Saturday Recipe Swap--Chicken Quesidillas

Today's recipe comes from a combination between my own, and Debi H. advice from what she does/uses when she makes her Chicken Quesidillas.

Ingredients:

1lb of boneless chicken breasts
4-5 stalks of green peppers, rinsed and chopped
1 tomato, rinsed and chopped
2 cups of cheddar cheese
white corn soft tortillas (small or large depending on your family/guests taste)
1 cup of sour cream
black beans
Medium salsa (as much as you like...totally optional)

Directions:
* Cook chicken boneless chicken breast seasoned to your liking.  Then chop it up.

1. We like our quesidillas cheesy, so I lay a soft tortilla on a plate (that can go in the microwave) and spread a handfull of cheese, then top it with beans, tomatoes, green peppers and some salsa, and chicken. 

2. I lay another soft tortilla on top and press the sides closed.

3. Place the quesidilla in the microwave for about a minute.  Your goal is for it too stick together and for the cheese to melt.

4. Then I cut it in 4 pieces.  I top it with a dollop of sourcream and a little more salsa.

5. On the side we like Spanish rice and beans.

6. To take the edge off the spicyness we have cold water with lime.  My kids love lime.  It's very refreshing.

7.  I also cut up watermelon or orange wedges and serve on the side.

Enjoy!
My in-laws with Julia


Keeping Up with Kristi: Secret #1 Fun Bag



Today's post will not be for you veteran mommies; you guys have it all together and I know you are pros at occupying your kids on outings.  But for those of you who may be a mommy-to-be, or a babysitter, or an auntie, or just plain curious, today's post is all about how to pack a fun bag for toddlers who are always on the go and ready to explore and discover their surroundings. 


First, (I had sooooooo much fun doing the photo shoot for today!!!) let me be clear that I am not talking about how to pack a diaper bag.  A fun bag is not a diaper bag.  I like my diaper bag as sleek as possible and filled with only the bare necessities like diapers, wipes, disposable bags, change of clothes, desitin, a sippy cup or two, plastic spoons or forks, a quick, easy snack and possibly a bib.  After all, I have 2 toddlers to run after, I can't have a super packed diaper bag.


A fun bag is filled with learning toys and items that will keep your child busy and occupied while you visit with a friend (like for me when I have prayer time at Debi's) take a trip to Grandmas, go to the park, or will be in the car for longer than 20 minutes.

A fun bag is fun!!! Get excited about packing it, and let your kids help you!  After all, they are going to be the one using the items, so give them choices and options and allow them to help you pack the fun bag (probably the night before so you aren't stressed about packing the bag and you can organize it to your liking afterward).  I'm all for involving your child because everything you do can be used as a learning experience and let's face it, it helps time goes by quicker when everyone is working together to get things done.



Second, choose a bag with sturdy handles and pockets, and lots of room. (Isn't mine nice?  It was a bridesmaid gift from Christy H.  She has excellent taste!)

Fun Bag Items



#1 Wipes, Disposable bags: You can never have enough wipes!  Teach your kids to have good cleanliness habits now and always bring a disposable bag for the car or for outings so that you don't have to worry about constant trips to a trash can.



#2 Interactive Books: My kids love the kind of books that open up to two or three pages.  They also love books that have texture, especially my 1 year old, but even Julia, my 2 and 1/2 year old will feel the ponies nose, or touch the doggy's soft fur over and over.



#3 Sorters: This sorter in particular keeps my kids busy for at least 5-10 minutes.  They count the sides of the shapes, they name the shapes, they have to find the right shape, and when they are all done, the best part is dumping them out to start all over again.  This is a good toy for more than one child because they have to share and take turns and it has many shapes to choose from.



#4 Playdough: Thanks to our favorite Aunt Suzie we have enough play dough to last us until the kids are ten!  Aunt Suzie spoils us rotten, we love her!  This is only for Julia right now since Marky is still learning not to eat it.  But Julia carries her supplies in her little bucket and sets up shop at a table and gets right to work.  She has cookie cutter tools and shaping tools to use.  Very fun stuff and it teaches her to be creatively careful.



#5 Noisy Toys, Soft Toys: Julia and Mark love to sing so we have a few toys they like to bring in the car to practice familiar songs like Old MacDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider and our Leap Frog sings the alphabet.  The soft toys are small enough to carry around but perfect to cuddle while sitting in a shopping cart or car seat, or swinging on a swing.



#6 Interactive Talking Book: Mark loves this book because on each page the narrator talks about the letters of the alphabet and asks questions.  Mark enjoys the man's voice and pressing all the buttons.

#7 Puzzles: This is a great option for when you are visting with a friend or grandma because you can help/assist your child perfectly fine while carrying on a conversation (We did this puzzle twice today during our visit with Aunt Debi)

#8 Chalk: Perfect for outside sidewalks, the park, or driveways, but beware, wipes will be needed when the drawing is done! 

#9 Coloring books, Workbooks, and Crayons:  This is an item we never leave the house without, in fact I will slip a coloring book or two with crayons in my purse or diaper bag, because the kids love to color and it really keeps them occupied.  It's another great way to bond with them because as you are coloring one side they can color the other.  You can ask them why they chose the color they did, whose in the picture, what are they doing, etc.

