Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's A Comin'!

Three years ago we were glued to the television watching in disbelief as Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. I cried many times in the following days at the stories of complete devastation, of people's lives torn apart. And that was all from 2500 miles away, in the safety and comfort of my California home.

When we moved to Arkansas, there were still evidences of Katrina here, in the form of Red Cross shelters for Katrina victims. After all, New Orleans is only an 8-hour drive from here. Central Arkansas has become the permanent home of many people displaced by Katrina. They are all over this area, seeking to rebuild their lives here. They are even in our church. It is so easy to feel disconnected from disasters like Katrina when you live far away. We are expecting the aftermath of Gustav to hit Central Arkansas, not only in the form of evacuees, but in much rain as well. So keep your eyes on us! This is shaping up to be an eventful week.

Now we watch the ominous approach of Gustav, due to make landfall tomorrow. This impending disaster feels so much more real when you live within easy driving distance. For you in the Bay Area, it would be like a hurricane hitting Orange County. For those in Spokane, imagine a hurricane hitting Boise or Portland. Makes it feel a lot different. The evacuations are much more organized and wide-spread this time around. Most of the people in the at-risk areas are well on their way out. But that doesn't make Gustav any less horrible. People are still going to lose their homes, belongings, and ways of life if Gustav directly hits New Orleans again. And chances are, we'll be seeing many of those people here in our area.

So I ask you, please be praying. Pray for the safety of the people in Gustav's path. Pray that hearts will be open to God, as He often moves in when people are at their lowest points. Pray that other cities (Little Rock, Baton Rouge, Houston, etc.) will be ready to welcome the evacuees and meet their needs as they wait out this storm. I'll keep you posted as this week unfolds.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Popular Demand

I got tons of feedback on my last post. Due to popular demand, I have typed up my casserole recipes from my last 2 meal plan cycles. If you would like them, e-mail me at

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Yummy Day!

I love to cook. I'm always game for a new recipe, and I enjoy everything about cooking, from the shopping, to the prep work, to the actual cooking process. The best part, of course, is the eating. The only thing I really don't like is handling raw chicken. Ugh! I shudder at even the thought of fat (gag!), skin (wretch!), and tendon (harf!). Yuck! But when raw chicken is not involved, I really do love to cook. However, homeschooling has complicated my routine significantly. By the time school is done and I've done the necessary housework, my energy is gone. Who wants to think about putting together a meal when you can barely muster enough energy to play Candyland with your 6-year-old? So I have created a plan. And it works. And I love it.

Before I do my bi-monthly shopping trips, I sit down and make a meal plan. I factor in all three daily meals, and make my shopping list accordingly. I go to the store in the evening when the kids are in bed so I can shop without feeling hurried or stressed. When I'm relaxed and have a fully tummy, I'm much less likely to impulse buy. I stick religiously to my list, and shop for the best deals. It's amazing how much can be purchased at the Dollar Store! I got canned corn 3 for $1 day before yesterday, and a huge bottle of pancake syrup for $1. For you future moms out there, you can even get pregnancy tests at the Dollar Store. But I digress. Planning ahead allows me to justify buying meat in bulk. I always know I'll use it. Shopping this way has saved us so much money! I can feed our family of five for around $400 per month. That includes diapers, cat food and litter, laundry soap, Ziploc bags, shampoo, etc. Also, every time I shop, I pick up a Stouffer's lasagna, too (but not at the Dollar Store).

The day after my shopping trip, I spend an afternoon cooking. My meal plan always includes 4 casseroles that can be prepared in advance and frozen. That way I'm guaranteed two nights a week that I don't have to cook. I try to reserve those casseroles for days when I'm feeling even more fatigued than usual. I also make a soup that I freeze in portion-sized containers to pull out for lunch. I can only take so many sandwiches, you know? And taco or lentil soup is a great, healthy alternative to the other things I may be tempted to eat for lunch when a sandwich doesn't appeal to me. My family loves this plan. I'm a happier, less stressed mommy, and the food is so good, too!

Today was my cooking day. We did school first thing this morning, and then I tidied up and ran the vacuum in the living room, and did a load of dishes. I wiped down all the counters and swept the floor, because I like a neat work space. I put out a fresh trash bag and filled the sink with soapy water. Then I was ready to go. I cooked for 2 1/2 hours this afternoon, and here's what I have to show for it.
Taco Soup (8 lunch portions)
Chicken Supreme
Fiesta Tamale Pie
Spaghetti Bake
Hash Brown Casserole
2 loaves of homemade whole wheat bread

Guess what we're having for dinner tonight? Stouffer's lasagna!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Poke-Uh My Mommy!

This morning I went to the doctor to find out why I've been having so many annoying health issues recently. Back-to-back kidney infections, a systemic yeast infection, abdominal issues, acid reflux, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and very dry skin, among other things. I couldn't ignore them anymore (my fear started to get the better of me), so I made an appointment with Dr. Bryant. He did a very thorough exam, asked me a ton of questions, and drew about half the blood in my body. Actually, it was 6 vials, but it sure felt like a lot as I watched it draining out of me, into those tubes. He suspects hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and possibly some food intolerances. It will be a few days before I know. I hope he's right. After losing my mom to cancer, the "C-word" is never far from my mind (or my nightmares).

Anyhoo, this morning as I sat in the chair watching the nurse prepare the needle and blood storage tubes,Snapper began to freak out. Pepper watched the whole process in fascination, his little face right there next to where the nurse was working. Snapper hid behind my chair. I kissed Pepper and told him not to touch Mommy while the nurse was working. I didn't need to worry--he was mesmerized. And all of a sudden, I recalled a memory I had completely forgotten. I had a miscarriage when Pepper was a toddler. For 2 weeks I had to go to the lab every other day for a blood draw to check and make sure my hcg levels were dropping normally. The first time, I had 16-month-old Snapper with me. I sat down in the lab chair, placed her on my left knee, and put my right arm out on the counter for the blood draw. Snapper watched in horror as the phlebotomist poked me once, then twice, and a third time with no luck. Right as he prepared to poke me the fourth time,Snapper tensed up, and before I knew it, she wiggled out of my grasp. She was up on the counter before I could grab her. With a mighty swing of the fist, she slugged that phlebotomist square in the chest and screamed, "You no poke-uh my Mommy!" I was too shocked and embarrassed to even speak. And then the woman in the chair next to me began to laugh. Then the other waiting patients began to laugh. The other two phlebotomists joined in, followed by the one Snapper had slugged. Snapper sat there on the counter in tears, and I was mortified. When I realized that everyone in the room was laughing, I was able to join in. The phlebotomist was very gracious, even insisting he thought Snapper's reaction was funny.

