Friday, December 23, 2011

Of Christmas Past

Christmas is truly one of my very favorite days. I love it. I love the family, the memories, the joy and the love.

In 2009, I blogged about our Christmas, thinking it would be the last of it's kind. However, 2010 was not wrought with the pain that we expected. Christmas 2010 looked close to the same as the year before, and it was awesome.

We spent Christmas Eve with my side of our family in Seattle. The kids did great and Emma only caught her hair on fire a little bit. Then we attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service at the church I grew up in, which was a tradition in my life up until I moved up north and had a family of my own. My children behaved, and Grant fell asleep in my mom's lap, allowing me the privilege and honor of serving my mother communion as she sat with my sleeping child laying across her. The look on Emma's face in the candlelight as we all sang 'silent night' brought me to tears, it was beautiful.

These are the things that make Christmas.

The next day, we did the usual morning events and visiting Marty's mom and family, then off for a visit with Marty's Grandpa, who had cancer and wasn't expected to live much longer.  The kids sang 'happy birthday, Jesus' for him, and he loved it.  He asked them all their bible verses and was thrilled when Emma told him that she had accepted Jesus into her heart.  It was a short visit, but very powerful.

It was the last time we saw him alive.

These are the things I want to remember, the memories I want to hold onto.  These are treasures to store in the heart; not toys or presents or stockings or Santa, but Jesus.

This Christmas will look different.  2011 was hard on our circle of friends and family that we hold close, many that we love will be spending their first Christmas in heaven this year.  That is fabulous for them, but painful for us.  It hurts to miss those that we love, whether they have moved on to Heaven or are still here, just not quite themselves.

It looks different.

I will hold these memories close to my heart, and I will make new memories this year.  At this time next year, I don't know how different it will look again.  So I will take mental pictures and real pictures and spend time with those that I love.  I will store these treasures in my heart to pull out again later and revisit the memories.  This Christmas, I will try to love like Jesus.

As I remind my kids often, it's His birthday, not theirs.  It's not about what is under the tree, it's about Who came to this world to die on a tree to save us.  We are so very blessed to celebrate the birth of our Savior with family and friends, and we are so very thankful that He wants to share His birthday with us. 

How will you spend your Christmas?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Babies and Big Boy Beds

Yesterday morning at 6:14 am, my sister-in-law (and amazing boss) gave birth to her first child, my newest nephew. Welcome to the world, Justin Roy Parsons!

Let me tell you, he is a cutie. I went to the hospital for a quick visit and seeing him there, wrapped up in his mama's arms made my poor, retired uterus do a flip-flop. I'd like to think that it was because I love the newborn stage, where the sweet lil babe is so loving and dependent on Mom, there is no talking back or whining yet, and they don't run away.  To be honest, though, my uterus was just protesting any ideas that might have come into my head at that moment.  We are done having children of our own.  But bring on the nieces and nephews!

The kids were excited, they were not able to visit the hospital, but marveled over pictures of the sweet babe.  We were a bit concerned about Drew's reaction, he has been the baby of the family for close to three years now, and loves his baby status. 

"Drew, thank you for doing your chores.  You are such a big boy!"  is usually met with a defiant, "No, I's not a big boy, I's a BABY!"

Yup.  We were worried about how he would feel, being replaced.

So I showed the kids the first texted picture as they woke up in the morning, and asked them, "do you know who this baby is?"  They studied the picture, faces pressed in close to each other and right up to the phone, and agreed that they didn't know.  "It's your new cousin Justin!  Auntie Amy had her baby this morning!"  They all squealed with glee, bouncing up and down, then returning to the phone to study him again. 

Emma: "Awww!" 

Grant: "He's so cute!" 

Drew: "He's a baby, just like ME!"

Hoo, boy.

We had quite a few talks throughout the day.  Talks about what babies do and what they can't do, like talking and walking and running and rolling.  What to expect from their new cousin, "Do you think you can play rough with him, or should you be very gentle?"  Ben: "Gentle, because he's just a little baby and we don't want to break him!"   Talks about different baby things, like volume and tickling.  I want them to be prepared to be the best cousins they can be.

Throughout the course of the day, Drew seemed to get it.  He wasn't a baby, he was a big boy.  And he wanted to do big boy things.  "Mommy, we get home, I wear big boy undies?"  "When we get home, you want to put on your big boy undies and go peepee in the potty?"  "Yeah!"

Well, OK then.

--Fast forward to after dinner.--

The rest of the evening was chaos.  There was something in the air that made small children scream, hit, throw things and tattle.  Drew spend quite a bit of time in time-out, throwing the biggest fit I have seen heard in a very long time.  Yup, even bigger than that annoying kid at the mall that you wish his parents would just take home because you are going deaf, and you are two stores down.  It was a huge, massive, sobbing, screaming fit that just wouldn't end.

Finally, I just scooped my screaming, fit throwing boy up, changed him into jammies, and put him to bed. 

As many of you know, Drew sleeps in Emma's old crib (which was also Grant's old crib) with a crib tent that we bought him a while back to keep him in the crib.  The crib tent was awesome, and kept our little Houdini contained, which made for two happier parents, since we weren't constantly listening with one ear to see if we could hear him dancing on the crib rail again.  He got a concussion at nineteen months by climbing out of the crib, but we didn't want to move him to a toddler bed because he shares the room with his twin brothers, and the room isn't padded on all walls or completely empty.  However, the kids liked to climb in the crib tent and play, and a couple of weeks ago Ben broke the zipper on the crib tent so it didn't close anymore.  We solved that problem by turning the crib around so the opening was up against the wall, we just had to slide the crib whenever we got him in or out of it.  After four kids, you get creative.

