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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Double duty

As I posted earlier, I decided that this year I was going to do a bunch of handmade gifts this year for Christmas. We did not solely make gifts, but I did considerably reduce the number of "Made in China" tags that were going to be brought into our home. Part of my motivation for this was to be frugal, and part was to avoid the endless clutter that always happens at Christmas.

I will be posting some of the gifts that I made here, and this is the first of those posts. I have been having difficulty lately in teaching my young boys the need for modesty when getting out of the bath. They like to get out of the tub, dry off in the towel, leave the towel on the floor, and then come out and ask me questions before going to their room and putting on their PJ's. Now I realize that as a parent I can continually tell them not to do that, and I can explain why, and I can even apply a consequence if they disobey, however I don't think in this case a consequence is needed. Instead I asked myself what tools I could give them to help them to remember.

So to both fulfill that need as well as my need to reduce waste, and clutter I decided that I would make them each a bath robe. Now because they are so close in age I aim to keep gifts similar or identical wherever possible. So I purchased red flannel and cream bias tape for both robes. I used a scrap piece of the flannel to try my hand at machine embroidery, which I failed at doing. So to distinguish one from the other I used the remains of some gold puff paint that was leftover from a previous project. Here are the results, and they are a hit with the children. They keep them hung up on the bathroom door so they are always convenient when they get out of the bath.

What do you think? Both functional and fun? These were a bit tricky in spots, but the came out well I think.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time well spent

Long after this year is gone, after my children are grown and have families of their own, long after our home is empty and far too quiet I hope my children will remember the times like this. The times when all the housework was moved aside, and all my time was devoted to enjoying their childhood.

This Christmas my children were given a rather large Knex set, a 675 piece, battery operated roller coaster set to be exact. The day after Christmas, after Twiggles was put to bed for the night the big boys and I sat down and spent 3 hours assembling the roller coaster, we finished just after daddy got home from work. Once it was assembled it was of course time to turn it on and see if it ran, it took us three test runs to get it to run all the way through, but once we did it ran smoothly and without fail.

The boys were thrilled to see it run, and they were so pleased with all the hard work. It is official, my little boys are growing up! I can remember times when it was difficult to get them to sit still for 15 minutes let alone 3 whole hours, and now they happily sit still working hard to decode the directions and get those pieces snapped in just so.

I treasure these moments with my children, because I know that all too soon they will be gone and my handsome little boys will be big, busy teenagers, and before I know it they will be men with wives and children of their own. I hope there will still be time for Mom even when they are grown boys, but before all of that I know that there is still time to make plenty more memories with my children. I only wish I could keep them small forever, I love to watch the innocent joy in their faces, and I don't ever want that look to fade.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I just wanted to say

Merry Christmas to all my blog buddies! I want you all to know how special you are to me, and that I look forward to catching up with all of you after the Christmas rush is over. I am currently rushing to finish last minute details, get cookies ready for Hubby to take to work (which is a pain because of all the rules and stipulations placed on them), and trying ever so unsuccessfully to hide myself away until Christmas is over because this time of year I really start to not enjoy people very much.

So to all of you lovely people whom I treasure, even at Christmas, I say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent week 3

We are still working through our advent chain a day at a time, each day reading from the Bible and doing a craft or activity related to the reading.

Day 11: We talked about Jesus being presented with his name in the Temple, and so I gave each child a page with Jesus printed on it and they were set to work decorating his name in any way they'd like. Each child chose what they wanted to use for decorating and got right to work.

Day 12: We talked about the wise men using the star to find baby Jesus and after we decorated patterned star ornaments to hang on the tree.

Day 13: We made cookie gifts to give to others, sorry I don't have pictures of them. We baked a few simple Christmas cookies and put them in little tins from the dollar store, with red and green napkins. Each of my big boys took cookies to their Cub Scout den leaders, and Biga Boy gave cookies to the other boys in his den as well.

Day 14: The boys decorated some large sheets of paper to make their own wrapping paper. We will use this paper later.

Day 15: The boys used the wrapping paper that they made to "wrap" the gift they bought for daddy.

Day 16: The boys made Christmas cards for some of our family, they will give them the cards on Christmas day when we go to my Daddy's for Christmas dinner. I forgot to photograph these, I'll have to get the pictures later and add them, if I can manage to remember.

Day 17: They added some glitter decorations to their Christmas Stockings, making them uniquely their own.

Day 18: We did marble painting on paper Christmas trees. The marble painting makes a very unique design and it was quite fun.

Day 19: We had planned to make Styrofoam Christmas Ornaments, but I discovered I didn't have the supplies, so we will make these later. I'll visit the craft store later this week and pick up the materials.

Day 20: Make Christmas Cookies to share, we've been doing lots of that lately, and oddly I've not been able to remember to take pictures of the cookies before we've given them away. So you'll just have to trust me that we've been making them! :)

Sorry this update is so long, life got a little crazy and I forgot to make the update. I hope you are enjoying our pictures and activities as much as we are! After Christmas I will post a final update with our last 5 days of activities, give you something to look forward to.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I finally put up the tree.

This year with Twiggles being so little and considerably more curious than either of my other two children ever were at this age Hubby and I decided that we would put up our tree the week before Christmas to both save our sanity and protect Mr. Curiosity. So we pulled out all the Christmas decorations the week after Thanksgiving and we decorated the house in places Twiggles couldn't reach (which for being only 2.5 feet tall is most of the house). I had suspected that our several year old artificial, pre-lit tree was broken but couldn't be sure until I removed it from the storage closet. It was in fact broken.

So, Hubby and I began the tree debate...another skimpy, wimpy looking artificial, as unless you are willing as I am not to spend well over 150.00 on a tree they all look pitiful, or should we purchase for the first time ever a real cut Christmas tree? Well, we debated the merits of both, the real tree smelling so fragrant, having such full branches, being even more sturdy because of the wide base of the stand. The artificial being cheaper as it's reusable, not being able to do nearly as much damage should it be pulled or knocked over by the aforementioned Twiggles, oh and a fake tree being much easier to clean up after as well. In the end my frugal side won out and we decided to purchase an artificial tree.

Yesterday I went with a neighbor friend (whom I just recently met) to search out a tree, I saw a tree that was similiar to what I had previously (6 foot tall, slender, skimpy, and wimpy, with a weak base) for 67.00 and I was not impressed, nor was I willing to pay that much for so little. At the next store we visited, which I love their deals usually, I found a lovely tree with more round branches, and fuller, less wimpy, 6.5 feet tall, and flocked tips (which was different than our usual tree) however when I got to the counter to pay for it I discovered that it was not in fact included in the sale that was advertised in the same department as the tree, and being frugal I was not willing to pay 80.00 for a tree! Off we went to another store, where I was disappointed to see the trees looking so cheap, and yup you guessed it wimpy, I didn't even bother checking prices.

In desperation I called my husband and asked him if a real tree would be OK this year as I could not find a fake one that I liked. He said a real one would be fine if I wasn't able to find an artificial. Well, before I gave up I thought I would go and check out one of the newer local Goodwill stores. When we got inside I saw only one tree and it was probably 9 or 10 feet tall and would NEVER fit inside my little apartment. Then my friend suggested we check the back of the store near housewares. We did in fact find a few trees there, the first one to catch my eye was a nice little tree, it was about 6 foot, a little on the skinny side, but it did have very full branches and it was pre-lit, I checked the price tag 39.99 a very reasonable price for a tree.

