Monday, November 16, 2015

Fishing and Climbing and Being 8

Birthday season is upon us and the first celebration happened last weekend as our second turned eight. We started the weekend with a Star Wars movie night, celebrated with family on Saturday and rounded out the weekend with our birthday date. Wes originally requested a LEGO birthday party, but was persuaded to indulge his fishing passion instead. I think it was the promise of a shrimp boil that sealed the deal. So the party planning began.

Let's start with the dessert. There were so many great options that I couldn't decide on just one. 

 photo DSC_0609_zps6o0xklay.jpg

The more Evie and I watch cookie tutorials, the easier it all looks. WRONG!!! While the YouTube cookie masters easily outline, fill and detail their beautiful cookies, the rest of the world struggles. I am the rest of the world. But armed with a fish-shaped cookie cutter, some royal icing and a few piping bags, I set out to create the fish for Wesley's fishing party.

 photo DSC_0611_zpsfkqxgivg.jpg

Next on the dessert menu were cake pop bobbers. Chocolate cake mix is greatly improved with the addition of some dark chocolate ganache and candy melts. The best-loved part of the pops were the buttons on top. The kids were surprised to learn that a slice of hot tamale could double as a bobber button.

 photo DSC_0615_zps0xtpi4jk.jpg

The final addition to the dessert menu was the cake. Since the sweets were plentiful and the layers were many, a 6-inch cake was sufficient. A little fishing island in deep water wished Wesley a happy birthday. My favorite part of the cake is the stand, cut from the branch of a fallen tree at Wesley's favorite fishing spot; Grandma & Grandpa's cabin. 

 photo DSC_0617_zpsqssoxusx.jpg

 photo DSC_0610_zps4tipqgnl.jpg

 photo DSC_0737_zpsvkwdkcct.jpg

To decorate, we hung a string of paper lanterns painted to look like bobbers,

 photo DSC_0623_zpseyhm0ylt.jpg

and strung some fish on a line. Cattails in vases helped us feel like we were lakeside.

 photo DSC_0619_zpsccxxqjrs.jpg
When I told him what a seafood boil was and then told him that's what we could do for his birthday dinner, he couldn't contain his excitement. Probably because we're constantly telling the kids to use their forks and now there was promise of food spread ALL OVER THE TABLE and NO UTENSIL RULES! We covered the table with butcher paper, set bowls out for shells, ensured the napkins were big and plentiful and, when it was ready, dumped it on the table.

 photo DSC_0621_zps0icyqa6g.jpg

In all of the excitement, I forgot to get a before picture, but here is an after. Our seafood boil was shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn, served with mac-n-cheese, coleslaw, fruit and cornbread on the side. 

 photo DSC_0716_zps5lswf7pf.jpg

The birthday boy chose a cookie and a cake pop after a lively rendition of the "happy birthday" song.

 photo DSC_0731_zpslnnvhd9s.jpg

The generous gifts went along with his fishing theme: a fishing vest for all his gear,

 photo DSC_0695_zpsfbtuz6bn.jpg

a 7-foot fishing pole,

 photo DSC_0696_zps8krd3rul.jpg

and a bait-fund.

 photo DSC_0705_zpsmtuffrzd.jpg

The day after the party was Wesley's birthday date. The birthday kid gets to choose where we eat on the birthday date and Wesley's choice was White Castle. 

 photo DSC_0739_zpse4yve5ex.jpg

Two thirds of us really enjoyed it.

 photo DSC_0742_zps3jivn3wz.jpg

After lunch we headed to REI for Wes to try rock climbing.

 photo DSC_0745_zpscv30th54.jpg

With shoes and harness fastened tightly,

 photo DSC_0750_zps0d2thh6r.jpg

he began his trek up the 40-foot wall.

 photo DSC_0760_zps3dggxjfd.jpg

Although there were a couple moments of hesitation and exhaustion,

 photo DSC_0765_zpsf25fgqit.jpg

he triumphantly rang the bell at the top and happily climbed back to the ground.

