Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Four Words

As is my tradition, I take some time out at the end of the year/beginning of the next to reflect and pray about 4 words.  One word for each member of our family to help me pray for them/myself this coming year.

2013 Review:
Zac - Persevere.  This was a tough year at work for Zac on a few levels.  I am proud of how he has persevered through this time.
Jen - Radical.  This has been a radical year for me from our mission trip to Mexico, to Amber and Eli living with us for a few months, it's been crazy and God has been teaching me how to serve others and live with purpose.
Keanan - Connections.  Keanan has grown leaps and bounds academically (2 weeks left of kindergarten!), physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It is so fun to watch him think and express himself as he makes grows and learns.
Kyla - Whimsical.  This girl is a hoot!  She is so animated and will draw you in to her wonderful pretend world.  It has been fun to see her some out of her shell, with a dramatic flare!

2014's Words:
Zac - Pursue.  This will be a year of change for our family.  Zac is stepping out and going after some dreams this year, starting with his Masters degree.  I am excited to support and step out with him!
Jen - Focus.  I tend to get passionate about things, many things if I don't step back (or Zac doesn't hold me back!).  This year I want to be a good steward of what God has given me on many levels.  To do this I need to focus on doing a few things well, rather than many things adequately.
Keanan - Diligent.  As Keanan starts 1st grade in a month, more will be required of him academically and emotionally.  I pray that he learns to work hard and well this year, giving glory to God.
Kyla - Joy.  This will be Kyla's last year of preschool and I really want it to be a fun time for her.  I am also excited to see her express herself as she starts ballet.

Verses for the year:
Galations 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galations 5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Bring on 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our First Christmas Without Santa

It. Was. Awesome.

That pretty much sums it up!  The kids had absolutely no issues when we broke the news to them that Santa wasn't real.   We learned about the real St. Nicholas and that his love for Jesus inspired him to give to others, many times in secret.  This inspired all of us to start giving in secret with our money into a box that sat on the counter the whole month.  On Christmas morning we counted this money and chose to give it to Compassion International for relief work in the Philippines.  This was our present to Jesus this year.

We had many talks about "pretend Santa", as they called him throughout the month.  We still enjoyed the classic Christmas movies and books, but something was different - in a good way.  The focus was always on Jesus.  The kids themselves tied everything back to Jesus.  We also did Truth in the Tinsel which walked us through a piece of the Christmas story every day, so it was always fresh in our minds.

As Christmas drew closer I asked Keanan if he was sad that Santa was not real.  He thought for a moment and then replied, "no, I'm not sad.  When adults tell kids that Santa is real, it's kind of in between teasing and lying.  So I'm glad I know the truth.". He nailed it.  We didn't have to lie to our kids to make Christmas a wonderful, magical time - Jesus does a much better job than Santa ever could.

So, in review, we are so thankful that we ditched Santa and focused soley on Jesus this Christmas.  On Christmas Eve, when other kids were thinking about Santa filling their stockings as they go to bed, this was Kyla's prayer "Dear God, thank you for being born and dying for our sins on the cross."

It. Was. Awesome.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fourth Candle of Advent: Love

One small baby in the hay,
Brings us LOVE on Christmas Day.
Arms will stretch to grab a cross,
Saving us from all our loss.
One small baby in the hay,
Brings us LOVE on Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Homeschool: Week of 12-16

This week was V for vegetable:  God gives me all that I need!  We dissected beans (did you know there is little plants that you can see inside??), we are "growing" and onion in a jar, we read lots of neat library books about gardens and veggies, and of course ate a lot of vegetables!

Today (Friday), to celebrate our start of "Christmas break" from homeschooling, we had the annual Vawter Christmas Craft Playdate!  It was a crazy fun time!  The kids made handprint/footprint reindeer, played, ate treats that the kids and I made earlier in the week, listened to the Christmas story (Lego style!), and ran around in what little snow we had left.

We have actually made this craft every year since Kyla was born.  Isn't that one of the cutest things ever!  Makes me kind of sad to see how fast they are growing!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Nutcracker!

Saturday was Kyla's first real experience with ballet when we went to see the Ballet Northwest production of The Nutcracker in Olympia.  Auntie Jess, Nana, and Great Auntie Di went with us.  It was a great show and so much fun!  We even got to go out to dinner after.  We will have to make this a Christmas tradition!
While we were gone, Zac and Keanan went on a hike into the Bald Hills by our house.  They even made it to the top of one!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Candle of Advent: Joy

One small baby in the hay
Brings us JOY on Christmas Day.
God sends us this baby boy,
Saving us for endless JOY.
One small baby in the hay
Brings us JOY on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Homeschool: Week of 12-9

This week we were on x for Fox: "God's Word makes me wiser than my enemies"  One of the fun activities came with reading one of the many library books for this unit, The Gingerbread Boy (the fox tricks him and gobbles him up in the end!).  We made our own gingerbread boy, but thankfully he didn't run away and we all got to gobble him up!
We had book club on Tuesday with our homeschool group and did a book exchange party.  We also had our last BSF class before Christmas break.  Add in our daily Advent activities, and watching Eli 3 days this week (he's actually staying over tonight =) ), and we had a very busy week!

