Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A love for hiking!

In continuing with this month's theme of being "thankful", I would be totally wrong if I left out "hiking" from the list.  Hiking is something I have always enjoyed.  My favorite family vacations growing up were the ones where we got to explore the great outdoors together.

Me and my family on a family vacation to Sedona, Arizona and the Grand Canyon.
Exploring a park near the lake as a family.

Grilling at a park.  We loved visiting the lake and parks on the weekends, exploring the area as a family.  

I absolutely loved our family vacation where we traveled up from Kansas all the way up through South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, camping all along the way.  What awesome memories we made!  We camped in Yellowstone National Park and several other awesome parks in our pop-up camper--six of us (four kids) in a little pop up camper.  And I bet you that vacation is not only on my list as one of my most favorite vacations ever, but I bet it's up there on my siblings' lists as well.  We fished in freshwater streams in South Dakota, explored Yellowstone, saw the famous geysers, the Grand Tetons and so much more.  It was epic.  Everywhere I travel to, I have a great urge to see what outdoor areas are there to hike and explore.  In fact, most of the places I desire to travel to most are the ones with great places to "play" and explore outdoors.

And this is a great love that I hope my kids also will always share.  I am thinking that if it is such a big part of our lives as they grow up, they will surely have to love it as well, right?   I really hope they do, because I believe it is not only a fun part of our life together as a family, but is also an important one.  I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Jeff Alt, author of "Get Your Kids Hiking" feels the same.  In his book, Alt says scientific studies have shown that hiking releases certain body chemicals, such as serotonin and adrenaline, that result in more positive thinking.  He believes parents should begin taking their kids on hikes as infants.  Early on, of course, being strapped to the parents' chest, and later after they are a bit bigger, in a backpack carrier.  He believes (and I agree) that there is so much parents can teach their children through hiking.  As soon as the child can say, "look daddy, a bird, " it's time to switch to child directed hiking, in which you allow them to use all their senses to engage with nature on their own.  He recommends taking along a magnifying glass and let them look at leaves and other fun things up close.  Bring a bug catcher.  Tip over rocks and see which creatures linger underneath.  The goal is to expose the kids to the outdoors and make it a routine so they don't second guess it when they get older.

Alt recommends the following ways you can engage your children along the trail:

-- Let the child lead within reason. Be mindful of dangerous areas such as cliffs, fast moving rivers, etc.

Some of the boys that led the way in our September homeschooling group hike.

 -- When your child takes interest in an animal or rock, stop and explore with him or her.

The skin of a rattlesnake that we found.  This was skin from the actual rattler, which had 6 rings I believe (making it 6 years old)

-- Bring items that kids can use to interact with nature such as a magnifying glass, binoculars, plant and bird identification guides, a camera and a bug catcher.

-- Use all your senses to explore: Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose and listen, then talk about what you heard or smelled. Touch bark. Make a leaf imprint with paper and pencil. -

- Let your little adventurer pack a few items of his own; even if it's not hiking related. This will give him a sense of ownership.

-- Let your older child bring along a friend.

We absolutely love family hikes, but those usually can only happen on the weekends, since Drew works Monday-Friday.  But, we homeschool, which gives me and the kids a ton of time during the week to hike and explore together.  And we do.  We have a really fun time exploring together.  When we go together, we have a good time geocaching and doing many of these things on the list above.  But, there is a different and fun dynamic when we hike with friends.  It is a lot of fun to hike with friends and watch the kids collaborate on their exploration.  So, in August I started a hiking group for Austin area homeschoolers.  I schedule group hikes at various places all over Austin that are full of many learning opportunities.

Working as a group to build a dam to an island in the middle of the creek.  Teamwork!

The kids love to find big sticks on our hikes.  Abbey was pretending she was a gatekeeper and would not let me pass without the secret password.
I scheduled our most recent homeschooling group hike on a Saturday, so that families could attend.  We called it our "Fall Family Hike".  It was fun to meet all the dads of these kids we hike with regularly.  It was a gorgeous day for a hike at McKinney Falls State Park, in Austin.  Here are some pictures from our fun Fall family Hike.

