Saturday, May 30, 2009

Enhanced photos

Remember those park pictures? I loved them as they were, but really wanted to see if we could add more character through editing. I enlisted the help of two of my professional photographer friends, and then also sat down with my Adobe Photoshop Elements to see what I could figure out on my own. It had been so long since I'd used my Elements for anything more than cropping and fixing blemishes! I'm very happy with the results...

My work
My work

Photographer #1's work
Photographer #2's work
Photographer #2's work

If you don't have a photo editing program, I strongly recommend you get one. We are very happy with Elements... and I don't think we've had professional portraits done since getting it! Why would we when we can take our own pictures and edit them to look so good? (One reason - TO GET ALL FOUR OF US IN A PICTURE!!!)

A blessed day

Garage sale days are always loads of fun around here, but yesterday was extra special. The kids had their big bake sale (benefiting a local child abuse prevention & victims advocacy center and another organization that does a great deal of work with foster children in our state) and every loaf of bread sold was celebrated! If Bryan and I weren't standing there when someone made a purchase, the boys would come find us - screeching about yet another success! After all was said and done, the kids raised $112 and our family was only left with one full size loaf and one mini loaf. We are so very grateful for the dozens of strangers who bought bread, and deeply touched by each of our amazing friends who came by to support our boys in this effort. With every batter we mixed, I prayed for the organizations, the families impacted by their work, and that garage sale shoppers would generously support this cause. If the sale wasn't a huge hit, my greatest concern was not that I'd gain 20 pounds eating the left-overs, but that my children would receive the message that people do not really care about kids. I'm so happy to report that they received the exact opposite message! As soon as we called it a day Zach bounced into the house saying, "Now we've got to get on that bike-a-thon! We need to go over there and figure out our track!!" The boys' excitement and compassion is inspiring.

Zachary explaining to our friends what friendship bread is, which loaves have chocolate chips, why they should buy it and
how much it cost!

Friends enjoying their bread!

Luke and one of our other little friends enjoying a water gun battle.

A hot day demands dumping bottled water on your head!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Life of purpose

I have been thinking about this post since last Thursday. I am a little embarrassed to be writing this, as it seems a bit boastful. I do not mean it that way at all... I just received a wonderful compliment and keep feeling that this is something I am supposed to write about... To encourage you to encourage others, to show your appreciation and to also stand up for what is right, to be honest about how you feel and to always be willing to address tough topics. I am a firm believer that most things can be resolved and I cling to Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

After Zach's pre-K closing program, the school director gave me a hug. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for my friendship and involvement at the school and said she'd "learned a great deal about being a director" from me. I did not ask her what I'd done that taught her so much, but one situation that we faced stands out in my mind. There was a misunderstanding that could easily have led to Zach being pulled out of her school. Bryan and I were very hurt and had every reason to quietly just go away, but we knew that was not biblical. When the wound was still very fresh, I was too emotional to actually speak to her. Instead, I gathered my thoughts and sent her an email so we could "talk". We emailed back and forth a couple of times and then scheduled a meeting. She was very apologetic about everything and amends were quickly made. All of us were very happy to resolve this and move on with Zach's schooling and our friendship.

This could have turned out dramatically different. We could have pulled Zach out of school and never addressed the matter. While addressing it was no picnic, I believe the other option would have been far more difficult. Zachary loves his school, his teachers, his friends, his director... And so do we! Severing those ties and moving on like they never existed would not have been fulfilling; although we could certainly have had the worldly privilege of "being right" or "showing them".

Being able to address it took courage, faith and the knowledge of who and whose I am. My value doesn't hinge on someone's response to me. And being able to honestly tell her how I felt took vulnerability and intentionality. I wake up every day of my life with an awareness that I want to be vulnerable and intentional with everyone I know. When Miss Jennifer told me that she'd learned a lot from me, that was such a precious gift to me. Being intentional has made a difference in someone's life... She has been blessed through me!

This reminds me of Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven" books. One of the things highest on my list of priorities is to live a life of purpose. To minister to others. To make a lasting impression on this world. To use my experiences to serve others. To be a blessing to those around me. Not for praise or recognition, but so that others can experience Jesus through me.

"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19

Me with my good friend, Miss Jennifer

Friday, May 22, 2009

A major milestone

Rather than have an elaborate pre-K graduation, our school had a closing program. It was just the right length and focused entirely on the kids and what they wanted for the evening... Lots of singing, dancing, an interactive poem and cookies & punch!

The ABC's of What We Learned in Pre-K

A is for artists. From our hands to our feet, We love to paint. We studied Mondrian, and Monet and even painted upside down like Michelangelo.

Boys were always building in the block corner. Sometimes the girls even joined them you know.

Cooperation and Self-Discipline lasted throughout the year. We get along really well with everyone we know.

We were Eager to learn all year long.

