Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Letter to My Birthday Girl

My Dearest R,

Today is your birthday. I can't believe you are 8 years old already! You are growing up so fast. That makes me sad sometimes, (like today) when I remember the day you came into this world. You were so small and helpless, and you needed me to do everything for you. Things are very different now. You can dress yourself, you take showers all by yourself, read by yourself, braid your hair, and ride a bike. You can even get yourself something to eat, and can help me feed your little sister sometimes, too.

But, I also get the privilege to see what a beautiful young woman you are becoming. And you really are very beautiful. You are so tall, thin and stylish. And with your blonde hair, I feel like I have my very own life-sized Barbie doll. I love that you prefer to wear nice dresses instead of jeans. It is such a blessing to me and your daddy to see you preferring modest clothing to the more popular kind. I pray that will never change.

It is also a blessing to have the opportunity to watch you blossoming into a young woman of godly character. I like to catch you in your room sometimes with your dolls and stuffed animals, as you attempt to teach them stories from the Bible. And whenever we go to a playground, you always seem to make a friend, and you always ask them if they are Christians, and make sure to tell them about Jesus before we leave.

And it pleases your Daddy and me to catch you with your light on late at night. I know that sounds silly, because normally, we would discipline you for staying up past your bedtime. But we have learned that you use that time to read your Bible. Most girls your age would choose to read much different things, and it shows us that your little heart has a yearning and a desire to know more about our Lord. And that is a good thing to yearn for, because as you seek to become more like Christ, it will be evident in the way you relate to others.

You are already displaying a heart full of love and patience. You let your brother and baby sister play with your toys, and you are very patient with them as you try to teach them some of the things you have learned in these 8 years of life. And I adore the fact that you get excited to read books from Elsie Dinsmore and Little House on the Prairie. I beam with pride every time I see you trying to act like Elsie Dinsmore or Mary Ingalls (you prefer to be like Mary instead of Laura because Mary is the oldest and has blonde hair, just like you). It is so much better to see you imitating these young women of godly character, instead of the ones that are much less godly from the popular TV shows that other children your age are imitating.

You are also very adaptable, and have accepted changes easily. You really are showing us that you have a heart that is willing to sacrifice. Our family has been through a lot of hard times in this past year. And you have very willingly and humbly sacrificed so much as a result, and yet, you don't complain. And I know it has been hard on you to adjust to living without as many things as we used to have. It breaks my heart to see you worrying about our finances. You aren't supposed to have to worry about such things, but you have done so well at trying to live on less lately. You have gone from having your own room, with your own bed, filled with your own toys, and clothes, and books, to sharing not only a room with your baby sister, but you share a bed with her now, too! And you didn't complain about it at all. You actually said you thought it would be fun, because you could be like Mary and Laura Ingalls. What a wonderful big sister you are! You have become a wonderful role model for your brother and sister to look up to.

And I know that you are looking up to me as a role model, too. I will have to work extra hard to be a good one for you to follow. I love it when you ask to help me cook dinner, and that you are so willing to do your chores with a good attitude. You have a very teachable spirit, and accept correction very humbly and meekly. You bless me so much and bring tears to my eyes when you are asked what you want to be when you grow up. You always tell people the same thing. You just want to be a mom. Not a doctor, or a lawyer. A mom. That might not be something most people would choose, but believe me when I tell you that it is a very high calling, and one that the Lord will bless in countless ways.

I know that you will be a wonderful mom someday. You can sing to your children with that beautiful voice of yours. And I know that you will teach your children from the Bible, just like me and Daddy teach you, because I know that you truly love the Lord and His Word.

I pray that one day your children will make you as happy and as proud as you have made me and your Daddy these past 8 years.

Have a Happy Birthday, my sweet, beautiful, 8 year old daughter!

We love you always,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thanksgiving #2

The first Thanksgiving celebration we had was with all of the homeschool families in our homeschool group. The second one was celebrated with just the family.

We were supposed to host it at our house this year. But with our "Month of a Million Travels", it was going to be much too stressful for us. So, we decided to have the meal at Jay's sister, Melissa's, house instead. However, Melissa was right in the middle of an extremely ugly divorce, and her ex-husband TOOK the stove out of her house! Yes, I know. I have never heard such a horrible thing (but honestly, that was just one of the many terrible things he did).

