Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Family Christmas #2

We had a great time celebrating Christmas as a family. We were snowed in at home and so it was a great time to have great conversations, Dan talked about and asked the kids questions involving 3 verses. John 3:16, James 1:17, and Matthew 10:8...God gave because He loved the world (us), all the gifts we receive are from above and because we have freely received God's Son, we must be willing to freely give.
Then we opened gifts and it was a lot of fun taking our time opening them and playing with everything. The kids don't really ask for anything and so it's fun because they are always surprised by what we give them.

This was one of their favorite gifts. We bought a keyboard so that I could begin teaching the kids how to play piano. (It was a favorite gift to me too!!)
You may have read in a previous post about the great deals I got on the Tag learning systems, I'm so glad that I got them! Alayna loves hers and enjoys reading and listening to them during her rest times.
When we were at my mom's house Alayna loved playing with their toy handcuff's...however, she calls them 'handcups'...no matter how many times we tried to explain that they were 'handcuff's', she consistantly called them 'handcups'. Needless to say, when I saw a pair for $1 I couldn't pass them up. It was a great stocking stuffer! :)
Seth needs a lesson in using his Tag system yet...that is on the 'to-do' list for this week.
After opening presents we ventured outside and went SLEDDING!! It was a lot of fun! Seth was even daring enough and wanting to go down the hill all on his own in a sled. That was quite a sight! We had a lot of fun and it was great exercise too.

Preschool Program

Alayna had her preschool program on the 21st. She was VERY excited and had been talking about her program since they first started practicing for it at school. They sang a few songs and then had cookies and fun stations for the kids and parents to do together. If you read our Christmas letter you read about how the kids in her class ask her to help them with things that are too high...when you compare her to the rest of her class...yep, she's the tallest. :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

2009 has been a great year....it's had it's challenges no doubt, but we have a lot to be thankful for regardless.

We took a step of faith in finding a new church home for our family. It was quite a journey over the summer visiting various churches and it became very disheartening to say the least, but we have found a new church home now after searching and we feel blessed to be a part of it. It is a church plant which is something new to us, but we are excited to see what God has in store for us there.

Dan was offered a principal position in St. Cloud last spring and it was a step of faith either way...after hearing more details about the job, he turned it down. He was given more responsibilities at school this year, he is a principal for 5 periods out of the day and a teacher for 2 periods...no additional pay, but it is a great learning opportunity.

I lost my job as a graphic designer this past summer b/c the company I was working for merged with a larger company. That turned into a step of faith when I decided to go on my own and do graphic design from home as a part-time job in addition to my full-time job....SAHM (stay at home mom).

Josiah is a 2nd grader this year and he is really enjoying it. He is a GREAT student...excelling in most every subject right now! This year he decided he was up for riding the bus in the morning and in the afternoon...it was definitely harder on me then him. He enjoys it...seems hard for me to believe though b/c I HATED riding the bus when I was a kid. I figure he will change his tune someday, but for now I will enjoy not having to load up all the kids to drive him a few miles and then turn back around to go home. :)

Alayna started preschool this year and boy was she excited and ready....she was anticipating going to preschool last year at this time, so having to wait soooo long before being able to start was a test of patience for her. She pulled through and now she is LOVING preschool. She is a bright and beautiful girl...not to mention tall...if you look at her with her classmates...she stands quite a bit above the rest. Her teachers told me that some of the students have begun to realize how tall she is and so they often times ask for her help in reaching things! :)

Seth...what can I say...read my blog, you'll know how he is. BUSY!!! He keeps me on my toes and the other day I thought I saw a gray hair...it turned out to be blonde, but in all honesty, I wouldn't have been surprised...that 2 year old has given me a 'run for my money'. He is a happy, thankful (he says thank you for everything...), and funny 2 year old....but, he is a rascal. He keeps me humble, there is no denying that. He has a love for running his fingers through hair...still...I thought maybe he would outgrow this habit, but no such luck....someday?!? Even though he keeps me busy, he also makes me (and our whole family) smile. He is full of joy and I'm thankful that God 'surprised' us with him.

