Saturday, April 3, 2010

God Rewards Perseverance

My last post was "Where does the time go?" because I only wrote twice in February.  Now March has flewn by and I've only wrote one post, and it's April and I have been working on this one for a week.  Time does fly by but this month I know where the time has gone!  On SPEECH!!  It has been an amazing month with God doing way more than we could imagine (Eph. 3:20).  All I have to say is that God is SO faithful to bless us when we don't expect it!!!  About a week ago we came home from San Diego totally blessed beyond belief - everything about the trip was a blessing, but in particular God rewarded our perseverance.
Brandon and Brittany are a part of a speech class called Touche.  It is a homeschool group of students learning how to speak comfortably in front of anyone!  It is Brandon's third year and Brittany's second.  Each year in March our group puts on a Speech Tournament called the Santa Rosa Classic and it's where the students in speech compete against others performing the same type of speech.  The last two years Brandon has done a duo, which is a speech with another person where they interpret some type of literature.  In their speech they use drama and humor to interpret their story.  The two partners can't look at each other or touch each other, so it's challenging.  The first year, Brandon performed a rendition of his favorite cartoon, Calvin and Hobbs, with his friend Justin.  They did a great job and it was very cute, but they did not advance with it at the tournament.  I was so pleased that Brandon just did something that year that challenged him.  Last year, Brandon performed a duo of the Wizard of Oz with his friend Lanea.  He was mainly the scarecrow and she was Dorthy.  They did an excellent job with it and I felt that he was even challenged more, but they also did not advance at the tournament.  It built character though - more confidence and perseverance. 

Last year was Brittany's first year, and she decided to do a duo with her cousin Kasey.  We picked the children's book "Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure" by Bill Peet.  It's an adorable, funny book and it rhymed throughout.   When they first started it, they were not animated and they looked scared to death.  After they practiced many hours, the final result was amazing and they were wonderful!  They too did not advance at the tournament but they built character - confidence and perseverance. 

This year we decided to have Brandon and Brittany do a duo together so that they could practice anytime that they wanted.  We picked the book, By The Great Horn Spoon, by Sid Fleshman, which is a book on the California gold rush.  It took us half the year to decide on the perfect book and they thought this book had some very funny parts that they could animate!!  So in January, I started cutting parts of the book to make it into a 10 minute speech, and that was quite a difficult job.  After many hours of reading and writing down different parts, we finally picked our favorites.  Then they needed to work on blocking movements and to my surprise they took the piece and did amazing things with it.  They were so creative with their movements and I didn't have to do much at all, besides tell them it either looks good or not!!  The hardest part has been them listening to me and really doing what I ask of them, and the motivation to constantly work on it.  I would constantly get frustrated with them because every time they were working on it they were mostly playing around and laughing trying to figure out blocking.  I would have them do their parts for me and they would forget their lines constantly.  We went to speech class and they couldn't perform it because they kept forgetting their parts.  Because I was so frustrated and discouraged that they weren't on top of their speech, we almost decided not to go to the San Diego Tournament.

When I told Brandon and Brittany that we probably weren't going to San Diego, they gave me the saddest look!!  I prayed for days and realized that we had to go because this may be the only time in their lives that we might do this - they are only this age once! 

The other side of my discouragement was finances and figuring out how we could afford to go, but God took care of every detail of that for me.  We were able to get an amazing two story hotel room on the marina - an upstaris bedroom, downstairs living room, two bathrooms - close to everything we needed.  We got four nights and fifth night free with our hotel points - no cost to us!  We brought all of our food and did all the free things.  And to top it all off, Shelly's cousin was able to get us all FREE tickets to Sea World!  The only thing we spent money on was gas and parking.   God provided!!

God blessed us beyond what we could have imagine in every way on this trip.  We went to the tournament just for the experience of it all, not expecting anything.  Brandon and Brittany performed their speech twice, with mistakes each time, and I was expecting that to be it.  BUT when quarter finals were being annouced at the outside ampatheater, with the sun setting, their names were called!!  SO EXCITING and I felt God's glory shinning down on us!  What an amazing feeling of accomplishment for all of us!!

They went to perform their speech again one more time and then we waited until the next morning to hear if they would move on.   Fully expecting that they wouldn't, only because there were amazing duo speeches, THEY DID!!   They moved on the semi-finals!!  So one more time they performed their speech - I didn't watch but I think it was their best performance.  Then we waited for announcements of finals and at this moment I didn't know what to expect because they had done so well - I thought maybe they could make it to finals!!  Although they didn't!  BUT we felt fully satisfied with their performance!