#10 Snacks: I saved the best for last.  We always pack extra snacks on fun outings because it saves money and time. 



Happy Kids = One Happy Mom


Hope you enjoyed my Fun Bag Secret!  Have a great weekend! Tomorrow's my Recipe Swap post, please post your own recipe to share!

Please? Baby Sign Language


We are big fans of baby sign language and just a few days ago, our Mark, who is 14 months, learned to sign, Please.

I seriously think it is the most precious sign of all.  They are supposed to rub their heart, and here it looks like Mark is saying the pledge of allegiance! 

Is he precious, or what?

He was asking for another grape...can't you see how much he is enjoying the one in his mouth?  Please, mom?

Today's Goals for the Day

Thursdays I meet with Debi for our prayer/accountability time.  The kids really look forward to seeing Aunt Debi, especially when we head over to her house, like we will be today.  Debi and I have been prayer partners since Jean Court, our first home as a married couple.  It's probably been almost 6 years that we've been praying one on one together.

Julia feels right at home at Aunt Debi's house.  Debi has a HUGE house and as Debi and I are chatting and catching up with each other, Julia and Mark are busy "exploring".  Julia's new favorite thing to do is jump on her bed.  Hmmmm, I'm not so sure I like this, but Debi is so great, and sometimes we "entertain" her and let her.  Mark gets to join in too.  I will be heading to Debi's house around 10 am, it takes me about 20 minutes to get there.  We may even go for a swim if the weather holds up, but I think today, it may rain.

Today's cycle cleaning chores are my Master Bedroom and Bathroom.  I need to vacuum, change the linens, clean the windows, declutter, clean the toilet and mirrors, and dust all the counter tops.  Not to mention the pile of laundry that's waiting for me in the laundry room, today is the kids clothes, and since we've been to the pool this week, there is extra towels, bathing suits, and such waiting for me.

Julia and Mark are going to be working on their Alphabet letters and sounds, and we will be practicing two nursery rhymes, Hey Diddle, Diddle, and Humptey Dumptey.  We are going to watch the Leap Frog DVD that goes over all the sounds, and we will do some coloring pages of review for the letters J, and M.  

I'm reading a true story, autobiography, right now called "Son of Hamas,"  I'm hoping both kids take a leisurely nap so that I can continue reading it, it is so hard to put down.  Mosab, the author, also has his own blog if you'd like to check it out.

Today I don't need to go food shopping for dinner, but I do need to prepare the Tortellini salad I have in mind for us...and for the kids I will make a white cheese sauce for their tortellini.  We haven't had any pasta this week, just Minestrone Soup, Chicken Quesidillas, and Monday night was leftovers from the weekend.

These are my goals for the day, but who knows what today brings.  I will do my best to meet everyone's needs and keep a clean house.  I'm really looking forward to the trip to Debi's today...I miss her, even though I just saw her on Sunday.

What is my purpose in life? The Power of a Praying Wife: Week 10

Cape May 2007...I can't wait for this year's trip to celebrate our anniversary...
Chapter 9  His Purpose

Psalm 20:4 May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose.

1 Corinthians 7:7 Each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.

Isn't it so great to know that nothing happens by mistake?  I find comfort in knowing that no matter what I know that God has a purpose for me and my life.  He has given me gifts and abilities and I can find joy in honoring and serving Him with those gifts in everything that I do.

When I think of this topic of purpose, right away, what comes to mind is how much God has blessed me with the ability to teach.  Since I was a little girl I have known that I wanted to teach.  How many of you played "School" in the summer?  How many of you always had to be the teacher?  Did you give homework to your siblings?  To your cousins?  To your neighbors?  I did.  I was one of those kids in high school who didn't blink when she met with her guidance counselor about what she would study in school.  God put the desire in my heart and He gave me a love for learning.

During my student teaching I even had a "run in" with my co-teacher because after the first week of me being in her classroom, she pulled me aside and said, "You know what Kristi, you should really try to be the students friend."  I sweetly nodded and agreeably smiled, but in my head I thought, "These kids have friends, they don't need a friend, they need a teacher."  She saw that I had high expectations of each student, that I expected them to walk quietly in the hallway, that I waited when they were talking when they shouldn't, that I required respect and attention...maybe she wasn't expecting that.  Regardless, by the end of my time there she saw that the students and I had a bond and that the students rose to the challenge, that they obeyed me and yet loved me too, and she wrote me a glowing recommendation.

Teaching at Timothy Christian School for almost 7 years were some of the best years of my life.  I loved my job.  I knew God had me there for a reason.  I felt such a peace and such a purpose.  I got to school early each morning and cleaned my students desks, wrote their morning assignment on the board, and couldn't wait for them to arrive.  After my first year of teaching there, I decided I wanted to learn more and earned my Master's Degree over the next 3 summers.  It was a sacrifice, and yet God put people in my life whom I still keep in touch with to this day, people whom I love and respect and have taught me so much about the Lord and my relationship with Him.  Dr. Hartzler, our dean, and dad-like figure (father of five great kids) would tell us daily in our chapels and in our courses..."Changed lives change lives."  That was our motto and each August as I would prepare for the new school year I would be so excited to meet a new group of students and share all my new ideas from grad school, all my new experiences from traveling, all my new Bible truths I studied.

