Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Greatest Gift of All

He said that he had on "his walking shoes" so that he could pace the halls when I was born.

My momma said, "you're late, she's already here... in the nursery if you want to see her".

He brought me flowers






































6 red and 11 white carnations
for the
6 pounds and 11 ounces that I weighed

And he has never been late since...

Instead he has been here for me every day
been here for me every day
been here
for me
every
day

But today it was my turn...

To be there

to pace
to pray
to praise

while he was being..
Born again.

(Looks like now we both have on our "traveling shoes")

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When Life Hurts

I don't usually read the morning paper, but today's front page headlines caught my attention
 
It read:
"Burials begin in Connecticut"

I looked down at a picture of a hearse carrying the body of a 6-year old child and my heart sank  I blinked hard to stop the tears that I felt tears forming in the corners of my eyes

I couldn't cry there.

I turned the paper over as if not seeing it would make it less real,
and was shocked by what was printed directly on the back side of the tragedy

Bold, brightly colored advertisements for

toys on sale
Christmas gift suggestions
pictures of more stuff to buy

(as if what we really need right now is more stuff)

The message rang out loud and clear that sometimes life is...
contradictory
confusing
cruel

Sometimes life hurts

In fact, just yesterday I was thinking about the 5 year-old girl in this picture

remembering the... 
fear
uncertainty
unspoken pain

she felt as her mother lay sick in the hospital... on this picture day

It's like a tragic headline with colorful ads on the back

"Smile for the camera, sweetie"

But who wants to smile when life hurts?

She eventually managed this forced little smile to disguise the fact
that she had already learned that even children are sometimes left feeling...

helpless
sad and
alone

I understand it all better now

and wish that I could sit down with her

pull her up onto my lap
hold her close
and just let her cry...

I would apologize for not giving her the opportunity to grieve that experience;
for minimizing her pain and lying to her that she was alright. 

I would apologize for teaching her to wear a mask,
and making her pretend to be strong when she was only a child.

If I had it to do all over I would let her cry

and after her tears subsided I would pull her in really tight and quietly whisper

Now let me tell you who to call the next time...

when life hurts

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What's In a Name?

True Story...

One morning as a father was dropping off his son for class at the preschool
where I was working

He suddenly stopped
looked at me
asked...

"Why did your parents name you Tundra"?

(and before I could remind him that my name is actually Tondra)

he continued with...

"Don't they know that tundra is a dry and barren land?

You are not dry
You are not barren

So, you know what? 

From now on I'll call you... Tropics."


and he did!

He changed my name that day because he had learned from his tribe in Africa
that names mean something

And it still makes me laugh as I remember
that each morning as he walked in he would say,

"Hello Tropics.  Today is a beautiful day."

That was over 15 years ago.

Fast forward a few years...

When I was dating my husband one day out of the clear blue he said
"If I ever have a son, I want to name him Micah because it means to be like the Lord"

and sure enough

we got married
and two years later
we had a son

and while pregnant I went online to look up names and their meanings

I scrolled through

lists of names
their meanings
and their language of origin

(yes, I'm a former Spelling Bee champion, don't mock me)

until I got to one name and its meaning that literally gave me chills

The background story...

I've been told that when my grandfather's younger sister was young, she fell and broke her hip.  It was "back in the day" so the medical treatment was not all that up to par (translation= her hip was set improperly).  To complicate matters even more, her hip being set improperly prohibited it from healing properly, which resulted in her walking with a severe limp for the rest of her life.

But when I saw the meaning of her name,
it literally gave me chills

because her name actually means:

"Crippled one"

Then I began to understand the relevance and importance of "what's in a name"?

I have since gained a better understanding for names and their significance,
as I've read how in Bible times people were named

as a direct reflection of who they were
what they would be
or what would occur in their lives 

Names meant something
and when necessary
names were changed to reflect the "new" purpose or direction for a person's life

So what's in a name?

How important is what we let people call us?
How important is what we answer to?

Do you know what's really in a name?

(Matthew 1:21)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hair Sessions, Life Lessons


I've been hearing her voice lately...

