About Me

I'm Stacy - a disciple of Christ, an Army wife, and a homeschooling mom to our 9 year old daughter. I spend my days doing fun science projects, going on field trips, cooking gluten-free meals, taking photos, reading, blogging & managing the home. I'm constantly behind on scrapbooking and have a never-ending list of sewing & embroidery projects to do, but there are only so many hours in the day.

I believe that shoes should always be optional, life is better at the beach, and chocolate is a necessary food group!

More details about me & my family
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Our new adventure from homeschooling to public school

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5 years ago we made the decision to homeschool Emily.  We homeschooled her for Pre-K through 3rd grade.  It didn’t come naturally to us at first.  In fact, when we first became parents, we never even considered homeschooling.  Through a series of events, and a whole lot of prayer, we felt that homeschooling was the path the Lord wanted us to take.  At that time, we committed to praying about Emily’s schooling each and every year to determine whether or not to continue homeschooling or choose another option.  We didn’t know if it was for a year, a few years, or forever.

This past year as 3rd grade came to a close, my husband and I committed again to praying about her 4th grade year.  Let me be clear – I absolutely love homeschooling! LOVE it! I love the flexibility in our schedule, I love the time with my daughter, I love seeing her learn and being a part of it.  But, for a few months, I had been feeling something stirring inside of me that had me thinking it might not be the right choice anymore.  I prayed about it.  My husband prayed about it.  We didn’t want to homeschool just because we always had or because we loved it, but rather we wanted to make the decision that was best for our daughter at time in her life.

We had some big things to consider.

One of the challenges with homeschooling for us is that Emily is an only child.  As homeschoolers, we all laugh about the myth of “socialization”.  It really is a myth because as homeschoolers, we are out in the community and interacting with people all the time.  We also know that a room full of 20+ kids in a classroom setting are not allowed to socialize much anyway.  However, there are some benefits to learning in a group.  Many homeschool families have a built in group with their multiple kids.  That is not an option for us.  Groups of people can bring new ideas, new ways to do things, and a chance to build relationships.

Relationships.  That’s what Emily was missing.  Several of our close friends with kids her age had recently moved away.  The Bible study I was attending with a “homeschool room”, only had a couple kids Emily’s age.  Even then, we only saw them once a week and one of those two would not be returning the next year.   The church we attend on post also does not have a large number of kids her age.  This was becoming a problem for her.  She was spending all her time with me, and while she thankfully enjoys her time with me, she was craving those relationships like we all do.  People her own age that she can get to know and that can get to know her.  She said once that she wanted friendships with people who “really know what things I like and I can know what they like”.  Isn’t that what we all desire?  People to really know us?

Ok, definitely something to consider.  How can we best meet this need?  We considered for a while joining a homeschool co-op, but the one that would have worked with our schedule just didn’t offer great class options.  I didn’t want to have her just go take a class for the sake of taking a class.  I wanted her to learn something if we were going to invest an entire day of our schedule to this co-op.  We could still be part of the co-op just for field trips, but that didn’t really solve the relationship problem either, as it takes more face to face time to build those.

The more we prayed, the more we heard from Emily too.  We made a point to really listen to what she was saying and found a lot of thought and wisdom in her words.

She expressed to us her desire to learn with other kids.  She said she wished she could go to public school to see what it was like.  She was concerned that she would hurt my feelings by saying that, but I assured her she did not.  We wanted to hear her heart.   She said that she wanted to be able to learn with a group of kids her age and be able to see where she stood in relation to them.  I totally understood that.  We know we aren’t to compare ourselves to others, but only to Christ.  True, but there is something about knowing where you stand.  She just wanted to know that she was on track.  It’s not that she doubted my teaching ability, but she had nothing to compare her knowledge to.  Are other kids learning the same thing?  Do they struggle with similar things?  Am I ahead?  Behind?  She just wanted to know.

She wanted the chance to make friends.  To be around kids her own age several days a week and see the same kids.  To build relationships.  Even knowing that school would not be one giant field trip or playdate, this was important to her.

More and more, we felt the Lord was leading us to put her in school for 4th grade.  Why? I don’t know.  Maybe so we can serve someone at the school.  A family? A teacher?  Of course so Emily can be a friend to others and make friends herself.  It would definitely give us as a family a way to reach out to others in the community and love on them.  People we would have never met otherwise.  We can serve the school and the people that work there.  Be salt & light in the community by stepping out of our comfort bubble a bit.

