Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions


New Years Resolutions, it is a time-honored tradition. I have never been much into making resolutions. Let's be realistic....how often do those things work out?? How many times have you written out New Years Resolutions and had them pan out?? I doubt I have had one come through.

I have been reflecting on 2010 a lot and where I want to be in 2011 and thinking on the concept of resolutions. Should I set some goals for myself and what should they be??

More time spent with God?
More time spent in the word?
More exercising?
Less sweets?
I will lose ____ pounds?
I will read at least 5 classic novels?
I will spend more time with my family?
I will spend less time watching tv?
I will spend less time on my computer?
*gasp* I will spend less time on facebook?

All of these and more are good goals to have...and probably top most people's resolutions list. I have been trying to get to the heart of what I need to see happen in 2011...

Here are some things I would like to see happen in 2011:

New laminate floors in my living room.
New living room furniture.
Painted stairwell.
Better decorating in my home (new window treatments, wall decor, etc).
Bigger tv for Matt
New guitar for Matt
New blu-ray player for Matt
Guitar lessons for Sierra
Piano lessons for Daniel

Superficial, selfish, and true. These are things I look forward to in 2011.

Now, the thing is, most of that top list is also true for me, too. I DO want to spend more time with God and the Word. I DO want to exercise more, lose 10 pounds, eat less sweets. I wouldn't mind reading a few classic novels and spending less time on the tv, computer and facebook. I am not sure I could spend more time with my family...

Sadly, these seem less attainable than the more superficial goals. The first two on my superficial list should be taken care of within a month or so...it's already planned out. The rest is semantics....money....creativity...it's all fairly easy.

Time is a sacrifice. A sacrifice that is easier said than done. Wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning to read the bible in quiet.....wait, LOSE 30 minutes of SLEEP....PRECIOUS SLEEP?? EXERCISE??? Wait, taking a whole 30-60 minutes a couple times a week to improve my health?? Spend time on a CLASSIC novel, when I could watch a netflix dvd??? Wait, no...you want me to cut down on tv time??? What in the WORLD!!!

Crazy stuff...these resolutions. I can't make heads or tails of them.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review


I have heard so many people talk about how tough 2010 was for them, and, unfortunately, it is hard to not relate. 2010 had it's ups and downs for us, too. I am definitely ready for a new beginning and have a lot of things I would like to change. But first, here is a brief recap of OUR 2010.

We are a family who LOVES movies. We go to a lot of them (when we can). This year, we had some pretty EXCITING movies that came out in theaters that were our favorites.

By FAR, the ones we MOST anticipated were:
and
Despicable Me was EASILY the best movie we saw this year!! It was funny and just fantastic.

Daniel turned 5 at the beginning of 2010. 5! It hardly seems fair....

With turning 5 came the inevitable....he had the absolute audacity to begin Kindergarten in August. He was more than ready for this new phase of life. He has been excelling in school, as we knew he would. Kindergarten is so much different than it was even a few years ago when Sierra was in Kindergarten. It is amazing what he can do!! He has the best teacher I have ever met...and I have met a lot. She is absolutely AMAZING and I am grateful that he has had such a positive start to school.

He got stung by a bee in September and he had a slight allergic reaction to it. This was a roller coaster ride for us as we became terrified of what this would mean for us. We had to get epi pens to give to the school and to keep for ourselves in case he went into anaphilactic shock. In the end, the allergist has come to believe that he does not have a serious allergy to bees. We are equipped if it becomes serious, but we are not living in fear.

Really, Daniel's 2010 has been a good one. He has hardly gotten sick at all...he lost his first tooth....he started school....and he is a boy without a care in the world.

Sierra's year has been a bit more....well....challenging. The first 4 months or so for her saw her having strep twice (once while we were on vacation) and a sinus infection once. Over the summer, she ended up having her tonsils removed.

Sierra has no fear when it comes to needles or surgery and was very excited about having the surgery.....until it was over. I think it is safe to say that she will not be so enthusiastic about surgery again. It was a ROUGH week and a half or so. However, she has not gotten sick since (minus some intense growing pains and painful molars....which is sadly how she was ending her year).

She also had the audacity to get a year older. She turned 11 in May and was all to happy to get older.

She ended her 5th Grade year with a bang...she had the best teachers ever (outside of Daniel's K teacher, of course). Her summer was filled with time spent with her BFF, her surgery, Splashtown, and Preteen Camp (after which she came home glowing after having such a great experience conversing with God).

Besides having her tonsils removed, her biggest change this year was school. She begged with me to allow her to be homeschooled. She had many good reasons why she should be and Matt and I decided we would try this...a risk when your child is in 6th grade. So far, I see nothing but benefits in this decision and she is loving being homeschooled.

2010 for me has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. The highs have been many...and I do not know if I can list them all. My kids and their growth has been a fun thing for me this year. I joke about how I do not like them growing up...but in reality, it is fun. I cried when Daniel started Kindergarten and my heart jumps when I watch him walking into the school. Our situation is different than most. Neither of my kids were ever in daycare or preschool or Mother's Day Out. Where I went, they went. Where they went, I went. It is quite surreal to all the sudden one day lose that time together.

Don't get me wrong, though...my heart also swelled with PRIDE as I watched him go into that school...into his classroom....such confidence he had. He never had a doubt in his mind that this is where he belonged and each morning he is excited to get up and go to school.

Sierra is quickly getting closer to teenager and it fills me with GREAT pride to see who she is becoming. I see other girls her age and how they treat their mothers and Sierra is simply not that girl. She would come home from school telling me how the kids thought it strange that she would actually talk to her own mother (perish the thought). Sierra and I are very close and the older she gets, the better our relationship gets. This is a good thing seeing how now she is home with me all the time. lol

I had the great privelege to go see Wicked with her this summer...the single best show I had ever seen. Sierra and I were awestuck and I found myself kicking myself for supposing it to be a bad show simply because it had a witch in the poster. I am counting the days till I can see it again (the number is infinite since I am not sure WHEN that will be).

We have had some financial issues this year that has been difficult at times, but God is always faithful and we have never done without. I am a whiner, though, and so I am sure I did not make it easy on the family. I hope to make things better in this area in 2011.



Matt's year was the biggest roller coaster ride. He was taken off of one client (one he had been in for years) and put with a different client (a move he cautioned against) and than moved back to his original client. It was a yo-yo affect that caused a bit of stress for him. Soon after he was settled again in his old client team, there was a big announcement at his company...it had been bought out by another company. THIS scared me as you always here about layoffs in these situations. Matt was assured that those in his position were safe because this new company did not have anyone that could do these jobs. They have held true to this...there are no plans to layoff Matt and this is good.

Other than the job rollercoaster, this year has been pretty standard for Matt. He is easy...he floats along on the waves without much of a care.



There are many more things I could talk about. Some negatives I could list, but I won't. This year is almost done....next year is another one (kinda sounds like Dr. Seuss saying). We have hopes for bigger better thing for our clan. We have hopes and dreams. But, all in all, I can't say 2010 was bad...not even close to bad. It had it's moments, as every year has....but many of those moments were GREAT!!!!

So, from our house to yours, Happy End of 2010 and Happy Beginnings to 2011!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Here Comes Santa Claus...?


We decided early in our careers as parents that we would not be partaking in the tradition of Santa. This was an easy thing for Matt...he never grew up with Santa. I, however, did grow up with Santa and looked forward to doing this with my own children. I argued with Matt for a long time...like a year or more...all the while taking my sweet baby Sierra to sit on the big guy's lap to get her picture taken. Matt would grudgingly follow behind. He would grumble under his breath his objections to this ritual and I would get frustrated at him taking the magical air out of my balloon.

But then, the unthinkable happened. I came to understand and AGREE (this doesn't happen often....lol) with my husband. He had good points for not wanting to do the Santa thing:

1) he never grew up with it (or any other fantastical creation like the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy). Ok...this was his weakest argument.

2) He believed in keeping the focus of the holiday where it should be...in a miracle birth of a savior. He did not like how kids focused so much on a fictional hero where there is a real hero that gave the greatest gift EVER to us. It rubbed him the wrong way.

3) He does not believe in lying to his kids...and yes, he believed this to be a lie. He wants his kids to trust in him and me fully...no doubts. He felt very strongly about this...even to the point of saying if I were to pursue the Santa thing and one of his kids were to come to him and ask him if Santa were real, he would have no choice but to be honest with them. This point made me a bit mad....at first. I came to see the wisdom in this, though.

4) He works hard.....really hard. He HATES the thought of some fictional character taking credit for what he worked hard to give to his kids. He wants his kids to know that we lovingly picked out their gifts...there is HEART and SOUL behind each gift and a REAL LIVE person to hug and THANK.

