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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 13: Letter K, Number 3, Red and Kangaroos

Ah, kangaroos from Down Under.  The trademark pouch, crazy strong legs, and the very cool fact that they're from Australia.  On top of it all, they're one of the few animals who start with the letter "K".  So, here's our Kangaroo week.

Week 13
Letter: K
Number: 3
Color: Red
Animal: Kangaroo


1. Visiting the Jacksonville Zoo
If you've visited my blog before, you'll know we have memberships to the zoo.  It has been the best investment!  Cost-wise, after the first two visits we've been been going for free.  So, considering we visit at least once a month, it's been well worth it.  In addition, we've gotten discounted tickets for multiple other zoos and aquariums because of our membership.  (Like seeing these wallabies in Tampa.)  If there's a zoo near you that is part of the AZA, I don't think there's a better use for your money!

First of all, I think zoo maps are a terrific and FREE learning tool.  Aidan had fun finding whichever animal we were looking at, and then I'd help him figure out which way to go to the next.  Map reading is an important life-skill, you can't ever start too early.

I was a little disappointed, the zoo's website says they have kangaroos (the Australia loop is a little hidden, and we hadn't spent much time there), but when we got there, and asked where they were, they said their last kangaroo passed away a couple years ago of old age.

They did, however have wallabies, and as the zoo keeper said, they're basically little kangaroos.  So, we fudged a little, and told Aidan they were kangaroos, I don't think it'll hurt him in the long-run, haha!  It was a terrific day!

2. Bay & Bee
Another thing we like to do, is go to Bay & Bee.  It's a locally owned indoor play space, where we have a membership.  They have TONS of fun toys, one of the things they had out this week were these beautifully illustrated flashcards.  Of course, we were thrilled (as you can see) to find K is for kangaroo!

3. Counting Kangaroos
Aidan is really into everything being "mommy", "daddy" and "Aidan".  So, I figured kangaroos found a picture of a kangaroo family for us to count, and practice numbers. 

4. Coloring pages!
I found some cute kangaroo coloring pages here and here.  We "traced" kangaroo, and I tried to get Aidan to color the kangaroo red (like a red kangaroo), but my sweet, determined boy wanted it to be blue.  And the females are blue sometimes... so it works. :)

5. Australian Animal Movement Dice
I found this great Animal Movement Dice from Mothernatured.  It features 6 Australian animals.  I printed it out, put clear packing tape on it, to make it more durable, and then taped it together.  Then, he tossed it, and had to act how that animal would.  Hopping like a kangaroo, chomping like a crocodile, and climbing like a koala.

6. "Don't Lose The Baby" Letter Recognition
 I made Aidan a pouch out of a Tide pod container.  I painted it brown, drilled 4 holes in it, and put a "baby" in it.  I then wrote out some letters on the pavement.  Whenever I said the letter, he had to find it, and hop to it, without "losing the baby".  It was tons of fun!
It was great fun!  It combined the grow motor skills of jumping, while paying attention to the monkey in the pouch, and recognizing letters!

7. Arky, Arky Song
Remember that kids' song, "The Lord told Noah, there's gonna be a floody floody...?"  There's this 90's (?) video floating around the internet, which I was hoping would inspire Aidan to dance and sing, but he just watched in awe. :)


1. Kangaroo Mango Snack
For this tasty treat, I used mango, candy eyes, fruit leather, and chocolate chips.  All yumminess!


1. K is for Kangaroo
I cut out a K, then a tail, head, pocket and baby kangaroo.  He assembled it all, and voila!

Books and Media

We Read:

I love this alphabet book!  It's silly and goofy, and rhymes, and all the things a kids' alphabet book should do.

2. Yes We Can by Sam McBratney
This is a sweet book about 3 friends who learn that no one likes to be made fun of.  I think it's a great lesson for kids to learn, especially as they start navigating friendships.

3. It's Lovely When You Smile by Sam McBratney
Although Aidan is usually a sweet and happy go lucky little boy, of course he does get grumpy, and this is a great book to help kids deal with those feelings.

