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest.  I didn't want to know. Maybe I could just stay in ignorant bliss a bit longer. But soon, I was on the table. And although the technician couldn't tell us herself, Jason and I both knew as soon as the baby was up on the screen. He or she was not alive. There was no heart beat. I tried to hold in the tears. I didn't look at Jason because I knew once I did, I'd lose it. And once I got back into the bathroom to change my clothes, I did. The tears fell and I mourned.

We were told to go back into the waiting room while the ultrasound technician showed the ultrasound photos to a resident doctor and called back to my doctor's office to get further instruction. Sitting in that waiting room was torture. I just wanted to weep. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole away from this public place and I wanted to cry in silence. And just then, a mother walked by with a little boy in tow. He was following his mommy and as he passed Jason and I, he looked over. He was about Gavin's age, my youngest son. He looked me right in the eyes, surely saw my tears, and looked a bit concerned at first. But as I managed a smile across my face at his sweet little face, he returned one to me. And was that smile ever comforting. Because just then, it hit me. I am SO blessed. Blessed beyond measure, just as my blog header says. I have a wonderful husband who is not only my best friend, but who is a better husband than I could ever ask for. And I have four beautiful children. Children who I had absolutely no problems conveiving or delivering. Children who have had minimal health problems or struggles in their lives. Children who make me want to be a better person than I ever may have strived for without them. And children who give me glimpes of the Lord's grace and mercy everyday I get to spend with them. Blessed indeed. And all of a sudden, I felt a peace and calm come over me. Yes, I was still sad. Tears still fell. I still mourned the loss of a child who we had been excited about and prayed for. But, my blessings outweighed that sadness. And more importantly, the Lord's love and mercy covered my sadness.

When we were asked to return to my doctor's office, we did so in mostly silence. I know we were both in a bit of shock. After four completely normal and uncomplicated pregnancies, no previous miscarriages, and absolutely no signs of an imminent miscarriage, this was the very last thing we were expecting. But, again, the Lord covered the shock. We were grateful. Grateful for all that we do have. And we possessed a renewed sense of appreciation for just how special our kids are. What a miracle life is, and we take it for granted everyday.

My doctor was so kind. He figured we already knew the answer when he walked in the room and immediately put his hand on me and said he was sorry. He consoled us. He gave us our options in the case of a missed misscarriage, which is where the baby dies but for some reason the body does not expel it naturally (on its own.) We talked about how my body is good at holding on to babies too long ;) I decided to first try medication to encourage uterine contractions so that I could expel my baby naturally at home. But after taking the medicine, it didn't work and I had to go back in for D&C surgery today (Nov. 5th) to remove the baby. It was the first time I'd ever had surgery or been put under anesthetic. I don't like to take drugs and had not even had an epidural for any of my previous labors, so I was nervous to say the least. But we prayed and our family and friends prayed, and I know those prayers work because I again had a sense of peace and calm that is completely uncharacteristic for this worrier. I felt the Lord's peace surrounding me. The procedure went as well as can be expected. I was sent home about 5 hours after I arrived. And tonight, I am feeling pretty good with little pain.

But most importantly, I am thankful. I am so very thankful for all the love the Lord has already showered on my life. And I am hopeful for my future and whatever path the Lord leads me on. Because now, more than ever, I feel Him right here beside me. Just as the verse says, "He will never leave us or foresake us."

I am in no way saying that because I already have four children, I grieve less for this fifth child. A child is a child, and not one is less significant than the next. Nor am I saying that we should not grieve. It's natural to grieve such a loss. But I am thankful that I have solace from my grief in the Lord and in the many blessings He has placed in my life to cause me to focus on being thankful.

Yes, there is a space of emptiness in my heart. I wonder if it was a boy or a girl. I wonder who he or she may have grown up to be. But, it is far greater knowing that God knows what He is doing. He has a plan, even when we may not understand it. He has a plan, and I trust in Him. And I have the security of knowing there is a child I have yet to meet waiting for me in heaven. As a friend reminded me, how neat to know there's a small part of me experiencing all the glories of God right now up in heaven.

