Monday, March 25, 2013

Celebrating the Sedar Meal: What an Amazing God

On Palm Sunday, we had the opportunity to go to a traditional Seder Meal hosted by Jews for Jesus.  It was an amazing experience for our family.  The Passover is a feast that celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt and remembers how God provided them a way to escape the death of the first born son through the blood of a perfect lamb posted on their door frames.  God "passed over" those homes marked with the blood.

Sounds a lot like Easter doesn't it!  Christ, our perfect passover lamb, sacrificed on our behalf so that we can pass over from death into new life in heaven.  Taking part in the Seder Meal, it was impossible not be overwhelmed by the foreshadowing of Christ in the different parts of the meal:  the prayers, the cups of wine, the unleavened bread "broken" and shared, the bitter herbs, and the hand washing.

All the time we were partaking in the meal, we knew how perfectly Jesus fulfilled all the parts of sacrifice.  How amazing is our God!  I loved hearing the Christian Jewish Rabbi read the new testament passages about Jesus.  Loved seeing my daughters look for the "Afilkomen" the hidden part of the matzah which was the middle part of the matzah (three in one) that was broken and a piece of it hidden in the room that at the end of the meal must be rescued and a ransom paid before it is revealed.

It was like seeing the Gospel played out piece by piece in a meal.  How amazing is our God!

Leaving the Seder Meal and going home knowing that we were about to enter Holy Week and remember again the Last Supper, Jesus' Death on the Cross and the Glorious Resurrection Story of Easterp' I was in tears thanking God that he had allowed me to see the full story. To know Jesus. To have Jesus as my personal Passover Lamb.  How Amazing is our God.

I'm not sure that I can ever take Holy Communion, sit in a Good Friday service, or read the Easter Story again in the same way.  Sharing this experience with my family and seeing the seeds of faith blossom in my children is another one of God's great gifts to me.  Thank You.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sixteen Year Old Defying Gravity and Beyond!

It's not cool to have a Sweet Sixteen Party for a Boy.  At least that's what I hear.  In fact to have a gathering of friends and call it a birthday party is pretty uncool for a boy of this age.  So, we decided to have a "ungathering" for Mr C's birthday.  We'd get a bunch of boys together for dinner and an evening at indoor trampoline park, but not call it a birthday party.

When I called the "party place" to see if they allowed you to plan a party without using the Party Room (just get the rates and benefits without the forced party) she asked if I was planning it for a teenager.  Guess it's all the rage to uncelebrate.  Instead of a party we had a "Feel the Rush" celebration; at least that's what they call it when you reserve a block of 8 for two hours of unlimited jumping and dodge ball. They even threw in a trip to the Laser Room.

Friday evening we had six boys (a few could not make it due to spring sports) at our home eating homemade Mac & Cheese before heading off to sweat off all the calories jumping, bouncing and throwing balls at each other in dodge ball for two hours.  The smell alone at the place tells you that you are about to leave massive amounts of sweat on the floor.  At least my husband and I thought that was the cause of the "aroma" coming from most of the people walking around.

Mr C and his buddies had the best time.  P and I could watch the action from the Sky Box restaurant's short circuit TVs and the look of pure joy on all their faces made it worth it all. They were having the time of their lives!  Amazing to watch them play Dodgeball with a bunch of strangers and have so much fun.  We finished the evening with the boys in the basement playing Foosball and watching Monty Python.  We even had a Cookie Cake ready for the uncelebration  It was an item that Mr C had declared in no uncertain terms was not necessary; but somehow was easily devoured.  Guess you just have to know when they really mean no and when they are just trying to assert their independence, but still want you make a fuss over them.

In the words of our favorite sixteen year old boy, it was the best night ever!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

When the Weather Doesn't Know It's Spring Break

Last week was spring break for the girls. Our dreams of a trip to the zoo, the park and an afternoon bike ride were usurped by Old Man Winter who obviously did not get the memo that it was time to "leave."  There is something wrong with a Spring Break when you are wearing winter coats and the forecast is for snow!