Which in itself is not totally uncommon because I've been hearing her voice my entire life.  Lately however, I've been hearing those things she said to me along with the things she didn't say.

I've just recently come to understand

what she really meant when she spoke...
what she really wanted me to know, but I was too young to understand...
what she said that I didn't comprehend...

I get it now.  She had a lot to say and we had the time.

I wonder if this is why girls have longer hair than boys

So that we have the time

to sit
and listen
and learn

the lessons that we will carry into our lives as

women
wives
mothers

Is this why my "early year hair sessions" were a weekend long production?


Friday night...

wash
detangle
plait

to dry overnight.

Saturday morning...

press
part
grease

and braid into ponytails.

Sunday morning...

untie
brush
parade

gladly showing the result of her handiwork.


I've been hearing her voice lately...

Friday night...

close your eyes
lean your head back
be still

Saturday morning...

hold your ear
relax
be still

Sunday morning...

you look just like your father
move your hand
BE STILL!

Now that I am a mother I realize that

everything she did
everything she said and
even what she didn't say

laid the foundation for the moments that I am now living


And I've been hearing her voice lately...

"Stand on His Word"
"Trust God, He'll see you through"
"Be Anxious for nothing"

Friday night...

wash (live a clean life, and don't let the dirt get into your eyes)
detangle (sometimes life hurts... know when to fight, know what to surrender)
plait (learn how to hold it together)

to dry overnight  (because some things just take time)

Saturday morning...

press (and some kinks only surrender to heat)
part (so learn how to separate yourself)
grease (and remember to let the oil of gladness saturate your mind)

and braid into ponytails (then do what it takes to stay out of a tangled mess)

Sunday morning...

untie (which means you must know when to release and let go)
brush (because a good bristle has its proper place)
parade (but always let your walk show His goodness)

"One day I won't be around anymore to tell you these things"
"But you will hear my voice reminding you"
"And you're gonna miss me when I'm gone"

Friday night...

close your eyes (pray without ceasing)
lean your head back (then look to the hills for help)
be still (and you will see the salvation of the Lord)

Saturday morning...

hold your ear (you can't listen to everyone)
relax (trust in God)
be still (and stop trying to control everything)

Sunday morning...

you look just like your father (don't ever forget who you belong to)
move your hand (and let Him work it out)
BE STILL! (know that He is God!)

It's amazing what you can hear when you don't even realize that you are listening

But I've been hearing her voice lately...

And I'm grateful for our many

hair sessions
life lessons

"Moriah, come have a seat" 

lean your head back...
close your eyes....
relax...
just be still, child.

"Thanks Mom"

(Now it is my turn to teach the class)


Next hair lessons...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

When Its Time To Thank God For Your Name in Lights...

Ever had a moment when you realized that you'd forgotten something important?

Ever had...

a flashback?
a memory?
a brief recollection of an incident that occurred YEARS ago?


Well, last night I had one of those moments... again

My hubby had given the children "glow sticks"
turned off all of the lights in our home
and I was providing the lovely sound effects

Then just as we were enjoying a "family/ pre-bedtime/ glow-in-the-dark light show" it happened...

The glow stick split open
sending my daughter into panic mode
as glow juice dripped onto her clothes and skin.

"Is it poison, Is it POISON!?" she asked hysterically.

(Hmmm?  Good question, bad timing... I thought to myself)

"Go wash it off and change clothes" I instructed her,
and as she headed upstairs what I said next shocked even me. 

"Don't worry, it's not poison.  I accidently swallowed some of that stuff one time when I was about your age.  I'm still here."

and I had forgotten about that incident until I heard the words actually leaving my mouth 

which left me to wonder

How many other amazing things have I forgotten? 
How many other moments of gratitude and grace have I let slip away?
How many other times have I forgotten to say "Thank you"?

And so...

for this and all of those other times I may have forgotten
or not known to say it... 

"Thank You, Jesus!" 

You are awesome and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be

enjoying
laughing
sitting

here

with (half) my name in lights!

