Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: Feb. 20-24

It's weeks like these that I really appreciate our life of homeschooling! I don't have any pictures of our school work this week, although, I do have pictures of learning!

We had Chris home for President's Day on Monday, so we took the day off with him. It was a first to have him home (his company traditionally did not give it as a holiday in the past) so that was awesome! We LOVE it when Dad is home!

Tuesday saw us sneaking in schoolwork because we knew the rest of the week was going to be crazy! So, we hit the books and completed our regularly scheduled programming. We even doubled up in some subjects knowing that Wednesday was our out of town field trip day, Thursday was Jake's birthday and Friday was our homeschool co-op and Jake's birthday party sleepover!

A bunch of us from our homeschool co-op hit the road early to travel down to Petaluma! What fun we had with good friends! We are immensely blessed with the deep friendships we've developed in our co-op and the community that has grown within it!

So, we carpooled down to Petaluma with our first stop being Mrs. Grossman's sticker factory! We had our group split over two tours and it was so interesting! They are a very "green" company, even before being green was "in" and their factory is so cool! They can make up to 800,000 stickers per day! We got free stickers at each stop on the tour and at the end of the tour, we got more stickers to do an art project! THEN, they had a clearance section with .50 cent and .12 cent stickers! I stocked up on a bunch for our Yellowstone trip in the summer! We definitely got our money's worth of stickers with the admission price.. and then some!

Our group then headed over to The Petaluma Adobe, which is scheduled for closure due to California's dire economy. We ate lunch there and let the kids play before our tour started. This adobe was built in the 1830's by General Vallejo and was a major hub of trade and business.

Look at this tabletop! It's one piece of wood!

Look at these views! Gorgeous!

Petaluma is beautiful any time but we scored on weather and beauty this past Wednesday!

On Thursday, with mixed emotions, Chris, Josh and I woke up Jake, our youngest, to celebrate his 10th birthday! I say mixed emotions because our youngest is now in double digits! SIGH. I love this boy and his spunk, his humor, his tender heart and his curiosity and love of excitement! He has been a true blessing!

As a tradition, we always have the birthday person eat from our "You are special today!" plate and we have ALWAYS had a Hostess cupcake for our birthday morning celebration before Chris heads off to work! Silly? perhaps! A well loved tradition? Most definitely!

Since it was birthday boy's day, we went light on school, but none the less, did a bit of school work in the morning after all the presents were opened. As is our other birthday tradition, the birthday person always gets to choose a place to go out to eat for "birthday dinner". We don't eat out too often so this is a special treat! We started this tradition when the boys were really young too and now they hold us to it every year! Jake chose Fresh Choice and Big Spoon for his birthday dinner (don't get me started on this boy's love of buffets!). :)

Fridays are special and we don't do our traditional school work on these days because they are our co-op days. We have an awesome group of families that get together each week to work as a team, pitch in and help teach, encourage each other and love on each other's families. I am very humbled and very touched by the love and friendships these women have extended to me and my boys. I have some great friends that chat with me for hours (but it only feels like 15 minutes), encourages me to take a GNO and just extends encouragement. I hope I do the same for them! I love these mamas! It doesn't matter what we do, where we go, or what we learn, we LOVE doing it together with these families!!

This Friday was our "Artist of the Month" class and we all studied up on Henri Matisse! It was awesome! Kids got up and shared what they had learned, showed some work they had created on their own and then we watched a video, read a book and learned together about Matisse. We then did a group activity, one geared toward younger ages and one geared toward older aged kids. They got to create their very own Matisse masterpieces and learn what it means to "Draw with Scissors" as he did! We had a lot of fun!

Even though our co-op looks a bit differently this semester, it has proven to be AWESOME because families get to stay with ALL of their kids and help them, they are meeting other parents they didn't get to connect with in previous semesters and other kids are getting to know kids they didn't have classes with or didn't get to know very well in years past. This along with some other changes,has really breathed new life into our co-op! It's nice to change things up a bit and refresh everyone for the long haul!

I have to end my blog post with this...

Is this not adorable or what?!?! We arrived at co-op on Friday and an amazing friend made Jake a bunch of these ice cream cone cake pops for his birthday!!! He and I both were touched and thrilled! She makes THE most amazing cakes, yummies and cake pops! But here is the thing... she is a very dear friend - I'd consider one of my best. I didn't know her before our co-op began but over time both of us and our children, and families gravitated toward each other. I am so grateful for her presence - she encourages, lifts up, speaks truth as only a friend can, and makes me laugh. Her and her family bring such joy to my life... and this ice cream cone almost made me cry because of its symbolism. Of her care, attention to a friend's life and details, and her desire to pour love into others. Love, love, love her!!

