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Thursday, February 28, 2013

DIY Sleeping Bag

My son has become friend and caretaker to many different toys over the past few months. Each is given the name Asher. We have Asher the first who is a peanut. Asher the second who is a ball. Asher the third is small yellow chicken. Asher the fourth is a blue skeleton. And the list continues on. One day during Gabriel's Bible reading he came upon the name Asher. He adopted it as his favorite after he found that it meant, "blessing." All of these toys are a blessing to my son.

He cares very deeply for objects and tries to treat them with the same respect a person would deserve. This can be a little bit much at times. Like for instance when mom tosses him across the room into a bucket of toys, and he practically has a heart attack because that probably hurt the toy's feelings. On the other hand, it is really nice that he is learning respect.

When he finds a new "friend" he will make a bed or nest for the object. Last week when he was away at school, I surprised him with a sleeping bag for Asher the 4th. He loved it!

sleeping bag for small toys

I've put together a very simple tutorial for a sleeping bag. Since this is for a boy, it's made to fit small action figures, not giant baby dolls. You could easily alter it to fit what size you want.

sleeping bag for small toys
I cut a small rectangle of fabric, folded it in half, and sewed it right sides together. I left a small hole to turn the fabric, and to stuff the pillow. Once it was stuffed, I sewed the hole shut.

A quick tip on stuffing: I like to buy a cheap $2 pillow from Wal-Mart instead of a bag of expensive polyester fiberfill stuffing. It seems to work just as well for me, and you get a little bit of extra white fabric!

sleeping bag for small toys
I cut two squares of fabric, and 1 square the same size of batting. You need to layer it with the two fabric squares right sides together, and then on either top or bottom add the batting. Sew around the edges and leave a small hole for turning. This way when you turn them right sides out, the batting will be layered in the middle. Once the fabric is turned, you can sew the hole closed.

sleeping bag for small toys
You want to either pin your fabric, or mark the lines in some way. If you're good at using your machine as a guide, go ahead and do that. I used pins to try to help eyeball the lines. I wasn't going for perfect here, just to add a little quilting to the sleeping bag. It's probably not necessary for holding the batting in place since the sleeping bag is so small.

sleeping bag for small toys

Once the lines were sewn, I attached the pillow to the bag. You don't have to do this, but knowing my son, I knew the pillow would end up missing if I didn't.

sleeping bag for small toys
I wanted to have a way of keeping the sleeping bag closed when he rolls it up for the day. I found some yellow rickrack and sewed a small circle to hold the bag shut. I tested it multiple times before I got it small enough to hold the bag closed tightly.

sleeping bag for small toys
I sewed it on to the middle of the sleeping bag back side, where the pillow connected to the bag.

sleeping bag for small toys

sleeping bag for small toys
I wanted to sew the bag closed a little, but not all the way. I figured if I sewed it all the way, it would be hard to get the action figure inside. And if I didn't sew it closed at all, the guy might fall out of his sleeping bag.

sleeping bag for small toys

My final step was sewing a snap on. You could use Velcro to close it, or a button, or if you were really ambitious, you could sew a real zipper on. I hate sewing zippers, so I wanted to choose something nice and simple. That's it! Your sleeping bag is now ready to be used.

sleeping bag for small toys

sleeping bag for small toys
Doesn't he look content in his new bed?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Man After God's Own Heart

You probably have heard that said about King David from the Bible. He was known for being a man after God's own heart. I like to draw the comparison to my son Gabriel. He has a heart for God like no other child I have seen.

Gabe has always had a very tender heart that often breaks from day to day. One might say he has a temper or other negative things. But what you may or may not know, my son is very repentant. He grieves in the times when he messes things up. You cannot confront him on a wrong without his heart being touched. Immediately tears will come to his eyes. He wants God to be proud of him.