Now, here's the thing.  Remember a couple of years ago when all those cribs got recalled and we were all supposed to get retro-fit kits to fix them?  Yeah.  Well, I got on the website of the manufacturer of our crib, and couldn't ever get the kit.  I entered the model number and the site said it wasn't a valid number.  Our crib was still in good shape, it was our fourth and final child, and he was over a year old and not at risk of the suffocation danger that prompted the whole recall in the first place, so I just didn't worry about it.  Over time, the crib started to weaken and I could see why it was recalled, so I tried again and still was told that it wasn't a valid number.  I could have just contacted customer service, but I never did.  Either I chose not to or I got distracted as something important was peed on, I don't know.  Either way, the crib was weakening, I didn't have the retrofit kit, and sliding the crib out from the wall all the time wasn't helping matters.

So I did what any caring, rule-following mother caring, loving mother of four kids would do.  I grabbed a bundle of zip-ties and zip-tied the rail to the support bars myself.  Problem solved!



Last night, after the joys of new babies and massive fits, I put my screaming, fit throwing boy to bed.  I don't know how he managed it (but let's be honest here, I never know how he manages to do the things he does) but he broke the zip ties and the whole side fell off the crib, sending it and my almost three year old to the ground.  Luckily, he was in the crib tent which managed to slow his descent and break the fall.  He wasn't hurt (thank the Lord) but the crib was broken.

Broken crib+broken crib tent+child who makes the nice poison control people say things like, "wow, that's impressive"=not a good situation.

I tried to fix the crib.  I thought I would just get a bunch of screws and screw the thing in place, it had zero value so who cares how it looks if it's just going to last another little while, right? But the screws weren't long enough to hold it strongly enough.

So, once again, I got creative.

I grabbed the duct tape.  I duct taped that sucker up, shook it a bit and got it nice and sturdy.  I was impressed.  I stood back and admired my work, and then it hit me. I was actually going to place my almost three year old in a crib that was held together with duct tape and had broken strands of zip-tie dangling from one corner?  Was I competing for some sort of Jeff Foxworthy special?  Was I an idiot?

And most importantly, if this fails, how on earth will I explain that at the ER?!?

Imaginary scenarios stared running through my head.  The doctor asked, "How did your child break his arm?"  and I have to answer, "well, his crib broke because I never got the mandatory retrofit kit for it, I just used zip ties instead.  Then the zip ties broke and he fell out, but I just duct taped it together again, I mean, really, duct tape is definitely designed to keep our furniture together to keep our kids safe!  Seriously, I had no idea that this wouldn't work."

And then, in my mind, CPS came to take my kids away and I was sent to a nice relaxing vacation in the psych ward.

I stared at the crib and sighed.  The crib is designed to be a toddler bed by removing the side rail that happened to fall off.  "Hey, buddy," I asked Drew, "how would you like to sleep in a big boy bed tonight?"

He was over the moon excited.  So we talked.  We talked about our expectations, that if he was going to be a big boy, he would have to stay in his bed and not get out to bug his brothers.

And he actually listened.

So proud of his new big-boy status that was created by the morning birth of his new baby cousin, Baby Jack Jack laid down his title of Baby and became a big boy last night. 

This morning, I was in bed when he came into my room for his morning snuggle.  As he opened my door, I realized that we had hit a "last" yesterday.  Yesterday morning was the last time I would hear, "Mommy!  I'm awake now, I wanna get up now!" in a fun singsong voice.

The baby stage is ending.

And today, my newly crowned Big Boy is wearing Spiderman undies, because Big Boys are potty trained, and he wants to be potty trained, too.

Calm down, uterus.  We've got other people's babies to hold now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not Me! Monday!

Welcome to Not Me! Monday!   Truly one of my favorite blog posts, Not Me! Monday! is fabulous.  She's a smart one, that MckMama.

During my computer time this morning, I clicked on my Blogger dashboard and saw that I was down a follower.  I don't like to lose followers, but I can't say that I blame them because although there are truly funny blog posts that happen here, they really don't do you all any good if they never get out of my head and onto the computer.  So I made the decision to stop right here and blog for you.

You're welcome.

I did NOT make up imaginary situations in my head where the lost follower just gave up Internet for the sake of becoming Amish, so drawn by a baggie of friendship bread that someone gave them at the office that they have decided through many hours of mashing the bag that that way of life was truly their calling, and in the process they deleted their Blogger account to pursue a simpler life filled with bonnets, aprons, and churning butter.  NOPE, I would NOT convince myself of that rather than admitting that the lost follower probably just consciously said something like, 'Tiff never blogs anymore.  Delete!' 


I am NOT supposed to be fixing my bathroom sink right now while I sit and blog for you in the hopes that someone else doesn't stop following become Amish.  NOPE, our bathroom sink is NOT so clogged that water never drains, and we have NOT had standing water in that sink for a few days straight.  We do NOT have to use the other bathroom for everything lest we try to rinse out toothbrushes and inadvertently immerse them in the nasty water that has been sitting there for days.  You know, like when you use a public bathroom and when you wipe, you mis-judge the bum-to-water distance and end up dragging your knuckles into public-toilet water, making you jump and throw up in your mouth a little; even though the toilets in Target are probably ten times cleaner than your own sadly neglected toilet at home, since Target toilets get cleaned daily and you have three boys that pee everywhere.

Anywhoo.  What in the world was I talking about?

Oh, yeah.  So on my to do list today is to fix the sink and clean out the freezer.  We have a side of beef coming tomorrow and I want it to be all pretty and organized.