His arguments became harder and harder to argue. I soon saw the wisdom in it and agreed we would go his way.....and I have NEVER regretted it. Sierra, honestly, never had ANY interest at ALL in Santa. It was quite strange...people would ask what Santa would bring her for Christmas and she would look at them like they were psycho. lol Daniel, on the other hand, has had more of an issue grasping the concept. In years past...no biggie. This year, it is all about Santa. He has written a couple letters to Santa (one he put in a bottle on the lawn) and once saw Santa at a restaurant and before we knew it was on his lap. We laugh and explain...if he wants something he needs to let us know.

Now, we are not crumudgeons about it. They watch all the Santa movies...just as Mickey Mouse is a cute cartoon figure and Iron Man is an exciting action hero...Santa is just a fun thing to watch. We love Rudolph and Frosty and Prep and Landing. They are fun.

Probably our biggest obstacles are other parents. It is funny how we have taught our kids to be respectful to other families who choose to do the Santa thing...absolutely do NOT tell other kids that Santa is not real. But, when other parents find out that our kids do not believe, WHOA. I often feel like we are abusing our children by this choice. We are squashing their imaginative spirit...course these adults are never around my children and do not see how deep and wide their imagination caverns spread. I have never met a kid with a bigger imagination than my son...and Sierra, now 11 1/2 going on 16, might not have the imagination she ONCE had....her imagination was CRAZY even a year or so ago.

It often feels like so many people need to justify their choice to do Santa...as though I am judging them for their choice. It simply is not true. It is a personal choice we made and we hold no ill will to those who went the other way. Santa is a fun tradition. I have many memories of laying awake in bed listening for reindeer or boots. I never heard them, but I always awoke to some treasure (my favorite, a baby doll with a dress and a matching stroller). I remember the feeling of anticipation. I also remember finding out the truth (admittedly a cruel admission) and feeling crushed. BUT, that in no way made my decision. I listened to my husband and followed my heart.

Funny thing about Sierra being older, is I can get her perspective on this. She has told me how much she appreciates the fact that we did not do Santa. She says that she knows just how deep our honesty is (not that I am claiming perfection 100% of the time...but it is our goal to be as honest as possible). She says she knows that each present is a present that we, her parents, picked out for her. I do not even have my kids write lists. I listen to them. I hear them say things like "I wish I could have...." or "I want ... so bad". I catalog these items and than try my hardest to provide these to them. I do not need them to list things out...

But, for the parents who have the Santa tradition, please know that I do not judge you for your choices. I do not see anything wrong with letting your kids believe. IT was just not for us. We love Christmas very much and spend many man hours making it special for our kids and each other. We simply cut out one small part of it. I have no regrets in following Matt's lead on this. Sierra is a good example of why this works...for us. If my kids are well-rounded and happy, than everyone else can take a big breath and move on.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful Thoughts


Before November began, my sister-in-law challenged all her friends and family on Facebook to post a thankful thought for each day in November. I thought it was a good idea, but thought that the likely hood that I would actually remember each day was unlikely. However, I DID manage to post a thought for each day and it was pretty neat. So, I wanted to post them here, in order, for me to look back on from time to time.



Day 1: My thankful thought for today would be my #1 thankful thought: I am thankful for my salvation in Christ.

Day 2: I am thankful to be a full born and bred Texan!! Texas is the most incredible state ever!! Why did I EVER consider leaving this great state!??

Day 3: Today, I am thankful for the ability to stay home for my husband and my kids. I am thankful that I can make my home a safe haven as well as a warm place for us to spend time together.

Day 4: Thankful thought of the day: I am thankful for my husband. I am truly the luckiest woman in the world to have a man who sacrifices SO MUCH for his family. He is truly a family man 100% and more. He is AWESOME!!

Day 5: Thankful thought of the day: I am thankful today for Daniel's Kindergarten Teacher, Mrs. Stessel. She is an incredible teacher and Daniel is thriving beyond thriving under her direction!

Day 6: Thankful thought of the day: I am thankful for FFPS (Fun Fair Positive Sports) giving Daniel the opportunity to have the BEST time playing soccer each week. It is a great organization that encourages fun over competition (not that I am against competition, just not for a 5-year old). So yay us...Soccer game bright and early this morning!



Day 7: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful for my church, Woodsedge, this morning. It is a great church filled fantastic people. Pastor Jeff is REAL and his messages go to the heart. I love my church and look forward to Sunday mornings every week.

Day 8: Thankful thought of the day: Today I am thankful for the abundance of food currently sitting in various areas of my kitchen. It is a blessing to be able to have this staple that so many struggle to provide. Today, I will be praying for those who have difficulties feeding their families...and for us who do not, that ...we will donate to those causes who feed families and the elderly!!

Day 9: Thankful thought of the day: I am thankful for new life. As I write, a friend of mine is likely getting induced and will hopefully meet her new son today. There is nothing quite as thrilling as having a baby...the smell, the sounds, the cuddling. I can't wait to meet the little guy. She has 2 daughters and I am thrilled she will get to experience the fun and joy of having a son.

Day 10: Thankful thought of the day: Pretty obvious...and 2 thoughts today!! I am thankful for Kenny, who showed kindness to a stranger in the dark parking lot of Auto Zone. Praying blessings over him today. Also, I am thankful for baby Liam who got to enter this world in one of the best families yesterday. I get to go see him today!!!

Day 11: Thankful thought for today: Veteran's Day!! I am thankful for those men and women, who like my father and father-in-law as well as (currently) my brother-in-law, have served or is serving in the the military. I am thankful for the freedoms we have because of the sacrifices that are made daily by men and women who de...fend us!! Thank you to all who have sacrificed for me and everyone who lives in this great country!

Day 12: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful that laughter rules my house. Daily, the sound of laughter can be heard more often than any other sound. There is nothing better to the ears than the sound of your children having fun together.



Day 13: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful that tonight, my husband and I will get to go on a date! I believe our last date was in August when we went to see Pat Benetar. Tonight, we will go see "Morning Glory" and than out to Olive Oil for some Greek food!!! YAY US!!!

Day 14: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful for my family and the stability and security that I have. My husband is our rock, someone each of us can go to with the biggest of world shattering problems and he will always have a solution. My kids are loving and kind...sweet....respectful...and almost always good. This family of ours is ROCK SOLID and our faith in Christ DIAMOND SOLID!!

Day 15: Thankful thought for the day: Today I am thankful for Mondays....yes, you read right. I am thankful for Mondays. The weekend is over...Mondays mean I can get re-organized. Monday is like waking up to a fresh new start....the beginning of a new week. I admit, though, I am not thankful for the laundry part of Mondays! ;-)

Day 16: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful for living in the awesome area of Spring/The Woodlands. It is such a beautiful area that has anything and everything one needs in shopping, food, entertainment and more and is close enough to the great city of Houston for those things it does not offer.

Day 17: Thankful thought for the day: Today I am thankful for good Christian music. I am thankful for the variety that can be found (if you look for it...unfortunately, the radio station doesn't play it). I like creating my playlists on my ipod and listening to Skillet followed by Natalie Grant or maybe David Crowder or Fly...leaf or Relient K or Tenth Avenue North. The list is endless!!

When I think of music, I think of David on a mountain with his harp. He wasn't singing about hooking up with the shepherdess on the next hill....but singing songs of praise to his Creator. Music is getting lost in a sea of filth. Everything from country to rap and all that is in between is just disgusting. I am also thankful for kids who have enough discernment to know that that is not good and choose to avoid it.

Day 18: Thankful thought for the day: this one I may just choke on a bit, but God says that in EVERYTHING to be thankful. Here it goes....I am thankful for my Kia Sedona. (that hurt a bit). It gets me where I need to go each day....when I grumble, it still plays my favorite songs....it brings me home and is not my home.... Whew....

Day 19: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful for the ability to go and see Toby Mac and Skillet tonight with my favorite girl!! I look forward to the VIP part of the concert. I am also thanful for all the other activities for the day including going to my son's Fun Run and Thanksgiving party this morning!!

Day 20: Thankful thought(s) for today: I am thankful to have gotten to go to the Skillet/Toby Mac concert last night with my daughter. I am thankful that we were able to go to the Q&A. I am thankful I was able to ask John Cooper (lead singer for Skillet) a question I have had since I first started listening to them. I am also thankful that I made it safely home after decidin to do a different route via my iphone maps app.....and didn't get lost when my iphone died before I got to the area I am most familiar with!

Day 21: Thankful thought of the day: I am thankful for life and health. Today, we will celebrate my husband's 39 years of life as we just hang out as a family doing what he loves best....togetherness, movies, mariokart, and steak and potatoes!! As I continue to pray for Felecia, I gain a greater appreciation of our own health. Plz pray with me for this family!!

