Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our School

I wanted to take this opportunity to brag a little. From day one, I have absolutely, positively been in love with my children's elementary school.

Seven years ago, we were on the market for a new home. Our funds were smaller, and we needed a lot more house for our money. Our family was growing and the current home couldn't hold us all. We had two children at that time, a girl and a boy, and only two bedrooms in the home. We had been renting previously, and decided it was time to purchase our first home.

Throughout the entire experience God was in the middle of it. For 6 months we searched and searched for a house. We were extremely choosy and couldn't settle for just anything. I knew our children would soon be in school, and we needed to find our perfect home dependent on the perfect school.

I had a friend at that time who worked within USD 501, our school district. I asked for her advice and she told me about three really good schools. We had decided that a house wouldn't even be an option unless it was in the area we desired. The school was our biggest priority.

When we came upon our current home, before I even set foot in the door, I had to wipe tears away. I knew from the outside that we were finally home. I had an absolute peace in my heart. This was it. Our search was finally going to be over. After six long months, and 6 bids later, we walked into our home.

If you had made that same walk with us 7 years ago, you probably wouldn't have had the exact same feeling. The house was a fixer upper. All the floors needed replacing, and the bathrooms were very outdated. The tub enclosure was cracked, and the living room had avocado green carpet. If you walked in the kitchen you might have slipped on the linoleum tiled floor that was falling apart. The house to anyone else was probably ugly, but to me, it was an answer to prayer. God gave us this home! Someday I'll share some pictures with you, and show just how much a miracle the house was.

For me it was immediately love at first sight.

The whole point to what I'm saying here, God knows exactly what we need. At that time my daughter was almost 4 years old. She would be starting kindergarten the next year. I'm convinced the best part of our home is the school we are assigned to attend.

From day one at Meet the Teacher night, I was in love. Ariel's kindergarten teacher was amazing and I will never forget her. Every person that works in that school seems handpicked by God. I have never met anyone there I haven't liked. They all put you right at ease.

The school is very diverse which adds to my love of it. There are rich kids, poor kids, average kids, and all different race kids. The school is a wonderful blend of the world. I've been to a couple different schools in my life that are predominately one thing or the other. It doesn't work near as well. Everyone has something to offer, and it shouldn't matter what color they are, or how much money they have. I love the diversity of my children's school.

I could go on and on here, but that's not really what my post is supposed to be about. Another thing that has made my children's school so successful is the principal. The principal is a Christian, and I believe that makes all the difference in the world. Her influence on everyone is Godly, and there is an air of peace throughout the building.

Today I was especially touched by our school's principal, Mrs. Hedstrom, and I wanted to share it with you. A couple weeks ago, my daughter had a conversation with her. She asked Ariel if she knew she was allowed to bring headphones to the school to use while on the computer. When Ariel told her she didn't own a pair, Mrs. Hedstrom explained to her they were pretty inexpensive and mentioned a place she could find them for a low price. My daughter never said a word about this conversation to me.

This morning when I dropped Ariel off at school, I noticed the principal hand her a pink bag and I made a mental note to ask her about it later. I forgot, but was soon reminded as Ariel slipped into her seat in the car. It was the first thing she mentioned. Mrs. Hedstrom purchased Ariel her own pair of ear-buds.

I was so touched by this I cried. The principal is always drawing kids out and giving them special attention. She knows every kid by name and personal things about them. She remembers details from kindergarten about Ariel. I have always been so blessed by her attention. The school isn't huge, but there still are a few hundred students.

Our school is one of the many blessings God has placed in our life. It's more than being in the right place at the right time that we found this house. It's all about God's timing. He knows all these details and they always work out for our good. At that point I had no idea that it was going to be such a good school. I trusted my friend's word. Now I know that it is not just a good school but a God school. I am so thankful to God for providing a way for my children to attend.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Yesterday Gabriel called my mother on the phone to set up a date for them to do Bible study together. I explained to him that he only needed to hold down the #3 on my phone, because Grandma was on speed dial. He tried it, and started yelling at me, “It’s not working! It’s only calling you.”

