Monday, December 8, 2008

The Power of PINK!

Okay--This little PINK vacuum HAS to be the highlight of my Black Friday shopping! I snagged this little gadget thinking it would be handy for quick trips around the wood floors on our main floor--and all for the amazing price of only seven dollars! It came in obnoxious colors like cobalt blue, lime green, and of course, bubblegum PINK. I chose PINK, thinking it would be fun; yet, little did I know about the POWER of PINK!

Basically, my girl has taken over the new pink vacuum. She LOVES it. She BEGS to vacuum. She DREAMS of vacuuming. She asks to vacuum for me every day as soon as she comes in from preschool. When I asked for a vacuum volunteer after dinner tonight, she jumped up and had her PINK pride and joy out of the laundry room in a matter of seconds!


I'm loving it!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

2008 Family Christmas Ornaments

~ Isaiah 40:11 ~
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

* * *
We have a family tradition of making a different Christmas ornament each year. They have varied greatly from beaded snowflakes to cinnamon clay hearts to seashell angels . . . they are always unique and special to our family. I struggled a bit with what to make this year, however, we finally decided to make 'wooly lamb' ornaments. They turned out to be a little more time intensive than I expected (and a bigger mess!), but BOY are they cute! I forgot to take pictures at the beginning of the craft, when the kids were making the pom poms for the sheep bodies. It was hilarious--we definitely have some skinny sheep and some that have obviously been fed a little too well! Here is a slide show of the action Sunday afternoon:

Every good and perfect gift is from above . . .
~ James 1:17 ~
With Christmas approaching, we are reminded of God's perfect gift to us---His son Jesus! We are also in awe of the three incredible gifts he has placed in our family--Ethan, Graham & Anna Beth. Thank you, God, for your perfect blessings in such an imperfect world!

Preparing for our FIRST Christmas in the new house!

We have started decorating for our first Christmas here in the new house, but it is taking a LOT of work so we aren't there yet. However, here is the new nine foot fir tree we got for the keeping room:

And here it is a few days later, decorated! Please ignore the fabric standing in the corner (that is begging to be sewn into breakfast room curtains) and the wrapping paper under the tree (waiting to cover some presents). We are making progress but it is going to take some time!

Our Little Metal Mouth

Oddly enough, Graham was SO EXCITED about getting his braces put on this week! He was most excited about choosing the color of his rubber bands . . . he debated the color scheme for at least a week, lol. That bit of information won't surprise those of you who know our son well! When the orthodontist asked him, he was ready: "I want navy and gold, you know, Georgia Tech colors!".

I was worried that he wouldn't eat anything for three days like he did when the expander went in last April, however, he has handled the braces much better. And isn't he just the CUTEST little thing!

'Smiling Eyes' has a Feast

Anna Beth enjoyed her Thanksgiving Feast at Child's World again this year. The event was complete with the children's handmade indian costumes, drums and a Thanksgiving dinner. In the days prior to the feast, Mrs. Boswell named each child with his/her indian name . . . Anna Beth was appropriately named 'Smiling Eyes'!
I came and enjoyed the Thanksgiving Feast with my girl; of course we brought our signature Pilgrim Hat Cookies for dessert! Thanks to my Family Fun magazine, these treats have been a Thanksgiving staple in our home for five or six years now; I think I made a total of 150 hat cookies this year alone (including those for Ethan & Graham's classes)!

Thank you, God, for this precious little one who continuously puts a smile on all of our faces . . .
She is such a blessing to our family!
* * *

Raised to Walk in Newness of Life!

We had a VERY exciting evening on Sunday, November 9th. Our sons Ethan and Graham were baptized at Hebron Baptist Church by Pastor Rob Brooks (the Children's Minister). Both of the boys made their own individual decisions for Christ earlier this year and unfortunately we have had a tough time fitting our schedule with Pastor Rob's schedule. Finally the night came and it was a wonderful evening for all of us. Graham was very excited and Ethan was anxious as always. However, the excitement on their faces afterwards says it all! I love that the boys were together in the baptismal pool, watching and waiting for each other; my prayer is that they continue to strengthen and support one another in their Christian walk in the years to come. Here are a few pictures:

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.
~ Romans 6:4

Halloween at 'The Cleft'

