Pen Pals

Since Micah and his family moved to North Carolina, we are trying to keep the kids connected by writing letters and sending packages back and forth. We send pictures and drawings and let the kids dictate (with some help) the letters we write for their cousins.
The other day we received a letter from Malachi that was SO CUTE, I just had to post it. Rae's response was equally as cute, so hers is after that.
We miss you, M/M/M/Z/A!

Dear JP, Audra, Israel, and Ruby,
Hi! How are you? I love you and you are my cousin, Rae Rae! I liked the picture you sent us, and the letter. Thank you for the box! Thank you for the glow snakes and for the gummies with juice in them. Yes, I like my new house and my new pool. The birds come to eat the bird seed and the deer come to eat the corn. Yes, I like to swim in my new pool. Yes, Anna is getting big. I want to dance and blow bubbles with you, too!
When you come and visit us, we can swim in our pool, and jump. We can also play wrestle, go exploring, and play with the hose, and put blankets on our heads and bonk into things! :) We can do diggers and play in the sand, and we can go to a store and look at things, and go on a walk and take pictures! Wow! That's a lot! It will be lots of fun! Talk to you soon!
Malachi (and Uncle Micah, Auntie Missy, Zach and Anna)
P.S. When we take a walk, we can eat snacks too!
And Israel's scatterbrained response:

Dear Malachi and Zach,
Hi! I'm doing good! Thanks for your letter and the pictures. I have a Bible and I have flowers. My Bible has pictures about Jesus.
When we come see you, we can go camping and play games! We have been praying for George the kitty cat
[their cat was lost, but he's home now]. We saw a turtle at my Gammy's house. Mommy catched him but he scratched her. Then he swimmed away. Now he's under the dock.
I have a new tricycle that my G & Bompa bought for me. It's red and white and it has a bell. Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to Target and have fun!
When we go on a walk, we can eat Dora snacks!
My favorite part about the pictures you sent is the trucks. Maybe we could ride in a wagon! I could be happy!
Ruby eats big girl food now. It's cereal. It's yucky.
I went to a park, and when I slide down the super big slide I was afraid. But then I wasn't scared anymore and I climbed up the slide. Maybe another time we can go back to the park and you can come with us and climb. And we can do the swings!
I lub you,
Rae Rae
P.S. My full name is Israel Hope Charlebois. And Ruby's nickname is Ruba-dooba.


Never Give Up!

Two nights ago, we all piled into the RV and drove to a new park we found not far from our house. The park had one of those little rock climbing walls, and JP wanted Rae to try climbing it with his help. She resisted and whined about it, but he encouraged her to give it a shot. Once they got to the wall, Rae really decided she did NOT want to climb the wall and that it was too hard for her to do. JP explained to her that we should never give up, even when things are seeming too hard for us. She wasn't too happy about it, but he urged her along all the way up the wall, helping her with each grip and each step. Finally she made it to the top.
When Rae looked back down at what she had done, she got SO EXCITED and started laughing and cheering for herself! She was so thrilled that she immediately came down the slide and went right back to the climbing wall. But this time, she did it all by herself! You would have thought she had been climbing walls all of her life! She was up that wall in seconds, then back down the slide to do it again and again and again.
Standing at the top saying "I did it! I didn't give up!"
After that, Rae was so confident in herself that she started tackling all of the "big kid" things to do at the park, including learning how to climb up the slide and hang from the monkey bars (keep in mind, she's only 2). By the end of our time at the park, she was walking around saying stuff like, "I don't give up anymore! Never give up!" We were (and always are) so proud of her!


Typical Night

The following is an example of a typical evening in the Charlebois home. All I can say is -- I love my life.

Just Add TLC

Last week, JP was browsing craigslist for nothing in particular when he ran across a listing that caught his eye. It was a 1977 Dodge Sportsman RV with only 57,900 miles on it for $1000. JP has always dreamed of owning an RV for the many road trips we plan to take as a family over the years. He decided that it was worth seeing, so that night he drove to St. Cloud to check it out. When he got there, he found a treasure!
It may not be the most gorgeous thing to look at, but this "camper truck" (as Rae calls it) has all the bells and whistles, AND it runs! All it needs is some TLC, which we intend to give it! And the very best part is that JP was able to talk the guy down to $560!!!!!
This truck has it all -- a large bed over the cab that folds up to provide extra head-room when not in use; an eating area; a cabinet bed over the eating area; a couch that folds down into another bed; a stove/oven/sink/fridge in the kitchen area; a bathroom with a shower and linen closet; AC and heat; tons of storage; and an exterior that has very little rust.
JP and I are both excited to redeem this truck! Some of the greatest blessings in our life together have come from redeeming things that other people didn't want. Take JP's work van, for instance. He bought that 1983 Chevy for $1300 and it has been an INCREDIBLE blessing to us and our business. JP took the time to learn how to work on it and has all but replaced the entire engine for just the cost of parts. He repaired all of the rust and turned it into a vintage treasure that makes us money every time he takes it out. And because he took the time to do that, he now knows how to get this RV into perfect working condition. Some new belts, new tires, minor tune-ups and a facelift, and we've got ourselves one heck of a family-mobile.
Keep checking back. I'll do my best to keep you posted as we move forward with our new project. JP has already fixed the screen door and some engine parts. We got new tabs for it and drove it to Menards as a family the other day. :) We've cleaned out all of the junk the previous owner left behind and plan to move on to cosmetics soon: tearing out the orange shag carpet (even on the ceiling!), sewing new curtains, replacing the upholstery, etc.
If all goes well, we'd love to take our maiden voyage by mid to late summer. Where to go first...decisions, decisions!