We Watched:

1. Wild Kratts, Season 1 Episode 19: Kickin' It With The Roos - Of course, as you know, we're Wild Kratts fans around here, and I was thrilled that there was a kangaroo episode.

2. Blinky Bill - This 90's Australian cartoon was one of the only English cartoons we could get growing up, and I was so glad I remembered it!  The main character is a koala, but one of his friends/sidekicks is a kangaroo, so it works. :)  He and his Down Under forest friends have adventures, and help each other out.

3. The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That, Season 1 Episode 15: Jump - This episode is about animals that jump, one which is kangaroos, of course.

So, that wraps up our kangaroo week!  Next week of course we'll talk about turkeys!!!  Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

When You Ask God To Use You, And He Does... And It Terrifying

I like being used by God.  It usually gives me a great sense of contentment... a nice warm feeling.
But I had a situation a while back, that I haven't really talked about, but I feel like God's laid it on my heart to do so.  So, sit back, and get ready for a bit of a read.

I don't like change, or the unknown.  I realize how ironic that is, since we are getting ready to move half-way across the world, to a country we've never been to.  But I think one of the reasons God let me grow up as a missionary kid, was because he knew this was in my future.  I have no fear of becoming a missionary.
It's smaller things that make me anxious.  

Most notably driving.
Most 16-year-olds can't wait to get their license!  I've had 3 permits. In 3 states.  Growing up in Europe, and then even going to college in Europe, this was never really an issue.  Everyone takes public transportation.  I was taking public transportation into downtown European cities by myself at an age some American parents still worry about their child riding the school bus.  So, it's not about the independence.  It's not that I'm a bad driver.  I'm a good, very safe driver.  I just feel like it's so much responsibility to go out on the roads, in this massive metal machine, and trust my life, and the lives of those I hold dearest in the world to a bunch of strangers, hoping they're decent enough drivers.  To me, driving simply involves too many variables.

I finally got my license when I was pregnant with Aidan.  It was one of the most stressful days of my life.  Seriously.  I think I'd rather go through child-birth than take another driving test.  But regardless, I got my license, and a very dear couple from our church at the time gifted me with a car.

I was now a full-fledged adult in the eyes of American society. 
One day, on my way to work, I was pulling out of our apartment complex, and attempting to cross traffic.  I looked both ways, but somehow I didn't see a car coming from the left.  I pulled out, and hit them on the back right side.  It was a terrible crunch.  I'm thankful I had enough whits about me to pull back into the apartment complex.  I could see the car I'd hit.  They had pulled up a little bit, and stopped.  Three men got out of the car.  I got out of my car, and went to check on them.  The damage wasn't bad, but I'd definitely put a dent in the back of their car.  There was one man, who had been in the backseat, holding his side, and the other two were shouting at each other, and me.  I said I was so sorry, I didn't see them, and were they okay?  I told them I was about to call the police.  That's when it started getting crazy.

They asked me not to call the police.  They said if I just gave them money to fix the car, they'd be on their way.  I went back to my car. I called Dan who was getting ready for work, and had Aidan.  He asked if I'd called the police yet, and I said no, so he did.  When the police arrived, they had the other car brought over to where mine was.  The man who was holding his side kept hanging out with me, instead of the men he was in the car with.  He kept telling me all he wanted to do was get home to Virginia.  Then the police started taking our statements.  None of the men from the other car had a valid license.  The man who was driving and the other man started telling the police that the man who was in the back was driving.  The police asked me, and I said no, the man in the white shirt had been driving.  That man started yelling at me, when the police noticed the seatbelt mark on his shirt - on the left side.  At that point, the man started being belligerent, it turned out he had a suspended license, so between those two things, the police arrested him.  In the meantime, the EMTs showed up, to check us all out (which none of us needed).  The man who had been holding his side (which he wasn't doing anymore), refused to get checked out, and the EMTs assumed he was with me, because he kept standing by my, and was VERY much avoiding the two other men.  Then he started talking to me, telling me he didn't even know these guys, and they were on their way to "work".

