Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Little Guys Can Do Big Things Too

This week our family was invited to visit Diggerland USA to help celebrate their partnership with Activation ReAct.  While our trip was complimentary, all opinions are my own.

Activation ReAct is a non-profit on a mission to provide ways for people of all ages to lend a helping hand during environmental disasters within the United States.  We have seen first hand the recent devastation of hurricanes Sandy and Irene in our home state. Activation ReAct encourages children and families to use their talents creatively to fundraise for the victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters.

Activation ReAct's Founder and President Elizabeth Norton
My husband is an emergency medical technician.  During blizzards and hurricanes he is out braving the storms in an ambulance, while I am home cuddled up with our children.  They may be too young to help in the same way, but I love that Activation ReAct empowers them to use their talents to serve others any way they can. 

Activation ReAct has gained the support of Diggerland USA, a construction based theme park.  Our children were able to see the same types of heavy machinery used in clean up and restoration after the storms, being used for fun.

They rode on excavators and dumper trucks, drove mini-land rovers and tractors through an obstacle course and other fun and unique digger rides. 

The highlight for my older kids was the rock climbing wall and 4-story tall ropes course.  While I took my little ones on the playground, I watched my older children strap into their safety harnesses and start to climb.  They have never experienced anything like this before and I was so proud watching them challenge themselves in this way.

My petite 8-year old daughter beat her brothers to the top of the 32 foot high rock wall, and her face was shining with excitement, confidence and pride when she reached the top.

Our time at Diggerland created family memories that we will never forget and, I believe, gave my children a big boost of confidence.  They learned that little guys can do big things too, which is what Activation ReAct is all about.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Tale of Three Marriages

This past week I held my new nephew for the first time.  I looked over at my little brother, all grown up now, a father to his firstborn son.  I saw him looking at his wife with new eyes.  Her 38 hour labor made him respect and cherish her so deeply.  There was so much love in that room.

I remember that moment.  As a young couple being joyfully married and thinking you could never love each other more than you do right now, and then this little child comes into your life and your heart grows a million times larger.  You see each other as so much more.  You love in a whole new way.

The week before, my husband called me on his way to the emergency room.  I could hear the fear in his voice, though he tried to reassure me that he was fine.  He hasn't been feeling well for a while, but his symptoms had escalated, and he needed to know what was going on.

It was so hard to see him like that.  He has always been the strong one.  The one I leaned on when I was scared, and now I had to be that for him.

These days are hard.  Our full house keeps us so busy.  We find ourselves missing each other even though we are right there.  Sometimes I look across the crowded dinner table, past the baby food splatters and spilled milk, past the siblings arguing and the baby crying and our eyes meet and I think, "Oh, there you are.".

We still need each other, not just to help unload the groceries and bathe the children, but to be strong when the other feels weak.  To hold the pieces together when one feels broken.  I have been praying for him harder than I ever have.  He hangs onto these prayers to get him through the day.  We are learning to love in a whole new way.

The week before this, it was my father who was in the hospital bed.  We were sitting in the Cath lab when we heard the results.  He had suffered a small heart attack, but could have  been moments away from a massive one.

My stubborn daddy, who waited three days to even see a doctor, May not have survived if he had waited any longer.

I saw my parents, who are rarely emotional, break down as they held each other, overwhelmed at the thought of losing each other.

This couple, married over three decades has lost a baby, lost a son, lost their parents, lost their home to a fire, lost a job...and yet through it all their faith has held strong.  Maybe they are appreciating each other more now.  They are still holding hands and learning to love in a whole new way.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Joy of Helping

A few weeks ago, while trying to get out of bed that morning, my husband told me I looked like a turtle stuck on its back.  I laughed because that is pretty accurate as to how I have been feeling these days.  When I posted it as my facebook status, I never expected that I would learn so much.

Most of the comments I received were funny, but one made me cry: 

"Oh, sweetie...if you look like a turtle than it's probably time to get into your shell and let others help you out.  May I please bring you a casserole and a salad one day next week?..."

At first I was so touched by her sweet offer, but then the panic set in.  I still had 6 weeks until my due date, I felt like I didn't need help, I didn't want to take advantage of her.  I tried to talk her out of it.  I asked her to wait until the baby was born, because somehow I felt then it would be more justified.

But she sweetly insisted and a few days later showed up at my door with a beautiful dinner that fed our family of 8 for two nights (and a lunch!)

She had such joy on her face when she hugged me tight and made me promise that I would let her help again.

This was so hard for me.  I never ask for help, I never let anyone do anything for me.  I think it has come from all these years of not being able to go out in public with my children without hearing, "Oh, you have your hands full!".  I feel like I need to prove them wrong.  I need to show the world that you can have a home full of children and survive.  You can have joy in the midst of chaos.

But the truth's hard.  Really hard.  I don't care if you have 1 child or 10, motherhood is hard.  Don't let anyone make you think that it's not.  To make you feel that they have it all together and you are a failure (especially me!).

There are so many days where I find myself in tears, crying to God for strength to get through the day (or maybe just the grocery store).  And so many times He calms my heart with a Bible verse to encourage me or a song to fill me with joy. 

But what I have learned through this is that sometimes He doesn't give us more strength...sometimes He brings people into my life to help carry my burden, to lighten my load.  And I need to accept this gift just as freely as any other encouragement.

I thought I had learned my lesson.  And then my best friend showed up with a bucket of cleaning supplies...she wanted to clean my bathroom.

No.  There was no way I was going to let her do that. 

I fought with her over it, but then I remembered what God has been teaching me, and at 9 months pregnant I was not able to clean like I wanted to.  Every time I walked into that bathroom I would tell myself that I needed to get to it, but I never did.

And so I agreed.  I sat there fighting off tears as she cleaned my shower and scrubbed my toilet.  It was embarrassing and humbling...but I knew that I needed to accept this gift, and in the end it blessed me more than I ever imagined.

Her daughter even brought over nail polish and lotion to give me a pedicure.  Of course all the kids joined in and I think I had a year's worth of lotion on my feet, but the kids had the biggest smiles on their faces and I would never deny them the joy of helping.

And now, as I am waiting for our baby girl to join our home, I think I have finally learned my lesson...and all because my husband called me a turtle.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

36 Weeks...

I've been pretty quiet lately, life is full here.  Between homeschooling, soccer games and getting ready for our littlest one I haven't had much time or energy to write...but I wanted to stop in and share with you some of our maternity pictures that we had taken last week.

 I've never done this before with any of my pregnancies, but when my friend Elizabeth showed up on my doorstep with her camera as my husband and I were getting dressed up for a wedding, it seemed like the perfect timing...and she made me. :) 

I am so thankful that she did.

 At 36 weeks pregnant I wasn't feeling particularly beautiful or glowing...but maybe what I needed was to see myself through someone else's eyes...and camera. 

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