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Category: Marriage and Family

Meet Squirt

Meet Squirt

My boys love animals. Not like them, not really care for them…. love them. They pet every stray cat that crosses their path- and that’s one about ever 45 seconds where we live. The baby even squeals with delight and points uncontrollably at the stray cats who have taken up residence outside our building and in our dumpster. They check the W.W.F. endangered species directory on a regular basis.They run an animal rescue operation consisting of stuffed animals…

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Brooks is distraught for the rest of the day when he sees garbage in the ocean because he says it’s not healthy for the fish.

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They add things like “Bull Dog” and “Golden Retriever” to their Christmas list despite the fact that we live in an apartment on the fifth floor…

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(Sidenote: I realize the fact that my boys make “Christmas Lists” is totally pagan and puts a blemish on my efforts to “treasure Christ in Christmas.” Blame their Grandmother.)

Back to my post… They even minimize my efforts to teach them to pray for others, by putting the Amur Leopard (an endangered species) on their prayer board….IMG_1121

I’m not really a pet person and hide behind the excuse that we live in an apartment on the top floor of our building and have no room for pets. This excuse allows me to continue to live a happy, pet free life while staying in the good graces of my pet loving children.

However, sometimes I’m overcome with guilt by the fact that my children have never experienced the misery sheer joy of being pet owners. That is exactly what happened to me recently when a friend offered to buy them a pet turtle. I caved.

So, we are now in the animal owning venture. We have reluctantly happily adopted a turtle. The boys named him– Squirt.

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He’s a Red Eared Slider Turtle and measures a whopping two inches. He lives in a glass aquarium on the nightstand in Breck and Brooks’ bedroom. We are trying to teach those little guys the value of hard work by entrusting to them the responsibility of keeping the tank clean and feeding him daily. So far, so good.

IMG_1056He seems to be a happy little guy- which is good news, considering our last pet committed suicide due to the sheer unhappiness of his life (our fish took his own life by jumping out of his bowl when we weren’t looking…we found him the next day). Considering our track record, I was leery of taking on another living creature. Honestly, that probably explains why we’ve had Squirt for two months and you’re just now hearing about him.

Despite my hesitations, I’m pleased to announce that Squirt is an absolute joy. I even find myself liking the little guy. He’s super easy to care for, swims towards us when we come near his tank and has even learned to eat out of the boy’s hand. What more could a kid ask for? Besides Salmonella.

The boys have decided if they do a good job caring for Squirt then they graduate to the next level of pet ownership and can choose something really exciting like a Lemur. And since there are no exotic pet laws where we live I’m gonna need some help coming up with a good excuse for that one.

It Works For Me: Conversation Starter Sticks

It Works For Me: Conversation Starter Sticks

I recognize this post could easily be received as an “I’ve got it all together so look what I do” kind of thing so I’m going to shoot that one down right outta’ the gate. This idea was birthed out of desperation. Dinner time desperation.

Maybe it’s just boys. Maybe it’s just MY boys. But, dinner time conversation at our house can sometimes make me want to gouge my eyes out be less than enjoyable.

After I’ve taught a 1st grader, 2nd grader, a 5th grader and made sure our 1yr old and 4yr old haven’t burned down the house, sat through a few hours of arabic, prepared breakfast and lunch for a full basketball team, did a load or 7 of laundry and hung it all out to dry, managed to squeeze in a quick workout, washed the dishes by hand for the 3rd time today… because apparently no one on our side of the pond received the breaking news about the revolutionary invention called a dishwasher. Okay, refocus, I should get back on track-just needed to get that all off my chest. Now, back to my original thought process. When we finally sit down together as a family for dinner after a long day, I would like to have a normal conversation, just a normal conversation. That’s not too much to ask.

But, a woman can only say, “No movie quotes at the dinner table, please” or “You know bathroom talk is unacceptable” and “Only original thoughts for the remainder of the meal” with a smile on her face so many times before that vein in her neck starts to pop out and she must resist the urge to sling taco salad across the table. I’m just sayin’.

In an effort to help guide our conversations over dinner I came up with “Conversation Starter Sticks.”

It’s pretty easy.  All you need is a small bucket, a pen and a few popsicle sticks. After you gather those things, simply write several questions on the popsicle sticks and put them in a bucket.  Done. See, very easy.

We take turns passing the bucket around the table, pulling out a stick and answering the question.  It’s simple- but revolutionary for our little tribal diner.

