Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Can't think of a good title

I haven't known what to say or how to say it for awhile, but I'm going to go ahead and try anyway.

We are doing really well now. If you would've told me a couple months ago that I would be where I am now, I wouldn't believe it. Sometimes God leads us slow step by slow step through seasons of life. Then apparently sometimes God decides to take us on a few flying leaps to get to our next season.

Life was humming along as usual all summer. We found out we were expecting our fifth child. We felt super excited, along with a healthy amount of concern for our finances, homeschooling, room arrangement, etc. But we knew God had blessed us with a new life and He would take care of the details. 

It's hard to know how to sum it all up. I could write pages about that last week of August and all the painful memories, but I wouldn't know where to start or how to end. At my 14 week checkup, we found out our baby's heart wasn't beating anymore. As we explained it to the kids - Jesus decided to take our baby to Heaven.

We didn't get to find out if it was a boy or a girl. We both had a hunch it was a girl so we named her Grace. We figured when we get to Heaven, if find out he was a boy, we'll change it to Grayson. I believe with all my heart that our child is sitting with Jesus, getting lots of attention from great-grandparents and eagerly waiting to meet us. It makes me think of Heaven even more as my home, knowing my precious child is already there. 

A friend reminded me of this - our ultimate goal as parents is for our kids to spend eternity in Heaven. Although I would give anything to still be pregnant and get to have our baby here, we've attained the ultimate goal for this child and that is awesome.
As I struggled to try to get back to normal, I prayed Psalm 139:23-24 ... Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

I feel like God has been so merciful to gently open my eyes to things I have been blind to my whole life. He has changed my thinking and healed hurt I have held onto for decades. All in the past couple months. I don't think I would've been open to hear all He has had to say if I hadn't felt so needy. I can see that He used our miscarriage to humble me and prepare me to move ahead with Him.

These are some of the things God has used in my life the past couple months.
1. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo
2. "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers
3. Steven Curtis Chapman's words & songs at a conference at our church - "When love takes you in"
4. Matthew West concert
5. Matthew West CD
6. "Choosing to SEE" by Mary Beth Chapman
7. "What's it Like to be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow
8. My friend Kelli
9. My mom & dad
10. My Bible

To anyone else's eyes it looks like a random assortment of topics - Heaven, prostitution, adoption, forgiveness, mercy, letting go, marriage issues , etc. But to God it wasn't random. He brought each of those truths into my heart to set my feet upon a rock.  I probably don't need to go into details in how He opened my eyes in each of those areas, but I do think it's neat how He has answered my prayers about organization.

I read in James 3 one morning recently that "disorder" is listed among "every evil thing." (v. 16) For some reason, that stuck out to me. God is organized. He made the world function with consistency and everything He does is at the right time. So surely He would want to help me bring all the loose ends of my busy life together in a manageable, consistent, organized way.

I wrote these specific things down in my journal, asking for God to help me know how to bring order to these places. 

1. Cleaning house/chores
2. Exercise
3. Keeping in touch with family/friends
4. Menu planning
5. Grocery shopping
6. Our school schedule (getting Avery to practice piano, MATH!, activities for Laney & Bo, group time, etc.)
7. Practicing Awana verses with kids
8. Getting rid of things we don't need
9. Internet time/blogging

It's not that I don't do these things. It's just that these are the things that I do randomly or last minute when the need becomes desperate. I long for an organized way of doing these things, but I just didn't see where those things fit on my busy life's calendar. I needed divine inspiration.

Over the past two weeks, I have been stunned as God has pointed me to a specific slot of time in our routine that I can comfortably fit these in on a regular basis. Well 7 of the 9. I'll keep listening for those last two. God cares so much.

So we started 2nd grade and Kindergarten this year with Avery & Tatum. Homeschooling is truly a treasure I had never planned to find, but I am so thankful the Lord let me stumble upon it and open it up! Avery is studying US History & Geography, Math, Spelling, Reading, Handwriting, Grammar, Bible and Art. Tatum is working through Phonics & Reading, Handwriting, Math, Art and listening to History with Avery. All 3 of the girls are in Awana, so we use that as part of our Bible curriculum.We are just starting Astronomy as our science for the year.