We have so much to be thankful for this year and we pray that as you reflect on 2009 you will see God's hand in your life as well. As our card says..."May you find the true meaning of Christmas through the love of Christ this year"

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Family Christmas #1

This past weekend we went to my moms and celebrated Christmas with my side of the family. We had a great time! The kids had a blast with their cousins (there's enough that are the same or close enough in age that they all have someone to play with) and the fun presents were an added bonus to a great weekend!! There are plenty of pictures that I could share, but these are some of my favorites...not pictures of the gifts...pictures of the relationships.

The whole crew...it was a little crazy taking an outdoor picture with lots of kids and no coats, but I like how it turned out! :)

All the grandkids on my side of the family...yep, 11 kids and they are all close in age...makes for some chaos at times, but I'm thankful they are not only cousins, but friends as well. My niece Madalyn prayed before one of the meals and thanked God for her 'best friends'...

All day they were finding things that were the same about them and Alayna would come up to me and tell me they were twins....cousins, best friends AND twins! :)

The 3 muskateers...they played and played and played....here are the 'best friends' that Madalyn was thankful for....precious!!

I didn't get a picture of Josiah with the cousins he played with all weekend, but he was equally as busy playing and drawing....Seth....well, he alternated between playing and causing trouble...maybe next Christmas will be more relaxing where he is concerned?!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creation Museum

Last week we went on a trip to Kentucky with my hubbies mom and step dad. We had a GREAT time! We could have done without the bad road conditions, but I'm thankful that we were able to go there and back safely.

Why did we go to Kentucky you might ask? Well, we went to a conference for the National Center for Family Integrated Churches...the conference was about the Sufficiency of Scripture. It was great! We learned a lot and are still processing some of the information to be honest.

Along with the conference we were given passes to visit the Creation Museum. Needless to say, we had a lot to look forward to....I'll start with the Creation Museum. Here are some pictures from the museum...it was pretty phenomenal. I would love to go back again just so that I could take more time going through it (we only had a few hours before the conference started) and read all the information...plus, it would be great to take the kids. Pretty amazing!!!

Adam and Eve in the garden...

Do you see anything on the tree?

This was a ride for the kids...adults couldn't sit on it, but it said nothing about hugging it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The last three commandments.

Tonight's family time included commandment 8, 9, and 10. We thought these all went together since they often happen in connection with each other. So, we danced to the 10 commandment boogie. We all took turns reciting the 10 commandments from youngest to oldest. Then we discussed stealing; taking something that is not yours. To lie is to tell something that is not true. To covet means to want something that belongs to someone else more than you want friendship with that person. It's not wrong to want something or to think it would be fun but it is wrong to value those things over the people God has put around you. This is a difficult concept for adults, let alone children.

We decided to have an activity to describe how we get into trouble with these three commandments. The obvious activity was limbo. We looked up a limbo song on YouTube and used a broomstick. Josiah, Alayna, and Seth took turns going under. Each time we lowered the broomstick it became more difficult. After enjoying that for awhile, we sat down again. I asked, "do you feel like coveting anything right now?" "No," they said. "Do you feel like taking anything right now?" "No," they said. "Do you feel like telling a lie right now?" "No," they said. "I don't either." It was kind of like when the broomstick was up high. You did not have to do anything to difficult to get under it. Sometimes we do feel like coveting, taking, and lying about it. That is like when the broomstick was low and it was hard to avoid touching it.

So, the logical conclusion is to work really hard to avoid coveting so that you won't steal and then you won't have to tell a lie about it. Right? Wrong. I asked the kids, "do you have the power to not covet, steal, or lie?" They said yes. I said NO. I asked them again. They said yes. I said no. This time Josiah asked, "then what are we supposed to do?" This is a difficult question, but it is the right one. In adult language he was asking, "If I do not have the power to sin, and it is wrong to sin, and I want to avoid sin, but I can't avoid sin, then what do I do about it?" This is the right question that God wants us to ask about the "stuff" in our life that we covet.

Trying won't change our heart. God will. I taught them to pray, "Thank you God that you are more than enough for me. Thank you God that I don't need toys or things to have joy."

