28 August 2013

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

At last, I am the post about the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad! When my Dad was out for a visit in July, we drove up to Antonito, Colorado, to ride the narrow gauge steam train, the Cumbres and Toltec. The Cumbres and Toltec starts in Antonito and winds through the San Juan Mountains for 64 miles and it is also the highest railroad in the US at 10,015 feet at Cumbres Pass.

Riding this train was an amazing adventure! My Dad was there (and this adventure was all thanks to him! For which we are very grateful!), and Mike of course, and Butterfly, Little Man and Flower. The kids loved it! Little Man was glued to the window for the entire six hours - absolutely glued. He couldn't get enough! Flower was a little hesitant, so she pretty much sat on my lap the entire train ride, she didn't even want to sit with Daddy or GrandDad. Butterfly had a great time and was even brave enough to go out onto the observation car!

Before we got on the train, we walked up to check out the steam engine - it was very impressive! The engineer actually let Mike, Dad and the kids climb into the engine (although not all at once!) and see how things run. It was really neat!

Butterfly and Little Man were so excited they could hardly contain their excitement - they were jumping up and down and asking about a million times when it was time to get on the train.

Finally, the moment arrived when we could board! We all climbed into the parlor class car where we had our tickets and found our table and chairs. It was really nice- very spacious.

The train ride itself was really neat. I was really surprised at slow the train was, I can totally see how a person could gallop up to a moving steam train going full speed and jump aboard - it's about as fast as a horse gallops, if that.

The sounds of the steam whistle was incredible - eerily beautiful, especially when it was echoing off the mountainous rocks and passes. It's also much louder in person that in the movies - hearing it the movies just can't compare. Every time the whistle blew, steam from the locomotive would shoot into the atmosphere in a giant column of puffing black smoke. Sometimes white steam would come out from the sides of the engine, which was called blowing the boiler or clearing the boiler. Very neat.

Clearing the boiler
The scenery was just incredible the entire ride. It changed fairly often too. We started off in the open San Luis Valley (see picture above) then climbed into the San Juan Mountains. The views were absolutely stunning. We passed through aspen glades and hugged mountainous cliffs. We rode over stories high train trestles and through dark tunnels. We steamed near mountain peaks high above valleys below, skirted the edge of the Toltec Gorge starring down a dizzying 800 foot drop and we steamed down at the bottom of grassland valleys, lush with summer grass and dotted with grazing cattle. At the highest point, Cumbres Pass, we were at 10,015 feet above sea level - making the Cumbres and Toltec the highest narrow gauge steam locomotive in the country.

We stopped halfway through at Osier, Colorado, to eat a wonderful lunch. We all had turkey and stuffing with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, roll and a choice of dessert. (There was also meatloaf with mac n cheese to choose from.)

All in all it was one amazing trip - memories to last a lifetime. If you are interested in riding this amazing train for yourself, check out the website of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. I highly, highly recommend it! :D

23 August 2013

New routines . . . . sort of, and more chaos

This week, well, okay, last week, too, and maybe the few weeks before that, have been really chaotic around here. Well, mostly this week. And last week. Mostly mostly this week though.

Butterfly started school this week, and she really loves it! However, she started a few days after the rest of the school population because she hadn't had her IEP (Individualized Education Plan) yet, but we did that on Friday! Yay! Well, yay that it got done. I personally find IEP meetings very depressing, but they are worthwhile.

We started homeschooling this week. We only got halfway through our schedule because of unexpected situations (like missing therapy and having to reschedule). 

Because Butterfly started late, the bus didn't have her on their route yet (yes, she'll be riding the bus), so I have had to take her to school. Distance wise - it's awesome. We leave ten minutes before school starts and lets out and get there on time. I could probably ride my bike and pull the bike trailer, but who has energy for that? Not me! Plus it's way to hot in the afternoon for that. So we've been driving. The down part is that I have to leave the house about 2 hours after getting home, which really cuts into quiet time. So Little Man and Flower have both been having naps cut short this week, which makes for crankiness all around.

Today, however, yes, today is different! The bus is bringing her home today! She finishes school in approximately six minutes, will then load the bus (I'm sad that I'm not there for her first bus ride) and then come home on the bus. It will drop her off right in front of our house, so all I have to do is watch for the bus and then walk to the end of the driveway to get her off the bus.

