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Why we love Jonathan Park Adventures- a review

*I did not get paid to write this and the opinions are all mine and my kids.

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I first learned about Jonathan Park through some other homeschool moms a few years ago. I bought the first series to try it out, just in case we didn’t like it. Because we had been taking a once a week 2 hour round- trip drive for music lessons, we had been dabbling in some of the audio books from the library and the kids had finally learned that they did not need to look at a moving screen to enjoy a story.

From the very first story- we were hooked. I was not sure what I expected, but the quality of voiceovers and the background music completely surpassed our expectations!

The audio series started like one of those intense books that draws you right in and you don’t want the car ride to stop before you find out what happens next.

From the beginning, we are introduced to the main characters and their families, each has a distinct personality that really carries through into your imagination and you really enjoy following along with them, as if they were a new found best friend.

But the best part is not the amazing quality that we experienced, but the amazing amount of creation knowledge my family is getting.

I have always believed and known that God was responsible for the entirety of the world. I never believed in molecules to man evolution or that we have come from apes. My best friend once asked the biology teacher “If we all evolved from apes, then why are there still apes?” That is pretty logical, even for a high schooler.
I was however, unsure about the age of the earth. I mean, from kindergarten, well meaning teachers have always mentioned millions of years here and there, and after twelve years of being told over and over 100 million years, it just sticks in your mind.
I thought that maybe the earth was that old and that God just created for awhile because he was here forever and then when he created the garden, time started there.

And I am not the only Christian that has struggled with balancing science and the bible. But what I have learned is that the bible is in complete agreement with true science.

I realize that the information that I had been getting (In high school, I was taught that Lucy was the missing link, even though that had been proven false nearly a decade before) it was hard to see the truth behind the lies. After school, I watched a few documentaries on isotopes and the age of the earth and became convinced our earth is much younger than evolutionists claim.

As a homeschooler, knew I wanted to teach my kids the creation account that the Bible says is true, but I was not sure how to back it up with science, even though I knew that there had to be scientific evidence for the Creator and creation.

And then my kids and I met the Park and Brennan families.
We have learned about places we can go visit that show evidence for the world wide flood. We learned that there have been dinosaur bones found with blood tissue still soft inside and that jellyfish have been found fossilized, which is impossible over millions and millions of years.

We learned that there are no transitional fossils anywhere and anything that shows it is really just an artists rendering of what evolutionists think they would have looked like because they are still waiting for their theories to show up with some evidence.

Every fossil found is from a fully formed animal variety, not a transition between animals.

There has been so much information we learned about the languages and locations and discovered so many places here in America that we would love to visit and see for ourselves.

When we got to the end of our Volume 1 adventures, I tried finding the rest of the CDs online with no luck. I was hoping that JP was not going to become unavailable like so many other Christian resources do.
A few months ago, I looked once more for the audios and found out that you now can stream it !!! Hooray!

The adventures just keep getting better and better (What happened to Mr. Morgan?!) and I am happy that they offer the ability to download 3 stories at a time so I can listen off data while in the car when we are grocery shopping or traveling to visit family.

We have not used the study guides yet but you can download them from the website and learn with the story. I think we will try the zoo download before we head to the Houston Zoo this spring.

This is what my kids have to say about JP as we call him.
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“It is awesome and intense.
I like how in everything they always talk about God, no matter what happens and he is a friend even to his enemies.” -Lily 10

“My favorite part is that there are crazy parts.” –
Finn 5

“My favorite is that Kendall Park was an archeologist and they searched for hidden artifacts and they search as a family. I like that Kendall and Angelia are scuba divers.  -Chloe 7

1992 Palomino Popup updates

I said I was going to keep up with posting about our camping trips, but I haven’t done so well at keeping up with it. So this is going to be a recap on renovations and repairs and where we have camped so far.

We bought our popup for $300 off a guy on Craigslist so we knew it would need some TLC.
We do not have many before photos because it smelled SO BAD so we started taking everything out. We painted the cabinets, recovered the cushions, cleaned the canvas and put in new curtains, following info from The Popup Princess.

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IMG_0965This is the maiden voyage to Pedernales Falls State Park in Texas. You can see the curtains and the paint and the tacky LED lighting.
We really only camped for the weekend but the kids enjoyed it and we were able to see how well we all fit.
We also learned that we did not set it up properly by leveling it side to side and front to back, and putting the safety bars on the lift.
But we had a blast, even Chloe who ended up with a black eye the day we left.