Tatum is almost done with her Kindergarten requirements. I'm pretty sure I'll have to order 1st grade for Christmas! The girl LOVES math. When she finishes her assignment, she asks if she can do more math! She learned to write letters very early and she continues to enjoy writing tasks. Reading is a struggle right now. I can tell it wears her out more than any of her other subjects. But she is doing great and is half way through level one of All About Reading!

Avery's reading skills have taken off this year. She amazes me with her ability to decode words. She loves to draw and create. She can draw things at the age of 7 that I cannot draw at the age of 34. I love to watch her creative little mind work. Her main struggle is with writing. I've been researching nonverbal learning disabilities and am finding that many of the modifications suggested for kids with NLD are working tremendously well with Avery. It is such a blessing to be able to give my sweet girl the education she needs and to watch her thrive.

Avery & Tatum are playing softball on a little 8U team. Brian and I are having so much fun playing with them and watching their skills improve. We keep saying to each other, "This is really fun!" We are truly sad the season is almost over, but hopeful there will be more seasons to come.

Laney is going to preschool a couple days a week. Many of her little friends from church are also in her preschool class and her Awana Cubbies group, so it's been fun for her to see the same faces several days of the week. She is a great helper with Bodie in the mornings. She plays with him in the gameroom or outside while the big girls are doing school. Sometimes they watch Sesame Street together. Bodie calls her "sissy." She likes to come inside and "do school" with us sometimes. She still sticks to me like glue.

Bodie goes to preschool one day a week and spends one morning a week with Gigi. That way the big girls and I have a quiet house two mornings a week. He is sweaty and rough and so stinkin' sweet I could gobble him up. His favorite word is still "ball." His favorite toy is a ball. When we practice softball in the backyard, he will spend an hour hitting softballs off the tee with a real bat. No plastic bats here. He wants the real bat and the real bright yellow softballs. He is big and strong, which is proving to be difficult as he is entering the terrible 2's.

Here's some photos from our past few months...

 All the cousins at a pumpkin patch - Avery, Tara, Laney, Bodie, Tatum, Matthew & Isabella 
(Isabella is my sister-in-law's little sister)

Tatum lost her 3rd tooth! She pulled it all by herself!

We had a fall festival at church a couple days ago. Here's Superman and...

the three princesses... Cinderella, a Southern Belle, and Sleeping Beauty!

Here's our softball girls

Laney was invited to a birthday part at the Pink Pokka Dot, a boutique where they do your hair, nails and makeup as part of the party. They also have a closet full of princess dress-ups you can change in and out of as often as you like. Here's my little Cinderella after her makeover. 

 Then she changed into the Belle dress...
We went to the Oil Ranch with our home school group at church. It was a Monday and there was no one there! It was so nice to have the whole place to ourselves. 

 My friend Justina, took these great pics of the kids

 I just found these pics from the 4th of July parade in our neighborhood.

And here's a picture I just found from March. My sister-in-law took this at my Paw Paw's 90th birthday party. As we get older, my brothers & I rarely have pictures taken together, so I treasure this one of the three of us together with  Paw Paw. This is my oldest brother Matthew, PawPaw, my middle brother Martin and me!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Family Vacation to Utopia

We just got back from a great week in the beautiful hill country near Utopia TX. We did a lot of relaxing, reading, swimming, fishing and eating! We saw a lot of wildlife (a tarantula, water snake, bats and giant grasshoppers in one day), as well as beautiful birds, deer and rabbits. I especially loved getting to spend time with my parents every day. We haven't gotten to do that in a long time. We ate every meal together, played games, read books, cooked meals and just talked together and it was just what I needed. Since Brian's blog tells the story so well, here's the link and I am going to wrap this up! Thanks Papa & Nana for a wonderful vacation and we look forward to the next time!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Photo Update

Tatum's class sang "Tony Chestnut" at her spring performance. I had never heard that song before, so it cracked me up to see her sing it.