Other things that made this week chaotic: Butterfly has speech therapy once a week and I showed up an hour late for her speech therapy on Tuesday. I had it written on my calendar and everything, but I thought it was at 1000 and it was actually at 0900, so that was just awful. Of course we had to reschedule, but all that time was wasted - I was so mad at myself for that one.

PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) had their Fall KickOff this Wednesday, which was really great, but I had to leave about half way through because Butterfly's school has a weird half day schedule, so she goes to school from 1100 - 1230 on Wednesday's. While I was getting Flower out of her classroom, Little Man burst into the annex where the teaching was going on (on the holiness of God, of all things - very reverent and all that) and yells at the top of his 3 year old boy voice, "I'm hungry, Mom!". I was mortified and trying to beckon him to come back while I collected Flower and all her things. He came back, but then ran back in there before I could stop him and did it again. I got dirty looks. Stressful. Enough said about that.

Yesterday Butterfly had a screaming meltdown while I was attempting to do the dishes before we left for Flower's kidney doctor appointment - and all because Little Man sat down at the little table where she was playing. He didn't try to take a toy or anything, just sat in one of the vacant chairs. So she tried to bite him and when I removed her to the kitchen and closed the baby gate, she got mad. Really mad. And screamed. And screamed. And screamed some more. I was one upset and angry Mama. Then we had to go to Flower's kidney doc appointment where Little Man removed his shoes and actually fought with me (in front of the doctor - horrors) about putting them back on. Then it was on to Target to get Butterfly's school supplies and Butterfly insisted, repeatedly, on walking on all fours, like an animal, which she was pretending to be. Then I ran into a friend in the shoe section and while I was attempting to talk to her for two minutes, the kids removed labels from the shoe aisle, even though all three were strapped into that super-long-holds-three-kids cart. More upset and angry Mama.

I was actually so done with the chaos and the screaming and all of that I stopped in at the Child Development Center on base and filled out the paper work to enroll Butterfly in full time care, starting on Tuesday. The school bus will pick her up there every day and she'll go from 0830 or 0900 until 1630ish, or whenever quiet time ends.

Today we had speech therapy, which went fine. They have an awesome play room for families who wait while one family member has therapy and Little Man and Flower love it. They have a cool train table and everything. Today though, once I said "two minutes" and was helping Flower and Butterfly clean up, Little Man darted out the door. And didn't come back. ::SIGH:: I tracked him down at the end of the hallway by the fishtank, and dragged him back to schedule more appointments. He has been do disobedient lately, it is driving me crazy.

I have just been at my wit's end this week. I may or may not have disappeared in the middle of making dinner to go cry in the garage last night. I just feel so done with motherhood right now. I know this is just a hard time and it will pass but man I am at my wit's end. I am hoping that having Butterfly at the CDC will help with things.

Mothering is just not something that comes naturally to me. I am not good at it. It has never been a desire of mine to be a Mom. I became a Mom because I felt that the Lord wanted me to have kids after I married Mike. I certainly didn't expect them to come back to back to back like they did. Victory to me is the kids are fed and dressed decently and some days, still alive, at the end of the day. I'm not crafty, I'm not a huge fan of going to the park, even though we have two right by our house, because the kids do not listen and I find it mentally exhausting to be on the constant vigil for safety reasons. There are three of them and only one of me. And Little Man and Flower are both little dare devils.

But for right now, I'm okay. Little Man is sound asleep upstairs. Flower is passed on out the couch. I'm sitting by the window watching for the bus. So there is peace for the next few minutes. Until the bus gets here and Butterfly comes home. Which will undoubtedly wake up everyone and the chaos will continue. And I'll have to make dinner. And I have pattimelts planned, so there is bound to be complaining from Mike since he has a PT test coming up. (If I had known that he was healthy-conscience right now, I wouldn't have put pattimelts on the menu.)

I need to remember to breathe. Yes breathe. And maybe go into the garage in the middle of fixing dinner to cry again.

19 August 2013

1st Day of School

Butterfly had her first day of school [of the new year] today!

This year is different from last year in that she is going to public school and will be riding the bus (wow!!). Since Butterfly was diagnosed with Developmental Delay last April, she will be attending the special ed preschool five afternoons a week at the nearby public school where she can be in a classroom that is more geared towards her learning needs. We had her IEP (Individualized Education Plan) last Friday, so she was all set to start school today.  She will receive an hour of speech therapy a week and half an hour, or more, of occupational therapy each week in addition to preschool activities.

