"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Fun

Here are some snapshots of our summer fun. 

Running races... definitely a favorite if it is not too hot. 
A great opportunity to practice humility as well as being a good winner and loser

Ethan shocked that he is edging out Luke for the win in this heat!
 Park visits:

Tree climbing BEFORE the hornet episode. 
 Slip n' slide:
This was super fun for about 30 minutes one hot afternoon. 
However, I'm disappointed to say that in only 30 minutes the sun was so hot that it completely burned out the grass under the slip n' slide. I was quick to remove it from the grass as soon as we were done, but by then the damage was already done. So... grass lovers beware... we have a rectangular patch of grass in the lovely shade of yellow to remind us of our 30 minutes of fun.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cracker Case

While picnicking with a friend, I noticed she had an adorable re-usable snack bag that she received as a gift. Since I had extra fabric from the boys sunglass cases, I decided to make three. I did some searching on the web for a tutorial and I liked THIS ONE best. I wanted to find one that had minimal seams inside so there would be less places for crumbs to get stuck.

I'm pretty impatient, so I had to adjust the size of the snack bags to suit the short strip of velcro that I already had on hand. I settled on 5.5 inches by 6.5 inches. I saw some cool interiors made out of a wipeable material, but also saw conflicting opinions about how food safe the other materials are so I stuck with cotton fabric inside and out.

Instead of grabbing a ziplock baggie for snacks when we're on the run, I feel good about grabbing our re-usable snack bag.  (Or "cracker case," as Aaron calls it.) When we're done with our snack, I shake out the case and wash it once a week. (I'm not using them for anything sticky or gooey... that's just too messy!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


(Okay... lots of words at first, but there will be lots of pictures at the end of this post!)

This past Saturday we loaded up and traveled to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania for a family graduation party. We enjoyed traveling an unfamiliar route and all the beautiful scenery. The boys were amazed by the "huge mountains." Obviously, they haven't been exposed to real mountains yet. :) Someday we'll take them out west.

It was so good to see extended family, some of which we had not seen in over 10 years. The party was held at a local hunting lodge. We were definitely in a small town where hunting, fishing and enjoying God's creation are the primary past times. Wish I had pictures from our stay there, but I left my camera in our room and never got the chance to go back and grab it. The boys enjoyed the huge porch, all the yummy snacks they don't usually eat, the play set, skipping stones in the lake, watching people fish and roasting marshmallows. Ethan was very skittish any time he saw a bee or wasp (and understandably so!)

The lodge had only 6 guest rooms, so all five of us squeezed in one room to save space for other family members. I managed to pull out my camera and snap a photo of "three little bugs snug in a rug."
We brought air mattresses, sheets, pillows and sleeping bags for the boys to sleep on the cement floor. Aaron was already sleeping in this photo, but that didn't last long before he came to join Darin and me in our bed. On Sunday, we had a family cookout at my aunt & uncle's house, which was only 10 minutes from the lodge. Then we were on our way to Allentown Pennsylvania.  Again, another beautiful drive through Amish country, rolling hills and horse farms. It's too bad we got stuck in bad traffic along route 81 making a 3.5 hour trip take almost 5.5 hours!! 

It was quite a scene. At a complete standstill, we began to run out of gas in our van. We shut off the air conditioning and tried to figure out what to do, all the while praying that the traffic would speed up so we could get to an exit for gas. The boys were troopers. Sticky and sweaty in the van, but mostly agreeable. So glad for a portable potty in the car so they could relieve themselves as we sat there on the highway! sorry... probably tmi :) Thankfully, our prayers were answered. The cars picked up speed and we were able to get to a gas station before we ran out of gas. Phew! Praise the Lord. 

We were so glad to arrive at Darin's parents for a warm meal. We had a leisurely rainy Monday morning and then were off to Dorney Park after the sky cleared. It was a perfect weather day. With temp's in the mid 70's, beautiful sunshine and a cool breeze. The amusement park was pretty empty. We had no lines for the rides and had a wonderful time. It was super fun to have Grandma and Grandpa with us. 

