Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Warming My Heart

Abby has said and done a few things recently that have really warmed my heart. She can sometimes be our more challenging child, but it is moments like the ones below that help me keep my sanity and bring me great joy.

During her prayer the other night she said, "Please give us some warm wind because it is cold outside." After the whole prayer Avery responded with, "Warm wind, huh?" The way she said it was like she was saying, "So that is really what you came up with, sis?"

Abby and her friend, Sybil, bring smiles to our whole preschool during chapel when they decide to belt out (I mean scream at the top of their lungs) "STAND UP AND SHOUT IT IF YOU LOVE MY JESUS! STAND UP AND SHOUT IT IF YOU LOVE MY LORD! I WANT TO KNOW, OH, I WANT TO KNOW, DO YOU LOVE MY LORD?" Their faces are priceless! My friend, Carrie, (Sybil's mom), and I are pretty proud of their singing/yelling. They are praising God with all they have. I am not embarrassed. We have sung several renditions of this at home, too. It really hasn't gotten old yet.

Abby, Avery, and their friend Sybil at the Teddy Bear Parade a couple months ago.

The other day Wes was walking by Abby's room and she was laying on her back on her floor with her arms and legs spread out. She was saying, "Where are you, Jesus?" Wes peaked his head in and said, "Abby, He is in your heart." She continued, "But I don't see you in my heart!" That is a tough concept to grasp for a three year old.

A group of friends from church and some of my friends from out of town (through email) and I are studying the book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, which is written by Tedd Tripp. It is a must read! It really challenges you to look to the Bible as you parent. It teaches you what your goals as a parent ought to be and how to pursue those ends practically. It teaches you how to engage your children about what really matters, how to address your child's heart by your words and actions. It has really inspired me to parent using God's words to train my girls, addressing the issues of the heart. Anyways, I highly recommend it. One of the things that Tedd Tripp challenges parents to do is to bring scripture into disciplining. Wes and I have really tried this, and I know the girls are hearing us, and I am pretty sure they are understanding. Here are some memorable moments we have had lately.

I was complimenting Abby as she was going down for her nap the other day. I was telling her what a good morning it was and how she had acted kind and sweet, and how she had obeyed me and made me happy. I was sharing that God is happy when she obeys her parents and that life is a lot easier when you obey your parents. She responded with something like this, "Yes, I didn't act yucky today. I obeyed. I didn't want to disobey like Cain when he killed his brother. I didn't want to have a hard life." I hope she truly understands those words and isn't just repeating stories we have shared with her. On another occasion right after we had disciplined Avery, she came over and said, (OK, more like bragged), "Avery is disobeying. She is disobeying God, too. That makes God sad. I am not disobeying. That makes God happy."

What a tremendous responsibility we have as parents to raise our children in a Godly way in a culture that is all about doing what is best for yourself. Some days it really overwhelms me to think about it all!

Pray! Pray! Pray!

Two Sundays ago our preacher Todd had a terrific message! As a part of his sermon series on the Holy Spirit he had several of our members share their testimonies through a method we called, "Cardboard Testimonies". We smiled, we cried, our hearts were broken. It was amazing to see how God had worked in the lives of these people. God is truly working today!!!! Check it out at Park Avenue Church of Christ's Website

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fall Festivities

It is hard to believe its fall again. Time sure does fly!

The most exciting news we have is the birth of our adorable nephew/cousin James Tripp (he told us he would like to go by Tripp). He arrived on Wednesday, November 19. He is such a cutie pie and he has been adjusting well to his new life. It has been special to see Blake and Katy as proud parents. They are doing a wonderful job! The girls are elated to have a new cousin.

This made me almost want another one!

Avery getting in some sweet cuddle time.

The girls are interested in doing their own thing rather than taking a cute cousin picture.

Yes, I know I am good lookin'!

Two of their other cousins, Mylen and Aivlyn, celebrated their birthdays recently. Mylen turned 4 and Aivlyn celebrated her very first birthday. The girls always have a ball playing with their cousins and celebrating their birthdays. It will be even more fun when Aivlyn and Tripp get a little older and can hold their own around the older cousins.

