Monday, December 15, 2014

Gingerbread House Fun

My kids have been asking to make gingerbread houses. Honestly, it's something I never seem to get around to. Fortunately for them, a friend gave us some leftover supplies that she had from a church activity. Candy, graham crackers, and tubes of icing already made. It was fabulous, and I had no more excuses for not making "gingerbread" houses with the kids. We were also lucky enough to be joined by some good friends, which made for a little more chaos and a LOT more fun.


Cool Connor

Our of all of our children, I feel like Connor may have changed the most this past year. He is starting to show some distinct preferences and opinions of his own, such as this recent fascination he has with Star Wars. Ever since he saw a Darth Vader costume around Halloween, he has become a huge fan. Ben nourishes this interest (of course) and they have had some great bonding moments over it these past weeks.

Connor loves his teddy bear, Frank. It was given to him (used) from a neighbor about a year ago. I doubt Briggs knows how much Connor has loved that thing since. Frank has to go to school with him every day, but he isn't allowed to leave the backpack. He sleeps with him, hangs out with him on the couch, and sometimes Frank even goes with him when we leave the house to run errands. Connor even took the bear on our last hiking trip at Wichita Wildlife Refuge. You can see him carrying it in this picture:

Connor is in 1st grade right now. He is somewhat ambiguous towards school, but he seems to be doing pretty well. He's a great reader, and recently picked up a Captain Underpants book at the school's book fair. I don't think he can read all the words, but after he got it, he would sit on the couch and just gaze at the pages for a long time. I don't know if he was reading a little or just looking at pictures, but I am glad to see that he is developing a healthy love for books.

Another favorite of Connor's is the Dinobuddies chicken nuggets they sell at Sam's. We sampled them one day and bought a box. Ever since then, Connor has been hooked. The ingredients are pretty decent as far as chicken nuggets go, so I don't discourage him too much. He wants to take them every day to school for lunch, I don't know how he can stand eating them cold, but he loves them and eats them about 4 days a week.

As far as music goes, Connor has developed a preference there, too. He loves Imagine Dragons, particularly the song Radioactive. He often asks me if he can watch the Minecraft parody of Radioactive on YouTube (see below). I don't really get the appeal for him since he's never played Minecraft, but...

Overall, Connor is a sweet boy who can be very loving when he wants to be. He's got great facial expressions, but it is getting harder to get him to smile for the camera. Here are a few of my favorite pictures we have of him from this past year:

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Man Maddox

I've realized lately that I haven't been doing very well at posting regular updates about the kids, what's going on in their lives, etc. I'm going to spend a little time over the next week trying to remedy that situation, and we'll start with this little guy right here.

Maddox just turned 4 this past October. He can be sweet and demanding, all at the same time. He definitely knows how to get his way with his siblings, but he is also intensely passionate about almost everything that he does. One of the cutest things I have ever seen is the way he sticks out the tip of his tongue when he's really concentrating hard on something.

He is fearless. He will climb on anything as high as he can. When we went hiking on our last camping trip, I had constant anxiety when we were walking close to a ravine. He just doesn't understand that things can be dangerous. But he is sure-footed and strong and rarely falls when he does climb, which is a Very Good Thing.

This guy definitely has his quirks, which are a little different than my other kids. Although some are just doggone cute, others have resulted in pretty regular temper outbursts on his part that have become a regular part of our lives. This behavior was why I chose to go through PCIT (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy) with him earlier in 2013. Although we saw amazing improvements after therapy, and in the months since, things have started getting a little more hairy around here lately.

After some discussion, Ben and I decided to get an professional evaluation for Maddox to ensure there wasn't anything else going on that we couldn't see. We got the results back today, and were pleased to hear that most of Maddox's behavior patterns fall into normal ranges. There are speech delays, which we were aware of. He has been getting speech therapy shortly after he turned two years old, and he has made great progress. As we already knew, he does have issues with rigidity (things having to be a certain way to make him happy), but nothing that is clinically significant. The doctor recommended that Ben and I go with Maddox to a few "refresher" sessions of PCIT to see if we can't iron out some of the kinks. It'll be Ben's first time going, and I think it'll be a good experience for all of us.

In other good news, he officially tests as a Bright Kid. I think all my kids have some pretty good quality gray matter in their skulls, but this is the first time I've gotten official documentation for any of them. It's kind of fun, even though IQ test scores are rather fluid at this age.

So, in summary, Maddox just marches to his own drummer like many other kids. The same traits that present challenges to us now as his parents (his determination, passion, resistance to change, ability to get into anything/take anything apart, etc.) are the same things that will help him be successful in life. That is, of course, assuming we can keep him pointed in the right direction without squelching his spirit.

As a bonus, here are a few pictures that really show the goofy side of Maddox's personality. He's such a great subject when I take out the camera, and he loves to pull a face. Man, I love this kid!