“Did you hold down number three?”

“Yes, but it's still calling you. It won’t call Grandma.”

I argued back at him, “It’s set to call Grandma. I don’t even have my number programmed in the phone.”

“It still says it’s calling ‘Mom.’”

I had a good laugh at this. I guess he thought the phone should have been programmed to say Grandma for him. I explained to him again that Grandma was my mom and it's my phone.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book of Colors

Earlier this week I had the idea of posting Zechariah's book of colors. I made it for him when he was a baby and I'm surprised it has lasted this long. It's truly a keepsake!

I am very happy to announce that Zechariah can see all the colors of the rainbow!!! There has been some discussion over the past couple of years as to whether or not he could see all the colors. We knew he wasn't colorblind in the typical way of red/green; we had suspicion of the blue/yellow. The thing about colorblindness, it's not always hereditary. It can be caused by a head injury. If you remember, when Zech was two years old he had a very severe concussion. He couldn't walk straight, he was throwing up all over the place, and I couldn't wake him up from his sleep. It was a very scary time, and I figured if losing a couple colors were the worst thing that happened that day, we would be okay. Things could have been much worse.

Our suspicions began when we would play a color game in the car. Every day we play; it's an ongoing thing. We look for all the yellow cars, and race to be the first to yell it out. We've been doing this for a couple of years and Zechariah had never found a yellow car. His brother and sister were always winning the game, and Zech was very frustrated. He would yell out, "Yellow Car", but it almost always was red, or sometimes white. He was very confused.

At his last physical exam, he was tested on his colors. He couldn't do it. The doctor suggested we call an eye doctor and set up an appointment before he starts kindergarten. Yesterday, he was tested and passed with flying colors. He can see!

The couple days before his appointment, I brought out his old baby book of colors. We tested him on that thing for hours and hours. When he began he was very confused and by the end I was certain he just memorized it. The day of his appointment as we were driving there, I asked Zech to find me a yellow car. He spotted a bus with a yellow stripe and told me, "There's a car with a little yellow on it." I cried. I knew he was going to be okay. He likes to scare me, but in the end God always comes through and it turns out to be nothing. Zechariah means, "God has remembered."

Making the color book was so much fun. I chose a few colors for Zechariah to be, and then asked for all our family members to participate. We gathered all different color objects, different color clothes, and different colored blankets. Each person chose which color they wanted to be, and we tried to include objects that you would associate with that person. After the pictures were taken, I went through and edited some more of the color into them. I painted walls with Photoshop, and changed things to match better.

When we were done, I printed 4x6 pictures, and laminated them together, front and back. Each page would open to a different color. On one side it would read, "Zechariah is Blue" and on the opposite side would be a picture of Zechariah surrounded by blue things. When the pictures were all laminated, we simply put a coil binding on them. The book has held up really well through the years. I can attest to the fact that Zechariah really did learn his colors from the book. It worked!

For the last page of the book I thought it would be fun to add Zech sleeping in a rainbow. I lined up several different colored construction papers all around his body. I then made them brighter in Photoshop.

This is a great keepsake for any kid. My older two wish I would have made them one when they were babies!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

We've now figured out the mice had been feeding on my homemade rice bean bags from Zech's 4th birthday party. I guess I should have been storing them in a better location... instead of a playroom, in a basement. They ate through every single bag I had. Note to self, don’t store rice in beanbags, choose airtight containers.

And here's the funny part, you know you’ve been catching too many mice when your four year old son gets mad at the laptop and yells, "Could you hand me that mouse trap, PLEASE!?!"
(referring to the mousepad)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Love Languages

God rocks! My kids are always saying "this rocks" or "that rocks", "Birds rock." Well, God ROCKS! I am so blessed by His goodness and generosity. When we are obedient, He blesses us. This is probably really corny, but I believe God blesses my socks off. And that's a hard thing to do for me. Only in the summer will I go sock-less. I love my socks because they keep my feet warm. Warmth is very important to me. So if God is removing the socks it's got to be good, so good that I don't even care that they are off of my feet.

