Monday, December 26, 2011

Receiving Gifts

Do you know your love language?  Author Gary Chapman has written a series of books about 5 love languages, or your primary way of expressing and interpreting love.  During one of our weekly date nights this past year, Matt and I took the test.  You can take it, too--click here.

We discovered that Matt's love language is "receiving gifts."  He's not materialistic and it doesn't mean he likes expensive gifts.  He just likes to know that he was thought of and appreciates the love and effort behind gift-giving.  A pack of post-it notes or a Reese's cup Christmas tree from a normal errand can express the same love as a much larger, more expensive gift given on a holiday.

Now, I must stop and say that "receiving gifts" is at the bottom of my list.  I'm a "quality time" and "words of affirmation" girl.  Since our love languages are different, I have to make an effort to show my love for him using his love language.  It's much more natural for me to want to express love in the way I prefer to receive it.  This makes the gift-giving holidays challenging, but fun.

Matt and I exchange stockings at Christmas time.  This year, I was so excited about his gifts.  I got a little creative!  This is what my hubby received.

All his stocking stuffers had cheesy little tags on them.  Just of example, the pens said, "you are stuPENdous" and the Riesens said, "I love you for so many RIESENS."

But, my favorite part of the gift was inspired by The Dating Divas (one of my favorite blogs).  I preplanned a monthly date for each month of 2012.  Each date is fairly inexpensive or even free (frisbee golf).  I combined our love languages--quality time (me) and receiving gifts (Matt)!  YAY!!  
This picture gives you an example of some of the months.

And, a close up for details!!

Matt was very surprised and very loved this Christmas morning!  And, I have to admit it was really fun to plan and execute this gift!

Happy Gift Giving!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joy to the World!

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

"For there is born to you today in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  Luke 2:11

As you enjoy this wonderful Christmas season with your family and friends, I pray you have time to remember the reason for Christmas--the birth of Jesus Christ!  My Savior came to earth in the humbleness of a stable.  A baby who was born of God.  A baby who would eventually die for my sins, and the sins of the world.  What an amazing gift!  Emmanuel--"God with us"!

Merry, merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Hair Raising"

Last night, Eli received this:

Today, Eli did this:

Yes, friends, that is indeed the "noise putty" in his hair.  It was also in Abel's hair.  Apparently, they were playing "shampoo."  UGH!!  FUN!!

Fortunately, this removes "noise putty" from hair with relative ease--thank goodness!  

Of course, it makes sense as the label advertises, "Dawn helps save wildlife" and I'm pretty sure my kiddos fall into the wildlife category at this point!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season

In the midst of this busy, hectic, and sometimes stressful season, it's easy to get overwhelmed.  It's easy to forget what this time of year is really all about.  It's easy to slip into the let's-get-this-done-and-check-it-off-the-Christmas-must-do-list mindset.  This year, I'm purposing to remember why we celebrate.  I'm purposing be joyful.  I'm purposing to slow down and enjoy each and every moment.

Disclaimer:  If you see me out and about and I'm harried, rushed, stressed, or pulling my hair out, remind me about this blog post!  Thanks so much in advance!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Morning at the Park

A few days ago, Mema and PaPa joined us for a visit to the newly remodeled Pullen Park.  We had such a great time on our outing.  We rode the carousel and the train.  The little boys rode the boats, and we played on all the playground equipment.  The weather was perfect, with temperatures in the upper 60s. It was absolutely gorgeous for the end of November.

My parents are such a blessing.  I'm amazed at what they'll try, even at their ages.  When the grandkids are involved, there's not much they won't do if asked nicely.  There's nothing like seeing your 67 year old mother and your 62 year old father on a see-saw!  I've always heard that you're only as old as you feel and apparently they were feeling particularly young that day! 

Here are a few pictures of the fun!

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children."  ~Alex Haley

Thursday, December 1, 2011


These are my children and my nieces and nephews--from left to right:  Jacob, Josh, Christian, Wooten, Eli, Rebecca, Abel, and Anna Gracen.  I was in high school when Wooten, the oldest, was born.  He's 16 now.  Are you kidding me??  How did that happen?  Where did the time go?

I couldn't be more proud of each of them!  They play sports, dance, do gymnastics, hunt, act, sing, text (teehee), and love each other.  When they are all together, you can bet there will be some action.  It's so fun to watch them enjoy one another and see their interests change as they get older.  My littlest boys are much younger than the others, but they adore their older brother and cousins and get doted on.

Our family is close knit and I am unbelievably thankful for that.  Not only are these good looking kiddos cousins, they are friends.  

Family is such a blessing and together is a wonderful place to be!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Capturing Chaos

Trying to get a good picture of all three boys requires quite a bit of patience and lots of outtakes!

But, in the end it's all worth it for these cuties!

