Monday, December 31, 2012

Pictures of Christmas

As I post these pictures I am reminded of a Christmas program our church did when I was a teenager. It was a slide show and my dad narrated and put music to it. Not powerpoint but with an actual slide projector. We listened to that recording over and over and each time I hear the music I can hear my dad's voice. "Christmas, what pictures that word brings to our mind. When we think of Christmas we think of many things at once...." Here are a few pictures that will always come to mind for family.

Christmas brunch at the adult table.


For gift giving we exchange names adults and children alike and it is a lot of fun to find out who had who. Although, I knew who everyone had by the end and not by trying to figure it out as one of my children likes to do. When you have 6 children shopping for different people that takes a large part of the mystery away. And then others ask me what a certain person wants which takes more of the mystery away. But in the end it was so much fun!

To make it last longer we start with my Grandpa receiving his gift and working our way down to the youngest.


This year we were able to trick George and confuse him so thoroughly he had no idea who had him which was great!


I love when people say "Oh, ____ had me!" This year my nephew had me and he puts such thought into his gift. I got baking pans (that he reluctantly gave me) but he picked out two necklaces all by himself that had to be just so. He knew what colors I liked and that I didn't need earrings to match. So sweet! I even got a gift from the "Secret Shop" from school.


John was making fun of me as I wanted them to take their time giving the gift so I could get a picture. Love his expression! What a goof! 


Missy finally got the cash register she has been asking for. Now she can play store to her hearts content! And maybe learn some math along the way.


Tank and Seppy were there but I didn't think you wanted to see pictures of every gift exchange. :) Here is Zippy doing one of his favorite things this Christmas season. Reaching for the ornament. We worked hard with him so he is a little better at just touching with one finger. Of course there is still the occasional grab and throw.


When my sister and I were little girls we made up actions to the The Twelve Days of Christmas and liked to perform them each year. And for me it has to be to the Dinah Shore version my Dad always played from a record. We haven't done that for awhile but this year revived our act much to the enjoyment of our children. They cracked up on the 6 geese as we pretend we are laying eggs and plop our bottoms down and make a noise. Of course we were cracking up too and remembered what a workout it is by the end. John videoed it but I am not going to share that here. :)

Two turtle doves...


...and a partridge in a pear tree.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our Christmas Part 1

I am going to start with the big snowstorm from last week which the kids were so excited for! Last winter was not very snowy so this year they are hoping for a lot. Well, they were not disappointed as we got dumped on. It is funny how only 20 minutes away from us they hardly had any snow. And as my Dad drove out here to check out our snow he said that we even had more at our house than in town. But John always says it has to do with us being up on a hillside and then down in the valley. No matter, it is amazingly beautiful! If I didn't mind the cold so much I'd be out in it as often as the kids. We no longer needed to dream of a White Christmas. 


This was Zippy's first time "playing" in the snow and he loved it! It certainly was a hard thing finding winter gear in his size among our collection. You can't see it but he is wearing a mix of things. One pink mitten and one blue mitten to say the least. That's what happens when you are the 7th child I guess. All we need are smaller boots so he can actually walk! :)

Christmas Eve began with a beautiful candlelight service. There is simply nothing like a congregation gathered together in worship adoring the Light of the World who came to save us. Heavenly!


I didn't dare hold a candle with Zippy around so I took a few pictures. I asked Missy why she was so serious and she told me she was concentrating and watching all around because she remembers the year her friend's hair started on fire. And here I thought something more profound. :) Glad she is aware!


Getting ready to blow out the candle


As always we gather with my Dad's side of the family. My Grandparents are no longer able to host us but I am so thankful they are still able to be with us!


Re-Pete and George practicing for a guitar duet.


My sweet sister and nephew. Can you tell they are related?


He thought it would be fun to act out the Christmas story with my kids and got together all of the props and such. As my Uncle read from Luke 2 the kids gave us a glimpse of the story. Zippy did not want to be left out and wandered in and out. He wanted to pet the "sheep".