In 2005, I got the Teacher of the Year Award, this was a very big deal to me because it meant that not only was I doing my absolute best at Timothy, but that other parents and teachers noticed.  Growing up I never felt like I did anything praise worthy, but this felt like real proof that I was doing something great, that I was impacting lives, and that God was really blessing me.

In 2007, John and I were anxious to add to our family...after 4 years of marriage we knew it was time.  Even after finding out we were to have a new principle, 3 new curriculum changes, which meant creating our own Reading program (A LOT Of extra Work) and even though I would be going into the new school year pregnant there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to teach up to the last minute.  I was 5 months pregnant that September and all the new challenges of teaching 4th grade and a new major curriculum was so exciting to me.  The month of December the new teacher who was to take my place, Mrs. Wilt (a young girl just graduated from PBU, and darling dear she was and is...I was so thankful to her) "shadowed" me and got to learn the ins and outs of our schedule and curriculum.  My last day of teaching was December 21, and 10 days later, Julia Star was born into our lives...our New Year's Eve baby...we were so happy.

All of the sudden, I don't know if it was the change of not teaching anymore, of being home all day, the hormones after you have a baby, or just plain depression, but for the first few months of being a new mom I suddenly felt like, "What is my purpose?"  I missed my students, I missed being in the classroom, and I didn't like not having a schedule.  I mean I had a new schedule with John and Julia, but it didn't flow like my old one, it wasn't predictable, and I didn't feel I did anything right.  From the pain of breastfeeding, to not sleeping well, I started to lose my focus, and I started to feel so hopeless.  Thank goodness it didn't last too long, but it was there all the same.  I got lots of advice and encouragement from friends, and mom friends, and I started going to MOPS which connected me to a group of Christian Moms...but it really wasn't until I just started praying more, reading God's Word more, and just accepting my new role as mommy that I found out my purpose.  I really just needed to be obedient and ask God to give me the strength and the grace to get through each day at first.

And then I started to love it!  I started to find delight in planning our meals for the month, teaching Julia how to read and talk, learning how to cycle clean my home.  I just started to find joy in the little things of each day, and God really helped me to feel like a good mom.  He helped me to see my purpose clearly.  And then I started to feel fulfilled in each day knowing that I was doing what God had planned for my life, that he designed me to have a Julia and a Mark, that he planned for me to be a stay at home mom, that he planned for me to have a husband named John, and that my job was to make life amazing for all of them.  The joy you find in just fulfilling God's purpose is unspeakable.  It feels so good.  Maya Angelou said, "The best part of life is not just surviving, but THRIVING-with passion and compassion, and humor and style, and generosity and kindness."  For the first few months of being a new mom I was just "surviving" each day.  I was just going through the motions and praying for the time John would be home at night and on the weekends.  But God had to teach me to find joy and contentment in every situation.  We don't serve a God of haphazardness, confusion, or strife.  We serve a God of joy, order, peace, and love.  Thank goodness we have a God that has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and for our lives, and our purpose is in bringing glory to Him with our gifts and abilities.

I love the quote, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning how to dance in the rain."  God has taught me how to dance in the rain, sometimes I dance better than others, but He is still working on me.

Today my prayer for you and for my John is that:

* you will be able to see your purpose clearly
* you will know that God has a high calling on your life
* you will walk in obedience to fulfill your purpose
* you will find joy and fulfillment and contentment in your purpose

Love Dare #15:  Choose a way to show honor and respect to your spouse that is above your normal routine.  Show your mate that they are highly esteemed in your eyes.

Mark at 14 months...and The Ice Cream Cone

I'm Mark. I'm 14 months now.  Mom loves me.
We have a tradition.  Me, and the kids, after dinner, after bath time, after clean diapers, and of course a clean kitchen, we head downstairs to the basement, which is the only room with a t.v. in our house and we watch a short kid movie like Shiloh, Elmo in Grouch-land, Follow that Bird, or Winn-Dixie.

Mom provides some sort of yummy dessert, sometimes it's a cookie, or a graham cracker, sometimes it's a bowl of berries or grapes, sometimes it may be a piece of cake, or a bowl of popcorn...but last Thursday, Mommy did something she's never, ever done before...she gave BOTH kids their very own ice cream cone!  She let loose and let us chow down on not only a yummy snack, but a messy snack (Ok, well there was a blanket laid on my rug, so I did cheat a little, c'mon you guys know how uptight I am, LOL)

So, here are some photos from that evening, and you can just see how my Mark is blossoming into such a handsome, young lad.  He loves his older sister and keeps a close eye out for EVERYTHING she does.  He watches to see how she does things and loves copying her and laughing with her.  I'm enjoying watching their friendship grow.  I'm basically just one proud mama over here!


I can't believe she gave me this cone.  It's great.
Julia got one too, she knows how to eat it and  watch the movie.
How does she do it?  Man, my sister is amazing.
I'm getting the hang of it.
I'm going to try to walk and eat this thing.

