After living in our home for 4 years now -- the longest we've ever lived in one spot -- I'm finally getting around to doing some more painting! We painted the kitchen and living room right after we moved in, but the whole rest of the house has remained a bland, peachish-tan color that I hate would prefer be changed.

First up: the girls' room!

I'm drawing inspiration from these photos for the color scheme:

The girls already have pink bedspreads, dark pink curtains, and white furniture in their room. I love the aqua/teal color combination, and I can't wait to get started!

Suzuki Piano + 2 Quotes

Time to get back to posting for the sake of journaling. Rae and I have been going back to read through old posts lately and laugh at the funny quotes and stories. Such great memories!

Rae started piano lessons this week. We decided to find a Suzuki teacher. The Suzuki method is based on the idea that children learn to speak by listening before they learn to read. In the same way, this approach to music teaches the children to listen and learn by ear first, then introduces reading music a bit later. I'm hoping this way of learning will help my children avoid the crutch of needing music that I have. I struggle to play by ear, and I've always wished I could just sit down at the piano and create music.

At first, Rae was not very excited about piano. She promised me she'd "give it a try," and now she is loving it. She even declared Tuesdays (lesson day) her second favorite day of the week, after Sunday. :)


Words of wisdom from Rae:

Rae: "Don't fall for that old saying that bigger is always better. It's not always true. Like, a bigger tree house is better, but a bigger sloppy joe is NOT."


...And in honor of our freezing temps as of late:

Rosie: "It is BOILING cold outside!"


Ruby + Jesus = Forever

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth." 
3 John 1:4

January 5, 2014: The day we discovered that Ruby has given her heart to the Lord! The overwhelming joy that fills my heart -- I can't even put it into words! Tears of thankfulness and happiness are all I can muster! 

It may sound funny to say we "discovered" this. But that's kind of how it happened. 

Our children have always been surrounded by the gospel. From before they were born, we were praying that God would call them to Himself and that they would respond in faith. We have prayed -- and continue to pray -- that their faith would be their own and not just a copycat of what Dad & Mom say and believe. We have prayed -- and continue to pray -- that all of our children would know Him and serve Him their whole lives. 

For Rae, her need for a Savior came at a very young age. You can click here to read about how her guilt for getting out of bed lead to a conversation with JP about our need for forgiveness. As soon as Rae recognized her sin, she wanted to ask for forgiveness on the spot. But Ruby's story is different. 

We've had many conversations with Ruby about Jesus, sin, forgiveness, heaven, hell and eternity. She has always acknowledged her sin and admitted that she needs a Savior. She has always said she loves Jesus and wanted to ask Him into her heart, but then when we'd ask her if she wanted to pray, she would say, "No. Not yet." 

This kind of caught us off-guard the first time! Then it happened again...then again...and again. After each instance, we explained to her that she didn't have to do anything special. Whenever she was ready, she could just quietly ask Jesus to come into her heart. She didn't need to come get us or make an announcement, but we did request that she would just let us know if and when she DID ask Jesus into her heart. She assured us that she would. 

Tonight, we were all hanging out downstairs as a family. Rae was spinning in circles on the piano stool, Rosie was finishing her dinner at the coffee table, and Ruby was hopping back and forth on the couch behind where JP and I were sitting. Rae & Ruby were chatting with each other as I was absorbed in some bookkeeping and JP was absorbed in a show.  Then, JP looked up at me with a puzzled look and said, "Did you hear what Ruby just said?" I shook my head "no," and he asked Ruby to repeat herself. 

"I ask Jesus into my heart all the time," she repeated. 

JP and I looked at each other, puzzled and amused! 

"Ruby, did you ask Jesus into your heart?"

"Yeah, I ask him all the time." 

Amazing! Our 5-year-old had received salvation and hadn't even told us about it?! What a stinker! And apparently not just once, but many times. Ha! 

Ruby has always been our "worry wart," so it didn't really surprise me that she would ask repeatedly, "just to make sure." I used to do the exact same thing. JP pulled out his Bible and showed Ruby some verses about how we can be SURE that our sins are forgiven. He explained to her that one time is all it takes; she didn't need to doubt or worry. Then they prayed together, thanking God for saving Ruby and asking Him to help her always remember that she is forgiven forever. 