I was starting to feel excited about her chance to go to school.  When we first started homeschooling, I had a list of reasons why we shouldn’t.  I wanted “me time” and a break.  I had things I wanted to do.  I wasn’t good enough to teach.  In the end, I realized all of my reasons were either selfish or fear based.  Fear is not from the Lord, so the more we looked at it, the more we realized we should homeschool.  At the time, Emily had some special needs that we also felt we could better address at home.  That turned out to be true for a few years, but as she grew, those needs diminished.

This year was different.  All of my reasons for keeping her at home were selfish or fear based.   I don’t want to throw her to the wolves.  Is she strong enough? What if she gets picked on?  What will she be exposed to?  What was I really afraid of?  I have MANY friends who have kids in public school and they THRIVE.  I have many Christian friends whose kids are shining their light in public schools and thriving.  But, I will miss her!  We lose our flexibility over what we study and our schedule.  Oh, our schedule! No more impromptu field trips just because we can.

In the end, I had to choose to trust GOD.  Again, fear is not from the Lord!! Emily belongs to HIM and He is in control, always.  If this is where He was leading us, he has a reason.  I can trust Him to watch over her when I can’t be there.  I trust that her faith in the Lord is STRONG and that she takes Jesus with her to school each and every day.  I can trust that any situation that comes up, we can deal with it if we take it to the Lord in prayer.

So, we enrolled her in school and she was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement before it started.  It was fun to see the excitement in her eyes.  We as a family definitely felt this was the right thing for us to do, right now, in this season.

It’s been a month already and things are going great.  I’ll share the details of how the first month went in my next post.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your path straight.”  ~Proverbs 3:5-6

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Tween Life Lessons: Work Ethic & Earning Money

A couple weeks ago, my 9 (and 3/4!) year old daughter accidently broke one of my favorite coffee cups that was given to me by a dear friend.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  In fact, I think that was #3 or maybe 4 over the course of a year.

As you know, I have many favorite coffee cups and tend to attach sentimental value to each of them.  However, I also realize they are just cups.  Emily was so upset over breaking “the really special cup that one of your good friends gave you”, but I reminded her that the cup being broken does not affect my friendship with that person. 

She was so upset and through her tears she wondered, “Why am I always the one to break them?” and “Why are they always your favorite ones?”.  I joked that God was using her to purge my coffee cup collection!  I also reminded her of 3 important things:

1) SHE is the one responsible for emptying the dishwasher and putting away clean dishes.  She handles them more than I or Rob do, so she has more opportunities to drop them than we do.  

2) She’s growing and learning.  She’s learning how to handle the dishes, how she needs to hold them, how to slow down and be careful.  She’s at an age where clumsiness can sneak in as our bodies are changing. 

3) Of course they are my favorite ones! Those are the ones I use and the ones that end up in the dishwasher.  She’s never broken one that was tucked back in the corner of the cabinet, right?  My mom and I always joke about this – why do we always break our favorite things?  Because we USE them!

 

I was fully prepared to extend grace to her (again) in this situation, because I’ve sure broken my share of dishes.  In fact, both Rob and I broke dishes at my mom’s house this past Christmas.   However, Emily insisted that she wanted to replace the cup for me.  She wanted to save up her money to buy a new one.  She earns money each week for certain jobs around the house and she was committed to not making any other purchases until she had bought me a new cup.

What integrity at such a young age!

 

A few days ago, she came to me and asked if she could do any extra jobs around the house to earn money faster in order to get me the cup sooner. 

Extra jobs? Around the house? ABSOLUTELY! I have plenty of those.

 

Saturday came and I presented her a list of available jobs along with the price I would pay her to do them.  She’s a smart cookie and chose the higher paying or faster jobs first! 

The choices I gave her were:

* Clean the flower bed in the backyard (remove all weeds and dead leaves that had accumulated) – $3.00

* Remove the branches in the yard that were a result of the ice days when part of the neighbor’s tree fell in our yard, and set out by the road for trash pick-up.  — $1.00

* Vacuum & clean out my truck (includes throwing away trash, bringing things inside that belong inside, wiping the dashboard, and cleaning the inside of the windows) – $3.00

* Clean my bathroom (she already does her own) – $1.00

* Clean the flower bed in the front yard (just leaves mostly, there weren’t any weeds), and a pile of leaves – $2.00

* Clean up a pile of dead leaves in the backyard – $2.00

 

She chose the 1st 3 and she worked HARD!  She spent about 2 hours working on the flower bed, another hour cleaning up sticks/branches, and at least an hour on the truck.  It was a warm, sunny day so she worked up a sweat for sure.  We made sure she took water breaks and a lunch break with a fruit smoothie – we aren’t mean, you know!

