Tuesday, May 31, 2011

3rd Annual Graduation Luau

Summer vacation is here! I can't believe how fast this school year has gone. It feels like it was just a few weeks ago we were mourning the loss of summer, and yet here it is again.

The kids have been out of school for almost a week now, and we have kept very busy. We've been cleaning, doing yard work, working on the Topeka Treasure hunt, and just watching movies and playing around. I love having this special time with my children. The only downside to having my kids out and staying so busy; I have very little time to blog. I have lots I could blog about, but practically no time to get it written.

With school getting out, and summer vacation arriving, that means, Graduation Luau! The kids really enjoy this event we put together. It recognizes all the hard work they put into the past year, and also celebrates the joy of being a family. We all love this party!

This year, we were the only ones who remembered to dress "luau". I can't resist getting that fun family picture with everyone sporting their colorful attire.

Gabriel was graduating from the 1st Grade! He learned so much this year, and has become an excellent reader.

Ariel was graduating from the 4th grade! She made many friends, and learned a lot with her teacher, Mrs. Booth. It's hard to believe that now Ariel only has one more year at her elementary school and then she's on to middle school!

We started off our ceremony with Gabriel leading us in the pledge of allegiance.

In celebrating 150 years for Kansas, the kids learned several patriotic songs this year. We chose to sing, "Home on the Range" a favorite of Ariel's.

We had each kid share a special talent with us. Gabriel started us off by reading his story he wrote titled, "Charlie and the Math Factory." You can probably guess what it's based on.

Ariel read us a poem, "Garden Happiness" that she wrote in her gifted class, and then we quizzed her on states and capitols.

Mikaela shared with us about her science project she did trying to hatch baby chicks.

Zechariah just needed to join in on the fun, and stole Mikaela's cap she made at school.

Each of the kids received a special award of excellence for the grade they completed, and they also were given a certificate for having excellent participation in Bible study with Grandma.

Ariel and Gabe shared with us 1 Timothy 4:12, the verse for Kid's Prayer on Sunday's at church.

We are all very proud of our graduates!

After the graduation ceremony was complete, it was time to party! We all put together some chicken and sausage shish kabobs, a requested favorite of the kids. I must say they were delicious!

At Ariel's request, we all had fruit smoothies with our BBQ.

As we all finished eating, and spent time hanging out, everyone was welcome to check out the kids work they did during the school year. We saved many papers, but in reality a very small fraction of what they worked on this year. They did a great job!

Valentine is with the newest member of the family, Autobahn.

After all the food was put away, we played a couple games the kids learned in school. Ariel taught us how to play "Sparkle". You stand in a circle, and someone will shout out a word, while the rest of the players spell it. The first person says one letter, and then the next person says the next letter, and so on. When the word is completed, the next two people try to race to say, "Sparkle!" Whoever doesn't say it first is out. Then another word is spelled until you are only left with one person. It was fun!

Gabriel taught us to play "Heads Up 7-up!" I remember playing this when I in grade school.

We ended our party with some very delicious cheesecake.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2 (8 ounce) packages refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup margarine or 1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar mixture

Using a 9 x 13 baking pan, unroll one package of refrigerated crescent rolls and line the bottom of the pan. Mix together the cream cheese, sugar and extract, and spread over the crescent rolls. Unroll the other can of crescent rolls and place on top of cream cheese mixture. Pour one stick of melted butter or margarine over the top and sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It's guaranteed to be a hit at any party!

It is at events like these that I feel so blessed to be a part of this family. We always have so much fun together. If you missed it, here is last year's Graduation Luau!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I told Zechariah his cousin Mikaela was coming over to play for a couple hours, and he was very excited. He told me, “I wanna play with her!”

I said it was a good idea, and that she would probably like that. He then responded back to me very seriously, “I wanna keep her too.”

I tried to explain that we couldn’t keep her forever. We would have to send her back with her daddy; he would miss her too much.

So then Zech shrugs his shoulders and says back to me, “my daddy could be her daddy.”

The two of them have always had a very special bond. They love each other so much!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kid Say the Darndest Things

Yesterday, as I was changing the sheets on my bed, a very perplexed Zechariah came into the room. He seemed very confused as to why the bed looked the way that it did. I think I normally change the sheets during his naptime, so this was new to him.