Thankfully, we'd already spent our week in the sunshine (Palm Springs), so while we were hoping and praying for warm weather, we made the most of time off with inside events. Miss A had a list of things she thought we should do over break and had even incorporated all her ideas into a story she wrote for school (smart girl.)  While I'll admit we did almost all of her list, I did say no to the Pedicures only because it will still be weeks before we are wearing flip flops if this weather continues so why waste pretty toes on boots.

Now I will also confess that because the weather was so cold and dreary and I go stir crazy with two girls with no plans just hanging out in the house, I created a daily event and a daily "mom chore."  Since I'm in the midst of 40 Bags in 40 Days and started so late (that's another post!), I needed a little time each day to accomplish an area of the house.  I put the girls to work on the Art Cabinet and the Kid's Basement Area and together we accomplished Kid's drawers and the Kid's Bathroom.

On Monday, we caught an afternoon movie and then bought a fun new shower curtain and bath set for the Kid's Bathroom.  The girls had been begging for weeks to try out the new Walmart Fresh Market in town, and while it's more convenient in size, we were not overly impressed.  Of course, we did find the cutest bath stuff at Target so the girls were thrilled to get a little shopping in.

Tuesday, we went to a Children's Museum with a young friend and had lunch at Nothing But Noodles; a tradition Miss A and Mr Blake have done now for a few years. It was fun to have Miss M along to see just how much fun a younger "brother" can be.  She's a good sport.

Wednesday was Mr C's birthday so we made cookies for all the guys at school, did a little more spring cleaning, and got C's favorite meal ready for dinner.  Of course, we had to have lunch out too since we were so busy!

Thursday was Pottery Day!  Miss A had specifically requested that we try the Pottery Place again this spring break.  Since Miss M thought it was a good idea and the temps were still in the 20's, I agreed that was a better place to spend our day than the Zoo.  Plus when you get to see your girls express their creative juices, it's hard to say no!

Friday, we finally made it to the Mall.  I think the girls had given up the idea that I was going to take them shopping, but it's hard to get motivated to buy Spring Clothes when all you want to do is sit by the fireplace.  After a trip to the Christian bookstore, Old Navy and Forever 21, I was ready to crash.  I call it Malliticis, but in reality it's just that I am not a shopper. In and Out. That's my favorite way to shop.

All in all, it was a relaxing and fun Spring Break. We might not have ventured too far, but we got to stay in jammies until 10:00, read books, bake cookies, and spend time together.  I told the girls I hope that summer will be just like this, but about 40 degrees warmer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy 16th to My Favorite Son!

You know they are right.  The people who tell you it goes way too fast.  I really just blinked and that little blond haired boy who use to hold his breath until he passed out is now Sixteen years old.  Wow!

Mr C you are my favorite young man ever.  Not only are you the child that turned me into a mother, you are also the little boy who stole my heart right from the first moment I first saw you.  The little boy who use to look intently at his toys and people and try to figure them out, the boy who lined up all his matchbox cars by size and color is now the young man who understands Chemistry, Calculus and all things Golf.

I can't imagine not having you in our lives. Dad, of course, would go crazy without a boy in the house and I think God was so wise to start us new parents out with a little boy who was always so calm (unless he was very mad and then you really would pass out from holding your breath) and easy going.  You were never sick, always willing to go and do things, and oh so interested in how everything worked.  It's as if you were born an Engineer.

Your heart has always been devoted to God, family and learning.  You have your priorities in order and while I know we drive you crazy sometime, I love how you still are not too embarrassed to hang out with the family.  Now as you enter this new phrase of freedom; driving, I know that I can trust you to be safe.  My mother's heart knows that I'll be praying harder for you now when you are on the road and in other's cars.  I'm losing my front seat passenger and the fun talks we've had over the years driving to and from school and events.  Hopefully, you'll still let me take you places.