Since this was originally written a few weeks back, we have shared our story with the kids. It was hard, seeing their faces light up when we told them mom was pregnant, only to see those smiles disappear as we shared that the baby had died and gone to heaven to be with the Lord. Our kids would have loved to have another brother or sister. The boys shared that they would still love to have another sister so that Chloe would have a 'friend' as they said. So sweet. We assured the kids that the Lord knows what He's doing and that if we should have more children, if they should have another brother or sister, then He will provide, whether through a pregnancy or through adoption. And since sharing the news, Cooper in particular has asked a few times if I'm pregnant again yet. The four of them have so much love for each other, that they gladly would welcome another. And that warms my heart.

And so we wait. Wait on the Lord, and see what He has planned for us. For He does have a plan and it is perfect. And in that, I find my peace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A kind heart

Do I think my kids are perfect? Absolutely not. I KNOW they are not perfect. No one is, after all. Goodness, I'm certainly far from it. But, back to my kids. 

While I know they are not perfect, I do have to say that one thing they are...they all kind. Maybe not always, but for the most part, they are all kind kiddos. 

Now I may sound like a bragging mom, and if I do, I apologize. There's nothing worse than a mom who thinks her kids are perfect when they're not. Or a mom who is always tooting her own parenting horn. But please know that is the last thing I'm attempting to do. Lately, the Lord has just caused me to really see how kindness is rare in today's word, where attitudes and rude comments are so much cooler. Where it is so much more the tendency to be in competition with others than to be their teammates. Where it's more common to see others tearing each other down than lifting each other up. And I am so proud that somehow, the Lord has blessed my kids with kind hearts. Tonight I want to talk about Gabe in particular. 

Gabe is my oldest, and he is a smart kid. He's clever and quick and understands so much more than I probably give him credit for. But Gabe also learns differently than others. Gabe has dyslexia. And although it's just a label in essence, it does help explain his struggles. His letters get turned around and make it extremely challenging to read. And because reading is a challenge, Gabe has to have some extra help at school. 

The extra help started off being no big deal to him, maybe even fun to get a break from the classroom. But now this extra help has possibly made him a target for those bullies that exist in every class. 

Gabe has come home from school before and nonchalantly mentioned that someone called him stupid. But he usually brushes it off and moves on. Gabe is definitely a confident boy in general and doesn't tend to let what others say bring him down. Gabe has also been blessed with many good friends. But tonight, as he lay in bed and recounted the day with me as he always does, his eyes got watery and he grew quiet. I knew something was wrong. And as he asked me, "am I stupid, Mom?" my heart sank. 

I of course asked him why he would think he's stupid. I've gone out of my way, anticipating the day when he would start to associate his different way of learning as being a negative, and have always told him that he's smart but just learns different than the average classroom is taught. That he just needs a little extra practice and it will all make sense. But as Gabe shared that on the playground today *Joey told him he was stupid, that he reads like an idiot, and that *Jimmy agreed that Gabe was dumb, it all made sense. Our words are piercing. They can go right through the heart of another, and make a lasting hole where they rest. Words can exist forever in the quiet echos of our minds. Words can hurt.

And as I once again told Gabe how smart he is and how he can do anything he sets his mind to, I then asked him what he said in response to those unkind words. "I didn't say anything, Mom. I knew I didn't have anything nice to say back, so I didn't say anything." 

Yes, Gabe is kind.

Trying to hold back the tears as the words, "am I stupid, Mom" played over and over again in my mind, I attempted to think of words of wisdom to impart to Gabe. And of course, our ultimate role model came to mind. We talked about Jesus, and how people were cruel to Him. How they said unkind words to Him. Gabe chimed in and added how people threw rocks at Jesus on the cross and said, "Kill Him, Kill Him," even though he had done nothing to deserve it. And yet, through the midst of it all, how Jesus continued to show nothing but love and grace, and now calls us to do the same to others. And Gabe then told me that's what he tries to remember when people are cruel. And, he asked for me to help him pray for his 'friends' who were unkind. (Please know that these are not close friends of Gabe. But to Gabe, everyone is a friend.)