I am a big one year old now!

Help me do this, mom!

I am so excited about my cake! (Janet, you always make the most amazing cakes!)

We took advantage of our fall festivities around the Grayson area. We hit the Sherman Fall Festival, Denison Fall Festival, and the Grayson County Fair.

Halloween brought along fun events such as our annual preschool fall festival, Avery's kindergarten Halloween party, and the Sherman Halloween Festival. Like most of you, we now have tons of candy. The girls didn't even notice when I took a big bag of it to share with the middle school girls I shared a cabin with on our middle school retreat this past weekend. Thanks girls!

Our little angel (most of the time).

Avery is the glittery witch on the cake walk. Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture of her in her costume. I will have to have her get dressed up again and do that. Oooops! That is what happens when you are trying to get pictures of your kids as well as your preschool students.

Abby's preschool class at the Fall Festival.

Wes and I and our wonderful middle schoolers on the retreat. Wish I had their energy!

Avery got her first report card, all E's (yipee!) and an E in citizenship. They have an awards ceremony every nine weeks when report cards go out. She got all the possible awards that a student could get. A reading award, citizen award, worker award, attendance award, and A Honor Roll. She has already done some state testing (kind of sad that kindergarten students have to take state assessment tests already). She got 100 percent on 7 of the 9 areas tested and between 92-99 percentile on the areas of the other test. We are quite proud! I hope and pray her joy in learning continues through out all her education years. I volunteer some at her school helping kids take reading tests, going on field trips, or helping the teachers with different projects from time to time.

Abby is doing well. She enjoys preschool and misses her sister while she is at school. She is our most affectionate child and I occasionally like to hold her while she falls asleep. She constantly cracks us up with her made up songs and dances. She is not shy! She has the sweetest prayers and most interesting ones too. She likes to pray for friends when they are sick, which melts my heart. The other day she prayed, "God, please give us the power!" Ha!

Our family has made the local paper 3 times. No, we don't have any friends on the staff, we just happen to be at the right spot at the right time, I guess.

Avery on the first day of school.

Our family at Open House at Avery's school. Yes, Wes is looking at his phone!

Our family is in top right hand corner watching the monkey show.

Avery got to participate in a mock vote at school.
Who should I vote for? I don't even know who these guys are?????

Can you tell me who to vote for?

Gotta love this smile!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fun Times

We have had some fun family times lately. On Labor Day we joined Wes' parents, Granny, Katy and Blake at Burger's Lake. Here is how the website described this neat place:

Located in Fort Worth, Texas, Burger's Lake offers summer fun for everyone. Burger's Lake is a 30-acre park featuring a one-acre spring-fed lake for swimming.
Our facility includes:

- Two sandy beaches for sunning; wonderful big trees for shade

- A complete staff of certified lifeguards

- Over 300 picnic tables
- Six diving boards, a 20-foot slide and 25-foot trapeze
- Charcoal grills for cooking
- Plus much, much more!!!

We had such a blast here with everyone. It is a great place for young children. The girls loved the little slide where they could slide right into the lake, and they enjoyed the smaller diving boards as well. Avery told me she felt like she was at the Olympics. They spent a lot of time playing in the sand making castles and mud baths. I wish I could have taken a video of Avery on the 25 foot trapeze. Wes and I were surprised that she wanted to try it out after watching us. Wes went ahead of her and waited in the water while I placed her on the trapeze and away she went. She was supposed to drop into the water after swinging out, but she chickened out at the last minute and just hung on, so I caught her again. It was actually a little humorous, but I didn't dare laugh. We just praised her brave efforts and strong ability to hold on for so long. Wes and I enjoyed jumping off the high (about 30 feet) diving board, except for the few times when we totally busted. Needless to say, we were both sore the next day. A big "thanks" to Debbie and Ernie for treating us to this great family outing.

When we have gone swimming lately, we hear a lot of "Watch me!" from Abby as she shows us the way she swims.

Where did her hair go?

Burying Abby is hard work.

No, Wes has not lost his leg.

Anywhere is a good place to blow bubbles.