We paid her for each job as it was completed, and seeing that money come in helped motivate her to keep going.  It was hard at first as she had unrealistic expectations about how long the flower bed would take but a little encouragement and ideas on how to make it fun got her going again.  We encouraged her to put on her headphones and some fun music like we do when we mow to help the time pass.  She also gave herself little goals like “I’m going to clear all the way to that stone in 10 minutes”, and that helped to push her through.

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At the end of the day, we rewarded our “employee” with a $2.00 bonus for her hard work and great attitude!  She never quit or complained, but instead showed an incredible work ethic we are proud of.

 

Yesterday, she took me shopping to pick out a new cup!!  I ended up not getting a hot coffee cup though because I found something else that will be perfect for my warm-weather iced coffee drinks!  In fact, I came right home and made one.   I love mason jars, and I love the color teal so this was perfect!  I didn’t even use all her money.  I assured her I would not make her spend more than I would spend myself – and I’m pretty cheap! We found it at Hobby Lobby for half price, so she spent $8.55 on it.

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We are so proud of her for all her hard work, and I know that I will enjoy thinking of her every time I use my new mug!

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Gift ideas that are low on cost but big on imagination!

Today Emily was re-reading one of her favorite books and it gave me a great idea.  I wanted to share this with you because it’s a perfect budget friendly gift idea that would be sure to please most young kids.  With Christmas coming, I thought it was the perfect time to share this.

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The book is called Christina Katerina & The Box and is written by Patricia Lee Gauch.    (You probably already see where I’m going with this…)

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As the story goes, Christina Katerina and her mother are both excited when the new refrigerator arrives in its large brown carton, but they are excited for very different reasons. Christina quickly claims the box, where she creates a castle, a clubhouse, and other fantastic playthings with her friend Fats Watson.  Every time her latest creation gets messed up, she simply turns it into something new until one day the box gets wet and Christina’s mother is all too happy to finally throw the box away.  That is, until Fats brings over 2 new boxes from his mother’s new washer and dryer!

This book is full of the imagination that should play a huge part in every child’s life.  Seeing something plain and simple and being able to turn it into something grand is a skill many have forgotten.  It is truly refreshing to see children get excited about something that doesn’t light up, make sounds or use batteries.

Back to my idea…

As parents we always joke that kids would rather play with the box the toy came in than the toy itself, right?  So let’s just skip the toy and give them the box!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pair this book with a huge cardboard wardrobe box as a gift for a child this Christmas?  Yes, I’m serious!  Give them a box.  I would bet that most children under 12 with any sense of imagination would love to have a HUGE box as an empty canvas for their creativity!  I know my 9 1/2 year old daughter would love this gift idea – if she didn’t already own the book, that is.  She’d still love the box!  If you really felt the need to dress up the gift, you could include a package of markers or crayons, but don’t go overboard.  The idea is to keep it simple.  Let them use their imagination to create – and re-create – new adventures. 

So skip the battery operated, noise making, video game playing gadgets and instead get to the dollar store for some extra wrapping paper.  You’ll need it to wrap that huge box.  Read the book together and turn them loose to see what they create.

 

My daughter, Emily, has always loved to play with boxes.  She has made everything from row boats to castles and race cars to animal shelters – all from cardboard.  She still tries to keep every empty box that makes its way into the house.  I hope that continues for years to come! 

Here are just a few of our favorites!

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Check out another one of my low on cost, but big on imagination gift ideas:  A Homemade Detective Kit!

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Connecting the dots of God’s story

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This morning in my quiet time, I was reading in the book of Psalms and this verse really stuck out for me:

“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” Psalm 143:5

It has been on my heart lately to share with you a story of the greatness of God.  Of His mighty power, planning, and goodness.  I’ll be honest, there were times in the middle of the story where it didn’t feel very good.  In fact, it involved one of the lowest times in my life.  But through the almighty grace of my Heavenly Father, I can now look back at the “days of long ago” and see His hand in the story every single step of the way.  I can see all the dots in the story and how God connected them to make a beautiful masterpiece of His love.

Many of you know about our experience as foster parents, and that throughout that process we had many highs and lows.  If you weren’t with me back then, you can read some of my foster parenting blog posts here.  The lowest low of all was when we had to surrender a precious baby boy that we had been led to believe we would get to adopt.  Looking back it seems like we should have known differently based on our timeline.  God placed that precious baby with us just 10 months before we would be moving out of state with the Army.  But, I was hopeful and trusting.  I figured if God wanted us to adopt him, things would move fast.  Well, they didn’t.  Because that wasn’t God’s plan all along.

