Friday, June 23, 2017

teen and toddler

I have a boy who makes me nervous when he runs down steep hills because his wee, little, still chubby legs get going so fast that his body can hardly keep up and I feel a tremor of fear that he'll wipe out big time.

I have a boy who puts in his own contact lenses and leaves for the weekend with a friend and his family to go watch baseball in a beautiful resort town in Colorado.

I have a boy who gets so tired from his days at day camp, aka VBS, that he needs to be in bed by 7 pm and requires lots of mama snuggles and books to get him from 2:30 to bedtime.

I have a boy who goes from day camp to a job mowing lawn, pulling weeds, and weed whacking to a weekend away with friends with plenty of energy.

I have a boy who requests the same book over and over and needs to go in a stroller on long walks and requires my help in the bathroom.

I have a boy who emails me updates on his weekend away and takes a trip to Mexico with me to build a home with Casas por Cristo.

I have a boy whose biggest concern is what's for breakfast and how many books he can read before bed.

I have a boy who is finding his place in the world and navigating friendships and internet usage and the beginning baby steps of making his own big decisions.

I am parenting these two very different stages, plus two more in the middle, and it is beautiful and tiring, challenging and fabulous, all wrapped into one. They share a special bond, my teen and toddler, my oldest and youngest. They have a special handshake and elbow bumps and hugs before bed, books read cuddled on couches and beds and baseball in the front yard, a tackle game that no one else understands and a love of bopping the balloon. Seeing them together for the first time almost 4 years ago sent me right over the edge of love and amazement, and seeing them now only confirms that God gave us just what we needed when our cuatro joined the family.

There are times that both of them are crabby. At the same time, you guys. Toddler and teen crabbies at the same time are not cool. Hormones and toddler-iness are more than a person should have to handle in the same 30 second period. I mean, the audacity of these boys! Those are the times I want to hide in the bathroom until things calm down out in the wild habitat of my living room, but that really isn't a long-term solution. So I wade in and do my best to handle the situations without joining them in crazy town. Sometimes I succeed and other times I take the short and well-worn highway to crazy town until one of us finds our footing and sets us on the path back to the land of chill.

We're all learning. We're all finding our way. These boys of mine will be men someday. I take that responsibility tremendously seriously. For one of them, that day is fast approaching, which makes me so proud and also so prone to vomiting. For the other, I'm thinking solo bathroom trips will precede the transition to manhood, so we have a few more years. Thank goodness.

At any rate, being mama to these boys is one of life's greatest honors. My teen and my toddler. My oldest and youngest. Two pieces of my heart and soul walking around on earth for all the world to love and wound. What a gift.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Two adventurers and a photo bomber

On Saturday, we dropped Audrey off with my mom so they could fly north to South Dakota to spend four days with my grandparents. My mom, who had her trip planned for a few months, called Wednesday to see if Audrey could join her, so it was a very last minute decision for our family. Audrey is in her own little version of heaven on earth with projects galore to do to help Grandma and Grandpa, s'mores to roast over the bonfire with the lake in the background, and uninterrupted time with three grown-ups and no other children. It's seriously so many of her favorite things.

Hence the name of the blog post!
We miss her. There is no one here to reign us in, help us toe the line, create silly games, and set the table at lunchtime. She is our voice of reason, our silly sister, our great helper, our grandiose communicator, and our feeler of all the feels. 
And they're off! How cute are they!?

I am so thankful that she has this time with my mom and my grandparents, who are truly more like a bonus set of parents to me. How fortunate I am to be loved so well by so many. Audrey is doing many of the things I did while growing up close to my grandparents, so I know these memories will mean the world to all of them.

We're holding down the fort with all things baseball, Isaac starting his summer jobs, and the start of swim lessons. It is a break from the regular school year, but we still do math every day and we continue to read fiction and non-fiction because we are hardcore book people. To illustrate the point, our library has a summer reading program and the summer long goal is 8 hours of reading per person. The program runs from June 1-July 31. Isaac is a teen volunteer at the library, so his goal was to sign up for a volunteer shift on June 2 so that he could read the entire 8 hours before his shift and get all of the prizes on the second day of summer. Mission accomplished for Isaac.

