Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just Ten More Days . . .

Until one of our favorite days of the year . . .

Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A! :)

All you have to do is go to your favorite Chick-fil-A restaurant dressed like a cow -- and you get a free meal! (If you wear just one cow accessory, you get a free entree, and if you attempt to wear a full cow costume, you get a free combo!)

It's really not hard to put together a cow costume. Just start with some black pants or black skirts, cut out white "spots" from paper or fabric and pin on. (We've also used white baseball pants and pinned on black spots.) Then, take some plain white t-shirts, and decorate with black fabric paint or a black Sharpie. We have used both to add "cow spots" to our t-shirts and to write our favorite real or invented cow slogans on our shirts.

We had a LOT of fun coming up with our cow slogans!! We used things like "Georgia boys luv chikin!" "My cow is an honor student!" "Don't be a COWard, eat more chikin!" and "Real men eat chikin!" My shirt says "Chikin Mom" and I let my children make black handprint "spots" on the back. To finish off our costumes, we purchased white visors 2 for a $1.00 at Michaels and decorated them with black spots and slogans, and added some face paint!

Here are some pictures of our costumes from Cow Day '07.

It may sound like a lot of work and money to make the costumes, but it was really a lot of fun, and I was able to keep the cost to a minimum. Not only that, I store our cow costumes from year to year in a basket in the top of my closet, so we are always ready for the next Cow Appreciation Day!

Here is a picture of our herd on Cow Day '07!

And another picture from Cow Day '08!

Actually, our courage in going to our local Chick-fil-A dressed like cows may have paid off in an unexpected way. When we first moved to this city back in 2006, we made our debut as a "herd of crazy cows" at the Chick-fil-A in the mall. At that time, we were the first folks in our area to accept the challenge, and the owner/operator was shocked and excited and appreciative to see all of us come in dressed up like cows! He really made a big deal out of it, and seemed to genuinely enjoy meeting our family. He was looking for us again the next year, and told me, "If any of your kids ever need jobs . . . "

Fast forward to this spring. Our 15 year old son, Joseph, was looking for a summer job. When I took him to Chick-fil-A, he not only got the interview, he got the job -- beating out several older applicants. The owner mentioned that he always remembered our family coming in dressed up like cows!! :) So, I have a hunch it helped him have the winning edge!! ;)

Here is the owner/operator with our son, Chris.

As as interesting side note, the owner also mentioned that he liked to hire student athletes, because they are trained to be competitive, to give their best effort, and to always try to beat their own best times. He feels this makes for disciplined, efficient employees who are always trying to do a better job of serving customers quickly. Since my son plays football, basketball, and baseball, I was glad to see a real life benefit to all the time and energy expended in those pursuits!!

So, what are you waiting for? Gather your herd and start assembling your cow costumes for Cow Appreciation Day '09!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Graduate

When I posted about Taylor's graduation back in May, I didn't have any pictures of him in his cap and gown. These just arrived today, so I thought I'd post them. I really like the picture of him with his headmaster.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Wisdom of the Foolish

I just read Romans chapter 1. It is a very sobering passage, especially when you realize that it is an accurate description of modern American society. Man thinks he has reached a pinnacle of enlightenment, while God's Word reveals that man's mind has actually been darkened and his reasoning has become futile and senseless.

I viewed a YouTube video this morning that was a vivid example of Romans 1:21-22 -- "Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

Click here to see what happens to a man's (or woman's) reasoning when he or she rejects God and His ways, and with darkened mind and foolish reasoning, attempts to make sense of the world and the family apart from God and His Word.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

I found myself telling a friend this morning that the house was so quiet because there was no one here! (Taylor, Josh and Joe are still at camp; Alan and Hannah are in SC returning the cousins and picking up the boys; and Tiffany is in Knoxville visiting a friend from college.)

Then it dawned on me -- I still have four children at home -- a 13 year old boy, a 10 year old boy, a 6 year old boy, and a 4 year old girl!! That is actually twice as many children as the average American mom has, and probably enough to drive her crazy! Yet, to me, it is a very light load indeed!

And speaking of loads, the laundry isn't bad with such a small family either!! :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Our Greatest Legacy

Even though I live in south Georgia, I'm still a South Carolinian at heart.

I'm also a political and religious conservative, who likes to support conservative, God-fearing candidates for political office.

Therefore, I took great interest in the story that was dominating the news while I was in SC earlier this week about South Carolina's ultra-conservative governor, Mark Sanford, who had disappeared and left the state to operate on "auto pilot." He was supposed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, but was actually on a secret rendevouz in Argentina. My heart was heavy when I learned that he was involved in an adulterous relationship, and had abused the trust of not only his wife and children, but his friends and supporters throughout the state. His selfish and sinful behavior let down the citizens of SC, hurt the cause of Christ, ended a promising political career, and may have destroyed his marriage.

I had respected Mark Sanford, and like a multitude of others across the state, and even the nation, I was shocked and disappointed to hear of his double life. It is amazing how long and arduous the climb is to the top, and how quickly a man can tumble to the bottom. I was also saddened to see another conservative Republican be disgraced for his inability to confine himself to the affections of his wife. Not that the alternative party is any more righteous -- they just never claimed to be.