Then, from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a bigger tree and I had to go and look. It was splendid, it was 6.5 feet tall, the branches were very full and "fluffy" looking, the tree looked like a real tree, it was round, and tree shaped, and the branches covered the center "stem" oh it was perfect in every way, then I looked inside the tree and discovered that it was not of the new cheap hinged style where you just shake it all loose, but rather it was individual branched that must be slid into place one by one! I caught my breath this tree was so beautiful, and I had to have it. I checked the price tag, only 39.99, the same price as the pre-lit skinny tree, this was going to be my tree, so I asked my friend to wait right there by the tree while I go and get an employee "don't let anyone take my tree" I begged her. I went to the front and had someone paged, he came and put my name on the tree, it was mine! Now all I needed to do was pay for it and then get some lights to put on it and take it home to be decorated!

I paid for my tree, picked it up in the back and then headed off to another store to find lights (Goodwill only had clear lights and I prefer colored lights), I found lights and they were on sale, but I wasn't sure how many I would need. I picked up 4 boxes of 100 count multi lights and headed home with my beautiful tree!

Just like in my home growing up the boys and I put the tree together, placing each color coded branch in it's respective slot, all the way to the top when Hubby put the top of the tree on. Then I lit the strands of lights to test them and be sure the twinkler bulbs were working (yup, I also must have twinkle lights) and he would wind them around the tree. After working only the second strand on the tree Hubby says "we're gonna need more lights, Jess" so off to the store I go. I purchased 4 more boxes of 100 count multi lights and back home I went.

All in all it took 700 itty, bitty, multi-colored, twinkling bulbs of joy to light up our New To Us Christmas tree. After lights of course comes decorations, and boy does our tree have that! I am still not convinced that there are enough decorations on the tree, as I really love a well decorated tree, but there are lots of shiny glass balls, sparkling snowflakes, shimmering drums, bright tin stars, swirly candy canes, lovey plaid shapes, and some other assorted decorations on the tree. I am currently trying to decide if it needs more ornaments, or nice red bows on it's tips, or if it needs "Angel's Hair" (which Hubby has threatened to dispose of the tree if I put on that Dreadful Stuff as he calls it).

So without further adieu I present to you the Birbitt Family Christmas Tree, lovingly decorated by Birbitt, Hubby, Pumpkin Noodle, Bigga Boy, and Twiggles!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Surprise!

While we were out trying to get some good pictures of our Christmas decorations I looked over beside me and what did I find?

I couldn't believe that I actually caught a picture of it sitting still! I have never before seen one sit still! Now tell me, where else but Arizona can you see a hummingbird in December! Living in the desert definitely has it's advantages. I love being able to see my most favorite bird in all the world year-round.

Advent Update

As promised here is an update on our Advent chain journey. So far this has been a great adventure for the family. Even little baby L gets in on it sometimes, when it's not too difficult, but most days we do our crafting at his nap time, or after he's gone to bed for the night.

Day 5 we created a "Making Straight Paths booklet" to symbolize our sinful ways, walking our own path, then inside a straight road to symbolize our following Jesus, a heart for his love, and a cross for our salvation through his death. The Picture shows both books, one is closed and one is open.

Day 6 was supposed to be Writing the family Christmas Letter, but we don't do that (mostly because I rarely remember to send out more than a few Christmas cards), so instead we used a foam craft kit and made photo ornaments. S chose to create himself in a snowglobe, and B chose a Christmas Tree.

Day 7 was a candle craft (Jesus is the light!), well I have a problem with giving my 6 and 7 year old children candles (can we say fire hazard?) so I purchased a couple of LED tealights that are battery powered and we put those inside a baby food jar (empty of course) and wrapped it in tissue paper. It makes a beautiful light next to our nativity set!

Day 8 we read about Mary and we made a little nativity craft, sorry no pictures of this one as it was edible. We put peanut butter on a slice of bread and used pretzel sticks to make a "house" shape on the bread, then we put marshmallows and raisins for the people.

Day 9 was about the Shepherds learning of Jesus' birth so our craft was a lamb. For this one we Painted their hands black and put the print on paper, then they used their fingers to paint white paint over the black to make the body of the sheep. All three of them did this one, though little L needed quite a bit of help. L's is on Orange, S's is on Yellow, and B's is on green. :) I love them!

Today is Day 10 of our chain and we will be making a candy cane, from either peppermint scented paint or peppermint scented clay, I've not decided yet. However this one will be done later after the baby goes to bed.

I hope you enjoy our Advent Adventures and don't forget to check out Hubbard's Cupboard for the complete Advent Chain we are using!

Remember that even though we don't Celebrate Christmas on the actual day of Jesus' birth, and that some of the traditions are pagan in origin, the real reason for the season of Christmas is to Celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

"He came from Heaven to Earth to show the way, from the Earth to the cross my debt to pay, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your name on HIGH!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Christmas Cookie Favorite

This is a cookie recipe that I just LOVE, and it's so simple and quick to make. They are lower in fat than most cookie recipes because they include no butter, and yet the cookie doesn't stick to the pan. My children love them, my hubby loves them, I love them, and I don't feel guilty serving them up for breakfast. I will reproduce the recipe here for you if you'd like to try them. They are a soft cookie, not chewy, just soft, and are best eaten within a day or two of making because they get sticky after that.

Fruit Cocktail Cookies

1 can (2 cups) of fruit cocktail in SYRUP (this is important), drained but RESERVE the syrup
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 egg
2 Cups flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts (optional, but very nice for a little texture contrast)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cream the Sugars, and egg together until the mixture lightens in color.
Add the fruit cocktail (I like to halve the grapes) and mix well
Then in a ziploc bag mix the dry ingredients together
Alternate adding the dry mix, and the reserved syrup until all combined
Stir in walnuts

Drop by teaspoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes until golden in color.

I hope you enjoy this cookie recipe from my past as much as I enjoy it in the present. Really if you are a parent who doesn't mind sweets for breakfast ( I don't on occasion) this is a fairly healthy start, it's got fruit, nuts (protein), and considering that it makes 36 or so cookies, not a whole lot of sugar.

You could also add raisins, marachino cherries, different nuts, or dried cranberries. I like these cookies with pecans as well if you can get them for a reasonable price, but I don't recommend almonds, the flavor doesn't quite work.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Memories of Christmases past...

I have so many Christmas memories as a child, so very, very, many, far more memories than one blog can possibly hold. I have memories of decorating the trees, yes trees, we had two every year. I remember that each year tree decorating was done on the Friday after Thanksgiving because Daddy would be home, often working a double shift on Thanksgiving, he would always have Friday off. So Friday morning Mommy would get up and make breakfast for us all, and then Daddy would bring out the Christmas Tapes (yes you read correctly I said Tapes, as in cassette tapes), out would come the containers full of decorations, and the organized chaos would begin.

First Mommy and Daddy would unravel each strand of lights and plug them in to check every bulb, while I was busily separating decorations according to the room they would be put up in. Then Daddy alone would put each and every strand of lights up on the tree, and then while Daddy had another cup of coffee Mommy and I would put ornaments on the bottom 2/3 of the tree. Daddy would then put up the smallest ornaments on the top of the tree and add the star. Then we would all put the angel hair on the tree, and I would put the Skirt around the bottom.

After, while I was tacking up my stockings, and carefully unwrapping our fitz and floyd reindeer candle holders to place on the table Mommy and Daddy would put up the other indoor decorations that were high up and needed a ladder.

