Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

This morning at breakfast, something caught my attention and I yelled out, "Ohhh baby!"

Zech was sitting across the room from me, and heard my cry. "Ohhh Mommy!" Then he followed it with, "Did you hear me say that? I said, Ohhh Mommy, to you."

I laughed, and then he informed me, "I is Zechy now. I not a baby anymore. You call me Zechy now."

The situation was pretty funny to me because I yelled it out without any thought of my son. It just happened to be the first thing that came out of my mouth. I guess I better be more careful from now on.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Walking With Jesus

Last night we made it official and I signed a challenge to walk in Jesus' footsteps.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my experiences with you, and maybe it would even challenge you to do the same. I know that God speaks to us all individually, and all in our own time. Something God might be working with me on would be totally different for you. What I mean by challenging you is just the fact that you would be asking yourself the same question. What would Jesus do if He was in your place? Making your life decisions?

I had a week to prepare myself for taking the challenge, and I've already been given a few instances where I had to make the choice to follow God's direction.

It's amazing to me how when we step out, making a promise to God, He is faithful to give us the opportunity to honor that promise. I've had three things in the past week that God has asked of me to do, or pointed out an area that I could be better at following in His footsteps.

My kids were out of school this week on my grocery shopping day. In order to reward their good behavior for this, I like to promise a trip to the movie theater. I give them tally marks if they disobey, and they are as a group only allowed a certain amount of tally marks before the movie privilege is taken away.

Since I started this deal at the beginning of the summer, the kids have never gone over. They have worked together reminding each other to obey, and we've always received the reward, a movie at the theater!

It's a big treat to have a trip to the movie theater. We only go to the $2 movies, and we always bring our own snacks. It's cheaper that way.


As we all had picked out a box of candy while grocery shopping, I told Zech to get his backpack. Everyone packs them inside along with a special drink, and Zech carries our food inside. When I told Gabe he needed to put his candy inside, he didn't want to. He wanted to carry it in.

It got a little tricky here. I heard myself telling him to just put it in the backpack, so we could go inside. I tried to delicately explain to him why it was needed, and I couldn't get around the fact that we were "hiding" our candy so we wouldn't get in trouble.

He questioned this and was very concerned that we were doing the wrong thing. Mikaela, my niece, was with us, and put it very simply to him. It's not wrong. Everyone does it. They shouldn't charge so much for the candy there.

It wasn't until later when I was thinking more about it, and couldn't quite shake the bad feeling I had at forcing my son to "hide" his candy, that I was reminded, "What would Jesus do?"

I sure messed up there. I can't tell my kid there is a right and wrong thing to do, but sometimes there are exceptions to the rules if you don't like what they're doing, or you think it's wrong. I want to be a parent that can say there is a clear right and wrong thing to do in every situation. It's always wrong to break the rules, even if it means you need to buy an expensive box of candy, or just plain have to do without the candy. We will not be sneaking any more food into the theater. I don't believe that Jesus would do it.

On another day off of school this week, my kids were playing Monopoly. They always play by the rule that if you don't get caught on the property, you don't have to pay. Ariel is the queen of doing this. Gabe is normally a step behind in the game and doesn't realize someone is on his property until too late.


This time a fight broke out. Gabe said it wasn't fair and Ariel told him that's just the way the game is played. Tough.

I tried to get my daughter to understand the parallel of what she was doing to a real life situation.

Let's imagine she wanted to have a place to stay for the night, and found this beautiful hotel on Park Place. She sneaked inside hoping the owner wouldn't see her so she wouldn't be required to pay the bill. When I asked her if she thought Jesus would do that? She immediately was repentant and paid the price.

I know it may seem small, and it's only a game. But how do you think Jesus would play that game? Would He cheat someone all in the name of fun and games?


My last challenge was today after church. I was talking with a friend about dental issues in regards to our children. We have Healthwave insurance (Kansas Medicaid) and are limited to where we can be seen. In fact, there is only one location in Topeka that accepts Healthwave.

Gabriel has a cavity right now that needs to be repaired again. This is the third time in less than a year. I do NOT want to go back to that dentist. I know of other kids who have had similar issues with the same office. It's really sad, but the only dentist we're allowed to be seen by isn't providing quality care. I need to find somewhere else for him to go even if it means driving to Lawrence, a city about 30 minutes away from us.

