Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Advent Calendar

I heard from a friend who mentioned that she loved our advent calendar, but wasn't able to do it last year.  She has been waiting since last Christmas to do it!  I love that, so I decided to re post it again here.  I just hung our mittens yesterday, so we are getting ready too.


The Tietjen Advent Calendar

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

To be a blessing

I have 15 blogs started and unfinished.  Wow.  Maybe my next project should be to go through and finish them all.  Leave nothing unsaid.

Even with that many unfinished thoughts, and some of them are really great, I couldn't come back to my blog without starting with this one.

It was just Thanksgiving, a time where many people, including us, focused on all that we have to be thankful for.  For us as Christians, it goes deeper.  It's not just being thankful to the universe or the powers that be that blessings have poured down on us.  It's not just saying "I am thankful for.... fill in the blank", but instead saying, "Father God, thank you for..... fill in the blank."  Giving him credit for the blessings that  pour down.  All the gifts that surround us.  Even when some days the blessings feel small in comparison to the struggles and pain that try and try to distract us.

Paul and I have so much, SO MUCH, to be thankful for.  It's amazing what happens to your heart when you turn it towards seeing the blessings instead of the stress and pain.  Through the course of the last year, we have endured over $7000 in car repair costs.  Each and every time, God has seen us through and somehow from somewhere, he has had his hand in helping us stay out of credit card debt to fix cars.  Our diet has put a significant strain on our budget, and yet God continues to provide information through friends and blogs of ministries that are out there providing organic, natural food at rock bottom costs.

(You have to understand that our way of living is not by some hipster/bohemian choice.  Our son's body doesn't rid itself of toxins on its own, so the more non organic food he eats, the more he poisons his body.  We either take the cost up front in natural/organic food, or at the back end detoxing him with natural methods.  Either way, for my son to have a chance of staying off meds, our diet needs to be what it is.)

We have had a year since the tornado soaking in all the blessings of that hard and devastating day.  The blessings just keep revealing themselves and we are overwhelmed by the way God moves through pain and suffering.

This month has changed the way I live.  Changed the way I talk to my kids, to my husband, in my prayers, and to others.  Living in a place of thankfulness changes the way you do life.  It's funny, when you read scripture, from beginning to end, God starts most of his passages to us with, "Remember, I the Lord your God, the one who brought you up out of slavery, saved you and redeemed you, heard your cry and answered your prayer."  Before he even begins what he wants to say, he takes a moment to remind us of who he is.  Remind us of his life giving power.  Remind us of patience with us.  Remind us of his sovereignty   Remind us of his compassion and mercy.  Remind us of his love that surpasses all other powers in this place and beyond.  He reminds us to be thankful because when we live in a place of thankfulness, we live different.  We have more compassion for others.  We judge less, we forgive more.  We stress less, and laugh more. live in thankfulness.

I spent a lot of time this month focusing on that.  I existed most of my days feeling overwhelmed by the amazing people in my life, my husband, my children, my home, my family and friends who live far away.  I am so incredibly blessed by the people I have the privileged to call my friends and family.  I am so thankful and feel so blessed by you all.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, I received three letters in the mail.  Two were from people I know.  My first thought was, "Man already!  Who are these people that they already have their Christmas cards out!  Man they are on the ball."  But as I opened them, I was humbled by the kindness in their words saying that they were thankful for me. Thanksgiving cards.  I was speechless.  I was so taken aback by the fact that someone would be thankful for me.  This is not in a self deprecating way, but just a truly unexpected gift.  There was one letter though that came from an anonymous person.  The words and gift in that card still have the power to bring tears to my eyes and take words from my mouth.   It is so humbling to have someone thank you for sharing your life with them.  It reawakened me to continue to write my blog.

I have said before that I struggle with what to write most times in my blog because it isn't a specific place for recipes or crafts or devotions   It's just my life.  Life as someone who lives in a city with a family that loves Jesus and strives to live in place of passion and purpose.  But I realize that it is in sharing our lives together that we see Christ, we share in his gift of the "Church" and his body.  It is where we find encouragement and can give support.  It is where ideas are sparked and life becomes richer because we share it together.  I can't have you all over for supper, but I can walk through life with you in this weird way that the internet allows.

Paul and I kept trying to figure out who the letter might be from.  Then we both realized, we didn't want to know.  We understood that it was the Lord giving us that encouragement we need.  Reminding us it is him who makes us great.  It is His inspiration and spirit that people are drawn to in our lives.  We are just your normal, every day folk.  He is what makes us great.  And so we press on.  We are reminded that we invite people into our lives so that we can all grow, all be inspired, all see the face of Christ on each other.

So, thank you.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for walking with us.  Thank you for praying for us.  Thank you for being in our lives.  You all have changed me and I am so thankful for you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Celebrating Life and Marriage

Today a bunch of new friends and I got to celebrate this amazing gal.  My dear friend Lindsey Burken.

I met my sweet friend in college and through the course of time, she has become a huge part of every aspect of my life.  Not only is she the godmother to one of my kids, but a key component in our lifestyle change and one of our biggest supporters.  She serves with me on the Haiti Mission Project board, she has a genuinely compassionate spirit.  Her soul is full of Jesus and music, and one of the best the best things about Ms. Burken is that she truly does care about the people in her life.  God uses her in mighty ways to love others.

Today we celebrated the fact that God has written marriage into Lindsey's story, she is getting married!  For so long Linds has made the most of her life, continuing school, attending concerts, traveling the country on fun trips with friends, serving and volunteering and crafting, and being the CFO of the HMP all while being a youth director. She is highly dedicated to the course of creating moment after moment for her students to fall in love with Christ.  I have long admired her persistence to her students faith life.

Just over a year ago, Lindsey met a man who, by just looking at her photo, was inspired and moved and wanted to meet her.  Just over a year later, they are getting married.  It has been such a joy to watch God reveal himself to her and Tad in a way that only a Christ centered relationship can unveil him.  God has shown them both how to love and forgive, how to communicate and understand, how to have dreams together and share a life together.  He has brought them together to walk through life and share in God's grace for his beloved.  Anyone who has been in a Christian marriage can attest to knowing God's grace to a deeper level through their spouse.  So we got to celebrate that new life and marriage today with Lindsey's wedding shower.

So many of Lindsey's friends came all the way out from Woodbury to join us in the hood for the celebration. I wanted the shower to be a collection of all things that "felt" like Lindsey.  It is second weekend of Nov. so fall was our theme, a season she loves and her mom was in town which was a huge added bonus!  We ate salads and desserts, and had wonderful drinks.  This was a game free party so it just allowed time to talk and share fun stories and get to know one another.

Here was the table spread.  It's amazing how hanging some fun cheap lanterns can heighten the excitement of the event.  It is those little touches that draws your attention to a focal point to create a dramatic effect and add to the fun.  My problem is I am obsessed with the little touches and details!