Going for a ride with Mommy!

The rest of the gang hanging out.

Abby flying high!

"My turn, Daddy!"

We went to the first football game of the year a couple of Friday's ago. The girls seem to enjoy it more and more every year. This year I kept hearing names of my past fourth grade students who were football players. I finally went through the program and counted how many of the players had been in my fourth grade classes. Turns out, I taught 11 of them. I would have never picked some of those scrawny little fourth graders out to be future football players. I have to say, it makes the game more interesting to watch when you know several of the players, personally.

Yesterday we went to the Sherman Fall Festival for the second year in a row. They really do have so much to offer. We started of the day with the annual Teddy Bear Parade. Children can bring their stuffed animals to be judged and then they get to be in a parade following the Sherman High School drum line. The girls dressed up their Build-a-Bears and we stuck them in their baby strollers for them to push. I think Abby must have thought it was a race because she took off in high gear, running, and kept a fast running pace the majority of the time. Maybe she will be our little cross-country runner??? I will have to post a picture of the two of them and their sweet friend, Sybil who joined us. Thanks Carrie for remembering your camera. Oooops! After the parade the girls also enjoyed jumping in a couple different bounce houses, painting tiles, painting T-shirts, making trail mix, and listening to a puppet show. One of the best things about this outing - IT WAS FREE!

The girls have been cracking us up, as usual, and I thought I would include a few things that come to mind that have made us laugh lately.

Avery one night at the dinner table: "This Oprah (okra) is good!

Avery during the football game: "How do they make the football costumes puffy?"

Abby after the football game: "I want to play the tuba! When I grow up I will get strong muscles to carry it."

Abby on several occasions: "When I was 5 I wore those shoes. When I was 5 I read that book."(It has been a hard concept for to grasp that she has never been 5 like Avery, or any other age over 3; only 1, 2, and 3.)

Abby when we picked up Avery from school one day: "Avery, I missed you!"

Abby after her nap today: "Mommy, I missed you when I took my nap, and I missed Avery when she went to school."

After telling her that learning how to buckle herself in her car seat was part of growing up Abby said in a frustrated manner, "I just want to eat food to grow up!"

Avery has her first fund raiser for school. At first she came home excited about selling things to win prizes, but then last night she told me, "I don't want to sell anything! I already have enough toys!" I can't say I blame her.

Today at church Abby warmed my heart. During the last song, she stood on the pew next to me holding a song book (I guess she can read the words in the book, but not on the screen. Ha!) Anyways, she really belted out "Our God Is An Awesome God" with us. She was full of joy and really gave it her all! She was too cute! Wish I could have caught that on tape too.

Avery is still enjoying Kindergarten. She has been making wonderful grades and has received a smiley face on her behavior chart every day! Way to go, girlie!

Teaching preschool has gone pretty well. I have discovered that there really is not much down time with two year olds! Abby is enjoying her preschool class as well. She has become quite a little artist lately staying in the lines while coloring and drawing things now that we can actually decipher. She just picked it up quite suddenly and often is found drawing her creations at the kitchen table.

Well, my bed is calling my name...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer Endings - School Beginnings

Lots has happened since I have last blogged, but I will try my best to catch you up.

We celebrated Dad's 60th birthday on July 14th. His sweet girlfriend of 4 months, Gina, did most of the planning for the festivities. Aaron, Janet, Wes, and I got a sitter for the kids while we adults ate without interruption at Olive Garden. After dinner, we came back to our house where we played games and ate cake and ice cream.

Dad and Gina goofing off, as usual.

Lauren brought her kiddos for a few days visit soon after that. We had a great visit, laughing at our kids play together and catching up on each other's lives. Wes graciously watched all five of the children one evening while Lauren and I enjoyed a nice dinner and a trip to the theater to watch "Mamma Mia". Next time, we plan to let all the girls sleep in one room together, but we decided they were still a little too young this year. I am so thankful for this friendship that we have shared since middle school.

We were so busy having fun, this is the only decent picture we got of all the girls together.

