Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kingdom Encounters

I haven't delved much into my faith on this blog, but here is one thing I believe.  I believe that the kingdom of God is not just something that awaits a person after they die.  I believe that the kingdom of God is a place you can dwell on Earth.  I'm not an expert on world religions, but I have a strong sense that this is not a belief unique to Christianity.  (And it's not a belief you always here associated with Christianity.)

In my mind, it's like you can go through your life (or each day) with your sunglasses on or off.  It is a complete perspective shift; a whole new realm.  I believe that we are all beautiful creations of a heavenly father and we can choose to reside in that knowledge, see others as equally beautiful creatures, and experience peace, hope, joy, forgiveness, gentleness, and love.  Or we can live simply "in the world" and judge, fear, worry, and be weighed down by countless other emotions.

The sunglasses analogy is perfect in my mind because it's not just how different your outlook can be, it's also a good fit for how easy it is to go between these two "worlds."  This is my struggle.

Our Sunday School class is reading James Bryan Smith's The Good and Beautiful Community and in this book he writes about the opportunity in our daily "kingdom encounters."  There is no need to go out looking for great opportunities to serve; chances to serve, love, and uplift exist all around us in our daily interactions.

How beautifully did I experience this on my recent travel home from Wyoming.

The Story

Me, Jack (4), Cora (20 months) - please note the lack of other adult figures
Jackson Hole, WY airport, Denver airport, New Orleans airport and airspace in between

Kingdom Encounters:

#1: The nicest ticket agent I've ever encountered takes a look at my itinerary, notes my tight 30 minute connection, and tells me to come see her at the gate so she can reseat us at the front of the plane.  She also lets my mom come through security with us. Time: 3:45 p.m.

#2: Smiling Jackson Hole Airport TSA agents pay Jack 50 cents for helping stack the bins

#3: My mother - I already know she is an angel, but she reproves this fact consistently.  We quickly learn that our airplane is not yet in route.  My mom entertains Jack and Cora while I wait in line to figure out our plan.

#4: My friendly ticket agent patiently explains our options and backs us up on two different routes, depending on if we do indeed fly to Denver that night.  At 8:00 p.m. (THANK YOU MOM for hanging with us!) we board our plane and head to Denver, knowing we will spend the night there and already having ourselves booked on the 11am New Orleans flight the next day.  We are seated in row 4 so we can quickly get to the customer service line.

Thankfully, I had this little guy helping me
#5: I get off the plane at 9:30 p.m. with two children who haven't slept at all.  I know we must go straight to the customer service counter to get our hotel voucher.  We are flying United.  I see a man with a Sky West lanyard walking so I ask him where the nearest United desk is.  He asks our situation.  I explain that we've missed our connection and need a hotel voucher.  He tells me where the nearest counter is but says "there's a long line."  He looks at us (Cora in Ergo, me holding Jack's hand) and says "why don't you come with me over to this gate and I'll help you there."  He spends 10 minutes confirming our flights and printing us hotel and meal vouchers.  Cora cries the whole time.  I make sure to look him right in the eye (which makes me tear up) and thank him for taking the time to help us.  We then walk to baggage claim passing two United customer service counters.  There are four people working at each and hundreds of people standing in line...

#6: On the ride to the airport, Cora falls asleep in my lap and Jack falls asleep beside me.  This leaves me with two sleeping children and two backpacks when we arrive at the hotel.  A couple offers help and carries our backpacks and holds Jack's hand.

#7: After lots of kind remarks and nice looks from older women (BECAUSE ANOTHER MOTHER KNOWS!!) we get to the front of the check-in line.  The Doubletree clerk gives us extra cookies.  I give one to Jack and a second later I'm being handed the cookie back and he is sobbing.  Did it burn him??  No..."I miss Grammy!" he sobs.

By the morning, Cora and Jack are finding the hotel quite fun
#8: Back at the Denver airport the next morning, we are rerouted to the short family TSA line and then rerouted again out of that line to an empty TSA agent (I guess we looked especially fragile.)  We don't have to take our laptop out or shoes off and Jack earns himself a TSA badge sticker.

#9: Our on-time New Orleans flight has us seated next to lovely Jodie, mother of two girls.  She plays with Cora, talks to Jack, and was another lovely seatmate.

#10: At 3:00 p.m. we are back in New Orleans, have our bag, and are in the taxi line.  (Jacob is in a meeting.)  The sweetest looking woman is our taxi driver.  She is friendly and kind and during the ride both Jack and Cora receive new books which she pulls from the glove compartment box.

24 hours after we arrived at the airport, we are HOME.  Every one of the people I mentioned above chose to show kindness, take time, be joyful and they very much blessed us by choosing to operate by standards of a world better than this one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Baby girl at 20 months!