We feasted on a Watermelon/pomegranate/mint salad, Black bean chips and pumpkin salsa, Candied almond salad, and a Chicken salad with rice, artichoke and tomato and bean salad.  What I love about this is that two days ago, I notice that even after three freezes, we had a watermelon growing in our garden!  So half of that salad is garden fresh!

Also included on our menu was a gluten/dairy/corn/soy free Cesar salad and mushroom/ asparagus/tomato brushetta.

 Below is a wonderful antique dresser that a friend of mine and I saved from a garbage pile this past spring.  I love this dresser!  It typically in my room holding my jewelry  hats, scarves, tights, purses, etc.  Today I wanted to bring out so that the array of dishes would color and fun to the event.  The wide top also served the perfect place for desserts.  It was perfect!
 I found this little box at an antique store for a $1.  I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for then, but then getting ready for the party, it just made sense to throw a piece of colored paper on the bottom and lay the flat ware in it.  It was a perfect way to hold the silverware so it wasn't scattered everywhere.
 For dessert, I made a pumpkin/berry cobbler and a dear friend of Lindsey's made the sweetest vanilla/chocolate cupcakes.  There was also individual servings of cheesecake available.  Everything personalized and in perfect proportions.
 I have a learned a great little trick for serving.  Each item on the menu has its own space to live.  I served four different drinks, one hot, two cold, and one alcoholic. I displayed each drink on its own serving board with cups to give it a place of notice.  Otherwise, you just have a bunch of drinks and cups scattered around.
 Here are some of the special ladies in Lindsey's life that made it out for the shower!
 Joanna on the left helped plan and create the party.  She also served with Lindsey and I on the HMP since it's creation.  It's wonderful having friends gathered that share your heart for life, love, and ministry.
 Who wouldn't like getting a present this big!!!!
 Enjoying each others conversation and watching fun gifts being open; gifts that will help build the home of a new family.
 I have a problem throwing anything away that can be reused again.  I sat on the floor most of the gift opening folding tissue paper to give back to Lindsey so she can reuse it for her gift giving later.
 Just a fun picture of the party planners with the bride to be!
 I kind of have to say she is the sister of the groom, but Tabitha will always just be one of my very dear friends first and foremost, and it was so fun having her there!
So Lindsey and Tad will celebrate the beginning of their marriage together.  This today was a day that we got to surround Lindsey with love, and support for her new adventure.  Weddings are exciting for all the promise they hold, all the hope of a couple who will commit to doing life together no matter what.  Lindsey and Tad we are so happy and excited for you.  Thank you for letting us all be apart of this journey with you.  We promise to love you and support you and pray for you through the years as you continue to dedicate yourselves and your marriage to the Lord.

We can't wait for the big day!

I will say, I am often too busy at the party to take pictures, and most of my pictures just look like they are trying to be artistic.  I think it would be a great idea sometimes to hire a photographer to capture those wonderful parties and events in your life so you don't have to worry about the picture taking.

Or I could just take a class and do it myself.  But that doesn't help with my being busy issue.

Oh well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

To be a blessing

So every year we have a Thanksgiving tree.  Its our way of having a visual aid to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.  It's also a really great art project for the kids and I to do together.  We work on our tree for about an hour and they get to draw, dream of ideas, cut and tape it all together.

Here is our tree!

Notice the bike lane on the road.  Clearly Middle has grown up in Mpls where bike lanes are everywhere!  Ha!  It made me laugh out loud.

Our twist this year as we, like so many others, are trying to be thankful, is that we have two different colored leaves.

The green leaves are for what we want to thank God for that day.  Notice I didn't just say, what we are thankful for, but what are going to Thank God For.  Small word change, but huge implications.  I believe scripture when it says, that every good and perfect gift comes from God.  So, if all blessings come from heaven, then its important to give credit where credit is due.  I don't just want thankful children, I want children who praise God for every good thing in their life.

The red leaves are for how we can be a blessing to others. I was thinking about how great it is to be thankful, but what if we focused on how we could be what others were thankful for?  So that is our challenge each morning.  My kids need to think about a blessing they received that day that they want to thank God for, but then I ask them how they can be a blessing to someone else.  This can seem like a pretty big concept for little people.  So each day I have the kids pick one person they would like to try to be a blessing for.  Then we brain storm some ideas of how they can be a blessing to their teacher, their friends, their sister, a stranger, etc.

I think this is a wonderful way to help encourage children to be outward focused.  To think about how we can be a vessel for joy, for thanksgiving, for love, for hope to those around us.

Anyway, I hope this post doesn't make you feel frustrated if you don't do one, or maybe you think its overkill.  You don't need a tree to talk about this, you don't need to do it everyday.  Talking about it once a week still is an opportunity to focus on how to be a blessing for someone else.  This can be done with children, roommates, friends, spouses and co-workers.

So, don't just be thankful, but thank the one who blesses you.  And if you have a little time in the next few days, find a way to bless someone else.  Be the vessel that brings a little bit more of love into the brokenness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homemade Halloween

I am sure there are multiple blogs out there addressing Halloween with food allergies.  Let me throw my hat in the ring so you can have some recipes before the big day.

We love Halloween.  We love the fun of it and not the scare of it.  We get excited for carving pumpkins, being out past dark, and wearing the cream of the crop costume that Dad makes. (Yes, he is the captain of that ship in this house, and rightfully so.  He never ceases to amaze me with the way his brain works and how he finds tools around the house to make our kids dreams come true.)

We love to celebrate the innocence of Halloween.  The part that all of us remember, the sweet, innocent magic of it.  Dressing up and somehow allowing the night to transform you into a real pirate, a princess, a superhero,or a cowboy.  For one night, you really believe you are what your costume says you are and you travel the night hunting for treats.  I love it!

But how do you create the holiday for kids with allergies?  If you just have a gluten or dairy issue, there is still candy for the taking on the Halloween.  Sure you have to dig out the stuff you can't eat, and trade for the stuff you can eat.  But what do you do when sugar is your trigger? 

That my friends leaves you with an empty Halloween bucket.

Last year we made it happen, but I think we are going to do even better this year.  I have 18 months under my belt now and a wide range of resources.  So I would like to share with you what I have found to save you the time of digging around.

A few thoughts:

My children are in school and this adds an extra level of struggle.  Their friends will be coming to school with brightly colored wrapped candy, Carmel apples, and fun drinks.  I don't care how fun you make the veggies look, they aren't stupid.  They know the difference.  We don't always play the competing game, but Halloween is kind of like the Superbowl, and that means, I need to make sure my kids are satisfied so they aren't beyond tempted to throw all the hard work out the window and go crazy with the candy.

You may think this is overboard, and that's alright, maybe it is, but I want the day to be special for my kids too, instead of a day filled with rejection and feeling like they are missing out, because frankly, they would be.