Avery got to be in the Christian Theater Workshop (CTW) that our church puts on every summer. She was so excited to finally get to participate in the play after watching the plays every summer. The youth group and elementary students performed a play written by Jeff Walling which humorously tells the story of Moses. Everybody did a terrific job. Avery was a townsperson and a sheep. She was too cute on stage, singing out loudly and "Baaaing" when she was a sheep. She was really in her element. She memorized her songs in no time and to this day still loves to play her "practice" CD. Now that we got the DVD of the show she asks to watch that all the time, too. Needless to say, Wes and I are getting a little annoyed with it.


Moses and his sheep. Avery is on the far left.

Avery and her townspeople friends...

Avery (in the pink) is performing her heart out.

Our shining stars portraying the story of Moses.

We ended the summer with several trips with friends to the water park ten minutes away in Sherman and to Hawaiian Falls in The Colony. If you live in or near the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, I highly recommend taking your family to Hawaiian Falls. It wasn't crowded, it was reasonably priced, there was lots to do for our girl's age group, they played Christian music, and had Christian banners all around. We will definitely go there more often. The girls loved it! They were incredibly brave going down slides that started about 50 feet high. We also loved swimming around in the lazy river and relaxing in tubes in the wave pool. I didn't get any pictures of all our fun, because I didn't want to worry about keeping an eye my camera. I am so glad that the girls love the water as much as I do. Their swimming has improved tremendously since the beginning of the summer. It so much fun to watch them and to play with them.

We have a new family member. No, I am not pregnant - we got a dog. Lexi is a 2 year old 5 pound Maltese. We got her from a lady in Sherman who had acquired too many dogs and wanted a good home for her little dog who didn't care too much for the other dogs. We gladly adopted her and the rest is history. She was already house trained, which I especially loved. The girls adore her and Lexi puts up with them. Ha! When the lady brought her to us, she also brought 5 outfits. This, of course, was the icing on the cake for Avery and Abby who like to dress her up. Surprisingly, she doesn't mind the outfits at all. She is very calm and even-tempered and loves to cuddle.

Can you tell she is loved?

The girls got to spend the night at Grandpa's house a week ago with their cousins, Mylen and Aivlyn. Gina and Dad took them to the Sprinkler Park where they ate their McDonald's, played on the playground, and splashed in the water. Then they all headed back to Grandpa's house for a fun movie they had rented. All the cousins had such a fun time together. Thanks Dad and Gina for planning that special time! They sure do love you all!

Avery started Kindergarten on Monday! It is hard to believe that I have a child going to school. Yikes - time flies! She goes to the school where I taught 4th grade for 3 years. It is one of the smaller schools of the seven elementary schools here in Denison. The same principal is there and many of the same teachers that I taught with are there, as well. It is so nice to walk the halls and see familiar faces of people I trust who will take care of my baby. Most of them are Christians - some even go to our church which really gives me a lot of comfort about the fact that she is spending most of her day with these people. She is in a class with only 13 other students. The class isn't usually that size, but I am hoping they luck out and don't get anymore students through out the year. Even though a whole week has gone by, I still can't believe she is a big kindergarten student. She is loving every minute of it! She comes home with lots of stories and is pretty tuckered out by the evening. We had to help her give up her nap a week before school started. We knew they would only have a 30 minute rest time, during which they usually watch a video. There aren't many kids who would sleep with a fun video on. Anyways she has been having to go to bed a lot earlier and waking up earlier which has been an interesting adjustment for all our family. Thankfully, school starts at 8:30 and we live about a 4 minute drive from school.

Getting ready to head to her very first day of Kindergarten.

Mrs. Mackay, her sweet teacher.

Abby has adjusted to Avery being gone a lot better than I thought she would. She and I have had some good times together, and she also plays well by herself. Every once in a while she asks about Avery. One thing I have noticed - things are definitely more peaceful around here since there isn't another sibling to fight with.

