Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Welcome to Narnia

We were all so excited for the kids' birthday party. We started thinking about another good gender neutral theme and Narnia seemed like a perfect fit for our family. Hubby had read all of the books to the kids in the past year and they loved them. We had watched all of the movies that had come out and G loved listening to the soundtrack music all the time. So we started thinking about what our Narnia party would include.

Decorations: There aren't any official Narnia party decorations available anymore so we had to get creative with what we used. We looked around our house for stuff we already had and brought our framed map of Narnia and the little toy Narnia figures that were from McDonald's that we'd purchased from eBay.

We went with a black and gold color scheme and used plastic tablecloths to cover the food tables and used black and gold throughout with plates, napkins, balloons and streamers.

Part of our main 'decorations' were our family's costumes. I looked around for fabric I might use to make something for the kids. I found a burgundy skirt with an organza overlay at the Goodwill store for $4 (probably the bottom to a bridesmaids dress). I bought that thinking I might make something for A out of it. Later I was out shopping at a consignment shop and found this gorgeous princess dress. It was perfect and only $10. I knew I couldn't make something for less than that. The owner heard me talking about Narnia and asked if I'd seen their boy's Narnia costume and I was thrilled. I knew G would LOVE it and he did, he wore it almost every day and still wears it around the house.

We mentioned our party to our friends who are in theater and costume design. They helped us by loaning me a top from a play and even made Hubby a tunic to wear over the real chain-mail they loaned us. It was about 30 pounds but he looked great.

We also brought dress up costumes for the guests to wear if they wanted. We had a box of dress up crowns, swords and shields we'd borrowed from our church.

Games: Our first game was a 'Dufflepud' race. Each child had their legs tied together so they could pretend they were the one footed Dufflepuds in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Our second game was White Witch freeze tag. The person with the wand was the White Witch and had to try and freeze everyone. To unfreeze a friend you had to breathe on them like Aslan did to all the Narnian statues.

Our third game was a 'weapons training' where we taught the kids how to use a sword and shield. I showed the girls how to use a bow and arrow and they got to practice their aim.

Goodie Bags: I found the perfect armor and swords at the dollar store and instead of goodie bags we sent each boy home with a sword and a piece of armor. So the boys were set for $2 each. For the girls I had looked everywhere to find something Narnian that they could have to take home. The day before the party I stopped by a Dollar General store and looked through the clearance bin and saw one bow and arrow set. I figured I'd use that for the archery practice and the kids could take turns. Then I went down the regular toy aisle and they had about 10 more of the sets for only $3 each. I thought, 'I wonder if these are on clearance too?' I was going to buy them even if they weren't because they'd be the perfect gift for the girls since Susan used a bow and arrow in the book. Sure enough they were all on sale too so I snapped them up for 60 cents each. That was my favorite deal of the party.

Food:  We served Animal crackers, pretzels, crackers and fruit but we knew we had to have some Turkish Delight like in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I made it but no one at the party liked it including me!

Cake: For the cupcakes I got gold cupcake liners and made a batch of vanilla frosted yellow with black sprinkles and chocolate frosted with yellow sprinkles. Then I topped them with pictures of Narnian characters and logos.

 Here's a printable 8.5x11 that I created to print out.

Gifts: After our games, snacks and cupcakes we put together Operation Christmas Child boxes. Instead of bringing gifts to our kids we invited guests to bring gifts to donate to our boxes. I explained what the boxes are for and how Father Christmas had given gifts to the Pevensie children in the Narnia books.

We made about twenty boxes using the donations the guests had brought and things I'd purchased or collected throughout the year.

After the party was over and we were back home the kids opened their gifts from us and from family. They miss getting lots of gifts from their friends but being able to give to children around the world and share the joy that we have is worth so much more. The whole party day went well and our kids and the guests had a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One issue

Imagine you are voting in the 1780s instead of today. Consider 2 candidates. Candidate 1 holds many to most of your same views on the economy/taxes, foreign relations, and social issues. Candidate 2 has differing views on many to most of those same issues.

But, what if Candidate 1 was okay with slavery and Candidate 2 was an abolitionist? Who would you vote for? Would their position on slavery be enough to make you a single-issue voter? Would you give up voting for someone who shares most of your views to go with someone who supports the rights of all human beings, no matter their skin color?

But perhaps the pro-slavery candidate was not really "PRO" slavery as much as he was wanting individual people and states to make their own choices about it. He was okay with people owning slaves and he was okay if others decided that owning slaves wasn't for them, but he wanted to protect the rights of those who owned slaves. How about if he pointed out the positives of slavery and that we needed to consider how abolition would affect plantation owners. Or maybe he said that even if we stopped having slaves, what would prevent other countries from having them?