Some part of me realizes that you are almost gone from home.  Two short years is all we have left with you under our roof.  It's hard to even swallow when I say those words out loud.  But I know that God has really big things in store for your future.  I've known it since those first few hours in the hospital when I held you and you looked back at me with those huge blue eyes and penetrating look that said you were soaking it all up.  That's what I've been doing to; soaking up all these wonderful memories of the days and weeks and years I've had you in our home and family and storing them up.

Happy Birthday to my favorite Son!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Photographic Evidence that It's Not All Golf

Looking over my husband's photos from the "boys' trip to Palm Springs," I was pleasantly surprised to see that more than just golfing had transpired on the trip.  One of the boys' old passions is Airplanes.  As a young boy, Mr C could look at a photo or a model of any airplane and tell you the make and model.  It was a little spooky how he'd know about WWII planes and current Air Force Planes without much prompting.

Years ago, we'd gone to the WWII Air Museum in Palm Springs.  Mr P and Mr C walked around for hours amazed at not only the planes, but the museum guides who were former pilots who had actually flown the planes during the war.  I knew my husband really wanted to go back to the Museum on this trip and I was worried that Mr C, now much more focused on golf than flight, might balk.  Teenager that he is.

Mr C thought it would be fun to go back and the boys spent a few hours walking again amidst the planes.  According to Mr P, his son even corrected him on the make of one of the planes, knowing it was a F-18 instead of a F-16.  Guess he hasn't forgotten.  Mr C that is.

The boys also enjoyed some great Mexican Food (my husband's love language) and a morning of tennis.  Mr. P won the match, just for the record.  Guess my husband is a better Tennis Player than Mr C still, which means he'll be challenging him to many more matches on the court than he will on the golf course.  Thankfully, Papa is still beating Mr C on the golf course or I'm not sure we could stand the swelled head. Just kidding. Kinda.

All in all the boys had a great time in the California Desert and both left a little more rested, a lot tanner, and with some stories to tell from the golf course to the tennis court.  I'm thinking that the memories of their week in the sun with Nana and Papa will last them until Spring finally comes to these parts and beyond.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Honors Received in Due Time

Miss M was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society on Thursday Night with a ceremony and dessert reception at the Country Club.  It was a well deserved honor for a child who doesn't always get the accolades at school.  It's tough to follow in your big brother's footsteps at a school that nearly fell over backwards to honor him with everything under the sun.

When Mallory was asked to apply for membership, I think she was a little skeptical that she would get invited to join.  She has great grades, but due to her commitments with dance and confirmation, she has not really been able to participate in many "at school" activities.  However, as we filled out the form, it quickly became obvious that this girl has done a lot of service hours.

Not only has she helped with a food pantry and rang bells for the Salvation Army, she's helped with Blood Drives, Linus Blanket making, and other things through Girl Scouts and church. When M realized that as part of NJHS she'd be required to put in at least  four hours a month, she told me "that will not be a problem."

To make the invitation to join NJHS even more exciting, we put tickets to the Taylor Swift concert in the letter from the school inviting M to the ceremony.  When she opened the letter (which we'd already read), she nearly flipped out, jumping in the air, and screaming.  At first, I think she thought that the tickets were from the school and then she realized that we must have given the tickets to her.  Tricky parents!

The Induction Ceremony was a special evening for Miss M and my husband and I.  We were thrilled to see the huge smile on M's face when they called her name ND gave her the certificate and pin for NJHS.  A well deserved honor for a special young lady.

We are so proud of Miss M and how hard she works to maintain her excellent grades, but even more how willing she is to share and give to others.  Her compassionate heart and empathy for others is so sweet.  We are confident that God has big things in store for Miss M and that this award and accomplishment are just another step on the path.

Way to Go Miss M.  We love you!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Red Tour Top Ten List:

Late last fall when we heard rumors that Taylor Swift was coming town, we knew that tickets to the concert would be high om Miss M's list.  Two years ago, Miss M went to her first Taylor Swift concert and loved it.