Speaking of, we took the entire family after church on Sunday to make a Costco run, and wandered aimlessly (which my husband just LOVES, he does NOT get impatient at Costco AT ALL) and loaded up on groceries. 

We passed by the CARS 2 display, and I managed to sneak a copy into the cart without any of the four highly observant children noticing.  I did NOT accidentally sneak it past my own husband, however.  We are ALWAYS on the same page and I would NEVER think that he would totally get that "I'm going to go look at these Wheat Thins over here!"  actually means "Distract them so I can get CARS 2 without them seeing!"   And then when I say, "everyone look at Daddy and bat your eyelashes at him and he will give you a sample of that snack over there,"  I do NOT think that he understands that it is code for "Now I am going to slip this movie into the cart between the meatballs and the bottled water!"

NOPE.  I do NOT forget, quite often, that my husband cannot read my mind.

OK, in case you were wondering what a side of beef had to do with the Costco run, I did NOT burst into tears yesterday as I completely re-arranged the pantry to make room for all the new purchases.  I did NOT feel completely overwhelmed at the vast amount of food we had for our family as I remembered bringing five pounds of flour and five pounds of cornmeal to people in the slums of Kenya, and how incredibly grateful they were for those seemingly small, insignificant things.  I looked at my pantry and thought of how many meals we could make for the starving children in Kenya and I cried.  We are so very blessed, and I never want to forget it.

OK, moving on.

I did NOT once again decide to vacuum the computer, which led to vacuuming the cords under the desk, which eventually led to re-arranging the entire living room.  NOPE, I do NOT do things on a whim like that.  And I certainly do NOT do these whimsy things while my husband is at work, it would make much more sense to have a big strong man around when pushing furniture.  I most certainly do NOT do stuff like this on purpose so that I can do it my way and not have to stop while he says, "you know, what if we tried it like this?" to which I would say something like, "hey, this was my idea, why do you think you get an opinion?!?  It's not like you live here or somet... oh, wait."

Marriage advice from me:  If you want something done your way, without any other opinions, wait till he's at work.  I know, I should write a marriage book. 

p.s.:  My hubby loved the living room update.  And if he hadn't, I wouldn't have minded at all if he wanted to move it all back the way it was.  He would have had to do all the moving himself, however, but I wouldn't have minded at all!

p.p.s.:  I love the Amish.  And bonnets.  And butter.  Kinda like how I fully respect homeschooling and the Duggers; it's a great way of life, just not for me.

p.p.p.s.:  The living room update has actually led to a bit of a technical error in out house, where we actually have to disconnect the home phone to open the pantry.  That's on the to-do-list for tomorrow, but since I put off today's list to blog for you all it might not be fixed till 2014.  It happens.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

He's Actually Human After All

Drew.  Oh, Drew.

My fourth and final child, the two year old spitfire who loves life and finds joy (and chaos) at every turn.  The one who seems to defy all rules, including the laws of gravity and every child-proofing device ever made.

I never thought I'd find something that could stop him.  From his first concussion at nineteen months to the fact that he can do a twenty five piece puzzle with all the pieces flipped over so he can't see the picture, he is not normal.  I have never met a two year old that can do what this kid can do.

For a while, I thought he was unstoppable.

Until now.

It was last week.  I was in the kitchen, prepping and freezing 50 pounds of chicken when I heard from the living room. "Mommy, help!  I's stuck!"  Being the attentive, responsive, caring mother I am, I replied, "Well, get un-stuck then!"

It didn't work.  After some pretty serious wailing, I washed the raw chicken off my hands and went to investigate what exactly it was that caused this child, this unusually strong and independent child, to be stuck and unable to move.

I saw it.  And then I laughed.

Mr. Crazy had been climbing in the windowsill again.  He knows he is not supposed to, he knows that he gets in trouble every time, but he also knows that when Mommy is covered in raw chicken, it's gonna take a lot to get her to come check things out.

We had decorated for Halloween.

My dear unstoppable child was stuck in a tangled mess of polyester spiderweb, long strings of white web hooked around the latches of his firefighter jacket.  He looked at me, his eyes huge and scared, wrapped up in web that still hung from the top of the windowsill.

Apparently, Halloween decorations aren't just for decorating.  And spider webs are extremely strong and catch-y, even the fake kind.  

I'mma gonna have to remember that, and file that information away for future use.

So if you ever come over and find fake spiderwebs hanging from my windows in July, don't judge me, m'kay?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Random Ramblings About Cars And Fences

Man, it's hard to get back into he swing of blogging. I feel like I need something big to happen in order to blog about it, but I never was that way before. What is it about taking a break that totally throws off your bloggy groove? I have no idea.

So let's see, what's been going on? Life is crazy, as usual, and we are fully into the swing of fall. Although I did take the boys to pre-school this morning and found myself driving to Emma's school instead. That's what I get for driving while having an imaginary conversation with someone from the PTO at the elementary school, I end up going to the elementary school.

Yup. I'm brilliant.

I got my first speeding ticket in a very long time this weekend. That was fun. I was mostly disappointed because I finally had the money to go get the bookcase I have been wanting forever and ever and instead I get to support our county sheriff's office. And the cop had no interest in having a conversation so I could try and talk my way out of the ticket, I didn't stand a chance. But what was more frustrating was the fact that almost immediately after I called my husband to tell him, he facebooked this:

Hey Tiff Stauffer, c'mon down, you are the next contestant on "Here's Your Ticket!" At least you are supporting the struggling state budget, right??!? $144, but then again, I do get to tease you for a while. Might just be worth it!!

Thanks, babe.  Because I totally wanted all of our friends and family to find out.  You are so helpful.