I don't remember how it came up in the conversation, but I was telling my friend that we aren't even supposed to have Medicaid anymore. My husband got a very good raise at the beginning of this year, and we no longer are eligible. However, Medicaid has been very behind in their enrollment process and they haven't sent us new paperwork for almost 2 years. We should have re-enrolled in February, but we've been waiting it out until they deny us.

It was as I was explaining it that the phrase again popped into my head, "What Would Jesus Do?" Would He really be waiting to be denied, or would He make things right on His own accord? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

It hurts me to think about the extra money we're going to be paying for health insurance, but in all actuality it's a blessing. God has blessed our family so much we no longer can receive government help. That's really a good thing. We're going to make things right, and have our children added on to my husband's job insurance. I believe it's what Jesus would do.

It's been a busy week of God working. I know the future holds even more for me, if I'm willing to look and ask. I challenge you too, to try to follow in Jesus' footsteps. Step out and take a chance... ask yourself, "What Would Jesus Do?"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Would Jesus Do

"What Would Jesus Do?"

For the past few weeks God has been speaking to me on this subject. A few months ago, I read the book In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. I think it was no coincidence that it was during reading this book that I met my friend Birgit and had a strong pull to find her. I thank God every day that I had the opportunity to meet her. I may not have had a huge impact on her life, but God surely used her to have a great impact on my life.


God has been calling me to follow Him. This isn't something new; it's just as time goes by the desire and feeling gets stronger. Every day I want to draw closer to Him, and every day I want to be making progress in finding the answer to that simple question. What would Jesus do?

What would He do if He lived today, in my house, and walked around in my shoes? What would He do if He was the parent to my children? Or if He was the spouse to my spouse? What would He do if He was the friend to my friends? Or the neighbor who lived next door? What would He do if He drove my car? Where would He go? What would He say to the people He encountered? What would He spend His free time doing in my house? What would He not spend His free time doing?

I cannot stop asking these questions.

A couple weeks ago I started some serious fall cleaning around my house. I neglected some things in the spring, and figured now was the time to get it done. I've been working on washing all my windows, curtains, and blinds which is no small task. I've been cleaning out closets, and going through our storage in the basement. I've been scrubbing my walls and my floors, and cleaning under the couches.


I've found some interesting things in all the cleaning. I've discovered things I had forgotten we owned, and things I wished we didn't. I've been removing things item by item, trash day by trash day. My house is getting cleaned. I'm making room for better, more important, worthy things.


“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Matthew 6:19-24

Just like my house has been getting a deep cleaning, I've been working on a deep spiritual cleaning. God is renewing my mind and reminding me of what is important. There are so many times I get hung up on the things that don't really matter. I've been trying to look at every situation to see what specifically needs to be done, and I've been trying to follow and ask God what He wants for me to do in that situation.

Just this week, I read a book entitled Rooms by James L. Rubart. I highly recommend it. It was very inspiring and humbling at the same time. One of the things that stood out to me was the struggle the main character went through. He had a history with Christianity, and then turned his back on it. He became too caught up in acquiring wealth and prestige that he eventually forgot about God. He never stopped believing in God; he no longer saw the importance or need for Him. I'm certain this wasn't something that happened overnight; it was done by his daily choices and thoughts.


This book didn't deal in the normal physical side of things; it was full of supernatural instances. Micah, the main character, would continue to spend time in two different worlds. They both were physical places; however one was representing his spiritual choices. As he would make decisions throughout the book, each world would be affected. If he made a choice that had to do with God, it would affect his physical world where he had acquired great wealth and prestige. Things and people would disappear. And then at the same time, if he would make a decision in his physical world, it would change things in his spiritual home.

It was a very profound story, and gave great meaning to the verses in the Bible that talk about giving up your life for God.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" Matthew 16:24-26

It seems that no matter where I go or what I do, I keep hearing the same things. We've got to make a choice. You're either going to choose God, or you will choose the world. You can't choose both.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Revelation 3:15-16

I want to make the choice every day to pick God. I also want to make the choice in every circumstance to choose God's way.