In fact, the Red Album has been on constantly in our home for months and any time a Taylor Song comes on the TV, radio or ipod Miss M starts singing along.

Thankfully, Dad's office had some access to tickets for the show and we gobbled up two seats early, but kept them a secret from Miss M knowing that we wanted to make it a special event.  Now some might think that Miss M would choose me to go along for the night, but I must admit my husband is really the Fun Parent.  If the kids want a companion to a concert or sporting event they will choose Mr P.  I'm fine with that.

Below with my husband's help we've put together a Top Ten List from the Taylor Swift Concert...

1. T Shirt Line was really short.  Miss M and Dad smartly passed up three t-shirt lines near the entrance and found one right by their seats without a line at all. Score!

2.  Club Level Seating allowed Dad and Miss M to chill out and relax prior to the Show.  It also meant they could skip out of the opening acts and wait for the Main Attraction in comfy seats.

3. Seats were super close to the stage.

4. According to Miss M, Taylor Swift looked right at her.

5. New Jean Jacket and Dress to wear with Cowboy Boots for Miss M

6.  Place for Dad to wear his Justin Ropers

7.  Smile on Miss M's face far exceeded ticket price

8, Great Mix of old and new Swift songs

9.  Stage Show is Amazing; Taylor sang from a Gondola hanging from the sky.

10.  Miss M's Joy when she opened the Tickets for the Concert; we'd saved them up for a special moment and when she got her NJHS letter they were inside.  I think Miss M jumped a few inches off the ground.  Fun Surprise we will always remember.

11. As a Dad, you can sit and watch and listen to Taylor and not be concerned that her "image and message" don't jive with yours.  For a family that normally listens to KLOVE, we all agree that Taylor Swift is "mainstream music" we can enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Will Spring Ever Come? A Lesson in Patience.

The boys returned from their California adventure very late Thursday Night (really Friday morning if you looked at the clock) and within hours Mr C was on the Golf Course.  Early Friday Morning, Mr C met a friend from school for a quick nine holes, followed by two hours at the driving range, and then another hour chipping and putting.  You might say this boy has found his passion!  Mr C's only complaint is that the grass is not very forgiving and it's very hard to get under the ball.  Guess his golf game was dependent on the fabulous weather and green grass of California.  You might say our grass here in the Midwest is still a little winter dormant.

Saturday morning started much the same with Mr C off to Golf Tec for a putting lesson followed by a couple hours on the driving range and chipping area.  By mid afternoon, Mr C was cleaning his clubs and watching the golf channel for pointers all in preparation for golf tryouts on Monday.  Mr C was getting psyched for the season and confident that all his time on the range and course in California plus his months of practice at Golf Tec were really going to pay off.

The weather forecast talked about the potential for overnight rain and snow, but we were confident they were just joking around.  Seriously, it's nearly spring much to late for snow and the temps on Saturday were in the 50's with the feel of spring.

Sunday morning (daylight savings time you kill me by the way!), we awoke a little later than normal and decided to go to late church.  Looking outside, we realized that our plans might be a little different.  Snow was falling and the streets were covered white.  Amazing.  It was like a winter wonderland outside when the day before we'd been walking around without coats.

After venturing out for church, we hunkered down for the next two days just like when the girls and I returned from California.  So just days after the boys returned, we had another snow storm and schools were cancelled on Monday.  What are the odds?  Even Mr C was off school due to fact that the school empty from spring break was now blocked in with snow drifts several feet high.  Spring Break just got extended an extra day.  Somehow that seems wrong!

How we hope we can finally say goodbye to Old Man Winter and hello to Lady Springtime!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Boys in California; Golfing and more Golfing

For the first time ever, we took separate family vacations this year.  The "joy" of having kids in both public and private schools is that their school calendars rarely mesh.  The girls will have days off for teacher work days and holidays that Mr C's school is in session.  Meaning Mr C's Spring Break, the first of March, did not mesh with any days off for the girls so the boys took a trip to California on their own.