Lest you think our family pictures always turn out here is a crazy one. It didn't help that everyone decided they needed to take a picture so none of us really knew where to look. I only got two with my camera so picked the one where my parents looked better.


By the end of the night and after countless amounts of cookies stolen Zippy was a little crazy.


And the celebration continues on this weekend when we gather with my Grandpa, parents and sister's family. Here is the winter wonderland out my window. Simply stunning!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas from Our family to Yours!


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Christmas Chalkboard

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Me and My Camera

I was thinking this week about something I could not live without and one item is my camera. I'll get to the reason I was pondering that in a minute. I love my camera! I have always enjoyed taking pictures. I  remember when I was little using my grandma's long rectangular camera with the disposable flash that attached. And when I was in middle school I got my very own camera. I have no idea what kind it was. Some type of point and shoot from "back in the day" (seems to be a catch phrase I hear often lately) again with the disposable flash. Wow, we have come so far! And so have my pictures. I have learned and grown along with each new camera.

But alas, my camera (Canon Rebel Xsi) bit the dust. Which got me to pondering how I could possibly survive without it -- especially with Christmas coming up. The screen was black with a dreaded Error 99. After a bit of research and trying out a few suggestions nothing worked and everything pointed to it needing to be sent for repair. Well, I had it sent for repair last year after a lens got stuck (I actually found that post still as a draft and just published it) and broke some connecting pins. I was none too happy then as it was right after Zippy was born. Well, I was not happy this time either knowing it takes at least a month to get it back. And too, do you put money into repairing it yet again when you could be saving for a bit of an upgrade? Repairs aren't exactly cheap.

Well, Canon had a great sale on refurbished cameras last week. They are already slightly discounted but there was a deal on top of that. Yes, but still more than we wanted to spend now. John and I talked it over but I didn't think he would agree to it and was trying to come to terms with just fixing what I had but then I saw an email in my inbox from John saying "Merry Christmas!" with an order from Canon thanking John for his order. And I was so excited to the point of tears! Maybe I love my camera a little too much.

My new camera arrived and is so much fun! I notice the advancements in this one right away. I am very excited about the higher ISO and my indoor pictures without flash look so much better and I can actually see the real color of my kitchen walls. With my old camera it never came through with the light green it really is. The pictures also seem a tad more crisp which I have been really desiring. This one also has video capability. I have so much playing to do I can't wait. Merry Christmas to me! And Thank You so much John!!!


One of my favorite subjects. Although he doesn't often stay still lately which equals not as crisp but still nice. Caught him doing one of his favorite things lately -- playing with the tree!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Perfect Tree

Over the years of having children I thought I had left my "perfect" tendencies long behind which reminded me of a post I did when I first began blogging. Times haven't changed as much as I thought they had. I usually try to set my expectations for things quite low so as not to be disappointed. But I am finding out that I still might have a bit of wanting everything to be just so.

We set out last Monday to find and cut down our Christmas tree. We decided to go back to a tree farm closer to home since I no longer need to have a huge tree (they don't have huge trees). John got off of work early to get there before dusk and we all were eager with anticipation. I cannot recall ever picking out a tree where the temperature was a balmy 50 degrees or so and we were wearing just a light jacket. The kids were excited as we got onto the tractor hay ride out to the field.


We watched all of the trees passing by pointing out some along the way. We had in mind to get a Fraser Fir this year as my parents always get them and they seem a little hardier with maybe sturdier branches than the typical Balsam we get. Well, this was harder than we thought. It seems everyone wants a Fraser and all of the nice ones we found were a bit small or misshapen.


John kept telling me he found some really nice ones already cut in the pole barn. You don't go to a tree farm to pick an already cut one! But after much walking and contemplating getting a funny shaped tree we agreed to go look in the barn. One of our boys was very hesitant about this. He was looking forward to the chance of cutting the tree this year. And I really, really wanted that for him. But upon entering the barn he looked at me as we knew that the best trees were in here. My heart sank. What do we do? We want a nice tree but I knew how much he longed to have his chance to cut a tree. We debated going to another tree farm but it was too late that day so we ended up getting the tree in the barn. His disappointment was great and I understood that and we talked about it quite awhile. Always a lesson to be learned. Life is not always what we want it to be.