It turns out that while we were caring for “Little Bear” as we called him, another family was taking classes to become foster parents.  They had no children of their own and wanted to help other children and grow their family through adoption.  They got certified as foster parents just in time for Little Bear to go to their home just as we were getting ready to move and had to find him a new family.  Coincidence? No way!  That, my friends, is our Father’s perfect timing.  His ways are higher than our ways.

Now he is with this wonderful family being loved on, cared for, and CHERISHED every single day.  He knows what it’s like to have family and friends.  He is learning of God’s love and one day he will be able to grasp how deep the Father’s love is for him as he gets to look back and see how God had a plan for him before he was even born.

How do I know all of this?  Because a dream came true!  One of my disappointments when we had to surrender our foster son was that we would not be able to see him again or know how he was doing.  I desperately wanted to be able to talk to the new family, but CPS would not allow it.  It was heartbreaking to say the least, but I already wrote about that in another post.

But God is GOOD!  He is amazing, really.  And just about a month ago, by the grace of God and the wonders of technology – Little Bear’s mom…the one who adopted him and now can call him her own….contacted me via Facebook.  She had been wanting to contact me for a while but wasn’t sure I’d want to hear from her.  I definitely did!

I was so thankful!  I knew I would never find her. I knew her first name because of conversations I had with the birth mom right after he left us (even then I would have never spelled it correctly!), but I didn’t know her last name or where they lived.  I had sent a letter with Little Bear to the adoptive parents that included a DVD full of pictures and some information I thought would be helpful for them to know.  I included my contact information in case they had any questions at all.  Unfortunately, the CPS worker tore off my contact info before giving them the letter.  At least they got the pictures!  Once the adoption was final, the parents got to see his full foster care report and our names were in there.  As a side note – that information shouldn’t have been in there and our personal info should have been kept private for safety reasons.  In this case, I’m glad it was in there.

Now I’ve been able to connect with the woman who has given Little Bear a forever mommy & a daddy.  I’ve been able to see pictures of him and how he’s grown!  He looks so happy and is obviously very well loved and cared for.  And just now, the story has come full circle as this family just accepted their first foster placement since bringing their son into their home.  Now they have a couple more kids to love on for as long as God has planned.

What a blessing that is from God, and one I don’t take lightly, that He has let me see clearly HIS hand in HIS story as a reminder that He is always there – He will never leave us or forsake us.  We just have to trust Him.

God knew all along that this family would adopt Little Bear.  But they weren’t ready when he was born, so God used our family to give him love in the meantime.  In the end, we may not have gotten to adopt him, but our family was blessed by him & this story in a way that will never be forgotten.

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Is your water clean?

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Yesterday our neighborhood water company started some work on the water lines.  We were warned ahead of time that this could cause some issues with water pressure or even discoloration in the water for the next 3 weeks.  I pretty much blew off the message I received about it without a second thought.  Until last night, that is.  When my daughter went to brush her teeth and the water wouldn’t turn on.  At all.  I thought to myself, "They said there would be issues with pressure, not that there would be NO pressure." and then we laughed about it and moved on.  Thankfully we had a couple cases of bottled water on hand from a party this past weekend, so we told her to grab a bottle of water and pretend we were camping.  Later last night, our water was back on.  The pressure wasn’t great and there was air in the lines, but it was on.  It didn’t even cause a disruption in our day.  We went without water for less than an hour. 

This morning as I got in the shower and noticed the water pressure was half what it normally is, I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we are to even have water.  Clean, fresh water at the turn of a knob anytime we want it day or night.  I don’t ever have to walk further than about 15 feet to get to a water source in my home.  I even fill up water bottles to take it with me wherever I go.  I stood there looking at the clean water flowing from the shower head and thought about how fortunate I am to be able to stand there using as much water as I need to get clean, and some just because it’s nice to stand in a hot shower.  I don’t have to worry about it getting in my mouth and getting a life threatening illness.  I don’t have to worry about the bacteria getting in the fresh cut on my hand. 

I don’t know why I’m fortunate enough to have been born here in America where clean water is more of an expectation than a luxury, but I do know that I should stop more often to truly be thankful for such things that we consider so basic.  I know that I am to do my part to help others, to give to others just as the Lord has done for me.  When we look at our blessings, we should be reminded to reach out and bless others.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." When we share our blessings with others, we are also sharing his love. 

