Monday, April 29, 2013

Our First Camp Out

James bringing the tent poles to Daddy.

The kids have been asking for a long time to go camping. Life has just been so busy that we haven't been able to. Since it's the end of the semester and things are starting to quiet down a little, and since the weather has still been cool at night, we set up the tent Friday evening and slept in the backyard! Josh and James put it all up by themselves and got our "fire pit" ready. The girls and I got all of the sleeping bags, pillows, and camping chairs together and set up the beds.

So excited to camp!
The girls supervised the boys while I was cleaning dinner up.

Testing out their nest as soon as it was made!

It was very dark by the time we finished. We shared S'mores and did devotions around the fire. I taught the kids to identify the call of the Common Nighthawk and the Chuck Will's Widow, two birds that come out at night. We heard them calling all night. (We also heard our neighbor's loud Latino music for awhile too - which just wasn't quite as nice to try to fall asleep to.) You can listen to the Common Nighthawk too (and our neighbors...):

Just before bed, the kids started asking questions like, "Is it safe to sleep in the tent?" and "What if the ________ come?"  (________ = panthers, coyotes, bears, bad people, raccoons, skunks....) We explained to them that it was safe to sleep in our tent because God was in control of all of those things (panthers, coyotes, bears, people, raccoons, skunks, etc.) and He would be with us all night. Then we reminded them about how the Israelites spent 40 years wandering the wilderness and sleeping in tents. So we pretended we were the Israelites sleeping in our tent in the wilderness.

Redneck Fire Pit

Cutting up wood for the fire

Yes, someone did sit on a sticky skewer.  Names will NOT be mentioned.

All ready for bed!

After we put the kids to bed in the tent, Josh and I sat by the fire for a little while.  It was nice to sit there together, talking and watching the fire. Maybe we'll do it again this weekend? Since there was no rain in the forecast, Josh did not put the tent fly on. We really were sleeping under the stars. The kids slept through the night very well.

The moon was so big and bright behind the pines!

It was a good trial run because I wasn't sure how the kids would do. I really expected that I would end up in the house with Lydia, at the very least. It was comforting to know that if we needed, I could "go home" at a moments notice. Or use a civilized toilet if one was required.

I woke up to a mockingbird singing in the apple tree and the sun just coming up through the pines. How nice! Lydia was next, and she immediately toddled over to our air mattress for some milk. Josh got up and went to sleep in her spot for a little while longer. Here was my view:

James is the lump on the left, Josh is the lump in the middle, and JoyAnna is the lump on the right. 

JoyAnna's Favorite Part:  "Going in the tent and sleeping."
James' Favorite Part:  "The fire."
Lydia's Favorite Part:  We're still not sure, but she seemed to enjoy the entire experience.
Josh's Favorite Part:   He says he doesn't know. But I'm pretty sure it was the campfire, too!
My Favorite Part: "Waking up in the morning to blue skies and songbirds."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Be a Do-er...Not Just a Hearer

 "Jesus said, 'Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" 
-Matthew 18:3-4

James has really been paying attention during devotions and church lately. He’s been remembering things that were mentioned in the sermon that even Josh and I had forgotten. And he has been wanting to talk about them; asking questions that show he’s been thinking deeply about things of eternal importance.

In the night James had come to me and complained about a bad dream he had had. I prayed for him and he went happily back to sleep. A thunder storm, a restless rabbit and a stiff neck provided me with a restless night. In the morning, I overslept. At 7:30 I was jarred awake by the sounds of laundry being shuffled around just outside my bedroom door. I had heard Josh leave for work about 45 minutes before. Did he forget to put the garage door down? Did someone let themselves in to do my laundry??

I cautiously stepped out of my room to see James unloading the last of the clothes from the dryer into a laundry basket. “Good Morning!” we cheerfully greeted one another. “I’m helping you with laundry,” he explained.

I was shocked.

