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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

5th Annual Graduation Luau

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. 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!

We are very proud of our graduates this year! We have one going into kindergarten, and one starting high school! Where does the time go?

This year we started our evening with the ceremony. We wanted to make sure all the kids remained cleaned and polished for photos; a must for mom. We grilled Hawaiian Chicken for our after party. It was delicious!

Ariel and Gabriel led us in the elementary school song and pledge. You can see from the photo that it's been a little too long for Ariel.

Everyone's favorite part of the evening is the talent portion. All of the kids get the opportunity to share with us something special they learned from the past year.

 Zechariah started off by impressing us all with his Bible memory verses. Each time he does Bible study with Grandma; his homework is to work on a specific verse that goes along with the lesson. He excels at this!


He quoted for us:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
Luke 2:52

When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, then I will remember my promise with you and all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.
Genesis 9:14-15

My son, keep the teaching of your father, and don’t turn away from the teaching of your mother. Always hold it in your heart.
Proverbs 6:20-21

Gabriel tried to explain to us a new math concept he learned this year. Lattice Multiplication. He showed us a very large number, and gave us the answer after explaining how he got there. For most of us, this was over our heads. We smiled and applauded his words of wisdom, trusting he knew what he was talking about.

You can tell Gabriel really enjoys being in the limelight. He took as much time as we would let him. Towards the end of the school year, his class studied crayfish. We were all fortunate to hear his extended report on the inner workings of the crayfish.

Ariel played us a few short songs on her oboe. She has improved greatly over the last year, and promises that she will stick with this instrument next year too.

This year at school, Mikaela learned several different dances. She was kind enough to give us a couple dance lessons. We learned the Electric Slide and the Tush Push.

Once the talent part of the evening was complete, we did something new. I love new ideas! We all filled out a worksheet to put inside our school time capsule. We didn't share our answers out loud; we simply folded the paper up, and put our name on the outside. In the next few years we will be able to read our answers, and fill out new worksheets. It should be interesting to see how our lives progress and our knowledge expands.

The questions we answered:
What did you learn this year as a ... Student, Dad, or Mom?

What did you like best about your teacher?

What was the best thing your teacher taught you?

Most interesting project you did this school year?

What did you learn about yourself?

What miracle did God do for you this year?

How have you grown physically, spiritually, and mentally?
The last part of the ceremony is the presenting of certificates and diplomas. Each child receives a certificate for their participation of doing Bible study with Grandma. The diplomas focus on their completion of the grade they were in, and their special abilities.

Let it be known that Zechariah did an awesome job learning addition and subtraction, calculator skills, and excelling at winning games!

This certificate is presented to Gabriel for excellence in completion of the third grade with special interest in planetary science, for hitting 8000 in his number book, and winning 3rd place in the KidZone essay contest!
This award is presented to Ariel for outstanding achievement in completion of the sixth grade with gifted classes and the arts including drama, drawing, and oboe.

graduation luau

I present to you the Class of 2013!
graduation luau

Monday, May 27, 2013

Child Advocacy

My world is changing. It's expanding into something beautiful. My heart is flooding with emotion that I cannot put words to. I have wanted to share about the past month of my life, but every time I try the words don't come. I am overwhelmed by the feelings I've been having. God has been tapping on my heart. Although some days it has felt more like a hammer driving in the nails.

I'm going to attempt to tell you about this life-changing decision I have made. My words may fail me, but I want to try. My heart is overflowing with emotion. I am filled with love, but at the same time I am filled with pain. I am only one person, and I can only do so much. I cannot save all the little children of the world. But Jesus can. He knows them all by name. He knows when they are hurting, and He knows when they are rejoicing. He walks along beside every single one of them. Where I can't go, He does.

In the past month, our family has expanded by 3. That's a pretty big jump, you might think, but it still doesn't feel like it's enough. Will it ever be?

For two years now, I have wanted to sponsor a child through World Vision. I attended a ladies conference a couple years ago, and witnessed a very powerful friendship. God brought together child and sponsor. Neither were ever the same again. I wanted what that woman had, but I was afraid.

Afraid of the commitment. Afraid of the money. Afraid of the relationship.

Isn't it weird how we can be afraid of something we want so badly?

I put it off, and pushed it to the back of my mind. We give money to church. I don't have to do everything. I don't need to give away it all, do I? It seemed there was no room for extra. Or so my heart told me.

Every Christmas I receive a World Vision catalog showing me all the animals and gifts I could buy for families in other countries. I wanted to help. I really did. But other things came up. And I didn't give. I went to Mexico and gave to some other very special children. God is always leading me somewhere, to someone.

