Clutter

It's easy for me to look around and feel like we are constantly bombarded with clutter.  Jake will be the first to tell you that I have a clutter-ridding freak-out at least twice a month.  All of the sudden, the things that are around drive me crazy and I go on a rant and rave about how things have a place.  So why are the things not in their places?

This morning, though, I looked around and realized that you can tell a lot about people by what is on their shelves and tables.  Or maybe you can just tell a lot about me from what is on my shelves and tables...because I'm sure you don't have clutter like we do.  I'm sure your home sparkles always just like mine does...when you visit.  :)

Well, here is a big reveal.  The ugliness of the "keeping it real" mantra I've kept on this blog.  Ready?  Here we go!

This is our end table that probably shouldn't have nearly as many things on it as it does. It includes my coffee cup from this morning, one of Jake's books on church leadership, the air purifier I took from Laina since she was playing near the outlet it was plugged in, my lens cap which I continually tend to lose, my phone, our lamp, a brush from doing the girls' hair and a picture of my very favorite almost 16 month-old.

Here is our entertainment center.   If you were to visit, the top would be completely cleared but for a small layer of orange scented Pledge dusting the top.

Taking a closer look, you'll see diaper cream used for Laina's diaper rash that we just cannot beat, hairspray (again, from doing the girls' hair) and pink nail polish from painting the twins' nails the other day.  All of this flanking Jake's and my wedding picture...pretty symbolic, huh?

And on this end, we find a vacuum hose (taken away from a child who used it as a weapon) next to a Bible and some dvds, Sunday school papers the kids did in their class at church, a tissue from wiping four snotty noses, my necklace I had to take off from Laina grabbing it, a tiny Lego flower that Laina had in her mouth, a See 'n Say that was taken because of children fighting over it and a flash drive with pictures on it that I have been procrastinating in putting into the computer.

All of these things are surrounded by - what else? - children's books and dvds...which are actually pretty organized today!

What I fail to remember when I get stressed out by the clutter is why we have clutter.  Every piece of these messes has something in common.  The messes come from people, six of them to be sure, who are living life and living it well.  Some day, there won't be hairspray out in the living room because I won't be doing three little girls' hair in front of the TV.  I'll only have my own to do.

There won't be toys scattered about, whether for playtime or if the toys are in time-out themselves.

There won't be bright pink nail polish because the fingers that wore the playful colors will mature into fingers that adorn reds and maroons...and there won't be a hint of sparkles in them.

While I know that the messes will still get to me, it's good for me to step back and be thankful about them once in a while because they won't always be here.  The thought of living in a perfectly manicured, well-kept house already makes me sad because I know what I'll be missing.  So for now, I'm choosing to love these little messes.  They won't be around for long, just like the little hands who make them.  And those are eight little hands I love so so much.

Documenting

It seems like all the Manne family is doing lately is going down memory lane with all of our videos and such.  In my defense, I've actually had this post as a work in progress for quite some time.  If it feels like a repeat, I apologize.  Actually, I don't.  This is my blog, after all.  :) 

I've just been thinking lately how I love that we document things like holidays and birthdays, big moments like our babies' dedications, etc., but I want to remember the "just doing" of our days.  The things that would probably slip by and I would never remember if I didn't document them here.  I have kept a journal for quite some time but now I'm finding this blog to be an easier place to keep these treasured memories. 

Things I'd love my future self to remember from me now:

Cole wakes up every morning and has the same breakfast - a bagel with cream cheese and a chocolate milk.  He asks to have it in the living room every single morning and every single morning, I say that it's okay.

To get Cole to school, I lug out the double stroller with Laina in the front, one of the twins in the back and the other twin riding on the basket in the back while I push.  We are such a sight walking into that school!  I am so thankful to the sweet parents who see me out of breath and push that lovely blue handicap button so we can get inside without getting smushed in the door.

Cole has been complaining every time I ask him to push the blue button that saves my life, "But Mommy, we're not handicapped!"  True...but somedays with that load, it feels as if we are.

Maurah and Hayden ask where Cole is every single time we've just dropped him off in his class.

I love how Hayden says, "Duh nudder" for another.  "Mommy, may I hab duh nudder kwa-cka?"