For over a month now, I've wanted to purchase the book 5 Love Languages for Children. I've asked my friends if they own it, and so far I can't find anyone who does. I know it's one that I will need to reread often, so I might as well buy it.

I scoped out Lifeway, and unfortunately it's $14.99. I prayed it would be at the Bag Day Book sale this past weekend, but it wasn't. In February, I have two different coupons that I can use $5 each of Bonus Bucks, so $10 total. These were free with the pre-purchase of Courageous. (AWESOME movie) My sister gave me hers to spend since she lives in Colorado.

I'm not much of a procrastinator, and I have very little patience. When I want something, I normally want it now. I try to practice some self-discipline and deny myself as much as possible. This factors into the whole contentment thing I was talking about last week. Sometimes I need to wait on things. It's not always about the money. I'm certain we could afford to have bought the book full price, but God told me to wait on it. Why rush things?

So for a long month, I have been waiting. The book is very important to me. I've been struggling with a couple of my kids on a pretty consistent basis. There has been some outright rebellion and a great lack of respect for me. It was during a prayer meeting that God and I were having that He dropped this book into my mind.

I had the thought, "Do I really know how to love my kids?"

I know the value of my husband, and I can love him in the way that he needs. My kids on the other hand have been very different. I can do things for them, I can spend all my time with them, I can break my back for them, and still at the end of the day I don't believe they always feel my love. I say it to them every day, but I still feel like we're missing the mark. I need more insight. I'm counting on this book to show me more practical ways of loving them.

I've been experimenting on using the different love languages that I know are true for adults and I've had a little success. I'm not content to leave it there. I want to gain all the knowledge I can, and have God success. I know He told me to read this book.

So back to my really cool God that rocks, today I received the Lifeway mailer that gets sent out each month. Because of the coming holiday, Valentine's Day, they are having a special sale on the 5 Love Languages books. What perfect God timing!

I love how God rewards us. I will get to use my bonus bucks and buy the Love Language book for Children for only $6.99. That's half price! Then I can go back on another trip, and get the original Love Language book for only $2.99. Isn't it wonderful how God cares about the details in our lives? He gives us blessings every day.

Thank you, God!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Treasure Trove

Merry Bookmas!

Bookmas comes not once a year but four times! Last night was Bookmas Eve and I could hardly sleep. I was so excited for today. I set my alarm for 8am and ended up not even needing it. I was up two hours early ready and excited to go get my books.

It was one of those mornings where you're just happy to be alive and all is right with the world. I'm sure that sounds a little superficial because it all centers around books, but it's truly how I felt.

This morning was the Bag Day book sale put on by our public library. This is my all time favorite thing Topeka has to offer us. For a measly $5 dollars you can fill your brown paper sack to the brim.

It's been a dream of mine to live in a house with a large library. I have always envied those who have them. This sale is making it possible, one bag at a time. Soon we'll need a bigger house to hold all our bookshelves! I love it!

The first set of books, I chose for a friend of ours. He wanted to be there himself, but got called in to work this morning. It was quite a challenge to find books he might like as he gave me nothing to work with. His only suggestion was adventure. Talk about difficult to come up with! I wanted to make sure to get him clean books, but also interesting to him. I hope he enjoys what we (me, my daughter, and a friend) came up with.

Here's my treasure trove of books:

Mary Higgins Clark - She writes murder mystery! She is not a Christian author, but writes very clean. There is never sexual content, and normally the swear words are at a small minimum.

I'm making good headway into collecting all of John Grisham's novels. I have always been fascinated by his stories, and now I have two more I haven't read yet.

When you browse the Bag Day sale you grab first and then think later. You don't want to waste too much time looking at what number in a series they are, or if you even own it. I brought a cheat sheet with me this time that had all the books I own on it. After you've read so many books, it's hard to remember if it's a book you actually own, or if it's just a book you borrowed from the library. I had to laugh when I was done. I thought I had found two books by Beverly Lewis that were part of one series, but in fact I found book number three of two different series.