Of course, I took the high road again (because I'm such a good person) and didn't respond back about the fact that a couple of years ago, he got a ticket for speeding through a school zone while on a cell phone and got pulled over right in front of his sister's house as his niece and nephew were getting off the bus.  And that he didn't have proof of insurance in his car, and gave the officer his business card instead, hoping that the fact that he is an insurance agent would work.

Nope, I didn't bring that up at all.


Luckily, I didn't even have to think about letting everyone in Facebook-land know that he backed his car into the fence last week, after my saying several times, "if you park there, you will back into the fence someday," because he was nice enough to bring it up first.

Maybe he is a good guy after all.

Love you, honey!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Killed Woody Woodpecker

Yup, it's true. Although I still maintain that Woody just tried to take on my van and lost.

I think we have all had those experiences, you know where a bird flies right in front of your car and you swear there is no way you couldn't have not hit it.  (Don'tcha love the double-negative?)  Lemme tell ya, from my experience today, you'd know.

Because it comes with a very jolting thump. And if you're super-special, you might also get a bit of bird guts flying up and landing on your windshield.

Guess what?!?  I'm super-special!!

So I was on the phone with my hubby at the time. The birdie came swooping in from the side, and then there was the whole thump-and-guts thing. I might have screamed. Or gasped. I don't know.

All I know is I started yelling to my husband what had happened (because as we all know, yelling information over the phone is much more effective than simply speaking information when you are startled) to which he responded in the sweetest, most understanding way- by accusing me of being a bird-killer. What do you do if your darling, adorable, least-sensitive-man-in-the-world husband responds to your upset-ed-ness by calling you a murderer?

Well, I don't know what you would do. But I took the high road. I was the grown up. I was mature in my response, allowing no morsel of revenge to take place.

Or, I pulled over and took a picture of the bird, still embedded in the front of my van, and texted it to him.

You will have to guess which one of these things I chose to do.

Oh, and by the way, removing a dead birdie who is still warm from it's position half-way under your hood is a very sad thing. And you might not realize that your kids are watching the whole thing.  And you might feel bad about just putting it in the gas station garbage can, but you don't dare bring it into the van to bring it home for a proper burial.

Because good heavens, do you know what would happen if Drew got a hold of a dead bird?!?

After a quick Google search I identified it as a Pacific Northwest hairy woodpecker.   And that made me sad, because I love woodpeckers.

Anywhoo, I did the grown-up mature thing again and answered the kids' questions about the bird.  And then I did the brilliant slightly dysfunctional move of using this as a life lesson in why we don't cross the street without looking, or we might get hit by a car and die and leave nothing but a severed wing in the road as the only piece of evidence that your life has ended in such a horrible, tragic way.

OK, I didn't go that far.  But I did remind them of the bird the next day when Drew tried to run straight into the parking lot without looking. 

Killing Woody the Woodpecker with your car - the life lesson that keeps on giving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not Me! Monday!

Ahhh, Monday, how I love you and your bloggy fun.  :)

Last week, my darling husband and I had a date.  An actual, real date with actual, real friends that included wine and lots and lots of laughter.  It was awesome.


Leading up to this awesome time, we did NOT do the ever-so-brilliant thingy where I think he is finding a sitter and he thinks I am finding a sitter, so we wait till the last minute and then everyone is busy.

Nope, NOT us!

So the morning of the event, I asked our neighbor, whose daughter plays with Emma regularly and whom I trust.  She was available.  Perfect.

The kids, however, are used to being watched by family, so the idea of someone else coming to babysit was a little different.  They were thrilled, believe me, but the whole concept of being "babysat" was a new thing.

And apparently, they forgot what was going on.

We went to Safeway to get some groceries, and as we were standing in line the lady asked me the ever-so common question.  "Are they all yours?"  Well, actually, I had an extra that day, so for the first time ever I had to say no.  That felt weird.  Seeing that we were having a conversation, Grant decided to take part and interject what was on his mind.

Don't worry, he did NOT get confused to what was happening that evening, so he did NOT say to her, "Hey guess what?  We're getting kidnapped today!"

Nope, NOT my kid!

I corrected him, embarrassed, and let him know that getting kidnapped and getting babysat were two different things entirely.  Then I silently prayed that the line would move quickly and we could get outta there before she had a chance to memorize my face and call the authorities.  Being the normal, sane mother that I am, I did NOT have images of the kids actually getting kidnapped and then having the lady from Safeway report that this was balloon-boy-type incident and the kids would never be found.

NOPE, I am NOT that deranged.

Then I noticed that we hadn't moved forward in line.  At all.  And no one was beeping anything at any of the registers. 

NOPE, I was NOT in line with a woman who my kid had just told that he was getting kidnapped right at the very moment that apparently a meteor hit the satellite that controls the registers, shutting the entire store down for about twenty minutes.


"Mom?"  Grant did NOT ask, "what time is the neighbor coming to kidnap us today?"

"Grant, she is coming to babysit you, not kidnap you.  Babysitting is when someone comes to your house to watch you and that someone is not your mommy or daddy."


NOPE.  I did NOT stand there in line with a two year old, a three year old, and two four year olds who were excited to get kidnapped, for twenty minutes while trying to avoid eye contact with the lady next to me.


My darling two year old IS normal.  Just your basic ordinary kid.

Sorry, even in a "not me" I couldn't get through that one without laughing.

Anywhoo, over the weekend he decided to dress himself in his finest.  His Seahawks jersey, his puppy dog boxer briefs, and his red rubber boots composed his outfit of choice. 

 Two year old ladies, get in line.

As I was working in the kitchen, he came into the room with his boots making a lovely schoomp-sploosh sound with every step.

