Saturday, August 31, 2013

Our Story, Part 4

One of our purposes in having a family blog [link to about family abounds page] is to record our story.  And that is why I've been taking a post each week to tell how God has worked in our lives to bring us together and to teach us more and more of His abounding love and grace.  We are currently at a stage in our journey where some reflection and healing are needed.  It has been very good to remember back to our earlier years with a new perspective on the Lord and on life.

If you haven't spent time remembering your story, I encourage you to do so.  Even those painful and awkward memories may bring you greater insight and enlarge your view of God and His ways.

You can catch up on previous posts here:
          Our Story, Part 1 - How We Met
          Our Story, Part 2 - Getting Engaged
          Our Story, Part 3 - Getting Married and Starting an Exciting Journey

We left off last week with our whirlwind summer - relocation, wedding, quick honeymoon, and onto a new life together in the Big Apple.  Exciting, right?

Our first year together was probably the hardest we've been through.  At the time I insisted that it wasn't, but I'm pretty sure I was unable to let myself admit it.  But even though it was our hardest, it was also one of tremendous growth as individuals and as a couple.  The Lord taught us to lean on Him TOGETHER, and that has laid a solid foundation for our marriage.

I won't go into details here, but it's enough to say that we were in financial hardship that first year.  I could probably write a series of posts on that experience, how it made me feel, how others sometimes made me feel, and how it actually brought Claude and I closer together.  For now, though, I'll just say that we walked a lot and ate a little - and we were healthier for it.

While Claude studied and practiced during the days and evenings, I tried to find administrative work.  After a few months I finally broke down and got an hourly job as a cashier at the drug store across the street from our apartment.  It was very humbling for me, but it is one of the best things I've ever done.  Not the work...that was a bit lame.  But being humbled was very good for me.  Why, you ask?  Well, just allow the Lord to humble you in HIS WAY and you'll understand.

Even with Claude working a bit at school, my hours at the drug store, some violin teaching, and a part time orchestra gig, we still were struggling financially.  At one point some very well-meaning people suggested that we budget our money so that we wouldn't be wondering where this week's groceries were coming from.  The problem was that we hardly had anything to budget.  If you're earning about half of your overall expenses it doesn't really matter how you break it're not going to make the bills without some help.

And help we did have.  We set our eyes on the Lord and trusted Him as best we knew how.  And God provided in many different ways throughout that year.  Sometimes He used the generosity of others and sometimes He gave us an extra gig.  Sometimes the numbers simply didn't add up and we really couldn't see how everything was paid.  But we were growing in faith and learning more of God's character - it was hard but incredible!

A quick note...some of our financial trials were a result of our choices but many were from external circumstances that we couldn't control.  What I learned, though, is that God doesn't seem to be concerned with how we get into trouble, unless of course it's a matter of sin.  As I've looked back to our money challenges I realize that our mistakes were simply out of immaturity but our hearts were fully set on the Lord, seeking Him and learning to trust Him more.  The hardship was not a means of teaching us money smarts - although we did grow in wisdom in that area - but rather a part of our path to knowing God more.

I will also add that Claude and I were both struggling that year with all of the life changes we had just endured.  He had just moved from a foreign country.  Wait a minute?  You don't think Australia is a foreign country?  They speak the same language, right?  Let me say the words "biscuit", "chips", and "pudding".  Same language...I wonder...  :)

The change of location was also hard on me.  Both of us, although we were learning to rely on God together in our finances, were feeling lonely.  Our friends and family were far away and as much as New York is a part of the U.S. it is very different from anywhere that I had (or have) ever lived.  It's culture shock for anyone who hasn't grown up there.

And then we hardly knew each other.  We had spent all of three months (if that) together before we were married.  That time was spread out - a few weeks here and there at a music festival - over a three year time period.  And more than half of that time was leading up to our wedding.  In other words, ALL of our time together had been in completely abnormal circumstances.  We simply didn't know the day to day side of each other.

The Lord had been speaking to us about being in the crucible - a place of being refined - and staying in the U.S. Northeast was part of that.  But with so many challenges, we were eagerly awaiting Claude's graduation and a ticket out of New York and a chance to take a little breather from the refining flames.

We needed to make a trip to Melbourne since Claude had to get a new visa, so in June 2006 we hopped on a plane and flew across the Pacific.  It was supposed to be short - just one month - but it wasn't until September that we had a visa in hand and were able to head back to the states.

Despite our desire to be done with New York, we were learning to give our plans and desires to the Lord.  And I think we had accepted where God was keeping us.  We weren't thrilled about it, but we did have peace and we both agreed that God's time for us in the Northeast wasn't over.  Maybe we'd be around for another year or two?  In any case, we had jobs to find and an apartment to save for.