I'm really excited about these books. There is such an overwhelming amount of books at the sale you can't be too choosy at what you find. I'm very picky about what I'll watch and read so normally I end up just getting books I've already read in the past. I don't usually find too many new ones that I haven't read yet, and that are Christian.

I'm taking a chance on these two. Last book sale I found My Sister's Keeper and found it to be pretty interesting, and for the most part clean. The great thing about this sale, you're literally only paying cents for each book, so it doesn't hurt too badly if you have to throw out a book or two. (I have done this on a few occasions. I refuse to read trash.)

I'm probably most excited about this book by Patsy Clairmont. I went to Women of Faith a few months back and Patsy was one of the speakers. I loved her. She has such a way with words and left me very inspired. I can't wait to read these books of hers.

Some more chance books... the first one, Linux Pocket Guide, was a gift for my husband. He does programming for a living so this really is beneath him but I wanted to get it just the same. I thought it would be nice to give him something that let him know I was thinking of him, and he could have a good laugh at it. I was pleased to find out he actually has a guy at his work that could use this book. I told him by all means, pass it on.

Three Cups of Tea struck me because of the name. I have only had two cups of tea in the past month and I'm craving my third cup. The day will come soon I believe. When I read the back of the book it sounded pretty inspiring so I'm taking another chance on it. This Bookmas seems to be one full of chances...

I almost bought myself a crock-pot cookbook a few weeks ago so I was especially pleased to find this among the piles of books. I've already staked out a couple recipes I'll be trying in the next few weeks!

And lastly, I loved the idea behind this Family Traditions books. It's full of practical things. I already know I'm going to be reading it cover to cover. It's full of ideas for each holiday and ways to celebrate together.

Since Valentine's Day is coming up, here's a small sample of their ideas:

The Book of Love:
Who wrote the book of love? You did. Buy an inexpensive blank book with a heart on the cover, or glue one there. Call it "The Book of (your last name) Love", and each year have every family member write one loving thing about every other member.

Valentine Tree:
Trees are a great centerpiece of ritual action because they grow and change like families do, symbolize life and hope, and can be easily but beautifully decorated for any occasion. Every year, the Dodge family buys a small tree in a pot, and decorates it with a string of tiny while lights. They buy red craft paper and cut out teddy bears and hearts, poke holes in their tops, and use thin ribbon to tie them onto the tree in their yard. If you do this every year, you could designate a special Valentine Grove on your property.

Red Food Night:
At the Straw household in Plano, TX, all the food for Valentines dinner is red. Sue Straw serves beets or red cabbage, mashed potatoes mixed with red food coloring, and either ham(pink) or pasta with red sauce. Red fruit might include grapes, raspberries, or strawberries. Even the milk is red. Dessert can be brown as long as it's chocolate and it's shaped like a heart.

Have-A-Heart Awards
Each member of the family gives an award to each other member for a special act of love or kindness. Buy round, fuzzy, ping-pong-ball sized pom-poms at your local craft store, to which you can glue little eyes and mouths and feet. Cut hearts from a piece of construction paper 4 inches square, and glue the feet to the paper heart. Write on the heart the name of the person getting the award and what they did. Perhaps one child helped a younger sibling learn to tie his shoes. Perhaps Dad earned his award coaching Little League last summer.

This book is full of ideas! It has everything from holiday traditions to fun things so you won't go crazy. It has daily, weekly, monthly rituals, and coming of age rituals. Bet time rituals, family night rituals, to pet rituals. Hello and Good-bye rituals. It's going to be fun reading through all the ideas!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crazy Hair Day

Today was crazy hair day at school! I'm always surprised at the amount of kids that participate. Practically none... My kids will use any excuse they can to act silly.

I had to get a picture of the back of the kid's heads. I don't think you could see the black color on Ariel's head in the first photo.

Gabe's head was my favorite! The principal went around taking photos of all the kids who dressed up their heads. Gabe was a lucky one who caught her attention, and she snapped a photo of him. Maybe he'll end up in the school's yearbook this year!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Death Toll

The death toll at my house keeps rising along with my anxiety. In the past couple of weeks we have killed 8 mice! This is beyond disgusting to me. I feel as if I'm a prisoner in my own home. Luckily they have all been found in the basement. There is no evidence that they have joined us upstairs where we do our living.