I'd say looking at the pictures and talking to both my parents and husband that the trip the boys took was very different than the trip the girls and I took in February.  I'd say the boys shopped a lot less, spent less time at the pool, and did not take a trip to either the Children's Museum or Living Desert.  Their trip looked a lot more like Golf, Golf and more Golf.  In other words; it was Mr C's dream vacation.

The boys arrived early on Saturday morning and by that afternoon they had not only gone to the Street Fair and out to lunch, Mr C had already found the driving range and was practicing.  Thankfully, Papa is a willing golf buddy and he and Mr C were ready for action.  My husband, a very novice golfer, did not take his clubs along and enjoyed just hanging out reading books, working from his computer and phone, and sitting in the sunshine.  Poor guy doesn't get much time to just veg out at home!

According to P, our son was thrilled to get lots of use out of his new clubs; playing two rounds and hitting the range almost every day.  Mr C even took advantage of the hole outside my folks condo and would chip and putt and play the hole over and over again at the end of each day.  Sometimes in the dark.

I think Mr C was most proud of his round with one of Papa's friends who noticed how much C's golf game had improved since September when they had played in a tournament together.  According to C, he didn't even have his Driver with him on the trip (for fear it would break in transport and he'd repeat last year's try out crisis) and he was hitting his Irons 270 yards down the fairway from the Tee-Box.

Mr C said that this trip to California and the chance to play golf everyday really got him ready for Golf Tryouts.  It was, in his mind, the best way to spend Spring Break.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Realizing the Small Gifts of Life and a Night on the Town!

Our church announced that it would be hosting its first ever Father Daughter Dinner Dance a few weeks back. As we sat down in church and Miss M and Miss A glanced over the bulletin, they gravitated to the flier that said "Duct Tape to Diamonds" and they were pumped.  Within minutes however, the joy on their face was erased when they looked at the date and realized that "Dad" would be out of town on the date of the dance. To add insult to injury, his was taking their brother with him and Papa would be gone too!

Whats' a girl to do without a date for the Father Daughter dance?  You can't really take your mother.  Thankfully, Miss M and Miss A both figured out a wonderful solution and they invited our dear neighbor who is much like a 3rd grandfather to them to join them for the night.  He accepted willingly and even offered to cover the ticket price because "a boy should always pay for the first date!"  Mr Bob was the perfect substitute for the girls and they had a fabulous time!

The only problem is that since it was a crazy busy Sunday afternoon (basketball game and party plus a campaign meeting for Mom) so I totally forgot to take the girls picture with Mr Bob.  He was early walking across the street and I'd only finished snapping a few photos and was helping Miss M and Miss A with the final touches for their hair and dresses.  Miss M did all the curling and fussing and did a fabulous job!

According to the girls, it was a fabulous night.  While they would have enjoyed having their dad their too, it was fun to take Mr Bob along as their "date" which made it a little extra special.

I love that my girls have Mr Bob and Mrs Lois in their lives.  While I'm sure the girls have spilled all our family secrets on their frequent trips over to chat, there is something extra special about having adults in your life that aren't your family yet think you hang the moon and are special just for being you!  These dear friends and neighbors are really one of life's perfect little gifts to our family and I'm so thrilled that my kids are growing up in this little community of neighbors that care for one another.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Learning to Play Fair Even If They Don't

We've had a lot of Sunday Night Dinner " Table Talks" lately about playing fair and understanding that not everyone plays by the rules.  All of these conversations have come after a Sunday afternoon YMCA girls basketball game.  Second Graders.  Not exactly the kind of sports lessons I was thinking I needed to teach my 8 year old.

First a little background: I'm not a Basketball aficionado.  In fact except for the fact that I know you dribble the ball down the court and shoot for the basket, I really know nothing. Soccer and Golf are more my areas of expertise.  However having spent the majority of the past two years watching Miss A play basketball on Sunday afternoons from October to March, I'm getting to understand a little.  Just don't ask me what a screen is.

