Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Reformation Sunday

You know that I was born, saved and raised a Baptist and my husband called himself a "recovering Catholic," and that we now attend a Lutheran church. As members, I guess we get to call ourselves Lutherans now, and on the recent Reformation Sunday I was asked to give the children's sermon.

I was understandably anxious to speak about Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, because I'm a new Lutheran. A newbie, though, might have been the best approach, because I learned all about Monk Marty. Here's my sermon:

Today we're going to talk about gifts and how one man 500 years ago used his gifts to change the world.

Does anyone know what we're celebrating today?
(Not Halloween yet, one kid booed).

We're celebrating Reformation today.  On the last Sunday of October 500 years ago, a man named Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King, Jr., who also changed the world), put up a list of 95 things that he thought was wrong with the churches at that time.

See, only priests could read the Bible and Martin Luther thought that everyone should be able to read and understand the Bible themselves.

(I wasn't going to go into that whole paying to get out of Purgatory thing).

His list of 95 things started a big conversation and got him in a lot of hot water!  Some very religious people told him to take back what he said because they thought it was wrong.  He didn't, though.  And we're so glad that he was brave and courageous because it changed the way that we praise God!

God gave Martin Luther the gifts of studying and writing, and used his gifts to change the course of religion.  Out of that new religion came lots of new churches, including the one that we're all sitting in right now!

We are all given gifts from God. We may not know what they are now, but in time, we're able to tell what they are because they are things that we're really good at, that make us feel nice and help others.

Devon: You care a lot about your family.
Avery: You show love like no one I've ever met.
Lauren: You say what's on your mind.
Drew: You're quiet and thoughtful, but you're a natural born leader.

You all have gifts just like David, who we learned about last week.  He had really good aim, didn't he?

So today, I want you to think about what your God-given gifts may be.  Think about ways to use them that God would like, and how you can get better at those gifts.  Remember, like Martin Luther God may need you to be brave and courageous to use them for His work.

Let's all pray together: heads down, eyes closed, hands together.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for giving me gifts like you gave Martin Luther.
Please help me to be brave and to use them in a way that is pleasing to you.
Thank you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

On Earth

Has anyone seen Summer?  I swear I just saw her yesterday!

It's that time of the year again: pumpkin spice lattes are hitting the coffee shops, people are walking around in sweatshirts, I've swept up the last of the sand off my kitchen floor, and Ollie's hair has been trimmed.  Summer is over and school is starting!

I never know when something is going to hit me, and this feeling that I have a first grader hasn't hit me yet and it may not.  It's natural to have a first grader after you've had a kindergartener, so perhaps I knew it was coming and circumvented it.  Perhaps I won't feel it until after I drop him off at school tomorrow.  Maybe it'll be when I show off his first day of school picture, or as I walk around work all day wondering what he's doing at that moment, or when I pick him up afterwards.  Or maybe I don't realize that I'm feeling it right now as I'm getting all thoughtful writing this blog post.

For the night before first grade, Doug, Ollie, and I watched The Adventures of Captain Underpants over pizza delivery.  Then we trotted upstairs to put on pjs and climb into bed.  We've been slowly moving his bedtime back to 8pm but our bodies today were a little too snoozy, so we climbed into Ollie's bed around 7 with a long book.  Halfway through, Ollie put his hand on mine and said, "I think I want to stop here, Mama, I need to get some sleep."  So I closed the book, dropped it on the floor and asked if he wanted me to sing a song or if he wanted to listen to one on my iPhone.  He chose "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson and we watched MJ sing it at the Grammy's on YouTube while he sucked his thumb and used his other hand to caress the satin edging on his blankie. When the song was over, I turned to him and said, "Ollie, are you scared about tomorrow?"  And he said, "Yeah...but mostly I'm scared that you'll make me wear church clothes."  I laughed and said, "Oh, Ollie, no, you have your new tee shirt and shorts to wear tomorrow!"  Then he stuffed his thumb back in his mouth and things got serious.