In the past 5 months, Gabe has made it through the entire Bible. I can't say that he has understood every word that he read, but the task has been accomplished and I'm certain he has grown from the experience. On a normal day I will read my own Bible in the hour after school has been let out. This is the time Gabe has dedicated to I Read 20 for his school homework. There have been many days were we have sat on the couches together reading through our Bibles. Sometimes Gabe will share his insightful wisdom he has gleaned. I am often blown away from the things God speaks to him and the many areas that Gabe has applied the verses to his life.

A couple kids in his class are fighting, and he quotes, "Don't hit back; discover the beauty in everyone. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. 'I'll do the judging,' says God. 'I'll take care of it.'" (Romans 12:17-19)

When he's had a hard day that might have brought me to tears, he tells me what good thing he is focusing on instead.

God is making a difference in my son.

Every day Gabriel prays for a boy at his school who doesn't believe in God. It pains him to hear that someone could not love God. This boy has been cruel to Gabe in many different ways, but every day Gabe still will say a heartfelt prayer for this boy to believe.

A few months ago I went to school with Gabriel. He was with a team of kids and had to answer a few questions. The first question was, "what are your three favorite things?" Before Gabe said a word, another kid on the team blurted out, "We know, Gabe. God. Jesus. And the Bible."

Gabe has a reputation of being passionate about his love for God. He tries to do whatever God tells him, no matter what other people think around him.

Gabriel never desires for anyone to feel left out. When it was his birthday at school, the teacher told him he could ask another student to help pass out cookies. Gabe refrained from doing this. He didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings when they did not get chosen.

I have been very proud of my son. He has made numerous mistakes and lost his temper thousands of times. But each time he is sorry. He knows that without God he is nothing.

I had 30 minutes to throw together Gabe's birthday cake!
Right now he says a yellow crayon represents him.

When it comes to God, he is like a sponge. He soaks in everything he hears. When I teach his class at church, I am certain no one is listening or getting the message. Then a week later, Gabe will quote something I've said in class. He often can grasp the deeper meaning of a situation, not just the surface words that are spoken.

For Gabriel's birthday this year we chose gifts that represented who he is. We thought since he enjoyed his Bible so much, we would get him The Brick Bible. (This is a Lego Bible fully illustrated in a graphic novel form.) If you have a young child and you want to get them excited about reading their Bible, this is an excellent place to start! It has over 400 stories between the Old and New Testament Brick Bibles. The books are a little bit of an investment, but well worth it. You might even want to read through it for yourself. If you click on the picture below, it links to the Brick Testament website. They have all the stories online that you can look through. Me and my husband spent a good amount of time reading together before we bought these books for our son. You will be hooked!

the brick bible

Gabriel wanted a very simple birthday party this year. Right now his other passion besides God is FOOD! He is a growing young man and probably eats his weight in food. Just Kidding. Although it sometimes seems that way. Gabe invited his best friend for a sleepover and out to dinner with us at his favorite restaurant, Kiku Steakhouse of Japan. All meals are prepared before your eyes on the hibachi grill. This makes it not only a great place to eat, but you get some live entertainment.

After dinner, we all went out to a late night movie, Wreck-It Ralph. This was a perfect choice for Gabe since the movie centers around video games in an arcade. What little boy wouldn't enjoy a movie like that? It was very sweet.

The main character, Ralph, is the villain in his own arcade game. He is tired of being the bag guy and leaves to become a hero elsewhere. This leaves the arcade game in big trouble. After 30 years of being "wreck-it Ralph" the game is in danger of being turned off permanently if Ralph doesn't return soon.

wreck it ralph

To complete his birthday party Gabriel wanted us all to go out to Steak and Shake for all you can eat pancakes. We thought that seemed a bit much on the food side, so we talked Gabe into some pancakes and bacon at home. It was a perfect birthday for Gabriel. He loved it!

Gabe was so excited to get $20 cash for his birthday this year. He was saving up to buy himself a turkey he could cook and eat all by himself! (Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday)

Happy 9th Birthday to a wonderful son!

