What Are You Thinking?

How often have these words slipped out between gritted teeth?  “What are you THINKING?!?”  Or maybe, “What ARE you thinking??” Better yet, “What are YOU thinking?!”  But this year, the phrase has taken a turn.   “What are you thinking?” has become an invitation, not a threat veiled as a question.  In the classroom, I have begun to use a strategy with my students of invitation to be metacognitive…to think about our thinking and go deeper with the texts we are reading.  We start our reflections with what we noticed, what we see, what we wonder about, what we are feeling.  We think about character’s actions and notice patterns and traits.  Students are connecting stories from their own lives to the narratives of the characters in the books we read.  Illustrations become a jumping off point for observations, to think deeper and to notice.
We remind each other daily that REAL READING is a mixture of the text paired with our thinking…text alone doesn’t have the heart that comes from thinking deeply about the words. As we read text, we stop and put up our thinking bubble, face in, ready to share our thoughts about the text.  We pause.  We think.  We share.  We notice.  We feel.  We see.  It has become a class norm and the class culture…an expectation that text is more than words and that our discussion together is spent in the business of taking time for deep thought and listening.When I slip home, though, out of the classroom, it becomes exponentially harder to maintain this mindset.  “What are you thinking?” reverts back to a mom-yelled rhetorical statement, not a welcoming question.  Where does the mental strength, the time and the perseverance come from to pair this thinking with our parenting?  We are called to be question askers.  To be consistent at looking and noticing and truly seeing.  And more than that, to ask our children, with genuine hearts, what they are thinking and to listen.

christine-thinkingWhat would happen if we all had giant thought bubbles to hold around our faces everyday?  Would people sit up, take notice and listen more readily?  How different would our homes, our relationships and our world be if we took time for real thinking?  Real listening?  That perfect intersection of vulnerability that gets to the heart of real communication.

Try one of these thinking stems and see what might follow…it’s not magic, but it does lead to REAL conversation.  As we look at the person of Christ we see this again and again.  Christ asks the questions.  “What do you need?”,  “Why do you doubt?”, “What do you think?”, “What do you want me to do for you?”, “Why are you thinking these things?”,  “Why are you so afraid?”, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?”, “Do you want to get well?Christ, being fully divine, had no need to ask the questions.  Asking the deeper questions had a bigger purpose.  A chance to turn the tables allowing for someone to notice.  To see.  To feel.  To think.  To wonder.  Not to be told, to be put in their place, to be shut down and out.

The question is ours…to ask and to answer, “What are you thinking?”*Special thanks to my friend Hillary who shared the life changing book and ideas shared here (Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor )


{this post was originally published in October 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

Press or Walk

{this post was originally published in August 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

Vocabulary and shades of meaning make my heart skip a beat.  The 3rd grade teacher in me salivates a bit over the day when we get to pull out the thesauri and find the perfect word for our narratives.  To push away from using mundane, overused vocabulary in favor of verbiage that truly fits the situation.  And so, as I look over images from our recent vacation, this game of “find the perfect descriptor” begins.

We had planned this trip to Crater Lake and Sunriver awhile back and were so looking forward to seeing grandparents, watching friends get married and experiencing one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders together for the first time.  And then, just days before departure, the newscasters began to report that there was a fire right on the Western Rim of Crater Lake.  Close enough to the Historic Lodge and Visitor’s Center that the most efficient road in was closed.  My carefully plotted and attained Lodge Room Reservation seemed like it might disappear before we ever arrived.  Luckily, despite warnings, there were other routes in and the staff assured us it was safe to come to the Lake.

Finally packed and ready, bikes atop the van, we left for our trip, stopping quickly at the Library to grab the long-awaited reserved items that had arrived.  Before we hit the road, I wanted to return one book that was close to its due date.  No 50 cent fine for this responsible library-goer, thank you very much.  As we drove down into the underground garage to put the book in the drive-up slot, a loud, ripping sound made me slam on the brakes.  And with a sickening realization, we remembered the bikes on top of the van.  No longer standing proudly, waiting for biking adventures.


