Monday, March 30, 2015

Celebrating Forgiveness! Happy Easter!

Today, I need to talk about God's story. He tells it to me everyday. I am overwhelmed at the the lengths He goes to tell me His story over and over, longing for my attention, mine! He tells me in the light of daybreak that His love is new every morning. He tells me in the song of the Robins as they search for their breakfast... look at the birds of the air! He tells me in the moments between my children needing fed and clothed and scooted and scurried. They are His, I am His, and He loves his children more than I could ever imagine! He tells me in the changing of the season from Winter to Spring as I watch the flowers break through the earth. New life comes from death. Beauty from emptiness, and the miracle of his beautiful story is wrapped around me like a never ending circle of love and hope.
With Easter coming, more people will be open to hearing His story. For that I am so grateful, but for me, His story is always with me! I can't help but see the significance of His design everywhere I go.

One of the things I love about our daily commute home from school, is all the sweet farms we pass.  And more than that, in this season, Spring, there are new baby animals being born everywhere! Cows, horses, and little lambs! I am always pointing them out to the kids... "Look, a pure white little lamb in the grass!" They squeal and point, I slow down a bit so they can get a good look. And all of this makes me think about the excitement of Easter and our Lamb!

There is such opportunity in moments like this to show my kids what the true meaning of Easter is all about. I'm not sure how the Easter bunny and bringing candy got all mixed in with the brilliant story of the resurrected Lamb, and our family has never really went along with this idea. We have our traditions of an Easter hunt, and eating a great feast, but my boys know that Papa hides the eggs. I'm not against the Easter bunny or anything, but this year, since my little ones are getting older I want to talk more about the real meaning behind why we take time out to Celebrate this special time of year.

I came up with some practical ways to talk about our Easter story, and some activities to make it fun and special.

The Resurrection Walk

When Jesus died, he took all of our sins with him, and when he rose, that meant new life for all of us!
                                       Luke 24
Take a walk and look for things that have new life.




Trees just beginning to bud.


All of these things are God's little reminders that he has given us the greatest gift of all: forgiveness and New Life!

Scavenger Hunt

Read Luke 24.
Go on a scavenger hunt looking for items that symbolize the main parts of the story.
You might find a stone to symbolize the tomb.
Look for some sticks and form a cross.
Find something white (maybe a flower) to symbolize forgiveness

Light three candles.

One represents God sending Jesus as a baby.
One represents Jesus dying for our sins.
One represents Jesus resurrection from the dead.

Talk about the importance of each as you watch the flames with your kids. Say a prayer, thanking God for each part of the story, and blow the candles out.

Ask  a local farmer who has lambs if you can bring your kids for a visit.
Let them pet the lamb.
Talk about how pure and innocent it is.
Talk about Jesus being our pure and perfect Lamb!

This is my sweet son Elijah. He actually memorized the poem, but was too shy to do it without the words. Enjoy!
Happy Easter everyone! I hope Easter will continue to remind you of God's story, His grace, and overwhelming love!  That is worth celebrating!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Springtime in Paris: a Garden Table Mosaic

I have wanted to go to Paris, I think as soon as I knew about it. but my love of this romantic city has grown to almost an obsession. I have a little of Paris everywhere around my house, even on my phone case. I took French in high school, and even though the words haven't remained as well as I had hoped, the admiration for what seems a magical place has stuck with me. 

When Martin and I got married, we always said we would go to Paris for our tenth Anniversary. Well, guess what is right around the corner? We will celebrate ten years in June! However, going to Paris was pretty unlikely/ We were unable to put away money like we had hoped, and the trip seemed unpractical and impossible... until...
My mom sent me a link to a contest to win a trip to Paris!
Now, I'm not saying we won or anything, I'm just really really really hoping we will. 
The contest is through Michael's. To enter you must create a piece of art, any kind you want, with the theme "Springtime in Paris." You take a picture or video and send it in. It is judged on theme (40%) Originality (30%) Execution on skill (20%) and Inspired (10%).

The following are pictures of me creating my piece. I decided to make a mosaic garden table using ceramic plates, and tiles to make a spring like scene in front of the "Eiffel Tower."

First, I painted my table surface a lovely aqua. Then I used tile nippers to cut the shapes for the Eiffel Tower, and layed them out in the shape I liked.

Lots, of cutting and sorting colors went into this project. These blue pieces are for the sky.

I found these plates at the thrift store (on half off everything day)- awesome!

You can sort of see my set up all over the table, plastic bins for sorting colors, newspaper to protect the table a bit, and yes, I even wore safety goggles!

I layed everything out before gluing it down to the table with a tile glue similar to caulk.

Once I added the yellow flowers, I really felt it was brightening up!

Next I began working on the sky. This was time consuming to fit the pieces just where they should go.

I added green at the bottom to make it look like a nice springtime hill! This is what it looked like with everything glued down... but it's not done yet!

Now for the messy... grouting!

I took my time getting the grout into every little crack.

The next step was using a damp sponge to remove excess grout.