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Our Next trip ended up being during Spring Break, right after I certified at Birth Boot Camp- see my awesome hoodie. The only place that had availability was
SOUTH LLANO RIVER STATE PARK, 3 hours away. We had not changed anything in the camper since the last time.
We were a bit skeptical as we drove in and parked, but it ended up being the cleanest and neatest place we have camped yet. The last night there it dropped to 32 degrees and I got up in the middle of night to turn down the heater and ended up accidentally turning it off so we were a bit chilly!
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When I was almost 3 months pregnant, we camped at LOCKHART STATE PARK, 30 minutes from our house. The hike through the roses is amazing and although we were there to early to swim in the pool, we will be back again.
I was however was hot, miserable and did not sleep well so that was our last camping trip while I was pregnant.
We added fans, new trim and Corey cut and stained a new board for the sink because it pulled out at Llano. I also put contact paper in the drawers and we put some bright orange knobs from Ikea on the cabinets.
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A year later, for my Birthday we camped at McKinney Falls. The only thing different was taking bikes and having a 3 month old with us.
Oh, and new tires and rims for the popup.
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Because our beds were bowed from being old, I was nervous about them falling out in the middle of the night, so I did not sleep well at all. This site also had NO SHADE and we had no canopy. We ended up calling it quits a day early and heading home.
Do Not Get Site #15 unless you have a canopy or easy up! 

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Because our trip in March had been quite warm, I went to Walmart to get solar blankets to put on the bunks to reflect some heat (DIY Popup Gizmos).
I was very glad because our next (and last so far) trip was with my mom and brother and nieces to Guadalupe State Park– in August  and it was 100 degrees out.
We decided to just bite the bullet a few days before and get a portable A/C unit. Best $100 ever! It was 60 degrees in our camper at night and we all needed an extra blanket.
I slept on the twin dinette bed with the baby because I was still nervous about the beds.
Because the King bed needed to be supported, we also added a screen door screen to keep the door shut.

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Sadly, on this trip, the king side pulled out the corner of the popup and we had to park it…

until we repaired it!!! 
I had to replace the cushions due to mold after a leak. I used some patio cushions and the curtains Corey didn’t like. FREE IS AWESOME.
Corey rebuilt the entire front end, part of the floor,the entire left quarter panel (?) and the king side bed using two layers of 1/2″ plywood. It is a bit heavier now, but it is so sturdy I can’t wait to sleep on that side! And the best part is that we no longer need the support poles at the bottom.
While we were at it, we laid down some dark vinyl to really update the look.

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We will be going camping in just over 5 weeks to Dinosaur Valley State Park and I can’t wait. We plan on replacing the bed on the queen side before we go and getting new heaters in case it is chilly.
One of our goals for the new year was to camp more. We hope to get as many miles out of this Pup as we can this year.

Its time to fully embrace Minimalism

Back in 2013 I posted about the day the contractor came to the house and it was a mess (AKA- not doorbell ready) We lived in an 800 sq ft duplex at the time, so I should have been able to keep a small mess contained.

Except I can’t. I have not been able to get a grasp on my homemaking.
I blamed it on having littles, I blamed it on lack of organization, I blamed it on my lack of habits as a kid.
All of this is true…but it is not the root of the issue. The root is that we had TOO MUCH STUFF.

In 2016 I read the KonMari book while pregnant with G. I knew that there were things I needed to get rid of (aka, declutter) before we added baby 4 to the house so I jumped in with both feet…

And got as far as decluttering papers before I just gave up because I was overwhelmed with trying to declutter by category. I would go looking for pens and see the mess in each room and start trying to clean it up.
I am a visual person so seeing the mess meant I needed to actually deal with it.

 

There are days that I feel like all I do is clean up the messes my kids have made. I know that part of that is the lack of habit training but also much of it is because they do like I do- get overwhelmed and walk away.

They also have a heart for people, so when they are given trinkets and gifts, they hold onto them for life.

I decided this year I want MORE for our family. More outings, more quality time, more game nights and dinners with friends.
I want to walk through my home and feel at peace. Feel content. Feel clean.
I don’t want to yell at my kids for misplacing things, only to ask them if they know where the keys are- again. I am tired of being stressed out because there are clothes and toys and trash and cups in every room of the house and yet no one knows how they got there. My kids deserve more than a mother that is mad about the messy home. And my friends deserve to be invited over after church for tea without my making an excuse about being busy when really I just am embarrassed by the mess.
When my home is CLEAN, it feels wonderful, but truly most stuff is just shoved somewhere else to clean the common areas.

For the past 2 years, I have been slowly getting rid of things that I assumed were clutter, but honestly I was just getting rid of things here and there that were broken, outgrown, etc. I was maintaining the level of clutter I had.
But the fact that the house always feels out of control means my clutter threshold is much lower than I had been admitting.

We are a family of 6 in a 1260 square ft home. We don’t have the luxury of accumulating stuff.

So I am jumping in to take back my home. Take back my motherhood. Take back my marriage. Take back my time with God. Take back my life.