Monday, October 29, 2012

We're All In... Why We're Excited About the Election

Earlier today I was talking to a child care provider about the importance of exposing children to the election process.  And as we were talking, I thought back to the last election when my (then) 6 yr. old begged to stay up late so that he could see who won the Presidential election. 

As they finished tallying votes and announced the projected winner,
he went running through the house shouting,

"We won... We won"

He was all in

Perhaps because,

in 1870- The constitution granted Black Americans "the right to vote"
in 1920- The constitution granted women "the right to vote"
in 1965- The Voting Rights Act outlawed discriminatory voting practices against Black Americans

Now we're all in

I blinked and my attention shifted back to the conversation, as she said...

"You see that elderly gentleman sitting on his porch across the street?" 

I looked out of her kitchen window and saw a gentleman with a head full of snow white hair leaning back against his chair, legs crossed, arms relaxed at his side, seemingly without a care in the world. 

She went on,
"the last election was his first time EVER voting.  I helped him get registered so that he could vote." 

She said that he was inspired by a message of hope and change, and a face that he was willing to take a chance on because it looked like his and so...

he was finally all in

Well tonight, I came home and looked at my ballot, realizing that

I have some difficult decisions to make
some important initiatives to read up on, and
some sincere prayers to offer up

I cannot take this lightly...

I must be all in

because there have been too many lives

slaved
suffered
sacrificed

for my right to even be heard as an individual

So I will vote
in remembrance of ancestors who fought for a right that they would not live to see

I will vote
with the hopes that my descendants will only know poverty, racism and other social injustices through the pages of a book

I will vote
with the confidence that my one small voice does still matter and CAN make a difference

Because no matter what, come November 7th...

We're all in!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Muffin Tin Crayons... (Week 2)

Ever wonder what to do with all of those broken crayons?
Start at the beginning...


Activity#2 -Crayon Sorting


What we did: I set out sorting bowls and labeled a paper to help make our sorting easier. My helper, Micah snapped the crayons into pieces and put them into the corresponding bowls. Our crayons were now ready for...

Activity#3-Muffin Tin Crayons



What to do:  Spray an old muffin tin (that you never intend to use again for food) with nonstick cooking spray.  Add the crayon pieces and put into the oven at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the crayons have melted.  Let cool and then freeze the entire tray.


Lesson Learned:  It took me a few "trial and error" test runs to get this right, and the first few batches didn't come out as expected, so I used them for the next activity...

Activity#4- Shaved Crayon Art




What I did: Took the failed muffin crayon attempts and "shaved" them with a butter knife.  I used rubber cement to adhere the shavings to a sheet of construction paper, grabbed an old matte and frame from one of our former art shows, and framed up my masterpiece!


Activity#5-Crayon Wax Drop Art

                                

What to do:  Use tea light candles to melt the tip of the crayon.  Once the crayon begins to melt, drop the wax onto paper, creating the design of your choice. 

Important to Note: 

This activity is only for adults or older children with supervision
My children were a little hesitant with this activity at first because we have always warned them against "playing with fire".  However, once I sat down with them and showed them how to use the materials safely, they couldn't be stopped! 


 (For more activities check out our "APFLH" Children's Art Studio...here)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You can be a Winner in "The Game of Life"

My kids have been on a "game night" kick almost everyday this week,
and I have been surprisingly willing to play along. 

In fact, my heart skipped a beat when my son pulled out

"The Game of Life"

as I reminisced over how I used to LOVE this game when I was growing up!



Photo Credit: Flickr: {c.a. muller}

He pulled out all the pieces and began setting it up.

Start up money... check
Plastic green car... check
Add the pink lady... check

Go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house... check, check, check, check

WHOO HOO!  My "game of life" was going GOOD!!

Then I hit a few bumps along the road...

Lost a job
Got another
Had a few accidents and some bills to pay... (but hey you know, that's life). 

About halfway through the game, the tide shifted back in my favor.

Won $100,000 for a contest... yes!
Won a SECOND competition... yes!
Had a baby girl, then a set of twin boys, and then another boy... Sure, why not?