This is what it looked like after I removed the extra grout, but before I scrubbed it clean. The grout leaves a gritty film that you can see over the tiles. To get it clean, you take a stiff plastic bristled brush and scrub, followed by a cheesecloth or soft wash cloth to shine.

Here it is all spic and span on my front porch!

Doesn't it look so happy there?

Some close ups of the detail. I love the "flowers" that I made out of the flower patterned china!

The tile that I used to make the Eiffel Towers was really beautiful. I almost felt bad breaking it up. If you look closely you can see some of the design on the pieces.

Even if we don't win a trip to Paris, I have this lovely little table to remind me of many things. I love mosaics because they create such a parallel to life, here we are broken or misshapen, and it takes a creator to really make us into something beautiful and put us exactly where we need to be. We can't see the big picture most of the time. We might not even know that we are a flower, because we can't stop thinking that we are just a broken plate!
Win or lose, it was a wonderfully challenging project that I will cherish forever.
Thanks, mom for thinking I could do it!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Good-bye Five! Happy 6th Birthday, Owen!

That jump from five year old kid to six year old kid seems big for some reason. Today my middle-est as we like to call him, Owen, is turning SIX! 

Good-bye to Five! This is Owen last night doing some baking. I told him it was his last night being five, so he held up his five little fingers. Now it will take two hands to show people his age, I told him! Wow, it goes so quickly!

I love being able to do special things for my boys! This morning I made Owen a great big pancake birthday breakfast with strawberries, and even chocolate mousse and sprinkles to top it off! Needless to say, he was thrilled!!!

Yesterday, Owen and I had a little fun doing a Birthday Quiz, which I try to remember to do with the kids every year. It is so fun hearing their answers!

So here is how it went:

How old are you turning? 6
What is your favorite color? Bumblebee colors (He's talking about the Transformer- so Yellow and black, and gold.
Who is your best friend? Malley, Logan, and Jansen
What do you like to do after school? Play with you, and talk to you (you, is me- mommy)
What is your favorite thing about kindergarten? playing at free time, and my teacher Mrs. Rude
What is your favorite outside thing to do? running around
Who is your favorite character from a book? Peter Rabbit
What is your favorite treat? Chocolate donuts
If you had $100 what would you do? I would spend it on Ironman Repulsor Rays
What do you want to be when you grow up? A Waiter or a guy who makes movies or doing the live play of one.
What is your favorite story? Franklin Rides His Bike
Where would you go if you could go anywhere right now? Back in time to see Leonardo Da Vinci
What is your favorite animal? Cheetah
Do you like painting or drawing more? both
Do you like building things or drawing things more? both
What is your favorite food of all? Macaroni, meat, and jo jo's
Who is your favorite person? you and daddy
What is your favorite toy? my imaginext dinosaur
What is your favorite movie? the Hunchback of Notre Dame
Who is your hero? Hunchback- he is strong and he saves people
Since we are doing a "How to Train Your Dragon" party, I asked him this question:
Who is your favorite how to train your dragon character? Hiccup, Toothless and Hiccup's mom

We would have done a few more questions, but then William woke up from his nap! It is always so fun to be surprised by the things they say and do! I though I knew how he would answer all of these questions, but he always has his own original ideas. Sometimes his ideas change from day to day! The one about what he wants to be when he grows up was unexpected. I thought he might say an artist since he is always drawing and creating things! I love this kid so much! I am really going to miss our special after school time next year when he is in first grade!

Happy Birthday to my amazing six year old!

 And now... a look back at some fun "Owen" moments!

It's always a good time to paint!

Scooby-Doo grew some antlers! Owen loves dressing up and adding his own spin on things!

Always has a pencil in his hands!

Elijah is 3 here and Owen is 8 months old!

2 years old, looking for Easter eggs!

Newborn Owen! Elijah is just over two!

Just chillin' at his favorite spot in the park! (2 and a half)

First night sleeping in a big boy bed!

Hulk Smash!

Always ready to save the day!

The first day of Kindergarten!

A Praying Mantis can be entertainment for a little boy for a long time!

              We are so proud of this boy, and the young man he is growing to be!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Phase Two (Getting in Shape)

Today, I began "Phase Two" of  my goal to get in shape and lose thirty before I'm thirty! I've come a long way on this journey already which began in September. Phase one, I focused on my eating habits only. I may do a few posts giving tips about how I got to where I am now. I can't believe I am within just a few pounds of my goal weight, but it's not really about the number anymore!

I want to be strong and healthy for me, my hubby, and my three growing boys! I want them to see a woman making good choices and overcoming things that once seemed impossible. They need it as much as I do.

As part of my goal, I've decided to run in a local race that has sort of always been on my "bucket list," - Bloomsday! It's just over 7 miles, something I've never done, and it's got a killer hill that everyone calls "doomsday hill." I'm up to the challenge, and it will give me something to keep going and striving for.

My husband has also agreed to run it with me, which frankly will be a breeze for him. He ran track and cross country in college and high school, but it will be nice to have the support and the company. I know he'll have to hold back, there's no way I'll be able to run it in any sort of competitive time, but that's not what it's about, after all!