PEOPLE, THIS IS HUGE! My Ruby is a Christian! The same God that made the whole universe and walked on water now lives in her heart, not in a shrunken-down, mini-Jesus form, but in His full-blown glorious, powerful, world-changing form! I can't wait to see how God uses her as she walks with Him.

"Know, therefore, that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments." Deuteronomy 7:9

To Ruby: our sweet daughter, we are so happy that you have made this very important decision -- the most important of your whole life! In fact, NOTHING makes us happier. As you grow up and go through life, sometimes it will be hard. You might get frustrated or hurt. You might doubt or be tempted to wander away from the truth. Just keep looking at Jesus -- He is the author and perfecter of your faith. He will bring you through every storm. He will always be right there with you. He forgives every mistake you have made or ever will make. He is the answer to every fear or worry you'll ever have. Always trust Him. Always look to Him. You'll do great with His help. And someday, you'll be in paradise with Him. We love you, Ruby Ann, and we are so proud of you today and always. 

To Jesus: Thank you, Lord, for choosing Ruby as one of your own and drawing her to Yourself. Thank you for your faithfulness to every generation. Please be with Ruby as she walks through life's trials and tests, and may she always remember You in every decision she makes. Help JP and me to be faithful to continue to teach her from your Word, and may she study it on her own when she is old enough to read the words for herself. You are good, and we love You!!! 


A World of Possibilities

In September, I started a new based-from-home career as an independent consultant for Usborne Books & More.  Usborne is a phenomenal, well-established publisher of educational children's books designed to make learning fun!

I first fell in love with Usborne books at the annual homeschool conference we attend. The books are so beautiful and high-quality, fun, engaging, and hands-on that it's hard to NOT buy them all.

I had recently been wanting to start some sort of business that I could work around my home schedule, but all of the typical home-based businesses seemed over-saturated and not what I was looking for. I didn't even know Usborne had a home sales division until I bumped into a booth at the Mille Lacs County fair, but as soon as I figured it out, I knew I wanted in!

Usborne has provided a way for me to contribute to the finances of our family without having to sacrifice my commitment to being a wife and mom. I can do as much or as little as I want with it, and it's flexible enough to fit around my schedule. I was able to pay for all of our Christmas gifts this year using only the money I had earned from Usborne.

As an added bonus, we are stocking up on more amazing, gorgeous books than ever before! Our library is amazing, and I'm getting them all for free or dirt cheap. Every time a new box shows up on the doorstep, it's like Christmas for the kids. They love the books!

If you want to learn more about the books and the company, you can check out my website: http://readwithaudra.com

From there, you can also order books online or contact me about hosting a show or joining Usborne yourself. It has been worth every minute I've invested into it. Free books and real cash? Yes, please. :)

New Year

It has been almost 7 months since I have posted anything to this blog. Life has simply seemed too busy to sit down and write; yet I know that this record of our life is all that I will have to look back on someday. I don't keep a journal. We don't have a ton of home videos. Facebook statuses (where I often announce cute things the kids have said or done) will one day be forever lost.

That's why I really do sincerely hope to keep up with this online journal better as we plunge into a new year with new goals. I can't promise anything, but I can try.

Look at these faces. Look at how much they have grown. 

The second half of 2013 was full -- and I mean FULL -- of fun, hard work, and a lot of changes. I've missed so many opportunities to write down small events, funny things the kids have said, and activities we've done, but here are some highlights:

SEPTEMBER: We started school. Rae is now in first grade. She will be SEVEN years old in one month, which I can hardly believe. She is so smart, learns quickly, and is very tactile in her learning style. She loves anything hands-on, which is why science is her favorite subject. She always wants to try a new science experiment or get involved in some sort of mixing/baking/trying out new things. Her reading has taken off in the last month or so as I stepped away from the curriculum and just started reading fun and educational books with her. She is very helpful around the house and really needs very little from me these days, besides a good snuggle, answers to her questions, and someone to share her ideas with.