So each meal is a very basic meal, just with a special spooky name, or a little twist thrown in.

Breakfast: Sweet potato pancakes, but I will put blueberries for eyes, strawberries for noses and apple wedges cut out like teeth.  Viola, pumpkin pancakes.  I will most likely serve them a smoothie and throw in extra spinach to turn it a gooey green color for a  "monster ooze" brew.  (See what a silly name can do for making something special?)

Lunch: (the trickiest) Hot Dog monsters: I will cut the bottoms into strips like an octopus and attach olives for eyes.  A trick I learned is cooking the hot dog first at home, then filling your kids thermos with hot water for a couple minutes.  Pour out the water, insert hot food and it will stay warm till lunch time.  Great right?!
I will include green grapes with a little sign that says Goblin eye balls.
Black bean chips are just a great dark creepy color.
And each kid will get a spider egg.  Thank you Martha Stewart! (dyed in blackberries of course!)
Then for a treat, I plan on making these cookies.

Project lunch a success!  (I hope.)

Snack: I think making these fun apple slices with pine nuts will be great!  Thank you pinterest!

When they come home from school I want to have Carmel apples waiting for them.  We haven't had a Carmel apple in over a year, but thank you to my friend Kristy and the book, "Eat like a dinosaur" we have a Carmel recipe that is sugar free!  I have attached it at the end.

We will then get ready by watching "Its a great pumpkin Charlie Brown" while I make supper.

Supper: Spaghetti, or also will be called "The brain".  I also saw this idea on pinterest that I thought was cool, so we will have that to enjoy as well.

We plan on transforming into Thor, a Ninja, and a pink pirate, (don't ask me, I'm still working on that one) then out for trick or treating.  The kids and I had a big talk and they still want to go.  So we will collect treats for about an hour, then come home where a "safe" treat bag waits for us.  The kids decorated their treat bag tonight, I thought they did a great job.

Today I stopped at The Paper Depot on Lyndale by the Farmers market and collected a bunch of small bags and boxes so that I can fill them with safe candy that I am currently making.  I will also include fun Halloween pencils, small boxes of raisins, erasers, a Chinese yo-yo, and another fun little game that I can find in the Target dollar section.

For their treats, I plan on making fudge. (included below)
I will also use Enjoy Life Brand chocolate and dip apples in that as a treat.
I will make these cookies.
Another version of peanut butter cups.
And then there is a brand of gummy worms and jelly beans that I for the life of me can't remember but will collect tomorrow so I will update then. 

That pretty much covers it I think.  Dad will get to pick out his favorite candy that he wants to keep and then my kids get to share the rest of the candy with their friends at school.

It's taking me a week to prepare, but I love the magic of childhood and don't think it's that fair that a food issue would keep a child from something so special. 

So, though none of these recipes are mine, I hope it will lead you to some amazing women who are doing a lot of work creating good, all natural treats, and hopefully maybe a blog or two you didn't know was around.


Caramel Sauce
½ cup honey
½ cup maple syrup
½ tsp baking soda

Warm large sauce pan over medium heat, add honey and maple syrup to warm pan-mixture should gently bubble, but if it begins to immediately boil and brown it has burned and you should start over.
Once gentle bubbles begin to form, turn heat to medium low; have little hands continuously stir to prevent burning.
Mixture will bubble and potentially expand over edge of pot, if that happens, remove from heat and stir and return to heat once bubbles subside.
Once sauce has thickened and the color has darkened (about 10) remove from heat to add baking soda.
Whisk in baking soda thoroughly and continue to stir as it starts to expand and bubble; return to medium heat for 2-3 min. Whisk constantly until sauce has become a thick, rich, bubbly sauce that does not reduce when moved off of heat.
Remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally-sauce will reincorporate to a thick caramel consistency.
Serve and use warmed (heat in microwave or on stove top)
Store in an airtight container for several months in refrigerator.

½ cup coconut oil
½ cup cocoa
1/3 cup honey
Dash of salt
Teaspoon of vanilla
Put all ingredients in food processor, blend, put in plastic wrapped pan and place in fridge.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A moment to let go

I went out to the bonfire tonight to burn some of the many heavy duty card board boxes we have.  I had a lot to do inside the house, but I could tell, my heart was calling me to spend a little time outside, in the quiet, pondering over a roaring fire before the weather turns prematurely cold.

Sometimes when I am faced with time alone and I want to pray, I never know where to start.  When things have been hard and my heart feels full of doubt and questions and angst, I just don't know where to start.  What part of the mess do I start unpacking?

When I sat down with a cool breeze on my back and started warming my hands, this is how my prayer went;

I feel so lost.
I feel so overwhelmed.
God I don't know what to say.  I don't know where to start.
I don't know how to be a speaker and a mom at the same.  Giving 100% to my husband, my kids, my passion for sharing the gospel as a speaker.
I don't know how to give my kids three nutritious home cooked meals and not spend all day in the kitchen.
I don't know how to have differing opnions in raising our kids with my husband and still feel like we are on the same team.
I don't know how to live in North Mpls and not raise my kids to live in fear when I live in fear myself.
I don't know to live on a budget.
I don't know how to let go of the little things, but realize in the little things, special happens.
I don't know how to try to be healthy in our lives and not let organization take over and rule me.
I don't know how to pursue my dreams and stay content with where I am.
I don't know how to take breaks and feel like its OK.
I don't know how to have a relationship with you Lord and not still be a little afraid of what you will have me do.
Most of the time I feel like I don't know anything.

I just don't know.

And as I sat there, feeling sad at my true confessions and wishing it wasn't my struggle, a quiet peace started to make its way into my heart, and that's when I heard,

"If you had all the answers and knew how to do all those things, then you wouldn't need me."


"If you had all the answers and knew how to do all those things, then you wouldn't need me."

And again I was reminded that it isn't about doing it right.  That there isn't a perfect way to do any of these things.  That part of walking through life with Christ at your side, means struggling through these things, but inviting God into this conversation and seeking his guidance and counsel.  Independence is a sin that cuts God out and takes his place.  It felt wonderful and hard to confess that, but so peaceful to live in the absence of that struggle.

I wanted to share my moment with you in case you needed this today too.

I have to believe we all have moments like this every now and again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Proverbs 2

I wanted to share something that was encouraging to me with you.  You can read Proverbs 2 straight through, or you can throw vs. 9 after the first few verses, and then it reads like this:

I love this reading and think it is very important to read this, pray this and meditate on this for our own lives and those of our children.

Proverbs 2:1-10

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,

then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path.

and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,

then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path.

and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God

and you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path.

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He holds victory in store for the upright he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When a muffin goes bad

Ever have a muffin or scone or bread recipe that didn't work?  Me too!