During this time of year when materialism can get the best of us, remember these paraphrases from God's Word: I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever stays connected to me bears fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son, does not have life. Jesus came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. A man's life is not in his possessions. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. The Lord is my Shepard, I will not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters. Give me this day my daily bread. Store up your treasures in heaven. In that day when you reach eternal life with me I will have a place prepared for you.

When we have the desire to covet, take or lie, we need to remember to be thankful for what we have already been blessed with and most importantly to be thankful for the One who blesses us.

What Song Will He Be Singing This Christmas??

Well, he hasn't lost the other front tooth yet, but maybe he will sing...."All I want for Christmas is a new front tooth"?! Seriously, that front tooth leaves a WIDE cavern...YIKES! :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Weekend With Friends

After Thanksgiving at my moms we headed to the cities to visit friends and celebrate the birthday of one of J's best friends. We had a great time at their house and then the next day we went exploring the Science Museum!

Playing cards all together before bed

The girls were going to sleep in a tent in the basement...they decided after being down there for a bit though that they were a little too scared. :)

Good Morning! These boys have remained friends even after 'I' moved over a year ago. They write letters to each other and still ask to play with each other...it's pretty cute.

The Scientists (Dan, J and 'I' with another friend who was invited to the party)

Little man fell asleep after lunch...AMAZING, I wasn't sure how he'd do in the afternoon at the museum...thank goodness for a little snooze!

The girls found and enjoyed some of the more simple items at the museum, like this puzzle

Time to say good bye, one more pic before we go!

Here's the whole crew...minus the adults...why is it I always forget to take a picture of the adults?!


We had a great Thanksgiving at my moms. Great food (as usual) and since it was warm outside the kids played and played and played outside. 8 adults and 10 kids...we may be out numbered, but each kid has at least one cousin that is their age or close enough that they enjoy playing together. We still have 2 two year olds, but no more babies....

A game of football that started before lunch and resumed after lunch...I think it ended in a tie game...I'm not sure.

You can't totally tell, but he's saying "cheese" behind all his winter gear.

Monday, November 23, 2009

He's baaaaaaaack!

I haven't posted many stories about our 'little rascal'...he's still 'in business', but he has slowed down a bit.
A couple weeks ago....
Dan and I were talking in the kitchen enjoying a great conversation...all the kids were upstairs playing and it was probably a bit too quiet as I think about it now. Josiah and Alayna were doing their own thing and that's when this story goes down hill. Seth came downstairs with a REALLY and I mean REALLY wet towel. There were wet spots from the kitchen all the way upstairs to our bathroom. Yep, he soaked it in the toilet (clean water) and brought it downstairs. We got upstairs with our socks getting more wet with each step only to find more wetness in the bathroom and our bathroom rug in the toilet!! He looked totally innocent and had a great time pulling this little trick, but we had a mess to clean up and he had a timeout to serve!
This morning....
Normally when Seth wakes up he comes in to let me know and then cuddles in bed with me for a bit until I'm more coherent (he loves laying with my and playing with my hair anyway so it's a win for both of us). This morning, Josiah was up earlier then normal and went downstairs to get some breakfast and start getting ready for school, Alayna must have followed and of course the 'little rascal' did too. I went down to say 'good morning' and make sure it was all under control. They were enjoying breakfast together and sitting nicely. I went up to shower while Dan switched spots with me to go downstairs. In that amount of time, Josiah finished eating and went up to get dressed and Alayna was resting on the couch....Seth on the other hand...he decided the plant by my sink needed watering. When we water it we spin the faucet around turn the water on for a bit and then shut if off and we're done. When Dan went down stairs he found a drowning plant, water on the counter spilling onto the floor with dirt particles everywhere. Now we wouldn't want to automatically blame Seth all the time...however, he was the one with wet PJ's...it was obvious!!! Many towels and a load of laundry later...all is well again...we shall see if my plant survives the 'love' of a 2 year old!