And the other BIG thing is that she will be riding the big yellow school bus! Butterfly is very excited about this prospect - Mommy not so much, but you have to let go eventually, right? As long as Butterfly is comfortable on the bus, that I'll let her ride it. She won't be set up on the bus schedule until next week, so this week, I'm taking her to school every day.

Today I drove Butterfly to her school to drop her off. She was fairly excited to go, but also a little hesitant. Her teacher, Ms. Michelle, came right over to the van to get her and we walked over to where the other kids were sitting in a group waiting to go into class. I gave her a big hug and a kiss goodbye and she didn't get upset at all. She looked a little hesitant as I started to drive off, although I paused to watch the kids walk into the building holding their little colored ring rope thing. She put on a brave face and just looked back once. The tears did brim up in my eyes, but I put on my brave face too as my little baby, my oldest, bravely walked into school - big school - for the very first time.

It was also a first day of school of Little Man and Flower!
They are not going to school anywhere, but I am going to home-school them. I'm really just focusing on Little Man and Butterfly (since her school time is in the afternoon), but I can't just leave out Flower, so everyone gets to participate!

Today was our first day of doing any type of home-school work and it wasn't too bad. We did a Bible story and colored a picture (thank you again Sierra for showing me these great lessons!), we learned about the letter "A", which including me showing them a picture of the letter, we sang a Letter A Song to the tune of Jingle Bells (I kept everything Butterfly brought home last year, including her little coloring page booklets of letters which had words to a song for each letter along with the tune), and we traced Big A's on a piece of paper. Flower just colored each letter, but that's okay.

We're only going to do this two days a week, so it won't be too bad. So on our next day, we'll work on Little A, the state of New Mexico (I found some awesome coloring pages on Crayola.com) and the number 1. And hopefully by that time I'll have the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible written out and we'll say those. And we might do a short memory verse. We'll see.  Oh, and expressive faces. And crafts - my arch-enemy - crafts. (not really my arch-enemy, I am just not crafty at all, so doing a craft with the kids is going to be . . . interesting . . .).

The plan with home-schooling is to just take it easy, nothing really big. And I'll assess in November. If it's just not working out, then I'll see about putting Little Man in a preschool somewhere for the spring semester.

Oh, can't forget, I also enrolled Butterfly and Little Man in Science Camp at Explora Children's Museum every other Friday. I think they don't really know what that's going to entail, so they're kind of blasee about it, but I'm sure that will change once we go to our first one. :)

So that was our big day of first day of school!

12 August 2013

Military Monday Link Up

Hey there! I'm doing a new link up! Ashley with Eights on the Move started a military link up a while back, and I found it via Sierra at the Tervo Times, so and here I am on a Monday actually blogging, so I thought I would join in for today. And hopefully for many more Mondays to come. You can click on the link to join up as well if you want! :)

Today's topic is PCS Adventures - and oh what a topic it is!

We have PCSed one time since Mike and I were married, and that was back in 2010 from Tinker AFB in Oklahoma to Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. As distance goes, it wasn't too far - just a measly eight hours straight west on I-40. 

It was no measly adventure for us though!

Mike got the call that he got orders about 30 minutes after I had given birth via a long, hard labor, to our second child, our son, Little Man. (I kid you not, we were still in the delivery room - hadn't even been wheeled up to our post partum room yet).

I didn't let the timing get me down though - I dove right in, after all, isn't that we military spouses do? We dive right in - new born baby and all. 

So I spent the next two and a half months (they gave us a nice 30 day extension - very sweet of them) preparing the house and the kids (we also had an 11 month old when Little Man was born) for our upcoming move. Sorting through things, collecting medical records, looking up information about our new location, etc, etc,. You know, lots and lots of planning. 

Since we had a newborn and a young toddler, we decided to do a partial DITY move - after all, we would need booster seats and strollers and pack n plays and all that baby stuff immediately upon arrival. Fortunately, we own a truck, so we were able to put everything into the bed of the truck, or the trunk/backseat of the car. 

We spent the week the packers came repainting the house and doing all that pre-inspection cleaning and all that stuff. I honestly don't know where the energy came from since Little Man was up at least twice a night to eat . . . but we all managed. We said goodbye to all our many friends that we had made and my brother Thomas, who was living in Oklahoma at the time. It was a very sad farewell.