Life at 14 months is SWEET!


A Medieval Time

John, you will always be my Knight in shining armor!
Friday night, John left the city early, so that we could head to Lyndhurst, NJ, and celebrate Alice's birthday at Medieval Times!  (Alice is turning 24 this Tuesday, she is Debi's daughter)

Alice is like a sister to me.  I still can't believe I used to babysit her and her brother Eric when they were younger.  Alice is a few months older than my own baby sister, Sara.

I've been to Medieval times twice.  One time as a student, and one time as a camp leader.

My husband John has never been there, and he was so excited to go and celebrate with Alice and her friends and family.  We arrived around 7:30, and the "show" started at 8:00 p.m.  I was thankful to my neighbors Teresita and Cristi who babysat Mark and Julia.  We left at 6:30 p.m. and the girls played with the kids for about an hour before putting them to bed for us.

Alice, the beautiful birthday girl,  is kneeling in yellow.  Our Knight is in blue!
What is really great about Medieval Times is that everyone who works there is dressed in the time period and speaks from that time as well.  It is fun to get into character and play along.  There are real horses, real jousting matches, knights, a king, a villain (green guy), and of course a beautiful princess Lady Leonora.  We were seated in a theater like fashion, but the middle of the room is where all the knights and horses and jousting matches take place.

Lady Alice, the birthday girl!
Our Knight! Go team blue!
Throughout the evening you are eating a delicious meal, while watching the jousting.  And get this, there are no utensils!  You drink your soup from a bowl with a handle...then you are served a huge piece of chicken, a potato, and a rib...and you eat it all with your hands!  Very messy, but very, very good food!

Ev and Debi and me...my two favorite people...Alice's Dad and Mom.
Alice is such a wonderful woman of God and I am so proud of her.  Her parents, Deb and Ev, have done an amazing job raising both her and her brother Eric.  Deb and Ev are more than friends to me, they are my family.  I go to them for prayer, for guidance, for support, when my air condition was broken and me and Julia needed a place to stay, when I was house hunting Deb went with me, when I need godly advice they just hear me out and let me vent, and they have never let me down.  Alice is blessed to have such great parents!

Alice with all our warriors!
It was such a fun night out, and I got to spend it with people I love! Happy Birthday, Alice, we love you sweetie!!!

Saturday morning, Julia got her own little Medieval souvenir!


**********************************************************************************

While I was out having fun at Medieval Times, my friend Christy helped update, and give my blog a bit of a makeover...as you can see a lot of changes have been made, including my new name "Keeping Up with Kristi"  I hope you all enjoy it and like it.

A special thanks to Christy and all her tireless work...she has always been one to believe in me, and she is a faithful reader of my blog.  She knows it has been my outlet since I've been a stay at home mom.  She also knows my dream and wish to have my blog be an encouragement and a blessing to other women.  Thank you Christy.  Thank you for believing in me.  Thank you for taking the time to help set up my new Twitter account, and give my blog all the needed computer, technical touch ups that I struggle with.  Thanks for being a great friend to me.  I love you!

Saturday Recipe Swap--Minestrone

My mom loves posting pictures of me...cheese!
Todays's recipe is a crock pot recipe!!!  I made my Chicken and Sweet potato soup on Wednesday night and so this past Thursday the crock pot was still out and ready to be used again and I had lots of chopped up veggies handy, so I decided to make another yummy soup.  The kids have both been sick so I wanted to make some homemade soups with lots of fresh veggies to bring them back into good health, and my Julia especially, loves soup!!! Towards the bottom of her bowl she always asks me? "Drink it?" And I let her drink the rest of the soup...not sure if it's such good manners but she enjoys the soup so much.

Minestrone

Ingredients:

1- onion, chopped
2- carrots, sliced
1- zucchini, diced
1- cup of cabbage, shredded
2- cloves of garlic, minced
2-  15 oz. cans of kidney beans, drained
2- 14.5 oz cans  beef broth
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil (I used mine from my own backyard!!!)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups cooked elbow macaroni
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Combine all the ingredients in the crock pot slow cooker except the macaroni and parmesan cheese.  cover, cook on low 7-9 hours, cook on high 4-5 hours.  stir in the macaroni and parmesan cheese.

* I made corn bread to go with the soup...yummy!  But a loaf of crusty Italian bread is also delish!
* Click on the words Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup to get that recipe as well!

Summer School with Little Ones

Well, this mommy is a hands-on learner.  So we are going to fill this summer with lots of outdoor learning experiences.  Day trips to the zoo, the park, the library, the water park, and museums is my goal for this summer.

As well as our basic learning experiences like coloring with crayons and pencils, using play dough to shape animals and objects.  Learning to spell our name...quite a challenge, learning that our name begins with a "J" easy!

I am teaching Julia and Mark Nursery Rhymes now...this week we started Hey Diddle Diddle.  I'm doing a workbook with them.  We cut out the characters and as we say the rhyme I show Julia the order in which the characters are introduced...Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle (cat with fiddle card ), the cow (cow card) jumped over the moon (moon card)  the little dog laughed to see such a sport (dog laughing card) and the dish ran away with the spoon (dish and spoon card).  I taped each card in order that we say it on our white board easel and then after a few practices Julia helps me put them in order...Mark just claps.  Next week we will work on making our own Hey Diddle Diddle booklet, and color all the characters, Julia is learning to color in the lines and she is doing really well, Mark draws lines with the crayons and we are still teaching Mark that crayons do NOT go in our mouths (smile).

