Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Clowns

One of the clowns from the Ringling Brothers Circus came to the library today. So of course, my three little clowns wanted to go see.

I was a little worried about how it would turn out for us. Conner had some pretty specific expectations - he wanted them to ask for volunteers, he wanted them to pick him, he wanted someone to take him back stage and give him a pie, he wanted to surprise the clown by throwing that pie in his face, and then he wanted the clown to lick his own face and say, "Mmm, blackberry!" He told me several times that this is what he hoped would happen, and I had told him each time that I just wasn't sure what to expect. But I didn't know if he had really heard me.

They passed out clown noses as we came in. Joey wore his for a minute, and then became more interested in making sure that I kept mine on. Conner wore his for a minute, and then took it off because he said it smelled funny. And suprise, surprise - Micah wouldn't put his on at all.

The whole thing ended up being a big advertisement - the circus is coming to town later this summer. Shocker.

But, Kelly the Clown did juggle a lot for us - even giant tennis balls! And he talked a lot about hand-eye coordination, how it worked, and what an important part of juggling that is. And luckily, Conner thought the guy was absolutely hilarious, and seems to have forgotten all about sneaky tricks and blackberry pies. Micah and Joey really seemed to enjoy it, too - they all want to go to the circus now. Kudos on your successful advertisement, Ringling Brothers.

When it was all over, we went to have our picture made with Kelly the Clown. Conner actually even put his nose on for the shot, Joey played along, but Micah didn't want to have anything to do with it. And then as we were walking out, a woman from the local paper told me that she had taken a picture of my boys with the clowns, could she have their names in case they ran it? How exciting! Too bad Micah wasn't in it... :(
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Monday, June 28, 2010

MUD

We've been swimming so much this summer that we don't hardly know what to do with ourselves when a summer afternoon rain shower comes through. We tried something normal - a movie and popcorn. I even tried to spice it up a little with some m&m's and a Dr. Pepper.

But the wellsbrothers are all boy, and when the movie was over at about the same time as the rain, the call of nature was ringing in their ears.

It took them a minute - is she really letting us do this?

But once they got started, the party was on! And even though the shock of going from the nice, cool, and dry indoors to the sauna awaiting us outdoors caused my camera to fog up

and even though the weird lighting and intense moisture in the air (and camera!) made everything a little blurry, I think I still managed to capture the moment.

It started raining again, so we decided it was time to go in - not because we'd get wet, but in case there was some lightening accompanying the thunder. So I hosed them off outside and sent them to the bathtub...where they crouched on the sides of the tub refusing to get in because "the water is poison!"

I love my little boys! I simply couldn't be a happier mama.post signature

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Working for the Prize

Awhile back we were doing something special for some reason, and decided to rent the Super Mario Brothers game for the Wii. It was a really big deal, and we all had fun with it...but Conner really and truly fell in love. He's talked about that game non-stop for months now, long after we had to return it to Blockbuster.

Then he told me that he wanted to rent it again for the first week of summer. We had a talk about how much it cost to rent the game for a week ($9), and about how for the price of renting it five times we could pretty much buy the game and keep it forever. Maybe we should come up with a plan for saving up our money to buy it instead of just renting it over and over again.

After a little more talking and a research trip to Best Buy to find out the cost of the game ($49.99) with his Daddy, the plan was born. Conner was going to work, earn the money, and save up for it. Genius, huh? :) Coming up with 50 bucks for a video game was going to be a challenge for me too. We worked hard to find a balance between giving me the time to actually come up with the money, yet short enough that his six-year-old-little-boy-distractable-self wouldn't lose interest or give up.

It was decided that we would pay Conner 50 cents for opening the gate for us in the mornings (a job that he had just recently mastered), and for each bag of trash (we average about one a day) that he took out for me. Then I would come up with a bigger job 2 or 3 dollar job each week, like cleaning out the van. If he kept up, he could earn about $10 a week (and that's where I was capping him off). And hopefully, knowing grandparents and aunts/uncles would probably get involved, enough other random little things would come up that he would actually end up earning the money in about four weeks instead of the full five.

We made a bar graph to keep up with his progress, and at the end of each day he was responsible for adding the money he had earned to his running total, and then adjusting his graph accordingly. It was great - not only did we learn about bar graphs, we learned about regrouping and lining up decimals in the process!