And before we knew it God was growing us again...

To be continued...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Funnies: Baby Showers

The ladies at our church gave me a baby shower last night.  It was a real blessing, especially since I would never expect to have one for a fifth little one.  But like one of the women mentioned, sometimes you need them more with those later kiddos...somehow the hand-me-downs just don't last forever!

So, this evening our conversation revolved around the baby shower.  The kids don't know what a shower is, unless we're talking about getting clean.  Their funny ideas about it reminded me of what I thought of a baby shower when I was a child.

I remember being disappointed when I attended my first one.  First off, I expected the baby to actually be there.  He wasn't.  Then I thought for sure everything would be white and lacy.  It wasn't.  Finally, I had this idea that everyone would take turns having a shower with the baby.  We didn't.  On that point I was a little relieved.  I didn't quite understand why you would want a bunch of different people showering with your infant.

Anyway...back to the present...

While Hannah asked me some questions about the baby shower, Abby piped up with this gem.

"Um, excuse me, Mommy!  Did you take your clothes off for the baby shower?"

My thoughts were something like this...I CERTAINLY HOPE NOT!!!

So, what got you laughing this week?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Simple, Healthy, and Affordable Breakfast Solutions

The Crew is always looking for ways to simplify.  Meals tend to be one of the biggest areas of need in that regard.  Not only do we want everyone fed as easily as possible, but we want meals that are healthy and affordable.

If you've read our post about grocery budgets, you know that I'm looking for ways to continue cutting costs on our food bill.  Until recently, cold cereal was our staple breakfast.  This was something the kids could serve themselves, it was reasonably healthy because we chose cereals without sugar and with as many whole grains as we could, and it was not incredibly expensive.

However, after reviewing our spending some more, I thought we could save just a bit more on breakfast foods.  Here was my criteria:
Simple - This means that the kids can serve themselves with minimal mess and little error.  I also wanted something that we could throw together each day or once a week without a lot of time or effort involved.
Healthy - Not only did I want something healthy, but also something that would be filling and help everyone make it (without incident) to snack time.
Affordable - My affordability measure was simply for the breakfast solution to cost less than the cold cereal we were already buying.
I came up with three different solutions:
Homemade Granola - This was simple for morning preparation and healthy (provided I used very little or no oil and only a bit of sugar).  It was also affordable because oats are, well...affordable.  The only downside is that to make enough granola to last even a week in our house takes an hour or more.  But it went into the mix anyway.
Frozen Waffles and Muffins - These also makes morning preparation simple.  They are cheaper than cold cereal and having found some good recipes, they are healthy.  But like the granola, the advanced preparation time was at least an our (and for waffles more like 2 hours).  It also went into the mix, though.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal "Packets" - This has become the breakfast staple.  It is simple the day of and very quick to mix up a huge batch in advance.  It is definitely healthy even with some sugar to sweeten it up.  We are certainly spending less than we did on cold cereal.  And I've taught the kids how to prepare their own, which gives them a sense accomplishment and enables Claude and I get ready in the mornings.
Armed with these solutions, we set to work to stock the freezer and get out the giant bags of oats.  The girls have helped considerably with preparations and at this point we have about 5 dozen muffins, 1 dozen waffles (we've eaten a few already), and 20 cups worth of dry instant oatmeal "packet" mix to get us through the breakfast rush.  The granola is still awaiting preparation, but with everything else that we have on hand it's not all that necessary.

You can check out the recipes that we used here:
Simple Stovetop Granola - We have used this recipe for about 4 years now.  I cut back the butter/oil and sugar quite a bit from this recipe.
Whole Wheat Apple Waffles - We like ours with peanut butter.
Hearty Spiced Carrot Muffins - I also made a batch with zucchini in place of the carrot.  And I reduced the sugar.  These are awesome so make extra that you can eat and still have something left for the freezer!
Healthy Toddler Oatmeal Banana Muffins - Don't let the name fool you.  These are for "kids" of ALL ages.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets - We add cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to our mix.

 So, what are you favorite breakfast solutions?

Welcome Home Wednesdays

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bible Basics: Abraham, Part 1


Welcome to Bible Basics!  This week we will be starting to learn about Abraham and the promises that God made to him, but first a little introduction for anyone who is here for the first time.