Reached the finished line first and finally got to retire... check

I looked up and saw that my children still had quite a bit of distance to go to reach the finish line, so I went ahead and began to "cash out".  My son asked me "how will we know who the winner is?" 

And without even thinking I said,

"I think its whoever ends up with the most money at the end". 

I stopped counting as those words echoed in my ear
immediately regretting the lesson I had just unconsciously taught them

I realized that my entire "game of life" experience with all of its

ups
downs
highs
lows

had just in one moment
been reduced

to how much money I had made?!?

I put the fake money down
looked up at him
really noticing him for the first time since we had started the game

And in that moment, I realized that I am

officially
unofficially

done

with "The Game" of life

(because I don't need to get to the finish line and count my money to realize)

I've already won!

(1 Corinthians 15:57)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Student Driver... A Lesson in Grace

Ever notice how differently we treat student drivers? 


Think about it...

we slow down for them
we leave a respectable distance between "us" and "them"
we let them merge into the lane the moment they put their blinker on

we bear with them
we treat them differently
we make accommodations for them because of what we know about them

They are...
still learning

They have...
taken the initiative to learn

They will...
with time, get better

So we don't...

honk
yell
express frustration

with them because we know that those actions would probably

do more harm than good
stunt their growth
impede the learning process

Instead we exercise...

patience
empathy
understanding

as we recall that the black lettering spelling out the words

"STUDENT DRIVER"

once referred to us as well

But what if we all were still adorned with black lettering
letting people know where we are in our journey?

What if our invisible scars were suddenly made visible?

Would it matter?
Would it make a difference how we treat one another?

For instance if you could see
that the coworker who irritates you "Is Lonely and Feels Empty Inside"

or...

the difficult child in your class is suffering because "Nobody Hugs Me at Home"

or if you knew that...

the stranger who is rude to you for no apparent reason is "Coping With a Loss"

What if we could all see that? 
How differently would we treat one another?

I'm just wondering...

How much more patient you would be with me
if you knew that some days I still feel like...

a "Student Driver"?

John 15:12

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Most Blessed

Living a life of gratitude and grace is about taking time to see the beauty within...

each day
each person
each thing with which we have been most blessed.

It is about realizing that we are blessed because of the Blessed One,
and that we honor his blessings by noticing them.

Well this morning I noticed.

Olive oil on the kitchen table that I know for sure had been...

poured
portioned
prayed over

in preparation for the "Brotherhood Men's Retreat"


I said a silent "thank you"

as I considered each person that would be impacted by that oil,
which I know for sure had been "blessed"

I said a silent "thank you" for every

family
husband
father
mother
child

that would be covered with blessings

"These are the things I don't want to take for granted"

children eating chocolate chip waffles at a table covered in blessed oil
children happily quoting Bible Verses they've memorized with help
children being raised together with...

a praying man
a God-fearing man
an imperfect man, my husband

who I know for sure has met and communed with

a praying man
the God-Man
the perfect man, Christ Jesus

And what I know for sure, is that

this oil
this house
this family

is "Most Blessed"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Crayon Melting... (Week 1)

I've heard it said that you don't know how much stuff you have until you have to pack up and move.  Well fortunately for me I haven't moved since I was 8 years old, so I am not that familiar with the "packing process". 

However, when I began sorting through all of our child care stuff before we closed our program, I came to realize just how much we actually had.  There were children's books and toys galore, and even the crayons were spilling out of the container!

chubby...
skinny...
broken...
used...
donated...
restaurant collected...

You name it

We were up to our elbows in crayons, but instead of throwing them out
I had several activities in mind...