Of course, it didn't work out perfectly; we had to readjust our plan a few times. For the last couple of weeks Bret had to leave pretty early in the morning to head to Dallas for his class at SMU, and had to open the gate before Conner even woke up. So, since we've been swimming everyday, he took up folding the beach towels for me instead. The van didn't need to be cleaned out each week as badly as I had expected, so during swim lessons I told him that if he'd take a nap every day, I'd consider that a "big job" and pay him $3. And last week he ended up going to Yogi and BooBoo's for basketball camp, and they were sweet enough to play along with us. There he had jobs like picking strawberries, taking out the trash, shelling peas, and as a big $3 job he helped Yogi dissect a chicken so that we could have it for dinner he got home!

While he was there, Yogi made the joking comment that he should get a 10% share of all that money Conner was making, since he was the one that had planted the stawberries and peas. Conner asked how much that was and (yet another math lesson for his project!) Yogi explained. So without even blinking an eye, without any anger or tears (he was already in the $40's and almost there!), Conner immediately figured out how much he owed Yogi and how much more he would need to earn. And sweet Yogi, instead of refusing because he had only been joking, and in the name of learning about paying business partners for their share, allowed Conner to pay him. He then of course quickly found another reason to pay that money back to him! :)

And this story simply wouldn't be complete if I didn't include Micah. Being the good little brother that he is, since Conner was suddenly interested in things like taking out the trash and cleaning out the van, he of course was too. And when he earned money for his piggy bank, never once did he actually put his money in his own stash. He always gave it to Conner, "cause he really wants that game."

So after beginning this project on 5/29, a lot of hard work, a lot of quarters, and several great lessons in math and life, Conner ended up with his $50 on (I think it was) 5/24. Not bad for making the timing work, huh?!

Conner got back from Yogi and BooBoo's yesterday, and we went to Blockbuster last night to get his game.
And for their own contributions to the project, Micah and Joey (he's actually pretty good at folding up towels!) had each gotten $7 from Yogi and BooBoo. So they decided to combine their earnings to get a new Backyardigans movie.
I am so proud of you for working so hard, sticking to the plan, and earning that new Super Mario Brothers game, ConnerBug!! You've learned some very important lessons toward becoming a good man. And Micah, your sweet, helpful heart makes my own heart nearly bust with love and pride for you. Joey, I'm proud of you too kiddo - thanks for not getting into all of Conner's quarters, tearing up his graph, or already scratching up his new game. That took some hard work and amazing restraint on your part! Yogi and BooBoo, thanks for all the time and work you put into the project, too. And to Gammie and Poppy - a very special thanks for helping me come up with a "plan" to find the money to pay that hard-working kid! :) This was quite the family project!
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Basketball Camp, Fossil Rim, and Leonardo's Protege

Conner got to go to basketball camp this week. It was in Glen Rose...so he got to spend the whole week with Yogi and BooBoo!

This was Conner's first camp of any kind. He was very excited, even though he really didn't know what to expect. And he did great. He made new friends, won several blue ribbons,
and of course, learned a thing or two about basketball!
But the camp was only in the mornings, so he got to do lots of other things while he was there. Right after he got there he got to shoot Yogi's new b-b gun. (Of course, he wasn't pointing it at anyone there, and didn't actually shoot it until he went outside.) And when he did actually shoot it, he was very excited that he hit his target!
Monday was also the Summer Solstice. Supposedly, on this longest day of the year, because of the gravitational pull of the planets or something, an egg will mysteriously stand up on its end. Conner and BooBoo gave it a try, and didn't have any luck. So they did a little research and found out that it's really just a rumor - the way people make it work is by sprinkling a little bit of salt on the surface where the egg is. It's the cubical granules of salt that hold the egg up...and maybe a few crumbs on the countertop for the folks who swear they didn't use salt? :)
Another day they got to go to Fossil Rim. We're so blessed that there are so many cool things to do in Glen Rose - and that Yogi and BooBoo see to it that the boys get to experience them sometimes. Conner got to get up close with a deer (sorry, I have no idea what kind of deer that is), a giraffe,
and even a zebra.
How's that for a sight that a six-year-old little boy would love? :) There were of course, lots of other animals, these were just the highlights. If you want to see the others, you'll have to make it a point to go sometime!