Our Sunday was spent with church, baseball pictures and practice, soft toss and nerf gun in the front yard, grilling, dinner on the deck, bedtime stories, and a little NBA finals.

With public schools out in our state, summer is in full effect here. What's your favorite summertime activity? Happy summer!

Thursday, June 1, 2017


I have this sweet side gig that pays me lots of money to write. Hahahahaha!! Good one, DeNae. Rather, I relish the opportunity to write for our church's daily devotions that get sent out by email every Monday through Friday. The devotion writers are told which verses they are to write on, but that's pretty much the only criteria. It is a wonderful opportunity to write and dig a little deeper into some bible verses. I love to read what others write, and I really appreciate the chance to write periodically. I figured I would share my devotions on the blog, too.

Without further ado, today's devotion.

Thursday, June 1, 2017
DeNae vanWestrienen, Sugar and Spice Sister in Christ
OPENING: An appropriate beginning to each day is to remember your baptism by making the sign of the cross on your forehead.  Dip your finger into a bowl of water, make the sign of the cross on your forehead and say the words "In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen."
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 3:8-11 (from The Message)
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless-that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here's what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you're worth.
A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT THE LESSON:   There are plenty of bible verses that I pore over 20 times, and they still leave me scratching my head as to what they really mean and how to apply them to my life. Then there are verses like 1 Peter 3:8-11. The apostle Peter laid it out plainly here in a letter to persecuted Christians throughout the ancient world, and I actually find myself wishing for a little uncertainty. But, but. . . all of us? No exceptions? No sharp-tongued sarcasm? No retaliation? Like ever? Impossible! Bless? Only bless? No holding grudges or mumbling sarcastic jokes? How can God really expect that of us?
If I'm honest with myself, I'm a generally loving, optimistic, and generous person with a bitingly sarcastic streak and a penchant to hold a grudge. Therefore, these verses are speaking to both the "sugar" and "spice" aspects of my personality. And, continuing with the honesty theme, when my days are spent retaliating, using sarcasm as an insult, and speaking hurtful words, I do not leave space in my day to welcome love and peace and joy. I'm too busy focusing on anger and hurt and difficulties. On the other hand, when I look for love, peace, and joy, when I "run after peace for all (I'm) worth," I find it. In fact, I find it right in front of me, where God had it all along.
After reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I purchased a sign for our living room wall that reads, "eucharisteo always, always precedes the miracle." In plain English, that means thankfulness always comes before the blessing. The blessings are waiting for us, but we can only see and receive them when our eyes are open to them. As believers of Christ, we are called to be different from the world. We are set apart because of the love and grace of our Savior. All of us. No exceptions. Even when we're having a bad day. Even when the baseball game starts in 30 minutes and the uniform is soaking wet in the washing machine. Even when we get a flat tire on the way to that doctor's appointment it took 4 months to get. Even when the world crashes around us and leaves us gasping for air and grasping for hope.
We bless and we are blessed. We let go of our anger and sarcasm and evil and run toward peace and redemption and love. We don't do it once and consider it done. We do it again and again, day in and day out, dying to our flesh and leaning on our perfect God. All of us. No exceptions.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER: How can you make more space in your day to receive and make note of the blessings in your life? What are the "sugar and spice" parts of your personality that these verses speak to?
PRAYER: Glorious and ascended Lord, give us your Holy Spirit so that we can be your faithful witnesses in all the world. Lead us to be observant to all of the beautiful blessings around us so we can more eagerly serve as blessings to others. Amen.
MEALTIME PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for loving us, feeding us, and caring for us. Your praises we shout, and your name we bless. Amen.
A BLESSING TO GIVE: May God make you complete, steady, strong, and firm as you witness to Christ in the world. (1 Peter 5:10)