The Summer Plan – guest blog by a mom of four who’s got this thing figured out

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photoToday’s blog post is from a fellow West Point mom.

We’re facebook friends and when I saw her post, I asked if I could publish it on my blog. She agreed. I just love the spirit of her message and the fun and forceful way she mothers.

I’m done, here’s Danelle!

Ever since I’ve been a mom each summer I try to have a very basic guideline for what I expect on a daily basis. (Otherwise I get grouchy and they get bored.)

I laugh because my kids freak out about our plan every year, but if you look closely, only 2.5 hours of their entire day is spent doing anything they don’t choose to do.

Here is how we’ll try to redeem the time we are blessed with this year:

The Summer Plan

Daily–
TV/gaming/computer/screen time (and, yes, watching tv with your sibling “counts” as your own tv time…I wasn’t born yesterday)–2 hour maximum
Chores—30 minutes (or however long you’d like to take)

Reading –1 hour minimum
Music—30 minutes minimum
Exercise—30 minutes minimum

Everyone up by 9:00 am

Mealtimes—breakfast ends at 10:00; lunch ends at 2:00; dinner will be at 7:00

Breakfast choices: yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, toast
Lunch choices: sandwich, chips, soup, cheese and crackers, fruit, veggies, leftovers, grilled cheese, quesadilla, ramen
Snack choices: fruit, veggie, granola bar, dried fruit, nuts

*You are expected to put your dirty dishes into the dishwasher and wipe around your place-mat when you are done eatingphoto

• There is absolutely NO FOOD OR DRINK allowed in the basement other than popcorn and water. You must have permission to make popcorn. The answer will most likely be “yes”, but ask anyways
• If you bring any food or drink to the basement you will be charged a $5 fee for this decision
• Chores must be done by 5:00pm
• You can earn extra $ or extra screen time occasionally by doing extra jobs (the frequency of these will be determined by parents and if you get sassy about it, the answer will be an automatic “no”)

Activities for Bored People:

  1. Play a “board” game (get it? Haha!)
  2. Get out a puzzle
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Play with the dogs
  5. Get together with a friend
  6. Make crafts
  7. Bake a treat
  8. Write a song
  9. Write a letter to someone20140617-094240-34960709.jpg
    11. Read your Bible
    12. Listen to music
    13. Pray for someone who is struggling
    14. Use the elliptical
    15. Have a lemonade stand
    16. Write a poem
    17. Call a friend
    18. Call a grandparent
    19. Offer to help a family member with something
    20. Weed the garden
    21. Trim your nails
    22. Make your bed
    23. Organize your closet
    24. Make a slushee
    25. Sit on the patio and stare off into space
    26. Ask a sibling if there is some project you could help them with
    27. Walk to the store
    28. Walk to the river
    29. Have a picnic
    30. Make a meal for someone

Originally from Southern California, Danelle and her family now live in Lincoln, Nebraska.  She and her husband have four kids – two boys and two girls and a dog named FooFoo. Her oldest son is a cadet at the United States Military Academy, class of 2016. She says, “Being a mom has been the most amazing, challenging and important thing I have ever done. I love encouraging younger moms who are right in the middle of the best job they’ll ever have.

Danelle seems determined to be faithful with her family’s time, to lead her kids well.

539620_4131081765991_613836652_nAs I read her suggestions, admittedly I felt a little guilty because I haven’t been so industrious. I need to implement these ideas even if I just only have an orange hair, freckle face 17-year-old at home.

What would you add to her list? Which one do you like the most?

 

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Remembering Memorial Day – what a Soldier did for his younger brother on his wedding day

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photo 1With all the festivities surrounding my middle olive shoot’s wedding on Saturday #hartleywedding

The emotions, planning, celebrating and expectation

I forgot about Memorial Day

Until yesterday driving home from Delaware!

Though we never forgot about our oldest son who is deployed in Qatar

And longed for him to be with us physically

Our hearts broke with the reality that wasn’t going to be possible

But we found a way to bridge the distance

Nate was a part of the ceremony

I’m still trying to take it all in – the beauty of the day, the sweetness of the Lord

photo 5Where do I begin?

