Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why I Am Going To MOPS Convention

It might seem obvious that a stay at home mom to a preschooler and a toddler would do just about anything to get away from her life to spend a few days of hanging out with some of her best girl friends. Especially after spending a good chunk of the summer solo parenting because her husband was out of town at work.

And I suppose for some moms, that would be enough of a reason to pack up the mini van and get as far away as possible. But in less than a week, I have an even better reason to round up those girl friends and go on a 10-hour road trip to Tennessee - MOPS Convention!

MOPS Convention is a crazy, jam-packed weekend full of learning ways to be a better mom, wife and MOPS leader. Last year I learned so much - about leading large groups of women in creative activities (i.e. crafts),  how grace is essential to mothering, why my room mate saved her first kiss for her husband, what happens when I don't get enough sleep and I can't blame a restless baby, and that I really do miss my family when I'm away from them for more than a day. (Oh, and that the resource fair is dangerous to my checking account!)

But most of all, I truly caught a vision for MOPS. I saw that my weekly MOPS meeting was about more than just making new friends, eating food with out little fingers trying to get a bite, or listening to awesome local leaders share their various areas of expertise. MOPS is about finding ways to bring moms into a closer relationship with God.

The technical term for this is 'lifestyle evangelism.' I like to think about it as meeting moms where they are at and showing them they don't have to mother alone. That I, yes *I*, want to come along side them for this radical journey called motherhood so that we can walk together closer towards God, who is the real source for ending that alone feeling that can come when you are tired of changing diapers, sweeping up Cheerios, folding teeny tiny baby clothes, and dealing with yet another unprovoked tantrum.

What God does at MOPS through me is to call women into relationship with him. He doesn't use me to beat up moms for having a bad day and losing their temper with their toddler. He doesn't want me to shove a Bible in their diaper bag as they walk out the door. He wants me to let that mom know that I too lose my temper sometimes and that we aren't horrible moms because of it. He wants me to share His word in a relevant way that the mom can digest in between the demands our children place on us. Really, he wants me to let her know that she doesnt' have to mother alone.

And that is the real reason I am leaving my family for 4 days to go to Nashville next week. Because if I'm going to be God's missionary to moms in my city, then I need to make sure I have a strong hold of His vision for MOPS tucked into the depths of my heart so I can be the best servant that He deserves. I am branching off this year and starting a new MOPS group at my own church and I am looking forward to this time of refreshing at convention to be just the thing I need to help us get off to a great start.

If you are the mom of a child under 5 years old, do you go to your local MOPS group? Why or why not? Are you going to convention too? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Post: Simple Anti Aging Treatments for Moms

Have you ever been confused by the alphabet soup on the labels in the skin cream department? Then this guest post is for you. I'm glad to have some of the jargon finally clear in my head.

One of the best ways to prevent the onset of smile lines is to keep your skin healthy using exfoliants. Exfoliants help to remove the outer layer of dead skin cells and promote new cell growth. This can make your skin look smoother and give it a nice healthy glow. There are two main types of exfoliants that are used today, Alpha hydroxyl acids and Beta Hydroxyl Acids. This article will explain the difference between the two and help you decide which is best for your skin.

Alpha vs. Beta

Beta hydroxyl acids are found in most anti-wrinkle creams because they remove the dry and dead top layer of skin. One of the most commonly used "BHA"'s is Salicylic acid. Salicylic acid can help remove aging skin cells and  can even kill the bacteria that causes acne. It removes skin cells by reducing the adhesiveness of the skin's outmost layer. The main benefit of BHA's is that they work on oily skin. Alpha hydroxy acids on the other hand, aren't oil soluble and wouldn't be able to get rid of the dead skin cells inside the pores.

The functions of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (or AHA's)  and BHA's are pretty much the same: they both help to remove aging skin cells. But, alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble. This makes them ineffective on skin that is overly oily. One of the most common types of AHA is called glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is used in exfoliating creams and anti-acne medication. It can also be used in higher strengths by a dermatologist as a chemical peel. Chemical peels penetrate the skin much deeper and will remove the top layers of skin to keep it smooth and supple.

Sensitive Skin + Sunscreen

BHA's and AHA's can help improve the appearance of skin wrinkles, but they can also increases the sensitivity of the skin to the sun. This means that your skin is at a greater risk of sunburn or sun damage after you use these products. Sunscreen is a must if you use BHA's or AHA's! One more draw back to these exfoliants is that they can make the skin thinner. Your skin may be more likely to bruise or be injured. If you use higher strength acids to exfoliate or peel, you should have this done at a doctor's office. There is a risk of chemical burns if they aren't used properly!