We loaded up our suitcases, the kids and our two cats and we headed out! We left the day Little Man turned three months old, a week shy of Butterfly turning fifteen months old. The military gave us two days to travel, which we were really grateful for. We decided to break up the trip with a stay in Amarillo. 

The first day was relatively uneventful. We only had to stop once to feed Little Man and Butterfly did really well. We did have one emergency pull over when our cat Missy decided to make herself comfortable on top of Little Man (she weighed about the same as him), so the cats were transferred to the truck with Mike, while the kids rode in the car with me. 

Our second day started off well. Being July in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico, it was naturally very hot. Just as we were coming into Tucumcari, the car died. Just shut off as we were driving down the road. We had it inspected (it was a '97) the week before we left, so we were really surprised we were running into problems. We did get it started again, but the car only made it another hundred yards before dying again. 

Thankfully, we were right outside the first exit to Tucumcari, so we weren't in the middle of nowhere, just close. We had road side assistance, so we called USAA right away and they were able to get a tow truck out within an hour. Our biggest, immediate problem was the heat. It was well over 100* (in the desert) and the temperature started soaring in the car almost immediately. You just can't have a baby and a toddler in that kind of heat, for any amount of time. 

The truck was good to go, so we rearranged things and put both car seats in the cab of the very small Ford Ranger and Mike and I took turns sitting in the AC with the kids while we waited for the tow truck. It was quite the hour with an infant, a toddler and two cats in the tiny cab of a Ranger! It worked though and the tow truck arrived soon enough.

We were towed to the nearest auto shop, however, it was Sunday, so it was closed. Tucumcari is a very small town, just about everything was closed. Mike proceeded to call his new supervisor to let him know that we were going to be late. His supervisor immediately offered to drive out to Tucumcari and pick us up and bring us the rest of the way into Kirtland. 

Still had the waiting in a hot car problem though. I spotted a motel across the street, Motel Safari, so I walked over with Little Man (que sympathy play) to ask if they minded if we waited in their lobby for a few hours while we waited for our ride. 

After explaining our story, the owners of the Motel, previous military, went far above and beyond anything we could have asked. They offered us a room, free of charge, with working AC and everything, while we waited. A gift from heaven! We accepted of course and spent the next three hours in the motel room just resting and watching TV until Mike's supervisor arrived. We were so incredibly grateful for their kindness and generosity! The couple who owned the motel were so amazing!

Mike's supervisor, Wes, arrived and we got things loaded up into his car and we were back on the road again! We arrived in Albuquerque on Sunday evening and got immediately settled into our hotel (TLF was full), where we spent the next three weeks until our new house on base was ready to move into. 

While we in the hotel, I injured my knee and ended up being on crutches for the next two months. Yes, crutches. With a newborn and a toddler. 

It was quite the experience! We met some really amazing and kind people throughout the whole adventure though - people that we wouldn't have met otherwise if things had gone smoothly. You can't really ask for more than that, can you?

11 August 2013

Trip to Antonito

While my Dad was here visiting in July, we drove up to Antonito, Colorado to ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (this post is not about the railroad, I'm not there yet - oh the suspense!!).

On the way up, we decided to a side route through Taos to see the awesome scenery. We got to see the Rio Grande Gorge - holy cow is that an amazing sight that you just have to see to believe. We were supposed to be doing the High Road Scenic Trip, but I didn't zoom in close enough on the map, so we ended up taking the wrong route (fail!). It was still beautiful scenery, nonetheless.

The route we took on NM-85, followed the Rio Grande River until we turned slightly northeast towards Taos, before heading back west and then north into Colorado to our destination of Antonio, where the Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad starts and we were staying for two nights on our little mini-vacation.

The Rio Grande River winding through the mountains.
The Rio Grande Gorge - magnificent
 So we were driving along, and we round a bend out of hilly country to open to a vast, flat prairie, and there in front of us is this massive crack in the ground - the Rio Grande Gorge - it was amazing. Like a dark scar ripped out of the flesh of the flat prairie, with the shadowed mountains in the background - just stunning.
Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico
 We drove a bit further and through the town of Taos, which was a little bit like a mixture of ancient pueblo style and Alpine ski area - very neat. We didn't stop, as there was a lot of traffic and we were trying to reach our destination. Once we got through Taos, we got a great view of Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. It was gorgeous!
 Once we got out of Taos, we actually got to cross the Rio Grande Gorge, which I wasn't expecting. The bridge was so high up over the river! 800 feet high, actually! I didn't get a better picture because I was in too much awe of the sight, and I'm just a tad bit afraid of heights, so I might have frozen . .. 

