In Like a Lion..

 We had such a busy weekend following our busy week last week! On Saturday, we got up and drove to the United States Airforce Museum, which is a little over an hour away to meet some good friends of ours from way back in the day from Chi-town:) Now we only live a couple hours apart and are trying, through sicknesses and weather to meet up every so often!

On the drive, Eliana drew this cute little picture. I rotated it but it reverted back for some reason so just tip your head to the left and try not to feel silly:) It’s a monkey wearing red shoes and juggling strawberries and that is his pet monster next to him!

The museum was very cool and the boys, especially were really excited to go! (okay, you can’t tell that from the picture but they really did have a good time!) They are standing by a huge landing gear wheel:)

There were enormous planes inside and so many interesting historical facts! You honestly could spend 3 days there to take it all in…

We went underneath a huge bomber plane and this was looking up inside it. It was a little scary being underneath! The funny thing was, I ran into an old friend of my mom’s while we were underneath the plane! It was a strange place to meet someone from the past;)

A nuclear bomb.

It was a lot of fun and we will definitely be going back!

We woke up to lots of snow on Sunday and it took us quite awhile to shovel and get everything cleared off to go to church. We went early to participate in a meal packing event for the poor. It was a lot of fun! We are so glad we can do things like this as a family; even Eliana had a little job! The goal was to pack 750,000 meals over 5 days and they were over 650,000 at the end of our shift! Very cool.

 In the late afternoon, when Z and I got back from my office cleaning job (he was my chosen helper for the week!) we went outside to build snowmen, since the snow was great for packing! Samuel worked hard to roll a huge bottom!

Samuel and his snowbuddy:)

Z and I had to help him lift the middle on because it was heavy!

Eliana and I built a little mini snow”girl,” complete with raisin eyes and a carrot nose! She was very proud of that snowman.

And Zakkai couldn’t stop long enough to look at me for a picture! He was building a snowfort and took a break here to build a table and chairs:) Such an imagination!
 
Unfortunately, some little 6th grade punks decided it would be great fun on their way home from the bus yesterday to kick down both of our snowmen and throw them all over the yard. I wasn’t quick enough to get out there and yell at them (and I would have!!) but I did get to the door fast enough to watch them walk down the street and took note of the address of one of them.
 
We paid a little visit to his house once I collected the boys from the bus stop and asked for an apology. He denied taking part in it but I got my 2 cents in and then had to pray to let it go. That kind of stuff makes me SO mad because it shows such thoughtlessness and lack of compassion for others. And it affects my kids, who were innocently having fun! Grrr…..

A little pic of all the shoveled snow piled in my grandparent’s yard. They’ll have snow til June!

Don’t they say that March comes in like a lion??

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Piddly Snow Days!

 So. The longer we have been back here in Ohio, the bigger the differences we have noticed from Chicago. One big thing is that they cancel school at the drop of a hat! In Chicago, there must be about 50 feet of snow and -30 degrees to cancel. Okay, okay, maybe not that bad but seriously, Chicago schools closed down for the first time in years when we had the blizzard back in 2011. It was a big deal!

The boys’ school last year closed 4 days total because the temps were -12 before windchill. Totally understandable! Here? They have had a 2 hour delay (back in November), and canceled school at least 3 times already for piddly snowfall or temps being “too” cold. One day was about 2 inches of snow! It is so silly. Ben and I don’t remember it being so bad when we were young. I guess Chicago toughened us!

So…another snow day today. We did get around 4 inches, which was fun! The kiddos found some old recycling bins and used them like trains:)

Zakkai worked very hard to make train tracks.

Eliana tried to convince everyone to take her on train rides:) She loves playing outside with her brothers!

Samuel quickly grew tired of ferrying around his little sis and resorted to just good old fashioned playing in the snow.

Posing:)

I had to work to get Z’s attention!

He was nice enough to stop and give me a quick smile! Soon after, we went in for hot chocolate and a movie. It was a nice morning!