You know, in that time some people believed that Africans were not really fully human, more like animals, to be owned and traded as property. What changed the people’s minds and hearts and finally stopped slavery? I believe it was people facing the facts and good triumphing over evil. People had to come to grips with the fact that these slaves were human beings that God created, not animals or a lower class of humans. But the facts were laid out for a long time and no one could dispute them, yet still slavery continued. That is, until one day when someone in a high position took a stand and said it won't be tolerated anymore. Good had to triumph so that everyone had to acknowledge that skin color doesn’t determine worth.

My hope is that one day we will look back on abortion the way we now look back on slavery. My prayer is that good will triumph over evil and we will face the facts. It's a fact that there is life at the time of conception. It’s obvious with today’s medical technology that babies in the womb are humans and don’t become human simply when they are born, or even 'at the point of viability'. We can know that life begins at conception, because at conception a process is set in motion, the fetus keeps growing and growing. You can’t pinpoint a time after conception that signals, ‘okay, now it’s human/person.’ The sex of a child is determined at conception, how could this fetus be a boy or a girl, but not a human/person?

In 2010 I miscarried at 9 weeks along. We had just seen the sweet little heart beating on ultrasound a week or two before she/he died. No one could tell I was pregnant but when you see the little life before you on the screen, you can't deny that is a small growing person, one who needs protecting. Was my child more of a human because we'd wanted him/her? With all the medical advances in technology and how we can see into the womb the fact that there is life before birth has been laid out for a long time, yet still abortion continues

I feel strange even pointing these things out, since it’s not obvious to the world. I wonder how the abolitionists felt when they told people of the horrible atrocities on the slave ships and plantations and then were met with nonchalant attitudes.

As we near the current election we need to consider these bigger issues. EACH person has a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness we need to stand up and face the facts so that can apply to each person, even those who are still in the womb. I have hope and in my head I see a vision that one day our country will protect the life of the unborn, just as our country stood up and declared that slavery would not be legal. I feel like Christians have lost that hope and have just forgotten about this issue. And I think we, as a country need to do more to protect the life of the unborn. There are lots of ways to do that and voting pro-life is just one of them.

If you were looking back on time and could see Christians voting for someone who supported slavery what would you think of them? Perhaps these Christians knew slavery was wrong and hoped that one day there would be a change, but as they decided who to vote for, they may have felt that the economy was a more important issue, or the state of foreign relations. How will you look back on who you voted for in this election? Is protecting the life of the unborn important enough to make you a one issue voter?

The Supreme Court is the place where abortion was deemed acceptable. Only one person has the power to appoint justices to the court. Obama has already appointed one Supreme Court Justice in his first 4 years in office, will we give him the chance to appoint more justices who want to protect the right to kill innocent children?

And so what if the president doesn't get to nominate any judges. So what if the Supreme Court doesn't take another look at Roe v. Wade during the next four years, or the next 40 years. So what. How could I tell my grandchildren that I voted for someone that was for protecting people's 'right' to kill innocent babies. I would hope that in the 1780s I wouldn't have voted for someone who supported slavery, just like today I won't vote for someone who supports abortion, it's a foundational disagreement and I can't look past it.

I don’t care for politics and I dislike discussing it with friends because there are a lot of people smarter than me who will explain why healthcare is a bigger issue, or the economy is a bigger issue, or our relations with other countries, etc. But I don't think that Christians should tolerate a president who is not going to protect the life of innocent children and will instead stand up to protect the people who kill them. It nauseates me. 

I know there are a lot of issues that people consider as they are making their choice on who to vote for and Christians have differing convictions. My Democratic Christian friends (yes! there are such people!) who have prayed through their voting have done their job as good citizens. But I cannot disagree more. Simply said, a law allowing innocent human life to be killed is enough to make me a single-issue voter. I don’t know about all the issues, but I do know who stands for what on this issue. And for me the choice is clear.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Day

So A broke her arm. She was trying to get over the baby gate in L's bedroom. She stood on top of it and went to jump off of it. Since it wasn't bolted into the door frame it came off and she fell forward and fell on her arm funny. We took her to the doctor the next morning and, because A couldn't straighten her arm out without being in pain, she referred us for x-rays. The x-rays didn't show a conclusive break, just some swelling, but they wanted her to go to an orthopedist anyway. So we made an appointment for later that night and after they did their own x-rays they decided that she should have a cast. They said that even though you couldn't see the break, it was likely swollen because of a small fracture and with kids you can't always see it on the x-ray. So she got her arm all washed off, wrapped up and of course got a pink cast. They made the follow up appointment for two weeks from the injury, right after the last day of school.

The cast didn't seem to slow her down all that much. She still was up to her regular antics and we were glad that she had the cast because she would have never been able to keep it still and rest it without the cast on. A few days before school was out A had her field day and enjoyed playing games with her classmates.