With our Friends we have grown.

With God’s grace, hope and happiness everywhere.

Our Interests have been varied.

Journal writing.

Kitchen cooking.

Laughter everywhere.

Music in the air.

Numbers and counting.

Our ABC’s both letter and sound we have begun to know.

Puzzles and patterning … problem solving

Quietly learning the basics so we can soon


Scientific thinking skills tested and grown

Through trial and error

Under guidance we’ve grown.

Very smart, very confident, very ready you know

We’re off to Kindergarten

Extra special days while we are still

Young. Have lead us to learn everything from A to Z. Just ask us, You know we’ll tell you everything we know. Until you are ready for


Zachary with his teachers

With the director

Dear Zachary, we could not be more proud of you. When you began preschool in Jan. 2008, you had trouble resolving conflicts without your hands; we were happy to see this improve dramatically after a few weeks in school! You hated large crowds, group games, and loud noises; making team sports and gross motor time quite a challenge. You held your hands over your ears during worship time and rarely sang along. You never wanted all eyes on you, so you generally opted out when your class sang in church. The first time you sang with joy and confidence in front of a group was at your class' Thanksgiving Feast last fall. I will never forget the pride that Daddy and I felt watching you overcome such a great fear. As last night's closing program approached, I watched you rehearse with your class; refusing to sing some of the songs. But last night, you sang every note and didn't miss a motion. You later told us that you had so much fun that you wanted to do it again 1,000 times. We are so very proud of you. You are leaving preschool and entering kindergarten with such confidence, excitement and curiosity. We are all excited for you.

Singing and dancing with friends

The ABC poem so accurately expresses all that you've learned

Without hesitation you stood tall with your "S"

Praying the Lord's Prayer with your friends and their families

Daddy is so proud

So am I!

And Luke cannot wait till it's his turn to go to school!!

Last day of school - I am so grateful for all the days I was able to volunteer in your class. I will miss all of your little classmates and wish them the very best as we all move on to different schools.

With "the best teachers a student could ask for"

Class hug... Bye, for now.

Kicking summer off with a little tree climbing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The seriousness of kids at play

We play at this park all the time, but it had never occurred to me to take my camera... That is, until we saw some prom-goers taking pictures here a few weeks ago. I am so glad I took my camera today! I am not one for staged pictures (which is why we have only had "portraits" done a handful of times) so these pictures were all taken in the moment. The expressions you see are the ones that were naturally on their faces. You will notice just how serious Zach is much of the time and how Luke is generally walking around with a gigantic grin on his face!

Monday, May 18, 2009

for KIDS by KIDS

I am so excited to finally be able to write about this... For quite some time Zach has been wanting to have a bike-a-thon, but he didn't know what his "cause" should be. When he boldly announced a couple of weeks ago that Bryan and I should "collect" children who are mistreated by their parents, we began talking about other ways that we could help those kids. The "cause" was discovered for the boys' much anticipated bike-a-thon!

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been working with a local child abuse prevention and victim's advocacy center to nail down a date. We had only asked if we could use their parking lot and they have generously offered to open their building so that we can use their restrooms and water fountains. Happy Bear will also be there to meet the kids, they are providing a station for the kids to color pictures of Happy Bear, they will provide educational materials for parents to take home with them, and some of the organization's staff and volunteers will also be in attendance!

In addition to benefiting the child abuse prevention and victim's advocacy center, the bike-a-thon proceeds will also go to an amazing organization that works predominantly with foster children and adoptees throughout our state. They are dedicated to keeping children safe, families strong and communities involved.

for KIDS by KIDS...
A bike-a-thon benefiting abused and foster children in our state
July 11, 2009
9am - 10:30am
(Email me or see my FaceBook for location info - RSVP's needed)

Cost is $5 per rider. A bake sale will also take place at the bike-a- thon.

In the mean time... Our family has been making insane amounts of Amish Friendship Bread. The kids will sell it during our neighborhood garage sale May 29-30 (all proceeds going to the bike-a-thon). If you are in the area, stop by and "be a FRIEND to a child in need".

Enjoy some pictures of Operation Amish Friendship Bread...

Ingredients are out

And we're off

The boys baking with bed-head (7:30am)

I couldn't believe all this fit in my oven - and NOTHING burned!

The first batch - we made THREE BATCHES in 24 hours.

We ask for your prayers for these incredible organizations, the children and families whose lives are touched by their services, and our sweet little bike-a-thon. It is my prayer that my children will enjoy serving others and that they will be so very blessed by this experience. Through the baking alone they have seen that serving others is a sacrificial thing, it can take a lot of time and hard work, but that it is also yummy, fun and so very well worth it. They cannot wait to hand over a wad of cash to these organizations, and they are also daydreaming every single day about racing their bikes around that parking lot with their friends. We hope to see you there!

