Thursday, October 29, 2009

I hope my kids are great friends with each other when they grow up.

My own brother and I live far away from each other, and don't talk nearly as often as I would like. Neither of us are big phone talkers, and he doesn't use email - my primary connection mechanism!!! I have high hopes that together my mom and I can talk him into visiting Lubbock around Christmastime. Prayers that he'll make a visit are appreciated! He's just not much of a traveler. When we were little, and had to travel the 15 minutes from our hometown to Tulsa, he would pout and protest like we were driving to California.

Anyway - the point I was trying to make is that right now, my kids think of each other as best friends. I know as they grow they'll find strong friendships outside of each other, and their closest friendships will be peers who share common interests, but I hope they will keep in mind that they will always have each other. Friends may come and go, but family you're stuck with. Ha! We're still navigating how to help them foster strong love and commitment to each other. Any advice from those of you with strong relationships with your siblings is welcome. Do you think anything your parents did or didn't do played a role?

It warms my heart when I see my kids thinking of each other above themselves, and independently coming up with ways to show love to each other. Granted, they are 7, 6, and 4 - so occasions of self-sacrifice can be few and far between. But when it does happen, it brings a smile to my face for weeks!

At the boys' school, they earn "Pirate Bucks" as a positive behavior reward system. (Pirates are the school mascot.) Then they have a chance to visit the "Pirate Store" and spend their money on toys or other rewards.

Ryan chose to save up $50 pirate bucks to purchase a "free lunch pass" to sit wherever he wanted at lunch. He passed up buying toys or trinkets for several weeks, diligently saving his bucks. The lunch pass he bought could be used to sit wherever he wanted in the lunch room; he could choose to sit with his teacher, or sit with a friend in a different second grade class, etc.

But Ryan decided to surprise his brother, and use his hard earned pass to sit with Dylan at the Kindergarten table. Dylan was so excited!!! I love it. Just love it. Jonathan and I didn't even know about Ryan's plan until it had already be executed.

Of course later that day they nearly came to blows while playing Wii together. But for the purposes of this sappy blog entry, let's just focus on the positive, shall we?


In other Cliff kids news - Happy Birthday to Dylan! He's six years old today. Six. SIX!?!?

Family Night: Pumpkins!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My friend Lauriena served some yummy pumpkin cookies when she hosted a coffee night last week.

Then my friend Cheri successfully pulled off the "house-o-lantern" from Family Fun magazine.

So naturally I stole those two things as Family Night activities this week.

We started the night with modifying another activity from Family Fun magazine, "Mr. Pumpkin Head."

Using a cardboard box, we created tack-on features for a couple of small pumpkins. The kids drew eyes, noses, and mouths, and cut them out of cardboard. Then after we stuck a tack threw the cardboard, we used hot glue to cover the cardboard with black cardstock. Like such:

Now the kids have some pieces they can use to decorate their pumpkins, ala Mr Potato Head:

The House-O-Lantern was fun as well, but my art skills were found terribly lacking. I was going for a "goofy" look; instead I got slightly angry-ish. I think it's the eyebrows....oh well. The kids helped me draw, cut and tape the "house-o-lantern" in the living room window.



Next we got to work de-gutting a pumpkin.

Ryan was put in charge of pulling out the seeds so we could roast them. Ryan tends to ham it up for the camera at times, as evidenced by the expression he wore during this entire slimy task. Not sure where he gets the tendency toward the dramatic. (cough, cough)

Dylan, meanwhile, was happily pulling out pumpkin guts for his brother to sort through.

Lauryn wanted nothing to do with slimy pumpkin guts, but she was happy to help with cookie preparation.
Speaking of the cookies, they are just lovely. The make the house smell terrific and taste yummy too. Here's the recipe:

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. canned pumpkin
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
(or use pumpkin pie spice in place of allspice and nutmeg if ya got it)

Cook at 375 for 10 minutes

Lastly, we went outside to place the candle in the the Jonathan Cliff Jack-o-Lantern Masterpiece of 2009:

I would have liked to end our evening with some Pumpkin Spice Latte for Jonathan and I; but, alas, Wal-Mart was fresh out of the Coffee Mate Pumpkin Spice Creamer. And that my friends, is the only way I know how to make a latte.

Click here to see our previous Family Nights.


Family Night: When I grow up...
Saturday, October 24, 2009

For Family Night last week the kids created a life size portrait of themselves, portrayed as whatever profession they would like to be when they grow up.

First up, we traced their outlines.

Then they got to work creating their "uniforms".

