A place to share our story.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Marshall's Writing

Marshall wrote his name for the first time this morning!
I am so proud of him, especially with such a long and difficult name.
Of course, he needed to see it written first, but still...
We've only been learning capital letter so far, and we are only to letter O today, so I had to quickly teach him a couple new ones, in order to complete his name.
It was also at age 3 1/2 that Brady and Logan first wrote their names (for them, it was for signing Valentine's cards).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kid Updates: Marshall

Last but certainly not least. I've given updates on my older boys and today I'd like to share a little of what Marshall has been up to as well.

Being the youngest child, Marshall gets a few special treatments every once in awhile. For instance, he gets to have special one-on-one time with Mommy everyday while his brothers are at school, he is doted on by nearly every kid in the neighborhood, just for being cute, and he is the only child in our house with his own bedroom--lucky kid.

Marshall is more quiet and reserved than the other boys, needing an extra hug before saying goodbye or an extra kiss after a boo-boo. He's also a little more petite than the others, weighing only 28 lbs and wearing mostly size 2T clothes and 7 shoes. Marshall is also a little clown, following in big brother Logan's shoes.

At Home...

Let's face it, most of Marshall's life takes place at home, so this is a great place to start.
Marshall is an excellent sleeper (always has been), sleeping from 8:30pm-8:15am every single day, and napping, like clockwork, from 1:15pm-3:45pm. Both of these sleeping events take place in his super cool race car bed, a wonderful Craigslist find.
Once awake, Marshall likes to eat his breakfast, and then watch TV. His show of choice right now is Little Bear, and if I allow him 2 shows, then he'll usually choose either Dora or Super Why.
When TV time is over, Marshall usually chooses something to play with. Current toys of choice right now include: wooden blocks, small toy cars, Mickey Mouse play figures, train tracks, or the play kitchen--it just depends where we are in the house.
He also loves playing board games with me! Our favorites right now are Candy Land, Color Bingo, Memory, Don't Spill the Beans, and Hiss. He also likes playing a dice rolling game with his brothers called Zombie Dice.
Marshall LOVES books! We go to the library about every 2 weeks to check out a new stack of books. I let Marshall choose whichever books he would like and then I usually grab 2-3 that I think would be good too--I like to keep him in charge as much as I can, though. We read the books at various times throughout the day, but always before nap time.
Favorite foods include: carrots, apples, pizza, and chicken noodle soup.
Marshall is also a big fan of being outside, playing with a ball, driving in a cozy coupe, and especially riding his trike (he still has no interest in his bike at all). He loves collecting as many wood chips as he can find, chasing grasshoppers, swimming in the little pool, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and bubbles.
Oh, and let's not forget about Marshall's love for playdoh, paint, and magnets...

At School....

Marshall will not start preschool until next fall, but we've started to do our own mini version, to prepare him for some of the things he'll need to know next year.
We have our "school" session at home every morning--Marshall calls it "letters" and he asks for it first thing every morning.
I am teaching him capital letters right now--how they look, how they sound, words that start with that sound, and how to write them. We are on letter M right now and Marshall is doing a fantastic job!
We start by finding our magnet letter that matches the letter of the day we are on. Then, we color a picture of the letter, answer a question about it, find the flashcard for it, and then find the  corresponding picture cards that have objects that start with that letter. After that, we trace the letter on a dry erase page and then print it with a pencil on paper. Next, we move upstairs to the computer and play a little game about the letter of the day and then move to the tablet to do a letter tracing activity. It sounds like this would take forever, but really, we only spend about 15 minutes a day on it. This week Marshall was able to print "HALL", which is the second half of his name! I remember teaching Brady and Logan to write their names at 3 1/2 as well, so it's fun to see Marshall following the trend.
Other learning activities that we do together are puzzles. We mostly work on 24 piece ones, but we've done a few larger ones as well. Marshall just learned how to identify which pieces are edge pieces and which go in the middle. Maybe someday he'll learn that the edge part of the piece needs to go on the outside :).
We also started a little work with scissors, but since he's not very strong yet, he has trouble opening and closing them to cut.
Coloring, painting, and drawing are other fun activities that are also great for learning and building fine motor skills. Marshall loves to draw Mickey Mouse on the magna doodle, especially during long car trips!