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Christ-Centered Christmas

For the last couple of years I have been getting increasingly bothered by the materialism of my kids around Christmas and the months leading up to it. Although we all enjoy the tradition of gift-giving, I felt the kids were too focused on the gift RECEIVING and missing the biggest point of the holiday - Christ.

About 6 weeks ago I ran across an advertisement for a "25 Days of Christ" kit that came with ornaments and a book. I thought it would be JUST the thing we needed to shift our focus for Christmas, and so I purchased one. As an added bonus, it was created by members of my church, so the book includes meaningful quotes from different church leaders, as well as a daily scripture reading and ornament. For many of the days it also suggests a short Bible video to watch that can be found online at this website. The best part about this tradition we have begun is that it talks about so much more than the birth of Christ. It talks about his life, miracles, death, and resurrection. As we all know, there would be no Christmas without Easter.

In case you want to adapt this to your family, I've included an overview of what we are doing. If you are interested in seeing what all the ornaments look like, or are purchasing this kit for your family next year, you can visit the website here. The set I ordered had the unfinished ornaments and I painted and put them together myself. (It's twice the fun!)

25 Days of Christ

Day 1: Birth of Christ
Ornament: Star
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
Video: Mary & Joseph Travel to Bethlehem

Day 2: Announcement to the Shepherds
Ornament: Shepherd
Scripture: Luke 2:8-18
Video: Shepherds Learn of the Birth of Christ

Day 3: The Three Wise Men
Ornament: Wise Men
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Video: The Wise Men Seek Jesus / Wise Men Still Seek Him

Day 4: Boy Jesus in the Temple
Ornament: Bible
Scripture: Luke 2:40-52
Video: Young Jesus Teaches in the Temple

Day 5: Baptism of Jesus Christ
Ornament: Dove
Scripture: Luke 2:8-18
Video: Shepherds Learn of the Birth of Christ

Day 6: Fishers of Men
Ornament: Fish
Scripture: Luke 5:1-11, Luke 6:12-16
Video: Follow Me, and I will Make You Fishers of Men / The Calling of the Original Twelve Apostles

Day 7: Sermon on the Mount
Ornament: Candle
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-16
Video: Sermon on the Mount / The Beatittudes

Day 8: Stilling the Storm
Ornament: Boat
Scripture: Matthew 8:23-27

Day 9: Feeds the 5,000
Ornament: Basket with bread & fish
Scripture: Matthew 14:14-21

Day 10: Walking on Water
Ornament: Feet
Scripture: Matthew 14:22-23

Day 11:Parable of the Good Samaritan
Ornament: Bandaged Man
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
Video: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Day 12: The 10 Lepers
Ornament: Number 10
Scripture: Luke 17:11-19

Day 13: Parable of the Lost Sheep
Ornament: Sheep
Scripture: Luke 15:3-10
Video: Jesus Declares the Parable of the Lost Sheep / The Good Shepherd / Other Sheep I Have

Day 14: Take Up Thy Bed
Ornament: Man in Stretcher
Scripture: Mark 2:1-12
Video: Jesus Forgives Sins and Heals a Man

Day 15: Woman at the Well
Ornament: Water pail
Scripture: John 4:5-30
Video: Jesus Teaches a Samaritan Woman

Day 16: The Widow's Mite
Ornament: Coin Bag
Scripture: Mark 12:41-44
Video: Jesus Teaches about the Widow's Mite

Day 17: Mary & Martha
Ornament: Rolling Pin
Scripture: Luke 10:38-42
Video: Moments that Matter Most

Day 18:Triumphal Entry & Cleansing the Temple
Ornament: Donkey
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-13
Video: The Lord's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem / Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Day 19: The Last Supper
Ornament: Bowl & Pitcher
Scripture: Luke 22:14-20, John 13:4-15
Video: The Last Supper

Day 20: Gethsemane
Ornament: Present
Scripture: Matthew 26:36-45
Video: The Savior Suffers in Gethsemane / None Were With Him

Day 21: Betrayal & Denial
Ornament: Rooster
Scripture: Matthew 26:47-75
Video: Jesus is Tried by Caiaphas / Peter Denies Knowing Him

Day 22: Crucifixion & Burial
Ornament: Cross
Scripture: Luke 23:33-46, 50-56
Video: Jesus is Scourged and Crucified / Jesus is Laid in a Tomb

Day 23:Resurrection
Ornament: Hand with nail print
Scripture: John 20:1-20
Video: Jesus is Resurrected / His Sacred Name: An Easter Declaration

Day 24: Road to Emmaus
Ornament: Heart
Scripture: Luke 24:13-32
Video: Christ Appears on the Road to Emmaus

Day 25: Ascension into Heaven
Ornament: Cloud
Scripture: Acts 1:9-11
Video: For God So Loved the World

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


We had a couple of trees growing over the roof of our house. In fact, both were draped in a nerve-wracking manner over the master bedroom. And, since they are calling for a colder-than-user winter and there's always a chance of freezing rain, (and because one of the trees had a big hollow area at the base) we decided this would be the optimum time to look into getting those trees taken out or trimmed back. Fortunately, we also got a great referral who gave us a very reasonable quote for taking the two offending trees out, as well as cleaning up the rest of the trees in the yard. They actually did a better job than I expected on trimming the trees, and they did a fabulous job overall. I tried to get a few pictures of the process, but I didn't think to take any "before" pictures.