In this weekly series, we are taking every Tuesday to share with you a simple and engaging Bible lesson designed for toddlers.  Abigail (almost 3 years old) and I working through these each day in our preschool time together.  My goal with each is to take a key story from the Old Testament (we'll probably get to the New Testament next year) and help Abby become familiar with the people, places, and concepts of that story.  This way when she's in Sunday School, at home during Family Bible Time, or just growing up and hearing more and more of God's Word, she'll have a basic understand of the Bible - hence our title BIBLE BASICS!  :)

If this is your first time visiting our Bible Basics series, please find a growing list of previous lessons here.  You can check out last week's lesson about Noah here and an alternative craft here.

And now to jump into this week's lesson!

Genesis 12-17

Memory Verse

Choose one of the following that is appropriate for your child's age and attention span:
"Abraham believed God" -Genesis 15:6
"God said to Abraham, 'Go from your country to a land that I will show you...and I will make of you a great nation." -Genesis 12:1-2 
Lesson Focus
Abraham believed God.

Star Sticker Craft

- Paper (construction, plain, anything will do)

- Scissors
- Glue- Sand paper
- Aluminum foil
- Star stickers

1. Cut the sand paper into the shape of hills.  Use as many pieces as you would like.  Glue to the bottom half of the paper.

2. Cut the aluminum foil into the shape of a moon.  Glue this on the top half of the paper.
3. Put star stickers on top half of paper.  Use as many as will fit (remember that God promised Abraham children to outnumber the stars!).
4. As you work, talk with your child about the story of Abraham and God's promise to him.


How We Go Through the Lesson
1. Recite or sing memory verse.
2. Read Bible story.  We use the Beginner's Bible, but you can choose a children's story Bible or "grown-up" translation that suits you and your family.
3. Recite or sing memory verse.
4. Craft or project.  Depending on the day of the week this may be a project like the one above or it could be a coloring page or something completely different.
*Repeat the lesson almost every day.  This could mean doing it on weekdays or taking one day to work on the project, saying the memory verse together throughout the day, and reading the Bible story before bed each night.  It doesn't matter when or how, but the repetition is key for toddlers to retain the lessons presented to them.
Some more ideas for teaching about Abraham:
Here are a few free printable coloring pages
Star stamping project
This is a great website for lots of different games and crafts!

What fun Bible lessons have you done with your toddler or preschooler this week?

Check out these link-ups for some great parenting and homeschooling resources!
Titus 2 Tuesdays @ Cornerstone Confessions
Teach Me Tuesdays @ Growing Home
Hip Homeschool Hop @ Hip Homschool Moms
The Sunday Showcase @ Learn Play Imagine
Babies & Beyond @ My Joy-Filled Life, Proverbs & Pacifiers, and Beauty in the Mess 

Homeschool Review @ Hammock Tracks 
Mom's Library @ True Aim Education 
Welcome Home Wednesdays @ Raising Arrows

Sunday, August 25, 2013

8 Years and Counting - Claude's Thoughts for our Anniversary!

8 Years ago today we were married in the rain in Kalispell, Montana in the Rose Garden at Woodland Park in a relatively small gathering of family and friends and it seems like a lot has happened since then!   The Lord has given 5 children (one not out of the womb yet) and moved us halfway across the country (and the world if you count me moving across from Australia) taken us through financial trials where we saw firsthand God's miraculous provision, changed and renewed our thinking more and more into the image of Christ Jesus (at least we hope) and given us crash courses in marriage and parenting through His grace in the midst of the craziness of real life!  Every day is a process of being sharpened more and more (Proverbs 27:17) and it doesn't always feel pleasant but when things are sharpened there is always friction and sometimes sparks fly but in the end it results in a blade that is actually useful and not dull and worthless.  So there are plenty of sparks that fly, especially in parenting as we are sharpened more and more into Jesus' likeness but we lie in the hope that He is completing His sanctifying work in us by His grace and by His Spirit (Philippians 1:6)!

As we go into our 8th year of marriage I observe that we are only just beginning to truly scratch the surface of intimately knowing someone well and truly learning to love or beginning to love as Christ Jesus loved and loves us.  I can't imagine what it will be like to spend eternity with Jesus for whosoever believes in His death on the Cross for forgiveness of sins and His resurrection for eternal life because He's God and infinitely to be known, yet I realize just how much knowing we have here on earth with each other in our marriage.  I wonder how many marriages are terminated or end prematurely before this really happens or stagnate too and never really go deeper than whatever was gained and grown in the early years.   In some ways it's really like learning to grow up again in both cases because with Jesus we are born again and from above (John 3:3), no longer by flesh but by God's Holy Spirit and then we learn to drink milk, eat solid food, walk, run obey, be self controlled, like a child does from the time  they are born and as they grow up.  I feel like in marriage it is similar because there are no longer two, but the two will become one and learn to grow up together, no longer just as individuals but as one united front, in oneness, one person from the two.  It is truly a mystery because that's also Christ's love for the Church and that's mind blowing to think about!

