THE COMPASSION EXPERIENCE

Zack and I have sponsored the same boy for 12 years now, through Compassion. I can’t say enough good things about them. Honestly, I can’t think of a bad thing to say.

Compassion has sent an “experience” around the country and thankfully ended up five minutes from my mother-in-law’s house (a couple hours from our home). I decided to take the girls there to give them a look into the lives of far less fortunate kids from around the world.

We often have discussions about what it is like for others in the world and how great we have it here in the states (even our poor and homeless), but this took it to a new level for them, which was the intention.

So, you wear headphones that are connected to an iPhone. There are narrations which guide you through each story – one room equals one part of their life’s story. They have a kids version with fewer sound effects and a toned down bit for gory situations. I’m glad we opted for that with the girls.

We learned about a girl (now a woman) from the Philippines, and a boy (now a man) from Kenya. The girls and I both agreed that the story of the girl, Kiwi, will stick with us.

The rooms were set up as authentically as possible (I think they did a great job!).

Of course, we didn’t experience the smells that come with poverty, floods, etc. or feel the deep fear children experience in these situations. We didn’t have rain pouring down on us through the sags of tarp roofs or holes in the tin roof. We didn’t feel the pit of starvation or feel hopeless about what our night or our tomorrow will be.

We did get to have deep meaningful, enlightening conversions on our long drive home, we do have fresh daily outlooks of the blessing we’ve been given each day, and we will remember those less fortunate in our prayers. It’s easy to get focused on only what is close to home when we pray. We don’t need a name or a face to pray for someone across the globe…or those in our own town we’ve never met who are living in crippling conditions.

So glad we didn’t back out, save the gas and spare ourselves the long hours on the road.

CHRISTMAS RECITAL 2017

Mae had her third ever recital this past Monday night. She has expressed a dream of being on stage from the time she was two. She has never once been nervous before a show. So grateful it has not only become a reality but that she is pretty dadgum terrific.

She makes our dirty ol’ porch look mighty classy, don’t she? Untied laces and all.

Seriously. These two. This will surely be, forever, one of my favorite photos.

We made our traditional trip to the neighbors to show off the incredible costume.

Of course, Rae was being a crumbum.

For all of Mae’s recitals, Rae has been a not so nice human being. A real so-and-so. Supportive right up until the moment she realizes she’ll have to sit still (and, God forbid, remain quiet!) for the next 45 minutes.

Thankfully, it didn’t bring Mae’s spirits down!

Another tradition – post-recital meal at Lee’s! She doesn’t like chicken (or any kind of meat), but she does like hot apples and honey on a warm roll!

So excited to see what she has for us next spring!!

DEAR MAE & RAE : CHRISTMAS EDITION

This month has been the greatest!! You are both now fully able (and willing) to enjoy all that comes with the Christmas season.

For your birthday’s this year, you both wanted to spend any money you received on each other. For Christmas, it seems you have plenty of thoughts on what you’d like for yourselves. However, you both did great choosing the perfect items to gift each other. So grateful I get to live right smack dab in the middle of your relationship. The nosy, opinionated third wheel.

You are both able to bake cookies from scratch. Mae even knows how to set the oven correctly. Rae, at this point, you don’t get to mix cookie dough – sorry, Babe. You tend to stick your hands in at every stage…even the slimy ones. BUT! you can help once the dough is fully mixed!

You each jump at the chance to take charge of our daily advent lesson. Thankfully taking turns between two isn’t so bad. Four sentences in and Rae has made her way to the piano and is playing Mary had a Little Lamb above Momma’s words. Never fails. Sitting still for minutes at a time is hard.

You both take full advantage of having so many occasions to ‘get fancy.’ Dresses, tights, skirts, clicky shoes, broaches (yes, you both totally adored broaches), nail polish, hair spray, cheek sparkles, ear muffs, and peacoats – BRING IT!