She also graduated from preschool this spring. I can't believe her preschool days are over. We started her homeschool kindergarten curriculum toward the end of April, just because she was so eager to "do school" with Avery. It is so fun to teach her because she is such a quick learner and quick worker. She zooms through her work so fast, I'm pretty sure we're going to be done with her Kindergarten by Christmas. But that's just her... she loves a challenge and usually rises to it.
For Avery & Tatum's birthday present, Papa & Nana took all of us to the mall to get the girls ears pierced. We went ahead and got Laney's done too, so hopefully we are forever done with ear piercing. We learned a few lessons. Laney's age, 3, was the right age to get it done. She had no clue what to expect and it was over before she knew what was happening. Barely any tears. Avery, on the other hand, knew what to expect, and freaked out like a crazy woman. We almost left without her having it done. Tatum stepped in when Avery was freaking out and was very brave. Tatum didn't cry at all. She just smiled real big through the whole thing. After watching her two little sisters do it, Avery decided to try again. I did have to hold her in my lap and physically restrain her, but she did cooperate as best she could and we got it done! Hooray... all the girls in our family have pierced ears now and we will have fun sharing earrings. For their starter set, Avery chose her her birthstone, Tatum chose purple flowers and Laney chose pink flowers.

Bodie is 14 months and such a boy. His favorite word is "ball" and he always has either a ball or a sword in his hand. He is now really good at walking, sliding, climbing, giving high fives, bumps and kisses. Whenever  we go outside, we call him the "sweaty beast" because he is covered in sweat within 5 minutes. I can't even put into words what a joy and blessing it is to watch our little guy grow and learn new things.

I took my camera outside one day while the kids were all playing. I love all the creative ways they spend their time outside. Here's Laney making some mudpies.

Tatum on our new rock wall Brian built to add to our play fort.

The big sister

This is Laney pushing me on the glider.

All three of the girls like to be Bodie's little mamas, but I think Laney is the most naturally gifted with a mama's heart. She is always wanting to care for him and help him do things.

Tatum loves collecting chalk dust. She colors real hard to make lots of dust, then collects it in some little container.

We love having our friends, the Spenn kids, over one day a week. It is truly the highlight of our week. We are usually so busy I forget to take pictures, but I got a few while we were having a tower building contest.

On the morning of May 16, I woke Tatum up really early and invited her to come downstairs with me before any one else. I let her choose what she wanted for her birthday breakfast... cinnamon crescent rolls. Happy 5th birthday, my sweet sunshine!

Our sweet friends, the Kindles, came to visit us a couple weeks ago. We had such a fun time catching up. Even though we only see each other once a year, we feel like they are family. We always feel like our time with them is too short. Our kids had so much fun playing together and Brian & I love the time we get to spend relaxing and catching up with Brandon & Jennifer. This family is a gift from God to us!

Goofy kids!

Laney & Kate... the sweet 3 year old princesses!

Swim team has been such a good thing for Avery and our family this season. When she joined the team in April, she couldn't swim across the pool without holding on the lane rope at least 10 times. Now she is swimming the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly in swim meets and doing awesome! We are so proud of all her hard work! And we have said over and over how much fun it has been for our family to get to know our neighbors during practices and meets. Tatum is excited to be on the team next year and we are looking forward to many more seasons of cheering for the Copperfield Dolphins!

On the ready bench

Go Avery!

We took the girls to Sea World to celebrate Avery & Tatum's birthdays. My mom & dad joined us, as well as our sis-in-law, Jenn and neice, Tara. It was such a fun day! In the penguin encounter, they had a penguin out in the lobby walking around right next to us! It was so fun to see one so close! We loved feeding the dolphins and the sea lions. The shows were wonderful and everyone, even Bodie, sat still and watched them in amazement. Later, that evening, my parents took Laney & Bodie home and Jenn & Tara wanted to go back to the kids area, so Brian & I took Avery & Tatum on all the "big" rides. Since there were no lines that late, we rode Journey to Atlantis back to back several times. So fun! And Avery was tall enough this year to ride the Steel Eel so she and Brian rode that twice.... her first real roller coaster ride.