And to do so, I am getting rid of things that do not add one moment to my day or one day to my life.
I decided to take the  2,018 in 2018 CHALLENGE to really revamp my home.
The kids have been promised ice cream when we hit the first 100 mark and so far, they got more than halfway there in a week!
2,018 things sounds like a ton, but I took pictures of my home how it is right now so I could see how it looks when this is all over and I truly have embraced minimalism in my life.

I also recommend Allie’s Blog if you really have no idea how to start decluttering and taking your home back.
If you are like me, A Slob Comes Clean will rejuvenate how you declutter AND clean.

Getting through Christmas without greed

This post sat in my drafts for 3 years! It still applies today though, we stuck to the 3 gift Christmas so I decided to post since it did, in fact, work out. 

 

I waited until after Christmas to post this to see if it would actually work out (I don’t like being a hypocrite if I can help it).

This year, we decided to try the 3 Gift Christmas. I can’t remember which blog I read about it on last year, but it was intriguing.

For me and my husband, Christmas memories were always of a tree sitting on top of a mountain of colorful packages. It was exciting! It was wonderful! And it was slightly greedy. Nothing on our Christmas morning was about the birth of Jesus. Nothing was about the reason for the season. It was all about us and the stuff we were getting.

I recall unwrapping boxes and boxes and while everything was super exciting to “get”- as the days inched on, we only ended up playing with or using maybe 1/3 of the gifts we got. Out of all the things my parents spent their money on, there would be maybe 3 things actually stuck around long enough to get their money’s worth out of it.

But it is not just about the money  that was wasted.

My 6 year old is “privileged”. She honestly thinks that every.single.time she goes with her Grammy, that she is entitled to a trip to Target to buy a toy or two. It could be that her love language is Gift getting (Lord help me if it is). Or it could be that Grammy buys her stuff when she is with her, so the assumption has been taught.

Either way, I do not want to train up kids that have the “gimmies”. I don’t want to go into debt to satisfy their need for colorful boxes, and I do not want their love bought. I want them to know that happiness does not come from stuff and they can’t take those made in China toys to heaven with them.

When I discovered the 3 Gift Christmas, it was the Lord giving us an answer to the present present problem.

The idea behind it is that Jesus only got 3 gifts (that are really mentioned) so why should we get more? The 3 gifts represent Gold, which is the item they really really want, Frankincense, which is something that connects them to family and God, and Myrrh, which is a personal item for beauty or health.

For my 6 year old, she got a pair of 100% real sterling and tanzinite earrings, a beginner children’s bible and a scooter for her beloved doll.

The 3 year old got a Veggie tales book set, her very first doll, and a set of pans for her kitchen

The 2 year old boy got a Tonka truck, Duplo blocks and a Fire truck.

We also got them a “together” gift which was a 24 pack of play-doh and filled their stockings with small items, natural candy, headbands,play silks, toothbrushes and replacement things for some of their other toys.

And you know what, they have been playing with every item they got. Because they did not get overwhelmed with stuff and we got them things that they actually wanted, we did not waste money on things just to wrap them, and they did not toss things aside just to play with the 2 things they wanted.

We talked about the 3 gift Christmas beforehand and they were in agreement (at 6 and 3 you don’t really have a choice anyway). They knew that it was only a rule in our household and that they were still going to get items from all the Grandparents anyway, which is another reason for limiting what we gave them.

To make Christmas about fellowshipping, love, and family we once again did the Advent Calendar so each day we did something together.

My kids were more than blessed this year and will continue to be for years to come and we can do that with only 3 things under the tree for each of them.

In the words of The Grinch, “Christmas, it seems is so much more”.

Would you ever consider having a 3 gift Christmas?

A Mothers’ Day story

This is used with permission from my friend and our Troop Leader at Frontier Girls troop 205, Tami Larsen. She sent this email out to a number of us moms and I thought it so inspiring, I asked her if I could share it with you! 

I just love writing something for my mom friends for Mothers Day.  Most years, God lays something on my heart early in the week before Mothers Day, and I just can’t stop writing until I have it down.  But this week, I have felt pretty empty.  

 

Until today. 

 

Today, I yelled at another mom.

 

But not in the way you think.

 

I didn’t yell at her for how she was treating her children, or for cutting me off in traffic, or for being ugly to my kids. 

 

I was driving thru the HEB parking lot. It was pouring down rain outside – I mean POURING. I saw a mom holding two toddlers on her back as she tried to run through the rain into the store. Besides being very wet, she looked tired and defeated. She seemed to be slowing down.  Something came over me – almost instinctive.  Without even thinking about it, I rolled down the window and yelled through the rain as loud as I could, “Keep going! You can do it!” 