I'm just glad the needle wasn't already in when Snapper pulled her stunt. I'm glad she hid behind my chair today. And I'm even happier that Pepper currently has no such aversion to needles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Counting Down

I feel so silly! My birthday is in 8 days and I am counting down to it. I haven't gotten excited about my birthday in several years...since my 21st, really. And I have no idea what makes this year any different. We're not going anywhere or doing anything. In fact, that night is the Awana kickoff, so there's no way to celebrate much on my actual birthday. But for whatever reason, I'm totally excited for it to be my birthday. Huh! I wonder what's up with that!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sassy at Six

I married into a beautiful family. My father-in-law is a handsome man with thick, beautiful hair and magnetic eyes (which my husband inherited from him...rowza!). My mother-in-law is beautiful, too. Her smile lights up the room, and the pictures of her when she was in college look as though they belong in a magazine. Matt's brother, Paul, shares many characteristics of his dad and Matt. Need I say more? There are Matt's 6 sisters. They all have big eyes, stunning smiles, nearly perfect figures, and legs that go on for miles. And of course, there's my husband, the hottest man on the planet! How unusual is that, though, to have a family of 10 people, all of whom are (by the world's standards) exceptionally attractive?

Now along comes Snapper. When I found out I was pregnant with her, I expected that my features, being dark and dominant, would over-rule Matt's genetics and produce for us a dark little copy of me. Imagine my surprise when I popped out a fair-skin, blond-haired, blue-eyed girl with legs (and feet, heh heh) that go for miles. That baby will be turning 6 in 2 weeks, and I'm beginning to get an idea of the bombshell I will be letting go into a world of drooling males in just a few years. And I'm more than a little bit scared.

Yesterday Snapper came downstairs wearing an outfit she has worn all summer--a green and pink t-shirt and a cute little flared pink skirt. Only yesterday, I noticed how much Snapper has grown over the summer. When she stands up straight, her fingertips fall well below the hem of her skirt. And the shirt? It fits her closely along her sides. I sent her upstairs to change her clothes because the outfit was too small. A few minutes later, she called me. I came to the bottom of the stairs, looked up, and received the shock of my life. Let me paint you a picture if I can. (If I had my own computer, I could put a real photo in. Grrr....!)

There at the top of the stairs stands Snapper with her hand planted firmly on her stuck-out little hip. She still has on that little pink skirt, which shows WAY too much of those long, pretty legs. And the shirt? It is short enough to show a cute, little belly button. Her long bangs are falling over one side of her face. And to top it off, she's wearing her pink Barbie high heels and some lip gloss. Then she says to me in an aloof, almost fluttery voice, "Well Mother, there are no more clean clothes in my room. I guess I'll just have to wear this!" Mother? Since when does she call me Mother? What in the world is that tone of voice, and where did that stuck out hip come from? And I never told her she could wear lip gloss!

As I stood there gaping at the gorgeous, sassy, little creature I call my daughter, my mind tripped and scrambled forward about 9 years, and I got a sneak preview of the 15-year-old Snapper I will be facing then. It was enough to make me quake in my boots. See Matt? Look what your genes have produced! What in the world was I thinking having kids? How in the world will be survive the teen years? And how will we ever manage to keep this precious child modest, unaffected, and pure when she packs around with her so much natural beauty and irresistable pizzazz?

All afternoon I thought about my dilemma: how are Matt and I going to raise Snapper into a young lady of high morals, personal conviction, purity, modesty, and humility? Our culture certainly isn't going to help us! I could go on all day about the slutty, sexy clothes they are making for 5-year-olds! As I cuddled in bed with my sweet little girl--properly attired in lavendar Carter's jammies--I determined to start Snapper's training NOW. I'm not going to wait until she's 12 to talk about modesty and purity. I will help her now to choose clothing that is cute, modest, and age-appropriate. I'm not going to wait until she's 14 to talk about her conduct around boys. I'm not going to leave the strength and closeness of our relationship to chance. No. She is too important to let any of this wait. So now I'm processing what my approach will be with Snapper. How will I cultivate an open, close relationship with my daughter that will set the stage for the challenges we will face in her teen years? I invite you to share in our journey, and I will keep you posted as God gives me fresh ideas, and successes in the process.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Progress Made

I'm exhausted, so I'll keep this brief.

After our potty training nightmare day on Friday, we turned around and had a fantastic day today. I took a risk and let Pepper wear his big boy underwear to church this morning. I took a pager with me and left orders for his Sunday School teacher to page me if Pepper had a potty accident. There was a mis-fire with the pager halfway through the worship and I went Pepper was content and dry in his Spiderman underoos. He was still dry when I picked him up after church. And still dry when we got home. And still dry after we went out to for lunch. And still dry at the bowling alley. And still dry when we got home at dinnertime. And still dry when he put his diaper on and put him to bed tonight! THREE CHEERS FOR PEPPER! He made it to the potty every time today, and went potty with no problem, even though he had to use the potty at three places away from home! I'm so proud. Progress made!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The Wii is a wonderful invention! It provides hours of family fun, and some good exercise, too. We really want one. But that's not the Wii I'm talking about.

Today there was a special event at church called Wii. It was a one-day conference of sorts with the purposes of
1. Educating our church about the goals of our children's ministry
2. Inspiring people to use their gifts and abilities to make a difference in the lives of children
3. Connecting people with service opportunities in children's ministry.
We used the concept of the Nintendo Wii as a platform for this conference.

We had a fantastic turnout, with over 60 people in attendance! Matt did some drama. I ran all the tech stuff. Our children's pastor did a fantastic job communicating our church's children's ministry goals. She has such a great heart for God and for the kids, and has made tremendous strides in the last 2 years in making our children's ministry a place for kids to belong, a place where they regularly experience God's love for them. The overall goal is to effectively develop children who are fully-devoted followers of Christ, and to help them understand their place in the body of Christ.

A big highlight of the day was the inspiring message by Keith Jackson, a former player for the Philadelphia Eagles. He now runs an after-school program to help at-risk high school students in Little Rock to bring up their grades, graduate high school, and go to college. He talked about the keys to the success of the program, and reminded us all that with God, all things are possible. I was challenged by what Keith had to say. If all things are possible with God, what is it that He wants me to do for Him? I know one thing for sure: it will be immeasurably more than anything I could ask for or imagine. It definitely got me thinking, and I guarantee you that I'll be spending more time listening to God, rather than just talking to Him. I want what He wants for me.