Besides, who else would be willing to use her amazing chopstick skills to pick up owl pellets that we found lying on the grounds of the Petaluma Adobe?!?! I'm not going to pay a couple of bucks each from science companies when they were lying around there for FREE! LOL! THAT'S true friendship right there!

Thank you, dear friend! I love you!

I've linked up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-up

and Friday Field Trip Blog Post -
Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Art of Marriage and other thoughts on love...

This past weekend, Chris and I had the opportunity to attend a day and a half marriage conference at our church. "The Art of Marriage" conference is put on by Family Life ministries, who also puts on "A Weekend To Remember" conference.

We celebrated our 15 year anniversary this past January and we both agree that we love each other more now than before and are surprised that is even possible! We've always had a deep, abiding love for one another but 15 years does bring its share of difficulties, strains, hurts and stressors. This weekend was a great way to let go of hurts, build healthy boundaries from outside influences and celebrate 21 years, in total, of being together!

We got the kids off with Nana and headed over for our first night's set of workshops. We did not leave there disappointed. At all. This conference gets you thinking about your marital relationship right from the start. Afterwards, we stopped off for frozen yogurt and talked about the conference and what we had learned on Friday night. We even had homework to complete!

The next morning, we arrived bright and early and our church, Lifepointe Christian Church, had thought of every last detail - breakfast foods, hot drinks, bite-sized pieces of chocolate for a pick-me-up during breaks! We were spoiled! Today's sessions, though, cut right to the chase and got to the heart of struggles that are common in marriages. There were good tears and sad tears, laughter and deep-thoughts, forgiveness and love renewed. It was an EXCELLENT conference! We walked away from it renewed in our commitment to one another. They encouraged all participants, if able, to go on a date afterwards, so we did! We headed over to the local movie theater and saw "The Vow" and then grabbed dinner together before picking up the kids.
"The Art of Marriage" conference revolutionized and refreshed our relationship and is well worth attending if you get the chance! Here's a video and more information about The Art of Marriage.

LOVE on Valentine's Day
As we grow together as a couple and weather life's storms, we recognize a few things. In God's continual act of maturing us, we see that our marriage isn't about US nor is about ME or making ME happy and fulfilled. It is about glorifying God. It is about being the visible example of God's love for us. Tim Challies wrote this series of blogs last week and I highly recommend you read them. His point, and what we are learning, the Bible says that Christian marriages should LOOK LIKE Christ's relationship to the church. The church is Christ's bride. Our marriage should, more and more, reflect the relationship He had to His own bride. And so, Challies' post leaves us asking ourselves this one question... "Does my marriage reflect Christ's relationship to the church, His bride?". Something to ponder today as you celebrate your love for those in your life!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Healing through Him....

Words can't describe the emotional roller coaster that would sum up the last year and a half. My life, and the lessons God has brought forth, have taken so many twists and turns that I could hardly tell if I was up or down in the big picture of life.

You see, this past year and a half was a painful one. A hurtful one. Never have I experienced such hurtfulness from others, especially in such a concentrated number. This year has seen me falsely accused of things I didn't do, name-calling (yes, I couldn't believe it either and yes, I'm talking about adults), irate emotions in my face (literally) that was the adult version of a tantrum, mocking words that made fun of my desire to serve, unrealistic expectations and demands of me, subtle overtures of disrespectful behavior, comments about my person, lies about me. I think the saddest part is that all of this has come from fellow believers in Christ. Whew, I'm exhausted just writing that all out!

And that's just it... it was exhausting and pushed me to the point of my health deteriorating and dropping me smack middle into a Lupus flare. Not a good place to be. Physically or spiritually.

All of that pain, compounded on top of each other, by different people and different environments in my life (yes, simultaneously) heaped on top of my head like burning coals, was overwhelming. The very people I had called friends and family, were tearing me down.. sometimes behind my back and sometimes to my face. It was too much for me to handle. It was the worst kind of hurt. And I cried. For many weeks. All I could do was cry and agonize and grapple with the "Why? What did I do wrong to deserve such harsh treatment from others? Why do they not like me? Have they even given me a chance?" Dangerous questions to mull, let me tell you.

By the end of summer, the torment, both externally and internally, hadn't let up. I was at max breaking point. I was angry and I could feel the roots of bitterness begin to plant their roots deep into my heart where, if I let it continue, it would choke the Spirit of God and my ability to hear His voice, right out of me. But how to weed? How do I forgive while insults and mockery continue?