Not because he was helping with laundry, because James likes to help me do chores - especially laundry. But from the moment this kid opens his eyes in the morning, the only thing on his mind is breakfast. Even after breakfast is over, he is already wondering what and when we are going to eat again.

No mention of food…just a boy on a mission!

I followed him to the living room and asked, “Honey, why are you doing the laundry?”

“Because when I was sleeping God told me, ‘James, wake up and do the laundry and I will bless you.’ And I got up right away and went to get the laundry.”

“God woke you up and told you to do laundry?”

“Yes. He said to help you with the laundry and that He would wake you up.”

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."  
 James 1:22

James isn’t one of those kids that likes to make up stories a lot. Sometimes he will make up a story, but then he always tells it with his silly voice. There is no mistaking it. He was absolutely certain that God spoke to him this morning and told him to help with the laundry. And I believe He did too. But more importantly than hearing God speak to him, He obeyed His Word!

“James, don’t you remember Samuel? When he was a boy, God called to him while he was asleep too. I’m so glad that you chose to wake up and obey God this morning.”

“I remembered the sermon yesterday. I want to obey God and show Him I love Him.”

Josh and I pray every day that our children would know God for who He truly is, that they would love Him with all their heart, and that they would live every moment of their lives in obedience to Him. I have been watching God actively working in James' heart for over a year now. Oh, how worthy He is of our praise!

I pray that I, too, would be as sensitive to hear, as quick to obey and as committed to love God as my little boy was this morning.

"But Jesus said, 'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' 
-Matthew 19:14


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Captivating Challenge

 Some wonderful friends of ours lent us a documentary they own a few weeks ago. It took us 3 consecutive nights just to get through the whole thing because we were so exhausted we kept falling asleep. This seriously had NOTHING to do with the content of the documentary, because we both found it fascinating and convicting. It truly was because we were dog-tired and could not keep our eyelids opened!

Before Josh and I were married, we collected quite an assortment of video gaming paraphernalia. To our shame, I admit that by the time we were married, the two of us owned:

A PlayStation 2
An Original XBox
An XBox 360
A Nintendo 64
A Nintendo GameCube
An Original Gameboy
2 Nintendo DS Gameboys
Hundreds of Games
Dozens of Player's Guides/Manuals and Accessories
The Nintendo Wii came out during the first year we were married and we sat in line to buy one of those too. In fact, we sat in line many times to buy Nintendo Wii's because we found that if we were willing to sit for a few hours to get one, someone would be willing to pay us a few hundred dollars so that they didn't have to. That year we paid for all of our Christmas presents out of the profits from selling Nintendo Wii consoles!

Anyway, about two months ago I began to clean out underneath our entertainment unit because I needed some extra storage space. I was so appalled at how much money we had thrown away over the years! Easily thousands and thousands of dollars! What fools! Josh and I decided that we would keep the Wii, throw away the really outdated stuff, and sell the rest.

Thankfully, I was not successful in selling our video gaming collection. After watching Captivated, we were so convicted that we had been willing to sell these things that only serve to draw people's hearts away from God. We decided that if it wasn't good enough for us to use in our home, then it certainly was not anything we wanted to pass on to anyone else. 

This morning James and JoyAnna and I went through and took out all of the game discs from their cases. We separated them in case someone picked through the trash (which, believe it or not, there are several regulars who come through the neighborhood on Garbage Eve to see what treasures they might find) and carried them off. I placed the cases in a garbage bag. It was so full I could barely tie it shut! The game discs we threw in the kitchen garbage to be tied up in that bag and thrown away separately. 

Next I cleaned out my fridge. I found some expired jars of olives, pickles and creamy salad dressings tucked way in the back of the bottom shelf. And a bottle of Heinz ketchup that had been purchased accidentally, (I don't use Heinz because it has so much HFCS in it), and squirted that on top for good measure. There was even a third of a can of whipped cream that got thrown into the mix. Now, even if anyone should dig through to the bottom of the can, hopefully it's such a mess they would never dare haul away that junk. Next week I will throw away the consoles, being careful to place them at the very bottom of the can. We don't want to have an overflowing garbage can come Friday to draw any extra attention to what might be in there.