Our regrets, tears, frustration, brokenness and car parts blocked the entry to the library.  Drew wailed the words that were in my mind, “OUR VACATION IS RUINED.  IT’S OVER!”


Calls were placed to the insurance.  Friends helped us schlep the bikes home.  The car parts were stowed and we hit the road, bound for Crater Lake, fire and all.  Folks wrote on our Facebook wall that hopefully the worst incident of our trip happened at the beginning and that things had to look up from there.  My eldest who, like me, can get stuck in the negative narrative, kept trying to say positive things and lift my spirits.  And I realized I needed to be the one to pull myself up and out of that grimy, dark pit of negativity and be the adult.  To change the story I was telling myself and displaying with my presence.  To “fake it ‘til I made it,” like I tell my students time and time again.  “Change the verbiage, Christine.  Look for a new shade of meaning.”


Because of the mishap before we ever left town, I was feeling a bit anxious for all we would miss out on at our destination.  We were going to be late.  Check in was at 4pm and Trip Advisor had loudly and boldly reminded us through those who had gone before, that everything at Crater Lake would be crowded, busy and full of lines.  And then we rounded the bend and this stretched before us…


Everyone tells you that Crater Lake will take your breath away.  And.  They are right.  Its blue waters are truly otherworldly.  So we stopped and took in the view (smoke in the distance and all…).  We eventually made it around the lake, the long way.  The surprise? We missed the crowded, line-filled check in. Greeted by calm, friendly staff, we got to our room.  And despite the close up view of the fire out of one window, we had crystal clear sightlines to Wizard Island and Crater Lake out the other.



The choice of mindset became clear once again, God using whatever means possible to remind us.  Which words do we choose?  Which story do we tell?  How do we model, as parents, the right response to life’s hiccups to our children?  As we entered this long-awaited vacation, did we PRESS forward, like soldiers off to war, or WALK through, letting the views and beauty into the narrative?

These “shades of meaning” are so small but mean so much.  I cried, like Drew my youngest, outside the library parking garage.  I had many self-loathing thoughts coming through my head and out of my mouth just hours earlier.  But the shade of meaning I was to choose had to be connected with the example I planned to set for the boys too.  Fists clenched, teeth gritted, PRESSING on through our trip, determined to save it?!?  Or WALKING forward, hands and eyes opened for the grace and beauty right there?  It was the choice to be made.  Just like the two windows from our room.  Did we fixate on the window framing the fire and smoke and doom?  Or rotate to the other showing the calm lake?

I am not one to ignore the realities, however painful, to be in LaLaLand, floating on a cotton candy cloud, downing hot chocolate and singing happy songs while the world is burning below.  But we do have a choice.  As parents we choose every single moment the story we tell our children, even without words.  What is our knee jerk reaction after things don’t go according to plan?  What words do we use with and towards the ones we live with and love most when they mess up?  What lens do we chose to look through in the midst of difficulty?  When the schedule and plan derails, what next?

My own kids and husband are reminding me through their actions of the answer.  We walk.  We don’t press or finagle.  We aren’t called to coerce and manipulate.  We walk.  We take in the view, even if it is different from what we expected.  And after we let the tears flow and say our truth, that “this ISN’T how it was SUPPOSED to be!” we can turn and look out the other window and maybe be freed to see what IS.

Holding Space for Someone Else

{this post was originally published in June 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

After a rough parenting day, one which involved three instances of difficult transitions with my 5 ½ year old, I typed a text message to a few girlfriends through tears.   It has been the first week of summer vacation and as a teacher, the days have been filled with writing report cards, packing up a classroom, saying tough goodbyes, helping my students and my own children wrap up their years all the while hoping everyone has lunches, signed permission slips and clothing that is clean.