"What's up with your boots, buddy?"  I asked innocently.

"I's just water, Mommy," came the adorable reply.  I checked him.  His undies were dry.  We were safe.

I took him into the bathroom and set him in the tub to take off the boots.  I stepped into a huge puddle on the way, and noticed a great deal of liquid on the floor.  "What is all this, Drew?"  "Oh, i's just water."  I looked around.  There was a lot of it, and right next to the toilet.  Starting to wonder what kind of water I was standing in, I asked, "Buddy, where did it all come from?"

He did NOT answer in the most matter-of-fact way, "Fwom my pee-nis."

NOPE.  My kid did NOT get within three inches of the toilet, then turn around, lower his undies and pee all over the floor and in both of his rubber boots, filling them up at least a half-inch each.

Certainly NOT my kid!!


Head on over to MckMama's blog to see what she and everyone else have NOT been doing this week!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not Me! Monday!

Ahhh, I love Not Me! Monday!  The chance to NOT admit my (many, many) parenting imperfections and dismiss the common assumption that I have wonderfully well behaved children and that our life is perfect.  Oh, wait, you didn't assume that?!?  Oh, good, you've been paying attention. ;)

Last week I headed to bed, tired and drained.  I decided to watch a little TV before sleeping, so I tuned it on to Nick at Nite.  Now, I have loved Nick at Nite for a long time and have watched it off and on for many years. Re-runs of I Dream of Jeannie, Mr. Ed, Bewitched, and others have been so entertaining to me.  As I turned the channel, it suddenly hit me what old, fun, outdated show was on.

It was Friends.

NOPE, I have NOT reached the age where shows that were first aired after I was out of high school are now on Nick at Nite.  Shows that I watched in my adulthood are NOT now fodder for the young kids to come in and see and be entertained by how things were in the olden days.  No, that episode was NOT originally aired fifteen years ago.

Friends is NOT on Nick at Nite.

And I am NOT that old.

As we were headed into the grocery store late one evening, my darling son decided at the very last minute that he needed his sweatshirt.  Being the kind, loving, considerate mother that I am, I did NOT tell him, "Too bad.  You had your chance, now we're headed inside."  NOPE, I would never do that, even though I had warned him to get his sweatshirt on before he got out of the van.

My darling, sweet Emma decided to be so helpful that she took off her own sweatshirt to give to Grant so that he wouldn't be cold.  Total proud moment in parenting.

That wonderful proud moment in parenting was NOT burst when my darling four year old son started skipping and jumping down the aisles of the store sporting a pink and purple striped sweatshirt and yelling, "I'm a BOY! I look like a girl, but I'm a BOY!" to everyone within earshot (and several who were not).

NOPE.  I DON"T claim him.

Head on over to MckMama's blog to see what everyone else had NOT been up to this week!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Games My Kids Play

No, my kids are not normal.

I'm sure most of you have figured this out by now, but we have a few new readers thanks to Kingdom Twindom (hi and welcome!  Thanks for joining us!) so I thought I'd reiterate that fact.

Between pulling fire alarms and peeing all over Costco, my kids have a reputation for doing things that are a little, well, unusual at times.

And by unusual, I mean things that will ultimately contribute heavily to my upcoming permanent vacation in the insane asylum.


Anywhoo, last night at bath time, they started a new game.  I immediately grabbed my phone to record the happenings, and after showing my darling hubby the video, I grabbed their swimsuits so I could blog it.  No, my kids don't normally wear swimsuits in the bathtub.

And yes, this was completely their idea.  Well, after this one, the rest of the kid had to get in on the action, too.  Ben  was into it....

Grant wanted to, but resisted a little.  I laughed so hard at this one.  "Ugh, he's a tough one."

And who gets to baptize the control freak administrative Emma?  Well, apparently she can do it herself.  "Well, they would drop me!"  Yup, good call, sweetie.  Good call.

My kids may do strange things, but it's times like these that make it all worth it. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest post!!

WooHoo!!  Sarah Valente over at Kingdom Twindom asked me to pop on by for a bloggy visit, go on over here to see my first guest post!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ramblings About Horses and Crying in a Parking Lot

I've been home from Africa for over a month now.

I haven't gone through all the pictures, it still stirs up so much in my soul that it is hard, but a good hard.  It takes time.  It is not something I can just do while multitasking life, breaking up fights while talking on the phone and seeing images of the Maasai baptism is not something I can do all at once.

It's amazing how some days I can go through the routine of life and everything is fine.  And some days, something will hit me and I will, in my mind, go back there and feel it all.  One of those moments happened earlier this week.

I was on the way to Bible study.  I had turned into the parking lot of the church and was looking for a spot when suddenly a truck started pulling out, backing up towards me.  No problem, I just waited for them to pull out and continued on.  That's when I caught a glimpse of the license plate frame.  The top read, "POVERTY IS".  I couldn't quite read the bottom line, but my mind started going.  Now that I have been to Africa, I know what poverty is.  Poverty is the 25,000 children that died yesterday because their parents don't have enough money to feed them.  Poverty is Eunice, who sits bedridden in her bed in the Kibera slum because she can't afford the $12 a week it would take for therapy for her to walk and work again.  So there she sits, waiting to see if today her daughter might bring her a plate of food, but knowing that there is a good chance it might not happen.

It only took a couple of seconds for me to lean forward in my seat enough to read the bottom of the license plate frame, but in those couple of seconds I was intrigued.  Would I read an amazing, inspirational quote abut poverty and what it means to us?  What would it say?

Then I saw the rest of the license plate frame.