On this Memorial Day, I honor my Soldier

I was escorted down the aisle by my orange hair, freckle face OS – so proud was I for this honor

But my husband didn’t walk alone behind me –

Parting from tradition, the Hubs was also escorted –

Our Soldier “walked” with his dad, carried on my husband’s iPhone

Then our Army Ranger “sat” on his dad’s lap and saw the wedding from the same perspective as the rest of us

It was about 6:15PM, Qatari time

Nate wore his Army fatigues

Observing the event in the middle of a desert

The pastor welcomed family and friends

He paused and told the crowd of about 140 people

Someone very significant was missing from the wedding

Aaron’s older brother, Nate

At that moment, this YouTube video was played

Our Army Ranger welcomed his new sister into the family and he read 1  Corinthians 13 from the Bible

photo 4

Nate reverently saw the bride and groom exchange vows thanks to Facetime

Oh friends, if you knew what comfort it was to have Nate with us

It’s a good thing I was sitting because I would have needed a chair

Such was the extent of pride and love I carried within me

In a way, we have already celebrated Memorial Day

We represent countless military families that get creative

Surmount the obstacles and offer support

What a day, what a life, what a fount of blessings

I scarce can take it in…

 

 

 

 

A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

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fam303When my oldest olive shoot leapt in my womb, I loved thinking about his potential name. I very much like my first name and realized the great responsibility given a parent to pick just the right one. After all, it’s going to stick with them all his/her life, right?

The Hubs and I kicked around a lot of first names before finding the right one for him.

The one thing I knew for sure was that Nathan would have a distinctive last name.

A last name that was hyphenated.

This idea was not met with thunderous applause. In our extended family, my mother-in-law, (may she rest in peace) said some regrettable things about our decision. That only made the woodworm of pride dig deeper in me. Nothing and no one could thwart my resolve.

So on that treasured spring day, my baby entered the world. We signed the birth certificate, sent out birth announcements and we all settled into family life. Two brothers later, 4/5 of our family are known by our special last name. It rarely presented an issue.2013-07-04 07.36.20

But when Nate decided to go to West Point, he began to mention that people were perplexed about what to call him. His first last name? His second last name? The first year, (plebe year) at West Point, NO ONE calls you anything but your last name! This only compounded the issue. The last day of plebe year, there is even a special ceremony where the other cadets actually acknowledge that you even have a first name if you can imagine!

Throughout his time at West Point, Nate noticed that his name was longer on his uniform than others. Eventually he shortened it unofficially because according to him, even the clever-minded cadets just couldn’t figure it out and he was tired of the confusion.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me the day Nate mentioned he wanted to just have one last name. I gulped but understood when he announced that he was going to use only my husband’s/his dad’s last name from now on. Honestly it made sense and I could appreciate the reasons behind his decision.

2013-05-10 13.33.10My maturity about the whole thing has impressed me. As vehement as I was in insisting that he have both of his parents’ last names, I have remained compassionate and impartial. I completely respect his decision. He is a man of honor, integrity and character. He will be married in November. I cannot hold him down nor do I want to impede his life whatsoever.

But here comes the raw part – I’m going to admit something…a new emotion that has risen to the surface a little bit…

2013-05-10 17.14.52When I learned that my OS would be getting a new birth certificate, one with just one last name, it felt like a rope burn to my heart.

Ok, so now I’m crying while typing. There is NOTHING that will ever change my affection for my olive shoots.  Our connection extends far beyond a dumb hyphen. My boy’s decision wasn’t an offense to me as a mom. Still, when the Hubs called me upon returning from the court-house to facilitate Nate’s name change, wow, I suddenly had a hard time. I was fine with Nate changing his name from 2014 and onward but gosh, going backward in time and doing it??? OUCHY!

Thinking of him having a new birth certificate brought sadness. I harkened back to that day in the hospital when we declared his name.

There are lessons to learn through all this. Besides encouraging them to walk with the Lord, my boys deserve respect and support of their decisions. I can do even if it stings a little. Since he is an officer in the Army, Nate has endured endless background checks, mountains of paperwork, and clearances to make this happen. True to Nate’s personality, he has been diligent. It’s the least I can do even if it stings a little. Furthermore, my sweet boy has spoken with tenderness about wrestling with the decision. Maybe he felt like he was betraying the family and what we have stood for. Nate, if you’re reading this, I know you love me and I understand!

299311_10150412030338018_3766445_nHis name is Nathaniel – it means gift of God and though the last name is changing, I am blessed to always be able to call him my son. I can do even if it stings a little. Perhaps I even will get some monogrammed towels for him after deployment to celebrate his decision!

Warmth – Brazilian style

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photo 5Temperatures plummet all around the country but we experienced a heat wave of sorts. A Brazilian blast of kindness warmed our family these past few weeks as we enjoyed spending time with Chico’s parents. I have loved ones in Qatar, Chicago, El Salvador and Brazil – we’re all over the map!

Since last May, the Lord opened the door for new people to enter our home. Most who entered as friends left as members of our family. Some through actual marriage proposals (Lu and Kelsie) but others through spending extended time in our home – they became W-H’s, an extension of our olive shoot branch.