"I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him." Acts 13:22

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Homemade Valentine

"My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves." 1 John 3:18-20

Zechariah wanted me to include his special Valentine in my post. He said this picture was the "sweetest one". On Valentine's Day Zech brought a card and some candy to his one "true love" at her work.

In the same way that we draw names for Christmas, we draw names for "Secret Valentines". We often have to draw names many times because someone always ends up with their own name. It's also extra hard because Zechariah can't choose my name since he requires my help in assembling his gift. This year it turned out that everyone drew the exact same name as last year except for Gabe and me, we switched names. Next year I think we'll take extra time to make sure everyone gets a different person.

I always think the homemade gifts are the best! They come straight from the heart and show in a practical hands-on way the giver's love.

I had a hard time making up my mind when it came to a gift for Ariel. I had too many things I wanted to make her. I settled on a t-shirt hoodie that I saw here. I perused the racks at Goodwill for a long time before I settled on this combo. Since the project was very inexpensive, I bought enough shirts to make two hoodies. I am still working on the second one for her.

homemade hoodie shirt

Zechariah drew Gabriel's name again. We made together a giant puzzle bigger than him. It was fun to watch Zech color the giant board. He was very detailed in drawing his picture, and even more careful coloring it in.

The cutting the puzzle was the hard part. First, together we drew a grid on the back of the puzzle for all our pieces. It ended up being a 109 piece puzzle! In the beginning we were going to make the puzzle pieces look very traditional, but then I started cutting them out. After 5 minutes I had one finished. Only 9 hours to go... That seemed overwhelming so we simplified it to straight edges. We still made the pieces interlocking; we just didn't round the corners. That saved a lot of time! I think the finished product was still amazing and Gabe LOVED it!

homemade puzzle

Gabriel had a really hard time deciding what to make his dad. He wanted to make so many elaborate things that he himself would have enjoyed, but not necessarily his father. (Zech and I stole the puzzle idea from Gabe. That was something Gabriel considered making for his dad.) It can be difficult to think outside yourself to the person you are making the gift for. After an hour of walking around Hobby Lobby together, Gabe chose to make his dad a painted candy jar for Titus' desk at work. You can't go wrong with candy for Titus. He consumes large quantities of it! I love the guitar that Gabe painted on the front of the jar. It's perfect for his dad.

Throughout the evening of our special dinner, we had different challenges for everyone to compete in. We didn't want to make it too boring or too easy. The winner of the challenge was given the opportunity of presenting their gift to their secret valentine. We also spread out the challenges between our five courses at dinner. This was especially hard on Zech who really wanted to be given his gift first.

Ariel wowed us with her artistic gift. She put together an ABC coloring book for Zechariah, and she made him recycled crayons in the shape of numbers. We found a silicone candy/ice tray at Hobby Lobby for a few dollars. The coloring book was especially fun to read through. She used mostly birds for her letters... H is for Hawk. F is for Falcon. D is for duck. P is for parakeet. And so forth. Zech loved the whole present!

number crayons

I had to be the most patient for my gift. I was the last one of the evening. Titus drew my name again and fixed my hair straightener! I was so happy with it. When I flew to Mexico at Christmas time, the straightener's plug cracked and broke. I never used it in Mexico and when I tried it back at home it made a loud buzzing sound when I plugged it in. The safety plug was cracked in half. It had to have been damaged in my luggage. I kept it in the outside pocket of my bag. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed when I got back home.

The straightener was really expensive and I couldn't bring myself to replace it. Who has $150 lying around to use on a hair product? Not me. My straightener was a Mother's Day gift several years ago. I went for two months with frizzy fluffy hair. I am so glad to have my straightener back! Titus bought a new GFCI plug and rewired the straightener himself. He might have cheated on the homemade part a little bit, but who am I to complain?

"Happiness is homemade." - Author Unknown

Monday, February 18, 2013

Love is...

The greatest commandment. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’"
Matthew 22:37-40

Last week we celebrated Valentine's Day.

A day set apart for love.

