Thursday, June 30, 2011


Today we went strawberry picking with our good friends, the Rubins. When Marc asked later in the day if it was fun, we replied, "yes, well, sort of." We had five kids under five. It's hard to categorize that simply as fun;)

We got plenty of strawberries...and plenty of duds thanks to our little helpers. The girls picked aggressively for about 30 minutes and then the novelty wore off. Bobbi told them the tractor driver wouldn't let them drive back until their bucket was full. I figured the girls knew she was joking until Ava whispered to me, "Mom I am really tired, do you think you can help put some strawberries in my bucket. I am ready to go get lunch and I don't think I can fill this bucket by myself.";) Phin ate a few strawberries and liked to put the ones I picked into the bucket, but this year he didn't really enjoy picking them himself. He soon left picking and took to terrorizing Chloe and Connor. Connor didn't want to eat or pick strawberries and kept trying to run down the path into the road. Chloe sat and ate...and ate and then started to cry. I tried sitting her next to me, but she cried there too. I had to pick bending over (back breaking, let me tell you) instead of squatting so that she could stand up and hold onto my how exactly do you describe all that? Exhausting, but fun in many ways. Crazy, but hilarious. We made memories, that is for sure!

On the tractor, getting a ride over to the patch....

Aren't they adorable? They've been friends since birth (well before, really, since I met Bobbi in birthing class). They can fight like sisters, but most of the times they work out creative ways to share...this is how they shared their bucket;)

The troops in action, shortly after arrival, when the whole thing was still very exciting;)

My boy!
Yes, I actually lost my balance when squatting and Bobbi made sure to capture it.
I am getting old!!

My dear friend, whom we affectionately refer to 'round here as Fun Bobbi

My munchkin, quite obviously, loves a good strawberry (or in this case 20 good strawberries)

Book Review- A Place Called Blessing

A Place Called Blessing is a fictional story that incorporates the five elements from Trent's previous book, "The Blessing". The book is easy to read and I finished it in a few hours. I thought it was a creative way to practically explain the implementation of "The Blessings" and the authors kept my attention through the entire book. It is not necessary to have read the first book in order to appreciate this one.

I find myself somewhat conflicted about recommending it to others. The story is somewhat predictable and while interesting, could have gone much deeper into character development. I felt in some ways that the goal of the book was clearly to incorporate the five principles of "The Blessing, rather that write a good piece of literature. The dialogue is mediocre and the description of events sometimes feels very basic. On the other hand, I found myself wondering if the basic, almost hurried approach to writing was itself intentional. The book reads like a memoir and while I wanted more details and further connection with characters, it feels when reading like the author has trouble telling the story because it is so painful. Certainly, the story in heart wrenching no matter how well or poorly written.

I think the original nonfiction explanation of "The Blessing" would probably be more informative and there are certainly better fiction books on the market, yet it is an interesting and quick read that definitely touches your heart.

*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due!

I firmly believe that little kids get assigned extra guardian angels. We've had so many near critical accidents in our home; too many close calls to believe otherwise. Today we had another.

I was in Michael's with my kiddos. I was helping Ava pick a stepping stone kit for our garden project. I turned away from the cart where Chloe was sitting (strapped in, of course) for a second. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and whisked around to see the Cart being pulled over by my climbing two year old boy. I tried to catch it, of course, but could not. In slow motion, yet in the blink of an eye, my baby girl was screaming and the cart she was securely strapped into was on the hard tile floor on it's side. This was scary. This could have been bad, but amazingly, instead of hitting her head on the hard tile floor, her head was resting on brother's calf. NOT even on his shin, but on his soft calf.

No doubt Phin will have a nice bruise there tomorrow, but he's lucky he landed on HIS butt himself and avoided a head bonk on that floor. I fear the person most injured was the poor cashier, who was about 70 years old and saw the whole thing. I am sure her heart actually stopped beating for a minute. Chloe was quite upset, but more scared than anything and Phin was.....LAUGHING! Not that his laughter pleased me, mind you, but it was definitely proof that he was far from injured.

I am just thankful. Chloe should have whacked her head on that tile. She should have gotten hurt. Instead, she shed a few tears and got to be carried around the store by mom and get LOTS of attention from a nice older woman. I just couldn't help but wonder what went on that my naked eyes can't see. In y head, I picture an angel swifting placing Phin's leg in just the right spot and another making sure he landed on his butt. So today, I am saying with great gratitude, "Thank you, Lord, for protecting my sweet children."