Day 22: Thankful thought for the day: Today I am thankful for my husband, Matt, who turns 39 today!! I am thankful for the man he is. All who know him knows his character....he is, easily, the best man out there. I clearly do not deserve him, but the jokes on everyone cause he's mine for keepsies!! lol And, I am also thankful that while this is his last year in his 30s, I still have 4 more years to go!!!

Matt is sacrificial, putting the needs of his family above his own. He works in a job that is not his favorite, not in his giftings, to provide a good life for his family. His clothes are tattered and torn because he would rather his kids (and wife) have more while he has less. He also has a servant's heart when it comes to his family. He does dishes, cooks dinners, walks the dogs, cleans the litter, vacuums the floors, mows the lawn, cleans up toys, takes the kids to the park.

He wrestles with his son, has nerf gun wars with both of them. He has never missed a soccer practice or game. He attended every ballet dress rehearsal and performance. He never misses a school performance, open house, teacher meeting, do-nuts with dad, or anything else school related. He attends all important doctor's visits for the kids. He makes sure bills are paid and our money is managed. he does not leave the parenting to me while he hangs with the boys. If you were to ask him out to drinks, he would kindly turn you down as his priority is this family.

He is a dad. He is a husband. He takes both these titles VERY seriously. He is a Christian who pursues God and pursues to be who God WANTS him to be. BUT, probably the most impressive thing about Matt is.....he puts up with ME!!!

Day 23: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful today for my kids. After witnessing how many siblings behave with one another, I am thankful for my 2 kids who love each other SO MUCH. I am thankful for their affection to each other and the fact that they hardly ever fight. It makes weeks like this when both are home SO MUCH MORE enjoyable!!



Day 24: Thankful thought for the day! Today, I am thankful for the soldiers, who at this time of year are out of this country and away from their families insuring our freedom to celebrate these holidays (and our freedom). My brother-in-law is one of these and I will be praying for him and his family as they celebrate without him!!

Day 25: Thankful thought of the day: I am thankful for family and friends and facebook that keeps me connected to 98% of them. Each one of you have had a hand in making me who I am today and I like who I am!! Have a wonderful thanksgiving to you all!!

Day 26: My early thankful thought for tomorrow: I am thankful for a husband willing to go out and brave the stores for some VITAL Black Friday sales while I sleeeeep!!!
(It turns out I did not get that sleeeeeeeep, and I went with him for the sales....it was funner than sleeping!).

Day 27: Thankful thought for today: I am thankful for these 4 weeks that precede Christmas. I am thankful for the lights and the music, the decorations and the cheer....I am thankful for the joy on my kids' faces and the excitement. I am also thankful for the shopping times...I think it's fun and it makes me all giddy inside.

Day 28: Thankful thought for the day: I am thankful for 2 nights of a full night's sleep. I am even more thankful to not only have the sleep, but to have woken up each morning without a headache! I went all day yesterday without a headache!! Yep, I am thankful to the hilt for this blessing!!

Day 29: Thankful thought for the day: Today, I am thankful for my son. Had it not been for God's nudging me to have a son, I would have never considered having him. It just goes to show you that God knows WAY more than I do. Daniel has been such a blessing to my life. He is just so sweet, cute, cuddly, considerate, smart...just a GREAT kid!! Thank you God for telling me to have this awesome boy!!

Day 30: My last thankful thought of the day: I am thankful for my daughter, Sierra. She has been a part of our lives for 11 1/2 years. She came into our lives as a surprise we weren't sure we were ready for, but when I first felt that butterfly movement in my tummy, I fell in love. It was due to that feeling of joy I had as she grew inside of me that I KNEW without a DOUBT that God was real...this couldn't just be a random act of cells. She has been a huge blessing ever since. She is kind and sweet...her heart is so tender and her faith in God is so HUGE. I learn a lot from her and am IMMENSELY proud of who she is becoming. Through her, I became who God wanted me to be...a mother!! I love you baby!!

So there you have it...my month of thankfulness. What a blessing it has been for me to reflect on what I am thankful for...and I could keep on going. God has richly blessed me in so many areas, there are too many to count.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7


Friday, November 5, 2010

4-Way Stops

4-Way Stops, or All Way Stops (as they are called in some places) are the epitome of frustration for my husband (and for me). He gets so annoyed when he gets to one as he knows that most people seem to have no clue how one operates. He is a mild-mannered man who most would agree that they have never seen mad or frustrated....some have expressed a desire to see him mad. Get in a car with him and drive around The Woodlands and you will see frustration.

You see, The Woodlands, and it's surrounding areas, are full of such intersections....a part of the road where there are 4 stop signs. When you come to a stop at one, what does one do??? Well, living in this area, one should know WHAT to do as there are such intersections EVERYWHERE.

Amazingly enough, it never fails. At almost each stop, you will find someone who either doesn't know how to deal with the cofusion of 4 cars sitting at 4 different stop signs or just doesn't care (I, personally, think the latter, but Matt thinks they are all idiots).

So, what do you do when you get to a 4 Way Stop sign?? Well, it is a "wait your turn" intersection. Whoever stopped at said intersection first goes first, second goes second, and so on. You know...that thing we learn when we are 2?? "Take turns!", "No cutting in line", etc. So, if you arrive at said intersection and and 2 of the 4 cars there were already there...do you go, or do you wait?? Well??? Of course...you wait until both those cars go and THAN you proceed through. It really isn't that hard!!

Well, apparently it is. Matt just groans and creaks and bangs the steering wheel (yes, the steering wheel) in frustration. It is really kind of amusing to me, the passenger. It is rare that I, myself, get to see him this upset. I often giggle as he struggles to get others to learn how these things work with some sort of osmosis or mental tranferrence. lol

So, for my husband's mental health, please use those stops properly!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween

When I was very young, I lived in a small town outside of El Paso, TX. I remember, vaguely, trick or treating (I think I remember being Barbie one year and Popeye another). We moved from the small town when I was six, almost 7. We moved from suburbia to "way out in the boon docks". My dad bought a biggish piece of property (4 1/2 acres...about). It was pretty remote and so my days of trick or treating ended. No tricks. No treats. No costumes. Due to our remoteness, we did not get trick or treaters either. Halloween faded into a holiday that I watched on TV, but did not experience. I could care less...I do not remember having any ill feelings and as an adult, gave little thought to the holiday.

When we became parents, all things holiday took on new meanings. Christmas, which is always fun, became SO MUCH BETTER (we did opt out of doing the Santa thing...Matt is avidly against lying to his kids). Halloween, though, that became a controversy.

I became a Christian when Sierra was just a couple months old. In my church, especially in my group of friends, I came to understand the origins of Halloween. It is the celebration of all things evil. It's the Devil's night. It is dark. Well, I couldn't have any of that...so, we made the decision that we would not participate in Halloween. It was easy, at first...Sierra was just a baby. When she got a little older, we found out about church festivals on that oh so evil night, so we would go (but no way would we dress up for it). We would see all the kids at the festivals having SO MUCH FUN in their princess costumes, pirate costumes, super hero costumes, etc and something would twitch inside.

As the years progressed, we began letting Sierra dress up for Halloween, but only for fall festivals and only in something positive. I was one of those parents that was at the school protesting anything Halloween (if you, as a teacher, are reading a Halloween book, than give Sierra an activity to do elsewhere). We would cover our windows, making our house very dark so Trick or Treaters would pass our house by. Oh yeah...I was shining my light for Jesus as I hid in the dark.

It occured to me, one day. The origin of Christmas. God didn't just call down to Earth one day and say, "Thou shalt celebrate the birth of my son on the 25th of December every year!" This holiday began as a pagan holiday...Winter Solstice (I believe). It was a holiday that the Catholic Priests abhorred and decided the best thing to do would be to begin to celebrate the birth of Christ at the same time and try to win the Pagans over with stories of His birth.

Same thing with Easter. It is a Pagan Holiday and the Catholic priests did the same thing only this time to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. As we now know, both holidays are celebrated world wide and most know the root of the holidays (though many may not celebrate it this way) as religious holidays. But their roots lie in Pagan rituals. Do we decide to just stop celebrating these holidays based on their origins?? Do we decide to stop putting up a Christmas Tree when we discover that that, too, was based in Pagan rituals??

So, that brings me to Halloween. When I see little kids running down the street in excitement in their Princess costumes...or their Iron Man costumes....are they celebrating a holiday of evil and death, or one of fun and imagination?? Do they even know what that means?? Or are they having fun....being told how cute they are.....going from house to house asking for candy?? Oh yeah, that is some evil doings there. And what am I doing when I am out with a smile on my face greeting those little charmers and showing them love as well as enjoying my kids joy?? Am I not showing Christ??

