Friday, April 18, 2014

The Majestic Sacrifice

The cross stood tall on the hill, 
the body of a servant King 
hung by piercing nails and an obedient will.

His life spilled out that day on the tree.
His blood poured once for the sin of the redeemed.

In love and obedience He died.
"Father, forgive them," His final cry.

I look and see my Savior and King.
The Majestic Sacrifice, and I can't help but sing:

Of the cross, of the blood, of the death of Jesus.
His life given up, His death that frees us.

On this, Good Friday, may you be mindful of the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus that He made on the cross.  The Son of God, who loved us while we were still sinners, gave up His life for our ransom, made the final sacrifice for our sin.  

It is a good day because He is good and He has given us what is good through His death. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

We all start out with shaky legs

I've been watching little legs in motion a lot lately.

Up and down, side to side, front to back.

I have sat through countless physical therapy sessions holding back tears as I watch my son struggle to do what comes so easily and naturally to most children.  His little legs wobble, his knees sometimes buckle, and I have to sit by and watch him learn and grow and get better at this thing called walking.

And yet isn't that how we all start out?  We all wobble a little under the newness of something.

A new job, being a parent for the first time, living on our own, moving to a new place, learning a new way of life.

We all start out with shaky legs.

My legs were pretty shaky when I started out on this journey of Down Syndrome.  Most days found me in tears, afraid of the future and paralyzed by my feelings of inadequacy.  While I still cry sometimes and feel inadequate most days, I'm learning how to walk through this and my legs are getting stronger.

"The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  Isaiah 40:28-31

God is giving me strength for the task of mothering my son.  HE doesn't have shaky legs.  HE is the all-powerful God on whom I wait, confident that He will renew and strengthen me.

Mason's legs are getting stronger.  He can push his little cart around the house now like it's nobody's business.  The other night we took him to the park and he walked for about 1/4 mile pushing that little thing, plopping down to wave at passersby, then pulling himself right back up.  He was definitely exhausted by the end of our walk and pretty ravenous at dinner, but he did it.  He's making progress.  He's pushing forward though he grows weary and he's going to walk on his own one day.

When I feel weak and unsteady, I want to push forward with the same determination of my son, trusting in the strength of God, confident in His ability to enable and strengthen me.

Are you struggling with shaky legs? Wait on the Lord.  He will renew your strength.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Weekend

Our weekend started with some fun playing in the sprinkler on Friday night.  We introduced our girls to Frozen two weeks ago, and since then, Isabella has taken to acting out being Elsa, freezing things {which she is apparently doing in the above picture} and singing "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs while we grocery shop.  Apparently, this is normal for girl children these days.  I love her lack of inhibition and theatrical spirit.  We've always known she enjoyed acting, but this has gone to a whole new level.  A game of charades right before bed only added to the drama.

Saturday was a gorgeous day!  The weather was lovely, so a backyard party was the perfect way to end it.  Bradley finished making some corn hole boards that morning and a friendly game ensued.  The kids enjoyed dressing Jennavieve up, swinging, playing in the sandbox and staying up later than the sun.

On Sunday we had an open house, so we took a little afternoon field trip to the mall.  Highlights of the mall for our girls are throwing coins in the fountain, riding the little simulated roller coaster ride, and going up and down the escalator a million times.  I love that they are easy to please and we can go to the mall for $1 {plus a vanilla latte from Starbucks}.  Sunday night found us once again outside, once the rain stopped, for another round of swinging, sandbox playing, and corn hole.

Due to Bradley's schedule, Mondays are also weekend days around here, so we had another fun day of being together.  I didn't manage to get a picture of the sword fight shenanigans because I was busy eating cookie dough, I mean making chocolate chip cookies for my family, but they had quite a battle going on in the family room.  It's all fun and games until someone gets whacked in head with the wooden handle.  This time Mason was the culprit; he has quite the arm.  I did manage to capture Mason pushing Jennavieve around in the baby doll stroller.  She only weighs one pound less than he does, so the fact that he was even able to do this is pretty remarkable.  We're praying he will start walking on his own soon!