After 5 1/2 years, I am a teacher again. I am going to be teaching the 2 year old class where Abby goes to preschool (the same place both girls went last year). The school meets only Monday and Wednesday mornings which makes it pretty low key. My friend, Carrie, got the job as my aide, and we will only have a maximum of 10 students. If we can climb a 13, 940 foot mountain together, we can handle two year olds, right? We already had our in-service morning and our orientation. School doesn't officially start until Wednesday. I have been planning all the lessons which has been a huge change from the lessons I used to plan for my reading and writing classes for my fourth graders. I am excited about all the fun little books I will get to read and all the cute crafts we will make. The best part - no TAKS tests!!!! (State testing - for those of you who don't live in Texas.) I have already completed my lesson plans through March. I get a $650 budget, and I have discovered how much fun it is to shop with other people's money. Avery and Abby played in my room while I got it all ready. Avery was actually amusing as she tried to help me decorate. She also kept giving me ideas of what to teach my students. Most of these ideas came from experiences in her 4 year old class.

Well, that is all I will post for now...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Happenings

So far our summer has been great! We have been extremely busy, which is the norm if you do youth ministry. Summer is our busiest time. Wes has been gone about 3 1/2 weeks since the beginning of the summer, and the girls and I have been gone 3 weeks.

We have been to Oklahoma Christian for both our high school camp (Zenith) and our middle school camp (Cornerstone). Both were wonderful! It was neat to go to the classes with our teens. Watching them get involved and being open to God's teaching brings me a lot of joy. Can you tell I am proud of them? At Zenith, Mitch Wilburn did an amazing job, as usual, speaking to us during the evening worship. There were about 20 students in all at the camp that got baptized or were getting baptized when they got home. Praise God! One of those baptisms was our own precious Jordan, so we were thrilled.

The girls love going to camp. As we were driving on to campus for the first week of camp Avery began chanting, "We all love camp! We all love camp!" They love to play with all the other youth minister's children and participate in many of the camp's activities. We stay in a suite in one of the newest dorms. Avery was really confused when our suite didn't look exactly like the suite last year. We were on a different hall and so the layout was a little different. She said, "Hey, they moved our rooms around!" I guess she thought they totally picked up the rooms to change them. Ha! We took Avery's bike with us and the umbrella stroller for Abby. Avery loved riding on all the sidewalks from building to building. Wes is one of the directors for Cornerstone so he gets a golf cart to drive that week. We always have a lot of fun riding on that together.

Wes and I also took our teens on Wilderness Trek up in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado while the girls went to Nana and Paw Paw's house. We had an awesome time on Trek! There is something about being in the mountains, being totally exhausted, and having to rely on each other that really helps the teens open up and unite with one another. You can really feel God's presence when all the distractions of this world are not around you. Wes and I saw our group share their struggles, offer encouragement, and be totally open to God in a way that we have not seen in quite some time. It was truly amazing! There is nothing like worshiping God around the campfire with snow capped mountains in the background.

This was a unique trip because Wes and I were the only ones who had ever gone before. We have tried to get a group to go every year since we have been here, but the last 3 years we haven't had enough interest. This was Wes' 9th year to go on Wilderness Trek. Wes went all through out high school. My first time to go was when I was interning with a youth group in college. The other two times were with the youth group here in Denison. This was my fourth Trek, and my first Trek since having kids. I was actually stronger this year than the other years. Working out has really paid off. Some of the boys reminded me that I am still in my prime. Ha! Anyways, it was special to introduce Trek to all the students as well as our other two adult sponsors. To see them do things for the first time and see things for the first time was priceless.

Here is a good description of Trek I found online:
Wilderness Trek is a rugged 6-day adventure in the majestic mountains of southern Colorado. Trek includes backpacking, hiking, rappelling, devotionals, solo times, and a climb to the summit of a 13,000 or 14,000-foot mountain. It is specifically designed to challenge young people to discover self-confidence, self-esteem, personal faith, and to learn their awesome potential for powerful Christian living. The goal of the week is to create an environment in which people can learn more about the everyday reality of God in their lives. By pursuing a selected spiritual theme, Wilderness Trek uses the events of a wilderness journey to teach spiritual applications. Trek uses the physical challenges of the Colorado Rocky Mountains to encourage spiritual growth. One of the biggest challenges is the actual physical activity of backpacking at high altitude. This means carrying a 40-60 pound pack up and down mountain trails at altitudes of 10,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level.