As you can imagine, by this point in the conversation my heart was not just heavy, but breaking. Why is it that this sensitive mom is always the one who has to field such tough problems with my kids. Dad was still at church teaching the high school youth group, so I tried my best to get through the prayers. But as I ended by thanking God for Gabe's kind heart, I lost it. And to lighten the mood a bit, Gabe started to laugh at me hysterically. "Mom, why are you crying?" he said, as he giggled. I told him that sometimes moms are so overcome with love for their kids and so very proud of them that it comes out in tears. He said, "I love you too mom, but don't cry." 

I guess if there's one piece of encouragement I could offer to anyone who happens to be reading this, it's just to think of parenting as intentional. Kids don't accidentally learn how to be kind to others. It's our job, in words and in actions, to teach them. To show them. If we leave parenting up to chance, the world will take over. And God warns us of the things of this world. Who wants their kids under those influences. And we cannot assume our kids know by watching us. We have to tell them. A simple reminder before your kids leave the door in the morning to 'be kind to your friends' could do so much more than you'd ever think. Perhaps it could have saved my son from thinking he's stupid. And perhaps not. But I know that the Lord will grow Gabe into a man of character through the adversity. Because, thank God He takes our weaknesses and can turn them into strengths. He takes our hurts, and turns them into love for others, even others that may hurt us. And on that, I rest my heavy heart tonight. 

And one last request. I know I have so many wonderful, believing friends who may be reading this tonight. If you could, say a little pray for my son, that his heart would continue to be abounded in Christ's love and kindness, I would really appreciate it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A simple note can melt your heart

First of all, yes, The Sanders Family is still here. I have done a pitiful job of keeping up with my personal blog. And, my photography blog too for the matter. 

The kids are back in school and homework is in full swing, as is wrestling practice. Couple all of that with my photography busy season and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. Thank the Lord for His strength, because I certainly couldn't do this on my own AND manage to maintain my sanity. And, thank God for blessing me with a husband who is ever-helpful and other family and friends who keep me on track. Boy, I couldn't do it all alone!

But, back to the reason for this post. My boys may be wrestlers. Tough, strong, no-nonsense wrestlers. But sometimes, just sometimes, they show what sweet & kind little hearts they have. Feast your eyes on this note that the boys wrote...for their SISTER. Seriously, Chloe is blessed to have some of the best brothers around.

"You are the best ever." ...and... "Chloe, We love you. You are 'awesome'. Gabe & Cooper."

I wish I would have had the video camera going when the boys gave Chloe these notes. As Gabe read them to her, a HUGE smile lit across her face. I mean, the girl was BEAMING! Talk about melt a mama's heart. Chloe sweetly asked if they would tape it to her bedroom door, after which she proceeded to tell me that she now needs to have all of her friends over to show them her newest door hanging. 

Oh, how I pray they all love each other just the way they do today for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Another old childhood photo

My mom was looking through her old photos and amazingly found another one of me! As I've mentioned before, there are not many photos of me...not that I'm bitter or anything...ahem. Just kidding! Actually, I thank my parents for their lack of picture taking when I was younger because I think, in a way, it may have ironically sparked my passion for photography. As everyone who follows this blog knows, my kiddos will definitely not be lacking photographic memories.

Anyway, back to the old photo of me. My mom kept telling me that Chloe looks like I did as a child. She kept saying that of course we have different hair colors, but the same features. And I have to say, I think the most recent photo find really does illustrate a resemblance.

Here I am at five-years-old...

I know, I know...great hairstyle AND top (insert sarcasm here.)

And here's the same photo, side-by-side with a photo of Chloe. So, what do you think? Do you see a resemblance?

Friday, August 26, 2011


Remember the show Punky Brewster? I sure do! Not only because I used to watch it, but because when I was little, everyone used to say, "You look just like Punky Brewster." 

And I mean everyone. My mom remembers being stopped on the street, in the mall, at McDonald's, and having complete strangers come up to her and suggest the resemblance between Punky Brewster and I. 

Here's one of the very few photos I have of me as a young child. I was the fourth child and the youngest, and my parents apparently forgot how to use a camera...;-)

I know, I know...don't you just love my heavy bangs and outer space t-shirt?!? 

So, here's a side-by-side of me when I was five and Punky Brewster. What do you think? Did we look alike?

