Friday, December 31, 2010

a look back...

Last year, I posted my list of 10 things I wanted to accomplish in 2010.  Instead of posting my list for 2011 (which I'm still working on in my head), I thought I'd do a post of our year in pictures.... cousin-style.

We're ringing in 2011 in Michigan with our Wisconsin cousins.  We've been blessed to have more occasions to get together this year than we have ever had.   In the words of Emme... "Mom, I love that we've seen our cousins so many times this year but it just makes me miss them more!"

...2010 with cousins...
Christmas 09 at the farm
Jake, Drew and Eric (and Ellen) at Feed My Starving Children
all the cousins in March... minus the one yet to be born
in Wisconsin... missing Jenna, Clayton and Tru
Eric and Clayton in summer

Emme and Leslie at the lake
cousins' camping trip
meeting the newest cousin 
New Year's Eve fun on the ice

their pictures...

Don't you just love this picture I took of my new niece?

Or how about this one with my youngest holding her new cousin....

I also have this one of Ellen with her two cousins closest to her age....

Great pictures... aren't they?

What?!?  You can't see them?  I'm so sorry... that would be because I deleted the entire folder when I was getting ready to download them... yep... ALL gone!

So.. instead... I give you these pictures that my very talented sisters took of the incredible cousin time we are having right now.... enjoy their pictures.... they are way much more talented than I....

Ellen and Annie training for the winter olympics

the next Dorothy Hamill
fun on the ice
Audrey meeting Ellen and Annie
cousin Twister

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

you would think...

Way back on December 15 (why does that seem like an eon ago...), Natalie of One Thing Spoken, Two Things Heard chose me as her winner in her $20 DaySpring contest!  

You would think that the winner of that contest would be so excited that she would be jumping up and down and shouting it from the rooftop... you would think!  

Natalie's email to let me know I won came just hours before the news that I had a new niece.  Her email also came in the midst of 10 days of Toy Time... that time of year where I temporarily lose my mind.  

So... in that time of temporary insanity... I completely forgot that I had a DaySpring code to use.  You would think that I would have stuck a yellow sticky to my computer... or my mirror... or my forehead, or somewhere.... you would think!

Now that Christmas is past, the tree is put away and I'm getting ready to go get my hands on my new niece, my mind has returned... well, at least partially.... and, in the mental return I remembered....

I remembered Natalie's contest... her email... my $20 DaySpring code!

So... in the late hours last night, I finally got on to shop DaySpring.  I have to tell you that I had so much fun!!  In a perfect world, I would have purchased one of everything but my reality forced me to choose just one... the Ever Grateful Serving Bowl.

I can't wait to get it and use it!  

Until then... you would think that I would at least blog a thank you post to Natalie and Dayspring...

you would think... 

IEW...TOS Crew Review

Research shows that not only do boys and girls respond differently to similar environments, children in general like to do what they can do, and they hate to do what they think they cannot do. Citing several credible sources, Andrew Pudewa offers insight into specific ways you can create relevancy for children as you teach them academic as well as life skills... 

Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day DVD is an excellent teacher resource... regardless of the school in which they teach.  As a homeschool teacher, I was amazed at Mr. Andrew Pudwa's knowledge of various studies that have been done concerning the different ways that children learn and grow.  Mr. Pudwa shares his knowledge in an honest, humorous manner while addressing some serious concerns regarding standard, one-size-fits-all, education.

I very much enjoyed this DVD.  Honestly, I think every teacher should view this DVD or listen to the MP3 audio download to potentially gain a deeper understanding into the different ways that children learn.  

Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day is available through The Institute for Excellence in Writing in a DVD format or an MP3 audio download for $10.00.

Click here to read other TOS Crew Member reviews.

**I was sent this DVD for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kail Knoll...

Colorado has Vail Ski Resort...
Indiana has Kail Knoll...
where the skiiing is fun...
and right in our own back yard!
It doesn't get any better than this!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

wrapping up Christmas...

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. 
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; 
he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: 
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, 
praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:10-14

...the first ever celebration of the birth of the Messiah... a celebration given by God, Most High, to proclaim the birth of the Messiah... His Messiah sent to me to be my Savior... thus ordained before creation.... 

This celebration announced at night to lowly shepherds keeping watch over their flocks... announced by those created to be in constant worship of Him... a birthday party of sorts... easily the biggest birthday announcement ever made.

And, I, lowlier than those shepherds, stand amazed... amazed that He came to be born a babe... amazed more that I too can celebrate His birth... amazed most that He chose me long before He sent this One to set me free...

Wrapping up Christmas by adding to my list of 1000 gifts...