I needed this today!

A friend put a portion of this poem on my facebook page and the OCD cleaner that I am needed it today, so I looked up the whole poem. Now instead of cleaning during naptime, I am aiming to print it up nice like and frame it!

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A bedtime slip up

When putting Phin to bed, there are plenty of giggles and fun. Trying to keep it a calm and quiet endeavor long ago proved useless. Tonight, he didn't want to hear the usual Jesus Loves me, he wanted veggie tales. He wanted me to hide him under his blanket. He's just adorable- really adorable. The last thing we do each night is kiss our kids...five times. In Phin case, the we say, "Ava loves you (kiss one), Chloe loves you (two), mommy loves you (three), papa loves you (four), but Jesus loves you the most (BIG hug and kiss, with a few tickles thrown in." His laugh is so addictive it's easy to want to stay far too long tickling, laughing, and being silly. Tonight I was so wrapped up in his cuteness and silliness I said, "Good Night, Sleep Tight (my words barelly audible over his hysterical laughter), Do not let the bed bugs bite (OOPS! His giggles immediately ceased and a look of shock lit up his little face)." Time froze. Why did I say that?! Bed bugs?! You could just see his little mind working and then in a very soft whisper he says, "why?"

He wanted to know what would happen if those "bed bugs" bit. Oops. I tried to explain in a way that would make sense to a two year old. He seemed to buy it...we'll see though how the night goes. I have a feeling if he has any bad dreams tonight it just might serve me right;)

Little snippets I don't want to forget

I LOVE the way kids learn vocabulary. It's amazing really to watch them pick up on words and meanings, but I have to say one of my very favorite things is when they slightly misunderstand usage. I was reminded of two of their little slip ups today (and by the way, I find it so cute I haven't corrected them because really- it's sweet).

Ava calls McDonalds, "Old MacDonalds" and she always has. She almost always starts singing "Old MacDonald had a Farm" every time we pass a McD's. This has gone on for a few years now and I still find it so precious;)

When we get to automatic doors, I started saying, "Watch this kids, I can make the door open with my words: and I say, "Open sesame" right as the door should open. When it does they think it's neat. They have started to try and time it right themselves. Ava gets it right and says, "Open Sesame." Phin, on the other hand, says, 'Open Sesame Street'." It makes Ava crack up every time and still he seems oblivious to her laughing.

Soon, they will grow up and realize their little errors, but for now I am savoring their innocence. It's so precious and makes the hard parts of motherhood a little less glaring;)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

She's only 5?

Ava is growing up. Too fast. She just turned 5, but she continues to be smart as a whip and quite aware of her feelings. She's finding ways to articulate how she feels about things and often leaves me stunned. Here is a conversation we had in the car last night:

Ava: Mom, I don't think I like Sheboygan.
Me: What do you mean? Usually you say you love Sheboygan.
Ava: Well, I do love it, but there is just one tiny thing wrong.
Me: What is that tiny thing?
Ava: You see, it is kind of like a circle here. You start in one place and drive just a little bit and then you're back home. Do you know what I mean? It's small.
Me: (laughing) yes, it is small, but why is that a bad thing?
Ava: It's not always a bad thing, but the bad part is that it's so small we don't have everything I love; like there is no Dunkin' Donuts or Chuck E. Cheese here. Sometimes that make me feel like I miss those places.
Me: (smiling) You are right about that, but the positive of THAT is when we go to Dunkin' Donuts or Chuck E. Cheese we can really appreciate them because we remember that they are treats.
Ava: I guess, but I still would like Sheboygan to like be a little bigger so we could have those treats when you really want them. Like today, remember I wanted Dunkin' Donuts, but I couldn't even have that treat because we can't drive to one in Sheboygan? It's kind of made me want it all day! (small pause) Wait! I guess I can be thankful because we DO have a donut place here; I forgot about that. 'memeber we went there one time. Can we go there tomorrow?

She's great, isn't she?;) I totally got her on this one. We used to live behind a Dunkin' Donuts. We went a bit too often, so perhaps the habit it going to take longer than usual to really break;) AND yes- we are going to the bakery this morning.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


My dad wrote us (my sister's and I) a sweet email thanking us for Father's Day. In reply, we affirmed what an amazing father he's been. Ditto to my mom. The email discourse has gone on throughout the day and has made me laugh hysterically at the memories from childhood. My parents definitely love "the least of these". It's been great to think back on all the ways they SHOWED us Christ in our daily lives.