Two weeks ago I posted on Facebook this ddelicious pumpkin muffin recipe:
(1 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbls cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ginger, (I also add a tbls of chia seeds for omega 3) 1 mashed banana or 3/4 cup pumpkin or any other flavor you want, 1 egg, 1/3 melted butter (we use soy free earth balance), or you could use coconut oil, and a good tbls of pure maple syrup, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nut of choice. Mix all together and bake at 350 for 18 minutes.)

The last two times I have made these muffins, they have overly thick and haven't risen.  I think I am adding too much pumpkin, but I'm not sure.  The muffins don't rise, and they aren't dry, they just aren't done.  Cooking them longer doesn't work because then it will dry them out.  So then I am left with mostly done, thick, flat muffins.

What to do?

I really hate throwing away food, especially when I can factor in the expensive ingredients and my time.

So again, what to do with my "can't use as is" muffins?

We hosted our annual Harvest Supper and I was making individual berry pies.  The recipe called for a pie crust top, I created non-usable pumpkin muffin crumble instead!  I took thee muffins, crumbled them, added a handful of gluten free oats, a handful of chopped  pecans, and 3 tablespoons of honey.  I mixed it together and threw it on top. 

The outcome was DELISH!

(The berry pie is two containers of strawberries, one container of raspberries, and one container of blueberries.  Add 1/2 cup of berry preserve, 3 tablespoons of corn or tapioca starch and 1/3 cup honey.  Mix all together.)

Well, that took care of one batch.  Then I made another batch, but these were our only option for breakfast.  I had nothing else to serve my kids for breakfast.  No eggs.  No oatmeal.  No cereal.  And not enough fruit to fill them.  What to do?  I have half baked, unrised, thick muffins.

Our little mishap created the BEST breakfast ever!

I mashed up two muffins in a bowl, added some coconut creamer, drizzled just a dash of maple syrup, and sprinkled chopped pecans.


I mean it...BEST DISH EVER!  So yummy.

I have no words.

Except, next time you mess up a muffin, fix it with cream and syrup.  You can't go wrong.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Middle's right of passage

One of my favorite things that Paul and I have learned over the years is the importance of rights of passage.  It is a time to take pause.  To realize that a moment in your life is changing.  That things won't be the same and you need to take a moment to stop, to reflect, to pray, and find tools or wisdom to carry you through this new stage.  Our American culture doesn't do a really great job at this, and Paul and I are far from experts, but we love the idea of arming our kids for the next stage of life, and taking pause with them.

Our first right of passage happens when one of our kids starts school.  This is a big moment to talk about expectations, how important school is and what an honor it is to go to school.  We talk about  the responsibilities of being a school age kid, and most important how God can use them to bring his light and love to friends and teachers that might not know him.  They are now entering a very special mission field and Mom's and Dad's role in their life is a little different now.  There is a lot to talk about, and a lot to pray over for our children in this moment.

We did this for Big last year, and had all these great ideas and hopes and expectations and then he ate candy the day before and we witnessed first hand what sugar does to that kid.  Could hardly keep his eyes on us for two seconds, and that is not an exaggeration.  He couldn't sit still, he couldn't focus, he couldn't listen.  With all that said, we still had a great time, but we were really hoping that this year with Middle would be the way we dreamed this moment would  be.

Then Middle threw up till 1am the night before our special right of passage afternoon.  We decided to do it  anyway and just keep it low key.

The first thing we do on our afternoon is get the kid a backpack.  Since they wear a uniform to school, this is pretty special, and it's just us and one kid doing this together.  Middle LOVED his new backpack.

This may sound like a perfect and wonderful day, but it wasn't without its reality.  We carried Middle most of the time because he was so tired.  He was missing a bit of his spark, and his treat included an OJ and banana.  Poor little kid.  I'll be honest though, out of all three kids, he's the best sick kid.  If you have kids, you know each family has one, and he's ours.

Love the extra snuggles though.

After getting the backpack, we go and pick out a treat and then head to a special park where we can sit, eat, talk and pray over our child.  Here is a wonderful photo of two of my guys.  Ahh...I just took a moment to sit and stare at them.  I love them so much.

If dad gets a photo, mom gets a photo.

Since he was doing so great, we let Middle have a couple bites of coconut milk ice cream.  Chocolate is Middle's favorite, and he was SO excited.

We even lured a chipmunk to share with us.  That was pretty fun to watch.  What can I say? We're givers.

This was a special time with Middle set apart from the other kids and set apart to mark the beginning of school.  I loved listening to wisdom that Paul passed on to him.  I loved the questions Middle had and hearing about the things he was excited for.  Praying over our kids is probably one of my favorite things.  I love hearing Paul's heart for them and what he dreams for them and what is nervous for.  I love that kids hear our hearts and us trying to surrender our will to God's for their life.

Middle's first right of passage.  I probably won't be included in the next one since it will deal with boy things, if you know what I mean, but I look forward to planning it with Paul.  And it will probably include a weekend away.  Lots to talk about as a boy growing into a young man.

The last thing we do for the kids on their first day of school, is give them a necklace to wear.  Their name is written on the guitar pick to remind them who they are.  They are a Tietjen, and Tietjen's are believers in God.  They struggle, they love, they forgive, they laugh, they try hard, they live in God's grace and live a life of serving others.  Also on the necklace is a cross which is there to remind them they are not alone.  Christ goes with them wherever they go.  They belong to him and are not alone.

Enjoy the photos and our little tradition.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The ho hum life

It's one of those weekends where much doesn't happen.  Nothing exciting to write home about (or blog about).  We didn't have anything planned, and we try to do that as much as possible.  We want our weekend to just develop.  We had really great moments, we had frustrating moments.  We didn't eat  anything special or planned.  In fact, most of our meals were pretty lame if you ask me.  I just didn't care.

Saturday was our Sabbath and we had to leave the house because all I really wanted to do was clean and do projects.  I couldn't rest in our house and it was too beautiful to be in doors.  All the kids wanted to do was go to Chucky Cheese.  All Paul wanted to do was walk around  a mall.  All I wanted to do was walk around a lake.  I'm not sure how, but my wish came true.  It was wonderful.  We walked around a couple lakes, skipped rocks, climbed trees, swung on swings, and gave piggy back rides.  With all that goodness there was also, "I'm bored" comments, "I'm tired" and "When can we go to Chucky Cheese?"  Normal kids, normal day.

After, we walked around the mall a bit and looked at lots of silly things.  Then we took the kids out to dinner and came home and put them to bed.  Paul and I rearranged some furniture to bring our record collection back out to a permanent spot in our home and that was wonderful.  We listened to a ton of oldies but goodies for over an hour, then I fell asleep on the couch.