But all that to say that I am honored to be married to and to have Becca as my bride and wife for the past 8 years.  God has made, is making us one more and more and has raised her and both of us up together more and more into the likeness of Christ Jesus through marriage and my earnest prayer and hope and desire is that  bring glory to the Name, to His name and that we live in a manner worthy of our calling to marriage until we see Jesus face to face in glory!

I love you, Becca!  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:29 ESV)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Story, Part 3


Our Story, Part 1
Our Story, Part 2

From last time...

Despite my anxiety, I did meet Claude for breakfast.  And within a few weeks we found ourselves going out to dinner again.  But this time things were different.

Sometimes my memory fails me, and for this particular date (probably the only traditional date we've ever had) I don't remember if I knew why Claude was taking me to the nicest restaurant in the area or not.  And I don't remember how he broached the subject, but one way or another we were talking about engagement.

Aaaaaggggggggghhhhh!!!!!  FINALLY!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I was a bit elated.  :)

Note:  Claude has a back story as to how he came to the decision to get engaged on this particular trip.  It was NOT something he had planned and NOT anything I expected.  But like Proverbs says, "In his heart a man plans his way but it is the Lord who determines his steps."  This was just one of the first stages of following God's leading even when it's completely different from our own plans.

Claude had an audition in New York and his return flight back to Melbourne shortly after our engagement talk, so I figured a proposal would happen sometime soon.  At first I thought it might happen before he went to New York. proposal.  So, I was on alert but trying to be cool, calm, and collected as I waited.

We took a trip together to Baltimore for an audition that I had.  I thought he might propose on that trip.  We went there and proposal.  Although we did have fun skidding around in my little Geo Metro through a snow storm.

And then there came a very normal, snowy day when he came into my office.  This was certainly not out of the ordinary since he was frequenting my office (practicing there, meeting me for lunch, picking me up after work, etc) during his stay in Indiana.  Nothing really clued me into this particular day except that I woke up that morning thinking, "This is THE day!"

Claude asked if I would go for a walk with him, and I agreed even though I had a cold and didn't really want to walk in the snow.  We walked down a path that we had walked a hundred times before during the summer music festival where we met.  And we stopped at a telephone pole.  Romantic, right?

Yes, it was quite romantic because it was at that very telephone pole that Claude had initially asked me into a relationship.  :)

As I shivered from the cold and sniffled from a runny nose, Claude got down on one knee and asked if I would marry him.

YES!!!  YES!!!  YES!!!

Beautiful ring on hand and both of us giddy with excitement we headed back to the office to share the news with our friends.  Then we celebrated in true Chew Crew fashion (although we didn't know it at the time) - we ordered pizza.  :)

The engagement was supposed to be long - 2 or 3 years long.  That would give both of us time to finish up grad school and get some jobs, etc, etc, etc.  Our best laid plans.

I'm not sure when or how, but before we knew it we were planning a wedding for August of that year.  It was probably April or May at this time.  So, we had a handful of months, we found out in May/June that we would be moving to New York in the late summer for Claude's school, and we wanted to get married in Montana where my family was.  Why?  Because neither of us was there and that makes wedding planning so much easier!  :)  I jest...

So, in one of the most stressful summers of our lives, Claude left home for the first time, moved to a new country, we met again at the MasterWorks Festival, bought a car together, drove to New York to find an apartment, flew to Montana, finished last minute wedding preparations, and got married.

It was Wednesday, August 24, 2005.  It rained through the entire ceremony and stopped when we finished.  Our sopping wet wedding party had wonderful attitudes about it.  And we had our reception in the garage/barn of some gracious friends of the family...there were pretty lights overhead and snow mobiles along the back wall.

Our three day honeymoon was a bit brief, but Claude had to be back in New York to start grad school.  And, of course, the rest of our lives was waiting for us.

I don't really have time for all of the little stories within this bigger story.  Like getting in a car accident on our first full day in New York, finding out that the people who sold us the car did something illegal with our registration, and then having the police officers tell us that if they happened to all go downstairs and if the car happened to no longer be in the lot when they came back up then there wasn't anything they could do about it.  *Wink Wink*  We drove that car with a broken passenger door and window for a year.