We gave countless people rides to church, even if it was miles out of our way. Looking back, I wonder if no one else wanted to pick up some of those folks. It was just so normal in our lives, it never struck me as odd back then. We had multiple people live in our home at various times. And my parents were generous though they barely had two pennies to rub together. I remember them buying boots, hats and gloves for an imigrant family even when it meant they had to go without Christmas gifts. I also remember my dad secretly paying the christian school bill for a young lady trying to work on her own to pay for a christian education. She didn't have christian parents and when he found out she was struggling, he paid the bill. He didn't talk to my mom first, he just trusted that as he was obedient, God would provide for our family (which, of course he did) and my mom was totally agreeable when we got home that day (talk about a hefty godly wife example;)

There are just SO many examples. My favorite was an older window in our church. Her son was on the mission field. I remember MANY times playing at her home while my parents did her yard work or fixed something. When she took ill, my parents cared for her and brought her into our home. When her son came home to the states it was a different state, so my mom flew down there with her and helped settle her into their home. I wonder how much of that affected my desire to become a nurse just like my mama.

My second favorite was another older lady in Minnesota that never did set foot in the church for a service but she'd stop by and visit with my dad. The gal was a modern day Calamity Jane. I mean she was something. She decided that since she was getting older (and she was OLD), she'd move down to the Ozarks with her sister. My dad offered to help her pack up and clean out her home and had me come along to help. The woman was living in the original home from the 1800s. She had some treasures in there for sure, those we helped her load on a truck (and if you are picturing the truck from the Beverly Hillbillies, you are not far off!), but she also had a ton of junk that we had to help dispose of. Her home was the filthiest place I have EVER been in with more cats than I care to remember. She obviously had rarely if ever had visitors and with no one else there, one had to wonder how many friends she had. She was so touched at our help and I hope that little gesture spoke enough to her to maybe have her consider the salvation message my dad shared with her so often. I mean really, the ticks we had to pick off our bodies at the end of that day (REALLY!) would be totally worth it if I saw her dancing in heaven one day.

Two of my sister's memories are below. Their own words made me smile and I think they'll make you smile too.

From my sister, Kristin:
lol. And remember R (it was a deaf woman from our church) and her son W that lived with us? She licked her spoon after she took every bite. lol It made me wash the dishes a little better.

From Karla:
Speaking of the example that Mom and Papa were, do you guys remember the people that either lived with us or we always gave a ride to church to? I have been thinking about it more and more as a mom and how inconvenient that would be for Mom and Papa. There was one guy who I think must have been mentally challenged or something that rode with us to church and always said Katie was his girlfriend? I think she was just a baby at the

The fact of the matter is, I was given amazing parents. Today all I can help think is, "To whom much is given, much is to be expected." Honestly, I can do a lot better job of loving the unlovable or loving even when it is inconvenient. I was given one heck of an example and it was SO normal that I often don't reflect on it, but I am thankful today's given me an opportunity to reflect. I hope and pray that one day my children can look back at all the "crazy" things Marc and I did in the name of Jesus and they to will think that it is normal!

My beautiful Family

"Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover"

They say don't judge a book by it's cover, but I have to admit, it took me over a month to pick up this book because the picture on the cover bothered me. The author looks beautiful, undoubtedly, but she also look likes she's had plastic surgery. I found it hard to get past that and give her the credibility she probably deserves. It's hard to listen to "work hard and lose weight" when it appears the author herself might have taken a shortcut on her appearance.

Humbly, I have to admit that there are many gems of truth within this book and I was very thankful that I got over my judgemental spirit and gave it a shot. The book is well written and held my attention. I found myself encouraged along my own weight loss journey. A few points, especially, stuck out. One- to get down to the nitty gritty of internal issues before you tackle the external. Two- to not treat yourself like your pitiful "before", but take the time to take care of yourself (make up, hair and all) even if you have 100 lbs. still to lose. Value yourself NOW. Three- take it one day at a time. Don't focus on large, overwhelming goals or time limits. Don't focus on yesterday or past failures. Celebrate the good decisions you've made every day.
Four- View food as fuel most of the time and your friend a small amount of the time. Every meal doesn't need to be exciting, it needs to fuel my body, yet also take moments to savor and enjoy food.