We had read about the golden calf that the Israelites were worshipping while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God just last night. So this morning, I explained how these video games can become like the golden calf and how Mama and Daddy don't want to have anything in our home anymore that does not help us to love and honor God more.

Two weeks ago, before we had watched Captivated, the Lord led us to clean out any DVD's that had any sort of suggestive or unholy language, images or plots. There really weren't many. But one or two favorite old movies got thrown away. Josh parted with Gone With The Wind and I parted with What About Bob.

I have to say that I have so much peace and such a sense of lightness now! It has made such a difference in the attitude of my heart. Even  the whole attitude of our home seems to have changed for the better as well!

I challenge you to watch and consider the challenges presented in Captivated! 


I think you will be very glad you did!

Here is ALL of the junk we got rid of today!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cookout At The Park!

Aly and JoyAnna waiting for their ride...Pelican's waiting for their meal.
Erma and Erpa (Josh's parents) invited us
to the park for a cookout last Saturday.

 Josh and James went early so they could go fishing on Erpa's boat before the girls came along with the grub.

Aly and Kynlee were even there!

When we got there, Erma took Kynlee and Lydia to the park while the older kids went out for a boat ride with Erpa, Josh and me.

Brown Pelican
Anhinga drying it's wings.

We saw lots of birds!
There were mockingbirds, american crows, loggerhead shrikes, blue jays, seagulls, pelicans, anhingas, and what we think might have been terns?

James and I think this is some kind of tern...Do you know what it is?
JoyAnna and Alyson with James at the helm!

Joy and Lydia swinging.
We had so much fun playing together at the park! They had this great pirate ship themed playground. We were surprised at how empty the park was for a Saturday afternoon. It was a nice, overcast afternoon so it wasn't too warm.

James climbing the rock wall.   

Of course, Josh was encouraging everyone to climb the rock wall. James doesn't need too much encouragement. It's one of his favorite things to do! I think Josh is secretly hoping that I will let him take up rock climbing if he can get the kids into it too. Crazy man!
Ahoy, Lydia!

 Lydia was having so much fun climbing all over this thing! It is so bittersweet to see how quickly she is growing! Almost 18 months old already...where does the time go?!

Underneath the pirate ship there was a Scavenger Hunt game. Josh took the kids over while Erpa was cooking to find all of the symbols. There were two that they could not find...not even Josh! Finally, James found one and then Josh found the other. It was quite challenging and kept them busy for awhile.

We were able to use the grill at the pavilion nearby for dinner. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, I brought a homemade potato salad (Granny's famous recipe, of course!), there were some unnaturally large and super sweet strawberries as well as chips, pretzels and squished cupcakes. The cupcakes, though squished, were quite delicious! Really, everything was delicious.

Kynlee and Alyson resting before dinner.

The "babies" snacking on hotdog buns.

After dinner, we all cleaned up and Erpa left to wash the boat. The rest of us took a walk to the fishing pier. A little boy caught a little snapper while we were there. Fun!! And Daddy accidentally dropped James' sunglasses into the water. He wanted to go in and get them, but Erma and I asked him not to. Apparently, red sunglasses will attract large fish.

Peering over at the lost sunglasses.
JoyAnna giggling with Kynlee at the pier.

Then we all went home and slept well.

Heading home!

Monday, April 15, 2013

It Really Is Tough: Ramblings About Motherhood

Last Thursday, Josh and I brought the children to City Hall to apply for our Passports at 7:30 a.m. Then we dropped him off at work and were able to run some errands. By the time we made it to purgatory Walmart an hour and a half later, there had been enough small skirmishes in the backseat to be fairly discouraging. I was beginning to feel some frustration, as this was only the first stop of the day. What more "fun" did I have to look forward to?