I have tried to mix up our Christmas music as much as possible – without wandering into current pop renditions – and so far, ya’ll aren’t even a “tweensy” bit sick of the merriment.  I need a break now and again – so thanks for smiling through the detours.

The two of you sang a duet at church for the Festival of Talents. A talent show where kids could show off the gifts the Lord has given them. Ya’ll sang Jingle Bells. The entire thing. It was so good! No one paused to remember words, cried, ran off stage or even developed rosy nervous cheeks like Momma surely would’ve. While you both have so many talents, I’m glad you chose this one. It got you, Rae, out of your comfort zone (singing out loud on stage in front of several people!) and allowed the two of you to grow and work together for the Lord.

We have gifts under the tree (yours for each other), and the stockings are full. Thanks for not peeking!

Right now, I’ve got to slap some lipstick on your face, Mae, as we’re nearly out the door for your Christmas Recital!

LATELY : : NOVEMBER 2017

We began the month of November celebrating this lady’s birth. She’s FIVE now!

You can read about that here and here.

We have spent months car shopping while desperately clinging to the hopes our lemon would get its act together and somehow last us another year. We had it for seven years and drove it one billion miles. We can’t really complain…

After looking at various vans, trucks, and SUVs, we decided on this beauty. Basically a spaceship. My mother-in-law said it needed a name, so we went with Norrin Radd.

The girls spent hours digging holes and raking leaves in the yard. The leaves just blew back from whence they came, but the holes will stick around making sure to trip us when we least expect it.

We took a trip to “The Diamond Store,” to pick up some chalkboard paint and continue our hunt for 12″ duct pipe things. I dunno. We’re going to order those online, but we did get some paint and a video that makes me chuckle.

The chalk wall completed, above. It took a day of sanding, three days of priming, and about five coats of chalkboard paint.

We followed up Lowes with a trip to Taco Bell. Normally, that wouldn’t grant a spot here (maybe it would?) but the girls were such turkeys, I want to remember it.

We spent nearly every day learning about Separatists (Pilgrims).

Their timeline, hymns they enjoyed, work they would’ve done every day, what schooling was like, life in Holland, as well as what Native American lives were like before settlers and just after settlers arrived.

We read stories of all of the above in their American history book, in a colonial times book, and listened to Stories of the Pilgrims while we did paintings, crochet practice, and a bit in the car. It was very good as an audiobook!

The girls prepared Johnny cakes as a snack one day, made construction paper hornbooks, and dried apples to hang and use this winter. We also attempted making rag dolls, but just couldn’t find the time.

We read Thanksgiving related chapter books – Nate the Great Talks Turkey and some Felicity books. while Mae crocheted and Rae drew photos or just snuggled.

The girls take art and singing lessons at the high school once a week. Zack teaches them the art (obviously?), and they made these choose-a-face pictures. I didn’t take photos of theirs (but we kept them), so here ^^ is Zack’s example.

The girls and I joined in on art club’s Thanksgiving party. We enjoyed good food, painting, video games, and a visit to Aunt Teresa (who had a table tennis match going on with her own students. Imagine that. I bet she whooped ’em all! Suckers.).

Rae also cashed in on her free birthday smoothie from the student cafe while we were there.

Mae took a fall, chipping her left front tooth in the process.

That first photo was taken moments before. Poor sweet girl.

While we did Bible studies, we only did a painting on the story of Babel. Simply because Mae really wanted to.

We only had time for one poem painting this month. It was about a windy November. Perfect for our November.

Mae also learned about a couple “lady scientists.” (We used this book)

Science is her “favorite thing everrrr!” so we focused a bit more on it, despite being busy enough with other subjects.

Buckey Boy!

Rae taped everything in sight. I got her rolls of tape for her birthday since she likes tape so much. I’m regretting it, but she is so happy and rarely stops creating with it.

Mae practiced on her new piano nearly every day she was home.

Despite my best efforts, Christmas made its way into our lives.

