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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Favorite Things

You would not believe how long I've been thinking about this. Probably 5 months ago, I first got the idea. What are my very most favorite things? Not people, or characteristics, ideas or feelings; I'm talking about actual material things. This might sound a little superficial, but I've given this quite some thought.

There are days when I sit in my home and think about all the luxuries I've been given. My home is my haven and I wouldn't change a part of it. There are also days where I sit in my home and feel stuck, as if the walls are bars holding me back and I want to break free. Surely everyone has those kinds of days? Where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and absolutely nothing makes you happy? I try to dwell on the positive. I have been given so many blessings from God and many of those blessings are "things". I'm not saying I couldn't live my life without them; I'm just so pleased that I have them.

I have studied and thought about various items in my home either storing them mentally for my favorite list, or I've tossed them aside telling myself they have little meaning to me. And then there have been some things that I desperately wanted to add to my list; it's so hard to narrow it down to 10 things. Why I chose ten, I have no idea, but I did.

These are the ten things in my life over the past several months that have brought great fulfillment to me.

Starting with Number 10:
My Jacuzzi Tub

Jacuzzi tub
For years I dreamed of this tub; I couldn't wait for it to be mine. Two years ago, we finally got it! Every time I allow myself a soak in the tub I am reminded of God's provision. I didn't need it, but still He gave it to me. Unfortunately, it has become one of those things I take for granted. It's always there whenever I desire, so I no longer dream of it. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times it's been used in the past 12 months. This is not to say it goes unappreciated. For the times it does get used, it's like a dream come true. I am reminded of how much my God loves me.

Number 9:
My big comfy couch

You wouldn't believe how many hours I have logged on this couch. It's so comfortable! I love to curl up under my soft green blanket with a good book and a hot cup of tea. It's perfection. If I'm having a bad day, my couch is where I will run to. There's something very soothing about laying my head down on the arm that puts everything back right. If I'm sick, I would prefer the couch over my bed any day. Having three children, I have taken many stolen naps on that couch. I am a sleeper, and you don't want to see me if I haven't gotten enough of it. God blessed me so many years ago when He bestowed those two green couches on my family. I am counting my blessings and this is one of them!

Number 8:
My Whirley Pop

whirley pop popcorn
Who wants to eat popcorn out of a microwaveable bag after you've eaten it from a Whirley Pop? Certainly, not me. It tastes so phenomenal when cooked properly on a stove. I practically live off of popcorn so this is a definite must on my list of favorites. You don't know how many lunches I've consumed that was popcorn. I like to spend so much time being crafty and reading that I rarely feel like cooking something for lunch. Popcorn is my solution! It's easy to snack on and won't keep you from doing what you love.

Number 7:
My Breadmaker

I don't remember how many Christmas' ago that I received my breadmaker as a gift, but I find now I can't imagine life without it. Homemade bread is so supreme. While we still buy bread in a bag, I love to indulge myself every once in awhile on a loaf of homemade bread. The breadmaker gets used most often to make pizza dough! It's a family tradition we began when Ariel was a baby. Friday night is pizza and movie night! If we have other plans, we change it to Saturday night instead. I believe it's been Zech's entire life that I've been making homemade pizza. Every Friday I diligently start the dough before I head to the kid's school to pick them up. After you've had homemade pizza dough, you can't go back. Frozen doesn't even begin to compare, and we all even prefer it to carry out. It's a sad day when the pizza dough is neglected! Every bite makes me happy to be alive. These are the things that God has divinely blessed me with!

Pizza dough in the breadmaker:
1 ½ cups Lukewarm Water
4 tbs. Oil
4 cups Flour
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast

Once the dough is ready, I use cornmeal instead of flour on the bottom of my pizza pan. You roll the dough out, let it rise for at least 30 minutes, then add your toppings. The pizza cooks at 425° for 25 minutes. (This is a double recipe, but that's how we like our dough.)

Number 6:
My Camelbak Water Bottle

camelbak water bottle
Until I had this magical water bottle, I never drank enough water. Seems funny, but it's so true. I have always loved the taste, but I've never been able to drink as much as they tell you to. Once I bought my pretty purple cup, I almost always drink the required amount. There is something about carrying around your water bottle that helps remind you. The nice hook on the top makes it very convenient to hold too. If your kids are small enough for an umbrella stroller, it hooks perfectly on the handle. I love my cup! Sadly it doesn't get washed as often as it should. I'm always using it and I hate to part with it. I need to purchase myself a new one to use as backup!

