About that Christmas Puppy

Christmas puppy caught getting into the Christmas tree.

I’m pretty sure that by this point you’ve already done it. You’ve selected the puppy and you are eagerly awaiting the moment you can bring that sweet little ball of fluff home and video the delighted squeals of your children. You will be the hero of the day, you bringer of the Christmas puppy.

That is, unless your child distraughtly bemoans, “I wanted a cat!” Not that I know this from experience or anything.

But do you really know what you are getting yourself into?

It will all work out okay in the end. I can say these words because I absolutely ADORE the dog we got for our girls two Christmases ago. He snuggles in my lap every morning whilst I have my quiet time. He’s the happiest, softest, fluffiest, sweetest dog I’ve ever met. He treats the girls like they are his puppies and he doesn’t think twice about the way they grab and hug him all over. 

However, heed my warning before you bring your little guy home: it took us a full two years to get to this point.

He was SO tiny!

Alright, so let’s face it. The timing was not ideal. The girls were 4 and 2 at the time. I knew this would mean potty training a child and a dog simultaneously. I did not anticipate quite how difficult that task would be.

I think, deep down, I knew it wasn’t the best time for us to get a dog. But you see, the thing is, my husband HATES dogs and getting one for Christmas was HIS idea!!!! Please understand, when your husband of 10 years suggests getting a dog for the first time in your marriage, you push aside any logic and you go write a check.

Due to hubby’s deep aversion to all things canine, I gave him full reign over the type of dog we would get. He requested the same breed as our neighbor’s dog, a shih tzu, since it was the only dog he had ever halfway tolerated.

I mean, who wouldn’t love this teeny, fluffy guy?

Shih Tzu’s are notoriously hard to potty train. I’d say it took us a good year and a half before I felt really comfortable calling him potty trained. Even now, I have to leave him in his crate when we leave the house so that he doesn’t have an accident.

But do you know what it’s like to potty train a puppy in the middle of winter when you have a toddler???

First, notice just how small this puppy was. Rule number 1 of potty training a puppy is to lavish love and praises and treats whenever they tinkle outside. However, the grass was taller than he was! It was very difficult to tell if he had accomplished something worthy of such grand celebration, or if he was just fascinated by the nearest leaf. We spent a lot of time outside and it was cold.

Also, keep in mind that while I was spending all this time outside praising and watching puppy, my kiddos were back inside the house. Think about this for a moment. My choice was to either leave my little ones, inside, by themselves (bracing myself for impeding disaster), or wait the half-hour it would take to get them ready to come with me. By that time, puppy would have an accident. No matter what I chose, the two-year-old was often in tears.

Potty training a puppy also meant getting up in the middle of the night to take him outside. It was like having a newborn all over again, except I didn’t have to nurse him and I could shove him in his crate when I went to bed. So, not really much like a newborn at all except for the lack of sleep part.

And did I mention, the dog would eat his poop? Yeah. There was that. His favorite thing to do was sneak off, poop when I wasn’t watching, and clean it up himself, which was so considerate of him. I still have to monitor this.

Your Christmas puppy may or may not like to dig in the yard.

And potty training was just ONE of the issues we dealt with. Before buying your Christmas puppy, please consider all of the following:

-puppy chewing up your children’s toys
-puppy chewing up your children’s pants’ legs (there was a while there when every single pair of pants had holes in them)
-puppy having random bouts of diarrhea or vomiting
-buying special food to avoid the diarrhea or vomiting 
-puppy running away when outside without a leash (avoidable if you have a fence)
-puppy greeting every single guest by jumping all over them
-vet bills
-paying for training sessions that may or may not be successful
-accepting that training your children how to work with the puppy may be even harder than training the puppy how to deal with your children
-boarding/dog-sitting fees when you are out of town
-etcetera etcetera

But of course, you’ve already met that sweet little puppy, haven’t you? And he or she is SO cute and you’ve already picked out a name. 