That lovely stomach flu showed up. Zack and I missed it, but there’s still time.

Zack and I spent a weekend in St. Louis at a Missouri Youth Fellowship event with our church. SO GOOD!

Can you find Zack and Rae??? AGH!

The girls spent that weekend down the road a bit at Grandma Shari’s house. They were able to catch the tail end of the final sermon and ride home with us on the bus.

Buckey spent that weekend with our cousin Marsha. He rode home with his bum in the back and head in my lap. It’s nice to be missed.

As Rae is getting more independent, it seems I’m getting frequent one on one time with this ham.

Zack’s Thanksgiving board made me very happy.

Rae and I took a trip to the mall – not as dreadful as I expected! We seemed to have the whole place to ourselves. She had birthday money to spend and found so many things she wanted to buy for her sister.

Sadie, Mae, and I took Buckey to the dog park. He just hung out with his momma and not the twenty other dogs. I can totally relate, B.

Afterwards, we took him to PetSmart to let him pick out a bone. He did visit with the dogs at the store. Most of them looked like cats, though. He’s used to cats.

I posted our Thanksgiving day back here.

Video games at 10 pm by the fire. Hooray for long weekends!

It has been warm. I wore a tank top, sandals, and shorts the day I typed this sentence. Stupid. Get cold or at least rainy already! Just kidding…?

My girls are loving the heat while wanting snow at the same time. Not totally out of the question here in the Ozarks, but I’m not holding my breath.

These fellas. Never far away.

We started our (probably too in-depth) lessons on Christmas. Here they’re writing and illustration Isaiah 11:1.

Still haven’t painted the trim ^ ^. We’ll get it done in the next year or two…

Mae has one more rehearsal next week – and THEN! – the recital. So glad my child has confidence in front of a crowd.

We’re ready for December, and hopefully, the cold weather that comes with it!

THANKSGIVING 2017

Thanksgiving. Mmmm, boy.

This past month, the girls and I tediously studied the who, whys, and hows behind our Thanksgiving celebrations here in America. I feel like we earned our platter-sized plate of food. Probably my favorite Thanksgiving meal of all time. Had there been ham and feijoada in the mix, it would’ve been perfection!

The girls adored spending time with their cousins. They ran all over that house giggling at very unnatural octaves and even did some caroling (at normal octaves)- until they noticed we were watching them.

Our second visit involved my side of the family. Boy cousins play very differently, hah!

Our annual-when-we’re-in-the-area post-meal walk was so so great. Perfect fall weather, gorgeous sunset, sweet dog tagging along, and not a single child got tired halfway through forcing us to lug them back to the house on our hip.

 

RAE’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

We celebrated Rae’s birthday in quite a few ways, all simple and quiet, over a few days time. She couldn’t think of a single activity she wanted to do for her birthday. I’m sure she would’ve enjoyed a movie at the theater, but there wasn’t anything good out. She was hoping for Paddington 2, but no such luck.

SO! My mother-in-law came for a visit with gifts in tow and we had a quiet day together at the house. We got her gifts as well since she didn’t pick an activity.

She received Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig toys, as well as a C-3PO (“Sweepio”) figurine.

The girls jumped right in and began playing and coloring in her Paw Patrol books and playing with the Peppa Pig toys. Mae graciously dealt with the pesky packaging.

It was a perfect fall day out. Rae opted for snuggles with Grandma on the deck instead of taking a nap. I’m sure Grandma appreciated this moment.

My mom sent this card (along with $$!) She slept with it and carried it around for a few days.

Her school gave her a crown and sang to her. – and she didn’t cry at the attention!

On her actual birthday, the girls watched Troll Hunters by the fire – per her request.

We still did a bit of school work, but she doesn’t do much at home on pre-school days. Since it was her birthday, she really just had to listen to Mae’s lesson and skipped the work accompanying it, but she still chimed in with plenty of questions.

She received a package from Grandma Dee, “DeeDee,” on her actual birthday as well. Couldn’t have timed it better!