Number 5:
My Sewing Machine

brother sewing machine
Where would I be without this one? Let's just say I would have a lot more free time on my hands if I didn't have my own sewing machine. This one is very new to me. It's only been in my possession for a year now. Before, I always traveled to my mom's to borrow her machine. I have no idea what took me so long! I should have gotten myself one years ago. I am always using it. I get frustrated to no end on some of my projects but that's not to say that I'm not in heaven being frustrated. God blessed me with a creative mind and when it's not being put to good use part of me is missing.

Number 4:
My Camera

Nikon camera
I don't think I could go on living very long without this one. Just kidding. I do love it so. All of my life I have been taking pictures. From the time I turned 8 years old and bought my first 110 camera. I've had the desire in me to capture moments in time. I experience life so clearly through the lens of a camera. I have thousands of pictures and they all are very dear to me. I believe God gave me a great blessing when He lavished His love on me through the gift of my cameras.

Number 3:
My Fuzzy Pink Bathrobe

My husband would call me a liar if I didn't include this one. I wake up every morning and first thing put on my slippers that match my fuzzy pink bathrobe. I might be embarrassed to admit it, but I'm in love with this robe. There are many mornings that I voice my love. It's so comfortable!! My husband bought me the biggest fluffiest one he could find. I am often found complaining that I don't want to take it off. And sometimes... I don't. I may still get dressed for the day, but my fluffy bathrobe gets put back on top. I love to curl up on the couch in it, sit at the computer wearing it, and I hate to launder it. I can't stand not having it with me. It's my grown-up security blanket. God did a wonderful thing when He gave me my husband. He showers me with blessings and gifts that I can't turn away.

Number 2
My Heated Blanket

electric blanket
This is the one that started it all. Every single night my husband has to hear me say, "I LOVE this blanket!!" A huge sigh leaves my lips. Pure satisfaction. I can remember life without it, and it was a cold dark place. I remember shivering in my blankets, my toes frozen each night. But no more. God brought me heat!

I coveted the blanket for a long time before I finally called it mine. I would see it in the store, but couldn't afford to bring it home. Then one day, in January of last year, a blizzard was headed our way.

I called my husband on the phone and did my usual whine.

"Do you think I should buy the blanket?"
"Buy it."
"No. Do you think we really have the money for it?"
"Yes. Get the blanket."
"It's just too expensive. I don't think I can get it."
"I said YES."
"Maybe later. I just don't think we can afford to buy it."

I walked away very dejected and sorrowful. I needed to pick up a prescription and headed to the pharmacy. $40 for some medicine, pitiful, I cried. Who really needs it anyways?

I handed my debit card over to pay, and she gave it back to me. "Your insurance covered it. You don't owe anything."

"Really? I always pay. You better check again. I don't want to get a bill later for it."

"It's covered. Your insurance must have changed."

I almost argued with her back that it's the same, but finally walked away. She didn't want my money. I was free to go. When it finally hit me, I ran back to the electric blankets. This time it wasn't going to get away from me. I was buying the blanket.

That night it snowed. The kids didn't have school the next day because of the blizzard, and I was warm in my bed. God is good!

It may sound so simple to you, but it was so big to me. That blanket has symbolized God's love to me night after night. I never am cold; I'm always warm.

Number 1
My Jesus

Jesus journals notes on sermons
I couldn't fit all this in just one picture to my satisfaction so I broke it up into two. The first thing I love is my notebooks. They are filled with knowledge of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday and Wednesday night I take notes on the sermons. I've looked back over the past several years and tried to decide where the biggest change in me happened and why. I believe one of the most important things is taking notes.

How can we ever expect to remember it all? If you plan to go to the grocery store, you make a list. You don't want to forget anything that's important, right? Our lives are so much more important than a trip to the store. When you hear something good, WRITE IT DOWN; I guarantee you won't remember later.

I have a notebook that's on the bottom of this stack from 11 years ago. Only the first few pages are filled in and then it stops. It's very symbolic to me because my life went through some pretty hard times there and I don't believe I depended on God like I should have. My notes stopped because I didn't care.

The notes don't start again until 2005. When I think on a deeper level, that's probably when I made a real commitment to change. I wanted to do whatever it took. It was suggested to me by someone I cared about that I should be taking notes. As soon as I brought my pen and paper, the messages came alive to me. I found that I listened so much better and I was able to apply it more.

It's one thing to hear it, but when you are writing it, the truth gets in you. You also have something to fall back on when you do forget. Because you will. If I didn't take notes, my mind would wander. What's the whole point in putting yourself in the situation? To be entertained for 30 minutes, or to be changed?

I strongly suggest, if you're not a note taker, go out and buy a pretty notebook. (I always am tempted to use it more if it's pretty) Get some highlighter pens, and use the book. You may not be able to get everything written down, (I've had kids and other distractions) but write down what you can. My notebooks are very precious to me. They symbolize my commitment. I'm not going to just sit by and let life happen to me; I'm going to be active and show where my heart is.