That night we went to the awards ceremony.  They received metals, and they called them in order counting down to number one.  Surprisingly they were number 11 - they were thrilled AND they made it to nationals!  It couldn't have been a happier night!

In everyway God's presence was with us throughout this trip.  He always is anyways, but we were continually blessed beyond what we could have imagined.  He blessed our perseverance!!!

This last weekend was our Speech tournament at Santa Rosa Bible Church.  Brandon and Brittany performed their duo again two times before they were to announce semi-finals.  They didn't want me to watch them this time around because I make them more nervous, but they had MANY friends come to watch them which thrilled Brandon especially.  He thrives on people and I think they did really well because so many people were there to watch them.

Well we were so excited when we heard their names called for semi-finals.  They performed it another time again with a big crowd who came to watch them.  I didn't get to watch them again, but I think it was their best performance because they got two first place and a second place on their ballots for that room.   We waited anxiously to hear if they would make it to finals, and I really thought that they could actually make it.  And they DID!   It was amazing.  It is such a privillege to make it to finals!  And nerve-racking at the same time.  They had to perform their duo on the stage in the sanctuary AND they had to go right after the other duo that did the same book!  They did amazing, but they went a little fast because they were nervous.  We prayed right before they went and I reminded them how amazing it was to be in this position and that the least that they could do was 8th place.  And they even did better than that and got 6th place!  We are so proud of them and thankful to God for rewarding them for their perseverance. 

It has been an amazing month!  Praise be to God!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where does the time go????

What happened to February???  Somehow now it's March and I wrote two posts in February!  That's really sad!  As the saying goes "Time Flies faster every year" is SO true!  Our family's life right now is SO busy - I know that I'm going to look back someday and wonder how we did it all!

Homeschooling all by itself is a full time job!!!  Especially when they started junior high and even more in high school!  Brandon is a freshman in high school, Brittany is in junior high, and Brooke in in 5th grade.  Their work load is much heavier than when they were little! 

Then add the difficulties of learning challenges - dyslexia, auditory processing, and some ADD issues- for my high schooler and junior higher on top of that job!! 

Then add on top of that all three of them playing basketball, with Brandon having everyday intense practices. 

Add on top of that Norquist dance everyweek. 

And on top of that, Awana everyweek. 

Add the girls in ballet, drama, piano, and guitar.  Brandon in drama, guitar, coaching the girls basketball, and refing basketball. 

Then I have the basic duties of being a mom - cooking, shopping, laundry, cleaning, landscaping, mail, bills, and coordinating our family's schedule!

And last, I teach two classes for our homeschool campus day, and I do all the bookkeeping for our Details of Sonoma construction business.

Take a deep breath - no wonder the time flies!!!  And to top it off the month the 2010 Winter Olympics have been on.  I love the Olympics and have been glued to watching them every night - no wonder I didn't write any other posts in February!! 

We ended our busy February with our annual trip to the snow!  We love going to Tahoe in the snow!  Usually we go skiing but the last few years we haven't been able to spend the money so we have a great time playing in the snow - sledding, snowball fights, snowmans, and iceys!!  This February was a fun but crazy month - and I think March is going to fly by even faster- already it took me three days to finish this post  :)  !!  But the good news is that in our craziness, I'm trying to be really good about taking pictures to document our busy lives and to show how fast everyone is growing up.  I got some great family pictures in the snow as I set the self-timer and ran!! 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Girl is Becoming a Lady!

One of my posts in January was about my boy becoming a man.  Now I've realized that the same is true for my Brittany girl!  She is becoming quite the lady.  She has always been very young at heart - not immature, just innocent.  She is very imaginative and has been able to stay in the young girls world of playing with her sister until recently. 

Many girls lose interest in "playing" at a young age, but not Brittany.  She has always been so creative and imaginative that she draws Brandon and Brooke easily into her fantasy world.  I call her the stuffing part of the Oreo because she sticks the three of them together.  God definitely knew what He was doing when he created our family. 

When she was just one, she would entertain Brandon with ability to play with her toys, and he would get drawn into her world and imitate what she was doing.  When Brooke was little she would always follow Brittany around and do exactly what she was doing.   We were always amazed at Brittany's ability to be in her own little fantasy world.  She would play with all her little "figurines" (Disney's plastic little characters, Fisher Price Little People's, Poly Pockets, Barbies, Angelina Ballerina, Webkinz, and American Girls) for hours, keeping her brother and sister entertained at the same time. 

