Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer starts with a double bang!

School got out last Thursday!  Woohoo!  The kids and I have been looking forward to this for a while, especially Dasha.  The last day of school marked her 13th birthday.  We now officially have two teenagers in the house.  My, my!  Dasha picked the birthday menu and we celebrated with taco night and monkey bread for her "cake".  It was a nice change from the typical birthday cake.  Her "big" gift was her third iPod shuffle.  Yes, I said "big" because we couldn't trust her with a more expensive choice considering she washed her previous two in the washing machine.  We told her she is more than welcome to have a nano... if she buys it.  I can't believe my two little Ukrainian girls are now teenagers!

The other "bang" was some very good news about Mike.  We found out that he is on the Lt. Col. promotion list!  Yeah, Whoop and Praise God!!!  It will take a while for him to pin on, but at least he's on the list.  We are guessing by next summer.  Keep looking for updates.  We'll definitely post it along with pics.  I am so proud of my hubby!  I am grateful to God for giving him the favor to get this far in his military career.  We give Him all the credit for where we are today.

Our plans for the summer entail a few fun trips.  We have some friends coming in next week for two weeks.  They are leaving their little ones behind.  So we have action packed their itenerary and are taking them to several countries.  One trip is a date trip because we are leaving our kiddos behind too.  A friend has generously offered to watch the kids for two nights and three days.  Once we get back from our little escapade, we are letting Stasia go with some people from church to a youth conference in Switzerland.  I am nervous about letting her go, especially to another country.  But I know that she is more than capable and trustworthy.  Mike had to remind me that in four years it will be college and I won't be getting her back except for holidays.  I hit him!

Our last big trip is going back with Mike to the states as he attends a three and a half week training in Florida.  I have all kinds of plans in my head and I am hoping to somehow fit them all in the little time we have there because, with the price of airline tickets, we may not make it back for a while.  Let's just say Chik-fil-A is at the top of my list, several times!

Again, our home is open for visitors if anyone ever wants to come visit!

In Him,


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spring Break to School's Out

A few things have happened since our last post.  The first is spending our Spring Break as a family in Turkey.  What an adventure!  Mike was able to get clearances, signatures, and times worked out for our family to fly space available to Incirlik.  Can't beat free airlines!  We stayed on base for great lodging rates.  And then splurged with the traveling and purchases.  Altogether it was amazing!

Our first trip was to Cappadocia.  The cave houses were interesting to see.  

And the trip included a night in a cave hotel.  The kids liked that.  

Something new to experience was riding a camel.  It is very different from a horse - much more bouncy and the fall is greater which increased my fear!  It was worth it to try.  

The second trip we took was to see the seven churches of the Apocolypse (the seven churches mentioned in Revelations).  It was cool to see where Paul and some of the Apostles had been.  

This is Pamukkale.  It is a hot mineral spa near the ruined Roman city of Heiropolis.   

We had so much stuff coming back that we thought we were going to have to take two trips to get home.  I masterminded a way to get it all in for one trip.  We had to sacrifice alot of leg and comfort room, but we  made it. 

It was and amazing trip!  I am so thankful that Mike took the time and patience to arrange everything so we could see Turkey.  The kids and I will never forget our adventures there.  

Once we got home from that trip, we vowed to wait a while before going on another one.  School gets out next week and we are not planning anything until July.  We have a few local things planned.  But our big summer trip will hopefully be accompanying Mike back to the states for his TDY in Florida.  We are praying about HOW to get out there.  We'll see.  

Lastly, we finally said goodbye to our home in Del Rio.  We were blessed with it for 7 years and finally passed it on to another family.  We will still be back to visit.  But thankfully, I do not have a heavy burden on our shoulders to worry about that home.  I am grateful to be a single homeowner again.  God is good in all of His provisions for us!  

The summer chapters will come next...  

In Him,

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Birthday

Last week brought my 36th birthday or as I fondly called it "another 29th birthday". We celebrated by playing some games with a few friends. And Mike let me order our first iPad. Of course, being overseas, I couldn't walk in and buy it anywhere. So I had to order it. It will take a few weeks to get here. But then I can play with it and start learning some cool tricks. Woohoo!

The military also gave me a belated birthday present. We found out on Thursday that we are staying here at Ramstein for our next assignment. Another HUGE blessing from God! Mike will transfer jobs at the end of June, but we won't have to move physically. We get to stay here. In addition, we found out that because we are staying overseas, we get a free trip back to the states (compliments of the military) and Mike gets thirty days leave without using his annual leave. How awesome is that??? We plan to use it next summer. So if you wanted to visit us and haven't made it over yet, you have another chance. Email us if you want to come visit! Blessings to you all!

In Him,

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's been a while...