This week is a little slower for us than last, so I'm looking forward to getting a little bit ahead in my planning, researching housing/schooling/churches/etc., for our upcoming move.  We move in just 7 weeks and we have a lot of decisions to make.  I'm thankful for my husband and his ability to remain calm during times of transition.  I'm so thankful to have him for a husband!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Seven Tips for Maintaing a Clean House while it's On the Market

Maintaining a clean home with four small children is never an easy task.  Add to that having your house ready for showings while it's on the market, and you could easily get pretty stressed out.  To tell you the truth, actually selling our home doesn't have me worried.  Someone will either like our house or they won't; I can't make someone place an offer.  The part that makes me nervous is the daily maintenance to make it presentable for potential buyers.  In order to eliminate this stress, I've put seven practical things into place.

1. Store toys strategically for quick and easy clean up.  Our two oldest girls share a room that is full of dress up clothes, Barbies, stuffed animals, and random assortments of other teeny tiny pieces.  We use plastic bins with lids and keep toys organized by type.  Hanging up the dress up clothes was always a chore and time sucker for all of us {usually we would end up just wadding them up on the floor}.  A quick trip to TJMaxx and $30 provided us with a stylish basket for keeping all of the dress up clothes.

Bins that hold smaller pieces {jewelry, random toys, etc.} have been placed on the top shelf in their closet and can only be accessed with permission from Mommy and Daddy right now.

In the nursery, fabric covered boxes store Legos, trains, and baby toys.

Our general rule is to only allow one or two types of toys out at a time, and this has helped with clean up, as well as with maintaining focus for the girls during their play time.  We also boxed up some extra toys and stored them in the attic for now.  They have not been missed. :)

We timed clean up the other day and it only took us 5 minutes to put everything away.

2. Straighten up daily.  This might sound like a no-brainer, and probably many of you do this anyway.  I'll just be honest with you, though, that by the end of the day I'd much rather be in my pj's relaxing than cleaning up the kitchen and putting everyone's clothes away.  However, just taking 10 extra minutes after dinner or after the kids go to bed has helped to keep some of the busiest spaces in our home free of clutter.  I wipe the kitchen counters, sweep the floor, put the dishes away, pick up toys, and make sure dirty clothes are in the hamper.  I can go to bed with peace of mind knowing that it won't take as long to pick up should someone want to see the house the next morning.

3. Keep certain rooms/spaces off limits.  This  might not be necessary for everyone, but we have a guest room, dining room and piano room that aren't necessary for our everyday use.  So, once these rooms were cleaned and organized we asked the kids not to bring toys in there.  My only tasks for showings in these rooms are to vacuum and dust.

4. Make a house showing bucket and checklist.  Deep cleaning your home is just not practical for every house showing.  It would take hours and really, no one is going to eat something off of your floors, so it's not necessary to have everything absolutely spotless.  I've kept to my normal cleaning schedule {this is a weekly thing for me--bathrooms, mop floors, dust}, and in my little $4 bucket from Wal-Mart, I have some supplies that allow me to do a quick wipe down of some of these places.

-Windex wipes for bathroom mirrors and glass doors
-Clorox wipes for sinks and countertops
-Dusting gloves and brush for a quick swipe and feathering of furniture.
-Trash bags to empty all the trash cans around the house
-Air freshener to spray as you exit
Whatever else you think will help for your quick clean up

Type up and print out a checklist for yourself so that in the midst of frantically cleaning your house, you don't forget any of the essential steps.  Like that dirty diaper pail that needs emptying.

5. Have one or two empty bins under the bed for extra stuff.  I know myself well enough that there are surfaces in my home that will collect junk no matter how hard I try to keep it clean.  My dresser, the desk in the kitchen, one of my kitchen counters...Because I know this, I have two bins under my bed that I can use for these things should I need somewhere to put them in a pinch.