Activity #1-Crayon Bundles


What I did: I grabbed a crayon from each "color family", grabbed a small rubber band, and made crayon bundles.  (Language and Literacy, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Development)


What they did: They picked up the crayon bundles and began coloring!  Since I was working with a mixed age group it was very interesting to see the various "scribbling stages" the children were in



Lesson Reinforced:  I have been faccinated ever since my college days when I learned that scribbling is an essential part of a child's fine motor development.  Up until that time I had always heard scribbling mentioned with a negative connotation ("oh, she's just scribbling") and did not realize there are actually "20 basic scribbles" that all children must master before "writing".  As adults we must be careful not to place judgment on children's art.  However, they should have opportunities to express themselves freely without adult comment.  Follow this link to learn more about Rhoda Kellogg's extensive research on children's art, and how we came to know about the "20 basic scribbles"



Helpful Tip:  Keep your children's developmental stage in mind when planning activities.  For instance, do not give infants or toddler rubber bands (tape their crayons together instead) because they are a choking hazard.  Very young children still have the tendency to put everything in their mouths, so know your children.

Activity #2-Crayon Melting

What I did: I kept seeing different variations of this idea on Pinterest...


Melted Crayon Art by JKCreate


Melted Crayon Monograms by Dilly Dali Art

So I decided to try to make a crayon masterpiece of my own...  I grabbed a piece of canvas that the children had tossed to the side, tore up some painter's tape to spell out my name, hot-glued some crayons, grabbed my hair dryer and quickly decided that...


I should have left the wrappers on the crayons
I should remove the painter's tape and
I should flip it the other direction

and voila!

That's the beauty of art...




(Click here to see more crayon activities)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Resting On the Back of Something Bigger!!

Today I witnessed something I had never seen before

It was...

intriguing
amazing
enlightening

and caused me to stop and consider...

success
support
life

Today as the Space Shuttle Endeavor was flown across country "on the back" of
NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, the pictures alone left me in awe.

And I realized that no matter...

how big you are
how brilliant you are

or

how far you've come
(even if it's to the moon and back!)

when you reach your final destination, you will find that you have only arrived safely because you found rest on the back of something bigger!

Are you resting?  (Matthew 11:28)

 Photo courtesy of NASA.  Click here to read the full article

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Life is Like a Box of... Crayons?

One day I began to sort our "big box of crayons" into color categories...
Blue/Greens
Yellow/Orange
Red/Purple/Pinks
and Gray/Earth Tones



I had crayons of

-every shape and size
-some still new, others used
-some with paper, others bare

Many were...
broken, but useful









and when my son saw what I was doing, he was eager to help, and together
we began peeling the papers off of the crayons and setting them to the side

He noted that some wrappers were easy to remove, but others fought back!


Since my intention was to...
melt them for a purpose

I wanted them to blend together

So, the ones that...
refused to surrender
were tossed into the trash

I also soon discovered that not all were what they initially appeared to be 
(some of the purple crayons, for instance were not really purple, they were blue)

The wrapper had been misleading...
causing us to sort it to the wrong pile

and once all the wrappers were removed it was much harder to

tell the dark blue crayons...
from the purple crayons...
from the black crayons... 

They almost all looked the same without their "label"

and it was only until after...
pressure was put on them

that the true color was revealed

Once they were finally...
separate and ready to be used

I realized that life is like a box of crayons!


God using each of our differing...

lives
abilities
talents
styles

to color His world 

AND...

He plans to...

sort
peel
test
melt

us

to make something new!

(Click the links below to follow the crayon activities)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

My son took this picture of me last year
while we were on vacation...



We were sitting in the lobby waiting for the rest of our group to meet us, and he asked for my camera.  I was uncertain, but handed it to him anyway. 

Then he noticed the flowers sitting on a small table between us,
and asked if I would take a picture holding them because...

"Mom, they match your dress"

(only thing...I was wearing a skirt)

Then he surprised me when he asked for me to stop and smell them

                             
"What does a (then) 9 year old boy 
know about stopping to smell the roses?"

And there it was...

Isaiah 11:6 "...and a little child shall lead them." 

(Yes, God will restore all order in His time)

So today on this National Day of Remembrance I want to implore you to...

hold the ones that you love dearly,
thank the Lord above,
let a child lead you,

and take time to stop and smell the roses!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Our 27th First Day of School

Today was the first day of school! 