Some of the boys, exploring the rocky, moonlike surface together

Trying to lift a rock...nope, too heavy.

Exploring the "rock shelter"

After the group left, we stayed at the park and explored a different area and a couple of other trails.  We hiked to this 200 year old homestead that was on the property.

After a long day, when those little legs get tired, sometimes a ride on daddy's shoulders is warranted.

Abbey is daddy's hiking buddy.

Drew is the master rock skipper.

My little hiking buddy.

We loved this tree.  So, we just had to set the camera down for a self timer family photo.

Today, I am thankful for hiking!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Today I am thankful for" Luke and Abbey

In keeping with this month's "thankfulness" theme, today's writing assignment for the kids was followed by the prompt:  "Today I am thankful for...".  Luke and Abbey filled in the rest.  Then, I thought it would be fun to put each of their lists into video form.  And, here it is:

Now that I watch the video back, I am thankful for all the moments that we've captured on video, film and photo.  And, those precious little voices!!!

Friday, November 18, 2016

It's Just Too Much! Our First Short Film

Today I am thankful for the days where we have nothing on our schedule.  The days that we get to spend entirely at home if we choose.  The days where free time abounds and creativity ensues...days like today.

Today Abbey and I talked about making a little movie.  We had absolutely nothing on our schedule that we HAD to get done, so we decided to turn this little idea into reality.  We made our first "short film."  We didn't spend much time preparing for this at all.  We literally just talked through the story line and then began filming.  There were plenty of mistakes, I am sure.  But, we had a blast.

Not only that, but it was a fun learning experience for the kids.  They got to see some of the work that is "behind the scenes" in movie making.   We had about 55 different scenes in our short 4 minute movie.  Of course, our scenes were all just a few seconds long, but still there were a lot of them.  Some of theme were "deleted" after we viewed them.  I showed them how to put the scenes in the "imovie" app.  We found different sounds and songs for free on the internet to use for our movie.  We talked about which transitions worked best from scene to scene.  And then, it was fun to show them the finished product.  There were lots of giggles cackles as we watched it together.  They just loved our first little movie.  So, I am sure there will be more of them...made on another day where we have nothing going on and the creative juices are flowing freely.

Without further adieu, here is our first short film:


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reading aloud

Over the seven or so years we have had children, I have probably spent hundreds of hours reading aloud to the kids.  So now, I am thankful for the roles to reverse.  These kids love to read to us.  Abbey enjoys reading fun fictional stories to us, while Luke enjoys reading non-fiction books and facts to us.

And I love being to relax on the couch, squeeze in some cuddle time and listen to the excitement, enthusiasm and giggles as they read.  The latter tells me that they are not just reading random words, but they are learning and comprehending.

Reading to dogs at the animal shelter's "rescue readers" program.

Abbey, reading to kittens at the rescue readers program.

When I am completely exhausted and know that I still need to get back in that kitchen (where I feel like I have been most of the day anyway) to make dinner, I often excitedly remember--"Oh yeah, we haven't had our read aloud time today!"  So, I ask cheerfully, "Who wants to read to me?"  And the kids come running into the living room to our reading spot on the couch.  Abbey usually is a little more eager than Luke, because reading is one of her passions.  And, she reads which such emotion and enthusiasm.  I am amazed at how she reads--not just words, but as if she is reading lines in a play--acting as the characters in the story.  One of my friends recently mentioned, "you should totally start a youtube channel where Abbey just reads books."  Also recently, I have heard that kids really enjoy watching other kids on youtube doing various things--from simply playing with their toys, to opening packages.  So, why not add a change of our four year old reading books?  If nothing else, it will encourage me to regularly take videos of her reading, which I am certain I will not regret having many years from now.