I sat back in the driver's seat of the van, and before I could even get myself parked I was crying.  Poverty is owning horses?  But the thing is, two months ago I would have gotten the joke.  Yes, horses are expensive and take a lot of money.  But here I sit now, forever changed by the sights and sounds and smells and visions of Africa, of real poverty and the overwhelming wealth and security that is American life.  And to be honest, I don't quite know how to handle it. 

I knew going into this trip that I could not come home and "Africa-ize" everything.  I don't want to be that know-it-all who thinks she has all the world's answers because she spent two weeks seeing what third-world actually means. I don't want to do that.  Not at all.

But still, part of me wants to scream and yell and be that crazy lady on the street corner who is telling everyone about the starving children in Africa and how selfish we are.  I want to  run up the the driver's window and inform them what poverty really is, and that if you have the financial ability to feed not only your family but horses as well, that's actually the definition of affluence, not poverty.  I want to fix it, and the only thing I have with me are my words.

But I know that isn't the answer, because if you don't know about these children, these lives, you will never realize exactly how big the world is.  We are told to look at life through the filter of the 'big picture', but our 'big picture' doesn't often extend beyond the borders of America.  And as someone who has seen the slums of Kenya, I will be so bold as to say that there is no poverty in America.

It just doesn't exist.  Now, I know that America is not perfect, not by a long shot.  There is a sex slave trade in the very state that I live in.  Prostitution is rampant, and drugs are a real problem.  People need saving in America, too.  But we have a government that says that we will never starve to death, and if our lives depend on it, we will get medical care.  We are rich.  We are wealthy beyond measure, and we are so inwardly focused on comparing ourselves to the rest of the wealthiest people of the world that we just don't get exactly how rich we are.

I, for one, am just as bad as everyone else.

My cell phone is a messaging phone, but I don't have a data plan.  It is wearing out, the keys stick and I often find my self typing the same letter multiple times unintentionally so I have to double check my texts before I send them.  I want an iPhone.  I have for some reason convinced myself that a data plan and a GPS are just what I need to make my life easier and better.  It's what I want, and I'm hoping to get one for Christmas.

25,000 children died yesterday because their parents could not afford to buy them food.  Today, another 25,000 children are dying, and tomorrow, it's going to happen again.  And I sit here in my comfortable home, longing for an iPhone.

Where's the big picture?

Are we as Americans really as blessed as we think?  Yes, we have every necessity readily available to us.  Our poor are not only provided food, clean water and medical care, but also cable TV and a cell phone.  Truly, in the 'big picture', we don't even have poor people in America.  Yet we live in a society so obsessed with outward appearances that we make it our life goal to be successful and have it all.  We are so inwardly focused that we can't even see what is happening in the world beyond the borders of what we know.  We have so much that we can't even fathom a part of the world where 150,000 people die every month because they cannot afford $30 for medical care.  

In Kenya, you introduce yourself to others with a statement of faith.  To introduce myself, I would say,  "Hello, I am Tiffani Stauffer.  I am a sinner saved solely by the grace of God and covered in the blood of the Lamb.  All glory to Him who gives me life and breath."

Cars are literally covered in expressions of faith.  What kind of Jesus-freak status would I receive if I plastered 8 inch letters proclaiming  "JESUS SAVES"  across the back window of my van?

In Africa, faith is huge.  The word and works of God simply emanates from the souls of His followers that His name is spoken so seamlessly into conversation that it is the most natural thing in the world.

It's something that we just don't have.  I have never in America met anyone like many of the people I met in Kenya.  We don't have that faith, the one that prays "give us this day our daily bread" and then patiently waits for God to provide that day's food, knowing it will not come otherwise.  We don't rely on God, because we have ourselves.

We think that poverty is owning horses.

I sat in the parking lot and cried.  I cried for the souls in Africa that are starving and dying, for those who want to help but can't do it alone, and for my own selfish mind that thinks that I need things that are not even remotely a necessity.  I cried for all the money that I wasted in my youth on cigarettes and Jack Daniels, knowing now that I could have literally saved lives with that money, but instead didn't have a clue, nor did I want to look beyond myself and think of other people.

I cry for the things I have, and the things I want, and finding a way to live an American life in America, but being Godly instead.  It's a balance that I don't know how to handle.

So what the heck an I doing?

How can I make a difference here in America?  And the answer is:  I don't know yet.  There is a part of me that wants desperately to sell everything we own and pack up our little family and move to Kenya to serve these amazing people, and live a life filled with the faith and freedom that comes from it, but that might not be the best option.  That might not be God's plan.

Maybe my job is to tell the stories of these children.  These people, these amazing souls who love Jesus and are so filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit that it bursts from their bodies and fills their every thought and deed.  Maybe I am to reach out to you, my loyal bloggy friends, and tell you to sponsor a child.  Maybe I am to start a nonprofit to help the people of Kibera learn how to support themselves and break the cycle of poverty once and for all.  Maybe I am to pack up my family and move, but I just don't know.

Poverty is not owning horses, but unless these people's stories can be told, we as Americans will never get it.

I still don't fully get it.

But I'm trying.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not Me! Monday!

Ahhh, Not Me! Monday! how I have missed you! It's been a while since we have had a Not Me! Monday! around here, so let me refresh your memory (or introduce you to the whole concept, if you are new around here!)

Not Me! Monday! was the brain child of MckMama, who describes it as this: Not Me! Monday is a weekly event born out of my desire to admit some of my imperfections and reveal a few moments I’d rather forget. Why? It’s therapy of the best kind. Plus, reading the embarrassing ways that others sometimes fail makes us feel less alone. Of course, pretending that we so did not do some of this crazy stuff makes sharing a little easier. Are you willing?

Yup, I'm willing.  So here we go!