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Hearing about a place Braeden would like to visit, or what Brody wants to be when he grows up is much more enjoyable than a complete rendition of the opening scene from Despicable Me 2.

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**Please ignore the two day old marker on Breck’s arm. #LoserMom

The older boys are also required to help the younger ones read the sticks. Reading practice….check!

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I tried to think of questions that would really get my boys thinking or things I knew they would love to talk about. So we have everything from “What Lego creation did you build this week?” to  “Who’s your favorite soccer team and why?”, all the way down to “If you could have one superhero power, what would it be?” If you are having trouble coming up with questions check here for more ideas.

So, that’s it– Conversation Starter Sticks. It’s not earth shattering, neither is it rocket science- but hey, it works for me.

The Birthday Girl

The Birthday Girl

I celebrated another birthday this week which meant Britten was working feverishly to pull off an epic birthday celebration despite the challenges of making birthday’s special in a foreign land. And I must say, despite the odds, he pulled it off.

The boys wanted to have a voice in making the celebration special so they whisked me off to IHOP for breakfast in lieu of cooking.

Over breakfast, Breck poured chocolate syrup into the miniature milk containers that normal people use for coffee in a desperate attempt to make chocolate milk. Sad, I know. He worked diligently whipping up .30 ounces of chocolate milk at a time and I let him because….well, it was my birthday.

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I ordered chocolate pancakes and reminisced about the good ol’ days when it was acceptable to order chocolate pancakes with chocolate chips, smothered in whipped cream and ignored the fact that I’m now a grown woman who should order something sensible like an egg white omelette. Now you know where Breck gets his chocolate milk obsession from. Guilty as charged.

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Britten surprised me later that evening with a full blown birthday celebration. There were gifts, sparkly wrapping paper, birthday songs, loads of artwork from the boys and a double doozie cake from the Cookie Company with the word “birthday” spelled as two words rather than one and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Such a great reminder of where we are and our crazy life.

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We’ve been extremely fortunate to have a friend whose job has him in our city for the summer. And, he was brave enough to take on all five of our boys while we went out on a real date. No highchairs, no diaper bags, no items from the kid’s menu and no forks flying across the table over dinner. It was delightful.

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The most laborious decision I had to ponder all day was what kind of cheesecake to order after dinner.

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My sweet husband, on the other hand, had his work cut out for him. Stores, restaurants, etc. here are segregated. Some places only men can enter and others, only women (or a man accompanying a woman/a family) can enter.

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 I’m still not exactly sure how Britten managed to get it done but he did and surprised me with a swimsuit cover up and a full length mirror because I take the one down off the bathroom wall every. single. time. I need to apply makeup. Problem solved.

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You know, turning 38 isn’t so bad when you’ve got a crew like this to celebrate your special day.

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Valentine’s Day and Boys

Valentine’s Day and Boys

I have vivid memories of being a little girl and my Dad walking in the door after work on Valentine’s Day with a big box of Godiva chocolate for my Mom. To some, that may not seem like much, but it’s a memory I still hold dear over thirty years later for various reasons.

#1= Godiva chocolate is expensive and when I was a little girl our family didn’t have a lot of money so I knew my Dad had sacrificed to buy such a nice gift for my Mom, the woman he loved. GODIVA36PIECE

#2= There was only one Godiva store in our state and it wasn’t exactly close to our house so I knew my Dad had gone out of his way to find this special gift.

#3 (and perhaps the most vivid of all)= when I finally got a little older my Dad surprised me and my Sister with a smaller version of my Mom’s treasured Godvia chocolate on Valentine’s Day. After that it became a tradition that my Dad would give all three of his Valentines Godiva chocolate every year.

As much as I adore the Raspberry Mousse Hearts with intricate red detail swirled throughout the design, it’s not the candy that I remember so fondly.

4322-26-CASE-RaspFlutHrtV1RGBIt actually has nothing to do with the candy at all. What I remember is that my Dad loved my Mom and he wanted to make sure on Valentine’s day (and lots of other days as well) that she knew that.

Fast forward 30+ years and I’m the parent, I’m the one in charge of making Valentine’s Day special for my children and I have a houseful of boys.