Well, I am VERY behind as usual, but here are some snapshots from our first Halloween here at 'The Cleft'. Our kids were an eclectic group--Graham was Prince Caspian, Anna Beth was Ariel, and Ethan was the Well-Fed Referee (AGAIN). The Jenkins were out-of-town so it was just the Warbington and Stokes kids left to trick-or-treat:

The kids enjoyed visiting our neighbors Ms. Maggie & Mr. Ricky, who of course loaded them down with bags of candy. Next they proceeded to the Warbingtons' to make a 'Treat' of candied apples. Then the kids participated in a 'Trick' at our house--a scavenger hunt that led them to word finds, jumping jacks, scrambled puzzles, counting pumpkins, etc.
The final clue in the hunt led them to a leaf pile--FULL OF CANDY--in the back yard! Everyone seemed to have a great time--we can't wait to have more homes/families here to provide more 'tricks' and 'treats' for the kids!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

You just never know . . .

You just never know what to expect when you ask Graham to do something. This is what I got when I asked him to brush his hair yesterday morning . . .

A Great Season Comes to an End . . .

The playoffs are over for Dacula National North . . . yes, already. We were stomped by the top Millcreek team in the first game yesterday, no need to put the awful score in print. The boys were discouraged and there were lots of tears. For most of them (including Ethan), this was their first experience making it past the regular season and they wanted to do well. Coach Gower was encouraging and praised them after the defeat, reminding them that they had risen to the challenge and gone further than anyone expected this 'C' team to go. They had done their best!

I love the picture above; Coach Gower had chosen his nephew and the coaches' sons as captains for this playoff game. They looked so tough walking across the field to meet their opponents. It seemed to represent for me a great season of dedication and perseverance from the boys and their dads/uncles.
Dacula Falcons National North!

Friday, October 24, 2008


Just a quick news flash . . .

Ethan's story The Big One took FIRST PLACE tonight in Fifth Grade Literature at the county-level of PTA's Reflections contest! He recently received first place at his elementary school and advanced to the County Competition (a cluster of 30 Gwinnett County Schools). We went to the Reflections Exhibit and Award Ceremony this evening at the Gwinnett Heritage Center; we had no idea he had won until we saw that blue ribbon hanging on his displayed story. This means his story will now move on to be judged at the state-level of competition. He was very excited, but not nearly as excited and proud as his mom. *tears* I was thrilled that he took time to record this very exciting moment in his life, and that was enough for me; however, for a child who struggles a bit with confidence and self-esteem, this award and recognition is an extra special blessing!

Don't let me forget to mention that our neighbors Wesley and Will Warbington also placed in the county competition! Wesley took First Place in 4th Grade Literature and Will took Second Place in 2nd Grade Literature! Way to go, boys!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hayrides & Pumpkins

Anna Beth was SO EXCITED about her hayride and visit to the pumpkin patch at her preschool today. Child's World always does such an excellent job with this event and the children love every moment. Enjoy these pictures of my sweet girl on her hunt for the perfect pumpkin!

Heading to the Playoffs!

Ethan's team won their final game on Saturday and are headed to the playoffs this weekend! Ethan had a great game, Kip said it was his best game ever. He played center the entire game, as well as a good bit of defense. He was excited that he got eight 'pancakes' (whatever that means) and several other good hits that I can't remember, lol!

Here is Ethan playing center--he is just about to hike the ball.

Ethan blocking two players--

(he is right above the ref's head in the pict)

This is Ethan's first time playing in the playoffs so he is ecstatic . . . Kip is a little excited too! They were ranked a little higher, so they are going against a pretty good team in this first game. It is going to be a tough one, especially with several sick players, another player with a death in the family, and the main runningback with a broken arm. However, these boys are tough and their heart is in the game . . . We have faith that they can do it!

Great Season, Big "E" Ethan!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tea for Two . . . Ummm, make that Sixteen!