Later in the afternoon during E’s rest time, the boys went out again and spent a lot of time building forts. It was fun to look out the window and watch them:) Now we have a huge pile of wet coats, snow pants, scarves, gloves and boots by our front door.

Oh, the joys of winter!

Winter again??

 We woke up to THIS today:

Eliana was practically in tears! She said, “It was spring and now it’s winter again! I don’t want winter again!” She has been so into getting out her warmer clothes and wearing them around the house (hence her 3xs a day outfit changes!) and is NOT happy with me that I had to curb the short-sleeves and shorts for a few days and make her put on her winter coat again!

Believe me, no one in the Midwest is happy about that!

The yogurt turned out great!! Or so they tell me:) We have already gone through 1 qt and a pint of it. It is plain yogurt so we have just been mixing in a little honey or a little confectioner’s sugar (something B learned in Turkey) and a dash of vanilla. Tonight I made a strawberry chia compote that they can mix in the yogurt. I am really happy they all love it!

They feel very sad for me that I can’t eat it:) You know, gag reflex and all….
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Our stick system has continued to go really well!! We had a few “bugs” to work out in the first couple of weeks. We decided to let the boys pick 2 sticks on Friday afternoons that they don’t have to do since it is more of a relaxed day and they are extra tired from a long week at school. They usually choose shower as one of them, ha!

We have random bonus days where they can earn something extra for getting all of their sticks. They will never know when those pop up! Zakkai was really struggling for awhile so we talked about some ways for him to be better at managing his time and he is doing awesome with it now! As a matter of fact, he just earned a prize tonight!!

We have to keep on them for not doing shoddy jobs on some of their chores just to get a stick. Sometimes they rush through 5 minute bedroom clean up or things like that. We want them to do a good job, even if no one is watching. Doesn’t it say in the Bible to always work like you’re doing it for God? A valuable lesson for when they are adults, too!

We have been really good about using the discipline chart, too. Admittedly, it is harder for me. I really, really hate to discourage them from doing a good job (especially Zakkai, who struggles with listening and managing time more) and I am not always good at enforcing the rules. It’s like one more detail in an already busy day. But I have been working hard to follow through on what I say and crack down on talking back or not listening, etc. Without too many warnings:)

I’m an old softy, darn it! The chart has been working well though. They are learning that they need to be respectful and won’t get away with talking back or not listening to us. And I get some help with extra chores;) I am really glad that we are doing this system and that it’s really working and helping all of us!
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My nephew was released from the hospital yesterday, after 5 days and nights. My sister was exhausted from such a long and difficult week. Still praying for a full recovery for J and for the whole family to get rest and peace! Samuel has been anxious about his cousin and really sad about him being so sick. He was so relieved to hear that he got to go home. Such a sweet heart!

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Well, it’s that time of night where I must get myself to bed so that it doesn’t require a screwdriver to pry my eyes open in the morning! Beauty sleep and all that…:) Good night!

Not So Spring Concert!

Remember those frosted trees I told you about the other day? Here’s a snapshot of a winter wonderland! Well, except none of us think it’s a winter wonderland anymore:) Today was warmer so a lot of snow melted. The sidewalks are a nasty messy mix of mud and huge puddles. The grass that is now showing is also muddy and beyond saturated. The parts of grass that are not exposed yet are covered in snow piles that are a few inches deep to 3-4 feet deep. It will be a LONG time before we dry out!

Eliana got herself all prettied up as a ballerina the other afternoon, with dressy shoes and all:) Amazing how she can prance around in so little clothing on such a cold day!

Last night was the boys’ spring concert! They have been SO excited all week and were practically bouncing off the walls all afternoon. The music teacher said that originally they were hoping that the snow would be gone and our days would be spring-like in time for the concert. Unfortunately, we all know it’s not-so-spring like around here yet! At least it was springy inside. This was the first grade singing. Each grade had a spring theme. First grade’s song themes were “Everything Grows.”