In John 4, Jesus is talking to a woman at the well and he says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Paul, when talking to the Philippians, says "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Jesus is our living water.  He says that if we drink of that water, we will never thirst.  He is that clean, fresh water pouring out of the faucet – available to us anytime day or night.  All we have to do is call on Him and He will be there.  If we keep our eyes on Him and make Him the priority in our lives, we will learn to be content no matter what because He provides us with a JOY that can come from nothing else.

If you want to make a difference in the life of someone without easy access to clean water, consider making a donation to World Vision.  They are an amazing organization working to provide clean water and improved sanitation to impoverished areas of the world where so many are dying from waterborne illness.  Thank you!

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Memorial Day Murph

Memorial Day is always a special time to us, and we annually seek out a ceremony to attend in order to show honor to all those who have lost their lives for our country.  Yesterday, Rob and I participated in a new (for us) Memorial Day event that I was introduced to through my Crossfit box called Memorial Day Murph.  We may have a new family tradition!

Many Crossfit workouts are named after heroes – various people who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  “The Murph” was named after a Navy SEAL named Lt. Michael Murphy.  The story has it that this particular workout was one of his favorite crossfit workouts and he performed it multiple times a week.  Unfortunately, on June 28, 2005 he was killed in action in Afghanistan.  Now each year on Memorial Day, Crossfitters from all over gather together to complete this workout in his honor, and also to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

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Oh, and to make it even more challenging….to truly do this workout Rx style (“as prescribed”), you also wear a 20-pound vest!  We didn’t do that this time, but many people did.

My local box made this into a huge event! So many people came – from our own box, and other boxes in the area.  There was food and a bounce house for kids, and so many people bringing donations for the Wounded Warrior Foundation!  The workout was split up into heats of around 10 people each that were staggered to start every 30 minutes.

Rob and I were part of the first heat and I think we did great!  My amazing hubby agreed to do the workout with me and was by my side the entire time.  Running is still really hard for me (but I’m getting better!), so my runs were super slow – but he was right there pacing himself with me! He could have easily lapped me since he’s an experienced runner, but instead he was right there beside me cheering me on (and even singing to me when I asked for music) as I jogged my way through that first…and then the last…mile.  That meant the world to me!  I was so proud!! I managed to run the 1st mile COMPLETELY without walking at all!  That was a milestone for me. When I first started Crossfit, I could barely run 200m (1/8 mile) without stopping.  I might have been slow, but it wasn’t a race.  It was all about each person doing their own workout competing only against themselves.

When I went into this, I told myself I would be proud of myself if I even completed 1/4 or 1/2 of “The Murph”.  I’ve never done it before, and I’m still working on my very-scaled pull-ups.  In Crossfit, scaling an exercise means adapting it to your ability.  I can’t do strict pull-ups yet, so I use a resistance band on the bar that I put one foot in to help provide some assistance in pulling myself up.  The bands are like giant rubber bands in various strengths each providing a different amount of help.  I use the biggest one that gives the most help….for now.  My goal is to be on a much smaller band, or not at all, by next year!

Anyway, I was shooting for completing 1/4 – 1/2 of the workout, but when I hit the 1/4 mark I knew I could keep going!  Then I got to the 1/2 mark, and I knew I still had some life left in me so I kept going some more.  Just past the halfway mark, my muscles started to fail so I set my sights on doing 3/4 and I did it!!!

I did 75 pull-ups, 150 push-ups, and 225 squats!  Then, I completed the last full mile run again with Rob by my side.  I did stop and walk a little bit a few times, but I ran most of it.  So so proud of my accomplishment!

1 mile run + 75 pull-ups + 150 pushups + 225 squats + 1 mile run = 1 hour 3 minutes!!

Rob did the FULL Murph in the same amount of time, but his time would have been much faster if he ran on his own.  He was more interested in doing it WITH me than in getting a fast time though.  I love you, Babe!!!

 

I want to share with you the story behind Lt. Michael Murphy.  I found this posted online and it’s a great read as a reminder of why we have Memorial Day, and why we were willing to go through a little physical suffering in honor of all those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Why Memorial Day Murph was started:

On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a very committed four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. The SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell had a vital task. The four SEALs were scouting Ahmad Shah – a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.

Under the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the “Mountain Tigers” that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEAL mission was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban.

A fierce firefight erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of more than 50 anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the overwhelming militia forced the team deeper into a ravine.

Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain’s steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.

Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.

Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.