Finally the police took all our information, took the arrested driver away, and we were left with this man.  He asked if we would take him to the bus station.  We said yes.  So, Dan dropped Aidan and I off at school, and took the man to the bus stop.

On the way to the bus stop, he told Dan that he had recently gotten out of jail, had just met those guys, and when I had hit them, the reason they all got out of the car, was to ditch their guns in the bushes.  Dan bought him a ticket home.  We never heard from him again.  The driver submitted a claim with our insurance for soft tissue damage, but never followed through.  My car wasn't worth trying to fix, so we sold it.  
It all turned out much better than it could've.

But I was shook up.
Really shook up.

I didn't feel comfortable driving again for a long time.  And I was kinda angry.  I had finally felt confident driving, and then this craziness happened.  

And that's when God spoke to me, "I needed them off the road.  And it was more important than your comfort."

That's when He guided me towards Romans 8:28-39.  

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
People use this/these verses to encourage themselves or others when they are going through trying times.  But my focus was on verse 32.  I underlined it in the passage above.  God sacrificed His Son.  There simply is no greater sacrifice one can give.  As Christians we are called to live sacrificially.  We translate that to money or time, but it arches over ALL areas of our lives.  Our comfort.  Our securities/insecurities.  Our safety.

It's not the happy-clappy side of Christianity, but I think it's one of the big steps we need to take in our maturation as Christians.  My life is not my own.  This is not misguided self-sacrificing.  I'm not going to start throwing myself in front of buses, in case there is someone on there who is on their way to hurt someone.

But in that moment, God needed me.  He needed me to stop those men from whatever they were going to do.  He knew He would help me overcome my fears again.  He knew I could handle it, even though He knew it was hard for me, He allowed it to happen.

As I was driving in the car today, Hillary Scott's Thy Will Be Done was playing.  I love how raw that song is.  As someone in love with Christ, but is also a control-freak, this song hits home.  She has a line that says, "Sometimes I gotta stop and remember that you're God and I'm not".
There are bigger things going on around me than my fears.  God sees the whole picture, and I don't.  And if I sincerely pray for God to use me, I have to be ready for the possibility that I won't like it.

There is one more thing that came out of that accident.  I pray for the man Dan bought the bus ticket for.  I don't know if there's anyone else in his life who does that.  But there is now.  I pray for his safety, his health, and that he would come to know the Lord.

Being used by God can be uplifting, cathartic, and awe-inspiring.  But it can also be terrifying, hard and painful.
The bottom line is, am I willing to give my all, my life in the service of God?  And the answer is yes.

I am no longer angry about it.  I still don't enjoy driving, but I am willing and able to do it.  I gain confidence every day.  

So why am I sharing this story?  Because I felt like God needed someone to hear it.  Following God isn't easy, and there is sacrifice.  But God has promised blessings to those who hear His voice, and obey Him.  

Deuteronomy 28:1-14
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lordyour God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left,following other gods and serving them.

Allow God to use you.  But be aware that it may require a lot on your part - but also that God will be with you the whole time, and He will not forsake you.  He has promised His blessing on those who obey him.  

I hope my story helps you in some way.  I pray that you don't have to face your biggest fears, but if you do, know that the Lord is with you.  And if you need someone to talk about it with, I'm here for ya!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Family Pictures: 5 Tips On How To Capture Those Beautiful Moments

I love getting family pictures taken.  It's my yearly Christmas gift. I learn something to make it a little better each year.  And then, I feel like sharing it with the world, in case someone else needed the information too!  So, here goes!

1. Start a tradition
We took a picture like this with Aidan our first time of taking family pictures together, because he was just starting to toddle, and it stuck.  Now, it's a "must" whenever we take family pictures.  As he grows, it'll be crazy to see how he changes.  And then on day, he'll be going off to college, and this is all I'll have left... okay, moving on.