I explained that I had to wash them because they were getting stinky.

He seemed rather surprised and asked, "Dad pooped in him's bed?"

I had a good laugh over this, and had to tease my husband about it later. Just to make sure my husband's reputation is safe; my husband sweats in bed. He does not poop in bed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Light in Me

Our car situation has still not been completely resolved. Through it all, God has shown me many things, and helped me to see the light in the situation.

When we first brought our car home, I shared with you a post In My Darkest Hour. It was the first time we realized our car may not be all that we thought it was going to be.

God was helping me through a dark time, and I promised that I would still believe. Even when everything is so hard, and my faith is all but gone, I will believe that God will see me through. He has never given up on me, so how could I give up on Him?

God gave me a picture of a dark winding road that I had to trust Him to follow. It was not easy, and it was not clear which way I would need to turn. But if I just took it one step at a time, I would eventually be brought to a city full of light, and God would reveal His plan to me.

A little over a month later, we were dealing with some more car issues. The dealer we bought the car from, was less than honest with us, and we would be paying the price for his dishonesty. It was then that I posted Tear Down These Walls.

I had allowed myself to build walls of protection keeping everything and everyone out. My fear began to take over me, and I took my focus off of God, who could make everything right. I was overwhelmed, and looking to myself to figure things out. It wasn't until I realized this that my struggle lessened. God was in control again, and things were good.

In retrospect it seems so easy to trust God, and I often wonder, why do I falter in this? God has come through for me time and time again.

My only explanation is my humanity. It is natural to be fearful, and distrusting, and full of worry. To have faith is supernatural. I am not perfect, and I cannot expect myself to be.

Our car has been at the mechanic for the past three weeks. We brought it in initially to have the check engine light fixed, and to replace a dented transmission pan. We were pleased to find the dealer did not completely break the check engine light; he just covered it so the light would not shine through. This still resulted in a $200 bill, however we knew it could have been worse.

God was already preparing me for this new challenge that I would be going through. We dropped our car off at the mechanic on a Wednesday afternoon. As we were driving there, the song "In my darkest hour" played on the radio again. I was a bit fearful, but figured maybe God was telling me the hour was almost over. That night we went to church, and sang the song, "Tear down these walls." I told God, no matter what happens, I will still be strong. My faith will stand firm.

As the mechanic was test driving the car after he replaced the pan, the timing chain broke. He had to be towed back to his workshop. Now while I am very thankful it happened to him while he was driving it, I'm still frustrated that it had to happen.

I keep wondering, "what else could possibly go wrong on this car?"

The good news is that immediately the car was able to start the process of being fixed. The mechanic sent word to the warranty insurance we were given, and the paperwork is going through.

They have gone back and forth trying to fix the issue. The insurance is being difficult, but thankfully we have it and it will be fixed. The mechanic says the car should be as good as new when he's finished with it.

Through all this, we haven't received a new total for our bill. We do have a deductible we'll have to pay. Some things are not completely covered, and some are not covered at all.

I know that God is at work in all of this. I'm just tired and worn out. We've owned the car for 3 months now, and it's been out of our possession for more than a month of that time. I'm still driving my husband to work, and occasionally needing to pick him up.

I feel like I'm taking baby steps to follow God, but I know at least I'm doing it. As I was dropping Titus off at work this morning, the drive back home started to get to me. I'm emotional from school getting out, and my allergies have been driving me crazy. Neither of those things helped me.

I just started whining on the way home. I was trying to explain to God why I can't keep doing this. I need it to be over. I don't want to hear or think about this car anymore. I'm done.

It was when I yelled out, "God, why am I living in this darkness? I want to see the light of the city," that the words on the radio station made it through to my ears. "You put the light in me."

I broke down and cried. I could hardly see the road through my tears. I listened to the words as if God was speaking directly to me, because I knew that He was.