This week we only did our Nursery Rhyme once since we were recouping from being sick, but next week we'll do more practice and start a new one.  I think we'll make characters too with paper figures on Popsicle sticks...Julia loves puppets.  Nursery Rhymes are important because it teaches them phonemic awareness (rhyming words and syllables).  It also expands their vocabulary and teaches them pronunciation and introduces new concepts and ideas.  Like, we talked about how cows do NOT jump over the moon.  That is so silly mommy!!

Julia and Mark are learning their letter sounds and Julia is able to recognize her numbers.  She knows how old she is, Mark is and most of her friends...we talk about ages of all her "friends" in the car.  I say, "How old is Brenna?"  Julia shouts, "Three!"  And she holds up three fingers proudly.  I ask, "How old is Jo-Jo?"  "Two!"  How old is Marky?  "One!" I've learned that practicing things in the car really helps because she is sitting still and is focusing on what I am saying.

Some other Summer School goals are for the kids to start recognizing their letters.  I have this really cool book called, "Looking for Letters," By Finders Keepers: Fun to Find Basic Concepts.  Written by M.C. Leeka.  I like it because the illustrations are big and colorful and have all different animal picture scenes (my kids LOVE animals) and within each picture a certain letter is hiding in many different parts of the picture.  We can find the letter and practice the sound.  With Mark we just work on the animals and pictures and the sounds the animals make (he's 13 months) besides he hears what Julia is learning and he is very motivated to keep up with her.  He looks up to big sister very much.

Julia at the Turtle Back Zoo in May.

I also am teaching the kids sizes.  Usbourne First Learning book: Sizes ($4.95) is a workbook we have and  its by Jenny Tyler and Robyn Gee.  I like it because it helps children work with their parents and they discover how to compare and measure in fun ways.  It's a great way to build mathematical understanding in a very non-intimidating way.  If I had more fun books like this as a kid I think I would have enjoyed Math more as a student and I wouldn't have approached it with so much fear.  There are lots of fun pictures and underneath the pictures are 4 or 5 questions for the parents to ask their child.  Questions like, "Which balloon is the biggest?" Then you have them color it red.  Next: Color the biggest animal to the biggest balloon.  "Who has the biggest cracker?"  "Which ladder is the longest?  Who is climbing it?"  Now, some of these questions may be hard for a 2 year old, but it helps build vocabulary, it helps them to start thinking, and you can always tell your child the answer and explain why/how.  I just like the dialog it helps you with your child.  And sometimes I make up my own questions or we simply name the animals and talk about colors.

Flash Card Finatic

Remember I said I'm a hands on learner?  It's true.  In school I would study vocabulary words by making index cards with the word on one side and the definition on the other and quiz myself til I memorized each one.  I also would make up silly songs and word sentences to memorize places on a map.  I can remember exactly how I memorized all the places on the African map, Benin, Togo, etc  I made up a story about how I was "beginning to go to"...

Now flash cards are fun because it makes Julia and Mark excited just to hold the card.  It's so funny it's like they have to touch or hold whatever I touch or hold.  So we practice letters, numbers, animals, and objects with flash cards.  They are so cheap and easy to find.  The Dollar Tree has a whole school aisle and we are always dropping by to pick up a new workbook, coloring book, reward stickers, or flash cards, or BUBBLES."  Mark doesn't say much, but he does point and tries to say something, mommy just doesn't know what he's saying just yet.
I love my little brother, but I'm still learning how to share my toys with him.

Even babies love to learn and see new things and new places.  Mark at Turtle Back Zoo.

For some reason I thought this summer would be really hard once Mark started to walk.  I thought my life would be over and that all I would be doing was chasing the two of them, but honestly it has gotten easier (well, except the past week and a half when they were ill).  Now Mark plays with what he chooses to walk over to and discovers things on his own, while Julia and I can color or practice and learn what she is ready for.  The one thing that has gotten more difficult is SHARING.

Now  that Mark can walk over and choose a toy, its very hard for Julia when he chooses something she feels is only hers...but Mark really just wants to see it.  He doesn't play with dolls, but he likes to hold it and figure out how it works and why it has long crazy hair.  He's very curious, and Julia hates this.  She even says to him, "Don't touch my toys!"  Oh my, why is it easy for her to share with strangers and not her own brother???  So we practice, and practice and we are still working on sharing...anyone have any tips???




New Friends...God always provides!!!

Julia and Tabitha on the swings...Julia followed Tabitha everywhere!
New Friends!!!

Two weekends ago we had a blast with John Lee and his family.  Sharon and John opened up their beautiful home and even though it was kind of a rainy day, we still had our BBQ and fun on the swing-set with all the kids.

We got to their house at 10 am and left around 2pm (right before a "I really need a nap badly melt down could happen")  Mark was so comfortable, right at 1pm he fell asleep and slept soundly for 40 minutes.  Of course he woke up just in time for watermelon...his favorite fruit!