If you've been around for awhile, you know my heart has been with the elementary age kids at my church. I teach four times a month; two Sunday's and two Wednesday's. These children have been my treasure. My resources and time have gone into building relationships. I know that God has called me to work with children. Whenever I think of the kids, my heart swells up and tears begin to fall. God has put a heart for kids in me that will never grow hard. I love children, and I want to make a difference in their lives. If I could, I would spend every week with the kids. When it's time for a break, a part of me is always wishing I could be with them instead. But I know in order to be an effective minister, I must first take care of myself. My pitcher must be full.

April 21st was Compassion Sunday. A woman in our church stood up and spoke about Compassion International. If you've been to many Christian concerts you've probably encountered one or two speeches for this sponsorship program. For $38 a month, you can provide a child in another country with education, healthcare, nutrition, and regular Christian training.

I wasn't in the service that day; I was in the classroom with the kids. But I saw the table after the service. Several people crowded around, looking at the faces of the children needing a sponsor. The excitement was contagious. They were adopting children into their families and life. I wanted that too.

In response to the Great Commission, Compassion International exists as an advocate (ad·vo·ca·cy: noun, To take action for another.) for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries.

I no longer was at a place in my life where I could put it off or say no. This was promised to be a year of stretching for me.

I didn't sign up that day. I have always felt a pull towards World Vision, a similar program to Compassion. One of the biggest differences between World Vision and Compassion is how the money is distributed. World Vision places a larger emphasis on changing the community, not just the child. When you give to Compassion, your money goes all to a specific child. World Vision is done on a larger scale too. They reach approximately 100 million children in 100 countries. I believe both programs have their advantages, and it was very difficult to choose which would capture my heart. Honestly, both did. I wanted to have an affect on an entire community, and I wanted to change a child's life.

Both things are possible, with both programs. It took a lot of prayer to make a decision. For my first child sponsorship, I went with World Vision. That is where I first developed those feelings of wanting to make a difference. To be used to change lives.

It took me a week of browsing faces before I would make a final commitment. I looked for children who shared Ariel's birthday, then Gabriel's, then Zech's. I couldn't decide. I searched for children that shared my kid's names. I wanted some kind of connection. I needed confirmation that I was choosing the right child for our family. It needed to be a perfect "God" fit.

On May 9th, we welcomed a nine year old girl, Aberu, into our family. I know this is not an adoption by most people's standards, but to me, I was agreeing to bring her into my heart, just as I would a child of my own. I wish I could share a photo of Aberu with you, but I'm not allowed. She is absolutely beautiful! She lives in an area of Ethiopia where Jesus is not allowed. For security reasons I am not allowed to share her picture over the internet. But that won't stop me from sharing it in my home!

Aberu represents to me each of my children. She is a girl like Ariel. Aberu is the same age as Gabriel, and she shares a birthday with Zechariah. As soon as her face appeared on my computer screen, I knew she was the "God" fit. I couldn't stop the tears from streaming. I felt like a proud mother, holding her baby for the first time.

I know I may never meet Aberu, but she has a very special place in my heart. She is my first "adopted" child.

God is softening my heart. I am opening my life to new possibilities. Our family is growing. We are no longer a family of five. We are now eight. My heart has continually been pulled in the direction of these child sponsorship programs. I felt God was drawing me to help other children. My family has now adopted one World Vision child, and two Compassion children. We now have Aberu and Yeabsira from Ethiopia. And we recently were given Meyli, from Peru.

compassion international
5 years old

compassion international
3 years old

All three children have captured my heart. I cannot wait to see how God works in these relationships. My heart is brimming with love for these children. My thoughts and prayers are with them constantly.

For the past several months I have had this Bible verse stuck to my bathroom mirror. God was preparing my heart months before I took this step of faith. I am so excited to see what good things God has planned for me and my family, all 6 of my children!

"Seek justice,encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” — Isaiah 1:17

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fried Rice

The most generous treat for our family would be dinner at Kiku Steakhouse of Japan. Our kids love the food and atmosphere! All meals are prepared before your eyes on the hibachi grill which makes a fun evening all around. The prices are a little bit higher than we normally spend on dining out, so we usually go but once a year.

Fried rice comes with every meal, and tastes phenomenal. Our kids have requested on many occasions that we try to make our own version for dinner. Over the past few months, my husband has perfected his recipe. I bought him a wok for his birthday and a rice cooker for Valentine's Day. We now have Kiku's rice in our own home almost every week. It makes a great quick lunch on Saturdays, or a fast dinner on weeknights when we haven't much time to spare. There are never leftovers, and every child consumes their entire plateful!

