Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Bumpy Ride?

Apparently Andrew has been playing with a doctor's kit at preschool. How do I know this? Well, on Friday he grabbed a tube of mascara while I was getting dressed in the bathroom, and proceeded to pretend to give me shots in each of the cellulite divots on my booty and thighs. I didn't realize cosmetic injections were part of imaginary play these days.

These kids sure keep us humble.

It reminded me of when little Margaret still couldn't speak too clearly yet. As I stood in my undies, she rubbed my upper thigh and said, "Dat bumpy, Mama!" When, I turned to gain a little personal space, she caressed the other thigh and said with wonder, "Dat bumpy too!"

Oh well, guess who just ordered Andrew his own doctor's kit on Amazon?

p.s. Tim, Margaret, and I go on our big trip to Africa on Friday. In case you missed it when I shared about it on Facebook a few weeks ago, we are taking Margaret on a 6 day safari in South Africa that I purchased at a charity auction a few years ago. We aren't ready, tensions are running pretty high, and it all seems so overwhelming. Could you please pray for Andrew (at home with his Aunties), and Tim, Margaret, and me as we travel? THANK YOU!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Calgon, Take me Away!

I left the house for fewer than 10 minutes to drive around the neighborhood and get croup-y Andrew to fall asleep. Ever since he started preschool across town, he has preferred to start his nap in the car, even on non-school days. Thank goodness he transfers to the crib most days.

When I opened the door, giant sleeping toddler on my shoulder, I saw that those minutes were far too long for Shadow to refrain from dumping my entire purse on a quest for food. I hope those peanut butter crackers and business cards fulfilled your every desire, Shadow.

Apparently they didn't, because she's now begging me for her dinner at 2:30 pm.

On a cuter note, here's Andrew playing with the very sanitary tire store toys while I got a new rim today.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Toddler to Teen

I think I need an 8 year old.

Toddlers want to help All. The. Time. Every morning Andrew "unloads" the dishwasher. Of course he goes straight for the knives, buddies up to the pizza cutter, and sneezes on the Tupperware. His help is adorable, slower than cooling magma, and kind of gross. God forbid I forget to run the washer the night before. He does NOT understand why I do not want him to deliver slimy dishes to the cabinets. Of course he will also sit in a poop diaper, so I'm guessing cleanliness is not his #1 priority.

Big Sister considers household drudgery beneath her, certainly not worth leaving the comfort of her bed and Netflix. When forced to assist, she looks around the kitchen as if uninformed as to where we keep the drinking glasses. You would never guess she used to beg to clean the toilets.

Other chores? Sheer joy for a little one. I got Andrew a miniature Swiffer for free at a yard sale. It will be his "big" Christmas present. If I gave Big Sis a Swiffer, I think she'd call CPS. Her Christmas list includes cropped tops, oversized sweaters and expensive makeup sets with names like Sex and Pervy. On this ambitious list, items 1-16 totaled more than the cost of my wedding dress.

I told her how our family used to do the 3 present rule-- after all that's how many gifts Baby Jesus got. She scoffed and pitied her former ignorant, compliant little self.

Truly, an 8 year old would be perfect.

He might not be as eager as a toddler to do chores, but quality control would be less of an issue, and I could get some good work out of him before the teen years.

At least that's what I think. Check back in with me in 6 years and we'll see if Andrew's enthusiasm for helping has waned. I hope not, because Mom and Dad aren't getting any younger.

In the mean-time, I wonder how long it will take Big Sis to clue in that she can train Andrew to deliver a chilled La Croix and Cheez-its right to her bed, a germy smile on his face.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tree Time

We will not be getting a live tree this year because we'll be gone for almost 10 days of December.

Usually, we have one artificial tree with all of the kids' ornaments on it, and a bigger, live tree with the "fancier" ones. After Jack died, the Kids' Tree became more precious to me than ever, and I've even started putting "non-Christmas" items on it, as a wonderful way to touch and remember special photographs and keepsakes once a year, such as Legos, and small crafts the kids made in school. I even tied our old house key on it with a ribbon, to remember where our family used to live.

Andrew and I set up the artificial tree today (in under a minute-- thank you pre-lit trees!) and I'll ask Margaret and Tim whether they would like to decorate it with the kids' ornaments or the fancy ones this year. Can't wait to see Andrew's reaction to ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS!

Love, joy, wonder, pain, and longing-- this season has it all.

Here's one of my favorite pictures from Christmas past when we picked out a tree:

Giving Tuesday 2017

Happy Giving Tuesday!

I know you are probably seeing a lot of opportunities to GIVE today, so I thought I'd share a personal story with you, and let you know where my family and I will give today.

Remember when I went on a World Vision trip to Armenia in 2015? What a beautiful country and an amazing opportunity for me to see how World Vision helps real families and real communities.

Several of you ended sponsoring some of the children I met on that trip! THANK YOU!

You may remember Ani and Vartan's family, who live in a box car-- one of many that became used as shelter following a devastating 1988 earthquake. My sister and I ended up sponsoring two of their children, Miriam and Vahan, so we've been able to keep up with their progress over the past two years. We love hearing from them!