So anyway, we were going to have to cook the Thanksgiving meal, and my house was the only one with a stove. I was a bit nervous about it, I have never cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal at my house before, so this was a new experience for me. But, I started the night before, and by 12:30PM on Thursday, everything was finished baking, and ready to be eaten. Now, the tough part was getting all of these freshly baked yummies all the way to Melissa's house! But, they all made it just fine! :o)

We had ham, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, corn casserole, dressing, deviled eggs, green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cake.

Everything tasted really really good, and we all had a wonderful time visiting with each other. It was especially nice because Jay was supposed to work on Thanksgiving this year (people are still dying, whether it is a holiday or not), but at the last minute, the other chaplain told Jay that he would work in his place. What a blessing! :o)

Besides all the wonderful food, though, I have to say that the highlight of the day was when we brought out our Wii, and convinced Jay's dad that he would love playing it. He was hard to convince, because he insisted that he couldn't understand video games enough to play them well. But when we showed him how to play bowling and baseball (the easiest games to play, in my opinion), he decided to give it a try.

It was soooo fun to watch! You could see the look on Charles' face change from completely confused, to totally enthralled and excited as he began to understand how the game was played. Eventually, he got brave enough to play boxing with Jay, too! Now, THAT was hilarious to watch! I had to get some pictures to show as proof! Ha ha.

The really funny part is, Charles came by the house yesterday afternoon, and could not stop talking about how much fun he had playing that Wii! ha ha ha. :o)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Month of a Million Travels...part 2

I mentioned before that November was the "Month of a Million Travels" for our family. Part 1 was when we went to KY during Jay's mom's illness. Part 2 took place the next weekend after we got back.

We had scheduled a mini-vacation to Orlando soon after Jay got his job, as a way to celebrate finally ending the long, hard 8 months without a job or any income. It was supposed to be a very relaxing time for all of us. Supposed to be.

Three days before we were scheduled to leave, Jay came home from work early. He stepped through the door and stumbled to his bed. He was burning up with fever, had chills, and a terribly sore throat. He had even completely lost his appetite, which should tell any of you who really know him that he was most definitely sick!

Jay promised that he would be better in time for our trip, which was 100% non-refundable. However, after three days in bed with no change, I thought we were going to have to bite the bullet and cancel the trip. But, Jay insisted that we were still going to be able to make it, even though he could barely speak. We took him to the doctor, who told him he had a nasty case of strep throat. He could barely drive, but he told me to get us all packed and ready to go.

So, it was then my job to nurse my very sick hubby, homeschool the kids, care for the little ones, clean the house, shop for the trip, and pack everyone. All in less than a day. I was more than a little stressed. But, we crammed all of the suitcases and children into the van, and headed for Orlando. For our nice, relaxing vacation.

We got to our hotel in one piece, and were pleasantly surprised at how extremely nice it was. Jay's dad had a timeshare there and we were able to use it for the trip. We had 2 bedrooms, a living room, a den, a dining room, a large fully stocked kitchen, a laundry room, and 2 large bathrooms... both of which had jacuzzi tubs in them!

Here is a link to see a virtual tour of the hotel room we stayed in. It was by far the nicest hotel we have ever stayed in! When you click on the link, you can click on both of the 1 bedroom buttons and you will get some idea of the room we had (Both bedrooms are attached to each other).

I was very disappointed, however, because with all of the hustle and bustle of packing and everything, I completely forgot to bring our camera. I had NO way to take any pictures of our hotel room or the trip. I was so upset! But we went to the gift shop and bought a cheap disposable camera. I took several pictures, but when I got them all developed, very few of them turned out at all. I have included some of the few that did (found below)...

We went to "The Holy Land Experience" in Orlando. It was surprisingly very educational! TBN recently bought it, and when you are walking through it, you can definitely see the influence they have put into it (with many things seeming to be a bit "cheesy", and sometimes we would cringe as we saw the way they were portraying things). But, overall, I have to say it was a fairly positive experience.

Like I said, a bit "cheesy"... and you might cringe at this...

This is in the children's area, which is full of very vivid colors. They also have a giant whale that you can walk into and listen to the story of Jonah. And a giant ark where they have story time. It's all a bit too commercial for our taste. But the kids enjoyed the rides. :o)

This picture is very dark and hard to see, but it was taken in a room that was filled with tons of these sports chairs that swiveled and had matching ottomans. The kids liked to sit in this room and watch the TBN children's shows they had up on a big movie screen.