 

DEAR RAE : : HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY EDITION

Agh, that face! Happy birthday, Gorgeous!

That pose and perfectly orchestrated smile was done solely by you with no instruction, yet somehow it’s not the you that comes to my mind typically. You can be sweet, sure, but you are still very much a “party waiting happen,” as Grandma DeeDee puts it. A John Hughes party.

As you get older, you’ll notice your personality is different than the quiet calm nature the rest of your immediate family posses. Embrace it. You were gifted it for a reason, Rae.

You’re still loud, stubborn, and appalled by all things sticky. BUT! You adore all things sparkly. Too many accessories is not a thing. You’d choose a dress with poof! (and nail polish to match, of course) over jeans any day.

However, when you do get around to wearing pants, you make sure the brim never falls below your belly button. Heaven forbid.

You still wear a watch every day. Your favorites (you have SO many!) are Grandpa Fred’s watch, my cousin Michael’s watch he took overseas, and the one in these photos. I don’t know what show the characters are from, but it lights up so it’s definitely in the running.

Star Wars is still the greatest. thing. everrrrr. Dark side still reigns supreme, and Luke Skywalker is still the ultimate dreamboat.

Paw Patrol is your newest obsession. “Chase is on the case!” Or so I hear…

You’re a self-proclaimed “good ripper.”

You are brilliant. You can read new words and complete second-grade math at a glance.

Your drawing skills are tops, and you color better than seasoned ‘big kids.’ You have grown out of that breaking-every-crayon thing you used to do, but still tear off the wrapping.

You sing ‘church songs’ all day long. You’ve always been able to hold a tune. Even as a baby you hummed on key. Something you did not get from me. I love to hear you sing.  (Or hum the Imperial March)

You have ZERO interest in organized extracurricular activities, but hand you a shovel, and you’ll dig holes for hours – pausing for snacks every fifteen minutes. Naturally.

This twirl photo was, again, not posed. You twirl after each time you get dressed for the day, and then again once your shoes are on. Each time a favorite song comes on and when the wind picks up bringing a fresh breeze your way.

At this point in your life, you are very much a best friend tease. You have ten or so right now, but you hold to your word and make them all feel loved when you see them and talk about them all often.

You still prefer short hair since it’s low maintenance (at your age anyway). It suits you.

These past five years wouldn’t have been nearly as grand without you, Rae.

We love you ‘so dang much!’

 

LATELY : : OCTOBER

October, oh how we love thee. This was a fun month!

I’ve posted fifty-eight photos and two videos to sum up a thirty-one day month (and that was skimming the surface, ha!). If you decide to stick around for such a commitment, go ahead and gather whatever supplies you deem necessary and get comfy.

We ended September and began October with Seth and Jenny.

The girls have received frequent computer time over the past month. They only use these during their free time, and never instead of school work, but they certainly learn a lot through these. ABC Mouse is their favorite.

Soon, Mae will start typing practice, but I’m certainly in no rush for her to get comfortable around a computer.

Mae would eat every meal by candlelight if I’d agree to it. On rainy days, I agree to it.

Mae turned seven!

When Zack and I were dating (and newly married), he would set up scavenger hunts for me on my birthdays. I believe his mom also did one for me back in high school.

Our girls don’t usually get any gifts from us. This year, however, all of Mae’s desired activities didn’t pan out, so she received gifts by way of a scavenger hunt through the house.

She also had macaroons instead of cake and sparkling grape juice in fancy glasses.

Mae also received calls that involved songs and long conversations, from Grandma Shari, Grandpa Kevin, and Uncle Joe. I took these photos as they were talking to Uncle Joe. Their faces were just too good. Rae even joined in on this call. They miss their Uncle Joe!!

Rae has spent more hours than not “doing art.” Above are some badges she made with paper bag clippings, glue, and markers. All her idea and her doing.

Art has become her favorite (only) way she spends her free time.

