Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turkey Wraps

I recently had a girl night where we wanted finger foods for a tea party. I'm so glad I remembered these wraps; I hadn't made them for years! They were perfect. I love that they are so simple to make, and taste SO GOOD! You could have them for a meal, or as a snack.

You need tortillas, cream cheese, turkey slices, and some chopped green onions.

I first put a layer of cream cheese on the tortilla, add a few turkey slices, sprinkle the green onions, and then roll them up.

It doesn't get much simpler than that!

Monday, May 28, 2012

4th Annual Graduation Luau

Officially summer vacation has begun! Every year the start of summer is marked by our Annual Graduation Luau. I think out of all the things I do with my extended family, this has to be my favorite. Christmas and Thanksgiving are wonderful, but I LOVE this party. It's a time to dress up, eat some good food, watch some entertainment, and give honor to our children. The weather always cooperates and is beautiful. It makes for an unforgettable night spending quality time as a family!

Every year I like to shop at the dollar store and add new luau decorations to the stock pile. We're starting to get quite a collection! This time of year the dollar store seems to specialize in Luau. Summer is the best time for a party! We found a pack of a dozen or so different luau pictures. Because they were double-sided I couldn't see taping them to a wall. I punched a hole and hung them throughout the trees with yarn. I love how they pop up in various pictures at the party!

Normally we liked to BBQ for this party, but I wanted to go for something different this year. Since our theme was Hawaiian, we went for our family favorite, Waikiki Meatballs. They were delicious! My mom completed the meal by making some fried rice.

Our dessert was adorable graduation caps! I saw the idea on the Family Fun website. They went perfect with punch and were very easy to put together.

Miniature peanut butter cups
Frosting or peanut butter
Chocolate-covered graham crackers
Fruit chews

Place a miniature peanut butter cup, bottom up, on a plate. Top with a small dot of frosting or peanut butter, then press on a chocolate-covered graham cracker.

For a tassel, cut fringe on one end and attach the other end to the center of the graham cracker with another dab of frosting or peanut butter.

(My mom made these and added a chocolate chip on top of the fruit chew. I think it added something to the treat!)

We were very proud of our graduates!

Our ceremony always begins with the pledge of allegiance. This time all of our children couldn't even remember the words to it. It's a good thing we had a refresher for them!

Ariel led us in the elementary school song and Gabriel led us in the pledge. We included both things in our program so all the adults could follow along.

Our next portion of the evening is always my favorite, TALENTS. Each year the kids get to choose something they have learned to share with us. We've had some pretty fun things in the past. I can remember one year my niece playing the recorder with her nose! Talk about talent.

Gabriel started us off. He had two different things to share with us. His first thing was an optical illusion. If you look closely at the picture below, you will see it is a young girl and also at the same time an old woman. Gabriel shared the secret with us.

The second trick that Gabe shared was something he called "Math Magic". He first asked for a volunteer from the audience. (We all got a turn in the end.) The volunteer must think of a number between 1 and 63 without saying it out loud. Gabe had six different cards full of numbers. He would hold each one up and ask if your number was on that card. After you answered for all six cards, he could tell you the number you were thinking of. Gabriel loved to dazzle us with this trick!

I found a website that has the trick on it if you'd like to try it for yourself.

Our next performance was done by Ariel. She also had two things to share with us. The first was a science experiment called "Elephant's Toothpaste" and for the second part she gave us an oral report on Hawaii, something she had studied at length this past quarter.

Elephant's Toothpaste

The experiment is to be done in the kitchen sink with proper eye protection. We chose to use the grass in the backyard!

1.) Pour 1/2 cup of 6% hydrogen peroxide (found in a beauty supply store) into a clean 2-liter plastic pop bottle. (You can use 3%, but it doesn't work as well.)
2.) Add 1 to 2 squirts of dish detergent
3.) Add food coloring if desired
4.) In a separate container mix 1 package of yeast in 1 cup of warm water
5.) Pour the yeast solution into the pop bottle and watch the bubbles rise
6.) Remember this is an exothermic chemical change, so the pop bottle will be warm

This is an experiment Ariel learned at her gifted classes. Towards the end of the year they did many chemistry experiments!