In that case, ignore everything I just said and ENJOY your sweet little house mate!! And please, show me the Christmas video!

As obnoxious as he could be at the beginning, he certainly made up for it in adorableness! 
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Breathing Amidst the Busy Season

Closeup of motherhood figure

Life is full of seasons.

First, and most obvious, are the four seasons of every year: winter, spring, summer, and fall. I love living in North Carolina because we get to experience all four seasons, but my favorite is summer. I can’t stand being cold and I love never having to wonder what the weather is going to be that day. The forecast? Hot. End of story.

There are major life cycle seasons. Grade school, college, dating, first job, newlyweds, new home, first baby, etc. Each of these seasons teach us something new about ourselves. I’ve noticed that when I transition from one season to another, I’m likely to gravitate toward other people in a similar season. Is this true of you too?

Other seasons are much less obvious and often unexpected. This can look like a season of job searching, moving somewhere new, fighting health issues, or perhaps being a primary caretaker of a loved one. These seasons can be hard, rewarding, challenging, exhilarating, or exhausting. They push us to our limits and beyond. How we handle these seasons can make us stronger or leave us stagnant. Sometimes it’s circumstances beyond our control, and other times it’s a result of decisions we have made. No matter the cause, we have the opportunity to let the season change us for the better. Are you in one of these seasons right now? Have you come out of one recently?

The holiday season is upon us currently. This one comes every year and some of us love it, while others dread it. Personally, I love it, but I’m ready for a breather when it all comes to an end. Where do you fall on this line? 

My current season is one I have brought upon myself, despite feeling like I finally figured out how to conquer it. A season of busyness.

Why do I do this to myself?

This past spring and summer was a breathing season for me. I said “no” to a lot of great things I would usually have gone out of my way to do. But by the end of summer, I felt a surplus of energy and proceeded to add everything in all at once.

It was too much. So, you know what happened? The pieces of that schedule that I was most excited about took a back burner. The things that would bring me the most life and energy, were the ones that got neglected.

For me to be the best version of myself, I require time away from my kids. I’m a stay-at-home momma. My children are my job, my life. I love them to bits and pieces, but sometimes I want to strangle them. I’m learning that for me to be the best momma I can possibly be, I have to incorporate regular time that has nothing to do with my kiddos so that I don’t all of a sudden blow up and fall to pieces in front of them.

I don’t know about you, but I require rest. I require breaks. I need time to breathe, to think, to be still.

My season of busyness will be ending after Christmas, so I’m currently evaluating what I can truly say “yes” to. And as we enter this Christmas season, I’m reminding myself of what is important. What actually matters. All my commitments are positive and good, but what are the things that fill me in such a way that I can continue to pour out to others?

I hereby give you permission to take a break. Maybe that means you get store-bought rather than homemade for that cookie exchange. Maybe it means throwing gifts in a bag instead of wrapping. Maybe you can hire someone to clean your house or simply decide to let your cleaning standards slide for the time being. In this incredibly busy holiday season, choose what’s best. Focus on what matters. 

How will you give yourself a chance to breathe? Will this allow you to then breathe life into someone else?

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:5-6

That Time I Took My 3 Year Old Shopping

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Her excitement is due to the fact that her “money” has a picture of Frosty on it.

My sister sent me a text that said something to the effect of, “Is there anything your girls want or need for Christmas?”

YES! They needed water bottles. I may or may not have been ultra specific in the water bottle selection, as I have cleaned up my fair share of leaks. (Contigo for the win!)

I also tagged on a rather strange request. Might my sister want to give her three year old niece a gift card for Christmas? To buy clothes?

I’ve mentioned the princess dress fiasco, but it got worse. After bringing home what I felt was a super cute princess dress for my daughter, she asked me to return it. My three year old told me she did not want to wear the dress I had carefully selected and wanted me to return it.

At this point, I felt I had two options.