Still... 8 mice! I don't think in my entire life that has ever happened. I remember killing one or two each winter, but never 8. This is our first time to kill mice in our current home. We've lived here for almost 7 years, and have been extraordinarily blessed to have never shared a home with mice.

I'm ready to move.

In fact I've already looked at a few prospective homes... online. I cannot stand the thought of sharing my house. The basement is where we keep our washer and dryer. We have a very sophisticated way of depositing our clothes downstairs. We open the door to the basement, and give it a good throw. The clothes will fall in heap at the bottom of the stairs, and sometimes when little arms are throwing, they make it down one maybe two steps.

Laundry has turned into my worst nightmare. I will accidentally step on the corner of a towel, and jump over a foot in the air. I'm terrified the mice will run out of my laundry pile. Every time a shirt is inside out, I brace myself for a nibble on my fingers as I pull the sleeve right-side out. Only in the past week have I been brave enough to undertake my laundry alone. Last week Titus had to make a quick sweep of the rooms before I could descend the stairway. This week, I have my 4 year old son going down clearing the way. He's excited at the prospect of "rat friends". He loves Remy on Ratatouille.

Life has become practically unbearable. I know in my head my fears are a bit irrational, but tell that to my heart that won't stop pounding out of my chest. I can't cope with it. This morning we found our most recent two and I broke down crying.

I want my freedom back. I'm tired of piles of things sitting by the door waiting for a man to take them downstairs.

When we bought our home 7 years ago, it was the most we could afford. Over the years my husband has done very well with his job, and money has increased. I was hoping this was God saying, "Go ahead. Dream for a new home. It's time." My husband wasn't very convinced at the timing of my dreams. He found it very coincidental that it came about in the same weeks we were experiencing mice issues.

Isn't it so sad how our mind plays tricks on us? We don't even understand our feelings. As soon as he said it, I realized he was exactly right. I experienced my first very unwelcome visitor in our home and I was ready to move on. That happens in life too often. We give up when we should persevere. It becomes uncomfortable so we look for a new comfort place.

As I was searching the homes for sale, I was reminded of my deal with God. The past month we've been discussing contentment. When I say we, I mean me and Jesus. I made an agreement with Him two weeks ago. Our movies have really been starting to pile up. I've said it before, movies are my comfort. Some people eat, some people shop, some people sleep; I buy movies. If I'm having the worst day, or the best ever day, I will purchase a new movie. It's really become an addiction. We now own over 400 movies, and that's not including our TV series. (If you ever want to borrow a movie, don't hesitate to ask.)

God's been speaking to me about my movies. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a movie; it's all about the motive. What void do I sometimes attempt to fill? I started to turn them into a collection, an obsession. It wasn't even about watching them anymore, it was about owning them. I wanted to see them sit on my pretty shelves taking up room. In agreement with God, I'm practicing movie abstinence. I'm not allowed to buy any movies. We have at least 20 movies we've purchased over the past months and sadly year that we haven't even seen.

The whole point is contentment. What void am I trying to fill? Why do I obsess and collect them? As soon as all the new movies are watched, I will be allowed to purchase again within reason. I first will have to ask myself, why am I buying this? This all may sound really ridiculous to you. Everyone has their hang up. Movies are mine. It's only been two weeks, and already I have stopped myself several times.

I think the mice have been playing into my goal too. It's not just about movies here and being content with the ones we've already chosen. It's a lifestyle. I didn't see it until this morning. Discontentment can be a disease that spreads. I want to stop it before it has room to grow. I need to stop looking at my house and the mice as my enemy.

It wasn't until we were on the drive to school, taking our turns praying, that I realized not once did I ever bring my problem before God. I have complained and whined, cried and moaned over these mice, but I never asked for help. It seemed to me a very practical problem that we would need to solve ourselves. You put out traps, you kill mice. You don't need to bother God with something so simple, do you?