An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent is as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. Entering a hot combat zone, attack helicopters are used initially to neutralize the enemy and make it safer for the lightly-armored, personnel-transport helicopter to insert.

The heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. They knew the tremendous risk going into an active enemy area in daylight, without their attack support, and without the cover of night. Risk would, of course, be minimized if they put the helicopter down in a safe zone. But knowing that their warrior brothers were shot, surrounded and severely wounded, the rescue team opted to directly enter the oncoming battle in hopes of landing on brutally hazardous terrain.

As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson, continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.

The fourth SEAL, Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and was knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. Dehydrated, with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, three vertebrae cracked; the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot he evaded the enemy for nearly a day. Gratefully, local nationals came to his aid, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three days. The Taliban came to the village several times demanding that Luttrell be turned over to them. The villagers refused. One of the villagers made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2.

By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.

This was the second worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

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Just don’t quit

In my last post I told you about Crossfit and some of the great things about it.  Now I want to share a story with you about something that happened to me a few weeks ago so you can really understand why I love it so much.

One Saturday morning 3 weeks ago, I was driving to my Crossfit box for the morning workout.  It had been a while since I had been there so I was just praying all the way there that it would be a strength based workout.  I love those.  Lifting heavy weights makes me feel strong, and even though it’s hard, I’m much more capable at those than other things.  Like running.  Or burpees.

If you don’t know what a burpee is, watch this.  It looks easy, doesn’t it?  Go ahead and try one.  Better yet, try 5 in a row.  Not as easy as it looks, especially when combined with other exercises.

I arrived at the box, took a look at the workout board and saw that God had answered my prayer with a big “NO”.  Obviously, he wanted me to grow mentally that day.  He wanted me outside of my comfort zone.  He wanted me to have to depend on HIM to get me through.

The WOD (workout of the day) was a long run (long for me anyway – it was really only 2 miles, but I’ve never run that far before), and along the way we had to stop several times and do burpees.   Seriously?  I got sick to my stomach just seeing that.  I STINK at running.  And at burpees.  But it got worse.

Then the trainer tells us that we will be doing this in teams.  I take a look around and as I look at who is there, I know that whoever my teammate is – I will be slowing them down.  I got paired up with a girl who is great at running. That made me feel guilty before we even started.  I felt like a child all over again and no one wants to be THAT kid that loses the game for everyone.

I was literally in tears before we even started.  I won’t lie, I was having some anxiety about the whole thing.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

At this point, my sweet friend who introduced me to this place came over and joined my team.  She volunteered to run just so she could come along and encourage me. Who does that? She’ll never know how great that made me feel.

So, we head out on our run and sure enough, our group was in the back of the pack.  But you know what I found? No one cared.  No one cared WHERE we were.  After all, it wasn’t a race and there was no prize for being first.  Instead, they only cared that we finish.  They cared that I didn’t quit.  They slowed their pace to match mine and talked to me the entire time.  They even let me rest at one of the burpee stops and did my part of the burpees for me.  I was running and crying at the same time – partially from sheer exhaustion and partially from being so humbled and in awe at this level of encouragement.

As we neared the end and the gym was in sight, the groups that had finished first came out and ran the last bit with our team.  They had already done their workout, but they came out to run MORE in order to cheer us on to the finish.  I get goosebumps and feel the tears welling up just typing this.  I was in awe.

At first I was so embarrassed.  I didn’t want the attention from being last.  I just wanted to do this workout on my own – not as a team.  I didn’t want anyone to see me fail.  Just let me do it myself.  But that’s the difference.  See, if I had done that workout on my own – if I had run alone, and came in last after everyone else was back – I would have felt like a failure.  I would have focused on the fact that I was the slowest one there.

Instead, because we did it as a group and I came in with other people – I felt like I accomplished something.  When those people came back to run with me I felt like I was worth something.  When my friend congratulated me for not quitting, and when the trainer said I worked hard – I felt like a winner.

And I should feel like a winner!  I ran 2 miles and did burpees along the way! I’d never done that before.  Each of those people running with me had to start somewhere too.  A few people told me stories about their first runs and how hard it was for them.  That gives me hope that one day I will walk in to the box, see a run listed on the board as part of the workout, and NOT feel like I want to turn around and go home.

THAT is why I love Crossfit, and my box in particular.  You won’t find that type of encouragement and support just anywhere.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

No wonder Paul uses running in so many of his examples in the Bible.  Faith and running have a lot in common – they both require endurance and keeping our focus on the Lord!