"You are the Maker
You tell the sun when to rise
I'm just a house on a hill
But You make me brighter
Than all the stars in the sky
Keep me from growing dim

‘Cause in Your perfection
I'm just a reflection
So pull me closer to You
I'll catch like a fire
And I'll hold You higher
‘Cause You put the light in me

I'll raise it high, I'll let it show
From the roof tops down to the streets below
In day and night, You will be known
And all will see
You put the light in me

The spark
The shot to the heart
You are the hope that leads me
Out of the dark
You let Your love shine down
So that the world can see
You put the light in me"

God is the hope that leads me out of my darkest hour. The seconds are ticking by, and soon the hour is going to be done. No matter what happens today or tomorrow, God put a light in me. I don't have to wait until I finally get to that lighted city.

The light has been inside me all along.

I want everyone in the world to know that my hope comes from God. And even when everything is dark and fearful, I have a light inside me that will shine out.

"God, you put the light inside me."

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Liberty Truck Sales Mounds Oklahoma

The End

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Summer Challenge

I love to make goals for myself, and attain them. In fact, I won't make a goal unless I know I can accomplish it. I have parenting goals, marriage goals, personal goals, spiritual goals, and just for fun goals. I like to feel that satisfaction you get when you've completed something important to you.

One of the goals that I gave myself for the summer is to visit every playground with my family in Topeka. My only stipulation is that in order for me to consider it a playground worthy to visit, it must have some sort of new equipment. If it only has a slide and a merry-go-round, or teeter totters, it's not on my list. I want to take my children to all the different jungle gyms at Topeka's finest playgrounds.

I have a list that I found on the Topeka Parks and Recreation website that I'm getting my information from. This past weekend, we were able to cross 3 playgrounds off the list, and I believe there must be at least 30 more.

We have turned into playground hoppers, and we're loving it!
Our first playground we visited was Cyrus K. Holliday, a triangular park located at the corner of 12th and Western. It's the fourth oldest park in Topeka, but as you can see has been updated with new equipment.

It's a great park for a picnic, with a few tables, and lots of shade to rest in.

Our next stop was to the Samuel Jackson park located at 1220 SE 10th. We had been looking forward to this trip for over a year! For $250,000, Topeka just built their first Spray Park, newly opened last week. We didn't make it to the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, but we did get to visit two days later when the weather was beautiful. This is sure to become a very popular spot in Topeka for children on a hot summer day.

Gabriel was very excited to see these "fighting swings" and couldn't wait to try them out. They are a unique way to swing as you are all in a circle facing each other.

The Spray Park is sure to be a free fun activity for all kids. Since the park is brand new, all the kinks have not been worked out yet. When we were there only a couple fountains were working, and the water pressure was very low. I'm sure if we wait a couple weeks and go back, we won't be disappointed!

My kids love to play in the fountains at Crown Center in Kansas City, and the fountains at a Wichita playground. This is so exciting for us to have something similar not far from home.

Our second day of playground hopping brought us to this playground behind Hummer Sport's Park, near 6th and MacVicar. We were meeting some friends to try out a playground they enjoy. It's a very quiet area, and far away from traffic.

I think the highlight of the park was this toy. As all the parts are swinging and you must jump from one rock to the next. It was very fun, and actually more challenging then it first appeared.

Since the spray park was not up and running as it should have been, I think my favorite park we visited this weekend was Edgewood, located at 2nd and Edgewood, near Potwin neighborhood.

I found the park to be rather enchanting. We didn't stay for long, but we are definitely planning a trip back for a BBQ sometime. I really loved the scenery and the quietness of the park.

The park had the modern equipment that I find a must for the children, but also had the historic feel with the older toys to play on.

As a kid, I always loved the big metal slides because you could shoot down them quickly. You always needed the speed because of the metal heating up in the summer sun. Now, I'm rethinking the height of those slides, and I admit I cringe every time my little boy climbs the tall open stairs, and then he shoots down, practically flying off at record speed. It's amazing how different of a perspective you have as a mother.

This playground has an enormously high swing set that to a professional swinger like Gabriel was the idealistic set.

To add to my historic feel, I found this marker in the ground, right next to a large field of grass, with a stone circle around it. I would have loved to have seen the wading pool years ago. This added of course to my enchanted feeling.

Right before we were leaving, I spotted this musical piano with notes on the wall, under the playground equipment. How fun! I got Zech interested for a few seconds, but my older two wouldn't give it a single thought. I was excited to see it, and felt it made the park all the more unique.