We wish you much joy as we head into the most wonderful time of the year!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Play nicely

The "little boys" (our pet name for Eli and Abel collectively) are only 25 months apart in age.  I've always prayed and hoped that their close proximity in age would allow them to be great friends.  I want them to play chase, wrestle, share secrets, trade jokes, and just love on each other.  The reality is that they are brothers who do indeed love each other.  They are brothers who do play nicely together...sometimes.  Many times, I mediate and referee as they play together, encouraging them to be kind to one another.

I never dreamed that my days would be filled with phrases such as, "Do not put your body on top of your brother's head!"  Or, "Please don't body check your brother!"  Maybe even, "He wouldn't pull your hair, if you didn't put your head in his lap!"  And occasionally, "Why are you both naked?"  Alas, parenting these little boys is nothing short of an adventure!  So, anytime I catch them playing together nicely, it makes my heart sing.  Capturing it on camera is a rarity, but yesterday was success!!  I'm not sure where they were going, but they were headed there together!

"Of all the things I have to play, I'd choose my brother any day!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Basket full...

...of fun!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I See You!!

Here's proof that this little boy can have fun anywhere! Paint roller binoculars, anyone?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great Joy

This past week, Jacob and the other students at church worked to assemble and wrap 187 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  OCC's mission is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

Prior to the packing party, we set off to do some shopping for the shoebox stuffers.  Matt and I committed to donate $27 ($20 towards stuffers and $7 for shipping) for this service project, so I reminded Jacob as we were shopping to keep our budget in mind.  Much to my surprise, he let me know that he brought along some extra money from his own wallet, so that he wouldn't be limited. 

We are a giving family--I keep canned goods in the van for local homeless people, we send care packages to our Marines, we donate to various charities, and we give to the local church--yet, I am in awe of the giving spirit of our precious twelve-year old boy!  So many students his age are all about self, and we all fall into that thought pattern once in a while, but our Jacob really has a heart for others, and I couldn't be more proud!

 Getting a little help with the wrapping

 Packing the goodies he chose for a needy little boy!

Experiencing the JOY of giving!

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."  3 John 1:4

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day Home Project

Matt had today off in honor of Veterans' Day, so we decided to make the most of that and paint our living room.  I've been staring at paint chips for over a month trying to choose a color that will look good with not only our furnishings, but also our honey oak trim and fireplace.  I'm not a huge fan of the color of all the wood, but I certainly have no desire to paint over good woodwork, so it was tricky trying to pick the perfect paint color.  I finally settled on "fresh bread."  So, we shipped the kiddos off to Mema and PaPa's house for the day and got down to work.  Although it's hard to tell from the photos (my photography skills won't win me any prizes), the color is a warm pale golden color and I. LOVE. IT!!

So thankful for a productive day with my amazing husband!  I love spending time with him and having a "new" living room is just a bonus!  

Huge thanks to Mema and PaPa for taking such great care of our boys and for always being willing to help and support us!  You guys ROCK!  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making lunch and memories!

For lunch, I thought it would be fun to have the little boys make their own pizzas.  Here are some pictures from our time together in the kitchen. you see a pattern in these pictures, or is it just me?  Some for the pizza, some for me, some for the pizza, some for me!  I'm thinking I should serve an appetizer next time!  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

World Changers

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  ~Margaret Meade

Monday, November 7, 2011

One of those days!

Have you ever had one of those days?

This morning, I had all kinds of plans.  I even posted my scheduled productivity on Facebook.  Then, life happened.

I was awakened (on my day to "sleep in") to a crying baby who has a cold and had taken a spill, hitting the table.  We left home to run a few errands.  At the grocery store we picked up a few essentials.  When I dug in the diaper bag to grab my wallet to pay, I discovered it wasn't there.  Really?!?  Our next scheduled stop was the gas station, since our gas light was lit.  I scrounged up $4 in "emergency drink/snack" funds hidden in the van to avoid completely running out of gas.  Apparently, $4 doesn't make the gas light go off in a minivan!  UGH!!!  On the way home the kids fought over the balloon--yes, there was only one--we got from the grocery store.  While I put away the groceries and folded a load of clothes, the boys fought over the Nerf darts, the Nerf guns, who was touching who, and whatever little offense they could dream up.   While I vacuumed, there was strife over who got to push the toy vacuum.  We headed outside for a change of scenery and the sibling rivalry continued.  I attempted to clean out the van and bashed me head on the ceiling.  Give me a break!!!

Have you ever had one of those days?

I went to the bathroom (with the door open, of course, because I must be ready at any moment, even the most private ones, to step in and save the day) and tried to get a grip on things.  I sat there and felt sorry for myself.  I doubted my parenting ability.  I pondered what a failure I had been so far today.  Even as I heard the children starting in with each other again, I wondered if I could do it.  Oh boy, did I throw a pity party.