This was Black Friday for us every.single.year. That is what I remember, and I cherish those memories so very much. I can only hope that someday my children will look back on our Christmas traditions with as much fondness, and joy as I do my own Christmas memories.

I thought I would share a few pictures with you all, I hope the quality is ok, these were scanned into my computer from hard copies, because I was born before digital imaging existed, yes I know that is a scary thought, but none the less it's true.

This one is Christmas 1985 - I was 3 and this picture was the next to last Christmas we celebrated in this house. It was small, had very little space, and was directly across the street from a cemetery.

This one is from 1988 - I was 6 and this was our second Christmas in the larger house. The house needed a lot of fixing up, and over the years it changed greatly, but we loved this house.

These two are both from 1989 - I was 7, and this is one of the few pictures we ever took of the second tree. The first picture is the living room, before we removed the sliding glass doors, and added insulation, hence the kerosene heater to keep us toasty warm.

The second picture is 'den' where the main entrance of the house is, and the reflection next to the tree is not a mirror, it is a window a very large and drafty window. This room was my bedroom for a time while Daddy remodeled my own bedroom and I can tell you I was thankful to get my room back, this one was drafty, and unpleasant until it was remodeled. Also I really disliked the hard floor, as there was no padding under that terribly ugly carpet. It was however prettier than the wood flooring in the rest of the house, that had all been painted a very unsavory shade of brown. :(

This picture is from 1991 - I was 9, and this is the only picture I could find of me actually opening the presents (that was mostly kept on VHS), notice my Daddy's system for opening presents. I always had a blanket to sit on, because the floor was cold, and there was always a trash bag next to me for putting my wrappings in. Mommy always sat in her chair and handed out the gifts, Daddy was usually on the sofa, except here he was taking the picture, and Christmas music was always playing in the background.

You'll notice that the tree looks very similar from year to year, but it was always a beautiful tree, and it always sat in the same corner of the living room. You'll notice in the back of the tree in 1991 that there is a table with a train set, that train set was Daddy's project each year and each year it got more and more detailed, one year he even added a skating pond that looked just like real ice. The memories I can remember, I could fill all of blogland with all my memories, but I just wanted to share a few with you all.

Our memories are ours forever, no one can ever take them away from us, and most of mine fill me with joy. I hope you too have joyful memories of childhood traditions, and the beauty that always seemed to fill your homes from year to year.

Happy Remembering blogland...

A Book Review

It's no secret that I love music, I mean I really, really, LOVE music. Some of my favorite songs are hymns, I just love the sound of them, and the words are so honest and uplifting. I also LOVE to read, as I'm sure you all know. So you can imagine my joy when I was offered the opportunity to review a book all about hymns, hymns for Christmas, hymns for Easter, and Hymns for everyday!
Ok, so without further ado let me tell you a bit about Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan. The cover is so beautiful, it just begs to be opened up and read. I especially love the Treble Clef on the front cover. The book is printed on nice thick paper, with a jagged, torn edge look.

The content is wonderful! Each two page spread has the music for the hymn on one page, and a write up of the story behind the song on the second page. It's a real eye opener! There is so much more to my old favorite hymns than I ever would have thought. So many of these songs were written during times of trial, tragedy, hardship, or loss for the authors, and they turned their troubles into something beautiful to be treasured for years and years to come! I opened the book late in the evening with the intent of just browsing through it to see what was in store for me when I began reading it the next day. I ended up staying up into the wee hours of the morning reading half the book in one sitting, I just could not put it down! I was enjoying each and every story behind the hymns, even hymns I myself had never heard before had such fascinating tales to tell, and I just could not resist reading "just one more page". When I did finally put it down I went to bed dreaming of what I would find in the pages the next day. The book is roughly 300 pages and I read the entire book in just two sittings! There was just no putting it down. I found this book to be even more engaging than many of the suspense and mystery novels I enjoy. The best part is that unlike the mystery novels, I was learning something about songs, but even more than that I was learning that sometimes my problems aren't so big after all, and that if these people could be joyful during their hardships, then I could certainly put a smile on my face even in the hard times. This book was both educational, and uplifting, and it is for sure going up on my shelf to be read again! That is the highest compliment a book can get in this house, to be made a part of the permanent collection.

Disclaimer - I was provided a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my review on the product.

We decided to try something new this year

Normally, each Christmas season is filled with a little Christmas baking, lots of Christmas reading, and lots of Christmas Crafts. In the past I have always just picked up lots of books at the local library as well as from our own home library, and as for the crafts well let's just say Google is my best friend. :)

This year a cyber-friend posted some great Christmas links on a favorite Homeschooling forum of mine. I visited the links and found one that really stood out from the others, what I found among the long list of Christmas links was a real treasure. The link was for a treasury of Christmas activities, crafts, readings, and the best part was the it was all centered around the real reason for the Christmas season - The birth of Jesus! So hubby and I fast got to work rewriting the bible verses given to match our KJV Bibles ( I just LOVE the language and poetry of the KJV), and then we printed the pages, cut them apart, glued them into some colored construction paper, and assembled them as a paper chain all per the directions.

Now each day the children pull one link from the chain, I read the Scripture quote on the page, Daddy reads the Bible passage (On days when there is no Bible passage but rather a story I will read the story and Daddy will read the Scripture Quote), and then we all sit down as a family to make the craft or do the activity.

Day 1 of our Advent chain our activity was to set up our Nativity set, which we did of course, but then we also decided to go one step farther and paint a Nativity Scene on our windows for all to see!

Day 2 we made lovely paper angels with tissue paper wings. The boys particularly enjoyed using the glitter!

My purple angel got cut off the photo a bit, but I'm sure you'll forgive me, as I was taking the image blindly because my camera was stepped on and broken (that's a whole 'nother post). Hubby made the orange angel, S made the red one, and B made the blue one, L opted out of the angel making but that large puddle of paint beneath the angels is his creation.

Day 3 we made a second angel craft, this time we made hand and footprint angels, of which I don't have photos, but trust me they are adorable! What a keepsake those are because they are a part of my precious children.

Day 4 (yesterday) we created Whisper Tubes to help us celebrate the joy of the season.

I apologize for the blurriness of the last picture, again because of the broken camera we were taking pictures with one of our MP3 Players and obviously the quality is considerably lower. Again L decided that he would not participate in this activity but rest assured that we are including the dear boy as much as he will willingly allow. While we all were doing this activity he decided that he would try and eat a couple pom pom's, a perfectly acceptable food group for a 17 month old!

Today we have not yet done our advent activity of the day, but I will update you if not daily then at least once a week with what we have read and done for our Advent Chain. I have to say they boys are enjoying their crafts, I am enjoying the crafts, and we all look forward to the scripture reading each day. I think this is the best advent project yet! I suppose after the holidays I'll have to get to work writing my own advent chain for next year with all new crafts and activities, or maybe we'll just do the same one and simply make different crafts, who knows?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Time for

Christmas Cookies! Yes my friends it is that time of year, the time of year that I longling wish for a bigger kitchen with more space to store the delicious little morsels that I've been making since I was about 7 years old (probably earlier but I don't remember those early years much).