I love to travel around my town finding new treasures that I never would have known existed had I not ventured out. I am very excited to complete this challenge, and can't wait to find new places to go! I will be sure to share the rest of our summer challenge with you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Garden Happiness

Garden Happinessby Ariel Johnson

As I walk through the garden path
See a tiny sparrow flitter to the bird bath
Thorny rose bushes I do see
Such royal glory for you and me.

Blooming daisies in the garden spot
All pretty with yellow dots
Swaying in the wind to and fro
I admire them as I go.

I see fiery tulips bowing their heads
Walking through the flower beds
As I walk through the lovely grounds
I see garden happiness all around.

My daughter wrote this poem during one of her gifted classes. I thought it was beautifully written, and wanted to share it with everyone.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The God Sale

This Saturday me and my children had an encounter with God. There is no doubt about it in my mind; God was at our house.

The kids put together, with my help, a Garage sale. Ariel was raising money for church camp this summer, and Gabe was raising money to buy himself a new game for his DS.

On Friday, as I thought we were all diligently getting ready for the sale, Ariel and Mikaela instead were having a little fun with Zechariah. He was spending a few minutes at the beauty parlor. This is one of the benefits or hardships, whichever way you want to look at it, of having a big sister. I personally think he looks beautiful! You may not be able to see it in the picture, but yes, he is wearing lip gloss too.

Saturday morning we all woke up early, with great excitement, to greet our customers at our garage sale. The kids helped me put the whole thing together. They collected their old toys they no longer played with, went through all the children's books we have, donated some of their old clothes and games. It was a sale full of kid things.

As we were preparing for the sale, each morning when it was prayer journal time we would pray for good weather, and that the right people would come. Ariel had a lot of money to earn, as Kidz camp cost $189. This past Sunday a deposit was due, which is why Ariel came up with the idea.

Gabriel got to have a bake sale. He wanted to purchase himself a new DS game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong. We made two different kinds of cookies, and bags of caramel popcorn. Since we were a little short on time, I baked the popcorn and one kind of cookie while he was at school on Friday, and then in the evening he was able to make the chocolate chip cookies. All his baked goods were delicious!

I believe garage sales are always a good idea; getting rid of old things that could turn into new treasures for someone else. Our garage sale turned into a God sale for us.

Since kids were the biggest target shoppers, all the items were $5 or less. We had nothing big to sell. Everything was small, and therefore, I was hoping to make $100 of Ariel's camp money. She was a little less optimistic and was hoping to make her $30 deposit, or maybe $50.

Several times during the sale, Ariel wanted to count out her money, and I wouldn't let her. I told her it would be more fun to wait until the very end. We had no idea how much we had sold. We were very busy, and didn't have more than 5 or 10 minutes in between people, and often we had 3 or 4 cars on the street.

I was blown away with how much we sold!!

God is so WOW! There is no way that it's a coincidence on the money that came in. God put it all together, and worked the details out perfectly. Ariel earned her $189, she earned the $5 for McDonald's on the drive home from camp, and she earned $15 spending money that she wanted. We then had $7 left over.

I spent $6.97 to buy the ingredients for Gabriel's cookies and popcorn.

How did God do that? He has to be the greatest mathematician ever! We had 10 cent items, 2 dollar items, etc.. How did he know how many items we would need to sell? And how did he know how much they would need to sell for?

I was completely in awe by the details of our sale. God could have easily given us enough money to cover everything, but to do it in the exact amount. I could not stop the tears from flowing. God loves and cares for us so much that it's overwhelming. We don't deserve His goodness, yet He gives it anyways.

This verse says it beautifully, "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
Matthew 6:30-35

Life is so beautiful when God takes care of all the details. Why would we ever worry about anything, when we have such a big God on our side?

Not only did Ariel earn the exact amount that she was working towards, but Gabriel did also. His baked goods earned him $26. We were able to find the DS game he wanted, for the price he could afford. I try to teach my children to give to God first, and then spend what is leftover. Gabe was able to bring with him to church a ziploc he titled, "God's Money," and with his extra he had the exact amount to purchase his new DS game which should be arriving on Friday.

I am so grateful to God for His blessings. He is continually showering my family in ways that I never expect. This weekend, we didn't just have a garage sale, we had a God Sale.