At first she didn't want anyone to sign her cast because it'd 'mess it up'. Then after a week or so she let her family members sign it and then her friends at church and then her classmates at school. For some of the boys she signed their names for them so it would look good. Of course, she ended up spelling some names wrong. Oops.

What a lucky break! She broke her arm but not too bad. She got to have a cast, but only for two weeks. Long enough to get attention and sympathy but she was able to get it off just when the novelty was wearing off. And she got it off on the last day of school, so she didn't miss any summer water time fun because of having to stay dry. Lucky break A! But in the end I do think the threat of having to spend more time in the cast and just the pain of breaking it in the first place has been enough of a learning lesson for her.

Getting ready to have her cast sawed off.

Her arm was really stiff and she said it felt funny to have it out, but felt so good to itch it. Hopefully we won't have to repeat this for anymore of our kids, but with how active and inquisitive they are I honestly would be pleasantly surprised if we didn't have any more casts in our future.

Monday, June 11, 2012


A says that science and math are her favorite subjects in school. She is our little tomboy ballerina, she's a sweet girl but loves to play in the dirt. When she's playing in the backyard she likes to cut up different plants and leaves and put them in a container, she calls it her 'nature salad.' One afternoon she came running in to tell me that Ghad found a caterpillar outside and 'it's green and looks friendly and I don't think it's poisonous, can I touch it!?'  So I gave the okay and she was in hog heaven letting it crawl around on her hand and tickle her with all of of its sticky feet.

Later I decided to take the kids for a bike ride to the park she put it in their bug collection jar and rode off with it in her bike basket. When we got back from the park we noticed this silky stuff all over it.

I realized it was probably ready to make a cocoon so I looked it up on the internet to try and determine what kind of caterpillar it was. From what I could guess it looked like a Luna Moth caterpillar and we put in a leaf from our sweet gum tree. By the evening time it had pulled the leaf up around itself and started making it's cocoon.

A few days later the kids found another caterpillar just like the other one so we knew just what to do. We put it in another container with some sweet gum leaves and it made it's cocoon that night.

So we waited and waited. A and G were so excited for them to hatch. While we waited I took A for some girl time on a trip to the Butterfly Rainforest. We saw African Luna Moths there on display and in the cocoon nursery we got to watch a butterfly emerge right in front of our eyes. The internet said that Luna Moths will cocoon for two weeks. After two weeks had passed I was starting to worry that we'd killed them somehow. Three and 1/2 weeks later one night at dinner A yelled out, "Our Luna Moth hatched!!" We all raced over to the porch to see that it had indeed emerged and was drying out his wings.

They were so excited about him coming out of his cocoon. We were excited that our caterpillar searches were correct and that it was indeed a Luna Moth. We watched videos online and found out that our moth was a male, so we were hoping that the second one would be a female and we could see the whole life cycle happening.

So, sure enough, two days later the second moth emerged from the cocoon. This time we noticed it a little bit sooner and so we got to see what it looked like before the wings had dried out.

Midway through the wing dry out...

Fully dried out wings.

Unfortunately the second moth was also a male. So after a few days of watching them on the porch we let them go. We were so thankful that God allowed us to have a science lesson right in our own backyard.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer Reading Program

Last year, Kindergarten was a great year for A. She really learned a lot and grew in her knowledge and skills. At the start of the year she could recognize a few sight words and write all of her letters and some words, but by the end of the year she was reading short simple books and writing three sentence paragraphs. She loved being at school and really thrived in the structured environment.

But at home she was hesitant to do things on her own. She is a surely a first born, she gets a lot of satisfaction from being able to do things well. But the down side to that is she doesn't like doing things she's not already good at and will shy away from trying a new thing because she hasn't perfected it yet. This of course, is a hindrance to her learning because you have to try and fail in order to learn new things.

Last year at the end of the school year A's teacher told us that a lot of kids loose their reading skills over the summer because they don't get much practice when they aren't in school. I wanted her to practice her reading but I knew it would be pulling teeth to make her read one or two books a day. I could find all kinds of books she might like to read but she just wasn't motivated to read them on her own because, (whiny voice) "It takes too long! Why don't YOU just read it to me?"

So, I knew she would need some kind of incentive to motivate her. I had bought a big pack of Squinkies in the spring and put some of them in her Easter basket and had about 30 left over. So I decided I would give her one Squinkie each time she read 5 books. She LOVED that idea and was so excited about it! She tore through books and I started to wonder if I'd have enough Squinkies to last the whole summer! So I added a few things like for 10 books she could get $1 and 5 books she could earn an extra 30 minutes of media time (computer, videos, leapster).