Of course, I want my boys to know we love them. I want my boys to remember Valentine’s Day, but more than that I want my boys to remember that I taught them how to make Valentine’s Day special because one day they’ll be the ones in charge of making it special for the women in their lives, just like my Dad did for my Mom. And lets be honest, I want my future Daughter-in-Laws to thank me.

This morning, the boys woke up (like they do almost every V-day) to a trail of hearts. But, because I’m a school teacher deep down, this year the hearts had messages written on them and the boys had to read the messages to know what to do next.

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The hearts led them to the kitchen where the table was set with a gift for each boy, chocolate, tissue paper flower arrangements and enough pink balloons to make it look like Pepto Bismol had thrown-up in the kitchen floor.

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I cooked Nutella stuffed french toast and we ate off the real plates and by “real” I mean the ones that need to be washed after breakfast because they aren’t disposable. Don’t judge, life without a dishwasher is rowdy.

IMG_3366-1Was most of the day created from construction paper and curling ribbon? As a matter of fact, it was. Was it a 5 day Disney Cruise? No. Did it cost 100’s of dollars? No. But, it did take some thought and effort to make those boys feel special. And I’m a big fan of making everyone feel special on Valentine’s Day.

Christmas in August

Christmas in August

I realize I’m in the wrong season to be blogging about Christmas but, I recently remembered I never posted about our yearly Christmas ornament competition exchange. And, since Christmas is only a few months away I need to play catch up because lets be honest, I need a way to remember these things.

If you’re new to Passport for Six and have never heard the story I posted on the old blog (Too Many B’s) then let me catch you up to speed with a slimmed down version of the original story. For those of you that already know, skip the next paragraph and get to the good stuff.

Basically, our first Christmas together as husband and wife we didn’t have the money to buy each other Christmas gifts. Britten was in graduate school and I was a first grade teacher raking in the big bucks. We came up with the idea to buy each other a Christmas ornament that, in some way, represented our last year of life together. The tradition stuck and because Britten and I both have a serious competitive streak…it soon turned into a competition. We are now approaching our 12th Christmas as husband and wife and the tradition is still going strong.

Now, let me back up a bit. This past year we spent our first Christmas overseas which brought many changes to what Christmas looks like in our home. Things were running along pretty smoothly until about a week before Christmas I realized our yearly Christmas ornament exchange wouldn’t be possible. The ornament selection here is severely limited…and that’s putting it nicely. I pouted for a little bit and then my brain went into overdrive trying to figure out another option and then BAM! I got it.

I decided we would get online and choose an ornament. We would order the ornaments and have them sent to my parents house for safe keeping. Each of us then secretly printed out a picture of the ornament we had chosen and wrapped it up to go under the tree. It would basically be just like swapping ornaments but without the actual ornament. Genius, right?

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Christmas night we all hopped on a  plane and headed to Dubai for a little vacation so we threw the ornaments in our suitcase and decided to open them when we arrived.

I found this little beauty on Etsy. It’s the country we live in right now with the date we first arrived. Swoon.

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And, of course, Britten decided to go the humorous route. You see, for 15 months after arriving here we didn’t have a car. Which means we were piling all six (and for a short time seven) Taylor’s into a taxi with no air, no heat, no seat belts, no car seats, etc. It was a sanctifying experience to say the least and one we will never forget. To commemorate such  special time in our lives, Britten chose this.

UnknownClassic, huh? I love it!

If I do say so myself, it was a great year for ornaments in the Taylor house. And I’m sure with all that has transpired in our lives over the past year, this Christmas will bring a plethora of interesting ornaments to choose from.

Debunking the Family Worship Myth

Debunking the Family Worship Myth

I think sometimes it’s easy to hear people talk about certain topics and get an idealistic (or sometimes just plain wrong) view of the matter at hand.

It’s happened in my own life before. You know, a mom brings up a subject in conversation and before I know it I’ve played out the scenario in my head exactly the way “I imagine it.”  For example, I recently spoke with a dear friend who was asking questions about homeschool curriculum and mentioned that her four year old was already sounding out short words.  In my right mind, I knew exactly what she meant. Her child is showing an interest in reading. Her daughter can sound out short words without assistance. End of story. But, part of me turned it into something it wasn’t.

-Wow…my friend must be so diligent to take time out of each day and practice reading with her child. I’m such a slacker mom.

-Gah! Why is my five year old not the least bit interested in the alphabet…much less reading? He’s never going to get into college.