Laina is going to sleep without bottles!  Hooray for teeth that aren't rotting!  Now to get her to give up that pacifier...

Cole read his first book to me the other day.  Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop.  My stomach flips and flops with the excitement of what this new achievement is bringing into our lives.  I love that he loves to read so much.

Jake works very early mornings at the factory in Rockford and comes home exhausted most days.  I'm so thankful for the work he's doing in our "in between" time here.  The job is such a blessing and is providing for all of our needs.  I'm so thankful God has worked in this and so thankful to have friends/family who set us up with this job.

Laina gives the sweetest kisses now and has also taken the word "mine" as her motto.  She is growing up so quickly and I can't help but want to freeze time so she can stay this way for at least another three years.

I cannot stand when the girls don't go to sleep at bedtime but another part of me loves the fact that they giggle and tell each other silly things.  You can almost feel the bonding happening when they do this and I love that.

We've been doing our Daily Heart Reports and our Acts of Service charts and the flow of the house seems to be going much smoother.  The kids love both of these.  Now, if only their mom could be more consistent with them...

Blow drying the girls' hair every night after baths has become a fun thing for the females in the house.  Even Laina lines up to get her locks blown dry before bed.  I love them just sitting on my lap, still as can be, each of us relaxed and just loving the soothing sound of the dryer as we cuddle a bit.

Maurah has been giving me hugs each night when I pray with her.  She opens her arms wide and then pats my back.  It is the sweetest thing ever.

I love brushing the kids' teeth.  Isn't that strange?  I get the weirdest satisfaction out of it.  I need to get out more.

We have banned fruit snacks at our house and, while I thought WWIII would break out right in our kitchen, the kids have been really great about having fruits, vegetables and crackers for snacks.  They have even started asking me what's healthy and what's not and I love that they're getting this awareness at such a young age.

On the flip side, the jelly bean dispenser Cole got for his birthday a couple of years ago is doing us no good.  Laina walks up to it, points and says, "Mine?" in the sweetest little voice.  She knows exactly what she's doing and exactly how to get her way with me...and so then I'm dolling out Jelly Bellys for everyone.  I'm such a sucker.

Jake makes me coffee every morning so that when I wake up, all I have to do is push the button.  It's incredible and I love him deeply for it.  Making coffee should be a love language.

I'm wanting to get back into the habit of doing Family Night Fridays like we used to do.  I am missing them a ton!  Maybe that's one of my late resolutions for 2011?

These next eight months are the last eight months I will have Cole home with me at all during the day.  Can you tell I'm already dreading this?  Kindergarten this fall...trying to savor all of this time while we have it!

Maurah is potty trained and Hayden is not...another thing that has got to happen in 2011!  Here's to hoping 2012 can be a diaper free year!

Maurah refuses to wear any underwear that aren't pink,  I have to sneak her Little Mermaid socks away from her to wash them, and we have to have her Dora jammies, sunglasses, slippers and headband if those are the jammies she chooses to wear.  Missing just one of those accessories will.not.do.

Cole still loves to sit on my lap and snuggle.  I pray the day never comes that he outgrows this.

I love watching Laina push her baby around in her stroller.  She'll bring her to me and say "Baby" in her sweet, mama-like voice.

Speaking of "mamas," Maurah brings Laina her pacifier and blanket every time she's crying.  I love that about her.

Jake and I spend most evenings just being together, catching up on our favorite shows - Parenthood, Modern Family, and The Biggest Loser.

Both of the twins are really into puzzle building right now.  This is a really fun stage because I could build puzzles with them all day...it's a calm, quiet activity.  :)

I think that's it for right now.  This is a pretty exhaustive list which is why I know for a fact that I wouldn't remember these things.  I think I'm going to try and do this every six months or so just to keep a record of the "everydays" of life...celebrating the every day ordinary like I originally wanted this blog to be about.

The Best Gift

So, the other night when I had had such a bad day - no, not the one I wrote about - the one I had only two days later (sad but true)...

Picture me going, making a trip, storming out grocery shopping (and that's not for dramatic effect, it's actually pretty accurate (again - sad but true)) and leaving Jake and the kids behind.  It was one of those "Quick!  I need air!" days for me.  Hence the leaving as soon as Jake got home from his long day at work. 