The other cool thing Conner got to do was something he'd been waiting for awhile now. He learned a little bit about Leonardo DaVinci in school a few weeks back, and found out that Leonardo liked to dissect things so that he could learn more about them...and once Conner learned what "dissect" meant, he couldn't wait to dissect something, too! So Yogi promised him that next time he had some chickens that were ready to eat, Conner could help him butcher one. Here's the chicken...
...and I'll spare you the rest of the pictures. Let's just say that the chicken got butchered, Conner got to learn quite a bit about some internal organs...and that we had some great chicken fettuccini alfredo for dinner tonight after he got home! :)

Conner we missed you Bub, but we're so glad that you had such a great time and learned so much. Thanks, Yogi and BooBoo!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Mansion

A little over a year ago, Bret's brother Adam got married. He and Caroline had a beautiful wedding in the front yard of a historic mansion in College Station, with the reception following indoors.

Conner and Micah were ring bearers, and all three of my kids happened to be in rare form that weekend. If you haven't read that post, it's a long one, but more than likely you'll find our constant near misfortunes entertaining - The Wedding - Mr. Destructo, Captain Inferno, Mike, Softie, Micah and All.

Caroline has been putting some pictures of their wedding up on facebook this week, and I ran across one that I had somehow missed before. Here is Conner, standing alone in the foyer of the wonderful mansion just before the wedding began.

Ironically, it was at the cake table there on the left that the flaming napkin (that could have SO easily become a flaming table, floor, room, or building!) occurred. I'm thankful that we do not have a similar "after" picture of the cute little boy in the tux standing over a pile of ashes and rubble!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Healthy Micah

Micah has been really into being healthy lately. He won't eat anything until he finds out if it's healthy or not...and he still eats it if it's not...but he's really excited when it's a healthy food that he gets to eat. And then after he's eaten the said healthy food, he'll run into the bathroom, examine himself in the mirror, and run back to me to tell me how much he's grown.

We've been using this sudden interest in healthy foods to learn a little about the food groups, and how it's good to have something from each food group at every meal. I've been impressed with myself - I actually do pretty good most of the time! And when I don't, it's kind of nice to have someone else remind me - and for them to be excited about putting one more healthy thing on their plates.

Along with this interest in health, Micah's been exercising a lot, too. He runs in place,
he does "push-ups,"
he "makes his arms stronger."
He will also occasionally throw some sometimes-coordinated-sometimes-not-so-coordinated jumpingjacks in there.
Yes, we've definitely got some work to do on his form in the future! :) And don't miss the seriousness in his face - this is very serious business for him these days. Honestly, what I think is really happening here is a desperate attempt to catch up with his big brother - which might actually happen someday, who knows? And until then, I hope we can keep up this interest in healthy food and exercise! :)

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Magic TV Stories

Magic TV Stories are a phenomena that have been going on at bedtime around here for over a year now. It's a special thing that Bret does with usually just the big brothers. And even though it doesn't happen every night - probably on average only once or twice a week - those boys love their daddy's Magic TV Stories. They ask for them all the time, and they hang on every word, often still talking about them the next morning.

Bret wrote about it on his blog tonight - http://ancientjourney.blogspot.com/2010/06/traveling-companion-episode-7.html - beautifully tying it in with some of the things he's been learning and thinking about during his class at SMU. So I've stolen (with permission of course!) the Magic TV portion of his journal entry to share here. (If you have a chance, you should read the rest of his thoughts on the spritual discipline of storytelling. It's good stuff!)

Meet Steve and Crazy:

I knew exactly what he was going to ask me. It was bedtime and I was home, so the question was inevitable. The boy with the huge blue eyes and big gap where his two front teeth should be reached up and grabbed my face with both hands. "Daddy...magic TV?"

For the past year or so Conner, Micah and I have been on a journey with two young boys named Steve and Crazy. Steve is very tall and Crazy is very, well...crazy. They live in a special house. In this house there are lots of rooms and in each room there are lots of tv's. There are big tv's and small tv's. Black-and-white tv's, color tv's and rainbow tv's. There are rectangle tv's and round tv's. There are flat tv's and fat tv's. There are tv's that hang on the wall and tv's that sit on a table. But there is one tv more special than all the others. In fact, you could say that its a magic tv. You can't find this tv if you're looking for it...and actually, you can only find this tv if you aren't looking for anything at all. But, whenever you watch this tv you find yourself inside the story. (Micah named this unchanging part of the story, "the commercial." Conner loves it and Micah always wants to skip it and get to the good part.)