Tonight I'm going to hang out with a few of my close friends, and we're going to discuss further walking in Jesus' footsteps. We all read the book over the past couple of months, and we're going to decide tonight whether or not we want to take the challenge. We'll hold each other accountable and have opportunity to share how we were able to impact others for Christ.

I've included our challenge here, if you'd like to follow with us, and commit to asking that simple question, "What Would Jesus Do?" It may only be a few words to ask, but your response to the answer will be a big responsibility. Will you join with us as we try to follow in Jesus footsteps?

Jesus, I, _____________________, do solemnly state that I want to follow in Your footsteps. From this day forward I will ask of myself on a continuing basis: "What would Jesus do?" I pledge to open my heart to hear what You have for me in all areas of my life and to do it, no matter what the cost. In 1 Peter 2:21 it states, "This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came His way so you would know it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step." I trust you, Lord, for courage to be obedient even if it costs me suffering. I trust You to assure my heart that what You did for me makes any suffering I endure for Your sake worth it. I choose to be a good and faithful servant. I recognize that I cannot accomplish this without Your mighty power at work in me so I humbly and sincerely ask You to work through me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

This morning on the way to school, it was discovered that both Gabriel and Ariel lost their coats. It's been very chilly in the mornings lately. On the drive I told Ariel I didn't want to buy her another coat. In the past year she has lost 2 coats, one of which was my very special "Casey hoodie" she had borrowed. Gabe said we could save our money, and wanted me to ask my sister to ask the family she is living with this question, "Could we come to their backyard, kill a deer, tan the hide and make coats for our family?"


I'm sure this sounds a little out of the blue, but it's really not. On Sunday we watched "My Side of the Mountain" where a 13 year old boy wanted to move into the mountain area by himself and live off of the land. He ate plants, experimented on algae, trained a falcon to kill small animals he could eat, and he tanned a deer hide which he made a nice jacket out of, and a door to a tree that he lived inside of. This kid was a genius and lived in the most primitive way.

I thought it was funny that Gabe remembered this, and that by just watching a few minutes of a tutorial on a movie he figured we would be experienced enough to do it ourselves. He seemed really surprised when I questioned our ability to do this.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Waikiki Meatballs

The thing I look for in a good dinner is the time; how fast will it cook, and how easy will it be for me to prepare it. I don't like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making dinner. It's just not me. I'd rather be doing a million other things instead.

I've discovered it's not cooking in general that I dislike, it's all about the time requirement, and what it's taking away from. If it's just me and Zech here at the house, I love to bake cookies with him, or banana bread, or other fun things. It's a great way of bonding.

With all that being said, I love making this dinner because it's so easy, it's fast, and it's very inexpensive. I can have the entire meal prepared, cooked, and on the table within 30 minutes.

If you enjoying cooking, you'll probably want to make your own meatballs for this dish. I won't even share the recipe I have for meatballs because I never use it. I am all about saving time, and not getting my hands dirty. I'm kind of weird like that, but if a meal requires me to touch the slimy, sticky food, I probably won't make it. I do make exceptions for my husband and kids when I want to make them something special, but for the most part, I like to keep my hands clean.

I purchase a bag of home-style meatballs in the freezer section at Wal-Mart for $5. That bag will make two meals for my family, and the meatballs are delicious. The kids love to have meatball sandwiches too, similar to Subway. All you do is heat your meatballs with some pasta sauce, and grab some hot dog buns to eat them in. Throw a little mozzarella cheese on top, and you have a very simple meal that's a big winner with kids.

Waikiki Meatballs


2 tbs. cornstarch
1 can pineapple drained(reserve syrup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1 tbs. soy sauce
1/3 cup chopped green pepper

Mix cornstarch and sugar. Stir in pineapple juice, vinegar, and soy sauce until smooth. Pour into skillet; cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Add meatballs, pineapple, and green pepper. Heat thoroughly. Serve hot over white rice.

