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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

hope

This isn't news to anyone: Things are looking pretty dark "out there". New reports seem bleaker. Common sense seems to be less and less common. Darkness seems more oppressive.

Adding on to this, I have just sensed more of this feeling of "doom" from many of those I come in contact with. Like, we are just all resigned to our fate, waiting for whatever horrible thing is around the corner.

I hear dismal reports of what our generation is choosing, I see things that depress even the most optimistic of us. Why are we--the young adults of our nation--seemingly so without backbone? So without the pride of a job well-done, so without the determination and strength of will that typified those who built this nation? Why do we seem "fine" with just drifting downstream? Why do strong, able-bodied people just sit back and watch TV, waiting for the government to pay for their lifestyles and whining all the while? What would it take to shock a little life back into this generation--cause them to stand up as responsible adults, full of passion and fire?

I grow sad seeing us young adults--right at that place where we are definitely adults, but still young enough to have a lot of life in front of us--I tire of just seeing us wanting to be invisible. Of not wanting to stand for any one thing (unless we already know its a majority thing). I can often even see it in myself.. Not possessing that... what else can I call it? Passion for living! Zest! Fullness of purpose and healthy drive! Assurance. Determination. Calling. Conviction.

I see a much higher percentage of us young adults who almost appear to just wish to blend in: "Please don't call me out! I am happy being in my own comfort zone!"

All of this can combine into a sense of hopelessness, pessimism for what the future holds. Passivity.

And yet.

I know God has his hand on us.

I know God is calling out his leaders once again. I know that from the shapeless, shadowy masses, his voice is drawing out bold voices, bright lives that will rise for his glory.

I know God has dreams for us. That where the darkness is the greatest-- there light is made even more visible.

Just a couple weeks ago, at church, my heart was stirred as a young man, around my age, made his way to the front of the church during worship. With great conviction, his voice rang out in a passionate cry to God's people. He pleaded with us to draw close to God, to proclaim his name without fear. While his words spoke to me, it was his passion that moved me. He stood. He moved. He became visible. He raised his voice. It gave me hope. I felt God whispering to my spirit: "There is still hope for this generation. I still have dreams for you."

And that, my friends, makes all the difference.

It means that it's not enough to sit silently while wrong is proclaimed in the streets. It awakens me--why would I want to blend in to something that is dying, something that is without hope, something that has given up long ago? It gives me purpose and confidence: we can handle mockery when we have God's guiding light in our souls.

Let's stand up and be counted. Let's lift our voices, clear and bright as a trumpet's call. Let's be light, let's be hope.

Lord, move in this nation.

Lord, move through me.




Monday, January 28, 2013

UP themed party

As I was preparing to share the ideas for Aleni's party, I realized I'd never shared about the UP themed party we did last year for Aleni and Noah! Again, I am posting this because google-ing ideas for this party was SO helpful to me, and I hope that it may help someone as desperate as I was for ideas. ;)

I feel bad that I didn't take as many "before" pictures as I should have... but, the ones I do have are great (thanks to my lovely and talented sis-in-law)...


I made the invites by printing off a picture of the UP house. I cut it out and pasted in onto the brown card stock I was using for the invites. On the inside, I put:


"Noah and Aleni are growing UP so fast!
Will you come out and play?
Help us celebrate these fabulous two
On the 28th of May!"

DECORATIONS:


 We got the tablecloths in the colors featured in the balloon bunch: lime, orange, red, blue, purple.



We also got a helium machine and blew up I think about 150 balloons. Way too much work--probably would have just bought them already blown up if I had to do it again.

We also printed off a bunch of pictures and cute/funny sayings from the movie that I scattered around on the different tables... like these:





You can take me there in a blimp!”

“My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you.”
You and me… we’re in a club now.”


“I do not like the cone of shame.”
“You don’t talk much. I like you.”
“ I was hiding under your porch because I love you.”
 
  “You know where South America is? It’s like America. But it’s south!”

 It's not technically "decorations".... but, I did download some of my favorite tracks from the UP soundtrack and had it playing during the party. Really helped "set the scene" for the party!



Our neighbors let us borrow their Little Tykes outdoor plastic playhouse. I attached a bunch of balloons to the roof to look like the UP house... and the kids had fun playing in it throughout the party. (The balloons had been dispersed between the party-goers by the time this photo was taken!) ;)

We put up a banner that read: "ADVENTURE  AWAITS " 

ACTIVITIES:

 Coloring Sheets:
I found a bunch of UP coloring sheets online and had them printed out and at a "coloring table" along with crayons.

Bubble Station:
I filled a beverage dispenser with bubble solution and had little cups nearby as well as a bunch of bubble wands. Kids could fill the cups with bubble solution and blow bubbles as much as they liked.

Balls: 
 I purchased a bunch of those $1 soft balls in the colors of the balloons and just had them scattered around for the kids to play with during "down times".