... a quiet Christmas at home with friends
... Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from work for the first time in 13 years
... an almost 14 year old who is still thrilled with Christmas
... sibling hugs 
... discovering that the same almost 14 year old isn't too old to sit with his mom 
... the simple joy of snow
... night time skiing
... cheap entertainment
... children who are thrilled with "recycled" skis
... a dad who plays with his kids
... surprising my man
... the incredible talent of Kathy Peterson who drew this portrait of our kids
... the equally incredible talent of my dad who built the frame
... the joy in my children's eyes as they presented the gifts they had made
... anticipating advent together
... gathering, as a family, around the familiar words of Luke 2 and the awe of Jesus' birth
... knowing that He chose to come as a baby but that His coming was so much more than a babe in a manger
... anticipating His return
... knowing my children have chosen Him to be their own Savior
... finding that there is no greater joy than to behold my children walking in the Truth!

... gifts 321 - 340 in my quest to 1000 Gifts

Friday, December 24, 2010


For the first time... in recent memory... all is calm.   The preparation is complete... the wait is almost over...  that, for which we have counted down, will soon be upon us.... an eagerly anticipated advent.

Tonight, next to the candlelight, I'm reflecting on the prophets of old... those who were given a glimpse of what was to come... those wise men to whom the LORD entrusted a morsel of truth concerning His Son... our Messiah... Emmanuel... God with us....

Just as those, wiser than I, eagerly anticipated the advent... the arrival... of the King who would come to free Israel... I find myself eagerly anticipating His arrival again!  Tonight I am homesick for a place I have yet to see... longing to see loved ones who have gone before... pining for a chance to see HIM face to face... 

Here in the glow of the advent candles (that I wish we would have been more faithful to commemorate this season) I await His arrival to free me from this fallen world... deliver me from my fragile body... release me from my sinful self....  

Advent... eagerly anticipating the return of the Risen One... Emmanuel...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jesus size holes...

I can't get her out of my mind.... She came in to the toy give-away yesterday... an unknown in a sea of faces... identified only by a worn brown coat.  She came for new toys for her children... she thought she left with Jesus.

I didn't see her.  I don't know her name... or what she looks like.  I have no idea how many children she has or which toys she took.  She quietly came in while I was out... just a number... maybe A-1032 or C-77 or B-1102... no one remembers...

I didn't sleep much last night... couldn't get her out of my mind.  My heart is heavy for her... I prayed... or tried to pray... mostly the Spirit intervened because I couldn't articulate what my heart was feeling.  

I begged Him to bring her back today... I wanted a 2nd chance with her... an opportunity to give her what she didn't take.  My heart longed for a chance to share the greatest Gift ever with her.  

She didn't come... and yet I pray.  I pray for this one... this mom who is struggling through life... searching for something to fill the emptiness inside.  I pray to the One who intimately knows this faceless, nameless mom with the worn brown coat.  I pray that she would find Him in her search.  

All I know of her is that she came searching for more than a few Christmas toys for her children... this I know because this woman quietly lifted Baby Jesus from the manger scene on the table and slipped it in her pocket as she walked out the door.  

I want to tell her that you can't take what is freely given and that what she took won't fill the Jesus size hole in her heart... 

So, I wrapped the remainder of the manger scene with a Bible and waited for her to come... I waited with a pretty box and a new Bible... thinking I would be the one to show her Jesus.  
"What are you going to do if she doesn't come, Mom?"  the question of the wise 7 year old.

And when she didn't show... Jesus showed Himself to me...  

We all have Jesus sized holes in our hearts and in our desperation, we often grab at anything that looks like it might fill the empty space and slip it into our pockets... sometimes buying, sometimes borrowing, sometimes stealing... only to get home and realize that what we got doesn't fit and we are still empty... and more desperate... because we can't fill a Jesus size hole with anything less than the One True Jesus... 

... and you can't steal what is freely given.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

giving away Jesus...

They came this morning.... those for whom we have prayed as we cleaned, priced, sorted and sold toys last week.    
They lined up in the cold and the dark early this morning... those who thought this was all about getting a few free toys.
They waited... we prayed... uplifting them before the Throne of Grace... thanking Him for the avenue of toys and asking for opportunities to give Him away this Christmas season.
They rushed in... grateful to be in the light and out of the cold... some eager to take... others hesitant to ask.  
They took used toys while we filled their bags with new... a Barbie here, a Tonka there... but always the Gospel and a smile... "Jesus loves you! Merry Christmas!" away Jesus one bag of toys at a time.
They left... arms laden with gifts... new and used... some grateful... others begrudging... all leaving with a seed of the Gospel planted.
They represent 1289 children who will receive a new toy for Christmas this year... a day of giving away Jesus as we gave away toys.