I shared with you at the beginning of the month about my commitment to read the Bible through in one year. I am proud to say that two months are gone and I'm still going strong. God has become more real to me than ever before. I always said I loved Him, but I never really showed Him that I did. I'm an active participant now. I'm not going to just sit back and say, "God, I wish you were there to help me." I'm going to get the help I need, when I need it. The Bible is alive! I have fallen in love with it. I don't say that lightly either. I really am starting to feel the heart of God, and know what He wants from me.

My faith has been tested, and I'm growing. I refuse to stay the same. I am a new creation!

"So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun." 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

What are your favorite things in life?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Zech's Quiet Book

The day is finally here! I thought I would never get to say this. Zechariah's quiet book is done and ready to be shared with the world. There were times I thought it would never be over, times when I figured Zech would outgrow the book before I even finished it. I'm not a very patient person, so for me two months spent on a project felt a little like insanity. Okay, it was more like 6 weeks to be exact.


What kind of a mother would make a book like this? One who dearly loves her child? Or one who can't quit on a project that she started and must finish it at all costs? It probably was a little bit of both, but honestly more of the second. The project was becoming my obsession. I had to finish it, and I wanted to finish it quickly. I spent hours and hours of the past weeks sewing, cutting, measuring, and ironing. You name it; I did it. I even learned how to use my fancy pliers for doing eyelets. Impressed?

I have a great sense of accomplishment now that it's over, and I hope it will be a keepsake that Zech can treasure for the REST OF HIS LIFE.

If you've felt that my blog has been lacking lately, it can all be blamed on Zech's quiet book. After I've sewn for a few hours, I never felt like sitting down at the computer. It took all my mental energy. With all that said I still loved every moment of the sewing and creating. I was able to turn the book into my masterpiece and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'd do it again too... in a few months.

quiet book
I put my heart into this book, but at the same time I used many many ideas that I found other places. I researched this book far and wide... at least as wide as the internet goes. I probably got most of my information from this blog. She must have gotten at least 100 pageviews from me. It was full of great ideas and links to other great blog posts all pertaining to Quiet Books.

I followed the pattern here for my Quiet Book cover. I put eyelets in all the pages and now I wish I would have done eyelets for the inside of the cover too. I used button holes like the tutorial had, but I'm afraid they might rip. Only time will tell on that.

One of my favorite pages I found that seemed the most unique was a quiet book full of Bible stories and other things. I used Laura's template for the Armor of God and then added little parts to make it my own. She had lots of great stuff. If I make another quiet book, I might do one full of Bible stories like hers. My favorite page besides the Armor of God was one that you could put Jonah inside the whale. It was so cute!

Zechariah really loves to take all the clothes off the man and make him naked. What a boy! He then switches everything around to make the man silly, from putting his sword on the head to the shield covering his feet. I didn't want to make a pocket for the pieces so I sewed on snap fasteners to each piece.

armor of God quiet book page
My ABC page... wow! This page took me forever! 52 snaps to sew by hand!!! I decided pretty early on in the making of my book that I'm not a fan of Velcro. I find it very annoying to sew, and I'm worried it will collect too much lint too fast. Silly, I know. I found a package of sticky felt ABC's and Numbers and stuck them on some felt. I didn't want them coming apart so every letter is also sewn on. I became a huge fan of snap fasteners during this project. I put them on practically everything! Zech can very easily unsnap and re-snap them.

alphabet quiet book page
The letters can put in alphabetical order, or they can be rearranged to make new words and sentences. They must be very simple as I only made one of each letter. I also included a nice pocket to hold the letters for when Zech is making words.

alphabet quiet book page
The famous shoe page. I knew I had to include one in the book for Zechariah. I would love it if he learns to tie his shoes early. Already he's only had instructions from me twice and he's well on his way. I can't believe he picked up on it so quickly. It's very difficult to find short laces. These ones are 36 inches and as you can see they are still a little bit long.

So far the clock page has been very helpful. As I finished pages in the book, Zechariah would request to play with them. So while the book has only been completed for one day, some of the pages have been around for awhile. I've started working on preschool stuff with Zechariah so these pages have come in quite handy while I've been teaching him things.

shoe tying and clock quiet book page
My first pages I worked on were the mailbox and letters. I was so excited to start and these looked like so much fun to me. I saw a lot of mailbox pages in other people's quiet books that had pencil and paper slots but I knew if I put them into this book it would give Zech the wrong idea. It wouldn't register in his mind and he would be trying to write in other books too. I know my kid.

mailbox quiet book page
I saw the idea of already made letters and loved it. I spent hours using my sewing machine to write names on each envelope. It would have been quick and easy if I owned an embroidery machine, but I don't. So these fun letters are what I came up with, one for mom and dad, brother and sister, and of course grandma and papa. So far he loves mailing us our letters. The box is full at all times, and he makes sure to put up his little red flag for the mailman!