Chrstine 1


This year end frenzy has been magnified due to an upcoming transition in our family as I move from half time to full time teaching. My youngest will start kindergarten and my oldest will be in 4th grade. For better or for worse, ¾ of our family will be in the same building all day for school…we will see who ends up embarrassing who the most come June 2017!

Christine playground

As exciting as this whole shift is, it is a time of deep and oftentimes difficult transition. And in these times of change, it can be easy to dig deeper into the anxiety, the “what if’s,” the fears, the unknowns and spin out of control. But that handy scientific term…osmosis?!? Remember that biological term for the process where molecules can pass from one place to another? Well, it becomes a real life demonstration lesson for our family all too often.

Christine 1.3

Today it was a building frustration that my children don’t just DO what I ask them to do WHEN I ask them without hesitation or complaint. Instead of responding with patience, calm and lack of charged emotion, I demonstrated the exact opposite. Stressors that have nothing to do with my children took over. Instead of letting their frustrations roll off, I engaged. I got frustrated. I entered into the anger.

In the midst of this moment of complete exhaustion, I typed out that quick text to two girlfriends confessing my own stuck points and frustrations. And even over their phones, they supported me, encouraged me, made me laugh and provided a place where I felt love unconditionally.

One sent me this quote:

Holding space for someone else “means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” – Heather Plett

It dawned on me that this was the very message our family’s psychiatrist was planting this week as well. As parents, it is our job to hold space. To walk alongside our children, “without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them…” When my boys exhibit behaviors that embarrass me or leave me sinking into exhaustion, I keep hearing a faint voice of our counselor reminding us to not engage and respond with matched emotion. Rather, to take a break. To offer a suggestion or two that has worked for us. And most importantly to listen and hold space for our children where they experience God’s grace and acceptance and support. I am hoping against hope that the few times we disengage, leaving the heightened emotions behind, that we then begin to build the relationships with our children that are only possible with true support.

As we walk into summer, it is my prayer that we can all seek to be space holders for those around us. May we let go of the need to fix others, to change outcomes, to stay closed and to cling to judgmentalism.   But to enter conversations and interactions with the goal of open hearts and hands as we listen to and care for others on their own journeys.

Christine 1.2


The Rain Fly

christine 3

{this post was originally published in May 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

A little over 12 ½ years ago we were knee deep in wedding preparations and of course this included the opportunity to register at some of our favorite stores. Registering conjures up many images in my mind, not all of them are pleasant. We had a brilliant idea, though. With hopes of outdoor adventures in our future, we decided to register at REI. REI would allow us to register for that water filtration system we would need for backcountry adventures. We could select the perfect Thermarest to keep us comfy. And of course…the sleek, lightweight, 3-season, “high in livability” tent for two.

Fast forward 12 years. I am standing in Costco. It’s mid-March and I am surrounded by outdoor “necessities” on all sides. Air beds. Cots. Coolers. Pop-ups. Cooking accessories. Kayaks. Backpacks. Lanterns. And yes. You guessed it. Tents. No more sleek, easy-to-carry models. We are talking full-on, Coleman, 10 person CABIN tents complete with vestibules, ventilated annexes and netted roves with unadulterated views of the stars. It was almost a shameful moment to imagine the potential purchase. We had become THAT family. The one that succumbed to the mini van. The family that gave in to the tent that could fit three queen Aerobeds. Would this be a slippery slope to glamping?! No more visions of hard core expeditions carrying all we needed on our backs?! Despite the fear of judgment, the Costco card was scanned and the tent procured. We now might break our backs setting up our home away from home, but there was space for “everything we needed.”

christine 2Just a week ago, we set off on our second adventure with the tent of amazingness. Our van was filled to the brim leaving barely any room for our poor dog, Sally. We left behind the worries of classrooms and congregations and hit the road. It was a warm Friday afternoon, hitting the low 80s. Blue skies promised a warm and comfortable weekend ahead. I finally exhaled, prepared to enjoy Mother’s Day weekend with wonderful friends in the Oregon outdoors.