 

At first, she looked at me in much the same way YOU might look at someone who was suddenly cheering you on…in the rain…in the grocery store parking lot!  She was baffled, trying to figure out if she knew me (which she did not).  Then suddenly, she realized we were complete strangers…and she smiled. I mean a HUGE smile…filled with relief and understanding.  The weariness seemed to melt away.  A new resolve seemed to build within her as she ran the rest of the way across the parking lot, actually laughing with her young children.

 

It made me feel so…convicted.  It made me wonder…why don’t I do this more often??  There are moms I see every day…from the closest friends to the most remote strangers…and all they need to hear is, “Keep going! You can do it!”  It could be with my words or with my actions.  It could be a smile, a pat on the back, or a hug at just the right time.  But all too often the moment just passes by.  Maybe sometimes I am just too busy.  Or maybe I am just not sure of whether to say something or not, or how to say it.  Sometimes I probably just don’t pay attention.

 

But think of the way the world would be impacted if all the moms in the world became cheerleaders—for each other!  We would all feel so renewed and lifted up.  We would be filled with a new sense of our ability to fulfill this amazing privilege given to us as moms.  The weariness wouldn’t be such a big deal any more…because someone out there understands…and is willing to cheer us on when we need it.

 

So, today I am here to tell you this.  I know you’re tired.  I know motherhood can be challenging.  I know you are dealing with more stuff than you ever imagined.    But I also know that Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

 

Keep going, mama!  You can do this!  God has you in the palm of His hand…and He’s not letting go.  Keep running.  Stay focused on the reason why you do what you do. 

 

And while you’re at it…be another mom’s cheerleader today.  It is hard to focus on your own struggles when you are cheering for someone else.  And maybe you can start a cycle of encouragement you never dreamed possible.

 

I know it’s raining mama, I know the load is heavy…but keep going.  You can do it.

 

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Philippians 4:13

We don’t “do” April Fools.

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As my kids were  turning the calendar in their morning notebooks, my daughter noticed on the calendar “April Fools” notated and questioned me about it.

No one really knows where the exact origin of April Fools came from. Some say it was from the swapping of the calendar from Julian to Gregorian because those that did not get the memo were celebrating the turn of the year in April and did not realize it had been already the new year for a few months.

You can read about some of that history here.

I explained to her that it is a day when people all over play tricks on each other, making them feel foolish, and that we would not be participating or celebrating it.

(I also told her that just because someone printed it on the calendar did not mean it was something we had to follow.)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph. 4:29

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Rom. 14:19

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Prov. 13:20

 

When I was a kid, we loved this day. We played jokes from fake spiders and scorpions on the wall, to my best friend telling me she was moving away.

When I first lived on my own, we took it to EXTREMES. A friend and I staged an elaborate hoax that I was a German assassin sent to target officials. We set up a whole ruse and even got the Apartment security guard to bust in the room to “apprehend” me. While in the moment it seemed fun and games- our friends were seriously shaken up during all of it, and I can only imagine the neighbors that saw us brandishing a fake gun and shouting at each other in the parking lot were scared and pretty close to calling the police on us.

And then my friends were so mad they retaliated by stealing my keys and moving my truck, leading me to believe it had been stolen.

I know what people are probably thinking, “what’s the harm in a little bit of practical joking?”

Some of you may be thinking that sounds like a really good joke. And at the time, and for years after, I agreed!

But as I got closer to God, I realized the harm and danger in a bit of “lying”.  I think back on what that “fun and games retaliation” could have led to and the trouble it could have caused.

I think of the boy who cried wolf for one; no one believed him when he was in actual danger.

Then I think of the seed of doubt that can be placed in the hearts and minds of people that are the ones at the butt end of these jokes.

And I think of how it feels to be called a fool.

I spent my life arguing until the other person gave up because I did not like to be wrong. I did not like to look like a fool or to look like I was an idiot, for lack of a better term. So I argued my case, stood firm and refused to let anyone tell me I was wrong. I did not put myself in positions to be made a fool. I became a skeptic of everything and everyone.

WHY then, would I choose to make someone else feel that way for the sake of a marking on a calendar and for a one-sided laugh?
Why would I want to create skepticism?

Our church ministry is founded on pillars we call the 5 E’s and 3 Cs.

One of those Es is Edification or Edifying.

Edifying is defined as :

the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually.
“the idea that art’s main purpose is to supply moral uplift and edification”
But it is also to lift each other up, to encourage the body of Christ.
And the complete opposite of that would be to make someone look foolish, or tear them down and make them laughed at.
I did not write this post to take the joy and laughter out of people.
God LOVES laughter. He loves joy and cheer. He loves when people smile…TOGETHER. In unity and wholesomeness.
 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov. 17:22

I love my friends and family too much to make fun of them or play pranks on them that would leave them irritated, feeling foolish or naive.

So today, I will not be participating in April Fool’s Day.

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” Psa. 14:1

I am no fool.

You are no fool.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.