As I was piling my crew into a shopping cart, an older gentleman came over and counted my children, "Three!". Then he encouraged me by saying, "No matter what anyone says, this is THE most important job anyone can ever have." I thanked him profusely. Then I praised my Father. He knew I needed a word of encouragement just then. A reminder that what I was doing was important; would have an impact on generations to come. 

But it was also a rebuke. Because I had been beginning to grumble in my heart about the trials of being a mom. Rather than thinking about how I could encourage my children to love Christ and honor Him, I was too busy wallowing in self pity. I wasn't thinking at all about the generations ahead of us that I could be impacting simply by loving, and blessing, and instructing these three little ones.

Sara Groves began singing "Generations" in my mind to me, "Remind me of this with every decision. Generations will reap what I sow. I can pass on a curse or a blessing to those I will never know..."

The Lord used this man to remind me that my focus had not been correct. I had been setting my eyes on negative things. I immediately thought of Philippians 4:8, which says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

And that verse brought me to think about the Proverbs 31 woman: "An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels... her children rise up and called her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." 

Then I was able to better focus on the joys and blessings of being able to use ALL of my time and resources to minister to my family. It is a privilege that many American woman have cast off as if it were some dreaded burden to unbearable to even consider. For some, it is a privilege they long to have and yet are not able to.

How dare I complain in my heart! Is that the attitude that I want to model for my girls so that if the Lord blesses them with children, they have the very same complaining spirit? Certainly not!

And there I am, upon my knees again, crying out for new mercies and more grace.

And it is there that I hope to remain always.

(Please excuse the year-old photos...this year's haven't come in yet!)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Introducing: Tea Cake


Here is our Tea Cake! No, WE did not name him that...that was the name he came with. This was the photo that his previous owner sent me. I'm pretty sure it must be a baby picture, because he is much larger. He is 3 years old according to his pedigree papers. I believe his color is black. He is oh-so-soft and sweet. Unless he is agitated or anxious. Then he's kind of cranky. But, really, who wouldn't be?

Here he is with his box on our lanai.
When we picked him up from the previous owner's house, we saw that he was kept outdoors in a nice big hutch. He had a fenced in little area in the shade to run and play. They had made him a little wooden box to hide and rest in. He came with his brush, his box, and a pet carrier so we could bring him home.

About 15 minutes into our drive home, our sweet little Tea Cake decided to spray us with urine. Now, when I say "us", I really mean Josh. I had the carrier on my lap with the door facing Josh, who was driving. I got a little squirt on my forearm, but poor Josh really got soaked. This really endeared the rabbit to him. James, in the backseat, was even wondering how HE got wet! Oh boy...

Then we had to stop at Tractor Supply, where we spent nearly $100 on a cage and other miscellaneous rabbit supplies. This made Josh even more glad that we got a rabbit. When we finally made it home, it was past bedtime for everyone. And I had a soggy-bottomed bunny that needed some serious bathing. (I've heard you are not supposed to bathe them, but when they are D R I P P I N G with unpleasantness SOMETHING has to be done!)

Bunny Bonding
After the kids went to bed, I gave Tea Cake a quick little bath just to wash his feet and belly and whatever else was dirty. For the most part, he was pretty well behaved. I wrapped him in an old towel and brought him to my room where Josh was building the hutch kit. I dried off the bunny and snuggled him for a little bit. When the cage was built (which was quite an endeavor considering that it was missing pieces and the directions were very poorly written), Josh held Tea Cake so I could clear a spot in the laundry room for the cage.