Aaron was thrilled by the carousel (notice Grandma in the background)

Because we had Grandma and Grandpa with us, Darin and I were able to ride a couple roller coasters together. Darin was on cloud nine. Wish I captured his smile! 

 I made the mistake of taking the three boys alone on the ferris wheel. Oh my word... that was the most terrifying experience. I wasn't scared for my safety or afraid of the heights, but knowing that I had three little boys in my hands at that great height with only seat belts terrified me. The doors were easily opened, as one boy (which will remain nameless) tested. OH MY!!!  I took these pictures before my panic and prayers kicked in.

View from the ferris wheel. 

On Tuesday, we packed up and headed south. We had a very nice trip, but we are all so glad to be home sleeping in our own beds (and I'm eager to get the boys back on their normal bed time!!) These late nights were tough on them and me. 

Friday, June 22, 2012


Heard this song today and it was so good for my heart to hear!
So true, humbling, challenging and encouraging.

Album: Into the Light
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always go to those who don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When they pain they caused is just too real
Takes everything you have to say the word
Forgiveness, forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always angers own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying set it free
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Forgiveness, forgiveness

Show me how
To love the unlovable
Show me how
To reach the unreachable
Help me now
To do the impossible
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Help me now
To do the impossible

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Oh, forgiveness, forgiveness

I want finally set it free
Show me how
To see what Your mercy sees
Help me now
To give what You gave to me

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tennis Camp

This week Luke has been participating in a local tennis camp for a couple hours each afternoon.  
Here he is on the first day wearing orange. 

It's his first experience participating in tennis camp. 
His first experience at a camp without good friends, 
without his brother and without Darin as an assistant coach. 
I was a little nervous for my tentative and shy guy. 

It has been an awesome experience! He is LOVING it. 
The coach is great and Luke comes home each day with a HUGE grin. 
If you are a local friend, email me and I'll give you more information 
about the camp. I highly recommend the coach and his approach. 

 I've hung around for a bit each day at drop off just to watch them get started. These two spectator monkeys below have found all sorts of ways to entertain themselves. Here they are climbing the fence. 

To let them climb to the top or not... that is the question??? 
It is irresistible for Ethan, especially since he could plainly see that there are no hornets hiding. 
(He has promised to never climb a tree again because of his experience last Wednesday.)

I'm very proud of my timid guy for embracing this adventure with such a great attitude! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Today was a day of celebrating Darin's 37th birthday! 
And yes, he married an older woman. ;) (by four months)
We certainly couldn't compete with the amazing decorations Darin made on my behalf in February, but the boys were eager and excited to make some special signs to show Daddy how much they love him.

While Darin was still sleeping this morning, we got busy hanging streamers, 

hanging up our sign and adding some colored lights (Darin's favorite)! 

Darin was surprised and happy to walk through the streamers 
and find 3 excited boys and a hot breakfast. 

 We wrapped the gifts in brown paper so the boys could add their special touch with markers. One of Darin's packages contained three baggies with three puzzles the boys made. We had some blank puzzles and the boys wrote words, drew pictures and colored them. (This was a very fun project this week. The two older boys were busy creating for over an hour!) Then Darin had to put them together to find the messages or discover the pictures.

I've been thinking a lot today about God's sovereignty and plan. He chose Darin to be my husband and the father to our children. He has made Darin who he is and I think God uses Darin's strengths to sharpen my weaknesses. Here are just a few things I love about this guy and why I'm thankful that I've had the privilege to celebrate the past 15 birthday's with him. 

Darin is...
* a child of God
* cheerful and optimistic
* extremely loyal
* handsome
* very detail oriented
* neat and organized
* great sense of humor
* quick to laugh out loud
* very smiley
* generous gift giver
* hardworking and thorough
* lover of God
* musically gifted
* roller coaster lover
* good Daddy
* kid at heart!

(frozen strawberry and mango sorbet cake with cookie crust)
Happy Birthday Darin! We love you!