Long before I had a family of my own, back before I had children of my own, before my parents separated and divorced, back when my little world was perfect Mother and I would begin our Christmas baking the day after Thanksgiving. We spend Thanksgiving with friends because Daddy was always working, but we would leave supper just in time to drive to Daddy's work and watch him light up his Christmas tree! Then Black Friday when all the world was shopping, Mommy and I would put on our aprons, tie them up tight, drag out all the bins and containers and tins that would hold our supplies and our creations, pull out the pans and racks and bowls and spoons, rifle the cabinets to find all the sprinkes, and piping tips, and decorations, fill the sink with hot soapy water for washing, and clear the giant kitchen table to begin our holiday baking.

We would pull out the recipe file and remove every cookie recipe we had and sort them into 3 piles: cookies that bake at 350, cookies that bake at 375, and cookies that bake at 400. This was important because each day the cookies we made would all bake at the same temperature! Black Friday was never a school day so that meant that we would have time for at least 3 batches of cookies (usually 4 or 5), beginning with Friday Mommy and I would make at least one batch of cookies every.single.day!

Living in Pennsylvania had it's advantages, being so cold that time of year meant that we could package our cookies neatly in those large popcorn tins and store them in the garage because the cold air would keep the cookies fresh and delicious as the day they came out of the oven. It also kept them neat and orderly for packaging into smaller tins and baskets to give to teachers, friends, neighbors, and others who so kindly serve us throughout the year (bank tellers, our mailman, our garbage man).

Each year my boys and I make some cookies, no where near the quantity Mommy and I did, but we do bake. I do not make the same quantity of cookies as my mother for several reasons but the number one reason is lack of space. I do not have storage space for 10-20 large popcorn tins full of cookies, and I do not have the space to lay out my ingredients and such the way I am used to doing it.

You see, I learned my baking procedures from my Mother and this is how we do it:
Step 1: Read your recipe(s) and make a list of all ingredients you will need
Step 2: Check your cabinets for the ingredients and make a list of all ingredients you will need to buy
Step 3: Shop for ingredients, buying in large bulk quantities wherever possible because we will use it all!
Step 4: Choose which recipe(s) will be made today
Step 5: Lay each ingredient (in it's jar, box, bag, or can) neatly along the back side of the Kitchen Table (This often meant two rows depending on the cookie)
Step 6: Follow the recipe to make first batch of cookies
Step 7: While the first cookies are baking wash dishes from the first cookies
Step 8: Take cookies from the oven and transfer to racks to cool
Step 9: Repeat steps 6 - 8 as many times as you have recipes to make for the day
Step 10: Clean up and put everything away

Living in an apartment does not afford much space and so because I am unable to lay out my ingredients as I was taught from just a little girl I feel stressed and frazzled when I bake because my organization is not there. We do bake, but I tend to stick to the simpler recipes that require few ingredients and that I can get done in a short period of time, spending hours baking in the kitchen is just not an option because of lack of space. I can certainly tell you that the very first year we spend in a home large enough to allow me to bake as I was taught will be a year we all gain 20 pounds eating all the goodies I'm sure to go crazy making!

Mother and I made so many cookies that often we were eating them well into February or March, some of the cookies we made I'd never seen before or since, but they were all delicious! Somehow we never really got pictures while we had everything out baking, but I will dig a bit and see if I can't find a few pictures of the chaos that was holiday baking. I do have all the old photo albums so I'll go through and see if I can't find a few good shots to share (provided my computer will cooperate with my scanner because the photos are of course back in the age of *gasp* 35mm FILM *oh the horror of it all*)

Birbitt thinks that the best part of the Christmas season is sharing the Joy of Christ and the family memories and traditions that make the holidays special for each person in a different way! Won't you all share some of your favorite holiday traditions (you can share here or on your own blog, I'll find it!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I talked them into it!

After much begging and pleading with my oldest boys I have talked them into allowing me to share two of their drawings. They went through the numerous drawings that they created both yesterday and today and each chose the two they consider to be their best. So I will now share them with you! I am hoping that the images are large enough for you to see clearly, or that they are clickable so you can make them larger. I am not the resident techie in this house! Enjoy the drawings!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wonderful Weather For...

A trip to the zoo! We woke up this morning all in a good mood and with the boys have plenty of energy to spare. I decided that instead of staying home and doing a few lessons and playing outside that we'd pack some snacks and head off to the zoo after an early lunch. I forgot the camera but no matter we have a membership so we'll go back again soon.

Our zoo just recently got Koalas! Because they are new there is a zoo volunteer/employee at the exhibit to answer questions and such about the animals. Our Koala's won't be staying on exhibit permanently as our desert climate is too hot for them, so we will have them until the end of March. We learned quite a bit about them, for starters Koala's are not a fierce animal, they are also not social animals. There weren't many people there and so the lady took quite a bit of time talking to the boys about the Koalas, answering all their questions, and even telling them some things they didn't think to ask. As we were leaving the exhibit she commented to me about how attentive the boys were and what school did they attend? When I said we homeschool she said "Oh, that must be it then, I've been talking to school groups all week and none of them listen like your boys! You must be so proud of them!" I thanked her for her nice comments and off we went.

Even little baby L was intently watching the animals. He even skipped his nap in favor of watching the animals and enjoying the excitement. The only time I heard a single peep out of L was when we rode the Carousel. He really did not like that at all, so we'll not be trying it again for a while!

We really had a lovely afternoon, as once the school groups cleared out around 1:30 we had the zoo practicaly to ourselves! There are few people there on a weekday once school groups leave, and it's nice to be able to get so up close and personal with the animals. We enjoyed the lions as they laid in the sun (usually in the summer they hide in the shade, out of the heat), we watched as the otters played in the pool and begged a nearby guest for popcorn (the animals are not supposed to be fed, but the occasional treat sometimes sneaks in), we laughed as baboons chased each other around and ate bark from the branches in their exhibit, we talked about how fast a cheetah can run, and why they have the color they do, we smiled as the elephants ate grass and the boys discussed how they never knew what elephants ate until they saw them today.

When we got to the children's petting area I thought for sure L would be scared of the larger goats, but he didn't utter a single peep, he just walked away when the larger nubian goats came near, but he would happily walk up to one of the smaller pygmy goats and pet it. He wasn't afraid of the sheep, but he had no interest in petting them. I briefly debated paying for the boys to have a camel ride, and then decided that we'd save it for another day when hubby was with us in case little L wasn't too keen on getting up on that large animal!

What a lovely afternoon we had, and the best part was that all the way home they were telling me all about what new facts and bits they learned today, and how they couldn't wait to get home and write and draw about their day! The very moment we got home they went straight to their school crates in search of colored pencils and sketchbooks where they drew the most lovely pictures of cheetahs and meerkats and lions, koalas and baboons and pelicans, monkeys and zebras, and giraffes each one just as detailed as the last and there were even a few sentences written! I would have loved to share some of the artwork but my shy little artists have requested that I not show anyone!

I think we learned more today that we have all week, and surprisingly I'm OK with that! I know that today they learned something so much more important that how to write proper sentences, or why rocks are the colors they are, or any of the other things we had on today's agenda. Today they learned that they are valuable to their mama, and that there is always time for fun, and that playtime is just as important as learning time, and I think that those are important lessons indeed!

Birbitt thinks that every child should have a day to just play and be a child, they grow up far to quickly and before we know it the children that used to enjoy days at the zoo with mom are now adults taking their own children to the zoo. I only know that because it doesn't seem all that long ago that my own mother and daddy were taking me to the zoo to see the animals.

Friday, November 5, 2010

We're halfway there.