Now, years later, my daughter is having the same occurrence. Not with Punky Brewster, but with a new commercial for Century Link (formerly known as quest.) I have had countless people tell me that they thought they saw Chloe on a commercial. And although it isn't Chloe, I do see the resemblance. 

Watch the video for yourself and see if you can spot the Chloe look-a-like...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gavin, Clifford and Glow Worm too

You know what 'they' say...people start to look like their dog after awhile. (On a side note, do you ever wonder who 'they' are?)

But, when it comes to Gavin, I think he looks a lot more like his glow worm than he does his dog, Clifford...

Or, 'Clippord' as Gavin calls him. 

Either way, Clifford and Glow Worm are two companions Gavin cannot sleep without. 

Or, 'camp out' in the living room without either. 

Oh, to be two.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First day of school, 2011

I have a first grader and a third grader this year. (And, a four-year-old preschooler, but she doesn't start school for another week and a half.) As always, it's hard for me to send the kids off to school. What can I say...I miss them while they're gone. I miss their laughter, the funny things they say, their goofy jokes, the way they need me. And the older they get, the less they need me. Or so it seems.

But, as much as they are becoming independent, they still need me to be here for them. To listen when they have a problem. To have those fresh baked cookies ready that they've come to expect upon arrival home from the first day of school. To drive them here and there. To tuck them into bed at night. But most importantly, they need me to love them and pray for them. To be a prayer warrior for them, petitioning God on their behalf to help them be lights in a dark world and to grow strong and firm in their faith in Him. 

I pray that they would be 'taught of the Lord' and great will be their peace (Isaiah 54:13.) That they would hide His Word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11.) That God would fill them with the knowledge of His will so they can walk in a way that’s pleasing to Him and their life will bear fruit (Col. 1:9.) I pray all these things and so much more for my kiddos. And I pray for myself and for my husband, that we would raise them up in the way the Lord would want us to. What a huge responsibility parenting is, after all.

So today, I send my kiddos off to yet another first day of school. And I pray.

A little tired this morning...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cooper turns 6...two months ago

Better late than never, right. That's exactly what I thought as Jason reminded me that I failed to do a birthday blog post for Cooper way back in June. Sorry, Cooper! Mama's been a bad blogger this summer!

My sweet Cooper. How you've changed so much in the last year alone. Our boy that was too timid to get out on the mat at the beginning of the wrestling season, but ended up fourth in the entire state at the end of the season. Our son who sometimes prefers to hide in the outgoing shadow of his big brother Gabe, but who comes home from a year at school with 10 best friends. And, then there's the girls. We lost track of how many girls have told him they are going to marry him. But he's oblivious. Our son who is sweet and kind, yet knows exactly how to push his little sister's buttons if he chooses to. And our son who told me today that he would love to have 100 brothers and sisters, because he just loves kids.

Oh, Cooper, how I love you my sweet little heartbreaker.

For Cooper's birthday back on June 10, we kept it low key. Cooper had one friend, his buddy Easton, over for a sleepover and slept in a tent pitched in the backyard. Well, most of the night, as the boys got too cold at about 4 a.m. and came inside to finish up a good night's sleep in the warmth of the bunk beds. 

We started the night off with an awesome Batman cake made by my friend, Melanie. Cooper LOVES Batman.

And blowing out the candles...
(on a side note, I love that Coop is wearing his "Sanders for Supervisor" t-shirt. This was not planned. He just came out of his room wearing it. He's a fan of his dad!)

Gavin liked the cake, too...

Then, Coop opened presents...

Played a little wii...

And just had a great time! 

I still can't believe Cooper is 6. 

In two weeks, he begins first grade! He's so excited and loves to read books and write stories. Cooper is also known for HAVING to know how everything works. We fear he may be an engineer in the making, haha. ;-) Sorry, just a little joke for all our engineer friends. 

But really, it's so fun to see Cooper's curiosity and imagination as he builds inventions and brings his Batman fantasies to life. I love my boy! 

Happy 6th birthday Cooper! May your tender heart continue to grow in the Lord and always shine on all that you meet. We love you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

My baby is 2!

Gavin turned two yesterday. TWO! 
Where have the past two years gone? 