{After inspection of my two bins when I snapped the above photo, I suppose I should have three or four.  My two are already full!}

6. Utilize the tub, dishwasher, and microwave.  I didn't want to do this, but at the beginning of my shopping trip the other day I got a request for a house showing two hours later. I knew there were clothes that hadn't been folded, and a pile of hand me downs on the floor of my bedroom.  It only took a few seconds to put them in a laundry basket and hide them in the tub behind the shower curtain.  I had started to make bread that same morning, so I stuck the dough in the microwave {it rises faster in there anyway}, and loaded up the dishwasher.  If people choose to look in these spaces, I think they will be understanding, at least I hope they will.

7. Involve everyone in the family.  Our oldest children {ages 5 and 4} have heard us talking about moving, selling the house, and keeping the house ready for showings.  They don't fully understand it all, but they do understand that we need to be able to clean up quickly.  This communication with them has helped their attitudes when I need to scurry around.  They enjoy wearing my dusting gloves, so sometimes they even do this task for me.

Yesterday morning my four year old came downstairs and said, "Mommy, I cleaned up the sink in my bathroom.  I knew you had to feed both of the babies and clean up all of the other rooms, so I figured I could do that to help you."

She blew me away with her servant's heart, initiative, and ability to articulate why she thought I needed help.

Helping our older children to be aware of what's going on has given them a desire to be involved.

Keeping a home clean and organized while on the market can be a daunting task.  With just a few key steps, though, you can maintain your sanity and stay relaxed through the process.

Does anyone else have some tips for keeping your house ready for showings?  Please, share in the comments below!

Linking to:  Home Stories A to Z, Tutorials and Tips

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A little check in

We've had a busy couple of weeks!  Our yard sale was this past Saturday, and this morning our house showed for the first time.  I think we have a good handle on what to do to get ready for house showings, so I'll share those tips with you next week.

Tomorrow I'm headed out of town for a weekend with my Mom and sisters.  We haven't done something like this in almost eight years, so we're all pretty excited.  As much as I love my children and my husband, I'm going to thoroughly enjoy being away.  Sleep should be uninterrupted.  There will be no diapers to change, schedules to follow or people to feed.  Bliss.

I thought I would share a few pictures with you of things that are going on around here.  Just some tidbits for now.


//We bought two of these plants on clearance at the end of last fall.  Most of the plants in our yard are either transplanted from my in-laws' yard, or clearance plants we've picked up.  This is called quince, and it is beautiful!  The red flowers look gorgeous.  Hopefully the rest of the yard will start blooming soon.

//At the recommendation of one of my favorite bloggers, I tried baking these chocolate chip cookies with cream cheese.  They are delicious.  I'd like to think they're not as fattening as my regular recipe, but I think it's a toss up.

//Bradley is going to be doing a guest post in the near future on some furniture that he's made!  I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with this man.  He works all day, comes home and in just a few hours has an outdoor chair made.  Since he had enough wood to make two, he's documenting the process and will be sharing how to make your own.

//This little girl will be nine months old very soon.  Her hair is coming in blonde and we love it!  Those eyes.

Have a great weekend!  I'll be back in April.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When you wonder what to say :: Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

We had just traveled across the country, I think it was about 9 hours worth of travel time, with our two youngest children.  The baby was just 5 weeks old, and Mason was 17 months old.  Still dealing with postpartum issues and sleepless nights, we were both exhausted and ready to enjoy a few days with good friends in San Diego.

There was a bit of confusion in our rental car arrangements, so we were sitting in the rental car lounge waiting for our vehicle to be ready.

It's not easy to sit anywhere with two very small children and go unnoticed.  People started asking how far apart the two were in age, remarked on the cuteness of our children, and some even wanted to play with Mason.

About fifteen minutes into our wait, we noticed a family walk in.  Dad, Mom, middle school aged son, and a younger daughter.  It didn't take long for us to notice that the son had Down Syndrome.