In Sports...

This will be a short one, since Marshall doesn't play any sports. He did take a gymnastics class last year, which he really loved, though. The reasons I chose not to sign him up again this year were cost and him not wanting to separate from me (we did the mommy and me class last year). Maybe in the spring he would want to try again.
Marshall will be taking his first swimming lesson this winter! He'll start in the parent/child class with Daddy. He loves the water, so I think he'll really like swimming lessons, as long as the water stays out of his face.

In Video Games...

This will also be a short section, since Marshall doesn't play many video games.
Marshy likes to watch his brothers and his Daddy play Minecraft, although he hasn't had a chance to do so in a very long time. He also enjoys playing Mario Kart from time to time with Logan and Brady, and we have an educational Mickey Mouse game on the computer that he's tried out twice and really enjoyed.
Like his big brothers, Marshall also has a Nexus 7 tablet, which he uses for tracing letters during "school".  He plays educational games on the tablet for approximately 15 minutes a week--that's it!
The games he has are Monkey Preschool, memory and matching games, Doctor Panda games, a piano music game, puzzles, and books.
I love the learning that takes place on the computer and tablet (and even TV for that matter), but all of that screen time is extremely limited in our house, for all kids. I push my kids to play outside or in the basement nearly all of the time, because that is what is best for them.

In God's Word...

Little Marshall is having his heart filled with God's word several times a week now. Sunday mornings are Sunday School time, in a classroom with other 3-4 years old. Marshall always brings home his Sunday School papers and tells us what he learned.
Wednesday mornings are BSF days, where Marshall has a small class of kids his age, including cousin Addy. The teachers at BSF are amazing in how they teach the stories and verses, pray over the children, and help them with art projects and games in the big gym. This is a time that Marshall really looks forward to, and I have seen so much growth in him, in how he says goodbye quickly to me and moves right in with his teachers.
We have now also added Wednesday nights at church into our schedule and it seems to be working out great for everyone! Marshall is in a class with a teacher he knows well from church, he has a special orange t-shirt he wears, and he will even be learning memory verses now.
I am so thankful for our church and for the opportunities we have to bring our kids to a place where they can build friendships with other Christian kids and grow in the knowledge of Jesus and the Bible.
Marshall has now also started to sing along with many of the songs from KTIS as we are driving down the road--such a blessing to hear his little voice sing praise to God!

I am so proud of Marshall! Not for his academic success or his adorable looks, but for the sweet boy that he is and for the Godly man that I am praying he will become.

"It's only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I'll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I'll want to know
You're walking in the truth
And If I never told you
I want you to know
As I watch you grow

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I'm here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings"
-Mark Harris

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An Unexpected Blessing

Yesterday morning started out like any other. I said goodbye to the big boys and watched them board their school bus. Then, as we often do, Marshall and I went for a stroller ride/jog around the neighborhood.

I wasn't exactly feeling the run and I had already stopped to walk a portion of it, but I had just decided to pick up the pace once again and I was back to running when I saw them. I saw 3 colored children who appeared to be of school age, riding on 2 bikes, with their backpacks. My first thought was "maybe they do home school and that is why they are not at school", but then they approached us.

The oldest girl (10) asked me if I could give her directions to Akin Road Elementary (the school where my boys also attend), stating that they had missed their bus and they were lost on their walk. Being that we were only about a 10 minute walk from school, I quickly agreed to walk with them, to be sure they made it safely (the other children were a boy about 8 and a little girl about 6, all siblings). But a few steps closer toward the school, the oldest girl started to show concern over not having a lock for their bikes and fearing they would be stolen. Also, the littlest girl did not have a bike, so she was trying to share her big sister's bike and it was not going so smoothly.

