Archives for the month of: June, 2012

A few years ago the boys and I listened to the book, Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. (We love audio-books!) We quickly fell in love with the characters and were held captive by the story.

Fortunately this was book one in a five book series called, The Underland Chronicles.

It might sound obsessive but we’ve listened to these books four times. We like them that much.

I’ve read The Hunger Games Series twice and I like that series too. But with it getting so much attention right now I thought I’d share a bit about a Suzanne Collins series geared more for a younger crowd and worth every bit as much good press.

Gregor is an 11 year old boy who ends up falling his way into an underground city with his little sister Boots. While there he discovers giant spiders, rats, cockroaches and other creatures that co-exist with humans.

He soon realizes that though he discovered the Underland by accident their future is actually dependent on him. He has some tough decisions to make and ends up leading a dangerous mission that unexpectedly benefits Gregor and his family as well as the Underland.

War is the main theme of the series. The books are action packed, full of battles and real life problems. You will have lots to talk about with your kids. But I’ve not found them to be too scary or intense for my boys.

Like I mentioned before, we love Gregor as a character. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. Gregor honors his parents.

In book one we learn that Gregor’s dad has disappeared with-out a trace, but Gregor refuses to believe that his dad would abandon his family. Instead he continues to believe the best about him.

Gregor also obeys his mother. Several times when the Underlanders suggest leaving Gregor’s younger sister behind we hear him say things like, “Mom says we should stay together so we’re going to stay together.”

2. Gregor is responsible and has a great attitude.

While in the Underland, 11 year old Gregor, takes full responsibility for the care of his 2 year old sister. He feeds her, changes her diapers, protects her and never complains about it!

3. Gregor is brave!

Gregor has to face difficult choices and endure terrible battles. Though he doesn’t always see himself as the Underlanders see him (as a warrior), he does not back down because he is scared or because things are tough. You can count on Gregor to do the right thing even when it’s hard to do.

4. Gregor cares about others.

Even when other people or creatures are rude to Gregor he tries to understand where they are coming from and why they’re acting that way. He doesn’t hold grudges and he is forgiving.

As usual, I recommend previewing this book before sharing it with your children. You might enjoy it as much as they will.

  1. to feed the poor
  2. to trust in God
  3. that racism is never OK
  4. to pray always
  5. how to handle anxiety
  6. how to conquer fear
  7. that reading is important
  8. that a smile is always your best accessory
  9. that keeping things simple is a good idea
  10. that stuff does not matter
  11. that people do matter
  12. that God’s word does not return void
  13. to show others grace
  14. that you can be friends with lots of different kinds of people
  15. to say no and not feel bad about it
  16. to say yes and not feel bad about it
  17. that we can be in control of our emotions
  18. to lead our hearts not follow them (borrowed from the movie Fireproof)
  19. that hard work is not something to be avoided
  20. that family matters
  21. good manners
  22. not to worry to pray instead
  23. that a happy heart really is good medicine
  24. to be a good neighbor
  25. to seek peace whenever possible
  26. to say sorry and mean it
  27. to exercise
  28. to eat lots of vegetables
  29. to be careful about what you listen to and read
  30. to practice hospitality
  31. to tell people the good things you know to be true about them
  32. that gossiping is not OK
  33. that our actions really do impact others
  34. to avoid debt
  35. to value the simple things in life
  36. that greed is an enemy of the heart
  37. that fear is the enemies greatest weapon
  38. to be bold
  39. to trust their instincts
  40. what a real friend is
  41. how to stay committed to and in love with your spouse
  42. how to have fun for free
  43. that too much TV keeps a family from enjoying each other
  44. that pity parties do not solve problems
  45. that actions really do speak louder than words
  46. that a job well done is satisfying
  47. not to depend on the “experts”
  48. that there is value even in those who annoy you
  49. that God loves us all the time
  50. that when we talk bad about ourselves to ourselves the enemy is delighted
  51. to believe the best about others
  52. that most problems prove to be temporary
  53. that God listens and cares
  54. that picking up after yourself is not a chore, it’s normal
  55. that serving your family can be a joy
  56. that spiritual warfare is real
  57. to put on the full armor of God
  58. to rejoice even in the midst of hard times
  59. to limit activities that keep you from your responsibilities
  60. that God loves the world
  61. to accept God’s grace
  62. that God rejoices over us
  63. the difference between being the boss and being bossy
  64. to look on the bright side of things
  65. to accept and learn from failure and/or defeat
  66. to look for the lesson in pain
  67. to take responsibility for their own actions
  68. that the world owes us nothing
  69. not to depend on others to save you
  70. that people make mistakes
  71. to forgive others
  72. to forgive themselves
  73. that good nutrition is not difficult
  74. to be entrepreneurs
  75. to choose their friends wisely
  76. to practice hospitality
  77. to be encouragers
  78. to plan ahead
  79. to look forward to the future
  80. to value people over things
  81. to pray when they are overwhelmed
  82. that making the effort to serve someone is a worthwhile thing
  83. that love does not conquer all unless it’s God’s love
  84. that learning makes life more interesting
  85. that we can see God’s glory in nature
  86. that anyone can be an artist
  87. that the world does not end at our back door
  88. that prayer is our best weapon
  89. to wait patiently
  90. to be an optimist
  91. to believe in their dreams
  92. to look for God’s hand in all things
  93. to embrace the hope of Jesus
  94. that just because something is hard does not mean it can’t be done
  95. not to over commit themselves
  96. to study the Bible
  97. to have compassion
  98. to love the Lord
  99. to love each other
  100. to seek to honor God in all they do

