It's always interesting to see how your kids react to a new baby. You hope they're going to be kind and gentle, playing peek-a-boo and all those adorable things that make great pictures. This past weekend Matt and I took the boys down to Knoxville to meet their new cousin Elias. We had a great visit, and here's the photographic proof.

Patriot did great with Baby Eli. We had talked a lot about it -- even checked books out of the library to read to him and gathered some of our baby toys to take to him -- so Patriot was well prepared. Plus, he'd already survived a baby brother, so he kind of knew what to expect.

Azlan was a different story. He wasn't unkind to the baby, just not really interested. I had to work hard to even get a picture of both of them. Azlan did fuss a couple of times when I held Baby Eli. Otherwise, Azlan just did his thing.

Matt taught Eli about the iPhone -- looks like Eli enjoyed it!

We tried and tried to get a picture of him smiling. I think this is the closest we got. He's really getting to be a cutie!

And who doesn't need another cute pic of my boys? Especially one taken in the bathroom!

Patriot had a couple of milestones on this trip:
  1. He graduated to a booster seat! We've had to scrunch him into his car seat for a while, so I think it's time. He looks so grown up sitting in a big seat with a regular seat belt.
  2. He's nighttime potty trained! It's been some time since he's had a wet Pull-up in the morning, but I'd been scared to give them up. This weekend, however, I forgot to pack any, so we gave it a go. He's stayed dry every night so far!
  3. He's never allowed to go back to Tennessee. Or at least to leave Tennessee. He threw up again when we came home. Some of you may remember our last fateful trip home from Tennessee. Fortunately, this was not a repeat performance and he waited until we got home to throw up. I cannot explain what about this trip makes him sick, but I'm not doing it again. The good news? My sister is moving to Missouri, so we won't have to make any sacrifices.
Justin, Joni, and Elias are doing well and adjusting to life as a family. Check out Justin's blog to hear about their move (and a lot of bad news about gas prices).
Since we first saw the baby boy sonograms, Matt and I both had a picture in our heads of the kind of men we want our sons to become. Until this week I've not been able to verbalize this notion. Then I heard this Scripture:

"Be on your guard; Stand firm in the faith; Be men of courage; Be strong. Do everything in love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

This passage is found at the end of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and he is giving them several brief instructions and requests. The Scripture doesn't give any conditions, situations, descriptions, or explanations regarding these 5 instructions. It simply is what it is.

I did a little research online and found this commentary on a blog called "Mentoring Our Boys."

Be on your guard: A call to fight against temptations from Satan, from the world, and from our selves. It also helps guide us toward self-control. Finally, we are called to be alert, always prepared for Jesus’ return.

Stand firm in the faith: The center of what gives meaning and purpose to our lives through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, it is our faith in Christ as our Lord that assures our salvation and it is our identity in Christ that directs our heart, mind and soul to the nature and character of God.

Be men of courage: This proclamation implores us to pursue our divine roles as men. Biblically, we are to be disciples, servants, husbands, fathers and finally, patriarchs. Not all men will be called to fulfill every one of these roles. Some of these roles will be carried out during different seasons of life. To fulfill these roles, we are called to spiritual leadership and servant leadership. We are to be the provider and protector. In this directive from Paul, the original text refers to a masculine courage.

Be strong: Strong in faith, strong in character, strong in perseverance, strong in body. This statement dovetails with our roles as leader, provider and protector.

Do: Implies being proactive, not passive or reactive. “Released from the law…we serve in newness of the Spirit,” proving ourselves “doers of the word.” As the Lord’s Prayer says: “Thy will be done.”

Everything in love: Sums up the law (Galatians 5:14) and implies a selfless, servant attitude.

What an awesome role God has given me as Mother to sons! May He strengthen me to trust and follow Him in every moment I'm given with these young men. And I'm charging you, as family and friends, to join me in raising young men of courage.
This blog is coming up on it's 1-year anniversary! To celebrate I'm overhauling it's look. On July 1, watch for an exciting new look for Blessed Mom 24/7.

If you happen to notice any strange changes before then, it's just me working on it.

I'm so excited!
Our church doesn't have your typical annual VBS (anyone who knows Matt isn't surprised to hear this). Instead we have a week-long day camp for 3 year olds to 5th graders called Smash Camp. It's technically three camps going on at the same time, we just share an opening session, lunch time, and closing session. This year our three camps were a soccer skills camp, a science learning camp, and a preschool camp. We had 172 kids and almost half of them were preschoolers. Yikes.