What Is A Typical Teen Trek Like?

Day One: The Beginning - Your group should arrive at the base campground at 2:00 p.m. The remainder of this first day is spent checking Registration Forms, dividing into crews, checking out equipment, packing packs, distributing food and other Trek preparation activities.

Day Two: Rappelling – You will rise early, eat a simple breakfast, load your pack and travel to a rappel site. Weather permitting; everyone in your group will get to experience the thrill of rappelling. After rappelling your group will travel to their first camp.

Day Three: Backpacking - This day is typically the longest hiking day. Camp is broken early and all the equipment and food is carried to high camp. It is a challenging day and you will be thankful to get to high camp.

Day Four: Solo - The fourth day is a special day on Trek. You will spend about three hours on "Solo". This is a time of prayer and meditation between you and God. The afternoon is spent relaxing, getting acclimatized to the altitude, bathing, and playing games with the group.

Day Five: The Climb - This day begins with an early wake up call and a quick breakfast. Your group will start on the summit trail before dawn. Only water, food, and warm clothes are carried in your day pack on the summit attempt.

Day Six: Back Down - Today you will break camp and leave the mountain. After a short drive you will arrive back at base camp. Showers, a banquet meal and a final devotional are the high points of this day.

We climbed Mt. Hope with an elevation of 13, 940 ft. Our low camp was a 2 mile hike and our high camp hike was a 10 mile hike, making it one of the top 3 hardest hikes that Trek does. In my past experience Trek is harder than having a baby. Keep in mind that I wasn't able to have an epidural while giving birth to Abby.

This is the 100 foot cliff we rappelled down. I chose to go down what they call "The Crack" which you can see just to the right of the tree on the ground.

Wes rappelling like a pro.

Can you tell I am nervous? Even though this was my 4th time I still got a little nervous. It is not normal to back off a cliff!

OK, I can do this. Watch out below!

Here we are ready to go, loaded up with all our gear. I carried our tent, fuel for the stove, one meal for our crew, my sleeping bag, a chair/bed mat, along with the rest of my necessities. Thanks again Jeff for letting me borrow your pack!

Here are our wonderful guides, Dustin and Melanie cooking the one meal they cook for us, pancakes and spam. You would be surprised how delicious this tastes!

Our tents set up at high camp. Thanks for posing, Jacob!

Here are my tent roomies for 5 nights. We were definitely squished, but we did stay warm.

A view of the summit of Mt. Hope from our high camp.

Taylor chose an awesome spot for his solo time. I don't think anyone else would have braved the ice cold water to get there.

We are almost to the summit. Our low camp was along the lake on the right.

We made it! I am so proud of you all!

Isn't the view amazing? (Of the mountains, not Wes - Ha!)
How could anyone see this and not believe there is a God?

Our teens comforting Josh, who lost his grandmother while we were on Trek. I couldn't resist taking a picture of this precious moment of them loving each other.

Jumping for joy! I taught these junior and senior girls when they were in the 4th grade. Yes, I am getting old!

On the left is my sweet friend Carrie who went as a sponsor with us. Our girls are great friends and I am glad I got to share this experience with her. In the middle is our wonderful female intern for the summer, Ny. Love you two!

I knew I had been talking about Trek too much around the girls when we were out and Abby needed to go to the bathroom. She asked me in a serious tone if she would have to go potty behind a tree like I did on Trek.

I also told them how a chipmunk came about 6 inches from my knee during my solo time. Abby asked if it said, "Bowchickawowwow". My girls crack me up!

Well, you can probably tell what my favorite thing this summer has been. If you ever get the chance to go on Trek, I would highly recommend it!

I did miss my girls so much while we were gone. We were apart for 10 days! After a lot of prayer I have decided not to leave them again for our mission trip to the orphanage in Mexico where our youth have been the last two summers. I figured it out and I would be gone for 20 out of 46 days from them. I just can't do it! I hope to take them both next year. I think they will be old enough then.