In our family we have recently started a new tradition. Instead of focusing on the love between me and my husband, we set apart the day for family. I'm all for the idea of an evening of romance with my husband, I just don't want February 14th to be that day.

I married young, when I was a year out of high school, so I haven't experienced firsthand the disappointment that can happen with this day. I have witnessed it through many of my friend's eyes. It has always broke my heart. I don't like activities that are exclusive. I hate to see people feeling left out, and that tends to happen on a day that focuses on couples. A large portion of people are single, and that is okay!

But on Valentine's Day, the single individuals often end up feeling unwanted. Abandoned. Excluded.

I don't like it.

God made us to belong.

“You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” Luke 3:22

These are the words of God, spoken to His son, Jesus. In the same way that Jesus is chosen, we are chosen. We have value and worth, every day of our lives.

For the past couple years, we have tweaked our Valentine's Day celebration. We've turned it around and focused it on our family and our children. I don't ever want there to come a day where they feel less than they are worth. I don't want them to grow up longing for the day they have their own special someone to share their love with in order to be complete. I want them to practice contentment now when they are young so some day when they're older they will have a foundation to stand on. I want them to feel included.

Please don't misunderstand me here and think that I believe it's wrong to celebrate the love you have with that special someone on Valentine's Day. God designed us to crave that love. I think it can be a very powerful example to us of the way that God loves us. I love celebrating! I look for ways to have more parties and nights out. I have just felt convicted lately that God wants me and my husband to focus on our children for this day.

My husband and I still celebrate Valentine's Day together; we do it on a different day that week.

I spent the entire day preparing for the evening we would have as a family. I gave my son the choice of individual heart shaped pizzas or a five course meal. He is in LOVE with food, so naturally he chose the big dinner. I fudged a little on the five courses. Our first course was sparkling red grape juice.

Our second course was a heart shaped salad. We chose some red colored salad dressings to complete the Valentine appearance. I didn't have enough room in the bowl for the spinach leaves. We built our salads on our plate.

valentine's day salad

My appetizers were quite a bit of work, but seemed well worth the effort. Everyone loved them... except Zech. I found the recipe here for these fancy crab filled crowns. Mine did not turn out near as beautiful as the recipe picture but I think they had to have tasted just as good!

fancy crab filled crowns

I'm going to totally embarrass myself here. I have to include a photo of the main dish.  I was trying to go for a red theme for the food, so I put food coloring in the sour cream that goes on top of this dish. We all laughed so hard at how horribly disgusting the chicken looked. The good news was that it tasted wonderful.

delicious chicken with mushrooms unappetizing picture

I must give you the recipe for this entrée. I know your mouth is probably watering after that photo I took. It looks SOO appetizing, right? It's all about the presentation.
    4 chicken breasts
    1 small package mushrooms
    1 small sliced onion
    4 slices bacon
    1 cup sour cream
    1 can cream of mushroom soup

    Place chicken in baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, mushrooms and onions. Place bacon on top of each chicken breast. Mix together sour cream and cream of mushroom soup. Pour over chicken. Bake at 250°F for 3 hours.

Our final course was dessert! This was a huge hit with my kids. I made them all their own box of fortune cookies. I came up with different notes for each kid.

homemade fortune cookies

Here are some of the kid's favorite fortune cookies in random order:

I love your hugs and kisses! (Zech)

Owl always love you! (Ariel)

You are such a funny guy!
You always make me laugh!
(That’s a good thing!)

You are so kind to others.
It gives Jesus joy to see you trying to be friends with everyone.

You have such a servant’s heart.
You give God great joy every time you serve another person!

I love that you always like to use the “Princess Mommy” cup! (Zech)

make your own fortune cookies for valentine's day

The night was a huge success! It was a memorable evening that I don't think any of us will soon forget. Next time I will share with you our homemade Valentine gifts we gave each other. In the same way that we draw names for Christmas, we draw "Secret Valentines". The only stipulation, they must be homemade!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Titus Day

I want to wish you a Happy Titus Day! If you don't know my husband, he is a pretty special guy. I was so blessed when God brought him into my life 14 years ago.