Option 1: “Child, you best be grateful. I paid good money (okay, six dollars) for this dress and you are going to like it. You are going to wear it to church on Sunday and you are going to be happy about it.”

Option 2: I could realize that she has an opinion and honor it. Could this possibly be an avenue to end the battle of getting dressed in the mornings? Putting the ball in her court could potentially lessen my stress while empowering her to make decisions.

I chose option 2, and my sister, being amazing as she is, gave my daughter a $25 gift card to purchase clothes for Christmas.

So, we had some fun with it.

I counted out 25 monopoly bills and had my daughter count them with me. “This is how many dollars you can spend on clothes today. You may choose whatever you like as long as it is something warm.”

It didn’t take long for her to find two pieces that she loved. A “princess dress” (strangely similar in color and shape to the one I had previously purchased…) and a sweatshirt with a dog on it. It was a winner because the dog was wearing a crown, and therefore, a princess. These two items would total $25 exactly.

We counted her money. She knew she was at her limit. When I told her I was going to buy her some pants, she conceded by crawling underneath the clearance items and telling me her legs were tired. Well, I suppose that’s normal for a three year old.

Moments later, she came across the most extraordinary piece of clothing she had yet witnessed in her lifetime. A princess shirt. A shirt with an actual princess on it. She fell in love with it, so we reasoned through the situation.

Me: “Do you have enough money to buy this shirt?”
Her: “No.”
Me: “This shirt is less money than your other items. If you put back one of the other items, you might be able to buy three things with your money.”
Her: “Put back the dress.”

We counted her money and found that she now had an additional $6 to spend. I’m all for encouraging good spending habits, so by golly, I was going to find something she loved for $6. It took a bit of searching, but we finally landed on a shirt with a star on the front.

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The loot.

I was so proud of her decision that I offered to buy her something additional, but she refused. She wanted those specific three items with her $25.

And, you know what? The next day, she jumped out of bed, ready to get dressed because she wanted to wear that princess shirt. I’d say that’s a win.

Perhaps I shouldn’t encourage such a young one to enjoy shopping or fashion, but I love that we had a fun mommy-daughter day. And (bonus!) it even included a small lesson in economics!

Maybe even the concept of counting her dollars will help her appreciate what she receives in the future…

Maybe.

No Strings Attached

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During the month of December, the radio in our car is regularly dialed in to a Christmas music station. My girls squeal with delight when songs about Rudolph and jingle bells begin to play. To the detriment of everyone around me, I always sing along with the radio, pretending to know most of the words.

There is one particularly catchy tune that I find fun to sing. The main character is a fairly sassy lady as she pleads her case for Santa to bring her all the best gifts:

  • “I’ve been an awful good girl.”
  • “Think of all the fun I’ve missed; think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed.”
  • “Next year I could be just as good… if you check of my Christmas list.”

I’d say she’s earned those decorations from Tiffany’s, what about you?

And of course, we always sing along to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. It’s a classic! It reminds us to be on our absolute best behavior because Santa is on his way with lots of goodies to be enjoyed.

Too often, that seems to be the focus around Christmas. Our gifts are earned through model behavior and making the “nice” list. Get on the “naughty” list and we should not be surprised to see a handful of coal in our stocking.

But aren’t gifts designed to be an expression of our love? When they come with strings wound tightly around them, they seem to be a little less enjoyable.

What if…what if each person could receive a gift without strings? A gift that communicated a love beyond our performance or good deeds. A gift that was not earned, but given to the nice and naughty alike.

There are songs about a gift like this too. They speak of a silent night years ago. That magical night when, a little baby boy lay asleep on the hay because there was no room in the inn.

It was on that night that God, the King and Creator of the universe, humbled himself and was born into the world as a helpless babe. The angels sang and a few shepherds gathered with their flocks to welcome this Child into the world.

He came without the flare and celebrations any ordinary king would have expected. He came quietly with one purpose in mind: to give the people of His creation the ultimate gift. The gift of His presence.