Me: Ollie, this year you're going to learn a lot.  You'll learn about money and telling time, you'll read more and write more.  You'll learn about math and science and you'll get to meet new people and see a lot of your old friends.  We already know that you like your teacher and that she's really nice.  
Ollie: How do we know that she's nice?
Me: We met her and she's going to call you Ollie, isn't she?  And she was your teacher when you went through kindergarten camp, remember?  Last year?  You liked her.
Ollie: Oh yeah.
Me: I'm not worried at all about you learning new things, I know you'll be great at it.  You also, I'm sorry to say it, will learn more about bullies.
Ollie: Bullies?
Me: Yeah.  You'll see more about how kids can be mean to each other.  They might be mean to you. And you may want to be mean back.  Hopefully you won't be.  But can you promise me something?
Ollie: What?
Me: Whenever you see a kid who's maybe sitting alone, or playing by himself, or looking kinda lonely, will you be his friend?
Ollie: What about if he's a stranger?
Me: If he's a kid, he's not the kind of stranger to be afraid of.
Ollie: 'K...
Me: Because I don't care if you're the smartest kid on earth, or the handsomest, or the funniest, or even the bravest.  I just want you to be really, really kind.
Ollie: You want me to be the kindest kid on earth?
Me: No, I just want you to be really kind to everyone - to your teacher, to your friends, to the janitor, to the principal, to everyone.  Can you promise me that you'll try?
Ollie: Yeah.  I'll try, Mama.
Me: Thanks, buddy.  Now let's pray.

Together we prayed that he would have a great day at school tomorrow, and that he would learn a lot.  We prayed that he would make a lot of friends and be nice to everyone.  We prayed that he wouldn't have a bully or be one himself, and that if he sees someone being a bully, that he can stand up her or him.  (Here we went off on a tangent because he somehow has the idea that to stand up to a bully is "American" and that he has to wear red, white, and blue - which was a further tangent because his outfit for tomorrow isn't red, white, and blue - and now that I'm thinking about it, maybe he got that from standing up for the flag and singing the National Anthem at the start of games.)  We also prayed that he would find the gym okay, and get to the classroom okay, and that his buddy Benny wouldn't be home sick from school.  (Because they're in the same class!)

We made so many memories this summer, but boy was it a whirlwind!  I think summers get shorter when the kids are in school, and I bet they seem to get shorter each year as the kids grow older.  (Of course, I can say that because I'm not home with Ollie over the summer).

Okay, so it's hit me.  I'm not the greatest mother on earth, Ollie-gator.  I don't play with you enough, I shoo you away too much, and I definitely don't handle your outbursts as well as I wish I could.  But I can tell you that you're going to be the greatest first-grader on earth, sweets, whether or not you're the kindest, smartest, most musically inclined, or most creative.  Have a great year!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Congratulations Ollie!

Dear Ollie,

You just graduated from Kindergarten and turned 6 years old.  We are both so very proud of you!  While you're still holding on to some younger you things, like calling Storm Troopers Storm Troopulars, getting chocolate every-which-where when eating ice cream, or asking me not to be disgust[ed], you learned some wonderful things this year, babe.  

You learned how to read!  You moved to level 9 in your teacher's reading scale and came home with so much more confidence.  You love that you can read, but don't always want to read.  You're more interested in us reading to you - I think because you like the closeness and the fact that you don't have to think.  I know Mamas tend to think their children are the smartest of the smart, but it is so fascinating to listen to you read - you know so many of the "rules"!  You've told me about the "mean r" and the "silent e," how "ough" can sound differently and that "ea" doesn't always sound like "eee."  We are having fun reading together some smaller chapter books, right?  Like The Adventures of Dog Man, the BFG, Ralph the Mouse and Captain Underpants.