At this point, I asked the children if they thought it would be alright with their parents if I gave them a ride to school, promising to communicate this to them as soon as I could. They reluctantly agreed. We then headed in the direction of their house, to drop off the bikes, and on the way I spoke with the oldest girl. She was extraordinarily polite and continued to thank me for helping them out. She asked questions about my family and where we lived.
The children lead the way to their house, which happened to be only about a block from ours. They parked their bikes in the garage, and as they closed the garage door, their Grandma stepped out of the house. She was a frail woman, dressed in scarves, and spoke no English. Even the children had a hard time communicating with her about what had happened on their way to school. With little to no understanding, she agreed that I could give the children a ride to school and she stood in the driveway as we walked on.

As we continued on toward our house, the littlest girl recognized the area and knew that some friends of hers lived nearby. The oldest girl also recalled stopping at our house this past summer to drop off a flyer (which I also remembered).

The house that we live in is very similar to the house that they lived in, but as we walked up the driveway, all 3 children began to tell me how beautiful our house was and how wonderful it was that we had 2 cars (which they did as well). When I told them that my husband had taken the other car to work, the littlest girl asked me if I had a wedding ring and then quickly came over to admire it.
Next, I opened the doors to the minivan and began to move the car seats around, making room for everyone. They once again began to compliment the van and how much space there was, as they buckled up their seat belts.

As I drove to school, we listened to Christian music on the radio and Marshall asked me to turn it up, so I did. The children were quiet as we drove and once again thanked me repeatedly when we arrived. I parked the van at the curb by the front door of the school and watched as the oldest girl held the door for her siblings and they all walked in.

After dropped them off at school, I felt like I needed to return to their house and let their Grandmother know they were safe (in whatever way I could communicate with her). Marshall and I walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell--3 times and no answer. I was disappointed as we returned to our car, but then a woman stepped outside. She was not the same woman I had met earlier. She was a colored woman, who was wrapping on her scarves as we talked--her English was also very poor, but we were able to communicate a little. I tried to explain to her what had happened with the children and how they were now safe at school. She gave Marshall and I a hug and said "God Bless you" and then we went home.

I spent the next several hours thinking about what had just happened...in my quiet, white Farmington neighborhood, and I realized how little I know about new neighborhood and the people in it. I realized how difficult it must be to live in a place where you don't speak the language and how hard that must also be for your English-speaking children. I thought about how people from different cultures are so much more thankful than I am. I felt SO blessed to be able to be a part of the day for this family, to be able to meet a need for them.

Then after school, I sat down outside with my big boys to tell them the story of the morning, and as I did, the 3 children and their mother came walking up our driveway. I quickly stood up and walked toward them, and as I did, the mother put out her arms to hug me, and with tearful eyes said "thank you so much and God Bless you." Their mother, who was dressed as though she had come from work, spoke much better English that their grandmothers had (both ladies I had met earlier were grandmothers to the children, all living under the same roof). I was able to tell her exactly what had happened and she was able to tell me how frightened she was in the morning when she called the school and found out her children were not there yet.

I know this story may not seem super significant to you, but to me it was huge. These kids and their family made my day, and I feel like God put them in my path this morning for a reason. I will forever remember yesterday morning and those 3 little faces with polite little voices.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Buddy

Marshall has become my little buddy lately. It seems like the 2 of us are alone quite often these days.
Tonight while Daddy took Brady and Logan to BSF, I got to spend more quality time with my little dude.
He chose to play with me in his kitchen, with train tracks, playdoh, and then put together the large wooden ABC puzzle, all while listening to his favorite KTIS on the radio. It was a great night with some wonderful quality time for me and my youngest baby, I mean boy :).
What a fun little sweetie!

Kid Updates: Logan

This is my update post of Logan and what's been going on with him lately.

Logan is my outgoing and silly boy. He can always put a smile on my face. He is also my most intense child, often testing my patience. I can't imagine life without him in it, though.

At Home....

Since starting full day school this year, Logan spends less time at home than he did last year. When he's home, though, you'll often find Logan playing with his bus collection, train tracks, wooden blocks, or cars. Logan gets along very well with his little brother Marshall, but seems to have more conflict with Brady. Logan is also a big fan of playing outside--riding his bike or scooter, driving in the cozy coupes with Marshall, or sledding in the winter.
Logan is also a big fan of friends. He will play with absolutely anyone who is willing to play, but mostly chooses his friends Gavin, Rico, and Everett, when playing near home. Other friends are Bailey and Brooklyn (who used to live next door). They are twins who get along very well with Logan and often come over to play.