Summer Reading

This summer, I am determined to keep the boys excited about reading. Luke reads chapter books silently every night before bed, but it is not typical for him to lay around devouring books like I did as a child. When it comes to reading out loud, he is not particularly thrilled. Ethan is a beginner reader and making great progress, but still needs a nudge to read aloud.

It has worked really well so far to set aside time every day after lunch and before rest time for each of them to read aloud to me. I'm trying to make it a habit so we don't even blink when I ask them to go pick a book.  I'm using these charts below to keep them going. I got them HERE.
They get a sticker every time they read out loud to someone (me, Darin, Aaron, or other adults). For Luke, he gets a sticker for reading a chapter out loud and Ethan gets one for an entire book. After they fill the chart they get a prize from the prize bin. I went to Michaels and Target and found little things for $1 or less. I strongly dislike little junky toys laying all around, so I tried to find things that weren't just junk. So far, so good. I've really enjoyed the time cozied up on the couch together reading. It's so good for me to be forced to slow down and just enjoy my sweet boys! Happy reading!  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Ethan made the acquaintance of multiple hornets (or so we think) today and it was no fun!

While enjoying some tree climbing at a park, he began screaming loudly. I looked up to see him racing across the grass swatting and screaming and running. The image in my mind is from a Winnie the Pooh cartoon as Winnie is being chased by angry bees. I could literally see them trailing behind Ethan. I raced after him and joined him in the screaming fest while I madly tried to get all the buzzing creatures from his face, arms, shirt, legs, etc. All the while completely freaked out by touching the creatures and them touching me. There must have been 40 or more hornets all over him. Poor little guy ended up with 20+ stings. The sting on his eye lid caused significant swelling, but is thankfully looking a bit better tonight.  A completely terrifying experience and yet, I'm so thankful for God's protection. So thankful that Ethan did not have an allergic reaction and thankful for benadryl.

After lots of conversations with our pediatrician and poison control, I'm confident that Ethan is safe and healing. A little sad that due to the mass numbers of stings he is now in danger should he ever get stung again, but I am trusting God to again keep him safe.

As he went to bed tonight he said, "Mommy can you pray that I don't have any bad dreams about the hornets chasing and stinging me?"  Poor sweet little guy!


"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:15-25

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, becuase through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

Okay, so I said that I want to live and breathe God's word and I have found a passage that clearly captures a couple hours of my morning. While this is an ongoing struggle for me as a christian, it was particularly vivid this morning. I experienced such a tangible struggle to listen to the spirit or listen to the flesh as I interacted with the people I love the most. And what did I do??? Exactly what I didn't want to do! I listened to my flesh. yuck! You know that expression, "What's down in the well, comes up in the bucket" ?  Well, it is really obvious (to me and my family) that my well needs a thorough cleaning.

As I stepped back from the situation the scripture above popped into my head. Oh how I'm thankful for the reminder in Romans 8:1-2. I am free!!! He has set me free. I am forgiven. I am no longer a slave to my sin. Lord, help me to live this.  His mercies are new every morning and I am certain it is morning somewhere right now. Amen!

Summer Schedule

Technically, it's still spring... but we're on to our summer schedule! Last week was our first full week and so far, it seems like it will be a good schedule that we can stick with. Thought I'd share it with you in case you need ideas.

Last Monday at breakfast, I went through the schedule with the boys. Luke loves to know the plan for the day, so he quickly embraced the schedule. I put times, but these are flexible. We didn't stick to the exact times last week and no one crumbled... not even me. :)

Summer Schedule 2012
Morning Jobs: get dressed, jammies away and fix bed before breakfast.
7:45          breakfast and Bible time
8:30          breakfast clean up and teeth brushed
8:45          summer fun school
10:00        FREE time (sometimes sooner!)
12:00        lunch
1:00          read aloud time
1:30-2:45  room time / rest time
2:45          clean up rest time mess
3:00          snack time
3:15          FREE time
5:30          clean up and bath time
6:15          dinner and evening jobs

I've been planning outings with friends to different parks during our free time and we hope to hit the pool too. Making sure they get exercise is critical, even if that means I have to chase them around the yard. The boys and I made a list of science topics they want to explore and they are eager to keep doing some art once a week. (I have a stack of books from the library and I'm formalizing my plan. eek!! Definitely not my strength, but they love it.)