I have been hard at work for more than a month now, busily sewing up some gifts for the children for Christmas. There are few things that they really want, and by want I mean want enough to ask me for them more than just when they see them in a store or on a tv commercial, and so this year I decided to do something a little different. I decided that instead of just buying all their gifts, I would use up some of the fabric I've been hoarding in my closet, and some of the discount coupons I have for Joann's and I would MAKE some gifts.

Well first up were two fire engine red robes for my big boys, which came out quite well, other than the names I wrote with puff paint (it's been so long since I've used puff paint, and I can not embroider for beans).

Next, I used several bits of leftover fabrics to create 3 pairs of PJ style pants for baby L. I may make him some more from his old receiving blankets as well, because they'd be perfect for house days with a simple t-shirt.

I also made two pairs of PJ pants for my big boys made from some quilters fabrics I had purchased for only 2.00 a yard. One pair made from a green frog print, and one pair made from a blue and orange fish print. They are loose and comfortable and I can't wait to see their little faces when they get them.

I also made two big throw pillows from some old fleece lying around and some fiberfill from the back of my closet. I'm going to make a few more pillows, and after Christmas I'm going to teach the boys how to sew pillows. I am hoping to have 6-10 pillows on each of their beds so they can nestle snugly in a nest of pillows for reading time, this I am sure will make silent reading time much more enjoyable!

After that, I thought "wouldn't it be neat if I could make some simple shirts to go with the pants?" It would be great, except I don't own a pattern for shirts and the internet has been less than helpful. I was able to find a shirt in the baby's size that I took apart to make a pattern for his shirts, so that will work out just fine. Unfortunately, the big boys don't have a shirt I can take apart.

I have a small quilt nearly finished for the baby as well, I just need to put a binding on it. It was a simple quilt make with small squares cut from many of his old receiving blankets, sewn together, and then a simple flannel backing. I left out any quilt batting because it doesn't get very cold here and I wanted him to be able to use the blanket all year long. It is soft because the fabrics are well loved and have been washed many times, and it is colorful because of all the different prints I used to make it, and best of all it's full of love because it's made by mom!

I still have some more PJ pants to sew, and some shirts, and a couple more pillows, but this is shaping up to be a lovely Christmas for my boys, full of handmade gifts that are fun as well as useful.

I think I just may do this every year, it feels good to give my children something made by my own hand instead of something made from plastic that they'll likely break or loose or forget about.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Pack Wins

Those three words sum up the entirety of my feelings tonight as I sit on the sofa trying to recover from the evening. Have you ever sat in a room with 100+ young boys from 1st grade up to 5/6th grade? If you wish to exit with your nerves and sanity intact I do not recommend it.

So now to explain. I have three boys, two of them fall in the age range mentioned above, one does not. My two eldest boys have recently joined Cub Scouts, a good activity for boys! Normally the boys break into groups based on age, meeting in their respective dens. I have a Tiger cub scout, who being only 6 must per BSA guidelines have a parent present with him at all times. I also have a Wolf cub scout, who being 7 is perfectly OK to be on his own most of the time. I also have a 16 month old who thinks the world is for his touching and tasting pleasure! (This is important to remember) Tonight was the first full PACK meeting I had to attend, this means that instead of having a flag ceremony and then breaking off into smaller more manageable groups we are all in one room, and each den is called one at a time to present their awards and achievements. Yeah, this also means that all the scouts need to sit QUIETLY, and fairly STILL. Hmmmm. I see a problem already, the meeting itself is about 1.5 hours long! So my oldest B is sitting with his Wolves and the leaders and I am on the other side of the room sitting with my Tiger S and of course my Taste Tester Extraordinaire L.

So, both boys joined about 2 months into the year, and as a result had quite a bit of catching up to do. I am happy to report they managed to do just that! So first up at the meeting is the flag ceremony, and those of us not presenting the flags are supposed to be quiet, well it seems my little L did not get that message, he squawked and squealed through that part. Then we are supposed to recite the pledge of allegiance and cub scout promise, of course L is quiet for that. Then we are quiet again as the meeting is opened up in prayer, once again L didn't get that memo!

Next up the awards! Tigers first, and all is well, except that L thinks he should be up on stage with his big brother so off he runs, with mommy chasing behind him. Wolves next, and this time L has decided that he's going to climb through the chair beside us and try and sit with the man behind us, whom I have never seen before but L is quite fascinated with him. He was happy to oblige and so there is my 16 month old on the lap of a man I've never met. Now the man had to get up after wolves because he has a bear cub scout and they are next. B and S did great through the meeting...other than S not wanting to sit still that long. L on the other hand really, really wanted to run that isle, and no amount of bribing with tasty treats and cold drinks was going to change that. Nope, he wanted that isle so finally I gave up and let him have it, except he really didn't want to run the isle, he just wanted the little TINY piece of something or other that was left on the carpet! YUCK! Now we are supposed to be quiet during awards, except when they finish one den we may clap and cheer, well L wants to clap and cheer during the quiet times, so he does!

Finally the awards are over, and we can get up. The big boys get up and go get their snacks, I go outside to find B running playing ball with the other boys, he's fine. So I go and check on S, well his den is in charge of the canned food drive, so he and the other three member of his den are trying to push carts full of cans (carts big enough to hold all four boys and their den leader in mind you) across the grounds to the food pantry at the church! They don't want our help though, because they are tigers and tigers can do it all by themselves! So we just follow watching to be sure they don't hit anyone or anything.

Come back to the main meeting area and B is still playing ball, fine...except why is his neckerchief hanging that way? "B, where is your slide?" I ask "I lost it" he replies. UGH! "Well find it please" I ask. "Good luck on that one" is the reply from the scout master beside me. "My son looses at least 4 a year, I suggest you just make a new one from a rubber band and a matchbox car." Please can someone explain to me why you would make a product for a BOY scout that is so slippery and poorly designed that it falls off every time the BOY scout runs?

We did find the slide by the way, and I will be scratching my head to find a way to keep that thing where it belongs when it belongs there.

Ok, that's the end of my chaotic evening and now we can all come home and rest right? Wrong, S lost two beads from his awards so he's not happy....well, good luck finding two small round beads in the dark, especially when he has no idea where he lost them. I'll have to talk to his den leader and find out if we can get replacements. You know I love my boys, and I love that they enjoy cub scouts, but I don't think I can do this pack thing once a month! I think I need a babysitter, yup a good, reliable, sweet, honest babysitter. 2 hours, once a month, on Monday nights. Any takers?

Birbitt thinks that she needs to sleep, and maybe wake tomorrow ready for more boy chaos!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rethinking my plans

It seems that the longer I homeschool, the more my theories change. I suppose this is probably something most homeschoolers go through as they realize that homeschooling really is different than a brick and mortar school. Lately I have been spending much time pondering WHY we do things the way that we do, and if it's necessary to continue doing them that way.

I have been struggling with B lately in his reading, or should I say he's been struggling with me. He does not like to read, he does not want to read, and yet I continue to push him to read and read, and read some more. This does not seem to be the best approach, and I got to thinking that if someone was pushing me to do something I did not like and did not want to do how would I feel? The answer is that I would enjoy that activity even less, so if I feel that way how must my boy feel?