At School....

Logan LOVES school! He loves to ride the bus, eat lunch at school, make new friends, and especially recess time. Logan is also a very smart learner, just like his big brother. He is an above average reader and above average at math as well. It amazes me to think that just a year ago he could only read a handful of words, and now, at just over 6 years old, he can read hundreds of words and sound out words that he's not familiar with. Logan and I work on his reading at home, and I am always so proud of him when listening to him figure it all out--and he's proud too!
Logan struggles with his fine motor skills--handwriting, scissor skills, coloring, etc. This year I have noticed a huge improvement in this area, though, and I have also watched him slow down as he writes and colors, in order to neaten up his work. I love how he has the ability to make it nice, even if it doesn't always come out that way.
We were a little sad at the start of the school year, when we realized that Logan didn't know anyone in his class. Well, I should have known better than to worry, because within 2 days, he had about 4 new friends and was already asking me to take him to their houses to play.
My favorite part of each day is waiting, with Marshall, for the school bus to come, and then watching Logan come bouncing out, throwing his backpack about and talking faster than I can comprehend about his day at school--it's priceless.

In Sports...

I'll have to say that Logan isn't the biggest sports fan of the family. With that said, however, he has played a variety of sports starting with t-ball, then basketball, swimming, and track and field. T-ball quickly became boring, so we dropped that this year. During the summer, Logan attended a basketball camp. I'm not sure if he loved it or not, so I guess we'll find out in a few weeks if he decides he wants to play again or not--I like to leave decisions about sports up to the kids, and not up to Peter and I. Swimming lessons are a must for us, so even though I know it's not his favorite, I will require him to pass at least a couple more levels before we stop--and luckily he doesn't mind it that bad, he's just not a fan of water in his face :).
Track and field was the sport that Logan has most enjoyed. If you've ever seen the classic picture of him with the baton, you'll know what I mean. That will definitely be on our sports agenda for the spring.
Logan also enjoys watching his big brother play football, and while he watches, he's been working on perfecting his punting skills with Marshall.

In Video Games....

I'll be honest...Logan LOVES video games and he'd play them most of the day if he could, but unfortunately for him, he can't, because I would never allow that.
Logan spends approximately 30 minutes on 3 days of the week playing games. His favorite games are Minecraft, Cube World (very similar to Minecraft's Lego style), Mario Kart, and Skylanders. All of these games are very kid-friendly, and they are games that he can play with his friends as well. Video game time at our house is not automatically given and cannot be earned as a reward for good behavior. Video game time is given when Peter and I feel it is right, and it is always closely monitored by us.
Logan also owns a Nexus 7 tablet (similar to a Kindle Fire), although it was in for repair all summer and we just now got it back. The tablet was a gift and is primarily used for educational games, movies, and during travel. Tablet time is included under video game time.
At school, Logan, along with the rest of the school has been issued an iPad for in-school use only. I really like the idea of allowing children to become familiar with technology (just like we used computers occasionally in school when I was his age), but I wouldn't want looking at the screen to take away from time spent with his teacher. Fortunately for me, when I asked Logan this weekend about the iPad, he informed me that they haven't used them at all yet this year. I am hoping that will change, but just as Brady uses it very sparingly, I'm sure it will be the same with Logan.

In God's Word...

For this one, I could probably just copy and paste this section from my update post on Brady.
Logan is a big fan of Sunday School and he loves the fact that he is in class with Brady during this time. There is a "big question of the week" that we help him to answer each week and then he gets to choose a reward for getting it done--he loves this part best!
On Monday nights, you'll find Logan at BSF with Daddy and Brady. This is his 3rd year of BSF, but his first year at the school-age group. He now has a take home page that I get to help him with. We read through the passages of scripture together and then I help him to choose the correct answers. Each week there is a memory verse as well. Last week was the first memory verse, and I was absolutely amazed at how quickly he was able to learn it. There are not many things that make me more proud of my son than to hear him recite scripture from memory.
Wednesday night at church has always been something that Peter and I wanted our boys to be a part of and this year we are making it happen for them. Logan is in a class at church called Team Kid. He will be learning more about God's word in this class and learning even more scripture verses.
Although Logan has not been ready to fully understand what it means to ask Jesus into his heart, I know he is heading in the right path. We listen to KTIS together often, and just the other night he told me about how the songs on the radio make his heart so happy :).