Ryan wants to be a "Video Game Designer." When he created his outfit, it morphed into "Video Game Worker", because he didn't know how to spell "designer". I recognize that problem solving technique. Can't spell the word? Just use another one! Still do that myself occasionally.

(Click any image to enlarge.)
Holding both a Wii remote and an Xbox remote. Nice.

Dylan wants to be a Pastor. When I told Jonathan he said, "Really? Not something exciting like a fireman or police officer?" Interesting analysis considering his profession. Must have been a hard day at work.
A Bible and a microphone are apparently Pastor essentials.

Lauryn....well, she morphed from wanting to be a teacher into wanting to be an alien and then back to wanting to be a teacher again. "Tell me about your purple hand Lauryn." "I'm an alien. That's how I kill people." Nice. Family Night just went strangely and hysterically off course.


We're widening the circle.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is a concept that Jonathan wrote about a few months ago, and it's something we're trying to be deliberate about making happen in our kids' lives. He wrote about it here: Widen the Circle.

I remember being about 10 or 11, and beginning to think adults were interesting. My own mom was great (one of the parents that most other kids envied in fact), and we had a good relationship, but there was just something about other people's parents I found intriguing.

I'm sure in my immaturity there was some aspect of wishing my mom would be more like other people's parents: Sara's mom let her shave her legs....Jacob's mom let him stay up late playing video games and had friends sleepover every night of the week...Jill's dad bought her jewelry every single holiday. Names changed to protect the innocent. But I bet my mom knows who I'm talking about! (Of course now that I'm a parent I understand why mom would want me to wait longer than age 9 to shave, and would want me in bed at a decent hour. Thanks Mom. But you could still buy me jewelry every holiday if you want.)

Knowing that this time will come, when our kids will start to look for advice and influence outside of what me and their Dad think, we'd like to be strategic about who we have in our life. And more than just having these people around on the periphery, we'd like to be deliberate about giving our kids the message "Hey, these people love you. And they aren't drifting through life. They live their life on purpose. They love God. There are things you can learn from them. Listen to them."

Of course they will still find people all on their own to look up to and try to emulate. But that's no reason why we can't try to guide them toward some good choices.

Ryan was baptized last Saturday night, and afterward we had a "post-baptism" celebration at our house. We invited his current and former leaders from church, as well as others who have loved him and been an affirming influence.

There were several reasons we wanted to have a party:

1. We just plain wanted to celebrate! We prayed over Ryan and celebrated what God is doing in his heart.

2. We wanted Ryan to be aware of the people God has put in his life to help point him toward Jesus. There is a debt of gratitude that is owed. Both to God and to His willing servants.

3. We wanted the people who have been in Ryan's life to know the profound impact they've had, and that we want them to continue making an impact!

Some people have influence because of their position; small group leaders and others in children's ministry at the church.

Others don't have an official "role", we've just noticed that for whatever reason they have Ryan's ear. Ryan wants to share his accomplishments with them, and he gives weight to the things they tell him. (Hi Greg and Cheri!) We want these friends to know the influence they carry, and to know we trust them with that.

Also importantly, some of these people are inherently way more cool than I could ever hope to be. Matthew and Emily are in their early 20's, energetic and exciting, and Ryan thinks every. single. thing. they do and say is awesome. Mr. Matt can tell Ryan the exact same thing I've told him, and sometimes it just sticks better if it comes from Mr. Matt. I think it helps that mixed in with the Godly wisdom and love, they can talk about video games.

My prayer is that as my kids grow, these people will be around to give them the same messages I'm giving, but in a different voice and from a different perspective.

Thank you Lord that in the short time we've lived in Lubbock, you've made us a part of a spiritual family. Thank you for these people who love and influence our kids toward loving You. Bless them Lord, and keep providing opportunities for authentic relationship.

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Hey Moms, do you know about "Groovy Girls"?
Thursday, October 8, 2009

After her daughters outgrew them, a friend at church passed on their collection of "Groovy Girls" to Lauryn - they quickly became her favorite, favorite thing to play with.

I am SUCH a fan of these dolls. They have great clothing and accessories, as well as fun stuff like horses, cars, and bunk beds. Until they were given to Lauryn, I had never even heard of them!

How did I not know about these!?!?!

Just wanted to do a little public service announcement, in case any readers are in the dark like I was.

If you're looking for a great Christmas gift idea for your preschool age girl, this could be the way to go!