This got me to thinking about all of our school stuff in general. We are in the midst of change, and for once I am not worried. I am not worried that their education will be interrupted because I know there is plenty of time. I am not worried about making the right choices, because I know that I need to trust my instincts. I am not worried that I am doing the wrong thing, becasue I am at peace with my decisions. I am not worried that my children will not learn what they need to learn, because who am I to decide what THEY need to learn right now at this moment. I am not worried about taking a few days off to reorganize and regroup, because I know my boys are yet young and a few days will not matter in the scope of years of education. I am not worried of what others will think, because I have learned that it's not about others it is about my sons and their education.

We are taking a break from our regularly scheduled curriculum and spending more time at the Library, more time at the park, more time reading TO them instead of them reading to themselves, more time learning through play, more time outside, more time enjoying one another, more time DOING things. We are spending less time at the table, less time fussing over who didn't do what, less time writing, less time doing workbooks, less time worrying about worksheets, less time testing, less time watching and reading others doing.

I am spending more time reading good books to my boys, and I'm not worried about if they read or not. I'm giving them time to enjoy the things they enjoy, and learning through it. I am letting them take the lead in their education, and I'm just facilitating it. If they need to go to the library I will take them, if they need to go to the park to play, I will take them. If they need some craft supplies and a little direction I will give it, if they need someone to read to them, I will be that person. We are going to spend time learning this way and see what happens. I have comitted to this through the new year, after that Hubby and I will sit down and see where they are, what they've learned, and if it is worth continuing.

I am confident that this is the right choice for us at this time, and already I can feel the peace of our home returning. I am excited to see where this new journey will lead us, and I am excited to see what my children will learn, and how much happier they will be, and maybe just maybe the 'problems' that I see now will not be problems anymore.

Birbitt thinks that sometimes a break from the usual is just what the doctor ordered. I am breathing a sigh of relief, and I am certain that the boys are feeling the same way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tag! I'm it!

I feel loved today, as I have been tagged in the blog world! Thank you Ganeida! Now I will try and play along as best I can seeing as how I have few readers, but here goes:

1.What is the one moment in your life you would love to live over again & why?
The one moment in my life I'd love to live over and over again, well this is going to sound quite generic but the moment would have to be when I met my husband for the first time face to face. Yes I know that was a typical answer but it really meant so much more to me than you could imagine, and he is after all, my best friend here on earth.

2. Which historical figure would you like to meet & what is the one thing you'd really like to ask them? [yes, I know I'm sorta cheating. lol]
Historical figure huh? Well, I guess I'd most like to meet the Apostle Paul and ask him how he found the strength and courage to do all he did even through adversity. Though I suspect I already know some of the answer I'd really like to hear it 'straight from the horses mouth' so to speak.

3. What is your Heart's Desire?
My Heart's Desire is simple, I want to see my children to grow both physically and spiritually and become responsible, respectable young men who love and serve the Lord.

4. What is your most irrational fear ~ & are you game to share it here?
My most irrational fear? Well, I suppose all fear could be called irrational in some way or another but I have two fears that can stop me in my tracks. One is spiders, even tiny ones, I am terrified and can not bring myself to get close enough to step on them with my shoe even, I run the other way and send my hubby in to get it. The other is thunderstorms, this I suppose is more irrational than spiders because it is my most crippling of fears. I can not drive in a thunderstorm, I can not think straight during one, and when one stirs up I can be found cowering under my dining room table with a pillow and a blanket pulled up over me.

5.Cat person or Dog lover?
Both! I love animals in general. I love cats because of their strong independence, and because if a cat greets you when you arrive home it is usually because the cat in genuinely happy to see you, where as when a dog greets you it is usually because you will now let him out to relieve himself. I love dogs because they are fiercely loyal (one could learn something from a dog) and genuinely aim to please their 'master' (again one could learn something here).

6. If you could be a tree what would you be & why?
I think I would like to be a Maple Tree because they are big and strong on the outside providing shade from the heat of the sun, and yet they are soft and sweet on the inside giving sweet sap for food.

7. When you meet Jesus what is the one thing you really, really want to say to Him?
Assuming I am even able to speak when I meet my Lord and Savior the one thing I would most like to say would be "Thank You" for loving me enough to die for me, and loving me despite my flaws and sins. Though thank you is not nearly enough for all he's done for me, and continues to do for me it is the one thing I'd most like to say.

And now as per the rules I must 'tag' 7 other people. Seeming as how I don't know 7 other people who blog I'm going to bend the rules a little and simple post 7 questions that you may answer if you so desire.

1. What one talent do you not have, that you very much wish you did?

2. What is the one thing people do that bothers you most?

3. Where is the one place you'd like most to visit before you leave this earth behind, and what about that place most draws you to it?

4. What flaw do you most dislike in yourself?

5. What career did you most want as a child, and if you are not doing that now, what changed your mind?

6. Why do you blog, what purpose to you hope to achieve by blogging?

7. What one modern invention would you mind giving up the most, and why did you choose that one?

Ok, so that's it for the questions let's see some of your answers! If you decide to play along would you please be so kind as to leave a comment letting me know you've accepted my 'challenge' as it were?

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Confession

I confess, I am not a great housekeeper. If there is an excuse to be found for not cleaning up I will find it. I have not done a very good job of keeping things orderly as of late, and I have also held onto things far too long.

This past 'weekend' (which for us is Tuesday - Thursday, the days my husband is home from work) the hubby and I decided that since our baby has decided he prefers to sleep in the room with his brothers than with us that we would clean up and clean out our bedroom and our living room. Our bedroom had become cluttered with endless amounts of laundry (clean and dirty), and things that had been displaced from their intended spaces for whatever reason, of course it also had the baby's crib until last week. Our living room had become cluttered with Cabinets and Drawers that were purchased in an attempt to declutter our space, ironic isn't it?

So we tackled our bedroom first, removing from it all things that we did not have an immediate need for or that were not important to be saved. Total we removed 2 trash bags full of stuff...shamefully I admit that at least half of it was papers and other trash that were shoved under our bed. Once we removed all that didn't need to be there we rearranged what was left to produce a more functional space. There is now enough space in my bedroom for the bean bags I've been wanting to get for the boys to do their reading in my room away from the noise of the rest of the house. My bedroom is clean, neat, and organized (though my standards are not as strict as some).

Once space was cleared in our bedroom, I was able to remove all homeschooling books and supplies from the living room and put them on a wall of my bedroom (where I originally wanted them to begin with), and that being done, My living room now has much more space for the baby to play. I prefer to keep the baby playing in the living room because it it central to the house and therefore always supervised, because we all know that 15 month olds are not to be trusted. After arranging things I discovered that I really did not have adequate storage for the baby's toys, so a quick trip to the local Goodwill yielded me a perfect cabinet for only 1.00 (SCORE!). His toys are now contained, the living room is now decluttered, and I now feel like I can breathe in my own home.

I confess I am not a housekeeper, and I tend to 'collect' things simply because I *think* they may be useful someday. These are qualities I need to work on, and with the help of constant reminding (hence this blog post), fervent prayer (my own and otherwise), and the desire to have a liveable space for my children I will get better, I have to else my children grow to be like me, and we wouldn't want that now would we *wink*?

Thank you blog readers for allowing me to share my mess with you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All in time

I am not a good swimmer at all. I can swim enough to stay afloat in a pool, I can even swim in a lake if I must. I am confident that I could swim enough to stay safe should I accidentally fall into some deep water and I'm not weighted down or tangled up. That being said, the reason for my swimming deficiency is because I grew up with a fear of water, one that was only overcome because of a desire to graduate High School. You see in my high school one semester of swimming was required to graduate, so I took the non-swimmers course and learned enough to get me by.