I'm sure everyone loves to brag about their significant other, but today I have the honor of special bragging rights. My husband's work is actually celebrating this day for him. Yesterday I was forwarded this email from Titus' boss.

    We are so lucky to have so many talented staff supporting the state. I believe most all of us at some point or another have had the privilege to work with Titus. Titus is a Systems Engineer on the Systems team who has developed quite the reputation for solving our most challenging problems. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear someone say “let me ask Titus”….."hmm…I can’t figure this out, I’ll talk to Titus”. And what do we hear in response from Titus no matter how little sleep or coffee he has had?.....

    ……..“I can do that.”

    To recognize Titus throughout the office, Carol, Gopala and I are officially declaring Friday 2/15/2013:

    Titus Day

    Titus, we recognize your talents and are continually amazed by them each day. You have the ability to do most anything so we appreciate that you choose to share your talents with us. Thank you for all you do for each of us each day.

    Staff – Please enjoy a casual jeans day on Friday 2/15/2013 in celebration of Titus Day.

My husband really is happy and willing, to help out whenever he can. God has given him a brilliant mind, and he loves to put it to use.

I have to laugh at myself. When I was younger, I always said I wanted to marry someone unintelligent. I didn't want anyone to be smarter than me. I wanted to be the brains of the family. God has quite the sense of humor. Titus is probably one of the most intelligent people that I know. Nothing ever seems too hard for him. And if he doesn't know it, it won't be for long. He is always learning and adapting to the world around him.

I am so glad that God doesn't always listen to those stupid prayers we pray!

Recently, we watched a movie, Christmas Angel. It's about a little girl, Olivia, who has one wish: to find a husband for her mom. She and her classmates soon discover that the answer to all their wishes lies inside a mysterious abandoned house. Within the house, Olivia finds Elsie Waybright, the Christmas Angel. As the mailbox on the old house fills with Christmas wishes, Elsie and Olivia separate the wishes into 3 different piles.

The first pile is the stupid wishes. Like... I wish I had a million dollars. A teacher who won't assign homework. (Or in my case, a husband who isn't very smart.)

The second pile is the possible wishes. Things that can be bought with money. A new bike for a foster child. A grandma to come home for the holidays.

And the third pile is the impossible. The things that must be left up to God. A father who is an alcoholic. A child who needs a kidney transplant.

It was an inspiring movie. It makes you stop and contemplate all the things in the world that we have the power to change through service. Often times we sit back and watch, maybe feeling a little sorry for the person, but we don't take the time from our busy schedule to be used by God. When we see a need, we need to look for ways to fill it.

My husband really does a wonderful job of serving. He could easily turn down all the individuals that come to him for help. But he does it with a willing heart. I love that about him. I picture God up in heaven smiling down on Titus, saying, "Yes! That's exactly why I created you. You're getting it! Keep on going!"

"God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you." Romans 14:17-18

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fighting Control

I am a control freak.

The first step is admitting it.

...But for the grace of God

One step at a time... One hour at a time... One day at a time

I can't handle it God, you take over

I like to be in control of everything. In a world where there is so much chaos feeling out of control is overwhelming.

For the past few months God has been revealing some things to me. The biggest thing I discovered came from a fictional novel I was reading. The main character had an anger problem and was seeing a counselor. I know I have heard this said before, but while I was reading, the words finally sunk in to my brain.

Anger always starts with a loss of control.

I began to think back to key points in my life when I've been angry and they all stem from some sort of control loss. God continued to speak to me through this book. The control I was so desperately trying to grab and hold on to, was it mine to take? Should I be in control of it?

Nobody likes to feel helpless. Our anger can often give us the fuel we need to get things done. But sometimes that fuel runs over into areas we don't want it. We start to grab for control in everything, in places we don't deserve it.