Thanks, Stephanie, for taking your vision for today and running with it. I'm going into this year of children's ministry with much clearer purpose, focus, and goals. I know it's going to be a great year, because God is moving in the midst of it. You are one of my heroes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

He Aims to Please: An Addendum

Our potty catastrophe day marches on.

After our fun poop incident, I left Pepper's pants off, as he had soiled his last clean pair of shorts. He spent about 30 minutes running naked around the living room, making occassional stops at the potty. I thoroughly enjoyed watching my little nude boy carrying my purse around, laughing, and just generally being really cute.

And then he perched himself on the windowsill in the living room, my purse on the floor below his feet. I wish I'd had my camera out to capture how adorable he looked sitting there, looking out the window. I happily began to fix the image in my eternal memory. And then Pepper says, "Uh-oh, Mama! UH-OH!"

And wouldn't you know it, the little stinker was peeing...INTO MY PURSE!

I know he didn't do it on purpose. And his frantic little "uh-ohs" were so comical. For a fleeting moment I was tempted to get upset, slap a diaper on his cute little bottom, and put him in his bed. But that idea flew out of my mind as quickly as it had entered. And I had to laugh. He really tries so hard to make it to the potty, and he's usually so successful. I decided to grant him some grace and remember that this phase will be over in the blink of an eye.

I'm thankful for the children God has given to me, and I'm determined to enjoy their childhoods, poor aim or not!

Thoughts on Potty Training

I have a daughter. One day shortly after her second birthday, she took off her diaper, sat down on the little potty in her room, went potty, and never looked back. No need for stickers, candy, pull-ups, plastic sheets on the bed, nothing. She is turning 6 in a few weeks, and still (knock on wood) has never wet her bed. I can count on one hand the times she has even wet her pants during the day. A little bladder control genius I have!

I have a son. One day shortly after his second birthday, he informed us that he wanted to go pee-pee in the big potty. He took off his diaper, climbed onto the big potty, went potty, and has been as inconsistent as...well, as inconsistent as a 2-year-old boy learning to go in the potty. Some days he does great, going all day without any accidents. He has even had a dry diaper several times on waking up in the morning. Today has not been one of those days. So a few minutes ago I was sitting on the couch, Pepper standing right next to the couch. He was deeply engrossed in his Sesame Street Letter F book, and apparently didn't notice the tell-tale sensations of "TIME TO POOP!" I looked up just in time to see movement in the back of Pepper's shorts. Oh No! He looked up at me in complete shock, right as the poop hit the living room floor. In dismay he shouts, "I gotta go poop!" and runs for the potty. Too late, Buddy. When he pulled down his pants, I discovered he was not wearing any underwear. And he discovered a trail of poop down his leg. Panic ensues asPepper melts down at the sight of poop, and realizes the full scale of what had just happened.

I managed to get him calmed down and cleaned up. And I even managed to get all the poop out of my carpet. The next time you come over to our house, if you notice a startlingly white spot on the carpet next to the couch, think of Pepper, and know that is currently the very most sanitary place in our whole house.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Favorite Time of Year

Arkansas is deceiving. I grew up in coastal California, where gray skies NEVER meant warmth. Whether it was the chilly storms of winter, or the cold damp of summer fog, gray has always meant cold to me. This morning I woke up to gray skies out my window. Auto pilot kicked in and I got myself dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and my gray hooded sweatshirt. And then I went outside. A gray sky in Arkansas does NOT always mean cold. Sadly, I hung my hoodie back up in the closet.

But my favorite time of year is just around the corner. Warm, humid, gray day or not, the first signs of fall are here! This morning there was a patchy blanket of brown leaves on my lawn! Hobby Lobby's windows are filled with scarecrows and fall garlands! School buses clog traffic from 7-8 every morning. Awana starts in 2 weeks. My birthday is in 13 days, and that will be the kickoff of my favorite time of year, September-December.

Here are my top 5 favorite things about this time of year.

5. Crisp, cool mornings and balmy afternoons
4. Soups, stews, crockpot dinners, and casseroles (recipes coming soon!)
3. Jeans, hoodies, but still flip flops!
2. Fall leaves, spicy scented candles, and fireplace smoke
1. Counting down to Christmas!

Yup. I love it. What is your favorite time of year? Leave me a note with yor favorite season, and favorite thing about that season.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Awana is Starting!!!

When I was in elementary school, one early-September constant was the start of Awana. If you are not familiar with Awana, it is a program for children age 3 through 6th grade (some churches extend it through 12th grade). Kids in the program memorize Bible verses, hear Bible stories and practical Bible lessons, learn how to use their Bibles, play games, and build relationships with their leaders. A child who stays in the program from kindergarten through 6th grade will memorize over 600 verses.

I remember my Awana days vividly. Each Tuesday night we would make the trek to a church in Felton, CA, for the best evening of my week. I loved the nights I got to carry the flag in the opening ceremony. I loved the fun, interactive lessons from Mrs. Tanner or Mr. and Mrs. Brush. I loved the one-on-one time with my small group leader, Mrs. Dangers. I loved the theme nights, the boys-against-girls fundraisers we had for Awana clubs in other countries, the Awana Grand Prix, the Awana Olympics, the awards, and the time with my friends. Most of all, I loved the half hour of high-paced, fiercely competitive Awana games. I remember the smell of the church, the faces of my fellow clubbers, even the sound of my leader's voice. The lessons I learned during my 7 years of Awana have stuck with me through the years. So many times I have been thankful for the deep bank of Scripture in my memory. So many times as a high schooler and young adult, I determined that my kids would one day go through Awana, too.

And now here we are. Snapper is in her 3rd year of Awana, a Spark in the Hiker rank. Pepper is starting his first year of Awana in the new Puggles program for 2-year-olds. And I am the director of Truth & Training, the 3rd-6th grade club. Tonight was our directors' planning meeting, and I am so excited for this club year! I'm anticipating around 20 3rd-6th graders in T&T, and I have a wonderful year planned for them. I use fun incentives to encourage them to stay ahead of the pace necessary to complete their handbooks. I love to get in there and play with them at game time. And this year, Matt is going to be doing the teaching. He's putting a lot of thought, effort, and energy into the lessons, and I know they will be wonderful. I will post photos and updates in a few weeks, once our year gets rolling. Registration is a week from tonight. Our first club night is on my birthday, September 3rd. What a fun way to celebrate, spending time with the coolest bunch of kids in the world!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Books for Kids

Today I put together a list of some of my favorite children's books for a friend. Since I know many of my blog buddies have elementary age children, I figured I'd post my list here. These books are all books I've either read myself and loved, or had read to me by my mom when I was a child. The grade level recommendation is based on these books as read-alouds. They are meant for the parent to read aloud to the child. The grade level is the minimum age at which you should begin reading. Most of the kindergarten books are wonderful for 4th and 5th graders, too. I hope this list is helpful, and brings lots of fun for your and your kiddos.