When I think about Gavin, I think about the what if's. 
What if I had stuck with my gut reaction after getting my girl in my third child and had really stopped there. 
What if I had never gotten pregnant again. 
What if I hadn't had Gavin.
I can't even imagine my life without his precious, ever-present smile. 

Gavin's joy has taught our family so much. 
It's a constant reminder of the joy we need to experience in Christ everyday, 
no matter how busy we are. 
No matter the stresses that fill our days, we cannot let our joy be diminished.
Gavin is truly a blessing each and everyday.

Your brothers adore you.
Your sister adores you.
Your mom and dad adore you.
Thank God that He convinced me that four isn't too many. 
Happy birthday to you, big boy!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gabe's first-ever Triathlon

What's this, you say?

A blog post? Really?

I know, I have been absolutely terrible about blogging lately. What can I say, other than things have been busy as usual around here and the blog has taken hit. Sorry blog. You've missed so much! Vacations, baseball, flag football, storms, photographs, stories. Where to begin the catch-up?

Well, I can't promise I will review everything that has happened, but I can start with the excitement of our day today. Gabe competed in his first-ever triathlon, consisting of a 50 meter swim, 1.2 mile bike ride and a .6 mile run. And, Gabe won first place! 

But more important than winning is the fact that he once again learned to never give up. And he could have easily given up after the swimming, as we learned it is NOT his strong suit. 

Here's Gabe waiting to start...

And here he is during his first few strokes, already falling behind. 

Gabe did leave the pool in last place. But instead of throwing in the towel, he kicked it into high gear for the biking...

And for the running...

And Gabe ended up coming from behind to be the first to cross the finish line. He is really one of the most determined people I know. 

Gabe, our little competitor. 

And here's Gabe with his buddy, Damon, who also competed and won second place. (Awful lighting, I know. They were lined up for a photo for the paper, so I just snapped a shot.)

On a side note, it was so nice that these two friends grabbed the two top spots. And I not only witnessed Damon congratulating Gabe on his win, but also proceeding to tell everyone he saw that his buddy won first place. What great sportsmanship! I love to see friends cheering each other on!

And one more side note...Chloe is still too young to compete in these events at the age of four. But boy, is she ready! She would compete in a heartbeat if they'd let her! And she certainly didn't let the age gap stop her today, proceeding to run alongside Gabe as he completed his running stint of the race. She then did an extra .6 mile run for good measure. All with a smile on her face. Here's dad showing Chloe the finish line as she completed the run. In flip flops, nonetheless.

So there's Gabe's first triathlon in a nutshell. It's goodnight for now, and hopefully see you soon dear blog.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fashion Friends photos: Chloe and Faith Flowers

You might recall this post from a little while back where I shared that Chloe would be having a photo shoot with her look-a-like Faith Flowers doll. Well, the photo shoot came and went and I still haven't posted any photos!! Talk about busy! 

So, today's the day. 

Here are a few photos of Chloe with the Faith Flowers doll. Not her very own Faith Flowers doll, which won't arrive until sometime in July when the matching outfits for little girls are ready. The doll pictured in this photo is actually the very first Faith Flowers doll off the assembly line, one-of-a-kind. 

Can you see the resemblance...

The owner of Fashion Friends had also requested that I capture a few photos of Chloe and I reading the Fashion Friends book together. So, I stepped out of my comfort zone and reluctantly got out from behind the camera for a few shots...

The books and dolls are both currently on sale. You can find them here. Not only are they high-quality products, but ones with great messages for little girls! And more photos of Chloe and Faith in their matching outfits when they arrive later this summer. Chloe is just a bit excited for that (ok...and mom is too.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview with a newly turned four-year-old

My little girl turns four today! How do four years go by so fast?

I thought it would be fun to document her age by interviewing her with a series of questions I found online. She's such a happy, fun-loving little girl, and I think her answers reflect that.

Interview with Chloe Faith, age 4:

What's your favorite...
cereal: french fries (? - ha)
vegetable:  carrots
drink:  strawberry juice
toy:  strawberry shortcake house
tv show: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Wow Wow Wubbzy, Dora, Looney Tunes
book: Dora, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
game: Wii princesses
restaurant: McDonald's
holiday: Christmas
animal: pony

If you could change your name to any other name, what name would you choose: "That's silly mom! My name is Chloe Faith and I want to keep it!"