In the prayer and in the rush, we failed to mention that we wanted Jesus to go home with them in their heart...not their pocket.... 

...we gave away Jesus today...
... because I just don't think you can steal Jesus.

Monday, December 20, 2010

reflections of a quiet morning...

Adding to my Multitude Monday list of 1000 gifts...
#291 - #320
... quiet mornings to reflect
... time set aside for the kids to rest a little while longer
... a warm dog lying on my feet
... the anticipation of a new day
... the discovery of how good hot chai is with whipped cream
... an advent tree steeped in tradition
... Emmanuel~God with us
... The WORD made flesh
... learning, with my children, more of who He is
... awaiting His 2nd coming with eager hearts
... the warmth of love and companionship 
... a few minutes together early in the morning as I take my man to work
... the security in knowing that he comes home to me each day
... a man who works hard so I can take our kids to a 10 day toy event each year
... listening to my family pray together 
... children who work hard and have servant hearts
... the privilege of watching them serve others
... a tremendous toy drive
... $6,000 to buy new toys
... the thrill of hearing my children share the gospel as they hand out new toys
... an incredibly talented father
... the chance to hug my parents today before they go see my new niece
... the excitement our entire family has over the safe arrival of Audrey
... God's goodness in the land of the living
... healthy children, nieces and nephews
... the Light of the world
... He illumines my way
... He saved me from the darkness of my sin
... He never leaves me or forsakes me
... He's coming again!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

for unto us, a cousin is born...

She's here! She's here!  I've been an aunt many times over but this one I want to shout from the rooftop... we've waited a long time for this little beauty...
... I'm am soooooo proud to introduce you to Miss Audrey Ann.  She came 9 days before her sister's 8th birthday... thus, the very loooonnnggggg wait!
Though there will be no silent nights throughout the rest of this Christmas season, I know my sister well enough to know that there will also be no complaints!  
...for this one we have prayed!

Friday, December 17, 2010

the end of round one...

****My apologies if you are tired of reading about Toy Time by now!  I sincerely will not be offended if you close this window and walk away from my blog for a while.  You may want to take a loooonnngggg walk because I still have five days of Toy Time to talk about! ; )
my 4 year old friend, Rachel, working hard cleaning toys
This evening marks the half-way point of Toy Time... the end of Day 5 in a 10 day journey.  However, it's only the end of Round One and we still have 3 more rounds to go.  Today ended our toy drive.  Over 100 volunteers came together in 4 1/2 days and collected, cleaned, sorted and priced over 12,000 toys!! Yep, 12,000!!!  Isn't that a crazy amount of play apparatus?
a partial view of ALL of the toys!
Round Two of Toy Time begins tonight with the consignment toy sale.  Consigners have been invited to pre-sale the toy sale tonight to purchase new and gently used toys at a reduced price.  We had A LOT of brand-new toys come into the toy sale to be sold.  We also had some GREAT used toys... a FurReal S'more Pony, a Powerwheels Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a stuffed Nintendog.  It was fun to see what would come in next!  Tomorrow the sale opens to the public.

On Sunday afternoon the sale will close and my incredible friends, Ami and Tena, will spend several hours settling accounts.  All consigners have the option of earning 50% of the sale price of their toy or the consigner can donate their profit for the purchase of brand-new toys.  When all accounts are settled, Ami will have money to go buy new toys to pass out to needy children in our area.

Monday is Round Three!  Shopping day!!  Ami and Tena (and sometimes an extra helper or two) will go shopping with the proceeds from the sale.  They will purchase as many toys as they can and will bring back a trailer full of new toys.  One of my favorite Toy Time memories was the year that Tena's husband, Mike, pulled in with his semi-trailer full of toys!

Tuesday and Wednesday will be Round Four... toy give away!  It's for toy giveaway that we work so hard.  We love to pass out toys to needy kids and their parents because when we give them a toy, we can tell them about Jesus.  He is the greatest gift ever given!

Stay tuned... I'm sure I will have more to say about Toy Time 2010... until then, I'm down for the count after Round One...  g'night!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What do toys have to do with it?

What do toys have to do with telling people about Jesus?...

I'm asked this question a hundred different times a year in a hundred different ways....  

Why work so hard cleaning a few thousand toys when 
you could just go pass out Bibles all around town?

Why allow people to even bring in dirty and broken toys when
you could just hand them a new toy?