One of the greatest joys of parenting is watching your kids accomplish something that pushes them beyond what they think they can do. Even though he was scared, he put on the shoes and harness and took the first step. Even though it was hard and he was tired, he pressed on. Even though his strong will frustrates his parents at times, the Lord knows Wesley will use that determination to press on to accomplish the work God has for him. Happy birthday to our wild, adventurous-spirited boy! May God continue to bless you and refine you and draw you to Himself this year. We love you more than words could say.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

these my brothers

When presented mid-summer with two options for how to spend a week of family vacation - a week at the cabin or a family missions week - the kids overwhelmingly and enthusiastically voted for family missions week. The fine balance of travel schedules, work schedules and school schedules meant that we wouldn't be joining a missions organization, but putting together something on our own that met our family's needs. Our desire is for our kids to see their neighborhood, their school, their city as their mission field. So this family missions week didn't mean crossing the ocean, or even the state line, to serve God and love His people.

With Matthew 25:40 as our theme, we set out for the week's events. 
34Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" 40And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Mt 25:34-40
Our goal was to make this scripture tangible so the kids could see an example of how to put into practice the things they read in the Bible. Throughout the week we wanted to feed, welcome, clothe, and visit the people God brought into our lives.

::: feeding :::

Our first task was to feed the hungry right in our city. We've all seen the people standing on the corner of the exit ramps with a sign asking for help. I think many times they're passed by with contempt or, worse, without even being noticed. But these are people with a need and we wanted to meet it in some small way. In order to do this, we needed to plan ahead. We put together ten bags with McDonald's gift cards, some nonperishable food items and a bottle of water. {this idea came from a book called Cleaning House}

 photo DSC_0551_zpshggxxd7q.jpg

We also included a notecard with Scripture on it. Each of the writers in our family chose a verse and filled out two notecards.

 photo DSC_0547_zps0mmrgt89.jpg

 photo DSC_0549_zpsvx5fdavk.jpg

The daily routine of life in the suburbs doesn't lead to any many opportunities to help people in this way, but later in the week we were headed into the city so we planned to distribute the bags then. We told the kids as we were on our way to let us know if they saw anyone on the corner holding a sign asking for food or help. The first man we saw was laying against a fence with his hat pulled over his eyes. We were stopped at a red light so Sean was able to get out and give him a bag. And in the next few moments, I saw Jesus in my husband in a way I'd never seen before. Sean didn't just hand the man a bag of food and leave, which unfortunately, is what I would've done. He shook the man's hand, asked him his name, and told him it was nice to meet him. He saw this man as Jesus sees him, as a man uniquely created in the image of God. {Lord, forgive me for my blindness and thank you for your Holy Spirit that convicts and guides and draws us closer to You.}

We continued feeding people that week, but this time it was people on the other side of the world. We spent one morning at Feed My Starving Children packing food for children in Afghanistan. Although Evie is technically too young, we were able to find a job for her putting labels on bags and drawing pictures for the kids receiving the food. The older kids fell right into their favorite jobs around the packing stations. That morning we packed enough to feed 75 kids for a year.

::: welcoming :::

Hosting guests in our home is common and something our kids experience quite regularly. Nearly every Friday after school we hear, "Who is coming over this weekend?" Given that family missions week also happened to be the last week of preparation before school started and our schedule was full, we decided to take the opportunity to practice hospitality outside of our home. Delivering cookies to some new neighbors and helping others prepare for guests was how we planned to do this. MN Adult & Teen Challenge is an organization we've been involved with for a few years so when Sean contacted them about opportunities for our family to serve there, we were invited to help prepare the chapel for an upcoming graduation ceremony. When the students graduate, they invite family and friends to their home-away-from-home to celebrate their hard work and the redemptive work of Christ in their lives. We dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed, mopped, and squeegeed our way through the afternoon in preparation for the event.

Because Sean is the tallest, he got the dusting job.

 photo DSC_0664_zps1eodfak8.jpg

Wes made sure the windows were streak free...

 photo DSC_0665_zpsthwflupn.jpg

and Jack wiped up all the drips.

 photo DSC_0666_zpsfkk3rowh.jpg

There was fighting over who would get to vacuum. (Why don't they do that at home?)

 photo DSC_0668_zps24utwujc.jpg

Both Elise and Wes got to mop. Both claimed that they'd mop all the time if we had one like this at home. Somehow I think the novelty would ware off...

 photo DSC_0670_zpsmyrygbcb.jpg

Evie was just praying it would be over soon...just kidding! {lately, for some reason, she's been requesting pictures of her praying} She was so eager to help with everything and plowed right through the afternoon despite being on day 4 without a nap.

 photo DSC_0675_zpsnpqa31ts.jpg

One of my least favorite things to do is clean the house. Even lower on my list of favorite things to do is teaching our children to clean the house. Not because I don't enjoy teaching our children, I actually love it. It's just that, because I don't like house cleaning, I want it done as quickly as possible and teaching kids to do it right makes it take much much longer. But as I washed windows alongside our boys and returned to the chapel to see our daughter happily mopping a bathroom that she'd cleaned almost independently, the Lord affirmed that even the smallest things we are pouring into our kids are for His purpose.