Sunday started with finishing homework, then off to church with their big Welcome Day celebration which included a carnival.  We rocked climbed, bounced house, pet animals, and partook in a hayride.  We had lunch at 130pm, we took naps at 3pm and we started our family bike ride at 530pm.  We ate supper at 845pm and the kids were asleep before I was done praying over them.  The day had good things, the day had unmet expectations that made me annoyed at Paul, then him annoyed at me.  Then we were good, then I was annoyed at my kids, then they were annoyed at me because they were bored and just wanted to go on the bike ride.  The bike ride was amazing and we had a blast riding around the city at night.  It was an extra special adventure.  I realized as my anxiety was rising because we were getting our very tired kids into bed so late, that my attitude was going to make or break this memory.  They don't know how late it is.  They just know that something fun happened.  So I tried to keep my attitude in check and gently encourage quicker movements into bed.

It was nothing special.

It was very normal.

There were no amazing pictures taken, or delicious recipes to share.  Nothing Pinterest worthy.

But in hindsight, I think that's what makes these the moments that get remembered.  Paul and I fight hard not to be too busy.  To allow these weekends and week nights of nothingness so that we can just be together.  To let fun happen.  Yes, my kids get bored and would probably love to have time with friends, or a sport to go to or a party to happen.  But we think its really important to fight through the bored thing.  To have weekends that are slow paced and force us to figure out what to do with ourselves and each other.  And here in the cities there is no lack of great things to do.  We have hundreds of options, but that gets overwhelming.  I don't want all those options all the time, it makes me feel like we are missing out on so much so we have to do stuff so we don't  miss out.  That is a lot of pressure, and one I try hard to let go of.

(I got what I wanted though! With the exception of the annoyance at my husband in which he actually did nothing wrong.  Got to love miscommunication!)  Slow paced family time.  Silly songs on bike rides.  Discovering great climbing trees on the lake.  Our family having good and hard moments constantly throughout the weekend.  It's what families are.  Sticking together in good and hard moments.

I hope my kids remember that.  The days we just spent doing nothing together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bad day gone embarrassing

I was sick for about a week.  I had headaches that would render me to my bed.  I had stomach aches that would render me to the bathroom.  I would resurface for an hour and then my body would tell me to go back to hiding.

The day I resurfaced for good, I realized how important it is for a mom to be present.

While washing the dirty dishes, I watched my one son grab a dirty cup from the sink and fill it with warm water and drink water.

I watched my daughter pick up broken chips off the dirty kitchen floor and eat them.

I watched my other son put a stool on a chair and climb to the food pantry and get an open bag of almonds to eat.

I found Lego's in the fridge.

Clearly fending for themselves made them scavengers.

Then I took them out of the house and that is when I discovered that sickness takes away part of your brain.  I am still not sure how it happens and where it goes, but it was almost like I was listening to myself and I kept thinking, that is a bad idea.  Yet I let it all happen.

I'm not spilling those secrets, but it ended with this.

My daughter wrapped in my scarf with nothing else in a public park because there was nothing else for her to wear. 

We went home immediately after this picture was taken and I didn't let us leave again till the next day when my brain came back.

And she was on to me.  She knew it was wrong and she didn't like it.  I kept trying to convince her that it was the new trend, but she didn't believe me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A dream come true

It may sound silly to you, but it has been a dream of mine for quite some time to know how to can my own food.  When Paul met me I was idyllic and dreamy of growing my own food, cooking and sewing and painting and creating.  I couldn't cook anything but Mac and Cheese and didn't know how to sew a button.   It was bad and my dreams felt pretty out of reach.  I didn't even know where to begin.  Let's just say, Paul has eaten his share of throw away meals in the last 10 years.

There has been something in me for a long time that struggles with my complete dependence on everyone else for my survival.  I would think to myself, "If anything happened that took away grocery stores, communication, anything, I really wouldn't know how to take care of myself."  I saw strong survival qualities getting lost on our generations.  I saw people who work, but don't know how to live or take care of themselves.  It really bothers me.  We make money, but don't know how to take care of ourselves.

Fast forward eight years, and now looking at my family's need for healthy food, locally grown and organic, it just makes sense.  The time felt right.  I tried my hand at a vegetable garden a few years ago.  We ended up with a few cucumbers and some peppers.  Not that great.  I think I grew more weeds than food.  Last year, I increased my garden double in size,  I had Paul cut down three trees in our backyard for more sun exposure,I built my own fence and had the neighborhood kids come over and help me plant.  I went all out and was so excited for my garden. 

Then a tornado dropped a garage on my garden and I was left with nothing.  For all that happened and was destroyed, I was saddest for my garden.  Heh, I would randomly say to Paul when we were fallling asleep last summer, "I miss my garden".  He would just laugh at me.  It was pathetic.

Well, I was ready this year.  We re dug our plot and planted away.  I was diligent in my weeding and watering and was so impressed with the food coming out of our garden, and the fresh food we were eating, but we couldn't keep up, and the point was to preserve the food for winter. 

Well, I don't know how to do that.  Remember, it was my dream, not my reality.

Thank you dear Heather for offering your mom's hobby farm and her time to help me out!  Spending time with my mother in law in Texas showed me how much knowledge can come from sharing a kitchen with someone.  Yes, you can follow a recipe and search the Internet for answers to your questions, but nothing beats having a teacher/mentor in the kitchen with you.  That's what I wanted for all my questions about food, and how to can it, how to preserve it, what other options I have.  I wanted to share the kitchen with someone who has spent years figuring it out.  Well, Heather's mom saved the day!

Two weekends ago, my sweet friend Heather and I drove my three kids, a huge box of food from our garden and our adventurous spirits 45min north of the cities to her mom's house where we had a blast for two days.

We showed up on a Friday afternoon and the kids went right out to play and run around the acreage.  Probably the best feeling ever to just let your kids run around outside for hours knowing they won't get taken or lost or learn to curse.

Isn't it just perfect?  I couldn't resist taking this photo.  It feels safe and warm and like home.

Here is Big and Little playing catch with Emit, my friends dog.  And yes, Little is acting like a princess.  While they were playing catch, and middle was digging in the sandbox, Heather's mom and I were pealing and boiling two HUGE pots of tomatoes for Spaghetti sauce.  I went to work right away in that woman's kitchen which was exactly what I wanted.  We had big plans for all we were going to can and cook in two days.

Here is her chicken coup where she houses over 20 chickens.  And she was so kind to send us home with two dozens fresh eggs.  BEST GIFT EVER!

With all the fresh food we were preparing and eating, the kids got to feed the chickens all the time and loved it.  I'm not gonna lie, every meal felt like we went to the garden and picked our meal.  We ate fresh from the garden beans, corn, squash, zucchini  for bread, eggs, tomatoes, and watermelon.  The chickens loved that we were there.