So, we celebrate Halloween. Let's face it...most of the characters out there are make believe!! I think we give Satan more power than he deserves or has!! I wonder how much victory he gets in our intolerance vs. being one who chooses to be out among the crowds, talking with neighbors you would NEVER meet otherwise!! Poor Sierra, she only got 3 years of trick or treating due to my intolerance.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"You Again"


So, my husband called me this morning, around 10:30. He said "Get Sierra, get in the car right now, and go to the movies to see "You Again". He knew I had cabin fever since I stayed close to home this week, Sierra's first week of homeschooling. I took advantage of the time to keep the house clean and making yummy food for us to enjoy, but today is a beautiful day here in The Woodlands, TX and he knew I wanted to be free.

I thought...why not. So, I shouted to Sierra to be ready in 2 minutes (not hard since I make her get dressed and get ready as if she were in school everyday) cause we were going to the movies. We pulled off to a convenient store for goodies (cause I am NOT paying for movie goodies) and off we went.

This movie is an odd movie...it's PG. Do you know how many PG comedies there are out there?? The precentage MUST be in the LOW single digits. Not only was it PG, but it was a GOOD PG. Sadly, the best comedies are the ones filled with vulgarity and promiscuity...and thus we don't get to see them. This one was a bit on the cheesy side (what comedy isn't?), but it was VERY enjoyable. I laughed a LOT and was uncomfortable in all the right parts (those scenes where the actor is making a fool of him/herself). The reviews for the movie weren't the best...but, as a friend had told me, it was definitely worth watching (and supporting....there are not enough of these clean movies out there).

The interesting thing about this movie was the relatability of the main character to my own HS years. You see, it is about a girl, Marnie, whose HS years were spent in a constant state of awkward, from her braces, to her glasses, to her acne filled face. She was clumsy, somewhat nerdy, and singled out as an outcast by all. Her brother, who was beloved by everyone, gave her the pep talk that allowed her to make it through HS and go on to not only become successful in life (career) but also in her looks (long stringy hair gone, beautiful blonde now...braces replaced by straight, white teeth.....glasses replaced by contacts....and acne replaced with creamy skin.......awkward to beautiful and confident). She finds out that her brother is marrying her arch nemesis from HS, the girl who tortured her for 4 long years and she finds herself obsessing over acknowledgement and redemption for her wronged past.

I was that girl. My torture began in 6th grade. I was always quiet and kept to myself...and then my father and step-mother decided to paint a bullseye on me! It began with rollers. You know the kind...sponge rollers...pink. My stepmother would put about 100 on my head each night. In the morning, she would pick the curls out to a FRO and than would slick my hair down to my ears and pin it....so I would have a ring of tight curls going around my head!! SICK, right??? It gets worse. As if that wasn't bad enough, they didn't want the curls to loosen.................so I had to wear a HAIR NET!!! Oh, they tried to ease the blow to my self esteem by getting me ones with BEADS in it. Yep...as if my FIERY RED HAIR wasn't bad enough (at the time...I LOVE it now), now I had frizzy curly hair with a hair net!!

To make matters worse?? My step-mother decided to make me dresses. Now, I thought they were pretty, but I soon discovered they were not (I remember one girl telling me that her mom would not buy the class picture because of my red picnic tablecloth dress....it was a red and white plaid, not checkered, and had a red bib and red pockets...it was my favorite dress until that moment).

So, there I was.....a small, skinny, pale red haired girl with frizzy, curly hair in a hair net, bad clothes, and I was shy....oh, and I always had my nose in a book. Yep...a combination for instant ridicule and so the fun of school begun.

I endured this ridicule, often to a HIGH level of pain and/or humiliation, for 7 years of school.

I have often thought how awesome it would be if even one of my tormentors apologized. Just one. I have played it out in my mind. Oh how great it would be. To only be told "I am so sorry". That has not happened, of course. I doubt it will. My husband has said he would like to beat up all my former schoolmates for the damage done to my self esteem.

But this isn't boo hoo on Sandra time. A lot has happened in the 18 years since graduation (18 years? wow!). I had to stay in the town I lived in (a small town, much like the one in the movie, except MUCH dingier) for a year after graduation due to a surgery I had scheduled (jaw), but the first chance I got, I left. It was a liberating feeling, striking out on my own. As I drove myself from that small town to college (Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX), I remember laughing and smiling...determing that the shy, geeky self was gone. By the time I pulled up to my dorm, I had taken off the old and put on the new. I became outgoing and friendly. I quickly gained a gaggle of friends and over the next few years, began to try to patch up the holes in my life....at the time with band-aids and duct tape (I was not as quick a study as Marnie in the movie).

Than I met my husband. He didn't know he was a construction worker, but he is. He brought with him morter to fill in the holes, trying to remove the band-aids that I had haphazardly placed there, though residue stuck around. With him, sitting on his shoulder waiting for me to invite him to finish off the repairs, was Jesus. He washed the residue clean, reinforced the mortar that Matt had used, and than covered it all in His love and mercy.

I am human. I would still love to be able to hear those words..."I'm sorry, Sandra"...but I don't need them. I do not depend on them. I do not expect them. I did take some satisfaction of Marnie sitting on a floor with her arch-nemesis, Joanna, as Joanna looked her in the eye and apologized for all she had done. Ok...let's be honest....I took satisfaction out of Marnie exposing Joanna for her past, though I did feel in my gut that her past should be her past and her present self should speak for itself.

So..."You Again" is a funny movie. I was glad to see it...and even glad to experience it...but even more glad to be OVER it (by it, I mean my past). My past made me who I am today. I have scars. Sometimes, I have the voices of the past trying to still beat me down. BUT, I have Christ who banishes those thoughts and tells me I am more than that. I have a husband who sees me as a beautiful woman and not an awkward, skinny red head with bad hair and braces...who loves me unconditionally. I have a GREAT life. Who knows who or what I would be without these experiences. God directs my footsteps. It was no accident that I went through that time in my life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Cry For Help

A couple days ago, my daughter uttered a cry for help. It was a cry I had heard before, a few times over the course of the last year. We would listen to her thoughts and would, as any parent would do, come up with a solution, assuring our daughter that her health (physically and mentally and emotionally) and well-being were our utmost priority.

Her cry?? She asked us to homeschool her. Now, I am one of those parents that sees the ups and downs of homeschooling, public schooling and private schooling. I truly believe that each individual family should make that decision on their resources, their familial life, and their kids.

From an ethical stand point, I have never worried much for Sierra. I believe that we have laid a good moral, Christian foundation into her PLUS Sierra is her own person. Anyone who knows her knows she is not easily influenced into doing something she does not want to do. She has NEVER had the desire to be a part of the "in-crowd". She does not like anyone who thinks more of themselves than they should. She is very open to us, me, and I trust her implicitly that she will stay on the right course for her better future.

From a social stand point, I have been worried only that she can be shy. She is not incredibly shy, like I was in school (and am still). She is quiet in class...a teacher's dream. She has her friends that she can be silly with. She is a bit more mature than most of the kids her age. She, long ago, stopped playing with toys. She is not a giggly girl who loves silly things like the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) or (thank GOD) Justin Bieber. She has a mind of her own and tends to not plug into what ever invisible force field most kids plug their brains into each day. Her tastes differ vastly from the norm. She loves Christian Rock, especially Flyleaf and Skillet. Most of her friends like Kei$ha and Lady Gaga and Eminem...all of which she would not be allowed to listen to even if she wanted to, which she doesn't.

Academically, she is on track. She puts a lot of pressure on herself to make all A honor roll, something she has not yet accomplished, though she has come very close. She beats herself up for not making those grades (though she is currently bringing in As and some STRONG Bs). Her teachers love her and I think she beats up on herself far more than she needs to. School is hard this year, though. She gets homework every night, including weekends. Math, in particular, is going at lightning speed (much faster than what I had...they are doing algebra now). She feels like she is getting lost.

When Sierra approached us with homeschooling last year, we pinpointed the issue...Math. She felt like she was getting buried in Math. We asked her...if we get a tutor, would that change your mind? She sighed in great relief...YES. So, she got a tutor for the whole of summer and felt at the end of summer ready to tackle 6th grade.

But 6th grade is far different from 5th. She got approached by a kid in her class a few days ago...this kid asked her if she had ever considered suicide or cutting. This shook her up. She tells me about all that she hears each day and how uncomfortable she is. She used words like "I just don't feel safe at school" and "No one gets me there". She also used words like "I feel overwhelmed at school", "They just go to fast"...and even, with tears filling her eyes "I just want to die sometimes". NOW, I KNOW girls can be dramatic...even my girl (especially my girl), but I have to take these things seriously.

Anyone who knows me KNOWS I research...I research and research and research. So, this is what I did. I sat and started digging. I looked up curriculums to see what we could do. I looked up homeschooling sites...looking at pros and cons lists. I emailed friends who homeschool.