The feeling is like someone falling down into a dark hole where they begin to claw frantically at the walls around them. They would do anything to save their life. It is completely up to them. If they don't reach out and grab a hold of something, the inevitable outcome at the bottom is destruction.

I believe we are deceived into thinking we can actually save ourselves. No matter how many times I tell myself that God is the Savior, a deep dark place in me cries out that it's really on my shoulders. I'm the one with the power. So to give up complete control is impossible.

I am at war with myself.

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm." Ephesians 6:12-13

It's so easy to quote scripture. But how easy is it to apply it? How do I change my thinking?

In that same book I was reading, the counselor gave the client a miniature sand timer to carry with her. She assumed it was a time out. That when the sands stopped dropping she would have cooled off and been filled with calm.

That was incorrect.

The timer was given as a reminder for just how much control we really have. If we don't give our problem over to God, we have nothing.

We all have different layers and reasons why we seek control. And until we get to the bottom of it, we will always be clawing at the walls grabbing for anything to save our life.

I have been faced with an opportunity to practice giving up the control I desperately seek.

If you have met my son, Zechariah, you know he is rather small for his age. All of his life he has been little. When I was 8 months pregnant with him, they diagnosed him as having IUGR. (Intrauterine Growth Restriction) They said he was failing to thrive in the womb, and sent me over to the hospital to be induced. He was measuring very small. God gave us two more weeks.

Zechariah means, "God has remembered". With every scary situation, God has been in control of all that was going on.

When Zech was a year old, he was 30% below the growth chart. We stopped breast feeding and started whole milk, along with heavy whipping cream mixed in. He was on the diet of anything and everything. Whatever I could get him to eat, I was told to give it. If he wanted ice cream, he got it. He eventually made it onto the chart at 2 years old.

For the past 3 years Zechariah has maintained a spot between the 5th percentile and 3rd percentile. His measurements are those of an average 3 year old. He wears clothes for that size, and often gets mistaken for being that age.

Our current medical issue is Zech's growth. We had a 5 year checkup and we were referred to the hospital for an X-ray of his wrist. They wanted to find out if Zech's bones were the correct age, or if there was a delay. I was certain we were going to find out he's just small for his age, and everything would be okay.

I was very surprised to hear that his bones were behind. We now have an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist in a few weeks.

Today, Zech was referred to the hospital again for some blood work. He spent the morning fasting, and waiting to have 3 vials of blood taken from his tiny veins.

I know that God is in control, and He is not the least bit surprised at any of this.

Zech has always had trouble giving blood. When he was an infant he got a serious blood infection and was required to give blood weekly. Each time we would have to do it multiple times because he wouldn't bleed for them. This time I was pleased that up front the nurse noticed his vein was giving her trouble, and she didn't hesitate in asking for assistance BEFORE she stuck him.

3 different times his blood stopped flowing, and they were going to switch arms and veins. Each time I whispered a prayer in his ears, and as soon as I would call out the name Jesus, the blood would flow again. It brings tears to my eyes now, hours later.

There is so much power in Jesus name. I saw evidence of it today, this very morning. It didn't happen one time. It happened 3 different times. As soon as I called on Jesus name, the blood would flow. To a little boy, sitting on a chair, with a needle in his arm, trying to hold back the tears, that was HUGE.

It was confirmation to me that God is really in control. There is nothing I can do to fix this problem. I've tried all I can. I have to step back and let God work. No matter what the specialist says to us in a few weeks, I know that God has remembered Zechariah. He hasn't been buried under a pile of paperwork. God has his medical chart front and center. He knows exactly what Zech needs.

My job is to wait; to wait, and pray when I feel the worry creep back in. To trust that God is bigger than anything I have to deal with. I am holding onto the promises of God. When I was 12 weeks pregnant with Zechariah I started bleeding and thought I would miscarry. The placenta started to detach. God gave me this promise, and I have continued to hold onto it for all of Zech's life.

You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will protect you from illness. There will be no miscarriages or infertility in your land, and I will give you long, full lives." Exodus 23:25-26


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