Z is in the left middle. Hard to see in a sea of green!

The second grade theme was “Seasons Change” and third grade was “I Must Do My Part.” The last songs were sung by the 4th and 5th grade chorus and their theme was “You Always Reap What You Sow.” The songs had great messages and all the music and words were written by the music teacher!

This is 3rd grade and Samuel is in the front row, far left.

Starting in 3rd grade, they get to learn the recorder:) We have heard a lot of squeaky notes around here all year! Those are the recorders hanging around their necks:)
 
Here are a few really short clips of the concert. Eliana kept bumping my arm, trying to watch what I was recording so sorry about the lack of steadiness. And the lady’s head in the way:) Only so much you can do from far away with a camera phone!
 
The first clip are the first graders (with Z), the second is the recorder song by the third graders and the 3rd clip are the 3rd graders singing. Cute!

It was a fun little concert. Eliana said they should do it again tonight:) Happy Friday!

Looking for the bright side..

I heard it was 80 in Texas today…..Here? It was 30 and we got MORE snow! Even Eliana is officially through with winter. I told her yesterday that we were going to get more snow and she said, “But I don’t want anymore snow!” No kidding, girlie.

But we try to look at the bright side when we can and the bright side today was that the trees were actually beautiful. The mix of rain and wind helped the snow stick to all of the trees so when you drove down the tree-lined street, it looked like you were driving under a canopy of frosting-covered trees. Really pretty.

However, bright side or not, go away winter!

Eliana and I went to MOPS today and I got to hear some advice from some more well-seasoned mamas. We have a “mentor” mother for each table, who is there to share her motherly wisdom and insights. Some of them seem so nice and grandmotherly:) We had to leave a little early to take Ben to get his license renewed. Somebody accidentally didn’t know his license expired until he went to buy me Sudafed this weekend. Oops! (shhh! don’t tell!)

Amazingly, we found a little express driver’s license place a half hour away and B was in and out in less than 15 min! Unheard of around here. The people inside were apparently decently friendly, too. Also amazing. Let’s just say that the majority of government run businesses in Chicago are not employing the happiest and softest of people. Actually, not just gov’t but a lot of retail. I think they get so hardened by the people that they see day in and day out and the situations they have to deal with.

I was so amazed when we moved out to the ‘burbs and started experiencing nice customer service on a regular basis! Something I do not take for granted.

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*Samuel presented his poster today. His project got him so interested in space that he checked out a book about comets and asteroids from his school library:) I love when they get interested in different subjects!

*We are working out a few little bugs with our sticks system. It really has been wonderful; we’ve just had to tweak a few things. The weekends are run differently than the weekdays so we are adjusting to that and trying to figure out how discipline/punishments fit into the system and timing of our day.

Here is the chart I made. They earn an extra chore for each sign they have to take down and if they lose 3 in one day, they lose a colored stick. boo. Unfortunately, we had that happen for the first time today. Just really trying to crack down on not listening, arguing and talking back. It honestly hurts me as much as it does them. I know kids probably don’t believe that but it is so true. Hopefully, it will only take a couple of times and it won’t happen again.

*Zakkai got a couple of gift cards and a little $ for his birthday and bought some rollerblades!! He is SOOOO excited.

As you can see from his face:) The first night (in these pics) he couldn’t stand up on his own and needed a lot of help but by the next afternoon of some basement practicing, he was doing great! He cannot wait for the ground and sidewalks to dry up so he can get outside and get roller blading! I have a feeling the boys will be roller blading and skateboarding alllll summer long:)

*I made a delicious dinner tonight called, “Coconut Curry Chicken.” It’s a crockpot meal and so easy. I will have to share the recipe next time, as I am way too lazy to get up right now:) It is different from things I normally make but it has such a good flavor between the coconut milk and curry. I serve it over rice and everyone gobbles it up!