Each night Steve and Crazy watch a show - sometimes its a cartoon that Conner and Micah enjoy, like Phineas and Ferb, the Backyardigans or even the Smurfs (yep, our boys know about the Smurfs). Sometimes its a show about dinosaurs, ninja's, jungles, outer space or a combination of several. And each time Steve and Crazy must help the characters in the show finish the episode. Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes things are just plain silly. We never know what's going to happen (seriously, I make it up as I go).

Crazy never says anything that makes sense - he is crazy after all. Micah usually has some random statement that he wants Crazy to say...and since it doesn't make any sense its usually pretty easy to fit it in!

These stories can be exhausting...how many different plot lines can a guy come up with after all? But I keep telling them because Conner and Micah truly love Steve and Crazy. Sometimes I get Conner to tell the story and I'm always amazed at how he already understands that a story has a beginning followed by some sort of crisis with twists that don't get resolved until the end. Micah hasn't been willing to tell any stories yet, but he has completely outlined several plots for me...

Often Steve and Crazy do things in a way that would seem strange to many people. They model for Conner and Micah a radical new way of living. This weekend I witnessed something in my boys and I wonder if it is directly attributable to the stories of a guy that is tall and a guy that is, well...crazy.

The boys and I went and played putt-putt for the first time. When we were finished we went into the nickel arcade (50 cents for half an hour of fun? I can do that!) Several of the games gave tickets - the kind you can trade in for cheap junk when you're done. We didn't really have enough to get anything so I suggested that maybe there were other boys and girls there who could use them more than us. I didn't really expect the response. Micah, my 4 year old, immediately began tearing off groups of 6 or 7 tickets and asking other kids if they would like them. "I want to make sure everyone gets some, Dad." Conner gave some to a couple guys and took the time to explain that yes, he wanted the tickets, but we didn't have that many and this way they could get an even cooler prize.

My kids are awesome. I think this story makes Jesus smile...and its a story that is definitely moving me somewhere.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Hibachi Grill

Because several things happened a little differently than usual, we got the rare treat of going to worship with Mom and Dad in Granbury yesterday morning. It was nice - especially since yesterday also happened to be Father's Day. And especially since the day before was Dad's birthday. And especially since Mom and Dad surprised us by taking us to a Hibachi Grill for lunch to celebrate!This was quite a treat - the boys and I had never been before. We were quite impressed with all the tricks, but nothing compared to the onion volcano! And then as if that weren't enough, the food was absolutely delicious. As we left, we were given another little treat - our chef wrote a message in salt, upside down and backwards. We were quite impressed.I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for treating us on your special day, Dad!

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

To The Father of My Children

I wanted to write a Father's Day post this evening...and was looking back through our life in pictures that I put together last year on Fathers Day...and this is where I ended up...

The past few years have been filled with challenges of one kind after another. We gone through the loss of family members, moves, job changes, financial struggles, all kind of stuff. And just when we think it can't get any harder, we're thrown another curve ball.

Bret amazes me with the way he is always in tune with God, not only able to hear His voice...but when that voice is trying to be drowned out by so many other voices, the wisdom of God so easily confused and contradicted by the wisdom of the world, Bret is also able to decipher what it is that's being asked of him.

Bret is a highly gifted man, so a lot from him is asked. Constantly. And he amazes me even more with the conviction and energy he has to follow through with all that he feels God has called him to do.

A little over two years ago he gave up relatively well-paying, fairly stable job with benefits...for the not-so-well paying, much less stable calling of planting churches. Since then he's begun work on his doctorate degree at SMU Perkins (he's presenting his doctoral project proposal tomorrow), works several very part time/as needed/on the side jobs, and most recently has become a roofing contractor.

The roofing job has led him to Oklahoma City. Back in May (or was it the end of April?) a series of big storms with tornadoes and very large hail came though and left in its wake a huge opportunity for roofers. He could have stayed here, where there's always a steady supply of homes needing roofs...but he felt God calling him to do the riskier thing and go to OKC. So he stays there during the week and comes home on the weekends. So far it's been really hard, been extremely humbling in a variety of ways, and required a lot of sacrifice...but it's also got the potential to be a HUGE blessing. We're praying hard, and I believe I'll soon have a wonderful report of the blessing that comes from following God's will at all costs.