After pulling up to the campground we met up with our friends and chose a spot to pitch the tent. The lure of starry skies and trees towering over us led us to naively pitch the tent without the rain fly.   We settled in for some beautiful views from the comfort of our pillow top queen Aerobed and down comforter (we nixed sleeping bags years ago…). Night one went fine. Didn’t sleep too much, but at least we enjoyed the starry view. Night two, we crashed hard. Our day had been filled with river exploration. Water gun fights. Amazing food concoctions. Raging campfires and multiple s’mores. Shenanigans with fellow mom friends. Kids running in packs like our very own Lord of the Flies. Suffice it to say, everyone fell asleep without much complaining.

christine 1

Until…the rain. The unpredicted, unplanned for, early morning rain showers. The rain fly seemed so superfluous just 36 hours prior. But things changed. The weather defied the most reliable apps on our phones. My husband went flying for the car to dig through the box and find the rain fly. We shivered while trying to unroll the fly, attempting to launch it over the almost 9 foot height of the already pitched tent. Somehow the kids slept through it all and we scurried back into bed after securing the fly enough to last until our departure later that Mother’s Day morning.

Mother’s Day. It’s often one of those days that we build up in our minds. A holiday filled with big expectations of handmade cards, colorful flowers, kid-prepared breakfast in bed. Sweet children cooing around their moms’ feet, gazing up with loving affection. But our best intentions and expectations often shift with time and perspective and LIFE. Those sleek, “high in livability” tents for two are soon traded in for the roomier and more comfortable Coleman models. Motherhood becomes an opportunity for best laid plans to be uprooted and changed. Parenting is all about planning for the perfect moment of starry skies perfection, and then running for the rain fly when the unexpected “storm hits,” burrowing down under the wet comforter and laughing at the ironies.

For me, the process of practicing our faith in the midst of raising children also looks so different than I imagined nine years ago, days before having our firstborn. You can “register” for all the necessities, and think you have all the boxes checked, everything prepared and purchased for success. And then these little free-will beings enter your neat and tidy world and change the homeostasis. It’s these same little ones, though, that teach us about God and faith in ways we never could have imagined. They help us expand our thinking and deeply held beliefs when they try and grasp the confusing enormity of God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity. Children ask the tough questions and send us running to grab the rain fly to keep us dry during the storms of their growing years.

Through it all—the warm days filled with lazy exploring in nature to the unexpected rains that surprise us—God grants us community to help us experience a felt presence of the Holy Spirit. We are not left alone. As the disciples attempted to grasp this new reality after Jesus’ ascension, God promises them a gift of presence. God moves amongst them in the craziest of ways. With fire. Wind. And too many languages to count. In the midst of true bewilderment over it all, the disciples are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them figure it all out in community on that first Pentecost.

Maybe these moments, the surprising and unexpected, send us running for protection, for our “rain fly” that we might have deemed unnecessary.   But may we know that true community and support are worth it and often, the means to weathering the hard times.

God, we thank you for the ways you surround us with fellow imperfect friends and family to show us the truest way to experience your grace and love.

Sweetness is Finite

cherry blossoms

{this post was originally published in April 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

After two months of immersion in something slightly embarrassing (binge watching the entire Gilmore Girls series), I am finally pulling myself out of hiding and rejoining life.

With the end to Gilmore, Season 7, Episode 22, I am able to dig back into reading. Many library holds went unchecked out or ended up overdue as I sided with “just one more Gilmore Girls episode…” over picking up a book. First up, though? Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, & the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. Doerr also penned the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See. Four Seasons chronicles the time Anthony and his wife were given the chance to spend a year in Rome in 2004 with their six month old twins while he worked on All the Light. From the moment I cracked this book open, I was immersed in the world of Rome…the sounds, the architecture, the history, the smells and food. All the while paired with parenting littles and the unique challenges that brings to travel and daily life….and sanity.

The book is organized into seasons and at the end of the first section about Fall, Doerr writes,

“I’m thankful that everything sweet
is sweet because it is finite.”