I had to include a photo of the back to the envelopes. I think they're so cute! Each envelope has a different corresponding color back.

mailbox quiet book page
Zech LOVES the counting page. If I had more numbers I would have sewed them on each row. The picture show the beads blending in really well, but I promise you in real life you can see them perfectly! I had to improvise on this page a little. I didn't want to purchase new fun colored beads (I spent around $50 on all the supplies for this book). The only ones I had on hand were white, pink, purple, and orange. Since I knew Zech's favorite color is red, I went for a whole themed page to work in the pink beads. I think it still works for a little boy's book!

This will be great for later when he needs to learn addition. Move two rows of beads to the other side and you can count them all to see what they both equal.

abacus math quiet book page
Tic-Tac-Toe ... what kid doesn't love this game? I feel like I've played it a million times already. Zech is determined to be a winner, especially if it means getting help from God. Just yesterday I shared a Kids Say the Darndest Things post about this.

The tic-tac-toe board is a pocket for the pieces. The top opens up and closes with Velcro so the pieces can fit snugly inside. I really wanted to make this with Mario and Luigi playing pieces but I haven't been successful in locating any fabric with them on it. If you find some, point me in the right direction!

tic tac toe quiet book page
I personally am quite fond of the barn page. I loved the finger puppets. I would show Zech pages online and ask if he wanted it included in his quiet book. This was one that he didn't seem to care for as much, but I really wanted to make finger puppets. I figured he might change his mind later, and he did!

barn seasonal tree quiet book page
I really liked the idea of a changing seasons page, and had to make one for Zech's book. I used buttons to attach the different leaves and flowers which is something he's going to have to grow into. Right now he's trying to pull them off like the snap pages. I made it for him to learn the skill of buttoning; however it's really difficult to watch him messing with them. I keep wanting to stop him and say, "Here honey, I'll do it for you." Remember, this book is supposed to last for the REST OF HIS LIFE, not just the rest of this week.

seasonal tree quiet book page
I tried to involve Zech is all the decision making process. I would show him different leaves and flowers and he ultimately chose which ones he wanted in the book. He also got to choose a lot of the color choices and fabrics.

If you can't tell, the grass at the bottom is a pocket that holds all the different flowers and leaves. I should have used a button to close it rather than a snap. Maybe we wouldn't have difficultly switching between the two if the page had more continuity.

barn quiet book page finger puppets
I love my barn too! I had so much fun making this book and all the different pages. Something I've found in hindsight, I should have made the window at the top of the barn to open and close. Zech is always trying to pry it open.

These are so adorable! I just want to sit and play with them all day long. Zech doesn't really use them as finger puppets he just gets them to fight each other without sticking his finger inside.

animal finger puppets quiet book page
I saw several cooking pages in various books. I really liked the idea of the cupcakes and tray, but it was too hard for me to think up how to make it. I also wasn't too fond of putting an oven in the book as I believed the point of the quiet book was to teach them things. My son will try most things he sees or hears about. I figured a microwave was a much safer thing. He always wants to cook in there and for now that's perfect. When I gave him the choice between the two, hands down, he wanted a microwave for his quiet book. The microwave door opens so you can place your food inside.

food quiet book page
I had so much fun making the felt food!!! I could have kept cooking things up, but I needed to move on to a new page. The silverware is also snaps so they can come off and be used. The red tablecloth has a pocket behind it to hold all our felt food. I tried to make all of Zech's favorites. Now that the book is done and I have more time, I just might make a few more things. It's addicting! And I still need to make a lunch!

microwave plate food quiet book page
In a boy's quiet book you must have cars! I asked Zech what he wanted on this page. There are so many things you could make for the cars to do. He really felt it was necessary to have a garage for each car to sleep in.

garage street quiet book page
Each of the stoplights are also snaps that come off. See how I went overboard on the snaps? They are so easy to sew and I couldn't help myself.

cars in garage quiet book page
I wanted to include a close-up of my cars. I thought they turned out so cute! They are both reversible and are exactly the same on each side. Each car actually has four buttons!

cars for quiet book
And last, but certainly not least, the I Spy page. This is my son's absolute very favorite page in the book. It has been tossed around countless times. Already before I was able to sew it in, the laminated card started to fall apart. And it was even the last page I made! I thought it would be so obvious and easy that it wouldn't be fun, but it's like the look and find pages in a book. There are so many different things to look for something is always hiding, and they are always changing places. Zech LOVES this page! It is a little heavy, but it's totally worth it.