So, for those interested, here is the link to Abbey's youtube channel:

We record her the first time she reads a book. So, she has never read these books she is reading on the videos.  For the most part, they are library books we check out from the library.  It is so fun to watch her experience the story for the first time. 

Here are Abbey's most recent videos:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thankful for Homeschooling

I know what you are thinking:  "Oh no, here is ANOTHER post about homeschooling!  We get it--you love homeschooling!"  Yes, I do.  But, this month is one where I am documenting some of the things for which I am thankful.  And, homeschooling is a HUGE part of my life.  This post is not about all the great reasons for homeschooling.  It is not about how great it is academically for the kids.  It is why it is good for ME!   So, here it goes.  Sorry!

Some of the things I LOVE about homeschooling and am thankful for:

1.  Learning alongside the kids:  They are learning so much.  We read TONS of books.  They ask lots of questions.  And this causes me to learn right alongside them as well!  I don't have all the answers to their questions---so we look them up together.  I am glad I don't know all the answers.  If I did, they would rely on me too much and not be independent learners.  But instead, by seeing me go through the process of finding the answers, they learn how to find answers.  They see that it is ok not to always know the right answer.  It is fun to explore and learn things!  We love to learn around here!

2.  I get to "be a kid" again.  In our learning, I get to play, have fun and be a kid as well. We get to go to fun plays, that are geared toward the children.  In these participative productions, we all giggle, clap our hands, and sing songs.  At home, we get to explore nature, play in the mud, find cool bugs, and learn all about them.  We get to go an adventurous hikes together, and build dams together, dig holes, find cool rocks and more.  Homeschooling really does bring out the kid in me!

silly group picture at one of our recent hikes with other homeschoolers.

Being silly on the trampoline with the kids

Me and my friend, Sarah, at the "Where the Wild Things Are" play
3.  It brings out some of the passions and skills I put away so long ago.   I haven't played the flute or piano in so long.  I just hadn't had time to do so.  But, recently, the kids have shown a big interest in music.  So, I bought a beginning piano instruction book for them and I enrolled them in a homeschool Choir.  So, they are getting a lot of music instruction now and I LOVE it.  Music is something I have been passionate about all my life and that part of my life has been missing the past 10 years or so.  I randomly pulled my flute out a week ago or so and began playing.  It was so much fun and soon I realized an hour had flown by.  The kids really enjoyed watching me play.  Then a few days later, their choir teacher sent out an email to all parents seeking instrumentalists for the Christmas Choir Concert.  One of the instrumentalists she needed was a flutist.  So, guess who is playing at their choir concert?  Yours truly.  I am so excited!

4.  I love my kids!  Because I homeschool, I get to be around the kids all day long.  I don't miss any of the special moments.  I cherish each one!  If I didn't homeschool, there would be 28-35 hours or so each week where I wouldn't get to help them grow, teach them and enjoy their company.  Someone else would get to do so.  I would be a bit jealous.

5.  I get to go on so many field trips!!  I am an adult.  But I get to go on field trips.  All the time.  That is all.

At our field trip today to the Bob Bullock Museum.   This cowboy told us all about life as a rancher.

6.  Sleep.  We don't have to rush around early in the morning to try to get the kids to school by 7:45am.   The kids can sleep in as long as they want.  When they awake, they come into my room and snuggle with me in bed.  They are my alarm.  So, of course I love that.  I don't have to get up at 5 or 6am to get their lunch and things ready so we can be to school early.  Who wouldn't love that?  Who doesn't love sleep?

7.  Lots of cuddle time.  If it's time for reading aloud, we get to snuggle up and read together on the couch.  If we decide to watch some educational videos--cuddle time on the couch.   I get lots of cuddle time with the kids since I homeschool.  And the kids love it as much as I do.

There are so many more reasons I am thankful for homeschooling.  But, these are just a few that I wanted to highlight, as I don't believe I have ever mentioned them in a blog post.

Monday, November 14, 2016

On Community

One thing is certain.  When God created people, he intended for us to live in Community.  Community is something that I know I crave at my core.  I read once that "community is a gift God offers to pour love out on us all."  That's so true! 