-I’ve got to do a better job working with (insert child’s name here) on reading. Why haven’t I started that yet? Tomorrow I will do better.

Let’s be honest, we all do it.

I’ve wondered if sometimes when I use phrases like “family game night” or “taking children into a worship service with us” people get an unrealistic view of what actually happens in those settings.

Maybe you didn’t get the wrong idea in the past when I’ve used the term “family worship”. But, just in case you had a mental image of our five boys sitting quietly on the couch with the Scripture open while Britten walks our family through an expositional study of the Word, followed by me singing a solo and the boys lying prostrate in worship on the floor….let me share with you a more realistic picture of family worship at the Taylor house.

1. It generally lasts 15 minutes or less.

2. We  have to pull out Mr. Spank Spoon 82% of the time. (ok, maybe that’s being dramatic but you get the idea)

3. Breck is a wild-man. That kid can’t sit still for 20secs.

4. Sometimes one or more of our boys will show up to family worship in underwear…I wish I were kidding.

5. Don’t think FBC Small Town, GA; think 3 Ring Circus.

6. We pray. We read the Word. And we sign a song of worship. That’s it.

To give you a glimpse into our time… we videoed our 3yr old singing his song of praise to his God.

Singing, yes. In his undies, you betcha!

Oh, and please ignore the fact that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Thats just one more realistic picture of Family Worship: Taylor style.

Legos, Sippy Cups and Spilled Milk

Legos, Sippy Cups and Spilled Milk

It goes without saying that having a house full of boys means we also have a house full of Legos. We emptied one of the big plastic tubs we used to pack when we moved overseas and now it’s a storage box for all the Legos. Not a day passes by without the boys building elaborate Lego creations.

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 Unfortunately, Breck had rather destroy their elaborate creations than build something of his own. IMG_9434He loves to crawl inside the Lego box and wiggle around uncontrollably until he eventually breaks something. It drives his older brothers batty, but hey…what are little brothers for?

A few weeks ago I walked into the boy’s bedroom and noticed a rather unpleasant smell. I dismissed the smell along with the thought “boys just stink” and went to start dinner. I ignored the smell as long as I could but with each passing day it grew more and more intense. I avoided going into the boy’s room unless it was absolutely necessary so I decided something had to be done about the smell. After a slight investigation I learned that one day when Breck was sitting in the Lego box the lid came off his sippy cup and his milk spilled, seeping down to the deepest darkest corners of the box. I tried to tell myself that it was probably only a couple teaspoons of milk but, that didn’t prove to be the case.

I filled the bath tub full of water and added a little Clorox for good measure. The two oldest boys helped me pick up the box and together we worked to dump all the Legos into the tub. As the Legos poured into the water the boys darted out of the bathroom screaming “Gross, that smells disgusting!!” while their 8 month pregnant mom and her hyper sensitive nose was left holding the rotten Legos.

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After letting the Legos soak for a good long while we worked diligently for over 15 minutes to scoop them up and lay them out to dry. By the time we were finished we had a queen sized quilt spread out on the floor covered in Legos. It took two solid days in the sun for all of the blocks to dry but at the end of the whole painstaking process, the smell was gone and now our Legos are cleaner than they’ve ever been.

WorshipHouse Kids

WorshipHouse Kids

I tend to get a super excited when I come across new resources that make our family worship time run a bit more smoothly but maybe that’s because I’m in the thick of family worship with four rowdy boys ages 2, 4, 6, and 8.

I recently came across the WorshipHouse Kids website and so far I love everything about it.

Unknown-1We’ve used it during the month of December to conclude our family worship time but also to teach the boys the actual words to Christmas carols. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s adorable when they sing “Joy to the world, the Lord is calm” but there comes a time when we need to discuss the fact that the Lord is indeed calm but the song says “the Lord has COME.”

The videos can be purchased for use in large groups, churches etc. but to use them in your home simply click on the play button and have at it. I shouldn’t have to say this but just to cover all the bases I’m going to. Make sure to preview everything you use before you show your children. There are lots of videos on the website as well as worship songs with lyrics.

Right now the boy’s favorite is Away in a Manger but given how yummy this little guy  is singing the “Hallelujiah” chorus I don’t guess I blame them.

 

On This Day, Four Years Ago

On This Day, Four Years Ago

This week we celebrated as a family the anniversary of the going home of my precious sister. On this day, four years ago, my only sister stepped into eternity. We celebrated her life by going to an American restaurant, eating chocolate cake and sharing memories that reminded us all what a precious gift she was,  just as we have done the past four years on December 16th.