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20th

Today is a day I will always remember....it's bittersweet....November 20th, 1993 my dad lost his battle to cancer, but he won eternity in Heaven. He was 41 when he past away.
I choose not to focus on the details and sadness of that day, but rather the legacy that my dad left. I have been without my dad for more years then I was ever with him, but research shows that the most significant years of a childs life happen before age 7 and since I was 13 when my dad past away, I can honestly say he played a major role (you too mom) in who I am today.
I am thankful that he instilled in me the importance of Christ in my life. Now days there are tons of Christian organizations out there trying to help families raise their kids to know Christ....back then, there was Focus On The Family (which of course is still around today). My dad was a fan of James Dobson and I have to throw in he was also a listener to Paul Harvey. :) He was a family man, no doubt about it. He valued family meals and family devotions. He drove a semi and I remember often riding with him and spending the day in the truck.
People will say that girls marry someone that reminds them of their dad...I don't know that I truly 'thought' about it when Dan and I got married, but in many ways, Dan and my dad are similar....in the ways that are important and I'm thankful that my dad, being who he was, set a high standard for me.
Our kids know about Grandpa Van Dam and talk about him regularly (which is kind of crazy since they have never met him), but Josiah often likes to talk about what will happen when he dies...that he will get to meet Jesus and just how cool it is that he will have a grandpa already there waiting for him and he's very excited to meet him.
I loved my dad and I'm so thankful for the legacy that he left for me and my family.
A common thing for him to fall asleep when putting us to sleep. :)

*I know my siblings won't love having their pictures from 'back in the day' posted, but they weren't half bad looking then...really. :)

My dad and I

Here's a poem that we were given when he past away:

Don't grieve for me now I'm free, I've followed the path God laid for me, I tood His hand when I heard Him call, I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day, to laugh, to love, to work or to play. Work left undone must stay that way, I found God's peace at the close of the day.

If my parting has left a void, please fill it with remembered joy. A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss, are all the things that will be missed.

Do not be burdened with grief and sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life's been full, I savored much, good family, good times, a loved one's touch.

Perhaps my time seems all too brief, don't be weighted down with undue gried. Lift up your heart and rejoice with me, God wanted me now--He set me free.

Comandment 7

This commandment gets a little tricky when you're talking to 4 and 7 year olds, but that doesn't mean it's not important....Commandment 7 - Do Not Commit Adultry.
We chose to focus our Family Time conversation on marriage. What is it? Why it's important? What does it mean? Who gets married? When we say this commandment instead of saying "Do not commit adultry" our kids say, "only love your husband or wife", for now, that works.
They really enjoyed talking about this and asking questions. Then we divided up the boys and the girls and allowed them to ask more questions (this was mainly for J). It wasn't anything too deep or difficult, but our purpose was just to make sure our kids know that they can talk to us about anything, there are no topics off limits and that we're always willing to listen.
Then we came back together as a family and since we didn't have time to watch our wedding video, the kids were the audience while Dan and I re-enacted our wedding day. We walked down the aisle, we said vows, explained what the pastor talked about and then of course, he kissed the bride b/c according to our kids the only people that kiss lips are people that are married (that's a great thought process and one we wouldn't mind them keeping!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Commandment 6

Last week our Family Time was divided a bit. It was Veterans Day and so there was no school and so Dan and Josiah were both home all day and Alayna didn't have preschool. As a family we did a couple appts. and errands together and just enjoyed our time all together. Then when the youngest 2 were napping Josiah and I went on a movie date (after he got his free movie pass he was very excited to use it) and saw "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" -- cute!
When we got home we played and hung out as a family went to the park and then later that night we had lost track of time playing together that we forgot about our Family Time devotions. The kids were getting ready for bed and we told them we would do a full activity and everything the next night b/c mom and dad forgot that night (change the routine by having everyone home and we get all mixed up) unless they just wanted to talk about Commandment 6 and not have an activity. They voted just to sit and talk about it.
So we did...we talked about how "thou shalt not kill" doesn't just mean actually physically killing someone...it can also mean hatred toward another person, or wanting something bad to happen to another person. They have each had moments when another kid hasn't played nice with them or has hurt them and so we talked about how that makes them feel after that happens. We talked about (in kid terms) if that hurt turns to anger that anger can turn to bitterness and that bitterness can turn your heart to wanting to seek out revenge and wanting to do something mean back. They definitely understood and we talked about how many people think that as long as they haven't killed anyone they have followed Commandment 6, but in reality, it's a much higher calling that God has for us then that. It was a fun conversation before bed, when the night was coming to an end, and they were talkative and engaged (so that they could stay up longer) and overall it was a great conversation...I guess we don't ALWAYS have to have an activity with our topics. :)

Another deal if you're interested....