Snipe Hunt!
If you don't remember, Kevin the Snipe was the large colorful bird in the movie that the little boy was hunting for. So, just like a scavenger hunt--we set up a snipe hunt. Weeks before the party, I went around the site of the party--the park/playground and snapped pictures. Then, I printed out the pictures and they became the clues for where to go next (the swing, the bridge, the water fountain, etc). On the back of each picture, I attached a "snipe footprint" to make it more fun. 


In the end, the kiddos found a picture of the snipe and a foam ball of suckers (supposed to look like a bunch of balloons). The suckers were the prize that each child was able to take.



Musical Hoops
Wanting to stick to games that "no one looses"... we did Musical Hoops. You start off with 4 hula hoops, and when the music stops, everyone has to step inside a hoop. Then, a hoop is removed and the music plays again... this happens until you are down to one hoop and everyone has to fit inside that one hoop. It was fun to use the hula hoops, since they also seemed to go along with the "balloon" them.


Memory Game
I put about 10-15 small items on a tray. I would let the kids study the item for about 20 seconds. Then, I would cover it with a towel, remove one item, and then uncover the tray and see if they could guess which item I removed. Then, I would remove 2 items... 3 items.... 4 items....5 items. It was a fun stretch for their memories!



 Pinata
No party is complete without the pinata! :)
FOOD:

Since the party was at a park, we just did a picnic-type lunch: hot dogs, chips, soda/juice.



We had cupcakes. The cupcakes were white and featured what was supposed to look like a bunch of balloons floating above them (donut holes, frosted and rolled in sprinkles). Mmmm... it was semi-successful. WAY too much work for this momma! I should've bought the cupcakes already made--or done something else! ;)

PARTY FAVORS:

"Ellie Badges"
I loved the idea of sending everyone home with the Ellie badges... Rey had the great idea of checking in at the Mexican grocery store in town--since they sell a lot of sodas in glass bottles. They kindly agreed to save bottle tops for us... and a couple weeks later.... we picked up well over 100 bottle tops! Rey drilled holes in them, and I put in large safety pins. It was definitely a favorite at the party! :)

We put up a sign that said: 
Please take one, ‘cuz now you’re a member of our adventure club! –N & A

 




Bubble Gum Favors
I loved these favors when I saw them.... all the colors and shapes just went so well with our theme!

The jars are from baby food jars, that friends saved for us. I spray painted the lids, and Rey drilled the holes in them. Then, I stuck the suckers in the tops and wrapped little notes around the sticks: "Thanks for the adventure...now go have one of your own!" (A quote from the note Ellie wrote to Carl). I had originally thought I would fill the jars with jellybeans, but soon discovered it was cheaper to go with the gumballs.

OTHER FUN TIDBITS:




Gifts ---> Paradise Falls Jar

Knowing it can be hard guessing what gifts to buy for a 2 and 4 year-old... we decided to give the option to our guests of just putting in donations to Aleni and Noah's "Paradise Falls Jar".... which would be used for
fun all summer long!

I just purchased a plastic water jar, taped "Paradise Falls" onto it and set it on the table.



Noah & Aleni's Mailbox

 We borrowed Carl and Ellie's idea... I put Noah and Aleni's hand prints on a piece of paper and then taped  the paper over an old mailbox. This is where guests put the birthday cards and notes!

We put up a sign that said:

We love getting mail… so if you have any for us, here’s where it goes! –N & A




Noah & Aleni's Adventure Book

“Our Adventure Book”
We borrowed another of Carl and Ellie's ideas... an Adventure book! :) We put up a sign that said:
Would you take a few minutes and write down some ideas for fun times? What do you recommend? A special game? A place we’ve got to see? Whatever it is, we’d love to know! –N & A


Whew! Now I see why I waited so long to post this! Haha... again, hope these ideas can inspire you! :)


Sunday, January 20, 2013

horse-themed birthday party

When I asked Aleni what kind of party she wanted.... she said she wanted a horsey party.

I began brainstorming--and googling and pinteresting! Since my internet browsing was so helpful to me, I thought I'd post our outcome, just in case someone else is looking for ideas. Why hurt your brain thinking up ideas when someone else has already done it for you?? Ha ha...

Keeping the party-comers to 2 and 3-year-olds made activity planning simple! :) I tried to make a lot of my decorations also activities.... or my food to be also be decorations, etc.... so, it makes some things hard to put in categories, but--here goes:

DECORATIONS:

We put "hoof prints" leading up to the front door:





The colors were "rainbow colors", with a slight emphasis on the more "girly" of the rainbow colors.

Horses of different sizes and colors scattered around, to play with. Horse books from the library.


The original plan for the tissue poms was to form them into a rainbow over the snack table (I took A LOT of inspiration from this picture), but that was thwarted by an uncooperative ceiling. The outcome was just as nice.








ACTIVITIES:
We got a horse ("My Little Pony") piñata online... I chose one that was a "pull-the-string" version, since it was an indoor party--and that way Aleni could keep the horse after the party




We put out some horse books we got from the library....



There were coloring sheets, printed them off of a couple websites I found online...