What do you love most about the other people in your family? Dad - "He got me lots of presents and loves me." Mom - "You sit by me on the couch during movie nights when I ask you to. And you play with me. And you're lovely." Gabe - "He got me a ballerina for my birthday. And he's strong." Cooper - "He got me Snow White for my birthday. And he plays with me sometimes." Gavin - "He plays trains with me. And I love his cuteness."

Where do you want to go on vacation this year? "To Colorado again. And to Cinderella's castle (a.k.a. Disney World.)

What are your wishes for this year? "I wish I can have a computer when I grow up. And for people to be happy."

What do you love most in the world. "I love everyone. And I love Jesus, cause he helps me not to be scared and he protects me and he died for me."

The End

Aren't her answers sweet and fun! I think we have a Miss America in training, with everything sunshine and rainbows through Chloe's rose-colored glasses.

Happy Birthday, Chloe! You are such a joy and a light in this world! And such a blessing. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chloe's dress-up doll

I think you can tell by the shoes that Chloe is at it again. Just another day of playing dress up with her little brother. Poor Gavin. 

On the bright side, at least she was thoughtful enough to match the snow white shoes to Gavin's pj's. Afterall, the Little Mermaid purple pair might have clashed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Raising girls who value inner beauty

Prepare for a very, very long post. But it's been in the works in my mind for literally years. It's filled with stories, and much passion, and I hope with a bit of challenge to re-examine how our words and actions, even the most subtle of words and actions, can shape and mold our children forever. I hope that through it, you can gain a new or perhaps revived perspective on your own worth in Christ.

When I was a little girl, my mom (and dad for that matter) loved me for me. (Since I am a mom, I'll be telling this story from a mom's point of view, definitely not to deny the importance of fathers.)

Yes, I was raised to love myself. Never did I question my weight, or my hair, or my freckles. Well, maybe I questioned my freckles a little, as kids can be cruel. But once home from being called freckle face, I was reassured that I was beautiful, inside and out. Not once was my mom ever critical of my appearance. And equally important, not once did I ever hear my mom be critical of her own appearance. Not once.

Contrast that with one of my very best friends growing up. Let's call her Jenny. Jenny was constantly questioning her weight, her hair, her appearance in general. She was continually critical of herself. We were a mere nine years old at the time. I remember the first time I spent the night at her house. It became quickly apparent to me, even at the tender age of nine, why my friend was the way she was. Jenny's mom, in stark contrast to my own, was very critical of her appearance. I remember as we brushed our hair in front of the mirror to get ready to go to our local movie theater, Jenny's mom stared judgmentally as she stood in the bathroom doorway. She told her daughter, "It's too bad your hair isn't more like Angie's." Yes, I remember it well. And I remember my friend's face. She was crushed.

Over and over again, Jenny's mom would say subtle, and not so subtle, comments that affected my friend more than her mom would ever realize. I remember on another occasion we had just sang in a vocal concert and as my parents congratulated me on my solo, her mom told her she should have stood up straight because she looks a little chubby when she slouches. Again, my friend's spirit sunk.

And Jenny continued to be critical of her appearance...her hair, her skin, her weight. I remember her being extremely careful of what she ate, saying she couldn't have candy at the skating rink because she was needing to lose some weight. Again, we were nine.

Fast forward to middle school. I had moved to a different town by then, and had a whole new set of friends. I spent a lot of time at the house of one of my closest friends. We'll call her Emily. Emily's family seemed perfect to me. Beautiful, loving, always having fun and going on adventures together. But it didn't take long to see behind the thin veil that disguised the truth.

Emily's mom struggled with an eating disorder. She would eat very, very little and then exercise all the time. I always saw her in workout clothes. She was always talking about how many miles she ran on the treadmill, or how long she spent exercising to her workout videos that day. She was obsessed. In contrast to my nine-year-old friend's mom, Emily's mom was not critical of her own daughter. She quite obviously and openly loved Emily and treated her as any daughter would want to be treated. She told her she was beautiful. She even told her she wished she was thin like her. Thin, like a middle-school girl. And what her mom didn't see was that her words spoken to Emily meant very little in contrast to her diet and exercise-obsessed actions. That's what Emily ended up emulating. Because, after all, actions speak louder than words.