Anna Beth celebrated her fifth birthday with a tea party on Saturday. It was a fun celebration with fifteen of her closest friends and cousins . . . we had a house full of little girls! The girls enjoyed 'getting ready' for tea at the glamour table, complete with lipgloss, spray glitter, 'jewels', and feather boas. That was Anna Beth's favorite part of the party, of course! Then they used watercolors to paint paper fans out on the covered porch. When everyone was done, we sat down to tea and a finger-food lunch of flower-shaped sandwiches, teapot cookies, tiny cupcakes and more. The girls were great . . . they loved drinking tea and lemonade out of their real demitasse teacups. Of course, we were on our toes refilling those teacups! After lunch we played a fun game of musical chairs on the deck, and then headed in to open gifts. Thank you to everyone who helped make this a perfect tea for my princess! Here are some pictures of the highlights:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not Forgetting Graham

I feel like I'm leaving Graham out of the updates! He hasn't had anything 'big' going on lately, but he definitely deserves an update. He opted out of baseball this season and has been concentrating on his piano lessons. He recently signed-up for the Chess Club at school and begins playing later this week. He is also about to start basketball for the very first time--he is very excited about playing. I think he is most excited about the fact that Kip will be coaching him--he hasn't had dad for a coach in a few years! In his spare time, Graham is having a blast building multiple forts here at The Cleft with all of the Warbington and Jenkins boys.

On a sweeter note . . . Graham has also been my 'running buddy' on Saturday mornings. On our first run we decided that we would pray for our family during the short walking breathers we take to catch our breath. We ran our first mile or so and slowed down; I saw Graham bow his head to pray with me. I tried to explain to him that he didn't have to close his eyes, that we were running on a main road and that God would understand. However, he insisted, grabbing my hand to guide him while he closed his eyes and we prayed. What a precious time with my son, holding hands and praying over our family and the events of the day . . . Ethan's game, wisdom and endurance for Kip and Ethan to do their best, safety for our family, etc. These are the moments I will treasure forever!

Thoughts of Summer . . .

I just came across this photo of Kip and the kids fishing in the neighbor's john boat this summer and I couldn't resist reminiscing a bit! These are the images I have loved seeing since we moved to The Cleft. Thank you, God, for simple everyday blessings!


Ethan is playing football again this year. It has been a tough year physically, but the hard work is paying off. He has improved his skills playing center and has even played a little on defense as well. In the photo above he is number 50 (beside the kid with the wrist-band on), going in for the block--he is playing guard (I think that is what it is called!) Kip is enjoying his role as coach again; he is not Ethan's direct coach this year, and we think that has been good for Ethan. It looks like their team *might* be going to the playoffs . . . that will be a first for Kip & Ethan, so they are excited!

Happy Birthday, Princess!

SHE'S FIVE. Yes, I said five. We cannot believe our little girl is FIVE. There seems to be something very certain about that number . . . no more baby, no more toddler, just a big girl now. We are so proud of you, Anna Beth. You bring so much laughter and joy to our home. The way you talk in your silly voice after dinner. . . the way you dress-up in your myriad of costumes ten times a day. . . the way you are so particular about every little detail . . . the laid-back, lovin' life attitude you share with us every day. We love you, princess!

Here is Anna Beth opening gifts from the boys on her birthday:

Trying on her gifts from mommy & daddy--the long-awaited rain gear:

Getting ready to blow-out FIVE candles on the powdered-sugar donut breakfast (that ONLY my child would request!):

We celebrated her birthday with a special Tea Party on Saturday . . . Pictures coming soon!

The Big One

Written by Ethan Stokes

Something heavy was on my line as I struggled to reel it in . . .
Could this be the big one?

It was a hot summer afternoon. There was a clear blue sky and I was just beginning to fish with my friends. We were fishing for blue gills and crappie. My friends were catching blue gills like crazy. All of a sudden one of my friends caught a perfect-sized baitfish. I ran inside and got out my heavy Zebco catfish rod. It was a perfect white color with green line. I rushed back outside and I put the fish on the needle sharp hook. After a few tries at casting the rod, my neighbor, Mr. Rickie came over and helped me cast it far to the left. I waited and talked to Mr. Rickie. I asked him if he would teach me how to clean a fish if I caught a big one. All my friends had to go inside, so I left my line in the water and went in to eat lunch.

I was making my sandwich and my dad was watching my bobber out of the window. Suddenly, my dad yelled and sprinted outside. I knew what was happening, the bobber had gone under! Before I knew what I was doing I started racing after him. I ran out and found my dad holding the rod. I took it from him and fumbled with the rod for a few seconds. When I finally had the rod in my grip the bobber had come to the surface. Once I settled down the bobber began to move again. It moved right, jerked left, cruised right again and came to a halt. I waited for about twenty seconds silently then asked Mr. Rickie if I should reel it in. I started reeling it in and felt something heavy, it felt like one hundred pounds! It was so heavy it weighed me down and my rod arched. I worried that my line was about to break. Mr. Rickie said it was a turtle because it wasn’t fighting back. It was the heaviest thing I had ever caught in my life, besides sticks.