I'm not sure when I'll stop thinking of Cora as a baby (but I do know it hasn't happened yet.)

This will be remembered as a COLD month.  This led to lots of indoor quality time with Jack and Cora.  At the top of the list: art projects (she loves stickers and gluing "gems"),

playing with letters and numbers (she likes to empty and refill the bags and carry her favorites around the house), and playing with her baby dolls (or Jack's stuffed animals.)

Her sleep struggles have shifted from nights to naps.  I'm now only getting up with her one time a night (and usually not until after 4:00), but Jacob says she still cries some earlier in the night.  (I've become quite adept at sleeping through crying.)  But all of the sudden she started having trouble going down for naps.  No trouble at school, but at home, we've had two weeks of mostly difficult days.  Sometimes it's because she poops after I've got her down and settled; other days I feel like I've missed her "window."  I've tried playing with the time, but that hasn't helped.  Her nap is shorter: now around 1.5 hours.  But she is ready to go bed around 6:30 and will sleep till after 7, with that one brief waking, so she gets the bulk of her sleep at night.

But this face gets everything forgiven!
She definitely knows more words (deer, yuck, cookie, button, one, and "MINE!" all come to mind), but she still tends to smile and use gestures, rather than words in most situations.  Her favorite book is "Good Night Gorilla" and it's the first book she picks out most days ("Yilla!")  She loves her "dankie" and pretty much requires it to go to sleep.  She LOVES to clutch things, but what it is she wants to clutch changes throughout the day.

Here with some stuffed animals and the number "0" at the library
 She also loves her brother.  She terrorizes him frequently, but just look at the way she looks at/up to him :)

We dropped her before-bed nursing this month.  It was as simple as having Jacob take over bedtime.  Cora cries for about 30 seconds when she realizes that she is getting neither mama nor mama's milk, but she settles down quickly for a book and rocking with daddy instead.  She is nowhere near weaned, which we're both happy about, but it does feel good to know we took the first step.

Baby girl at 20 months!  (She loves to steal my phone!)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Clocks, scary Candy Land, and toys Mommy likes

I have never had so much stuff in my life.  It took me most of January to wrestle the birthday and Christmas presents into a semblance of order.  I truly feel my kids could stay home for the next 334 days and not get bored.  (We got to test this theory lasts week on two "ice" days.)

Two ladies by the names of Beth Ann and Peggy are the reason for most of these presents.  I have to say they are both great shoppers, so I really like all of our presents from this year and years past, thus, I haven't been able to downsize.

Here are a few things we are having a good time with.

Fireman Clock

Jack loves this for obvious reasons but it has also been a great help in keeping him in his bed!  He knows that morning isn't here until the small hand (or the small "hose") are between the 6 and the 7.  And when he gets in his bed for rest, I tell him where the big hand will need to be before he can get out.  I don't hear a peep and then see a beaming, proud Jack arise at the appointed time!  Thanks Beth Ann (Grammy)!

Scary Candy Land

I loved this game as a child, but I remember it as being easier on the eyes.  The new version just scares me for some reason, but we still love playing it.  It's an easy game for a 4 year old and is simple and quick to play.

Easel and Art Box

The easel was on our wish list and MeeMaw (Peggy) generously gave this plus added in art supplies and smocks.  Jack and Cora love "art projects" on the pull down paper side.  Jack's favorite parts of the dry erase side are making schedules and using the "fire extinguisher" spray to get the board clean.  There is also a chalk board which we've been using to practice writing letters.

Since I knew art projects were in our future, I went searching for some cute boxes to store our supplies.  I found two striped wooden boxes at Marshalls for markers, chalk, crayons, etc.  I found another box at Marshalls and some desk organizers that I glued into the box.  This allowed me to fill this special "art box" with treasures: gems, pom poms, buttons, ribbon, feathers, and pipe cleaners (thank you Michaels).  This was my Christmas present to Jack.  I had fun assembling it and we've had fun using it for collages.

Doodle Book

I knew pre-birthday/ Christmas that I didn't need to buy any gifts (remember: generous grandparents), but it's fun to shop for your little ones, so I did pick up a few birthday gifts.  Shopping for your child is a little dangerous because you can't help but think about what YOU would like to play/do.  I couldn't pass up this doodle book because it seemed like a quiet, chill, artistic activity for me and Jack to do while Cora naps.  Mommy absolutely loves it!  Jack is game for a little while...oh well!

You start with blank shapes and an example and then doodle away

I asked Jack and Cora what their favorite toys were and here is what they said:

"Daddy's miniature cars" (found in Meemaw's attic)
Whatever random thing she is carrying around at the moment, here a car and a construction worker

 It is not lost on me that neither of these things were new or cost anyone any money!