Kindergarten and up

"Betsy-Tacy" (series) by Maud Hart Lovelace (one of my two VERY favorites)
"Little House in the Big Woods" (and rest of the series)" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
"Meet Samantha" (American Girls series) and the other 5 books about Samantha. There are several series about American girls throughout American history.
"Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne
"Stuart Little" by E.B. White
"Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White
"Ramona Quimby" (series) by Beverly Clearly
"The Velveteen Rabbit"
"Mr. Popper's Penguins" by Richard and Florence Atwater
"Homer Price" by Robert McCloskey
"Junie B. Jones" (series), by Barbara Park (very popular series with lots of room to discuss how to treat other people. The books are very funny, but you'll have to read one first to judge whether or not your child is ready for it)
"The Boxcar Children" by Gertrude Chandler Warner

First Grade and up

"Cotton In My Sack" by Lois Lenski (one of several by this author)
"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
"A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"Thimble Summer" by Elizabeth Enright
"The Cabin Faced West" by Jean Fritz
"Sarah, Plain and Tall" by Patricia MacLachlan
"Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate Decamillo
"Heidi" by Johanna Spyri
"The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" by Roald Dahl

Second Grade and up

"The Saturdays" by Elizabeth Enright (one of my VERY favorite authors)
"A Family Apart" by Joan Lowery Nixon
"Island of the Blue Dolphins"
"The Cricket in Times Square" by George Selden
"Misty of Chincoteague" by Marguerite Henry (one of several by this author)
"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" by Kate Douglas Wiggin
"Peter Pan" by JM Barrie
"Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott

3rd Grade and up

"Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen
"Laddie" by Gene Stratton Porter
"Ballet Shoes" by Noel Streatfield (one of several by this author)
"The Circuit"
"My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George
"The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynn Reid Banks
"Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink
"Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome
"Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling

4th Grade and up

"The Bridge to Terebithia" by Katherine Paterson
"The Giver" by Lois Lowry (and other books by this author)
"A Wrinkle in Time" (and other by this author) by Madeleine l'Engle
"The Watsons Go to Birmingham" by Christopher Paul Curtis
"Half Magic" by Edward Eager
"The Great Gilly Hopkins"
"Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens
"The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom

Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2008

And Bites It Hard

Ahhh, what a beautiful feeling are the keys of Deb-Deb's laptop! My keyboard-starved fingers are doing a little dance! Our poor computer has been in the diagnostic process at Best Buy since Thursday, and today we got the dreaded call. When we bought this computer brand new 18 months ago, we didn't know we had purchased a defective model. We replaced the hard drive 5 months ago. This time, not only is the hard drive fried, but the motherboard, too. They were not able to salvage anything off the hard drive. So 'puter has been sent off to the manufacturer. They will attempt repairs, but most likely will give us a new computer! I am thankful, so thankful for that. I am also thankful that I only lost a few pictures. I had backed them all up after Pepper's birthday, but lost my pictures from Camp. The good news there is that I know Stephanie and Sarah have some great pictures, too. The worst part of this whole thing (apart from losing my lesson plans) is that I will be without my computer not for 7-10 days, but for 4-6 weeks. what to do? So if there's silence from me on your blog feed, you know why.

Here's the much better news. We have spoken to 3 mechanics now, and our transmission is not shot! It has a leaky seal, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to repair! Can I get a What-What?!? So now we just have to get it fixed, and I'm back on the road again. The other good part of this, I have saved a lot of money on gas that I didn't use going places I didn't really need to go!

One more funny thing before I sign off. Last night we were all sitting in the living room watching a movie. I looked over and noticed that Snapper was sucking on our cat Zoe's ear. Yes. Sucking ON THE CAT'S EAR. What in the world is wrong with my daughter? I quickly informed her that Zoe licks her butt, then licks her paws, and transfers butt germs to her ears when she cleans her ears. By sucking on the cat's ears, she us sucking on cat butt germs. Snapper, you are putting cat butt in your mouth! Snapper shrieks, "CAT BUTT?" and begins to gag. Pepper--our resident parrot--also shrieks, "CAT BUTT!" Oh my! We now have a new catch phrase in our house. Appropriate and genteel? No. Funny? Most definitely. And loaded with the memory of a good family laugh fest. Did I mention that Deb-Deb had a friend over? It was his first time meeting all of us, Debs included. I wonder, will he ever come back?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Have you ever noticed that bad things tend to come in groups of three? It happens that way at our house. And yesterday it all came crashing down, resulting in a very uneasy, grumpy, unhappy day for me. I'll indulge myself with a factual few paragraphs of whining, then I'll tell you why I am looking at life from a different perspective today.

Back in May I developed a urinary tract infection. But I was babysitting my friend Carol's two girls while Carol was in the hospital having a baby, and I didn't want to try to take 4 kids to the doctor with me, especially since I knew I'd have to pee in a cup. How do you explain that one to a 4, a 5, and a 6-year-old? So I waited 3 days until the girls went home. Big mistake. The infection worked its way up into my bladder and kidneys, causing excruciating pain. I took a powerful antibiotic and the infection went away. Unfortunately, it recurred last week and I'm back on antibiotics again. To make a long story short, stress, coupled with 2 back-to-back antibiotics, has thrown the healthy bacteria balance in my body way off. Not good. I have a systemic candida yeast infection. Not painful, but very uncomfortable. The treatment: more medication, plus no sugar for a month. When I say no sugar, that means I can't eat anything that has more than 1 gram of sugar per serving. That's almost everything. Poor me! I will experience birthday #29 with no cake. Boo!

Yesterday morning I took Deb-Deb to work. When I got home, I noticed a ginormous wet spot on the driveway where my van had been parked. Not good. The transmission on the van has been skipping quite a bit recently, and has been reluctant when shifting out of reverse, or into drive. Matt came home at lunch and confirmed my worst fears: the transmission has finally given up the ghost, spilling it's tranny fluid guts all over my driveway. I cringe to think what this is going to cost to repair. Poor pocketbook! Poor old van.