I found a horse head cookie cutter online and made horse sugar cookies. I left them unfrosted and the girls got to decorate them with frosting and an assortment of fun toppings: sprinkles, mini m&m's, mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows. I know the moms were really loving the sugar high their kiddos were getting! ;)



"Pin the tail on the Horse". I just drew up the horse on a poster and made the tail from ribbon. The girls could choose whether or not they wanted to wear the blindfold.



We played "Horseshoes". I just made them with cardboard and duck tape. They had to try to throw the horseshoes into a basket.



We also played "Feed the Horse". The girls had to try to throw little carrots into the horse's mouth.

We played a "Sugar Cube Relay Game" ("because horses like sugar cubes!").... each girl had a cube and tried to carry it on a spoon and dump it in a jar without spilling it.




For every activity, the girl got to pick a prize (mostly little necklaces, bracelets or rings)--whether or not they were "successful". The point: Just have fun. :)

We also did a little "Make a Horse" craft.


FOOD:

Cake was easy! Just bought one from Kroger, put some horses on it and some streamers over them!



Finger food! I wanted to somewhat keep with the "rainbow colors" theme, but also include some of Aleni's favorite foods. I did a fruit tray: blueberries, strawberries and manderin oranges. I did a "food" tray: ham rolls, cheese cubes and goldfish. I just did water for drinks.




Not really food--but, I had several jars of brightly colored candies out, along with "Unicorn" rainbow colored suckers.



PARTY FAVORS:
I found some cute little boxes at the Dollar Tree. I put small "My Little Pony" gifts and horse stickers in each box.


There you have it! SO many of the items were purchased at the Dollar Tree or for very low prices--or made with things we already had around the house. That's my kind of party!! ;)

Hope this inspires you if you are looking to make a horse-themed party! :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

friends



Just thinking about how amazingly blessed I have been in my life... through the friends God has brought into my life. I love thinking of the intricate details that brought all of us together--knowing that it had to be God who worked all of that out! I especially love it when God surprises me with friendships I wouldn't have ever guessed would happen, with friends that just "happened"--and didn't require a lot of work to get there. I always have to laugh when I look at now-friends who, upon first meeting, I was sure I rubbed them the wrong way--and to see us now so close and interconnected! God is so good at bringing people into my life who provide perspective and balance, laughter and fun, support and love.

God is so good at picking friends. Love you, peeps!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

she's 3!

Ahhh... my girlie is 3! Hard to believe she's 3 already... thinking back to when her brother turned 3--we were on the road from Mexico to here! Thankfully, Aleni's 3rd birthday was less hectic....and we got to really enjoy it!

Remembering back to where she joined our family...


 Aleni Elizabeth... minutes after being born


Day one!


So beautiful...


Laney continues to be a joy and a whirlwind. An interesting mix of fearlessness and confidence--and introversion and shyness. She doesn't see an obstacle as a stop, merely something that slows her up a moment or two as she figures out a way to go over, around or through it. She has a will of iron and knows what she wants, or doesn't want. She can be as tough as nails--not even shed a tear after a really painful incident--and then be weepy and emotional over the smallest thing.

 1st Birthday!

Never stops moving!
Still loves finding and collecting rocks...

We are working hard to get her to learn to listen and follow directions. Doesn't come easy for this independent lass! ;)

Her language isn't the clearest, but she does have a pretty extensive vocabulary and good at remembering things and relating what she wants us to know in her own way. It's cute to see her awareness of Spanish growing... the other day when a Hispanic friend was here, she rushed over: "Come on, mommy! I gotta say 'hola' to that daddy!" ;) She makes me laugh all day long.

 2nd Birthday!

 Darling girl


Enjoying a great summer day

Aleni is happiest just exploring places at her own pace, uninterrupted. Unhurried. She loves getting good and messy!

Here's some fast Aleni facts:

Clothing size: 3T
Shoe size: 7-8
Favorite things: Horses; anything with a lot of tiny pieces; wearing tights (with nothing over them); doing things "by myself!"; princesses somewhat, but they seem to be on the out (yayy! haha...); anything that Noah likes; lip gloss; play dough (mixing all the colors together...argh!);
Favorite foods: Cheese, meats, bananas, goldfish crackers, chips. No wonder she has issues with being "backed up"... ;) She also likes peas, corn, beans.
Favorite color: Pink! (Although she calls it "green").
Favorite question: "Whyyy??" and "Whatchoo doin'?"
Favorite answer: "Ah-cuz!" (= 'because').
Potty trained? Getting there.
Scared of: Clowns, people in costumes (that's my girl!). 
Great at: Problem solving ("I know mom!"), fine motor tasks, organizing.


3 years old!

More beautiful each day...


Laney Lou--we are so in love with you. You are a special gift from God to our family. You fill our hearts, lives and home with so much joy and laughter. Your determined spirit inspires us. We pray we can love you and guide you in the best way possible!!

 Much love to you, precious.... and happy 3 years!