My children woke...

early
eager
excited

We had prepared as much as we could the night before.  Slept well.  Prayed up.

My mind was...

ridiculously calm
reflective
ready

The folks at my wonderful new job already knew to expect me in a little later

They knew that it was the first day of school
They knew that I wanted to be there to drop my children off
They didn't know the history behind our "first day of school" tradition

"Breathe, Tondra"

Shortly after the children were dressed, my mother arrived to cook our "first day of school" traditional breakfast of chicken and waffles.  We loaded up the car, and headed out, and as we stood in front of the school watching all of the children marching in with overflowing backpacks and tissue boxes in tow,

I couldn't help but think back...




It seems like just yesterday that my mother dropped me off for my first day of school...and then headed to the hospital where she would spend weeks trying to figure out why she was so sick.
The doctors said that she was dying and told her this was probably the last "first day of school" drop-off that she would ever make. 
  
"Just Breathe, Tondra"

Fast forward...

The doctors were wrong.  My mother lived to see EVERY first day of school that I had all the way through college!  God had big plans because my mother has also seen every "first day of school" for both my son AND my daughter. 

So today I was not only delighted to celebrate my children's first day of school,
but I also celebrated my mother's 27th "First day of school" with us

(and they said that my first would be her last!)
But God said... "Just Breathe"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Obtaining the Blessing of a Skinned Knee

I found this book at a used bookstore and was immediately captured by the title...

"The Blessing of a Skinned Knee" 

Isn't that an oxymoron?

I flipped the book over and read the back cover

It sounded...

intriguing
provocative
useful

for me in my career as an Early Childhood Professional
so I brought the book home and have been

reading it and
re-reading it

for over a year now

it is my "go to" book
when I need to remind myself of the importance of letting children be children
 
it is my "go to" book
when I need to look up the Jewish blessings
so simply outlined for someone of a non-Jewish background to understand and

it was my "go to" book
once again today...



Yesterday was my first day leaving my house for work
in over 8 years!

As I prepared to leave my house, I told the angels who are assigned to guard me,
"Okay, it's time to go." 

My neighbor (who is also a Pastor) saw me leaving, and said "C'mon let's have a word of prayer.  Winston told me that you start your new job today, and we're asking for God's blessing."

He prayed and sent me on my way...

During orientation the lady sitting next to me (also a new hire) looked at me and said
"God is so good.  Can I just tell you how amazing He is?" 

She began to pour out her heart explaining how she had acquired her new job, giving me chill bumps, and leaving me speechless!

I was

introduced to coworkers
met many new people
and even saw a few familiar faces

Finally finished the day and headed to orientation at my children's school, still floating from the day's events until I suddenly realized that I was on the ground.  I rolled and ended up on my back looking up into the sky and the HUGE tree overhead and to my surprise...

A SMILE came across my face and I found the words
"Thank you Jesus" spilling from the corners of my lips. 

Apparently the tree had tripped me because I saw the roots that had pushed the sidewalk up leaving it unleveled.  I felt the burn on my elbow and my knee mourning the location where skin had just been... and I got it!

The blessing of a skinned knee! 

Yes, it is easier to stay in the house for 8 years because you are far less likely to fall on the sidewalk... but you will never get to look up at the sky and the trees and see God in all of His Glory!

Baruch Atah "blessed are you"

Click to read the most amazing follow-up ever!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Survey Says... FAMILY is the #1 answer!

Okay, so here's the part that you didn't get to see...


Our journey began on a "Taco Tuesday" family night as us first cousins (Jamilla, Cherrell, Eileen, Marlies and Tondra) had just finished "grubbing" on tacos, chips, homemade guacamole, sweet tea, and red velvet cupcakes.  (This was pre Revolution for Jamilla and Cherrell, aka "The Harris Sisters".  Find out more about their lifestyle change/ weight loss journey here.)

As we were sitting around laughing, someone mentioned how much fun it would be to go on the Family Feud game show.

Well I have since learned that you should never say anything of front of Jamilla Harris unless you are absolutely serious because that girl knows how to make things happen!