i-spy quiet book page
I had so much fun going around the house trying to find random items to put in the I Spy pocket. There are 30 items inside! When I first made this page I did it with white rice but it seemed like all the stuff stood out a little too easy. Since I used green felt, I decided to color the rice green to match. It adds a little bit of a challenge for finding the larger items. If you're wondering from the picture, yes, that really is a Nintendo DS game inside. We had to replace our Super Mario Bros because Zechariah kept jamming it in the wrong way and it broke. The kids asked me a hundred different times, "Can we please throw this game out?" I always said no, and now I'm glad I wouldn't let them. I knew I had a reason. What better place to recycle your game?

i-spy quiet book page
Now that I'm finished with the book, I'm almost sad. It was so much fun to make and I hope Zechariah grows to love it. It's going to be a stretching time for me. Anytime I make something I always feel that it's not very sturdy and you must baby it. I've already caught myself several times wanting to take the book away because I thought Zech was going to break it. The good news is, I made it!! I have to keep telling myself that. If it breaks, I certainly know how to make it again! In all honesty I would much rather it be used and broken than just sit on a shelf collecting dust.

I can't wait for opportunities to keep Zech quiet with it!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Zech and I were playing Tic-Tac-Toe together when he started to get really frustrated. I couldn't stop winning the game, and he was determined. He wouldn't give up or let it go! He was dead set on winning before we quit. It may sound like I'm a mean mom for not letting him win, but I wanted him to think it out for himself. What kind of satisfaction is there in someone letting you win?

After the 10th game or so, he yelled out, "Oh God, let me win!"

I was kind of surprised at him. It sounded like he was taking God's name in vain.

He got this really ornery grin on his face and said, "God is going to help me win. You can't beat God!" He laughed.

tic tac toe quiet book page
What am I supposed to do with that? Should I beat "God" fair and square?

It went against everything I believe in; "God" won that game. When it was a choice between playing fair in a game, and helping my child trust in God's help, I chose to boost my son's faith. I figured Zech would be really pleased with his win, but he only said to me, "Now it's my turn to play you!!!"

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Adventures of Gabriel & Stefanie

My eight year old son, Gabriel, is growing up to be a very talented author and illustrator. He is constantly writing in notebooks, adding chapters to his stories. While my son is growing and improving his talent, I told him I would be happy to share some of his story on my blog. It's a way of being published at a very young age. I already believe he is an author. It's part of his nature. Since he learned to write words in kindergarten he has filled his free time with notebooks and stories. His favorite to write is The Adventure of Gabriel and Stefanie.

As his stories never really have an ending, I thought I would do this book in several installments. I cannot include everything as the book has already filled 16 or 17 notebooks. I will give you some of the highlights of the book; Gabriel's favorite chapters. Then someday when he's published you can have firsthand knowledge of his early years!

To give you some background on the story, Gabriel and Stefanie's adventure usually consist of fighting the three villains: Bowser, King Vallan, & the Black Thorn. Gabe and Stefanie travel to different castles and temples killing the bad guys. This time the adventurers have returned home for a much needed rest.

The Adventures of Gabriel and Stefanie
Book 16, Chapters 49 & 50

Chapter 49: The Break at the Tube

We are almost a quarter of our adventure done.
"Cool. A tube." said Stefanie.
"Go." said Gabe.
"It's the real world."
"Our break. Let's go to our house." said Gabe.
"It's mom's house." said Stefanie
"And to me Grandma's house." said Gabe.

Ring. Ring the door bell. Bark. Like usual Bella barked.

"Hi, Mom."
"Hi, Grandma."
"I missed you two. 49 days gone. You could have died."
"Well, it was a little hard."
"How many miles did you go." said Grandma.
"Like 46,289,356,178,294,999,921,301 miles." said Stefanie.
"Now what are we having for lunch?" said Gabriel who eats a lot.
"Oriental rice, ham, hot dogs, spaghetti."
"Dinner's ready."

oriental rice

Chapter 50: Lunch

"Can you pass the ham?" said Stefanie
"Before we eat, let's say a prayer," said Gabriel.
Grandma prays, "Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping Gabriel and Stefanie safe on their travels. And Amanda having a good time with Titus, Ariel, and Zech. And thank you for helping Uncle Shaun to have a good time. And help me and Mike to have a perfect day. Amen."
"Let's eat" said Stefanie. "And play the game."

(Conversation Stones)
Here are the rules:
Start by having the first player draw a stone.

Depending on which stone is drawn, the player must do the following:
Question. Answer the question on the stone.
Name. Name something you like about the person named on the stone.
Blank. The person who drew the stone must come up with a question that each person in the group answers.

Continue around the group until all stones are gone, or until everyone has had equal turns.

Pass it. Mix it. Grab it.
"What do you like about Zech, Stefanie."
"He is a great kid."
"Okay, Gabe, your turn."

