Giving Thanks

Explaining how to pray is a tough concept for anyone, regardless of age. Explaining prayer to a toddler is even more challenging because there is no right answer. Prayer doesn’t have borders, and I don’t want to be the reason my children keep it within the lines. Prayer can be a conversation, a song, a dance, or even dedicating a run or walk outside for time with God.

When Elijah was old enough to join us at the dinner table, we started asking him to say one thing he was thankful for that day before we ate. We modeled this behavior so he would understand that we were thanking God for a blessing, big or small, within our day. He caught on quickly, and we’ve continued this tradition for every meal. It’s a great way to keep things positive and share a piece of our day. Once everyone around the table has said one thing they are thankful for, we say the Catholic “Prayer Before Meals”. Although Elijah usually names each member of our family as his thing to be thankful for that day, I love it when he says something specific to his day. “For time outside”, “For Grandma and Grandpa, “For riding on the tractor”. Absolutely, buddy. These are gifts, and I love knowing he recognizes them as something special that is worth mentioning.

How do you pray before meals? Have you adopted a tradition of praying with your family like you learned to pray?

If you don’t pray before meals, try this “thanksgiving” approach. It’s simple and starts the dinner with a positive spin. It also allows for follow-up questions during the meal if something is mentioned that you want to know more about from your family members.

Sibling Bond

I didn’t know how early I would see it.

I’ve really taken note of Josie noticing Elijah the last week. His always-on-high volume doesn’t startler her, and she really watches him play around her. If she’s upset and I’m busy, Elijah will just talk to her and she’s content for a significant amount of time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m thankful to have a front row seat for this sibling bond.

Josie: Three Months

I’m afraid if I type it out I’ll jinx it, but Josie has slept through the night two nights in a row. John and I are still getting up to check on her, but it’s great to know she’s filling her belly during the day and sleeping like a champ.

We had her two month check-up (and all of the shots it includes) a few weeks late since we were finding a doctor in Chippewa Falls and waiting for our new insurance cards to arrive.

Josie weighed just shy of 12 lbs and was 2 feet long.

Josie lived in two states before she was a month old, and this week we visited a third. She and I made a day trip to Minneapolis to shop at The Mall of America while Elijah was at school. It’s a 90-minute trip to the mall, and we were able to crank out a few gifts at some unique stores. She’s already an excellent shopping partner and great at keeping Christmas gifts a secret. She also didn’t judge me when our first stop at the mall was Cinnabon.

If you want to make God laugh…

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

When I found out I was expecting, the first date the doctor’s gave me was the scheduled first day of school for the following year. It seemed like God picked this time because He understood how badly I wanted my summer with Elijah and still craved a full maternity leave with the new baby. John suggested I consider taking a semester (or more) off for maternity leave, but I just felt like the timing was so perfect that it set me up for 12 weeks, and I’d go back to my classroom.

Right when I had it allllll figured out, God laughed.

Josie turned 12 weeks yesterday. I looked at her multiple times this week and had to hold back tears of happiness for being wrong about my plan. I won’t post these feelings on social media because I know so many people long for the same gift of time with their kids. I know it’s a luxury. I also know working moms set an example like no one else can for their kids, and it is powerful to watch moms dominate at work and still gather the energy to be completely dedicated to their families at the same time.

People often ask if I’ll go back to work. I think so. I’m not sure if that means a classroom, but I do know God made me to make a difference. I’m using this extended time to figure out where He is calling me. It might not necessarily be teaching, but it will be somewhere I’m needed. For now, that need happens to be in my own home being a teacher to two of my own.

Elijah’s School

I’ve mentioned multiples times how much I love Elijah’s school. One of the neat things his teachers do is post photos or a video during the day to an app that the parents in the class have access to view. His teachers use ClassDojo, but I know teachers in Iowa who used SeeSaw for the same thing.

It’s a great way for us to be reassured Elijah is having a great day with his friends, and it gives us an idea of what he’s learning. This is especially helpful when I pick him up because I always ask him what he did that day. Usually he says, “I don’t know” or “Nothing”. (Typical kid) From viewing a photo or video on the app, I know to ask him specific questions. When I continue and ask if they did any projects or crafts with pumpkins, it triggers his memory and the stories don’t stop. I love it. His teacher also posts a lot of the book titles they read during the week, and it’s nice to see what themes they are concentrating on so that we can reinforce it at home. Last week they discussed emotions and this week the topic is being thankful.

We put up a bulletin board in our home office to display a portion of the art projects Elijah brings home each week. I can’t believe how many cute crafts he brings home, and he isn’t even there five days a week. God bless the energy and creativity of his teachers.

Lately I’ve Been…

Searching…for a way to get more involved in my community through service. In the short time I’ve been in town I’ve attended three annual fundraisers for three different organizations. I’m interested in all of them, so I’m doing more research to find out which one(s) I can best serve with my time and abilities.

Processing…holiday travel. This will be the first time we don’t have the luxury in sleeping in our own beds during the holiday season if we want to be around to celebrate with family. The actual travel of 4+ hours doesn’t bother me, but no “down time” gives me anxiety. This year in particular I worry about so many germs around a new baby. Keeping her healthy is a priority. Without the option of going home for a bit to recharge, we’ll do our best to make self-care a priority during the season of giving.