Mikaela read us a report she wrote on her hero. It was so good! I was very proud of her, and I asked for my own special copy of it for my keepsake box. Her first hero she told about was Tim Tebow, and she concluded with her hero who by far surpasses him, Jesus Christ. For the fun part, she read the report with a British/ Australian accent.

You can't have a graduation ceremony without some diplomas. We always like to give out awards for the special things they have done through the year.

Zechariah was awarded for "doing an awesome job learning A-B-C-D, being Mom's special leader and for entering a new level of obedience!"

We always try to give out a spiritual growth award too. This area is just as important as feeding the mind.

"This honor was bestowed upon Zechariah for excellent participation with Grandma in Bible Study and nurturing your spirit through daily prayer journaling with Mom."

Gabriel got the High Achiever Award for "the successful completion of 2nd grade and for having 3 books published with a 4th awaiting final publisher's approval!!" His spiritual growth award read the same as Zechariah's.

Normally we wait until the end to toss our hats, but Gabe jumped the gun a little here. He was excited!

Ariel received an All Star Student for ACADEMICS award in recognition of "your completion of elementary school and the gifted program with exemplary excellence."

If you see the surprised look on her face, it's because Grandma read a note written about Ariel from the overseer of the gifted education program. "Ariel is an all-around great student! She has very good academic skills in all subject areas. Her strengths include both language arts and math. Ariel demonstrates good control of the English language; she is able to speak and write extremely well. In reading, Ariel displays good comprehension and she reads all types of books. Ariel is a good thinker and problem solver. If there is something she does not know, she will find a way to figure it out. She sets her goals high and is a hard worker. Ariel has outstanding leadership qualities; she has many friends and she is kind and respectful to everyone. Ariel is fair, kind, understanding, and makes good decisions. Ariel is a wonderful young lady!" What high praise for her!

Ariel's spiritual growth award was a little different than the boys. 5th grade marks the end of many things, but also the beginning. "This honor is bestowed upon Ariel for excellent participation with Grandma in Bible study and nurturing your spirit through daily Prayer Journaling with Mom. You are now leaving behind E.K.A.P Club (elementary age prayer club at our church) and before school prayer and are entering into a new level of prayer- personal prayer journaling!"

Since kindergarten I have been doing prayer journaling with my daughter every day before school starts. Middle school begins minutes after my boys are just waking up. We will no longer be able to have our prayer time at 8am as a family. Ariel will be on her own, learning to put into practice all that she has learned! New beginnings!

Congratulations, Graduates, for a job well done!!

I thought this picture was hilarious! When Gabe threw his hat up, it got stuck in the luau sign. After that he kept jumping to see if he could fit his head into it. It looks like he's being hung by the hat!

I believe we will be doing this graduation ceremony until all my kids graduate from high school. I was contemplating this year if my kids would ever outgrow it, but I believe even if they feel they have, it will still be a necessity. Humility is always good for a person. We may not always make paper hats. We may change the style a little. But we will always celebrate all that they have accomplished. I love giving them a night where we the parents and grandparents take time to honor all their hard work. They have earned it!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kids Do The Darndest Things

Last night was spaghetti night, which means Zechariah was fasting. For some reason, he hates spaghetti. I've never heard of such a thing.

If the kids refuse to eat dinner, we make them wait until morning for their next meal. They don't get to choose something different. It's always been a rule in our home. We'll save their dinner, and keep it hot.

He cried to me, "Mommy. I need some food. Please, I need food." with his bottom lip protruding.

A little while later, I noticed him lifting all the couch cushions up excitedly searching for food.

"Yum! A Jelly Bean!


"Hmm.. Popcorn!"

I couldn't resist letting him eat what he found. He went through both couches, every single cushion. That was ingenuity!

For anyone who's curious, Zech ended up getting hungry enough to eat his spaghetti noodles before bed. It works every time!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Fun is Here!

Start out by planning your summer! This took us almost all day long. We like to print off calendars from May until August, and put all the crucial information first. Things like 1st day of school, and enrollment... Then we check different calendars and add all the organized activities we will be attending. Unfortunately, this year we didn't have too many to add. There will be no Topeka Treasure Hunt, no Sundown Film Festival at the museum, no Movies on the Lawn at the Capitol Building, and no Faith and Family Day for the Royals baseball team. You can imagine our disappointment this year! We did still come up with a very fun summer. Most of our activities will be planned by us.