Mix it. Grab it.
Name your favorite hobby.
"Uhh.. helping Stefanie on her adventures."
"Good. Amanda, your turn."

Mix it. Grab it.
What would you like to change about yourself?
"I would not like to yell at my kids that much."
"Good. Titus, your turn."

Mix it. Grab it.
"Why did the kid cross the road?" said Titus.

why did the kid cross the street joke
Stefanie, "It wasn't following its mother's instructions."
Gabe, "Maybe a stuffed bear was over there."

Titus said, "Amanda, you guess."
"Because maybe its family was on the other side of the road."
"Good guess."

"Your guess, Ariel."
"Maybe the baby liked pigeons so he walked on the other side of the road to get them."

"Zech, what do you think?"
"Kissen Boon."

"Shaun, what do you think?"
"His friend could have been over there."

Titus said, "Okay. Uhh, Debbie?"
"Maybe a big screen was back over there so he could watch a movie."

"Mike, you try it."
"Maybe it was mad and it wanted to run away."

"Ariel, your turn to pick a stone."

Mix it. Grab it.
What do you want to spend more time with?
"A bird."
"Okay, Zech, you now get to pick a stone."

Mix it. Grab it.
"Okay, Shaun, your turn to pick a stone."

Mix it. Grab it.
What have you done lately worth remembering?
"Seeing Mikaela."
"Debbie, your turn to pick a stone."

Mix it. Grab it.
What is your favorite food?
"Nut pie."
"Okay, Grandpa Mike, your turn."

Mix it. Grab it.
Name your favorite vacation.
"Going to England."
"Okay, Mikaela, your turn."

Mix it. Grab it.
"She is a good friend."

Lunch is over.
Grandma says, "Say bye to Gabriel and Stefanie."
Stefanie answers, "We'll visit soon."
"Okay. Bye!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Family Valentine

We decided to have some special family fun this Valentine's Day. In the past we've always gotten a sitter for the kids, and Titus and I have gone out to eat. It's been a time for us to connect and reminisce about days in the past. Every year Titus makes a reservation at Blind Tiger where we had our first Valentine's date.

I've done a lot of thinking about Valentine's Day over the past couple years, and I really wanted to get away from it being about couples. I talked about this a little bit last year. I feel like it should be a day for love, but more of an unconditional God centered love. This is not to say a husband and wife can't experience that. I strongly desired this year to share the day as a family, not as a couple.

Titus and I did still have a special date on a different day, but the evening of February 14th was reserved for our children. I don't want them growing up thinking life is all about finding a spouse and getting that perfect family. God has so much more in store for them relationally. You can be complete without a mate. Big shock, huh?

This year was a huge triumph, and I believe it's going to become even greater in the future!

I tried to put lots of special touches on everything to make the night unforgettable for our family. We had appealing decorations that created a perfect atmosphere. My mom let me borrow all of her Christmas lights that we strung around the dining room. Each place had a name tag, red silverware, a champagne glass, along with a cloth napkin I made. The favorite part for the kids was the candles spread throughout the room. The night was enchanting. Each year we are going to add new things to the celebration. I already found some clearance red heart shaped plates for us to eat on next year!

I wanted to create a menu to please everyone. In order to keep with our Valentine's theme I tried to stick with red foods. We started off the meal with pink bread hot from the bread maker. I found some delicious spices to make 3 different dipping sauces for the bread. The spices were on my Christmas wish list; however, I didn't receive them. I was supremely excited to find them at Aldi the last time I went grocery shopping for a cheaper price! They are wonderful!! Very similar to what Johnny Carino's offers for their bread, however I find them to taste much better!

As the evening grew later, the lighting was even more beautiful. The kids felt so grown up dining by candle light. I am certain this is a night we will always remember.

In the past I have made the kids giant chocolate chip cookie hearts and I didn't want to disappoint this year. Each cookie is probably the equivalent of one dozen cookies!

Secret Santa's were such a big hit, the kids asked if we could draw names for Secret Valentines. It's always fun to have a secret and give homemade gifts from the heart!

Ariel drew Zech's name and made him peanut butter balls. She also worked very hard on the green bracelet Zech is wearing in the photo. It's made out of ribbon and pop can tops. Genius!

Gabriel was quite the tailor in designing this bird hat for his sister. Gabe is in the "Mario club," and Ariel says she's in the "bird club." Now she can wear her new hat to her meetings! My help was very minimal as he did most of the work and all of the design process.

I love that both of my boys are interested in sewing. I believe it's a very useful skill for both sexes. Zechariah chose to make this black and green Tic-Tac-Toe set for Gabriel. He painted all of the wooden playing pieces (Hearts vs. Stars). He also sat on my lap and helped guide the sewing needle while we made the board. The favorite part of his was lifting the presser foot and cutting the thread.