Then I saw the flash of its scales and instantly I knew it was the biggest fish I had ever seen. WOW! It was a silvery gray color with a hint of olive green and it had eyes as big as marbles. I confirmed that it was a large-mouth bass when I saw its mouth; it was so big my dad could make a fist and stick it in its mouth without touching its lips. Then I looked inside its mouth and I saw why it hadn’t fought; the hook was caught right in the middle of its stomach.

By this time everyone was outside, including my Dad (who had gone inside and instantly came running back out again), Mom, brother, and sister. My neighbors saw us all looking at it so they came running out too. Everyone congratulated me and said they had never seen or caught anything that big. I couldn’t decide whether to eat it or to mount it, but I finally decided to mount it. Every one continued to poke it and pull it out of the cooler. This fish was amazing! Later that day my bass was measured at twenty three inches long and six and a half pounds. It was the most exciting day of my life, and I can’t wait to have that trophy fish hanging on my wall.

Note: This is Ethan's story he wrote about his exciting catch this summer; he wrote it to enter in the 'Reflections' contest at school. Ethan doesn't enjoy writing so we were so proud of him for penning these details! You'll also notice in the photo that we now have his prized bass hanging on the wall in the basement!

Sock Head Girl!

Okay, those who know me from childhood know about the 'sock curls'. My mom used to roll my hair on socks at night so that I would have curls in the morning. I even did this up into middle school, as far as I can remember, until I got a perm (UGGGGH!). Of course, my friends thought it was very odd and got a kick out of it. In fact, a friend of mine from high school reminded me of it on Facebook recently. I then told Anna Beth about it; she was FASCINATED and insisted that I roll her hair on socks. I finally broke down and did it (and actually we've done it several times now, lol), and here is the proof. Socks in before bedtime:

And the next morning, socks are out--look at those curls!

Our Knights in Training

For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ II Peter 1:5 ~

Our boys Ethan & Graham recently started a Bible Study program with two other families with boys--the Warbingtons and the Dickinsons. These two families composed this incredible discipleship program based on the verse quoted above--the purpose is to raise these young boys, or 'squires', into godly young men, or 'knights'. The boys were 'initiated in' on September 26th; it was a fun evening of pizza and fellowship with friends, and then the more serious discussion of what is expected of the young men. The night ended with a VERY SCARY trip down the Dickinson's zip-line in the backyard . . . in the pitch-black dark of the night, of course! Our entire family made it down, including little Anna Beth who begged to go and then screamed the whole way down! We are so excited to be a part of this Bible Study, particularly in a time when the negative influences around us are so great. Thank you for including us, Chuck, Stacey, Mike & Carrie! The boys are just as excited and eager to learn. We look forward to seeing them and all of the boys grow closer to God and each other in the days to come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Labor Day Visit to Tennessee

My grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles live in east Tennessee. Unfortunately, we have not made the trip to visit them in two years. So, we decided to make the most of the holiday weekend and head up for a visit. My parents and my youngest sister Amy and her family also made the trip. It was so good to see my family after such a long time . . . my grandparents did look a little older, but still seem to be doing great for their age. The kids enjoyed visiting with everyone and even said they want to move there, lol! It was a great weekend with family! Here is a picture of the kids with my grandparents--my Papaw isn't as stern as he looks, for some reason he never smiles in photos, lol!

Ella Boo Comes to Visit!

One of the highlights of the summer has been anticipating little Ella's visit. Ella is my one-year-old niece, daughter of my sister Angie and her husband Rabb. Angie had to attend an education conference near our home, so she and Ella came up a night early and stayed with us. The day of the conference, Ella (aka 'Boo') stayed with us! What a day it was for Anna Beth, she played 'mommy' all day, catering to Ella's every need (whether she wanted her to or not, lol). Ella was great--she missed her mommy a little bit in the morning, but was ready to go after her morning nap. We absolutely loved having her and hope she will visit again soon!