Here's the thing. I live in Texas...a mostly Conservative and Christian State. I was not surprised to find out that we have in our area a HUGE Christian Homeschool Group. This group has activities for kids her age and for parents. The information out there is incredible. And, being in such a Conservative and Christian community, the level of support I received, whether we decided to homeschool or not, was astounding...by those who do homeschool and those who do not. Most, it seems, are like me and believe it is a case by case issue.

One thing I read from a pros and cons site I was on was that many will argue that kids need to learn how to deal with bullies, or mean kids, or whatever. The point brought on by this was (and I know this to be true from my own issues with bullies growing up) that when the kid graduates from high school, when does that kid ever deal with this again. Getting that degree is like a magic paper that all the sudden ends all these issues. Kids go their seperate ways and grow up. Sure, there are still snotty adults out there, but we do not have to deal with them if we do not want to. What an interesting perspective....not that Sierra was being bullied. If anything, everyone wants to be her friend.

So, I researched homeschooling. I researched curriculums. I listened to my daughter tell me the reasons why she should be homeschooled...some of them ridiculous (she had one about her hair that was just sad...lol)...but some of them I could not ignore. After careful thought and consideration, Matt and I finally agreed, that under certain conditions, we would pull her out of school:

1) She finish the grading period she is in at school...it ends Friday, so not a hard task. I check on her grades online almost daily. She is pulling in a strong AB honor roll.

2) She had to understand that this would not be a hole she could crawl into. She would have to work HARD...harder than she did at school. She would have to dig in and study and work. She would also need to understand that she could not use this as a way to hide. It would be so easy for her to just be with me all the time and never her peers. Most parents want their kids to be closer to them...me, both my kids want to be with me always (well, Daniel finds it a bit easier to go out and play....let's face it, he is all boy and all play). She had to know she would have to put herself out there socially...become part of some clubs and activities.

3) She wouldn't just roll out of her bed and wear pjs all day, every day. She would have to get dressed, brush her hair (duh, she is OBSESSED with her hair), brush her TEETH, and even, (yes, really) exercise daily. This would not be a license for her to just slob out. No sleeping until 10 am and than working. She will get to sleep in a little later, but not much...and still to bed each night at a decent time.

4) She would need to be open to instruction. She can be hard headed, though she has mellowed out as she has matured.

and 5) We would take this on a year by year basis. We would feed her needs each year and evaluate whether she needs to be here or if she needs to be in public school. We have to do what is best for her.

Everyone agreed to the stipulations. We ordered the curriculum. She has a couple days of school left. We are buying her a desk this weekend and Monday, she starts here, at our home school. I told her she could name the school...we would get a mascot and I will design a "crest". Sierra and I are creative and I am trying to feed it.

I would be lying if I said I was completely happy about this. I enjoy my days of peace in my house...husband at work, kids at school, and me with the animals. It is a vital part of my makeup to have time to myself. It is how I recharge. I have been VERY recharged in the last couple months. I also have the pressure of her education and socailization on my shoulders. I have to do all I can do for her success. And, I KNOW her school is an EXCELLENT school...my schools and my teachers were no where NEAR this level of excellence.

BUT, I need to do what is best for my daughter....I need to answer her cry for help. I have heard many of my family's and friends personal stories of how they had wished they had listened to their kids cries for help. It is these stories and my own convictions that makes the other things get squashed down. I am mom. I am here to raise up my kids to the best of my ability. I can sacrifice some personal time (I have already told her much of her learning will be self-taught...and she will do it in her room.....for me and for her). I am mom...and she is my daughter. She cried and I answered.

And, just for added fun...Daniel. I had no doubt that he would be fine with this arrangement...Sierra at home and he in school. He is thriving in school. He is reading like no body's business, his teacher is EXCELLENT in every way....and he's in Kindergarten, the negative influences are minor. He's a good kid. AND, when asked if homeschooling sounds like fun, he quickly answered "NO!". He loves school. For now (and maybe for his whole time in school), he will remain in public school. As I said, I believe it is a case by case basis.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homeschool or Not?

At the end of 5th Grade, Sierra begged me to homeschool her. My reaction...sheer PANIC!!! What!!??!!!!! It can't be so!!

After a very heart wrenching discussion, I nailed down the problem. We agreed to get a tutor for the summer to get her confidence with math up!!

Today, she brought up homeschooling again. She feels strongly that she wants to be homeschooled again. Her grades are up...she is doing better. But, she feels lost.

#1 -- 6th Grade is hard. They are going super fast and she has constant quizes, tests, homework nightly and weekends, etc.

#2 -- Maturity level of the kids. She is definitely more mature than most kids her age. She is not into the normal kid's things (Bieber FEVER...NO THANKS). lol She is not into silly girl stuff like gossiping.

#3 -- Relatability. She likes Christian Rock. Everyone she knows likes Kei$ha and Lady Gaga. She feels like she has nothing in common with her peers. She has lots of friends...but...

I don't know. I have to take this VERY seriously. She is struggling emotionally and mentally. As a mom, I have to take EVERYTHING into consideration. If she feels lost in her studies, I need to find out what she needs to succeed. If she feels lost socially, I need to find out the best way to feed that.

Can you say SCREAM!!! Who said being a mom is for the weak at heart!!??!!

To Homeschool or NOT?? I had my own struggles in school, and so I have DEFINITE sympathy for her and know the IMPORTANCE of taking this VERY seriously.

HUGE SIGH

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Couple Quick Book Reviews

Christian fiction has become quite the market for a reader searching for something good to read without the junk that can be found in some more secular writings. With authors like Jan Karon, Terri Blackstock, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, and, my personal favorite, Francine Rivers, there is a plethora of fantastic books just waiting to be read. Here are my thoughts on a couple books I have read recently!!

Francine Rivers came into my life about a year and a half ago. My first book of hers was the first book in the Mark of the Lion series, "Voice in the Wind". This HAD to be a God thing!! A friend of mine and I decided to read this book series at the same time...I had NEVER heard of this author!! I was shocked when I saw that this was a 3-book series and each book was THICK!!! The cover didn't look appealing...almost like a medieval romance novel.

I began reading "Voice in the Wind" and it was B-O-R-I-N-G!! It probably took me 2-3 months to get through 3 chapters. Total *zzzzzzzzzz* factor. You ask, how was this a "God thing". Well, I wanted to stay true to my commitment to read this series with my friend, so I trudged through and ...... Oh My Word ...... this book took off and it took off FAST!! I became ENTHRALLED with the characters, particularly the book's heroine Haddassah (which is the real name of Esther in the bible). Watching her story unfold in this book set just months (maybe a year or so) after the death of Christ in the Pagan world of Rome was just breathtaking! I could hardly stand to NOT be reading and became lost to my family. It is a book I must recommend to ANYONE and EVERYONE I meet. This book features the disciple, John, who has started a small church in Rome. I was so emotionally tied to the characters in this book, that when the book reached it's finale I was ANGRY...Physically ANGRY. I marched downstairs (I had locked myself in my room, glued to every word), I threw my book down on the ground and kicked it across the room as tears poured down my face. I was in pure ANGUISH and I unleashed this emotion on my husband who unwittingly was working on his computer!!

Lucky for me, I had bought the second book in the series, "An Echo in the Darkness", a couple days before, anticipating that I would finish the first book soon. So, after some huffing and puffing and ranting and raving (I do not read books casually. I have been an avid reader who INHALES books since I was 3-4 years old), I picked up this second book, got in a position of readiness, and began the second book. WHOA!!! Big stuff...lots of emotions and away I went....quickly reading this second book and in NO WAY being disappointed as sequels can tend to be. It wasn't long before I was crying, and cheering, and celebrating, and getting sickened by this second book. At it's conclusion, I was utterly satisfied....no book kicking this time.

I immediately began reading the third and last book in the trilogy, "As Sure as the Dawn". I will admit to you, that this third book was not as good as the previous 2. The writing was just as exceptional and the struggle within was captivating, but the characters were just not as appealing and it fell a little flat for me. The first 2 were just SO DYNAMIC that it was harder to get into this third installment.

Now, as I tend to do, I finished this series and immediately began researching the author so I could inhale her other works. Before I knew it, I was getting recommendations from SO MANY Rivers fans. WHO KNEW!!! The number 1 recommended Rivers book was "Redeeming Love". So...I got the book, of course, and began on a NEW journey.

This is the odd thing about me and Rivers. I am not a period reader. I am more of a mystery/thriller reader. Give me a good murder mystery and I will eat it up....give me a romance or a "regular" book, and I will be bored. Give me one of those types of books and put it in the PAST and I am GONE! Rivers tends to write in the past and not so much in the present.....and I LOVE IT!! Mark of the Lion....back in the days of the early church....and "Redeeming Love" set in the Old West......prospecting, shanty towns, brothels.....yes, I said brothels.