He was a handsome and quiet guy.  I couldn't help but watch their family interact.  I overheard a little bit of their conversation, and learned that the daughter's name was Genevieve--pretty ironic.

Mason continued to grow louder as I played with him from our seat, and eventually the Mom turned around to see who was causing the commotion.  She smiled at us, turned back around and I saw her say something to her husband.  He turned around as well, and very quickly we had all exchanged knowing glances and smiles.

Instantly there was a bond.  A bond of bearing, holding, loving, learning, grieving, cherishing, and living out life with a child who has Down Syndrome.

Everything in me wanted to run to them,  hug them, and ask them all kinds of questions:  "How did you potty train him?"  "Is he in a regular classroom at school?"  "When did he learn to talk?"  "What advice can you give me?" "How am I supposed to do this?"  "Can we please be friends?"

Since Mason was born, almost two years ago, these have often been my thoughts when I see people in public with someone who has Down Syndrome.  I realize that in most circumstances running up to a complete stranger and bombarding them with these questions would be awkward at the least, and perhaps even inappropriate or offensive.  So, I restrain.  But, I've always wondered what to do and if I should say anything at all.

This family in the rental car lounge that day in San Diego completed their business, got their key, and started to leave the building.  They passed by Bradley on their way out, and the Dad stopped and said to my husband,

"You have a beautiful family."

Five simple words that conveyed acknowledgement, understanding, love, and a desire to reach out.

Now I know what to say to the new mom who holds her baby tightly, hoping no one notices the different features of her baby's face.

"Your baby is beautiful."

I can smile and interact with the little boy running around the store with his tired mom.

"What a happy little boy you have."

I can go out of my way to speak to the young adults I see shopping in Wal-Mart with their caretaker, like I did yesterday:

"How are ya'll doing today?"

And in each of these situations I can connect with people who understand what it's like to live life with Down Syndrome.

Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day, so I want to take a minute to encourage you, whether you are raising a child with Down Syndrome, know someone who is, or just encounter strangers as you go through life.

People with Down Syndrome are longing to connect with you.

They have emotions, interests, concerns, insecurities, awkwardness at times, and maybe you won't be able to understand everything they say.  But, you can connect with them.  Just a few simple words to let them know that they are valued.

And, if you can't think of anything to say, just make eye contact and smile.

To read more about World Down Syndrome Day click here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Home

It's official, our home is now on the market.

The sign and lock have been out for almost two weeks now, but due to the MLS site being down last week, our home has officially been listed for six days.

There are certainly plenty of  mixed emotions as we begin the process of saying goodbye to what has been our home for the past 3 plus years.  Just like our first home, this home has provided a place where the unexpected has changed us.

We said goodbye to one precious baby shortly after moving in, and for the first time I understood the grief that so many mothers-to-be face with a miscarriage.

We watched our second daughter take her first steps and learn to talk.

Our hearts rejoiced as we welcomed our third child, our first son.  And with his life came the unexpected journey of Down Syndrome that has forever changed us.  

Our fourth child came home from the hospital to this house, and she's growing and learning here.

We've entertained friends and strangers, praying that their hearts would be encouraged and they would see Jesus in our home.  

My home has been a safe haven for me during some of the most challenging years of my life. These walls have seen my tears, heard my cries, felt my angered footsteps and leaps of joy.

So, I guess I'll be saying goodbye to a friend when I close the door and walk away to begin a new chapter in our journey.

This journey that we're on has taken us to many places, and now we're just three months away from another new place.  There are countless unknowns on the horizon, of which I'm both terrified and excited.

In the midst of it all, though, I'm so thankful that God remains constant.  Walls cannot contain Him.  God is with us, Emmanuel.  He remains steadfast, unshakable, unchanging, always wise, always loving, always good.

It is with confidence, eagerness, and joy that I can embark on the unknown, because I know the One who goes before me.