There are definitely nuggets of truth in this book that have helped me. I would say, however, as a christian reading this book, I found it a little new agey. She does talk about the importance of faith and gives the gospel in the final chapter, but it is a lot of "believe and you can achieve". While it is true to have success you must have the right mindset, I felt this personal empowerment might have gone a little too far. I did appreciate the easy meal plan and exercise at the end of the book. It isn't revolutionary, but the author herself concedes that the secret to weight loss has never been a secret- it's less calories and more movement. I like that she affirms that their are no short cuts and I like her story of endurance and success.

I'd recommend this book if someone is very interested in the topic of weight loss or just needs that little extra boost of encouragement to change their habits.

*This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Ava is in VBS this week and it's been great fun, with one exception. They have this little contest going between boys and girls to see who can earn the most points. Thusfar the boys have won every single day. Ava was a little disappointed on Monday, a little angry on Tuesday, and in tears on Wednesday. I understood her sadness, it stinks to loose and she's worked hard to do her part to earn points, getting her memory verses perfect, etc.

I let her be upset at first, but when it started to drag on we had a little talk about life. It isn't about winning, but about doing your best and having fun. We talked about how the bible says to think about what is noble and good. I had her list good things about the day. She agreed that she'd had a blast at VBS and decided the one good thing about the boys winning is that is WAS fun to see the girl teacher get sprayed with silly string. Of course, the last thought set her into a downward spiral as she realized it "would have been even funnier to see a boy teacher get sprayed."

I'd had just about enough of the pity party and I told her so. I said, "Enough. Think about positive things or be quiet. You had a lovely morning and you have a choice to ruin the rest of your day because of the one hard part of the day or have a nice day thinking of all the fun you had. I chose NOT to let you ruin my day by continuing to listen to your negativity." She said, "You're right, mom." I patted myself on the back.

THEN we got home. My babysitter, Hannah, was here with Chloe and Phin. As we came into the kitchen, she greeted Ava and asked her how VBS was. You guessed it, the tears came a pouring. You would have thought someone died. SERIOUSLY?! I said to Ava, "What happened to thinking about the positive?" She replied in her weepy voice, "I tried mom, I really did, but the crying was stuck right here in my throat (points to her neck) and I just couldn't help it. Sometimes you just have to let it out."

Touche! She's right...sometimes you just have to let it out....and take a nap. Which she did and surprisingly (sarcasm implied) the whole points thing wasn't such a big deal after that. We'll see what happens today at VBS. Losing is always a good lesson for a kid, but I DO kind of hope the girls get it together today;)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review- Unleashed

Oh that I could put words to the stirrings of my spirit! This book left me challenged, elated, and inspired. McManus writes beautifully of the life Christians are called to lived, that I am called to live. It isn't easy, it isn't neat, it isn't clean and it often isn't found in the safe confines of our typical church in American- he calls is "The Barbarian Way". I couldn't help but resonate with McManus's words. Satan has the church deceived into thinking the christian life should be safe, controlled, and easy. The church has become a self centered institution that greatly resembles the Jewish culture at the time of Christ- religion is dominating and relationships with God are foreign.

I found this book though provoking and biblical. It is a short read that kept my attention from beginning to end and I highly recommend reading it.

My book is thoroughly underlined! Oh that I could type it all here; but a few quotes that I found to be utterly thought provoking:

1)"Anyone who ever risks listening to God and following his voice knows that to everyone who is deaf to His voice, your actions will seem as if you've gone crazy." So many times, I have felt frustrated when sharing my heart or retelling of God's leading. I hate to be told God doesn't lead or speak to us in small ways. I believe his is interested in the very details of my day bringing glory to his name...even if others think that's crazy, I know it to be true! "All of life is sacred; every action is spiritual. God is everywhere for [me] at all times."
2)"We are called to fear only God. There is an important reason for this. What we fear is what we're subject to; our fears define our master. Where there is no fear; there is no control." Why do Christians live lives out of fear? God tells us to be of courage, to not be afraid, his "perfect love casts out all fear." What would our lives look like if we lived without fear of failure, others, ourselves?
3)"We build churches that become nothing more than hiding places for the faithful while pretending that our actions are for the good of the world...It may seem counterintuitive, but the more civilized we seem to become, the more detached from the pain of others we end up finding ourselves."..One of the tragedies of a civilized society is that no one wants to get involved." OH! How true this is in in our churches. How few people are witnessing and serving. It makes me want to weep? What does Christ think of our apathy?