After peeling and coring all the apples and piling them in the huge pot and doing the same with the tomatoes,  we took the kids to the lake while food cooked.  It was hot and the perfect time to cool off.  The kids spent their time digging for great rocks and shells and playing with all the dogs that showed up.  Great fun.

After a yummy supper, we enjoyed fresh warm apple sauce around a fire.  We burned pine cones, sticks and needles.  We also got to pick fresh apples off the three trees they have on the farm and enjoy those around the fire.

A beautiful photo of the front of the vegetable garden.

While in the kitchen working on grading zucchini to freeze, Little enjoyed the tire swing.

When it started to rain, Big improvised and drove around inside the barn.  I could have left him there and he never would have missed me.

Little got to be pushed around in a vintage stroller.  Yes her shoes don't match, that is the price you pay for empowering your children to dress themselves.  But she is wearing my pants from when I was 2.  She's so old school.


My friend Heather took this photo of my dream coming true.  She said she had to capture the moment since I had been wanting and waiting to can for so long.  In the end I love that she take the picture.  It may sound silly, but dreams come in all sizes and they take on different shapes and colors.  This was a dream of mine, and I love that it came true.  Heather's mom gave me her weekend, her time, her kitchen and let me ask dozens of questions, let me kids run around her home, and she taught me to can my food.  She was this huge gift in the process of giving us a healthier, happier, self sufficient life.  She gave me a tool to help love myself and my family.  A way to protect and preserve heritage traits and talents.  I am so grateful to her and Heather for helping make a dream come true.  It's a big deal to make room for dreams, whether big or small.  It was such a fun weekend, full of joy, laughs, learning and conversation.


Look what we did! 9 cans of spaghetti sauce, 5 cans of apple juice, 5 cans of apple sauce, and 12 bags of frozen zucchini for breads and soups.

At the last minute, we sent the kids out in the rain to collect as much Basil as they could.  Heather's mom had already collected as much as she wanted so the rest would just go to waste.  All the green in front of the kids is basil, and they picked a ton for me.  We made four big jars of pesto before we left Saturday night.  No matter how organic, locally grown pesto is, it will always include cheese.  We haven't had pesto in 18 months, but now.... Now we can have pesto twice a month if we want!  We are so excited if you can't tell.  Pesto noodles, pesto pizza, marinated pesto chicken, and homemade pesto gnocchi.

I had a small dream come true.  My kids got out of the hood for the weekend.  We had good, unscheduled fun with animals, plants, water and toys.

Thank you Lord for refreshing our weary souls and providing ways for dreams to come true.

A new chapter

Thursday marked the day where two of my kids are in school all day.  It is just me and Little at home now.

Its odd to be in a moment that you know you will remember for the rest of your life and have an authentic feeling about it.

You have the voices of parents who have gone before you and what they experienced, and you have thoughts of feelings that you think you should be experiencing.  So many thoughts.  So many feelings.

I have a 7yr old. 

I have two children in school now.

I have been surrounded by children and chaos for 7 years.  Before that I was working full time.  Before that, I was in college.

I have so many plans and ideas for my time, and yet I feel paralyzed and don't know where to start.  This is what I have been asking for for years, more time.

I cried all day.  I would be standing in my basement, cleaning and organizing, (I started with the big project first) and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and fear, and loneliness, and like part of my body was missing, and excitement, and timidity, and anxiousness, and joy, and peace, and fear, and....


That was my word all day.


I had a dear friend call me, and I was verbally onslaughtering her and I finally said, "I just feel weird.  I don't know how to be alone."  And then I started crying again. (No I haven't forgotten that I have a small child at home, its just that, she is so easy, and going from three kids to one it does feel like you are alone.)

She came right over.  Pulled me from my basement, made iced coffee and we sat on the couch.

Then I started all over in what I was feeling, what I was afraid of, what I was excited for, and my total not knowing where to start in how to live this new life I have.

We went through all the things I was feeling, and she talked me off the edge of each negative one, and pushed me to embrace the good ones.

I know how to be Dani who has three crazy kids that I manage each day and prepping the house and the food, and planning activities.

I know how to be Dani Tietjen the public speaker.

I don't know how to be Dani who has time to pursue an organized healthy life.  A creative life.  Time to daily devote, time to read, time to volunteer, time to paint, time to write, time to sew, time to research, time to work, time to plan great activities for the kids, time to budget our money.

I am excited for my kids.  I am so grateful for their opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese fluently.  I am excited for time with my daughter.

One lesson that my dear friend helped me learn, is that just because my kids are in school, doesn't mean we have to jump on the American band wagon of activities.  I dread that hamster wheel, and I don't want it for my family.  It is really, really difficult to not join activities.  That may sound silly, but here in the cities and at a very cultural forward school, there are so many great activities to get your kids into.  Music, art, sailing, sports, chess, so many!

But that just means more stress on the pocket book, on the schedule, and for our family.  So we only do school, and come home and play and do chores.

I learned other fun things about myself and this new adventure with my friend that day.  But those are other blog posts.  Posts I am hoping to have time to write now!

Even though I still feel weird not having my little people around me, Little and I are going to embrace our first week together at home with fun things planned.

What I realized when writing this is, is that one would think my children were my whole life.  But I have a wonderful speaking career, I have healthy friendships and a very healthy marriage that I invest time in away from my kids.  I have hobbies and workouts that I love to do. 

But when you are used to the constant chatter of your kids, their help when cooking, and they are around to have adventures with on the spur of the moment, you really miss it when its gone.  Yes they fight, and they are loud, and they seem to spill everything and make a career out of making messes, so not having to deal with that each day all day is helpful, but mostly I just miss them.

So, cheers with me to this new stage of life and my children becoming smarter and more worldly than me each and every day.

Boys in thier uniform for the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade.

My little helper dressed herself today.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A nature bike ride in the hood

I love family bike rides.

LOVE them!

We haven't ridden since before the tornado last year.  The bikes got locked in the garage for about a month, then they got buried behind building materials and everything in the garage just got out of control.

Today we rescued out bikes and took them out for a ride!

I had a such an entertaining time partaking in the sights and sounds of our nature path weaving in and out of the hood/ghetto.

Let me take you along for the ride so you can enjoy it too.

Paul is the only one who is responsible enough to know where his bike helmet is.  The rest of us are at a loss.  So he wins the award for being the coolest, safest, and most responsible in the house.  This is no surprise really as he has held this title for the last 10 years.  I mean truly, he is unbeatable, its disgusting.

So, my bun is really big so that works for me.
Little is in the buggy so a private cave works for her.
Middle puts on Great Grandpa's helmet that has 100% no padding.  He rides with a tilted, slanted helmet the whole way.  The crooked helmet is perfect for our slightly off kiltered kid.
Big however has scored the best vote with wearing a baseball helmet.  Yup.  That's right.  We rode for an hour and half with him wearing a StarWar costume that is three sizes too small and a baseball helmet.  I just nodded and smiled politely at all the people we  passed as they starred three seconds too long at our kid. 