With the luck of the draw both Titus and I drew each other's names. I thought it was very appropriate for Valentine's Day. He spent hours fashioning this paper rose for me. He said it isn't finished as he would like to add a green stem and dip the rose in wax. The candle was obviously store bought but went very well with the gift. It smells fantastic!

I had so much fun making these playing cards for my husband. I love how they turned out. The front of the pack says, "52 Reasons Why I Love You." Then I came up with 52 things that I love about Titus. At first I thought it was going to be difficult to think of stuff, but once you get started it's hard to stop. I probably could have come up with many many more than just 52 things I love.

52 Reasons why I love you
Our dinner was delicious! I found all new recipes to try out for the night. Our main course was traditional Lasagna that left your mouth watering for more. It was sensational, however, very heavy food. The recipe used both sausage and ground beef, along with 5 different cheeses! It was a little expensive, but worth the price. You will not go away hungry. If fact you might go away too full!

For dessert I made a strawberry pie, something I had never eaten before. It was very simple to make! Both recipes I found in a cookbook I was given as a wedding gift. Sad to say, these are the first two recipes I've made from it. I can't believe I haven't cooked from it before. The book is filled with pictures that make you strongly desiring to eat.

A few days before Valentine's Day my husband and I got to have a date out without the children. We dressed formally, were served a 5 course meal, and dined with our very good friends. It was a wonderful night! The only sad part of the evening, I dropped my camera and it appears that the lens might have been broken. If you notice all my pictures on the normal focal length have the top left corner darkened. It works fine if you zoom, but I often use it on the normal setting. I'm going to need to purchase a new lens again. This will be my 4th time buying the same lens. I must stop dropping it. Maybe it's just time for a new camera?

I have to tell you, Zechariah is seriously confused about this whole Valentine's Day holiday. All his life we have had our parakeet Valentine (who is named for the day). In 4 days our bird will be 5 years old! The part that confuses Zechariah, he can't seem to grasp that when we say it's Valentine's Day we are not referring to it being the day belonging to our bird Valentine. He truly believes all the celebration is a birthday party. When we attended the school party he loved it that so many people wanted to celebrate our bird. No matter what I said, he didn't understand. There were many times throughout the day that he would run to the bird cage and tell her, "Today is your day, Valentine! It's your party!"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

One Year Bible

I was hoping to share this with you over a month ago, but that day has long come and gone. When I missed the mark on telling you, I figured I would celebrate at the month anniversary, if I made it. This is something I have never accomplished, but always wanted to. I am determined this year not to fail. In fact, I have taken extra steps to ensure my success. I have a partner, my husband, who is willing to come along beside me and take the challenge.

We have set a goal, and are convinced we will make it. In order to keep ourselves completely motivated, each month we are celebrating that we made it that far. Come January 1st of 2013, if we have met our goal, we're planning an overnight trip to KC.

This year, my New Year's Resolution is to read the Bible through in one year. I have attempted this many times in the past and always fell short. I do really good in the beginning but tend to lose steam towards the end. It changes for me into just a challenge to be accomplished, rather than the outcome of changing me. After awhile I start to get too focused on the goal, and not enough focus on the fact that I'm reading God's word for me.

I mentioned this a few months ago. I was talking to God and telling Him how frustrated I get with myself. I've always been all or nothing. I either throw myself completely into something where I'm not going to fail, and I have great success. Or I mess up, and feel all hope is lost, I might as well quit. That's the natural me. I have a very strong sense of commitment in my life. When I say I'll do something, I will do it. Failure is not an option. On the other hand, if I foresee failure in the future, I won't even try.

Every time in the past, the one year Bible turned into one of those pass or fail things. I always found myself going through the motions so I could check off my chapters for the day. This time things have been different. I am still in my mind checking off the chapters, but I've forced myself to highlight at least one verse for the day to meditate on. This way I'm gaining knowledge, but at the same time I'm forcing myself to apply what I've learned.

God's word is so alive! It doesn't matter what happens that day, there is always a verse that I can meditate on. I'm overwhelmed by God's timing. How does He know? I could tell you instance after instance of when God spoke to me through the Bible. It literally is the heart of God. When you are feeling lost and don't know how to cope, you can open the Bible, and find truth for your life now. I amazed how timeless the book can be. It may have been written hundreds of years ago, but it's still very relevant today, to me.

The really fun part about this reading our Bible through in year, my husband and I are having devotions together practically every day. We always ask each other, "Did you read your Bible today?" It's been great having someone hold me accountable. But it's been even more gratifying to have someone to discuss with on a daily basis. We have found so many interesting facts, or nuggets tucked away in the pages of our Bibles.