Logan looks a lot like his Grandpa Steve ("regular Grandpa"). As I pray for Logan each day, I ask God to help him grow into a man as great as my Dad, a man who walks with the Lord, and who loves his family more than anything.

"Be strong in the Lord and
Never give up hope
You're gonna do great things
I already know
God's got his hand on you so
Don't live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don't forget why you're here
Take you're time and pray
These are the words I would say "
-Sidewalk Prophets

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kid Updates: Brady

It's been awhile since I updated what's been going on with my kids. Since Brady is the oldest, I'll start with him.

Brady takes his role as oldest child very seriously. He is an excellent rule-follower and rule-enforcer
He has become very gentle, sweet, and obedient at school and with Peter and I. With his brothers, though, this is not always the case :).

At Home....

Brady is not home as much as he was this summer now that school has started. With the time he does have, though, he loves to draw and write, make his own books and card games, play football against himself in the basement, and read. He is currently reading The Boxcar Children, which he checked out from the school library. This summer he read 5 chapter books from The Magic Tree House collection.
You can also find Brady watching the Vikings on Sunday afternoons, making up hide-and-seek types of games to play with his brothers, playing his favorite board game, Ticket To Ride, or playing Scrolls, a card game on the computer.

At School....

Although we haven't been to conferences just yet, I can already tell you that Brady is well behaved at school. He loves phy ed, art, recess, and especially math. He will be starting a special group soon called GEL, which is an accelerated math group. Brady is also learning to write in cursive, which he thinks is pretty cool.
We are so proud of Brady's progress at school--both academically and socially. Brady has really grown in his maturity and relationships since starting school 3 years ago. He has had opportunities to meet boys and girls from a variety of cultures, income statuses, and family lifestyles. I believe each of these friendships will help to form the person he will become.
We were thrilled to learn that Brady's best friend Dylan would be in his class again this year, and although Brady and Dylan get along well and are good examples for each other, Brady has made another close friend this year. Today, after school, Brady's new friend Jake is having him over to play for awhile. Jake is a boy with disabilities, a boy who has a special helper at school with him all day, and a boy who does not have a lot of friends. Brady loves Jake and I can see that he is showing God's love to him too. Everyday when he comes home from school, I ask him how the day went, who he played with at recess, ate lunch with, etc, and everyday he tells me all about Jake and what they did together.
These are the moments when I know that Brady is exactly where God wants him to be---in Farmington, at this house we are renting, and at Akin Road Elementary school.
Brady is giving himself to Jake, but getting so much more in return from Jake. I can guarantee this will not be a friendship that he'll ever forget!

In Sports...

Brady has played many sports over the years. Most recently, he's been involved in track and field, basketball, and football.
We are currently in the middle of his 2nd year of flag football, and Brady is on a team made up of 3rd-6th graders.
In past sports, for the younger kids, sports are played without really keeping score or declaring a winner or loser--all kids get trophies and are made to feel important. That was great then, but it's so much more fun now!
Brady has finally gotten to the point where his games are "real". There are refs, positions, and points. Last week Brady's team won the game in the final play, with a touchdown scored by a 6th grader. Brady, one of the smallest kids out there, had a chance to run the ball 3 times, getting a 1st down for his team once. He is competitive and loves to win, just like his Daddy :).

In Video Games...