Last year I volunteered with the preschoolers thinking it wouldn't be much different than my regular life, just a few more kids and at church instead of home. I was wrong. What I learned is that Smash Camp is a great opportunity for me to have a break from my regular life. So this year I volunteered with the 2nd & 3rd graders. Since I help with the 2nd grade girls on Sundays, I thought it'd be fun to hang out with some of my girls this week. I was right.

Last week was one of the most enjoyable church camp experiences I've ever had. A little history for those who may not know: in my pre-mommy days I was an event coordinator for a children's ministry. Meaning, planning church camps was my life for several years. Although I enjoyed that immensely, it was a LOT of work and a LOT of pressure. We as a staff always worked hard so our volunteers could enjoy their camp experience with the kids and focus on building relationships instead of logistics. My experience this week was testimony that this hard work pays off.

This week I got to know a girl who was visiting a friend from out of state. During the week, her grandfather died. She came and told me about it, and we were able to pray, hug, and cry together. I was so honored that she shared that time with me.

This week I taught a boy some of the basics of prayer. I noticed that every time we prayed, this kid didn't bow his head, didn't close his eyes, did none of the things we do to show respect. At one point I even had to scold him for burping during prayers. (BTW, I'm adding that to the things I never expected to say list: "It is disrespectful to God for us to make burping noises while we pray. If I hear it again you will be in big trouble.") So I asked him about it and learned that he wasn't a regular at church and didn't know much about prayer. How awesome to be able to teach a kid how to pray!

And this week I learned about science with the kids. We had a large group time when the scientists did demonstration experiments that were really cool. We shot rockets, filled a room with evaporating dry ice, froze stuff in liquid nitrogen, and played with electricity. Nothing but good clean fun here! On the last day the scientists brought in a static ball (honestly, I was tired by the last day and didn't catch a lot of the scientific details from this demonstration). At one point she called me on stage to help. This pic shows what happened when I touched the static ball.

As you can imagine, the kids thought this was hilarious and wanted to see more volunteers. So she called Matt on stage. Here's what he looked like.

The funniest part of his hair-raising experience was his legs. Check this out! (You may have to click on the pic to get the full effect.)

All in all, I had a great time at Smash Camp. Even though I volunteered thinking I'd hang out with my girls, I actually spent more time hanging with the boys. I loved watching the way they interacted and anticipating the way Patriot and Azlan will be when they're older. I think I have a lot to look forward to!

On a "proud parent" note: This was the first year Patriot was old enough to actually attend camp. Here he is posing in his room. How cute is he?

Yesterday Matt and I found ourselves with a free morning, so we decided to take the boys to Boomerang Bay, the water park connected to Kings Island. We have been to Kings Island several times, but never to Boomerang Bay, so we didn't know exactly what to expect.

One thing we did know was that, since we are Kings Island Gold Pass members, we could get in 30 minutes before the park opened. We'd been told this was important because the chairs near the wave pool fill up fast. I don't know about you, but I sure want a coveted chair by the wave pool! Problem: we weren't sure what time the park opened and we didn't know where the wave pool was inside the park.

We arrived just after 10 AM and there was a terrible line at the gate to get in. Matt and I both thought, "Those poor people don't have Gold Passes, so they have to wait while we enter early. Well, membership has it's privileges, right?" I jumped out of the car and walked right up to the gate while Matt gathered the children. It was then that I realized all of these people were also Gold Pass holders and I needed to get in line behind all of them. There went my privileges.

About 10:30 the line started moving and we realized the park opens at 11. We followed the herd through security and had our passes checked. Then we expected to follow them to the prized chairs by the wave pool, only to realize there are chairs all over the place and, at that time in the morning, there were plenty to be had. So we dashed from attractions, slides, and pools scoping out the best place for our young family to plant.

After choosing a great 0-entry pool with a little water slide, several geysers, and a raindrop fountain, we finished our sunscreen coverage and headed into the water. Matt and Patriot were soon off to the bigger water slides but Azlan and I were happy sitting in the shallow water letting the geysers randomly "surprise" us. We enjoyed a light lunch and then went to bob in the wave pool. Soon it was naptime and time to go.

We had a great morning and learned a lot for our next trip to the waterpark:
1. Arriving about 10:30 should be sufficient most days.
2. We can pack a lunch and save ourselves a ton of money and calories.
3. Even spray-on sunscreen needs to be rubbed into the edges of swimsuits and hairlines. We all have red sunburn outlines where our suits had been.
4. Azlan needs to wear a hat, no matter how much sunscreen he has. It's hard to see in this pic, but he has sunburn splotches where the sunscreen was lighter than in other places. (And yes, he has a mouthful of pretzels in this pic.)