But, then. Words of a friend. Wise counsel from Godly women. Friends like these -godly friends that speak the truth in love - are priceless and rare. When I wanted affirmation in my hurt, I got correction for my bitter heart. When I wanted to zing hurtful words back, I got reminders of how God asks us to behave. This, too, was a painful time. Bible verses seem to be dropping in my lap (and my heart) from a variety of sources and these, too, stung. They were painful reminders of how far I had let my attitude and focus stray. It didn't matter if I was right or wrong, I had taken my eyes off of the one who mattered, to deal with petty comments and hurtful words. To defend my reputation. A reputation, I would later learn, not worth defending. I was trapped.

It took two months for God to grab hold of me and teach me the lessons I was trying to hide from in all of this. I met Him. In a stream of healing water and He washed my wounds and He reminded me that He has never rejected me. He let me know that my focus was on the wrong people. Because it was ON people. The words and hurts these people had caused, some repeatedly and intentionally, was not where my worth comes from. My worth comes from Him. He sets my value and not people and not this world. He bought me at a price.

God took the hurts of this past year and a half and used them for good. He used them to heal me. He taught me that my reputation (or anyone or anything else's) isn't worth defending. That is not my job as it robs me of His peace and rest. My job is to defend His name alone.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit
~ Psalm 34:18

God took off the chains of anger and hurt and freed me. The shackles that I had taken on and helped lock onto my wrists and ankles, had fallen off while being washed in His healing waters. I left them there at the bottom of that stream and walked out of the water, a new creation with healed wounds. I;m not sure I have ever felt God's love more tangibly than I did at that time.

Did the hurtful environments go away instantly after my experience with God? Sadly, no. Did the hurtful comments and behaviors of others go away after God's healing? No. Those things didn't change. However, I can tell you what did. I changed. Through Him, I changed. And once that happened, I could face the hurt head on, knowing Jesus was standing in front of me protecting me through the hurt. I let Him guide my responses, my behaviors, my attitude and my decisions. I turned the reigns over to Him. This healing and the lessons I did learn and continue to learn, didn't happen over night. In fact, it is still happening and I am humbly grateful.

Now, here is where I NEVER. EVER. thought I'd be nor would I ever say... I am GRATEFUL for the experiences of this past year and a half. I am so glad God allowed all of it - every hurt, mockery, scorn, lie - to come into my life. He used every single bit of it to teach me and heal me and I just want to shout from the rooftops what He has done for me. Did He go kick those people's butts and tell them to stop picking on me?? I don't think so. I honestly don't know how He handled them (or if He did). And that is the point. My focus was shifted off of them and onto Him. He directed my eyes to the areas He wanted me to work on.. not the people I wanted HIM to work on!

Grateful that God chose these people and these venues to teach me and heal me. Thrilled that He has begun a good work in me and will not stop. Humbled that He would hear the desires of my heart for release. Release from the unhealthy entanglements of others and release from a place we called home. God had to take me to a point where I had to accept no release was coming. No reprieve. No retreat from the hurt. I had to accept that. And I did.. knowing I was shielded and protected by the One who loves me and makes me new each morning.

I am thrilled to be on this journey of healing. There are days and times when the enemy tries to steal it. He tries to tinker with the foundation that has already been laid but he forgets that through the healing, my response is to grab hold and fight for God's healing and not let it be taken away. By anyone. God's healing is sweet and worth fighting for to claim as my own!

My prayer is that you too would be on your own healing journey and the burdens of this life and all the hurt it (or someone) can throw at you would melt off of your shoulders and that you would be cradled in the arms of the One who has begun a good work in you too.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. ~Psalm 62:1-2

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Co-op, Valentines and Conferences... Oh My!

Snoopy Love Pictures, Images and Photos
Photo Credit

This week, has been, for the most part a non-school week around this place. Not by choice and certainly not written in the plan. A nasty cold tried to sweep through our household, nabbing two victims (two school victims, mind you), so school has been extra, extra light around here as they recover from 102 fevers, congestion, and body aches. I felt kind of sorry for them, so school took a back seat and I just rolled with the punches! Shockingly, I have avoided this cold and I am convinced it is due to consistent doses of Elderberry syrup! The boys are sorry they balked at it now!

Today, as one child continues to recover, we turn our attention to our first day of our homeschool co-op tomorrow! The excitement is in the air and the anticipation for this spring semester with our friends is about to make our heads burst! (or,perhaps that is just the cold...).

Tomorrow is our Kick-off event and Valentine's day party! So, the non-sick boy and I spent the morning stamping up valentines to disperse to our friends. Potluck goodies have been made and we are gathering supplies for our Valentine craft and service project! We were on such a roll that we even made some extra decorations for the house to boot!

