Friday, November 16, 2012

But It's Not About the Game

Tonight was the last game Luke played on his hockey team.  (He is aging out - this team is for 7-9 year olds.)  It was the championship game.  There are 4 boys on this team who have played together for a couple years.  They all go to different schools.  Call it team spirit, call it 'birds of a feather', call it true friendship.  It really has been amazing to watch them.  Honestly, they have more fun AFTER their games when their hockey equipment comes off and they just run around, hang out and tackle each other. 

Tonight, they lost.

There were tears.

But it wasn't about the game.

Some of the other teammates were trying to console them.  "You had a great game!"  "We played tough!"  "We only lost by one goal!"

But how do 8 and 9 year old boys explain to others that their hearts were broken?  This bond that had been formed over the last few years is now - moving on.  2 of the 4 boys will be 10 years old soon.  No more weekly hockey games together.  No more seeing each other twice a week - every week.  Back to their own schools. 

Finally one boy said to a well-meaning teammate, "IT'S NOT ABOUT THE GAME, ALRIGHT?!?" 

Luke would've said the same thing - if he didn't have the tears streaming down his face.  Afterall, big tough hockey players don't cry.  Even if they are only 9, almost 10.  And big tough hockey players certainly aren't more worried about friendships than the game - are they?  Are they?!

Trying to hide the emotions for the camera. 

Life will go on. But I'm very glad for this season in Luke's life - where he learned that life isn't about the game.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Say it isn't so, Ho Ho!!

I just heard that Hostess is shutting down.  My beloved Ho Ho, what will happen to you?!  I grew up on you, I still sneak you as an adult guilty pleasure.  Please don't leave me.  We've been through so much together.

I am seriously hoping someone buys you and knows how to bake a good Ho Ho.  I just can't bear to see you go.  And that other brand that looks like you - well, it is not you.  Just a bad tasting imposter.

I better get to Target before the shelves are bare.  What a sad, sad day.  :(

Friday, November 9, 2012

When the Bible Comes Alive

Hebrews 4:12 - For the Word of God is living and active....

Sometimes I forget this verse.  Sometimes I think the Bible is full of stories that happened long ago.  And it is.  Sometimes I wonder if those stories have anything to do with me or the things of today.  It does.

If I ever needed proof of that, I witnessed it first hand last night.

I co-lead the Operation Christmas Child ministry at our church.  This organization sends shoe-box packed gifts to children around the world.  For many children, this is the first - and sometimes only - gift they may ever receive.  Each box is packed with love and prayer and filled with small gifts.  Before each box is shipped, a Gospel story is included so that kids all over the world (and their families) can hear about the love of Jesus. 

All pictures from Operation Christmas Child's website. 

So our little church in our little corner of the world tries to do our little part.  We went all out this year.  We had a "push" for the entire month of October.  We had in-house videos, display tables, bulletin inserts, contests between the Sunday school classes to see who could bring in the most supplies.  We had information at Trunk or Treat and announcements in the services.

Our goal:  to beat last year's record of 315 boxes.

We give three options for donations:  1) Pack a box, 2) Donate loose supplies or 3) Donate money.  With the loose supplies, we have a packing party and all the supplies turn into shoebox filled gifts. 

After our month-long push, our packing party was last night.  I went to the church yesterday afternoon to survey the situation and to see what we might need.  (Usually we need extra soap, washclothes, toothpaste, socks, etc.) 

I stood in our fellowship hall in shock.  Our church has 3 locations.  All supplies were being centralized within the last few days.  I was expecting to see a mountain.  Instead, I saw hardly anything.  Hardy. Anything.  Maybe an 8-foot table or two with supplies on them.  Maybe 2 tables with packed shoeboxes, maybe 2-3 boxes high.  And that was it.  We had a whole fellowship hall to fill!  8-foot tables were set up end to end, probably close to 100 feet of table lengths.  We were expecting to fill these tables with loose supplies like we did last year in order to have a successful packing party. 

And I'm standing there staring at - well, almost an empty fellowship hall.  I did what any sane person would do: I panicked.

I knew some money had been donated so I called the pastor and asked if I could spend $200.  "No, hold off, we might need that for shipping."  Shipping what?!?  We hardly had anything!  "Well, maybe pick up some socks, toothpaste, and soap,  I do think we are short on those things.  We've got to leave the rest to God."

But... But!  We've got a crisis here!  Last year we had more than 50 people show up for the packing party and we will be done packing in 5 minutes!  Shouldn't I do something?!?

Leave the rest to God.   Such a hard concept to grasp. 

When I showed up at the packing party, a half hour before it was supposed to start, I couldn't believe my eyes.  Every table was full.  Every table was full! 

"Where did all this come from?"  I asked.
My co-lead and pastor had the same answers:  "I don't know.  We just started unpacking the bags that were on the tables and the tables just filled up."
"But we only had a handful of bags that only covered a table!"
"We know.  Amazing, isn't it?"

If I hadn't witnessed it myself, I wouldn't believe it.  Surely someone had bags of supplies hidden somewhere.  Nope.  The bags just turned into bottomless bags.