We had a family reunion last weekend.  Now, my kids are generally well behaved in public, so besides the complete crazy of four excited kids running like spider monkeys hopped up on sugar, it's generally a pretty good time.  So when my Dad's cousin crouched down to say 'hi' to Ben and make a few faces at him to try and make him laugh, he most definitely DID just say hi back.  He did NOT reach back and punch the guy in the face, knocking his glasses to the ground.  NOT my kid!

When my darling hubby told me of this event (I was talking to another relative and missed the whole thing,) I did NOT correct him and say, "you said Ben, but you meant Drew, right?" because of the fact that 99.999% of the antics that would necessitate a NOT me! Monday! post revolve strictly around our two year old little darling.  He did NOT have to correct me and tell me that it was really Ben.  Sweet, quiet Ben, who is generally non-violent and loving.  And my darling hubby did NOT have to tell me this fact twice before I started to almost believe him.

Yup.  We're THAT family.

We had our first PTO (parent teacher organization, just like PTA but without the dues) meeting at school last week.  We meet in the library, and the kids go to the gym where they have childcare and the ability run run to their heart's content.  I love it because I get t go sit with grown ups, and I pick up children who are sweaty, happy, and completely exhausted.  It's a win/win!

So at this meeting, we had just adjourned when the school's fire alarm sounded.  Being the positive, upbeat mother that I am, I did NOT turn to the teacher sitting next to me and say, "I'll bet you that was one of my kids."  I mean, who would think that one of my little precious darlings would pull the fire alarm?!?  NOT me!

I left the library and headed out.  The fire doors were closed between the library and the gym, so I headed out the door to go around.  I was NOT met in the hallway by another teacher who shook her head and smiled, then said, "It was one of yours!"

Nope, NOT me and NOT my kid.

Head on over to MckMama's blog to see more confessions of less that perfect parents!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Breaking the Cycle Of Poverty.... day at a time.

OK.  So I'm assuming you have seen the previous posts about my trip to Africa.  If not, go HERE and HERE to get all caught up to what is going on.

Now I apologize for making you wait so long to see what happened next, but things have been a wee bit nuts around here.  No matter how many hours I want to spend blogging, I still have four kids.  Who are crazy.  But that's another post for another day.


So when I last left you, we had toured the Kibera slum and the Saviour King's Academy.  It was incredible.  Knowing that we wanted to do all we could to help these kids while we were there, we did something super simple that rocked their world.

How do you teach children that there is life outside of the slum if they have never been outside of the slum?

You take them on their first (for many of them) ever field trip!

This was the view as we drove up to the spot we were going to meet the kids.

We parked in the parking lot of a gas station just outside of the slum, and eventually the kids swarmed out to greet us.
The teachers said that many of them had woken up several times in the middle of the night, asking their parents, "is it morning yet?  Is it time to go?"

They were so stinking excited they couldn't hardly stand it!

We waited in a little grassy area next to the gas station for our bus to arrive.  And we had a blast.  The kids are so entranced with having their picture taken, then they all want to see themselves in the back of the camera. 
We thought it was so cute, then it dawned on us.  They don't have mirrors.  These are the only times they get to see themselves, when someone visits them with a camera.


I knew, going into this trip, that I take a lot of things for granted.  I knew this trip would open my eyes to the incredible blessings we as Americans have.  I assumed I would learn more about the incredible blessing that is clean water, and healthy food, and electricity.

But there were some things that I didn't even think about that I take for granted every day.  Like this next picture.
 For some of these kids, this was the first time in their lives that they had ever seen grass.


It's humbling, isn't it?

We played with them till the bus came.  We were on Africa time, which runs a little later than American time.  It was over an hour that we hung out with these kids in the small area next to the gas station, but these kids had the time of their lives.  I don't think they even cared that we had something bigger and better planned, all they cared about was that someone from far away cared about them enough to come for a visit and play...
 ...and take their pictures so they could see themselves and their friends and laugh and laugh....
 ...and talk to them and care about what they had to say as well.
We got close to them.  Our team leader warned us that chances are, we would bring home a souvenir that we weren't expecting, like ringworm or something fungal.  We chose not to care, and to just love these children.  We have medicines to treat ailments, they need people to love them.  It was a very simple choice.

(A rare photo of me.  I don't think I show up much on this blog, do I?  I'll have to work on that.)
They loved, loved, loved seeing themselves in the camera.
And they all wanted to see themselves next to us.
Jen hung out and got to know the kids...
...we played games with them...
...Lauren ran around the largest circle of duck-duck-goose that I have ever seen...
...Kayla introduced them to Simon Says...
...basically, we just had a blast, hanging out next to a gas station.

Then, the bus arrived.  I counted the seats on the bus, there were 36.  However, the rules in Africa are a little different than in America.  There are no booster seats or seat belt laws.  You just do what you have to do to get where you are going.  So on this 36 seat bus, we put all 12 of the adults on our team inside, and then added 130 children, squished up on our laps, on their laps, in the aisles, anywhere they could fit, we packed bodies.  This is the best picture I could get, as I was squished up against the window with four kids on my lap.
The bus started moving, and I waited for some child to cry.  It never happened.  Little kids were sitting on seats, three kids piled on them to the point that their heads could not move, and instead of complaining or whining or crying, they did something incredible.

They started singing.  They sang praises to Jesus, at the tops of their lungs with all they joy they could muster.  it was absolutely incredible, I had a hard time keeping it together.  People on the streets stopped and stared as we drove by.  We were our own parade in Kenya.


We finally got to where we were going and got set up.  The bus went back for the other load of kids, and we got underway.