Brittany got her first American Girl - Kirsten - when she was seven.  She now has five and she has spent many hours playing and playing with them.  She has been interested in them since her first.   Still at times I will catch her playing with her American Girls with Brooke.  She usually just does their hair now but one day, right after Christmas I caught she and Brooke playing together with their. American Girls.  I noticed what they were doing and wanted to take a picture.  When I came into their room with the carera, Brittany wanted to hide.  She told me I could only take a picture if I didn't scrapbook it!  Now she's at that age where she wants to play with her American Girls but doesn't want anyone to know it!! 

Here she is with all her dolls and if she knew I was showing this she would die!

It's hard to believe that she doesn't want to really play with her American Girls now.   Mostly she loves doing her doll's hair in many different styles, but still at times she will be pulled into her imagination world by Brooke.  It's so sad that she's not that interested in them anymore because they were such a big part of her life for so many years.  But turning 13 was the magical age for her. She transitioned into the young woman's thought world as she's into make-up, hair, texing, "hanging out" with her friends, and talking about boys.

Here are the beauty queens getting read for the ball!
Watching her dress-up for Norquist Dancing (ballroom dancing) every Tuesday night since October has really shown me the transition from little girl to young lady.  She DID NOT want to go to Norquist Dancing at first, like most awkward junior highers at this age.   Although, I "made" her go at first, she didn't have a bad attitude about it and obediently tried it.  After the first few, she realized how much fun it is to go.  And now every  Tuesday has turned into "lets get together with my friends, and get ready day"!  She LOVES getting ready with her friends as they do their hair, makeup, and decide which dress they are going to wear for 2 hours before they need to leave to get there early!  Girls are so different than boys - I'm used to Brandon getting ready in 15 minutes, including a shower.   There have been several weeks where she goes with her friends and they do her hair for her.  (Of course, she doesn't want me doing anything with her hair  because I "don't know what I am doing")  When I see her with her hair done and all dressed up, I can't believe that she's actually my 13 year old daughter!  I tell her all the time that "I did not look half as beautiful as you do at 13".  Here are some awesome pictures of the nights of Norquist Dancing:

So fun!!  And so beautiful!  I love you Brittany!  I'm so pleased with how you are growing up - not only amazingly beautiful on the outside, but incredibly beautiful on the inside!  Stay strong in the Lord Brittany and your beauty will shine! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Teenage Brain

What happens to it???  The teenage brain is a phenomenon!  It's called "hormones"!   I have yet to understand it even though I was a teenager once.  Milestones are reached one moment and in the next moment everything that you thought that they learned is gone - vanished into thin air.  All I have to say is that I can trust in the Lord to use every circumstance to grow character in them and me.

When my kids were little, adorable, huggable, and the apple of my eye, I never believed that they could turn into the "typical teenager".   I worked with teenagers in my church youth group and many of them had major attitudes.  I knew without a doubt that my kids would NEVER be like that because we were teaching them to be respectful and obedient.  HA HA!! 

 I'm telling you something switches in their brains that triggers the disrespectful, forgetful, spacey, angry, selfish, and "my parents don't know anything" area!  Those darn hormones!!  Now of course they are not like this ALL the time - there are moments of that adorable, huggable, sweet person, otherwise we would probably kill them all before they reach adulthood!  But when they act in the typical teenager mode, I think to myself "Wow, what happened to them??  I can't believe he or she is behaving like that!" 

In this picture Brandon is 11, Brittany is 9 and Brooke is 6.  Aren't they cute!  This is right before the brain change.  I loved it when they were these ages! Brandon and Brittany are "tweens" on the verge of becoming teenagers! Brooke is still adorable as ever!

Brandon at 11!

Brandon is now 15 and in the prime of being a teenager.  Without going into very many specifics, I just have to say that I hope one day we look back on the many conflicts and struggles that we've had in the last two years and laugh!  When he turned 13 "it" (the brain change) happened for him almost overnight!  His birthday is in July and from that month to about January he grew about 5 inches and gained 35 pounds.  Now at the time, I had no idea what was happening physically day by day, but now looking back I see it all very clearly and understand the irritable attitude that took place almost daily.  I tell him he was just "crabby" all the time. 

Then he turned 14, and something switched in his brain again, and he became "silly"!  Everyday during school he was running around laughing, and trying to do anything he could to make the girls laugh.  I kept telling him he went from "crabby to silly"!  I loved that he was happy, BUT it wasn't good for getting school work done. 

Here he is at 15!  What a change!