Luke 9:13-17 - Jesus said, 'You feed them.'  "But we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish."...  There were about 5,000 men there....  Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fish and blessed them.  Then breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people.  They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up 12 baskets of leftovers!

At the end of the night, we had almost 300 shoeboxes, fully packed with gifts.  And at the end of the night, we even had leftover supplies.  We even had leftover supplies!

Unbelievable.  God's like that.  He shows up and shows off.  He doesn't just give us enough.  He gives us more than enough.

And the monetary donations?   Well, it all worked out perfectly.  We have enough to cover shipping and some left over to get a few more boxes.  Amazing.

Leave the rest to God.  What an awesome philosophy!   He definitely provides.  No doubt.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I'm a rare parent

I had  a parent-teacher conference with Luke's teacher this morning.  I always meet with the teachers after report cards.  Truth be told, it started out of necessity when Luke was in 1st grade.  He couldn't read, he couldn't keep up with the class work, he couldn't keep his hands to himself, etc. etc.  His teacher was ready to retire and had no patience for him.  It was a disaster, to say it mildly.

Since then, I have kept in close contact with his teachers.  It has been an uphill battle for Luke.  If you think of school as a swimming pool, he couldn't even tread water.  No chance for swimming. The water was always deeper than he was tall and someone tied weights around his ankles. 

He'd always sink.

If I am honest, I admit I blamed Russia.  If he hadn't been there for 3 years, with no one to love him, no one to help him.  He had no language skills.  No one read books to him.  No one sang to him, cuddled with him, did early educational things with him.

Those first 3 years have a lot of influence on the rest of your life, I'm told.  He didn't have that.  I grew bitter.  But then I had to let it go.  Had to.  We can blame our past for our current situation or we can pick ourselves up and figure out how we are going to change the future.

So I stay in close contact with his teachers.  I always expect some kind of miracle.  One of these days, he will become a genius.  Just kind of like a *poof* and the past is erased.  School won't be a struggle anymore.  He will not only tread water, but swim.  Like a fish.  Swim and swim and swim!

This year,  he is enjoying school.  WHAT?!?!  The tears at homework time are diminishing.  WHAT?!?!  This year, he is reading at grade level.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Never thought I'd see the day.

So at the conference this morning, his teacher told me he has no issues bothering other kids. He gets his work ready when she asks him to.  He is responsible.  He almost always remembers to take his homework home.  He still struggles some, yes.  But he is doing well overall!

She thanked me for what we are doing at home.  I told her, "We just want to support what you are doing and we want him to succeed in school."

Her response?

"You have no idea how rare of a parent you are.  Thank you."

Seriously?!?  I didn't think what I was doing was anything extraordinary.  I make sure he gets his homework done.  I help him study.  I help him with coping skills when he doesn't want to work anymore.  I remind him that he isn't the only one in 4th grade who has homework.  I encourage him to always work hard and do his best.

How is that rare?

School is tough.  It is a lot of work and not a lot of play.  The stuff they are learning in 4th grade - wow.  Unbelievable.  The teacher has him more hours of the day than I do.  (That stinks!)

But she is not the enemy.   She is a partner. 

Do I agree with all the things she does?  Probably not.  Do I enjoy all the homework?  Usually not.  But at the end of the day, she holds some of the keys to my kids' futures.  I respect the job she is doing and I want my kids to do the same.

If that defines me as rare, so be it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween Hangover

I woke up yesterday with a huge headache.  It must've been a migraine, I have never had one before.  But wow.  If I moved, it hurt.  The light hurt.  Noise hurt.  My face hurt.  My neck hurt.  Every part of my head hurt.  It took me 3 advil, 3 cups of coffee, a glass of water, several tears, and 3 hours of laying still to recover to "just" a headache. 

I wonder if it was from 19 kids screaming like crazy.  Hum.  One might think.

I wish I could blame it on some fancy and fun drink I had at the party, but I only had water and hot apple cider! 

The neighbor kid gets on the bus at our house.  This morning, he was going on and on -and on! about how awesome our Halloween party was.  He said, "The only thing that would've made it better is if you would've had robotic zombies in your maze!"  "And how would I have done that?"  I asked.  "Well, duh.  You could've MADE them!"

I'll get on that right after I make the cupcakes next year.  ha.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Very Kid Friendly But Still Kind of Scary Halloween Party

I hate Halloween.  The one day out of the year when it is okay to see blood squirting out of someone's head because they have an ax stuck in it.  The one day out of the year when the devil and witches are glorified.  If we would see this stuff on any given Tuesday, it wouldn't be okay.  But on Halloween....  It honestly makes me cringe.

So when Luke asked if he could have a Halloween party, I didn't say yes, no, or maybe so.  I ignored him completely. 

Then I thought about it for a day.  Or two.  Or maybe three.  I thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad.  We could have pumpkins and bobbing for apples and eat cupcakes.  I announced my decision:  "Luke, do you still want to have that Halloween party?"