Poor guy.

But this is what I woke up to this morning.  He had this gift displayed on the computer screen, awaiting my groggy eyes and smelly morning breath.  I got teary.  I got happy.  I got so thankful

Because while I was traipsing up and down aisles of canned veggies and sugary cereals the other night, this is what my man was doing for me:
video

Isn't he so great?!?  Ladies, don't you just want to smooch him right now?!?  I know I do!  I love how much he knows me and I love how perfect the timing was for him to give this to me.  I woke up this morning, needing a huge hug...and he gave me so much more. 

I'm so thankful for all of your comments and emails that encouraged me, letting me know that flying off the handle once in a while is such a normal thing.  I absolutely don't want to make a habit of it but to know how so many of you have loved your children and raised them so well and now knowing that you've made these same mistakes...well, it's nice to be in good company.

But I have to say, this video right here shows that I'm in the best company every single day.  These five people make my life what it is.  Crazy, chaotic, stressful or not - I am so thankful

I have a beautiful family filled with love for each other.

Like I said...best gift ever.

So Far...

Just so you don't think that every day in January has been as bad as my last post, I wanted to do a quick update on what we've been up to.  Without further adieu, here's our 2011 so far:

 We have been wearing our pajamas backwards,
 played rousing games of peek-a-boo
 and squeezed our sisters so tightly, their eyes pop out.
 We spent a sick New Year's Eve at home BUT had a great time because we got to eat brownies IN the living room ON the couch...very big deal!

 Can you tell how thrilled we were? ;)

 New Year's Day, we built puzzles with Dale
 and snuggled in tight with Donna during their visit.
 We got to meet the cutest puppy EVER
Which resulted in some of the cutest MOMENTS ever...quick...who's got a puppy for us?  :)

Jake humored his wife by letting me take his picture...
 Good thing Laina's around...she's always up for humoring me with photo shoots!
 We've been reading books in diaper boxes...the story just comes more alive in this setting!
 We've gotten to hang with "Miss Hollywood"
 and boogied down many an evening before bed.
 We've chewed on puzzle pieces
 and Tinkerbell's legs...apparently we're teething.
 We've made silly faces,
 (Pardon the runny noses)
 Pirate faces,
 and given sweet smiles.
 We've tapped into our inner Transformer
 and pleased our mom by using the Christmas gift she got us for hours and hours.
We've also enjoyed kissing the cheeks on this sweet baby!  What could be more fun than that?!?

Hope your New Year has started off as pleasant as ours has!

Freedom

Yesterday was not a good day.

Well, let's be honest.  Yesterday was a horrid day.

If I had pulled my hair out, I would be bald now.  Probably not even have eyebrows.

The kids and I did not see eye to eye pretty much all day.  I quickly vented in a journal and prayer when they were in their beds, refusing to take their naps.  I journal very honestly and at the end of my prayer, I felt like things would go better.

Wrong.

Actually, things got even worse.  The whining, the tantrums, the interruptions, the yelling...like I said, not a day I'd want to have company over.

Last night, I started toward bed, totally defeated about my day.  The impatience, unkind words and frustration swirling around my memory, almost taunting me of how horrible of a mother I had been that day.  How do I let these little ones get the best of me some days?  Why can't I just be better?

I just happened to open up an old Bible study I started who only knows how long ago and never finished.  I thought, "Well, I guess I'll give it a try again" and went at it.  It had me going through Galatians 5 and, wouldn't you know, everything this passage of Scripture said was just for me at just that time.   I knew so well then that I hadn't "happened" upon anything but that God had placed this in my lap right when I needed it.

Galatians 5 is all about the freedom that we have in Christ and that we don't need to keep ourselves in bondage to old behaviors or attitudes.  It spoke of the issue at the time: circumcised vs. uncircumcised and living by grace.  Paul wrote in there that to try and follow the Law was an act of the people falling away from grace.  This is not a statement that they were losing their salvation but, instead, that following the Law was refusing the grace that Christ so freely gives us.  We are rejecting the freedom, the power of living in His Spirit and we try and attain righteousness on our own.