"Redeeming Love" is a book set back in the Old West and mirrors the book of Hosea in the bible. I had SIGNIFICANT doubts about how much I would like this book...though SO MANY friends said...it is the best book yet....or....I read this book at least once a year. So, like the Lion books, I decided to make an honest go at this book and see where it took me. Where did it take me?? It took me to the heart of a man who does all things according to God's will. A man, who was told, by God, to marry a prostitute. Though this man (whose name was, Hosea) had serious doubts about this, he did as God commanded. This was also a book about a woman who became broken as a child and had "no hope". This was a woman who was rescued by a man who loved her as God loved her, but could not recognize this love she had never experienced.

While I would disagree at this book being in my top ten books of all-time...and I certainly will not read it more than this one time....I did see the value in it and found it rather fascinating. It was a very good book (it was it's unfortunate flaw that I would read it AFTER reading the dramatic and powerful "Mark of the Lion" books).

This book was followed shortly by "Leota's Garden" (a book about a girl who is following God's plan for her life and restoring her family ties), "The Atonement Child" (about a girl who got pregnant under the worst of situations and struggles with adoption over abortion), "The Scarlet Thread" (about a marriage that is failing and a woman who finds a common thread between her life and the life of a long ago relative who journaled her way across the pioneer trail), "The Last Sin-Eater" (another period piece back in the days of mountain immigrants from Scotland living in the Appalachians and their ritualistic ways and a missionary who changes kids who change the clans way of life), and "And the Shofar Blew".

"And the Shofar Blew" is one of the best Rivers books I have read!! This book involved a small church in California who needed a new pastor. A seminary student who was married with a little boy who was in need of a church answered the call. This young family packs up and moves across the country to fill this need in this small church and the new pastor is ready to light the town on fire. But, as we see so often in today's culture, the new pastor becomes greedy with power and ambition and loses his way. It is a really fantastic book about redemption.

I could not tell you the order by which I read these INCREDIBLE works of Rivers, but I can tell you after reading all her books, I was greatly grieved. I asked friends...where are MORE Rivers books. Many of us speculated that she was either dead or retired because there was NOTHING that was recent!! I was GREATLY disturbed!!

Imagine my delight when I posted on facebook how much I needed a good book to read and a friend replied to me to check out "Her Mother's Hope" by Francine Rivers to me. "WHAT" I replied. I had not heard she had a NEW book out!!! Yes, my friend said. Well, I IMMEDIATELY went searching for it.

Oh my...there are NO WORDS to describe how INCREDIBLE this book was!! Again, this book was a period piece...a book that began in Switzerland and followed a girl who becomes a woman...a woman driven to make something more of herself. She fought stereotypes (women and their place in the early 1900s), she fought familial weaknesses, and even fought different languages and countries...eventually pioneering to this continent. This book was beautiful in it's writing and captivating in it's story. As is typical with me and a Rivers book, I became EMOTIONALLY involved in the story and characters. It was not unusual for me to be laughing while reading one page and than getting angry on the next. It was fascinating to travel where she traveled and experience what she experienced. One of the best parts of this book was.....

...there was a book 2 that would be coming out just a couple months later: "Her Daughter's Dream". I was VERY excited when I found that I could already put myself on a wait list for this book at my local library. I knew the exact date book 2 would be out and was almost jittery with anticipation. I knew, however, that it would take the library time to process the book, so I was looking at a couple weeks after the release date to get it. In the meantime, I requested a number of other books and began reading the ones that came in in anticipation.

The day after the book was released in stores, I got an email from my library letting me know one of my requests were in. Now, when it comes to books, I am like a kid in a toy store. I got ready that morning to work-out...take kids and hubs to their perspective places and allowed myself to dream that it could be book 2 though I knew it wasn't. The first place I went upon delivering everyone was the library. I approached the wall where books on hold are kept and searched for my name. The binding was hidden by a big piece of paper with my name on it, but my heart jumped anyway....the size seemed right. Slowly, I eased the book off the shelf and (no joke) tears came to my eyes.....it was "Her Daughter's Dream"!!! I almost shouted for joy, but contained myself in this quiet building. I practically floated to the circulation desk and handed the librarian my book and card........and floated to my car.

This book was ALL I hoped for........and MORE!! It was SO good, that I only put it down when I HAD to....driving and what not. At midnight, the book was done and I was sobbing. More so than the first book, I had a virtual roller coaster of emotions. I would hug myself with joy or raise my fist in anger....laugh and cry. That night, Matt would ask me...aren't you ready for bed....and I would say, I only have this much left. At midnight, with my shoulders heaving from sobbing and my face wet with tears, I shared the conclusion with Matt (he gets to hear all my excited thoughts on the books I read). It was after midnight and I am sure he didn't mind....he only had work the next day!!

I cannot recommend this author enough. She is an incredible author and I really, REALLY enjoy her. But, even if you do not read her other works, you MUST try this 2-part series. It is a fascinating look at 4 generations of this woman's family....Francine Rivers shared that much of this book comes from her own family history.

And, again, I do not care for this type of book. I am not into traditions...history....geneaology....etc. That tells you how great of an author she is....these books were captivating. I was hooked by the end of the first page of the first book.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Diversity in Christian Music

Music is important to my family. My husband is a musician, and a gifted one at that. He has been a musician for a large chunk of his life. He is a lover of music in many forms (no country for him, please). I grew up with music being a huge part of our lives. I remember my dad popping in an 8 Track (what is an 8 track?) and he and I dancing in the living room. For us, the music of choice was old country!

It is important to both Matt and I to have music be a part of our kids lives. Sierra and Daniel have been exposed to music their entire lives. Around the time of Sierra's birth (a couple months after), I gave my life to Christ and wanted to make sure Sierra was surrounded by good, positive, Christian influences and thus KSBJ (our local Christian radio station entered our lives). Through KSBJ, I was introduced to great Christian musicians like Hillsong, Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, etc. I really loved KSBJ and their influence on me and my daughter's life. Little did I know that 11 year later, the same music would still be cycling through.

I have often talked to Matt about music. Matt still listens to a lot of those old 80s songs and bands. I would impress on him the need to listen to more Jesus music, but he always replied that he did not like Christian music...it is all so "churchy" and "praise-like" and while he sees it's place, it is not the type of music that he prefers. I couldn't argue there, as the music on the radio was getting SO OLD and stagnant. I found myself in a constant state of frustration with KSBJ and their choices in music.

Recently, I have come to see a whole new world in Christian music, a world I stumbled upon and would never have known about. There is a whole new world of Christian music that, for whatever reason, is only featured on our radio station on Saturday nights....Christian Rock!! Oh sure, you have heard of bands like P.O.D., but really, how many can you list. KSBJ plays 1 or 2 Switchfoot songs that are SO OLD it's ridiculous...Switchfoot has had how many cds released in the last few years and you will not hear the songs...OH, but when Switchfoot comes to town, KSBJ will interview them and sell their tickets........all the while never playing their music. Same with bands like: Relient K, Skillet, Superchick, Stellar Kart, Hawk Nelson, Flyleaf, etc.

It is so frustrating and I have to wonder, why doesn't KSBJ want to reach the masses? Oh sure, they have announced the launch of a new "Youth" radio station, but is that even necessary?? Why not have Chris Tomlin sing "Amazing Grace" followed by Stellar Kart's "Innocent" (which has an INCREDIBLE message, btw)? What is wrong with playing Flyleaf's "Beautiful Bride" (a great song about the Bride of Christ) followed by David Crowder's "How He Loves"?

Were it not for my boredom one night, I would never have known what kind of music Skillet made (and they are now my favorite band). Today, I downloaded a Stellar Kart album that is so FUN and full of FANTASTIC messages for my daughter.

And speaking of my daughter...she is 11-years old. She has no interest in Hillsong or Chris Tomlin. She needs music that speaks to her. Secular music has kids listening to Lady Gaga....Katy Perry.....Lincoln Park....etc. Shouldn't we make available to the kids alternatives to these artists? Now, she has Flyleaf...a rather ROCKING band with a female singer and Sierra LOVES them!! Skillet is a great alternative to Lincoln Park...and has a female drummer that Sierra admires.

There is a whole world of Christian music out there that you will not know about by listening to the tired music heard on KSBJ. Thanks to KSBJ, I can no longer listen to Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, Hillsong United, Mercy Me, or any number of artists. It is ridiculous for them to promote concerts for artists such as Family Force 5, Switchfoot, Superchick, Skillet, when they only give them airplay for a couple hours each Saturday night (a night when most people aren't listening to the radio). I say boo to the station that is locking out a whole generation of potential listeners.