Then it was onward to Antonito! We arrived at the Conejos Ranch around dinner time, checked in, found our cabin, which was harder than it should have been, got luggage quickly unloaded from the van, changed diapers, and loaded back up into the van for dinner at the Ranch Lodge - which was delicious!

The Conejos Ranch is located right on the stunning Conejos River. We had a beautiful, snug little cabin which we all loved! It had 2 queen beds, 2 twin beds and a pull out couch, a full kitchen, a living room and even a little balcony! We all loved it! The kids still ask to go back to the Cabin almost every day.

 We ate dinner at the Ranch Thursday and Friday nights, and had breakfast at the Ranch Friday and Saturday mornings. The food was delicious and everything was freshly made in the kitchen. I had fish from the Conejos River for dinner on Thursday night - yummy! I normally take pictures of food when I eat somewhere like this, but I have a new camera since my point and click died, and I was still getting used to taking pictures, especially indoors.

When we woke up on Friday morning, the kids to see some deer in the meadow right across from our cabin - it was a really neat sight for them! I didn't get a picture of the deer, but I'll have the memory. :)

 The Conejos Ranch was an amazing place to stay and we loved it! I really hope that we can return one day and if we are able to, that we'll be able to stay in this particular cabin - it was perfect for our family and we loved it!

Dad at breakfast Saturday morning before heading out

Mike at breakfast

Flower at breakfast - yes, she drinks out of a regular cup now . ..

A Muriel of the Conejos River and ranch on the Ranch wall

Flower, Butterfly and Little Man having some fun at the Ranch before we headed home on the open road

Visit from GrandDad

My Dad came out to visit a few weeks ago and it was a wonderful visit! All the kids couldn't wait for him to get here - we were counting down the days! We all headed to the airport to pick my Dad up on the day he arrived and the kids were so excited to see him!
Waiting for GrandDad's plane to arrive.

"Is that GrandDad's plane? Is he here yet?"

It was a whirlwind of a week though - picked Dad up on Sunday, hanging out on Monday, Natural History Museum on Tuesday, Dad taught the ladies at PWOC on Wednesday, Zoo Camp and then driving up to Antonito, Colorado on Thursday, riding the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad on Friday, driving back to Albuquerque on Saturday, then breakfast out Sunday before taking Dad back to the airport. Whew! That was a typeful!

It was a really wonderful visit though and we all had a great time. I love that Dad can just come to visit and be apart of our lives, taking part in the family activities that we do (although Dad and I had been scheming and planning about the scenic railroad trip for weeks and weeks ahead of time - there are quite a few train rides you can do in this area), and just catching up with Dad and spending time with him.

The bad thing about military life is that you are away from family all the time, unless you are fortunate enough to get stationed near family. This does bring closer to neighbors, people at church, etc who become your family if you are lucky, but it doesn't necessarily replace your actual blood relatives. So spending time with family becomes a very special time and it draws the bonding time in, leaving out time for disagreements or whathaveyou in your typical family. I like that. Usually.

I love to hear my Dad talk and tell his stories about work or his old war stories from serving in the Marines for 20 years. My Dad is a great story teller, very funny, and I just cherish those times, especially as we both get older and older. I'm hoping one of these days to transcribe some of his stories to keep in book form, even if my family are the only ones who will read them.

And of course, we played the Pirate Game - who can resist the allure of the Pirate Game? (Blackbeard - an old war game from the 70's(?) if you aren't familiar). We didn't get into a game of Monopoly as Mike isn't too keen on playing Monopoly with me as I'm something of a fierce Monopoly competitor (it was actually a pre-requisite from my best friend Sam that Mike play Monopoly with me before we were married to make sure he saw the whole person that he was marrying), plus I have most of the rent memorized and I don't count spaces, I jump after doing the math. Mike doesn't like that - and guess who taught me?? Yep, my Dad. :) ::insert proud smile here::

Off to the Natural History Museum!
"It's so big!!"

It's getting harder and harder to have the kids pose for a picture . . .
 Anyway, Butterfly, Little Man and Flower just loved having their GrandDad come and read stories to them, and play with them and tickle them and give them hugs and kisses and tuck them in at night and pray with them and eat meals with them - they really love him a lot. We talk on Skype fairly often, so they know exactly who GrandDad is and they always remember him, which Dad says totally makes his day. :)
After Zoo Camp with the coral reef fish, we watched the trains in the Train Garden for a bit.