Why go to the trouble of cleaning someone's smelly bear when
you could just go to Wal-mart and buy a new one?

Why work 12-15 hours a day for 7 days to make a few dollars when
you could just go ask local corporations to give for a tax write off?...

... and 996 other similar questions...

The answer is never changes... 

Toys are simply an avenue to reach
people right where they are.

My Jesus meets people where they are.  He's not a God who requires us to clean up our act to come to Him.  He doesn't demand that we change ourselves to be accepted by Him.  He came to love the unworthy... the unlovely... the undeserving... like me.

In this day and age, I don't think there are many unsaved people who do not celebrate Christmas.  While most may not care at all about a baby in a manger... all that I have met over the years do care about presents, trees and Santa Claus.  And, while I can't condone Santa, I can meet these people where they are....  

We can offer them a chance to make a little extra spending money 
this season by cleaning and selling their toys for them.   

We can accept toys without demanding that those dropping them 
off conform to our man-made standards.  

We can love them because Jesus loves us.

I've never been laid off.  I've never been a single mom.  I've never been hungry...cold... worn out... only because of the grace of God.  Without Him, I could easily find myself in the same shoes as those I serve.  All that I have is because of His grace in my life... and to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).  

In December, toys have much to do with meeting the unsaved where they are... in our hyper-commercialized world where the emphasis is on a jolly old elf who delivers toys to all the good little girls and boys... toys become a tool....

a tool to meet the heart's cry of the father who lost his job last year
to introduce him to the God of hope
~Romans 15:13~

a tool to minister to the single mom
to introduce her to the Great Provider
~Psalm 68:10~

a tool to minister to the hungry
to introduce them to Bread of Life
~John 6:48~

a tool to minister to the sick
to introduce them to the Great Physician
~1 Peter 2:24~

At Christmas time, a simple toy packaged with a Bible and given by a child who says "Merry Christmas!  Jesus came to earth so that He could die for your sins.  He loves you!" becomes an incredible weapon in a spiritual battle for souls.

...and in that respect... toys have a lot to do with it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

all in a days work...

This week is our annual toy drive.  This is an annual highlight for our family.  We spent long days working hard pricing and cleaning toys... as well as playing hard rollerskating around the building, laughing and sneaking lots of yummy holiday treats!

Remember this picture?  I posted this picture of our empty building on Sunday....

Here's a picture of the same building 4200 toys later...
The number of our used toys is down considerably this year.  Last year we took in over 9000 toys.  If we were to meet or exceed that this year, we would have to take in over 4000 toys tomorrow because it is our last day to collect, clean and price toys.

We not only worked hard on toys today...
we also worked hard on wiggling and wiggling a tooth until it finally came out!

North Star Games...TOS Crew Review

When North Star Games sent me their game... Wits and Wagers Family Game... my family really came on board with my "job" reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. We LOVE this game!
Wits and Wagers Family Game... known in our home as "Wits and Wag-ers" (as in a dog wagging it's tail...)... is a fun trivia game with a twist.  It doesn't matter if you don't know the correct answer.  Instead, all players give their best guess.  This feature allows Ellen, age 7, to equally compete against her older siblings and her parents.  She's even won a game or two!

from North Star Games website...
Not a trivia buff? It doesn’t matter! Each player writes a guess to a question such as “In what year did the bikini swimsuit makes its first appearance?” or “How many feet wide is an NFL football field?” and places it face-up on the betting mat. Feeling confident? Bet on your guess. Think someone else knows better? Bet on their guess. Strike it big and you’ll be cheering like you just hit the jackpot!

Wits and Wagers Family simplifies the rules and scoring system of the popular Wits and Wagers. Now families and kids can get into the Wits and Wagers action! First, every player writes down a guess to a fun question. Then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer without going over. That is it!
The game features 300 new family-friendly questions. And even better than that, Wits and Wagers Family includes Meeples-- fun, cute, human shaped wooden pieces that the players use to select which answers they think are correct. Meeples have been a hallmark in European style strategy games for years, but this is the first time they have made an appearance in a party game.

Our family has so enjoyed this game!  We've played it enough that we have almost exhausted all of the trivia questions in the game.  We now know how many Madagascar Penguins there are and how many laces are on a standard football.

I could only think of two things that I would change about this game... 1) our family thinks North Star Games should include more trivia questions... and... 2) the game includes small white boards and wipe off markers but we think it would be helpful to have erasers included, rather than the tissues or napkins that litter our table when we play.

Regardless of the lack of erasers, we would definitely recommend this game to all families!

Click here for other TOS Crew members reviews.

**disclaimer...I was sent this free game for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.