Your skin might also become drier than normal. A good moisturizer is important to keep from peeling. Be sure and talk to a dermatologist about exfoliants that can help you reduce wrinkles, before they start. A good maintenance program can keep your skin smooth and healthy, and stop any damage before those smile lines are noticeable!

Terry Chapman is a full time mom, writer, and health blogger. She focuses on subjects like skin care and anti-aging.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why We Chose Sonlight

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but we intend to be a homeschooling family. there are lots of reasons we want to homeschool and I'll share those at another time. But right now, I'm so excited about having taken a major step towards our homeschooling goal that I can't wait to share it with you! Bruce and I have purchased our first official homeschooling curriculum (not counting the preschool workbook I bought at Sam's last summer). We bought the Sonlight Curriculum for 4 and 5 year olds.

In no particular order, here are the reasons we chose Sonlight for our family:

  1. Their "great books" literature-based approach appeals to our desire to develop strong critical thinking skills and avoid the typical text-book type learning that happens in most classrooms today.
  2. It meets my specific organizational needs. I know homeschooling at this level can be done inexpensively with resources available online, but my mind gets lost in the blogosphere too easily to focus. The Instructor's Guides (IG) lay out a daily lesson plan for all 5 subjects included.
  3. 6-month "Love to Learn" guarantee. If for some reason I'm wrong and Sonlight isn't right for us, I have 6 months to return it for a 100% refund.
  4. I don't have to worry about checking books out from the library. I'm awful at returning the books and always end up paying fines. With Sonlight, I can order a core package that includes ALL of the books I'll need for this coming school year.
  5. Sonlight is a Christian curriculum that encourages kids to explore different points of view. This won't be important for preschool, but I am so convinced that we must teach our children what other people think and how to respond to it, I want to support Sonlight with my homeschooling dollars now.
  6. They tried to talk us out of it with 27 Reasons to NOT Buy Sonlight. And they still couldn't talk us out of it. In fact, it made us want to buy Sonlight even more!
  7. Sonlight also offers other opportunities to expand on their regular lessons. I shared about one of them, Passport to India, in more detail on my other blog, Mom's Mission Field. (Bonus: It's free and you don't have to be a Sonlight customer to participate!)
  8. And finally, because we are trying to raise missional children, I agree with this statement from Sonlight -  "We believe God desires to bless all nations and peoples of the world (Rev. 5:9), so we help you prepare your students—wherever God may lead them—to think about, pray for and serve peoples and cultures around the world."
Our box of books should start arriving in a week or so and I can't wait to gather the family around, open that box up, and share my excitement with Charlotte and Mary about this new phase in our life of home based learning.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Life Happens, Blogging Doesn't

It's true... when the details of daily life increase, the journaling and recording of that life decreases. Summer is racing past me with out me having taken the time to note as much of the fun things we've done as a family as I would have liked. I know we are making great memories each week and at least want to mark a few moments of this jam-packed summer!

There have been impromptu field trips to new candy shops in town...

Hospital visits to see my mom (who is staying with my brother now and working on the recovery process)...

Fun sparkler parties with sweet friends...

Playing in the pool with cousins...

One on one time for Mommy with each of the girls...

Mary and Mommy at Explorations V Children's Museum together...

Charlotte and Mommy watching fireworks in a parking lot on our way home...

Late nights trying to find out who hit the gate in my neighborhood (a fun treat reserved for the HOA president, moi!)

Welcoming Daddy home from Nicaragua...

Now, you know what we've been up to. What's keeping you busy this summer?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Growing Up to (Thirty) Four

As I mentioned the other day, Charlotte was going to gymnastics camp this week. It is an early birthday present (she'll be 4 in a few weeks) and she was very excited to wake up every day and put on her new sparkly gymnastics outfit.

Anyone who knows me on a daily basis, knows that I generally don't have a problem leaving my children with other people. And they don't either. Charlotte has been going to church nursery since she was about 2 months old and never really bats an eye when I drop her off. And now, Mary usually just walks right into her class without even a second thought of me. My girls go to a baby sitter's house sometimes or I swap child care with a local friend. I have just never felt very stressed out about leaving them with people I know and trust.

But the first day of gymnastics camp was a little different than I expected. As I watched Charlotte walk onto the squishy floor, she turned and gave me a slightly pensive look, seeking encouragement that it was okay to proceed into a room full of strangers. I smiled, gave her a thumbs up, and she ran back to me for one more quick leg hug. I reached down and rubbed her back and told her to have fun, wondering where that lump in my throat had come from.

Mary and I got back in the car and as I started to pull away, I realized I wasn't the only one who was going to miss Charlotte. Mary was in the back seat crying loudly for her 'arlotte.' And that is when I was really surprised, because I started to lose it too. I had to stop for a minute to get my bawling under control. I don't know why, but it had never occurred to me that Mary would miss her big sister. And I missed her too.