This is a recipe my mom made often when I was a kid. I still love it to this day. The last time we ate it for dinner, Zechariah said the prayer. It went something like this, "Dear Jesus, thank you for Mario's meatballs and soup, for Yeddar's meatballs and soup, for my meatballs and soup, for Mommy's meatballs and soup, and for Daddy's rice. Amen." Titus normally dishes everyone's food up for them, and had decided before finishing serving himself we should say the prayer. As soon as "amen" was said, he added his meatballs and soup, to which Zech had to say an entirely new prayer...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cardboard Costumes

As I've said before, I love to wear costumes, make costumes, or dream up costumes. There is something fun about turning yourself into something you're not. God has blessed me with a great imagination, and I LOVE to put it to use.

For the past few days, I spent hours working on turning my family into a work of cardboard art. Ever since I made cardboard box cars for Zechariah's birthday, I've been raiding my cardboard stash and making things. It's so much fun! And it's cheap! We made a costume for each member of the family, and I didn't pay a single penny. The boxes were old and used, some a little broken and bent, but they still worked perfectly for what I had planned. The only thing that cost money was the paint I used, and it was all old colors I happened to have lying around the house.


There's nothing more fun, than when it's free fun. That means no guilt, or strings attached, and if it doesn't work out the way you wanted, who cares? You didn't invest anything but a little time.

The boys in my family are very into Nintendo DS. Each of my kids is allowed 30 minutes of computer time a day, and mostly that time gets spent playing on the DS. Their favorite games are Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, etc...


The hard part about their costumes was the fact they couldn't pretend to play themselves. It was too difficult to reach, and Zech got very frustrated trying.


For Ariel I chose a cardboard book. She spends hours and hours in her room each day reading books. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it has words on the page, she'll read it. Through the years she's read many different book series, and right now her favorite is probably The Babysitter's Club.



My costume was very appropriate, but not very well thought through. I was trying to make it easier on myself during the designing time, and I neglected to put arm holes in the box. I figured it wouldn't matter and I could just do things with my hands down low. I couldn't even pretend to use my camera and push the button! I hardly wore the costume at all, maybe 5 minutes tops. It was too hard to do anything with your arms pinned down to the side. If you're going to design a costume out of a box, make arm holes! They are an absolute must! I did really like how everything else turned out on my camera. I especially loved my over sized camera strap. The costume was perfect for me, except for the fact I couldn't use my real camera because my arms wouldn't budge!



I think my favorite costume was my husbands, a Rubik's cube. When we were painting it, I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but the finished product was so fun. I thought he looked so great in it, and I loved it on him!


It's amazing how you can turn a little bit of cardboard into a masterpiece of fun. The ideas are endless!

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I love my kids! I cannot say that enough. They fill my heart with joy, and always put a smile on my face.

Yesterday we had a fall party which we wore costumes to. I'm always up for a family photo, so we first stopped at a pretty park to takes some snapshots. Before exiting the car, I turned around to the backseat and very firmly said, "We are NOT here to play on the toys. We're just taking pictures. Don't even THINK about running to the toys."

Gabe has been in an absolute honesty phase lately, and said very seriously to me, "Is it okay if we just think about, but don't actually do it? I don't think I can not think about it because I'm already thinking about it right now."

I held back my snicker, and loved my son all the more for telling me the truth. Isn't it funny how we say things when we often don't really mean it. I didn't care if my kids thought about playing, I only wanted them to know I meant business. What a great kid!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Joseph

Just when I thought life was slowing down, God brought about a new opportunity. Ariel auditioned last week to be in one of our local high school plays. I was very proud of her. She had to learn a song and dance for her audition in front of a crowd of her peers and adults. I don't think at that age I would have been brave enough to try out.

To make a long story short, she made it! The week before Thanksgiving she's going to be in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.


When her audition was over, we spent an hour eating Subway, and waiting. It's amazing how long an hour can seem. She was very nervous, and so was I. I felt like I might have well been up there performing for all the butterflies I had in my stomach on her behalf.

Before we made it back to the school to find out if she would be chosen, we prayed together. I prayed that if this was God's will for her, she would get the part and have the time of her life. I mean really, what elementary school student wouldn't love to be in the same arena with high schoolers? On the other hand, if this wasn't something she should be doing, please protect her heart and mind. I've seen what rejection can do to a person, and I wasn't wishing that on my daughter.

It was with great excitement, Ariel found out she gets to be in the children's choir. I very quickly wiped my tears away as I was so pleased for her, but didn't want to embarrass her too much.