I love how the kids all did their own thing, but were friendly with each other too!
My husband John, met John Lee at a Jars of Clay concert.  It was such a random meeting, both of them were on line to go back stage to talk to the singers and managers and they struck up a conversation (John Lee has a Christian magazine in publication and was doing an article on the band), they realized they both worked in the city together and decided to have lunch the upcoming week.  From then on they've been like best buds (Thank you Lord for providing a godly man for my hubby in an      industry where godly men are few and far between) they meet for lunch at least twice a month if not more and we've gone out as couples to a restaurant and now we've had all the kids together.

John Lee with all the boys (his own son and his two nephews Nate and Joel)

I love how the two John's are so much alike too.  They both had their cameras outside taking pics of the kids.  They both have a son and a daughter.  They both love the Lord.  They both have AMAZING, godly, beautiful, well-spoken, very intelligent (okay I'm getting carried away) wives.  They both are in the finance industry.  And they both love talking about the Lord and martial arts movies! 

Mrs. Lee with all the kids in their lusciously delicious garden!
John Lee's parents live with them (okay let's just say their house is ginormous...when we pulled up Julia asked if it was a castle, LOL) and they have this amazing garden in the back yard, Mrs. Lee grows her own lettuce, melons, tomatoes, peppers, herbs...it was out of this world.  What really made me fall in love with her was, she picked a bunch of stuff for us to take home, and she liked my curly hair! LOL  She was so generous and so sweet and kept fussing over us and serving us.  She was so great!

All in all it was a great family day...God always provides friends in the least expected places at the least expected times.  You just have to be open and willing to talk to a stranger sometimes!  I'm so glad, John did!  John Lee's sister Anne came over with her two sons, and she became my new best friend, I don't think we stopped talking from the time we were introduced.  She was talking to me about how she used to live in East Brunswick (we are trying to buy a home there) and all the best restaurants there, how she grinds her own coffee, how she juices her own veggies to stay healthy, how she makes homemade cupcakes and is a super fanatic about how they come out, she makes her own frosting too.  We talked about the Lord, our churches, our pastors, our kids, how long we've breastfed each kid...I mean we talked about everything it was so fun.  I wish I took a picture of Anne and John's wife Sharon, but we talked so long while John was outside taking pics of the kids that I didn't get a chance, but just picture two really special ladies! 

John Lee's daughter Elizabeth, she's 6 years old
I think at first Elizabeth wasn't sure if she wanted all these kids at her house, but after a few minutes of playing she was an excellent hostess and showed all the little kids a lot of her toys and shared very nicely.  Julia loved all her dolls and doll clothes, and her play house, but her favorite part was...yup, you guessed it, jumping on their beds!  Go figure...

Julia and Jacob (he's 3)


The Power of a Praying Wife: Week 9

On Mother's Day before Marky was born...about 8 1/2 months pregnant.
Chapter 8: His Fears

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears hos not been made perfect in love."  1 John 4:18

We've all had a case of the "what ifs?"

What if I lose my job?
What if we can't pay our mortgage?
What if I get really sick and can't work?
What if our house gets broken into?
What if something happens to my spouse or my children?

Sometimes fear can "keep us from all God has for us." as Stormie would say.

There are many uncertainties in this life.  Right now John and I are facing a little bit of this.  We have some things up in the air due to a job change, a possible move, and managing a budget with one income.  We have a growing family, and supporting little people is never easy, but...God is in control, and once we take our eyes off of the Lord, and focus on the "nitty-gritty" and uncertainties of life, it can be scary!

When we are in God's presence and we are focused on Him there is nothing to be scared of.  And I think all of these uncertainties draw us closer to God because we realize just how out of control we really are, and we realize just how much we DO need Him in our lives.  I for one know it has made John and I stronger and closer as a couple because we have been praying together more and really just seeking God's face on all the matters that concern us.

This week I want to focus on praying for John that he doesn't have this kind of "paralyzing fear" but rather a fear of the Lord.  A fear of the Lord will "protect him from his enemies" 2 Kings 17:39, A fear of the Lord will "protect you from evil" Proverbs 16:6, A fear of the Lord will, "Keep His eye on you" Psalm 33:18, A fear of the Lord will "show you his mercy" Luke 1:50, and a fear of the Lord will, "give you riches and honor" Proverbs 22:4.

I had to share that in my devotional today (It's Monday evening as I type this) from Joyce Meyer's "Starting and Ending your day: Devotions for each day of the year" today's topic was Focus on God Instead of Your Fear...hmmmm, God is really trying to teach me something this week, isn't He?  I love that!  The verse for the evening was my favorite verse since Junior year of High School, Isaiah 41:10...Fear not for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."  Wow, isn't God great?  He wants us to rely on Him and not fear because when we do, we are always victorious all because of Him!  He gets all the glory.  Then we get to brag about how great He is to all our friends and family, and how He helped us through difficult times, and helped us be victorious.  Joyce Meyer says, "No matter how great and important or small and insignificant your fears may be, God is saying to you, "Fear not; I will help you!"