I believe part of our success can be attributed to the daily reading program we're using. When I was younger and attempted this, it had me simply read from Genesis all the way to Revelation. There are some dry parts of the Bible and I always found once I got to that point, I would give up. I couldn't press on any longer. With this reading chart you will read through the Old Testament one time, and the New Testament along with Psalms two times. Every day we have chapters from the Old Testament, something from Psalms, and some chapters from the New Testament. So if there is ever a dry part, you'll still have something else to hold your attention that you can apply to your life.

I am determined to succeed. Not for the reason of simply checking it off of a to-do list, but a different reason. I have found the older I get, the more and more of God I want and need in my life. I realize I'm imperfect, and I'm guaranteed to make mistakes. I want to know God's heart in a more real and thorough way. What better way to do this, than to read His story.

It's a gift to me. This Christmas, I realized this on a whole new level. It's been said that our earthly father represents to us how our heavenly Father is. Sometimes this can be a scary thing. People are not perfect, but God is. We cannot compare the two in every way. It's not possible. Only God is God, and that's a fact!

A few years ago, my father gave me a book for Christmas. For several years I allowed the book to sit on my shelf. I made sure it stayed in perfect order. The pages were crisp, the bind was flawless. It wasn't dog eared or highlighted. The book was beautiful and it represented my earthly father's love. I picked it up and looked at it a couple times through the years, but I never sat down and read it. I wasn't sure I really needed it. It was one of those self-help books, and those aren't for me... or so I thought at the time.

This year has been a year of tremendous growth for me. I am not the same person I was last year in a multitude of ways. I now read books to change myself not just enjoy myself.

There was a dark day in December that I ended up having a huge fight with my husband. Words were said, and there was no taking them back. We were both quite intense in our stands on an issue, when suddenly, in the heat of the moment, I yelled something at my husband that brought the whole entire thing to a head.

My father has suffered from headaches for over 20 years now. It's very difficult to live with that pain; both on his part, and on the part of his loved ones. Can you imagine what it's like to see someone in horrible pain for 20 years, and not have the key to fix it? It's pure agony. It hurts when it's someone you love so intimately like your father.

It was during that argument with my husband that I broke down. My husband had triggered something in me, and I screamed at him. I faced my father's pain, and I didn't know what to do with it. 20 years of seeing him suffer, and I saw the culprit as my husband in the situation. Our minds are so intricate, and we can never fully understand them. I didn't know what was going on. The real problem was not flesh and blood but evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. (Ephesians 6:12)

As soon as it was said, the fight was over. We both recognized what was going on and saw it for who it was. I was broken and wept for my father. My husband held me as I cried for all the lost time, and I yearned for a new way to love my daddy. I wanted to physically do something for him.

It was then God dropped the book into my lap. He showed me how my father bestowed that gift upon me and I let it collect dust. What kind of love was that? When we are given a gift, it is up to us to use that gift, and show our love back. I couldn't believe I had been so careless. The practical thing that God told me to do was "read his book."

This may have been very simple, but that "gift" was meant to be used to change me. I read the book for my father. It made a world of a difference in me, and I saw my father in a different way. I was able to love him in a new way. Years ago, I wasn't ready to receive it. This year, this time, I was.

The same thing applies to God, our heavenly Father. He has given us this wonderful gift, the Bible, it's words of love to us in a tangible way. We can hold this book lovingly, gazing upon it, letting it hold its original perfect form. Or we can take it out of the box, and actually use it.

For years now, I have kept my Bibles in their boxes. I thought it would protect them and make them last longer. I now believe this is one of those books that shouldn't be "babied". It's meant to be used and opened regularly. I was confused and doing it as a sign of honor, but I think in the whole situation I missed the point. I also hated to write in my Bible. I felt it was tearing the book apart page by page. I'm very serious when it comes to the care of books. I hold them in high regard.

I have since realized that it's okay for my Bible to get a little dirty and used looking. It's a sign of love. It shows God that I'm using His gift. It's a way of loving Him. At the beginning of the year, I threw out all my Bible boxes. It was very symbolic to me. It was as if I was telling my Father, "Look! I love you! I'm going to use your gift!" I also began to highlight verse after verse in them. I see the benefit of quickly finding what you're looking for.

I challenge you to use God's gift daily. You don't have to read through the Bible in a year, but you do have to read it. I've included my Bible reading chart here in case you would like to print it out. The pages are 3x5 inches. I have laminated two pages front to back. I have multiple copies made, one for each Bible that I own. I also have strategically placed my Bibles throughout the house so there is no excuse for not reading. I switch between versions often so I can get different perspectives.

one year bible plan January February
one year bible plan March April
one year bible plan May June
one year bible plan July Augustone year bible plan September October
one year bible plan November December
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Hebrews 4:12


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