Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"I'm Bored" is Not Allowed: AKA the Sabelhaus Summer Project

Summer is weird to me.  In theory, it seems like it should be the best season of the year.  Warm weather, outdoor fun, a more relaxed schedule...What's not to love? But since entering adulthood, Summer and I have had a love/hate relationship.  I don't know what it is, but my mood seems to dive with Memorial Day and doesn't bounce back until after Labor Day.  Maybe it's the lack of routine.  Or too many daylight hours.  Or the fact that I've usually had to work in an office indoors all day while my heart is in the summers of my childhood, where there are endless hours to play outdoors and dream.  Whatever the case, I've found that my Summer Blues are much improved when I have something to look forward to.

Enter the Sabelhaus Summer Project!

This summer, a bunch of things have come together to give me a much anticipated summer.  First, my children are big enough to make outings about 50 billion times more enjoyable than they were a few years ago.  I am unemployed for the moment, making me a full-time at home Momma with very little scheduled this summer.  And if we stretch our dollars, we can afford a little bit of extra gas for local trips and treats.  So, my brain has been churning away, excited to make this a summer I can enjoy with my kids.  I truly want them to experience some new things...learn through fun...pick up some values along the way...and most of all, NOT BE BRAINLESSLY BORED.  Believe me, I am so very OK with some daily TV time, game time, and general chill time.  But when I don't set up some kind of structure, we seem to digress into endless video games and TV...and well, Facebook for me...

So. Ahem.  I made a list of things we can do this summer. Included are some general guidelines to the day that will help them earn their weekly allowance.  Most of the activities are cheap, free, or use items we already have. When I share the list with my kids, they will also know how much it costs.  If they really, really want to do something that's a little out of the budget that week, I may ask them to chip in.  (Right now they have more cash on hand than I do, so I don't think it's a bad deal. Financial literacy and all.)  The places mentioned are mostly local to Terre Haute, Indiana, and I've tried to include a website for reference. If you live somewhere else, perhaps they will serve as a starting point if you're looking for some new things to try this summer.  I got a few of my items from other people's summer lists, so feel free to borrow!  When I started writing them all down, however, I was pleasantly surprised about the number of things there are to do around here with kids.  Goooo Haute!  These activities are also geared toward kids preschool to mid-elementary school age.  I'm guessing my almost five year old probably won't relish every moment at the history museum, and my nine year old might roll her eyes and opt out of story time at the library to read her own big kid stuff...but hey, we're a family, and sometimes you must make compromises to accomplish the goals of the team.  I plan to ask my husband and the kids if they have any other ideas and we'll see if we can do some of those, too.  Hopefully, I'll have an update or two to share with you as the summer goes along.  I don't always do parenting type stuff on here, but this list seemed pretty natural to share.  So before I babble on incessantly, I give you....

"I'm Bored" Is Not Allowed:

Week day summer rule- Before you may play computer, Wii, or watch TV, the following must be completed:
1. Straighten your bed.
2. Get dressed and brush hair/teeth.
3. Eat breakfast.
4. Read a book, write, or do something math related for 30 minutes.
5. Complete any other chores Mom assigns you for the day.
6. Like the rest of the year, you are still responsible for having a clean room, taking all dirty laundry to the laundry room by Saturday, feeding pets, and washing the basement bathroom sink.

When chores are done for the day, here are some things we can choose to do this summer!  Maybe you can think of some ideas to add!  Let's see how many we can mark off the list, and let's not be borrrrrrred.

1. Visit the library. Get books, do the summer reading program,and go to library events. (Story time every Wednesday at 10 am.)  Cost: FREE!

2. Go to the Terre Haute Children's Museum! Cost: FREE for members- that's us!

3. Visit the Nature Center and Native American Museum at Dobbs Park. Cost: FREE!

4. Go swimming!  How many places can we swim? We could try...Hawthorn Park, Fowler Park, Sullivan Lake, Shakamak State Park, Lieber State Park, Deming Park...
Cost: FREE to a few bucks/person

5. Make up a Lip Sync Dance.  Choose a song.  Make up a dance to it and pretend to sing the words.  Mom will video tape it so we can giggle later. Cost: FREE!

6. See a movie!  Meadows Theater Free Kids' Summer Movies are on Tues, Wed, and Thurs at 10 am Cost: FREE! (Well, maybe we'll get some snacks, too.)
Or, we can convince Daddy to take us to the Drive-in Movie Theater!
Cost: $24 for our family plus the cost of giant pickles or other concession goodies.

7. Pick strawberries or blueberries. Yum!  Cost: Depends on price of berries and how long we last...

8. Visit a Farmer's Market and buy some fresh yummy produce. (Saturday mornings)
 Cost: Depends on how hungry we get looking at all that food.