And it’s interesting, the timing of it all. Disease and deception ushered a person out of our lives. Without a proper goodbye, a thank you, a warm embrace, nothing, nada, zilch, poof, he was gone. I don’t recommend it. So while recovering from the pangs of loss, these people have been a healing balm to our family. We haven’t forgotten this person but we have moved on in order to survive. He hasn’t been replaced but God has opened new chambers of our hearts. I know many people who have experienced a loss can empathize.

On Sunday, we said our goodbyes to Francisco and Leyla. We enjoyed going to church together and I was deeply touched to sit by Chico’s mom and to hear her singing the refrain “Hallelujah” in one of the songs. Tears streamed from both of our eyes as the music played. It’s safe to say that a year ago none of us had any notion how close we would feel to one another. I didn’t really personally know any Brazilian people until September. Now it’s like our family has grown exponentially just by adding one charming borrowed Brazilian olive shoot into our home.

After church, we went to a restaurant. As the meal was ending, Chico’s dad went out to his car to get something. When he returned, he approached the Hubs holding something small in his fingers. He then gently took the corner of the Hub’s jacket and carefully attached a small gold item to the collar. With a few emotional words in Portuguese, he embraced and kissed my husband and that’s when we saw this.

photo 4In some way, it re- minded me of when Nate was pinned as an officer at West Point. Our dear friend Colonel Eric Kail com missioned Nate. We will never forget that moment or that man.

It also reminded me of the kindred moment when Nate was tabbed by his brothers after completing Ranger School those memories flooded back to me.

I’m not sure Francisco understood the significance of his gesture but based on the tears that flowed afterward, perhaps we all did. Francisco’s gift to my husband was an acknowledgement of trust and connection. That pin proudly sits next to the Army pin on my husband’s coat. The cold weather allows him opportunity to display some of our dearest and deepest connections.2013-07-12 12.17.27

The  feeling of being deemed worthy and proven can warm a heart and that little pin of our two flags was a profound symbol between 2013-07-12 11.19.16men. When people enter our lives, they leave an impression. In this case, it was an enduring and deep connection neither family could have expected.

Five Minute Friday – tree

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photo 12I am less concerned with my sons’ happiness than with their holiness. Yes, I said it, I know it’s not a popular sentiment.

They know I adore them and want them to live contented, satisfied lives but being a righteous man is the most important desire I have for my three olive shoots.

Not a monk-like existence, depriving themselves of some of life’s greatest joys but for them to care less about human applause than pleasing the Lord.

When my oldest OS was about 14 years old, we had a ceremony welcoming him into manhood.

He was prayed over, offered words of wisdom, a godly collection of men who loved and cared about his life. I served snacks and watched from afar. It was sweet helping usher Nate into this stage of life. As a Christian, there are not many ceremonies we have to mark this passage into adulthood. Our family made its own tradition.

Have you ever seen anything more precious in your life? A little brother offers wisdom, "keep up the good work in school." What wonderful memories this evokes.

Have you ever seen anything more precious in your life? A little brother offers wisdom, “keep up the good work in school.” What wonderful memories this evokes.

Scan10053One of the Scriptures we used as a cornerstone was

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

My prayer is that my boys will experience true happiness by following Jesus. Lord may they experience much fruit on their spiritual tree.

This post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “tree.” 5minutefriday

When you’re a military family, Veterans’ Day takes on a whole different meaning

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2013-07-12 11.21.47Soon

very soon

my West Point grad, my Army Ranger, my handsome, beloved son will go to a faraway place

Not for vacation

Or to get married – though this will happen soon enough

But somewhere distant that brings a sense of fear over me if I’m having one of those days.

And so this whole Veterans’ Day thing is much more meaningful to me than it was, let’s say ten years ago.

(She types embarrassingly).

Last Friday, my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot sang in the school choir for a local Veterans’ Day celebration.

2013-11-08 18.18.25That in and of itself, is notable since Ike will not be dropping a CD anytime soon though he jokes that he is the songbird of his gen- eration. Hearing him sing, “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (my personal favorite) caused me to grab the bag of tissues I brought expressly for that purpose.

My tears were mixed though because this year, another veteran in the family was missing. My father-in-law. For reasons we will probably never understand this side of heaven, he has been taken from us. Not by death but by a person. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia contributed to the cause but the cruelty of it all is too painful to even share.

Grey-haired military people filled the community center. These folks still beam with pride when their song is played. It was not a time of  preference over which branch served – Army, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, even Navy (inside Army joke), were honored equally. There was solidarity and appreciation. I was among the ranks of those who love the “Armed Forces Salute” although apparently many of Ike’s classmates noted that I spazzed out during the Army song. I tried to be as discreet as possible! I couldn’t help it!

Two proud chunksters

Two proud chunksters

But little did I know, I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during the per- formance.