Yes, the book inspired me and challenged me to not buy into the allure of religion, but to live my life listening moment to moment to the Spirit and obediently following where he leads no matter how scary or unsafe it may seem. The only criticism of the book I can offer is that McManus is bold and harsh towards the church but doesn't offer any advice on how to deal with the problems in the church other that to encourage revolt against them. I can see many people running way with this to an extreme causing hurt and division with in the church. He does point out that the tools of the christian barbarian are love and the fruits of the spirit, but it's easy to miss that point amidst the excitement of what he calls the barbarian call.

*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Life is too short to take seriously all the time. On Saturday, my sisters and I celebrated Kristin's birthday one of the best ways possible- by taking a step into the past. We went to see New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys in concert.

Imagine a bunch of women in their 20s and 30s full of life and laughter. Most of whom, like me, had long week with children and life and for an evening got to step back in time, sing at the top of their lungs, shake their booties, and be carefree. Now I can't quite explain it, but though I cannot remember what happened yesterday, somehow words to songs I knew twenty years ago just flowed from my mouth as I sang along. Who knew they were still stored somewhere in this aging brain of mine;)

I adore my sisters. Being with them is a good time, even if it is sitting around a kitchen table, but rockin' out to songs of old- priceless.

Karla did an amazing job making our t-shirts and she was only out done by one other homemade set of shirts. We had to admit- they were just hilarious and creative. They read, "Too late Joey, I'm married now." (Hilarious, right?!) We SOOO wish we'd thought of them ourselves!

A fun night with my beautiful sisters and neice...and YES, I am totally aware of the bad hair day I was having. It just HAD to happen with I'm with my rockstar sisters;) Don't worry, I didn't let it spoil the fun;)

Home Sweet Home

We've been so busy, it has been utterly exhausting. To recap:

4/25-5/6- Marc mom and step-dad here visiting
5/6-5/8- Chicago for a special friend meeting and celebrating my dad's 60th birthday
5/13-5/15- Kim in DC for girls weekend
5/21-to Chicago for special birthday of Ava's friend
5/25- Ava's last day of school and ballet recital (which had extra rehearsals beforehand!)
6/3-6/5- visitng my grandparents
6/6-6/8-the stomach flu works it's way through our home
6/10-6/12-Pittsburgh (left kids at my parents)
6/12-6/15- Marc leaves from Chicago for San Diego so I stay there with kids until he returns
6/16- bring meals to two new moms and Chloe has ear infection
6/18- Kim drives to Chicago for sisters birthday and concert and back hom
6/19- Father's Day

But guess what- the marathon of busyness is DONE...DONE. It was many wonderful things. Time with loved ones and friends, but utterly exhausting that it all fell on top of each other. It feels SOO good to be home. I am getting life back in order. It's been hard to feel connected to people here in Sheboygan when we have been gone so much and have been sick the few days we were home. I have been dancing around, giddy with excitement just to be getting my home back in order. There really is no place like home. Travel is exciting (less so with three kids though), but really too much of a good thing is just too much. I am reveling in the feeling of home, of routine, of my own bed and having all three kids in their own room and own beds...and even in mopping my floors, cooking, and doing laundry. For the moment, that which I often find mundane is filling me with gratitude and joy. NORMALCY- definitely not overrated;) I cannot wait for boredom to set in;)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review- The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing was indeed a sweet book. The author does an excellent job weaving a story, developing characters, and keeping the readers interest from beginning to end.

The story is about two girls, who are from different worlds, yet find themselves developing a deep and lasting friendship. From the beginning of the book, the author tangles you in a web of mystery and loss. Both girls struggle to define who they are as they go through adolescence in the wealthy south during the Great Depression. One finds herself newly experiencing wealth and the other experiencing the loss of wealth. Both are struggling to find peace with the results of choices their parents have made. Both find deeper faith and true friendship in the process.

I definitely recommend this read for lovers of historical fiction. It is easy to get lost in this tale and enraptured with the characters and story line therein.

*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Yesterday, my baby turned ONE! The year has flown by, and I find myself reflecting on the special little girl God gave us. She certainly is incredible!