You learned how to write!  You get a little frustrated with spelling (which is normal), so we ask you to use your "Kindergarten spelling" which means to just write as the word sounds.  You like to use the white board to list the chores we ask you to do, and are really getting good at putting spaces between words - you learned that by putting your finger in between the last letter of the first word and the first letter of the next word!  You now are in charge of writing thank-you cards to people, and you have written the last three without any help from me.

You learned math and science.  You are using a new method for addition and subtraction that I didn't use in school, but it's working for you.  (I'm sorry - it's not called "subtraction" yet, it's "take away.")  This morning you explained to me how the pupil works and when I added some information, you were surprised that I knew anything about it.

You learned some Espanol.  You're not in love with that subject, but I'm proud of how quickly you've taken to it.

There are other life lessons that you've mastered this year, Ollie.  You've learned to pump your legs at swinging - you love to jump from really high which makes your hospital social worker father very anxious.  Your drawing and coloring have really reached the next level; you have a very keen eye for detail and the memory of an elephant.  Your dance moves (from gym and afterschool YMCA, I suppose) are ON POINT - you love to freak out to hard rock.  Sometimes I have come home from work and the garage door is nearly throbbing from the loud music your dad puts on to get your wiggles out.  You also are able to help around the house more: you can fold your laundry and put it away, clean windows and doors and help to take out the trash.

We're really proud of your positive progress, darling, but there are some things we have to work on - things that come with having new friends.  You've learned the new tricks of dealing with parents - you triangulate with the best of them and know how to rev us up.  You are a showman (I wonder where you get it?) and show off in front of your friends - with disrespect, ugly words and mischievous actions.  When you don't get your way, you huff and puff and scream and lash out.  While that's not new, it's becoming more of a concern as it makes its way into the classroom when you feel more comfortable with your surroundings.  If you hear other kids saying certain words, you like trying them out; at first for the shock factor, and then they get lodged in your routine despite our teachings and warnings.  So it'll be back to basics for you this summer, O.

With two working parents, you will continue having a routine.  Day camp is scheduled for you every day, which will be a lot of playing with some continued learning to keep you on task.  We have three weeks of campy-camp scheduled for you where you'll swim and boat, ride horses, climb trees and shoot some arrows.  New this summer, however, you will have some added chores and responsibilities (i.e., reading books for TV time and Brain Quest workbook for video game time).

You've knocked it out of the park this year, bud, and we couldn't be happier.  Let's keep it on the upswing this summer and have a great time!

Love, Mama


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pig Supper Movie Night!

Doug and I planned to take Ollie to the St. Paul Saints game last Saturday night for his birthday, but it got rained out.  Instead, we had a fun family night in.  Ollie was pretty bummed that we couldn’t attend the baseball game, so Doug and I tried to create a truly special family evening to make up for it.  We weren’t going for your run of the mill Monopoly and movie night!

We found out that the game was postponed from the stadium’s jumbotron despite our many calls to the ticket office throughout the wet and windy day.  All of us had already had a snack on the way to the field because we had agreed to eat at the stadium.  When we decided to head home, no one was really hungry for dinner so we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some pig supper supplies! 

What’s a pig supper, you may ask?  Well, it’s a once a year – maybe – type of dinner.  It’s when you eat as much ice cream as you can handle – for your dinner.  It’s a night Mom says SCREW IT and Dad decides not to argue and the kids think their parents rope the moon.  It’s a Cook family tradition that Mom started when she and us kids would go on vacation (either Dad didn’t have the time off and Mom had to get the heck out of Dodge or she would lose her mind, or it was the weekend of the Michigan-Notre Dame game when no one wanted to be around Dad justincase the Wolverines lost), and she wanted a night off from fighting the nightly who-can/will/should-eat-what battle with three children.  In my mind, one night she stood with her shaking hands clutching the sink for support as she listened to us girls fighting over trolls and Barbies in the living room and thought, Where's MY vacation?  I don't want to make ANYTHING! *looks at the freezer, then to the kids and back at the freezer* I should just stuff them with frigging ice cream, then I'll be the best mom ever and I won't have to do squat, and she did.  A star (of a meal) was born.