Rosie turned three in September, and we were lucky enough to have Micah, Missy and the kids in town  at the time. They came over for the day and we had a great time celebrating and playing outside with our dearly-missed cousins. Micah and Missy are based in Ft. Campbell, KY. Rosie wanted to create her own birthday cake this year, and this is what she came up with. :)

Rosie is the definition of "sugar and spice," combining the sweetest of the sweet with a streak of feisty drama queen. She loves to play dress-up, especially princess, and is amazingly talented in heels.

Later in the month, Ruby turned 5, which means she was allowed her first big birthday party. For the theme, she chose her three favorite things: horses, rainbows and ice cream. We had an amazingly fun day that included a bouncy house, horsey pinata, and real live pony rides thanks to a willing friend.

Ruby is in kindergarden and is doing very well. She is reading now and loves to sound out words just for fun. She is my imaginative girl, always pretending and playing make-believe with her stuffed animals and collection of tiny toys. She loves to sing and tip-toes through life with music in her heart. 

With the start of school came the start of a new activity: homeschool co-op. We had been wanting to join a co-op for some time, but hadn't found one that seemed to fit our needs. So, I decided to just start one myself! I am now director of a group of about 10 homeschool families. We meet twice a month for science, art, and gym. Next semester we are branching out with more class offerings through electives. It has been fun but very challenging for me, as I am not used to this responsibility on top of everything I am doing. The kids love it though, so we push forward! 

 Science activity: making "craters" like meteors

Russian Systema class for gym

Also in September, I launched a new career as a consultant for Usborne Books & More. I'll post more about that in a separate post, but it has been an amazing opportunity us, and I'm having tons of fun with it while simultaneously earning a small income and collecting free homeschool books. 

OCTOBER: In October we celebrated Silas' first birthday without much excitement. He loved his angel food cake with strawberries, though, and his smiles were contagious. 

Silas is such a boy, all grunts and giggles. Although he is less verbal than the girls were at this age, he still has a handful of words (light, hat, daddy, mama, dog, etc.) and can communicate with some sign language. He started walking at 10 months and hasn't slowed down since. He is very good with his hands and loves using tools. He refuses to eat without a fork and loves to hammer anything mommy will allow. By far his favorite thing to do is to hang out with JP in his workshop. We all adore this dimple-cheeked cutie, and he is definitely doted on by his big sisters. 

In October we also went on our annual family hayride with my side of the family. We missed it last year due to the cold and the newborn babies being so small. This year was extra fun -- as the kids get older, the hayrides get better. They had fun jumping off and on the wagon, having hay fights, and hiding in the woods to jump out and "scare" us all. 

Also in October, JP began working for a friend at our church who owns a countertop company. His volume had become so great that he needed someone to install so he could stay in the shop and build the tops. WOW, has this opportunity ever been a blessing! We have never had so much work during such a regularly slow time! JP is thrilled with this job situation and the stress it lifts off of his shoulders. We are thankful that God has provided everything we need -- and then some. 

NOVEMBER: November was busy as we learned how to adjust -- as a family -- to Dad's new work schedule + homeschool + homeschool co-op + book business + AWANA + women's group + 3 dogs + 2 new cats + Dave Ramsey classes + Bible study + family time. 

It hasn't been an easy balance, but the family has been very resilient, and I'm thankful that we seem to be getting into a good groove. 

Did you hear me mention that we got two new cats? Meet Killer (gray) and Claws (black) -- names meant to inspire mouse hunting. They hang out in JP's workshop and distract him keep him company while he does his tinkering. JP never considered himself a cat person, but he is smitten with these kittens. 

DECEMBER: There's no place like home for the holidays, and we had a lovely Christmas spending time with family, both immediate and extended.  This year was a little different, though, because for the first time since we were married 8 years ago, we spent Christmas Day at home together, just us and the kids. It was a special, relaxing day, and we hope to keep that going in years to come. 

Now, here we are in JANUARY, with a brand new year ahead of us. When I look back on 2013, I just have to smile, then weep at God's faithfulness. 2013 is the year when God fixed things that were broken. We saw healing, restoration, provision, and overwhelming grace. I'm confident that 2014 has only more blessings in store.