Theme Days. We LOVE a good theme day! We've done Disgusting Day. VeggieTales. Rainbow Day 2011. Rainbow Day 2010. Dr. Suess. Beauty Day.

Slip N' Slide. Some good ol' fashioned family fun.

Dollar Craft Days. There are always fun, CHEAP, crafts to do with your children. For our first craft we're going to be making macaroni jewelry. You can dye all different shapes of macaroni with rubbing alcohol and food coloring. Allow them to dry, and string them together in fun patterns.

Picnic at the park. If all else fails, there are tons of parks to visit. Find a new one in your city that you've never been to before. Last year we challenged ourselves to visit every single park in Topeka. We only made it to about two-thirds of them... that was almost 30 different parks. This summer we've already picked up right where we left off.

Dance Praise Competition. Ever heard of DDR (Dance Dance Revolution)? There is a Christian competitor that plays all Christian music. We were very fortunate to find a second dance pad at the Goodwill store a few months back for $3. This is wonderful exercise, uplifting music, and a little competition on the side.

Coded Treasure Hunt My kids LOVE to hunt. We use a very simple code to make the clues in, and hide them throughout the house. The last clue always sends us somewhere fun, like out for ice cream, or a special treat.

Visit the elderly. We're going to make some cards to bring to an older lady in our church. The perfect activity to take the focus off of us and place it on doing good for others.

Goodwill / Salvation Army. Use what you find! I love to search through other peoples things and find a new treasure. We're going to buy new books or movies, toys or games, and then go home and put them to use immediately.

Soccer Game. I'm sure most elementary schools have an open field. My kids love to go back to their school in the summer time. We pack a picnic lunch and play on the toys having recess for as long as we desire. This time we're going to bring our soccer ball and have a family game!

Chocolate Day! A family favorite. We melt some chocolate almond bark, and dip till our hearts content. We dip marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, pretzels, potato chips. (My son has even tried dipping broccoli.) We're going to combine this with a visit to the Critter Mobile (Our library has a special animal bookmobile that changes weekly. You can pet a snake one week, a rabbit the next, cats and dogs, all different animals.) We'll bring home our books and movies, and dip our chocolate! We'll be careful not to get the books dirty, of course.

Friday Flicks - Every Friday our library offers a movie from 2pm-4pm. We're going to take advantage of this on a few Fridays!

The Schedule :
Jun 1 – Cars 2
Jun 8 – The Muppets
Jun 15 – Happy Feet Two
Jun 22 – Rio
Jun 29 – Dolphin Tale
Jul 6 – The Smurfs
Jul 13 – Kung Fu Panda 2
Jul 20 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Jul 27 – Puss in Boots

Penguin Plunge. Our zoo has a temporary exhibit of penguins. We're going to plan a day around it. We'll visit the penguins, make a penguin craft, and probably put together penguin shaped pizzas for lunch!

Dad's Special Day. No, we're not talking about Father's day here. We're talking about spoiling our dad as soon as he comes home from work. We'll set the mood, decorate the house, cook him a gourmet meal, and then serve him the minute he walks in the front door.

Breakfast at the Museum. Our museum offers beautiful hiking trails. We do this every year and it's always something the kids look forward to. We bring our camping stove and cook pancakes and sausage. We bring a fruit salad and feast with our friends. Then once our bellies are full we hike around the grounds. This year we're going to do a nature scavenger hunt on the hike. We'll bring some gallon sized Ziplocs and have the kids find all kinds of things; anything from a blade of grass, to something rough, to man-made litter, to a feather, a rock, or a berry. We'll have them search for it all. (We will include a latex glove to handle the stuff with.)

International Fest. This is something our church used to do each year and has since fallen off the calendar. We're going to dress up like we're from different countries, eat new foreign foods, and learn about missions around the world.

Spray Park. Our city has a wonderful new addition that came just last summer. It's a new water park and it's free. (Basically, it's various water fountains the kids can run through.)

Book Day. We're all going to be lazy for a day and read an entire book by ourselves. Then we're going to write book reports and give oral presentations to each other.

Trilogy Day. The kids love to watch movies, and during the summer that can get out of hand. I try to just say no, unless it's our group activity and it's happening outside of the house. For one day we have chosen to watch the Narnia trilogy. We're going to make some caramel popcorn and be very LAZY ALL DAY LONG. (This is happening right after I go for an entire week long out of city kid's camp ... as a coach. I know I'm going to be tired!)