And the story of not having plane tickets to get to our own wedding until about two weeks before.  Then our crazy trip to the airport where we ran 1.5 miles in the middle of the night (luggage in tow) to the train station to catch the last train to catch the last airport bus of the night.  We waited at a bus stop in Harlem around 1am...I don't recommend this even if there are police officers patrolling the streets at all times.

And I won't even get started on some of the apartment hunting stories.  Let's just say that we had to increase our minimum rent by a long shot in order to be living some place that didn't look like a scene from Law and Order.  It was the beginning of a lot of faith steps.

But the stories are half of the fun and the adventure, and, after all, we were over the moon with each other and with what God had done and was about to do in our lives.  We, of course, had things all figured out.  Little did we know just how quickly God would take us up on our consistent surrender to HIS WILL.

To be continued...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Funnies: Birth Stories

Birth stories.  They are amazing.  They are unique.  And they can all too often turn into a horror-story fest if we're not careful about how we share our experiences.

"I was in labor for 24 hours!"
"That's nothing.  I was in labor for two weeks!"

"I pushed for 2 hours!"
"Well, I pushed for 4 hours and my son's head was still stuck even after the vacuum extractor.  In the end they had to take him C-Section and I had to heal from BOTH!"

Well, I always thought this was something that we just kind of learned from other women.  But apparently not.  At least I'm pretty sure Hannah (4 years old) and Abby (2 years old) haven't been in any birth-story-telling circles recently.  And yet they've got the oneupmanship (that is a word, isn't it???) mastered as demonstrated from the beginning of what went on to become an epic birth story.

Hannah: Quick, the baby's about to come out!
Abby: Just a minute.  Let me go get her! [Abby runs to the bedroom and comes back with a pink teddy bear.]  Okay.  She's ready.
H: But now I'm motion sick.
A: Me too.
H: Well, I'm motion sick AND I'm about to have a baby.

What made you laugh this week?


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Milestones: Toothless

As I mentioned very briefly in our latest family update, Joshua has had a loose tooth for a while now.  Not wanting it to feel sore or to hurt, he's been nursing it along, waiting for it to come out on its own.

Well, yesterday was the big day.

Joshua lost his first tooth!

He is thrilled to have finally lost a tooth, and soon he'll be adding another one to his little tooth container.  A few minutes after showing me the first tooth he came racing down the hall to say that a second tooth is loose!  :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Family Update - August 2013

Our family update is a bit ordinary, but since I'm sitting here with nothing to do I thought of recapping a bit of our lives over the last several weeks.  So, here I go...

The kids have just finished up their first 6-week school session.  We started earlier than I originally planned so for now we're "ahead" of schedule.  This gives us some nice flexibility through the rest of the school year.  I tried to push through a seventh week to finish out our subtraction unit and we all crashed on Monday afternoon.  Definitely a sign that we needed the scheduled break.  So, we're taking it and I'm trying to figure out what to do with these guys to keep them busy.


You may have seen the first couple installments of our annual birthday line-up.  This weekend we're gearing up to celebrate Claude's birthday which also happens to be our wedding anniversary.  Once the first birthday of the line-up comes around I know that the rest of the year is going to fly by.  After Claude we wait a few weeks to celebrate Abigail's birthday and then two weeks later it's Hannah's turn.  After that we're on alert for our newest addition and what will be the end of our birthdays until next year.

Speaking of Chew Crew 5...we're plugging away through her pregnancy.  I'm hoping that she can beat the odds of an early-ish arrival and actually come around her due date (three of the four little Crew members were born from 1-3 weeks "early").  This is mostly because my mom might be able to be here then and it would make logistics easier and would be really exciting if she could be here when the little bundle is born.  But, since babies don't read calendars and aren't really aware of their estimated due dates, I'm not holding my breath.

Regardless of when she makes her appearance, this baby and I are certainly entering the home stretch...kind of.  We hit the first day of the third trimester and suddenly I couldn't stay awake through the day, my back started feeling stiff and sore, and my belly touched the steering wheel for the first time.  Despite how big I feel or how gigantic the kids think my belly has become, I know from experience just how much more growth will happen in the next 10 weeks or so.  And I'm looking forward to it, even if I am stiff and sleepy.  :)

Along the baby lines, we decided to switch our care provider.  I had randomly chosen an OBGYN near our house in the start of the pregnancy.  She was alright - cheerful and friendly - but I was having some doubts about how much support I would get in having a natural birth.  Then we got a ballpark figure from the insurance company about our out-of-pocket expenses for a hospital birth.  We decided to look into finding a midwife since even the out-of-network cost might be the same or less than an in-network hospital delivery.