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:31-40

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Date night

Dates are pretty much unheard of right now because of Bryan's busy work schedule. However, one of the guys in our small group suggested going to a baseball game together and Bryan could not refuse. (Thank you, Andy!) The weather was terrible at game time, so it was delayed by nearly three hours. Since the majority of our group had sitters at home, they had to get home long before the delayed game would end. There were only four of us who had kids spending the night with grandparents... and therefore had no curfew! This pretty much never happens for Bryan and me. We had a great time hanging out at Panera with our our small group during the rain delay, and then the four of us headed to the ballpark. We tried to have enough fun for the entire crew... It was a much-needed and appreciated date for the Shraders.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I really (heart) garage sales!

Bryan and I started shopping garage sales the spring after Zach was born. The area where we live is a mecca of kids' garage sales, so it's been a great place to find great clothes for about $2/piece (sometimes a little more, sometimes less). It's also easy to find toys, books, movies, jogging strollers, etc. Just the stuff every parent needs for their child. We currently have more tubs than we need of like-new clothing for the boys, so I am having fun searching primarily for things we can use around the house. Home dec stuff is generally easy to find, but furniture (and SINKS!) are fewer and farther between.

A couple of tips for successful garage sale shopping... Know what you are looking for and what they retail for. During the "off season" I keep a running list of things I'd like to watch for at garage sales. This year my list included like-new soccer shoes for Zach (I bought two pairs of Nikes for $1 and Adidas for $5 - each retail for at least $40 - all different sizes), curtains for my scrapbooking room (paid $4), soccer socks, shin guards and shorts for Zach (paid $1 for one pair of shorts, 50 and 25 cents for the other items), and a chair for my scrapbooking room (paid $3).

Here are some of our finds from the last week.

"Come Gather at Our Table", similar to Uppercase Living. Not sure of the UL price, but I'm sure it's upwards of $20. I paid $4. (It's a vinyl rub-on thing.)

I know this chair is ridiculous, but I LOVE IT! I sat in it while I scrapbooked last night. PERFECT! I paid $3 for it. (These are my garage sale curtains in the background.)

This looks better in person... I bought it for our entryway, but it was too deep. So, now it sits between the door and the dog food in our garage and holds life jackets and shoes (not exactly what I'd envisioned). Maybe someday we'll find a place for it inside the house... $20

And another unusual find... A granite sink! The previous owners installed it one year ago and then decide to upgrade to granite countertops w/a sink that installed under the countertop. So, their loss was our gain. Retails for over $350 -- we paid $35.
I can't wait for Bryan to install it!

My other tips would be to check Craig's List for neighborhood garage sales - this gives you the opportunity to hit as many sales as possible without having to drive all over town. If you have kids, bring snacks and bottled water - this will hold them over when you're not quite ready to drive thru for lunch (if you're really ambitious, you could pack sack lunches). Allow your kids to select a little toy out of a "free box" or pick something for 50 cents early in the day - that will keep them from begging at every sale! If you have a DVD player in the car, spend $3 on a kids DVD you find at a sale - a new movie will keep them occupied for two hours. Empty your trunk before heading out! If you pass a park with a bathroom (or run across a very nice family having a sale) have your kids go to the restroom - avoid emergencies or you'll have to buy clean pants and a new car seat while you're out!

Happy garage saling! It is a wonderful time of the year!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Life in pictures

There is so much I'd like to write about, but not a lot of time these days... We planted a vegetable garden a few days ago, the peach tree we planted last fall has 29 little peaches on it, Zach "graduates" from preschool next week, the kids are organizing a bike-a-thon (with some help from Mom and Dad), we are garage saling like crazy, the nursery has been transformed into a scrapbooking room, Bryan and I have both been volunteering in Zach's class, we are working on fundraisers for the bike-a-thon and Relay For Life, Bryan and I are going to a sold out MLB game with dear friends tomorrow (I can't wait!!), and Bryan and I turn a year older on Sunday (he's 364 1/2 days older than I). More on all of that in the weeks to come... Pictures too!

Here are a few snapshots of life in the past couple of weeks around our house...

Luke feeds and waters Apollo everyday.
Check out his newest method!
Luke is the master of all puzzles. Look at what he and Emily were able to accomplish in about an hour.

Love these soccer pictures. It's fun to see the looks of intensity and sheer joy on their faces while they play.

Luke crashed in my lap (at the computer) at 5:20 the other day. I moved him to the couch, thinking the noise would wake him up after a short nap. An hour later, I tried to wake him. I tried again and again, and finally just took him up to bed for the night.

As soon as I got Zach down at 8:30, Luke woke up! I tried explaining to him that it was bedtime... His response, "Not bedtime. I play wiff toys!" He was so cute. I let him play wiff toys (and eat waffles). He went back to bed at 10:35pm.