Alphabet Hunt. I love to make my kids think! We're going on a nature hike and we're going to find the ABC's every step of the way. A is for ant. B is for bark. C is for caterpillar... We'll probably be pretty warm by the time we're done and finish off our outing with some Hawaiian ice!

Fly Kites. We love to fly kites at the governor's mansion. They have some beautiful grounds that you are free to explore and picnic on. They also have huge open areas that are perfect for a day of kite flying.

Science Day. My kids love theme days. We always have several each summer vacation. This one is going to be full of science experiments. Maybe we'll even experiment on some new recipes for lunch.

Jesus Bingo. Another favorite activity for the kids. This year we let go of some of our more traditional days we've done in the past, but this one held on. After the holidays I always pick up very clearance Easter, Valentine, and Christmas party favors. They make wonderful prizes for BINGO. We like to vary the game a little and use Jesus for our letters written on the back patio in sidewalk chalk. The middle space is salvation, and of course it's free. When you win you have to yell out, "Jesus Saves!" Once the game is over we'll celebrate with some homemade ice cream! Yum!

Barnes & Noble scavenger hunt. We'll have a list of things to find together as a group. Everyone will need to choose their favorite recipe from a book, a funny joke in the joke book section, a place they want to visit in the travel section, favorite childhood book in the kids section, and so forth. Afterwards we'll all head to the coffee shop for a treat!

Art Day. We might visit the art museum. Make art with our lunch. Use paint or clay. Anything artistic will be allowed!

Tea Party. This has been around for at least 6 years now. It never gets old and my boys even love it. We bring a tablecloth, some hot water and various kinds of tea, along with scones, muffins, and fruit. We have a beautiful gazebo in a garden that we lay out our refreshments in. We bring real teacups and saucers and have ourselves a tea party outdoors.

Lunch with Dad. We'll pack a sack lunch and head to my husband's work. They have a fun spot that is perfect for a family picnic. It's a nice highlight for my husband's work day.

Water Fun. So simple, yet so fun for the kids. This time we saw a fun idea in the May edition of Family Fun magazine that we're going to try out. It uses pool noodles and toilet paper tubes to build some obstacle course equipment. I can't wait to try the idea!

Shadow Puppet Theater. We're going to make new puppets for our shadow theater, and put together a scripted play. When it gets dark outside, we'll put on a spectacular show for dad.

Sewing Day. There are always crafts my kids want to sew. We're going to spend the day working on a project together.

Game Marathon Day. This is not as simple as it sounds. We've come up with the ultimate game idea. Each room of our house is going to hold a different board game, and probably a snack. We might have my room be Clue. My daughter would be Trouble. My sons would be Candy Land. You get the idea. Once all the games are set up, we'll start the game marathon. Everyone will move between rooms together taking 1 turn on each game, in each room. The idea is we'll be playing multiple games all at the same time. Sounds a little weird and complicated, huh? We wanted a new spin on game day!

Healthy Day. We're going to try all kinds of health food. Lots of new vegetables! Maybe some new fruits and grains. It's going to be a very interesting day! We'll also be spending a lot of our time exercising. Running around the block, doing some jumping jacks, riding bikes, maybe some sit-ups, anything that is good for you!

Cookie Day. After you have healthy day and worked so hard, you gotta treat yourself to some good stuff. Everyone is going to choose their favorite cookie to make. Then we'll drive around and deliver cookies to all our friends! It will be another day for us to spend thinking about others.

Journey to the Center of the Earth. Each summer we choose a classic children's literature book. I take all summer long to read the book aloud to my children. We try to tackle a chapter or two a day. At the end of the summer, our big party is to do a theme day around that book. We'll normally watch the movie, and maybe do a craft or something special that has to do with the story. It's a great way to get back into the scholastic spirit.

What do you have planned to do this summer? I love to keep my kids busy. I don't ever want to hear, "I'm bored!" escape the lips of my children. In all honesty, the first year my daughter had a summer vacation after kindergarten, I felt like we squandered it. We came to the end and had nothing to show for it. I only have a few precious days that I can call my own when it comes to my children; I want to be making the most of every day I've been given.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

School's Out!