G was jealous and wanted a reading program too! We'd seen him memorize some of his LeapFrog Tag books like Green Eggs and Ham and we were impressed with how he was almost reading as well as Amelia was. In fact, that was another motivator for A, she didn't want her brother to bypass her or read better than she could! So G got his own reading program too and he got to buy a little Disney Cars car for every 15 books he read.

They loved earning points and writing down the books they read. We kept track of all of them and over the whole summer Amelia read around 60 books and Grant read around 50 books. By mid-summer I added ways that they could earn points that would count for reading one book. A wanted to have me print out math worksheets so that she could do those and earn a point. G needed to practice his letters and I'd gotten him a workbook to trace and work on letters, so he got a point for each letter sheet he completed. I started giving them points for helping clean up the yard or extra points for longer books. They were eating it up and were sad when summer ended and all the Squinkies had been earned.

Around February of this year they started asking if we were going to do a summer reading program again. I told them we would but it would be different since they were older. Since then we haven't gone a week without them asking/bugging me about the summer reading program. 'What kind of toys will we get?' 'How many books do we have to read to get a Zooble? (that's the 2012 toy with A)' and the question I get asked most often 'Can we start the summer reading program NOW?' or 'It's not fair that G gets out of school 4 days before I do and he is going to get a head start on the summer reading program!'

A has gotten the hang of reading and has found a few book series she really likes and I don't have to motivate her to read like I did last year, she's doing it on her own now for pleasure. She's devouring her favorite chapter books like, 'Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew' or 'A to Z Mysteries'. It's kind of sad that she's grown out of some of the shorter chapter books she used to love like 'Young Cam Jansen'.

So this year's program will be a little different, and I like being able to customize things for their individual needs. This year A loves to read but she really hates writing and she needs more practice in that. So in order to earn a point she's going to have to read a book and then write a little bit about it. She can also earn a point by doing a report on something, so if we go on a field trip or trip she can write about it and get a point. We are going to buy a special notebook for her to have to write her reports in.

I've been collecting little toys for both of them here and there and they cost me different amounts so I'm going to make them worth different point values. I know they are going to love learning this summer!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First foods

L got to have his first solids in February. He was ready to go!

 He wasn't quite sure at first how to do it, most of the watery rice cereal dribbled down his chin.

 He kept wanting to stick his fingers in his mouth or grab the spoon.
 But overall, he got some down and we marked it as a messy success.
A few weeks of just the rice cereal and we got the go ahead from the pediatrician to start him on some other types of foods. We'd been thickening the cereal up (at first he would gag if it was thicker than water!) bit by bit and he was taking two bowls of it per day. So we figured we'd start him out on some peas.

He was ready for the new tastes, bring on the peas!

 He liked it okay and ate about 1/2 a jar that day. The next day he woke up like this. Happy and Hivey.
Yikes! And the hives only got worse once we got to the doctors office. They gave him Benadryl and took some blood to have tested. He had to be on Benadryl for a few days to keep the hives at bay. The tests came back negative for all of the major allergens (milk, soy, peanuts, etc) so that's good to know he doesn't have any of those. So, we'll just be staying away from peas for a while. And what kid doesn't want that excuse? Sorry Mommy, I'm allergic to peas. Maybe he'll be like his daddy and have random allergies. Hubby is allergic to uncooked carrots and apples. Weird.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The good part

Life is like a good novel.

Personally I envision The Lord of the Rings as I think about the parallels, but really any novel with suspense would probably do. There's always that part just before the climax of the story. You know, the characters lives all are in danger, things seem hopeless, and you wonder how in the heck it's going to end. Then all of a sudden everything changes, the battle is won, the hero saves the day and things are set right. And it's not just right, it's more right and wonderful than you thought it could be. As bad and as awful as it was, it's the complete opposite now. It's kind of like a pendulum swinging, the farther things go down the bad side the farther they can swing to the good side. And when it's all over, things stay on the good side and you look back and say, "Well of course that's how it was going to happen," and you see it so clear. 
I feel like here on earth we are in the middle of a story like that. Our creative God is crafting the ultimate suspense story. Things keep getting worse and worse, life is tough and and shadows loom on the horizon. I feel like we are in the shadows of Mordor with all the pain and suffering and death and awfulness going on. 
Fortunately we already know what will happen at the end. I know someone who, upon getting the last Harry Potter book, read the last chapter first so she could find out what happened and then read the rest of the book in peace, already knowing the end. God doesn't want us to go on in suspense wondering what is going to happen. He gave us the book of Revelation and recounts what will happen in the last days. He wants us to read the last chapter of Earth's story and live in peace knowing that everything will be made right no matter how bad things get here.

It's the difference in watching your team play a tight game and watching the replay of the game when you already know the outcome. You can relax and you are not anxious, you can watch the replay in peace. God wants us to have peace here and we can enjoy that if we know what the ending is going to be.

I like happy endings, don't you?