My boys and I just returned from a five day mission trip with the youth group my best friend pastors. We spent the week working our tails off and learning some extremely valuable lessons along the way.

I thought I’d share them with you here.

1. When the work gets hard just think about who it’s helping.

The Bible tells us in the book of Philippians that we should look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others. This is a tall order for kids in our “look out for #1” society.

The guy who shared this as the lesson he learned began the trip by letting us know he didn’t want to get dirty, but by the end of the week he had trimmed trees, hauled trash, scrubbed toilets, wacked weeds, etc. and all with a great attitude.

2. Time spent complaining could be time spent finishing the job.

Wow. I think I need to remember that one next time I have a pile of dishes to do.

Complaining isn’t helpful or productive. We often let our kids (and ourselves) get away with it but it’s a terrible habit and a hard one to break.

3. We volunteer our time to benefit others not ourselves.

One of the kids on the trip asked his dad how much allowance he would get for all the work he had done throughout the week. He hung his head when his dad’s answer was, “None”.

It was a tough lesson and he wasn’t happy about it, but better to learn it now than go into adulthood with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude.

4. Just take things one step at a time.

One of our tasks for the week was to remove rocks and sticks from a paintball field then mow and weed eat it. We began by literally filling buckets with rocks and then carrying them to a big pile on the other side of the fence. We felt like we would never finish but we did.

Learning to take a big overwhelming job, break it down into manageable pieces and keep at it until it’s done is a life skill that will serve our kids over and over again.

Mission trips provide opportunities for our kids to get out of their comfort zones and be a blessing to others. And when they do that they have to stretch and grow. The result is life changing.

Are these lessons your kids have learned? How will their lives (and your life) be better when/if they do?

I hope you’re sending your kids on mission trips when you can. Better yet I hope you’re going with them.

I have a friend who calls me the queen of good boundaries. She says it with love and I take it as a compliment.

What she means is that I’ve learned to say “no” and not feel bad about it.

This wasn’t always true. I used to get so excited about things that I said, “Yes!” to every opportunity that came my way. I never gave a second thought to how it would affect me, my family or my other commitments….until it was too late.

I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve let down because I’ve backed out of something I never should have committed to in the first place.

I have a tendency to get overwhelmed if my schedule is too full. I also have panic attacks when I start feeling overwhelmed. Not good.

The older I get the more I realize that it’s ok to take care of myself.

So with that in mind I made the decision several years ago to make learning to say “no” a priority. Here’s how I did it.

  1. A friend held me accountable to saying “no” to everything for one full year. – This may seem extreme but at the time I was battling a depression that I believe was partially brought on by burn out. As part of my healing process it was important to me that I develop a good habit of saying no.
  2. I talk with Wonderful Hubby about all volunteer opportunities before I commit. – This is just good practice if you’re married. Anything that takes my time and energy affects my entire family not just me…so it makes sense that I would talk with my husband before committing to anything.
  3. I make sure there is an end date to everything I start. – This is so important to me. It’s not that I won’t commit to ongoing projects but for now I usually don’t.  When I do take on something long-term I need a date once a year that I can choose to step down or recommit. If I get overwhelmed it helps to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Yes” used to be my default answer and it was not a good thing. Now my default answer is “no”.

Saying “no” to some (ok, lots) of things means I get to say “yes” to the things that matter to me the most. I say “yes” to family dinners, and movie mattress night, and spontaneous visits with family or friends.

So, I’ve become the queen of good boundaries. How about you? What are you saying no to so that you can say yes to something else?

“Why don’t we celebrate the days of Creation?”

This was the question posed by our son Wesley a while back.  And what a great question!