Goodbyes are always sad of course, but it won't be for very long - Lord willing we'll be able to see GrandDad again at Christmas. :)

More on the Scenic Railroad ride in another post (I'm getting there, I'm getting there . . .).

Breakfast at Weck's on GrandDad's last day
It was so great to see my Dad again. We talk on the phone often as he calls almost every day to encourage me and ask how the kids are doing. I love the relationship that we have developed over the years and I'm so grateful that he's such a big part of my life and that he's involved in the kids lives as well. Such an honor and a treat too. And if you're reading this Dad, Thank you and I love you very much. :)

Guest Blogger - Breaking the Chains

This past May, one of my friends here in PWOC did a wonderful presentation on Breaking the Chains of bondage that can hold us captive and keep us from embracing all that Jesus has to offer in the way of grace (this is even after Salvation). She was kind enough to share her testimony with me in written form so that you, my readers, can also hear the wonderful news that she has to share. So without further ado, here is Denise and her testimony of Breaking the Chains.


Good morning, Sisters! I am so excited to be able to share with you this morning some things God has been laying on my heart. You see, even though I accepted Christ as my one and only Savior when I was 13, my transformation in my walk with the Lord didn’t really begin until about 7 years ago (20 years later!). Though my soul had been rescued, I couldn’t find the joy in being a Christian. Each time I tried, it seemed a new link was added to my chains of insecurity, never being “good enough”…“smart enough”…”pretty enough”…“lovable”. It took me many years of self-destruction by trying to be all these things that I finally found myself in a deep pit of hopelessness before I truly saw my real need to surrender everything to Christ and for the real transformation to begin…I’m not saying I didn’t believe with all my heart that he was my Savior when I walked that aisle, but I didn’t truly grasp all that it meant to have grace bestowed upon me. I was still bound by my human chains…So, as I share pieces of my story with you, please know from my innermost being this is not a story about how great I think Denise is today…this is a proclamation of how great I KNOW God’s redeeming power is…there is not a single commandment that I have NOT broken and I can assure you, I would not be where I am today if I were in control! I am sharing today for three reasons: First and foremost, I have been redeemed! Second, God has given me a love for other women and put a desire in my heart to see them break chains of bondage so they can grow in their walk with Him. During the past two years in the PWOC body, I have been privileged to spend time with many of you either one on one or in a study. I can feel the hurt from some of the chains you are dealing with, mostly because I remember what it feels like to be there. Finally, I am commanded to. The theme verse for this past year comes from Psalm 145:4…it says “one generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” I want to tell of His mighty acts!  To get started, I need to give you some background on my history to help explain for our future discussion:
 Now, I wanna go back to the beginning of our program and the song we sang... “My chains are gone; I’ve been set free”…ladies, I ask, not with a heart of condemnation, but as an opportunity to look deep within: Are you living your life as though you’ve been set free? Or are you in a rut like I was going through the motions and just hoping it would all fall into place?
Why is it that even though 1 John 4:5 says, “Everyone born of God overcomes the world because He has overcome the world” that we have a hard time living as though he has?
I firmly believe it is because Satan’s favorite past time is whispering lies to us. John 8:44 tells us he is the “Father of lies”. He wants to do everything he can to keep us from fully embracing God’s grace! He wants to keep us so consumed with our inadequacies that we never get around to appropriating the love and transforming power God has made available to us through his son! Because of this, we must continually ask the Holy Spirit to make us aware of the snares created by human weakness and our own deceitful desires. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor 6:12 that “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial…everything is permissible, but I will not be mastered by anything.” What does it mean to be “Mastered?” – To be brought under the power of. We’ll discuss three interrelated areas Satan uses to try to master us…idols, chains, lies. These three work together to create one big tangled up chain that can keep us from fully embracing all God has planned for us…
So, what tangible things, or idols, of this world can we become mastered by? Is it wrong to desire these things? At what point do these things become snares?
One of my idols as I got older was attention from men…I NEEDED them to notice me. I desired them to LOVE me. For me, this became a snare when I was willing to do whatever they wanted in order to gain their “love” and approval. I associated sex with love.
Of the three areas, identifying the idol is the easiest part.
The next areas we can be mastered by are what I like to call the chains. These are the behaviors that are attached to the lies. When we are feeling loved, it is easy to love others…conversely, when we feel “wronged” it is easier to wrong others.
What are some chains that we can be mastered by that keep us bound up?
Finally, there are the lies. This is probably the hardest area to identify. Most of us don’t even realize our chains are a result of a lie we have believed somewhere along the way. What are some of the lies Satan uses to master us? 
The idols, chains, and lies create one big interwoven chain. The thing about chains is that they are very strong. The more chains we have, the more we become immobilized.