Back in 2005, God called me to move away from my family and the community of people I knew and loved.  He called me to a job and place to live that was 7 hours away from all of this community.  But, I was at a point in my life that I was in complete surrender to His will.  I soon realized that God's plan was great and I was so excited to see it unfold.

He brought me to a job that I absolutely loved.  The people with whom I worked soon became my community.  Then, I met Drew.  I met him at a time that I was looking for a new church.  He happened to be interested in seeking a new church as well.  We ended up finding one together in 2007.  That church is still our church home.  After we were married, we moved into the home that I had purchased when I first moved to Austin.  We began hosting Community Group (small group through our Church) at our home.  Shortly after we began hosting community group at our home, a new couple moved in across the street.  We introduced ourselves on a Saturday and brought over some fresh baked cookies.  The next morning at church (keep in mind our church has thousands of attendees), the pastor did an opening introduction and then said, "go shake a hand and get to know your neighbors around you".  Guess who we happened to shake hands with?  That new neighbor that had moved in across the street from us.  We had never mentioned which church we went to.  It was an extremely brief meeting and introduction the day prior. That neighbor just happened to be sitting in the row next to us and happened to attend the exact church as us, even though there are hundreds of churches in Austin.  Coincidence?   I think not. So, we invited him and his wife to our community group as well.  Our community group continued to grow.  Although we began as a mixed group of married and single folks, the married folks began having babies.  Just before our son, Luke was born, we decided to put our home up for rent and purchase a new home in planning for his arrival.  We were so thankful that our group agreed to continue to stay together even though we moved.  Then, Luke was born (he was the 3rd baby born in our group) and other babies continued to join our group.   Soon, the adults were beginning to become outnumbered by the children.

our community group family from November 2013
We absolutely love this group of people.  They became more like family to us.  They were part of our Biblical Community.  We lived on a busy street in our neighborhood that made it difficult to meet neighbors.   When the folks who lived across the street or next door would come home from work, they would pull directly into their garage, close it behind them and that would be all we would see of them.  Every now and then we would wave or say hello, but deep conversations didn't happen that often.  But thankfully, we had this community group.  It was especially important as I went through cancer treatment, since we have no family in town.  Later, our church began encouraging something called "Life Transformation Groups" (or LTGs for short).  These were smaller groups of 2-3 people of the same gender within our Missional Community Groups who would meet each week to hold one another accountable, encourage one another and get to know each other deeper.   I loved my LTG!   One of my good friends from my LTG, Sarah, also decided to homeschool her children, and we had so much in common!  We both even talked about how awesome it would be to live in closer community together with some of our other friends.  For example, we would have loved to have some sort of commune on large acreage where we would each have homes but could share in tasks and responsibilities.   It would look more like the Acts Community in the Bible.  We half joked about it but both knew that there was a lot of seriousness in our excitement.