The tree ended up being a bit smaller than I had wanted but it would do. George and Tank did pretend to cut it, although not quite the same. :) The kids had fun wrapping it in netting.


I was so thankful for my helpers with the lights this year. Pete and Re-Pete went through each set to make sure they were working and replaced bulbs as needed. (I should have taken a picture!) Then they handed them to me and kept everything moving. It made the task go much faster. The ornaments went on and soon we began to notice that our tree did not quite look the same as it had. The branches now hung low which made it harder to hang anything on. And so we didn't even finish hanging them because it doesn't really work. I skipped the beads too because it would add to the problem.


I saw my Mom and Dad's beautiful tree last night and I must say I was a tad jealous. It's branches hang straight out as they should and the ornament spacing is just right. Ahh, it may just be the "perfect tree". I have had thoughts of going out and cutting a new one but what is the point of that?

And through the past few days a song by Ray Boltz plays through my head about the "Perfect Tree".

The perfect tree
Grew very long ago
And it was not decked with silver
Or with ornaments of gold
But hanging from its branches
Was a gift for you and me
Jesus laid His life down
On the perfect tree

Christmas is not about the tree or decorations and many other things we associate with this time of year and I am glad my "weeping willow fir" as John calls it, has reminded of that! I know I can still get hung up on wanting things, especially at Christmas to be just so. I want to make memories that the children will remember. But I don't need to orchestrate each event and each story read or cookie decorated to make memories. All we need to do is live and love together. And to always put the focus where it should be. Not on ourselves and our desires but remember that it is all about Jesus. He needs to be our focus. Let's worship and adore Him!

With all the celebrations
Sometimes the truth is lost
That every step this baby took
Brought Him closer to the cross

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Garden Cake and Dirt Cake

I know, a little over a month behind. But....For Missy and Seppy's birthday party I thought we'd go with something easy and make two dirt cakes. I planned that Missy's would be in a cute pot with flowers on top and Seppy's would be in a pail with gummy worms. Well, Sep went along with my plan but of course Missy Blue had plans of her own. I was a little surprised that she wanted an actual cake as she does not especially like cake but "everyone else does". Admittedly I was a little irritated in the beginning because her plans would be much more work. But I am truly thankful that she has a creative little mind and is able to express that. And in the end many hands made light work. Somehow I forget that everyone here likes to be creative so I don't have to look far for help.

Missy wanted to have a garden cake. A friend of theirs had entered one in the County Fair and so we went online and found some ideas. That along with the Hello Cupcake book from my sister and we had our design.

The cake was a chocolate 9 X 13 cake made with a recipe and a half so that it baked higher. I had planned on making two layers but it was much easier this way.

We covered it in a light layer of chocolate frosting although in hindsight that wasn't really necessary. and we could have used all green. The dirt was made with crushed oreos which worked perfectly with Sep's dirt cake. The arrangement of the veggies was done by Missy of course.


The kids all shaped the veggies out of Starburst and Airheads candy. Although the orange starburst is not anything close to the color of a pumpkin so I added a bit of orange food coloring to it and mixed it. Lettuce is cornflakes mixed with melted butter, marshmallow, almond extract and green coloring (like Christmas wreath cookies -- yum!) and topped with an M&M.


The carrots were made out of portions of candy corn. The original carrots were shaped out of starbursts but looked so pale that we turned them into potatoes and rolled them in "dirt".


Pete added his own creative touch in making cobs of corn (something we didn't see in any examples). And then he went on to pipe the "grass".


Seppy really liked Missy's cake and decided that next year he will have a cake that is more fun too! But he definitely thought his tasted better!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week! John's parents were visiting on their way south for the winter...we had our annual Mayflower/Pilgrim meal....and Thanksgiving was at our house this year!