“We celebrate Jesus being born, and we celebrate Easter. Why don’t we celebrate when God created the whole world?”

As we discussed traditions and why we celebrate this or that it became clear that God was working in Wesley’s heart.

So we started praying and planning and Wesley’s question became an idea. We were going to celebrate the days of Creation and we were going to invite all of our friends to do it with us!

Spring Break was right around the corner so we quickly planned seven parties for the seven nights in a row that school was out. Each party was themed around a different day of creation.

We kept it simple so we could focus on our guests and honoring God. The last thing we wanted was to be stressed out!

This was our schedule:

  • Day 1– Day and Night – Glow Stick Dance Party

We moved most of the furniture out of the living room, made a playlist on YouTube, turned off all the lights and passed out glow stick bracelets at the door.

  • Day 2 – Water and Sky – Outdoor Game Night

The boys chose their favorite outdoor games and we all played them until dark.

  • Day 3 – Land, Sea and Vegetation – Apples to Apples Night

If you’ve never played this game you should. It’s always good for a few laughs.

  • Day 4 – Sun, Moon and Stars – Design Your Own Celestial T-Shirt Night

Supplies for this night included bleach pens, solid colored t-shirts and star stencils. You can find tutorials for making bleach pen t-shirts all over the internet.

  • Day 5 – Creatures of the Sea and Birds of the Air – Finding Nemo Movie Night

It was so fun to watch this movie with a crowd.

  • Day 6 – Land Animals and Man – Animal Charades

We filled a basket with the name of every animal we could think of, set our egos aside and acted like…well, animals…all to honor God. It was one of our favorite nights.

  • Day 7 – God Rested – Family and Friends Campout/Sleepover

We envisioned tents in our back yard and sleeping bags all over our floors. What ended up happening was a camp fire and party but no overnight guests. (Which honestly, after a week of partying, we were ok with.)

Each night we gave away a door prize that somehow related to the theme of that night. A flashlight on day one, sunglasses on day four…you get the idea. We provided easy snacks and alternative activities for little ones…crayons, sidewalk chalk, etc.

This was definitely one of the coolest things we’ve ever done as a family!

We’ve decided to do it again next year. Actually I’m hoping this will become a tradition and that I’ll be celebrating Creation with my grandchildren someday.

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She lived in the same town that we did. She babysat us a lot. She took us to run errands with her and always bought us McDonald’s. We played a lot of games together.

We played a lot of dominos. It seemed to be her favorite game. To this day when I even see the word domino I think immediately of my grandma.

Playing dominos with her was a family tradition.

Movie mattress night is one of my kids’ favorite family traditions. It’s a simple thing really. It usually happens on a night when the boys don’t have to get up early the next day. We choose a movie, drag a mattress (or two) out of the bedroom(s), turn the futon into a bed, shut off all the lights, lay down and press play.

Usually we fall asleep before the movie is over. That’s part of the fun. I love waking up with all of us in the same room together. And because one or all of us has fallen asleep during the movie we always watch it again the next day.

It’s important to me that we watch, read and listen to great stories. Movie mattress night is one of the ways that Wonderful Hubby and I make sure that happens.

It’s also important to me that we create lasting memories and have a sense of unity and identity as a family. I think traditions are important and help us do just that.

What are your favorite family traditions?

What is Dandelion Dear?

Fair question! There are two answers.

First, Dandelion Dear is the name of this blog. This is a place where I intend to share my life, my story and the things I’m learning along the way. I’ll be blogging about family, marriage, personal growth, loving others and various other topics that pop up in our day to day lives.

But I could’ve given this blog any of a dozen or more other names. So why this one? Why Dandelion Dear?

Because I believe that more often than not we think of ourselves as weeds.

No one likes weeds. We want to be roses. Roses are red after all. You rarely, if ever, hear children singing little songs or making up poems about weeds.

A weed is a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.

Often we feel just like weeds don’t we? We feel like we’re not wanted, like we’re in the way.

Why do we think so little of ourselves?

Every woman you’ve ever known who has ever thought of herself as less than she is, is Dandelion Dear.

We are not weeds! We are flowers. God has planted us and cultivated us. We are loved and wanted. He has created us uniquely to do the work that He’s prepared in advance for us to do!

If you take literally the definition of a weed that I’ve given above, then a rose growing in my vegetable garden could be considered a weed. But that’s not what you are!

It’s a matter of perspective. And if we change our perspective we can change our lives.

I believe that life is good because God loves us!

And I believe that He has more for us than we could ever ask or imagine!

Dandelion, dear, you’re a flower not a weed!

I hope you’ll join me and I hope you’ll begin to believe God’s promises and to see yourself as He does.