Below is the post from my old blog that I wrote on the year anniversary of her death.

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Today is December 16th 2010, a harrowing reminder of December 16th 2009, the day my only sister was tragically killed in a two car accident.

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It was a year ago, but I still remember the exact gift I was wrapping when my cell phone rang. I still remember tearing open the front door, leaving my children alone as I sprinted across the cul-de-sac to find my friend for help. I still can see the flashing red and blue lights as we approached the scene of the accident. I still can hear the unrecognizable sound of weeping that filled my parent’s home. I still can see the innocent faces of my sister’s children as I rounded the corner of the hospital room. And I can still vividly remember the first time I talked to my husband who was in Central Asia at the time of the accident.

The memories of that day are vivid and often times agonizing.

If I’m not careful, I will replay the events of December 16th over and over in my mind and allow the difficult circumstances surrounding my sister’s death to completely rob me of my joy in Jesus Christ.

The reality is, Mandy is not dead. Now before you tell me I’m completely insane, read John 11:25-26…Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” In the next verse Martha, a friend of Jesus, replies, “Yes Lord!”

In light of this promise from the Son of God, I was determined not to let this day be marked with sorrow. I wanted this day to be a day of celebration because the truth is my sister is experiencing fullness of joy in the presence of her Savior and Lord. You see, when Jesus asked her over 10 years ago the same question, “Do you believe this?” she also replied with, “Yes, Lord.” And because of her faith in Jesus Christ she is in many ways more alive than I am or any of you reading this right now.

I rose early this morning only to find an encouraging letter that my dear husband had written and left for me. His words blessed me so much and what he said reminded me of the many times he held me earlier this year when I could not find the strength to even stand. I do not have the words to express how grateful I am for the blessing God has given me in him. His letter this morning was a great start to a day that would be focused on celebration and not tragedy.

My husband preached her funeral last year so with the letter he had written he also included a printout of the sermon notes. I don’t remember much from the funeral so it was like I read it for the first time. In his notes he cited passages like Psalm 46 and Isaiah 40:27-31, which served as sweet reminders of God’s promises.

Throughout the day I was overwhelmed by the number of you that expressed your prayers and support. I received hugs, emails, FB messages, texts and words of encouragement. Each of those acts of love and kindness helped me to celebrate today for what it truly is.

Tonight we decided to start a new tradition. We loaded up the boys and went to one of my sister’s favorite restaurants…the Melting Pot. Due to the fact that it’s not a “family friendly” establishment, we decided to just get dessert.

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We spent our time remembering all of the wonderful things about my Mandy, sharing our favorite memories and consuming way too much chocolate. (Which is exactly what she would have done.) Brooks was unable to share his favorite Mandy story due to his inability to speak intelligible words, but he sure did partake in the chocolate…Needless to say, we had a blast!

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So, despite the fact that I’ve cried more than my share of tears for today AND that I miss my big sister more than I can put into words we’ve decided that each year when December 16th rolls around we will not wallow in our despair. Instead, we will celebrate my sister’s life that continues on today in the presence of God!

Our 1st Halloween in the Middle East

Our 1st Halloween in the Middle East

Most of the holidays we are used to celebrating in the states tend to come and go here without any recognition unless you are intentional to celebrate with friends. Halloween is one of those holidays, but my boys didn’t get the memo & were looking forward to celebrating.

We started the morning off with Halloween treat bags and jack-o-lantern pancakes.IMG_9465

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The boys all decided they wanted to dress up as Star Wars characters…great, that should be easy. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that you can’t find Halloween costumes around these parts so we had to get creative. A trip to the local hardware store and a nearby mall & we were able to find pool noodles, pillowcases, Star Wars patches and rope.

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It turned out to be a family affair with all of the boys wanting to help with the costumes. I even managed to find a job for Britten.

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At some point in my life I had great aspirations of learning to sew but I never made it past sewing on a button or patching up a hole. But, if I do say so myself, I’m a master with the hot glue gun. We all have our own gifts! 
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We cut, tied and glued until we had something that resembled Anakin, Cad Bain, Count Duku and a Jedi Knight…at least in the eyes of my boys.

Now can we just all ooooh and ahhh at how adorable Breck looks in his costume?

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