These little guys decided to come out and join the fun too!  

Less than 2 weeks til Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

O Christmas Tree

We had a wonderful adventure on Dec. 1st getting our Christmas tree!  As is our tradition, we piled into Auntie Jess and Uncle Casey's truck and headed for the mountains in search of snow and a tree.  This year we were joined by a caravan of friends (12 kids total and 11 adults)!  The weather was NOT in our favor - pouring rain the entire time, but we did find enough snow for the kids to play in and sled on (thanks to Zac and Casey's engineering a sled run over a stream!), so they didn't care.  Greg set up an awning, Mike made a fire, Crissy grilled cheese sandwiches over it for the kids, Chris served hot cocoa, Jess passed out some awesome fudge, I made a big batch of homemade chili in my crock pot which was still hot, and Melissa had yummy cornbread muffins to go with it.  It was wonderful!  We were all soaked to the BONE, but successfully found trees.  We will treasure these memories for years to come!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Second Candle of Advent: Peace

One small baby in the hay
Brings us PEACE on Christmas Day.
Sin brought fighting, pain, and fears;
Christ will wipe away our tears.
One small baby in the hay
Brings us PEACE on Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homeschool: Week of 12-2

This week was F for frog: "I use my tongue wisely."  After a sick day on Monday, we used the rest of the week to complete the activities for this unit.  Keanan had fun explaining the frog life cycle to Zac this morning, he did a great job!

Speaking of life cycles, our caterpillars have now entered the next stage of life and moved into their chrysalis!  We put them in the butterfly net/house and are eagerly awaiting their appearance and butterflies!

We are also celebrating Advent with Truth in the Tinsel!  This year Kyla is coloring an ornament picture and Keanan is building a lego creation for each day as we move through the Christmas story.  Here is some of Keanan's creations this week: light, crown, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary and Elizabeth

Friday, December 6, 2013

100 Days of Kindergarten!!

We celebrated the 100th day with a candy hunt!  I hid 100 M n M's around the house for Keanan to find, count, and then eat!

Can't believe we're almost done with Kindergarten and moving to 1st grade soon!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Candle of Advent: Hope

One small baby in the hay
Brings us HOPE on Christmas Day.
God has promised His own Son,
Bringing HOPE for everyone.
One small baby in the hay
Brings us HOPE on Christmas Day.

Monday, November 25, 2013


We are blessed to sponsor 2 kids through Compassion International.  One of them lives in Guatemala and the other in Bangladesh.  Last week the kids and I were watching videos to learn more about what life is like for our sponsored kids.  After a particular video Kyla profoundly stated "Mommy, we're not poor."

This really struck me, so I started doing some research.

The Vawter family ranks in the .11% of the population of the world for income.  That means 99.89% of the world is poorer than us.   This made my heart sink.  We really are rich.  We really have no concept of what it means to be poor.  What are we doing with all this wealth???

If you are reading this - you are rich!  Do you realize that??  Don't believe me?  Stop reading and click on the link below to figure out where you rank compared to the earning of everyone else on earth:

Jesus said " From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48  

We have been given TONS!!  Are we really being good stewards with it?  Are we helping the poor and needy and the spread of the Gospel like Gods asks us to do in almost every book of the bible (the bible contains over 300 verses about the poor)?  These are the questions I am wrestling with right now.  

Our family is praying about how we can do more.  Will you please pray for us?  Will you pray this with us?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Homeschool Week of 11-18

This was a busy week!  On Sunday I had the blessing of attending the birth of a sweet baby girl with some good friends.  Then on Monday Zac took me on a secret date to Portland to see the 2Cellos (so amazing)!!!  And then on Tuesday I got sick with a cold, blah.

This weeks letter for school was B for butterfly.  Our theme was "God can make me new!"

The fun activity that went with this unit was growing butterflies!  Right now they are still caterpillars, but should be making their chrysalis anytime.  We're excited to see them change!

Another fun event of this week was the first meeting of the Jr. First Lego League!  Keanan is on the team with 5 other friends (ages 5-9) and Zac is the coach.  They will be competing in the challenge presentation in March and the theme is Disaster Blaster.  2 of the kids couldn't make the meeting this last week (the 2 girls), but the boys had lots of fun!

Next week: Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

We're going to ditch Santa....

Ahhh!  Don't shoot me!

We've been thinking about doing this for some time, then I read this post: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/29/the-christmas-conundrum  I LOVE Jen Hatmaker and just finished her book, Seven (SO GOOD!!).  Specifically this part of the post was convicting:

"I'm going to throw out some ideas for what I hope is a more meaningful Christmas; you may take some and leave some. Good reader, you may take none. Maybe you'll tweak an idea to fit your family. You might say, "For the love of Baby Jesus! She's ruining everything! We'll try one little thing this year, ok?! And then we'll quit reading her blog." Here goes:

1.) Because I'm anxious to make enemies and isolate myself from any goodwill you've ever felt toward me, let me just start with a biggie: We've pulled out of the Santa charade. Our newest kids are 5 and 8, preparing for their first Christmas in America, and we're just not doing it, yall. Maybe because we've spent the last four years trying to unravel the mess we've presented to our other kids all these years, but hear me say it: We are giving Christmas back to Jesus. Not a corner of it; all of it. 