Although disheartened by this unexpected turn of events, I did admire Gov. Sanford's humility and candor, which were portrayed in his news conference. He obviously knows right from wrong; he admits that he has sinned by breaking God's absolute moral law; and he even understands that he must pay the consequences for his sin. However, he has probably under-estimated how high that price tag might be. As our pastor used to say, "Sin always takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay."

Unfortunately, sin does not just affect the one who chooses to go astray, but it also hurts the family and friends, who must also pay the consequences for a sin they did not commit. My heart aches for Sanford's wife, Jenny, and their four sons, who have all been caught in the sticky web he spun, and are now being thrust into the harsh spotlight because of his indiscretion. Jenny is a strong, spunky, capable woman with a quick wit, who will no doubt weather the storm, but I believe it will be tough for the Sanford's four boys.

In any tragedy there is always a bright spot. After discovering this official statement, issued by SC First Lady, Jenny Sanford, I felt her response was a beacon of light in the darkness surrounding this affair. Her strength of character, unwavering faith, unconditional love, and dedication to her family were an inspiration to me. I have printed her statement below, and trust that you will be blessed, as I was, by reading her words.

"I would like to start by saying I love my husband and I believe I have put forth every effort possible to be the best wife I can be during our almost twenty years of marriage. As well, for the last fifteen years my husband has been fully engaged in public service to the citizens and taxpayers of this state and I have faithfully supported him in those efforts to the best of my ability. I have been and remain proud of his accomplishments and his service to this state.

I personally believe that the greatest legacy I will leave behind in this world is not the job I held on Wall Street, or the campaigns I managed for Mark, or the work I have done as First Lady or even the philanthropic activities in which I have been routinely engaged. Instead, the greatest legacy I will leave in this world is the character of the children I, or we, leave behind. It is for that reason that I deeply regret the recent actions of my husband Mark, and their potential damage to our children.

I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions. When I found out about my husband's infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage. We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage. During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us. I kept this separation quiet out of respect of his public office and reputation, and in hopes of keeping our children from just this type of public exposure. Because of this separation, I did not know where he was in the past week.

I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal. I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage.

Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him. I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men. I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance.

This is a very painful time for us and I would humbly request now that members of the media respect the privacy of my boys and me as we struggle together to continue on with our lives and as I seek the wisdom of Solomon, the strength and patience
of Job and the grace of God in helping to heal my family."

What a gracious testimony she presents to grieving South Carolinians, disappointed Christians, and hurting women everywhere.

"A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman -- who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls. The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil. She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her." -- Proverbs 31:10-12, Amplified version.

Cousin's Camp

Several years ago I read a wonderful article about hosting a Cousin's Camp, with ideas for activities to spark the imagination, feed the spirit, and encourage fun and bonding between the cousins. So, I'm looking at this time with my neices and nephews here as a "mini cousin's camp."

The cousins are enjoying lots of fun activities together, with a minimum of squabbles! I hope to capture the highlights here.

These pictures are from Wendy's, where we stopped on our way down on Wednesday. The kids were all great! I was the one who knocked over a whole cup of Dr. Pepper!!! :o

Here are some pictures capturing the "Cousins at Play." They enjoyed playing army men, Webkinz, Wii games, X-box (Oops! I hope Taylor doesn't read this!), and games of Clue and In a Pickle.

I call these next pictures "Cousins at Work" -- or you could call them Forced Labor! :) The fellas picked the green beans and the girls snapped them! I cleaned and cooked them, and WE ALL ATE them! :)

Lest you feel too sorry for the boys, I did let them cool off in the pool afterwards! Water time is always a favorite at any camp, and you will see from these pictures of "Cool Cousins Cooling Off" that this was a highlight. My favorite pictures are from the Diving Board Competitions!

Boys always like to show off their muscles for the girls, so I call this picture "Curls for the Girls!" (Too bad his "bar bell" didn't weigh anything!!)

These are pictures of "Cute Cousins!"

This is just a random picture I threw in of "the Babe's" flip flop!

I call this picture "Cousins with Good Taste." Isn't it funny that they all chose the same bathing suit??

Speaking of good taste, what would a Cousin's Camp be without ice cream???? So, here we have my collection of "Cousins and Cream!"

My final picture is called "A Cousin's Treasures." Ben preferred catching lizards and frogs to anything else! At this writing, I think he has six, but that number is continually evolving as some escape, and new ones are captured (or recaptured!). Here is one of his treasures, which he hopes will make it back to Ohio to become either: a) a new pet, or b) food for his pet snakes! :)

It was a treasure having my nieces and nephew here for these couple of days!! Thanks Becca for sharing them!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Totally an Adventure

Last Sunday, we packed the van with the three Big Boys and all of their camp stuff and three of the younger children and all of their stuff and headed for SC. Destination: Nanny and PaPa's house! My sister was already there with her family for their annual summer vacation. We have started a new tradition of meeting there during the third week of June each summer for Operation Drop the Kids off at Camp! :)

It is always fun to see my sister and her family, as they live in Ohio, so we usually only see each other once a year. This picture is of my sister's husband, Burlin, and their daughter, Anna, enjoying some "downtime" together!