It was an awesome weekend. I'm so pleased that Ariel gets this opportunity at such a young age.

When I first heard of the play I was torn in whether or not I wanted to allow her to try out. I knew it was a huge commitment, and honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to make it. I could think of all these reasons why it would be a bad idea, but frankly, they were all very selfish. I was concerned with how it was going to take away from my time and my things that I wanted to be doing.

Sometimes it seems like we're too busy, and I was convincing myself that this would take away from "family" time. In the end I decided it was just a big cop out. This was such a great opportunity and I didn't want Ariel to have to pass it up because I was feeling lazy. I've heard it said before, try to say "yes" to your children as much as possible and to save the "no" for when it's really important. We rarely sign up for extracurricular activities and this seemed to be a worthy cause. It could have been any play, but it wasn't. It was Joseph, a story from the Bible. How could I say no?

After my first day of running ragged, driving to and from play practice, driving to and from my parent meeting, and having to juggle who brings Gabe to his soccer practice at the same time as play practice, all while throwing in the fact we had one car because our second was in the shop getting its brakes worked on, I was stressed. In fact, I was exhausted by the end of it, and was feeling very selfish with my time. Why did I ever agree to this?

The whole trick is perspective. I went into it with the mindset that I was going to be tired and worn out. I told myself this was too much for me, rather than reminding myself that God had put this opportunity together.

I spent much time in prayer the next day trying to get some help. When I got that small voice of God reminding me to let go and give it to Him. That's always so scary for me. It seems like I have to be the one in control or things will just be chaos. Last night at church someone shared a verse that I believe was God-directed for me.

"The one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate (wo)man." Romans 4:6 (The Message)

WOW.

God has an answer for everything. I went to bed feeling very down and depressed. Life was overwhelming me. I woke up feeling like a new person. All the things that seemed so big and important were now so small and inconsequential. God put everything right when I went to sleep.

One of the things that caused me to worry was the hour I was stuck with the boys at play practice. The director seemed to imply he would prefer we drop our kids off and then come back to pick them up later. I asked his assistant if that assessment was correct, and he told me it would be fine either way. I could stay if I wanted to. However, I didn't have my boys with me when I asked the question and I was really worried how well they would sit during practice. This play is going to require an hour practice twice a week for one month, and then 4 times a week, sometimes 5 times a week for the next month. Going home in the middle of practice is not an option as it takes us 20 minutes to get to the school. It wouldn't be worth the gas.

I got an epiphany when I woke up. Why did I think I had to be in the room with them practicing? The school is huge; the largest in Topeka. Surely, it would hold me and my two boys, right?

Today I made a bag of tricks to keep the boys entertained. I'm certain this was a God-idea. As soon as the thought was planted, I was almost anticipating the hour I would get to spend with my boys. After all, if we were at home I would be busy doing other things. But now, I have a one hour, God ordained, time with my boys spending quality time. We're going to grab an empty hallway at the school and get comfortable.


I was so excited; I went to the dollar store and filled my bag with different treats.

First, I found a new coloring book for Zech and notebook for Gabe. They both love to color and draw. I even found a Sudoku puzzle book for myself, one of my favorites.


I found a couple "classic" books adapted for children that I can read aloud. Given the time of year the store was selling "Frankenstein" and "Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."


I've got 500 different Adventures in Odyssey radio shows on my cell phone! When Zech and I went to Colorado Springs we visited Focus on the Family. They have a very exciting children's area that's based on Adventures in Odyssey. I loved this show when I was a kid, and the visit to Colorado Springs renewed my interest. We've been listening to an episode each day, and this hour is the perfect time to listen to more. They teach such valuable lessons.


I got several games and fun things at the dollar store, and found even more things to pack from home. We've got games, silly putty, toy soldiers, and more...


No bag of tricks could be complete without the treats. After school is always the time when kids get hungry; I filled a bag with cookies, cheese and crackers, and fruit snacks.


It's amazing how much life is affected by your perspective. Yesterday I was dreading Ariel being in this play. Today, I couldn't wait for the time to come to grab my goodie bag and head to the car. I was so excited for the time we were going to have together.