Seppy with Grandma harvesting sumac to make "Indian Lemonade/Sumacade" but we called it "Seppy Tea". While walking with Grandma, Sep picked the berries and rubbed them on his hand and licked it saying how tasty it was. That reminded Grandma that you can make tea from the berries and we thought that would be a good contribution to our Mayflower meal. It was an experiment by steeping the sumac berries (of which we have an abundance) then adding honey but it turned out well after a few tries. Although, we decided to try it next summer when the berries are at their best.


Missy and Pete in the "Mayflower" eating beef jerky and hardtack. We attempted to dress up this year using some of the costumes we had borrowed after singing at the nursing home. How did a Native American end up on our Mayflower? :)


One of our Thanksgiving tables. I had to go out and buy more glasses because somehow a whole set of ours broke between this Thanksgiving and the last time it was at our house 3 years ago. I debated using goblets but just couldn't bring myself to do it.


My Grandpa chatting and eating with his sister. They began our whole gathering. I am so thankful for their godly example to all of us! Grandpa with his gentle quiet manner and Aunt Dorothy for her humble service to many and her hospitality.


The gang with a few to come later.


My sister makes something creative each year and this time it was rice krispy turkeys. Cute!


Annual football game. John cut a portion of our fields to make a larger playing area and put tubing around. Very blurry but I liked John jumping in the air. Look closely and you can see Tank is playing barefoot. It isn't often he wears shoes around here.


My favorite thing this year is my chalkboard! Throughout the day people added what they were thankful for.

So Blessed! So Thankful!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, November 15, 2012

TOS Crew - Teaching Kids To Sing

My last review of the year! I have probably mentioned this before but I love music and singing and am hoping that is passed onto our children. Most of them do sing but not many of them are able to stay in tune with the music and cannot seem to keep the right pitch. I have hoped to find a program to help them learn. And so I wanted to review Teaching Kids To Sing with Chris & Carole Beatty.

Chris and Caroly Beatty are the creators of Vocal Coach which is a leading publisher of vocal training products for all ages and have been training singers for over 4 decades.  Through their millions of products, as well as workshops for all ages, they have been instrumental in coaching and preserving the voice of thousands of singers ranging from beginners to Grammy Award and Dove award winning professionals.

Teaching Kids To Sing is targeted for ages 5 - 6th grade and is a systematic, interactive and fun tool for teaching the young singers in your life about their voices using either our DVD or CDs. The Teaching Kids To Sing series presents principles and exercises in a way that can be easily understood and implemented by children.


My kids (ages 5 - 13) and I gathered around the TV and used Teaching Kids To Sing during part of our day and you can find ideas to help you implement this in a homeschool setting on the Vocal Coach website. We ended up going through two lessons at a time as they were not very long. The first DVD -- Volume 1 is Building Foundations That Last and goes through:
  • Posture
  • Breathing
  • Tone
  • Warm-Ups
The children learn the elements along with helpful hints for example to remember good posture you pretend to pull yourself up at the back of your neck with a string. Then Chris along with the Vocal Coach Kids Choir introduce a song to help reinforce what was just learned. One of our favorite songs was the Breathing Rap which goes like this (think with a rap beat to it)...

I breath without moving my ribs and chest.
I breath this way because it's best.
When I breath in I expand my middle,
When I breathe out my tummy gets little.
I breath this way, it feels just fine.
It's all by God's design.

Volume 2 -- Essential Skills For Growing Voices contains:
  • Rhythm
  • Diction
  • Dynamics
  • Vocal Health (did you know that clearing your throat is not good for your vocal chords?)
  • and you also go through Warm-ups again and some reminders from Volume 1.
The CD contains Accompaniment Tracks to all of the songs and warm-ups that were presented both with the vocals and just the accompaniment. You can play it anywhere for more practice.