2. Be Flexible
We had our family pictures scheduled a week after hurricane Matthew hit, at a beautiful beach/national park outside Saint Augustine.  That national park was hit harder than the rest of the area, and we didn't find out until the morning of the pictures, that we'd need to find a new location.  So, our photographer, Hillary suggested a new beach.  So we had our family pictures taken at Fleming Island. It wasn't what we had planned, but the pictures still turned out beautiful, the lighting was perfect, and we got all the shots we wanted, and we didn't let the change in plans ruin the day. 

3. Location Variety
Choose a place that has a couple different options.  We loved the idea of a national park in our area, because you can have the forest/trees, and the beach.  In this case, there's also the fort!

4. Personalize
When we move to Slovenia, I want to do a ocean/nautical room for Aidan.  I wanted some nice pictures to be able to display, that incorporated his love for the ocean in some way.  So, I got him a little sail boat to play with during the pictures.  It held his attention, and was a great way to personalize the pictures for him.

5. Use Patterns Sparingly
I fell in love with this dress at Vici a few months ago, and knew I wanted to wear it for our family pictures.  (I loved how feminine it was, but not overly "girly", so I wouldn't look out of place next to my boys.)  It's not an overbearing pattern, but it is a pattern nonetheless.  So I knew, that for the other items of clothing, I needed to keep with solids.  (I like pattern mixing, but with pictures you want it to be classic, and not have a dated feel, which often times patterns have.)  So I drew inspiration for colors from the dress - brown/khaki and a couple shades of blue.  So, I had Dan wear a darker blue shirt, and khaki shorts, and for Aidan a lighter blue shirt, and dark gray shorts.  (So the dark and light balanced each other out.)  

I'm going to take a moment to shout out to our photographer, Hillary Raulerson.  Obviously, none of these photos would be so beautiful if she hadn't been the one taking them.  She has taken our pictures 3 years in a row, and even our family pictures when all of my side of the family came to visit for Christmas two year ago.  She does a great job of making you feel comfortable, is great with kids, does beautiful work, and is very reasonably priced.  I've linked her website, but here is her Facebook page too.

I hope you enjoyed our family pictures, and maybe found some helpful tips for your photos this year!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 12: Letter L, Number 2, (More) Green and Lizards

On the one hand, lizards give me the creeps.  On the other hand, they're super cool.  And there are so many different types!  Also, as I've mentioned before, for now God made me a boy mom, so I'm trying to embrace all of that!  In addition to all of that, we live in Florida, which I'm pretty sure is the unofficial lizard capitol in the world.  (Okay, Madagascar and the Amazon may lay claim to that too.  But I'm telling you, they're everywhere!)
And with that, welcome to our lizard week!

Week 12
Letter: L
Number: 2 (Sort of.  We reviewed.)
Color: Green (with mention of lots of other colors)
Animal: Lizard


1. Catching Lizards
 You know how little girls in frilly dresses catch butterflies with nets?  Well, little boys with dirt on their knees and sticks in their hands catch lizards with nets!  (Don't worry, no lizards were hurt in the making of these photos, and the stick was not used, haha!)
So, Dan helped Aidan catch the lizard first, which we put in the jar, and tried to make feel cozy.  We watched him try to scale the walls, which he couldn't (obviously wasn't a gecko), and were able to get close and personal.  After that, we let him go, but he decided to stick around, and Aidan caught him all on his own!  He nearly burst with pride! We let him go again, and searched for more lizards.  We found a few, but none they were all to fast for us! 

2. Mixing our own colors
 For this activity, I placed a ziplock bag over the cover of the book, The Mixed Up Chameleon, and traced it with a sharpie.  Then, I squirted blue and yellow paint in it, duct taped the top and let him mix and squish to his heart's content.
 It turned out pretty adorable!  This got me thinking.  The logo for ISMK (International Society of Missionary Kids) logo is called Miko the chameleon.  
The ISMK flag is blue on one side, and yellow on the other, with a green Miko in the middle, representing the fact that missionary kids take on traits from their sending country as well as their host country, creating their own unique culture.  So, we made another one. :)

3. Practicing Writing
 My amazingly talented Mama made Aidan a roll-up chalkboard for long trips.  It's super amazing!  It's perfect for practicing fine "writing".
First, I wrote "L" a couple times, then held his hand and wrote a couple together.
 After that I just let him go at it.  He was really good at the up and down motion, we're still working on the side to side. (And no, we did not do all this on the same day, he just wore the same shirt.  All.  Week.  Can you say laundry???)