Now, because of my experiences as a child I took a very different approach to teaching my children to swim. I kept their swimming experiences positive allowing them whatever floaties, suits, and vests that they felt they needed in order to be confident and feel safe. My oldest boy has done well over the years, he's always been a bit of a fish and loves the water. He has always been the one that jumps right in as soon as swimming season hits, and he's always been the more daring one when it comes to jumping into the water, going under water, and trying to swim without floats. My middle boy however, was always the child that took a full month to decide it was safe to come off the second step and into the water, he has always required that we give him a life vest to wear in the water to keep him from drowning. He was the child that I thought would never learn to swim.

As it turns out, this summer they both learned to swim on their own time, at their own pace, and without floaties. It is quite an accomplishment for them, and they are very glad to have learned. They now swim both under and above the water, and at the rate they are going will be better swimmers than their mama in no time at all! I know that some don't like floaties for children, but for us allowing them to use the floaties until they were confident in their abilities was the best choice.

I am one happy mama, I have two swimmers now, who love the water and never had to overcome a fear of it just to graduate high school!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What was that again?

Today I had the pleasure of visiting a local attraction The Boyce Thompson Arboretum which of itself is simply beautiful. To walk among God's Creations and see the variety and the purpose for each plant is just amazing to me. The whole point of the trip today was to attend a tour offered by a friend of ours all about the Plants of the Bible.

Because of the similarities in climate, many of the plants that are mentioned in the Bible grow well here in Arizona. I was fascinated by the many plants we saw today, and I enjoyed learning some intresting facts about these plants. For example did you know that a date palm tree can produce 24 Tons of dates in it's lifetime? This makes for a very profitable orchard if you have a few date palms within it.

Another very interesting fact I learned during our 2 hour walk was that there is no such thing as a Gopher tree...from which the ark was built, and so scholars began trying to decide where Gopher wood came from. I suppose I always thought that when the Bible said Gopher Wood, I just took it as exactly that. Now there is some disagreement as to where exactly the Gopher Wood comes from, and there is no way to know here on earth who is correct but there are two possible sources that we discussed today, one seems to me highly unlikely. Now the first of the two possible sources is an Oleander, this to me seems highly unlikely because an oleander is a bush like plant, though it can grow quite tall, with very thin whiplike branches. Oleander looks like this:

As you can see the branch of this plant does not look like much to build a large boat from. The second possible source, which seems more likely to me, and again this is nothing that can be proven but meerly an educated guess based on available information. The second possiblity is Mediterranean Cypress, now this tree is very tall, fairly large around and would likely make the perfect planks for building an Ark. The Cyprus looks like this:

As you can see this particular tree is very tall, with a big round trunk. If I had to choose between the two I'd certainly choose the cypress tree!

The Gopher wood is believed to come from the fact that in translating from the original Greek text, there was no English word for the Greek word Kupar so the word Gopher was used. Gopher however actually refers to the process used to get the wood, a process of lamination involving shaving thin piece of the tree and then gluing them back together (think modern plywood). Now this Mediterranean Cypress is very common in the Mediterranean area, it is a very hard, sturdy wood, and was commonly used for boat making by the Cretans and Greeks. This seems a much more likely canditate for the Ark to me.

Again this is all opinion, as no person alive today can say for sure what Noah used to build the Ark. I simply wanted to share a little bit of trivia with you that I found interesting. I hope to take this tour again soon and learn even more!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mummy's boys

Today's lesson was just too cute not to share! We are using Mystery of History this year and I must say it's quite a bit of fun, today however was both fun and adorable. Our study was on Ancient Egypt and this was the result...

These are Mummy's Mummies! The most fun part to them was tearing themselves out of the toilet paper wrappings. I just love when history is fun!

Summer Days

Well, the heat is finally beginning to wind down here and so we are able to play outside some. Yesterday I took the boys to play in the grass, forgetting that Little One has never been in grass before. Oh, the fun they had! The big boys made hideouts in the bushes, and Little One well, he just ran in circles and tried to eat rocks. I thought I'd share a few photos of the fun, as they came
out better than I expected.

I especially love the one where the baby is running down the hill, it almost kinda reminds me of Little House on the Prairie in the opening where the children are running through the field, only our field is freshly mowed. It's nice that we have some grass to play in where we live, as most everything is usually either sand or pea gravel. They had so much fun, and today after lessons we have planned to go swimming. Hopefully I'll remember the camera~

Birbit thinks there is just something so peaceful in watching children play!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Can I keep him?

Little that is. Yes it's true my sweet, loving, snuggle bug has turned 6 today. I wish I could keep him little forever, ok maybe not forever but I'm certainly not ready for him to grow up just yet! This is my very emotional child, he's sweet and loving, fierce when defending his brothers, the first to hug you when you are sad, always comforting, caring, clingy, VERY clingy, but he's also the first one to make friends, fearless when it comes to meeting people, literal in everything, and frankly having him around makes me sure God knew what he was doing giving me boys because if having a teenage girl is anything like having my 6 year old around I am certain I would not survive it!

As it was his birthday he got to choose what we did today, what we ate for supper, and pretty much be in charge of the whole day. First thing this morning he requested a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast (which I knew last night so I was prepared), then he said he wanted to go swimming...however me being the more practical person that I am suggested that we either go to the zoo and see animals and play in the water, or go to the splash pad at what USED to be Tempe Town Lake (click the link if you want to know why it used to be the lake). He chose the zoo, not surprising if you know him at all. So we packed up some water (couple of gallons), sippy cups for the baby, changes of clothing, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, and snacks and off we went!

We saw few animals today because it's still too hot for most of them to 'play' outside. However they were well pleased with the few we saw and mostly we went to enjoy Yakulla Caverns, which is a water play area with two slides, 15 or so water squirting ground spouts, a waterfall, and a cave area to explore and splash in the small puddles. They played, they splashes, they slid, they ran, they hid, and then my birthday boy fell and konked his head! He is fine, but he was none too happy with the rubber playground surface with which his head made contact. We spend about 2.5 hours at the zoo today, and then we came home for what I had thought would be a rest.

Nope, he had other ideas, he wanted to play the wii! So the older boys played wii while baby slept and I went to pick up his cake and prep for his supper. He decided that he just wanted a small cake this year and so we got him a small, but very colorful 1/8 sheet cake. For his supper he requested hot dogs, burgers (which he insisted daddy put on the grill), chips, and pickles. So we had supper and then he wanted to go swimming!

We got all dressed for the pool, put on more sunscreen (this is Arizona after all), loaded the stroller, and headed to the pool. We get to the pool only to discover that it is closed, and there is no sign of explaination so the reason will remain a mystery. He was disappointed, though he tried not to show it, the disappointment could be read across his face. I felt badly, but there was nothing I could do.

So what did we do, we had cake! And presents! Then it was off to the tub and into jammies for a date with their beds. As I write this I have three sleeping children, and two grown folks who very much wish to be sleeping!

Here are a couple photos because I love to show off my boys, and well what's a blog post with no pictures?

Yes, that is ketchup all over my oldest boy's shirt, I never once claimed they weren't messy eaters!