I don't have an exact recipe to share with you, as my husband doesn't measure out his ingredients. Each time it comes out a little different in flavor, but the end result is always delicious!

fried rice

I start by cooking the rice. We have a rice cooker that does all the work for us. All we do is add rice and water. When we make this as a meal, we normally will do about 3 cups of uncooked rice. I'm not sure how many cups of cooked rice it will end up. It's plenty for our family of five. The rice takes the longest to cook and should be finished before you start frying.

Once the rice is cooked, in your wok, you add a few tablespoons of oil, and a chopped onion. We fry the onion on high until soft or lightly browned.

Add three eggs, and fry. Our ratio is 1 egg to 1 cup of uncooked rice.

Add rice. When we add the spices and soy sauce, we turn it down to a low heat in order to keep it from burning.

We're going to add a few spices now. I don't have exact measurements here. We sprinkle until there is a generous layer covering the top of the rice. We layer each spice, starting with salt. Then we add pepper, ginger, and a final layer of sesame seeds. Mix well.

Our last step is adding the soy sauce, the most crucial ingredient. We add a generous helping of soy sauce. I wish I could give you an exact amount, but it changes every time. Notice we do not fully saturate all the rice. It would be quite salty if we did. Play with it a little and see how much you like.

Once the soy sauce is added, we fry the rice for a little longer, once again on high. We do this for a few minutes, no longer than five minutes. My kids don't like it very crispy, but that's their personal preference.

fried rice

We love to eat this as a meal, but it also is great as a side dish! To make it more substantial consider frying some shrimp, chicken, or vegetables. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cherished Memories

Sunday morning I awoke to the house full of bustling activity. Children were actively preparing for my arrival. I was being treated to breakfast and gifts. As I donned my fuzzy pink bathrobe, I was bombarded with excited children. You'd think it was Christmas morning and they were receiving the gifts.

My first gift was from Gabriel. He made me a yellow and green tile that reads, "Happy Mother's Day."

My second gift came wrapped up in a Sesame Street birthday bag. I found a small piece of paper hiding inside. It showed a cake, along with a drawing of me and Zechariah.

My favorite part of my gift from Zech was the dried flowers I received. Once upon a time they were alive, I'm sure. But after sitting under my son's bed for the last week, the leaves dried out. Zech communicated that they were my flowers and I must put them in water quickly before they die. I found the flowers to be some of the most beautiful I had ever seen.

These are the cherished memories of motherhood. The sweetly chosen flowers that came from the outside bush in the backyard.

My third and final gift was from my daughter. She woke up very early to bake some sour cream coffee cake, a specialty of hers. Ariel also spent a lot of time sketching a masterpiece. No longer are they stick figures, and childlike drawings. My daughter is showing the talent of an artist. Each year she surprises me with a new drawing of flowers.

God took the fragrance of a flower...
The majesty of a tree...
The gentleness of morning dew...
The calm of a quiet sea...
The beauty of the twilight hour...
The soul of a starry night...
The laughter of a rippling brook...
The grace of a bird in flight...
Then God fashioned from these things
A creation like no other,
And when his masterpiece was through
He called it simply – Mother
- Herbert Farnham -

fabric flower mother's day It was my week to be in KidZone at church with the elementary age children. I was given the opportunity to come up with a card for the kids to bestow upon their mothers. Gabriel fashioned this one for me.

My favorite responses from the kids were, "Mom, you are pretty exciting." and another little boy who doesn't quite know how to spell requested I write on his card, "pretty". I was particularly touched by my son's note. It read, "Dear Mom thank you for teaching me about God."

It's the simple, sweet things that make life worth living!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.” -Philippians 4:8-

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What You Don't Want to Hear

The weather has been beautiful the past few days. Zech and I have been very busy outside going lots of places to enjoy the warmth. We've had a few picnics, we've spent a day at the lake playing in the sand, we've played at the playground; the fun hasn't stopped.

what you don't want to hear from kids
"Those who bring SUNSHINE to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."
-James Matthew Barrie

We were having a laid back day with not much going on. We popped some popcorn and put on a movie. As I was sitting next to Zech on the couch, he smiled sweetly at me, and I was expecting his normal words of love. Instead, he reported to me, "You have a big belly."

I choked out, "I do not!"

He gazed back at me with a patronizing look on his face, nodded his head while patting my belly gently, and said, "Yeah. You kinda do in that dress."


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