I received a text a few weeks later... "Family Feud tryouts next weekend in Texas.  Let's fly down for a girl's weekend.  Call u later".

The idea in itself seemed very exciting, but after pricing airline tickets we decided the timing wasn't right.  But I have also since learned that when something is meant to be... it WILL be, and just a few weeks later Jamilla called to inform me that Family Feud tryouts were coming to us!!!  The auditions were to be held at a location less than 3 miles from my home. 

We were all super excited and screamed our heads off when they announced that the season would be taping out of Atlanta, GA!  Family Feud would be picking up the tab for roundtrip ground/air transportation, meals, and hotel accommodations... all they asked of us was for excitement to make for good television.  We could do THAT! 

The very following week Jamilla, Cherrell, and Marlies called me screaming "Congratulations, your family has been selected for Family Feud!"  I could barely make out what they were saying, but I started screaming too!  The next few months consisted of many "Taco Tuesday/Family Feud" study and practice sessions to ensure that we were ready when our time arrived. 

When the day finally arrived, we boarded the plane and headed out to Atlanta.  That evening we ate at "The Waffle House" across the street from our hotel.  I was so excited when I looked up to see my cousin Shonn walking through the door!  Although Shonn is a first cousin on my mom's side of the family, my Harris cousins adopted her as their cousin too.  Having her there made our night, and I realized that family has a way of making you feel at "home" no matter how far away you are from familiar surroundings!

The next day we arrived at the studio for taping and we had an amazing experience.  Everyone was so friendly, and all of the other families were super excited, as well.  When Jamilla introduced our family we surprised Mr. Steve Harvey with a song that I had written.

singing*
 
Guess who's here today... It's the Harris Family!
Look who's here today... It's the Harris Family!
We flew all the way to the ATL, to just say hi
"HI Steve"
Win the game, and take home the money!

Steve looked at us and smiled saying, "Any song with my name in it, is a hit!"

Jamilla, Cherrell, Steve Harvey, Eileen, Marlies, and ME!




Then the game was ON, and we gave it our all.  We took a round, they took a round... back and forth all the way up to sudden death!  At this point it all rested on my shoulders, and I quickly learned why it is termed sudden death. (Because that's exactly what it feels like when you buzz in first with the WRONG answer)  It is in a fact a "sudden death" that you keep playing over and over again in your mind...only in slow motion.  So we lost the game and were bid farewell with a parting statement of "you have a great family, maybe we'll have you back again some time" (If you're reading this and want to write to Family Feud on our behalf... that will not be necessary).
 
We headed back to the hotel and had our own "in room" party.  The girls kept trying to encourage me, but I felt like such a huge disappointment.  They ordered pizza and chicken and wouldn't let me chip in on the bill.  They reminded me that all we needed was Jesus and each other, and began to list all the ways in which we were winners.  During our conversation, Jamilla's phone rang and she stepped out of the room to take the call.  When she came back in she was wearing a huge smile as she informed Cherrell that they had gotten a call back from the ABC Network Show "The Revolution" which would be the beginning of other good things! 

(read the special post for that...here).
 
The following day our cousin Anita (another first cousin) and her 2 kids drove down to our hotel to see us.  I was delighted because this was my first time meeting the kids.  It was a mini family reunion!  We decided to walk across the street to get something to eat, and as we munched on chips and cheese and slurped our sweet tea, I realized that this was all beginning to feel a bit familiar.  I thought about it as I watched Cherrell reading from her menu...and it hit me.  TACOS! 
 
This whole saga had begun on a family Taco Tuesday night, and here we were at the culmination of our trip sitting with family that we hadn't seen in 20 years, and eating TACOS!  I finally started to see it.  Even though we had lost the game, it felt like such a win at that moment.    I love how God has a way of bringing everything back into perspective and reminding us of what really matters.
 
Sure I was disappointed that I cost us the game.  It would have been nice to get some "seed money" for down payment for a future child care facility.  It would have been nice to buzz in first and yell out the correct anwer.  Even though it didn't work out quite the way that we had hoped, I learned that no matter what...
 