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)

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My journey into Crossfit

Earlier this year, I was talking to a good friend of mine and mentioned that I wanted to check out Crossfit as a means of exercise.  It turns out this friend of mine did Crossfit and it was how she got in the amazing shape she is in.  She told me about her Crossfit “box” (that’s what they call it instead of a gym) and invited me to check it out.

So I did.  That was a few months ago.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go regularly for a few months because of some other conflicts in my schedule, but recently I was able to clear some things from my calendar so that I can focus on my health & fitness.

This journey starts NOW!

I just turned 39 a week ago, and I really, REALLY, want to get back in shape and be Fit by 40!  To accomplish that, I absolutely have to dedicate myself to getting my Crossfit in at least 3x a week.  This past week, I went 4 times.  I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. I have finally found a type of exercise that I absolutely love.

“What is Crossfit?”, you might be asking.

I’ve seen Crossfit described many times as “different” from other gyms, but I think you have to try it out to fully understand.  Crossfit by definition is “a strength and conditioning program that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, body weight exercises, & aerobic exercise” but it is so much more than that.

Every WOD (workout of the day) is different, so I am constantly getting to try new things.  Some days we’ll be jumping rope, doing dead lifts and box jumps.  Other days, we’ll use the rowing machine and carry kettlebells until our arms feel like they’ll fall off.  Sometimes we’ll run and do burpees.  Other times we’ll throw heavy medicine balls at the wall over our head and do pushups.  All different, all the time.

The classes and the trainers push my limits and encourage me to go further than I would on my own, and as a result I’ve realized I can do things I never thought I could do before.

You compete against yourself, not against everyone else in your class.

It is a community – a family.  Everyone there is at a different level physically.  Some are recovering from injuries or accidents.  Some are top champion competitors.  Some are stay at home moms trying to get back in shape.  Some are military men and women looking to change up their physical training.  Some are there because they want to compete, others just want to get in shape.

Everyone is encouraging and helps one another.

I hear a lot of people say Crossfit isn’t cheap.  Maybe not, but I don’t think you would find the level of encouragement and one-on-one training for the money anywhere else!  Each time I go to class, the trainer is right there working with each of us individually on our technique and form, pushing us to do a little more than we think we can, and modifying the workout to meet each individual’s needs.  In addition, the other class members are cheering each other on – whether they know each other or not – and making sure the person that finishes last feels like they did the best.

If you are looking for a new way to exercise, I highly recommend you look for a local Crossfit box in your area.  Don’t be intimidated, just go in and try it out.  I think you’ll be amazed.

Yesterday, my Crossfit box had a block fitness fair so we did our workout outside as a way to “demo” to the guests what a WOD might look like.  Man, was it HOT out there and it’s not even summer! The workout was hard and fast and I felt miserable in the middle of it, but when it was over I felt amazing and couldn’t wait to go back.  That’s how it is every time.  The workouts are crazy hard and the time goes super fast.  In the middle of it you wonder if you can possibly go on or finish, but then all of a sudden it’s over and YOU DID IT!  Then those endorphins kick in and you feel proud of yourself and excited about doing it all again.

Our workout yesterday has us in teams again.  As a team we had to complete several rounds of burpees and ball slams.  We could split it up between us depending on our strengths or how tired we got but we had to complete a certain total for each round.  Thankfully, my partner ROCKED the burpees and took up the slack where I couldn’t, but I was able to pull the weight on the ball slams.  Once again, she had nothing but encouraging things to say the entire time.  She didn’t give me a hard time for not being great at burpees or complain when I needed a break that we were going to be last.  She just kept working and encouraging me.

My darling hubby was there and got a few pictures of me in my glory.  That’s a 15 pound medicine ball that I was lifting over my head, slamming down to the ground and squatting to catch it while it “bounced” off the ground.  15 pound balls don’t bounce very much so you have to squat down there fast and low to get it.

 

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I look forward to seeing my body get in better and better shape and I go through this next year.  I’m already feeling a difference in my strength and tone, so it will be fun to see the changes.  I’m not shooting for a particular weight number on the scale, although I do have a range I’d like to be in.  Most of all, I want to be healthy and strong.  I want to stay active and try new things.  I want to be confident in myself and be brave enough to try things I wouldn’t before.  I want to avoid the plague of health problems that run in my family.  So far, I’ve been incredibly blessed, but with 40 around the corner I know that getting in shape will play a major role in how the next 40 years go for me.

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, so here I go!

 

I thought this verse I came across in my quiet time a couple days ago was particularly fitting.