And the plot thickens. I went to my room to get on the computer to print my lesson plans for yesterday, and was greeted with a blue screen. Not good. I tried to restart it, went through the troubleshooting, only to learn that there was no longer an operating system for the computer. Really not good! Matt took the computer down to Best Buy (where we have a service plan), and found out that for the second time in 18 months, we need a new hard drive. I thought of all my pictures and momentarily freaked out. Then I remembered that I backed them all up last week, except for the pics I've taken in August. I scrambled for my camera and was relieved to discover that I have not formatted my memory card since July, and all my August pics are safe. The only bummer is that I will lose all my lesson plans. Two months' worth of lesson plans gone to the hard drive heaven in a landfill, or else handily recycled by some eco-conscious citizen. Oh yeah, and I'm without my link to the outside world for a week to ten days. Poor me! Poor 'puter. (Thanks, Deb-Deb, for the loan of your laptop today!)

So why am I so cheerful today? Because Nastia and Shawn got gold and silver last night! Woot! No really, I'm cheerful because I know God is in control. My history has taught me that when God allows hardship into my life, He has something to teach me, and He always shows up in a big way. Yes, I whined a bit and mildly lost my mind for a few days (I am human, after all). But now I'm really okay. The girl is learning, God! Once again I wonder how people can cope with life's curveballs, without God to lean on. Some may say Christianity is a crutch. If it is, I'm thankful I have it, because I could not stay standing on my own. I prefer to view it as the strong, gentle hand of a loving Father holding me up as I limp along. I rejoice today for the presence of God in my life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rollin' Along

I just read my friend Jane-Holly's blog about homeschooling, and was inspired to mirror it with some thoughts of my own.

Snapper and I have completed Day 3 of homeschooling. After 3 short days of experience and observation, I feel compelled to preach a small sermon on the benefits of home education. By now you've figured out that I like lists...might even be a compulsive list maker. Hee hee! So my little sermon will come in the form of a Top 5 list.

Top Five Benefits of Homeschooling (Why I think this homeschooling thing may become a permanent fixture for our family)

5. When Matt and I were teachers, we spent much of our day in transitions. It frequently took 10 minutes to transition from one subject to another, 10 minutes to get everyone lined up and down for recess, P.E., computer, lunch, etc. Then another 10 minutes to get back up to class and settled in. There were bathroom breaks. And time spent disciplining children. Wasted moments, and lots of them. There is very little time wasted at home. Because of this, we are finished with school before noon, leaving Snapper the whole afternoon in which to just be a kid!

4. We have complete flexibility with our school schedule. Last night I didn't sleep well, so we slept in a bit this morning and started school a little bit later in the day. We are hoping to travel to California some time in the next 3-6 months. Because we're flexible, we can go whenever we want.

3. We have unlimited opportunity for creativity in our teaching. If Snapper is especially fascinated with a subject, we can research it thoroughly, and create learning activities that will be customized to her unique learning style.

2. We can move at Snapper's pace. We don't have to do every problem on every worksheet, ot even every worksheet! If she has a solid understanding, we can move on and not have to wait for the rest of the class. If she's struggling with an area, we will camp on it until she get it.

1. We can (and do) run everything we teach Snapper through the filter of God's Word. That doesn't mean we skip over contoversial issues. On the contrary, we boldly discuss those issues and teach Whitney to apply God's truth to each situation she encounters.

Our first three days have been wonderful. Yesterday Snapper decided that she loves Math! She joyfully completed a whole week's worth of math lessons because she wanted to! And we spent 2 hours on the couch reading together. Even 2 hours was not enough for her. We will be back on the couch reading again this afternoon. She draws and crochets while I read to her. I am getting to recreate for Snapper one of my most cherished memories of my own childhood. Last night at the dinner table, Snapperdeclared to me, "Mommy, I love being homschooled!"

Music to this Mommy's ears!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Our First Day

Last year on the night before Snapper started kindergarten I had a meltdown. My baby girl was starting school. I cried over how fast her first 5 years of life had gone, and felt justified in my tears. After all, wouldn't I be right to assume that most mothers of kindergarteners cry on that first day of school? Last night was the night before Whitney started 1st grade and I had a meltdown. This year, though, my tears were for an entirely different reason. On the eve of my first day of homeschooling, I wanted my mom.

My mother, Lotte, was quite possibly the perfect homeschool mom. Coming from a background of several years of teaching, she was well equipped for the task of home educating her two daughters. Add to that some incredible creative abilities and a zest for life. She was ideal for the job. On my first morning of 1st grade, my mom, knowing how much I wanted to go to "real school", dressed me up in a cute little jumper, packed me a lunch in my new lunch box, and headed out the door, my hand clasped firmly in her own. With Jenny in the stroller and our German Shepherd Tara on the leash, we walked around the block together. On arrival home, my mom became my teacher. She led me upstairs to the spare bedroom which had been transformed into a miniature school, complete with desk (with my nameplate on it), chalkboard, American flag, a shelf of curriculum, a shelf of new school supplies, and the ABC border around the ceiling. My little heart, still sore from watching the neighbor kids climb onto the bus that morning, thrilled at the sight of my own, little classroom.

Throughout the early years of my education, my mom kept a fair amount of structure. I did my work at my desk. We followed the same schedule every day. My lessons were beautifully organized, and rich with wondeful detail. By the end of first grade I had read the Little House on the Prairie series by myself. My mom was an amazing teacher. We moved to Scotts Valley when I was 7. When I was 9, my parents built an outbuilding--our schooroom. I did all my work there with my mom. At recess Mom played tag with Jenny and me. For P.E. we played basketball, jumped rope, did lots of stretches, rode our bikes, and played hard. For Science, we explored our property, went tidepooling, did projects with Daddy, and got very hands-on. Mom read to us every afternoon, which I am sure is the root of my ever-consuming desire for a good book.

When I started 4th grade, Jenny began kindergarten. Her learning disabilities required more intensive attention from my mom. By that point I was pretty motivated, so I took on more responsibility for my education. Each week Mom gave me a carefully prepared lesson plan, for which I was responsible. It didn't matter how I did the work, so long as it was all done by Friday. When I needed help, Mom was there for me. I was free to choose where I wanted to work. That often meant doing literature in the almond tree, history on the tire swing, or spelling in the barn. My favorite place to do schoolwork was on the floor in front of the wood burning stove in our living room. I spent many peaceful hours there with my books, free to study at my own pace.

And then there were the projects! My mom realized my creative potential and knack for writing, so whenever possible, she customized projects that would develop my skills. I still have a box of some of my work that my mom saved for me. Book reports, creative writing assignments, photos of dioramas and relief maps that I did, paintings, research papers, the list goes on.