::: visiting :::

While at Teen Challenge, we were able to talk about the importance of visiting people who are isolated, whether it be because they are in prison or sick or separated from their family for some other reason. Growing up in a family with four children, I'm not sure how often our kids will experience isolation (especially since they share bedrooms), but we do want them to know how blessed they are to be surrounded by people who love them and to be generous about sharing that blessing with others.

::: clothing :::

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

We talk frequently about the many material blessings God has given us and how we need to be good stewards of what we've been entrusted with. A large part of stewardship comes from an understanding that what we have has been given to us by God to use for a time and that we shouldn't "store up" things that others can use. Our plan was to have a go-through-your-closet day where we decided what didn't fit anymore, what we didn't use anymore or what was more than what we need (clothes, toys, books, etc., were all to be considered). While we had hoped to accomplish this during family missions week, the task ended up being too big for an already full schedule so this project had to be put on hold.

::: fellowship :::

In the daily routine and demands of life, we sometimes forget to enjoy each other. To just have fun together as a family. So part of the purpose of this week was a chance to just be together. We took a mid-week break and stayed at a hotel that had a water park. We ALL had so much fun. Although it was pretty big, we could always find the kids in one of two places.

 photo DSC_0588_zpsvyt6nrxc.jpg

Jack and Elise could be found swimming or tubing down the lazy river, while Wes and Evie could be found on a water slide. 

 photo DSC_0652_zps5hi4m8ot.jpg

Evie, on this small one;

 photo DSC_0618_zpshcs1kuov.jpg

Wesley on one of the three that required a 67-step climb to get to the top of.

 photo DSC_0647_zps51mdctr5.jpg

As I reflect back on our week, I'm struck most by the magnitude of the small things.  What I mean is... the things we did, really, were very small in terms of time or other resources, but they were big to some people. Spending a few hours serving others meant that 75 kids would not be hungry; it meant that four men would go to sleep with food in their stomachs for a night; it meant that men and women defeating addiction could celebrate with pride; it meant that someone wasn't alone. And what it meant to us was that our family has a bigger purpose than what is apparent in the day-to-day routine of work and school and home. God has prepared a work for us and we are working on changing our perspectives and our routines so that we can see and accomplish what He has called us to.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another Beginning

Today marked the fifth first day of school for our family. Three years ago I took this picture.


The next year I took a similar picture, it's just that the kids were older.

 photo DSC_0991_zps2d23d14f.jpg

It only seemed appropriate that I take another one the following year.

 photo DSC_0209-2_zps52e58f2b.jpg

Which brings me to this year. Today I sent my babies off to 4th, 2nd and 1st grades. The littlest one stayed with me and will start preschool at home with me in a couple weeks.

 photo DSC_0699_zpswgch4v9x.jpg

First day of 4th grade

 photo DSC_0685_zpsgk9g1iah.jpg

First day of 2nd grade

 photo DSC_0695_zps6su4nhmt.jpg

First day of 1st grade

 photo DSC_0692_zpssfb7hg6h.jpg

First day of...oh wait... Not quite yet, baby girl.

 photo DSC_0687_zps5dknfck4.jpg

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lazy Days of Summer?

Today we went to the beach.

 photo DSC_0215_zpsoyzribbf.jpg

The kids had SO much fun.

 photo DSC_0244_zpsfbko00ge.jpg

And that's why I'm writing this.

 photo DSC_0236_zpst8vanzj5.jpg  photo DSC_0238_zpsboxcmaiz.jpg
 photo DSC_0239_zpstnymroru.jpg  photo DSC_0240_zpst7znz2wk.jpg

To remind myself that the whole point was for them to have fun.

 photo DSC_0228_zpsmturjyga.jpg

I forgot.

 photo DSC_0255_zpsscqsj7vs.jpg

Because taking four children to the beach is a lot of work.

 photo DSC_0251_zpsvvi8l7au.jpg