The next morning I bunny-proofed the lanai and Josh took Tea Cake out for some fresh air. He really enjoys laying on the cold concrete floor. I've offered him romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery, carrots, apples, a few bites of banana and papaya. He greedily mowed down the lettuce, ate most of the carrot and didn't touch the other things. He has eaten some pellets and chewed on some Timothy Hay. I am thinking about building some sort of large table about 4" off the ground and growing some grasses and lettuces and herbs in it so he can graze while he is on the lanai. I had an idea to put down small gauged chicken wire just above the dirt so he can't dig in it and make a mess. Now that summer is coming he won't be able to spend much more than mornings and evenings out there anyway, so we will see.

 After Josh put the bunny down to let him run around, he hopped away and then just sat watching Josh. They sat there for a long time checking each other out. It was pretty cute. Then Tea Cake hopped over and sat at Josh's feet. Awww!!

We haven't let the kids have much contact with him yet. The family he came from had some wild children and I get the impression that they really frightened poor Tea Cake. He gets very anxious whenever the kids get too close. I will wait until he is completely comfortable with Josh and I and then slowly introduce James and JoyAnna.

He has nipped our clothes a couple of times to let us know when he has been handled enough. We just give him his space. We're still strangers to him. I'm not sure if that's right or not. He has tolerated some brushing from me, but usually after 5 minutes or so he has had enough.

This afternoon while the kids were napping I went out to sit next to him on the porch. He didn't get up and move away, which was nice. Maybe he's getting used to me? I sat petting him for a few minutes and then stopped. He moved closer to me so I would pet him more, it seemed. So I did. He asked so nicely! Then I stopped again and he got up, took several little hops toward me and licked my leg!! Then he scooted back again and watched to see what I did. He literally left a little bunny kiss mark on my skin! It was this little wet circle. So I scooped him up and snuggled him and told him what a sweet little bun he was! Then he hopped away. We're still getting to know each other, but it's nice to see that he wants our attention.

Sunday afternoon I got a phone call from Mrs. Flowers. She was calling because a friend of hers was hoping to find a new home for one of her English Angora bucks. Mrs. Flowers recommended us! SO....we will go pick up 1 year old Dylan on Thursday! I'm told that he is a sweetie, he is completely house-broken (he uses a litter box like a cat), and has one limp ear. The limp ear is a disqualification if the kids were to ever show him, but that's not why we want these bunnies. They are great pets because of their docile personalities, so they are a good breed for introducing children to rabbits. Plus, I want to learn, and teach my children, the art of spinning.

After I wrote that (-----^) the kids woke up from their naps. I let James go out to visit Tea Cake first. He went very quietly and slowly and was able to sit very quietly down next to the bunny. Tea Cake sat while James stroked him and offered him a carrot. Then JoyAnna took a turn. Lydia was only allowed to look from the window and say "Hi!". Tea Cake was very sweet and much more relaxed while the kiddies were petting him. He didn't run away or hide and he never nipped them. We are really enjoying our first animal!

James offering a carrot.
JoyAnna hanging out with Tea Cake.

Enjoying some porch time with the bunny.

Where Do Babies Come From?

Of course this question comes during dinner on a Tuesday night when Josh is at class and I am left to fend for myself.

James: "How do men kill fish to eat?"

Me: "They can't breathe when they are out of water and they just die."

James: "Oh."

Me: "Fish have gills, the don't have lungs like we do. They can only breathe underwater."

James: "Dolphins can't do that. Or whales."

Me: "No, they breathe air. They are mammals. Do you remember what mammals are?"

James: "No."

Me: "Mammals are animals that have live babies, they don't lay eggs. They give their babies milk.They have lungs and breathe air. They have hair on their bodies and are warm blooded."

James: "Where do baby dolphins come from?"

Me (TOTAL deer in headlights look, then Divine Inspiration): "They come from God, just like our babies do."

James: "I like this song!" (We were listening to some praise music during dinner.)

Me: "Phew!"

I am so glad that he is satisfied with the simple version for now. 

Why is this topic so scary for parents?