When I hit high school and my level went beyond my mom's ability to teach, she found specialists to enrich my learning. I took most of my classes at a small private school my sophomore and junior years, and had a private tutor for those classes not offered by the school. I was able to begin college at age 16, fully equipped for the rigors of those courses. In fact, several of my teachers questioned me about where I had gone to school. When I told them I had been homeschooled, they asked me to esteem my mom for a job well done.

What huge footprints I have to try to follow in. My mom really was a homeschool rock star. Since my mom is my biggest hero and role model (apart from Jesus, of course), I quite naturally want to emulate her in the area of homeschooling. And last night I had a good cry because guess what? I don't have a perfect little schoolroom for Whitney. I didn't buy her a lunchbox. Everything in my homeschooling world is not in apple pie order. I want to be my mom but I can't. And I miss her, so very much. I felt so awful about it all, in fact, that I decided to put school off for one more week so that I could get some sort of schoolroom together. I went to bed feeling so let down. And SO cranky!

God and Snapper had other ideas. She bounced out of bed this morning and came in to wake me up for her first day of school. She was so bubbly and springy that she could have written the Tigger Song. Then I told her we wouldn't be starting school for another week. And her face crumpled. All the bounce drained right out of her little body, so disappointed was she. Then it occurred to me...

Is this whole have-to-be-perfect-and-ready-for-school thing about Snapper's education, or my personal fulfillment and ego? I didn't have to think long and hard about that one. And a sense of shame washed over me. It's great to want to be like my mom. But it isn't a necessary component of Snapper's education. I can work on decorating the extra room upstairs as time and money are available. And no one will think less of me for not being a copy of Lotte. Just to test my theory, I asked Snapper a question:

"Sweetie, do you want to wait for our schoolroom ro be all set up to start school, or would you rather just do some schoolwork today?"

Her humbling response:

"Mommy, we don't need a schoolroom to do school. Why don't we just do our work at the dining room table? I don't care if it's all set up! I just want to be a first grader."

Choke. Cough. Okay, Miss Priss. We'll start school today. I'll let go of my visions of grandeur and really focus on having a great first day. And so we did. Pepper's grumps forced us to wait until he was quietly asleep at naptime before we could begin. I'm seeing that flexibility will be in order this year. We spread out on the dining room table and began school. Like my mom in one major way, I was very prepared with Snapper's lessons. I knew exactly what to do and how to teach it. Today she learned that all words are made up of sounds. She learned that phonograms are sounds that make up the English language, and that phonograms can have 1, 2, 3, or 4 letters in them. Some single letter phonograms have more than one sound. She learned the importance of good penmanship, and began working on the correct formation of some of the letters that start at 2 o'clock (a, c, d, f).

Then it was recess. And here's what I love about homeschooling. Her recess activity of choice: to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. Ah, she is her mother's daughter! I spent many hours on the couch with tea and a book!

After recess, we tackled math. We're using a wonderful math program called Math-U-See. Each lesson starts with a video, and incorporates as many of the senses as possible. Today Snapper learned about place value: units, tens, and hundreds. She built math problems using unit blocks. She wrote down her answers. And she created problems for me to solve, explaining the steps to me as I went. She really got it, and loved it in the process! By the end of this short lesson, Snapper is able to correctly name any number 0-999, and write any number 0-999!

She did a fun first day writing project, a fill-in-the-blank poem about herself, and drew a self portrait to go with it. Here's her Biopoem (complete with her 5-year-old spelling).

Playfull, silly, funy, prityy
Sister of Jackson
Lover of playing Star Wars, waching tv, and dress up
Who feels happy, exited, and glad
Who gives happynes, kisses, and hugs
Who fears darknes, blud, and tornaydos
Who would like to see Kung Fu Panda, dollfins, and Grandma
Resident of Little Rock

We concluded our school day by cuddling on the couch and reading another chapter in her Ramona book. She's excited about tomorrow, eager to learn, and joyful in the process.

And I am humbled. I think if my mom was here, she would tell me that the child is more important than the look of the classroom. Quality time spent teaching Whitney will mean far more to her than how organized my bookshelf was, and how far ahead I was in my lesson plans. So how do I feel going into tomorrow? No more tears, that's for sure! And I know my mom is proud of me, just the way I am.

At the bottom of this blog I have posted a slideshow of photos from Whitney's first day of 1st grade. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just An Ordinary Day

Nothing profound from me today. It was just another laid-back Saturday. We enjoyed family cuddle time in our bed when the kiddos woke up. Snapper likes to be all close up against Daddy, while Pepper prefers to crawl all over us, taking great pleasure in bouncing on our full bladders or blasting our noses with 2-year-old morning breath. Awkward though it can be at times, I love those morning cuddles. Both kids are getting so long, and I realize it most when they are lying next to me.

Breakfast was plan and ordinary: cold cereal. Then we took Deb-Deb to work, and headed up to LifeChange to work out in the fitness room. I love working out because I feel like I'm finally overcoming Lazy and doing something healthy for myself. I always walk out of the gym with a sense of accomplishment. But I'll tell you, I hated just about every second of the 1.25 miles I ran, the 150 crunches I did, and the 15 minutes of flexibility work. I really hate getting off the treadmill and not being able to focus my eyes because I feel like the ground is still moving under me.

We came home from the gym and crashed on the couch. Matt very kindly made quesadills for lunch, complete with a wonderful dipping sauce of mayo and mustard mixed. When I worked at the horse camp in New York, we had grilled cheese or quesadillas every week, and I got tired of both. The camp director's son Josh introduced me to that yummy dip, and I haven't been able to enjoy a grilled cheese or quesadilla without it ever since.

All afternoon I sat like a bump on a log and watched the Olympics. Hey, the summer Olympics won't be on again for 4 more years, so I can justify a few days of couch potato-ness. I was productive while I vegged, though. My friends Frank and Tammy recently had a very preemie baby boy. At 3 weeks old and only 2 pounds, I'm pretty sure they're going to have a hard time finding hats and such for him. So I've been crocheting some tiny clothes for baby Sam. The sweater is finished already. Today I made a hat, some booties, and started on a little blanket for him.

Snapper loves to watch me crochet, so today it occurred to me that maybe she's old enough to learn. Whitney now proudly displays her proficient skills at the chain stich, and she is slowly picking up the single crochet stitch. It was challenging to figure out how to teach a 5-year-old something I've never even thought about explaining.