Here's a deal on Christmas cards if you're interested....
in addition to that...check out...
**I have not used either of these deals. I do know someone that did use the Christmas cards deal and it worked, I design my own Christmas cards though and so I passed on that freebie, but I may give the other one a try later today. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Great Deal!!

This works and it's a GREAT deal!!

I went there with my coupons in hand and it worked great! I got a $32 tag reading system...now on sale for $28....I paid $8.99 + tax.

This is what you do...Take this coupon

and print off the Tag coupon on this Target site. You might have to search for it. (It's on page 3 of the toy coupon list)


For the books: Go to:
http://toysrus.shoplocal.com/ToysRus/default.aspx?action=entryflash&promotioncode=ToysRus-091101&DisplayPageNumber=1 and on page 14-15 you'll find the books. Click on them to print out the reduced price and effective dates to take to Walmart for the price match. You can print off the first coupon a couple of times and use the $5 off coupon for the books at walmart.

You also get a free ABC book here
http://www.leapfrog.com/en/freebook/splash.html when you register for the leapfrog program.

If Target gives you issue with the Target coupon, tell them other people have used it for the Tag Jr. That might help.

Happy Shopping!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Nice Day In November

It has been nice enough the past couple of days to play outside. Hooray!! Yesterday we enjoyed scootering (Seth got to practice with his new scooter) and today we took a long walk/scooter ride to the "far away park" (that's what we call it anyway). I love being able to be outside...we have pictures from a couple years ago of the kids scootering in December...could we be so fortunate to go that long without snow this year?!?!

I love Seth's face...you can tell he's glowing with pride at being "just like the big kids" with his own scooter.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Family Time - OCC

We took a break from the 10 Commandments this week to create Operation Christmas Child boxes. If you don't know what this is check out: http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/

Before heading to the store we talked to the kids about what we were doing and why we were doing it. They know that Dan and I have been to Uganda, Africa as well as Jamaica where there are many kids/people in need and so this helped to make these places seem more real. We talked about the fact that we were giving them these shoe boxes not because the items inside were full of great meaning, but because we are showing them Christ through our actions of love and caring for people we have never even met.

They were of course very excited to pick out things and fill the boxes...we filled a box for a girl and a boy...next year we will probably do 2 boys b/c Seth will be old enough to enjoy picking out the items for the box. It was a great time! We didn't buy anything else at the store, the kids didn't ask for anything for themselves...even though we did have fun looking at all the fun toys in the toy aisle! :)

If you've never done this before, I would recommend giving it a try...there is most likely a church in your area that is a 'collection site' for the boxes.

The Birthday Boy!

Last Sunday (I know I'm a little late in posting this!) we celebrated Seth's 2nd birthday! It was a lot of fun having everyone over and Seth had a great time...non-stop fun and love everywhere he went. We played, ate, opened presents and then watched the football game using my brother's projector and 72" screen....life size football players. :) All in all, it was a great day! He also got some fun toys that he LOVES to play with (thankfully...a few things to keep this little rascal busy)!

Blowing out his candles....he decided this was REALLY fun and so we had to do it twice. Then the next day when he got to have a cupcake after lunch he wanted to blow out candles again...2 more times. Who knew blowing out candles would be SOOOO fun?!
This is how he blows...it takes a little bit, but it works. :)

We had plenty of kids, but they played great and had lots of fun...all in all there were 10 kids!

Another one of his new toys...it was fun even before the motor and wheels!!

Now he won't have continue trying to scooter with the 2-wheel versions....

His first remote control car

He's a Vikings fan! Ok...maybe not...he just likes football...A LOT!