We had taken the kids to a park.  It's such a small thing by our standards, but to these kids, it meant to world.  They live in a slum of one million people in ten square miles.  There is no space to run.  Their streets are filled with rotting garbage and a river of human waste.  Before this day, many of these kids had never seen wide open spaces or grass.

How do you teach kids that there is a world out there to be lived in if they have never seen it?  How do you break the cycle of poverty and slum life if these kids have never seen firsthand that there is a world outside of the slum?

You can't.

We played Awana games all. day. long.

And oh, my goodness, these kids had a blast.
My sweet Ann.  She will forever live in my heart.
Sweet babies.  These are the same ones who go to school in the tiny classroom, without even a light bulb to see.
Many of the chilrden took off their worn, too small shoes in order to run and play.

This was a new game that we were introduced to called wall, gun, rabbit.  OK, I don't know that it was actually called that, but that seemed to me the most logical name.  Basically the same as our rock, paper, scissors; but there were two teams and they would both turn around facing away from each other and decide which one they wanted to be, then when the leader yelled "go!", they would quickly turn around making the motion of what they had chosen. 

This team was doing 'wall'.  In rock-paper-scissors fashion, rabbit jumps over the wall, the gun shoots the rabbit, and the wall stops the bullets.  We all shook our heads at these sweet kids pointing finger guns at each other.  It was a bit of a culture clash, but it works for them!

The kids were such good sports.  They cheered and cheered when they won, and didn't get upset if they didn't.
This is Washington.  He is the most incredible Awana games leader I have ever seen, and he has an amazing heart for these kids.  Boundless energy, he was just 'on' the entire day.
Also, it was awesome that a group of people form the great state of Washington traveled to Kenya to play with these kids and met a guy named Washington. 

He could dance, let me tell you.  The kids adored him, and he loved them as well.
All day, we played with these kids.  I don't know who enjoyed it more, us or them.
Then it was our turn to play a couple of games.  Most of us were assigned to teams, so the kid cheered for their mzungus (white people, what they called us most of the time).  Jen is an awesome balloon-blower-upper!

Imaging the excitement in a tree, if you don't have one.
Or the calm that comes from a clean place to rest.
Or the simple joy of clean, sandy dirt.  Did you ever realize that you take dirt for granted?  I didn't either.
We served lunch; rice, beans and a banana.  For many of these kids, this is the only meal they eat in a day.  We tried to load them up as much as we could, but we did have to feed 300 so we had to be careful.  I do think everyone got to eat their fill.

The kids brought their own bowls, but only a few had silverware.  Most ate with their hands, the hands that never get washed and are covered in dirt, grime, and feces. 
There were port-a-potties in the park.  We headed out there to see, and were not too surprised to see that they were squatty potties.  However, the smell was horrific, they were filled with flies, and this floor was only attached to the walls by giant staples along the sides.  A few of us waited till the last possible moment to go, and then we took turns and stood outside the door and literally prayed over who was inside that they floor wouldn't collapse on them.  We all survived, and the floor stayed intact, so we were relieved.  I never knew this was on my bucket list, but...  check!
Some of the gals on our team had prepared a skit for the kids, and they were all engrossed in what was going on.
They didn't laugh at the funny parts, we weren't sure if they didn't understand it or if they thought we were being serious and just didn't want to offend.  Jen asked them questions at the end, and they all seemed to get the point, so we called it a success.
After lunch, we went back to the games.  The little kids joined in, and although they didn't play, they just sat for hours and watched their older teammates and cheered them on.

Then it was our turn to play tug of war.  that's me in the blue bandanna.  We tried hard, but were defeated by the team of teachers that you see in the black shirts.  These gals were determined!
We handed out cars for the young kids...
...and cross necklaces to the older ones...
...which were worn with great pride.
The cars were donated by an incredible organization called Toys For God's Kids.  A huge thank you for donating 1,000 cars, we spread them all over Kenya and Tanzania!
Finally, the bus came and the kids headed out.  The little ones stayed behind, as it took several trips to take the kids home and they wanted to vans for the littles to drive them into the slum and home, instead of letting them walk home like the older kids.  My heart breaks every time I think of it, but I didn't notice the bus come so I didn't say goodbye to my Ann.  I hope she knows how much I love her.

We were sitting in the late afternoon with the little kids, singing and teaching them songs when suddenly, they all took off screaming.  Chants of "Monkey!  Monkey!  Monkey!"  echoed through the park, and they all gave chase.
Apparently in the evenings, the monkeys come out to graze on the garbage and food scraps that get left behind.
This was a fantastic experience, not just because we as Americans got to see wild monkeys for the first time ever, but that we got to share a first with these kids.  Many of them had never seen a wild monkey, so we all got to experience something together. 

We didn't see the sign that said, "please don't feed the monkeys" till we were leaving.  In this case, ignorance is bliss.

Finally, the van came and all the little kids crammed in and headed home.
We stayed behind waiting for the van to come back for us, and were there after dark.  It was an incredible, exhausting say, but I'd do it again tomorrow if I could.

Who knew that something so simple as taking kids to a park would have such an impact?  But really, how do you tell kids that slum life isn't all there is unless you show them that there is something else out there?

I really wish we could have done more.  It is hard to be there for such a short time and try to make a difference in a child's life, much less make a difference in 270 children's lives.  We did what we could, and we did it led by God, and that's enough for now.

I want to go back.  I want to see these amazing children again, and hug their necks and tell them I love them.  I plan to return someday, I don't know when but I want to make it happen.

Anyone want to go to Kenya? :D

(Coming up next: the family that had the biggest impact on the majority of our team.  The will and determination of some of these people just to live is amazing.)