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:11-13)

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Mommy Daughter Day

Today I had a much needed date day with my daughter, Emily!  As a homeschooling mom, I am with her 24/7, but we are usually focused on making sure chores, schoolwork & errands are done.  We don’t always make the time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Today was just a day to do that.  No chores.  No errands.  Just fun. 

We started the day meeting our Friday playgroup at the park for some fun in the sun.  Emily got a few hours with her friends, and I enjoyed my time with the other mommies.  After lunch, we headed off on our date.

 

First stop – Starbucks!  We needed a potty break and I thought a couple drinks were in order.  Tea for Mommy, juice for Emily.

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We then headed to Hobby Lobby where Emily had requested time to just wander around and look to her heart’s content.  She is such a crafty girl at heart!  Usually when we go in Hobby Lobby we are picking up supplies of some sort and in a bit of a hurry.  She has been asking for some time to just be able to browse and really look at all the fun goodness in that store.  We spent 3 hours in there today, and she had an absolute blast. 

New hair clips, anyone?

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I think she could have spent a couple extra hours just on the row with all the hard animals.  So many to choose from!

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Next stop was Petsmart.  We don’t have a zoo close to us, but that’s ok because Emily loves the free trip to Petsmart.  She loves to see the kitties, birds, lizards, hamsters, and all the dogs people bring in. 

After we had exhausted the animal entertainment, we headed to one of our favorite local used bookstores where we found a few deals we couldn’t live without. 

After the bookstore, we were both running out of steam.  It had been a long, but fun day.  We stopped at the grocery store for some cheese, crackers & pepperoni to make a snack tray for dinner and also grabbed some ice cream for a treat.  Normally we just make our own at home, but this was a splurge.  She had requested frozen yogurt, so we stopped in a new place to check it out.  I requested to see their ingredients to make sure it was safe for us to eat, but after looking at the list of chemicals on the ingredient label and realizing how few real ingredients were in this “frozen yogurt”, we decided to skip the Fro-Yo place, and just grab a good brand of store bought ice cream instead. 

We set up our snack tray, grabbed some ice cream (topped with melted chocolate and fresh strawberries), and enjoyed our dinner while watching Andy Griffith. 

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What a blessed day!  I’m so thankful for these special times with my girl.

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Earth Day Green Cookies! (Grain/gluten/egg/nut/dye FREE)

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I am always looking for fun science experiments to incorporate into our homeschooling, and this one did not disappoint us.  What a great experiment for Earth Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or just anytime for a tasty science lesson.  Not only is this recipe FUN, the results are extra yummy!

If you are a nut-free family, you may have already tried this or even accidentally stumbled across it in your kitchen.  If so, I’d love to hear what you made.  If not, you must try this!  The kids will love it. 

All you have to do is make a batch of cookies (recipe link at end of post).  On first glance, they will look like any other batch of cookies.  As they cool, you will notice the result of a chemical reaction.  The cookies will turn GREEN inside! 

The trick is that you have to use sunflower seed butter.  It’s like peanut butter, but made with sunflower seeds.  I have a Vitamix, so I made my own using organic, shelled, sunflower seeds.  If you don’t want to make your own, Sunbutter is found in most grocery stores and is commonly used as a substitute for nut butters.

Why sunflower butter?  Because it reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and that is what makes the cookies turn GREEN!

All plants contain chlorogenic acid, mostly in the stems and leaves, but sunflowers also have it in the seeds.  This acid reacts with the baking soda in the recipe, and causes the cookies to turn a bright green color inside as they cool.  The longer they cool, the more green they get. 

 

Our cookies looked pretty normal when we put them in and took them out of the oven, but with a little patience we were rewarded with a fun result.

 

The dough (and my favorite sous chef)

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Going in the oven

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Fresh out of the oven (notice the inside is still brown…..do NOT eat all the cookies yet!)

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After cooling for 2 hours

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After 6 hours – now we’re talking!  Isn’t that cool?

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The Cinnamon ‘Oat’meal Raisin Cookies recipe we used came from the Against All Grain website.  Notice “oat” is in quotes because there are no oats in the cookie.  The “oat” texture comes from shredded coconut so these cookies are completely nut-free, egg-free, gluten-free and grain-free.  Most of the sweetness is from applesauce and dates with only 2 TB of honey for a dozen cookies.  YUM.

Or you can make green waffles instead using one of our absolute favorite waffle recipes.  We make extra and keep them in the freezer.  Or we try to.  We’ve always made them with almond butter, but I might have to try some green ones next time.

 

Enjoy!

Homeschooling makes me happy!

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