FAMILY is and always will be the #1 answer!!
 
 


Friday, August 31, 2012

Cornmeal and Shaving Cream... (Week 4)

Well today is the day...

"A Place For Little Hands" has officially closed its doors 
as a Licensed Family Child Care Home


It is bittersweet
and I am tired

but I can't help but stop here and reflect over the past 8 years...

-giving thanks for all things
-grateful to God for all things
-growing in gratitude and grace in all things

Earlier today...

we were all running around barefoot
while enjoying our last day together

So after lunch I grabbed

a towel
a box of baby wipes and
a shallow pan of warm water

so that I could wash the children's feet 

When my mother called to see how the day was going, I laughed as I told her that I was

performing my last act of humble servitude
by was washing the children's feet

She reminded me that the Lord performed this service for his disciples right before
He was offered up as a sacrifice. 

I stopped laughing and wondered...

What type of emotion Jesus felt that day...  To Him was it bittersweet?
Did He sit with them and reminisce over all they had been through?
Did He think about what He had spent the last 3 and a half years teaching them? 
Did He use those memories as comfort, knowing that His work in that capacity was complete?

I wondered because that is exactly what I was doing... 

remembering how small each of them were when they came to me
telling myself that I had done enough

that they were ready and
that my work here was complete

because although this has been an amazing journey
the time has now come for

"A Place For Little Hands"

to be offered up...

__________________________________________

Here are the final activities from our "spilled cornmeal"

 Activity #16- Cornmeal Letter Search


What I did:  Hid letters in a bowl of cornmeal... (Social-Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, Physical Development).

What they did: The children paired themselves up (1 older child/ 1 younger child) and played a game they made up.  The younger child pulled a letter and challenged the older child to name something (food, animal, color, person's name, etc... ) that began with the letter.  This game was a lot of fun and helped the younger children make the connection that letters represent sound.


Activity #17- Cornmeal Play Dough
Sensory Pie


What I did:   Put our homemade cornmeal play dough in a large bowl and provided beans, unpopped popcorn, rice, and bird seed for a cool sensory experience that the children enjoyed.  (Social- Emotional Development, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Development).

Helpful Tip:  Keep your children's age and developmental stage in mind when planning your activities.  Some things may be inappropriate for the little ones in your care.  Go back to what I said on Day 1... Know your kiddos!

Activity #18- Cornmeal Goop




What I did: I added water and glue to the cornmeal and began stirring it together to make "goop".  (Social- Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, Mathematics, Visual and Performing Arts).

What they did:  This activity was an epic FAIL!  The children hated everything about it (which really shocked me).  I thought they would love playing in this soupy mess, but they said it smelled funny, it was runny, and was definitely NOT goop!

Lesson Learned:  The first thing that I did wrong was put a name on the item we were creating.  I grabbed all of the items and (mistakenly) asked aloud "Who wants to make goop?  Join me at the table."  I didn't realize until later that as I said "goop", the children immediately had an expectation of what the activity should look like.  When it didn't turn out the way that they expected, they were disappointed.  What I SHOULD have said instead is, "Come check it out... let's see what we can make at the table."  Lesson learned indeed.

Activity #19- Cornmeal and Shaving Cream


What I did: I finally went to the store and bought some shaving cream, added some brushes, paint, and dry cornmeal and let the children mix on their own.  (Mathematics, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Development).

What they did: They love, love, LOVED this activity!  So much that they were actually singing "shaving creeeam"!  check out the video of their reaction when I refilled the shaving cream (for the third time) It is absolutely hilarious!


Helpful Tip:  The use of shaving cream is controversial and in some programs is NOT ALLOWED.

Please check with your State licensing entity for further direction.  If you choose not to go the shaving cream route, consider using non-toxic foam paint from your local school supply warehouse.  It has the same consistency of shaving cream, so the kids don't really seem to mind the difference.  Also fill and refill your containers out of the presence of the children to avoid the issue of operating the can in the classroom, however their reaction alone was motivation enough for me to just go for it!