My favorite things about Chloe:
1)She's a people person and is probably happiest when we are in public with lots of people and commotion all around us.
2)She's a cuddler! She loves to be picked up and will nuzzle her little face into your shoulder.
3)She's loud...very loud. (I suppose #3 sometimes needs to make herself be known;)

4)She has chubby, munchy cheeks.
5)She loves to be silly and crawl away when I am chasing her.

6)Her laugh when I tickle her can brighten the lousiest day!

7)She loves her siblings.
8)She crawls normally on carpet, but doesn't like the hardwood so she does the most adorable hybrid "butt scoot" crawl combo when on the tile or hard wood;)
9)She is particular- she loves water, but only if it is the right temperature. She loves her bottles but would rather go hungry then drink them lukewarm or cold (they need to be VERY WARM). 10)She is a good eater- THANK YOU, Lord!
11) And while it is frustrating, it is also adorable and hilarious- She has a TEMPER! If she doesn't get what she wants QUICKLY- she melts and is hard to calm down. She'll definitely be interesting in the terrible two's;)

Her accomplishments:
words: mama, Papa, Hannah, Ava, up, All Done, Uh Oh, Doggie, Hi, Bye Bye, Banana, Dolly, "yay"
She shakes her head "no" and signs, "all done, more, please"
She can growl like a lion, baulk like a chicken, and quack like a duck. She plays patty cake, how big is baby, and does the "home alone" face.
She can stand on her own, but is not confident yet. She crawls everywhere, but prefers to walk holding on to our hands.

We love you, Munchy, and are so very thankful that God created you for our family!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Moment Captured

Undoubtedly there are many advantages to having husband around for a week. This is one of my favorites. He captured a moment so typical in my life at the moment. It just makes me smile.

Phin had left his half eaten apple on the table in order to hide (an obsession of his at the moment); Chloe picked it up, of course.

Phin pulled it away as soon as he noticed!

Hmm....what to do this baby is really crying?!

Hmmm...I could give her back the apple, she is asking so nicely now...

No, forbid the thought of sharing, I am TWO afterall. I will give her this plug though so she quits hurting my ears!
There! Look at that! She's quiet!

Note- he never actually finished his apple. I found it later on my bed!

Lion Country Safari

We left ClubMed for a day to visit Lion Country Safari, near Ft. Lauderdale. It's a lovely theme park. You drive through the animal park in your own car. We saw zebras, ostrich, waterbuffalo, monkeys, lions, giraffe's, etc. We had a great family day.

Phin was fine with close ups of all the animals UNTIL we got to this one.

Apparently, we was terrified the rhino would ram our car;)

Because it took an hour and a half to drive through and Chloe started crying after about five minutes, she spent the majority of the site seeing here...standing between my legs. (We were driving 5 miles an hour through the park, not out on real roads!)

They have an amusepark to spend time in after you finish the safari. Chloe like their version of the dumbo ride, as long as I didn't make him fly. If I tried to go up at all, she freaked out;)

My love and my front of the flamingos. (No surprise, these were Ava's favorite- they are pink, after all!)

I always get the pleasure of riding the carosel with the kids....Marc's get's motion sickness!

Our family on the Ferris Wheel!

Looking at the world from up high was thrilling for our little ones.

I think I might have a new favorite animal. I loved the giraffes!

Surprisingly, Phin LOVED feeding the giraffes. He couldn't get enough of them!

How can you leave without riding the mini train?!

A day full of memories and life to the fullest. What a blessing!

Vacation- aka Plugging ClubMed

Vacation, sweet Vacation! It is a time for resting, reflection, fun, and memories. We returned this year to ClubMed, in Port St. Lucie, FL. We were there a couple years ago and to date, it is the only vacation we've had were Marc and I had the opportunity to relax. The have a wonderful program called "Kids Club", which may sound like glorified day care, but truly it's more like day camp. The staff is WONDERFUL and the kids have a blast. There is nothing like KNOWING your children are safe and happy to put a mommy's mind at ease. We typically picked up our children after lunch (though we DID leave them for a full day on a couple occasions). We had the mornings to ourselves to be as active or as lazy as we desired. We talked. We rested. We enjoyed being together. I think I read 6 books during the week. It was lovely!

I've been feeling a little down since we came home. Perhaps, it is the recent death of our pastor or the fact that my children took turns with stomach flu upon our return, but I think a part of it is just vacation "let down." It's really nice to look through pictures and remember how much FUN we can have as a family. I am challenged and encouraged to resist being bull dozed by my "to do" list and let "fun mommy" out a bit more often!