Here she is! What a beauty!
View looking towards the front. Notice how the passenger seat swivels around to face the rear! The sleeping area is above, and the couch on the left has seat belts, so car seats are no problem. Also, the dash is in immaculate condition. We'll probably just add a CD player.
View facing the rear
Fold-down bed over the eating area
The kitchen. Not pictured: paper towel dispenser and fire extinguisher!
The bathroom. Can you read the little plaque? (click photo for larger view)
The shower. Who wants to go first?


I love being a mom

I got this in an email today, and loved it. I hope you do, too. Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms in my life!

Before I was a Mom,

I never tripped over toys

or forgot words to a lullaby.

I didn't worry whether or not

my plants were poisonous.

I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom,

I had never been puked on.

Pooped on.

Chewed on.

Peed on.

I had complete control of my mind

and my thoughts.

I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom,

I never held down a screaming child

so doctors could do tests.

Or give shots.

I never looked into teary eyes and cried.

I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.

I never sat up late hours at night

watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom,

I never held a sleeping baby just because

I didn't want to put her down.

I never felt my heart break into a million pieces

when I couldn't stop the hurt.

I never knew that something so small

could affect my life so much.

I never knew that I could love someone so much.

I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom,

I didn't know the feeling of

having my heart outside my body..

I didn't know how special it could feel

to feed a hungry baby.

I didn't know that bond

between a mother and her child.

I didn't know that something so small

could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom,

I had never gotten up in the middle of the night

every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.

I had never known the warmth,

the joy,

the love,

the heartache,

the wonderment

or the satisfaction of being a Mom...

I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much,

before I was a Mom .


Faith Like A Child

God is so amazing -- He meets us at our faith.
Last Saturday, Israel spent part of the day at her grandparents' house (Jim & Margie) playing at the lake with Ava. She wanted to bring her orange shovel and pail to play with in the sand, so of course I let her. Later during an "adventure walk," the shovel was somehow lost, and Rae was pretty bummed about it.
Yesterday, we went back to their house to help put the dock in the water. Rae, Margie and I decided to retrace the steps of the adventure walk in hopes of finding the lost shovel. JP joined us, and even with 4 pairs of eyes looking, we didn't find the shovel.
When we got back to the beach, Rae was pretty disappointed. I told her that we could ask Jesus to help us find the shovel, and we said a simple prayer together that the shovel would be found. After praying I asked her, "Do you believe that Jesus can help us find your shovel?" She said "yes," and I know she does believe it, because He's helped her find other items before (lost stuffed toys, etc).
Margie decided to take one more look among some tall grass they had already searched, and not two minutes after we prayed, she emerged with the orange shovel!!! Some might say this was just coincidence, but I know better. I know it was God meeting Rae at her faith. She trusted Him, and He came through.
Rae was so excited, she started laughing and shouting, "Thank You, Jesus!" She knew He had found it for her -- she understood what had happened perfectly. I thank God that he's so faithful, and that at only two years old, my daughter is learning to turn to Him for help!


Peace that Passes Understanding

Yesterday wrapped up a series of events celebrating the life of Jelani Dante Brinson. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for his family, his friends, and for us.
For those of you who don't know, Jelani was a dear friend of ours who went missing on April 17th, 2009. The friends he was with say he just left the house in a hurry. His body was found in a pond in Anoka a week later. You may have seen it on the news. We still don't know what happened. There are theories and speculation, but they are no more than that. We'll never know, but we DO know that God had Jelani's days numbered from the day he was born, and we know that we can trust Him.
I've known Jelani since elementary school. He was in my brother Joseph's grade, and they've been buddies since kindergarten. He grew up around our house and has always been like another brother.
JP met Jelani a number of years ago through our family. Not long after, Jelani gave his life to Jesus. He started coming to church and was water baptized. Jelani and JP quickly formed a great friendship, and it wasn't unusual for Jelani to stop by our house at any time of day or night to hang out, eat candy, share new music, and talk about Jesus. He was a great friend. You couldn't help but love to be around him. Last July he became the proud daddy of a beautiful girl named Zion. He adored that baby, always smothering her with kisses and bragging about how beautiful and smart she is.
There's no way to answer all the questions we have flying through our heads. Why Jelani? Why like this? Why now? When I first heard the news, I was absolutely destroyed. I've never hurt like that before. I cried until the blood vessels burst around my eyes. The following two days were gray, rainy, and dreary, as if the earth were weeping for losing him. Every time I thought of him, I wept.
But then something happened that I'll never understand. As I watched the rain fall and then begin to clear, I noticed the grass turning green and the trees budding. The verse that came to mind was "weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." And at that moment, God gave me peace. I had never experienced that "peace that passes understanding" until now. We always hear the cliche, "He's in a better place now," but this was different. It was as if in one moment God revealed to me the reality of Jelani's situaion -- he's home! All he ever wanted, all he ever struggled for was to be with God. And now he's there! He has actually met Jesus! That's so GREAT! How could I be sad about that? Of course we miss him; we'll always miss him. But we can rejoice because Jelani partook in Jesus death & burial (baptism), and now he's taking part in His resurrection!!!!!!
He gives us beauty for ashes and a garment of praise for our heaviness. Thank you Jesus! And thank You for allowing us to be a part of Jelani's life. He has left an impression on our souls that we'll never forget, and we're honored to have called him "brother."
Hope you're having fun up there, Jelani! Can't wait to see you again!