We got home and I gave Ollie instructions to find a movie and change into his comfiest pjs, Doug directions to pitch Ollie’s tent in the living room and set out his sleeping bag, and then set to work.

Now, a true pig supper involves packing up the kids and the wipes and heading to the nearest ice cream parlor.  It’s supposed to take absolutely minimal effort.  Like none.  Like, actually, give them money and send them on their bikes then put some cucumbers over your eyes and catch a wink type effort.  But if, like me, you want to make it a bit more gourmet, you roll up your sleeves and…

STEP ONE: …warm up 3 cake donuts (one for each person) in the microwave.

I KNOW, RIGHT?  Donuts are ALWAYS the best starting off point.  I mean, seriously, if you’re going to have a dinner with completely zero health benefits, do it UP.  It works best if they're the box kind that are all dried up and stale.  Actually, I don't know if it works best that way, that's just the only way I've ever done it.  A pig supper is usually tastiest when all the food is gone and Mom's in the corner pulling on her split-ends humming Elvis.

Nuke the done-dones for a short amount of time and put a wet, crumpled up paper towel in there to keep the donuts moist.  Yeah, I've done this a few times.

STEP TWO: Set each of the donuts in the bottom of a bowl.  Some people have specific dishware for ice cream sundaes.  I only have specific dishware for corn cob buttering – and that’s a paper plate with a fat stick of margarine dripping with old corn bits that’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for two years, but go ahead and use whatever dishes you want, Fancy Frass.  Just make sure there’s room for getting all that fat and sugar and carbs and forgotten dreams in there.

STEP THREE: Pile on the ice cream.  If you have more than one type of ice cream, go big or go home.

STEP FOUR: Drizzle (read: FLOOD) that hot fudge, butterscotch, caramel – whatever - on that bad boy and ignore your inner nurse practitioner's warnings.

STEP FIVE: Top it off with whipped cream – and you know I don’t mean a dollop.

STEP SIX: Barrage that sundae within an inch of its life with every type of topping you can imagine/stomach (or just one, Slimmy, if you’re on a diet).  I’m talking sprinkles, I'm talking nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, fruit, Captain Crunch, you name it.

Then serve that supper up with a smile, Mama, and take the night off caring about nutrition or rotting teeth.

(But seriously, make everyone brush their teeth before bed because who needs more dental bills than what your kids’ already jacked up teeth will cost, amirite?  My kid chews on ICE.)

I guarantee you that when you come out of the kitchen into the living room and the boys are in their pajamas, the tent is up, The Chronicles of Narnia is primed on the DVD player and you’ve got your hands full of delicious ice cream, your boys are going to look at you like you battled the Death Star and won.  The Hallelujah Chorus actually played behind me on Saturday night.  Really, I don’t know how it happened.

(Then the record scratch screeched because my eyes darted to the pillows laid out over the floor and I immediately screamed out to put the pillows back on the couches, we’re having ice cream for crying out loud, everyone on the floor and use your napkins this time.)

After that we settled in, started the movie and blissed out in a cuddle puddle on the floor slurping up our ice cream.


It definitely wasn’t the baseball game, but it wasn’t a usual family night either!

Post script – bedtime will suck, but due to sugar coma, they’ll fall asleep like *snap*.

If you want more ideas on fun family movie nights, check out PureFlix.  A website and app that strives to be the most trusted family-friendly video-streaming source on the web, PureFlix is a great resource when you a) can’t remember if there are curse words in a certain film, b) don’t know what PG means, c) can’t stomach another night of bickering over what to watch and d) want to watch a video that will– consistently and reliably – be safe and age appropriate for your littles.  They are currently offering free one-month trials!

What are your favorite ways to create a fun family night?

*(Oh, were you thinking I was going to show a picture of my cellulite-inducing sundae?  Lovepotion, that was gone before the movie even started.)