*B and I are holding strong with giving up our sweets for Lent. It really is good for us on so many levels. Anytime I get really tempted and think I can’t stand another minute without a little sweet, I say a prayer instead. The first few days were really tough but it’s getting so much easier now. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to our one little treat on Fridays;)

My mom had a good suggestion since she and my stepdad are doing “clean eating.” She said to make a smoothie in the evening if we are craving something. I have done it twice and just throw fresh and frozen fruit, some milk and spinach in the blender! I must’ve put in more spinach tonight though because Zakkai was like, “Um, why is the smoothie green??” But no one complained when they tasted it! I figure we are killing two birds with one stone: satisfying the sweet tooth and getting a good dose of extra fruits and veggies. Win win:)

Too bad chocolate isn’t a fruit. That would be a dream come true and I know I’m not the only one that would think so! Chocolate addictions run in my family and I don’t think anyone’s ashamed to admit it….

I should probably stop writing about chocolate. It’s not helping me:)

*Tomorrow night is the boys’ spring concert at school and they are so excited. They’ve been humming and singing little snippets of songs for weeks now. I know Eliana will really enjoy seeing her big brothers up on the stage!

Hopefully I will have a few pictures to share……Have a great night!

The Never-Ending Winter.

Long ago, when we were packing up for our move to Chicago, people told us, “There are two seasons in Chicago: Winter (which lasts about 6 months) and Summer.” I wasn’t sure I believed it. Now I do.

When I opened our heating bill yesterday, I was brutally reminded of what a cold and harsh winter this has been! We are back to the bone-chilling temperatures again, which we notice as soon as we pull back the covers in the morning and attempt to put our feet on the cold, drafty floor.

Our home is definitely not well insulated; freezing in the winter and super hot in the summer., our two main seasons. We very much cherish the few short weeks a year when we get in between temperatures! Even the boys are starting to bemoan the constant cold and icy snow. The other day we were walking home from school and Zakkai suddenly exclaimed, “Mommy, look! Grass!”

It has been so long since we’ve seen it that it was like seeing an oasis in the desert! Unfortunately, the grass will be covered up tomorrow in the next of our winter storms. I am much too seasoned to say it will be our last!

Zakkai is feeling much better from his illness. I think he has been battling a sinus infection and he hasn’t been able to taste his food, which is a big disappointment for someone who enjoys his food so much! Hopefully it will pass soon. Thankfully, everyone else is fairly healthy, a little congestion aside.

There isn’t too much else going on, besides just trying to figure out which direction our life is supposed to take. You know, minor things like that:) We are kind of at this stuck, cross-roads place. This really, really (really) long waiting place that has grown stale and we are trying to figure out what is best for our family right now. Ben just happened to pick up the boys’ copy of “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Suess last night and go figure, it really spoke to him about where we are and what life looks like sometimes. If you haven’t read it, you should! Dr Suess clearly experienced a lot of things in his life if he was able to write a book like that. It’s funny that even the words of a simple kid’s book can sometimes touch you.

It would be really nice if there were a big flashing billboard telling us what will happen next or what to do. If you see one of those, let me know, okay?

We are trying to find some fun little things to do together as a family, to offset the serious life discussions:) It helped to have recent birthdays and we do have our upcoming anniversary to look forward to. We’ve been having fun with Zakkai’s new Wii Mario Kart and having some fun races. Eliana has even taken some turns and loves being Baby Princess Peach! Sometimes at night, I’ll say, “Goodnight, Baby Peach” and she said, “Good night, Mommy Princess!” She’s a little joy, that one!

Here are a few cell phone pics over that past few weeks:

This is our new favorite cereal! It is too expensive to buy more than every once in awhile but wow! It is REALLY good!

I made bread bowls for the first time a month ago and was very impressed that they actually turned out:)

We had them with Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Next time I would make them smaller since they rose SO high and were impossible to finish!

Eliana wanted to match with Baby Anna for church a few weeks ago:)

Ben’s mom sent a special Valentine’s Day box for the kiddos and in it were these lips that make funny zipping whistling sounds. For the next few days, our home was filled with a joyful noise, even while doing homework!