Anyway, if you are looking to rock out a little while getting your Jesus on, I recommend Relient K, Skillet, Flyleaf, Stellar Kart. I am only now discovering this whole lost genre of music....I am sure I can add to the list soon!!

BTW...Daniel LOVES these bands and would rather listen to Skillet than any preschool songs.

AND, it should be said that the same thing is happening in Christian books. No more are we limited to the stylings of Janette Okes and Belva Plain, who write good books about Christian living in pioneer days. Now, there is an explosion in Christian fiction that is AWESOME!!

I HIGHLY recommend reading:

Francine River's books: The Mark of the Lion Trilogy, Redeeming Love, The Shofar Blew, Leota's Garden, The Scarlet Thread, Her Mother's Hope, etc.

Brandilyn Collins: The Kanner Lake Series, Deceit, etc.

Dee Henderson's: The O'Malley Series

Jan Karon's : The Mitford Series

Terri Blackstock's: Cape Refuge Series, Rescue 911 Series, Restoration Light Series, plus many more

I am currently reading Ted Dekker's book, Kiss. It is really good, so far. Many love Karen Kingsbury, Robin Jones Gunn. Randy Singer has some good books as does Randy Alcorn. Charles Martin is pretty good...a friend suggested one of his books as being one of the best she has read...I have that on hold at the library.


And here is the video to "Innocent" by Stellar Kart. It has such a GREAT message for our kids!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thankfully August

November is usually a month of thankfulness and reflection. We celebrate a whole day of Thanksgiving as we gorge out of food...and than on little sleep go out the rest of the holiday weekend snatching up deals.

August is a time of complaining (heat) and a rush of activities (school starting, summer ending). I wanted to take this opportunity to pass along some thankful thoughts during the dead heat of Summer.

--I am thankful for an incredible family. I have a husband who works hard to keep our roof over our head and food on the table while not working so hard that he is an absentee father or husband. In fact, he is the most active dad and husband. I have 2 kids who have their squabbles from time to time, but, for the most part, get along together with only the most slightest of issues.

--I am thankful for my house. I dream of a bigger house with all the luxuries I see on tv...I dream of stainless steel appliances, large game room, jetted tub in the master suite, double ovens, a seperate closed in office and a media room for my husband to enjoy. I can tend to complain a lot that I do not have this. Thanks to a very good friend who has had to live in Africa for the past few years and has shared her daily experiences of life in a poor country/poorer city, I have perspective on my living. My house is nice...it is cozy...my kids rooms are spacious, though they prefer to hang out with us in the living room than their own rooms.....which I am thankful for, too.

--I am thankful for my church with a Pastor and a People who has a heart for the area we live in as well as the world. I am thankful that our church is not in some elusive competition with other churches to be the number one, but, instead, desires a time where all churches will realize that we are all one church in God's eyes and we need to work together to do His will. I am thankful for my small group that meets each Sunday morning with wonderful teachers that give me enlightenment. I am thankful for a Thursday morning small group of women who come together to study the word (usually facillitated by Beth Moore) and share their lifes hopes, dreams and struggles...knowing that the ladies are praying for one another (VITAL in this time we live in)!!

--I am thankful for Summer. Winter is hard on me and my jaw...giving me headaches that last for weeks or months. I am thankful that my muscles can relax in the heat of the day and not clench in the bitter cold. I am thankful, too, that my house has central A/C (I did not grow up with central air, but when I moved out and into my college dorm, you can BET I cranked that thing year round...it was so fascinating).

--I am thankful for my car...lemon that it is. I have complained and complained about my Kia and the trouble it has caused (new issue, blinker lights are not working.....in that the electrical is acting up...not the bulbs are out....another trip to the service center is in our future). I dream of buying a new car...maybe a Honda CRV (hope to buy a car at the end of the year). But, I have seen where so many people live in their cars...some with their children. I also know that a car is a precious commodity to some who cannot buy a car....or those third world countries where women have to carry their baskets on their heads to and from wherever they go.

--I am thankful for indoor plumbing, electricity, a room for each kid, gas to cook by and warm up by. It is appalling how many people live without even the most basic of things we take for granted.

--I am thankful for my country. So many people are up in arms about where this country is going...and I cannot argue with them (mostly because I do not keep up with politics or any news). But we live in the best country in the world!! I am thankful to be an American.

--I am, most of all, thankful that I am a recipient of the greatest of gifts one could ever hope for...eternal life. One day, this life will be a blip on my screen as I sit at the feet of Jesus Christ and ask him my questions (Why mosquitoes? What is up with Reverend Jesse Jackson...just kidding)? It never ceases to amaze me what HE gave up to come here to save MY life. I hope to honor Him while I rest on this earth...hoping he may come again before my kids get older and the temptations grow stronger and more appealing.

There are so many things to be thankful for. I think we would all benefit from participating in a mission trip...even if it were not church related....to see what we have and what the rest of the world has. So, when we feel a pity party coming on and we start in on the "Woe is me" stuff, think of this":

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”- 1 Samuel 16:7

I could go on with the many things that I am so very thankful for (my animals, my daughter's grades, my son's enthusiasm and imagination...). I just think we need to put our lives in perspective before we open our mouths and begin to whine about this heat or what have you (and am I EVER talking to myself here), think about your blessings. I bet the list can be very long if you just spend some time thinking about what you have to be thankful for.

And now, I am MOST thankful for my bed, which calls my name, and my pillow, all soft and broken in....and those sheep which are waiting for me to count.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cinammony Goodness

I remember like it was yesterday, the day I first saw a Snickerdoodle. It was behind the glass at a Great American Cookie Company store. A little known fact about me is I am a cookie FIEND!! I LOVE COOKIES....and am also VERY choosy about my cookies. No chips ahoy for me, thank you very much (though I do really like the Famous Amos Chocolate Chip with Pecan cookies).

Back before I began baking, I would INDULGE in GACC for cookie fixes. They were oh so soft and yummy.

Anyway, I remember seeing this Snickerdoodle and thinking to myself...what is that? I had never heard of that before and pondered what it could be. It didn't look like a snickers.....or a doodle. It was very odd and I always chose to go with a good old standby (chocolate chip, chocolate chip with pecans, peanut butter, double fudge, etc.). I was unwilling to gamble my cookie money on an unknown cookie.

One day, though, I could stand it no longer. I MUST try that cookie. I had to find out what a Snickerdoodle tasted like. I requested the cookie and paid for it. I sat on a bench to tentaviley try this cookie that had haunted me so.

I took a bite...a small one....and began to taste this unknown blend of cookie deliciousness. My eyes popped wide and I had to try a bigger bite to see if my mouth deceived me, but no...it hadn't. This was just about the best cookie I had ever had!! It was cinammon and butter melded together in cookie form and it was WONDERFUL!! I could hardly believe it.

In the years since, my excitement level has changed. It has become a staple in this house...the snickerdoodle. My kids both LOVE them....though my husband is not so keen (but then he likes white chocolate macadamia nut cookies....bleh). A friend gave me a recipe that is INCREDIBLE and in recent years store brand break and bake cookies have had snickerdoodles...which are YUM-O.

Imagine my surprise a couple weeks ago when I happened upon a blog that had snickerdoodle MUFFINS as one of their many recipes. MUFFINS?!! I declared!! I knew it must be tried...so one morning, I hauled out my KitchenAid (*sigh* A pause in honor of the blessed machine I got for Christmas) and whipped up some muffins. Whoa MAMA...these were good. Were they better than BLUEBERRY muffins or BANANA NUT muffins....no...but they were still good.

Than I saw a recipe for Snickerdoodle BLONDIES. This looked promising, so I bookmarked the recipe and waited for the right day to whip some up. Today was that day and I am now a blondie fan. A dessert BAR that has NO CHOCOLATE and it reaches near the top of my all-time favorite dessert recipes!! It was INCREDIBLE...everything you want in a snickerdoodle, but in BAR form. What an amazing world we live in...

So, I still do not know where the name, Snickerdoodle, comes from...maybe I will wikipedia it. I do not know how my waist line will survive the next couple days of snacking on the 2 sticks of butter, cinamonny sweet goodness....but what can you do!??!!!

And that is my Snickerdoodle story. It has been a long road of mystery and intrigue followed be a lifelong romance between me and the cinammon. I cannot leave this be without sharing with you this wonderful recipe. Indulge in it...fret about it later. Or just take that dog on an extra long walk after.

Here is the recipe.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dogs and work hours and tonsils, oh my

This summer has been our busiest and craziest yet. I could not imagine squeezing in a summer vacation into everything else. It is nuts and only seems to get nutsier (yes, I am aware that is not a word, but it works!!).

We have been to Splashtown a bunch...maybe not as much as we used to in previous years, but only cause it is either too rainy or too busy to go. We have gone a lot and had fun when we have gone....Daniel can go on a couple of the bigger rides, but he is not fond of the dark ones...he'd rather have the sun shining.