For our summer fun school time, I came up with a generic plan for each boy so that I don't have to do a lot of planning each night. I definitely need a break from that and also want to allow myself time to get a jump start on my planning for next year.

Here is what the boys will be doing each day during our summer fun school. We begin each day with about 15-20 minutes of games practicing math facts. (addition/subtraction and multiplication) They have loved this and it has been a great way to start our day. They are eager to come in the school room to play games with Mommy. I'll post soon some of the games I found/created.

Following the games, here is what Luke and Ethan do in summer fun school:
Monday: math, handwriting
Tuesday: L-grammar/ E-phonics, spanish *
Wednesday: math, grammar/phonics
Thursday: grammar/phonics, spanish
Friday: math, writing

* We started the spanish dvd curriculum "La Classe Divertida" last fall. Around January, I decided to take a break from it and focus on other necessary lessons. It has been fun to pick this back up with very little pressure.

For Aaron this summer, we've been working on letters and letter sounds. This is not a strength for him yet (even though we worked on it all last year!) and he doesn't really have much interest, but we're making progress. Trying to keep it low pressure, relaxed and fun!

So that's what we've been doing and so far it's been delightful. It's definitely not set in stone, so we might even toss out the schedule once a week and go crazy! ha! It does my heart good though to have some structure and still allow plenty of time to play and have fun. Keeping up the discipline of school work will definitely benefit us in the fall and for now, the boys are energized by the short little school day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whisper in my ear...

God has been whispering to me a lot lately. Do you believe me? Do you really trust me? What are you afraid of? Are you living my Word? Precious sinner, I love you so much that I sent my Son to die for you. You are cherished and loved. Go and love others.  As I study His word and read scripture, I'm challenged by what it really means to be a follower of Jesus. Am I quick to repent? Am I quick to put others needs before my own comfort? Not in a "do-good" attempt, but in a "I love you so much Jesus, that I want to follow you" way?

I'm learning a lot about how much I'm a sinner. Yet, God is bringing me from a place of condemnation to a place of joy and hope. He wants to change me and I'm beginning to slowly trust that He can change me. I haven't seen evidence yet, but I'm praying that as I slow down enough to listen to Him it will begin to happen.

I recently read the book Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and I have to say it knocked my socks off! If you've never heard about it, it is the story of a nineteen year old girl who felt called to move to Uganda to care for the fatherless. Out of obedience to the Lord, she left behind a life of great comfort and settled in an area that is full of poverty, sickness and children who are all alone. She started a ministry called Amazima and adopted 14 children along the way! Oh my! (If you want to learn more, read her book found at the link above.)

The story about Katie's life in Uganda is clearly written from a place of humility and obedience to Jesus. It is a story of selfless love and sacrifice and gives glory to God alone. My first reaction was, "Okay Lord, how can I turn away? How can I ignore that there are children who are hurting and in need of Your love? You have blessed me with so much Lord, what do you want me to do?" And I  still feel that way with lots of unnecessary fear mixed in.

However, what I was also really challenged by was to take God's word more seriously. To study it. To live it and breathe it. It says in James 1:22, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Even if God is only calling me right now to love my family and love my neighbors, He can help me to do it faithfully and in a way that gives Him glory.  And then quickly repent when I fail, which I will!