Even Moosie got a pink one:)

A couple weeks ago on Saturday, we went to one of our favorite nearby libraries to stock up on books. They had ipads that the kids could take a turn on and we let them play for a little bit.

Eliana put a pair of earphones on but I’m almost certain they weren’t even working! She likes to feel like she is big like her brothers:)

Last week when I did our grocery shopping for the rest of the month, it was so slushy and gross out that I couldn’t bring the bags all the way in the house. I stopped on the towel that I keep by the door for boots/shoes and set the bags down, trip after trip. I noticed Eliana dragging a few bags away and when I was done, this is what I found! She is such a big helper for me:) The funny thing is, she kept telling me, as I was putting away the groceries, “Mama, You are such a good helper!”

Have a great Thursday!

Toothless and Veggie Galore!

 Mr. Z lost another tooth, just in time for his birthday! We are notorious for our slow teeth-losing so I am guessing this may be it for awhile:)

He’s pretty cute with missing teeth!

We have always loved his baby blue’s! We are going to have to divide his birthday celebrations into a couple of days. Ben won’t be home tomorrow so I will make Zakkai’s special birthday dinner and he will get to open some presents (he has a small pile waiting from his Grandma!) and he very sweetly agreed to having a cake and opening his present from us on Friday night when Ben can be with us. Who can say no to ongoing birthday celebrations!

I figured out the secret to getting everyone to fulfill their vegetable quotas ~ veggie trays! I grabbed one at Sam’s Club a few weeks ago on a secretly hopeful whim and was pleasantly surprised to see how much vegetable consumption went on that week! I don’t have to cut up lots of vegetables and everyone really loves picking out whichever ones they like and munching. Win win!

Eliana especially loves the veggie tray! She gets upset when I put it away:) She adores sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and peppers. She would munch on them for an hour if I let her!

I figure $9.98 once a week is a good way to spend some of our grocery money! It’s much cheaper to get a bigger tray at Sam’s than it is at the grocery store. It does take up a lot of room in the fridge and maybe it would be cheaper to buy them all separately and cut them up but honestly? I don’t really care! I am usually so careful about splurging on food items because we have a tight budget to adhere to (which gets tighter each month it seems, with all these growing munchkins!) but this is worth any extra pennies to me.

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The weather has turned beautiful in the past couple of days! Beautiful for winter anyways:) The sun is shining and melting the icicles and snow (never mind the slushy mess) and the warmer air feels so good after so many weeks of frigid temperatures. Who knew 38 could feel like 60 degrees? It gives one hope that life will emerge after the harshness of the winter months.

I feel that way about life in general, not just the weather. Hoping for new life to emerge. It has been a very harsh winter for us, especially the past month, and I am beyond ready for some little green blossoms of hope to sprout. We are so thankful for all of the continued prayers and encouragement we have received from our family and friends. We are even really thankful when people honestly say to us, “I have no idea what to say to you. I don’t understand all of this either but I am praying for you.”

It’s nice to just have people care and be there with you in the tough moments and to not always try to fill the silence of your pain. To just let you be sad for a little while. While I am so thankful for all of our family and friends who have supported and prayed for us, I am especially thankful to my mom, Ben’s mom and my Grandma for loving us through all of these years and for being our prayer warriors!

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Anyone else been watching the Olympics? Even though NBC’s coverage stinks, I still enjoy being able to turn on the tv in the evenings and have something fun to look forward to. It will be hard to get used to going back to nothing once it ends this weekend! I really enjoyed the ice dancing the other night and watching our couple win the gold. Does anyone else think she looks like Princess Jasmine??

Samuel has loved the snowboarding events and even went to the library and picked out a book about snowboarding. I can’t quite picture him doing the half-pipe or snowboarding down a mountain but stranger things have happened!

I am off to pick up my boys from school…