When the mice begin to take away from my relationship with God, you bet I need to bother Him about it. Why didn't I just go there in the first place? Before I get to the grumbling and complaining part, why don't I ask for help? If God knows how many hairs are on my head, I have no doubt that He knows how many mice are in my basement.

Not only does He know how many there are, He knows how long they've been living there. Just because it came to our attention a few weeks ago, doesn't mean it wasn't going on for much longer. Sometimes we need to ask God to clean out our basements before we are required to. It's so much easier to be proactive about things. If we were always looking in the dark corners, and clearing away the cobwebs we wouldn't be caught off guard. We would be ready to stand on our own two feet at all times.

"Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." -Ephesians 6: 10-12

I have found scripture to be the best way to fight the enemy. Whether it's an enemy we can see, or one that's just in our mind. Quote verses to yourself. It gets rid of all fear and doubt, discouragement, and discontentment. My favorite verse right now for my life has been, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE." -2 Timothy 1:7

Whether it's mice problems, or purchasing too many movies, I know I need God. I can't do it on my own. When I try, I fail horribly. It's only with the power of God that I can be an overcomer. I cannot let these mice define me. God has given me a spirit of power and self-discipline. When I'm starting to feel the need for flight I can remind myself that God cares about my problems. Where does the fear and discontentment come from? I know for a fact it is not God. Once you know and recognize your enemy it's so much easier to fight. In fact, it seems once you've identified it, the battle is already half way over.

God has given me a spirit of power and self-discipline.
I will overcome!

*UPDATE* The mice are all gone! We ended up killing 11 of them before we realized we were tempting them with rice. For Zechariah's birthday party this year I made rice bean bags. I kept them downstairs in the basement in the play room. Once we got rid of the bean bags, we got rid of the mice. We never had another one again, EVER.  I will never make bean bags with rice! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Through the Lens

Amazing how quickly the months have gone by! It's time to highlight our life through photos! I wish I had time to blog about every special thing we do, however, it's just not possible. Life is too full to document it all.

I like to keep this really simple. Here's the previous four months:

Life with the Johnson's

Soccer! For two months we lived and breathed it! Gabe had such a good time playing, and spending time with his father we have decided to sign up for both fall and spring seasons. It was recommended by a psychologist to get Gabe involved in as many extra-curricular activities as we can handle. He's working on his social skills and succeeding!

This picture literally had me laughing out loud. I never noticed this the day I took the photo, but check out the guy in the humongous chair! Can you imagine toting that thing around in your car? You would need a truck just to move it.

Ariel has taken up sewing! I'm so pleased with her progress. She's made a couple blankets for her dolls, pillows, purses, and more...

Every little boy needs to have a couple tea parties with his mom. Zech loves to bake bread with me, and then we enjoy it together along with a steaming cup of tea.

In September, we spent a weekend with Titus' grandparents. The kids love this trip! We normally make it to Wichita in July, however this year it was not possible.

Making mud pies in the front yard...

Wichita has a beautiful fountain that the kids enjoy playing in every year. Sometimes the grownups join in. As it was late September when we visited, I didn't get to participate this year. Too cold for me!

This is one of those many times where I don't appear to be at the activities because I'm always behind the camera. Once I hand the camera off, my husband always expects me to perform or something. I just want him to hold onto it for awhile and snap some candid shots... not portraits of me.

Movie night at school!
Gnomeo and Juliet
Isn't it funny there aren't pictures of the kids at the elementary school movie night?

Fall!! Nothing like a good fire!

I love this picture. A father comforting his son...

My very ornery kids.. are trying to steal away the attention from each other.

Can you say big trouble? Zechariah took the opportunity over nap-time to color large portions of his body. Because of the color all over the body, it was also all over the bathroom. The sink, toilet, walls, and floor were all purple.

Zechariah loves to drink hot chocolate for breakfast. He usually will request the "princess Mommy cup."

Happy New Year!

We drank to many things for the New Year. Gabriel wanted to drink to finally going to kids camp this year. Ariel was excited because this will be the year she goes to middle school. Zechariah wants to learn his letters and numbers!

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family-- whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." -Jane Howard