I called my mom (who is still in the hospital, but getting better thank you) and told her that I couldn't believe that I missed Charlotte so much. I think it was a combination of realizing that at almost 4 years old, she is finally old enough to go and do some things without parental supervision. And even though we'll be doing it at home, she's old enough to start real preschool.

(Thirty) Four is likely going to be a hard age for both of us as we begin a more formal approach to homeschooling. But weeks like this, where she gets a chance to spread her wings a little, make me even more resolved to make sure she is adequately prepared.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One on One Time With Mary

This week I've been blessed with the chance to spend some one on one time with Mary. As it normal with second children, she doesn't get as much undivided attention as her big sister. However, while Charlotte has been enjoying going to a gymnastics camp this week, I've had 3 hours each morning to spend with Mary.

In part, I've used the time to run a couple of errands that are just easier with one girl instead of two. But, I've also tried to do something that I thought Mary would enjoy. And today, I remembered to take some pictures of her being adorable, something she is very good at.

This is Mary imitating the frog. She even did a little hoppy thing too.

The frog is also a speaker that played fun kids' music and Mary couldn't resist dancing. She even clapped for herself, something she does often.

Mary wasn't fond of sitting in the baby/toddler swing because she thinks she's big enough for the regular swing. And even though I don't love the wet heat we have in FL this time I year, I love the way her hair curls in the humidity.

Some older kids were playing on this as well and had a great time watching Mary's smile as they bounced her. She even got a little upset when they had to go because she was having so much fun.

Going down the slide... This picture makes me wish I'd had my better camera with me so I really could have captured the details a little more crisply. The reds and the shadows make me happy.

But this smile... it makes me way happier! Who could resist this face?

Note to the teenage Mary who is probably going to use this blog to convince her therapist it isn't her fault - Don't be fooled by the lack of blog posts about you Mary. I love you lots but life is just busier with 2 kids instead of 1 and I don't always have as much time to take pictures or share cute stories about you.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Precious Moments

We've had a pretty crazy week around here adjusting to life with Bruce in Nicaragua and my mom in the hospital. Part of my strategy has been to keep the girls busy so they don't have time to notice that Daddy is away. It is only half working though.

This morning, our fourth waking up at my brother's house, Mary immediately started asking for Daddy when she woke up. (She had spent the 40 minutes before she fell asleep last night asking for him too.) After I got her out of the crib and tried to snuggle with her in bed (because I was not ready to be up at 6 am!), she wiggled out of my arms, ran to the bedroom door, pointed, and starting yelling "Dada!"

I feel for her, I'm missing him too. It's hard enough to have your husband out of town, but to have him gone while my mom is very sick, is even harder.

Well, Charlotte decided to help Mary out and this is what she told her.

"Mary, Daddy isn't out there. He's in Nicaragua being a missionary. He's helping mean people learn about Jesus. We can be missionaries too."

Mary started walking towards us, a little suspicious looking, but willing to believe Charlotte. Then, Charlotte continued, "Put your hand on your heart and Daddy's love is in there. His love is in our hearts so that when we miss him, we just have to put our hand on our hearts and remember that he loves us."

That seemed to work, and then Skyping with Daddy a couple of hours later helped even more. I'm so thankful for modern technology.

But even more so, I'm thankful for a husband who wants to serve God and spread His word to people without access to seminaries for training. If you are interested, you can learn more about his trip at Mission: Nagarote.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Hospitals, Good-byes, and Hellos

My mom was sent home from the hospital a week ago Friday and then got a ticket back on Tuesday when her doctor did some follow up blood work. Apparently, they are intrigued by her case because her platelets dropped back to 6,000 without any of the symptoms she'd had the first time it went that low. Since then she has had a bone marrow tap (results coming by Tuesday), a round of chemotherapy (rituxan), and has been told she'll probably be there until this coming Friday. And maybe she'll even get treated to another  IVIG treatment.

I took the girls to visit her yesterday and they had some fun playing in her squishy bed and putting up a luau banner in her room. It is hard to think about her spending so much time recently in the hospital because she is a person who never sits still, or at least not for long. 

Yesterday, we also said good-bye to Daddy who left for a two-week mission trip to Nicaragua. If you are interested, you can follow the details of the trip at the team blog - Mission: Nagarote. It was hard to say good-bye, but we know that it is worth it because he'll be serving God by being there.
Mary just thought it was play time...
Charlotte was too concerned to take a happy picture
And then, as if yesterday wasn't busy enough, we got to say hello again to my brother and his family who just moved back from Tennessee! And we didn't waste any time having fun!
Bath time is more fun with new toys and a cousin!
Painting with chalk paint
Getting along so nicely and sharing

All 3 back together