Now we're gearing up for our last week of swim team and our divisional meet next Saturday. Then we are taking a vacation with my parents to the hill country for a few days to spend some time relaxing by the river. We are so looking forward to getting away for our little vacation! Tatum just started taking gymnastics, which she is loving. And Laney is going to try ballet & tap later this summer. Between all the fun activities, we are still homeschooling a few days a week, mostly just for fun. The girls enjoy "doing school" and I do too.

Brian is not teaching summer school this summer, so he is home with us most days. We have enjoyed doing a few field trips and hanging out with him so much. We took the kids bowling a few weeks ago, which was hilarious and fun! He is such a super dad and I am glad to have these few weeks with him home with us everyday, joining in with us in our every day activities. He is right now telling the kids to get ready to go fishing so I better end this post. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

DYSO and Easter

Happy Easter! He is Risen!
We went to the zoo last weekend, and I let Brian do most of the photography so I don't have many photos, but I could not pass this one up. This giraffe was so friendly... it stuck it's head right into this crowd of people and almost licked a few kids. You can see Brian holding Laney and Avery up there right underneath it's head. Once the security guard noticed, he made everyone back away until the giraffe wandered off back into his habitat.

Avery & Brian made this little red sports car for the Sparky Drive-in last week at Awana. I think she might have been the only one with a windshield, so she was very proud of that. There were a lot of cute cars. The Sparks got to watch "Cars" and eat popcorn while sitting in (or beside) their homemade cars.

Here's Avery & her friends watching "Cars." You can see all the cool cars around the room.
Here's Bodie and his buddies watching the movie too. Since I keep the one-year-old nursery on Wednesday nights, these are my little munchkins that I get to hang out with every Wednesday night and Sunday morning. They love the buggy... and it is a lifesaver!

Tatum loves this dress. We have been blessed with wonderful hand-me-downs from a couple friends and this dress was in one of the bags we just got. It's silky and shiny and she looks and feels like a princess when she wears it. She asked me to take her picture when she wore it last.

Here's our little one year old with his mullet. It just hit me out of the blue one day that I need to get him a haircut. You don't really think about haircuts when you have baby girls because you just want to let it grow, so it was a new thought to me to need to get our baby a haircut.

Here's the side and back of the sweet little mullet.
He was a very good sport about it. He sucked the life out of his paci and kept his focus on the Elmo movie, and he did wimper once or twice, but overall the experience was a surprisingly good one.
I asked her to give him a faux hawk, so here she is styling his new 'do.

Tada... he looks like such a big boy now. And the back of his head is the spitting image of the back of Brian's head, except for the hair color difference. It's so funny the way genetics works... the exact same hairline and shape of head as his daddy.

Avery & Tatum have been practicing for a couple months for Dance Your Shoes Off, which was held last weekend in front of City Hall. It was so hot and so crowded, I admit all I wanted to do was dance our shoes off and get the heck out of there. But it was so awesome to see so many kids out there praising the Lord with dance and singing (and shouting) "He's alive, He's alive inside us and we will rise up." It was a memorable day for us.

They wore brand new shoes to do the dance, then at the end they all took their shoes off and put them in these huge containers to donate to kids at various ministries our church serves.

And we couldn't resist a little dip in the pond.

If you've never seen the video of the adult version of Dance Your Shoes Off, it's pretty neat. You can see it here. And here's the video of the Kids version last weekend. You can see the backs of A & T at 2:21, but you kinda have to know what to look for.

I have probably watched the DYSO video from last Easter 10 times and I still get chills every time I see it. I think it's a miniature taste of what Heaven will be like. Thousands of very different people, young & old, singing & dancing to Jesus together. It was really fun for our family to get to be a part of it this year.