Not bad for a girl who “Doesn’t even like crafts.”

We started the fireplace back up. Not the furnace yet, but we’re ready for it! Well, my heart is ready, my husband is not. Zack wants to reroute ducts to be more efficient with how the heat is used throughout the house. That man. Always schemin’.

Speaking of schemin’, Zack started more projects. This is going to be a fun one!!

The girls collected leaves on our frequent walks.

The camera on my phone was broken for most of the month (and last month!) so we took a lot more photos with me in them. Zack is very happy about this.

This also means I used the Nikon more. The Nikon is happy about this as well, I’m sure.

– and I guess I also wore Zack’s Cornerstone shirt a lot?

Mae purchased a bow and arrow with some of her birthday money (from Grandma). She has practiced every day. On rainy days she practices in the living room. She’ll be a master archer in no time.

Rae became less crabby about copy work. (Soley for practicing her writing skills, not for knowledge of what she’s writing)

My aunt & uncle came from Georgia for a visit!

While visiting my dad and Uncle Kenan (Aunt Kim’s brothers), she (and of course Rae’s BFF, Uncle Larry!) took the time to drive 2 hours to see us!!

Friends from Alabama also came for a visit!

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Buckey boy got neutered and had his dewclaws removed.

So far, he still loves us.

The girls carved a pumpkin. Seasonal obligations.

Mae has big plans for her own pumpkin patch next year. We’re planting ALL the seeds! “Go big.”

Mae has developed an interest in hymns.

Daddy is more than happy to sing them all to her at a moments notice. He sings them on his own at random, so I guess its no surprise she likes them. I’m just happy about this.

^ That look!! What a babe. Can you spot Buckey?

We took Zack to one of our favorite spots for breakfast one day. We’ve been missing him this year. He has been much busier than he used to be. All good things and all time away from us is spent helping others. It sure is nice when we get uninterrupted time with our man, even if it is just for half an hour (and on the way to more of his responsibilities – ha!).

I turned 30, for whatever that’s worth.

Amelia proudly ate raw broccoli on my birthday…just thought that floret should be acknowledged.

My favorite part had to be this child saying, “I love you, Birthday Girl,” followed by a kiss on my arm (because she’s short), every chance she got.

Coming in at second place, is the time spent helping Mae bake me a pineapple upside down cake. I don’t like pineapple upside down cake. I actually don’t like any cake. I DO like her smile and the joy she feels when she puts time and hard work into caring for others.

My mother-in-law sent me a list of 30 things she adores about her Jadey-girl. You may know about the lists and letters I write occasionally. Man, was it nice to be on the receiving end.

While we were planning on officially celebrating my birthday the following weekend, Zack had an entire afternoon to just spend with us, so we took advantage of the situation, and took the girls out on the town.

It was cold and rainy, so we stuck with indoor biz. We started our night by checking out the new Starbucks in a neighboring town. (everything we do is in a neighboring town.) I hate coffee, but Zack loves coffee, especially if there is something new and weird he can try. Wouldn’t you know, there was something new and weird for him to try!

We also walked around Khols. We never go to Khols and often forget it even exists.

They had superhero sheets and so many toys at eye level throughout the store. My girls were very pleased with this place.

We then went to Walmart (yay?) and let the girls finally play Zelda on the big screen.

We ended our lazy evening with Taco Bell at 9 p.m. NINE P.M!

Mae wore this coat all evening and rarely takes it off – even at home – because she fancy.

We set up a new schoolroom situation. (Did you just laugh out loud, Shari? I can’t help myself.)

Mae decided to grow three years overnight at some point.

Also ^ she’s super into writing stories about horses. We have notebooks full of them.

She’s also still very much into being a dweeb. God bless her.

Speaking of dweebs…

Rae manages to function perfectly with my harsh prescription strapped to her face. Should I be worried?

(She’s holding an acorn ^)

It’s wood haulin’ / choppin’ / burnin’ season! Our favorite!!