Birbitt is too tired to think tonight, so for this once you'll have to forgive me. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Family Fun Days

Life has been so busy the past few weeks, as it is summer and it seems the demands on my time increase with the heat. This past week or two I have been feeling the "blahs" and so I decided that I would not make any comittments for this week that didn't directly involve Church, my children, or my husband. It has been so nice to just relax and enjoy everyone again. We have gotten our school work done S-L-O-W-L-Y without the need to rush off somewhere, and we've spent time as a family.

Thursday we took the children swimming, and since it was an overcast day I didn't feel the need to put up the sunshade on the baby's boat. He loved it, every minute of it. The joy in his face as he threw his head sideways into the pool getting his hair wet and splashing water in his face, the shrill screams of delight as he threw his little toys into the pool and waited for them to "magically" return to his hand. The baby enjoys the water, and I am thankful for that because many babies just don't like it, and here in Arizona the pool is a necessity if we are to get any outdoor exercise from June - August (yes I am a wuss and dislike the excessive heat).

My older boys have both just recently learned to swimm, mostly because I have a very "odd" point of view when it comes to teaching a child to swim. I never learned to swim until High School and as a result I decided that I would never push my children to learn to swim if they weren't fully comfortable with it. My boys are now little fishes, the put on their goggles and nose clips and off they go, Hubby and I left to keep eyes on them and be sure they come up for air every now and again.

We enjoy swimming in the early afternoon, as very few other people use the pool at that time so we generally have it pretty much to ourselves and I don't have to worry about the boys splashing people or worry that someone else is doing something that could hurt the boys.

I am forever grateful for days like these where we can just relax and be a family enjoying the company of one another, and making memories with our children that will last forever.

Birbitt thinks memories can be made even during the most everyday events, playing in the pool to beat the summer heat, making a meal, or just being together. Memories don't have to cost a penny, and they last a lifetime. Go out and make some memories today!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Worth Saving?

I was working at our church today, helping to clean out rooms so the painters can paint, and helping to organize other rooms. Well, as we (myself and the lady whom I was helping) moved to the next room we discovered a pile of probably 5 or 6 hundred books! We had no idea what to do with them so my work buddy made a few calls and was finally told that the books were "trash". When she told me we'd be carting them out to the dumpster I nearly cried, see to me books are precious and even though some may be old and outdated to me there is nothing more relaxing (worldly thing that is) that picking up a book and getting lost in it's pages. Yes I can even get lost in a non fiction book, I get lost in my learning and it's soothing to the soul.

After speaking with her for a bit we decided to go through the books and each take what we could or would use, save some for the new library that our christian school and college will be building, and the rest were loaded up in my trunk and her trunk to be carted off and donated. I took my load to a local christian thrift store that I thought would be best suited to rehoming hundreds of Christian books, Bible Study books, Bible commentaries, Concordances, and other Christian reference type materials.

I sorted through the books and brought about 30 titles home with me, some by great preachers such as Dr. Jack Hyles, and Dr. Michael Sproul, some books are signed by their authors, some I wasn't really sure if I'd read but the titles sparked my interest and I couldn't pass them up. I even picked up an old church hymnal because I love to sing the hymns and many times I forget the words to some of my old favorites simply because I don't sing them often enough.

At the end of the day I am pleased that this stack of treasure was saved from the landfill. I understand the need to weed out books to make room for the new, but to me throwing away any book that is still readable just tears me up (no pun intended). Later in the afternoon my work partner confessed that she was glad we decided to donate them because she too loves books, and concindentally she left with more books than I.

As I sit here typing this I just thought how the state of these books reminds me of the state of our souls. Some people saw those books as junk to be discarded, but others like me saw them as precious treasure to be saved and given a new life with a new home. Much like us, you see even though many don't see us Christians as much more than another annoyance to be dealt with God saw value in us and he sent his only son to die on the cross to save us, give us a new life in Christ, and a new home in Heaven. God thought we were worth saving, and he did. Perhaps we should remember this lesson the next time we are annoyed with the unfriendly checkout clerk, or the loud person in the library, or that driver that just turned out in front of you causing you to slam on your brakes suddenly.

Birbitt thinks that, even though you or I may not see the value in a particular person or thing, someone somewhere believes that person or thing to be precious and worth saving. Just something to think about as we go through our busy lives, and maybe it will help us all, me included, to be just a little less annoyed with the disruptions that come. I am thankful that God saw value in me, and thought I was worth saving, because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross I can live knowing there is something better for me when I am called home!

I think that in some way my ordinary day of working at the church helped me to see a shortcoming in my own life, and now I have something else to work on, something of eternal value. Thank you Lord for using a day of cleaning, and emptying to help me see an area of weakness, and give me the strength and determination that I will need to overcome this.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Growing Boys

I have learned in my years of parenting my sons that boys are different from girls, but not just in the obvious ways. I knew the moment the doctor told me I was having a boy for the first time that life would be very diffrent for me. Boys like dirt, and mess, and cars, and action figures, I thought I was prepared for this I mean I grew up on a farm and I liked playing in the dirt, and making messes, I liked playing with matchbox cars as a child and I have always enjoyed working on cars. I am not a "girly" girl but I have my girlie moments and I have always enjoyed dresses, skirts, and pretty clothes.

At first it was easy adjusting to parenting boys, when they were young it was as simple as shopping in the "boy" isles for toys, and buying boy clothes. As they have gotten older however I have learned that there are some considerable differences between boys and girls. For one thing boys just aren't capable of sitting still as long as girls can, I can remember as a child sitting in my room quietly playing with my baby dolls, or barbies (when I was a girl they were much more modest), or even just reading a book. My boys however are hard pressed to sit still for a mere 20 minutes while listening to a story or watching a video. The older my boys get the more diffrences I notice, the energy level for me though is the biggest challenge. Simply taking them to the park for an hour to run out the wiggles just won't do! So I have been forced to actively seek an outlet for them because I can no longer manage their energy alone.

After locating(and rejecting) every sport team, gym class, and organized physical activity in a 15 mile radius of our home I had just about given up on ever finding anything that would a)fit in our schedule, b)provide a POSITIVE outlet for my children, c)not give me a panic attack thinking about all the potential injuries they could get during the activity, and d)not give daddy a panic attack thinking of the expense, until a friend invited the boys to his daughter's birthday party.

She has been enrolled in martial arts training for some time and had her birthday party at the school she attends classes at. Well, my boys were there and had a GREAT time! The instructor was so very patient and he didn't just teach them to punch and kick, he also taught them to have self-control and he did it in a positive way. I left with mixed feelings of the whole thing, on one hand I was happy they enjoyed it and that it wasn't just about punching and kicking each other, but on the other hand I was disappointed that this school was so far away from our home. It was a good 35 minute drive and having to make that drive 4 times a week was not feasable (2 classes per week times 2 children).

I came home and began searching for martial arts training in the areas around our home and I found one less than 5 miles from our home! I called them up and they set us up with a free trial lesson (to gauge their abilities) and a HUGE discount on the enrollment. Now I present to you my future black belts in the art of Songham Taekwondo.

They have gone to several classes at this point and they are doing well, obviously they are just starting but they are learning and this particular school incorperates their behaviour at home into the class and if they do well they are rewarded with a star for their Victory Patch, if they do poorly at home they must stay after and speak with their instructor. I am told that if they try hard and come to class regularly they will advance to orange belt by July, and possibly have their yellow belt by September. After that their advancement will depend much more on their focus, practice, and ability to memorize and replicate moves.

Birbitt thinks that this will be a good thing for the boys, and hopefully me as well.

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