9. Go for a hike. But which State Park or Rec Area to choose?  There's one less than an hour away in every direction!
Cost: $5/car for an Indiana State Park.  Illinois Parks are FREE.

10. Ride our bikes on the Heritage Trail.
Cost: You guessed it, FREE!  But Mom will have to figure out how to get all the bikes on/in the car...

11. Listen to an outdoor concert in the park! (Usually Saturday evenings) Cost: FREE

12. Read a chapter book out loud together before bed. :) Cost: FREE

13. Make something to feed the squirrels and birds.
Cost: Recycle things to make it, plus the cost of bird seed.

14. Plant something and watch it grow. Cost: Soil and seeds.

15. Visit Ryves Youth Center and play with other kids.  Maybe we can think of a project or games to bring or join in with their fun stuff?
Cost: FREE!

16. Visit the Bouncin' Barn and jump until we're silly! Cost: $5/kid Mon-Thurs

17. Learn piano or play music games on the computer. 
Cost: FREE thanks to Mom and Dad and the joys of the Internet(which is not free)!

18. Set up a recycling bin and visit the recycling center so we can start using our resources more wisely! Cost: FREE

19. Go bowling. Cost: $2.75/kid for shoe rental plus whatever Mom has to pay because let's face it, she'll be bowling like there's no tomorrow!

20. See some alpacas! And probably some nuns!  Cost: FREE, I think?

21. See some cool art at the Swope Art Museum. Cost: FREE!

22. See some cool history at the Vigo County Historical Society. Cost: FREE!

23. Go roller skating.
Cost: Wednesday Family Night, $1.00 entrance and $2.00 skate rentals, so $15 for the family

24. Go to Bogey's Family Fun Center. 
Cost: Mom and Dad will get you some tokens, but you can bring allowance money to play extra games.

25. Paint a masterpiece or create your own art project.  (Let's get out all the craft stuff and make something. I think there's even a leather punch set somewhere...) Cost: FREE

26. Build a fort in the basement.  Play the Imagination Game. Cost: FREE

27. Cook dinner for Daddy. You can help me shop and figure out what to make. Cost: Whatever the food costs, but I'm guessing we won't be having lobster.

28. Act out  Bible stories.  Be sure and put together costumes! Cost: FREE

29. Go to the Dollar Store and find something awesome for a dollar!  Cost: $1/kid= $3(plus tax)

30. Make sidewalk chalk paint and paint the sidewalk. Cost: Couple $$ for chalk

31. Invite a friend over to play or do things with our Parents of Young Kids group from church!
Cost: Usually FREE

32. Visit a playground or park we've never been to before.  Make up a nature scavenger hunt to do while we're there. Cost: FREE

33. Learn the rules a sport or game we've never played before and try it out. Cost: FREE

34. Three words: water balloon fight. Cost: We'll get the good balloons that cost more than a dollar.

35. Have a camp out in the backyard (or Uncle David's backyard).  Make s'mores.
Cost: Our backyard, FREE. S'mores, a few dollars.  Travel to Michigan, that may get more pricey.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Voice to Create

My daughter was in first grade when her teacher came to me at a school function and said, "I just love seeing what she writes.  She already has a voice!"

That's probably one of the best compliments I could get about one of my children.  Even at the young ages of  9, 7, and 59 days until 5 (He keeps me informed of the birthday countdown), my kids desire to express their unique take on the world as they know it.  They want to create their own stories.  They sing their own songs.  They like starting with a blank piece of paper and turning into a masterpiece of their choosing.  They constantly play what they call the G-A-M-E (Imagination only, no toys required). They love to create and they are finding their unique voice.

Not surprising, considering their parents tend to walk on the creative side of life.  If my husband and I aren't creating something, we tend to lose our joy.  Yeah, I would be that person at work who would have an idea and actually go and ask my boss for permission to make it happen.  Usually resulting in a lot more work than I intended, but I love seeing an idea come into reality.  When I spent a semester in Spain in college, I paid the bouncy little man who owned the music shop a nominal fee just to play his piano in the back room for 30 minutes.  No lessons, no books- just played and sang my heart out.  I'm pretty sure he thought I was nuts, but I'm sure he considered all Americans nuts... My dear husband really can't NOT have a couple projects going at any given time.  Right now there's an almost finished 5' x 9' utility trailer in our garage that he made from scratch.  Why?  Because he wanted one and knew he could figure it out.  (And making it yourself is always cheaper.)  Sometimes we just have to have a home jam session.  Although, that's a bit difficult with three small children afoot.