Time went on and I grew to really love homeschooling our children and this new mission and purpose that God had given me after cancer treatment.  Over time and after about 6 years of living in this home, we realized that God was calling us away from our home to seek a new one.   He really put the desire in our heart.  I mentioned to my friend, Sarah, how fun it would be to find some land that we could both build homes on.  She agreed that it sounded great.  Oh my goodness--it was my "commune" dream come true!  I was all over the task of finding land that we could both build homes on.  The problem that I was running into though, was that anything we could afford was really far out from the city of Austin and Drew's work.  Drew didn't want to extend his commute any more and I don't blame him.  I love having him home as soon as possible after he's done working.  And, it's nice to be close to Austin.  Also, after researching it, I realized that building a new home on land you find cost WAY more than buying a home that already has land.  It didn't look like finding that land and building two homes on it was going to be do-able.  Drew and I decided though regardless, it was time to list our home for sale.  A tenant recently had moved out of one of the homes we own and lease out.  We thought, if our home sells and we haven't found one to purchase and need a place to live, we could always move there.  We were pretty certain that shortly after we would list our home, it would be sold, just based on market conditions.  I continued to look for homes on land, that had a large enough lot that could be split.  It was so hard to find that with a home that was close in.  In the meantime though, I also was looking just at homes with lots large enough for one home.  On the way to driving by a home that had popped up in my automated search, I felt like I saw out of the corner of my eye a for sale sign for a home way down one of the side streets.  The neighborhood looked super cool, with homes on large lots.   So, I thought that I would proceed to the home I was originally planning on driving by (which was nearby) and then come back and see what was down that street.  I drove by the home, decided it wasn't a good fit for us and then came back to the mysterious "for sale" sign.  As I approached the sign, I quickly noticed it said "sold."   I was disappointed, as I had already decided the neighborhood was beautiful and seemed just perfect.  But, I turned around in the nearby cul-de-sac and noticed a beautiful home with a "coming soon" for sale sign.  Those of you who live in the Austin area know how hot the market is--you have to see a home the day it comes on the market in order to even have a chance of getting it.  So, I called the realtor who was listed on the sign, expecting the price to be way out of our budget.  It wasn't outside of our budget, but it was quite a bit more than we wanted to pay.  It sounded just perfect in so many ways though and was going to be listed in the next day or two.  When I came home and crunched numbers, surprised at how much equity we had in our current home, I realized our payment would be exactly the same as our current one! I would have NEVER noticed that home coming on the market, since it was outside of our search price range, had I not randomly seen the "for sale" sign of the other home out of the corner of my eye while traveling down the busy road.  I don't believe that was by chance.   We got our closing document in preparation of the close next month and noticed our monthly payment was within $2 of our current one.  Isn't that crazy?  It does sound crazy, but God was most definitely orchestrating everything. We moved into that home in March 2015 and it truly has been a dream come true.

Anyway, I just knew that my friend Sarah and her family would love this area.  So, I was immediately on a mission to find a home in this small neighborhood of 13 or so homes for them.  This is a quiet neighborhood that is basically one long street with two culd-e-sacs (one on each end).  Each home has an acre or more.  So, if her family could buy a home on this neighborhood, we could fulfill our dream of living in closer community on acreage!!

In the meantime, one day as Drew, the kids and I were standing by our pool talking we heard someone call out, "Drew!," behind a fence that backs up to our side yard.  Drew looked over and noticed it was two of his good friends from his old church that he used hang out with when he was a single guy.  They lived right beside us!!!  Also, they happen to have two kids who are within 6 months in age difference from our kids.  We were so excited to find this out.  So, our neighbor friends turned one of their fence panels into a gate so we could go back and forth between yards freely.  These neighbors actually don't live in our neighborhood, but an adjoining neighborhood.  So, if that moment wouldn't have happened, I am not sure when we would have finally realized that we already knew each other.   I began to feel like we were getting that Acts "community" that we craved as we got to know them better over time.  The kids have loved playing together as well.  It is awesome that they can go back and forth between yards and we know they are totally safe!  Everything about this home journey seems to be totally God orchestrated.  I couldn't have picked out a more perfect situation here--but God knew. This neighbor family is one that we have grown to love--they truly have become more like family to us.  We have enjoyed experiencing important life events with them, such as birthdays and even the oldest daughter's baptism. 

About 3 months after we moved into our home, a home three doors down the street on an acre and a half came up for sale by owner.   My friend, Sarah, looked at it, but at the time, it was way overpriced, and the layout didn't seem to work for their family.  I totally understood though.  Time went on and that unique home sat on the market.   Finally, the owner began dropping the price.  It continued to drop to be closer to market value.  Our friends looked at it again about 7 months or so after the last time they looked at it.  Something amazing happened.  That same house began to be something they could totally see their family in.  It had a space behind the garage that they could turn into an office for our friend who works from home.  Although the home was advertised as 3 bedrooms, there was actually another room that could only not be considered a bedroom because it had no closet--it made a perfect bedroom for their youngest of 3 boys.  Their other boys could share a HUGE bedroom together (which could eventually become a bedroom for all three of them) and then they would also still have a guest bedroom.  Well, guess what?  Those friends purchased the home and became our neighbors about  7 months ago.  God had a plan all along and he orchestrated it magnificently!   I couldn't have designed all this better myself.   We love our little community so much!  The kids are blessed to be able to grow up near other awesome kids their ages.  Also, I consider these two moms some of my closest friends.  What a blessing they and their families are to us!