This is the big tree in the backyard we wanted taken out. (And yes, I know I have an problem with taking tilted pictures. I kind of like it, but not so much here.)

This is the front cluster of trees getting trimmed.
 The tree on the left (you can barely see the trunk) is the one that is came out of the front. You can't see it, but there's a man strapped to it that is cutting off branches.

A picture from further away of the front.

The cool wood-chipper doo-hickey-thingama-bobber.

A better picture of the tree in back. The lowest of the branches have already been cleared here.

And this is the same tree, more branches gone.

This is the crazy fool expert tree guy who trimmed the front trees back. He's hanging in a harness or something from the trees. At least he's strapped on tight.

And the back tree came down! (Olivia swears she heard someone yell "Timber!" I wouldn't be surprised.)

I was really impressed with what a good job this crew did in general safety procedures. Not just to protect themselves, but to protect my house. You can see the rope dangling there that they would tie to big branches they were going to cut off, thus making sure nothing crashed down on anyone (or anything) unexpectedly.

And this my friends, is what the bottom of the tree in back looked like. I am so glad it isn't hanging over my bedroom ceiling any more! And the nice gents also cut the trunk down so we can use it for firewood. Guess we need to get an ax and a wedge to split it with, now.

The After Pictures

This tree isn't in any of the other photos, but trust me when I say that it had the most low-hanging branches of them all. Now it's off the fence and out of my hair - literally!

The tree in the back is gone, and the tree by the fence (that was hidden by the tree) is nicely groomed. We have a whole usable section of yard now that we didn't before. AND sunlight coming through our living room windows. Woot, woot!

And last, but not least, the trees in front. The one in back is gone, and the three in front are looking great! 

We didn't realize how gloomy our house looked indoors without direct sunlight, but now that we have it, it makes me smile. I'm sure there's a good gospel analogy in there somewhere, but honestly it's late and I'm tired. You'll have to do your own deep thinking on that one.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Climber

Ever since Maddox was a baby I have struggled to keep up with him. He was walking at 10 months, climbing a couple months later. At two years old he'd take off running down the middle of the street every time we went to go get in the van and leave. He thought it was funny that we'd all chase him and holler. He was my first child for which the "monkey leash" was an absolute necessity every where we went!

Well, now he's four. And the closest park to our home also has a huge rope-web thingie that the kids love to climb. And while I love for them to climb it, Maddox has a limit. He is not allowed to go any higher than this:

He's the little orange spot about 2/3 of the way to the top. He love to hang out up there - see?

Unfortunately, he's always liked to see how far he can push the rules. I turned my head for a minute to take care of another kid, and this is what he did:

I (of course) instructed him to come down immediately while snapping his picture.

And off he went to Time out. He wasn't very happy about it.

Not one single bit.

Fortunately, it was just one incident in what was otherwise a beautiful autumn morning at the park with the bonus kids, Terri, and Eva.

And yes, Maddox got himself dressed that morning. I have since come to learn that he's dressed as No Noggin from the Curious George "Boofest" episode.  That translates into a button up shirt, tie, and a hat. I did convince him to trade in the cowboy boots for sneakers before coming to the park, though.

And THIS pretty girl loves to get her picture taken but won't stand still. She just bounces around with excitement while saying, "Cheese!"

Eva is our swing expert. She can go really high!

It was such a beautiful morning!

We even ran into some other friends while we were there. Of course, they were awesome and biked over...

It looked like Eva was trying to hang like a monkey from the ropes, but she's getting too tall for that - she reaches the ground!

This is how the other kids like to swing. It kind of stresses me out when they get going. I'm just sure someone is going to flip out of the seat onto their head. So far they haven't been able to build up too much speed on their own. But I'm watching them closely.

This little man takes the best pictures. And yes, his eyes are that stunning in person, too. I have had random people stop me while we out running errands and comment on how good looking this kid's eyes are. No joke. And I can't even claim credit for contributing DNA since he isn't mine!

 And here's another sweet smile that I love to see!

And, for a few bonus pictures, this is what Maddox REALLY looked like when he got himself dressed (before I intervened to get things somewhat straightened out / buttoned up):