I had no problem however figuring out that the refs were not calling any fouls and that the majority of the teams we were playing didn't seem to know the rules of play anymore than I did.  There were elbows flying, double dribbling all over the place, and the defense was more like arm wrestling.  You know when you yell "arms up" to remind the players to defend their "girl," well the yelling at these games were more like "get your arms straight up, stop trying to hug our player!"  Seriously, I thought some of the games were going to result in all the parents from our team storming onto the court to protest.

The sad part of all of this is that our girls noticed how the other teams played and wondered why they were cheating.  Why did their coach teach them to defend their "girl" (in this league you wear arm bands and have a designated player on the other side wearing your same color) and why they kept trying to steal the ball and defend before we'd even crossed center court.  When your teenage son; who normally defends all refs and umpires (the joy of being in their shoes come baseball season) comments that the refs should spend less time dunking the ball during the breaks and more time finding their whistle during the game, you know it's a problem.

I've got to give huge kudos to our coach.  He never stooped to their level. He never encouraged our girls to cheat. Even when we were getting our clocks cleaned by the opponents who didn't substitute great players, didn't defend with arms straight up and dribbled like me rather than my daughter.  He kept teaching the fundamentals and practice was all about learning to make baskets, practicing the "screen" and playing games like knock out and rebound drills.  When they played a make up game, he always told them that the next basket would "win the State Championship" which got the girls screaming for joy!

Miss A loves basketball. She's got the height advantage that might make her a good player one day and we want her to learn that basketball is a lot like life.  If you play fair and go by the rules, you are the winner in the end.  Cheating never pays.

While this might not have been the season we hoped for our team, our daughter walks away with some life lessons from the court that will carry her far off the court too.  Plus they had snacks each week and a season ending party at the Pizza place complete with trophies.  Can it get better than that?  Miss A would say no!

I hear that golf is a great game for tall girls too.  According to my research, it is a great college scholarship opportunity. I'm just saying.  No refs, no cheating and best of all no elbows flying!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Game Playing

If I'm honest, I'd tell you that I'm not really a game player.  I like an occasional game of Domino's with the family or a game of Balderdash with a big crew, but I don't play video games.  I have no games on my laptop and my non-smart phone doesn't have any games either. If I have free time, I'd rather read or knit or watch a movie.  Games just seem too competitive to me and that fact alone makes it not that much fun.

My kids on the other hand like games. In fact, I've probably played more games with Miss A than I've played anytime before in my entire life.  From Chutes and Ladders to Junior Monopoly to Maniacal, this girl likes to play games.  The other night Mr C was finished with homework and it was too cold and dark to go hit golf balls (true story!) so he offered to play Miss A in Monopoly. He told her it would help her with her math skills to which she replied that she didn't need the help.  Love the confidence.

For the next hour and half, Mr C played Miss A in a rousing game of buying property, building houses, going to jail, and declaring bankruptcy. It was competitive; Mr C was buying too many of the places that Miss A landed on a regular basis and his rent price was way too high.  Miss A was gambling with her money on the fancy spots and landing in jail on a regular basis.  Mr C as the banker kept warning A to focus on the property she already owned, but Miss A was sure that "next best piece of property" would be the place that Mr C would go belly up!

At bedtime, I told Miss A it was time to pack it in.  They begged to leave the board game up so they could continue the next night and I agreed. (It's a life lesson I tell you, they are really only to be together in the house so long so why not.)

The next night after homework Mr C was ready to tackle Miss A again.  This time they let Miss M join them (she'd been at dance the previous night) meaning she was going to take up some of her sister's buying power. She also complained that her brother took the game too seriously and that no one would pay $900 for a one minute stop at Park Place.  Guess she's not a game player either. She wanted to play for fun and not property buying and asset accumulating.  In other words according to Miss A, "she's not really getting Monopoly!"

 Of course moments after these infamous words, Miss A was penniless.