We own the phrase, "let you freak flag fly."

Middle is attached to Paul.
Big rides alone.
Little rides in the buggy attached to me.

Within the first few moments, Big says, "Don't worry mama, I will stay in the pocket."  Pretty great memory since we haven't done this in two summers.  If you want to know more about the pocket, you can read that blog here.

Then as our hour continued, we were rewarded with the following:

In the matter of 20 minutes, I smelled fresh flowers, someone grilling, burning tires, which always takes me back to Haiti, and the stench of the sewer.

We rode down to the Mississippi where we watched a bunch of young men come back from fishing.  Half of them struggled to walk with their pants around their knees, the others just had a look of getting away with something.  We crossed under the bridge and there was the beautiful river.  Then we noticed the bank littered with garbage.

I heard four different languages in five minutes.

An African American Luau decked out with full figured ladies dressed in grass skirts and shell bra's playing games with the music blaring.

A field fight where Middle couldn't understand if they were talking or fighting because it all sounds the same to him.

Riding next to the river on one side and a graffiti train on the other.

Biking through 7 basketball games in the street and one battle scene where kids were using sticks as swords and baseball plates as shields.  It was hilarious.

Little singing Happy Birthday to everything she sees and thinks of.  And I mean everythingg.
"Happy Birthday to my toe, to my shoe, to my umbrella, to my bike, my clouds, my jammies, my tree, my wheel, my keys, my fingers, my hair." You get the idea.   It was unbelievable.  If she wasn't singing, she was pointing out every bump I hit, every smell that was weird, she noticed every dog and animal we passed, and she greeted everyone we passed.  It was non stop chatter.  I am a little concerned with when both boys are in school.  I thought there would be some peace and quite, but I have been proven wrong.  Ms. Chatterbox will apparently love being heard and not fighting for my attention.

We stopped and surprised some friends the night before their first day of school and took the nice parkway all the way home.

We biked through pounding music blaring from cars, scandalously dressed girls, kids riding bikes, and animals aimlessly wandering around.

Every turn we made, there was something new to see and something that didn't make sense.  It was nature and the hood all wrapped into one.  Everything had an opposite and we were never bored. 

We laughed, we wondered and now we have lots of stories of our new bike adventures.

We're back biking in the hood, but we need helmets.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The beast of Cancer

Hey all,

This post is a little out of the ordinary for this blog, but still very near and dear to my heart.  My cousin Ryan has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  He and his wife and 2 year old son and new baby live in Lansing MI.

This is his story.

He has asked that anyone with a platform that can help him spread what he has learned through countless hours of research should do it.  In no part of my heart or brain can I understand what he and his family are going through.  Constant daily moments that have you facing life and death day after day.  How do you live and appreciate each moment when you live facing death and need to plan for your family to go on without you?  How do you live in a place that is thankful to God for the life you've had, but angry at him that it might end too soon?  How do you live in hope for recovery, but have to live through discouraging progress reports?

I know nothing except that cancer and death and accidents and disease doesn't care who you are.  I also know with all my heart that a limitation we have as humans, is that we see just one moment.  We see one damaging event that happens and we cry out to God and ask why.  We wonder how he can be so heartless as to give someone wonderful, with two small children, a loving wife and passion for life, cancer.  Maybe we wonder why he is so distant that he won't step in and take it away.  Or maybe we wonder why he is so uninvolved in our lives that he doesn't care what happens to us, but just allows us to reap what we have sown in regards to sin.

We have to remember that it is our mistake in trying to be God.  As humans we see but one moment at a time.  God however, sees all things past and present and future.  He knows what was and what will come.  He knows our lives do not stand indepently of one another, but they are all intricately combined.  With each one thing that happens to us, whether good or bad, it has a continual effect on everyone around us.  God is never just doing one thing at a time with one person at a time.  He is always doing hundreds and thousands of things all at once, weaving and designing in our lives.  There is hope and despair in the same moment.  There is death and life, healing and breaking, good and bad, right and wrong, broken and whole, hard and easy.  God does many things in the moments  of our lives for us, but also for others.  My life is not about me.  My life is apart of the community of life, of humans, together on this one planet.  I may not understand why this very terrible thing has happened to Ryan.  We may never know, but we do know that God is not done doing what he's doing or can do in this moment.

Above was a link to Ryan's website where he shares his story.  He posts often with updates about his progress.  He speaks beautifully with encouragement for us all to make the most of our moments and our relationships.  I deeply encourage you to look around his website and read old posts, you will be so inspired by Ryan.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with cancer, I urge you to read this post.

Information is key to recovery, and a plan for your future.

Thank you for letting me share this story with you.  If you feel moved by this, I encourage you to share his website and more specifically the information on research with those you know.  You never know who you might reach.

Thank you Ryan.  I love you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Best thing ever

So it doesn't matter how bad or how good the day was.  Doesn't matter if we spent a good portion of the day separated or we did the whole day as a family.

I love family snuggle time.

Family snuggle time consists of all members of the family coming together in hang out on mom and dad's bed.  It is where we don't do anything else except be together.  We reconnect.  We talk about all sorts of random and silly things.  We create a stronger foundation for our kids and open the lines of communication and break down any walls of tension that might have been built up during the week or day. It is probably the most spiritual thing we do as a family and all of our hearts are so full when we are done.  It used to be that we would all lay down and talk and pray and hang out.  It recently has turned into its own thing.

Here are some fun things that happened in Family snuggle time last night.

* Family snuggle time has turned into all out wrestling match.  Seriously, its a good workout for everyone, but man we get loud.

* Paul plays bad cop, attacking the kids to point of tears and then they scream "pineapple" (our safe word for protection.  You say it when you really can't take anymore.) Then they come over to me, good cop, and we snuggle and come up with another plan to attack dad.

* When Little cries pineapple on Big, he explodes out of his hold on her and then does a slow motion retreat. He even has sound effects. He would be holding Little, she would cry pineapple, and he would blow his hands and arms and legs out and then ever so slowly, lower them to the bed. It was hilarious to watch him explode and slow mow to a sleep position.  Paul started doing it becausee it was so funny.

* Family snuggle time has also apparently become the time where we fight about which kid belongs to which parent.  Paul and I play with the kids fighting for them to be just ours.  They giggle and laugh and play along, and I usually win which makes me feel all powerful.

* Prayer time was probably my favorite last night.  Somehow prayer time has turned into an all out personal affirmation time.  I had a tear or two because I found my children's utter confidence simply hilarious.  All they did was thank God for how awesome they were, how cool their siblings were, how handsome their dad was and how mom is so cool cause she is always doing stuff for them.  They all have this strong sense of knowing how loved they are that it has given them unbridled confidence.  Seriously, they each needed their own time to thank God, affirm each other and wait to be coated in compliments.  Middle actually said to me, "mom, you didn't say how awesome I am to God."  Oh man kid, I don't know if you are listening but I prayed that God would give you wisdom.  Pay attention!