Additional benefit: They're easy to dress, don't have teeny plastic shoes that get lost, and I don't feel like we need to have an anatomy lesson every time Lauryn changes their clothes. It's nice that they look like dolls and not like surgically enhanced mannequins.

The company appears to be very intentional about having a positive influence on young girls. Their website claims that “our dolls provide a way for young girls to experience fun, fashion-filled doll play while promoting age-appropriate values and attitudes.”

I'm a huge fan! Lauryn is blessed to have inherited such a great collection. (Thank you to her generous benefactors!!)

Check ‘em out at Groovy

So moms (or dads, if you're one of my 2 male readers), what other great toys are out there? What are your kids current or classic favorites? Let's hear it in the comment section!

(And I feel like an idiot when I blatantly ask for comments, and get none. So help out my pride and leave a little comment love. Please.)

They do not share their Father's dry, intelligent wit.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not so far at least. Someday my kids will mature, and hopefully their sense of humor will mature along with them.

I don't think that ever happened with me - that maturation. I seem to have somehow acquired and retained the sense of humor of a 9 year old boy. So naturally, what strikes my kids funny bone is the same stuff that makes me howl with laughter.

Really sophisticated things, like people falling down stairs. Or accidental humor that happens with a well-timed burp. We're also big fans of people accidentally running into walls or closed glass doors. Stuff that kids generally find funny - I just happen to be a 31 year old who finds these things hysterical as well.

We had a good laugh fest this morning before school over something equally mature.

I was making Dylan create sentences out of his sight words.

The word was "but." (Savvy readers may see where this is headed.)

Dylan: "I wanted to eat, but it wasn't snack time."

Lauryn: "Dylan. You can't eat butt."

The way she delivered that line, completely deadpan, with no inflection and no expression on her sleepy little face face, sent me and the boys into hysterics. "You can't eat butt" was enough to keep us laughing most of the morning.

Lauyrn, being as that she was completely serious in her admonition, still doesn't get what we were laughing at.

Good times.

Flashback Friday: Oh those cheeks!
Friday, October 2, 2009

Disclaimer: Sappy maternal reminiscing ahead. I was due for a post such as this one. Look away now if such things offend you.

When we capture video of our kids, it's the 2 or 3 minute snippets we record using our iPhones.

The last time we used our camcorder was Lauryn's first birthday.....and she just turned four last month.

So, feeling secure that if we hadn't used it in 3 years we wouldn't miss it, we got the camcorder out today to sell on Craigslist. In the process of cleaning out the camcorder bag, we sat with the kids and watched some of the old video we found.

Ryan learning to sing his ABC's....Dylan learning to crawl....and Lauryn's first Christmas were among the many treasures.

We learned:
Lauryn has been yelling and fussing at her brothers from a very, very early age.
Dylan has always liked to wrestle - even before he could walk.
Ryan could identify all his letters and colors at 2 years old.

But the most compelling thing that happened watching the videos: I was reintroduced to Dylan's cheeks. The toddler version. OH. THE. CHUBBINESS. I can't stand it. It's too, too adorable.

Once I saw those chubby things on video I needed more. Must have more of Dylan's cheeks!!!

I got out the laptop in search of more cheeks.

Dripping with blackberry juice at the's too much. Too much cuteness!

The big brown eyes are adorable, yes. But they got nothin' on the cheeks.

I know you want more. More cheeks. Here ya go:

I thought I could look through a couple of folders worth of pictures. Get my cheek fix.

But like any addict, a little bit was not enough. Half an hour later I was still admiring his chubby little face.

Dirty dishes were calls were going family was playing outside without me, begging me to join them...but the cheeks were calling.

For a brief glorious period, the cheeks were connected to a delicious double chin:

For about a year of his life, starting at about 9 months, he claimed the title of the chubbiest (and therefore most cuddle worthy) kid in the church nursery. During this time my brain began to think of Dylan as a round roly-poly kid. I sometimes still think of him this way, even though he's now completely stretched out and thin just like his big brother. I just loved the roly-poly version so darn much!

Look closely at the picture below and you will see the faint outline of lipstick on those oh-so-kissable cheeks. There's really no telling who left it there. Those cheeks drew everyone in. Could be my lips. Could be the lips of Ms. Mary, the beloved nursery director. Could be a random old lady at the grocery store. There's really no way to tell...

Photographic evidence indicates the cheeks began to make their disappearance around age 3. I wish I knew how much I would miss them.

Cliff Familyt

I'm Starr Cliff. A domestically-challenged mom, climbing over mountains of laundry to bring you my stray observations and amusing stories about my kids. (more)



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