Above everything else we did on our trip, though, the best time the kids had was when we were in the hotel room, and they all got to go "swimming" in the hot tub! ha ha.

Jay was still very sick throughout the entire trip. But he was a trooper. We did some shopping in Downtown Disney and "oo'd and awe'd" at all of the statues in Lego Land.

It wasn't our usual, fun-loving, go-all-out kind of vacation. It was a LOT more toned down than usual. But, we still tried to make the best of things.

And, you know... the kids still talk about that beautiful huge hotel room and how they got to go swimming in the giant tub every day. So, in that respect, our little mini-vacation turned out to be a winner after all. :o)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Best Things in Life are FREE!

Saturdays in our family are considered to be priceless and sacred, for quality together-time.
This is non-negotiable in our household.
We do not volunteer our time for various church or community events which are held on Saturdays, and Jay does not accept invitations to perform funeral services through the Hospice Center on those days either. Saturdays are strictly for Family Time.

Now let me explain that there are times when we do participate in various ministry projects together as a family on Saturdays. Sometimes, we like to go to nursing homes and visit with some of the patients there (elderly people get so lonely in those places, and seeing the children brings such a sparkle in their eyes, and joy to their hearts). And, if Jay was asked to perform the funeral ceremony for one of his patients that was especially dear to him, we would all go with him to provide comfort to the grieving family members.

But these events are always done together. Not separated into different areas. Not forced to have one child in the nursery, the others in the children's area, and both adults split up doing this, that, or the other thing. There is a certain time and place for that. We all-too-often find ourselves caught up during the week, over-exerting ourselves and being pulled in a million directions; caught between work, or church, or homeschool stuff, etc. But no, no. Not on Saturdays. Saturdays are reserved for us.

So, two Saturdays ago, we got in the van and headed down the road. We needed this particular Family Day, because Jay and I had just come home from a long and exhausting trip across the country without the kids, and had spent the entire week agonizing over a major decision. We had finally made up our minds about it and, feeling relieved and confident about our decision, decided to spend the day doing something fun with the kids.

We went to a restaurant for lunch we had never eaten at before -- one of those "Mom and Pop" places. We had just taken our seats and began eating, when a woman came over to our table. She had noticed that we had small children, and told us that she had tickets for an event in Tampa that evening, and wondered if we wanted them. For FREE. Now, perhaps we have been burned a few too many times in the past. We tend to be suspicious of things that appear to be "free". But, this woman asked us to wait where we were for a few minutes (which was not a problem, since we had just begun to eat), and she called her friend on the telephone to get the tickets from her home, and bring them to the restaurant.

Just as we were finishing up with our meal, the woman came back to our table, with her friend and the tickets in tow. She gave them to us, and told us very sweetly that she hoped we would be able to enjoy them. And then she left. No tricks. No hassles. Just, four tickets. The tickets were for "The Wiggles - Live on Stage". Something we probably wouldn't have bought tickets to see any other time (mostly because they are so expensive). But for FREE... we are willing to endure just about anything. :o)

So we accepted the woman's FREE tickets (which would have cost $40 each). But since there were only 4 of them, and 5 of us, we were going to have to purchase one more ticket. No problem. Seeing a show for only $40, that would have cost us $200, was something we were more than willing to do. So, we drove d0wn to Tampa early to see if we could buy one more ticket that would be next to the seats of our other tickets.

Jay dropped me off at the front, so I could run over to the ticket counter. When I got there, I was the only person in line, which surprised me. I began to wonder if the tickets were indeed legitimate. Once I showed them to the person at the counter, who by the way, was extremely nice, told me they were, in fact, real tickets, and happily obliged our request for five seats together, and even found some that were a little closer than the ones our tickets had been for.... at no extra charge. And I was able to get another ticket for little H as well. For FREE. So, another person blessed us with a free ticket to the show! 5 tickets to see "The Wiggles"... for FREE! Wow!

Yes, it was The Wiggles. Yes, it was loud. Yes, it was cheesey. Yes, it was repetitive. Yes, it was a little annoying. But seeing the look on our children's faces as they clapped, and squealed, and sang, and danced, and "wiggled", and had the best time of their young lives... was absolutely priceless, and worth any annoyance. We would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

What a blessing to be able to experience it all for FREE! What an amazing experience!

And what an amazing way to spend our precious Family Day. :o)