Fast forward to today. I am now 31 years old and the mother of three boys and one girl. I don't struggle with body image or self-esteem because my mom didn't struggle with body image or self-esteem. She led by words and example and it served me well. And now, the passion inside me to not only raise my own daughter up in  the same way, but also to encourage other moms to break the cycle and do the same is that much greater since I became a Christian. Because yes, it's a nice sentiment even for the worldly to spew quotes like "Don't judge a book by it's cover." But God gave it even greater meaning in 1 Samuel 16:7, which states "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Yet, all I see even within the Christian community is women judging themselves by the world's standards and thus raising their daughters to do the same. I see moms forgetting how much our words and our actions shape and mold our children, even when we think they're not watching. I see moms constantly joking about their weight, when in reality the jokes are only masking a real feeling of inadequacy. I see moms talking about how they wish they were ten pounds lighter, and in turn, their daughters having self-esteem issues. And it breaks my heart.

The world has enough influence on our children. We don't need to be the ones to encourage an unrealistic standard of beauty our little girls already get from practically every media outlet today. And if our little girls are saying they're ugly, or they're too fat, or they're not good enough, it's easy to blame the media's distribution of photoshopped models and actresses setting an unrealistic standard that we can never achieve. But have we thought to question how we as moms may be contributing to their low self-esteem?

Let me take a minute to say that I in no way think I'm a better mom than the next person. I mess up and fall short and pray that the Lord will help heal my kids' hearts when I fail them. I have had to ask for my kids' forgiveness when I've lost my cool, or said something I shouldn't have. I am an imperfect person.

But by the grace of God, He gave me an extraordinary mother who instilled in my heart a love for myself. A love for my body, just the way I am. And since becoming a Christian, God's grown that love more and more each day which is perhaps why I think memories of my friends not having the same love for themselves is so vivid to me. Friends who tried to fulfill themselves with the things of this world, and who attempted to 'improve' their bodies with dieting and exercise. And who wallowed in failure, never able to live up to this crazy world's standards of beauty.

And to address one more possible misconception, I'm also in no way saying that it's not good to be health-minded. But there's a vast difference between being health-minded and being body-obsessed, placing our worth and happiness in what number the scale reads when we step on it in the morning.

So with those misconceptions discussed, I look around today and I see other moms who were perhaps much like my friend Jenny, whose mother was too critical of her appearance, and now she is now too critical of her own daughter's appearance. And moms who perhaps were once like my friend Emily, who watched her own mother work tirelessly trying to become perfect according to the world and grew up to now work tirelessly to be perfect according to the world while her daughter watches her. It's a cycle. We often will parent as our parents parented.

Well I say, let's break the cycle! Let's rediscover what God says about beauty.

In Proverbs 31:30, it says, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." 

We can spend lots of time and energy working towards a standard that we will never achieve and that will never provide us true joy and fulfillment. We can dress ourselves in skimpy clothing and seek out male attention in order to feel better about ourselves, more beautiful, more desirable, and in turn causing those males to stumble by feasting their eyes on things they shouldn't and darkening their minds with impure thoughts. And we can, by default, raise our daughters to do the same.

Or, we can surrender our insecurities to the Lord, discover in His Word where we should find our worth and value, and intentionally live our lives for Him. If not for ourselves, let's do it for our daughters. Because they are watching.

And us parents of sons aren't off the hook either. My boys have already been lectured time and time again that if they don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. They've been told to respect women (or girls, in their case) and to look at them as God would. He looks at the heart. And thus, so should we.

Let's be intentional, moms! Let's break the chains this world's standards have placed on us, and help ourselves and our little girls be free to live out their lives with joy and happiness!

I had a conference with my daughter's preschool teacher. She's only three, so the conference is pretty low key. But in it, my daughter's teacher told my husband and I over and over again what a happy girl Chloe is and how much joy she exudes. "Her smile and laughter brighten the room," she said. And how easily can that joy and happiness be diminished over time if I as a mom didn't nurture it by teaching my daughter in the same way I was taught by my own mother . Teaching her to love herself. To disregard the world's standard of beauty and look to the One who really counts. To see How much He loves her, just the way she is.