And my breath caught. Everything is truly sweet, because it has limits. Sweetness is finite. Boundaries make the special things in life…just that. SPECIAL.

The last episodes of Gilmore Girls were so poignant and sweet for many narrative reasons. But mostly, it was the knowledge that the end was coming that kept taking over my thoughts. It was a slippery slope running quickly towards…the finale. The final visions of characters. The “end” of story lines. No more insanely witty discourse. No more Lorelai or Rory. No more Luke’s Diner.

As parents, some sweet moments are truly sweet because we know there is “an end in sight”. Diapers, spoon feeding, babbling, sleepless nights?!? There are times they feel all the more precious because they truly are finite. Our children will develop. Learn to talk. Eat independently. Walk on their own. Communicate without us looking over their shoulders.

We are moving into the season of Spring and it is a time of new growth in the world around us. In classrooms, students are preparing work, taking statewide tests; teachers are assessing data in preparation for parent teacher conferences. The church calendar tells that we are Easter people, living in a time of resurrection. Flowers are pushing through the soil to paint our yards in color. Spring cleaning means taking stock, letting go and “clearing the decks” of the old. In our lives, though, spring cleaning might mean leaning into what lies ahead, the new life we wait on. And, it’s time to take stock in the sweetness of the finite.

Before relishing the sweetness of the endings, I believe we must also take a deeper look at what is ending. When we push ourselves and our children into the new thing…..new sport season. New grade level. New friendships. New developmental stages and expectations. New adventures. New responsibilities. Well, we can lose sight of that crucial moment of reflection.

So this year, as we roll into Spring and the newness bursts forth around us, stop and take a minute to mark and remember the sweetness of the moments that have passed by. Help your young ones to mark and remember the many things they have accomplished, tackled and worked through. The hard challenges that have felt impossible in the moment just might have offered enough disequilibrium to lead to new growth and development.

May we sit in moments of sweetness and take note of our surroundings, knowing that the finiteness of the moment is a gift. It is also a reminder of God’s overarching love—the one true infinite element. We are hemmed in by it and held in it. God’s love holds us through each moment and links the days together. May we hold out these road maps to our children and ourselves to see how our journeys, while made up of many endings, are part of a much bigger adventure. And adventure full of much sweet finiteness.

A Sapling to Grow


{this post was originally published in February 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

“I try to believe,” she said, “that God doesn’t give you more than one little piece of the story at once. You know, the story of your life. Otherwise your heart would crack wider than you could handle. He only cracks it enough so you can still walk, like someone wearing a cast. But you’ve still got a crack running up your side, big enough for a sapling to grow out of. Only no one sees it. Nobody sees it. Everybody thinks you’re one whole piece, and so they treat you maybe not so gentle as they could see that crack.”

― Rebecca WellsDivine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Something began to crack. Not sure WHEN, but the tipping point was knowing that our boys had been yelling about underwear while waving it in the air.  Outside.  For all the neighborhood to hear.  Or playing practical jokes on babysitters.  Name calling was the norm.  Hitting seemed to have become the knee-jerk reaction to frustration and anger.  And the solution?  Turning our backs the other way, too emotionally exhausted to do more than bandaid it all with Netflix and PBS Kids, after appealing to other experts, friends and books.

The “crack” led to a reset. We “cleared the decks” and went back to square one, leaving only the basics (which by majority world standards are still quite extravagant).  Games, puzzles, art supplies and books were left alone.  Everything else was carefully packed away.  Screens were blackened.  It was time for the crack to “run up our side.”  Maybe this change wouldn’t be seen by many others, but no doubt our boys’ REACTION to the change could be heard by our neighbors!  Seen or not by the outside, it became necessary for the health of our family.

It was a wide, painful crack. But as Rebecca Wells’ quote so wisely says, it was “big enough for a sapling to grow out of.”  Sometimes it feels as if our story is cracked wider than we can handle.  That the narrative doesn’t seem to be going the way we planned.  The plot is flawed and headed off in a direction that isn’t linear.  All we feel is the pain.  The taking away.  The “not yet.”  And yet nobody sees it, or us.