And if hanging cut out hearts and stuffing heart shaped candy into bags isn't enough to get my head to be thinking about love, than the "Art of Marriage" conference we are attending at our church this weekend, certainly will! Our new church home, Lifepointe Christian Church is hosting a Family Life marriage conference that looks to be amazing! We are so excited to be encouraged and learn some new thoughts on a godly marriage. After 15 years of marriage (and 21 years together; yes, we began dating in high school), it's awesome to refresh your perspective God's purpose for our relationship and how we can serve our spouses best!

The other conference is on Sunday and Monday nights and that is the Answers in Genesis conference. If you have never attended one of their conferences, YOU MUST! Discover when they will be in your neck of the woods and GO! Another local church is hosting this one. Even my soon-to-be 13 year old is excited to attend!

We've got a packed weekend filled with friends, faith and fellowship.. plus, a little learning thrown in for good measure! I hope you're weekend is filled with those things and more!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kitchen Makeover - House Crasher Style!

Remember my promise to you to post pictures of my kitchen makeover with the DIY t.v. show, House Crashers? Oops! I'm a bit late, I'm afraid! We weren't able (as in legally able) to post pictures prior to the show's debut in April 2011. Then, well, I kind of just forgot! So sorry!

Here is my before, all the work in between, and after kitchen, thanks to Josh Temple and his AMAZING House Crasher crew!

These are pictures of my kitchen before. Drab. Stunted. Cut-off and completely diffcult to work in for someone who cooks from scratch most of the time. You'll notice there are no doors on any of the kitchen cabinets. Yeah, well, that was our attempt at staining. That would become a two year nightmare. In fact, I never lived in this home with cabinet doors. We took them off prior to moving in to stain and they stayed that way until the dumpster was parked in our driveway by House Crashers!

Goodbye, countertops, odd island thingy and cabinets!

Kitchen is officially gutted!

They ripped off the ceiling with the intention of making the entire ceiling flush (because the fluorescent light box mandated the ceiling be dropped to fit it) but discovered that bathroom pipes from upstairs ran through the beams. It wasn't expected and in their budget to move those pipes, so the ceiling had to go back on. The yucky fluorescent light box is gone, though!

Old sliding door is removed and the opening is widened for french doors.

I have to point out that all of these pictures, where you see a man dressed in a dark blue, long-sleeve shirt and tan/khaki pants... that's Josh Temple. I have to say he is NOT just the host! He worked so hard and was involved in every step of the way!

Chris with the jackhammer. We had to move the pipes to our sink because the sink went into a new location!

Josh Temple having fun with the cameraman, Quentin!

French doors being prepped and the floors being cleared of all debris for the new flooring being installed on day two. We had lots of great friends that helped us over the entire weekend.

Josh having fun with Chris' mask!


The "before" pictures of my new china hutch! It was completely re-done! New paint, the scrolly things were cut out and wire was added and new knobs!

The new flooring being installed. We went from faux wood planks to real cherrywood floors. The wide planks are in keeping with the farmhouse style.

Now that the floor is in, the cabinets are being installed. The show works on a 3 day turnaround, so we had a TON of people streaming in and out of our home each day and many times, while working on one project, the next project guys were already there waiting in the background to jump in and get started! It moved FAST!

The apron sink is being fitted and the cabinets are being measured for the counter tops.

Each day, a list of work was posted and checked off as completed! It really kept us on task!

Goodbye, table!

Hello, new one!

Lots of people in the house but it made it SO MUCH FUN! They are a great group of people!

The new hood gets installed and the industrial pipes are measured out and installed for our upper "cabinets".

How it looks at the end of day two:

The apron sink is permanently installed, the subway tile backsplash is being finished while others are putting in the dishwasher.

The stove is put in and at this point and we are kicked out of the house for the next several hours while they finish the kitchen. The surprise at the end of the show is REAL! I left there with it slightly coming together and walked back into a completely finished, beautiful new kitchen! So, we took this opportunity to give our sincere thanks to each member of the crew and take a picture with them. I won't post all of them because there are A LOT but I'm so glad we got some time to personally thank each one.

And now (drum roll, please)... the finished kitchen! We absolutely love it!

The show still airs as a re-run (just aired on Feb. 6 and will again on Mar. 28). It's called "Farmhouse Kitchen", if you want to check out the whole episode! You can also watch it online too! They also did some 'tip' commercials at our house which run on DIY network throughout each day! Tips on painting, cabinets, changing out air filters... pretty fun to be watching DIY and your house and, sometimes, my husband, friend or me, is on the commercial! What a trip!

We had an amazing, exhausting, memorable three days and had so much fun with this crew! At the end of the 3rd day, Josh said some very touching, sweet things to both Chris and myself. He brought tears to my eyes. This was an AWESOME experience that we'll never forget!