I find it particularly hard to live in the Spirit's power.  My flesh is so strong sometimes...most of the time...and it drives me crazy.  I wrote in my prayer yesterday that I would just love for my heart and my flesh to be united for once.  My journey through motherhood would look much different than it does now if that were the case. 

Patience would abound, my lap would always be full, I'd never get tired of being touched (insert sympathy for my husband here), my words would be sweet and my behaviors would not react to others' behavior but would be in response to the Spirit's leading instead.  In all things, I could find it joy.

The thing is, I try so hard to be this way and it just never lasts long.

God provided an answer for that too.  At the end of my study, the author writes,

"I find it interesting that God's remedy to living in bondage to the flesh is not trying harder to get our act together, but instead to seek more intimacy with the Father and walking more closely in the Spirit."

I just think this is perfect.  Basically, I'm trying to live by the Law, if you will, trying to do it all on my own and get my act together.  Instead, I should just spend more time with the Father, recognizing that the more I'm with Him, the more He'll rub off on me and shine through me...without me having to make a conscious effort to not blow my top off.

Today has been a much better day.  But even in a prayer I just uttered, thanking God for how this day has gone, I automatically said, "If I could just be more patient like this every day...I need to work on that."

I stopped.  That's not the answer.

So I changed it to, "I just need to keep in constant touch with You so that I can love my kids with the very best of me each day."  The thing is, somedays I have a lot to give and other days I don't have much.  But the Spirit is always ready to fill and overflow.  If I can just keep in step with Him, I'll never have to go to sleep at night thinking of how I short-changed my kids that day.

I'm always amazed at how easy God makes things and how difficult we make them.  He just wants us to come to Him every time, regardless of the situation.  How easily we forget that Jesus gives us all the answers we need! 

Recap on Wisconsin Trip

This past weekend, I asked for prayers for Jake and I as we traveled to America's Dairyland to see if God might be leading us there for further ministry.

All I can say is, holy cow(Ha!  Dairyland...cow...no pun intended, but that's funny!)

The weekend was incredible.

As in, meeting a group of strangers should never feel as comfortable as it felt.  It was like hanging out with friends all weekend.

Isn't the best how just the common thread of knowing Christ can bring people together so quickly?

We met with many, many people and felt at home with almost every one of them.

On Sunday, Jake spoke to a mix of middle school and high school students along with parents and some youth leaders.  I love watching him teach.  It's so obvious that this is what God called him to.  I love just basking in that fact as he interacts with students.

God used Jake's teaching to touch these kids, even just in this first time.  We were told that a young girl struggling with anorexia said she was inspired.  Another middle school girl came up to Jake afterward and said that she could actually understand what he was saying and that she was interested the whole time...and that she listened to Led Zeppelin on the way to church (which bonded she and Jake since he had just said that was one of the bands on his Ipod.  So cute.  :))

He also had parents and leaders say it was a message that hit home for them.  I just smiled when they were surprised at this, knowing that leaders who have worked with Jake tend to look forward to his messages.

It's not the praise of Jake that is being received, but the gift of the Spirit working in him and empowering him in this area of teaching the Word.  It never gets old or boring to see.

Jake is making one more trip the second week in February to teach the middle and high school students again and also to appear before the elders for a more formal interview.

Right now, we're the ones they want.  And we want them too.  So badly.

In my last post on this, I said that I was praying for our "forever home".  Honestly, I really believe God is leading us there and that is just freaking exciting!

If you wouldn't mind continuing with us in this journey through prayer, that would be so awesome.  It's scary to think of moving again, pulling Cole out of school, starting him in a new school, making new friends, etc.  But it's all worth it when I think of this one word:

Home.

Off to Wisconsin


The house is eerily quiet except for the rocking out of David Crowder and the swishing of the washing machine.

The kids are at my parents' and are staying there this weekend while Jake and I head to Hartland, Wisconsin to candidate at a church there.

I am praying so hard for God's will.  I'm praying that God's will is this.  It all seems so great from a distance and I'm praying that it really is how it appears.

Would you mind praying for us this weekend?  I'm hopeful that we've finally found our "forever home"...or at least our "10-15 years home."

Thanks for all of you who read this and who keep us in your prayers.  You've helped me become a deep believer in the power of prayer!

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...