If I can do that, by God's grace, then my daughter can someday raise a daughter of her own who can grow up with the same worth in Christ. That is truly a dream fulfilled! Won't you join me in raising my daughter to have worth in inner beauty by teaching your own sons and daughters to do the same. Together, and with God's leading, we can change a world!

And to end, a photo of my daughter, Chloe, and I. God has used Chloe, as well as my other children, to grow me in so many ways. I will never be the same, and for that, I am thankful!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hershey's Track Meet 2011

The boys once again participated in the annual Hershey's Track Meet this past week. It was Gabe's fourth year participating. That's right, his fourth year! That just seems unreal to me. Where does the time go? This was Cooper's second year participating.

Gabe's performance was typical, for him. He was there to compete and nothing else. So determined and such a true competitor. He chose to do the long jump for the fourth year in a row. And for the third year in a row, Gabe placed in the long jump winning first place this year. The boy can jump!

Gabe jumping for first place in the long jump.

I gave Gabe complete control over what he chose to compete in when filling out the registration form weeks before the event. I usually ask him what he wants to do, but when he says, "I don't know," I would usually then go ahead and sign him up for what I thought he might like to do. Well, this year, I wanted him to choose so that he couldn't tell me, "Mom, why did you sign me up for that?" Yes, complete control, with no leading, or pushing, or trying to influence him in any way. Note to self: complete control given to Gabe equals a very long process. 

I kept asking Gabe what he wanted to sign up for. But he just could not decide. He knew he wanted to do the long jump and two running events, but he just couldn't for the life of him decide which two running events to choose. I had Cooper's form filled out about a month before Gabe finally made up his mind the day before the registration deadline.  Gabe finally decided to do the 50 meter once again this year, and chose to do a new event: the 200 meter. And although I was a bit nervous that he may run out of steam in the 200, Gabe proved me wrong once again. Why I ever think of underestimating his determination is beyond me. He never fails to show me that my doubts are unfounded when they are up against his sheer will to win.

Gabe (second from the right) running the 200 meter dash, in which he got 1st place.

On to Cooper. Last year, if you recall from my post, Cooper had said before the event, "I only hope I win one ribbon!" And he did. But this year was a different story. I don't know if it's his first year of wrestling this past winter that has changed Cooper's perspective. Maybe it was winning so many first place trophies throughout the season, and finally placing fourth in the state at the end of the season. Whatever it was, something had changed because this year Cooper really, really wanted to win first place. Second and third just weren't good enough. Talk about a 360!

So, Cooper chose to compete in the long jump, the 50 meter and the 100 meter dash, the long jump being his first event.

And, Cooper got second place. 

He said to me with a sly grin upon finding out he placed second, "Second is ok, but maybe next year I can get first." What? Is this the same Cooper that only wanted to win just one ribbon last year? Now we're being discriminating as to which one ribbon it is?
Next up was the 50 meter. I think the fact that you're running at the same time as everyone else made this very different than the long jump, when you're jumping individually. In Cooper's mind the competition was ON! Cooper ended up getting second in his heat, which was bad enough for him. He was not pleased. Then they announced over the loud speaker that he got third overall. Having to explain to Cooper that there was more than one heat and they have to consider all heats in his age group before they award places was too much!

No, he wasn't mad at anyone else or being a poor sport. There were no fits. He did congratulate his friends with the most sincerity. But, he also kept saying he knows he can do better. Who knew so much determination could be in such a tiny little 42 pound body?! He's already started practicing his running form for next year, ha!

Cooper running the 50 meter, in which he placed third.

Cooper did not place in the 100 meter. The official results haven't come out, but I'm guessing he didn't miss placing by too much. Cooper didn't care for that logic though, saying "they don't have a fourth place ribbon, mom!" Ha!

So, here I am with two boys who love to compete and do so to win. I guess that's what being an athlete is all about! And I'm so thankful that my two athletes are good sports, no matter what place they achieve.