So yes, we are a family of creators.  Frank and I met serving on a campus ministry worship team, and we've been serving as part of a worship team somewhere ever since.  I feel a kind of kinship to the Levites appointed by David in the Bible whose job it was to make joyful sounds(I Chronicles 15).  Because that's what we do!  And also like David in the Psalms, nothing brings me through the tough times like putting my focus on God and worshipping through music. Or writing. Or making something hideous in play-dough with my kids.  Something about creating sooths the soul and brings life.

I believe that every human is made in the image of God, and part of that is God as Creator.  So in turn...people are creators.  We can't help but create.  It's who we are!  I think there's many people that suppress this in their adult life, rationalizing that whatever they create isn't worthy of a museum and not worth their time.  But whether it's a yummy meal or a beautifully landscaped yard or the perfect spreadsheet solution to a workplace conundrum or making a craft with friends or building a trailer or building a relationship with another human being, we create.  In those creations there is a unique voice to be shared, a single facet among the billion facets of our Creator.  And how I long to be a joyful sound reflecting just a tiny, tiny bit of my Creator's beauty in my creations.

One of my blog friends, Matt Appling, is an art teacher who wrote a whole book on this very thing...(Go visit him! In Life After Art, he describes what happens as we leave the art room as a child, and how our desire to create beauty fades.  For me, this desire never really went away.  I must create.  I simply must.  But...this passage grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go:
"It was exceedingly easier for mankind to fall than it was for God to redeem His beloved and fragile creation from sin.
When resolving to create beauty in the world, remember this: beauty is fragile.  It is precious.  It takes a lot more work to create beauty than it does to destroy it.  Creating beauty will be meaningful but difficult work.  This is not the place for laziness or fearfulness.  And all along the way, ugliness will be crouching at your door, waiting to steal it from you."
So...what are you creating?  What does your creative voice say?  Is it intentional or not? Is it beautiful?  Is it ugly?  Is laziness or fear keeping you from creating?  How is your Creator is reflected in your creations?

He who forms the mountains,
who creates the wind,
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth
the Lord God Almighty is his name. (Amos 4:13)

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10 Parenting Lessons I Stole from My Mom

Usually stealing is bad. (You hear that, kids? BAD!  Even taking that dime from my purse!  Yeah, you think I didn't see that, did you?)  But these are ten things that my Mom did so well as a parent that I'm stealing them and using them with my own brood.  Don't worry, Mom.  This isn't your only present!  It goes in the mail tomorrow... :)

1. Support and love their Dad.
I know that this may be a different ballgame if you are divorced or separated from the father of one or all of your kids.  Same goes if you are remarried, single, or working through a difficult marriage issue.  It puts more of a "support the dad as much as is healthy for everyone" spin on it.  But if you are married to the father of your kids, let them hear good things about him come from your mouth.  If you are verbally tearing down your husband in front of your kids when he's there (or not there), what kind of message does that send?  If they don't see you welcome him home...give him hugs and get the idea.  I was outwardly mortified as a teenager when my parents would walk around our neighborhood in the evenings HOLDING. HANDS.  Ug!  But inwardly, I was so glad that our family and my parents' love was secure.  And my mom would always do things like be the first line of defense on the phone when dad was on call for work, or support his hobbies like running or biking even when she'd had a long day and probably wanted to run away herself.

2. Let them see you in roles other than Mom.
When I was little, my Mom did not work outside the home.  But as I got a little older, I saw her do things like host an after school Bible club at our house, do office work for my dad's medical office, work as the Worship Coordinator for our church, cover local events and write articles for local newspapers, and eventually she went back to school to finish her college degree.  Seeing her as volunteer, employee, and student gave me insight that my mom was a valuable person even outside our home.  I saw I had a lot of options for what I could do with my own future.  As a mom, I have had seasons where I worked full time, part-time, and have stayed at home.  All have had their unique challenges and rewards, and I have not felt that one was any "better" than the other.  I hope that my daughter and my sons realize that God may give them different seasons of work outside the home and inside the home.  Listening to His timing and providing for their families' needs the best way they can in that season is the more important thing.

3. Teach them independence intentionally.
My mom has always been a good teacher.  She wanted to make sure that her children were prepared for life on their own.  We had chores.  Lots of chores.  Every summer morning there was a list of chores for each of us on the kitchen table from cleaning toilets to cleaning our rooms to trimming those infernal bushes every summer.  And the chores had to be done before Mom came home from work.  Or else.  When you began high school in our house, the laundering of your own clothes became your responsibility.  Mom also taught us about money.  Saving, tithing, spending.  I had my own checking account at an early age.  She taught us to cook as we helped to cook.  Her babies would not enter the adult world without the skills to take care of themselves.    

4. Reveal to them the joy of simple things.
Some of my favorite memories of childhood were picking violets and making dandelion chains...watching the clouds...taking walks...having a picnic...enjoying the free awesome stuff that God has given us.  Yes, my kids like their TV time and video games...but we take a lot of time to enjoy the simple things, too.