Monday morning we made the "required" pre-camp Wal-Mart run to get the things the campers needed or forgot! Then, Monday afternoon, we drove up to the Evangelical Institute (EI) and dropped off Taylor, Josh, Joe and Anna, for the Totally His Youth Conference. Unfortunately, Anna's sister, Amber, was not able to come this year, because she had to stay home (in Ohio) and earn money for college.

It is amazing how much stuff kids pack for a week at camp!!!!

One thing Rebecca and I have discovered these last two years is that it is a lot different dropping off boys at camp vs. dropping off girls. Boys grab their gear and toss it over their shoulders along with a, "See ya later, Mom," while girls need help carrying all their paraphernalia to their rooms, and they want Mom to stay and help get their beds made up, and make sure they are acclimated to their new surroundings before leaving them for a week. :)

It was great to get to see my daughter, Ashlyn, who is a counselor and also the official camp photographer for the week. She has created a Totally His blog to document the activities from the week, and to keep parents and friends informed, so I encourage you to check it out! I know I'm a bit prejudiced, but I think she does an incredible job of capturing the fun times as well as the spiritual elements of the week.

After dropping off our campers, my sister and I were off to have some adventures of our own!!! Notice that carefree smile on her face!! :)

Our first order of business was to stop by Starbucks! I discovered that Rebecca had never been there before, so I was on a mission to take her to Starbucks and treat her to a Skinny Mocha Frappuccino! It was the perfect thing to cool us off and give us an energy "boost" to complete the remaining items on our To Do List!

Next order of business was the BJU Christian Educator's Resource Market, where together we scoured the "Scratch and dent" shelves for bargain-priced BJU press textbooks and workbooks. I had my list, and Rebecca had a list for a friend, so we spent a good bit of time there, looking for all the needed homeschool materials, plus drooling over some miscellaneous items not on our lists!

Then, we headed back to Mom's house to take the younger children for a quick swim at the neighborhood pool before supper.

Tuesday we started the day with a trip to the neighborhood pool, since we knew they would be closing the pool for a swim meet at 1 pm. We could have walked over, but I drove over in the van and dropped everyone off, and then went to fill up the van with gas, before coming back to join them at the pool. We had a refreshing swim and I was reminded how LONG those lanes are in a regulation size pool, when I attempted swimming a few laps! I was soon panting for breath!! :o

Here are Abby, Hannah and Audrey on the way to the pool . . .

along with Luke and Ben . . .

Later that afternoon, after running some errands with our Dad, Rebecca and I headed back up to EI to take Anna some medicine she needed. I also wanted to sneak in a little visit with Ashlyn while we were there. It was to be a quick trip, but we were headed for an adventure that we did not anticipate!

When we got in the van to leave, eager to get the AC cranked up, we discovered that the van's battery was completely dead!!!! I could not believe this was happening! It was a dreadful deja vu from last year, when my alternator died on the way out of EI after one of the night sessions, and I had to drive down the dark, desolate, curvy road with NO headlights!! I don't know what it is about my van and EI, but they don't seem to get along!!!

A van with its hood up is a great way to attract attention from some nice, well-trained, young men, and we soon had help diagnosing and jumping off the van! After getting the van started, they pointed us in the direction of the nearest AutoZone to have the battery tested.

I don't understand why, but their tests were inconclusive, as to whether I needed a new batttery or a new alternator, so my Dad and Burlin encouraged us to just have them jump us off again and drive back to my parent's house where they would take a look at it, so that's what we did. After driving the van for thirty minutes to reach my parent's house, it still wouldn't crank after we turned it off. :( There was definitely something going on . . .

Eventually, it was decided that the best course of action was to take the van to the Ford place early Wednesday morning, since we had purchased a new Ford battery 12 months prior and it had a 36 month guarantee. I hoped it was just a defective battery, but in the end, it was determined that the alternator was bad, so the Ford place promptly replaced my alternator, and except for being $400 poorer and 3 hours later leaving for home, I was no worse for the wear. (I don't know about my sister though, it may be awhile before she wants to ride with me in the van again!!)

We loaded up the van, and I left my parent's house about 12:30 pm with three of my children and three of my sister's children; however, I had a few stops to make before we could actually get on the road. My main errand was an Aldi's run! Here you see us stocking up on low-priced groceries from Aldi!

They have several strategies for keeping costs low at Aldi, one of which is having the customer bag or box his own groceries. Another is requiring that you "rent" your cart for a quarter, which is returned to you when you return the cart to its place. It's really a good system.

After the Aldi's run and a stop at the Entennman's Bread outlet, we were ready to "put the pedal to the metal!" We headed south, trying to keep stops to a minimum. The children passed the six hour trip by eating snacks, listening to Jonathan Park CDs and taking turns watching movies on the portable DVD player. Here is a picture snapped on the way home. Don't worry -- I had my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road! My assistant, Abby, took this great photo!

The fun continues, so tomorrow I will post pictures of the Cousin's Great Adventures in Georgia!

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