We have just entered the season of Lent on the church calendar. These forty days preceding Easter give us time to strip things bare.  To pare down to the basics.  To let go of the things that keep our focus off of what truly matters.  Lent is a time of reflection.  A time to repent and turn from the patterns that are binding us and holding us.  This whole season of Lent “kicks off” with a service centered around dust.  Ashes.  Remnants of the fire.

It all sounds kind of morbid at first glance. Who wants to give up the comforts we love?  Chocolate?  TV?  Coffee?  Or in our boys’ case….LEGOS. Ipad time.  Or using mean words when the rage boils underneath.  Lent and parenting are actually more alike than we often imagine.  Our best attempts to raise these little humans to lead from a place of love, can often feel impossible.  Parenting can sometimes feel like a lot of taking away.  Losing.  Fire-filled moments.  But as ashes return to the earth, something new can spring up.  Fire, according to the National Park Service, “reduces dead vegetation, stimulates new growth and improves habitats for wildlife.”  I remember story, after amazing story, rising from the ashes of Mt. St. Helens’ volcanic explosion back in 1980.  New growth kept miraculously finding its way to the same places that had once been filled with devastation.  And oddly enough, there were many situations that seemed BETTER than before.  The narrative changed, but also improved.

As we walk through this Lenten season, individually or in our role as parent, we must remember these wise words of Gertrud Mueller Nelson in her book To Dance with God.  She writes, “We cannot hope for change in the other until we have changed ourselves.  We cannot change without dying.”  We must face these painful places in ourselves, modeling for our kids what it means to repair our mistakes, apologizing when our angry words get the best of us.  Asking for a do-over when we avoid what will hurt and maybe feels most difficult.

As Valentine’s Day rolls around this Sunday with the Lenten season already begun, we seek that God will “take away our hearts of stone.” That God would give us “hearts of flesh.”  In the midst of the cracks and the pain, the hard parenting moves we need to make, we can seek a God that meets us.  A God that desires to grow a sapling and bring new life to places that have felt broken or hard as stone.  Maybe we will even find places, surprising spots, where we can take on something new in a place that once felt barren.  Ashes giving way to new life.

Some questions for Reflection:

Where has your life felt “cracked” this season?
What painful interactions have you allowed to grow and become habits within yourself or your family?
What new life or “sapling” are you longing to have become real in your life?
What new commitments could you “take ON” during this Lenten season, rather than give up?

A Joyful Mystery


Happy New Year!


A clean slate and a fresh start begins today!

We put so much pressure on ourselves to make resolutions and change our bad habits and lazy ways. Every January 1st, goals are set. Words of the year are declared. We push forward into the days ahead, feeling strong and motivated and positive. And then….the hard news. The diagnosis. The unexpected phone call. The world spins in ways we weren’t planning on. It feels impossible to hold tight to those intentions.

As I walk through moments of difficulty and sadness with my own boys, the world and its unpredictable ways often feel overwhelming. They struggle with grasping their own **little**worlds, their friendships, school challenges and family expectations, let alone stomaching what unfolds on the news and in our bigger communities and world.

So to see times of mystery as joy, feels counterintuitive.

To envision the unknown and challenging as worthy of gladness and praise, seems naïve.

How do we move forward amidst it all with joy? Gladness? And praise? We are working on this in our own lives and family these days. Trying to upend patterns of negativity and irritability and replace our knee jerk reactions with stillness, calm and an open heart. We are attempting to ask questions and seek more from each other, rather than assume.

When I heard Brené Brown speak this past fall, she challenged us with a question. “What is the story you are telling yourself?” How are we creating narratives for ourselves and for our closest loved ones that are fictional, inaccurate and made up in our own heads? Do we see the problems of our world and in our day-to-day lives as insurmountable obstacles, believing everyone is out to get us? How can we instead turn the questions back on ourselves and our children, seeking to see these problems differently?