There is no fake benefactor this year my kids can petition to get more stuff. Because honestly? For a five-year-old, how can Jesus compete with Santa? Our children don't have spiritual perspective; when faced with the choice of allegience, they have a baby in a manger, or they can get a jolly, twinkling, flying character who will bring them presents. This is going to be an easy choice for them. My friend Andrew, who identifies himself as a member of the "non-believer corner" put it this way: 

I always thought it was strange how Christians will tell me they have this giant and awesome truth they know is true deep in their soul and want to share with me, but when 12/25 comes around they lie to their own progeny because, apparently, that giant, liberating, and awesomely simple truth is somehow just not enough. It may be a good narrative, but it needs a little something to give it some panache.

As importantly, it sets this tone for Christmas: Be good and you'll get stuff, which becomes so deeply seeded, undoing that position is almost impossible. When we teach our children to understand Christmas through this lens, then tell them at nine-years-old: "Never mind! It's all fake! Oh, and stop being so selfish because Christmas is about Jesus"...we shouldn't be surprised when our kids stage a mutiny and ask to move in with Grandma. Young parents, this is so much easier to do right the first time rather than try to undo later. Give your kids the gift of a Christmas obsessed with Jesus - and no other - when they are little, and it will be their truth all their lives. Some practical points:

* When faced with Santa everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, we told our kids the story of the original St. Nicholas from the 3rd century, and his devotion to Jesus and the poor. We explained that Santa is a character based on his life, but one was real and one is pretend. We also told them some children believe Santa is real, and it's their parents' job to talk about that with their friends, not theirs. In other words, DON'T BE THAT KID WHO MAKES EVERYONE CRY IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS. You're welcome, teachers. 

* For the most part, we are not watching TV this month. We're allowing movies and Netflix, but the less commercials our kids have to digest, the less confusing this month is for them. Um, ditto for all of us. When there are commercials that say, "Hey? You know how to avoid the terrible Disappointed Face when you give your loved one her gift? Buy her a Toyota!"...we have seriously derailed, folks. 

* Take a big breath: I got rid of all my Santa paraphernalia this year. No more severed ceramic Santa heads up in here. Try not to flip out. (I am in the "undoing" category I mentioned above. So freaking hard.)

* This is big: I AM NOT JUDGING YOU. If you put carrots on your front lawn for the reindeer and stamp bootprints all over your living room from Santa's shoes, that is fully your prerogative. You don't need to hide your Santa wreath when I come over or defend your position to me or anyone. For us, Christmas has gone through four years of reconstruction, each year progressively more simplified. I know God is doing all sorts of different things with different families at different times; everybody be cool. "

We are going to be learning about St. Nicholas (the real person), but no more Santa.  I'm really excited about this!  I really like that part in her post where she says "I AM NOT JUDGING YOU."  It's true - this is what is right for our family, but it may not be what is right for yours.  AND THAT'S OK.

Some other anti-culture Christmas things we're doing:  only 3 gifts per kid (if it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for us!), baby Jesus is not showing up in our nativity till late Christmas Eve, we will be celebrating advent with our candles and Truth in the Tinsel ornaments (and a lego component for Keanan), our family will be picking our big Christmas gift for Jesus off the Compassion International site.

Are you going against the grain this Christmas?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Homeschool: Week of 11-11

This weeks theme was J for jewel and "Jesus is more valuable than anything else."

One of the favorite activities from the week was making crowns with jewels and learning part of the old hymn:
Like the stars of the morning,
His brightness adorning,
They will shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

We also had book club this week with a bunch of our homeschool friends and the theme was thanksgiving.  The kids drew turkeys and made thankful pumpkins, which I think turned out really cute!

Friday was "magazine" school for us, which means in addition to our regular calendar binders we read through the November issue of God's Big World magazine - doing the activities and watching YouTube videos for the stories that interested us.  We ended up learning all about the America's Cup boat race and the making of chunos in Bolivia!

Monday, November 11, 2013

San Francisco!

We had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco with Zac this past week while he attended a conference for work.  It was so much fun!  The kids are great travelers and love an adventure - we can do anything after taking them to Mexico!

I felt a little bit bad for Zac that he was stuck in boring meetings while we explored the city.  On Thursday the kids and I walked a mile to the BART (public transit subway/train), we then rode for about an hour into the city, then took a 20 minute cable car ride down to the bay to look at the old boats and have lunch.  Reverse all that to get back to the hotel and you have a very full day!

On Friday we stayed at the hotel (except walking down the street for meals) to swim in the pool all day!  A fun treat.

On Saturday we adventured with Zac by bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace, Fisherman's Warf, Smitten Ice Cream (best EVER - made with liquid nitrogen!), dinner, and back to the hotel.

Kyla asked Zac when we got back home if he would take her to see the world (ahhh *tear*).  Of course he said yes, as much as he could.  Very excited for more fun family adventures!