When 3 o'clock came around, Zech and I rushed to the school. I picked Gabe up early, but remembered it was Bible study day with Grandma. I was down to one kid for my bag of fun. I waited for Ariel to get out, and was pressed to answer her if she could ride to play practice with her friend. In the blink of an eye, I was free and on my way home. The funny thing, I almost didn't want to be free; I had been so excited about my afternoon. For now, I will just wait. I know I'll have many more opportunities in the next two months to have that special time of bonding with my boys. And at the same time, I'm giving Ariel the chance to fulfill that dream of hers to sing and dance on the stage. Life is beautiful.

When we let God be in control, it's amazing how much better life is, as long as we first get out of His way.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cars

Four years ago today, I was due to have my little baby boy Zechariah. He had an agenda of his own, and came a couple weeks early on September 28th 2007. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. I can remember holding him for the first time, and now I'm lucky if I can at least get a hug out of him as he runs across the room.

On Zech's birthday this year, a good friend of mine forwarded me this email that I had sent out four years ago, when I found out I was having a boy. It made me cry when I read it, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it now.

Date: Thursday, May 31, 2007, 1:47 PM
To all my friends and family, :)

We are having a BOY!! We had the ultrasound this morning, and I am very happy to report that everything looks wonderful. I started out this pregnancy with a few complications, and today everything looked perfect. "God can do anything, you know...". :) Eph.3:20

Jaime and Ariel came with me this morning to see the baby. Ariel was very excited and couldn't wait to see if it was a boy or girl. The lady doing the ultrasound was very nice, and made sure to ask us if we wanted to know the sex of the baby, or should we try to stay clear of that area. I told her, YES, we want to know. So she asked Ariel what she was hoping for. Ariel of course, said a girl. And then the lady laughed a little, then said, well, I think there's a little bit more between the legs of this one.

I'd been pretty certain we were having a little guy again. I have always felt from 7 weeks of pregnancy, this was a boy. Titus and I were discussing names. We had been to a music program at Ariel's school and there is a little boy name Malachi, Titus really liked that name. I wasn't too fond of it, but I said, hey I kinda like the name Zechariah. (I think we've both always been drawn to Bible names.) And Titus agreed with me. I am very big into meanings of names, so I told him I would look it up the next day.

Zechariah means "God has remembered" It was perfect for us. At that point we had been trying to get pregnant for a couple of months, and we loved the idea that God had remembered us. Then when I had bleeding on a couple different occasions that name just kept coming back as a promise to me. God has not forgotten this baby. He cares so much. So to Titus and me, this baby has always been and always will be Zechariah.... because God remembered us. We are blessed so much!

Thank you all for your prayers! I love you all!
~ Amanda

... Just in case you didn't know the estimated due date is: October 7th ...


This year for Zechariah's 4th birthday, I tried to talk him into a cowboy party, but he wouldn't have anything to do with it. I thought it would be fun to plan, and dress up for. He said, "NO," very decisively. He actually suggested, "Maybe you can have a cowboy party for YOUR birthday, Mommy." He wanted a Cars birthday.

I've never done a Cars party, as his older brother Gabe isn't a big fan of toy cars. Zechariah on the other hand, loves to drive his cars for hours around the house. It really was the perfect party for him. He doesn't care if it's Lightning McQueen or any of the other characters, it just needs to have four wheels and he's good with it.

For awhile I kept teasing Zech that we were going to have a cowboy party because a car party was too boring. When a friend of mine was over, and we were talking about his birthday, I said again, "We're going to have a cowboy party, right, Zech?" He was upset with me, and shook his head, "No. I'm gonna have a boring Cars party. I like boring Cars parties."


I don't think I can do boring or small. Every year I try and say I'm going to keep it very simple, and every year it turns out big and elaborate. I love to party. And there's nothing wrong with that!


We kept Zechariah's real birthday pretty simple. I think it was so simple, he didn't even understand that he was already four. I took him out for lunch at Olive Garden (his choice), and we told the waitress he was 4 today, and his response to her was, "No. I not four today. I not have my party yet."

According to Zech, you must have cake with friends in order to have a birthday. When we were out to Olive Garden we asked the waitress if they could sing to him. She gathered several other waiters and they all sang "Happy Birthday." Later that night as Zech was telling his dad about his birthday lunch, he very excitedly said, "I had A LOT of people at my party. I don't member their names." So maybe the trick to having a birthday is the song, not the cake.