Zack was able to get some work done for his grandpa during his fall break, so we spent the final weekend at Zack’s mom’s house.

The girls and I brought along some workbooks to do while everyone was at work and enjoyed some school outside (before it became freezing cold.)

The girls and I also took several walks while everyone was at work. We brought Buckey along, but he’s getting too big!!

Buckey boy was able to enjoy some time with Zack’s grandparents while Zack put up a backsplash. So glad it didn’t take him long to get calm and lounge about. He seemed to appreciate time away from his kennel.

Vovo (my grandma) and Grandpa moved up from Alabama this weekend as well! They brought their piano and couch for us, so we brought B along for a ride in the truck. He also rode home in the truck later that night, leaving me to drive home in the van alone. Not my favorite thing to do…

We’ve been making constant use of that piano and sofa. Thanks, Vovo.

This is also the reasoning for the new schoolroom area up above.

^ Mae now has the largest earmuffs to accompany that coat of hers.

Halloween. Mae adores it. I think the excitement involved in getting out of the house with the entire town at night + dressing up has a lot to do with it. She’s not that into candy. BUT! So much candy was collected.

Daddy painted faces all night. Guess which girls got to go first…

We came home after making the rounds, enjoyed some hot chocolate and watched Vamperina on Youtube. Solid night and I am oh so glad it’s over!

Our days are filling up quickly but we’re hoping November will leave us feeling less like this ^.

Happy November, errbody.

 

STEVENS WEEK : : PART FIVE

Zack took off work on their last day with us. We decided to take them canoeing since it’s one of our favorite hobbies. We were all pretty excited, but the girls’ anticipation rivaled the adults’ and kept us all in good spirits as we froze our buns off.

Those of us in kayaks became drenched with ice water with each paddle of our oars. Thankfully the kids were in the canoe with Zack, safe and dry with an endless supply of snacks.

By the end of our trip (our shortest time on the river, ever!), our hands and feet were pretty well thawed out.  – This was all my fault. I assumed it would warm up as it does in the summer. It did not. I should’ve dressed for autumn, not mid-July…

Afterwards, we headed home to card games by the fire. Another one of our favorite ways to pass the time.

They taught us Kings in the Corner, and we taught them Speed and Settlers of Catan. Cendi beat Jonathan in Speed, and he whooped us all in Settlers.

Best four days we could’ve hoped for! Thanks for traveling a billion miles to see us!!!

STEVENS WEEK : : PART FOUR

The science center (part of Forest Park) was closed on Saturday when we attempted to tour it, so on Monday, we ditched our plans to visit our local park and have an overall lazy day and drove back to St. Louis to see what the Science Center had to offer.

It did not disappoint, and in fact was probably my favorite part of the week. Had Zack been there it would’ve definitely been my favorite part!

There was a station where you controlled ^ this Rover and its camera. So fun!

All of our girls adore Star Wars! Rae was so giddy when she discovered this case full of memorabilia.

It would take 275,000 US dollars to send her tiny hiney to outer space. She would love to travel into space.

Watching the cars driving under the walkway.

Ah, nerd wit.

This construction scoop “game” was out of order, but there were plenty of other cool things for the kids to try. One of which was an earthquake simulation station. Pretty neat.

We all learned a bit about dinosaurs. They even had fossils we were able to examine, which the workers dug up on a trip to Montana.

Elevators with windows. Enough said?

They had such cool little – for lack of a better word – stations where we could see how things work. The energy in our homes, how much energy our bodies conduct (the kids’ energy was off the chart. The adults, not so much – no surprise there…), petal power, wind power, electric car versus gas powered, etc.

They had added on a farm area since the last time we visited. The even had live chickens there. My girls love all things farm – livestock or produce, so I’m sure they’ll be eager to get back there.

Last but certainly not least, a photo of Eisliegh and Mae “twinning” from head to toe. Could they be any cooler??