We've found a great group of midwives and are glad to have made the switch.  One of the greatest advantages at this point is that I can bring the kids with me to appointments, something that was not possible at the other office.  It's a bit of a drive to their birth center - 45 minutes without traffic - so hopefully that won't be a time crunch thing when labor day comes around.  All in all I'm really happy with the change and I'm glad to know that we will have ample support for the natural, intervention-free birth that we hope to have (barring any unforeseen complications, of course).

In other news we managed to kill a baby lizard in the sliding door yesterday.  It provided a bit of excitement for the kids - excitement that they did not have to create on their own.  Claude threw the lizard out on the back patio and it was gone by the morning.  I don't really want to think about how it disappeared...  Ick!

We're looking forward to some time with Claude this weekend and next.  He's had some crazy hours at work this month, which has been tiring for him.  We have a little "stay-cation" planned, if you can call it that, and hope to enjoy some time at the Children's Museum on Friday.  We even found a Groupon!  If you live in the Houston area, take advantage of this ongoing deal - the museum is tons of fun and if you can swing going on a weekday (afternoon is best) you can avoid some crazy crowds.

And, of course, Claude and I will be going on an anniversary date along with our usual family birthday celebration for the kids' favorite person on Saturday.  It should be fun and I think the little guys will enjoy a change of pace.  Who am I kidding?  I think ALL of us will enjoy a change of pace! 

Summer here hasn't been as hot as everyone made it out to be.  Temperatures are definitely lower than when I was at school in Arizona (and I wasn't even there for the summer).  Yes, the humidity is a bit oppressive sometimes, but most days aren't terrible.  Inf act, we had days just as hot and humid back in New York.  The only difference is that here the temperatures stay the same day in and day out - and therein lies the challenge.  I haven't been very motivated to get outside with the kids, so everyone is a little (or a lot!) stir crazy.

In reality it's not any different than winters were in New York.  Not being to get outside feels the same whether it's cold and snowy or hot and humid.  As a result, I feel like it's winter time (even though we have the AC blasting when we drive in the car) so my internal calendar feels pretty skewed.  I have actually asked my mom how school is going for my youngest sister...she's on summer break, of course.  But the heat here is better than the cold in the Northeast - at least there is a lot of sunshine here!

And, back to the new baby thing for a minute.  We made room over the weekend in our 7-passenger van for our seventh regular passenger.  How does a family of seven fit 4 car seats and 1 booster seat into a mini-van?  Like this!

It looks a little bit like how we drove a Toyota Corolla with three kids in the back seat.

It's actually a lot of fun seeing the seats filled up.  And it'll be even more fun when the infant car seat is occupied again.  Not that it had much of a break...  :)

Along with rearranging the car seats came a strong desire to clean them.  You know you're nesting when...  ;)

It was not the best timing on my part, but we managed to wash all of the car seats and covers, and the double stroller and it's seats (this stroller is awesome - everything except the sunshades can be removed from the frame and thrown in the washing machine!).  And no, I don't receive any commission for my recommendation, but if you are looking for a durable double stroller with lots of storage space, versatile seating arrangements, a reasonably compact fold, AND seats that can be washed easily try to find one of these.  We got ours used on Craigslist.  It's been the best double stroller we've owned!

Now, if you'll excuse me there's a half-naked baby toddling around with marker all over his stomach, a mess of toys that seems to be oozing out from the school room, and some birthday gift shopping that must be done...perhaps I should be on my way!

I know I'm skipping over some other newsworthy tidbits - like Joshua's tooth hanging on by a thread (the first loose tooth in our family), his budding ability to ride a bike without training wheels, Abby's potty-training adventures and successes, and a host of funny conversations the kids have had recently about giving birth, but time does not allow for these to be told today.

Oh, yes...there is also one last bit of exciting news to share, but I think it deserves it's own post.  Keep your eye open for it!  Until next time, here's a sneak peek into what that's all about...

What's been happening in your life lately?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bible Basics: Noah and the Ark


Welcome back to Bible Basics!  If you've been stopping by each Tuesday, you'll have already seen our previous lessons.  And if you missed them, stop by and have a look!

Today we're going to be looking at a very familiar story: Noah and the Ark.  This is a favorite for children's Bible curriculum because it involves animals.  With a quick Google search you can easily find crafts and activities for this Bible story.  At the bottom of this post I will include some links to a few that we've tried or will try in the future.

For this lesson I wanted to break away from paper crafts and have some fun.  So, we constructed an ark and set to the seas with a few animals in tow.  The kids had fun (water play is always a favorite amongst the littles) and the older kids had a chance to test their memories and retell the story as they played with their smaller siblings.