It’s been months since our last family update. We have been so busy that I have neglected to keep up our stories. I’ll do my best to share what’s been happening these last few months without being too wordy. This might be hard...

Our biggest story was being able to go back to the states after being gone for two and a half years. Mike worked it our for us to take a space available flight on a C-17 right before Christmas time. We pulled the kids out of school a week early to widen our chances of catching a free flight out of Ramstein. And it worked! We enjoyed the privilege of flying in a military plane across the ocean. Other than getting off the ground, the flight was amazing! Once we were at altitude, we were able to put up seats, lay out sleeping bags, plug in computers, watch movies, and eat until our hearts were content. I have never felt so rested after an international flight.

Once we landed in Charleston, SC, we realized our possibilities coming home were very slim. But shortly after we landed, we secured return flights home for a minimal price because we flew back before January 1st.

As for the time in the states, we loved it! I didn’t realize how much I missed - our family, great restaurants, shopping like crazy, American roads and signs, etc. As soon as we landed and got our rental car, we went to Chik-Fil-A, my favorite restaurant! Mike had to fly back to Germany to keep working. So the kids and I drove to Atlanta, GA to visit my parents (mom and step-dad). The kids loved being at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Grandpa did a lot of fun things with them, like building a campsite along with fire and tent, while Grandma and I went shopping. Mike rejoined us on the 24th in time to spend Christmas day together as a family.
While in Georgia, we decided to drive down to Panama City for two days to see Grandy, my grandmother, the kids’ great-grandmother. My parents (dad and step-mother) were passing through so my little sister, Melanie, and her two daughters came up to visit too. In addition, some of my aunts and uncles met up with us for the afternoon to catch up on everyone’s happenings. Grandy’s house was packed! I felt so special that everyone came in to see us. It added such a bonus to our trip because that was not planned.
Some of our memorable moments from being at Grandpa and Grandma’s house included the kids using their pencils to write through their papers onto the wood table etching their words into the wood grain. Another was the campfire with marshmallows and chocolate s’mores. We got to visit Grandpa and Grandma’s work. A toilet overflowed on the top floor and leaked down to the bottom floor then through to the basement. Bryan saw the flooding and locked to bathroom door “to keep the water in”. He never said anything because he thought he would get in trouble. Oh my! And we got to help one of Grandma’s co-workers judge Christmas lights for his neighborhood. It was a good trip!

The day after Christmas we flew to Las Vegas to be with Mike’s family who had all come in for his parents’ fortieth anniversary! We enjoyed spending the day at his sister’s house as she hosted all the kid friendly events. We enjoyed all the meals, paying Dance Dance on the Wii, seeing the aquarium, going to Circus Circus arcade, riding in a limo, seeing the Tournament of the Kings, having ice cream and chocolate covered strawberries (compliments of my brother who we also met up with in Vegas), and of course the renewing of the vows followed with breakfast and family pictures together.

It was hard to come back home because I missed everyone so much. I got my fill of shopping and eating, but not my fill of being with family. I don’t think that would be possible. We left Mike in the states so he could attend training and we flew home to recover from jet lag before school started again. It was a great Christmas vacation with many blessings we didn’t deserve. God completed provided everything for us!

We celebrated Stasia’s fourteenth birthday in January. It’s hard to believe how grownup is! She rejoiced over getting a cell phone (pay-as-you-go) and a purity ring. I am thankful that she is proud to wear her new jewelry as we start teaching her about dating. Yikes!

February was pretty quiet aside from our normal crazy schedule. But we did celebrate our seventh anniversary of our first adoption (of Stasia and Dasha). We did our annual thing and went to Baskin Robbins at the base mall and ate ice cream sundaes until we couldn’t eat any more. I enjoy those times!
March came all to quickly with the springtime and left us only two days with snow the whole winter. We were a little disappointed to not have any snow days at school or be able to go sledding. That’s okay though, we had some beautiful sunny days to make up for it. Mike also surprised me with a one night stay at Castle Schoenburg for our thirteenth anniversary. Our wonderful lifegroup quickly volunteered to watch our kids among four families making it easy for me to enjoy our time without worrying about kids. It was such an elegant night where I felt like royalty with the amazing four/six course meal and extravagant lodging. My baby knows how to treat me like a princess!

To close, we are now waiting for our next assignment (praying to stay here!). We’ve been told that we should receive official news any day now. Though, we were told that back in February and it kept getting delayed. I know God has our life under control, so I am not worried. But we’ll post something as soon as we hear about it.

Thanks for keeping up with our family!

In Him,

Friday, January 6, 2012

Star Chart and Allowances Questions

"We are starting the implimentation of the "Star Chart"... I am pretty sure on most aspects of it. However, in looking at your chart online, I was finally able to make out the middle column, Wages... Do you actually give your children allowences or is that how much they have earned and cashed in from previous charts? You mentioned in your blog that you would cover "allowences" later...and maybe this is that.