Then came 15!  This year has been a complete combination of "crabby and silly"!  For a few days he's irritable and arguementive about everything, and then a switch takes place and he's as silly as can be!  It's very unpredicable and challenging to know what it will be each day!  There has been many days of just talking, counseling, advising, and praying, where it seems that's all we do that day!  At the end of the day I am usually thankful that I homeschool and have the time with them to talk, counsel, and pray.    But I'm telling you, during the heat of the moment, I would love to rush them over to school so I don't have to deal with it one more time!
Brittany is 9 here!

Then there's Brittany who turned 13 last April.  But for girls the teenage mind really starts at 12!  Because I am a female, it's a little easier for me to understand her emotions and her bodily changes.  Since she turned 12 she has grown about 5 inches, gained about 25 pounds, and has changed from looking like little girl to a young lady.  Right now at 13 and 1/2 she is as tall as me (5 ft. 5 in.).
Brittany is 13 here! 

She has been completely different than Brandon in her attitude.  Instead of arguing, she just cries and rolls her eyes.   There have been many tears  and looks of "mom you're the worst person in the world to do this to me"!  Boys and girls are so different.  Boys get the rush of testosterone which creates anger, and girls get the rush of estrogen which just makes them emotional.

And then there's the forgetfulness (Brandon is the KING of forgetfulness and I will be writing a post about that soon), spaceyness, pickyness, stubborness, and "I just want to be with my friends-ness"!  As if it's not bad enough to have the attitude, add all these things to it, and it's an exhausting season of life for parents.  Now I understand why parents of teenagers always look exasberated.  I'm sure I look like that now!  I tell the kids once in awhile that there's the scripture in the Bible that says "parents do not exaserbate your children", but there should also be a scripture that says "children do not exaserbate you parents"!!

The GOOD news of this season of learning  is that I've really understood the love of Jesus for his children!   It's only the love of a parent that can forgive the actions of a teenager day in and day out!   My heart melts when they come to me and say "I'm so sorry for being disrespectful" and they give me a hug!  There is no way that I can stay angry at them because the power of  love is stronger!  "The greatest of these is LOVE" (1 Cor. 13:13)! Jesus does the same for me every day even when I don't deserve it at all!  I'm so thankful to be His child!  And I am so thankful that He gives me the power to love the teenagers in our household with their hormonal brains!! 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Sisters are the Best!!

Sisters are the greatest gift that God could ever give a girl!  I am so thankful for my two sisters, especially because they are a miracle of God.  My parents were divorced when I was six and my sisters became a result of this terrible situation. My life verse quickly became Romans 8:28 as I was growing up.  It says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Divorce is never God's idea, but in our family He truly worked ALL things for the good of us who love him, because I would have never had sisters if it wasn't for the divorce of my parents! 

A week ago we celebrated my older sister Wendy's 50th birthday.  I still can't get over the fact that she is 50 - she doesn't look a day over 30!  I spent the whole week before gathering pictures of her to make a memory board and an album to celebrate her last 50 years.  As I was looking through all my old albums of pictures of us growing up, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have an older sister.

Here we are at her party!  Doesn't look 50 at all, huh?

Wendy came into my life when I was seven and she was fourteen.   I thought she was incredibly beautiful and sweet!  That's what I thought of her at seven and I NEVER changed my opinion of her - she is STILL beautiful and sweet.  She was ALWAYS so kind to me even though she was a teenager. She never got irritated with me even though I was probably annoying because I wanted to do everything that she did.  I always felt special when we were together - she did my hair, taught me how to wear makeup, and played with me!  

Here we are on our first trip as a family  - of course I'm holding a cat "just like her"!

When I heard the news that she was going to be my "big" sister, I was estatic!  She became the sister I always wanted.    As the years went on and we grew closer and closer, I realized that she was not only beautiful on the outside, but amazingly beautiful on the inside.  Her faith in God shined through her face and in everything she did.   She was genuine, kind, encouraging, and special to everyone who knew her - and I strived to be just like her in every way.   And everything about her is the same today as it was back them!!!

Unfortunately, we were never able to live together, but when she spent time with her dad and us, she treated me like a princess and I adored her.  It was the quality times and family vacations that allowed us to bond as sisters forever.  Wonderfully, the best part of not being together all the time is that we never fought about anything.  I would watch her with her grace and beauty and joy even though her parents weren't together anymore, and she would NEVER say a negative word about anything.  She was my mentor and role model growing up, and in many ways she still is.  She is a beautiful woman who has devoted her life to the Lord, and she probably had no idea of the impact that she has made on my life, especially spiritually.  I am so proud that she is my sister!!

THEN, two years after Wendy came into my life, I received another GREAT gift - my little sister Amy was born to my dad and my step mom a month after I turned nine!  I now not only had a big sister, but I had a little sister!  WOW!  How blessed am I!!!  I could not believe that I would ever have a little sister, and here she was, a special, adorable little baby that I could play with. 