I would have taken a photo, but I was too busy enjoying the moment, and all my kids sleep in their underwear and thus it would have been inappropriate.

I pray the feeling of us all crammed on the bed, laying on top of each other, poking each other with feet and elbows and giving kisses never leaves my mind and heart.

It is our most special family activity and totally free.  I hope my kids never out grow it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A proud mama

It often feels like the things worth fighting for are made up of long roads of small constant battles, big changes, emotional roller coasters, all with little reward along the way.

We all have things that we want to fight for, that we believe in, that we desire for our life.  Sometimes we let those dreams or ideals or goals go because we look at the road and we don't think we can do it.  We grow weary just looking at the obstacles right in front of us.  Surviving that road makes us exhausted just thinking about it.

If I had a penny for every time I heard, "I don't know how you do it", I could pay off my last student loan.  I hear that comment about our diet every time someone asks why we aren't eating with the rest of the group.

I remember sitting in the nutritionists office that very first time when we were going through Big's blood test.  She told me that we would have to start a Gluten Free/Dairy Free diet.  I understood that what she was telling me was a very big deal and it would change the way we do things, but I didn't understand the extent or depth of that change.  I didn't understand the way it would radically change our lives, for the better.

I was home in MI for two weeks, and most people there we hadn't seen in a year.  Last year at this time we were still figuring out the diet, our house had just been hit by a tornado and we were all a little dazed and confused.  Now here we were, a year later, and I could fill the pages of a book with all the observations people were giving me about my children.

When we live day in and day out it can often be hard to see the benefits of the choices we make.  I wish I could express to you the joy, satisfaction, and pride that I had for my children.  Everywhere we went, all the people we saw, my kids were full of joy, manners, politeness, energy, and helpfulness.  I got to experience them for the first time like everyone else was.  I was able to see what they see, instead of the day to day grind of life, little bickering moments and meltdowns and great expectations.

I used to live in a world where our bad days/moments far outweighed the good.  My world was dominated by correction and discipline, explanations and talking down the over emotional child.  Please don't misunderstand me, those things still exist, but they now exsist within the boundaries of children who can mostly control themselves.  Children who have multiple good days with the bad thrown in.  Children who share with the occasional fight.  Children who follow the rules with the occasional defiance.

It feels like what having children should be, a joy.  I stepped back and really observed my children so I could see what they would see. 

Last year I wanted to take my mom out for dinner, but Big couldn't handle it.  He always struggled with me leaving.  He would cry and throw out all the things that make mothers feel guilty leaving.  And I did, and he came with us.  This year, mom and I wanted to sneak out so that the kids wouldn't be upset.  We ended up having devotions together and giving the kids breakfast.  When it was time for girl day, Big told us to have a great time and kissed me goodbye.  Whenever he was told it was time for bed, he would go and get ready.  In the morning, it was never a reminder of what he needed to do before he could play.  He was Papa's big helper with the boat.  He was always helping with the smaller kids.  He was full of joy and gentleness and kindness and goofiness.  When he didn't agree with a decision, he told me he didn't like it, then it was over.

One morning I went for a run and he cried because I didn't take him with me.  When we talked about it when I got home, I told him, running was mommy time.  He looked at me with clear eyes and said, "Oh, just like when I need my alone time and I go downstairs to the pull up bar?  I get it.  You just needed alone time.  I am sorry I got mad.  I understand.  Will you forgive me?" 

Wait?!  What?!  No big fight, no long explanation, no more tears and fighting that I left him behind?  It was just over.  He understood.  He figured it out himself.

A parent has immensee pride when others enjoy them as much as they do.  When other people consider your children a joy to be around.

In the last four years, before I would go home to visit my folks, I would always say, "Dad, I am so tired.  I need your help.  I don't know what to do and I dont' know how to get my kids to listen.  I need you to be the heavy.  I need your help because they are out of control."  True statement.  You can ask my parents.  I would go home, guilty, exhausted and out options.  I felt like I crawled home needing bandaged up and my kids needing boot camp.

This year it was just a fun trip home.  It was a joy to bring my kids and they weren't the reason I was tired.  No discipline needed.  No help required, (except for the fact that it is always way easier to raise kids with a fleet of people).

My children can be who they were created to be.  Seeing their real personalities and hearts come through all the time instead of occasionally is a huge reward for homemade cooking.

This was hands down my favorite trip home.  It was easy, relaxing and just so much fun.  It was fun because my kids were so much fun.  We enjoyed a trip together instead of me sleeping while my parents dealt with the kids.  I hate that phrase, but that is how we existed because we knew no other way.

We know differently now, and I will never go back.  I stand behind our diet more now than ever.  For all the work it is, the reward of my children having the life they were meant to have is worth every dish I have to wash, and that is saying something.

If the idea of this diet is tinkering around in the back of your mind, don't ignore it, explore it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A beautiful night on a bridge

After dinner with some friends, celebrating one of their birthday's, I wasn't quite ready to head home. 

I just needed more time. A few moments that were given to spontaneity.

So I decided to take a walk. I was downtown by the new Guthrie and the river. I walked by some beautiful lofts, old historic company buildings, and then I found the St. Anthony bridge. I started to walk along the bridge. When I looked down, I saw the water that appeared black, and you could hear it stirring and crashing against the shore. The most distinct sound was the waterfall. The thunder of it was music to my ears. I love the sound of water. When I looked up I could see hundreds of city lights; street lights marking the way of an old train path, blue lights lightening up the Guthrie, skyscrapers with dozens of lights still on, apartments and lofts with lights on resembling life inside. It was almost like being in the middle of a starry night.

Walking along the bridge and taking in all the wonder almost took my breath away. The wind picked up and it was strong. My hair was down so it was uncontainable. I stood on that bridge and admired the city.

All that man had created.

What's great about what man can create, is how God gave him imagination to do so. I love that he gives us a taste of what it means to have imagination, to create, to love designing something, to participate in art. When God created the earth, he wasn't done. He still creates to this day, but the beauty is that he lets us do it with him. Even among the city, there was this river, these beautiful trees and shore line. The thing that man can not create is in the middle and at the center of what we can. It was a picture of God and man together creating something beautiful. I stood there and breathed. I took a breath and remembered in Genesis where God breathed into man to make him alive. I breathed again. Then I took another slow breath. I remembered how holy and divine it is breath. That every breath I take acknowledges God and gives him credit for who I am. I stood there for moments and took breath after breath and saw the wonder of the night.

It was a very spiritual night for me. I didnt' say much to God nor did he speak to me in words. But we had a moment and I'll treasure it.

Thank you.