Also, we have 2 small children who are not of the age of 5. One will turn a hand in July, so this will be good for her to see in action before hand... but in the meantime...they are going to want to earn stars and such. and we do not want to discourage their desire to take part in jobs around the house. So, what would you recommend for the 2 smaller ones..."

Yes, the middle column is wages, which is part of our allowances. The kids get paid for three separate things. The first one is the star chart. Every time they do those chores, they get a star. At the end of two weeks, anything over ten stars not cashed in for staying up later or for tv and wii is paid as one quarter per star.

The second thing our kids get paid for is their wages (the middle column). That is basically their wages for helping out the family with their personal responsibilities which are in the third column. Instead of paying them each day to keep their rooms and bathrooms clean, they get paid one time on pay day. The trick is that they can get docked a quarter each time a reminder is given. They don't make their bed, their pay is deducted by one quarter. You find that their bathroom is messy, they get deducted another quarter, and so on. The other things about wages is that it increases by 50 cents each time they have a birthday. This shows pay raises for maturity, but this also includes increased responsibility. It is not a given pay raise, it is an earned pay raise. Give them slightly harder jobs for that extra 50 cents.

The third thing our kids get paid for (every two weeks) is the big house cleaning day. We used to pay someone $50 to clean our house back when I was homeschooling our older two and had three younger ones at home. Now that they are older and we all have time, we clean it ourselves. So instead of paying someone else, I pay them. However, since they made the mess they are cleaning, I only pay about $25 for the house to be cleaned. It's not the same as being paid to clean up someone else's mess. I break down the $25 based on how much each child is responsible for and how well they take care of their chores. Therefore, I pay our older daughters the most because they pull the most weight in chores. They get about $7.50 each and the younger ones get between $3-4.50 depending on how much they do and how well they do it.

Here's an example of a breakdown on payday for Alaizha:

Cashed in 15 stars $3.75
Wages $5.50
Two-week chores $4.50
Total $13.75

Out of this they need to pay 10 percent to tithes and another 10 percent to savings. The rest is theirs to spend.

Now they have money to pay you for all the times you have to remind them to do things, pay their siblings back for broken toys, or to purchase their own want items. When we go to the store, we don't buy our kids things. They know that is what their payday is for. They get special requests for birthdays and Christmas, but other than that, they buy their own toys. On occasion, we will see something with which we want to bless our children. We'll buy it for them because we know they are not demanding or expecting it and that they will see it as a gift. However, be careful not to bless them with gifts too often or they will know you'll give them what they want and there is no need to save up their money. Then you run into laziness because they can afford it.

For the children under five years old, watching older siblings receive the blessings of this system only whets their appetite to be included. Be sure to keep it a privilege though so they are excited when they turn five and are finally added to the chart. The reason for waiting until five is that it is hard for younger kids to understand delayed rewards. They need to be positively reinforced right away. So the reward system that we used for our boys before they turned five was small candy. The boys expressed interest in sweeping the kitchen after meals. So I set out three skittles, or two tic tacs, or a couple of m&ms - just small candies that won't ruin their appetite, but will be enough to encourage them to do a good job. I told them they had five minutes to sweep as much into their dust pan as they could. They had to show me what they swept up before they threw it in the trash. The key is making them utilize the full five minutes and verifying that they actually swept something up, not how well the floor is actually done. An older child or you may still need to sweep again. But they see that they are helping and contributing to cleaning after meals. If they throw a fit because it has not been five minutes and you are telling them to keep sweeping, take one candy and eat it. In the beginning, they will most likely cry harder. Take another one. Eventually they will see that you only pay for their help when they are compliant. You see, some kids will do what you want for a reward and have a bad attitude about it. You are telling them that they need to have the right attitude also before they get paid or the reward is lost. If they give up sweeping, no loss to you because you were already going to sweep again. They are the ones who missed out.

My caution with younger ones is not to give privileges they haven't earned through maturity - like vacuuming or spraying cleaning chemicals. Most kids like these parts of jobs. Yet they need to be mature enough to think through things like stretching the vacuum chord, unplugging and plugging back in (and not by the chord, but by the plug itself), thoroughly vacuuming an area, adequate amounts of spray, correct area to spray, washing hands before touching anything else, etc. Little kids get little jobs that are easy to monitor and cause no harm to themselves, others, or things if they choose to misuse it and lose the privilege of it.

Some examples of things that children under five can do are:
carrying plastic dishware and silverware to the counter after meals
putting away plastic dishware and silverware
setting the table for meals
folding clothes and towels
picking up toys
taking out small trash cans

I hope this gives you enough clarity to start a star chart with your kids. Let me know if you need anymore clarification. Those are good questions that you asked! : )