5. Be an active participant in the things you do with your kids.
When we went to the pond every summer, Mom jumped in, too. She loves to swim.  When we went to the roller rink, Mom skated- backwards!  She loves to skate.  We'd dance around the living room to the radio and Mom would join in and show us dances that she did as a kid.  She likes her toes in the dirt on a warm day.  And recently she braved the trampoline with my kids.  She rarely was the mom that sat and watched her kids have fun.  She was a part of the fun.  Let me never be too grown up to join in the fun!

6. It's okay for moms to apologize to their children.
News flash: Moms make mistakes.  I've made plenty.  But I distinctly remember times that my Mom apologized to me.  Usually when she lost her temper.  She didn't release me from responsibility or punishment if I had done something wrong (also usually the case), but her apologies taught me that saying things in anger is not ok and that moms are, in fact, human.

7. Model a love of learning.
Being a nerdy family, there were always plenty of books around the house and trips to the library.  There were family vacations where we took historical tours of Abraham Lincoln's past or explored Mammoth Caves.  It is not unusual for both my parents to be found reading side by side.  My siblings and I always did well in school, but our parents sparked in us a love of learning beyond the walls of formal education.  We are all know-it-alls and we kind of love that.  I am just thankful that I live in the era where I can google the answers to questions my kids ask that I don't know.  Because they have a lot of questions.  And I gotta keep that spark alive!

8. Encourage them to be the odd duck.
My mom is a fantastically creative person.  She sings, plays piano, and composes music.  She writes for a living.  She always says she's a terrible artist, but she taught me about art in many forms and about appreciating it.  I think for much of her childhood she felt like the odd duck out...a dodecahedron peg in a square peg world.  So when we would create worlds and languages in our imagination....wanted to play songs of our own instead of practice our piano lesson...spend hours doing any number of odd duck things...she understood.  And knew that it would serve us well later in life even if most of the world didn't "get" it.

9. Listen to the "big" problems in your child's life.
Adults tend to minimize kids' intelligence and problems.  I don't get that.  I think most of the problems we have with kids could be worked out by simply treating them as a real person.  When you acknowledge a child is smart and let them know their issue is worth listening to, that goes a long, long way to working things out.  I was a pretty care free kid until I went to middle school.  Then my friends started this once a month cycle of fighting and making up.  I would get so upset that so-and-so and so-and-so weren't talking to each other anymore and come home and just pour it all out on my mom.  She would listen.  Treat it as a real problem.  And gave me a little advice, too.  But mostly she just listened.  When I had broken heart as a teenager, she would drive me around town and let me cry it out or take me on a walk to work out the anger.  Not that I would always let her...but I always knew she was there if I wanted to talk, walk, or drive it out.

10. Walk out your faith in front of them.
This by far is the most important.  And the most difficult.  There are many times when the day far outlasts my patience as a parent. (I had one of those days yesterday, in fact!) And I grunt out the words to "Jesus Loves Me" at bedtime and I have to silently confess before I pray with my children.  But if a negative and grumpy spirit starts ruling the whole day, week, usually means I've neglected my relationship with God.  I haven't been reading my Bible regularly.  I've neglected to pray.  I've let the to-do's and temporary circumstances take ground where worship and a correct perspective used to be.  I'm pretty sure every Christian mom struggles in this. ( If you don't, PLEASE share your wisdom!)  But I know I will keep fighting to keep my faith  first and growing.  I will intentionally teach my kids about Jesus, God, and the Bible.  We may not do a family devotional each evening, but we read the Children's Bible and answer the questions at the end of the story.  We make God an everyday part of our conversation.  And that's certainly important- my parents did similar things with me.  But there's something about a true and deep relationship with Christ that can't be explained or taught in a book.  Some of my most treasured memories of my mother are of times when I really wasn't supposed to be there.  I was the early bird of my siblings, and countless mornings I would find my mom sitting, looking out the window, praying, and reveling in the early quiet of the day.  Two things were always with her- an open Bible and a steaming cup of coffee.  So many nights I went to sleep to the sound of Mom playing the piano and singing...or on those summer nights when the windows were open it was Mom playing her flute on the porch.  In those moments I knew, surely, that God was more than stories in a book.  He was something worthy of my mother's beautiful worship and devotion.

Every parent falls short of perfection, whether we repeat the mistakes of our own parents or blaze a trail of mistakes all our own.  But if I get one thing right, I hope it's living a life of worship that speaks louder than any words I could impart to my kids.  With every passing year I realize more just how precious a gift that was from my beautiful and how rare.  I love you, Momma.  Happy Mother's Day and thank you for being my Mom!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)