“No one wants to play with me!”

“He hit me and said he’s not my friend…”

“You love HIM more than ME!”

“I don’t want to be in the family anymore! You’re a baby RAT, MOM!”

These are just a few of the many words uttered within our walls recently. I often don’t have advice to share with boys. Only rage bubbles up. But I am starting to hear Brené whispering in my ear these days, “What story are you telling yourself?” The root of these situations is often way different than I surmise and rather than thinking about these problems and challenges as a joyful mystery, I want to run and hide and ignore it.

As we walk into 2016, I am hoping for a year of joyful mystery mixed with a hefty does of contemplation. Time to sit with these questions. Opportunities to live with the pain and not run from it. Wherewithal to probe and ask for more from our boys, rather than escaping from the yelling. I hope we can all push ourselves to be on each other’s sides, leading with kindness rather than judgment or harshness. May we re-write the stories we tell ourselves with truth, remembering these words of Paul to the Romans:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:

Take your everyday, ordinary life—

your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life—

and place it before God as an offering.

Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention of God.

You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God bring the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.”      

~Romans 12:1-2, 9

{this is originally a post for the blog Practicing Families that I contribute to every so often…you can also find it there, along with lots of other pieces}

December Photo Project 2015

One of my favorite projects each year is the December Photo Project.  It pushes me to look in the everyday to find joy, beauty, silliness and take notice.  Usually I post the pictures here daily or weekly, but this year…it’s in one fell swoop.  Lots of December 2015 through the eyes of my boys and my students, but they are a big part of life these days in the best of ways.  Hope you had time to stop and take note during December too!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 1st

And so it begins….LEGO Star Wars Advent calendar and the December Photo Project!!! Almost forgot and had to spring out of bed to hide the calendar and all the advent slips for the month, but finished in the nick of time! We’ll see how it goes with odd days for Drew and even days for Alex…


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 2nd
New Christmas PJs


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 3rd
Time to craft that letter! Love…”do you like the Grinch?” Alex has decided to get lost in Harry Potter #4 instead….


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 4th

Drew ‘s OT traced his body yesterday and he was so excited by it that he had me do another one at home today. And then he added all the body parts and labels. I can’t get over his detail and just love this. Especially the brain. Now I know my obsessive talking about mistakes growing our wrinkly brains and creating neurons is sticking. My poor students and family won’t hear the end of it.


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 5th
Tomorrow is St Nicholas Day so today we are reading a few books about St Nicholas, setting out shoes and watching the Veggie Tales movie about him. This is a newer tradition for us that we began about 5 years ago….but I love the focus on the joy of giving (and putting oranges and gold, chocolate coins in stinky boys’ rain boots!)


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 6th
Tie Time!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 7th

Snowman poop! Bliss for Breakfast.

2015-12-08_1449611169December Photo Project 2015 :: December 8th
Sick Day…one stayed home with a fever. One got a migraine thanks to the Kenyan Drumming assembly. So, chicken with stars soup, saltines and Peanuts it is!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 9th
Youngest home sick again. Brotherly drama is kept at bay with books. Love hearing Drewsie read Llama Llama Holiday Drama. “Sometimes we should take a rest and hold the ones we love the best.” Meanwhile Alex, dressed as a 50 year old banker, is plowing through Harry Potter 5.


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 10th :: Worms!
Nothing quite like eldest bursting in the door and dumping out a huge pile of WORMS from his WATERBOTTLE into a Tupperware container. Science lover at heart.


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 11th

Love arriving home from my teaching day to an empty house but lots of evidence of a project. Matty must have been home baking! Love it!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 12th
“Ho, Ho Ho! What would you like for Christmas?!”
Me: “Well behaved children.”
“Santa”: “Well, we don’t have that…how about some makeup instead?! How about for you?”
Matt: “Peace and quiet.”
“Santa”: “Well, we don’t have any…”


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 13th

Woken up to the strains of, “Mom!!! It’s a Winter Wonderland!!!! We’re ice skating!!!” {aka…Netflix’s Winter Wonderland station, socked feet on wooden floor, Santa hats and lots of slipping}.