So, here's what we did.  (Please note that you can find another lesson plan for Noah and the Ark here.)

Genesis 6:5-9:17 

Memory Verse
"God remembered Noah and all the animals with him on the ark...and the waters went down."  -Genesis 8:1-2 (simplified)
Lesson Focus
God remembered Noah.

It is important for children to know why God flooded the earth.  People had forsaken Him and were doing evil.  This was so angering to the Lord that He decided to start over and so sent a flood.  BUT in His great mercy, He preserved a remnant of all living creatures.  Through Noah, a man who loved the Lord, God saved mankind from His own wrath.  And once the earth flooded HE REMEMBERED NOAH and caused the waters to subside.  We all know that the rainbow was given as a sign of a covenant between God and Noah, that God would never again flood the whole earth.  He has certainly kept that promise, as He keeps every promise He makes.

Ark Water Play 

- Old yogurt or other plastic container, washed

- Scissors
- Brown craft foam
- Stapler

- Small animals
- Large bowl or container
- Water
- Towel
- Camera!  :)

1. Cut off the top half of the yogurt container.
2. From the craft foam, cut out two pieces in the shape of an ark.
3. Staple the craft foam around the yogurt container.  Now you have an ark!
4. Place the animals inside the ark.  Place the ark inside a large bowl or other container.
5. Fill the large bowl with water and allow your child to play with the ark.
6. Retell and re-enact the story of Noah and the ark while you play.
7. Enjoy your little one(s) and take a few pictures for the scrapbook!  :)


How We Go Through the Lesson
1. Recite or sing memory verse.
2. Read Bible story.  We use the Beginner's Bible, but you can choose a children's story Bible or "grown-up" translation that suits you and your family.
3. Recite or sing memory verse.
4. Craft or project.  Depending on the day of the week this may be a project like the one above or it could be a coloring page or something completely different.

5. Don't forget to repeat the lesson several different times through the week.

 As you can see, 12-month-old Jeremiah wanted in on the action.  This is a great activity for older babies, younger toddlers, and even a range of ages.  All kids love playing in water, and if you're willing to sop up a few spills, they'll be entertained for quite a while.

 Here's the song that Abby and I used to learn this week's memory verse.  I made it up myself...please don't judge.  ;)  And also, ignore any background noise you might hear.  These posts are written in the midst of real life and real life is far from quiet in these here parts!  At the very least this will give you a little courage and creativity as you learn Bible verses with your tot!  :)

Check out some of these projects for more ideas:
Condensed Milk Paint Rainbow
Noah's Ark Craft
Edible Noah's Ark
Paper Plate Rainbow and Ark Craft

What's your favorite Noah's Ark craft or activity?

This post is linked up at:
Ultimate Homeschool Link-Up @ The Homeschool Village
Titus 2 Tuesdays @ Cornerstone Confessions
Teach Me Tuesdays @ Growing Home
Hip Homeschool Hop @ Hip Homschool Moms
Preschool Activities {The Sunday Showcase} @ Learn Play Imagine
Welcome Home Wednesday @ Raising Arrows
Babies & Beyond @ My Joy-Filled Life

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Our Story, Part 2

We left off last time with a seven month silence.  That's right.  For seven months Claude and I had absolutely no contact with each other.  Now seven months can fly by and I can't tell where the time went.  But at that stage in life it felt like an eternity...and then some.

Claude will have to weigh in on this to say what he was thinking and doing during that time.  I'm pretty sure that my attempts at helping God's plans move along were a tad overbearing.  ;)  Probably it was a relief to get out from under my pressing on with making things happen.

On my end I was working through a lot of anger and frustration.  Looking back I can see that it was a time of learning to trust God, and even though I was far from perfect at it, He was faithful to teach me.

And then one day the silence was broken.

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but one day in August 2004 Claude and I started talking again.  At the time of first reconnecting I was in England for a music festival.  A few days later, while back in the states, we talked on the phone.

From here I honestly don't remember the progression.  It seemed that we were suddenly talking every day, whether by phone or email, although I'm sure it was a fairly gradual process.  And before I knew it the prospect of seeing each other in person was looming ahead.

In February 2005 Claude came to the states for an audition trip.  Because of audition dates and locations, he made his base in Northern Indiana where I was working for a Christian organization.  Convenient, right?  ;)

When the day came to make the drive to Chicago to pick up Claude from the airport I was beyond nervous.  It had been 1 1/2 years since we last saw each other and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I remember feeling awkward and uncomfortable and I probably talked to myself the whole drive there out of sheer anxiety.