I have to share this passage from the book:
In our fear, even many of us who claimed to believe in Christ were failing to do what He said for the least of His people. 
Fear. It's part of human nature, but it's not something we got from God. Second Timothy 1:7 says: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." When I imagine God creating each one of us and planting a purpose deep in our hearts, I never imagine that purpose being mediocrity. While the Bible doesn't tell every person on earth specifically what his or her life's calling will be, it does include a lot of general direction. 
     "You are to find me in the least of these." Yes.
     "You are to leave your earthly possessions and come follow me." Yes.
     "You are to love and serve the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." Yes.
     "You are to go and make disciples of all nations." Yes.
     "You are to show mercy." Yes.
     "You are to live a live of mediocrity and abundance, holding on tight to your comfortable lifestyle, lest you lose it." No. 
I certainly don't believe everyone should sell all of their belongings and pack a suitcase and move to Africa. I don't think people all over the planet should drop everything to go somewhere far from everything familiar and be missionaries. In fact, I believe anyone can be a missionary right where they are. 
Every day, we have a choice. We can stay nestled in our safe comfortable places, as I did when the rat was in my room. We can let fear of something that really is small compared to the greatness of God cripple us. Or we can take a risk, do something to help someone else, make a person smile, change someone's world. Life to the fullest exists. It's available. All we have to do is decide to get up and embrace it. ~ Katie Davis
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Salad

I love salads and thankfully Darin and the boys do too. (Although Aaron likes everything separated.) 
Look at this awesome pile of romaine and spinach I picked from our garden this week. Delish!

One of our favorite summer salads is a Chicken and Fruit Salad. Here is the recipe:

3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
20 oz can of pineapple tidbits, drained (fresh pineapple is even better!)
11 oz can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 - 1 cup chopped pecans (the more the better in our house)
lettuce, torn 

3/4 cup (or less) of stevia
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1 cup oil
1 tbsp poppy seed
1 1/2 tbsp onion juice or finely chopped onion (1/2-1 tsp of onion powder works)
1/3 cup vinegar

We use the "Measure Mix and Pour" from Pampered Chef to mix the dressing. 
It's awesome, but any bowl will work fine. Hope your family enjoys it as much as we do. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fox Tales

One afternoon as we were heading to the beach last week, Luke shouted, "FOX!" Then he and Ethan darted down the driveway hooting and hollering as I finished loading the chairs onto our beach cart. They came running back to me excitedly jabbering about how they had just seen a fox walk down the street. I listened to their tale, but was focused on my task. Surely they didn't see a fox, I thought. It must have been a stray dog. As the boys, Poppy and I walked to the beach a few moments later, they continued to spin all sorts of tales about the fox. Talking NON-STOP! Poppy was careful to ask them for a description of the fox. What did the nose look like? Was it long and pointy? What did the tail look like? etc., etc. They were eager to report their sighting to everyone else when they joined us on the beach and then got busy enjoying the ocean.

The next morning, on our way to the beach we couldn't find Luke's flip flop anywhere. We all knew exactly where he had left it, but it was no where to be found. I'm not sure what caused me to spot it, but I found it about 4 feet away at the base of a tree in some bushes. We just assumed one of their cousins threw it in the bushes in a moment of silliness and thought nothing of it. (We now realize it was probably the fox who moved it.)

On Friday, we spent the afternoon in the swimming pool. We heard some rumbling of thunder and quickly climbed out of the pool. The moms got the little boys wrapped in towels and headed in for bath time. Poppy continued to relax beside the pool reading a magazine. Grammy and Darin were on the opposite side of the pool gathering pool gear.

All of a sudden, Janna noticed the fox right near the pool area. The fox sauntered by the outside showers, slipped through the fence slats, and took a sip of water from the pool. Poppy leaped out of his chair! The fox then slipped back out the fence slats, peed on my flip flops, grabbed one of Ethan's flip flops and took off across the street.

A few moments later, we heard a loud scream coming from across the street. We found out later the fox was startled and bit an older women who had been outside with her friends. She had to get emergency medical care. Oh my!

Who would have ever suspected we would have an encounter with a fox at the beach? crazy! We later noticed that most of our soft pool toys were missing. We suspect that the fox has a nice cozy den with swim toys and Ethan's flip flop. I'm very thankful that the boys were all safely inside when the fox made his appearance.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Red, White and Blue

 Every year we dress in coordinating outfits and take a family picture on the beach. This year, Grammy bought coordinating outfits for the kids. They were super cute! I haven't received the group family photo from the photographer yet, but here are some candid beach shots. 

I LOVE this photo. 

Our trip to the beach is a family tradition we look forward to every year. 
We are thankful for good times with family!