Then I felt that gentle nudge!  That reminder that I'm not doing this alone.  That reminder that I can't do this alone.  And, I gave it to Him.  "God, I can't do this.  They're really pushing my buttons.  I don't know what to do next.  I need You to help me!"  That peace that passes all understanding never ceases to amaze me.  The short-fuse, the frustration, the anger, the helplessness, the defeat was gone!  I stepped out of the bathroom refreshed and took on the rest of my morning, with my God by my side.  He's always with me.  I just have to pause and acknowledge His presence.  I have to stop trying to do it all by myself!  What a blessing to know that I'm not alone!

So, have you ever had one of those days?  Of course, we all have!  But, today I was reminded that I'm not struggling alone.  I don't have to walk around defeated.  I am a child of God!!  So, look out Monday afternoon, here WE come!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Praise with me? (Eli's step of faith)

As we were running errands Monday morning, Eli asked from the backseat, "Mama, will you praise with me?"  I assured him that I would love to praise with him and asked if he wanted to sing to God.  He looked a little confused (in my rearview mirror), so I asked him what he wanted to do.  He said, "What does praise mean?"  I explained how we can tell God how wonderful he is with our words, or our hands, or singing songs.   "Well, Mama, I want to ask Jesus to be my friend," he replied.  It caused me to pause a minute, but I told him that Jesus is our friend and reminded him that He loves us so much!  Then, Eli said, "Well, I want to ask him."  Without hesitation, he asked aloud, "Jesus, will you be my friend?"  Then he looked at me smiling and pointing to his chest, and told me, "Now, He's in my heart!"

Well, Praise God and WOW!!

Although we've talked about Jesus living in our hearts, we've never walked him through the "process" so to speak.  Since he's three and a half, which is quite young to understand salvation, I went to some church staff and leaders with this exciting news to hear their thoughts and advice.  It's such a blessing to be under their leadership and wisdom.  They were so helpful!

I'm so excited that Eli has taken this first step of faith and chosen to make his relationship with Christ his own.  His asking Jesus to be his friend is laying the foundation for his Christian walk.  As he gets older and his understanding of his sinful nature and need for a Savior expands, he may choose to re-commit his life to Christ and be baptized.  Until then, we will just continue to guide him as he grows in the Lord.

Giving God all the glory that this little guy made a new friend this week!
The best friend he could ever have!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Building Blocks

While Eli does his workboxes for "school," Abel plays with learning toys.  On Monday, I gave him wooden blocks to play with.  Confession:  The preschool teacher in me really wanted to see where he scored on the "block tower building" portion of the Brigance Scales.  I modeled building a "tall" tower, then gave Abel the blocks to play with.  He had so much fun stacking blocks and watching them topple!  I turned my attention to Eli and when I looked back, I caught this cute little sequence.  Not only was he having a great time, but he built a seven-block tower without any help!!  Yay, Abel!  It is such a blessing to be home with my boys!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Halloween Treat

Last night was Halloween night, and I had two little boys itching to trick or treat.  It was cold and raining, which just doesn't go well with walking door to door with a one year old and a three year old.  You could easily say that I wasn't looking forward to trick or treating, so when I ran out to my WW meeting to weigh in and discovered very few lit porch lights, I wasn't disappointed.

While waiting at my meeting, I had time to think.  It was then I remembered that Halloween and trick or treating isn't about me and I knew two little boys who would be very disappointed that the porch lights were off.  I pondered the idea of loading them in the van to travel our neighborhood, but the idea of loading and unloading two children who require help at every house just didn't seem worth the effort.  On my drive home, I began to feel sad for my little ones, then I pulled into our cul-de-sac.  Let me just say that my cul-de-sac neighbors are the BEST!  Not only were all their porch lights on, but I quickly realized we could hit just these houses, visit with good friends, get the all-important goodies, never leave the cul-de-sac, and have two very happy boys!

With the covering of two umbrellas (one of which we snagged from the Little Tikes picnic table--I know, I know), we loaded the wagon and happily hit the cul-de-sac.  Our beloved cul-de-sac!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trunk or Treat

Yesterday was "Trunk or Treat" at our church.  With food, games, fun, and candy, we just couldn't go wrong.  We had a family costume theme--Zany Zoo.  The little boys were a tiger and a zebra, and Matt and I dressed as zookeepers.  As a mom to three boys, zookeeper is a role I feel quite comfortable in.  The boys' costumes were handmade with black zip up hoodies, sweatpants, and colored duct tape--cheap, easy, and super cute!  I snagged the "zookeeper" khaki shirts from Goodwill for a measly $6, made some name badges, and we were good to go!  Jacob, his mom, stepdad, and siblings joined us and it was a wild, but super fun time.  Here are a few photos from our adventure!

"Mama-Zookeeper" (as Eli called me) and the wild animals

Precious little zebra mane

This tiger is "grrrrreat!"

"Let me outta this cage!"

I just want to tickle his whiskers

 Sloan Family Zoo

(Last 3 photos courtesy of Niki Wilbanks--thanks!!)