I gave Zech a choice of what kind of birthday cake he wanted, and he simply chose ice cream sandwiches. It's kind of hard to put candles in a cake like that, so we made him an ice cream pyramid complete with tea lights.




Since we put so much money into our birthday parties, and the kid's friends usually give presents, along with grandparents, we often don't do much for birthday gifts. I got a great deal this year on Zech's present. I found some roller skates at Kohl's that I only paid $3.50 for! They were 50% off, and every month Kohl's sends me a free $10 gift card. All I have to do is spend over $10 to use it. I'm pretty proud of that sale. A funny fact about the skates, I actually bought them the same day Zech broke his arm. I was so glad he got his cast off in plenty of time to use them on his birthday.

Zech got his own real key for his birthday too. I brought him to the machine in Wal-Mart where we were able to personalize his key chain. He also was able to choose a key of his own in the automotive section. I was a little surprised to find they don't have Cars keys. I mean, wouldn't it make sense to have a Cars key more than any other Disney character???

He loves it! Every time we leave the house, he must have his key in the car, and then when we arrive at our location, he requests it be put in my purse for safe keeping.


Before Stefanie left for Colorado she took Zech shopping for his birthday gift. He picked out a nice green water bottle. It wasn't exactly kid proof, so Stefanie exchanged it for a better green bottle that came with a straw. This one worked for a couple weeks then water started seeping out the straw. On his birthday, we went and exchanged it again for the shark cup.

He really likes it, but it's a little complicated for him to understand where it came from. I tried to tell him it was still from Stefanie, but he thinks I bought it for him. He doesn't understand since she wasn't there how it could be from her. I kept asking him over and over again who gave him the cup. Every time he would say, "NO, Steffie got me my green cup. You got me my shark cup."

One time he answered the question right, and seemed to get it. A couple hours later, he came running over to me and yelled with his mad face, "I get so mad at you, Mommy!" I wasn't sure what I'd done.

"You keep saying Steffie buy me my shark cup, but YOU did."

Now if I want him to answer the question right, I ask, "where did the money come from for your shark cup?" And every time he will answer, "Steffie." I guess you just have to think like a kid. Don't confuse them and say that someone else bought it for them, when they know with absolute certainty you drove them to the store and picked out that cup!


Now... it's finally party time!


We thought it would be fun to have Zech's party at our church. They have a great big parking lot, and plenty of room for "car" games.

My mom put together Zech's birthday cake. Originally I planned on her making him a simple stoplight cake, but when we asked him what he wanted, he had a plan, and we didn't want to disappoint him. He said it needed to be a race car with a party on it. This is what my mom came up with. She did a great job!


Zechariah planned all the food at his party. He really wanted candy corn to be there. Since they look a little like traffic cones, we decided they could be "cozy cones" like in the movie. I don't have any fun candy dishes, so I made a cardboard car for the candy to sit in. Zech loved it!


Our party favors had a black and white checkered flag in it, a car air freshener, some Cars fruit snacks, and a fun candy car. I think the candy cars were the cutest with the peppermint wheels; however I know a lot of kids don't like peppermint candies. I tried to make all of theirs with Lifesaver wheels, and then had a bunch of peppermint cars on the table for the adults.


The biggest hit of our party were the box cars. Not to be confused with Matchbox cars. Zech and I designed a fun kid car. I had everyone's car ready and waiting for them. We had Lightning McQueen eyes on the front, two windows on each side, and a gas tank on the right. The back of the car had red cup brake lights, and a license plate holder.

When all of his friends got to the party, the first thing they did was choose wheels for their box cars. We had red, green, and yellow plates for the wheels, and large black plates for their steering wheel.


After their tires and steering wheels were attached, they got to design their own license plate. There were lots of Cars stickers available to help them decorate with. Some of the kids colored on their cars too.


After their box car was finished, they could run around playing in it. We had a deluxe car wash they could run through made out of PVC pipe. Zechariah really enjoyed building this with me; it was simple enough for him to hook it together himself.