"School's Out" the kids all jumped and shout. This year was a first. When we parents arrived on the last day to get our kids we were told they had something special planned and could we please give them one last minute together as a school. All the children walked single file out the front door, and grouped together in classes on the front lawn of the school. The principal gave the kids a countdown, from 1 to 3, and all 350 students jumped together and yelled out loudly and proudly, "SCHOOL'S OUT!"

My son was one of the few who chose to not participate. He stood next to his teacher, with his hands covering his eyes trying to hold on for a few more precious seconds. Gabriel was not ready for the last day of school. It's always bittersweet in our home. We all love summer vacation, but it means we must say goodbye to our wonderful teachers and friends we've made that year.

God has truly blessed our family. I am so thankful for our school. The teachers are phenomenal. The principal is a Christian. They give guidance that I can trust. When you are leaving your child with someone for seven hours out of a day that is a pretty tall order. This school has come through for my family in a big way.

I was so excited for Gabriel to be in Mrs. Heil's class this year. When I was in middle school, Mrs. Heil and her family attended my church. I was good friends with her daughter. Gabe got to spend all year long in the company of a Christian teacher. They encouraged each other in their faith, and even had moments of prayer together. How awesome is that? I could not ask for a more influential lady for my son. She has given him so much this year, and I'd like to believe that Gabriel also gave something back to her. Mrs. Heil thanked me on more than one occasion for Gabriel. When her father was dying, she said it was so special to have Gabe pray with her, and for her. I am so proud of my son. He is growing up to be a fine young man who loves Jesus with all his heart and soul.

Ariel had the privilege of being in class with Mrs. Snell this year. She was such a sweet lady and cared so much for the students. She had a quiet way about her that could put anyone at ease. On many occasions Mrs. Snell gave of her own resources to help the class room in their studies. I was very touched by that.

I cannot write the next part without a little bit of sadness creeping in. My daughter has graduated from elementary school! Gasp! Life goes by so quickly. I remember meeting her kindergarten teacher for the first time, and entrusting my daughter to her care. I've always been a stay-at-home mom and never believed much in preschool. To give up my child for the first time to a stranger was heartache. Ariel and I both survived and have come out better from the process. God knew exactly what He was doing, and I believe every single teacher has been handpicked by Him.

I'm excited, and scared to see what God has in store for my daughter. Every day I know it brings her closer to independence which is the ultimate goal. To say that is one thing, to live it is another. Don't ever mistake me giving my child freedom with a smile on my face as being easy. It's been one of the hardest things to do. To let go and trust God to take care of them when I am not there. He is faithful though!

Ariel is a girl with such a strong character; she does not easily falter. She has strength of will and mind. She is not easily frightened. She has to be as my first child. I was contemplating this the other day. My Ariel has to put up with her parents learning to be parents. She is the true guinea pig. All of our firsts as parents have happened with her. God knows I have failed on so many occasions in my parenting and the learning process. As Ariel grows and learns, so do I and her father. We knew nothing before her. Her brothers have it much easier because we have been seasoned as parents. God gave her the personality she would need to make it, whereas her brothers would have had a much harder time being the first child. Isn't it amazing how much God cares for us, and knows us so intimately? He knows what personality to give before we're even born.

Ariel was awarded the President's Award for Educational Excellence. In order to receive this, you had to maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher for all elementary years, you had to get an exemplary on both 4th and 5th grade Kansas assessments, and you had to be nominated by a school staff member.

You should have seen her face while she waited to hear if she would receive it and the look when it was mentioned she got it. Priceless. The certificate was signed by the President and the Secretary of U.S. Education. For the rest of the night we heard Ariel say in awe, "I can't believe the President touched this. The President touched this piece of paper."

Congratulations Ariel! We're proud of you! You are such a positive young woman full of life. You love God first and that is the most important thing. As long as you continually rely on Him and ask for His guidance you will go far! We love you! Mom and Dad
(Our 5th Grade Dedication to Ariel for the school yearbook)

Every year on the first day of school, I like to take a photo of the kids before we walk inside the building. Its fun to see how much Ariel has grown and changed through the last six years. I am so proud to be her mother!

School's out for the summer! We may be a little bit sad, but we're really happy to have the next couple of months together. We're going to have lots of fun. Our first big summer event will be our annual graduation Luau! The kids love this party. It gets the summer started off with a bang!