My Thoughts

I really liked how the elements of singing are taught and presented in a very easy to learn manner that each of my children "got it". Initially they were a little turned off by how "old" the video seemed in how the kids were dressed, the setting, and just how the video was made.  It was produced in 1999 (when George was born) and it is amazing to again be reminded of how far technology has come in just 13 years. But after discussing that aspect we got back into learning what was important. And they were able to have fun doing the various warm-ups that I remember doing in choir class, hah hah hah and ho ho ho, up and down the musical scales and so on. Even Zippy had fun dancing along to the beat of the music. He may be my musical boy as he can keep the beat quite well already.

I did find that after going through these lessons with the kids following the lead of other children that they are better able to match the pitch and go up and down the scale. They also learned better posture which hopefully will help them in children's choir at church. And as I learned the Beatty's say,“Practice makes permanent no matter how you’re practicing, so let’s do it right.” So, just because you practice doesn't mean it will get perfect so it is helpful to learn how to do it the correct way.

This would be great for a children's choir to go through or just to help your children at home learn how to sing. What a great music class!

You can purchase Teaching Your Kids To Sing DVD/CD set for $44.99.

**Disclaimer -- I received a complimentary copy of Teaching Your Kids To Sing DVD/CD set in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

TOS Crew - Growing Up Wild

When I first looked at the website for Growing Up Wild it brought me back many years to when I was a child and missionaries would come to church and give their presentations while on furlough. I always enjoyed learning about different cultures and about life in another land. One of the missionaries we supported is from Papua New Guinea which is where this video series takes place so I was very excited for our children to watch this and have a small glimpse into the lives of missionary children.


Growing Up Wild is a video series that began as a creative outlet for the Wild family who serve as missionaries to the Wanu people of Papua, Indonesia. They are a family of six and the videos follow the everyday life of the four Wild brothers. We were able to review Volume 1 containing the episodes: Home Sweet Hut, Supply Trip, and Sun & Water and Volume 4 containing: Amazing World Around Us, Adventures in Culture, and Tribal Calling.

                                            Photobucket       Photobucket 

These were excellent family videos to watch! I think my boys especially enjoyed watching other boys their ages in a different culture experiencing things like finding snakes, riding in a helicopter for a supply trip, seeing the beautiful creatures like the bird of paradise, and the cool house they live in and learning about a new people group. The only thing almost all of us hid our face from was when two of the Wild boys along with some of the tribal boys had their septum pierced with a small sharpened piece of wood, which is something that is normal for the Wano people. Surprisingly, it wasn't painful but the thought of it alone made my stomach turn. I laughed so hard at the end when the suggested activity was to pierce your septum. Thankfully she was just kidding! I was also pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face in one of the pictures at the end of an episode. A girl I was in a singing group with in high school, who I knew was a missionary as her parents had been, was in a picture with Mrs. Wild. It is a small world!

The best part of this is that God is glorified in all they do. And I love what the Wild brothers Mom tells her boys -- “We learn and work hard at gaining knowledge, not so that we will become smart or be known as clever, or in order to make a name for ourselves, but so that we can be used for Christ.”


The episodes are not very long and so we ended up watching each volume in one sitting. Keep in mind that the videos were made by the Wild family and so it is not a big production but the quality of what is being learned is so good. They are real people following hard after God and sharing their lives with you and there is a real connection there.

After each episode they list suggested activities to help you think more about your own culture and connect with theirs and make it more real. Those activities are also included on a separate CD in a pdf file. Activities vary from building a model hut like the house the Wilds live in to filling out a chart (included printable) on how the Wano culture differs from our own. You can learn about the various creatures in Papua and there are suggested scripture readings and research projects to write about. This video series is wonderful for not only to enjoy as a family but has educational value as well.

I highly recommend this series to any family that wants to help their children learn about how God is working in all parts of the world and expand their worldview.


Thank You Wild family for giving us a glimpse of your life with the Wano people! May God continue to be glorified through your lives as you serve Him.

Purchase Information

There are 5 volumes in the Growing Up Wild series and you can purchase each one for $18.99 or the entire set for $80.99. Each volume contains an activity guide.

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