So Bret, to you I say:

Babe, I miss you. Physically, I miss living in the same home with you during the week. Emotionally/spiritually, I miss the bit of the closeness that is lost when the stress of life and multiple jobs and kids and making ends meet financially threatens to consume. I miss eating dinner as a family every night, I miss letting someone else take a turn to break up the kids' fights, I miss watching you play with the boys, I miss "the milk fairy" bringing home that gallon of milk when we're out, I miss watching TV with another adult in the evenings, I miss that listening ear and long hug at the end of a hard day, I miss the warmth of my friend in bed next to me. I just plain ol' miss you.

But I know that everything you do is because of a higher calling - and because of that, I know it's all going to be okay. I know our family will be stronger for it, our marriage will be better for it, the Kingdom of God will grow because of it.

So thank you. Thank you for loving us in a way that makes you able to put it all on the line for the sake of the Kingdom, yet still able to let us know that after God we're the most important people in your world and you'd do - and have done - anything and everything for us.

Bret, I love you more than words could ever say. Thank you for being my friend and my husband...and for being the most wonderful father imaginible for our kids - by modeling for them the love and life of their Heavenly Father. Happy Father's Day!
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

1980's Party

We had a 1980's costume party tonight with our church. It didn't do exactly what we had hoped that it would...and it was really hot because the a/c was out...but we saw some really encouraging things going on, and the few of us that were there had some good fun!

Conner really played up his new mohawk - one of the sleeves from my cut-up tshirt fit on his head perfectly, we found a clip-on pirate earring in the toybox (thank you, Bubba and Uncle Chris!), and he even let us put a little "punk rocker" makeup (thank you, Aunt Jodi!) on his face.Add a guitar, and we've got a little Billy Idol-type star in the making! :)Micah heard that it was a costume party, and his mind was immediately made up - he was wearing his spiderman costume, and not nothin' or nobody was gonna change his mind!
Bret did a pretty fantastic job of turning a disposable paint suit, backpack, and whirlpool hose into a ghostbusters uniform.
For myself (sorry, the family pic above was the best one we got), I was bound and determined to do something pretty simple, without spending a dime. I cut up one of Bret's old big tshirts (which, by the way, said "inflataparty.com," which I thought was pretty funny!), tight-rolled my jeans, pulled my hair up in a side ponytail, and overdid some blue eye color. (The blue eye color, by the way, is part of Mary Kay's new summer line and was actually a very pretty color. I can't wait to try it "for real." My little sis sells it - www.marykay.com/jodi.bishop)

Joey was more than happy in a tshirt, shorts, and his rubber boots...which was great with me because I was pretty much out of energy to dress anyone else up!

At the party, there was lots of karaoke. Well...kind of, anyway. The adults sang a couple of songs before the kids took over - first singing some 80's songs and then completely overthrowing the party with ABC and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star songs. Conner was pretty funny - just couldn't stop looking at his cool punk-rocker-self in the mirror while he was singing.
Joey did a fantastic and hilarious job of singing Just Beat It, and Micah spent more time alternating between being shy and hamming it up for the camera than he did singing.
Then there was "the band," rocking out to the music while we sang...
Another fun thing I did was make a cupcake "pepperoni pizza" - installment #2 of the summer cupcake project. But this one I did myself - the boys have their hearts set on making panda cupcakes next - and I was fine with that. Except I can't do anything without getting help from them in some form or fashion!

While I cut 15 feet of red fruit by the foot into 1" circles (the pepperonis), Micah and Joey "helped" with their own scissors...
and while I cute up Oreos to fill in the holes between the cupcakes (so that the "sauce" wouldn't fall through) Joey helped himself.But the finished product turned out so good that I'm not even feeling the need to show you the "what I was going for" pic! :)

Light brown icing crust, red icing sauce (looooooooooots of Wilton red paste to get it red and not pink!), raisinets and crumbled Little Debbie's brownies for sausage, grated white chocolate for cheese, fruit by the foot cut into circles for the pepperonis, and a light dusting of cocoa powder to make the "crust" look a litle more "cooked."

So even though the party really wasn't exactly what we had hoped, we had a lot of fun both there and while getting ready for it. Thanks to all of our fun friends for all of your hard work!

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