We had tacos for dinner (adding cilantro made them super yummy), and watched more of the Olympics. Now it's 11:30, and I'm officially ready for bed.

I loved this Very Ordinary Day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Love Notes from God

Okay, so life has not been super easy recently. In fact, there have been some things going on that have been downright yucky. I've shed more tears than usual, and felt more stressed out, too. When I get to feeling like this, it is very easy to let my focus slide down to myself, instead of keeping it fixed on Christ, where it should be staid in the first place.

In the midst of the circumstances, and with my eyes pointed in entirely the wrong direction (can we say pity party), God has quietly left me some love notes--ittle things really, but just for me. Reminders that He lovingly allows hard things to come my way, in order to turn my eyes back where they belong.

Love Note #1, Friday: As many of you know, we are missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ, fully funded by donations from people who want to see marriages saved and families strengthened. Our paycheck reflects the consistent (or not) giving of our ministry partners. On Friday we received 3 generous and unexpected gifts in our staff account. We aren't able to draw from that account for personal use, but those gifts ensure that our next few paychecks will be the full amount. "Emily, I love you and will provide for your physical needs."

Love Note #2, Sunday morning: Matt and I are teaching a class at church called "The Five Love Languages." Though I've read the book before, this class has revealed to me that receiving gifts is the primary way I receive love. My love language is not a mystery or an unknown to God. He regularly gives me special little things--large like a special gift in our staff account, or small like my zinnia plant blooming for the first time on a gray, depressing day. "Emily, I love you and will express it in the way your heart understands love best."

Love Note #3, Sunday night: Matt, Debbie, and I took a spiritual gifts class at church. I learned that my primary spiritual gift is faith. Reading the description of this gift bolstered my faith at a time when I needed that boost. "Emily, I love you, I have given you a special gift, and chances to exercise it. Be looking for ways to grow the faith I have given you."

Love Note #4, Tuesday night: After a fun day at Wild River Country, I began to feel sick to my stomach. I hate to be sick. Public restrooms freak me out, so I REALLY hate to be sick away from home. God allowed the illness to hold off until I was safe in the haven of my own clean bathroom. I didn't get sick at camp like Matt and all the kids from church. I didn't get sick at Wild River Country. "Emily, I love you and care about the very mundane details of your life, even the throwing up parts."

Love Note #5, Tonight: Our new adventure of homeschooling begins on Monday. I'm excited, but there are times when I hesitate, and wonder if I have made the right decision. Tonight was the kickoff meeting for Central Arkansas' homeschool group. The guest speakers were four young adults who were homeschooled, and have now graduated from college and begun their adult lives. Their presentations on how homeschooling shaped their lives confirmed for me that Matt and I have made the right decision. "Emily, I love you and care about the choices you make. Rest in me, you have made a wise choice."

Love Note #6, Tonight: At the meeting tonight, they gave away a few door prizes. The biggie was a dvd player. Our finances are stretched very thin right now, with no spending money left after the bills are paid. Last night we worked out a detailed action plan to help us regain control of our finances. We put our hands on the plan and gave it to God, knowing that without Him, we can do nothing. This afternoon I mourned the loss of spending money for the next couple of months. And wouldn't you know it, tonight God gave me that dvd player! "Emily, I love you, and I will bless you in unexpected ways as you honor me and put me first in your finances."

How blessed am I to get to experience a personal love relationship with the Creator of the universe. Tonight I am thanking God for His love notes to me, and my eyes are right back where they need to be: focused on His face.

Has God written you any love notes this summer? Please post a comment and share them with me. I'd love to hear them, and to God be the glory!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Happy Day

Once a year LifeChange gives its staff a treat and sends us to the waterslides for the day. Today was that day! Here are the highlights.

5. Not feeling awful in my bathing suit (I'm 20 pounds lighter than last time I went to Wild River Country!)

4. Free wristbands entitling the wearer to unlimited free sodas, and a delicious barbeque dinner catered by Corky's

3. Spending six, quality hours with Matt, Snapper, and Deb Deb. We swam, went on most of the waterslides in the park, and laughed a lot.

2. Visiting with all my LifeChange friends that I don't see very often.

1. The number one highlight of today was watching Snapper come all by herself down the X-cellerator (steep, fast slide). Her tube hit the whitewater close to the end of the slide and stopped. Snapper, however, kept going. She flew about 8 feet, probably close to 4 feet above the water, and landed upside down with a huge splash. The lifeguard and I both ran for her to make sure she was okay. I expected tears and screaming and adament refusal ever to ride on a waterslide again. Instead, she stood up, shook her head a few times, looked at the lifeguard and me and said in typical, dramatic, Snapper fashion, "Like...WHOA!" And that was the end of it. Could she possibly be outgrowing some of the drama? Ha! I doubt it! =)

Thanks, LifeChange, for a wonderful day!


I was inspired by my friend Stefanie's blog tonight to post a few recent funnies of Whitney's.

1. This afternoon Snapper wanted to play on the X-Box, but I had already told her no tv or video games today. She asked again and I reminded her that my answer would not change. In a desperate moment of frustration and disappointment, Snapper started spouting off mouthfuls of gibberish. With very animated facial expressions and arm gestures, she marched around the room and carried on like this for about 3 minutes. In great amusement, I sat down and just watched her ranting and raving. When she cooled off, I told I her I couldn't understand her and asked her what she had been saying. She calmly replied, "I don't know. I was speaking Spanish!"

2. Yesterday in church there was no children's worship, so Snapper came to the service with us. After she got tired of coloring, she pulled out a blank piece of paper and started writing a letter to Grandma. Though she usually writes quite well, she seemed distracted and wasn't making much progress on her letter. After about 5 minutes and only a few words on her paper, she points at our pastor (who is preaching away) and whispers disgustedly to Deb-Deb and me, "I can't write because that guy is annoying me!"

Kids say the darndest things!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Good Ramble

Today started off on the wrong foot when I went to bed last night. At church last night, I ate an oatmeal raisin cookie. As I finished the last bite, I noticed a familiar discomfort in my mouth...the pain that usually signals I've eaten something with walnuts in it. I'm mildly allergic to walnuts. The typical reaction--all the skin peeling off the roof of my mouth--is uncomfortable, but not dangerous...until last night. I headed to the church kitchen to find out if there were walnuts in the cookies. By the time I read the packaging and discovered the cookies were oatmeal-walnut-raisin, my throat was beginning to feel itchy and tight. Stacie helped me track down some benadryl (hooray Leah for the ever-ready pharmacy in your purse!), and I settled in, hoping it would take effect quickly. For a nerve-wracking 20 minutes, I felt my throat get tighter and tighter, itchier and itchier. I was about to head for the hospital when the benadryl kicked in. 2 hours later, I was back to a normal throat and a very sore mouth. I think I will be heading to the allergist soon to get an epipen. It appears my allergy has morphed from mild to serious.