Exercising…at the YMCA on Wednesday nights. I’ve attended a spin class three weeks in a row, and it’s so good for me. It not only gets me out of the house to interact with a bunch of other adults trying to better themselves, it’s a good change from running. My body feels it.

Planning…Christmas decorations. We have a whole new space to decorate this year, and I’ve ordered garland for one of the fireplace mantels, and I plan to hang a wreath above another. Josie and I have a Hobby Lobby and HomeGoods date in our future.

Feeling…incredibly grateful for more time at home with Josie. My maternity leave would have ended this week, and I’m so thankful God had other plans.

Drinking…so much hot tea. I use iced tea Chrystal Light packets and add them to hot water from my Keurig. It’s delicious, calorie free, and steaming hot. This is a great way to add more liquid into your day during the cold months.

Loving…Elijah’s school. He tells me his teachers are “the coolest”. I didn’t even get a hug this morning when I dropped him off, and I know that’s a great thing. He comes home happy and well behaved. John wants to send him seven days a week. LOL

Trying…to make my reading goal for the year. I have four books to read in order to make my goal of 40 books. Once I get into a book it’s easy to pick that over my phone or the TV, but sometimes it takes discipline to start the book. Three books sit on my end table: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds, Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay, and One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain.

Family Visits

We’re farther away from family than we were when we lived in Iowa, but our time together now includes more time with one another during visits.

My brother Tony and his family visited a few weeks ago, and Elijah loved having his cousins at our home. We look forward to them visiting again when the weather is warm because there are so many family-friendly activities in the area.

John was gone for four days last week for a hospital orientation with the Franciscan sisters in Illinois, so my parents decided it would be a good excuse to visit during that time. They were able to miss the Iowa snows of 4-5 inches by coming North. Who would have guessed?! We have seen flurries in Wisconsin, but the grass is still green!

One of my big concerns when moving was the distance from family. I know relationships are not built at holiday functions but rather unplanned, relaxed time together. We won’t see our families as often as before and they’ll never be drop-in visitors, but we hope our time together can be well spent by not taking it for granted. This helps me slow down and be more present in those moments that matter. Again, I feel God at work opening my heart to a new way.

Halloween

Elijah walked away with double the candy yesterday because we went trick-or-treating twice.

The downtown offers a community-wide event from 3-5 pm where they close off the main streets and invite trick-or-treaters to visit all of the businesses. Some stores had employees standing at the entryway and others had you walk all the way through the store for your candy. Not only is it a safe way to trick-or-treat during daylight hours, it got us into businesses I’m excited to go back and visit again. The park offered a bounce house and music if you wanted to just stay in one spot. Brilliant!

We returned home for a Halloween meal of spooky spaghetti. TJ Maxx had pumpkin and spiderweb shaped pasta for sale a few weeks ago, so Elijah and I carbed up before heading out for another round of fun!

We had no idea what to expect for Halloween in our neighborhood, but it was perfect! John and Josie handed out candy to roughly 30 trick-or-treaters, and Elijah and I made it around the neighborhood streets in about an hour. It was a great way to meet some neighbors we hadn’t seen yet, and we had a blast running to keep warm.

Lightning McQueen did inform me that he needs a real race car to drive…

Happy Halloween, friends!

The Beauty in Wisconsin

When we told people where we were moving to in Wisconsin, everyone either mentioned Leinenkugels and/or how beautiful it is here.

We agreed with the comment but didn’t feel it was THAT different from Iowa until we moved. Fall in Iowa is gorgeous, too. We are learning quickly about the area’s beauty and what sets it apart. There are so many more trees here and the colors peaked last weekend. It was actually distracting to drive on some major roads because the rows of trees were straight out of a painting.

Last Monday, Elijah, Josie, and I checked out a new park between our house and Elijah’s school. We spotted three waterfalls on our walk! I just kept thinking about all of the picnics we’ll have in the spring and summer overlooking these spots.

Last night we went out for a pizza just a couple of miles away and sat overlooking the lake while the sun set. A few boats were out fishing, and it kept Elijah entertained. There is a trail and a long pedestrian bridge over the lake at this spot, and I look forward to trying it out. I’m not confident Elijah will be brave enough to cross, so I’ll keep you posted.

We’re really embracing the beauty Wisconsin offers this season, and I’m brainstorming ways to make the most of the upcoming cold and snow, too. Cross country skiing might be in my future so I can enjoy the many trails all year.

Library Literacy Program

The kids and I are becoming very familiar with the public libraries in our area. We’ve participated in story time and spent Saturday morning engaged in one of their “Talk to Teach” literacy programs about fire safety. The fire station is across the street from the library, so it included a tour of the station. It was an absolutely highlight of Elijah’s life. He answered and asked questions and he participated in all of the activities. The state-wide grant for this initiative includes the program, a snack, a book to take home with acitivities, and a free book of your choice at the end. The literacy program meets one Saturday a month with a different theme, and I’m hoping more field trips are included.