Pray God will...

*perfect ______hubby's name___________ in Your love so that tormenting fear finds no place in him.
*not let fear to rule over _______________
*allow His Word to penentrate _____________ fiber of his being, convincing him that our love for him is far greater than anything he faces and nothing can separate him from it.
* ______________ will fear no evil because God is with Him

Love Dare #14 Purposefully neglect an activity you would normally do so you can spend quality time with your spouse.  Do something he would love to do or a project they'd really like to work on.  Just be together.



The Five Love Languages: Part 6 Acts of Service

Daddy feeding Marky.
Acts of Service

This is one of my love languages! 

Speaking for myself, to fill my love tank, when John does things like, help feeding one of the kids a meal, takes out the trash, does the dishes, vacuums a rug, goes food shopping, unloads the dishwasher, folds a load of laundry (okay, honestly I'd rather fold our laundry, I'm sort of picky about how towels and things get folded.) it speaks volumes of love to me!

John helping me with our Thanksgiving meal.

Acts of Service however gets me in trouble with filling up John's love tank because sometimes I think, well, I cook for him, I do his laundry, I clean the house...doesn't he see how much I love him??? And I forget that John could honestly care less about those things.  That's not his love language.  It's mine.  So, I have to remember that just because those things speak volumes to me, they really are just added bonuses for John, because his love tank is filled by my affection and my words.

If John came home to a messy house, no clean clothes, no food ready to eat, want to know what he'd do?  Look around the house to find me and greet me with a hug and a kiss and ask me about my day...I know he's such a keeper ;)  That's just how he is wired...but me on the other hand (An Acts of Service woman)  If I came home to a messy house, the kids crying, nothing in it's place or ready for the next "feeding time"  I'd be searching him down and ready to explode thinking/saying "Why can't you help with x, y, and z?"  "Don't you care/love us?"  That's really how I'd feel.  Those things mean a lot to me because it's what I do all day for him and our kids, because I love them, because I care.

So, if you are an Acts of Service person, then you know exactly what I mean.  If you know a friend or are married to a spouse who speaks this love language, then you can show them you love them by speaking their language.  Ask them, "How can I be of help to you?"  "What can I do?"  If they say nothing, then sit back and relax, but if they tell you a job or a chore then consider yourself lucky that they felt comfortable enough to open up and be honest and allow you to help them!

Sick Baby Part 2

Mark woke up with a fever this morning...I think we might have round 2 of coxsackie...I'm praying we don't. 

Julia is doing much, much better.  She slept through the night last night and woke up singing.  Yesterday she had a lot of energy and did a lot of make-up eating...she made up for the past 3 days of barely any eating.

She still had her moments of bad behavior and tantrums though, so I think she is still not 100%.

If I could give any of you advice out there about what to do when you have a little one who is home sick, it would be:

1. Don't be afraid to ask for help.  I called my sister on Thursday to watch Julia when I noticed her not eating much and not being very spunky, when I had to go to VBS.  On Friday, when I brought her to the doctor, I asked my Mother in Law to watch Mark while I took her to the doctor's office.  She really just needed mommy's undivided attention.

2. Ask a lot of questions at the doctor's office.  My doctor knows that when I come in I am going to pepper him with questions because I know that he is the expert and I want to glean as much info as possible (even though I know my daughter better than anyone and sometimes mommies and daddies can overrule what the doctor says when we know what is best for our child).  Not only did I ask him what to expect from Julia, what to feed her (since she wasn't eating) how to manage her pain, but I also asked how contagious she was, should we go ahead with our BBQ, and the dreaded question...would Mark get this virus.  Being prepared has always been something I pride myself on, and knowing what to expect and how best to handle each curve ball that these sicknesses throw us.

3. Bad behavior has to be handled differently with a sick child.  Lots and lots of grace must be given to a little one who is ill.  Obviously if your child is hurting others than they need to be removed from the situation, but I've found that when my Julia is sick her emotions are all over the place, she doesn't really know what she wants and she needs lots of TLC.

4. Keep sick child away from other siblings as much as possible.  This is so much easier said than done, but of course I tried.  Usually Mark and Julia sip each other's sippy cups (I put an end to that really fast).  They share snacks, etc...all of that was halted during this sick period.  I made sure Mark played in a different area of the room than Julia.  I tried to occupy Julia with books, or play dough or coloring, all things that can be done at a table and off of the floor where Marky "hangs out".  But, as we all know, siblings usually get each other's illnesses so sometimes it is just inevitable, but it doesn't hurt to try.

5. When all else fails ice pops and ice cream are the answer.  I was rather proud of myself when Dr. Shih told me to let her have ice pops and ice cream to her hearts content because the day before when she kept refusing food, and said her throat hurt I did just that.  (The sores were in her mouth too, poor girl, every time she swallowed solid foods she would cry in pain, it was awful).  But because ice pops and ice cream are cold and liquid-y they were not painful, and rather tasty.  With this Coxsackie virus children usually get dehydrated so the extra liquids are another added benefit.