So we arrived home from church at around 8:30 and I posted last night's blog...apparently. Do I remember posting it? No. Do I have that unrest in my soul tonight? No. Chalk it up to the benadryl. Wow, the bottle doesn't say it's a mind-altering drug! It did warn me not to operate heavy machinery after taking it, but I don't think my computer counts as heavy machinery. Anyhoo, I went to bed sometime before 10 and woke up with a sore mouth, but generally feeling much better.

Today was a productive day. Matt and I had a good talk this morning in which we broke open some uncomfortable topics ($$$...cough cough...$$$). He left for work and I channeled my frustration into cleaning my house from top to bottom. I am woman, hear me roar! But I was miserable, so I stopped cleaning at around 9:30. I prayed, I read a few Psalms, and I wrote in my journal. And then I decided to do an attitude check. God made it very clear to me that I still needed to clean the house, but with a servant's heart. As I thought of how Matt's face would light up if he came home to a clean house, my heart changed. I had a blast vacuuming, doing dishes, sweeping floors, cycling 6 loads of laundry, and oragnizing all my homeschooling materials. The look on Matt's face was worth all the hard work. We're looking forward to a relaxing evening together once kiddos are in bed.

There were a few other tough things that crossed my path today. Someone very close to me is having a very difficult time at home. We talked today for an hour, and my heart aches for her. I wish I could gallop in and sweep her up and out of her awful situation, but I can't. Then I checked my email and found a series of emails from my Auntie Maggie. My 90-year-old Granny has moved into assisted living, and my aunt and uncle are packing up her house, and dividing Granny's precious things among the family. I knew this day would come, but I hate that it has. I hated looking at all the pictures of Granny's things lined up on tables. I hated having to choose which things will come to my house. I don't want Granny's things in my house. I want them in her house. So many changes are good, but this one is painful. It marks the end of a long and precious chapter in my life.

Okay, I think that's enough rambling for now. I'm off to enjoy some quiet together time with my wonderful Matt who, by the way, just came in and kissed me and thanked me for my hard work today. =)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Have You Ever...

Have you ever experienced that sense of something being not quite right? The knowledge that something is about to happen, but you have no idea what to expect? It's hard to describe...almost like butterflies in your stomach, but that's not quite it. I guess the best way to describe it is a sense of unrest in your soul.

Tonight I have unrest in my soul. Past experience has taught me that when I feel like this, God is up to something. Sometimes it's something small, like Him reminding me to get back into a routine if digging deeper in my wuiet times. Sometimes it's something major, like an impending earthquake, or the coming of a big decision.

The last time I felt this sense of unrest was when I was making the decison to homeschool Snapper, and that was back in April.

What are you up to tonight, God? You have my attention and my soul is ready to hear from You.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm Thankful For...

...Air conditioning
...Ceiling fans
...Iced tea
...Swimming pools
...Shorts, tank tops, flip flops
...Air conditioning


Because it is 11 p.m. and it is still 90 degrees outside.


I messed with the layout of my page and somehow along the way I deleted my blogroll. Please leave me a comment with the link to your blog so I can get my blogroll up again. Thanks!

Church Camp Adventures

When I was a kid, my parents never let me go to camp, even though I desperately wanted to. I went to VBS, but that doesn't count. My first camp experience was Horsemanship Camp at Monte Vista Christian School when I was 13. But that was day camp, so it doesn't really count, either. Granted, I did get to do some cool stuff, like travel by myself to Colorado and Wyoming to visit friend when I was 12, and to Spokane to visit the Bertholics with my sister when I was 14. My first real, overnight camp experience wasn't until I went to 4-H camp when I was 16. I still look back on that week as one of the best weeks of my life. I packed in every possible activity I could. I hiked, swam, hung out with friends, did arts and crafts, helped lead the evening campfire times, played capture the flag, flirted with the cute boys, and played pranks to my heart's content. Ah, what a great week! It was with those fond memories in mind that I joined the 3rd-6th graders from our church for 5 days at church camp. The week definitely had its low points: high heat and thick humidity; mediochre cafeteria food; gigantic bugs; a cranky Pepper in the afternoons; no childcare at naptime; homesick kiddos; flu-sick kiddos; a basketball to the back of the head; and worst of all, the camp director getting run over by his minivan, breaking his foot and seriously damaging the ligaments in his hip. But the low points were few and far between. For the most part, camp lived up to my expectations, and my kids and I had a fantastic time! I'll resort to my old favorite--a top 10 list--to share my favorite moments of my few days at camp.

10. Watching Snapper and Pepper light up with excitement over our "cannon" (cabin). While it reeked of mildew, at least it was air conditioned, had a clean bath/shower, and comfy beds. The setting was beautiful, too.

9. Eating giant dill pickes and snow cones from the snack shack

8. Sharing a great conversation with a group of 6th grade girls about boys, dating, and the value of waiting to start dating until you are old enough for dating to not be pointless.

7. Walking with Snapper in the dark, watching the fireflies, and talking about what she learned in her classes. If you ever get a chance, ask Snapper about the children of Israel.

6. Playing water games in the rec field with a group of our girls. I got soaked from head to toe, got all hot, sweaty, and sticky, laughed until I hurt, and totally connected with my girls.

5. Helping Matt teach the lessons to 24 kids every morning. This included setting up our pavillion, assisting him with games, answering questions, and hanging with the kids. I love to work with my very gifted and wonderful husband. We make a fantastic team!

4. Eating peanut butter sandwiches in the cafeteria without thinking twice about the nutritional flaws of peanut butter and white bread.

3. Dancing, laughing, and singing like crazy during the chapel times...and watching the kids get into it because I was! Then watching them dig into the Word of God, discovering new things about His love for them.

2. Spending extended periods of time with Sydney and John Wesley, two of the coolest kids in the world ever! (Sorry, JW, I didn't get a great picture of you this week!)

1. By far the #1 moment for me at camp was getting to pray with a 4th grader named Rachel as she asked Jesus to be her forever friend. I walked her through God's plan of salvation in the Bible, and then shared with her Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced the neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." I wrote that verse on the back of her nametag, and her face lit up when I substituted her name into that verse and told her it was God's promise just for her. That is what it's all about! It was a great 3 days.