Ok, I know this section doesn't really fit in with the others, but I wanted to touch on it anyways. Brady loves technology and learning and I love that he loves it too! What I don't love is when kids sit glued to TV screens, computer monitors, or other electronic devices.
Brady goes to a school where each kid has been issued an iPad. I think this is SO awesome and an amazing learning tool. I also think it is awesome that the kids have very limited time spent using them, and that they stay at the school and don't come home--according to Brady, it's about 10-15 minutes in a day, spent doing math problems or reading books.
At home, video game time is extremely limited and always has been. Brady is typically allowed to play video games 3-4/7 days of the week, for 30-45 minutes. The games he enjoys are Minecraft (basically computer Legos), Scrolls (a strategic card game), or sports games--nothing violent, of course, and all approved by his video-game-loving and child-protecting Daddy.
Brady also owns a Nexus 7 tablet (similar to a Kindle Fire). We did not make this purchase, but we are in love with the product. There are lots of educational and fun games, books, and tools for him to use (during his allowed video game time), and it comes in super handy on all of our road trips too.
I would rather see my kids interacting and learning from a game than just staring mindlessly at a TV show,

In God's Word...

Brady, Logan, and Marshall attend Sunday School on Sunday mornings. They learn stories and songs about God there. It is great, but we wanted to take it a step farther....
So, our whole family has been involved in BSF for the past 3 years. This year we are studying the book of Matthew. Peter takes Brady and Logan to the men's and school age children group on Monday nights. Marshall and I go on Wednesday mornings to the woman's and little kids group. One night a week, I sit down with Brady and Logan and we do their BSF homework as a team. It is a great way to dig deeper into God's word as a family. Brady and Logan also have memory verses, which they do an excellent job of memorizing each week!
But again, we wanted to take it a step further....after all, you can NEVER have too much God in your life, right?
So, we started Wednesday night clubs at our church last night, for the first time. Brady is in a group called G-Force, which consists of kids in 3rd grade to 5th grade, and he already knows a lot of them from church. He had a great time last night and is already looking forward to going back.
Peter and I both believe that youth groups will become essential to shaping the Christian walks of our boys, and if we don't start now, then when?
Brady has also become more aware of which kids in his class walk with God and which ones may not. I love that he is taking notice of this, and we were able to have a conversation the other night about if he thought that other kids could see Jesus in him. Valuable lessons learned at public school...

Brady is basically a miniature version of his Daddy, and I love him for that.
He is a very special child to me and I pray everyday that I am making the best possible decisions for him and for his life.
Brady asked Jesus to come into his heart when he was 5, and nothing makes me more proud as a mom than watching him live that out in his life each day.

Lord, I want to be just like You
'Cause he wants to be just like me
I want to be a holy example
For his innocent eyes to see
Help me be a living Bible, Lord
That my little boy can read
I want to be just like You
'Cause he wants to be like me

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school (as if you didn't already know).
We started the morning as usual, with cinnamon and carmel rolls for breakfast.
The boys headed outside for pictures and to the bus stop with their new lunchboxes and backpacks. They were also dressed in the clothes of their choice, with the lunch and snack of their choice as well.

As I type this post, I am waiting for them to return so I can hear all about how the first day went! They should be here at 4pm, which is in just under an hour. I am so excited!

Summer's Over

I've been dreading the day that summer would end since the day it first began. In our house, we LOVE summer--all of us.
We love the heat and humidity, the long, sunny nights, and most importantly, the lack of planned activities, which allows for tons of family time.

If schooling my kids at home was a decision that I thought was wise, I wouldn't hesitate for one second. I would love to spend everyday at home with the 3 of them. But, that would be selfish, since I believe the best education for them does not come from me. Plus, they love their school, their friends, their teachers--they get SO much more than I could ever offer them. I know it's best, it's just sad and sometimes a little scary.

Anyways, since school is officially in swing today, I had to share my favorite end-of-summer pics from the past couple of weeks.

Peter with his team for the Ragnar Relay

Family chalk outlines (with Brady)

Picnic on a really hot day (8-26-13) at the Como Pool/Water Park

The boys at the Como Pool

Cooling off in the water at Como

Como Water Park

Marshall in his "new" (from the thrift store) life jacket.

Brady on the zip line at Como (Logan did it too!).

Marshall and Mommy waiting for the big boys.
Logan with Mudonna at the Saints game (9-2-13)