This summer, we came up with an idea to have our own little Olympics celebration with our kids.  It was very last minute, but the three of us moms pulled it off and I think it ended up being pretty fabulous.  I believe the kids thought it was great as well.  Each of us came up with 2 activities or crafts and 1 olympic-themed snack.  We started at one home and after the 2 activities and snack, we paraded to the next home as the Olympic Fanfare played on my phone.  We even made sure to make the whole thing a learning experience as well.  The kids learned some history about the Olympic Torch, did a craft, played lots of different sports and learned about science (specifically physics) and it's importance in sports.  Here is a little video of our fun Olympics ceremony.   

We love our neighbors and community and are so thankful of God's orchestration and design in bringing us all together.  It is so cool to look back and see how it all unfolded.

But, "community" does not just consist of neighbors or folks nearby.  To me, "community" includes the people you "do life with."  And for me, not only do these people include my "blood" family from afar (that's a given, but again we have no family in town), but these folks include my homeschooling community.  I love the moms and kids in this community.  We build each other up, hear stories of each others' daily struggles and accomplishments and identify as we have "been there", and help each other out when needed.  I consider my homeschooling community like my local family. 

Some of my "tribe"

More of our "tribe".  I love these mamas and their kiddos

More of our "tribe" doing what we love to do:  hiking and exploring

and more...

When we imagine that we, as Christians and humans, can live in total independence and self-sufficiency, we are deluding ourselves. God, from the beginning, never intended that we should go through the world "alone." We simply cannot experience fully the power and delight of life with God without also being drawn into life together with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Without experiencing such life together, we will not discover how wonderful the news about Jesus really is.   --Howard Macy from "Community: God's Design for Growth"

So today, I am thankful for "Community".

Two of my close friends Sarah (left) and Melissa (right).

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Life Skills"

One of the things I am thankful for is being able to teach the kids life skills all throughout the day.  Lately, Abbey has been a girl of many questions.  She asks, "Why does...." all day long.  I know, that could really be annoying.  But, actually, for me it is very refreshing.  It just shows me she has a love for learning.  She wants to know why we do certain things, how we do them, and what they are.  Recently, as she was asking me a series of "why" questions, she followed up with, "Mommy, how do you spell "Why?"  Ha!  These questions encourage me, because the goal of providing an environment that encourages the love of learning is closer to being accomplished.

making banana bread by smashing bananas.

Whisking the dry ingredients.  And, Abbey asked, "why do we use this whisk instead of a spoon?"

Since the kids love to learn so much, we may as well throw in some life skills in there as well.  Some of the life skills I try to encourage throughout the day is the importance of being neat and tidy.  It's much easier to find something when everything has its place.  Also, we are less likely to step on legos or little cars or pointy plastic action figures if we put them away when we are done playing with them.  And, as I always tell the kids, "If you put something away when you are done playing with it, then you never have a big mess to clean up."  We had a really long period of time where I would walk into Abbey's room and my mouth would fall all the way wide open in awe of the amount of mess that could be made in such little time!  I am certain she pulled everything that had been put away in her room out and onto the floor in the middle of her room.  Then, I would ask her to clean it and she would exclaim in an extremely dramatic, exacerbated tone, "But it's just too much!" So I made a new rule: I told her if she left something out that she wasn't playing with,  I would take it away.  So for the next few months, we had her toys taken away and tucked away in secret places all throughout the house--primarily in my closet and Drew's closet.  Pretty soon, she didn't have very many toys to play with.  But, it made things so much easier.  And, after a while, she became more responsible.  Things began to click.  So, I slowly began giving her toys back to her.  Of course, this whole process was not painless, but I am so thankful that I was with her all day every day to begin to drive home these important life skills.