"Yes, mom!  YES!  We can have it dark and scary and I want tombstones that say rip."  Not R.I.P., mind you.  Rip.  Like you do with a paper.  "Luke, do you even know what rip means?"  "Yes, I know, it's rest in peace, but rip sounds so much better.  Rip."  as he slides his arm to the side like some kind of new dance move.

So.  How to make a scary - yet appropriate - Halloween party for a 9 year old boy that won't glorify this stuff I hate but will still be fun for a 9 year old boy?  While keeping it tame enough for the 6 year old sister and her friends. 

My brain went to work.

I am okay with skeletons, after all they are just the bones in our body.  Bats and spiders and rats: all okay.  Even monsters are okay, since they are just made up.  As long as they aren't bloody.  I can even consider a tombstone with rip.  As long as there isn't something bloody coming out of it.  I could do this.  After all, I love a good kid party :)

I have very few Halloween decorations, since, well....  since I hate Halloween.  I had less than 2 weeks to plan. Luckily Halloween things were already 50%-70% off. Skeletons, bats, rats, and spiders were suddenly in my home.  So was a rip stone.  I mean a tombstone with R.I.P.   Strobe lights, black lights.  Don't tell anyone....   I was starting to have fun with all this.  GASP!

I think I pulled it off!  It was after Trick or Treat so it was dark.  A few games on the driveway like monster bowling, (which used 2 liter pop bottles filled with rice that had pictures on them and a pumpkin for a bowling ball.)  A bean bag pumpkin toss.  Throwing things = pure enjoyment for 9 year old boys.  A costume contest.  Food.  Running around the yard (which was like a bathtub after raining all week) in the dark = unplanned but priceless fun for 9 year old boys.  Sorry, moms, for the dirty shoes and mud up their backs!

The little ones stayed warm in the house, no running through the yard for them! 

Bobbing for apples was such a hit, most of the kids had never done this before.  Once they got past the "Ew, gross, we are all sticking our head in the same water?  What about germs?!?" panic, they bobbed and giggled and bobbed some more.

The cherry on top: we turned the garage into a maze!  I bought black plastic sheeting from Lowe's and with the help of my dad, a staple gun, tons of duct tape, strobe lights and black lights, we totally transformed the garage.  The kids LOVED it!  There was only one dead end, but it was dark and the paths wound around the garage and some of the strobe lights made scary noises.  The kids were scared to go in at first, but once one brave kid did it, they went through it over and over and over.  And over again.  And again.

Luke and Emma named the entrance and exit.  Perfect!

Around the first turn.  The entrance was a long hallway that got darker and darker... 

At the second turn.  Looked a lot better without the flash of the camera.  It really was pretty dark in there!  These skulls have built-in strobe lights and there was a black light above them.

More strobe lights and a black light down this hallway.  The arrow led to this:
The only dead end, with another strobe light and scary music.

Getting close to the exit, I tried to trick them :)
Black plastic and bats hanging from the ceiling. With another strobe light.  Right before the exit, there were several twists and turns.  Nothing too dramatic or scary, but it was a hit!

I had Maze Rules posted outside the maze.  #1 Rule: No Running.  They didn't listen.  One dad was quite happy to hide in the maze and scare the begeebers out of the kids, so they'd all come running out screaming.  The maze got knocked down eventually, but just on the one side.  Emma's friends were excited once that happened because the maze wasn't as dark then.  Way to make lemonade out of lemons, girls!

I made up a story about a mad scientist who was trying to make a Halloween monster but something went terribly wrong and all he had were monster body parts.  The kids felt the body parts in a bag but had no idea what they were.  Heart = water balloon.  Brain = spaghetti.  Finger = hot dog.  Eyeballs = grapes.  Tongue = banana peel.  I heard, "Oh disgusting, gross!" every time.  Shrieks of disgust or enjoyment, not sure which.  And I couldn't believe I had 19 pairs of eyes on me.  The. Entire. Time.  I didn't know if I could keep the focus of 9 year old boys and 6 year old girls, but I did it.  Score one for me!   To end the story, I shook a bag and made a big deal about how difficult this little bugger was being but I thought I finally had the moster back together and I pulled out - Elmo.  The kids were hysterical!  Perfect. 

Didn't get many pictures of the food, people were coming while I was still setting stuff out.  We had moster much (popcorn), cupcakes with candy corn on top (too cute), black bean dip that looked like a spider web with sour cream piped on top (and a black plastic spider in the middle), monster bites (mini cheese balls rolled in shredded cheddar with candy eyes stuck to them), chocolate covered pretzel rods, hot dogs, apples & caramel dip, hot apple cider and hot chocolate.  (Both drinks were a bigger hit than I imagined they'd be.) 

 I also had a Trick-or-Treat Candy Bar.  (You can see it in the buffet in the background.)  It was NOT a hit.  I guess they got enough from Trick-or-Treating, I can not believe how much I have left.  Ugh. 

My little Trick-or-Treaters, before the party started. 

All in all, not a bad party.  In fact, it was kind of fun.  Maybe, just maybe, I'm looking forward to next Halloween for the first time in a long time. :) 

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