A few weeks ago, I got these awesome new running shoes! Who would have thought that Skechers makes some decent training shoes? They are so comfortable, and I love the hot pink! Totally empowering!

I went on my first training run this evening just before the sun went down. Just a short one, a little over one mile... but I am already feeling it! I have a lot of work to do! The weather was decent, still cold, but good for running, low forties. My lungs didn't appreciate it, though. I can still feel the cold down in my chest. My husband tells me it will go away with more practice, and my lungs will get stronger.

I have about four months to train for the race, which is the first Sunday in May. I am hoping to slowly add miles to my practice runs, and be able to get in a few long 7 mile runs before then!

Day one down... many more to go!!!

Friday, January 2, 2015

What is The World's Story About? Thoughts about My Grandma's Life and Passing

                                                                Barbara Jane Millar
                                                              ("Grandma Millar")

         "A child may ask. "What is the world's story about?" And a grown man or woman may wonder, "What way will the world go? How does it end, and while we're at it, what's the story about?"
          "I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught- in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too- in a net of good and evil.I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have only the hard, clean questions : Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well-or ill?"

                                        John Steinbeck- East of Eden

               No one can really say it better than Steinbeck. I guess when someone dies, I always find myself thinking about life and those hard, clean questions. What is the point? Why are we here? Are we making a difference? Is it for good?
              My Grandma wasn't just someone who died, she was my Grandma. I didn't know everything about her, but her hard questions, I think can be answered easily, though they really aren't for me to answer. I remember her mostly as a storyteller. She loved to sit around and talk about people, usually people I didn't know, but they were her people. I think she loved people more than I ever knew. I also think she touched more lives than I will ever know. She had her master's in education... I guess you could say little people were her specialty.
             But to me, the best thing that she gave this world, was my mom. And because of that. I know my Grandma must have been brilliant. My mom is anything, but ordinary, and some of that must have come from my Grandma.  She is kind and ambitious. She does the impossible ten times over. She is humble and generous, a tower of strength and a refuge whenever I need her.  She is the queen of resourcefulness (never buy anything, she tells me, I might have it already, or if not, I can probably make it)! My mom can make anything... out of nothing! I've always thought she could have chosen any profession and succeeded, but she chose the most humble, and in many ways the most important- just like her mom- a teacher! Where would we be without teachers? However, my mom isn't a regular teacher, and I have to assume that my Grandma wasn't either. The impact left of students will never leave, and in that way, somewhere out in the world my Grandma is still with us through the changes she left on the lives of others.
           My Grandma was many things, some of which I am still learning and hearing new stories! I think she would have liked getting to know her grand kids more. We got to see her on a "good" day a few weeks before she passed. She was in the hospital for a UTI, and I just had this feeling that we needed to stop by with some flowers. The boys helped me pick some out (cheerful purple gerbera daisies) and we were able to deliver them to her room. She was awake and in a happy mood when we came in. She didn't know who we were, but was still glad for the company. I sat with her and helped her eat her lunch. She told me funny stories that must have been about her own kids. I think she was remembering or thinking it was back then, instead of the present time.  She was talking about behavior issues and how important it is to keep those kids in line! She made me laugh several times during that visit, and she shared a smile with me too. I got to tell her that I loved her, and I will never forget that day.
          What is the world's story about? I think it is about moments like that one with my Grandma. That last light in her eyes, a smile of innocence and genuineness, and good, moments filled with so much good and love.
           I am going to end my thoughts about Grandma, with the following quote. We forget the simplicity of life and it's purpose sometimes, and I think this is fitting:

          "Child, though I am meant to teach you much,
           what is it, in the end,
            except that together we are
           meant to be children
           of the same Father,
           and I must unlearn
           all the adult structure
           and the cumbering years
           and you must teach me
           to look at the earth and the heaven
           with your fresh wonder."
                                          -Jane Tyson Clement

I wish I had the right words to say about her. I wish I could be more of a comfort to my mom, who I know is missing her so much. All I know, is that now she finally has peace and rest. You are loved, Grandma.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Moments!

Having kids makes Christmas 100 times more magical! The anticipation, excitement, and pure joy is something only children can create with sheer innocence. Here are a few of our favorite moments over Christmas this year!!!

Owen's first gift of Christmas: a special Ninja Turtle Drawing and Activity book!

Elijah's first gift of Christmas: A Batman watch!

Lunch with the kiddo's Great Grandparents!

A game of Checkers with Aunt Jenny.

Uncle James shows Owen how to play pool.

A couple of cold sisters huddled after seeing the eagles soar over the lake!
 We live in an amazing place!!!

Christmas dinner!

Christmas dinner at the kid's table!

Cousins in their Jammies!

Green Lantern became an instant beloved gift!

My littlest critter, reading Little Critter with his Little Critter!

William (and all the other kids) really loved this toy!

Me and my three boys!

We had William open the pots and pans first... and then showed him where he could put them... Check out the cuteness!

What a Very Merry Christmas!!!