In addition to providing the family tangible resources such as food packets and furniture, World Vision has helped Ani with parenting resources through a child development program called "Go Baby Go." Ani says, “Before, I didn’t know how to make simple toys and didn’t spend much time with the children. Now I’m busy with them most of the time and we go outside so they can play. I know that’s important for them.” World Vision gave them educational books, including fairy tales and books about animals that she reads with them in order to encourage this kind of engagement

One thing that struck me when I was in their home, was how isolated it seemed. Ani was even reluctant to send the kids to school because she did not want them to feel inferior because of their poverty and lack of resources. I love that she can feel more confident and far less alone in her mothering journey now with World Vision's support.

And, in recent photos of the family, we got see another special impact of Giving Tuesday. Last year Thirty-One gifts MATCHED donations  in the form of GOODS such as warm clothing and blankets. Imagine how fun it was for me to see photos of Ani, on the other side of the world, wearing a Thirty-One sweatshirt, her kids in new cozy sweaters!

©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt

                                                       ©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt

And we can do it again TODAY!

When you give to World Vision TODAY you are giving real, tangible support to families, not just in Armenia, but in nearly 100 countries all over the world. The climates and stories may be different, but the result is the same: help, support, connection, empowerment.

For the fourth consecutive year, World Vision and Thirty-One Gifts have partnered to double the impact made by donors’ Giving Tuesday gifts. Any gift given to World Vision today will be matched with a donation of product from Thirty-One Gifts up to $1,000,000, so any donation you make will have twice the impact for helping families in need around the world.

You can choose ANY item to donate through World Vision today, but if you want to make a direct donation to help keep children and families warm this winter, I recommend their Clothing for Children fund

Shine twice as bright for #GivingTuesday! Thirty-One Gifts will match any gift given to World Vision USA TODAY with a donation of product up to $1,000,000. Double the impact of your Giving Tuesday gift: give now and share! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Shepherd's Treasure-- A GIVEAWAY!!!!

Jack and Margaret missed out on the whole Elf on a Shelf thing, because by the time the book came out, they were well past the Santa stage.

It was probably for the best.

I don't know if I ever told you, but we downplayed Santa in our home because my husband Tim was kind of traumatized as a kid when he found out the truth about the big guy in red. He felt betrayed and manipulated, and it caused some trust issues/faith issues that took a while to work out. As a result, he asked if we could have a "Santa-lite" home, and we did.

One result was we found ways to integrate more Advent rituals into our home instead.

Last year, with a little one in the house again, I came across something that I knew would be a fun  tradition to start with Andrew, and a GREAT FIT for our family.

It's called The Shepherd's Treasure and is the sweetest way to prepare our hearts and home for celebrating Jesus's birth. 

Each box comes with an adorable plush Shepherd and Baby Jesus, and a big, beautiful hardcover book.

The book shares the story of a young Shepherd looking for Baby Jesus, and is super encouraging and uplifting. It helps kids know just how special they are.

Each day in December, the Shepherd moves somewhere new in your home looking for the baby, culminating with his finding Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning.

The kids have fun searching for the Shepherd each day, and anticipation builds for Jesus's birthday.

Hiding places can be simple (ME!) or elaborate (Pinterest). There is even a calendar full of creative ideas available on the website if, unlike me, you want to take it up a notch.

You can also order (optional) Advent Cards with Bible verses on them that  provide ideas of things your family can do together each day to share God's love with someone else.

The Shepherd's Treasure is a sweet and meaningful tradition for a family wanting to find a way to focus on Jesus as the very best gift of all!

I contacted the creators of The Shepherd's Treasure and they have agreed to give one An Inch of Gray Reader The Shepherd's Treasure (book and plush figures). It comes in a great keepsake box so it is easy to store year to year. If you don't have little ones at home, considering entering anyway and giving The Shepherd's Treasure as a gift.

Entries in the Continental U.S. only, please.

Easy ways to enter using this entry form :
1)Visit The Shepherd's Treasure Facebook page (mandatory)
2)Leave an email address for (VERY RARE) emails from me such as info about my book or speaking engagements (optional)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Always Rockin' It

I went to my 30th high school reunion Saturday night. It was hard to get motivated to put on fancy clothes when I'd spent Andrew's nap time snuggled in bed with a good book, but I rallied and had a wonderful time.

There were lots of hugs from old friends, and I even danced for maybe the second time this millennium, throwing my hands in the air and trying not to wonder if I looked like a doofus.

The next morning, I hopped in the shower. My showers have to be fast, because there's usually a pint-sized observer outside the glass door, either wailing or trying to climb in. I have the routine down:

1) Wash key areas.

2) Take the razor and do a swipe in each pit, 3 swipes for each leg, below the knee only.

3) Wash hair as needed, which considering I am a gym dropout, is not often.

When I got out of the shower and put on deodorant, I thought, "Good grief! Somehow dog hair must have gotten stuck on my deodorant.  WHY is there not a single dog-hair-free zone in this house?!"

I grabbed reading glasses from the counter for closer inspection. Dear Lord. That big tuft of hair was not from the deodorant. Or the dog. It was firmly my armpit.

I'm guessing that months and months of careless shaving left me with quite the overgrowth in one concentrated area.

Clearly, a single swipe of the razor was not enough.

BTW, I  thought you might like to see the SLEEVELESS dress I wore Saturday night. I will NOT zoom in. I will NOT zoom in.