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 14th
Coloring and wrapping presents on another dreary afternoon. This one always brightens the gray days. He was just listening to “Santa Baby” and looked up and said, “So is this Mrs Claus singing to Santa?!?”


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 15th :: Reindeer Food!

Forgot to put something in the Advent Calendar for today so scribbled this on a scrap of paper at 2:30am when I was up to the bathroom with youngest. Love this idea from Kelle Hampton. simple project with random staples from your pantry. This year we only have stale tortilla chips and rock-hard dried blueberries. But it all works for reindeer food!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 16th

Let’s Go Warriors! Fun new sweatshirts from Macho Pop and LeiLei!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 17th
So immensely proud of these bunnies. Animal Reports DONE!!!! So much researching, writing, paragraphing, drawing & perseverance from these amazing 3rd graders!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 18th

Last day of school for the 2015 school year. My amazing job share partner made Room 15 checker boards and the kids were beside themselves. So so fun. Thankful we HAD school (since Corvallis was cancelled) and so grateful for the many volunteers who helped us host the Spirit of Giving. Each child left with 4 wrapped gifts for their family. Just amazing. Ready to rest and hopefully get my voice back. …if I survive my own boys!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 19th

Auntie Elena Visit and Game Day!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 20th
Lots of napping (by eldest and the furriest) and read all of Jennifer Weiner’s “Who Do You Love?”. The threat of library fines can work wonders! A book yesterday. Another today. Four more to go before Christmas! What Are you devouring these days?


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 21st :: reflection
“I am so excited. Only four more days Til Christmas, Mom!!!! I am going to be like Grandpa Jerry and buy myself a gift and write ‘To Drew From Santa’ and then I get exactly what I want. Did you know that I am reflected in all these ornaments?!? Today’s going to be a snow day. I know it.” Constant ramblings of a five year old.


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 22nd
Oh my goodness. This book will go down as one of my favorites. Some of the most stunning writing I have had the pleasure of reading.


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 23rd

Spreading out some Christmas presents …thus, 6am LEGO building. Thanks, Uncle James!!!!!


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 24th

Merry Christmas!


DPP 2015 :: December 25 :: No words needed. Merry Christmas!

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DPP 2015 :: December 26 :: Christmas Dinner Take Two…my parents are on their way!


DPP 2015 :: December 27 :: Grandparent Monopoly tournament to pass the gray, dreary day. 🎲


DPP 2015 :: December 28 :: the whole family finally got to see it! And I loved it!


DPP 2015 :: Dec 29th :: New Red Shoes are so cheery on a dreary weather day.


DPP 2015 :: December 30 :: A Joyful Mystery {and in other news…clear, blue skies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!}


December Photo Project 2015 :: December 31st
Writing thank you notes today and continuing to be overwhelmed by the generosity of our loved ones. A good way to end the year…practicing gratitude. Alex just said, “There are just so many gifts that I think I will write an organized list, grouping the items. Clothing. Entertainment. And finally, Etc.”


For more information about the December Photo Project, be sure to click on the picture below.  Already looking forward to 2016!


Merry Christmas from the Goughs

It is hard to believe that we have already hit the much-anticipated CHRISTMAS EVE…I am sure that many of you (or your progeny!) are filled with expectations for the 24 hours ahead.  Taking a brief moment to share our 2015 Christmas card and letter for today’s December Photo Project entry.  This picture isn’t as polished as last years, due to our self-posed and taken shot vs the mad skills of Blue Lily and Wendy’s talents.  But….it is so much more spontaneous and us, down to Drew’s bandaided cheek and Alex’s bunny ears.


May the words of Joseph Campbell challenge you in 2016 as they have challenged us…

and…a little Mad Lib fun for you.

Merry Christmas!

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