Speaking of Daniel, he is really learning to swim. He can swim like a fish underwater. He struggles swimming with his head above water, but he keeps trying. He is also learning to read and really trying hard. The English language is SO HARD and makes SO little sense. An a sounds like ah, but some time sounds like a. Two o's together make a oooooo sound. No wonder kids are not reading on their level...especially hard teaching them in Texas where we already drawl our letters together so bad...hard to pick up on those phonetic sounds when the sounds all run together.

Sierra is having surgery tomorrow. She has had 2 bouts of strep throat this year as well as chronic throat pain as well as snoring and restless sleep. So, the docs all agree that her tonsils and adenoids need to come out. We are VERY excited...we look forward to a better quality of life for her, though she is effectively using up all our Flex Spending account. lol It's why we have it and worth every penny!!

Matt has never worked more hours than he has in the past few months. He sometimes does not come home until close to 9 pm. He is tired and a bit grumpy, but he gets paid time and a half for those overtime hours!! His company got bought out by another company today...while Matt thinks it is no big deal, I, of course, worry. I trust his instinct and he is there, he knows all the details. I just hope he and other employees will not be laid off!!

We got a dog a few weeks ago, a husky. His name is Rocky and he is INCREDIBLE!!! We love him so much and he provides great fun!! However, he is destructive and today was the last straw...we have to crate him!!! *sigh* I hate crating...but we have to protect our belongings and do not want to become bitter at him.

Well, long day (Splashtown and than dinner with friends), I must go to sleep...glorious sleep!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer

Summer started here in Kozlowski Land at the end of the first week in June. It started pretty slow due to weather challenges in our first full week, but then the second week of summer flew by.

Daniel got to attend a VBS at a church where 3 years and up were welcomed (sadly, most churches only do VBS for those who have graduated Kindergarten and up) and security is tight. He had so much fun, especially since most of his friends were also at this VBS. Sierra has lost interest in VBS. She took the opportunity to sleep in during this week of craziness.

We got a new dog in the midst of the VBS craziness. He is thought to be a full bred wooly siberian husky. He is about 1 year old and as beautiful as they come. He is awesome!! We have really enjoyed him, though our cats really hate him....REALLY hate. They have not been willing to give the poor dog a chance, but he will wear them down. Stella isn't too fond of him either. We love him, though, and look forward to many years with him.

Our wonderful friends from Africa have returned home again for summer. Sierra is excited and is trying to squeeze a years worth of fun with her bff into a few weeks.

I have not done much writing. We are either on the go or I am resting. I must make time to write!!!

Sadly, Matt's work load has been heavy, so he has not been able to enjoy our summer fun. He is often working 10+ hours a day, not getting home until Daniel's bedtime. Just when we think he is done, a new project springs up and he is at it again. The bonus to this is that, since Hewitt got sued by an employee due to overtime pay, now Matt gets time and a half for those hours he works over 40!! This helps with those very expensive summer electric bills.

Other than that, we have spent a lot of time at the library. Sierra has been taking acting classes free at the library every Wednesday (with her bff). I got her a dvd about learning french and is loving it (it is directed for kids). Daniel, who has a vast interest in numbers and music, finally became interested in reading. I have been working with him daily. I made a powerpoint show to work with his phonics and he has read me 2 simple readers. He still tries to look at the picture to figure out the words, but is learning to use the sounds. He is doing well!! All is good here...the days are speeding by. It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of June.

Here's what we have to look forward to:

On July 4th, Sierra and I are going to the downtown Houston theater to see the Broadway musical Wicked. She has bought herself a pretty dress as have I and we plan to have dinner out in downtown Houston.

On July 13th, Sierra will have surgery to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. We are pretty excited about it as she has chronic throat pain, had strep twice in a matter of weeks and the ENT thinks it will help to stave off sinus infections. She also snores and the doctor thinks that this surgery will offer her a better nights sleep (she is often tired a lot during the day).

In August, Sierra goes away to camp...she wishes it were sooner, but I think they do it so late so the kids will have a good foundation set for when they start back at school.

In between it all, we go to our local waterpark a couple times a week and the pool in our subdivision a couple times a week. Daniel is learning to swim now and that is exciting.

Daniel is just going with the flow.......and will start KINDERGARTEN in August!! WOW!!

So, there you have it....our lives in a nutshell!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A year of change

Sierra will be finishing up her 5th grade year at Cox Intermediate School tomorrow, June 3rd. She turned 11 this past Saturday.

This past year has been a year of INCREDIBLE growth in my daughter's life. She started the school year full of hope and excitement. It was a new experience going up from Elementary into Intermediate School. In this new format, she would have a home base class and would switch between Social Studies, Science, Reading, and Math. Half of the year, she was in Choir and the other she was in Art. This was an everyday class for her unlike Elementary where it was part of specials. She was also, daily, in PE.

She has had the best teachers she has ever had and she adores them all. Her teachers love her so much that a month ago or so I went to have lunch with Sierra at school. Her science teacher approached me and said she was planning to call me. She and the other teachers were concerned about Sierra. She said she wasn't behaving badly...she just wasn't smiling like she usually did...was not as bubbly as she usually was. I talked with Sierra and discovered she was stressed about the TAKS test. I got to email with her teachers to help Sierra. It means a lot to me to have these teachers investing in her life. Sierra felt terrible that she had worried her teachers.

She had a lot of hope of developing new friendships and she did. She got a lot of new friends, some were good and others were not so good. She displayed good discernment in those cases where the friends were not too good. She earned a cell phone after making so many great grades. She also was in student council and served in the environmental committee.

She also became aware of herself. She began to care about how she looked each day. No more complaining about brushing her teeth twice a day, she wants white teeth. She also began to take an interest in styling her hair. We go as mom and daughter to a salon to get our hair cut at the same time. She got a cute style and began to make sure her hair was styled each day. She also started wanting to experiment with make-up which I allowed under my supervision. She has been learning what looks best on her, which is just the SLIGHTEST hint of make-up.

She has also gained an interest in the latest fashions. She raises her own money to buy clothes that she likes and she looks great in them. My self-proclaimed tomboy has been morphing back into a girl. At the end of this year, she has even discovered she loves skirts and dresses. Her big complaint is most dresses and skirts sold in stores for her size are cutesy....and she hates cutesy. She has recently purchased for herself a cute denim skirt, an adorable grey skirt and yesterday she bought herself a dress. Funny thing about the dress is it is made for teenagers and she has to MAJORLY alter it, but it seems the only way to get clothes she likes.

As she has been growing over these past few years, she has been maturing a lot. She has only been grounded a few times. She loves to hang out with her family and while she tries to spread her wings a bit, she still likes to tuck herself in the warmth of her families wings. She spends more time reading both magazines and books. She is in the middle of reading 3 different book series. she could very well bankrupt us with her book habit (she is not as bad as Sarah, Stacie...but it might be beneficial to get a Kindle....). It is so great when you hear your daughter talk about how much she loves to read and how it is better than tv or movies. I am a bookworm myself.

She recently went through her room and got rid of most of her stuffed animals to Daniel's great delight. When she went to his room with her arms full of webkinz and many other stuffed animals, Daniel could hardly believe his luck. She has also taken down the posters of puppies and kities she has had for so long and her desire is to decorate her room with posters of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben and other such art.

She wants to be a teenager so bad. It is sad, but it is hard to keep one young who looks so forward to being older. And while she likes to dream about being a teenager, she is still an 11-year-old.

Other changes this year has been boys. She has had several boys interested in having her for a girlfriend. One boy asked her out and she said no. The next day, that same boy came to school in a suit and asked her again. Wow!! Casanova. She did get a boyfriend towards the end of the school year. The romance lasted a couple months and consisted of texting, some phone calls, sitting together at lunch and playing at recess together....all of which she did with him before the romance and after the romance. She was devestated when they broke up, but only because she didn't want the friendship to end. After a couple hours of agony, they both agreed to stay friends and they have.

All in all, Sierra has had a lot of growth. I like that she has an interest in looking good. We go out on dates a lot together. For her birthday, she got a mall gift card and while Matt and Daniel played at the mall, Sierra and shopped. She hugged me several times saying we were the best mom/daughter team in the world. She tells me all the time that she loves her life.

She is still very close to her brother. She is not as likely to get down on the floor and play with him, but she still loves on him. Daniel has become friends with most of the kids on our street and will spend hours outside playing with them. If one of them says anything mean to him, Sierra is outside in seconds setting them straight. You absolutely do NOT mess with her brother.

She is an incredible daughter. I am very lucky to have her in my life. It is neat to see her maturity. It is neat to see her grow (she is almost as tall as me). It is neat to hang out with her. She is just such a neat girl!!