When I asked Zech what his favorite part of the party was, he said the gas. There was always a long line at the gas pump. If I had known this, I might have made a couple gas pumps for the kids to play with. We put a garden hose under the box, and made sure to have a spray nozzle for the gas to come out of. If we weren't worried about getting wet and ruining the cardboard, it sure would have been fun to design a real working gas tank that could actually hold water.

If you notice, gas only costs $2.869! I looked up how much it was the week Zechariah was born. If only we could go back to those prices!


We had a bean bag toss that the kids could play with. I asked my brother to bring his special racing tires, and I made some Lightning McQueen and Mater beanbags. It was fun to try to make it through the holes on the standing tire. It was much harder than it appeared. After the party was over, each of the kids were able to take home a beanbag.


All of Zech's friends were able to make it to his party!


Working on their cars so they could begin playing...


Zech is working on personalizing his license plate.



It was so cute to see all the kids in their box cars running around.


When we were getting ready for the party and unloading our things from the car we were very rushed for time. I worked on setting things up, while my mom and daughter carried everything in. We always keep jumper cables in Titus' car, and my mom thought they were meant for the party. So it wasn't actually planned for me to bring them, but it worked out and was fun for the kids to "jump" each other's car.

I think my brother was trying to charge Zana for her gas...


We had a few car crashes at the party! And even some flat tires, and one lost tire. This happened when the kids put their tires down too low on the box. It was pretty cute to see!


Our next activity was a relay game. We had two different teams, the red and the green team. The kids lined up behind their "oil pan" full of rice. They each took a turn filling the funnel up with rice. They had to run across the room to their matching colored car, and slowly funnel out the rice. They couldn't dump it into the car as the oil would get all over and possibly ruin their engine. Once all the "oil" was in their car, the game was over.




I had a lot of fun making things out of cardboard for this party. I was especially happy with how my red and green cars turned out!



I wanted to make sure we had plenty of activities going on so none of the kids would get bored. We brought some of our cars from home, along with the mat that the kids could play on.


It's so hard to get Zechariah looking straight forward. You can always have his head facing you, however his eyes are usually roaming around the room.



Another favorite of the party was the "gas" everyone got to drink. I thought it would be fun to use a real gas can. We, of course, bought a brand new one for the party. It was really cute to hear, "Can I have some more gas, please?"



I'm not sure how many of Zech's friends were brave enough to try a frozen banana, but Zech sure loves them. He put in a special request to have these at his party. Actually, he kept requesting things to eat there, and I thought about ignoring this one. I couldn't figure how I could relate them to cars. He reminded me several times before the party that we needed to buy our bananas, so I knew I had to make some whether we found the idea or not. They were simply frozen bananas... I came up with nothing.

If you've never had chocolate covered frozen bananas, you should! I think they are delicious and semi-nutritious! They're very easy to make too. You need to freeze your bananas, and make sure to dip them in lemon juice first to keep them from browning. Once they're frozen, you can drizzle chocolate on top. I usually heat my almond bark on the stove and add a few tablespoons of shortening to thin it out. Quickly add some sprinkles and you're done. The chocolate hardens very fast since the bananas are frozen.




The gas pump was really the hit of the party!


Our last fun of the party was the big race! The kids looked so cute all lined up in their cars.



On your mark, get set, GO!




These two boys were neck and neck the entire race, until the very end when one of them crashed and burned. He skinned his knees, poor kid!

I was a little worried that Zech would be really upset when he lost this race. He's much smaller than all his friends and I knew the chance of him winning was zip. We made the race 4 laps long, since it was his fourth birthday. He was clueless to the fact that he lost the race. He only made it two laps, when the winner had finished all four laps.


Our only thing left to do when the race was done was open presents! He got Cars stuff from everyone! He loved it!



Apart from all his new Cars paraphernalia he really loved his giant Mario. His first night having it, his brother begged him to be allowed to sleep with it. Zech told him no, and has slept with Mario every night since.


It was a great party! I think Zech really enjoyed himself, and I thought everything went perfectly.

We finished off the day with a couple hot pizzas, and settled down to watch Cars as a family. In a few short weeks, we're going to be able to have another Cars family night, as his grandma and papa gave him a gift certificate to buy Cars 2 when it comes out!


Happy 4th Birthday, Zechy!
I love you!