We can identify idols that take our attention away from God, but those don’t break the chains that master us. And though we may recognize them, can’t break the chains until we understand the lies that are attached to the chain. We must get to the root of the lies to effectively combat Satan and effectively fulfill the mission God designed us for…to love others and share Jesus with them! However, our ability to love people as we should only comes from the security of knowing we ourselves are loved – we cannot share what we do not have!
I would like to say that since I fully received the fullness of the Grace God offers us through Jesus 7 years ago that things have been smooth sailing. But that is not how the enemy works.
Story of insecurity with Mark
There is one thing we can be certain of; nothing can separate us from the love of God!  The beauty of it all is that there is no sin too great that he can’t pardon…YOU are more than ANY choice you have ever made. All we need to do is ask for his healing and he is faithful…Our worship team is going to play a song for us…I encourage you to soak in the words of the song…I pray it will speak to you…and you will hear God speaking to you personally…

Psalm 107:13-15
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
    and broke away their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

BioPark Camp

This summer, I enrolled Butterfly and Little Man in what they affectionately call "Zoo Camp". BioPark Beginnings is a camp for kids aged 3-5 years old where they can go behind the scenes a bit and learn more about the different animals at the Zoo as well as at the Botanical Gardens and Aquarium. Our session met every Thursday from 0930 - 1115ish, either at the Zoo or at the Gardens.

Flower went to a friend's house so I could accompany Butterfly and Little Man (this was a parent accompanied, not kid-drop-off kind of camp) each week.

Although we missed the first week because the kids were at VBS and I was also volunteering at said VBS, we didn't miss any of the others and they were fantastic.

Our teacher, Ms. Anne, a retired school teacher, was just absolutely amazing with the kids and how she taught them. She knew the kids names as soon as we walked up on our very first day, although how she knew, I have no idea. And she never forgot their names. She was so patient, very kind and incredibly enthusiastic about each lesson that the kids had. We could not have had a better teacher!

A typical session met at the particular exhibit with the animal we were learning about, and there was hands on learning, for the most part (you can't really do hands on with an orangutang). From there we went to the indoor classroom where we sang songs and danced, learned more about the animal we were doing for that week, heard a story, did a craft, had a snack, and did a goodbye song.

We covered the following animals:
Jellyfish (which are not fish at all)
Butterfly with another little girl pretending to be a jellyfish
Little Man and Butterfly at the Aquarium after learning about Jellyfish
ducks (the kids finally got over their fear of the ducks!)

Butterfly doing a duck dance

Little Man sat out of the dancing part until the very last day - it takes him a little while to get warmed up.

We're on our way to the Butterfly Garden

Butterfly had a butterfly land on her hat, unbeknownst to her

Magnificent creatures!
 Frogs (no pics from that day, my camera went dead)
Coral fish (Mike and GrandDad got to come on that day!)

Petting the sting rays at the Aquarium

Flower got to come on this day and she loved it! Looking at sharks with big sister Butterfly

and last, but no least, Mammals - specifically baby mammals of the Zoo
Loving Zoo Camp!

Baby Chopper, who is already up to 1200 pounds!

Baby Abiqui, or Abby

Mama and baby Pixel, who is clinging onto her during breakfast.

We missed the snakes week (not too sorry about that!).

Butterfly and Little Man loved every. single. moment. Every day we would get up and count down the days until the next Zoo Camp. They were just so excited. Each time we came home, I hung up their crafts on our "zoo camp craft string" (except for the snakes which got played with to pieces, literally, and the butterflies on a stick). And hopefully the kids learned something, although I'm not really sure . . .

It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to Zoo Camp. They have another Zoo Camp this fall, and I'm hoping that we can fit it into our schedule, but I don't know yet. Plus, Zoo Camp fills up incredibly fast, so we may not get in. We got the last two spots for the summer and we signed up three months before it started.