Our Exciting Saturday

It's no secret that the kids and I fell in love with Mrs. Flowers' bunnies. However, Josh wasn't quite so convinced. Sure, he thought they were cute. But he didn't see a real "use" for them. You can't eat them. They don't lay eggs or give milk fit for human consumption. Just fiber. And he's got his heart set on sheep when it comes to a fiber animal. Angora rabbits qualify as pets in his dictionary. And Josh doesn't "do" pets. Especially expensive ones. So we made a deal. If I could find an angora rabbit at a reasonable price (meaning, about the same as or less than the price of the average bunny), we could get it.

I put out an advertisement announcing that we were looking for a baby English Angora bunny. I heard back from someone in Orlando who had a mix. That won't work for 4-H, so I politely declined. Then I got an email from a lady in Bradenton. She said that her family was  moving and they had an adult English Angora buck they were going to have to find a new home for.

So we finally decided to bring the kids to Bradenton to visit Snooty, the oldest living manatee in captivity, at the South Florida Museum. After our visit, we would pick up our bunny. We were in for quite an exciting day!

Snooty's Feeding Time!
Two months ago we visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. We decided to buy a membership because that would allow us to visit many other museums for free! Good deal! Apparently, we also get to visit Snooty for free!! I was really surprised about this because their website says that the South Florida Museum does not participate in that program and we would not get discounted admission. When we got there, I politely asked why they don't participate and the lady behind the counter explained that they do offer free admission to any members of MOSI! It only cost us $12 so that we could all go see the Planetarium shows.

We love Snooty!

After Snooty's feeding time where the keeper comes out to speak about manatees, we walked around and went down to the bottom of the tank so we could see the manatees swimming around. And we found 2 photo opportunities!
Swimming with Snooty!

 It was perfect, because JoyAnna had said at feeding time, "I wish I could go in there and swim with Snooty." They eagerly climbed up and stuck their faces in for me. (I love these things!)


Can you see James' head peeking over?

Outside of  aquarium is what seems to me to be a VERY old, and very tiny, Spanish Mission-style Catholic Church. The kids did not recognize it as a church. I thought the pews would give it away, but since we've been part of a small house church for over a year perhaps they don't remember pews? Then, I suppose, James got the idea because he stepped up into the "pulpit" area and began preaching.

James, JoyAnna and Lydia posing with the Snooty statue.
 We really had a nice time. The planetarium show was so enjoyable. James even remembered some information about stars and supernovas - and that was pretty cool to hear him reminding us about it on the way home.

And this was THE FIRST time we have ever had a child under the age of 2 go through an entire planetarium show without screaming and needing to be removed!

We were warned that there was a point in the show that might be a little startling and we had prepared the kids (mostly JoyAnna) for it.
This was one of their favorite parts!

After the show, she looked at us and said, "I wasn't scared because I knew God was 'pretecting' me!" It never ceases to amaze me when I see how God is proving Himself to be real in our children's lives. We share the Gospel with them, and we do our best to live it out, all the while being completely dependent upon His grace. But He is doing the work that we cannot do as their parents. Which is, by His Spirit, moving in their hearts and minds.

They had a boat that the kids were allowed to sit in! They didn't want to get out and finish going through the museum! It was so much fun to watch the three of them pretending to be out in a boat. The water was rough that day; they were having trouble keeping from capsizing.

Unfortunately, at the other end of this room there is a canoe sitting on the ground. My children, who had just enjoyed the other boat so very much, jumped right in before we read the TINY sign that read, "Please Do Not Sit In Canoe. Thanks." Whoops!

There is an exhibit in the museum of Franklinite, a fluorescent mineral found in Franklin, New Jersey...VERY close to where I grew up! I can still remember taking a field trip to the very mine that harvested these minerals when I was in elementary school. This mineral is very neat because under normal lighting conditions it doesn't really look any different than any other rock. But when you put a black light on it, it turns bright green.

We left the museum, enjoyed some delicious cheeseburgers at Five Guys Burgers & Fries, and then went to pick up our sweet bunny... Stay tuned for THAT story!