We met at a baggage claim carousel and headed out on our 3 hour drive back to Indiana.  On the way we stopped for a late dinner.  I was driving my roommate's car with gas that she paid for because I didn't have enough money in my account to cover the cost of gas and tolls to get to and from the airport.  So, when Claude suggested stopping for dinner I wasn't really sure how I was going to pay for it.  I naively assumed that he would???

When the bill came Claude must have noticed that I wasn't reaching for my wallet and said, "You know I'm not paying for you, right?"  My stomach dropped to my feet.  What was I going to do?  I actually remember thinking of having to wash dishes or something in order to pay for my meal.  And I'm not really sure why just being upfront with him even before stepping foot in the restaurant never crossed my mind.  My mistake, but God worked it out.

Somehow I got the story out that I had no money.  And by that I actually meant no money.  Zero dollars in my account.  This was not an exaggeration or a misconception of what I could afford.  I literally could not pay for that meal.

In the end Claude picked up the bill.  And eventually I heard the story as to why he originally said he wouldn't pay, but it's not for sharing here.  Suffice it to say that the bill was paid and I didn't have to wash any dishes.

After dropping off Claude at the home of some very gracious friends, we both got a short night's sleep before meeting up for breakfast the next morning.  But I found that I did not want to go.  I remember sitting on my bedroom floor in tears telling God that I couldn't go.

I know now that when I'm overwhelmed and have a million emotions I just cry and think that things look impossible.  But at the time it was very confusing to me.  Was I doubting what God had told me about marrying Claude?  That morning I didn't even know how I felt about Claude, let alone having any type of certainty of how he felt about me.  Going to breakfast seemed like a risk too big to take.

It didn't take long, however, for those fears to be dispelled and for God to take the reins of our relationship and work it out in His timing and His way.

Despite my anxiety, I did meet Claude for breakfast.  And within a few weeks we found ourselves going out to dinner again.  But this time things were different.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bible Basics: The Garden, Part 2

Welcome to Bible Basics!

This week we are continuing a two part lesson about The Fall.  Last week we learned how Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And this week we are following it up because even though Adam and Eve's sin resulted in them falling out of relationship with God, through Jesus Christ there is a way back.  And that is good news, indeed!

When I teach this lesson, I always recap the events of Genesis Chapter 3.  Then I usually proceed like this, "Like Adam and Eve, everybody does wrong things - sins.  When we sin that keeps us from being friends with God.  But God loves us very much and He wants to be our friend.  So, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for the wrong things we have done.  Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then He came back to life.  All we have to do to be friends with God is believe that Jesus died on the cross for us."

As you work with your child, please use whatever explanation you feel is appropriate.  I certainly do not have the only or best way to present the gospel message to kids!  Just be sure it's simple and to the point.

So, here's our lesson plan for the week.  Hope you and your little one(s) enjoy!

Genesis 3 plus explanation of the Gospel

Memory Verse
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life." -John 3:16

Often we put the Bible verses to song.  It helps everyone remember them (myself included!).  This week I used a track from this CD to help Abby learn the memory verse.
Lesson Focus
Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

Watercolor Cross Painting

- Card stock or other thick paper

- Painter's tape
- Water colors or other washable paint (we actually used tempera paint)
- Paint brushes

1. Cut two strips of painter's tape and gently place on blank card stock in the shape of a cross.

2. Paint to fill in as much of the blank space as possible.
3. Remove painter's tape.  Our tape got pretty wet with a lot of paint and subsequently tore some of the paper upon removal.  Just be gentle.
4. Allow paint to dry.

How We Go Through the Lesson
1. Recite or sing memory verse.
2. Read Bible story.  We use the Beginner's Bible, but you can choose a children's story Bible or "grown-up" translation that suits you and your family.
3. Recite or sing memory verse.
4. Craft or project.  Depending on the day of the week this may be a project like the one above or it could be a coloring page or something completely different.
*Repeat the lesson almost every day.  This could mean doing it on weekdays or taking one day to work on the project, saying the memory verse together throughout the day, and reading the Bible story before bed each night.  It doesn't matter when or how, but the repetition is key for toddlers to retain the lessons presented to them.
Here are some other tree crafts that could easily be adapted for this lesson:
Toilet Paper Roll TreeFingerprint Tree
Button Tree (first craft in post)
To break away from the tree crafts, here's a free printable mini book: Adam and Eve

How do you teach your kids about sin and salvation?

This post is inked up at:
Teach Me Tuesday @ Growing Home
Titus 2 Tuesdays @ Cornerstone Confessions
Mom's Library @ True Aim Education
Welcome Home Wednesday @ Raising Arrows