Luke is seven years old, so he has had so much practice, that he pretty much has it all figured out.  He is great about making up his bed and keeping his room clean, and I very rarely hear him ask me to help him find a specific toy or lego, etc.  Knowing that Luke had learned these responsibilities encouraged me throughout the difficult period with Abbey.

There are so many life skills to teach the kids besides being neat and tidy though.  On October 31, we acquired a new rental property.  For those who aren't aware, part of my "job" besides homeschooling the kids and keeping our home and finances in order is to manage our rental properties.  Managing these rental properties is very much like running any other business--try to keep expenses low and try to get the most rental income possible and increase cashflow.  The kids have been along for the entire process of acquiring this rental property--from finding it (after looking at so many properties in many different neighborhoods), to closing on the property, to beginning remodeling it.  All the while, I have been answering their many questions about the whole process and explaining what we are doing.

Teaching Luke how to remove doorknobs--using a screwdriver.  I explained to him why we are taking these perfectly good (and ugly) doorknobs to replace them with new ones.    

This house has one room that was very obviously smoked in.  The entire room was yellow.  See the door?   Yellow.  See the carpet?  Yellow (except where they had some sort of cabinet or shelf.  What is the life lesson?  If smoking does this much damage to a home, what does it do to your lungs?  After seeing how nasty this room was, my question was, "how can anyone continue to smoke seeing what it is physically doing to everything around you."  Yuck!  

Of course, there are plenty of other life lessons as well--like the importance of taking care of things.  And there are a plethora of business lessons:  what work do we "have" to complete on this property in order to get it leased out for the highest possible rate.  
We have been to home depot about 30 times in the past week.  We have met many contractors.  The kids have watched me write several checks.  We have enjoyed watching the home transform.  There have been countless lessons in each of these things.

So, in going along with this month's "Thankfulness" theme, I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach the kids all throughout the day--not just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also in the countless "life skills" that you don't typically get in regular old school.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November--a month of Thankfulness

We will see how this actually goes, but I would love to spend this busy November blogging about the topic of thankfulness.   I think feeling and expressing appreciation is really good for us. And, it is apparently important to God as "thankfulness" is mentioned in the Bible numerous times.  Just like any father, God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given us (as in James 1:17).  And after all, everything we have is a gift from Him.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."  And when the verse says "in everything" it is not just referring to things you like or enjoy, but in ALL circumstances.  And when we focus on this, it is extremely difficult to have a negative attitude.  When I was going through my cancer treatment, I had a lot of difficulty and death looked like it could be a real possibility (and soon).  But, I had the most joy during this time than I had in any other time in my life.  Doesn't that sound crazy?  But, having that near death experience put things into perspective for me.  Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Knowing my days were numbered helped to increase my thankfulness dramatically.  Suddenly, I began to be thankful in even the itty bitty things.

And that is what I want to focus on again this month.  On being thankful for everything--all circumstances--in all things!  We ended the month of October by dressing up in costumes together as a family.  This has been an annual tradition for us and it sure does bring me joy.  So today, I am thankful for a husband that goes along with all of my silly ideas.  Also, I love that our kids enjoy dressing up in family themed costumes.  I know this may not be the case for their entire life, but I am sure thankful for it while it lasts.  :-)

This year, we went as the Incredibles.  When I met Drew, this was one of his favorite movies.   Since then, Pixar has released some other really good ones, but this movie is still near the top of his list.  Here are our costumes for this year:

Luke was Dash.  Dash's super power is lightning fast speed.
Abbey was Violet, who has the ability to be invisible.

And can you tell what Mr. Incredible's Super power is?  He has supernatural strength.  Mrs. Incredible has "elasticity" super powers.