A certain someone whose name I can’t mention also had to push back the tears. It’s hard to sing and cry. Thinking about his brother, re- membering his grandpa, watching the 93-year-old man sputtering out Taps on his trumpet maybe for the last time, it got to a certain little stoic olive shoot. For the record, he DID NOT cry, he just wanted to for a brief, oh so brief moment!

As an American, I find myself proud of how we honor our veterans. In Brazil, for example, they do not have such a holiday. They have Children’s Day, Dentist Day and Teacher Day but no Veterans’ Day. To serve in the military is a rarity and something not especially appreciated according to my reliable source, my borrowed Brazilian olive shoot. They are proud of their country but those in the armed forces do not receive any special recognition for their service. I thought all countries had their own Veterans’ Day.

Today I remember those in my family who are in the military, past and present. I remember our honored friend, Colonel Eric Kail who was my son’s mentor whether he knew it or not. We love and miss him. Thank you all, bless you all. Happy Veterans’ Day.

Here is Ike and others in the choir singing “God bless America.” It is the land that I love.

Praying for your enemies

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photo 7Prompted by the pastor’s sermon, we left church on Sunday morning and I told my family that I wanted to do something with the message.

Although most of you don’t know my family, maybe you can imagine how your family would typically react to such an announcement. Would your family all just have a beautiful Kumbaya moment in the middle of the church parking lot? I didn’t think so but hey, it would be nice, huh? I did not observe such an inspirational reaction from my crew. 

So what did I say? I said that by dinnertime, I wanted us to share at least two things that God was asking us to do.

The response I got in return was less than overwhelming. The Hubs was the only one who seemed moderately interested in giving an answer anytime in the near future. Twenty-six years of marriage, he is finally catching on! 😉

As we sat around the dinner table that evening, tension filled the room. “Maybe Mom will just forget about the thing she asked us to do,” I believe would be a correct interpretation of the mood and for a second, I really did question going there with such a tepid crowd.

But I felt a nudge in my heart. After an initial burst of irritation on their part, what ensued was the coolest conversation this mom, the Hubs, an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot and a Brazilian exchange student could possibly have on a chilly autumn night in November. Clearly, the Lord was calling each of them to do something very specific and personal. My soul responded with a flutter listening to these men ranging from 16 to 51 give sincere answers.

So maybe I’m a glutton for punishment because last night, I decided to press the question again. Asking two hungry, tired, homework-laden teenagers anything other than “Can you pass me the salt?” is dangerous, borderline stupid. Pushing them to offer deep spiritual insight into their lives immediately after finishing a hard practice for Varsity basketball is not for the fainthearted so be forewarned.

But that’s what I did. I’m a Ranger Mom, after all. I have an inner strength.

It’s a good thing I was sitting down because the answers last night stirred me like a savory spaghetti sauce. My Brazilian OS shared things that made us all think we really needed to pray for these things which weighed heavy on his heart. I could empathize in many ways which is funny considering there are many (obvious) differences between us.

And I was equally blessed hearing about the courageous thing the Hubs had done with a friend. He is risking decades of a friendship to speak truth into a man’s life. May this man have the ears to listen and the humility to change!

photo 6But what caused my mouth to fall agape was Ike’s response.

His shoulders hunched over and Ike shook his head like he had been fighting something.

Then he told us what God had told him to do.

It agonized him to even share it, so difficult was the task.

During school that day, the teacher asked the students to think and pray for someone who didn’t know the Lord. This is permissible in a private Christian school and it was in no way an awkward thing though you might disagree. They did not do this out loud and it made sense for the content the teacher was covering.

And the individual the Lord gave Ike to pray for was not a safe or popular name. Ike finished his grilled cheese sandwich and spoke the name. While in class, my youngest OS shared that he wrestled with the Lord because his flesh didn’t want to do it.

You see, the person God told him is a person who has caused our family great harm and pain. When Isaac told me his name, I closed my eyes in disbelief because I am not as honorable a person as my son.

Just between us, I have prayed for this person but mostly just for vengeance and judgement. Trust me, I have good reason to want these things though I do hold out a sliver of hope every now and then.

But my son was obedient. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, my youngest OS, came to Jesus asking for this person’s salvation. Ike said that it was the only thing that could possibly change the horrible circumstances we are experiencing.

The equally fascinating thing is that I have been keeping up with a prayer journal. Yesterday, with absolutely NO foreknowledge of what Ike was doing at school, I also prayed for those people in my family who do not know Jesus as Lord. Several names came to mind but this person didn’t entered my thoughts.

So tonight I’m still floored – at the family I have been given, the God we serve, the way He speaks into hearts in undeniable ways.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? May the Lord give you insight and great purpose! May He surprise you with strength and compassion wherever you are! Take a look again at this amazing quote from A.W. Pink, isn’t it thought-provoking!