Chloe enjoyed the warmth, but didn't like the pools so much. Her and I usually watched the others and she cruised in circles around the lawn chairs!

Sadly, I guess I tend to take the photos in our family and the is one of the only ones with me in it;) We are happily reading the newest "Splat" book. Purchased just for this vacation because it is about SWIMMING:)

The highlight of Ava's trip, was learning to swing on the the flying trapeze, but unfortunately we didn't get a picture! (I KNOW!) Second, and a close second at that, was learning to hoola hoop! She's been trying for a while and got she's a hoola hoopin' pro!

ClubMed features Raggs the Dog and band. I guess it's show on PBS, though we haven't seen it ourselves. Phin liked him lots....from a far;)

Phin with his two "teachers".

Phin running with his "class"

Ava and her favorite teacher, Miss Jessica.

Ava with her class. They were admist walking around the resort chanting, "We are the Geckos. We are the best. Geckos, Geckos, we're the best." (Her age group was titled, "the Geckos";)

Papa and kiddos in the pool!

Ava's Ballet Recital

Ava's ballet recital was May 25. We couldn't get actually pictures of the dance because flash photography and video were probitted and the photos we tried to take without a flash didn't turn out as we were too far from the stage. Apparently the ballet school will be making photos and video available for a small fee...OF COURSE! I suppose I'll add them when they are available;)

Ava sitting with her class. She had a long wait as her performance was third from the end!

Here is a photo of the theater and stage. It IS a beautiful place and Ava said it was "magificent":)

Ava and her proud parents;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

For everything there is a season...

I have much to update on in the next few days as we just returned from an amazing family vacation, but at the moment I just needed to take a minute to process a few things going on in our church body.

One of our pastors died on Saturday. He had a rare form of cancer and from diagnosis to death was barely over a month. He was young (54) and left behind a wife, two kids, and a grandson whom he absolutely ADORED. Mark was a blessing to us; we only knew him about a year. I can't help but think about the hole he is leaving in our church body and in his family. He was a salt of the earth guy. He welcomed us in the church body here, visited us in the hospital within hours of Chloe's birth, took us out for ice cream after Sunday evening church, and has been to our home on a couple occasions meeting with us as we went through the membership process. He was definitely a man who radiated the Holy Spirit. We feel so blessed to have crossed paths in this life with him and it is honestly still shocking and surreal that he's gone.

Death is such a weird thing. I've experienced it far to often in my own life, and, of course, as a nurse. It's surreal. You KNOW when someone's soul has vacated and you see that truly our earthly body's are just shells; they are beautiful and God given/created, but shells nonetheless. Mark really isn't dead, his body is dead. He is quite alive, with no more pain, basking in the Glory of his Creator and King.

That it exciting. He has finished his race, completed his course; He has heard, "well done my good and faithful servant."

What is hard to process is the effect on those still here on earth. I've had trouble falling asleep at night in some ways because I can only imagine how Jeanie, his wife, must ache at night fall. They'd been married a very long time. How empty his side of the bed must feel to her! I love my husband, and while I know I could live without him, I hate to imagine it. That is her reality. What about his kids, whose earthly hero is now gone? What about the grandson who is so young, he won't remember this man? It is just sad.

Our senior pastor has been dealing with his father's end of life issues and on Friday his wife had to go into emergency surgery for a detached retina. She'll be continuing a tough recovery all week and had to miss their son's high shool graduation. Over twenty people in our congregation are dealing with cancer. People are out of jobs. It is a tough time.

It's easy to wonder, "why?" and yet at the same time know in the depths of your soul that whether we understand it or not, God is in control. He is allowing this AND he will be glorifed through it. I find myself wanting to help and not knowing how; in a sense I want to "make it all better." Prayer doesn't FEEL like enough and yet that is what God is calling me to do. The JOB he has for me right now is on my knees. I, who likes to "do, do, do", must join our church body in simple surrender. "Have your way in us O Lord! Your name and renown are the desires of our heart."

God is ultimately in control. He alone knows the days on earth each of us will be given. All to him I surrender! May I seek him and follow where he leads, every day. May his will be all that I desire. May I live my life worthy of my Savior's sacrifice and when I die may HE be glorified.