1. The Mixed Up Chameleon Snack
I feel like this one could've been a little cuter, but I was under a bit of a time crunch... namely a hungry toddler.  For this one, I used a rambutan, watermelon, apple, carrot, mango, kiwi and olives.  I would've preferred blueberries, but I didn't have any.  Aidan ate everything, except the olives (shocker, haha)!

2. Lizard Snack
For this snack, I used apple slices and grapes.  I basically just cut a bunch of pieces, which I put together, kind of like a puzzle.  It turned out really cute, and to me looked like it was really stuck to the wall.  Aidan was a fan, too!

3. Tongue Thwapping, like a Chameleon
Chameleons have this AMAZING,sticky tongue, that they "thwap" out, and catch food on.  So, we decided to see what that would be like.  I used veggie straws,  but you could probably use pop corn too.  It just has to be a snack that easily sticks to your tongue.  So Aidan stuck his tongue out, and had to try to eat the veggie straws without using his hands.  Super fun!


1. L is for Lizard
To add to our alphabet book, this week we made an "L is for lizard" page.  I found a coloring page, which I printed out, cut out, traced on colored paper, and then had Aidan reassemble.  It turned out really cute, and Aidan loved his lizard!

2. A Color Of His Own
For this craft you'll need three plain white paper plates, small sharp scissors, paint and paint brushes.  I squirted out the paint onto the first plate.  Then, I let Aidan choose what colors he wanted to use, and he painted on the inside of the second plate.  While he was painting, we talked about which color was what, etc.  When he was done, I cut a chameleon shape out of the third plate, and placed that on top.  As you twist the plates, the chameleon changes colors.

3. Coloring Pages Galore!
Aidan is newly into coloring, which is a great time-killer, like when you're trying to put dishes away, or do laundry. :) (We also counted how many lizards we could find.)

Books and Media

We Read:

1. Lizard In the Sun by Joanne Ryder
I found this book when we went a Library sale.  It's a great book about a boy, who spends the day as a lizard in his back yard.  I love it, because it looks exactly like the ones in our back yard.  It's also great for going over lizard "powers".

2. The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle
In case you're not familiar with this story, it's about a chameleon, who one day decides he's not good enough the way he is.  So, he wishes he was... handsome like a flamingo, cunning like a fox, funny like a seal... until he realizes he's perfect the way he is.

3. A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
This is a super-sweet story about a chameleon who is upset because he doesn't have a color of his own.  One day, he meets another chameleon, who tells him, yes, it's true they will never have a color of their own, but if they go through life together, at least they'll always be the same color as each other.  I think the reason I like this one, is because I grew up as a missionary kid, and now I have my own little missionary kid.  And even if he doesn't feel like he belongs, at some point of his life, at least we'll be going through it together.

We Watched

1. Wild Kratts, Season 1 Episode 4: Flight of the Draco - This is a fun episode about a lizard that can glide!

2. Wild Kratts, Season 3 Episode 15: Chameleon on Target - I find Madagascar fascinating, so this episode about the chameleons on the island of Madagascar is super fun for me!  (Oh, and Aidan.)

3. Octonauts, Season 1 Episode 43 (Episode 25 on Netflix): The Octonauts and the Marine Iguanas - This is a fun episode, because marine iguanas are one of the only lizards that can swim.  Also, they eat sea weed, and sneeze out the salt.  Something that Aidan finds hilarious!

4. Tinga Tinga Tales, Season 1 Episode 16 (on Netflix): Why Lizard Always Hides Under Rocks - a fun folk tale about lizards.  And if you're like me, the intro song to Tinga Tinga Tales will get stuck in your head.  You're welcome.