Amy and I grew up also in different households and even though I adored her we never really got a chance to bond until I moved in with them in college.  Amy was eleven and in the prime of becoming a teenager.   Even though she was young, I spent as much time with her as a college student possible can, to get to know her.  My role had reversed from me looking constantly to an older sister for guidance, to becoming the older sister to guide.  I taught her how to put on her makeup and many others things.  We had many times of laughing, talking, playing games, watching movies, and shopping.  I become her Junior High leader at the youth group at our church, and was involved in many of the activites of she an her friends.  I tried to encourage her constantly, especially in spiritual matters, and I hope that I became a mentor to her as much as Wendy was to me!  

I am so thankful for that quality time that God allowed for us to bond before I moved away from home.  It  became the foundation of the relationship that we have now. 

My sisters have meant everything to me then and still do now!  When I got married I couldn't imagine anyone else next to me besides my sisters.  Wendy was my Matron of Honor and Amy was my Maid of Honor. 

Amy has become a beautiful young woman inside and out.  She is sweet, thoughtful, encouraging, and a spiritual rock!  I actually call her now when I'm having a bad day, just to be listened to and encouraged.  She has been an amazing aunt to my kids, and I  now have the privillege to be an aunt to her children who I adore. 

My sisters are trully the greatest gift that God has given me - besides my husband and children of course!!!  Thank you Wendy and Amy for being my sisters! 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Glorious Getaways!

I'm so thankful for my family, but I'm also so thankful for the privillege of getting away at times!  Last year at this time I was able to join several of my friends out at Bodega Bay for the start of many glorious getaways!  This weekend we all went out again and it marked my one year anniversary.

We named ourselves the "Fabulous 5" because there are 5 of us that regularly go out to a house at Bodega Bay and we are FABULOUS!  Our main objective is to scrapbook, but with that comes fabulous fellowship, amazing food, relaxation, sleep, walks on the beach, and beautiful sunsets!  We set up our scrapbook tables with all of our pictures and accersories to create beautiful memories of life with our families and friends, and as we scrapbook we look out a huge window overlooking the golf course and the beach.   We talk, listen to music, watch "girlie" movies, eat, read, watch the golfers and the sunset, and this last weekend we even had a lady come out to give us massages!    What could be better?? 

We are all so sad to leave because it is such a treat, but I LOVE coming home refreshed to my family that I missed.  I think it is so good to get a break now and then, especially when we are together most of the time, as we are homeschooling!  Mom needs to recharge her battery, and what an amazing way to do it!  As I walked on the beach this weekend with the sun beaming down on the water, I was reminded of what a gracious God I have to bless me with this privillege, espcially when I need it the most after "battling" teenagers day in and day out!  I'm praying that the affect of the weekend will last in my spirit at least this week, as I jump full force back into my daily routine tomorrow morning, and that I can stay relaxed from that amazing massage!

Here's the "Faboulous 5"

Charlies Angels!

One of us is missing but we are having fun!

And this is the sunset looking out from the house!  Amazingly beautiful!

My word for today is "Grateful" for the times of "Glorious Getaways"!

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Boy's Becoming a Man

Every day that I look at my growing son this last year, I can't believe how amazingly big he is!  I've watched him play Varsity football this past fall and now JV basketball and he is so strong, fast, and tough.  He is becoming a man!

It seems like yesterday that he started sports - "peanuts" baseball, 8 year old basketball , under 8 soccer.  He would run back and forth on the basketball court following the ball, but not quite sure what to do next.  During his soccer games he would play defense and pick grass until the ball came back towards the goal.   In "peanuts" baseball he would sit in the outfield and daydream because no one ever hit the ball out that far.  He was so adorable!

He's always had the natural ability for sports, but a little lacking in the focus area.  There were many moments of glory when he was little because of his natural abilites, but there were just as many "Oh, what was he thinking" moments or yelling "Brandon, get your head in the game" moments too.  After all the sporting events that we've attended for Brandon and the hours put in for practice, it's such a joy to see him finally really working hard to better himself and be the best he can be at each sport.  He has really enjoyed working hard during all the practices and games, and has fully understood the meaning of "teamwork"!  He is using his natural ability and his mind which is allowing him to truly be successful!  We are thrilled and he's feeling so good about himself.  Praise God! 

Here he is looking amazing in these sports!

My little boy!  Amazing how time flies!  It's a bitter-sweet feeling - missing the adorable little one, but feeling so thankful to see how God is growing him into a man!