6. Pray, pray, pray. (This should be #1 by the way)  Pray over your kids when they are sick, have your friends pray for them, pray for your self to have wisdom and grace and discernment.  Pray for your spouse to be patient.  Whenever someone is sick all schedules and routines go out the window because the new number 1 priority is to get them well.  So pray for patience and strength.  And God will get you through it!  Well, I'm off to nurse baby #2 back to good health!

Sick Baby

Today's real post is canceled due to mommy-hood.  Yesterday morning, my Julia just wasn't herself, and it only got worse throughout the day.

Aunt Sara came over to watch Julia as she layed on the couch and watched 101 Dalmatians and Elmo, and Mark and I headed to VBS.  Julia went to bed at 6pm the night before and had a fever, that was my first sign that something wasn't right.

Then she woke up barely eating, barely talking, and just not her spunky, get down to business (fun) attitude.  After her 2 hour nap in the afternoon she woke up hysterical.  I noticed a rash on her hands, feet, and private area.  She kept itching and said her mouth hurt, her belly hurt, and she had a headache.  It was then that I wished I ran to the store to buy some Benadryl...because the rest of the evening got much worse with crying, asking for medicine, and asking to see the Doctor.  What 2 year old asks to see the doctor?

So last night we put her to bed at 7:45 and she kept waking up and crying and scratching every 15 minutes.  By 11 am I just brought in my pillow and blanket and she and I camped out on her bedroom floor.  This relaxed her and there was no more crying or outbursts, but still tons of scratching.  I did find some topical benadryl lottion, but that really didn't help much.  All night I heard her scratching.

This morning my challenge will be to get everyone ready, drive to church to drop off the apple juice I needed to bring today, call the doctor and beg for an appt first thing this morning, and keep everyone happy.  Pray for Julia, pray for Mommy (wisdom, patience, and strength--I barely slept), pray for John, and pray for Marky who keeps getting told, "GO away Marky, don't bother me!" By his big sister who normally adores him...I guess the pain and crankiness has taken over.

I love all of you and pray you have an amazing weekend!  I'm counting on things looking up by Saturday!

I think Julia may have a hand, foot, mouth virus.  Click here to see what I researched.  We have a doctor's appt at 10:30.  Thank God.

The Five Love Languages: Part 5 Receiving Gifts

My favorite Christmas Gift was Julia on Dec 31, 2007
Let's be honest, who doesn't like to receive gifts?  I can remember being a teenager, a Junior in high school, John and I were dating, and every 28th of the month he would place a rose in my locker.  What a gesture of love!  That was such a special memory and receiving gifts from John has always been fun!

The person whose Love Language is gifts needs those mementos, needs those gifts as a reminder, as a token of your love for them.  It's usually not just the gift that matters, but the thought that goes into it.

Gary Chapman, from the book, The Five Love Languages says, "Gifts are visual symbols of love...symbols have emotional value."  For example, for those of you who are married, I'm sure your wedding ring is your visual symbol of love with your spouse.  Every time you look down at your finger, or take your ring off to do the dishes, or make a meat loaf, or roll some dough, you are reminded that you belong to someone.  You remember how and when he proposed.  You may even remember picking out your ring.

My husband picked out my engagement ring, and let me tell you, he did a great job.  It's beautiful.  "Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than to others."  I guess that's why not every married couple wears their wedding rings.  (Although, you will always find me and John wearing ours.)  In fact, I've never seen John without his.

"A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "Look he was thinking of me," or "She remembered me."  You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift."  I think that is another reason why I love sending cards and care packages and why I love receiving mail.  When you open up that card or package there is no mistaking the love, effort, and time someone put into as they thought of you.  It's so nice.  My friend Christy H. makes me CDs.  She puts all different music artists on them...it takes time, and effort and lots of love.  I treasure those CDs.  If my house was on fire Id run back in to save them, right along with my wedding album and the kids baby albums.

Gifts and Money 

Let's say your love language is not receiving gifts and you are quite the saver/investor.  Spenders will have little difficulty with purchasing gifts for their spouse or loved ones, but a saver might.  You may not be the type to purchase things for yourself so why should you purchase things for your spouse?  Gary Chapman says, "By saving and investing money you are purchasing self worth and emotional security.  You are caring for your own emotional needs in the way you handle money.  What you are not doing is meeting the emotional needs of your spouse."  (this book is geared toward a husband/wife relationship)  So basically, Gary Chapman went on to say that to fill your spouse's love tank in this area you need to see that purchasing gifts for your spouse is a great investment.  He says, "Don't worry about your savings.  you will always be a saver, but to invest in loving your spouse is to invest in blue chip stocks!"  I liked that perspective.

The Weavers, our dear friends who are more like family.


The Gift of Self

This is a great gift.  It is you.  It is spending time.  It is merely your presence.  Being there for people when they need you.  This will also speak loudly to your spouse or to someone whose primary love language is receiving gifts, because what better gift out there is better than YOU?  If I could have a day spent with all the people I love and all we did was sit around and talk and just be together, oh my, that is all I would ask for.  I'd much rather a friend's presence or my spouse's presence than a present.

The gift of John's presence spent together in London.


"Gifts need not be expensive, nor must they be given weekly.  But for some individuals, their worth has nothing to do with monetary value and everything to do with love." ---Gary Chapman

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