Being fully human, yet fully God, He would live a perfect life on earth so that we wouldn’t have to. He would give His body as the ultimate sacrifice; wiping our slates clean and making us white as snow.

All of this He would do, no strings attached, so that we might one day spend eternity with Him. We simply have to open our hands to receive it.

“He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone…” (1 Timothy 2:6; NLT. Emphasis mine)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8; NIV. Emphasis mine)

Gift Idea: DIY Encouraging Wall Art

*I am interrupting our regularly scheduled programming (30 Days of Thankfulness) to bring you a gift idea. I wanted to give you enough time to make it happen in case you would like to use it for Christmas! Happy gifting!*

Please be advised. It is not in my gift mix to come up with creative gifts and projects, so please don’t expect this sort of post to be happening again any time soon. In fact, the only reason I’m doing this post at all is because I had an idea, and I’ve had several people ask me how to recreate it. So, read on to find out how you can permanently encourage someone with a simple gift.

The Background Story

My husband’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something for him that let him know how loved and appreciated he is by the people in his life. I wanted him to see the kind of impact his life has had, and is having, on others. So, I took a concept he uses in his ministry to encourage others and morphed it into something he could hang on his wall in his office.

For as long as I can remember, my husband has been encouraging people in his ministry through the use of what he calls “hot seat.” The idea is that one person sits in the middle of a group of people, and that group goes around and speaks life over the individual. The group says things like:

  • “You inspire me by…”
  • “I love the way that you…”
  • “I see how God has used you through…”
  • “Your personality is attractive because…”
  • “The joy and laughter in you are contagious in that…”

Usually, by the end of the experience, everyone in the room walks away touched by the love just a few words can share. Tears are not uncommon. Life and purpose have been spoken and received and that in itself is a huge blessing.

The Idea 

In an effort to try to pass this on to my husband, I decided to create a permanent hot seat. I enlisted the help of friends, family, coworkers, etc and asked them to send me three words that described Eric. It could be something like “leader,” “friend,” or “encourager.”

I then plugged what I was sent into a website and used it to create a word cloud. The more often a word was used, the bigger it would become on the cloud. Here is the image that came up for my husband:

Word Cloud

The final step was to take this image and have it printed on canvas so that he could display it in his office. Now, every day at work, my husband is reminded of how God is using his life to impact others.

It’s simple really, but with a gift like this it becomes just a little bit harder to believe the lies the enemy tries to sell us. It becomes just a little bit easier to believe that God has called us to a specific purpose and that we can utilize what he has given us to live for something a little bigger than us.

The “How To”

Thinking of a person who could benefit from this? Getting started on Christmas gifts? Here is where I give you the steps of what I did. Take them or leave them. Put your on twist on it. Maybe you could do a painting. Perhaps a collage or scrapbook. Or steal my process. Whatever you do, I’m sure it will be received with much gratitude!

  1. Create a list of words. Include all repeated words.
  2. Go to wordle.net.
  3. Click the “Create” tab.
  4. If necessary, download java as it is required to use the program.
  5. Copy and paste your words from step 1 into the text box, then press “Go.”
  6. My computer asks if I want to run the application. If yours does this, click “Run.”
  7. Now you get to play around with the font, layout, and color of your words.
  8. Once you’ve found the perfect display of your words, click “Open in Window”.
  9. Take a screenshot of the larger version of your image. This is the easiest way I have found to save the image! (Not sure how to take a screenshot? See if this website helps: http://www.take-a-screenshot.org)
  10. Save the image, crop as necessary, and you are ready to have it printed!
  11. I took mine to be printed on canvas at Office Depot. If I had more time, I would have had it printed by a professional photographer or sign company. A professional will cost more and could take several weeks. A place like Office Depot, CVS, or Walmart can get it done in a day or two for a lot less money, but the quality won’t be as good. Your choice!

Note: I chose to use wordle.net, but another popular site is tagxedo.com!

Have fun! I would love to see any images that you create!